Harnessing The Universe is the kind of name that creates expectation. When I started listening to their self-titled debut album Harnessing The Universe I wanted to be overwhelmed with cosmic crescendos, ethereal tones and textures, and feel as if the members of the band were harnessing the universe to create sound that went well beyond that of a standard rock band. Of course those are unrealistic expectations and I raised the bar quite high for this young band.
After spending some time with Harnessing The Universe it’s safe to say that Harnessing The Universe is a hard rock band with psychedelic tendencies that veer towards ethereal and grand. One reviewer has said that the band sounds like Pink Floyd if they were influenced by Tool, which makes sense upon first listen because of the additional hand percussion and reverb-laced guitar solos.
Let’s focus on the hand percussion. This element in their music helps separate them from a lot of other bands barking up a similar tree. It’s used effectively throughout and most importantly they don’t overuse it.
Take for instance the opener “Spirit Guides” which is one of the highlights. An oscillating synth and guitar play off each other as hand drums come in and out of the song giving it a tribal feel. The band does a good job building up and tearing down the song within the first couple of minutes. I wasn’t sure where it was headed which was a good thing. It turns out the band doesn’t waste any time getting to hard rocking riff with a distorted guitar. Luckily, the song doesn’t stay there and veers away from forming into a predictable hard rock song.
“Open Air” starts off strong with what almost sounds like a jam session. The first transition around the four-minute mark is where we start seeing some kinks in their armor. I loved the build up but the payoff felt like a standard hard rock chorus that was a bit out of context. The band may have felt that too because they don’t stay there too long.
“Beyond The Bright” has a solid riff throughout and felt different than the songs that came before. It almost has a post-rock vibe and unequivocally has some of the best guitar solo towards the end, which is probably one of the reasons they have been compared to Pink Floyd. “Catas” finds a steady groove with hand percussion but never finds a transition or a crescendo while “The Orb” is arguably the best rocker song on the album.
Harnessing The Universe is a solid debut, which provides a foundation but also contains a lot of the staples of a young band that still doesn’t have a firm grip on their sound. The band’s biggest weakness is when they fall into hard rock choruses that feel predictable and familiar. They are at their strongest when they experiment and are able to fuse huge psychedelic guitar riffs with kinetic percussion. If they can figure out a way to build off the latter's energy which does feel more like they are harnessing the universe then I predict even better things to come.
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