This is the second album from Projected Twin, the brainchild of Adelaide local Shaun Holton. Following on from the similarly titled, self-produced debut Earth to World, Earth vs World was made possible by the increasingly successful Pledge Music organization. For those unfamiliar, Pledge and similar organizations take donations towards the cost of recording upcoming albums and, in a nutshell, donators are essentially paying for their copy of the record before it’s even produced. It’s a brilliant concept and many artists are now following this path including Ben Folds.
But never mind about jolly old Ben for now. Projected Twin is the focus here, and more specifically, Earth vs World. Kicking off with a chiming guitar intro, the opening track “You Threw the Stone” is a lilting piece of calming melancholia that gives glimpses of Holton’s guitar prowess and powerful singing voice. In a way, this track lulls the listener into a false sense of security, as the second track “The Ritual” crashes to life with heavily distorted guitars, thumping bass and drums and eerie choral vocals that lend it a rather epic weight. On the first listen, I was like “What the hell? That first track was so pleasant!”, but rather than being dissonant and spiky, this track (while a surprise after its floaty predecessor) gives the listener a shot of adrenaline and rams home the point that Earth vs World has more than ethereal niceness. It has balls. It has eclecticism, and it has drive and vision. There’s far more to this track (and its parent album) than mere heaviness though. It’s a ten minute tour de force that draws on metal, folk, prog-rock and pop sounds, and it ends with a soaring crescendo that leaves you breathless . Despite the track’s myriad influences, there’s no frantic genre hopping. All the different styles segue into one another with taste and precision. This track is really quite indicative of the album as a whole. Even though there are heavy moments, there’s no way you’d call it a metal album. Nor it is a pop album, despite the melodic and structural sensibility. It’s a rock album. Hard rock, folk rock, pop rock, prog rock, whatever….in fact it’s all of the above.
There is a real depth and bravery to Holton’s songwriting. While much of it is accessible and will undoubtedly appeal to a mainstream audience, he’s clearly following his own musical vision and is unafraid to experiment with different styles, rhythms and instrumentation. “Divine Intervention” (not the Slayer album, relax) features a surprising….and surprisingly effective trombone part interwoven with the chugging guitars. “Sirens” is also noteworthy, not only because of its rhythmic complexity, but also because it features the lovely lead vocals of Ms Cat Johns. It almost sounds like Radiohead if they were fronted by Beth Orton!
Speaking of Radiohead, fans of the same and indeed fans of any epic progressive music will enjoy this record. There are elements of Tool, Cog, Karnivool, Opeth and, dare I say it, even Pink Floyd present here. Reading through that list may make some of you think that this is mere art-rock wankery. It most certainly is not! As mentioned earlier, there are plenty of quieter and poppier moments to suit less experimental tastes.
Holton’s voice is very impressive for the most part, and this brings me to the only downside of this album. There’s obvious autotune on the lead vocals (unless Holton is the best rock vocalist since Freddy Mercury) and the production, while sufficiently clear and weighty, is very slick and polished. It almost sounds like it’s coming out of an FM radio already! Wait! Before you PT fans crucify me for my insolence, the fault lies not with the album’s personnel, but with the status quo of the music industry and what albums are “supposed” to sound like. Even though it’s a little clinical for my tastes, the average listener won’t be concerned with the autotune or the production, and nor should they be as there are far too many positives to this release for anyone to be bothered about dwelling on such drudgery.
The instrumental performances are exemplary. Luke Whelan’s drumming is powerful yet tasteful and Chris Lau’s bass playing is simply monolithic! Holton and Lau share the guitar duties and there are some great riffs, solos and harmonized parts. These elements would be good enough on their own, but add the trombone, keys and Holton & John’s effusive vocals and you have an album that is quite special. On the subject of guitars, the album was exclusively recorded using Adelaide guitar manufacturer Lauda Guitars’ instruments and it’s great to see local artists and manufacturers supporting each other.
The two real standout tracks are “The Ritual” and “Sirens” for the reasons I mentioned earlier, but the rest of the tracks stack up extremely well and the record works seamlessly as a single entity.
To use a tired and hackneyed cliche, I wouldn’t be surprised if Projected Twin is “the next big thing” in Australian music and it’s perfectly poised to fill the gap left by the now defunct Cog.
Fans of prog-rock, metal, pop or just any good music whatsoever, I urge you to check out Earth vs World. While it’s a little shiny and ever so slightly meek in parts, it’s a mightily impressive effort for what is essentially a self produced record. Highly recommended!