Serious Beak, the djentlemen of progressive math metal, live at the intersection of discord and rhyme. Their latest album Ankaa contains so many moments that weren’t written by other bands, it’s occasionally easy to get confused in the crush and anticipate something that’s never coming, a little Tool maybe or some Battles. It’s like a slalom run that skirts the flags of influence while carving it’s own path through the powder.
It’s going to get billed somewhere as Prog, but strangely, that might be limiting, even if there is a progressive cohesion and sensibility in the way that the tracks interlock and toy with each other’s threads. It’s also entirely possible the whole thing is a joke, with every track sub branded by an ornithological taxonomy that hints at not only each song’s inner themes, but towards the entire species of the album. This is what would happen if a zoologist wrote his thesis with metal.
That kind of concept could make a 4 track release like this into a frivolous aside, but the implementation is so precise and tarrishly invasive, it doesn’t matter. There isn’t any space for that kind of thinking, no restful moments of reflection at even the sparsest of junctures.
Proto (Menura novaehollandiae) builds a frenetic and intensely measured beginning out of a bed of static before laying it down on a crystalline refrain, one of the myriad themes the album involves itself with. Main Sequence (Dacelo novaeguineae) picks it up again and plays with its gentle beginnings before growing into an adult version of video game dungeon music and degenerating into a world where the Joker’s death scene from Burton’s Batman was reenacted by kookaburras.
Red (Laniocera hypopyrra) starts out with a feint shaped like an average rock song but it’s not long before some sharp rhythmic equations are being threaded through the reverb. It’s definitely the climax track and bears the most melodic weight of the lot. Of course, it still finds the time to take a couple of detours through that crystal valley, handling these downhill transitions with upwards velocity.
Heat Death (Teratornithidae) is the coda that ties it all together, a drifting summary illustrated in singularly drawn chords. While it’s the most downbeat of all the tracks it still contains some piercingly djentle moments and plays like a cool down for the criminally insane.
So yeah, Ankaa is a weird ride. It’s discordant prog themed around birds, an ethereal grind with razor timing, a familiar sound like nothing else, and quite possibly a pointless experiment that’s definitely worth consideration.