There is only one first impression, and Pyramids have near flawlessly nailed it.
An otherwise ordinary Philadelphian three-piece has written a genre-defining record in Following the Tracks, Forcing Motion Through Phases. Rarely does a band combine the epic, bold thrust of post-rock beauty with the stripped down, raw, intense, emotion of hardcore emo, but Pyramids has accomplished this in a mere half-hour, conveying a breathtaking, mind-numbing, picturesque voyage summed up in 7 haunting, arresting, and practically photographic installments.
A concept record involving a descriptive narrative of a half-metaphorical train ride should be a recipe for a pretentious disaster, yet the poetry of Tracks contain immensely graceful metaphors and weaving but vague storytelling. Every line appears to symbolize a different emotion, be it frustration, loss, hopelessness, or anxiety. Cautious optimism belies "Stationed" ("the passage is dark, but the tracks will guide us"), while "Sleep Spindles K-Complexus" offers a steadfast racing heart ("There is no faith in God that can shield me from this terror. Each new tunnel brings new paranoia and fear. Each new thought becomes distorted and blurred further by a gap in clarity. I can't breathe."). Metaphor can sometimes hide one's feelings, and yet Pyramids find a way to fully reveal themselves, but quietly, behind pastel tinted, translucent sheets. And even when they're not spilling themselves onto paper, their efforts surely are; "Paradoxical" is evidence of apocalyptic depictions ("The sky illuminates in an ocean of red tears as explosions send short ripples through the mountaintops.") The click-clack of the passing train tracks sporadically come up to further set the scene.
The tracks themselves are a dizzying, drastically varied and drug-inducing array of either controlled mayhem or dreamy soundscapes. The bass-heavy drone of "Stationed" ushers in Tracks, but is deceiving; an abrupt transition finds the band twinkling their guitars into a rush of raindrops for the next verse. "Drifting" is Tracks' most frantic, urgent offering, as multiple time changes within its 1:28 frame take place. "Sleep Spindle K-Complexus" dangles in moving, billowy and spacey textures for the majority of its 9:21 running time before the screams start to slowly take over; suddenly, the train is barrelling as the drums pummel away and the voices chaotically intertwine. Continuing to move forward, a moment in "Slow Wars" features tingling octaves lying under the tide of emotion, as a tick-tock of drums eventually take it out. The sonic instrumental "Delta" is only 3 minutes, but manages to conjure up images of a more succinct Isis/Pelican offering. "Lucid" brings closure to the album, quickly rising and falling several times before its final thought: "In this dream, I'm awake. The home of beauty rests in knowing who you are." The train ride has come to an end, and the muffled, creepy words of the train conductor then startle you: "Wake up."
Following the Tracks, Forcing Motion Through Phases is an important, important record. With the abrupt departure of two-thirds of the band occuring shortly after the recording, this may end up as the band's only imprint upon the world, but it will be a significant one. At once, it is beautiful, sensual, chaotic, emotional, and lonely; it is an experience, and yet one that is over before 32 minutes have passed. The number of emotions conveyed and the placing of one in an entirely different place in that short period of time is a feat that has resulted in a spectacularly amazing debut.