Pyramids released one of the more stunning debuts in recent memory with 2006's Following the Tracks, Forcing Motion Through Phases. Rarely has emotional hardcore been that poetic, ambitious and theatrical, let alone on the first proper collection of songs. Needless to say, expectations were monumental for the followup. While Through the Hourglass doesn't quite capture its predecessor's brilliance, Pyramids have still managed to craft quite an effort.
Vocalist/bassist/occasional pianist (!) Benn Roe is still at the forefront of the group, though he's recruited two new members to fill the void of guitar and drums that were missing when Pyramids crumbled shortly after Phases' release. His demonic and scratchy yet always comprehensible yelp is one particularly familiar trait to Through the Hourglass.
Another is that Hourglass tells a story through the course of its tracks, much like Phases. However, while Phases took you on a metaphorical but often picturesque train ride, Hourglass finds Roe using time travel used as a vehicle (in both senses) for a major existential nightmare. He is considerably less focused on providing vivid imagery and more on deep introspection full of doubt, clamor and bitter soul-searching. But the way it's presented is incredibly literate. Take the opening lines of "Two Eternities": "The present no longer holds any meaning to me. Now and then are the same cocoon, as alien as they are smothering, as harmonious as parasitic, and buried beneath ten thousand questions and doubts."
This feudal and foreboding forecast is reflected in the music. Sometimes, the prolonged, bass-heavy setups of atmosphere bring Phases to mind, but otherwise Pyramids are definitely trying new things. "Eyelids of Time" immediately begins with Roe hollering "(I'm a) long way from home!" over squeals and feedback and slammed drums. The buildup in "Clockwork" leads to a desperate burst of dual shouting ("But I am just a child. / All I have is time") and then a new type of guitar twinkle traversed.
Brief interlude "The Crow" opens with each instrument coming in softly, fooling the listener into believing they'll be receiving something epic and gigantic, then quickly segues into a heavy hum and ends. "Stasis" buries an intricate, otherwise distinct riff below the breathless march; Pyramids don't often give you much space, but that lends credence to the nature of the album.
The dancing, spiraling and uncomfortably upbeat guitars of "Entropic" brings an act like Raein to mind as it manages to juxtapose a scary sort of beauty against the muddy, distorted bass of the foundation.
Though the black-font-on-ash-grey renders the front and back cover type unreadable in dim light, the die-cut cover is very cool. Additionally, the lyrics are printed in a perfectly legible and grammatically correct manner in simple black and white. More bands should take note of this. Roe has put together a very complementing layout.
Through the Hourglass may not quite knock you over as Following the Track, Forcing Motion Through Phases did, but it's less immediately indicative of its influences and manages to progress Pyramids into new and interesting territory.