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Sunbeam Overdrive - Diama review

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Band: Sunbeam Overdrive
Album: Diama
Release date: May 2023

01. Ascending
02. Diama
03. Slave To The Void
04. Crimson Stains
05. Diamond Shape
06. Junction Buhl's Eye
07. Deaf And Blind
08. Shen
09. Out Of Plato's Cave
10. Hard Sun [Eddie Vedder cover] [bonus]
11. Fainted Core [live acoustic version] [bonus]

Progressive and alternative metal are two genres that frequently overlap, as the likes of Karnivool, Tool and Wheel can attest to. However, both genres are rather broad umbrellas, and there are niches within them whose fusions have been less explored. Sunbeam Overdrive offer one such fusion.

The French quartet, who formed in 2019, announce their arrival with debut release Diama, a hefty body of work with a range of different ideas. The proggier ideas initially come to the fore; the title track brings in some gnarly djent riffs, as well as some harsher screams alongside the memorable clean sung chorus hook, while “Slave To The Void” evolves across its runtime, and throws in some intriguing complex rhythms before a soaring, passionate climax. Nevertheless, both songs still reveal some of the other influences that helped form the sound of Sunbeam Overdrive, inspirations that are heard clearer still later on Diama.

Perhaps the most glaring of these, and the one I was perhaps most alluding to in the introduction, is Alter Bridge; there’s a hint of Myles Kennedy to frontman Karim Arnaout’s voice during the sung parts of “Diama”, but the straightforward driving rock of “Crimson Stains” makes their presence in Sunbeam Overdrive’s writing more obvious. Outside of Alter Bridge, one suspects that the members of the band probably have some fondness for grunge, but just because the album features a cover of Eddie Vedder’s “Hard Sun” from the Into The Wild soundtrack, but also due to some aspects of the long, slow, trudging “Diamond Shape”.

I do find the fusion of influences on Diama intriguing, but in execution, I have certain reservations. I have to admit that, perhaps unsurprisingly, it was the proggier, djentier opening song “Diama”, and similar tracks from later such as “Deaf And Blind” and “Out Of Pluto’s Cave”, that initially drew me towards the record. I’m not put off by having a more straightforward song such as “Crimson Stains” in there, and I do rather like the more mellow vibe of the Eden Circus-esque “Shen”, but I feel that perhaps the contrasting influences aren’t that naturally arranged and assembled on Diama. The more multifaceted songs that incorporate different sounds, such as “Slave To The Void” and “Deaf And Blind”, work better for me than having the jumps between tracks such as “Crimson Stains” and those either side of it.

My other mild reservation with Diama comes from the length; 54 minutes is hardly outrageous, particularly considering that includes a 6-minute live acoustic bonus track, but with nearly every track bar the intro and interlude around or above 5 minutes, placed together they do make for an experience that feels long, without quite engaging consistently enough to justify it. I guess probably the easiest place to look for a way to address this is with that “Hard Sun” cover; it feels disconnected from the other contents of the album, and while Arnaout does a decent Eddie Vedder impression, it doesn’t really add anything to the original.

Despite these qualms, though, this is still a respectable debut from the French group; they have a good level of technical proficiency and a solid feel for groove, and when they’re on song, I find myself fairly taken with what they’re up to here. Additionally, I appreciate that they’ve found a way early on to say something relatively fresh when delivering a stylistic blend that has already had a good number of bands take a crack at it.

Rating breakdown
Performance: 8
Songwriting: 7
Originality: 7
Production: 8

Written on 05.06.2023 by Hey chief let's talk why not

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