Counter-World Experience - Pulsar

11 songs
47:32 minutes
***** ***
Hänsel & Gretel / MIG


I always thought I had a good grasp on the progressive metal scene, so imagine my surprise when I stumbled over Counter-World Experience. The German trio has been around since the early days of the millennium, and have now released their sixth longplayer Pulsar. One reason I might not have heard of them is that most of their earlier material was self-released.

Their style is described as instrumental progressive jazz metal, and if I wanted to be concise, the review would end right here. But that wouldn’t be fair to these guys who are truly gifted musicians, and who have even posted scores of their music on their Facebook page. Benjamin Schwenen plays guitar and is in charge of programming, and thus has the biggest impact on the sound, although bassist Sebastian Hoffmann adds to the jazziness, while drummer Thorsten Harnitz works like an atomic clockwork, jolting out the strangest time signatures.

Influences are varied, from progressive death metal (Death, Cynic) over jazz (Pat Metheny) to 20th century composers (Arnold Schönberg). Mostly there’s a strong element of jazz fusion, infused with the progressive deliveries of experimental metal, and owing the strange keys and time signatures to modern classical music. I am no musicologist but can guess that those might really drool over the amount of ingenuity within the music.

Normal music fans can still get something out of Pulsar. Instrumental music may not be to everyone’s taste, but in the case of Counter-World Experience, I really like how they play with moods. The eleven tracks have a certain concept, diving into astronomy, thus giving the music a science fictional flair. Some guest musicians appear, with guitarist Fountainhead, bassist Steve DiGiorgio and drummer Hannes Grossmann having already quite the reputation in the metal world, whereas Christian Meyers offers a tremendous trumpet part on the beautiful Bellatrix. This is of course not the only highlight, but I have the impression that especially the first half of the album is filled with goodness. Maybe the latter half is just as good, but this kind of hyper-intelligent music might take its toll. Nevertheless, Pulsar is a wonderful progressive metal / jazz fusion album that might possibly appeal more to the demanding metalhead than to the jazz fans, but I dare all of them to check out Counter-World Experience, a not so young band that still managed to surprise me quite positively.

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