Rishloo is a fascinating entity with a very short, sad history. They released three albums before the singer (the strongest link of the band, more on that later) left for undisclosed reasons. Feathergun, their swansong, is an absolute monster of an album that deserves much more attention that it will, unfortunately, ever get. This album seamlessly blends groovy nu-metal riffs with atmospheric textures and contains one of the most impassioned vocal performances I have ever heard.
The album starts out with Scissorlips, a hard-hitting opener that dazzles with a sweeping melodic chorus interspersed with a groove-laden riff and incredibly passionate vocals from Andrew Mailloux. As the song goes on, we are treated to an ethereal bridge before the chorus is altered to a more optimistic sound. For the rest of the album’s duration, the mood seems to jump from utterly bleak to cautiously hopeful at the drop of a hat. Brilliantly, the band doesn’t rely on either style to convey a single emotion. For example, Diamond Eyes is one of the albums darkest musical moments, and it accomplishes this feeling without a single distorted guitar. Feathergun in the Garden of the Sun, easily the most technically challenging song here, has a raucous chorus that immediately turns sour with a dreary chord progression.
Special mention must be made of Downhill, the album’s centerpiece and crown jewel. Beginning with a repetitive guitar motif and some beautifully raw, crooning vocals, it eventually takes on a bit of a groove before descending again into the depressive aura that permeates the album. It later leads to the often-cliched “epic build up” culminating in the most incredible moment of Rishloo’s entire career. Seriously, the guitar solo on top of it could be up there with Comfortably Numb as one of the most emotional performances by any guitarist ever.
Now, the vocals: I can already anticipate that a lot of people probably won’t care for Andrew Mailloux’s voice that much. The high notes are often “barked” out and sound like they’re right at the edge of his vocal range. To me, this just adds to the passion that Andrew brings to the table with every line he sings. And that’s really the ultimate key to this album. The band members aren’t anywhere near the benchmark for technical proficiency in progressive metal (though the drummer has an affinity for cymbals that rivals Neil Peart), but they get by on the sheer emotional impact. The songs are rich with hooks, and the atmospheric sections are especially impressive. Every now and then, a solid nu-metal riff will stomp you back into submission.
Because of the constant stylistic variation, the album has excellent flow. It gains a great deal from being listened to as a whole, but the songs have clear and distinct boundaries. To facilitate the flow, songs are connected by the occasional beautiful interlude (See Turning Into Goats and Systematomatic). Even so, songs like River of Glass and Diamond Eyes could just as easily be listened to on their own.
Overall, this album should be required listening for anyone into progressive metal and looking for something different. Even fans of straight ambient music looking for something with a bit more substance should find plenty to fall in love with here.