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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Music Review: Polyphia

Polyphia
Polyphia

The realm of metal can be hallowed territory for any band or groups of bands trying to stray from the convention production style, quality, and technical performance. On the night of March 3, at Brighton Music Hall, we bared witness to three acts that have been transcending what it means to be a metal act in the twenty-first century.
Headlining the evening were the young guitar virtuosos in Polyphia—a band that, akin with its youthfulness, doesn’t take itself too seriously. After all, the band’s tour is titled the LIT AF tour. That right there is enough to inform you of the playfulness with which Polyphia and its virile members carry themselves.
The crowd mirrored this playfulness—seeing as many crowd members would yell affectionate nicknames at the members of the band in between songs, and call out tracks they knew were next—because they had looked up the set list (as had I).
Opening the evening were the laid back mathy instrumental stylings of SoCal’s own, Covet. Lead by guitarist and multi-talented artist Yvette Young, Covet presents some of the most technical music in the most chill of manners—reminiscent of bands like Toe, LITE, and Tera Melos.
The band’s debut EP, “Currents,” was released in 2015 to a bit of acclaim, but the band has yet to reach any true level of recognition. So this massive 30-plus date tour has given the band a lot of attention, and it’s truly showing by how crowds react to the technicality and nonchalant precision of the band’s presentation.
Young and her crew had the crowd perfectly transfixed on the elegantly constructed sounds they created on stage.  Mouths agape, phones recording every moment, heads shaking from the sheer magnificence of the band’s performance.
Up next were the quasi-solo efforts of Jason Richardson, a Berklee-educated musician who returned to Boston after stints in metalcore acts, Born of Osiris and Chelsea Grin. While his departure from the first act was questionable in nature, his amicable break with Chelsea Grin in 2015 led him to pursue his solo aspirations full-time. Drummer Luke Holland joined Richardson to perform his tightly wound compositions that were rigged to his computerized effects setup, which means his set was precisely timed, articulated, and had absolutely no room for improvisation or error.
This need for precision was apparent as Richardson stalked the stage with near robotic movements, performing the noodly portions of the tracks while other instrumentation beamed from the house speakers. It was slightly confusing to watch, but Richardson’s chops are nearly untouchable in today’s metal.
When Polyphia hit the stage, the members sauntered out in a very unceremonious manner—no build up, no darkness, no hype music, four dudes just walked onto the stage and started playing.
Polyphia released its second LP, “Renaissance,” on Equal Vision Records last year to much acclaim, as it followed up the band’s debut LP, “Muse,” which turned a lot of heads in the metal genre as a new wave of instrumental metal truly dawned.
Before launching into a rousing rendition of the song “87,” bassist Clay Gober said to the crowd, “If you know the words of this next one, feel free to sing along!” The crowd erupted into laughter while the band shrugged into making guitars look like effortless pieces of wood and string. And that’s exactly what Polyphia does.
While the median age of the band teeters around 21 or so, the members play as though they’ve never stepped away from a guitar in over 40 years. It’s as though the guitars are extensions of their own bodies and we, in the audience, are just watching these men do simple menial tasks. Guitarists Tim Henson and Scott LePage have quickly joined the ranks of current technical metal guitarists like Tosin Abasi (Animals as Leaders), Misha Mansoor (Periphery), and Paul Waggoner (Between the Buried and Me). It’s a rise to metal dominance that has found the band great success.
At one point, Gober yelled, “This song is dedicated to anyone who ever said we needed to get a vocalist!” This received a loud uproar from the crowd as the headbanging and grooving continued. Which, by the end of the night, was a strange thing to realize; we went the entire night without hearing any singing from a vocalist—we had all been so captivated by guitar master-classes all night that it didn’t even seem to matter. The band’s legions of young fans—emblazoned with X’s on hands, a concert staple of being underage—lined the first few rows, and simply watched in awe during the entirety of Polyphia’s performance.
One couldn’t help but acknowledge that, in this moment, these mortal guitar wunderkinds were influencing the next generation of musicians, a generation they’re currently existing within—a generation they currently lead with stoic heroism into the future of metal.