It would be easy just to classify Hologram Earth as another djent disciple of Meshuggah. And to be honest, they are quite similar when it comes to the basics of polyrhythms and palm muting. But there’s A LOT different about this band and their album “Black Cell Program” that it does merit a much closer look. And that look really pays off.
Vocally, the band are quite different. There’s a mix of harsh and clean vocals on the album. While I don’t think the harsh vocals are on par with Jens Kidman, the clean vocals do offer dynamics that Kidman simply isn’t capable of. Also, Hologram Earth are willing to take real risks like including horns, and a slight Middle Eastern vibe on “Outnumbered” which definitely pays off.
Having the album mastered by the great Jens Borgen certainly gives the album a great sound. It helps out especially on the more subtle parts (another difference with Hologram Earth is that they HAVE subtle parts) on tracks like “Circadian.” Before the track kicks in, it just sounds other worldly. The chorus on this track is really hooky as well. The key solo is just flat out prog.
In this way they remind me more of VOLA than Meshuggah. In some ways, Hologram Earth are the missing link between these bands. Not as brutal as Meshuggah yet quite heavy, and not as melodic as VOLA but very melodic at times. I even hear some Tool in spots. There is a lot going on on “Black Cell Program” which is another reason the album is such a great listen. There’s a lot to be discovered over time.
The band also enlisted the help of Shining mainman Jørgen Munkeby for the track “Moment of Despair.” The song is certainly heavy yet ethereal and somewhat jazzy (BLACKJAZZ!). “Rebirth” pushes the band into an epic territory: tons of space and dripping in atmosphere. This is an incredible track. The horns on it remind me a bit of Bowie’s “Blackstar.” And don’t get too comfortable because it does get heavy eventually.
The title track is another djent-fest which bookends the album well. While I like it, I think the moments where the band take their sound all over the place is more interesting than when they just kick onto a Meshuggah ladened groove. Said groove is just a small piece of the overall puzzle that is Hologram Earth. “Black Cell Program” is a fascinating album which hopefully is just the start of the journey for this band. It’s clear to me that they could really go in any direction!
1. Immaculate Conception
4. Moment of Despair
6. In Ashes We Sleep
7. Black Cell Program