ALBUM REVIEW: Operating in Unsafe Mode (FIGURES)
ALBUM Operating in Unsafe Mode // ARTIST Figures
After six years, two EPs and a whole lotta live clout, Melbourne alt-metal legends Figures finally make it official with their debut album Operating in Unsafe Mode set to drop on July 17 - and it's undoubtedly set to become a defining landmark in the modern Aussie alternative world.
At a time in Australian music when many are grappling to cement their sonic identity, it's refreshing to find a band confident to play to their strengths while challenging the confines of whatever inevitable genre labels follow them around. And while it's been a few years between new tunes for Melbourne quintet Figures, absence has made the raging riffs and polished bliss grow fonder as the group sit primed to finally release their debut album Operating in Unsafe Mode on Friday July 17. Balancing taut arrangements with meaningful narratives in a staggering display of modern alt metal and nostalgic rock wiles, Figures find approachable complexity and more across ten potent tracks.
Kicking off with sweltering bliss, Failure To React busts in brandishing down-tuned riffs with melodics as Figures remind us all why they are undeniably one of the current key pillars in the modern heavy music scene. From punchy rhythmics to fluid melodics, it's an elegant and measured rager that readily leaps into Syntax; a djenty delight that blasts jaunty riffage amid some rap-rock vocals and a cacophony of churning textures.
Someone Univited barrels in next with slightly harsher vocal moments from frontman Mark Tronson, while brawny arrangements swelter as the group kick things up with menacing hooks, fittingly leading into the industrial prog merriment of lead single Underpaid Machinery.
UNDERPAID MACHINERY (FIGURES)
Midway through the album, it's clear Figures aren't playing it safe as they jack up the density and offer a punchy outing with Another Injustice that early on calls to mind a mesmerising concoction of Deftones, Tool and Incubus, with unexpected melodic shifts leading into a temporary reprieve that shows a softer Figures side amid ambient electronic beats and glimmering keys. Tronson's vocal range runs the gamut as he traverses the thematics of oppression, before the darkly beautiful anthem that is Inside You're Alone sashays through your ears.
If you've ever wondered why Figures have drawn comparisons to Deftones in the past, the intro for Force Feeding should clear matters up for you, as Tronson returns to more spoken vocal stylings and the band overall tackle more complex arrangements. The grooves are strong with Matrix Love as the quintet flex their unique melodic assortments with roaring guitars and delightfully discordant moments (and yes - this track would perfectly accompany Keanu as he flies off from the phone booth, his black trench billowing in the wind).
To close out this enigmatic album, it's anyone's guess what facet of Figures will greet us on the closing tracks. Fortunately, it's a combo of savagery and beauty as Figures serve up polished mayhem on The Circle Bends before embracing warped intensity that'll strip your paint while caressing your soul on closing track Pedestals.
While Australian prog and heavier genres have found increasing homes beyond the underground of late, Figures are undoubtedly a group destined to transcend the local scene and steal hearts globally with their crushing wares and innovative flair. Armed with veritable vigour and turgid charm, Figures knock it out of the park with Operating in Unsafe Mode; the safety's off and Figures are ready to explode. Keep your eyes and ears peeled next week for Operating in Unsafe Mode, with pre-orders available right here, right now.
BY TIANA SPETER