In the early to mid-2010s, Pomegranate Tiger made a splash in the progressive metal scene with two full length albums that captured a similar flurry of ideas as bands like Animals as Leaders. Formed by multi-instrumentalist Martin Andres, Pomegranate Tiger had some djent and other trappings of instrumental progressive metal but had its own flourishes that gave it some unique elements within the genre. But after 2015’s Boundless the project went on an extended hiatus while Andres toured with Oni and focused on other musical endeavors. Some eight years later Andres has picked up where he left off with All Input Is Error, but this time he has crammed even more musical ideas and complex arrangements. There’s a lot to take in throughout All Input Is Error’s ten tracks, and while some of the later ones don’t stand out quite as much listeners will still find that Pomegranate Tiger has a lot of exciting things to offer.
“Devils to Ourselves” is a great opener for All Input Is Error, as it showcases a little bit of everything Pomegranate Tiger has in store for listeners. The first few seconds build up a moodier instrumentation with bursts of effects that add a more ominous and foreboding tone, but this quickly gives way to a darker melody that draws you in with an almost hypnotic quality. Just before the two-minute mark some heavier distortion kicks in and there’s a bit more metal to the sound, which is continued on the blistering back and forth riffing of “Dagger Dance”. Here Andres utilizes that familiar Messhuggah and djent like chugging where the riffs repeat and build naturally, but what’s interesting here is the drum work has an almost drumline cadence to it. Early on Pomegranate Tiger succeeds thanks to a great balance between complex and ever-changing instrumentation, where time signatures and tempos change from minute to minute, alongside streamlined hooks that draw listeners in. Sometimes you’ll get straight-up chugging that has an almost Lamb of God feel to it, be thrown back into djent, and then there will even be some hip-hop beats added in for good measure. Tracks like “The Great Filter” and “Poison Pen” do a great job of moving from cinematic feeling melodies over to heavier riffing that feels like it can melt your face off, and there’s a seamless transition from one song into the next that makes everything feel cohesive. Admittedly from “Burn the Spirit” onwards I did find my attention begin to wander, in part because some of the approaches start to sound similar and because the mellower soundscapes didn’t grab me quite as much. The title track and “Keyways” have some interesting things going on, but they end things on too mellow a note and don’t stand out in my memory upon repeat listens, making me wonder if ending with a bang would’ve had a bit more impact.
All Input Is Error has impeccable production and a flawless first half that will draw listeners in with a combination of cinematic melodies and heavy, technical riffing. The additional flourishes from other genres like hip-hop beats also go a long way in giving Pomegranate Tiger even more variety than before, and the run from “Devils to Ourselves” to “The Cryptographer” makes this album worth the price of admission to any fan of instrumental progressive metal. But the second half loses some of the momentum with similar patterns that don’t quite reach the same height and a bit too mellow of a conclusion. It doesn’t completely derail what Andres is going for though, and there is something to be said for the ambition displayed here. Hopefully it won’t be another eight years before we get more Pomegranate Tiger, as it’s exciting to see how the project has evolved on album number three.
-Review by Chris Dahlberg