It wouldn't be a record from The End if it didn't have a slightly pompous avant-garde edge to it, would it? The label that unleashed ARCTURUS, LOVE HISTORY and MADDER MORTEM (not to be confused with NOKTURNAL MORTUM) remains America's go-to imprint for extreme music off the beaten path, artistic (or at least art-damaged) statements made by nutters on the lunatic fringe of metal, commercial angles be damned.
Use "…But a Memory" as your gateway drug into "The Sense Apparatus". It's off-kilter, with a rollicking Mental Home-style riff, stuttering beat and somewhat maudlin clean vocals used to great effect. It's the catchiest they get, not that there's anything off-puttingly technical elsewhere. FRANTIC BLEEP is "prog" kinda like PORCUPINE TREE is — they're not setting off pyrotechnic displays of virtuosity a la DREAM THEATER or YNGWIE MALMSTEEN; rather, they rely on disquieting atmosphere, subtly complex arrangements and time changes, piano and other "non metal" instrumentation, and that post-black-metal sense of weirdness (name-check the usual suspects here: VED BUENS ENDE, OPETH, GREEN CARNATION, DAN SWANÖ, etc).
"Mandaughter" is almost too heavy for the rest of the record, serving up some twisted, tweaked-out metal riffing and black metal snarling. It's quite a refreshing change after the rather plodding "Curtainraiser", and it serves to highlight the problem with "The Sense Apparatus". Having gone to the trouble to create this weird sound and atmospheric, progressive vibe, the band often is content to merely coast on their oddball nature, creating long passages that are quirky, sure, but not that compelling. It catches a spark here and there — "Mandaughter" features some of those ORPHANAGE-style multi-tracked Gregorian chant vocals that I'm a total sucker for. But unfortunately, a lot of "The Sense Apparatus" is gratuitous change-ups and uninteresting songs.
Don't get me wrong, this is a pretty cool record overall — it's just frustrating that the band didn't do a little more with the impressive foundation they laid here. I'll be eagerly awaiting their next album, hoping it can sustain the quality level found in "…But a Memory" and "Mandaughter" over the course of an entire album.