Tiny Fingers most certainly do not have the physical characteristics of their namesake for them to pull off the cataclysmic guitar riffs of the Israeli band’s third full-length, Megafauna. Producing an instrumental metal fusion through combining elements of progressive rock, dub and psychedelia, Tiny Fingers create an aurally intensive listening experience. Yet while the band has some interesting ideas over the album’s 45-minute run time, the need to keep every second filled to the max makes Megafauna a noticeably static affair.
The closest analogue to Tiny Fingers would be former progressive metal overlords The Mars Volta, who pretty much singlehandedly launched schizophrenic time signatures and crazy chords into the mainstream conscious. The markers are all there: manic drums, cyclical structures, and electronic backgrounds (eg. Preloader). Guitarist Oren Ben David acknowledges the Volta as a source of inspiration. However, rather than going forward on the ideas set by the latter, Tiny Fingers conspicuously lack the attack and release or sheer raving madness that characterised releases such as De-Loused In The Comatorium.
Ideas fly every which way on Megafauna, and it’s difficult to suggest cuts because there simply isn’t any point where tracks die down, give themselves freedom, or explore an idea that isn’t almost immediately tossed aside. There’s simply an absurd amount of stuff going on here, and it’s a problem that many noughties and post-noughties (is that what we’re calling the decade now?) progressive metal bands have. They don’t give themselves any room to sit with an idea, instead bouncing everywhere and losing focus on potentially engaging ideas. A particularly egregious example is the last three minutes of Demands, whose breaks basically last 20 seconds before exploding into another effects-laden guitar frenzy. And even then, it’s basically the same high-pitched wah-wah that’s in every other section. Oren Ben David has got some mad chops as Tiny Fingers’ guitarist, but a lot of it is wasted on same-sounding tremolo picks and pedal blurs that tracks can’t distinguish themselves from any other mix.
The intros and outros are, quite frankly, weak; the chugging riffs sound like an attempt at Linkin Park nu-metal riffs and give a bad taste of what the rest of the album holds. The album picks itself up about two minutes into The Reduction Wheel, which features an oscillating bass chord that actually fits amazingly well into the piece. It’s a great example of what Tiny Fingers can do if they simply take their time. The tracks are already quite long – barring the intro/outro, only one is less than five minutes – so why rush? A lot of these ideas would be great if they were simply longer; sides two and three of Can‘s Tango Mayo would have not been nearly as exciting nor as influential if Halleluhwah or Aumgn were five or six minutes long.
Similarly, the ending riff to The Reduction Wheel comes too soon with too little build up; extending the bass oscillator to its own experimental section would keep this crowdedness at bay. Pasadena Matador could use the same care: at the moment, it’s just a brief interlude with more bombastic guitar, but letting that bass rhythm roll a bit with nothing but Tal Cohen’s groove-inspired percussion would provide a necessary palette cleanser.
Cyclamens is much warmer. Here the whole dub/electronica/metal thing works, minus the effects pedal abuse. It’s also the only moment where the whole game isn’t spittingly derivative from The Mars Volta. That’s one of the hardest pills to swallow when it comes to Megafauna: the album has little to offer that other bands haven’t already done much more powerfully. Ultimately, Tiny Fingers have some ideas and a couple of great moments, but little that’s new under the sun.