Seeking Surreal occasionally sounds like a quieter, hookier incarnation of Tool, kind of like A Perfect Circle, which boasts the advantage of actually employing Tool’s singer. But this Kansas City-based quintet provides enough variety to avoid dubious categorization as a de facto side-project tribute act. On its full-length debut, Seeking Surreal supplements its mystical prog-metal riffs and hermetic three-part harmonies with keyboards, dual-guitar prettiness and jazzy chill-out interludes reminiscent of early Incubus.
Nate Williams, a versatile, undramatic vocalist with an appealingly soft delivery, and guitarist Holden Simpson, who decorates most of the record’s 15 tracks with labyrinthine leads, started jamming back in 1998, and Capgras Syndrome demonstrates the chemistry they’ve developed over the past decade. Never less than melodic, Seeking Surreal explores grim lyrical territory without substantially darkening its tones, which enhances the album’s accessibility but muffles its emotional impact. It’s not that the group needs to get heavier — its overt attempts at hardcore, such as chugging riffs and Williams’ isolated shouts, aren’t convincing — but it wouldn’t hurt to use gloomier tunings or engage in more minor-key piano creepiness. Anything to give these glossy, tuneful songs a black-lacquer finish.