Just seconds into “Traveler,” the opening track of The Matterhorn Project’s latest EP of the same name, you get the unmistakable feeling of falling backwards. You reach up towards the solid ground you perched on seconds before, but your fingers grasp only air. You plummet into a murky, vaporous abyss as the earth folds inward around you.
When the phrases “prog metal” and “solo studio project” occupy the about section of a band’s website, a couple of red flags go up. Sometimes, when an artist, especially one in the progressive sphere, spends a great deal of time alone in the studio, the result is an overly busy, hopelessly complex piece of music. Even a song with great bones can become boring and opaque when weighed down by layer upon layer of mathy riffage.
But Zahari Tzigularov, the mastermind behind Traveler, has used his studio time well. Though his musicianship is apparent, his artistry is front and center. The 5-song EP is at once lush and foreboding. Tzigularov’s compositions weave between sludgy bass-driven riffs, wandering clean guitar melodies and fantastical whisper-growled lyrics. Underlying the entire record are lavish, atmospheric soundscapes.
Tzigularov, a Bulgarian-born long time Denverite has been active in the Front Range heavy scene for years. When, at the beginning of the pandemic, he had to stop performing, he decided it was time to delve into a recording project that had lived rent-free in the back of his head for a long time.
“I wanted to push my limits,” he told BandWagon. “My challenge to myself was to write, perform, and record the album, as well as create the art for it.”
Tzigularov’s challenge limited him in one sense, because he had only one creative perspective to draw from end-to-end. But, this limitation is also the EP’s strength. From the melancholic album art to the viscous instrumentation, the pieces of Traveler fold together into a cohesive work of art.