John Galanakis – Guitars/Orchestras/Brutal Growls-Clean Vocals Alexandra Misailidou – Female Vocals Jon Soti – Male Vocals Marios Konnaris – Lead Guitars John Sotirakis – Bass Guitars Nikitas Mandolas – Drums
Special Guest Musicians
George Konstantine Kratsas – Bionic Origin – Guest Guitars on The Alpha Origin & Engineering/Mixing/Mastering on entire Entropia Album.
Iliana Tsakiraki – Enemy Of Reality – Additional Leggro Soprano Vocals – Featured on Sense Of Matter
Astral Nova – Intro Shadow Provision The Alpha Origin Sense Of Matter Alternative Hypothesis – Interlude Deceptive Projection Attribution Theory Aggression Entropia – The Final Chapter
Entropy : a measure of the unavailable energy in a closed thermodynamic system that is also usually considered to be a measure of the system’s disorder, that is a property of the system’s state, and that varies directly with any reversible change in heat in the system and inversely with the temperature of the system; broadly : the degree of disorder or uncertainty in a system 2 a : the degradation of the matter and energy in the universe to an ultimate state of inert uniformity b : a process of degradation or running down or a trend to disorder
Quadrus band is a symphonic metal project from John Galanakis that formed in Athens Greece at June of 2014 with Marios Konnaris and began with the creation of ENTROPIA – concept album. Later on, after 2 years of composing and orchestrations for ENTROPIA, John came in contact with Nikitas Mandolas who recorded the drums for the whole album alongside with Jon Soti, who recorded the Male Vocals, Alexandra Misailidou who wrote the lyrics and the Female Vocals, Marios Konnaris who recorded the lead guitars and John Sotirakis who recorded the bass guitar. Lots of influences from progressive,djent,thrash,death,black,symphonic,folk,celtic, music and guided from the sound of Wintersun, Dream Theater, Symphony x, Epica , Dragonland, Ensiferum, Nightwish,Two steps from Hell and Hans Zimmer, led to the current sound of Quadrus and formed the cinematic style of Entropia
It seems throughout the course of the history of humankind that there has always been a change to totally alter the course of things. Keep in mind that humans have only been on Earth for just under 20,000 years. We have went from being hunter/gatherers, to small tribal villages to the first democratic city states such that was founded in Greece ,to absolute utter crushing and dominating origins of the Persian, Roman, Mongolian, Ottoman , British and American Empires. It also seems when these various Empires got to big or way to coveted by smaller more second or third world populations coming together, that these massive Empires fell and fell hard.
Humankind has not really learned very much from its past. We constantly and repeatedly create circumstances where we can not be self sufficient on the natural and human made resources that were given to us in the this life, that were given to us in this world. We have ran in vicious cycles of political and civil decay through Dystopia that has ultimately led down the road to Entropia. Such is the very futuristic world that new Greek symphonic, progressive metal, cinematic band Quadrus has done such a great job articulating in their independent self financed and distributed album Entropia.
These same universal laws and made made conundrums can also apply to the vast expanse of space over time. Entropia can happen when a solar system or whole galaxies are devoured by super massive black holes, gamma ray’s, or even quasar’s. The story of Quadrus’ Entropia is a combination of both human irresponsibility and the lack of cooperation of the known universe around us. As with all albums that are conceptual in nature we all see the story differently on the big screen in the theater of our minds and listen to the music through various and different filter’s of our comprehension and understanding. It is also becoming more frequent in the symphonic and progressive metal community that we are seeing more and more conceptual albums even as ‘Debut-Albums’. Both sub genres seem to have the proper atmospheres to allow for this to happen. Now a little break down track by track of Quadrus’ Entropia.
Chapter 1 – Born/Fear/Anger/Doubt
Astral Nova – Intro – Born
This begins with a spoken word element to begin to paint the picture on the screen inside the theater of the listener’s mind’s. It is certainly one of the most beautifully articulate spoken word tracks I have heard on a concept album in the last 25 years. That is no exaggeration whatsoever. Alexandra Misailidou – Female Vocals are not only radiant, they are eloquently elegant as she charms the listener into the story and preparing them for the darkness and the silver lining around some otherwise very dark and bleak moments on the album. This is all done over a beautifully elegant keyboard passage followed by a big drum passage like that of a marching band or a race have been given marching orders. It is like the band are looking at a film on the screen and playing to its intensity and various parts much like a symphony would score a film. This seamlessly transitions very smoothly into the next song in Chapter 1 Shadow Provision. Shadow Provision – Fear
Begins with a very high end keyboard chord progression that has transitioned seamlessly from its prior track Astral Nova – Born. Soon after that a blistering intro chord progression begins to take the song and album with it into a very dark and heavy realm. John Galanakis – Guitars/Orchestras/Brutal Growls-Clean Vocals adds some vocal depth when he uses the ‘death growls’ more like an additional instrument perhaps in the emotion of anger due to the fear unleashed on the population through the self inflicted chaos to the people in the story of Entropia.
The drum/bass rhythm rhythm section creates a immediate sense of urgency so that when the clean male vocal comes in it already gives the listener the sense of a chaotic event occurring within the story and on the planet of humanity. Between the deep rhythm section and blistering guitar riffs the male vocal narrative begins to question the very existence past. present and future of his own species. The beautiful female soprano vocal comes in and there is a dialogue between one another as to the situation and questions towards a solution to the problem they now face.
Under the clean male vocals and female vocals there is a underlying death growl. This track is a very cinematic track with heavy straight away power metal style vocals with various progressive chord progression changes. The band wastes absolutely no time engulfing the listener into the world they want to paint and create in the theater of the mind. The guitar solo’s are very wickedly insane along with the perfect accommodation of the various keyboard passages.
The Alpha Origin – Anger -(Featuring George Konstantine Kratsas -Guest Guitars)
This begins in a very thick dark power metal passage much like the style of Nightwish or even Epica. Soon the track has some very rhythm based crunchy guitar chord progression over a clean guitar lead. Soon among the instrumental rhythm and lead chord progression and interchanges come the female soprano vocal, male ‘death vocal’ and male clean vocal that blend and interchange perfectly on time and on key. The male ‘death growl’ on this one serves both a vocal melodic verbal narrative as well as a vocal instrumental narrative in the story. Some of the straight away rhythm guitar and bass/drum rhythm sections are in a very galloping matter much like Iron Maiden meets Dream Theater.
All this brutality in the instrumental half is to set up a very angry lyrical narrative. The instrumental allows for the very cynical, hateful, sarcasm lyrical narrative to breathe where it can be understood clearly. I believe it is intentional. The male vocal also serves as a hardcore indictment to the general population as to what they have done to their world as a collective community. The male ‘death growl’ begins to not only convey anger but it also begins to tell the people how to channel their anger to a legitimate and everlasting solution a motivator.
About the 5:05 mark the piano comes in and the brutality of both the instrumental narrative and lyrical narrative wane a little to allow the listener to absorb the situation from both sides. To the listener that really follows the story from the CD booklet, they can identify and relate to some of the anger the band articulate both lyrically and instrumentally. They start to realise that they can find themselves in a situation as this. Anger is a powerful motivator for change and the band do a great job painting a picture of it on this track. The guitar solo’s are quite fluid. The track ends on a very orchestral passage with various harmonies that convey the appearance of various choirs.
Sense Of Matter – (Featuring Iliana Tsakiraki – Enemy of Reality – Leggro Soprano)
This starts out with a beautiful classical piano that appears it is being played in a concert hall. The clear male vocal come in to continually articulate the overall story in the concept. Then the track explodes with various rhythmic chord progressive passages that are sheer blistering. The passages are definitely and purposefully over the top with the cinematic and dramatic to match the intensity of the story. The band go above and beyond painting the emotion of doubt of the people in the story to the intended audience they are targeting. The ‘death growls’ can actually be very understood, a welcomed surprise where this particular music is concerned. They also continue to serve as a instrument along side the chants from the soprano half of the vocal narrative.
Chapter 2 – Living/Deception/Guilt/Sadness
Alternative Hypothesis – Interlude– Living
Is a instrumental thus, the sub title of Interlude is added. It opens up Chapter 2 – Living/Deception/Guilt/Sadness much like a second ACT in a Three Act stage play. The population of the people are really starting to acknowledge the plight of their situation. This instrumental begins to also set the atmosphere for the Second portion of Entropia.
Deceptive Projection – Deception
Just as a shred of Truth starts to come in so does Deception. The track opens up with a thunderous rhythm section with a dark male spoken word narrative. The instrumental also does a good job building a sense of anticipation for the lyrical narrative. It is the classic a case of you can not have one without the other trying to remove its enemy. There is also multi dimensional choirs to convey various emotions within the people. This is also the point of the story where the resolve of humanity really begins to be tested. The chaos on the outside begins the war for the soul and spirit on the inside of the individual and humanity as a collective. The harmony between the instrumental and lyrical is really tight and cohesive about now and the band really start working as one, much like a well oiled machine. On a lyrical note humanity knows some great deception is coming and scramble to prepare for it. The ‘death growls’ begin to really get more and more intense to match the equal intensity of the brutal almost blackened death metal style instrumental half. The keyboard passages go into the area symphonic fusion. The band ends this with what appears to be machine like effects in progress that will easily and seamlessly transition into the following track Attribution Theory – Guilt.
Attribution Theory – Guilt
This picks up seamlessly in transition off the previous track before it Deceptive Projection – Deception. It appears the machine is turning on a instrumental half of the track. By this point of the album when things get brutal they stay brutal both instrumentally and lyrically. As far as instrumental and effects there is a definitive turn of events in the story. This contains beautifully done keyboard passages with blistering guitar rhythms sections. The instrumental emotion and lyrical narrative displayed are those where humanity seems beside itself and in disbelief over the events that are happening on their Planet Earth. You can say that humanity are truly bearing the burden of guilt over their own actions. The instrumental is very climatic to a further tipping point in the story. Instrumentally it concludes on a major melodic note with various double soprano vocals layer in and out of one another.
Aggression – Sadness
Begins with a thunderstorm effect that is perfectly complimented by a crunchy rhythm guitar. Soon a cleaner guitar chord progression comes in and matches the lush layered keyboard atmosphere on the stronger end of the melodic side. The beautiful soprano and male clean vocal really pay justice to the instrumental portion of this. This track takes on a very odd Gothic element within both the vocal and instrumental much more like Epica. Lyrically the population of Humanity reconcile with their plight and begin to chart the course towards their own survival and preservation. The keyboard atmospheres really remind me of Jens Johanssen of Stratosvarious. This track also marks the end of Chapter 2 much like a second part to a three Act play or stage performance.
Chapter 3 – End Of Circle/Redemption/New Beginning
Entropia – The Final Chapter
This is the finishing epic of Entropia. It opens up the third and final chapter to this epic concept. It is just under 18:00 minutes in length and serves as a major third of the story.
Part 1 – Atom
This starts out with a very subtle keyboard passage in the background while various audio clips from news agencies report disaster, a new planet that is 60% larger than our Earth but is habitable like our Earth. Here you really get the sense as a listener that humanity is doomed and in desperation to find a place of redemption and salvation. It is a Epiphany on a very mass scale.
Part 2 – Epiphany
Lyrically is a definite wake up call for humanity and the very fact they either change their ways and adapt to the circumstances of their actions or they perish under them. This is followed in by some lush glossy keyboard sections with some very brutal rhythm sections blended in with symphonic death metal elements. This is a very angry portion of the epic. The perfect blend of death growls and strong female soprano vocals and choirs really place a sense of conviction here.
Part 3 – Cosmos
This opens up giving the appearance of a intergalactic choir acknowledging the knowledge and understanding they have left. Although they have this understanding they also begin to really recognize their complacency and how it is beginning to devour them from the inside out. All this emotions are conveyed with a very easy and palatable symphonic and cinematic section in the instrumental portion. It is as if they are starting a journey towards perhaps a new home or solution.
Part 4 – Shadow Light Spirituality
This part is very brutal in the sense that this is straight away symphonic/cinematic death metal blended in harmony with spoken word sections. After the emotion give by both the lyrical and instrumental content for the first half or verse of this portion, the band utilizes their native Greek language as if it is the language spoken by this particular sect of humanity. They do this in a very coherent and articulate manner in the midst of such a angry instrumental portion.
Part 5 – Justification
Lyrically this is the age old war between the sciences and religions of humanity. It is as if both sides are making futile attempts to justify their actions and contributions on the race of humanity. This emotion is done with a interchange of the male clean and female soprano with the death growls coming in to convey the utter anger between the sciences and religions. The anger in both the lyrical and instrumental side are in total harmony. The band remains on point and objective with this particular portion of the epic.
Part 6 – Elevation
This seamlessly transitions from Part 5 – Justification with a deep and tuned down symphonic rhythm section that is both cinematic in nature and the appearance of a little bit of space metal. It is a bit slower to allow the listener to breathe and absorb the epic and story that the band has been painting in their minds. The female soprano comes in this time more as a voice of reason and the various instrumental elements allow for that to be possible in harmony with the vocal elements. Humanity also sees they may have a second chance for survival.
Part 7 -Redemption
This last portion of the epic starts at the 13:24 mark and proceeds to bring the entire epic and overall story within the concept of the entire album. The transition is remains continuous and on point towards the end. This conclusion is very blistering and brutal on the instrumental half. It is a non stop power rhythmic sections blended with cinematic keyboard atmospheres. The band does a great job bringing this story and concept to it climatic conclusion. The choir provides the illusion of a humanity once again unified towards the common goal to go on despite all its imperfections and disasters.
In a year that has already produced concept albums by Pain Of Salvation In The Passing Light Of Day and Ayreon’s The Source, that are actually signed artists, it seems that some bands and artists have chosen to go independent/unsigned for their conceptual debuts. Earlier in the year I reviewed some independent/unsigned concept albums from Ireland’s The Vicious Head Society Abject Tomorrow and Aeloias, The Architect and now Quadrus’ Entropia, it appears that this may turn out to be the year of the independent artist or band doing concept albums without any label support whatsoever. Although Quadrus have only been together just under three years they sound and operate like a band that has been around anywhere from 10 to 15 years. This was very well written, arranged, produced, mixed and mastered. This gets a very strong 5/5 for independent quality.
Ayreon | The Source | Album Review & Featured Album Of Week For April 23-30
Label: Mascot Label Group Release Year : 2017 Country: The Netherlands/International Genre: Progressive Metal/Rock Opera/Genre Transcending
Band Members/Original Cast
Arjen Anthony Lucassen – Electric and Acoustic Guitars/Bass Guitar/Mandolin/Synthesizers, Hammond/Solina Strings/All Other Instruments
Ed Wabry – Drums
Original Cast Members/Vocalists
Editorial Note – The People of Forever are Alphans Alpha until they get to Planet Y where they get the title ‘Forever’ !
James Labrie – Dream Theater- As ‘The Historian’ Tommy Giles Rogers – Between The Buried And Me – As ‘The Chemist’ Simone Simons – Epica -As ‘The Counselor’ Mike Mills – Toehider – As ‘T-H1’ Floor Jansen – Nightwish – As ‘The Biologist’ Hansi Kursch – Blind Guardian – As ‘The Astronomer’ Tobis Sammet – Avantasia/Edguy – As ‘The Captain’ Michael Eriksen – Circus Maximus – As ‘The Diplomat’ Nils K Rue – Pagans Mind – As ‘The Prophet’ Zaher Zorgati – Myrath – As ‘The Preacher’ Tommy Karevik – Kamelot – As ‘The Opposition Leader’ Russel Allen – SymphonyX – As ‘The President’ Will Shaw – Heir Apparent’ Wilmer Waarbroek, Jan Willem Ketelaars, and Lisette van den Berg – Scarlet Stories as ‘The Ship’s Crew’ You … Insert Name Here … as ‘The Audience’
Joost van den Broek – ex-After Forever/ex Sun Caged – Grand Piano and Electric Piano Mark Kelly – Marillion – Synthesizer Solo Maaike Peterse – Kingfisher Sky – Cello Paul Gilbert – RacerX/Mr. Big – Guitar Solo Guthrie Govan – The Aristocrats/ex-Asia – Guitar Solo Marcel Coenen – Sun Caged – Guitar Solo Ed Warby – Ayreon/Gorefest/Star One- Drums Ben Mathot – Violin Jeroen Goossens – ex-Pater Moeskroen – Flute/Wind instruments
Lori Linstruth – Photo Stills/Ajren Lucassen & Ayreon Cast
Wayne Joyner – Lyric Videos for Everybody Dies and Star Of Sirrah
Track listing/ Album Anatomy CD 1
Chronicle 1: The ‘Frame’ – 22:22 1. ‘The Day That the World Breaks Down” James LaBrie, Tommy Karevik, Tommy Rogers, Simone Simons, Nils K. Rue, Tobias Sammet, Hansi Kürsch, Mike Mills, 2. “Sea of Machines” Rogers, Eriksen, Rue, Simons, Sammet, Allen 3.”Everybody Dies” Mills, Karevik, Rogers, Allen, Kürsch, Eriksen, Sammet, Jansen
Chronicle 2: The Aligning of the Ten – 21:45 4.”Star of Sirrah” LaBrie, Allen, Kürsch, Sammet, Rue, Rogers, Eriksen, Jansen 5.”All That Was” Simons, Jansen, LaBrie, Eriksen 6.”Run! Apocalypse! Run!” Karevik, Kürsch, Mills, Allen, Jansen, Sammet, Rue, LaBrie 7. “Condemned to Live” LaBrie, Rogers, Eriksen, Simons, Karevik, Jansen CD 2 Chronicle 3: The Transmigration -22:33 1.”Aquatic Race” LaBrie, Sammet, Karevik, Eriksen, Allen, Simons, Rogers, 2.”The Dream Dissolves” Simons, Jansen, Eriksen, Rue 3.”Deathcry of a Race” Allen, Sammet, Jansen, Karevik, Zaher Zorgati, Simons 4.”Into the Ocean” Allen, Mills, Eriksen, Kürsch, Sammet, Karevik, Rue
Chronicle 4: The Rebirth – 21:53 5.”Bay of Dreams” LaBrie, Rogers, Mills, Eriksen, Rue 6.”Planet Y is Alive!” Karevik, Allen, Kürsch, Mills, Sammet, Jansen 7. “The Source Will Flow” Rogers, LaBrie, Simons 8. “Journey to Forever” Sammet, Eriksen, Kürsch 9. “The Human Compulsion” Simons, LaBrie, Rogers, Eriksen, Allen, Rue, Sammet, Kürsch, Karevik, Jansen 10. “March of the Machines” Mills
When I was making ‘Star Wars,’ I wasn’t restrained by any kind of science. I simply said, ‘I’m going to create a world that’s fun and interesting, makes sense, and seems to have a reality to it.’
A film is – or should be – more like music than like fiction. It should be a progression of moods and feelings. The theme, what’s behind the emotion, the meaning, all that comes later.
Imagination will often carry us to worlds that never were. But without it we go nowhere.
My Introduction To The Genius Arjen A Lucassen & Ayreon.
I can remember back in the 2000 shortly after the turn of the new century I strolled into Diamond Head Records with some serious spending money. I was primarily focused on buying music by bands or artists I had never heard of before. I remember picking up Zero Hour’s self titled debut, Explorers Club Age Of Impact,Pain Of Salvation’s One Hour By Concrete Lake, Perfect Element Part 1, Entropia. I was really after Arena’s The Visitor and Pride albums.
As I was flipping the CD’s in the bin for Arena I came across two CD’s from Ayreon. They were both in The Universal Migrator series, Part 1 The Dream Sequencer and Part 2 Flight Of The Migrator. I noticed the utter mass of talent that was on both parts to the Universal Migrator. My curiosity nailed me and I had to go find out what this was. I went home listened to them both in one sitting inside a headset. It not only blew the hell out of my mind, it also converted me into a fan of Arjen Lucassen’s work as a collective. From there I returned back to the record store 2 days later and bought The Final Experiment, Actual Fantasy and Into The Electric Castle.I went down the Yellow Brick Road, Across The Rainbow Bridge, Through The Wormhole and have never returned since.
2017 The Present
Now it is 2017 and Arjen Lucassen has no signs of slowing down as he has returned for his 8th installment with another epic Progressive Rock & Metal Opera, Ayreon The Source. I am continually amazed and impressed of the rosters of talent that Ajren Lucassen is able to recruit for the Ayreon albums. Once again he has managed to recruit the who is who within the progressive rock, progressive metal and even symphonic and power metal communities. With Arjen on this run as far as vocalists are James LaBrie – Dream Theater as ‘The Historian‘, Tommy Karevik – Kamelot/Seventh Wonder as ‘The Opposition Leader’, Tommy Rogers – Between the Buried and Me as ‘The Chemist’ Simone Simons – Epica as ‘The Counselor’, Nils K. Rue – Pagan’s Mind as ‘The Prophet’ ,Tobias Sammet – Edguy/Avantasia as ‘The Captain’ , Hansi Kürsch – Blind Guardian as ‘The Astronomer’ ,Mike Mills – Toehider as ‘TH-1’ Russell Allen – Symphony X as ‘The President’ , Michael Eriksen – Circus Maximus as ‘The Diplomat’ Floor Jansen – Nightwish/ex-After Forever/ex-ReVamp as ‘The Biologist’ Will Shaw – Heir Apparent’ Wilmer Waarbroek, Jan Willem Ketelaars, and Lisette van den Berg – Scarlet Stories as ‘The Ship’s Crew’ , Zaher Zorgati – Myrath as ‘The Preacher’.
To really understand Ayreon’s The Source one should listen to The Final Experiment 1994, Into The Electric Castle 1998 , The Universal Migrator Parts 1&2 and 01011001 2008, as the story line arcs across all those past Ayreon albums. The main emphasis mainly being on 01011001 in 2008. Much like in the Star Wars Series where Episodes 4 A NEW HOPE, 5 THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK & 6 RETURN OF THE JEDI , were all released before their respective prequels EPISODE I THE PHANTOM MENACE, STAR WARS: EPISODE II ATTACK OF THE CLONES and STAR WARS: EPISODE III REVENGE OF THE SITHso were Ayreon’s The Final Experiment 1994, Into The Electric Castle 1998 , The Universal Migrator Parts 1&2 and 01011001 2008 were all released before Ayreon’s The Source as it is a prequel of the story of the people of ‘Forever’ Planet Yand how the story was before the events of 01011001 took place.
The story Through technological advancement, ‘Forever’, a race of aquatic beings living on Planet Y, has found the secret of longevity. They have advanced to the point that they have become completely dependent on machines and are losing their emotions. A passing comet on a collision course with Planet Earth provides the opportunity to revitalize their race; ‘Forever’ harness the comet to carry their DNA to a new home on Earth. When the comet and Earth collide, the cataclysmic impact exterminates the dinosaurs (the Fifth Extinction), but from the ashes of destruction, humans arise. At first, the experiment with seeded DNA seems successful: through the humans ‘Forever’ vicariously relive the emotions they experienced before the age of machines. In order to help mankind overcome their physical ailments and mental limitations, ‘Forever’ speeds up human evolution. But the result is tragic: people develop a similar technological dependency with their emotions waning just like ‘Forever’ and moral development not keeping pace with their capacity to invent. ‘Forever’ must find a way to save mankind from its imminent self-destruction… or should they?
With Ayreon’s The Source you find some familiar faces that have already participated on previous Ayreon albums such as Ed Warby – Drums, who is basically another band member as much as its creator Arjen Lucassen himself. You also have some Ayreon Alumnireturning James LaBrie – Dream Theater as ‘The Historian’, Tommy Karevik – Kamelot/Seventh Wonder as ‘The Opposition Leader, Hansi Kürsch – Blind Guardian – As ‘The Astronomer’ ,Mike Mills – Toehider as ‘TH-1‘ Russell Allen – Symphony X as ‘The President’, Floor Jansen – Nightwish/ex-After Forever/ex-ReVamp as ‘The Biologist’, Simone Simons – Epica as ‘The Counselor’, and Wilmer Waarbroek – Guide Vocalist for Ayreon’s The Theory Of Everything 2013 and part of ‘Ships Crew’ on The Source.
The new talent added to the ever growing Ayreon franchise roster are Tommy Rogers – Between the Buried and Me as ‘The Chemist’ , Nils K. Rue – Pagan’s Mind as ‘The Prophet’ ,Tobias Sammet – Edguy/Avantasia as ‘The Captain’, Michael Eriksen – Circus Maximus as ‘The Diplomat’, Will Shaw – Heir Apparent’, Jan Willem Ketelaars, and Lisette van den Berg – Scarlet Stories as ‘The Ship’s Crew’ , Zaher Zorgati – Myrath as ‘The Preacher’. Some of the newer instrumentalists Arjen Lucassen recruit for The Source are as follows, Paul Gilbert – RacerX/Mr. Big – Guitars, Mark Kelly -Marillion – Synthesizer Solo, Maaike Peterse – Kingfisher Sky – Cello, and Guthrie Govan – The Aristocrats/ ex-Asia – Guitar Solo.
Arjen Lucassen really has a very esteemed business model and a reputation of such prominence where he can invite people back to Ayreon while bringing newer talent aboard with every Ayreon album. This is a true testament of the extraordinary character and distinguished personal and professional reputation Arjen Lucassen has built for himself over 30 years in the business. With all the talent Arjen Lucassen is able to recruit the economy of such a business model is uncanny. Arjen Lucassen practically and unintentionally has been able to introduce the world to bands they may or may not of heard of due to some talent that appears on a Ayreon project. I am one of them people that was introduced to bands or newer bands through my purchase of a Ayreon album alone.
With Ayreon The Source the listener not only gets a true prequel to prior Ayreon story lines you also have a story that even those new to the Progressive Rock/Metal concept album and Progressive Rock/Metal Opera can easily follow with the booklet provided. Like his last Ayreon album The Theory Of Everything where there were four parts broken up into 20+ minute segments, The Source is broke up in very similar fashion. This time he has broken the album into Four Chronicles, Chronicle 1: The ‘Frame’, Chronicle 2: The Aligning of the Ten, Chronicle 3: The Transmigration and Chronicle 4: The Rebirth. This really sets up a very fluid and easy to comprehend and envision the story like a motion picture movie on the screen in the theater of the mind of the listener. Ayreon’s The Source clocks in at almost 90 minutes. It will require a small bit of time to really enjoy it. If possible I totally suggest using the lyrics within the booklet provided on all its release formats, versions or options whatever you buy. Now a little track by track analysis of Ayreon’s The Source.
Track listing/ Album Anatomy
Chronicle 1: The ‘Frame’ – 22:22
1. ‘The Day That the World Breaks Down”
James LaBrie, Tommy Karevik, Tommy Rogers, Simone Simons, Nils K. Rue, Tobias Sammet, Hansi Kürsch, Mike Mills,
In his signature sound Arjen Lucassen quickly creates that distinctive and unique sound that separates him from others who do rock/metal opera concept albums. Within that filter he creates a very sense of urgency with the atmosphere he is creating for the listener and his characters within the production. It appears darkness has enveloped the population of the ‘Forever’people. In a very warmth voice James Labrie – Dream Theater- As ‘The Historian’ in a very quiet yet polite way sets up a heavy layered dark atmosphere. Soon after the track takes a very heavy guitar driven up tempo chord progression and Tommy Karevik – Kamelot – As ‘The Opposition Leader’ comes in with what appears as a scathing and scolding indictment towards his fellow people of ‘Forever’.
Arjen then changes the chord progressions and time signatures instrumentally to where they will be in perfect harmony with the concern and worry of Tommy Giles Rogers – Between The Buried And Me – As ‘The Chemist’ and Simone Simons – Epica -As ‘The Counselor‘ as they start to reconcile with their plight and current circumstances. Now the people of ‘Forever’ must prepare for a new home planet where they can preserve their way of life civilly,economically religiously and human life itself. Nils K. Rue – Pagan’s Mind as ‘The Prophet’ ,Tobias Sammet – Edguy/Avantasia as ‘The Captain’, each provide confirmation as well as insight. The music is in perfect harmony with the emotions of every character involved. Tobias Sammet – Edguy/Avantasia as ‘The Captain’ , Hansi Kürsch – Blind Guardian as ‘The Astronomer’ ,Mike Mills – Toehider as ‘TH-1’ all begin work on the how to solve the impending apocalypse to come. As the science community of ‘The Captain’, ‘The Chemist’ , ‘The Astronomer’,and Floor Jansen – Nightwish/ex-After Forever/ex-ReVamp as ‘The Biologist’ start work on the exit strategy to leave their current world before disaster strikes, Russell Allen – Symphony X as ‘The President’ and Michael Eriksen – Circus Maximus as ‘The Diplomat’ have a talk. ‘The President’now consumed in guilt over the impending crisis begins to real beat himself up. ‘The Diplomat’ steps in to try to both calm ‘The President’down from his guilt and appeal to his humanity. Instrumentally during this time Arjen has almost a bluesy, psychedelic atmosphere he has planted in the background of the dialogue between ‘The President’and ‘The Diplomat’. This bluesy psychedelic atmosphere is very much like Amazing Flight from Into The Electric Castle in 1998.
This opens up in a heavily folk laden intro. Soon it takes a very folk ethereal turn where ‘The Chemist’enters in and in the traditional Ayreon mold gets the double vocal harmony treatment. This makes the opening passage fuller and warmer. ‘The Diplomat’ – Eriksenstarts to experience many issues around him. His vocal is very warm and extremely articulate in harmony with the instrumental portion which has heavy elements of the flute. ‘The Prophet’ – Ruekeeps having visions and with a very gentle yet high range continues to forewarn the people of what he is seeing. These visions are very similar to those that Ayreon, the blind minstrel, was finally able to see back in the 6th century on Ayreon’s The Final Experiment back in 1995, that was also broken into 4 Act’s as well.
Act I The receiver of the telepathic messages is Ayreon, a blind minstrel living in 6th century Britain. He’s lived his life in darkness from the day he was born, but one fateful day everything changes — Ayreon can see images. The minstrel believes these visions are sent to him by the Lords of Time. Unaware of how much time there is left before earth is destroyed Ayreon sets out to tell the tale of earth’s demise singing songs of wars, natural disaster, and computer technology. The terrifying tales frighten the villagers who run him out of town.
Much of this track has elements of Ayreon’s The Human Equation/The Theory Of Everything and 01011001 meaning their are some slower melodic mellow areas that build towards heavier more powerful melodic harmonies. Arjen is really good at dropping the tone instrumentally and allowing his guest vocalists breathe and give their own life and character to the very character they are portraying on every track. This track is both a perfect example of that and perfect example of allowing the vocalist to breathe and relationship building with his guest vocalists and musicians. There are many more examples of this to come on the album.
This track concludes Chronicle 1 ‘The Frame’. This part of the story takes on a more power progressive metal sound with the faster up tempo of power blended with the progressive intricate chord progression and time changes. ‘TH 1’ the computer mainframe or artificial intelligence begins to really accurately analyze and convey just how horrible the situation really is for the people of ‘Forever’. Soon the people of ‘Forever’ come to terms and begin to accept the situation and working towards the solution of survival , yet some start to cynically express their utter doubt such as ‘The Opposition Leader’and ‘The Chemist’. ‘The President’even becomes cynical. In this track you can really notice that Arjen Lucassen had Tommy Rogers – Bewtween The Buried And Me as ‘The Chemist’ in mind. Arjen wrote that character to express rage and utter anger and Tommy Rogers supplied the guttural growls to provide for that anger and emotion in ‘The Chemist’. However through all the cynical anger, rage, and fear ‘The Diplomat’ still attempt to try and reason with the people. There is a bit more keyboard passages on a otherwise very heavy and guitar driven Ayreon album. A heavy album that still stays on point with clean and melodic harmonies.
Now for those who are lifetime Ayreon fans and followers you are probably asking yourself where is the typical unknown talent that Arjen recruits? The talent that never gets a chance. Some of you expected a vocalist or perhaps a musician. I believe Arjen went a entirely different route. He gave a video making the honour and privilege to create and edit a lyric video for Star of Sirrah here. Wayne Joyner of Atlanta, Georgia USA created a fantastic video for this track. He in fact is Art Director for Prog/Power USA. Therefore for this reason I have decided to withhold my typical commentary on the track and allow this ‘Unknown Talent’to shine through the video he made for this Ayreon song.
Starts out as a very psychedelic folk track. It is also a symphonic metal dream come true with Simone Simons and Floor Jansen in perfect harmony for the first time on Ayreon. This track picks up some heaviness towards the 2:00 mark. It then drops and another beautiful duet between Simons and Jansen appears again. The various progressive changes in the guitar solos allow the listener to stay on point with the concept.
This particular track really starts off with a blistering opening passage inside the instrumental portion. The instrumental is written and done in such away that it thoroughly give the song a serious sense of urgency. The people of ‘Forever;’ are in a panic at this point. The sense of urgency created in the instrumental is certainly magnified 8 fold with the 8 vocalists on this particular track. Panic, sense of urgency, state of emergency are all eloquently articulated in every vocalist and character they are portraying. This is definitely one of the quicker tracks on The Source. There are a few breaks were it drops but those are not long at all. The fast pace of this track can be equated to The Universal Migrator – Part 2 Flight Of The Migrator where it was the heavier half and Part 1 The Dream Sequencer was the more experimental folky and atmospheric half.
7. “Condemned to Live”
LaBrie, Rogers, Eriksen, Simons, Karevik, Jansen
Slowly starts out with a deep well executed rhythm section that keeps building layers upon layers with various keyboards, deep rhythm section of a semi acoustic guitar will a electric guitar in time and on point in harmony. The vocals are full of warmth that convey fear, disbelief and guilt. The track builds and builds where it eventually has heavy explosions of guitar stringed sections meshed in harmony with rhythm section. The vocals are more ethereal at this point and Arjen Lucassen remains on point with his unique Ayreon cinematic signature sound. This is the last track on CD 1/Side B if you buy the vinyl ,that appropriately closes out the first half of the journey through The Source.
Starts off as a isolated vocal harmony almost A Capella. Soon a deep rhythm section takes the track in a very groove laden direction. There is a dynamic exchange between both ‘The Historian’ and ‘The Captain’will the underlying rhythm section. Then ‘The Opposition Leader’ begins his rhetoric over again with a very drum laden background beat. This is also at the point both instrumentally and lyrically were the people of ‘Forever’begin their epic odyssey to their new home planet. It is at this time lyrically that the people of ‘Forever’ begin to reconcile they will need a change of habits.This narrative continues with a harmonic dialogue between ‘The Biologist’and ‘The Astronomer’. The instrumental portion of this track hold the lyric narrative very accountable emotionally, mentally and spiritually. This is also the first time we hear ‘The Ships Crew’ mini choir of Will Shaw – Heir Apparent’ Wilmer Waarbroek, Jan Willem Ketelaars, and Lisette van den Berg – Scarlet Stories.
2.”The Dream Dissolves”
Simons, Jansen, Eriksen, Rue
Starts out with a synth sound effect created by Arjen himself. He like playing with various synth effects on all his work. Soon the violin comes in with the synth sound effects and the drums. It all creates a really psychedelic atmosphere. There is something of real depth and beauty about the feminine emotion Simone Simons – ‘The Counselor and Floor Jansen – ‘The Biologist’ that really speaks to the soul and heart and the story really takes a very emotional turn here. The track gets heavier with a thick rhythm section before going back to the smooth atmospheric keyboard passage. The track picks up and displays very deep rhythm tones. Mike Eriksen – ‘The Diplomat’ and Nils K Rue – ‘The Prophet’ bring a masculine emotion to balance the track. The guitar solo here is insanely atmospheric in nature.
This explodes out of the gate with a powerful and heavy flute that is soon joined with a powerful bass/drum/rhythm guitar rhythmic section. All these melodic forces at once are a immediate wall of sound of sheer heaviness. Soon the track drops to a acoustic chord progression where ‘The President’ address the people of ‘Forever’.Russell Allen has always been a great vocalist of character and emotion throughout his times of participation on Ayreon and this is another confirmation of that. Soon the people of ‘Forever’ begin to enter the vicinity of their new planetary home. The instrumental portions take on a very cosmic space metal element familiar with the Ayreon franchise. The dialogue takes on a cooperative narrative. This is also the first appearance of Zaher Zorgati – Myrath – As ‘The Preacher’. I really liked the way Arjen allowed Zaher Zorgati to sing in his native Arabic, it added another layer of depth and brought something new to the Ayreon franchise. Both Simone Simons and Floor Jansen execute their respective soprano qualities on here as well.
4.”Into the Ocean”
Allen, Mills, Eriksen, Kürsch, Sammet, Karevik, Rue
This comes in very smoothly from Deathcry of a Race with a heavy metal bluesy style much like a Deep Purple Mark 2 sound especially Space Truckin’. The Hammond style keyboard and deep rhythm section are a match made perfectly for all the vocalists involved. For vocalists such as Russell Allen and Mike Mills. The very instrumental sound also allows the listener to see Mike Eriksen, Hansi Kursch, Tobias Sammet, Tommy Karevik and Nils K Rue on a another melodic dimension that they would not otherwise hear in their respective bands Circus Maximus, Blind Guardian, Avantasia/Edguy, Kamelot or Pagan’s Mind. Arjen Lucassen seriously channels Ritchie Blackmore on many levels here. The Hammond Organ in the spirit of the late great Jon Lord, is the unsung hero on a instrumental level.
Chronicle 4: The Rebirth – 21:53
5.”Bay of Dreams”
LaBrie, Rogers, Mills, Eriksen, Rue
Starts out with a very electronica element much like Arjen Lucassen executed on Ayreon’s Actual Fantasy album in 1996. They keyboard atmospheres blend gracefully with the warm vocals of James Labrie and Tommy Roger’sdouble tracked vocals. The people of ‘Forever’ make their final descent to their new Liquid Home. The track soon picks up on the heaviness and we hear Mike Mills, Mike Eriksen and Nils K Rue all in their respective vocal elements.
6.”Planet Y is Alive!”
Karevik, Allen, Kürsch, Mills, Sammet, Jansen
This starts out with a very heavy lush Hammond atmospheric synth with a perfectly complimentary rhythm section to match it. This is very heavy on the drums and this is where the utter depth of Ed Wabry comes into play. The People of ‘Forever’ begin to really take inventory of their new home on Planet Y. They begin to explore what they can use or can not use to sustain life on their new home. Hansi Kursch’s emotional proclamations really shine on this track. The isolated guitar solo is a thing of beauty and really adds another atmospheric payer to the song and album in general. The calm and additionally heavy atmosphere’s both respectfully allow ‘The Capatain’ – Tobias Sammet and ‘The Biologist’ – Floor Jansen to breathe and articulate to the listener their view of the new world.
7. “The Source Will Flow”
Rogers, LaBrie, Simons
Starts off with a very oceanic liquid effect along with graceful keyboards passage. Tommy Roger’s – ‘The Chemist’ has some really warm clean vocals that set up ‘The Historian’ – James Labrie with grace. The beautiful vocals of ‘The Counselor’ – Simone Simons really are spot on with the main narrative.
8. “Journey to Forever”
Sammet, Eriksen, Kürsch
In the very elegant A Capella style ‘The Ships Crew’Will Shaw – Heir Apparent’ Wilmer Waarbroek, Jan Willem Ketelaars, and Lisette van den Berg – Scarlet Stories really set the table for the melodic and harmonious feast to follow. ‘The Ships Crew’ also show a beautiful sign of optimism towards their new home Planet Y. Soon a lush acoustic guitar comes in and the cooperative dialogue between the ‘The Captain’ and ‘The Diplomat’ really display for the first time in a while a spirit of union, a spirit of community and affirmation.
The second to the last track has a very profound signature present on all Ayreon albums. This signature being a multi vocalist epilogue or finish. It is a way to both display all the vocalists again and like a Rock Opera on a stage serves as the ‘Curtain Call’ and ‘Final Bow’ to ‘The Audience’ You .
10. “March of the Machines”
Much in the tradition of The Final Experiment, Actual Fanatasy, Into The Electric Castle, The Universal Migrator, The Human Equation and 0101101,Arjen Lucassen utilizes ‘TH 1’– Mike Mills to a very futuristic finish to the journey that is Ayreon’s The Source.
There is no doubt whatsoever that for the last 25 years Arjen Lucassen has been the ‘Undisputed King’ of the Rock/Metal Opera.Arjen Lucassen is the modern day George Lucas/Isaac Asimov/Carl Sagan/Stanley Kubrick/ meets Bach/Beethoven/Pete Townsend and Ritchie Blackmore set to music, melody, vision and imagination. Ayreon’s The Source is also one of the most tangible conceptual rock/metal albums in the last 25 years. Whether you are a lifetime fan of Ayreon or a newer fan of Ayreon, The Source is a excellent introduction to the newer listener and a solid validation to the lifetime fan. I give this a 6/5 stars and it is easily the front-runner/contender for my Album of The Year 2017 list.
Science fiction is any idea that occurs in the head and doesn’t exist yet, but soon will, and will change everything for everybody, and nothing will ever be the same again. As soon as you have an idea that changes some small part of the world you are writing science fiction. It is always the art of the possible, never the impossible.
I think that prog rock is the science fiction of music. Science fiction speculates on what the future might be and look like and how we’ll get there, and yet there’s always a central theme of humanity, or there should be. Progressive rock has the same concept of exploration into the parts of the music world that hasn’t been explored.
Progressive rock and progressive metal have always provided the perfect tapestry for anyone ambitious band or artist to explore the subject of science fiction. The fact that there are very little boundaries or the typical mainstream musical parameters have allowed for a perfect union between progressive rock/metal and science fiction to create some of the most thought provoking stories ever written. Sometimes progressive rock/metal science fiction albums are actually written so well they have a uncanny ability to paint a full motion picture film on the screen inside the theater of the mind who listens to them. Aeolias The Architect does just that, explores the boundaries of science fiction through the further exploration of the art of progressive rock and metal. Aeolias are a independent unsigned new progressive metal/rock band out of Ireland. Here is a brief biography of the band to introduce them below:
AEOLIAS was born in the summer of 2012, originally under the name AEOLIAN, by guitarist Graham Doyle and bassist Emmet Standish after the disbanding of of their previous band THE MIGHTY OVERDRIVE. Deciding not to let this setback destroy what had been built, they decided to continue on and recruit new members. Since a lot of the music was their creation, they felt they were entitled to use it in this new incarnation of the band. However, they also felt that since half the members had left and the band was essentially broken and so AEOLIAN was born. Now with a band that could develop as a tight unit AEOLIAN was complete. A new musical direction with old songs rearranged, new songs realised and longer compositions written the future is now developing. The first new member to join the band was vocalist Siobhan. After hearing a demo recording of her singing, and being completely blown away by her vocal talents it was obvious that she was the right person for the job. With a strong vocal technique, keen sense of melody and with an ability to sing in a low register she could put a lot of male singers to shame. The next member to join the band was drummer Trey. A immense powerhouse, a drummer who sits right in the pocket, John Bonhams pocket. A drummer who has fused his two favourite drummers John Bonham and Nico McBrain into his own unique style. A drummer with a wealth of experience in other bands, including a stint with a Tool tribute band. Upon the first jam with Trey, it was evident that this was the guy who would complete the lineup. Now with a band that could develop as a tight unit AEOLIAN was complete. A new musical direction, old songs rearranged, new songs realised. Longer compositions written, the future is now developing. 2016 sees the band reduced to the trio of Siobhan, Graham and Emmet and finally releasing new material and also renaming (slightly) the band to AEOLIAS. ‘Providence’ was released online during the Summer of 2016. A pre-curser to the bands debut album “The Architect” which is now released as of the beginning of April 2017.
Aeolias’ The Architect proves once again just how intelligent progressive rock/metal is and can be . The title The Architectis very fitting for a young independent/unsigned band in the embryonic stages of building a career in this industry. The very fact that Aeolias are a independent/unsigned band allows for more breathing room to explore certain science fiction subjects along with various musical time signatures and chord progressions that may otherwise not see the light of day if the band were under label scrutiny. In my experience bands and artists do a majority of their best and most creative work when they are on that independent/unsigned plain. Now a few highlights and a break down track analysis on Aeolias’ The Architect.
Odysseus is a very appropriately named title for the first track. The lyrical subject matter follows very much after Homer’s The Odyssey. This is the start of a intergalactic space exploration on the lyrical side. On a instrumental side the track opens up much like a movie film score with a deep orchestrated keyboard synth in harmony with what appears to be a old world Gaelic style chant. The drums soon come in in harmony with the orchestration. Then the track takes on a more traditional progressive metal approach. With deep rhythmic atmospheres and a lower tenor on the vocals this gives the track the audio illusion that one is about to take a journey through space and time. Siobhan Filbey – Vocals has a very keen sense of utilizing her mezzo – soprano tenor quite well in harmony with the deep rhythm and stringed chord progressive atmospheres. It gives the listener the illusion that there are more than one vocalist on the album. The band also effectively and seamlessly bleeds Odysseus into the next track Redefining The Theory.
Redefining The Theory continues with spot on and seamless transitions. This transitions into a more ambient atmospheric track. The bass guitar really serves as the anchor both in melodic and percussive terms. The guitar stringed section soon comes in with the beautiful mezzo soprano vocals. This all combines with a uniquely and distinctive sound that is very different than what is in the progressive rock and metal communities today. The vocals play in perfect harmony with both the stringed and rhythm sections. Lyrically this track deals with very personal and internal issues that see the main character starting to look at his understanding of life differently than he once knew it. He therefore comes to a reasoning of his new understanding. The rest of this track melodically allows for the lyrical content to work like a metamorphosis. Much of the last half of this track takes on a soundtrack vibe about it. Plus the spoken word portions add depth to the track. Also in concept like fashion transitions seamlessly into the next part of the journey and track Ergosphere.
Ergosphere may in fact be the shortest track on the album at only 7:48 however there is still a lot going on here. It starts with a deep emotion both instrumentally and lyrically. In astrophysics a Ergosphere is the edge or point of no return up against a black hole. The band does a beautiful job rhythmically depicting the emotion one may feel as a human knowing they are headed into the said point of no return. There are a lot of rhythmic layers upon layers built on the backbone of bass and drums. The vocals stay on point and register with the instrumental portions. This track gets progressively and aggressively heavier the further into it the listener gets. It also is arranged perfectly to set up the last half of the album. Once again the band remains on conceptual point and seamlessly transitions this track to the following track Providence.
Providence transitions beautifully from where Ergosphere ended. It begins with a subtle yet atmospheric keyboard along with a very unique reggae like percussion passage executed perfectly by Emmet Standish , who basically a one man percussion machine . It is soon met with beautiful vocal chants done by Siobhan Filbey . The atmosphere the band creates at the start of this gives the listener a sense, a audio illusion of interstellar deep space travel on a instrumental level. The track gets increasingly heavier and more progressive the further into the track. The entire aesthetic is heavy throughout this. The vocals take various dimensions of beauty. The band certainly has a beautiful unique vocal signature unto themselves that separates them from other progressive bands of this era. Lyrically Providence does deal with some controversial subject as it relates to organised religion. The main character in the story starts to question the hypocrisy into organised religion and its direct or indirect results of those who follow it. The band has a uncanny ability to convey this heavy and brooding emotion of the character in harmony of both the lyrical and instrumental content within the track. The vocals take on a beautiful ambient quality again here.
Theorem once again easily transitions where Providence left off. Theorem is also the final track on the album that serves like a melodic summary of the album in its entirety. This one works over four parts to bring the entire experience of the album together. Those parts are The Architect, The Anarchist, The Analyst, and Aeviternity. The character fully has another understanding of life, a epiphany, something that has changed everything in his psyche. The band uses its full melodic talent to convey this understanding. The band with its rich ambient approach also maintains various chord progressions and time signatures allowing for the progressive rock and metal elements to speak for themselves. Theorem is a 26:47 epic as well. With much invested listening time and attention to detail the listener can even detect a few Easter Eggs or hidden gems within both the lyrical and instrumental portions that also really help tie the entire concept together as a collective.
Aeolias The Architect is a album that has surprised me already in a year that will see many concept albums. This is a very ambitious and lofty statement for a new independent/unsigned band to put together as a debut album. Aeolias continue the rich tradition and evolution into progressive rock/metal conceptual albums. This album is certainly the perfect album for those who love and live for progressive rock and metal concept albums. This album also joins classic progressive rock/metal albums with science fiction concepts or themes. Albums like Pink Floyd – The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn – 1972 ,Tangerine Dream – Zeit – 1972, Nektar – Journey To The Centre Of The Eye – 1971 ,Yes – Tales From Topographic Oceans – 1973 , RUSH – 2112 – 1976, Klaatu – 3:47 EST – 1976 , Ayreon – The Final Experiment 1994, Into The Electric Castle – 1998, The Universal Migrator 1&2 – 2000, 01011001 – 2008 and the upcoming The Source – 2017 , Star One – Space Metal – 2002 , Forgotten Suns – Innergy – 2009to name a few. Aeolias The Architect will one day be in the same conversation as those albums I just mentioned. For a independent/unsigned band that created a very intelligent thought provoking album on both instrumental and lyrical sides, I give Aeolias The Architect a 5/5.
Pennsylvania has been rich in history with strong working class values and ethics. It was certainly the birthplace of the first Continental Congress that declared America’s Independence from Britian, American Industrial Revolution, the Battle Of Gettysburg, and even football’s first real dynasty with the Pittsburgh Steelers. There has always seemed that there is a very relentless hard working independent spirit about that area in America. This has even trickled down to American Heavy Metal/Hard Rock. It certainly trickled down to the sister and brother duo and founders of MindMaze Sarah Teets and Jeff Teets.
In a time when female-fronted metal is at an all-time high in popularity but also at an all-time high for copycats and imitators, MindMaze has striven hard to forge their own sound and identity. Hailing from Allentown, Pennsylvania (United States) the band are young but have already released two successful full-length albums since formation at the beginning of 2012. In September 2015 the band was selected to go on tour as a direct support band for metal legends Saxon and Armored Saint on the heels of an independently booked and promoted tour with the Virginia-based progressive metal band Iris Divine. The band has traveled thousands of miles and performed all over the United States over the course of the past several years.
The band’s debut album Mask of Lies has been hailed by fans and critics all over the world as an outstanding piece of independent metal that is refreshing while being firmly rooted in many classic metal mainstays. With no label support, management, or outside hired promotion, the band managed to sell copies of Mask of Lies to fans in 34 of 50 United States and a total of 17 countries worldwide, selling 100% of the album’s first pressing in the first 12 months of its release.
On the heels of Mask of Lies’ success, the band released their sophomore effort Back from the Edge (2014), on October 24th, 2014 in Europe and October 28th, 2014 in USA/Canada via Inner Wound Recordings, featuring artwork by MONOWASP (Seventh Wonder, Harem Scarem, Brazen Abbot, Crash Diet, many more), Symphony X bassist Mike LePond on all tracks, and guest appearances by members of Stratovarius, Pharaoh, LORD, and Draekon. 2015 saw the band release a fan-funded EP in support of their single “Dreamwalker” which featured a selection of cover songs, acoustic versions, alternate versions, and a new original track entitled “Slave to the Cycle”. The EP is on the verge of going out of print after only 6 months on the market.
I first discovered this prog/powerhouse back in 2013 around the time their debut Mask Of Lies was to be released. I wrote a review for it during my brief tenure over at Lady Obscure Magazine. Due to respect and good faith I have never reissued that review anywhere else. However you are free to read that review by clicking insert link >> Mask Of Lies Review at Lady Obscure Magazine. I was totally floored to hear a female fronted band come more in the vein of a Savatage meets Dream Theater meets Crimson Glory and Iron Maiden. The last review I wrote for MindMaze seen the band wearing their influences on their sleeves. In 2017 with their third album Resolve I have seen a band mature into one of the most under rated powerhouse’s in the progressive and power metal communities.
With Resolve MindMaze have taken all their influences placed them into a melodic furnace and now have forged their own mature sound. With ResolveSarah Teets has really come into her own and established her a vocal force to be reckoned with. With Resolve being just their third album the band has really come together like a bad that has been in the industry for 15 to 20 years and have a further developed sense of confidence on this.
The fact that such a powerful album like Resolveis a third album is not a band thing whatsoever. Many many bands have set the table and strides for a long lasting career off the third album. I call it ‘The Third Album Stride’. I will elaborate on that later in this review. Now I would like to point a out a few highlights from every track on MindMaze’s Resolve.
Reverie opens up the album with a very melodic acoustic guitar section. Soon the track explodes and the band delivers a powerful wall of sound. The rhythm section with the piano and lead guitar take the listener on a ride and immediately hook their interest. The time signatures are very intricate and mature.This track is written and arranged quite well and also bleeds seamlessly into the following track Fight The Future. This is the first of three instrumentals on Resolve.
Fight the Future begins seamlessly off Reverie. It makes Reverie appear to be the opening credits to a film story or short film before any vocal dialogue is handled by Sarah Teets – Vocals. The opening instrumental section takes on many twists and turns in and out of various chord progressions and time signatures and thunderous rhythmic sections. This contains both power metal and progressive metal elements. The vocals come in very clear, aggressive and with some serious conviction behind them. Sarah has really established herself as one of the more unique and distinctive voices in the progressive/power metal community. The solo’s have a very Iron Maiden vibe about them meaning heavy galloping guitars with highly distinctive bass work that is evident.
In This Void is the second of three instrumentals on the album. Once again the band very eloquently and seamlessly enters into this very effectively off Fight the Future. Although it is only 1:12 do not mistake this for just a filler on the album. There is a purpose served with it. This track moves beautifully with ease into the following track Drown Me.
Drown Me starts off with some really heavy neo progressive elements on the keyboards. The guitar is even tuned to match the neo progressive element. Soon after the band take the more conventional pure progressive/power metal chord progressions. This is a very very guitar oriented track. While taking a European flavor with the power metal half of the track the progressive metal element is much more American. The band have managed to bring both styles in a well balanced harmony along with the wicked time signatures of the rhythm section. This is a track that will appeal to both a North American and European audience thus opening more opportunities for the band on live bills. The track takes a bit of a break for a more ethereal element around the 5:30 mark. The guitar solos seem to be getting stronger and more complex the further into the album the listener gets. This track has a thunderous outro to finish it where it bleeds seamlessly into the next track Sign of Life.
Sign of Life is the first single off the album. It begins as a very traditional melodic progressive metal track much in the vein of Crimson Glory’s Lonley,Queensryche’s Eyes Of A Stranger or even Dream Theater’s Another Day. This opens up with a harmony of a well executed guitar solo in harmony with the rhythm section. The track drops and takes a break where some acoustic guitar is present along with a beautiful vocal harmony. This track is one of the heavier tuned down tracks on the album. The use of a double vocal with back vocals adds a depth not heard on previous albums. There is not only a conceptual theme developing here but a very vocally oriented and mature album. The guitar solo’s are very insane but remain on point with the main objective of both song and album.
Abandon opens up and continues the guitar oriented assault. The drums are more present in the scheme of things with the rhythm sections. This track is where the band starts to display that European flavor of power metal with more up tempo guitar riffs and aggressive vocals. The vocals are a bit more aggressive on this one and rightfully so. This is a total rhythm and vocal assault from opening to close with more aggressive guitar solo’s as well. There is a very Iron Maiden influence presence on the portions of the guitar solo’s.
Sanity’s Collapse is the third and final instrumental on Resolve. It seamlessly picks up where Abandon left with a slower more rhythmic chord progression throughout the track. The tuned down atmosphere allows for the band to set up the last half of the album and the listener to digest the listening experience.
One More Moment opens up with a ballad like piano passage in harmony with a deep bass tone for depth that adds to the vocal harmony quite well. The band have slowed this one down much more than some of the other tracks on the album. If there is a power ballad on the album this track is it. This is album also takes a very appropriate conceptual element making references of previous song titles like Fight the Future. This is also a very introspective track and it certainly stands out that way.
Twisted Dream has this wicked fade in in the introduction that is absolutely a brutal assault with both the guitar stringed section and the beast of a rhythm section. The band has certainly added a level of heaviness and layered it upon a melodic chord progression. The vocals once again are high priority and upfront. There is some nice vocal effects layered over some spoken word portions serving as a backing vocal. There is some serious depth with a seven string guitar present on the track that is becoming more and more common in progressive and power metal circles. This track just builds layers upon layers of heaviness and depth. Lyrically there is some serious internal issues at work here.
True Reflection opens up much in the vein of a Awaken The Guardian era Fates Warning track. There is some serious guitar work both on the electric heavy and the acoustic atmospheric sides. The rhythm section allows the string section to really stand out without being lost itself. The vocals are some of the most appropriately emotional vocals perfectly complimenting the intricate lyrical issues going on here. The guys perfectly compliment the lead vocal with the back harmonies. This is another track where the band utilizes building layers upon layers with great execution.
Shattered Self opens up with a thrash metal style power metal element. A style more heard on a Iced Earth style power metal. The rhythm section and rhythm guitar are relentless. The vocals are very melodic and ethereal over the instrumental portion. That is something very rarely heard in a thrash power metal atmosphere as this song is. There is even the use of a small choir in the backing vocal.
Release begins with a almost classical chamber music style piano passage before the acoustic guitar and vocals come into play here. On the surface Release appears as a ballad. I kind of see this as more of a slower paced song to allow the listener to digest the album thus far and for the band to set the tone to close the concept out on the final track The Path to Perseverance. The guitar solo is very atmospheric in nature.
The Path to Perseverance once again with ease and simplicity seamlessly comes over from the previous track Release. These seamless transitions make the album stand out as the concept album it is allowing the listener to remain immersed in the album and story. The Path to Perseverance is the epic on the album. It has a powerful atmospheric opening set of intricate chord progressions adding both electric guitar and acoustic guitar passages. The lyrical content really is a melodic summary of the overall totality of the conceptual element of the album. With this being well over 11:00 minutes expect longer instrumentals. The ethereal vocal effects add yet another layer upon which this album has been known for throughout. This is also a great closing track in the arrangement if the band ever decides to or has opportunity to play this concept in its entirety live.
Bands whose careers have exploded off the third album are as follows, Dream Theater – Awake 1994 ,Iron Maiden – The Number Of The Beast 1982, RUSH – 2112 – 1976, Fates Warning – Awaken The Guardian – 1986, Savatage – Hall Of The Mountain King – 1987, Nightwish – Wishmaster – 2000 , Blind Guardian – Tales From The Twilight World – 1990 , Ayreon’s – Into The Electric Castle – 1998 , Shadowside – Inner Monster Out – 2011, Evergrey’s – In Search of Truth – 2001 ,Pain Of Salvation’s – Perfect Element Part 1 -2000. I see MindMaze’s Resolve in 2017 being in the conversation 10 to 15 years from now. Resolve is also a perfect title for this album as well. It shows the bands grit and determination that they are going nowhere anytime soon. I give MindMaze’s Resolve a strong 5/5for maturity and growth.
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