Review by Richard Henry for MPM
For those in the know, these guys were formed from their previous band Xerath, featuring Conor McGouran on Guitar & Keys, Ben Wanders drums & vocals and Ronan Burns on bass, there are a few guest musicians on the album as well from Derek Sherinian (Planet X/Dream Theater), Sam Bell (Mask of Judas), Mal O’Brien and Dave Whyte.
Let’s dig in and see what these guys are all about! Track 1 – 1977 Long droning intro that suddenly fades to these eerie chords that wouldn’t be out of place from any movie where you step onto an alien planet, then it starts to build, very soundscape Hans Zimmer sort of vibe, somewhat even Tyler Bates as well, before boom, the band kicks in, heavy guitars and drum fills with the keys still swirling around what the band is playing, then……..
Track 2 – The Escapist We kick right into the second track, really tight syncopated riff with the drums following along majestically, the keys really add to this riff, and add texture to the heaviness, straight into a riff Periphery would love to call their own.
First chance to hear the vocals, really hearing a huge Devin Townsend vibe to them, then into the chorus with a prominent key part yet again adding to the uplifting chorus, great vibe to that chorus.
Picking up the verse we get a bit more aggression in the backing vocals, really well mixed into the track, it just adds something slightly different to the first verse, changing riffs again in the middle section with drummer Ben getting to flex a bit, before its Conor’s turn to play a blinding solo, elements of flash but also a great degree of melody and restraint in the solo, we then get a heavier section with a lot more aggressive vocals, actually reminds me of Ihsahn to a degree, then into that huge chorus again, great track!
Track 3 – Echoes in the Deep If you’re a fan of progressive metal, then you know 100% who is in the intro, Derek Sherinian of Dream Theater and Planet X fame, he’s so distinctive when you hear him.
Now that is a riff, like the really heavy parts of Haken, love that plus the little keyboard part behind the verse really adding to it, again we have great vocals and layers, quite a catchy chorus to this, there are piles of great drum work going on but it never loses the drive of the track, then Derek steps up and does what he does, before verse two, again the vocals, all the layers, it gels so well, love that chorus! That middle riff, if it doesn’t have a pit going off then I don’t know, I can see carnage everywhere, I’m just saying Conor without doubt is one of the finest players in Ireland, and If you didn’t know him before just listen to the playing on this album, sublime and as a guitarist myself, he’s a monster player as this album will testify.
We get a key break; it breaks the track down after the solo and just adds to the atmosphere before yet again we get a sprinkling of that Derek Sherinian magic on the outro, what a track, outstanding!
Track 4 – Afterglow Synthwave is back people, this is such a catchy riff and intro to this song, it really demonstrates what these guys excel at, putting in all these elements into the song but never feeling too busy! We have Richard Thompson singing on this one, this was one of the first tracks out from these guys, it’s so catchy, not only on the verses but what a great chorus, there are prog bands would kill to write a song like this, the way the guys have orchestrated this much like the other songs is outstanding, loving the middle section that shows a bit more technicality before we get an outstanding solo, melody with chops that are Jason Becker/Richardson like but never come off as look at me, just simply serving and adding to the song, if that chorus doesn’t stick in your head then I don’t know, great vocals in that last chorus as well!
Track 5 – The Age of Discovery That’s quite the technical intro, before launching into a slamming riff, but just listen carefully and there is a keyboard following that adding to the sound, we have entered Djenty territory before the vocals hit and then it changes, and the keys add a spacey vibe against what the main riff is going, there is some serious double kicks going on in this, great syncopated riff comes in but all added to with the keyboard textures that Conor has added, it’s a great mix and recording that really shines on all the elements to the song, again listen to all the textures in the vocals, all those backgrounds, about 3:50 in is an absolute kicker of a riff, Meshuggah like but those keys just take it somewhere different, again Conor comes in with another outstanding solo, it just outlines the chords and you just know he could rip all over this but doesn’t, don’t get me wrong when he does he does but the solo serves the song, lovely stuff yet again, that outro brings in that spacey nature again, so well done!
Track 6 –Kaleidoscope That riff, another absolute banger of a riff with the syncopated drums, with the soundscape on the keys, a more restrained verse driven by Ronan’s bass with the keys carrying it instead of the guitar and it really works well breaking it up before the guitars come in again, really well composed, great harmony vocals as well, a lot has to be said not just about Bens drumming but his vocals are top class as well, it’s just like all the tracks so far, so well put together, so well-orchestrated and played that it should and could rival a lot of top bands in the progressive metal world, the middle section has riffs, big heavy gigantic riffs, then you get a middle section with a lovely keyboard part, before Conor yet again lets rip, Petrucci look out, cause honestly that solo, unreal! The heaviness is present throughout the song but again it’s so well-orchestrated that it’s nearly the last thing you think about because there is so much happening, and it all works wonderfully!
Track 7 – Clarity Lovely laid back piano intro to this, with an almost heartbeat drum part along with it, beautiful vocal here from Ben showing his depth of range and sounds awesome in the lower ranges as well, you start to get some additional synth work happening as the track progresses, with the vocals starting to climb in intensity and in pitch, almost “Space Dye Vest” like of a track and it’s a nice break from the intensity of the previous tracks, we get a chance for Ronan to show what he can do as there is a lovely bass solo part near the end of this and much like everyone’s playing on this album its first class, then Conor steps in and as with everything he plays, he shows class and restraint and that solo so suits the vibe of the song!
Track 8 – 1977 (Ad Infinitum) Well, I mean is it even prog if you don’t have a 20 min song on the album?? Synth, sci fi feeling intro before we get a delicate piano part coming in, then we go to what reminds me of something I would hear Brad Fiedel do on the Terminator soundtrack or indeed Vangelis on Blade Runner, it’s a great keyboard figure that keeps building before we get straight into a sludgy driving riff syncopated yet again with the drums with a droning keyboard figure in the back ground, then we have another part with both a keys and guitar part combined before we get some harmony guitar following it as well.
It’s well worth hearing this with headphones so you can actually appreciate all the layers that’s going on during this intro and it never feels so dense its very well-orchestrated and put together! 4:50 in we get a heavy riff and what appears to be a second phase of the song, driving along with the keys supporting, proper double kick section hits with a slamming riff, nice syncopation and Meshuggah type section comes in, before we get another break with the keys coming in and some spoken word sections, it really adds to the atmosphere of the track, solo 1 on this is from Sam Bell and it’s a lovely laid back solo, great phrasing and feel as expected from such a monster player, then he throws in some beautiful sweeps and technicality before bringing it back to melodic, solo 2 comes in from Mal O’Brien, another fantastic player and immediately a different feel to this solo a lot more bluesy in feel with side steps into jazz and beautiful tone, savage second solo, Dave Whyte up next, again different in feel but still showing beautiful phrasing tone and dynamics and different to the last two solos, but all these players are so different yet serve the song so well, that just leaves Conor for solo 4, well not only do we get to see why this guy should be considered one of the top guitar players in Ireland or indeed he is well up there in world rankings, you have a solo here that any player at the top level would be showing off, there is technique, phrasing, melody and some terrifying parts, unbelievable!
Into what would be like another part of the track after 12:30, it’s a dizzying display of odd time and superb interplay between Ben and Conor, with the keys changing and swirling in the background, another spoken word section while the synth drives away behind it, very sci fi again and so cool, we then have a synth section before the band comes in again and then it goes to fade out.
10 out of 10
If this album doesn’t get voted for Progressive Metal album of the year, then I don’t know, if you’re a fan of Haken, Sons of Apollo, Dream Theater, Symphony X you will absolutely love it, I haven’t been this blown away by an album in a long time, it’s a journey but it’s an amazing journey, for seven euros go buy it from the links below! The Enigma Division | The Enigma Division (bandcamp.com)
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