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A lot of people were rightfully bummed out when Outworld, an American progressive metal outfit with loads of potential and a good amount of edge, self-destructed almost immediately after it had just gotten going. But with any explosive band comes the eventuality of a small part of the whole being shot out before the final supernova, and with it the potential for another mighty start to burn again. That part was keyboardist Bobby Williamson, and that new, bright burning star is Eumeria. Bringing on another former Outworld member in bassist Shawn Kascak and merging together with a new crop of finally honed American progressive musical machines, it seems that the specter of the now defunct dystopian outfit has returned in a new body for a fresh haunting session.
Comparisons with Williamson’s former band are unavoidable, but it should be noted immediately that this band has taken a few noticeably different steps in approaching a fairly similar sound. While still loaded up with plenty of chunky riffs that stomp the ground with much more aggression and fervor than most mainline progressive outfits and a complex overall format, this comes off as a bit more restrained. Even the energetic opener “Legion”, which cuts heads immediately with an agitated intro that rivals present day Death Angel, is sure to play up the catchiness factor and the lighter side of its progressive rock roots. The chorus on this song is also unforgettable and infectious, just as much so as any of the multiple catchy anthems heard out of Outworld.
Perhaps the biggest example of this restraint is that while the guitar work is the usual staple of virtuosity, that the level of blinding speed and indulgence has been somewhat toned down in favor of atmosphere, groove, and hooks. Reece Fullwood comes from more of a death/thrash background given his stint with Opus Nex, and there are bits and pieces of a Trey Azagthoth to complement the obvious John Petrucci and Ritchie Blackmore influences that go with the territory. There aren’t any overt attempts at breaking records in the mold of Rusty Cooley, but what is present definitely holds its own amid a number of very able musicians.
While the overall imagery of “Rebel Mind” has less of an overt dystopian feel to it, there are hints of a similarly dark and aware tendency in the songs. Perhaps the biggest contrast is that groove based crunchers like “Delusions” and “Secret Places” give just as much emphasis to a spacey atmosphere as to a pounding rhythm section. Furthermore, while there is a fair amount of rhythmic devices and syncopated twists to the riffs, this is material that keeps things formulaic and familiar enough that even those not normally drawn towards the progressive direction can get a lot out of this. Not to mention that lead vocalist Jonny Tatum is a dead ringer for a number of great heavy metal vocalists who first infused their soaring tenor ranges to the style in the early 80s. His clean singing style is restrained to the point of crooning, while his full out shout is gritty and nasty enough to rival Kelly Carpenter.
It’s unclear just how far away from his previous project that Bobby Williamson wanted to go here, but the general target audience of Eumeria appears to be the same group that followed Outworld with high hopes for future output. In a sense, this could be treated as the 2nd album that said band should have had a couple years ago, albeit with a repackaged presentation that is probably even more accessible to conventional heavy metal fans. I guess that corny old oxymoron proves itself out yet again, “the more things change, the more they stay the same”.
Originally submitted to (www.metal-observer.com) on August 28, 2011.
There was a lot of excitement generated when Bobby Williamson and Shawn Kascak announced the formation of Eumeria, rising from the ashes of Texan prog metallers Outworld. There was even more excitement when they said they'd tapped 3 promising UK musicians to help out. As a result, when the date for début album Rebel Mind was set, hopes had reached fever pitch. Praised has flooded in, and rightly so, as Eumeria have created one of the strongest modern progressive metal albums of the past few years.
From the opening drum blasts of “Legion” to the final resounding chorus of “Secret Places”, it is clear that each bandmate clicks with the others very well. This is also facilitated by a pristine production job; evidently the distance across the pond has tightened the Eumeria sound. Bartlett is a wonder on the drumkit, throwing many syncopated patterns and rhythms like on power ballad “Father”, which enhance the music rather than distract from it. Miraculously, Kascak's bass is more than audible, even playing a Rush-like melodic role in the title track and interweaving with Fullwood's 7-string groovy riffing and melodic soloing, which Williamson ties everything off with atmospheric synths and keyboard solos that easily match the guitars'.
Despite quite a unique sound, there are a several influences that jump out at me; of course Dream Theater, Fates Warning and Symphony X get a mention, but also newer bands like Lost In Thought and Circus Maximus, the latter especially in the vocal performance. Jonny Tatum is one of my favorite vocal discoveries this year; he gives a powerful performance throughout the album, going from a pleasant Michael Eriksen-esque mid-range to slightly harsher notes like on “The Key”, but also knows when to bow out and let the instruments do the talking. His lyrical ability is also impressive, crafting lines that suit his voice such as “Will you embrace the promise of spring/So I can never see/You cannot relive those forgotten years/So join me now my father”*, along with the pre-chorus of “Rebel Mind”.
One of the admirable qualities of this release is its longevity; after a number of spins it is still very enjoyable, and even weaker tracks like “The Key” and “Dreaming Of Death” begin to melt in with the standout tracks. “Secret Places”, a reworking of a previous Williamson track called “Heirs Of Peril”, indulges in a more power metal ethos, and feels a little out of place, but is still a strong song with a catchy chorus. The 7-minute title track also takes a while to sink in, but when it does the excellence really does shine through.
From the heavier grooving lines of “Delusions” to the ethereal acoustic interlude “Red Light Flies”, Eumeria manage to pack in many different ideas and package it off as authentic and fresh. Rebel Mind is not an album to spin every day, but I can see myself returning to it often, especially for the vocals. Needless to say, my appetite has been whetted and I am very interested to see where this band are going in the future.
Originally posted at www.blackwindmetal.blogspot.com