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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.
Outworld was an impressive band/album that left its fans disappointed when the group announced its breakup. I could never quite get into the release as much as others did, but it showed some talent and musicianship virtually unrivaled in all of progressive or power metal. Luckily enough, it seems that two of the guys from Outworld have changed just about everything I found slightly off-putting about that group and have released one of the finest debut albums in years. Eumeria relies less on the 100% kill mode mentality of Outworld, instead opting for a crystal-clear, atmospheric modern sound. No, there aren't eight minute songs, two minute solos, or dog whistle vocals at every turn, but Rebel Mind turns out all the better for it. I've never heard a band so down to Earth and marooned in mystic space at the same time. There's no particularly overwhelming technical proficiency here, but the overall feel is so captivating it really doesn't matter; this is simply nine songs and 45 minutes of polished musical bliss.
First of all, Jacob Hansen's production job here is magnificent. As a fan of just about everything he touches, this shouldn't come as a surprise. The man understands the necessity of space in music. Not every second has to be filled with a barrage of distorted riffs, vocals, or the like; sometimes the sound of a light, drifting rhythm with a dash of atmospheric keyboards is enough. And it sounds wonderful in the process. This has to contain some of the best separation between instruments/vocals I've ever heard. With a crystalline sound that has to be heard to be believed, Hansen rivals even his Anubis Gate production jobs (which is saying a lot).
The somewhat typical cover image reminded me of Fates Warning, a feeling not completely discarded by the music itself. However, what I found is that Eumeria aspires less to the US power metal giants of old (i.e. FW, Crimson Glory, Queensryche, etc.), instead coming off in a more modern progressive metal, Dream Theater approach. Normally this would not be a good thing. This band distinguishes itself in that it writes great songs. Yes, songwriting, that long unused tactic abandoned by most progressive outfits when they started incoherently stringing together 12+ minute "epics" connected merely by a track title. Rebel Mind instead consists of conservative song lengths and well-placed repeating parts. It shouldn't be a stunning revelation that the album is remarkably memorable.
Eumeria has only one guitarist, so only rhythms are heard from this instrument. The tone is rather heavy for what it is. The rhythms are supplemented with never too prominent keyboards, adding some depth to what may sound to you like an empty release. It's not, due in no small part to the majestic vocals of Jonny Tatum, whose angelic clean chords phase effortlessly into more aggressive, higher-pitched territory. The man plays it classy in not wailing the whole time (even though he probably could), sounding similar to an accentless Fabio Lione. He gives the songs the melodic punch they need. Oh, and the songs all have merits of their own, as well. "Legion" is the ideal opener, showing some guitar crunch and vocal acrobatics right away. "Delusions" might be the catchiest and most aggressive, displaying some surprisingly pissed off lyrics in the process. The stunning title track is quite a spectacle. The smooth verses highlight the epitome of the band's understated melody, yet the more forceful chorus shows some Symphony X implications.
"Father" and "Tides" head for subtler territory, the latter building up speed after it wades through some slower textures. "The Key" is more of a power showcase until the amazing refrain dreamily reminds of all things Danish. Two and a half minute interlude "Red Light Flies" is a brief yet stunning, emotional number with some haunting vocals and lyrics. "Dreaming of Death" progresses like a dark fantasy, with an eerie effect-enhanced vocal sequence postchorus. Finale "Secret Places" feels a little out of place here (huh); the chorus, although catchy, just feels too power metal influenced compared to the rest of the album. It doesn't hurt too badly, however, with plenty of parts left to savor.
Eumeria's Rebel Mind is likely to be the best US album this year, and the strongest all-around US album I've heard since The Black Halo and This Godless Endeavor were released in 2005. The band could probably use some more creative song titles (and a more creative logo), but this is perhaps just the beginning of what I hope to be a long legacy of future greatness. It's not quite as good as either of the aforementioned releases, but for being a debut from a country that rarely succeeds at making this kind of music anymore, Rebel Mind is a near anomalous achievement, putting Eumeria on the metal map as the band to watch.
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