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When you get into metal and you start looking at already established bands, you occcasionally find a member of an already established band saying something about another band (both good and bad). In this case, this was me heeding the words of Heathen vocalist David White's words about new Heathen guitarist Kragen Lum's main band Prototype. White's words were simply this, "Kragen's a great guitar player and his band is even greater!". So I figured if David White liked it, I probably would to. The only recording I could find of them at the time though, was Continuum.
In short, Continuum is continuing Prototype's prototypical nature to the fullest extent. No band out there sounds like Prototype. While many throw this band under the the typical banner of "Nevermore meets Iced Earth meets Rage", a much more fitting banner would just be Prototype. This band is truly the first (and as far as I know only one) of their kind, and Contiuum is the best way to experience this uniqueness to it's fullest extent. The music here is amazing, the band rocks, the lyrics are thought provoking, and it is all just one of the greatest metal records to come out in a very long time.
As a whole, I got to admit that Prototype as a band is amazing. Every member has more then just a clear vision of what they want the band to sound like, there is much more then that. The band has an incredible knowledge of what they are supposed to do with the band and performs this to a positively stellar degree. Nothing is random or schizophrenic like about Prototype's prototypical brand of progressive metal. It all flows together and is simply masterful. You really do not get metal that is this artistic but this great to listen
The one area that people really seem to give Prototype flak for (from what I have seen in interviews with the band) is the vocal element. Personally, I don't find anything wrong with vocalist/rhythm guitarist/frontman Vincent Levalois. In fact, I admire his vocal performance to a huge degree. Vincent's voice is loads of amazing range and never sounds one bit boring or corny at all. In fact, it's highly emotional. No where I believe is this shown better in the songs Devotion and Cold Is This God (a rerecorded cover of a song Vincent and lead guitarist Kragen Lum wrote during their Psychosis days). In Devotion's verses, Vincent's incredibly harmonization with backing vocalist and bassist Kirk Schrer as well as his normal singing is incredible and truly shows the struggle he is trying portray. You get this same feeling in Cold Is This God, but in a different way. This time Vincent makes it sound like he's not going through a moral battle but being physically tortured at the hands of a wrathful god. He also proves he can sound very angry when he wants to (best shown on The Way It Ends and Transcendent Velocity), and even curious (as portrayed on Probe) with his singing. His vocal patterns are so incredibly catchy and make you just want to listen to more again and again. How many metal vocalist can say they truly can have such a great balance of emotion, power, and melody? The only ones that I can say comes even the slightest bit close is Blind Guardian's Hansi Kursch or Iced Earth's Mathew Barlow, but not even Hansi or Mathew have the capability of portraying the emotions that Vincent shows so well in the songs wtihout sacrificing vocal catchiness.
On top of that, the guitar work on Continuum is absolutely surreal. All areas of the tonal palette that a guitarist has at his disposal, whether it be clean melodic overtones, heavily distorted and chunky riffs, or highly melodic and ripping lead guitars are touched on Continuum. Vincent functions primarily as a rhtyhm guitarist and makes most of the chunk you hear coming from Prototype. Think of his riff style as very James Hetfield like, but much more melodic and varying in tempo. Where as Hetfield may pick at a constant speed for his riffs, Vincent will often take the same riff and play it at a wide variety of tempos (best shown in The Way It Ends, Cold Is This God, Heart Machine, With Vision, and Synthespian). But the real guitar hero is lead guitarist Kragen Lum. While Vince mainly provides heavily distorted riffs, Kragen does it all here. All the clean parts on the album are done by him, and they have some of the best clean tone that comes from a guitar that I have ever heard on a metal album. These tones do not sound bell like, but rather like real vibrations of the strings and truly enriching sounds. On top of that his lead tone simply kills. Very flowing but old school sounding, and his lead technique is loaded with legato and sweep picking with great use of the whammy bar for expression. I can best describe it as a cross between Allan Holdsworth and Steve Vai, which is truly a sound to behold for any listener.
Rhythmically the album is also very tight. Kirk Schrer backs up Kragen and Vince with the low end bass while providing mostly fills that follow the guitar but a constantly forward moving sound that flows along with everything else and doesn't require Vincent or Kragen to do double time on guitar or the drummer to go faster. All fingered lines that are not the most complex work ever but sounds downright great. Drum work is a real highlight here though. The drumming is at death metal speed. No blast beats but lots of incredibly fast double bass rolls and bursts of double kick. Most of this was done by original Prototype drummer Damien Ramirez (who came back to join the band for the album's recording), but former drummer Pat Mcgrath even came back and takes a crack at the drumwork on Transcendent Velocity, which is also amazing.
Musically the album is a true sonic palette of amazing songs. They all have an underlying progressive feel to them with hefty thrash metal influence, but no real power metal influence as far as I can see (other then maybe Vincent's vocals). The songs usually vere in and out of progressive versions of what you would think Iron Maiden sounds like when thrashed and very clean and melodic interludes. Some are more melodic then others (in particular Devotion, Seed and With Vision), while some are more thrashy (Transcendent Velocity, The Way it Ends, Heart Machine, Probe and Cold Is This God). This provides the listener with sounds that truly never get boring one bit at all. Lyrically, the album is focused on a variety of themes that usually tie in with religion and spirituality and enlightment (very Buddhist like). Contradicting prophecy is the prevailing theme on The Way It Ends, confliction of beliefs is prevalent in Devotion, preserving one's past to understand the future is the main theme of With Vision, and Cold Is This God is a real classic story of trying to reconcile while in punishment. Truly amazing stuff.
Neil Kernon's production and mixing job was done truly great. I can say that this album sounds totally professional sounding and really is just great. Further proof that you can always rely on an album produced and mixed by Neil Kernon (with a bit of help from Prototype) rocks.
All in all, buy Continuuum. This is the best way to experience a band that truly sounds like no other in the heavy metal underground.