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Proud To Be An Aion Release - 85%

OzzyApu, June 8th, 2010

The next step of the journey involves an EP, which, after a bunch of demos and singles, is always something fans are happy about. EPs mark a point in the band’s adventure that lets fans know that something is coming up or there is a change of some sort. For Aion, this EP hints at the sound of Aionism, but even then all you’re going to care about is the music on here. Aionism can wait after hearing this!

Whereas the band’s material before this was mostly straightforward thrash tracks, Izumi and the gang felt the need to mature and evolve their sound, and thankfully it was in a respectable direction. Most of the time I can’t stand pop, but the Japanese are able to mold it so well that it ends up working in their favor. The material on Magma is way more melodic, expressive, and has the true mark of a band. The first two full-lengths were very one-dimensional thrash records, but this one is funkier thrash with traditional heavy / power metal influences.

The guitar tone is greater than before and is the genuine focus of the music – Izumi finally is shaping the band around the guitar and taking advantage of all the sounds it can produce. The clarity of the production isn’t dated at all; fuzz or scratches are absent, so the band has finally reached a point where they can break from the underground (underground as in a sense of complete obscurity). The guitar tone isn’t particularly strong, but the riffs are memorable, as are the songs themselves. Dean’s contributions are fantastic, especially on “Windy” and “Killing Land” – very groovy and fun.

Neo-classical / thrilling solos and special leads have always been Izumi’s high point, and this is the first time (with lucidity) that we’re treated with some of the best thus far. The first two tracks, “The Sunrise Fright” and “Windy,” showcase his improvement and knack for solid melody integration. While the solos are one spectacle, the riffs and tempos of these five tracks are split evenly. The variety alone makes this EP better than the two full-lengths before it: “Windy” has the bobbing bass, “Magma” is a tornado of riffs being twisted up, and “Killing Land” is the mid-paced monster reminiscent of Overkill which carries that relentless attitude.

Drumming from S.A.B. keeps getting better, with an assortment of capable strikes that actually go with the tempo of each track. Production has turned his drum kit into an artillery firebase; the pieces of the kit are different calibers of artillery guns. The snares scorch like mortars while the double bass devastates – not old, not cold, but intimidating as shit. “Gasp For Breath” is the one where he’s just launching all sorts of punishment, and he’s just like, “whatever, it’s my job.”

Nov is a beast; shouts still roam, but now he’s heading into singing territory. The traditional heavy metal influence is making its way into Aion’s sound, and thus Nov is adapting by showing a side that he’ll be working on for the next few releases. The gruffness and sandy exhale of his voice may sound like he’s out of breath or unable to hit the proper note, but this isn’t the case. Sometimes it does seem like Nov isn’t comfortable with risky vocals, but at least he tries it out here and begins to work on it as Aion continues to grow.

For casual fans who just want something to start with, try this out. If I didn’t know where to start, then I’d damn well choose this point. It has the best riffs, melody, and songwriting up to this point, making everything the band has done up to this point somewhat negligent. I’m not disregarding the earlier work, but certain things have certain purposes (make what you will of that).