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Pure glee for the music nerd - 92%

BloodIronBeer, November 3rd, 2018
Written based on this version: 2003, CD, Century Media Records

In a rare case, I am only familiar with this one album by Andromeda, yet it is among my very favorite in the genre of progressive metal. I would say it's my go-to when I want something that is in a progressive style. Having reviewed a couple albums that failed miserably to do "progressive metal" right, I was drawn involuntarily back to this album.

Adequately describing the style of this album is challenging on two fronts. Firstly, it changes style constantly, and secondly, when isolated, those styles are still hard to define. In many ways it has things that are quintessentially progressive - synthy keyboard sounds, impassioned singing, the seemingly obligatory clean guitar passages, and drum beats that are too dynamic to be seen as typically metal. Two Is One, One in My Head and Castaway could at least initially, be seen as progressive ballads. Reaching Deep Within and Parasite are darker and rhythmically complex (maybe the greatest understatement ever - but more on that later). Mirages and Encyclopedia are groovy and emotionally ambiguous.

Andromeda's II=I is simply put, exactly what I want from progressive metal. Eluding the pitfalls of pretentiousness and cheap tricks, Andromeda land every punch they throw; song to song they move from ballad to heavy riff-oriented tracks, with mind-boggling technical flair. The song writing is so smart. Even in a 10 minute track, they don't do anything unnecessary, they don't add anything pointlessly, or do anything without a very well thought out end goal. They make the weakness of most bands in this genre into their greatest strength. This is most clearly observed in Morphing Into Nothing.

A 7 minute instrumental track on a progressive metal album? This has to be pure wanky garbage right? Wrong. This song is a blueprint of exactly how you riff on a theme. This song is so complex and does so much I cannot do a beginning to end take on it. The syncopated rhythms move around throughout, the keyboard, guitar and even drums trade places in the spotlight, key elements of the main riff are built up and deconstructed so tactfully throughout.

Now, I need to preface what I'm about to say by reiterating that as much as I geek out on technicality in music, it should never come before songwriting, and any understanding of what I'm saying as such is misconstruing my words. If you need to see that I value songwriting more than technicality, see my Behold The Arctopus reviews.

That said - Parasite is the most rhythmically complex metal song I've ever heard and blows my fucking mind every time I listen to it. Every conceivable rhythmic device is employed in this track; heavy syncopation, metric modulation, continual time signature changes, and my favorite - polyrhythms. The best part, is the song remains brooding and builds tension so wonderfully throughout the controlled chaos of this extremely dynamic rhythmic landscape. The guitar parts create the idea of some horror movie carnival ride, the pattern is spry and light, but utterly sinister. In fact, it is the darkest song on the album by a considerable margin. Now, with this level of rhythmic complexity, the drummer needs to deliver. And my God, does he deliver. What an absolute clinic. Between the drum pattern and guitar line, the polyrhythms go 3 levels deep at one point. If you're an unabashed music nerd like me, you might try to figure out what the time signature is at any given point, but just as you think you can nail it down, they shift the beat, slide over the start of the next phrase, add a beat or cut a beat just short. And yet, it all makes sense, it all works so damn well, it just flows. It's like a freak of nature. It shouldn't work, it shouldn't be possible to make a song flow this well with ever-changing rhythms. What a track.

To be sure, this whole album is insane in the scheme of rhythm. Reaching Deep Within uses syncopation, moving the accent throughout, to great effect. Two Is One at about the halfway point begins using some stupefying rhythms with dense, rich drum patterns. In This Fragile Surface dance-like rhythms are exploited in a way that makes them somehow foreboding.

There is a foreboding in the album in general. It's more uplifting moments are still tinted with a darkness. There is real drama in the music to match the message in the lyrics. The ballads sneakily shift from just a soft ballad to something creepy and unsettling with you hardly noticing. This is a characteristic of some of my very favorite albums - highly technical, but somehow squeezing dread and delight out of every riff. Even being this technical and remaining heavy is a fairly high hurdle to clear. I won't trash any other bands in this review, but I'm sure if you're familiar with the genre you know some bands that try to be dark/heavy and fail pretty miserably.

The only fault in this album is Castaway which unlike the other "ballads" on the album, doesn't actually pick up at some point and remains a soft track to the end. I think if it just would have been shorter it would have been fine, it does enough in the way of dissonant keyboard work to keep it from being just a generic ballad, but it still runs a little long.

My highlight is obviously Parasite but also probably Reaching Deep Within - it's rhythms are just so fun. This is an album I am reluctant to even highlight tracks on because I think each track is so unique and strong in it's own way.

I adore this album. I honestly didn't even expect to give it quite this high of a score, but making the extra effort to give it a few fresh listens, I've discovered a few new things here and there, even having enjoyed this album for many years. That's one of the best parts of super complex music is just keeps gifting you with new discoveries. When a group of musicians put a huge amount of time and effort into music, it can take a huge amount of time and effort to fully appreciate it. I will say, the complexity of this music and what makes it so good will certainly be lost on some people.

I feel pretty confident in saying this is my favorite progressive metal album, and nothing short of a classic.

Notable Change (For The Worse) - 47%

Roufus, April 16th, 2007

I looked forward to this album for a while before it came out. I went so far as to add the cover art as my desktop background. Though a little nervous as to the new singer (because I loved Mackrory’s work so much), I still figured that Reinholdz and co. could still create an engaging memorable prog album.

Well… I was wrong. Not only does their new permanent singer Fremberg sound like so many other prog-clone vocalists, they also mix it rather odd. The layered vocal arrangements are downright annoying. After Encyclopedia came to a close, I felt a little violated.

But this continued for the entire album. Hendin’s keyboarding is toned down slightly from the last album, and Reinholdz guitaring is more prevalent. But it just isn’t as GOOD as it was on the first album. It sounds so much like they were actually going for a generic middle-of-the-road prog feel than they did in their first outing. I can’t get into this.

Later on I heard Chimera, and they redeemed themselves. This is what I hope to be a single blotch in their career. Not everyone can get it right all the time.

Will Certainly Hurt Your Ears... - 92%

Obelisk, November 10th, 2003

...But will leave an impression. If you couldn't get enough of Johan Reinholtz & co.'s debut, then too fucking bad, 'cause this album takes the band on the whole different level, and in such an impetuous way that you might as well at first dismiss this release as the grossest amount of wankery you have ever heard. And not to say that it isn't, since some passages on here would indeed only make sense to a sadomasochistic guitar-playing onanist, but if it weren't for the "Extention Of The Wish" and its misleading and hefty expectaions, "II=I" would probably be in the league of its own.

Anyway, if you're into prog metal because of its occassional melodical substance (or if your name is Ben from the 'MetalReviews'), please avoid this album, for I sincerely doubt that any occassional fan will fully appreciate it. Though that is not to say that the songs are not catchy (there's nine of them, by the way - with one instrumental) - surprisingly, the band's songwriting never goes out of hand here, for the most part keeping the traditional structures in tact, - but if you will have to let the songs grow on you before you'll fully acknowledge their melodical (in addition to diverse and unbelievably complex) entireties. Again, there's no straight-to-the-point compositions like "Words Unspoken" or "Crescendo Of Thoughts" on here -except for maybe the keyboard-dominated "Castaway," so this won't be easy listening - never mind easy likening.

For the most part, this is a guitar-based album, with Johan Reinholtz at his best spewing up his masturbatory melodies with unbelievably diverse technical profficiency. His numerous riffs and solos still give this album a very metallish feel, though this is definitely not (entirely) riff-based music. The keyboardist Martin Hedin doesn't lag behind either, complimenting with his sometimes wavy and fluctuatingly-soothing piano tracks, very reminiscient of Genesis's Tony Banks; in fact, in some parts, the slower-paced "Castaway" reminds me a lot of Genesis's "Mad Man Moon.." Too bad the wanker lostthe notes to it - but it's wonder, considering that he (admittedly) spent whole days in the studio helping write the 65 minutes of the most complex material you could think of and putting it all together so that it would make some relative sense. And here's how you would know; sometime late at night, all exhausted and worn-out, Martin probably just said: "Ah fuck it, I give up" and wrote the following example of "sheer progressive brilliance" (to be found in the closing track "This Fragile Surface," one of my favorites on the disc):

"I open up my eye and I, I open as my eye,
I stare and let it read my mind, eye open as am I."

The lyrics (contributed by Hedin primarily) at times at are no less complex(and not necessarily a good way) than the music itself, but certainly not as flashy or stunningly ingenious. David Fremberg's vocals add the whole another dimension to the overall product, perfectly complimenting the music and the band itself - considering that this was his debut Andromeda album in which he contributed something.

Either way, if you're a real prog fan, you should definitely give it a listen -however, it's not mandatory for you to like it at all. Johan said that the band will accentuate more on the songs rather than flashiness on the next album, so this release might be somewhat of a once-in-a-lifetime effort for Andromeda, making it even much more valuable and unique.