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As Bizarre As Tales From Outer Space Should Be - 60%

CHAIRTHROWER, December 14th, 2016
Written based on this version: 2009, CD, Independent (Digipak)

Mingling doom and power metal elements into some kind of high-falutin' space opera is Heart Of Cygnus with their 2009 release, Tales From Outer Space. At times laying down hook after hook in the same vein as Corsair and with a similar dramatic flair as Helion Prime, the duo of Jim Nahikian on drums and jack of all trades Jeff Lane (vocals, guitars, bass, keyboards) proving this is basically his show first and foremost. The eight tracks on display are definitely on the progressive and experimental side of the fence, or rather, directly in opposition to larger bands with a more traditional and lowbrow approach to heavy metal. Although this isn't my bag, there's something to be said about the band's thematic presentation and layout.

After a good minute of utopic narrative constituting the title track, an exotic, middle-eastern riff takes over and I'll be damned if it's not a rip-off of the Indiana Jones theme song! While this esoteric duo's musicianship rates from fair to good, I have to emphasize this really is a space opera, what with Lane running the Show and in most dramatic fashion- in the middle of a song, at the beginning, the end- it's cutthroat actually how a fairly decent riff will be playing only to be interrupted by yet another act on his behalf...(It definitely takes a while for things to warm up in the cold vacuum of outer space). Slowly but surely the metal factor rises incrementally while being sporadically laid aside for Lane's melodramatic cries. The guitar playing and keyboards are the duo's band's best feature, in my opinion, as Lane employ obscure scales and progressions as opposed to minor and pentatonic variations which are much more prevalent in metal in general. The keyboards don't sound trite at all, they mix in very well with the rest of the music and create that futuristic, space age vibe. At times, they even lend a creeped-out, space horror feeling. If I were to single out a reason for digging into Heart Of Cygnus' third full-length in as many years, it would be the three part Space Trilogy making up the second to fourth track. The instrumentation really gets down to brass tacks here, with one riff coalescing into another until strange special effects precede a real jazzy yet hard rocking guitar solo. The last track, the satirical "XBSN" turned out to be quite a pleasant surprise with some of this half-hour's hardest riffing yet. Lane's exclamations wind down as pure non-sense ("You can cook!"), the riffs blend into one another effortlessly and the drumming is certainly on the mark. I have to say the album ends on a high note with its special effects and spectacular last-ditch effort.

All told though, this release isn't as good as it may appear. Nothing will really blow you away or do more than passively amuse you. Personally, I could do without the vocalist's Freddie Mercury type persona and voice (I was never big on Queen). By their very nature, tales from outer space should be weird. With this likewise titled release, Heart Of Cygnus is indeed pretty out there. If you can get past Lane's operatic grandiosity, well, there's some inherently cool grooves and intricate, even exotic sounding passages to be gleaned. The album's general concept is interesting and well-developed for the most part. Unfortunately, the actual music doesn't quite match its appeal in the end. If Lane had wisely chosen to make Tales From Outer Space an instrumental it could be something I'd get into (but then, there wouldn't be any tales!) Otherwise, this is a rare non-recommendation on my behalf, if only because there's much tighter metal out there to look into...