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Encounters of the Fourth, (Super)Terrestrial Kind - 79%

bayern, October 7th, 2017

Acts of the kind were hardly a huge surprise on the German metal horizon in the mid-90’s provided that the country continued churning out classic works of metal art, many of them coming with a hefty technical/progressive flair. Our friends here, among whom one can also detect a female presence (the vocalist Birgit Schurr), didn’t go for the more aggressive, thrash-peppered style of fellow metallers like Depressive Age, Megace, Aeons End, or Skeptic Sense, but opted for a less rigid, more versatile approach that also comprises quite a bit of power and speed metal with several more elaborate, labyrinthine song-structures.

A crystal clear sound quality engulfs the listener from the very moment the opener “Rise & Shine” enters the scene, a sprightly melodic speedster with Schurr adding more flavour to the energetic musical background with her emotional, high-strung antics recalling a more attached, higher-pitched Doro Pesch; a few more intriguing jazzy/fusion-like deviations appear later to create a more engaging environment which grows into the exemplary progressiver “Awakenings”, a choppy dramatic shredder which loses the speed, but makes up with nervy staccato rhythms and great melodic lead sections. “Not a False Alarm” starts quietly and dreamily, but bigger dynamics are encountered later reaching fever-pitch, galloping parametres.

“Summer Rain” is a funky proto-groover, unpretentious and jolly, and “Drum Spirits” contributes further to this trippy, psychedelic setting providing an all-instrumental symbiosis between drums (for most of the time) and sparse keyboard “excursions”. With the album considerably losing inertia with these two milders, “Vision” simply has no right to side with them, and indeed this is one of the most aggressive tracks on the album, pure hard-hitting speed metal with echoes of the 80’s German models (Warrant, Helloween, Vectom). Comes ”Brave New World”, the Iron Maiden cover… kidding of course, an ambitious progressiver lasting for nearly 10-min, but not serving much except relatively peaceful, at times plain semi-balladic, riffage in the vein of Queensryche and mid-period Fates Warning, leaving the final “The Last Warrior” to deal with the exiting portion of fast-paced dynamics; and this cut doesn’t disappoint with lively proto-thrashy guitars and more interesting, more melodic, progressive arrangements the leads also hitting the top in the form of a striking, virtuoso-prone epitaph.

Probably the most obscure addition to the ever-reliant female-fronted German metal sisterhood (Warlock, Holy Moses, Aeons End, Battlefield, Cripper, Megace, etc.), this band did an expansive walk over the progressive metal spectre with this album. They hardly missed a nook or a nuance on it, save for the abstract Voivod-ish soundscapes of course, by at the same time keeping their eye on the more energetic ways of expression thus reaching beyond the mere progressive metal audience. The combination of those styles hasn’t been achieved very evenly, though, with lapses of coherence in the middle where the mellower material has been placed, the delivery suddenly acquiring more idyllic dimensions for a large stretch of time, a decision not perfectly justified having in mind the generally friendly character of the music until that point.

Regardless, on a largely progressive metal album one looks for diversity and not always predictable moves, and in this train of thought this opus should satisfy; a brief and entertaining glimpse at the more complex side of metal that must have kept the metal fanbase hopeful at the time for more similar, old school “encounters” during the transformational 90’s.