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And What’s Progressive? Turbulent Jazzy Love Affair - 91%

bayern, November 1st, 2018

Sieges Even… that name didn’t immediately spell “greatness” all across the sky… “Life Cycle” was not that readily available around the studios in the late-80’s, the way the works of their compatriots Destruction, Deathrow, Exumer and Necronomicon were, but at the same time one didn’t have to waste copious amounts of time to track it down. The thing was that with a name like this no one could make any educated guesses as to what music this act would be playing…

Well, it had to be metal as this effort was placed next to the ones of the mentioned bands; only that hardly a handful of fans were prepared back then for this mind-boggling progressive thrash wizardry. A most eye-opening beginning which (sieges) even had a more pioneering follow-up in the form of “Steps”, the first genuine jazz/fusion/metal conglomerate with thrash fucked… sorry, tucked away and archived, hopefully for future reference. I had serious problems coming to terms with these “Steps” initially, neglecting the guys’ subsequent repertoire for a number of years as I wasn’t fascinated at all with this softening in their camp, a tendency which continued on the surprisingly downbeat, more rock-oriented sequel “A Sense of Change”.

I decided to give the album reviewed here a listen only cause a guy I knew persuaded me to do so. How he managed to do that was beyond me provided that again I didn’t like the preceding opus, the mentioned “A Sense of Change” very much at the time, and I was certain that this effort here was going to be a very similar progressive rock/metal “lullaby”. Besides, the album title didn’t exactly scream “Thrash is back!” with the little bit of old school euphoria that was available at the time.

To my utter surprise the sophistication here ended with the title the band determinedly bringing the more aggressive metalclad sound from the first two instalments to a round of well-deserved applause. This is by no means “Life Cycle II”, mind you, as thrash doesn’t exist under any form although the highly energetic, plain neurotic at times execution comes close at times to the hyper-active, manic grandeur of said opus. In fact, the opening “Reporter” is a fairly hectic speedy proposition the guys “winking” at the power/speed metal movement from their homeland only with a more contrived aura, the brilliant soaring emotional vocals of the first-timer Greg Keller a perfect fit to the complex, but uplifting soundscape the latter receiving a great boost from the superb virtuoso lead pyrotechnics and the busy jazz-influenced rhythm-section. The Helloween/Scanner worship ends here, though, as later on the listener may get lost in the elaborate hectic rifforamas, entangled shredders like “Trouble Talker” and the title-track finally justifying the long since made allusions to the Americans Watchtower with their “edgy jazzy vs. linear atmospheric” juxtapositions ala “Control & Resistance” the two sides alternating quite swiftly to a nearly overlapping, dizzying effect.

Fans of “A Sense of Change” should savour the more laid-back nature of “Dreamer”, but this is pretty much the only composition that refers to the preceding album’s… well, dreamier layout the bass player taking over for a couple of exquisite burpy pirouettes on the jumpy “As The World Moves On” the guys complicating the environment afterwards with longer, more labyrinthine compositions, the suggestive atmospheric world of “Steps” clearly felt on the dark multi-layered saga “Water The Barren Tree”. ”War” naturally brutalizes the environment with more belligerent, more restless riffs this rowdy hymn’s audacity matched by the jazzy jump-arounder “The More The Less” which weird time-signatures and abrupt tempo shifts must have inspired Spastic Ink. for their exploits a few years later.

That was way more like it the band obviously feeling much more comfortable under the good old metal’s cloak, these compelling psychotic tapestries ravaging the already instilled noisy groovy/aggro canvas, carving incurable burrows into the numetal order, also annulling to a large extent the mellow, not very eventful histrionics from the preceding opus. A hallucinogenic listening experience that incorporated the jazz connection more fully than any other metal album at the time, keeping the rest of the progressive metal fraternity on the tip of their toes as no Dream Theater, Savatage and the likes could feel indomitable and untouchable with these unpredictable wizards around. Again, the sweeping magnanimity of the debut isn’t the target here, the guys were intelligent enough to know that another feat of the kind wasn’t humanly possible, and not only due to the lack of the more brutal thrashy veneer; the air-headedness witnessed here and there may have been intentionally applied the band not willing to tip the scales again towards any heavily contrived vistas thus avoiding direct comparisons to the first showing.

The elusive fusion-esque atmospherics of “Steps” aren’t the focus, either, save for a few nuances; the approach is livelier and more optimistic, and it can’t be any other way with those rhythms constantly jumping and jostling around, blinking in and out of existence, creating a fascinating quantum soup of waywardly composed sounds where logic isn’t always the stitching “glue”. However, for me the biggest victory was the overcoming of the inertia detected on the preceding outing, the sound of more or less reluctant conformity that simply couldn’t sit long-term in a Sieges Even discography. Yes, this “sense of change” was erased off the map with a convincing jazz/metal “marriage” that also proved successful for at least one more instalment (“Uneven”).

The reformation in 2003 brought the milder rock-ish aesthetics from “A Sense of Change” once again for two capable, but hardly too exceptional opuses the band going through the motions in a more relaxed manner, still producing the requisite entertainment for the progressive rock/metal fanbase. Sophistication eventually caught up with them also prompting them to change the name to Subsignal under which moniker there have already been whole five albums released. “Signals” of labyrinthine thrash or psychotic jazzoramas these are not, but rest assured that they wouldn’t have too many problems making their way into your subconscious…