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Progressing a little, but still orthodox. - 85%

hells_unicorn, January 1st, 2011

Somewhere between the completion of recording “The Goddess Principle”, which was an exhilarating trip down memory lane for anyone who loved the early glory of Queensryche and Fates Warning, Steel Prophet began to modernize a little bit. Not so much in the horrid, groovy way that bands like Pantera and Machine Head did, but more in their outlook towards songwriting and presentation. The influences are still very much the same, but much in the same way that Crimson Glory started to look more seriously at other subjects beyond the mystical ones that mostly dominated their debut when they constructed “Transcendence”, and consequently the sound isn’t quite as uniform. Nonetheless, what emerges in their sophomore effort “Into The Void (Hallucinogenic Conception)” is quite captivating and worthy of praise, especially in light of its contrast with the now emergent European approach to power metal being promulgated by Gamma Ray, Stratovarius and Helloween.

The songs on here could be described as a bit more streamlined, or more plainly, not nearly as riff heavy as their more retro-style on their previous works. It still places a strong emphasis on riff work, as opposed to the European approach of largely making the riff serve the melodic content, often to the point of relegating it to more of a droning, speed metal style. There are occasionally references back to a thrashing style like in the case of “What’s Behind The Veils?”, but usually it tends to be surrounded by deep, esoteric sounding ballad sections or slower, somewhat plainer riffs. There’s also a slightly more frequent reference to melodic and harmonic guitar work that follows Iron Maiden’s work post-1982, something which was occasionally played up in certain songs in the USPM style, but were usually used sparingly to make room for crunchy power chord hits.

To put it more plainly, while this is maybe not quite a full out assault the way the previous album was, there’s more songs on here that work from a point of accessibility. “Trapped In A Trip” and “Idols”, for example, are fairly drawn out, but they tend to work more gradually, giving each idea more time to stick before moving to the next one. The atmosphere tends to be a bit more contemplative rather than creepy, and sees vocalist Rick Mythiasin sounding more like an intellectual dissident in the mold of Geoff Tate’s work on “The Warning” than the narrator of dread Midnight, although he tends to resemble the latter a bit more in overall timbre. But the band still makes time to reference the speed/thrash tendencies of their older work, in a more compact form, in “The Revenant” and “Hate²”, with an even nastier lead assault in between the vocal sections that gives Helloween and Judas Priest a run for their money.

Although this is not quite as exciting and enticing to the old school junkie of all things USPM, this album may actually be the better choice for a first album purchase by this band, though “Book Of The Dead” is the clear favorite for the general power metal audience, particularly given the tendencies of today’s bands. This is an album that fans of Gamma Ray could get into, although it doesn’t carry quite the same approach to speed metal, and comes off as a bit darker and more cynical. It shows a band that can actually evolve a bit without going completely off the map the way many of the bands they draw influence from did.