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Powerful, yet chaotic as a solar flare - 71%

AnalogKid, September 12th, 2017
Written based on this version: 2016, CD, Inner Wound Recordings

What do you get if you throw Outworld, golden-era Kamelot, and Nevermore together in a blender? Probably a bloody mess, but that’s more or less how I might describe new Greek project Sunburst to one familiar with other acts in the genre. Sunburst straddles the line between melodic heavy metal and prog metal, with nods to power thrown in here and there for flair. This might sound like a fairly vague description, but in my experience, precious few bands have pulled this off successfully – at least when viewed in the light of having a slick, ultra-modern production without sounding too rhythmically chuggy or overproduced to a fault.

More specifically, Sunburst can be summed up as another project of Gus Drax and Vasilis Georgiou of Black Fate, and if that band is sometimes described as sounding quite a bit like Roy Khan-era Kamelot (especially by virtue of Georgiou’s vocal stylings), then Sunburst might be very tenuously analogized to Khan’s other erstwhile, proggier project, Conception, except for being vastly modernized.

If you didn’t have the above assessment and simply threw Fragments Of Creation on for a spin, you might be most reminded at first of Gus Drax’s days with extreme prog metal act Biomechanical. The low, syncopated, bassy chugging of guitar is definitely reminiscent of many technical prog or death metal acts, but covered by Georgiou’s sometimes tender, sometimes vibrantly powerful clean vocals. Despite the complex cooperation of drumwork and guitar, the songs all elevate Georgiou’s vocal melodies above all else, and in this way, Sunburst has an approach that reminds me of more vocal-oriented metal acts like Serious Black, Jorn Lande’s self-titled releases, or insert-vocalist-here’s solo album, except that the towering guitar solos conjure shades of Jeff Loomis and offer show-stopping distraction from the adept singing.

Now, on paper, this sounds like a great formula, and by and large, I find Sunburst not only an attractive concept, but a well-executed one. There’s merely the problem that the formula is too samey from song to song. Choruses are memorable, but song structures, riffs, and vocal lines become predictable, and everything seems to homogenize a few tracks in. “Symbol Of Life” is probably my pick for best song of the lot here, because of its exciting high guitar licks and broad, engaging chorus, but “Lullaby” loses me (predictably). If you’re going with a blazing prog guitar-meets-vocal-virtuoso combo, it seems to me that you ought to stick with what makes you special. “Break The Core” is remarkable for its more aggressive pre-chorus attack, and opener “Out Of The World” is fast, ferocious, and will sell albums all by itself.

Technically, I don’t think anything can be criticized here. Drums, guitar, vocals – the whole lot is spot on. So the question really comes down to “does it stand out?”. For some listeners other than myself, that will be a resounding “Yes!”, but this is a little too “safe”, especially from a structural standpoint. All the other bands I’ve mentioned – Kamelot, Conception, Nevermore, etc. all break out of the basic songwriting mold with some frequency, and I just don’t hear that happening here. I think there’s a ridiculous amount of promise in this act, but when I set it side by side with another modern band with a similar end product (DGM or Noveria come most immediately to mind), I see considerable room for improvement.

Fragments Of Creation has some very strong bones and features a number of excellent songs with first-tier musicianship, but lacks the special “something” to push it into a place where I can call it a truly great album. A bit more time and experimentation/adventure may well change my tune, but this is still a purchase-worthy album from where I stand. Recommended for fans of technically demanding, yet concise “heavy modern prog” like DGM, Nevermore, and perhaps Darkology.

Originally written for Black Wind Metal

Sunburst - Fragments of Creation - 90%

Bruno Medeiros, August 31st, 2016
Written based on this version: 2016, CD, Inner Wound Recordings

Greece has been a starting point to many great acts lately. Sunburst, the prog/power child of Gus Drax and Vasilis Georgiou (aka Greek Roy Khan), is one of those greats, mixing a little bit of cheesiness found in modern power metal bands with a more darkened and crunchy approach. Fragments of Creation, their debut album, leans heavily on the prolific guitar skills of Drax, who is already considerably known in the metal scene, be it by the good Black Fate, Suicidal Angels or his work performing live and now on a full-time contribution to Paradox. Vasilis, likewise known, turned into a sort of consolation prize to those desperate Roy Khan fans who are still struggling to accept his departure from the Metal scene, and once again proves here that he's worthy of the comparison.

Mainly comprised of catchy tunes with rather emotional and personal lyrics, the album also delivers a good number of crunchy riffs and creative solos allied to a healthy amount of keyboards and clean production. At times, the tuned-down and heavily armed guitar work has a remarkable resemblance to what Jeff Loomis used to do with Nevermore, especially notable on songs like the opener "Out of the World" and "Reincarnation". You can also hear small passages which could be inspired by the earlier Evergrey songs, with "End of the Game" being a good example. In fact, Drax manages to add various techniques to his own and create juggernaut riffs full of crafty lines. There are also unorthodox tracks such as the closer "Remedy of My Heart" and angrier performances like in "Break the Core". My main complaint with the effort is that the bass and drums were left in the background and were clearly toned down to let Drax and Vasilis shine, which is ok, but kind of douchy too. Also, Bob Katsionis of Firewind provides welcomed keyboard lines throughout the course of the album, adding to the already amazing atmosphere.

From angrier tunes to beautiful gems such as "Forevermore", the instrumental monster that is "Beyond the Darkest Sun", and even an awesome ballad in "Lullaby" – which normally I hate – Fragments of Creation is a breath of fresh air. Roy Khan widows will rejoice with the amazing vocal range and techniques of Vasilis Georgiou, guitar-virtuoso enthusiasts will find sanctum with Gus Drax and even those who love the modern approach adopted by the newer Prog/Power bands will definitely find something for them here. This is what happens when highly skilled musicians who are at their creative peak join forces and pour their hearts into the work. Absolutely mandatory for prog/power metal fans and strong contender for top 10 in my list this year.

Massive chunks of solar power. - 89%

hells_unicorn, August 1st, 2016
Written based on this version: 2016, CD, Inner Wound Recordings

Hyperbole tends to get thrown around a fair bit when a great slab of metal has been unleashed from the proverbial heavens, but in spite of exaggerating the actual qualities of the object, it tends to get the point across quite effectively. In the case of a recently hatched Greek project called Sunburst, it's difficult to employ actual hyperbole given that the content of their music is bursting at the seems with great ideas. True to the progressive form, this is a band that knows how to go the elaborate route and throws together a multifaceted musical experience where heaviness is the norm, elaborate riffs and chunky groove stomps share space with crooning melodic content, and astounding feats of technical prowess are a regular occurrence. To put it in a single statement, Fragments Of Creation, Sunburst's debut LP, is a solar storm of modern fury tempered with nuanced songwriting that keeps the listener both guessing and engaged.

There are a number of prominent bands that have hit similar territory in the past couple decades that could be likened to what is heard here, but no one individual act can claim to be an exclusive influence. The busy riffing and super-virtuoso guitar soloing has all of the winning elements of what made Jeff Loomis' contributions to latter-day Nevermore rock solid, but translated into a cleaner and slicker world with a vocal personality that could be described as the exact opposite of Warrel Dane. Vocalist Vasilis Georgiou is an absolute dead-ringer for Kamelot's ex-helmsman Roy Khan, and the musical content that this voice finds itself isn't too far removed from where said vocalist was back in his Conception days. Other comparable suspects in the world of power and progressive metal's recent past include Pagan's Mind, Communic, Anubis Gate and the long defunct powerhouse Outworld, though Sunburst generally tends to employ keyboards less than most of the acts in question.

This album's modern character is a bit difficult to avoid, but generally speaking this album only embraces the aesthetic of said word while avoiding most of the weaknesses that tend to come along with it. Nothing on here comes close to sounding repetitive or in any way redundant, as every single heavy-ended crusher like "Out Of The World", "Symbol Of Life" and "Reincarnation" comes loaded to the brim with flashy elements and a needed balance of crooning vocal goodness to complement the massive bottom-ended character of the guitars and rhythm section. By the same token, more laid back bruisers with a greater keyboard presence like "Dementia" and the Fates Warning meets Kamelot semi-ballad "Forevermore" are also brilliantly accomplished and no slouches in showing this band's amazing instrumental chops. The only real place to speak of where things get a little too mellow is the full out ballad "Lullaby", but the vocals carries a generally mundane set of keyboard and piano lines into something that can trade blows with some of Kamelot's better ballad material.

Overall this is an excellent example of how progressive metal can be made accessible to those otherwise not inclined to the likes of Dream Theater with a needed shot of adrenaline and a solid handful of hooks that are more typical to power metal. It walks the line between darkness and light with a skillful middle path that is rarely crossed, as when bands tend to move in a more modern direction they come out in uglier territory that's comparable to Symphorce where there's very little in the way of staying power and everything feels disjointed. This is more of an organic album that comes off as both heavy and loaded with aggression, yet not overtly cold and mechanical. It's also the perfect album for anyone hungry for another Communic or Anubis Gate album after two to five years of waiting. The eruption of intrigue and memorable ideas streaming out of this album may prove to be enough to erect a new, eighth continent.

Extremely fun, fresh, cool album of melodic metal. - 90%

Empyreal, June 22nd, 2016
Written based on this version: 2016, CD, Inner Wound Recordings

This has to be one of the most fun times I've had with a metal album lately. Sunburst is a new Greek power/prog band sounding something like a heavier, angrier Pagan's Mind. Fragments of Creation is an unabashedly modern effort, with smooth, slick, heavy djent-style guitar riffing, but it shreds and has enough presence and quality riffing not to sound lifeless. The riffs just keep coming at you, and these songs all have a ton of momentum, chugging along like a shiny, sleek new bullet train. Guitarist Gus Drax can play circles around a lot of his contemporaries, and even the midpaced or slower songs here are full of cool, ear-catching licks.

The vocals of Vasilis Georgiou sound quite a bit like old Kamelot singer Roy Khan, as many reviewers have noted already – he has a shitload of talent, and his silky tone oozes a ton of charisma. He hooks you into these songs pretty much instantly with memorable vocal lines and a lot of power. This dude is a real talent, and I understand he's known by Greek metal enthusiasts from some other bands. I guess I'll have to check those bands out, then, because he rules on here.

On tracks like “Out Of The World,” “Symbol Of Life” and the killer “End Of The Game,” they will rip you a new asshole with heaviness and melody to spare. These are fast, furious metal killers and they all rule equally. Even on slower tunes like labyrinthine prog cruncher “Dementia” or the fantastic, emotive “Lullaby” they do well – adding in some spacey atmosphere to spice things up. The 12-minute closing epic “Remedy Of My Heart” might be the album's drawback, as it never quite gets going, but I admire the band's tenacity to try for something of a slower-build. This is a snakelike, uncoiling song, and it builds up to quite an apocalyptic soundscape by the end. It's worth hearing.

The songwriting is just so snappy and so entertaining on here. The whole reason this is so much fun is because Sunburst have a grasp on great metal hooks and crowd-pleasing songwriting. There's always something cool happening, whether it's a flashy, shredding guitar solo, a barrage of chugging riffs or a cool, harmonized chorus. Everything is tailored to be as instantly pleasing as possible, polished to perfection, but the songwriting is so tight and well-done, and there are more things going on that are apparent at first listen – so it isn't just a shallow ear-worm that will fade with time.

I like how modern this is, too. A lot of these types of power metal bands tend to go for a classic 80s style and try to make everything sound consciously like something made in the past – whether through a crunchy retro guitar tone or imagery rife with warriors and kings. But Sunburst embrace the future and show how good some of today's tricks and songwriting techniques are when done this well, which to me bodes well for the future. I look forward to other bands playing around with this kind of style and I think there are plenty of possibilities. If you like melodic metal of any stripe and aren't allergic to post-2010 sounds, Sunburst is a bold new band and this is worth hearing. Very cool, fresh new album – highly recommended.