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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