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Maximizes its time without fading. - 81%

hells_unicorn, May 21st, 2009

When most people think progressive metal, they tend to think of the eastern coast of the United State. This is mostly due to the combined efforts of Fates Warning and Dream Theater in the early 90s, who had a little bit more of a direct influence on the concept than their Seattle rivals Queensryche. Even when looking at some of the hybrid versions that mixed it with death metal or power metal, a lot of the bands that were there early on such as Cynic and Symphony X all hailed from either the northern, central, or southern end of the Atlantic side of the country. This is all highly relevant because the more recent New Jersey affiliate of the scene Suspyre has a little bit of each of these classic bands present in their work. Virtuosic guitar solos, off beat drum lines and mixed meter beats, dreamy keyboard ambiences, and classical music influences are all to be found in their fresh yet familiar take on this very free spirited style of music.

Their latest offering “When Time Fades” is among the more ambitious albums to come out of this style within recent years, without completely sacrificing the identity that the genre has held in the name of partially embracing the latest trend in popular music. It basically walks a line between light and darkness, being not quite as heavy as most of Symphony X’s and Adagio’s output, but definitely sounding much heavier and harder edged than what Fates Warning began putting out in the early 90s. A little bit of a twist is thrown in with the use of a saxophone at various intervals, but it is able to do so in a tasteful manner rather than turning into an “Eddie And The Cruisers” love fest. Jazz and earlier rock influences are largely present, mostly on the longer songs where the band gets pretty liberal with how many styles they hit in a single sitting. Some of the songs definitely get a little bit overdone, throwing in one or two more ideas than necessary, but there is definitely a symmetrical nature to this album that makes it relatively easy to follow, and the melodic contours of much of it are definitely catchy.

The best songs on here tend to be the middle of the road ones lengthwise, where the band gets the right balance of stylistic variance and consistency. “Reign” is a good example, maintaining a driving mid-tempo feel with a few metric twists here and there, but largely keeps the structure basic. There are multiple saxophone solos and a folksy acoustic section towards the middle with a mandolin solo, almost like the sort of music that Miles Davis, Michael Romeo and the guy who composed the theme from “The Godfather” could agree on. Another solid one is “A World With No Measures”, which is perfect for anyone who likes chunky riffing and speed metal breaks in the mode that you might hear on an “Outworld” release. “Lighted Endrhyme” is also a highlight that will definitely please fans of Adagio who like rich string orchestra sounds and wild yet thematic lead interchanges. There is a shorter ballad in “Fallen Stars” that sees the band falling into the “Falling Into Infinity” trap with mundane, semi-pop oriented balladry, but the band is mostly on point, taking care not to spend too much time dwelling upon the various non-metal interludes too long and making sure that things don’t get so technical that the song gets lost.

Suspyre have remained fairly consistent throughout their run in progressive circles thus far, though they have become a good bit more longwinded in their songwriting since after they put out “The Silvery Image”. The abrupt stylistic shifts are sometimes a bit much, but this is roughly in line with the sound established since the early to mid 1990s. It seem somewhat contradictory to think of Progressive Metal in terms of a specific style since it tends to be extremely varied, but almost every band within even the most avant-garde of styles will have a specific formula to go by and a set of influences making their contributions possible, and I would say that this is a pretty solid contribution that avoids becoming either pretentious or losing its identity.