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Thinking Deeply in Ever-Expanding Circles - 82%

bayern, January 3rd, 2018

These guys were trying to do their own thing outside the two major waves (the power/speed and the technical/progressive one) stirred in their homeland when they started their journey in 1994 under the name Ways of Desolation. However, they by all means stuck to the classic ways of execution on their only demo (self-titled, 1996), a slab of pure unadulterated retro heavy metal which preceded the almost immediate transition to their second, and last, moniker.

Some adjustments were made coming with the name change as the band moved towards a more complex approach with clear aims at the progressive metal heritage, looking at the US luminaries Queensryche and late-80’s/early-90’s Fates Warning as main examples to follow. For the debut release the line-up was enriched with the addition of two members of the progressive thrashers Lost Century, the vocalist Andreas Lohse and the guitarist Jens Schafer, who paired well with the others among whom was the unrecognized guitar virtuoso Adrian Eric Weiss. The latter’s exemplary lead guitar work is a major reason why the metal heads shouldn’t miss out on the guys’ first two instalments which followed the progressive metal canons without too many deviations providing good classic metal stuff without too many complex surprises.

The album reviewed here may be viewed the finest example of the band’s style as it abandons the several lyrical, melancholic escapades of its predecessors and concentrates on harder, edgier riffage as evident from the opening “Each Passing Moment”, a bouncy epic ride with great melodic hooks and Lohse’s outstanding emotional performance behind the mike. “Shrine of the Saint” indulges in a few virtuoso sections initially, Weiss displaying his talents more vividly on this otherwise calm introspective progressiver that could have been taken from any mid/late-80’s Queensryche opus. “In Fate’s Web” is a soothing semi-balladic anthem, but “Seventh Raven” starts stomping really heavily, with more complex Zero Hour-esque arrangements as well, the jumpy guitars extending to a couple of sprightly dynamic sections.

“This Cosm’s Wall” shreds even more heavily with more overt doomy overtones at times, with a catchy chorus and great melodic embellishments the latter pairing well with the steady hypnotic main motif from “Hourglass”, an excellent steam-rolling number with a nice balladic epitaph. “Gold” is a gold… sorry, cool blend of sharp lashing riffage and brief lyrical respites, Lohse acquiring a gruffer, more belligerent baritone to suit the nearly headbanging atmosphere on this memorable piece of rousing fist-pumping metal. “Prophecy” is another highlight, an energetic power metal hymn with more cutting guitarisms and another tranquil finale, the closing title-track adding to this rowdy fiesta with a more aggressive delivery and more abrasive riffs ala Morgana Lefay and Eidolon.

The triptych at the end loses the progressive metal idea somewhere opting for a more orthodox, but also more memorable approach the guys moshing harder with less restraint, sounding angrier and more animated. The contrast achieved is good, though, nothing too drastic or miscalculated, as the staple for the band tools of the trade haven’t been misused, utilized successfully for a needed energetic boost to the proceedings. Under the circumstances, this album is again a very good representation of the guys’ capabilities, displaying a more immediate, maybe even a tad better, side to their prevalent, moderately elaborate take on the good old progressive.

A great new venture sprang up from the ashes of this outfit, Forces at Work, that saw Weiss and Lohse in league again for the production of some really impressive progressive/thrash with the better work realised on the demos as opposed to the more linear, modern-sounding full-length. Great minds’ collaboration can only lead to great deeds, ones that don’t require too much thinking, but definitely take quite a bit of going around in fairly complex, ever-expanding circles.