Dear progressive metal, why have you always failed me? Why have you left me in awe of your technical ability but wanting due to not playing with feel and emotion? WHY MOTHERFUCKER WHY!!!
Well…I think I finally found “the one”…ha ha, read on mofos, read on!
If you have a true appreciation for great metal, regardless of which particular style you gravitate to, then you almost have an obligation to get this album. And I’m NOT a progressive metal fan. I definitely appreciate the subgenre (sorry, hate using that term but you have to sometimes), if only for it’s high level of musicianship, but it’s not something I was ever into. I don’t think I’ve ever even bought one album from any progressive metal band, until now.
My quest for great unknown metal played by mature metalheads has taken me to places I never considered I would go to. Progressive metal is one of those places. I actually came across this band after being introduced to Convicted Fate, which, it turns out, is a project that involves the four members of Hephystus with the addition of Justin Reich. As my mind had pretty much been made up when it was described to me that this was a progressive metal band, I was really skeptical and wasn’t sure whether I wanted to waste my time listening to a band full of their own shred. I stand corrected. This is a really fucking heavy band. Not just heavy, but has tons of feel to their music, there’s real emotional depth here, which is a must for me. Hephystus consists of these southern boys.
Brandon Miller- Lead Vox/Guitar
Troy Surratt- Drums
Matt Halberg- Guitar/Vox
Aaron Yow – Bass/Vox
These guys are from North Carolina. Yup, North Carolina. Man, the south is just BRINGING IT!
The album starts with Winds Of Change. And the tone is set. It’s clear from the first song you are in for a sonic journey. The song is an exercise in pure drive, yet filled with enough changes that keep you guessing without a loss of the overall feel and tone they are trying to project. At 2:05 the change in tempo and beat create a bridge with the drums and bass just POUNDING it in a simple straight forward beat that just pushes forward. Matt plays a fucking exquisite solo that starts out with some thick wah playing some bluesy licks which he follows with a section in which he plays through an exotic scale with a neoclassical feel. Matt has a great style, and it’s not all about shred, its about feel too. This is followed by Brandon soaring vocally with a beautiful melody. Brandon’s vocal style is clean and powerful. Dude’s got lungs, and he uses them very well. A GREAT voice. I must have listened to this section about 20 times the first time I heard it, it’s that good. And that’s just song one. But it gives you an idea of the journey ahead. It’ll take you places.
I could break down every song on here because they are all good to great, and have moments of musical brilliance that will just blow you away. I’ll just add that other highlights include Fragmenting Shadows, Chasing Down The Sun, Perspective, and Beyond Reach (love that emotional solo). I can honestly say not one song sucks. Not one. You can listen to a few of the songs on Reverbnation.
I have to add that the rhythm section of this band is just MEAN! In a good kind of way. Tight, and able to create their own space (a rarity in metal it seems, most bands just follow the guitar, or the guitar and bass are doing the same thing, that’s fine at times, but to use it all the time is a bit of a bore). They combine simple and complex rhythms with ease, sometimes within seconds of each other, switching without missing a beat (pun intended). Troy and Aaron are real players, like the rest of the band, and they bring tons of power to their game. You can feel it in your chest when they are pushing that groove.
The production is pretty good, in particular the drums and bass really stand out. You can hear alot of the dynamics that sometimes gets lost in the compressed mix of bands with a small recording budget. But there’s one thing I learned about recording. 80% of your sound will come from the gear you use during recording, and your playing chops. Those two things will go a long way to making the production of a recording a listenable experience. So there are no real production issues here based on that alone. The production is definitely good, and it’s a joy to listen to. I HIGHLY recommend you listen to this on headphones. These songs are dense, deep, and a joy to listen to on good headphones. Then put it on a good loud system so you can feel that rhythm section pound your chest.
In closing I’ll add that this band is just damn impressive. Not in their superior musical abilities, but that they can combine a certain level of complexity with their music and still play with feel and emotion. This is much harder to do than it might sound to some. Progressive metal bands always lost me on their willingness to sacrifice emotion for the sake of shred and speed. Not here. They’ve found that balance. And that’s what’s truly impressive.
Now in closing…again. The album as a whole is fantastic, but it does start stronger than it finishes. But what album’s perfect? The best one can hope for is to find a work that projects the passion that a band writes and plays with, and here, they’ve done it. It’s hard as fuck to write 14 good to great songs, and that’s what they’ve done. Hat’s off to these boys from North Carolina, this music is something they should be proud as fuck about. No wonder the south will end up saving America! Fucking southern rebel pride! \m/
Verdict: Does not suck, BUY RIGHT NOW!
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