American power metal outfit Helion Prime set out to be the next in science fiction (and also science sans fiction) story telling in power metal, starting strong with their self titled debut. The sound, very inspired by European power metal lent itself to big ideas that were sometimes constrained by an at times lacking execution. With their sophomore effort, and without the slightest wisp of a doubt coolest album name this year, Terror Of The Cybernetic Space Monster, they aim to take everything not one, but two giant leaps further. It starts out strong enough, and the premise works; it all seems to add up. The build ups are cool, the twists and shifts flow neatly thanks to well written guitar passages that lead the melodic parts in an old school meets new flesh kind of story telling through musicianship. Lead guitarist Chad Anderson (Disforia) tosses some neat hooks and plenty of great melodies, especially in tracks like A King Is Born, Silent Skies and Atlas Obscura.
What’s lacking are the big, epic choruses that are hinted of in the build up and the very premise of what the album sets out to be. They were present on the first album, after all. Sure, the slightly more progressive twists and turns lends itself to do without massive choruses every minute, but several of the songs seem to fade away without ever reaching the zenith of their potential. Now the biggest problem is that the album centerpiece, its 17 minute behemoth of a title track, goes for the epic quest through the stars to find God and the meaning of life kind of thing, but ultimately seems more a mishmash of several vocalists and no clear direction. In a way, the same goes for the album as a whole, but the shorter tracks manage to be more interesting in that they hold it together in a more concise manner. Heather Michele Smith (Graveshadow) left somewhere around 2016, shortly after the release of the band’s self titled debut album. That was sad because she, along with the band, showcased great potential and her stylistic voice helped give rise to the sci fi scenery painted therein.
Her replacement (Kayla Dixon (Witch Mountain)) lasted only a very short while and a single before ditching. Enter Sozos Michael. The guy’s somewhere around cheesy Tony Kakko (Sonata Arctica) cheese territory blended with touches of the Italian style of symphonic metal vocalists - so what Néstor Català was going for on the abomination that was Hypernova, but actually good. And while he doesn’t feel unique in and of himself at all times, his presence is most certainly, though he may not have Smith’s personality - and he touches some impressive highs in Urth. By and large, the promise of Terror Of The Cybernetic Space Monster is just one size bigger than what the final product manages to deliver. That said, at no point does the album dwindle into unlistenable territories; they just need to work out the small things, get Michael some backdrop help other than Brittney Hayes (Unleash The Archers), who admittedly does a good job to contrast Michael in a few of the tracks. The album offers plenty of tender riffing set to heavy rhythm section, with Anderson blasting away with a melodic touch, and with a couple of spins it’s sure to take.
Standout tracks: Atlas Obscura, Urth, The Human Condition