Time Travel Artifact, the second full length from Italian symphonic prog outfit Degrees of Truth is a big effort; an ambitious effort. Not because it’s necessarily big sounding or daunting in length, but because of the ambition and thought that permeates its entire being; an adventurous exploration, dealing in brittle heaviness, subtle beauty and symphonic weight in progressive timeframes. The sound, clear as a mountain spring lost to time, lets no component go to waste. The guitars taking shape and forming groundwork for subtle keyboard layers and melodic flashes in the lead section, rhythmic dancing adds weight through Andrea Boccarusso’s heavy rhythm guitars, fleshed out with lead parts from Gianluca Parnisari’s keyboards. Mostly, the guitars, while never really the star, take center stage. Boccarusso adds tons of personality through the strings, weaving intricate rhythm parts with flashy leads and giving depth to Claudia Nora Pezzotta’s vocals.
Throughout - though perhaps most prevalent in the Dream suite - there are elements of eclectic world music strewn in and blended to a sweet degree with the rest of the music. Taking inspiration from the Middle East and merging it with the metallic backdrop really works to the favor of the album. Oriental flourishes color Long Way, Silk Road, with heavy riffing leading the winding song through narrow passages and Pezzotta’s delicate vocal presence dancing the edge. Another highlight is 14 minute mid-album track Lithos (also part of the four track Dream suite). Being the focal point of the album, it showcases the strengths of the album entire within its 14 minute runtime. From the start with sensitive piano slowly building to heavy riffing, abruptly broken and once more the heartfelt piano takes the stage, and to the duet vocals between Pezzotta and a male counterpart as they build the atmosphere higher alongside winding keyboard patterns and emotive guitars.
Perhaps the most impressive part about Time Travel Artifact though is that there’s no compromise in what it is. The album has the sound of being brought to fruition exactly as conceived and the professional trappings make it sound like a high end band that has been around for decades, while it’s still just the band’s second full length and recorded independently by the band members themselves. It’s hard to pick out single tracks as highlights, because they so flawlessly build and grow into and from each other, and taking out one or two would do the album a disservice. There’s so much goodness here, and so much of everything and it’s hard to put a finger on any little bit of it to do it justice. Every bit gets its time to shine, and without it being out of place. Guitar solos ablaze in The Post-war Solace, the atmospheric keyboards that close the album off at the far end of the title track; operatic vocals mixed with lofty cleans. With Time Travel Artifact, Degrees of Truth have created a unique experience, not to be taken lightly or plucked apart.
Standout tracks: The Remedy, The entire Dream suite, Love Me Protect Me