Eternity's End - Unyielding

Genre: Power Metal, Progressive Metal

Released way in the ass end of the year, Eternity’s End’s sophomore album, Unyielding aims to close off 2018 with a bang. (Though in most parts of the world it isn’t actually released until later in 2019.) The German based super group released their first album, The Fire Within, to glowing reviews in 2016, and has since shed bassist Linus Klausenitzer (Alkaloid) and vocalist Ian Parry (Consortium Project), as well as recruiting a second guitarist in 2017; Phil Tougas (Chthe'ilist). Odds weren’t high for Mike LePond (Symphony X, Silent Assassins) to mantle the bass guitar because he’s literally everywhere, but the role of vocalist was rather lent to less renowned figure; namely Iuri Sanson, formerly of Hibria (those guys recently hired Victor Emeka, so look for more of them).

Eternity's End - Unyielding

Obviously, there are similarities to the likes of Symphony X and similar acts, as well as the more melodic power leanings of Lost Horizon. Parts of Unyielding is incredibly energetic and speedy as all hell, especially the first few tracks, which are outstanding; heavy and progressive in equal measure to the slight cheesy atmosphere, speed and melodic flair. The guitars, with Tougas and Christian Münzner dueling and carrying each other in the riffing department, is fresh and invigorating, but the highlights are in their frenetic lead play; that old school, Gamma Ray like tenacity that just revels in the fun and ferocious technicality of it all. And of course, when Jimmy Pitts’ keys enter the fray the battle of glorious lead melodics is turned to the next level. The bass presence is, as expected from LePond, prevalent and big sounding, pummeling with a fresh sense of clarity in the speedier parts, while also standing out and going above and beyond to add the extra flourishes, never following the leads but building his own dimension to the already fleshed out entirety, making the sound deeper and the songs get that LePond touch.

Powerful, sharp and poignant, every song tells a story of its own while feeling like an integral chapter of the arch. Instrumental mid album track Dreaming of Cimmerian Shadow is a rollicking melodic piece that divides the album between the first, speedy, powerful 20 minutes and the deeper, more evocative 27 minutes that comprise the second part of the album. The lyrics aren’t that far from what you might find on a power metal album set to be epic; fantastic tales of warriors from legend and marches into battle, you know - the same old same old. However, Eternity’s End still make it feel fresh and vigorous, and while there’s certainly a bit of cheesiness, it feels entirely appropriate and fitting. There’s just no part of the music that isn’t craned to a hundred, and they make everything click perfectly. I’d have preferred Sanson to delve into his deeper parts at times, but the high notes fit the speedy approach. The music is technical and melodic in equal measure, and it revels in the silly, but takes itself seriously as it soars ever onward on epic frets of fire, making Unyielding the last must hear of 2018. Or the first of 2019, whatever.


Standout tracks: Into Timeless Realms, Under Crimson Moonlight




Eternity's End - Into Timeless Realms

Divine Ascension - The Uncovering

Genre: Power Metal, Progressive Metal, Symphonic Metal

Divine Ascension’s third full length is an intense album, and it’s packed with both technical prowess and the workings of great showmanship. The Aussie foursome has shown growth throughout their albums, no more so here. The Uncovering is set with a dark atmosphere, and a gloomy sense of hopelessness. The individual song structure and outlay remains fairly uniform throughout the album, as the songs are pretty similar to each other. This of course has both a good side and a bad side; the good side being that the album feels very much like the concept album it is, while the bad side is that it feels somewhat repetitive. The quality of the songwriting and the precision and passion on display in the musicianship however outweighs the bad side, since even though it’s slightly repetitive and a song or two might be cut, it’s still an overall very enjoyable listen.

Divine Ascension - The Uncovering

The guys certainly have big, powerful choruses covered, as almost every song on here just blows away in that department, but that’s never the sole focus. Opening track Evermore is a fairly slow affair, progressive and groovy in rhythm, but big and melodic in the lead section, with Jennifer Borg’s vocals and the vocal melodies shining atop. Tom Englund (Evergrey, Redemption) makes a guest appearance on Pursuit of Desire. While Borg needs no help to hold things up on her own, Englund adds another dimension and another layer, which adds to the overall feel; his style fits the music entirely and it’s just a shame he’s not on more of the album. Other tracks, like Beyond the Line and major highlight Bittersweet Divide have that gloomy feel and bring the feel to a high point, atmospheric and technically proficient alike, with Borg especially delivering great performances.

The riffs are clear and crisp all throughout, and Karl Szulik pulls some incredible leads that are as flashy as they are technichally proficient. The Fallen definitely stands out as a mention in that regard, with that neat intro and the mid passage, as well as New World which is just melodic sweetness from Szulik’s part. The guitars are definitely among the highlights, along with the keyboards always taking a prominent role, and always battling the guitars in swift solo duels or slower, atmospheric lead parts as in Prisoner or Revolution Phase. There’s something decidedly somber about the album, set in the lyrics, the theme, and the atmosphere, but it’s never to the album’s detriment; it’s wholly fitting. Divine Ascension have really come into their own with this album. It shows not only how they’ve grown from their previous efforts, but it’s also a great effort overall in the symphonic progpower genre. Overall, The Uncovering is a very strong album, and I can only see Divine Ascension going up from here.


Standout tracks: Evermore, Revolution Phase, Beyond the Line, Bittersweet Divide




Divine Ascension - Pursuit of Desire

Fractal Cypher - Prelude to an Impending Outcome (EP)

Genre: Progressive Metal

Fractal Cypher may not have been overpoweringly persuasive with their debut, The Human Paradox, released in 2016, which was largely forgotten and fairly quickly too. It may have had some shining moments, but was at length not an album for the history books. To show they’re still active, the Canadian prog outfit released an EP in November of 2018, titled Prelude to an Impending Outcome, and it hits a number of the marks that the debut album just barely failed to reach. Now, it may be a mere four track EP, but at a runtime of 34 minutes it is still longer than what many acts try to pass of as full lengths these days, and its concise format leaves no room for filler or redundancy.

Fractal Cypher - Prelude to an Impending Outcome

While the sound is largely an expansion of what they did on their debut album, there is a tangible difference in that the material here feels heaps more inspired and energetic. From lift off to orbit and to beyond, it all feels like a work of love and devotion, the format letting them focus on the important aspects of the music. Fractal Cypher also show off less of the harsh side that felt quite amiss on the debut, which works well for the whole of the EP which instead gives more place for Simon Lavoie’s finely tuned cleans and interesting, ever innovative noodling from Vincent Bruneau’s guitars; sometimes even some sweet lead dueling between Bruneau and keyboardist Ludovick Daoust, for example in glorious highlight From the Above and to the Stars, as well as experimental touches and flairs in more fast moving The Grandeur of it All.

There is also a uniform feel in between the songs, as they are all connected in theme and setting (presumably continuing from the debut). Opening track Coming Back to Life starts off slow with piano trillings and evolves into a slow cooking ballad for the first few minutes, before it unleashes the progressive revelry, slow and building. There is great riffing to be found, as well as some furious leads and solos, but above all they all contribute so much to the whole that there is not a moment of the 34 minutes that could be picked out. The songwriting is in focus, as well as the overall atmosphere, and at that Fractal Cypher has greatly succeeded. This EP is a great piece of work, hopefully to be followed by a full length equally inspired.


Standout tracks: From the Above and to the Stars, Red Lady




Musikvideo: Fractal Cypher - From the Above and to the Stars