Entering Polaris is just one half of a two part project; the melodic progressive power half to contrast In Motion’s progressive thrash/death part. While the latter is yet to be released, Entering Polaris has hit the soundwaves, but to little notice - if any. Behind the scenes are guitarist and bassist Tom Tas and drummer Vincent van Kerckhove. Both projects are run by the same two people, saying all the different ideas could not possibly contain themselves within one single band name, and they both advertise themselves as being the band with all the cool singers. Be that as it may, Entering Polaris still has too many singers - and too many ideas - on too short a runtime. Lance King (ex- Pyramaze, ex- Balance Of Power) and Fabio Lione (Angra, ex- Rhapsody) help take the album to higher highs, while Björn Strid (Soilwork) seems out of place on the opening track. On the flip side, Therion vocalist Thomas Vikström gets at least one too many songs on his own, and while his style and intonation fit the tunes - give him fewer, or give him all. This is not his best work.
With this, their debut in the melodic progpower style, Entering Polaris deliver scattered bits and pieces of greatness, but much is held back by the compact fittings. Short songs that try to fit way too many vocalists in a single go, while some feature only the one. It suffers at times from a generic feel that seems hard to overcome, but still is briskly blown away on standout tracks that seem to slap away all doubts that it could be done. Lione adds that cheesy loftiness that only he can bring, but coupling him with more serious styled vocalists keeps it simpler, and works to great effects on distinctly proggy The Field Of Ghosts, likely the greatest track on the album alongside Paradise Reclaimed, a great power metal romper featuring Georg Neuhauser bringing his signature Serenity charisma - and a short, but heavy as all hell growl part delivered by Sindre Nedland (In Vain).
There are some truly interesting ideas, sadly contained in songs that never really get to grab a hold of you in their short runtime. Flightless has a super neat saxophone solo (courtesy of Gregg Rosetti (Suspyre)) to go along with a groovy prog vibe on Tas’s bass lines, but the song just ebbs out before it climaxes. The guitars, uplifting and melodic throughout are some of the best parts of the music. Be it the swift cheesiness lifted from Paradise Reclaimed, or the AOR styled fittings of Clear Skies, guitarist and bandleader Tas has worked the guitar parts out well and they drive the music thoroughly setting the tone for the songs. Then add to that the scattered pieces that reconnect to the death parts of Tas’ influences that give the album some well needed contrasts. So it’s not an instant love story, and it’s far from great, but with some truly inspired ideas that would have done well to be let lose, and Godseed is certainly an interesting listen, likely for fans of both power metal and prog metal alike.
Standout tracks: Godspeed, Paradise Reclaimed, The Field Of Ghosts
I’ve been listening to this album almost constantly since I first heard it, giving it several playthroughs a day, and it’s still hard to define, to put into words. Florescence is the debut album by Dutch prog boys Hillsphere. The album is so well made, and so finely tailored that it’s hard to believe that it’s their first one. Hillsphere play a kind of mesh of progressive metal elements and post rock stylistics that was originally intended to be entirely instrumental. That’s how the album starts off; instrumental for the first few tracks, and it isn’t until Our Physical Way Of Speaking that Tim Beimer gets to shine. His vocals, firm and aggressive find a softer note to hit throughout the atmospheric, lofty parts but do well with the rumbling darkness and the grittier metal parts as well. Melodic and driving, with hints of the likes of Haken, and their well rounded fusion of progressive metal and rock, or even Beyond The Bridge and their strong, emotional pull in the instrumentals, which is also something that Hillsphere has nailed.
Then toss in the big chunks of atmospheric influences that gives a soundscape not entirely unlike those of Thence or post-rock group Aoria. Though, Hillsphere has perhaps put a bigger emphasis on the big sounding climaxes, making them something of a hallmark on Florscence. The whole style has given Hillsphere a unique sound that while reminding of other acts within the same territory, still feels like something new; fresh and invigorating. The songwriting is fine and precise and each song gets its quality time and attention to finer details that makes the album such a delight to listen to on repeat. The songs may follow similar-ish patterns, but still feel unique and interesting on their own, thanks to the diverse input from Elias Mayer on the guitars and the well seasoned keyboards, added liberally to give the tapestry a deeper sound. As the songs evolve and usually sink into some kind of glumness before the twist comes on and there is a sunburst of energy sparking through. The melodically punch packing guitars thriving in hypnotic leads and big sounding solos as the climactic energy delivers a huge swing upward for the already atmospheric soundscape in every damn song on the album.
And in a way, this breakdown of song structure works on the album as a whole as well; the calmer introduction that soon gives way to immediately ear catching instrumentals. This then followed by vocal parts so emotive you can’t help but be pulled in, with a slower ballad like passage in the middle leading to an inexorable high point in the climax, culminating in even more top of the line instrumental action with Mayer’s guitars and keys as well as second axe man Robin Waij’s guitars driving rhythms and Kevin van der Reijnst’s thick bass lines filling the scene, dancing along the densely woven tapestry. The album closes with nine minute Clairvoyance, a clear highlight, and it too, is an instrumental affair that sees the very best of the album comprised into delicate musicianship delivering all that the preceding 40 minutes had delivered; fiercely flowing melodics, great riffing, and emotion through instrumental perfection; even though Beimer’s presence on the album certainly is an important part in lifting it above “yet another instrumental prog album”, sometimes not a single word is needed.
Standout tracks: Our Physical Way Of Speaking, Ghost Of You, Clairvoyance
Musikvideo: Hillsphere - Our Physical Way Of Speaking
Brazilian prog outfit Maestrick’s second full length is a big one. Seven years after debut album Unpuzzle! they apparently aren’t pulling the stops at all. Espresso Della Vita: Solare is a huge album, with plenty of unique little quirks and twists to make it interesting, even though it is at the far end of long. And while it’s a little bloated, there are plenty of things to like about this album which comes in at the right point. The airy feel that blends progressive elements ranging from the rock based to hints of power metal, though never straying too far into either one but eclectically diverting through the sounds and the styles with ease and precision. It dares to not be metal when it suits, and it lets the guitars take a laid back role behind the keys and the bass. Producer Adair Daufembach adds the guitars, but while there are some great moments therein as well as several great, laid back solos, the melodic touch comes mostly care of Neemias Teixeira and the keyboard tracks he lays with precision and grace.
The guitars always seem to do something interesting, finding some new quirk to pull and burst into a solo. Be it in the winding licks or the background riffage - or the aforementioned solos, which are to the point and delivered with pinpoint accuracy. They trade the melodies with Teixeira’s fine tuned keys that deliver silly to full blown melodic mastery, and doing so without losing track. As stated, Renato Somera’s bass is also highly prevalent, never taking a backseat in terms of mixing and always staying interesting without following in the tracks of the guitars or the melodies. Vocalist Fábio Caldeira has a bit of a Tommy Karevik (Seventh Wonder, Kamelot) aura around him, but without the big, epic flair that comes from the latter’s turns in Kamelot. His whole delivery is great, and done with just that right amount of charm to pull of the sillier numbers while also being potent enough to do the serious parts justice. His best would be The Seed, an album highlight where he goes from an emotive mid range to tugging at the higher notes as he battles the guitars.
One problem would be the album’s more than substantial length; clocking in at just under 80 minutes it’s almost enough for two full length albums. And there are some filler within that space, and it does take a while for the album to fully take off. Lengthy opening track Origami is instrumental, and followed by I A.M. Living, a not so interesting song that opens up the album in an almost bored fashion. Luckily, it kicks off better with Rooster Race, Keep Trying and 15 minute epic The Seed, to deliver full blown passion that doesn’t stray from the whole sense of the music. So it’s a big album, and a lot to take in, especially in one sitting, but it’s a neat experience and one that won’t be getting tiresome quick, as there is plenty of material in here to keep the mind wandering through the lengthy instrumental passages, the guitars and keys battling in lofty solo duels. Espresso Della Vita: Solare has all the flair of a warm summer day, and adds the fresh breeze just enough to keep it cool.
Standout tracks: Rooster Race, The Seed, Across The River