Genre: Progressive/Power Metal
Country: U.S.A.
Label: Arkeyn Steel Records
Year: 2017

When in 1994 Apocalypse were releasing independently their self-titled debut, their main mentors Queensryche were at the peak of their maturity with “Promised Land”.

Listening to certain bands and albums we can often meet some cases in which the student outplays the teacher. And it is true that the case of Apocalypse works as a great example of this situation, always as far as the aforementioned mentors are concerned.

This band from Michigan didn’t just assimilate artistic influences from Queensryche. In such a case we would talk only about an inspired case of a band which follows the steps of another one that has managed one way or the other to influence a whole scene in the States – mostly there, but not exclusively – giving life to what we call American Prog / Power metal. Apocalypse went one step forward and listened carefully, assimilated and then used every attribute of the Queensryche sound as it was developed through the years from the primal EP to the mature “Promised Land”. The outcome shines through.

In 1994 things were not looking good for the American Prog / Power Metal sound. The eyes of the record labels were turned to other genres of extreme sound that were in their prime at that time. But that would change immediately if your name was Queensryche. Yes, for the mentors of Apocalypse there was nothing to worry about. Having a contract with a multinational company the only thing they had to care for was their artistic product. But a newcomer from Michigan could not just go and knock the door of the next record label carrying a masterpiece of Queensryche-like lyricism. That would be a suicide attempt since at that time the labels were looking for the next Nirvana keeping their ears closed to a whole scene that started flourishing after the first Prog / Power wave that stroke the States around the mid 80’s. So, Apocalypse found themselves funding their own debut, a story that is more or less known in the genre.

It is true that the 7 songs that Apocalypse put in the album are the result of their innate talent and the essential assimilation of the sound of Queensryche. With hard work and emphasis in the detail, every composition in this album sounds complete and competent. But they give space for a whole Prog universe, which they deliver by remaining focused in the essence and not in the boring babbling of their instruments – the usual prog metal disease -.

Even if we play the game of trying to discover the influences of each band – as we might have done with independent releases from that era -, things become more difficult in the case of Apocalypse. Because this band does not just copy sonic patterns that are given generously by the mentors to the students (in our case from Queensryche to whichever band they influence). Apocalypse had the nerves to create a unique lyricism based in the resultants of their masters, but raising the bar even higher. If by reading these lines you get the impression that all of the above could be products of exaggeration, I dare you to just listen to the album. But listen to it carefully, repeatedly and leave each song deploy its multifaceted and emotionally charged dynamic in front of you. Then you may also agree that, yes, “the student has outplayed the teacher”.

With 1988’s “Rewind” history will repeat itself four years later, this time with 8 songs and with the only difference that the material of this specific record is much more sonically focused in the atmospheres that were given as a gift by the mature Queensryche period. The perfect vocals, the charmingly complex but also so familiar structures of the songs, the charged guitars that play with the listener’s feelings and the almost subversive rhythm section are elements that in the same way that they crown the debut they are repeated in “Rewind” to show that the perfectionism and the flawless expression of an aesthetics of a whole scene can fit in two albums. I also note that “Rewind” was released independently by the band as well.

The very limited distribution of these two albums (a phenomenon that was very common for the releases of that golden era), made the acquisition of the material of Apocalypse at the time it was released very difficult. Those who persisted and had the opportunity to read the underground press of the time knew about this unique case of a band from Michigan that played excellent Prog / Power Metal. And the quest started either for finding the originals or copied cassettes and Cdrs. This situation left Apocalypse deep in the closet of underground history, but kept them high in the minds of those who one way or the other came across their material.

Arkeyn Steel Records is putting things in order by releasing these masterpieces in a double CD giving the chance to those who are interested in good music and not just rumours to get to know one of the best American Prog / Power Metal bands. So stop reading my babbling and go listen to their music now.

5/6