I have this particular album in my hands for some time now and every time I was sitting down to write a review about it, I ended up listening to the songs again and again simply enjoying myself and not getting focused to write a single line. The above situation simply sums up the fact that here we are dealing with an amazing album.
I have been waiting for this release for a long time. It marks a co-operation between two talented musicians: Billy Vass (singer of Melodic Heavy Metallers TERRA INCOGNITA) who does all the vocals, composes the vocal melodies and writs the lyrics and Bob Katsionis (yeah I know that you know that he have participated into many bands as player, composer and producer) who composes the music of the album and plays guitars & keyboards. Together they set a very specific goal: to release a Progressive Metal record inspired and influenced by all the good Prog stuff they are into as listeners, mainly focused on the 90s era. The result is obviously an album from the heart, that would bring a pure smile into the face of all those listeners who share the same passion for Progressive Metal and have been waiting for a good album based on their favorite genre, for a long time now.
Musically the album have two main musical references that shape its aesthetic basis. The first one is FATES WARNING on their second period and actually the two albums that identify this particular era: “Perfect Symmetry” and especially “Parallels”. The second main reference in here is the overall Scandinavian -mainly Norwegian- Prog Metal scene of the 90s with CONCEPTION -and especially their “Parallel Minds” release to be the starting point. Bands like MANITOU, SAGITTARIUS and TRIVIAL ACT can be added to the list of influences and I can even add SPIRAL ARCHITECT as well, (SPIRAL are mentioned mainly due to the melancholic themes and melodies that identify the overall VASS / KATSIONIS universe). Musically we can discover many other interesting influences that round to the overall European early 00s Prog Metal scene. Of course we should not ignore the overall QUEENSRYCHE love that is spread around the compositions -mainly based around the “Operation Mindcrime” – “Promised Land” era-.
Opener “Message to the Masses” is the best FATES WARNING song that simply FATES have not managed to compose (yet). This song seriously transformed me to a non thinking fanboy, pressing the play button again and again, singing upon the chorus. What a song! What an opening riff! What a wonderful chorus! The vocal melodies are so great in here, on the verses and on the chorus and of course on the clean guitar bridge in the middle of the song!
“Mark the Moment” is the first single of the album, it highlights some more Prog Metal excellence. BILLY VASS delivers an amazing performance in this one. Here I got to point that his overall vocal work is becoming one of the most notable trademarks in this record: Emotional and from the soul expression, brilliant vocal melodies and a well studied vocal technique, are the three pieces that combine an excellent result.
Through “Web Weaver” you can taste some futuristic excellence that musically would flashback you into the golden era of the early 00s. This was a very interesting era for the overall Progressive Metal globe were bands were trying to discover new ways of expression. A similar vibe is expressed through this particular song.
I would describe “Dreamscreen” as one of the catchiest compositions of the album, thanks to its guitar themes vocal melodies. But without doubt the strongest part of this composition is the chorus. You would not be able to stop singing it once you hear it. Who said that Prog Metal cannot be memorable and catchy?
With the “Echoes in Paradise” (the album’s second single available on the band’s bandcamp page) we are returning back to the FATES WARNING heaven. An absolute “Parallels” era worshiping in this track that was originally a RETROSPECT composition. RETROSPECT was a Progressive Metal band that became active around 1996 as an evolution of the Prog Metallers SKYWARD –Bob Katsionis first band-. RETROSPECT featured vocalist Leonidas Hatzimichalis -one of the most iconic Progressive Metal vocalists on the Greek territory very well known for his works with bands like FATAL MORGANA, IMAGINARY, EQUAL VECTOR etc-. and released the infamous “Promo 97” tape, featuring a six minute long epic called “The Cleansing Waters”, following a complete dedication to the FATES WARNING realm. Unfortunately this great band did not last long, but before their final split they have actually managed to compose and record -in rehearsal form during late 1997- two more tracks: “In the expiring“ and “Let me In”. “Echoes in Paradise” is actually the “Let me In” track featuring new vocal, melodies, vocal arrangements and lyrics by Billy Vass who converts the song into a little anthem of emotional, esoteric melancholy, remaining faithful to its original FATES vibe. For the history I have to point that Hatzimichalis and Katsionis eventually worked together under the SECRET’S KEEPER project which was evolved to IMAGINARY, a great Power Metal band featuring among others, a great musician that participates on this particular “Ethical Dilemma” album: Telis Kafkas on bass. (More trivia: “Ocean’s Divine” the IMAGINARY’s debut on Steel Gallery Records back on 2001 was the first Katsionis appearance on official discography).
Are you still for some more FATES meeting RYCHE excellence on the same ultra melodic and catchy mood that you have witnessed during the “Dreamscreen” song? Ok, there is one more for you: And it is called “Purify”. I can point pretty much the same about the “Faceless Encounter” track, however this one got this outstanding bridge in the middle that takes us directly to the melancholic Norwegian realm of CONCEPTION. Just listen to the amazing multi-vocal theme during this very specific part and you will simply be in heaven!
The Prog of the new millennium meets the Scandinavian narrative 90s vibe during the last composition of the album which is called “I Walk Alone”. A great track without doubt.
I can point that in this particular album Bob Katsionis has composed -in my opinion- some of the greatest music of his whole so far career. His work on guitars and keyboards is amazing in this particular release. The riffs, the overall themes and the lead / solo parts are shining. Here we got a careful and focused approaching into the musical aesthetic of a very specific genre. This album is not just a tribute paying to the big ones and their beloved -to the album creators- music (although that this is the starting point of the whole release, or at least I am getting it this way, as a listener / receiver). In here there is still enough room for a personal vibe / touch on the compositions, both by Katsionis and Vass. Katsionis was actually there during the overall Progressive Metal explosion on the 90s Europe, a movement that was wisely reflected to a very small but important part of the Greek Metal underground (the Greek 90s Prog Metal bands), however during this period he was too young and although his overall musical endeavors were still great and blessed with talent, they were still marking the beginning of the road. The fact that he returns back to the good old Progressive Metal bands as a complete and experienced musician through a co-operation with a talented singer, gives birth to some great music, offering an outstanding result to the listener. This is the real deal, to put it more straight and simple.
Telis Kafkas on bass and Bill DiBenedetto on drums have done an excellent job offering to the album a wisely delivered rhythm basis that is one of the most important features when we are dealing with some well arranged and inspired Prog Metal.
The production of the album is good. As simple as that. It really shines and it brings to my mind the “Parallels” classic sound. The perfect sound for the perfect songs. I also loved the cover very much.
Closing this review I would like to add that a very important feature that this record has is this very specific nostalgic vibe that it carries from start to finish. I do not know if this is good or bad but the overall standards on the Progressive Metal universe have changed. It is good to notice bands that bring back this warm, melodic and emotional sound the way it was played in the 90s. You know, Progressive Metal of the 90s was a magnificent small chapter in Greece. The bands were not so many, but they were all extremely talented and blessed with a huge vision: HORIZON’S END, GUARDIAN ANGEL, FORTRESS UNDER SIEGE, SORROWFUL WINDS, BLACK FATE, DORIAN GRAY, FATAL MORGANA, RETROSPECT, BREAKING SILENCE, REFLECTIONS REVERT, ICE DIVINE, DIMENSION Z etc etc. Each band with different influences and on different expressive ways but always with something in common: The magnificent music.
I haven’t got anything more to add in here. This is a great album and it is actually my first album purchase for 2022. If you like Progressive Metal then you should definitely check this record out. If you are really thirsty for some well arranged and inspired Progressive Metal, this one MUST be your purchase as well.
The album will be released on February, 2nd through Symmetric Records. Pre order the album here.