Need: Hegaiamas - A Song For Freedom (Self Released)
I've always had a bit of a penchant for progressive metal, it takes my love of prog and makes it heavier, bands like Dream Theater, Fates Warning, Seventh Wonder are the records I go back too again and again. I realise this is not the case for a lot of people as they are put of the by long track times, inflated egos and wankery of the highest order, however the bands that do prog metal well know when to not play a note, it's the judged nuanced approach that normally wins out over out and out technicality and showing off. Need's third record Hegaiamas: A Song For Freedom
is most definitely in this second category, their music is as you'd expect intricate, scientific and complicated but it's also wringing with emotion, incite and they judge when they need to impress and when to show restraint.
The Greek band are about to embark on a North American tour with Evergrey, Seven Kingdoms and Ascendia and it's the sound of Tom S Englund's Evergrey that looms large over Needs style of progressive metal, Jon V has a strong timbre to his vocals similar to Englund, Ray Alder (Fates Warning) and even Apollo Papathanasio, he never hits too high but it suits the darker sound the band convey. At just over an hour the record is well paced most of the songs clock in at around seven minutes but hold your attention the interplay between Ravaya's guitars and Anthony's keys are practically perfect weaving in and out of each other almost competitively in the solo sections but locking in with Victor and Stelios' bottom end for a tough metal delivery. The record opens with the beautiful vocals of Mina Giannopoulou starting Rememory a song that is the ideal first track powerful, full of riffage and immediately establishes the bands style, as the album progresses the songs all keep the interest, this is classic sounding progressive metal that sounds like the bands I mentioned at the beginning of this review.
It builds throughout adding layers and layers to their sound however it's towards the end of this record that things really shoot into the progsphere, Iota is a spoken word discourse on dreams and the universe with a classical piano backing, it sets the scene perfectly for the title track, this 22 minute finale takes everything heard previously and stuff it into one elongated epic full of changes in pace and tone, yes some parts are little repetitive in the instrumental sections but what do you expect of a 22 minute song? Hegaiamas: A Song For Freedom is a record of bold, brave and brilliantly presented progressive metal, personally I'm going to seek out the bands other albums asap. 9/10
Paladine: Finding Solace (No Remorse Records)
Athens band Paladine play epic power metal based around Dragonlance series of books created by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman. The album opens with mini epic Dragonrider which starts with dextrous acoustics before turning into a tough power metal song with a great hook before the middle eight brings the acoustic flourishes back. the band was founded by Chris “Crazy” Stergianidis (bass), Thanos Kollintzogiannakis (guitar also of Desert Near The End) and Stamatis Katsafados (drums also of The Silent Rage) all former members of the band Mythraal, they came together again to create Paladine as a band with it's roots in the American power metal sound of Iced Earth, Manilla Road, Jag Panzer, Savatage and even Manowar (they are scheduled to support Manilla Road on their 40th anniversary show in Athens 1st May 2017).
Finding Solace is their debut album and you can hear the Savatage influence strongly on Master Of Present And Past much of this is due to frontman Nick "The Metalizer" Protonotarios who is an amalgamation of both Oliva brothers handling the throaty, powerful vocals and searing lead guitars easily, this album has an epic sound to it as you'd hope from their influences, instrumental The Inn Of The Last Home is a good break piece layered with Marilena Plitsi's synths and keys and it leads into the moody Knight Of The Black Rose which builds into a galloping metal track with punishing percussion the Iced Earth similarities are uncanny.
The record has concept from the Dragonlance series running through it based around fantasy elements, knights, dragons, good vs evil, all that jazz. The one thing that lets this album down for me is that the mix is a little bit flat, with a deeper sound the song would be more effective, but that's personal taste. Finding Solace is a confident debut from some established musicians, it just misses the mark sonically. 7/10
Strikelight: Beyond The Afterglow (Eat Metal Records)
Whereas Paladine suffered from the production of their record being a little flat, fellow Athenians Strikelight have a case of too much bass, the four strings and the drums are overly high in the mix meaning they overpower everything else. Not that you would really be missing that much, Strikelight play 80's trad metal that seems to be in vogue at the moment, unfortunately they are just generic by the numbers 80's metal even by the NWOBHM standards. In this genre you have to do something a bit different and Strikelight don't the songs are a boring, the vocals get on your nerves after a bit and it's all just a bit meh. Nothing here really stands out, but then equally nothing is terrible the band play well especially the very audible bass and drums but they are let down by rigidly sticking to the formula without fail. 5/10
Project Renegade: Cerebra (Self Released)
Project Renegade are a four piece from Athen Greece, their alternative metal will be familiar to fans of Lacuna Coil, driven by Ody's drumming the band blur the lines between goth, nu, industrial metal with the three songs on this record. Released to promote the band and create anticipation for both their live shows and their debut record (still in progress) the EP starts with the industrial flavoured Pressure which has chunky rhythms, haunting vocals and pulsing electronics and breaks down at the final part displaying all the facets of Project Renegade's sound. Natural Born Killer is very bass and drum heavy with ghostly ambient synths floating over the top, while One Of The Crowd is the heaviest of the three songs with downtuned riffs pummeling things as the siren-like electronics chime in and frontwoman Marianna adds some feistiness to her vocals. Cerebra does exactly what it needs to do it makes you prick up your ears and want to hear more from Project Renegade, a three track Ep full of thumping alt-metal. 7/10