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Scardust - Strangers CD (album) cover




Progressive Metal

4.38 | 62 ratings

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5 stars While the previous decade or so saw the continued success of legacy progressive metal acts like Opeth, Devin Towsend's "Project", and even Dream Theater, the decade's newest entrants to the genre's highest echelons were groups whose sound was as much an offshoot of metalcore, technical death metal, and post- metal as it was of classic 70's prog mixed with 80's metal. Consider the tech-death of Between the Buried and Me, the blend of post-metal atmosphere and groove of The Ocean, and the Meshuggah-crazed djent riffage of Animals as Leaders and Periphery and you can appreciate the extent to which the last decade largely broke with and evolved the existing prog metal paradigm. Even both Haken and Leprous, the groups most closely oriented towards the classic prog metal sound, could not avoid the djent bug creeping up at various points in their discographies.

While these trends dominated the mainstream of progressive metal, a new and internationally based generation of young symphonic progressive metal acts had been and continues to formulate, mostly underground. My impression of these acts so far has been underwhelming. As I have remarked in several of my previous reviews, the kids in these groups are undoubtedly talented. But rarely are they capably of anything that transcends mere imitation. "Prog" they may be, but certainly not "progressive." Scardust's latest release, Strangers, is not only the first release from this movement that I have come across to really grab my attention, but it is also one of the best progressive metal records of the last decade, period!

The music on this record combines choir and string accompaniments with a classic prog metal band format to create a fun, heavy, colorful, and larger-than-life symphonic prog sound that is at once familiar and comforting to fans of the genre but still entirely refreshing. Guitarist Yadin Moyal has the chops of Michael Romeo but the melodic and phrasing sensibilities of Brian May ? a most devastating combo of skills. Yoav Weinberg, Aaron Friedland, and Orr Didi, the group's drummer, keyboardist, and bassist respectively, each get their moment to show off their virtuosic abilities. But they are all skilled and tasteful enough to restrain their abilities for the sake of maintaining listenability and a high level of songcraft.

Of course, no review would be complete without addressing vocalist Noa Gurman's mind-blowing performance, the indisputably stand-out element of this release. In plain terms, Noa is not merely a vocalist, but an absolute acrobat. Her unrivaled control and discipline enable her to effortlessly deliver complex moving and modulating melodies without sacrificing an ounce of power and elegance. Needless to say, Noa's performance on Strangers places her right at the top of female metal vocalists performing today.

Noa is no newbie or stranger to achieving notoriety for her abilities. In 2015, her family's band earned the title "Israel's Most Musical Family" on a popular Israeli TV contest, no easy feat if you are familiar with Israel's developed and sophisticated music culture. The band's cover of Queen's "Somebody to Love" even caught the eye of US media though, admittedly, for only a fleeting moment. Noa also performed duties as the live female vocalist for Orphaned Land, Israel's most accomplished heavy metal band, progressive or otherwise. To this day, Noa continues to be a popular vocal coach for young Israeli vocalists looking to up their game.

On a personal note, I am elated to be writing this review only a few kilometers from where Sacrdust would regularly perform (pre-Covid days). I cannot to see them live as soon as circumstances permit.

ssmarcus | 5/5 |


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