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Aeon Zen - A Mind's Portrait CD (album) cover

A MIND'S PORTRAIT

Aeon Zen

 

Progressive Metal

3.71 | 24 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

usa prog music
4 stars Friends and bandmates going back to when they were 17 (if not before that), Richard Hinks and Lloyd Musto decided to put together an album on their own. Musto plays the drums and Hinks handles the rest of the instruments, as well as vocal duties for both of them (backing and lead). With the help of Time Divide Records, the duo was able to contact some guest vocalists and convince them to appear on their first album from 2009, A Mind's Portrait. Four singers agreed to lend their voices to Aeon Zen: Andi Kravljaca [Silent Call, ex-Seventh Wonder], Nils K. Rue [Pagan's Mind], Andreas Novak [Mind's Eye] and Elyes Bouchoucha [Myrath]. Along with the singers, guitarist (and former bandmate of Hinks and Musto in Timefall) Matt Shepherd lends a couple guitar solos to the album, Cristian Van Schuerbeck [All Too Human] has a Moog solo in another song and Andi Kravljaca even gets in on the action as well with some soloing of his own. Additionally, artist Mattias Norén agreed to create the artwork for the album. The first three songs are a pretty good representation of what to expect on A Mind's Portrait, even with two different singers (Kravljaca in "Existence" and "Blinded Rain", Rue between those in "Time Divine"). Rich Hinks does an admirable job with everything he's tackling in the songs, with solos from Shepherd helping out in the first two. That's not to say that he can't hold his own - he most certainly can. As comfortable as he is with a guitar in his hands, he seems equally capable with a bass instead or with a keyboard in front of him.Both parts of "Hope's Echo" are a bit different than the first three songs, in no small part due to Andreas Novak's vocals. These songs aren't really out of place, especially considering that this is more of a project than a band, but the difference is noticeable. The first part is only a piano and Andreas, with guitars, bass and drums coming in for the second part.Hinks takes over lead vocal duties for "A Mind's Portrait". As with the previous two songs, this song marks a different kind of sound for the album (and not just vocally) - some of Opeth's lighter material came to mind first, among others. This song leads right into the first instrumental of the album, "The Circle's End". While it works on its own, it could just as easily remained the tail end of the title track.For"Heavens Falling", Musto joins Hinks for the vocals. Unfortunately, the effects that are put on the vocals make it hard to really get into the song. The second half of the song is a bit better (and features Van Shuerbeck's blistering solo), but the effects are still present. It's hard to say, but I think the song would've sounded just fine without anything else being done to the vocals and it wouldn't end up being like filler with a couple moments that rise above the rest of the song. For "Into The Infinite", Aeon Zen returns to a sound more like the first few songs. Even with this being the second song to feature Nils K. Rue, it's not quite the same as before - and like the second half of "Heavens Falling", Ayreon came to mind when I first heard this (think Flight Of The Migrator or maybe a bit of The Human Equation).

If it wasn't done so well, instrumental "Goddess" would probably be like more filler material, not sounding like anything else on the album (the closest might be "Hope's Echo Pt. 1"). A calm, quiet piano passage starts things off, joined by strings that threaten to drown it out before dropping away, allowing Hinks to play out the rest of the song the way he started off.Simple, but effective.

With over twelve minutes to work with, "The Demise Of The Fifth Sun" ends the album on a very strong note. The oldest of the songs (according to an interview I found), this song is one that more people should be able to connect with, sounding more like some of the usual suspects in progdom (Dream Theater, Symphony X) than the rest of the album - which isn't a bad thing at all. Elyes' voice seems a perfect match for this song, a bit heavier and more aggressive than anything else up to this point, including "Time Divine" or "Into The Infinite", which come close. Hinks provides more of his growled vocals than on the others and gets a chance to unleash more of what he's capable of musically. This one easily became the most played song from the album.

That Hinks and Musto came up with an album like this is impressive enough on its own, but the collection of guests helps nudge this first offering into different territory. This isn't a concept album with separate roles for an ensemble cast to fill, so having multiple singers throughout the album may make it hard to get into this album at first, but given enough time it becomes less of an issue. There isn't a single distinct sound to Aeon Zen, but thankfully, it's not eleven songs that sound nothing like each other being bundled together. It's an interesting album that shows a lot of potential and I am already looking forward to the second Aeon Zen release in the Fall 2010.

usa prog music | 4/5 |

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