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Phavian - Meridian II CD (album) cover




Progressive Metal

3.23 | 6 ratings

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4 stars Phavian "Meridian II" 6.8

"Meridian II" is the sophomore album from Californian prog metal band Phavian, the second part of an ongoing four act saga of Tolkien-styled medieval fantasy. Although being lumped in the modern progressive metal movement, Phavian in fact have very little in common with the common progressive metal staples of Dream Theater and Symphony X, bringing influences from gothic and folk music to create a much more diverse sounding record.

"Meridian II" is a record spanning only 39 minutes, and as an avid vinyl fan, I believe this is the right length for an album. It contains three shorter songs and three longer, 'epic', tracks. The longest of these, 12 minute "Watersong" was previously featured on the free download EP "Foreword", which contained one song from each of the four chapters. Many, like myself, have found Phavian through the free download release on bandcamp, which I think is a very good way of getting music to the masses.

Although they may be distant in genre, much of Phavian's structure comes from the books of Opeth and their 10 minute songs, with often breaks into acoustic interludes, with a very distinctive dual acoustic one in "Watersong". There are strong elements of folk music throughout the album, with opener "Adam's Ale" being essentially a folk piece, with some very nice vocal work from Elizabeth Matson.

Matson's vocals are another element that brings Phavian out of the cliché and into a realm of their own, her vocals taking influence from gothic vocalists such as Tarja Turunen, and I hear particular similarity to fellow progressive metal leading lady Julie Kiss of British band To-Mera.

However, Opeth's structural style has often been criticized as "patchwork music", becoming more formulaic than actually flowing, and I hear this here, specifically on "Watersong", which doesn't have the 'epic' feel of building to something, simply feels like one part on top of another.

However, like last year's shock low-budget surprise "Book I" from The Great Gamble, Meridian II falls short due to the weaker side of production. The songs seem very bare at times, often only the core instruments are heard, with very little 'depth', for lack of a better word. Although great songs like "Purl" are fine as they are, I feel that it could be a phenomenal song with a full string section, but a song like closer "Fall of Cruor" sounds odd and dissonant with the shallow production.

Overall, "Meridian II" is a good album that falls short due to its production. Unlike many modern prog metal albums, it doesn't have too much singular influence, and uses fusions of folk, gothic and prog styles to create something new. There is definitely much to be excited about here, as this is a huge step up from Meridian I, and I hope the band can improve on this still in the final two chapters of the saga.

Best songs: Purl, Mirror Skin

Originally posted at my facebook page/blog

Gallifrey | 4/5 |


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