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Elysium Theory - Event Horizon CD (album) cover


Elysium Theory


Crossover Prog

3.20 | 28 ratings

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Symphonic Team
3 stars Elysium Theory 's followup to their 2010 debut "Modern Alchemy" has finally seen the light of day after a three year hiatus. This time around the band have opted for a more melodic approach without the dominant guitar riffs and heaviness of the predecessor. As usual the cover artwork is incredible and it would be nice to see more of this in a booklet form but there is no booklet on offer. "Event Horizon" is an album that opens with three incredible tracks with technical structures and guitar fury and then it tends to settle into a more accessible melodic rock feel. These songs in the mid section of the album dampen the impact of the opening; they are less progressive and have a commercial vibe, that was not as present on the debut. This surprised me as I remember how much the debut was full of inventive musicianship and complex structures. This is not to say that the album does not have these moments, but it certainly spreads them out between the opening three tracks and the dynamic finale epic, bookending the album superbly. Therefore the album is not quite consistent in terms of its progressive nature, unlike the far superior debut.

Focussing on the high points, "Event Horizon" opens with 'B'AK'TUN 13', an intro of atmospheric keyboards of Benny Reyes, with a haunting residue of whispers and portentous drones. This mystical ambience breaks out into 'Long Count,' that strikes with the electrifying guitars of Tim Reid. The rhythms are fractured with the outbursts of Jeff Fister's bass and Ted Feeney's drums. The track then locks into a hard hitting riff and Daniel Peterson's vocals ask "should we now seize the day", reminding me of Dream Theater's James LaBrie. The style is similar to DT also on this track. The singing is exceptional with high register tones mixed with moments of gentle melancholy. The lead break is wonderful harmonised with twin guitar melodies, but it is the keyboard work that lifts this track to a new level. This is one of the best tracks on the album and a grand way to open the album.

'Clockwork Earth' is an 8 minute extravaganza of incredible musicianship, beginning with a Pink Floyd style guitar riff, and then some atmospheric keyboards generating a hypnotic melody. I love the lyrics on this song; "Teetering on a razors edge, running on without a care, we lose the fight with great delight, absorbed by tubes and magic lights." This is definitely a song worth checking out to hear the best of Elysium Theory. 'Illuminated' is a balladic song with some excellent vocals and has a very measured tempo sounding more like a power ballad. 'Halo' is a brief spacey instrumental, segued nicely with 'Pictures in the Sand', a heavier song, that builds from melancholy to a bright upbeat style. Peterson's vocals dominate and are easy on the ears throughout, always clean and emotively executed.

'The Arrival' is another short instrumental with some terrific guitar and then a clock ticking leads to 'Travelers in Time' with superb keyboard pads creating ambient textures. It is a long song at 8:32 running time, and begins with the same measured style as the previous songs, and at this point it felt a bit too much like the same thing rather than a variation of methods. A faster song might have been more effective, as it is rather dreamy music. As always the musicianship is excellent, the percussion especially is inventive and the lead guitar break soars beautifully. The song then breaks into an interlude of soft chimes, and some exquisite guitar reverberation, one of the best parts of the album. The extended lead break is a welcome addition giving the vocals a rest and allowing the listener to indulge in the atmospherics. A new time sig enters and it finally ends with the chorus about the multitudes that search for answers; "so many wrong so many right, ? are we just travellers in time?" This song is another highlight due to the innovative structure.

'Church of the Serpent' has a quirky tempo driven by a kind of Country Rock sound on the guitars, and the false preacher tells the mesmerised crowd to gather around. The organ grinding is terrific with an old school 70s feel, and overall this one has a unique resonance. It sounds like a throwback to retro rock to capture the desert scape where cults gather to touch the snake or allow it to inject its poison and then be healed miraculously; a genuine cult that exists. The language is permeated with religious symbolism; "looked into the eyes of the serpent, saw the face of god, baptised in brimstone, call the prophet father, sword and servant holy ghost ? cup running over... it trickles down." The Hammond organ sound really makes this song stand out; it is so different it stands out as yet another highlight of the album.

'Transmission Alpha' is a soft ballad; "here I am watching time stand still, surrounded by circuits". The violin sound of the keys is pleasant. The lyrics are about searching for meaning; "will we ever be found somehow lost coordinates unclear? where is here?" The guitar rhythms are modulated well with the bass, and there are some jumpy percussion beats. It really is a beautiful song that prepares for the more inventive finale to come.

'Cask of Amontillado' ends the album with another gem, inspired by Edgar Allan Poe, a huge influence on prog musicians, so I was looking forward to this as a Poe fan. Anyone who knows this tale of terror knows that it is based on revenge, deception and betrayal resulting in the incarceration of a rich Lord who finds himself buried alive in the walls of a tomb brick by brick. The song opens with 'I The Insult' with a narrative intro taken from the tale that works well, then a hypno guitar riff and some great percussion splashes. The beat is heavier, faster and ominous, then it locks into a steady time sig. The lyrics speak of "sweet, so bitter sweet, a taste of revenge burns in my soul". This feels like a Dream Theater song or Riverside with all the vocal theatrics and odd time sig changes.

As the protagonist, Montresor, plans "no better punishment of a deserving kind" for the constant insults of Fortunado, the music takes on a circus feel, with an odd waltz rhythm on 'II The Carnival'. This is a definite break from the rest of the album's style which works very well to add suspense to the macabre tale being told. The story is easy to follow lyrically as "the trap is set, I have his mind, and he to follow." The lead break flows organically with the atmospheric keyboards. This is a superb passage of music. Suddenly a metal guitar riff crashes in on 'III Coat Of Arms', and the music gets darker as the protagonist leads his intoxicated victim into the dark chambers. There is even a piano outburst and it leads to the final part.

'IV The Catacombs' opens with quiet guitars and howling wind along with grand expulsions of drum beats. "The air is stale" opens the lyrics and we know we are now drawing near to the climax of the tale where the victim is chained up and about to be bricked into the wall. Peterson sounds even more like LaBrie, and it is great how the music builds ominously. This song made me want to dust off my Complete Poe anthology and check if the lyrics were similar to the tale itself. Lyrically the main components of the tale are mentioned, in reinvented poetry "the screams of fate, in the ears to penetrate", and using the old style language is essential in order to capture these haunting tales. There is a tinge of sadness in the music as the bricks are laid in place incarcerating Fortunado eternally, with guitar and piano bouncing off delightfully. The final gentle piece and chilling silence has the quiet lyrics that become a mantra for the protagonist, having completed the deed, "Sweet so bitter sweet, a taste of revenge burns my soul, or in the mind no better punishment than a deserving kind."

Overall "Event Horizon" is another solid album from Elysium Theory, that could have been improved with more attention to their progressive side. The opening tracks, parts of the mid section and especially the finale are the band at their best, as good as the debut album. This latest release can be recommended for 'Cask of Amontillado' definitely, and it has some exceptional musicianship well worth seeking out. 3.5 stars.

AtomicCrimsonRush | 3/5 |


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