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Aeon Zen - The Face Of The Unknown CD (album) cover


Aeon Zen

Progressive Metal

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Mellotron Storm
3 stars This is the latest from AEON ZEN called "The Face Of The Unknown". I should mention right off the top that AEON ZEN is basically the project of multi-instrumentalist Rich Hinks. He does it all here although he does have many guests helping him out mostly in the vocal department. Rich even does the drumming on this one which he didn't do on the debut. I can't stress enough at how talented this young guy is. He basically notates the music, then records and produces the songs, playing all the instruments and doing some of the vocals. I was blown away by his debut called "A Mind's Portrait". This one doesn't appeal to my tastes in Metal like the debut did. For only being 21 years old this follow-up album is much more mature and I must admit for me that's a step back, only because it's not as in my face and aggressive.

"Salvation" opens with some steller drum work then we get this calm before 1 1/2 minutes with vocals. It starts to build and synths and drums lead after 3 minutes. Some nice bass 4 minutes in. It's rocking pretty good after 5 minutes. Vocals are back before 7 minutes. Great sound to end it. "Visions" features some double bass drumming early as the guitar then vocals join in.The tempo continues to shift. "The Heart Of The Sun" turns heavy a minute in. Vocals before 2 minutes as it settles some. Piano a minute later. Nice guitar solo before 5 minutes. "Crystal Skies" is mellow with vocals (Nick D'Virgilio) and piano as drums join in. It picks up 3 1/2 minutes in with guitar out front. It's heavier with synths a minute later but it's brief.

"Natural Selection" is my favourite. Surprisingly Gem Godfrey is on vocals here. It's heavy to open as vocals join in quickly. Synths before a minute. I really like the sound of this one. Guitar before 2 1/2 minutes takes the spotlight. It turns softer after 3 minutes but thankfully that changes 4 minutes in. "The Face Of The Unknown" opens with piano as drums arrive and it builds. It's heavier after 2 minutes. A calm with vocals as the tempo and mood continues to change. "Your'e Not Alone" opens with piano as these sugary vocals come in. It's fuller 1 1/2 minutes in. A calm after 2 1/2 minutes with mellotron-like sounds.The guitar takes off after 4 minutes. Nice. "My Sacrifice" opens with synths as the heaviness joins in. It settles right down with vocals then kicks back in as it continues to change. "Start Over" opens with piano as soft vocals join in. Some orchestral-like sounds too on this ballad. "Redemption's Shadow" kicks in quickly and the vocals join in before a minute.It's surprising how relaxed the vocals are as the riffs make lots of noise. Good tune.

3.5 stars from me. I still value the debut greatly, but this one just doesn't scratch the itch.

Report this review (#300031)
Posted Tuesday, September 21, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars Formed in 2008, Rich Hinks and Lloyd Musto managed to put together an impressive debut in the form of A Mind's Portrait, originally released in the spring of 2009 and re-released as an instrumental version earlier this year. Not long after the release of the album, Musto left to pursue other projects while Hinks assembled a live line-up with some of the guests who had been on the album and started working on the follow-up. With Musto's departure from the band (he still has writing credits on couple of the songs), Rich Hinks now handles all instruments on the album, save for one solo each from returning guests Cristian Van Schuerbeck (keyboards) and Matt Shepherd (guitar) and also sings on three of the songs. Lending his voice to Aeon Zen again is Andi Kravljaca [Silent Call], already a part of Aeon Zen's live line-up. Joining them are Michael Eriksen [Circus Maximus], Nick D'Virgilio [Spock's Beard], Jonny Tatum [Eumeria] and Jem Godfrey [Frost*].

Leading off with Michael Eriksen's vocals, the album's longest track "Salvation" gets things off to a good start, offering up some excellent material on all fronts. This is what one can expect from Aeon Zen most of the time. It shouldn't be hard to hear some of Hinks' musical influences in the songs, for the most part not sounding too much like something from any one of the albums (although there are some parts that do sound more like the usual suspects' material). "Visions" ramps up the intensity a bit, switching to the voice of Andi Kravljaca and featuring Shepherd's only solo on the album. Having been on A Mind's Portrait and joining Hinks onstage seems to have helped make Andi's performance sound more like he's a part of a band here instead of as a guest singer. Hinks and Eriksen further pick up the pace with "The Heart Of The Sun" before changing gears for "Crystal Skies" which might be the most cheerful sounding of the songs, aided by the prominent keyboards and sung by Nick D'Virgilio, his only performance on the album.

Jem Godfrey's sole appearance is in "Natural Selection", easily one of the best tracks on the album. It's pretty straight forward and catchy enough to stand apart from its progressive metal siblings, yet doesn't really feel out of place with the other songs. As it reaches the four minute mark, it hints at something more and I thought the song should've been a bit longer, if only to let Godfrey sing a bit longer and to hear more of what Rich had spiked the song with. "The Face Of The Unknown" builds up slowly to get the second half of the album in motion, again a showcase for Kravljaca's voice and some blistering leads from Hinks and Van Schuerbeck.

One of the weaker aspects of the album lies in Hinks' own vocals, a trait shared with its predecessor. "You're Not Alone" starts off softly, eventually allowing in some killer melodies and a nicely played solo as the song progresses, but his voice sounds artificial all throughout, not to mention the effects at the end of the third verse before the lead break. Hinks sounds much more natural in "My Sacrifice", the first of two songs with Jonny Tatum's vocals, but then gets lost on the way to "Start Over". This could have worked as well as instrumental track "Goddess" from the first album, but the way Hinks' voice sounds over the piano serves to move this track towards the filler category. Following these is the impressive album closer "Redemption's Shadow", the second of Tatum's performances. That last minute seems as though it should be leading to another part of the song or a new track but goes nowhere, serving as a final gasp for the album.

Overall, The Face Of The Unknown does show some improvement over A Mind's Portrait in key areas. As with the first album, having multiple singers may make this album a bit hard to follow at first for some listeners, but it's worth the effort. It's not a repeat of the first album, yet doesn't really offer anything new either. It doesn't need to. I've no doubt that Rich Hinks will continue as he has done and a new selection of singers will join him for a third outing. I'm only guessing here, but I think Andi Kravljaca will probably be around again, but it would also be nice to have a couple others return to lend their voice to Aeon Zen again. Even if he doesn't come up with something groundbreaking, as long as Hinks puts out albums of this caliber, Aeon Zen will have a lasting place in many a music collection.

Report this review (#375834)
Posted Friday, January 7, 2011 | Review Permalink
3 stars Aeon Zen second offer from 2010 named The face oif unknown is another well played and compose prog metal album from this young british band. Some change in personalm here it remains only Rich Hinks who plays at all almost all instruments with a help , again, of a great musicians from prog circles. Very catchy in places pieces like opening track Salvation, nearly 11 min of high class prog metal, Michael Eriksen on vocals from Circus Maximus here, maybe that's why in some parts the overall album sounds little bit with Circus Maximus, same fat sound, catchy riffing moments and melodic vocal arrangements. As a whole a good album for sure, not realy better then predecesor but not weaker either, at same level. I will give 3 stars, maybe 3.5 in some parts, musicianship is great as always. A band to watch in the future , this 2 albums so far worth purchase by any prog metal fans.
Report this review (#444717)
Posted Monday, May 9, 2011 | Review Permalink
3 stars The one man project by Rich Hinks is back again for the second album.

Rich Hinks is helped out by a lot of guest vocals here, including Nick D'Virgilio (Spock's Beard). The music is middle of the road progressive metal with some traces of AOR and art rock. There are some hard rockers here and some ballads. The instruments are the usual progressive metal fare. Obvious references are Dream Theater. The sound are really good. So are the musicianship and the vocals. A very well done job by everyone involved.

One man band mostly means a pretty inward looking one dimentional result. And there is no denying that this album also have a lot of that. But the addition of the guest vocals has added a lot to this project too.

I am by no means a fan of progressive metal. But this album is very good in my ears. It is varied, it has a lot of really good melody lines and it is obvious Rich Hinks is onto something with Aeon Zen. This is a very good studio album which cries out to be played live. I will gladly pay for being there.

This album is recommended to all progressive metal fans out there.

3.5 stars

Report this review (#517049)
Posted Thursday, September 8, 2011 | Review Permalink

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