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Eclectic / Prog Metal / Heavy Prog Team
4 stars The band Transcend comes out of Montreal, Quebec and has been around for quite a while now even though they currently only have 2 albums to their name, 2012's "The Mind" and their latest album released in April of 2020 called "Balance I". The band consists of the quartet of Costa Damoulianos on vocals and guitar, Devon Butters on guitar and bass, Alexi Lagogianis on keyboards and Sean Lang on drums.

The fact that they have worked together in the music business for all of this time is quite apparent in their music, especially in this surprisingly dynamic and expressive album. The experience apparent in the band is also backed up with the fact that Costa also has another project called "Zoungla" which delves more into psychedelic and ambient music with a larger use of electronics. Trascend, however, is definitely excellent progressive metal, however, the emphasis is more on the "progressive" as the balance between the chunky and expressive guitars is evenly disbursed with amazing keyboard work. The thing that tips it into the "metal" side of things are the heavy and satisfying riffs and melodic guitar licks. Some might not see it as 100% metal however, because of the extensive use of keys, but, by the time you come to the end of the album, you know you have heard amazing and heavy progressive metal. There is also a few electronic surprises in there that will increase the depth of this album.

The biggest drawback is its 36 minute length which is devoted to a mere 4 tracks. However, two of those tracks are epic progressive songs in every sense of the word. It all begins with the 11 minute track "Dissilusion" which will quickly determine if this music will appeal to the listener. Yes it is solid music, but the crazy, melodic guitar also allows the keyboards to contribute to the overall sound in equal measure, and in this band's music, all of this is very important to the sound they want to create. Get ready for some nice surprises as the track moves its way along and ends before you know it with those 11 minutes quickly passed.

The two centerpiece tracks are a bit shorter, but still excellent and enjoyable. "Where You Are Now" has a great, complex and layered sound. "Machine" is more of a ballad, but Costas, who is an excellent and dynamic singer, gives such an emotional and heartfelt performance here with some excellent lyrics and songwriting that doesn't fall into the trap of "typical lyrical-song structure".

The most exciting and surprising track is the last one, a 12 minute tour-de-force of wonderful musical construction called "A Parallel Reflection I" which will probably satisfy even the most progressive critic as it soars from pastoral beauty to tense, thumping heaviness while Costas really shows off his vocal talent as he brings in ethnical influences from the middle-East. When it all ends, you can't help but want more of it.

I can't help but think this could have been a 5 star album if it had just one more track on it to help make it feel more finished. But, the title of the album hints towards maybe a second volume, and if that is the case, this could all fit together quite well. If you find yourself questioning the progressive metal designation, you probably won't be alone. But, if you look at the overall picture, the heavy aspect of the band is the overall style. The fact that there are some very tasty keyboard solos and effects in there creates so much more depth than the typical "metal" or even typical "progressive metal" style, and this is what I feel a lot of that genre seems to be missing with all of the endless bands coming out trying to find a spot in the genre's universe, and in the end, they all end up sounding too much the same. The difference there is the wealth of talent that exists in the musicians involved and in the sweeping songwriting and music that exists on this album. I think many people that don't normally listen to Progressive Metal will be pleasantly surprised by this album and the amount of depth here. The one drawback that I can't get over, at least for the time being, is the short length of it all. It leaves you hanging, wanting to hear more, and it does seem a bit unfinished, at least from a full-album standpoint. However, it is considered an album, not an EP. Anyway, this is easily a 4-star affair, but it still comes very highly recommended especially for those that think Progressive Metal bands as of late are too one-dimensional.

Report this review (#2375566)
Posted Wednesday, April 29, 2020 | Review Permalink
4 stars Owing to the group's relative obscurity, there ain't all that much info or history on Transcend out there on the ol' inter-webs. Transcend is, apparently, primarily the brain child of Canadish multi-instrumentalist, singer, and composer Costa Damoulianos and a few of his long-time mates. Costa's other musical project of note, Zoungla, appears to focus on ambient and compositionally progressive psychedelic music while Transcend is Costa's outlet for producing heavier music of a similar vein.

As the ambient djent boom of the last decade has, by 2020, more or less crashed and burned, as all excessive cultural trends do eventually, the genuinely inspired and novel among these musical acts soldier on proving that the for all the fad's excesses, it still provided a novel framework for making adventurous progressive metal. And man are Transcend adventurous on Balance I!

Despite formally being an "EP," Balance I is more of a lean LP that makes the absolute most of its "short" 36-minute run time packing in beautiful melodies, ethnic world music influences, and ambience with punchy riffs and instrumentals. The Devin Townsend worship at the eight-and-a-half-minute mark on "A Parellel Reflection I" followed by a mashup of a muezzin's adhan (i.e. Islamic call to prayer) and some envelope filter synth bass are real highlight.

Report this review (#2418773)
Posted Saturday, July 11, 2020 | Review Permalink

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