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Progressive Metal • United Kingdom

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Aeon Zen biography
Aeon Zen are a progressive rock/metal band formed in 2008, led by the only permanent member, vocalist, guitarist, bassist, keyboard player and drummer Rich Hinks.

Rich is based in Cambridge, UK. He notates the music, records and then produces the songs of Aeon Zen with guests appearing on the recordings with him.

The first Aeon Zen album, entitled "A Mind's Portrait", was released in 2009 to critical acclaim and was labelled by Classic Rock Magazine as 'a strong contender for best newcomer at the very, very least'.

On 12th October 2010 the second Aeon Zen album "The Face of the Unknown" is released.

In early 2010 Rich put together Aeon Zen Live. This is a live show involving other musicians playing alongside Rich and incorporates some of the guest musicians appearing live.


AEON ZEN uses many stylistic elements of their influences including catchy melodies, a diverse mix of songs and styles, and progressive time changes. They should be a welcome addition to traditional progressive metal fans. They were approved by the Prog Metal Team and are very highly recommended!

Bio kindly provided by Rich Hinks and edited for PA by progmetalhead 10.9.10

Aeon Zen official website

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Nightmare Records 2013
Audio CD$7.74
$10.64 (used)
Nightmare 2014
Audio CD$10.49
$12.50 (used)
The Face of the UnknownThe Face of the Unknown
Time Divide Records Ltd 2010
Audio CD$12.41
A Mind's PortraitA Mind's Portrait
Time Divide Records Ltd 2009
Audio CD$14.11
$8.25 (used)
Ephemera by Aeon Zen (2014-08-03)Ephemera by Aeon Zen (2014-08-03)
Audio CD$57.36
Enigma by Aeon Zen (2013-01-22)Enigma by Aeon Zen (2013-01-22)
Nightmare Records
Audio CD$41.76
A Mind's Portrait by Time Divide Records LtdA Mind's Portrait by Time Divide Records Ltd
Time Divide Records Ltd
Audio CD$59.12
Time Divine Single Edit by Zen, Aeon (2010-04-06)Time Divine Single Edit by Zen, Aeon (2010-04-06)
CD Baby
Audio CD$93.82
Time Divine Single EditTime Divine Single Edit
CD Baby 2010
Audio CD$8.30
$59.61 (used)
A Mind's Portrait Instrumental SoundtrackA Mind's Portrait Instrumental Soundtrack
Audio CD$27.87
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AEON ZEN discography

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AEON ZEN top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.73 | 30 ratings
A Mind's Portrait
3.39 | 27 ratings
The Face Of The Unknown
3.80 | 51 ratings
3.57 | 14 ratings

AEON ZEN Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

2.50 | 2 ratings
Live in Tilburg 2011

AEON ZEN Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

AEON ZEN Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

AEON ZEN Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

3.00 | 1 ratings
Time Divine
3.96 | 4 ratings
Self Portrait

AEON ZEN Reviews

Showing last 10 reviews only
 Self Portrait by AEON ZEN album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 2013
3.96 | 4 ratings

Self Portrait
Aeon Zen Progressive Metal

Review by Conor Fynes
Prog Reviewer

4 stars 'Self Portrait' - Aeon Zen (7/10)

At some point in every artist's career, they will generally stop t take a look at what they've already done, consolidating their position and reflecting upon the path they've taken. After releasing one of my favourite progressive metal albums of the year in Enigma, now seems like a perfect time for Aeon Zen to take a moment aside for reflection. From the band's origins essentially as a personal project of multi-instrumentalist Rich Hinks to its full-fledged current form, Aeon Zen has come a long way. Featuring a new song and three re-worked versions of compositions from their 2009 debut A Mind's Portrait, the recently released Self Portrait is a fitting demonstrator how far the band has progressed. Although the EP doesn't excel without its context as a simple indicator of the band's evolution, Self Portrait is a fine bite-sized chunk of modern progressive metal, and a welcome addendum for anyone who shared my love of their most recent full length.

Although I hesitate to use the term 'djent' when describing a band (or at least a band I like), Aeon Zen share some of their sound with the likes of contemporary progressive metal acts; their compatriots in TesseracT come first to mind. Although the instantly identifiable palm-muted tone associated with that dubious word was downplayed on the new album, Self Portrait has a distinctly djenty tone to it. Even though it's the shortest piece on the EP, the original composition 'Psych!' is my favourite song here. Built around an odd time signature, it's the sort of brimming overture that would have set a perfect atmosphere for a full-length. It's a very atmospheric take on progressive metal, similar to Devin Townsend or the latest record from TesseracT.

As for the covers here, the most notable difference is the improved musicianship and production. Although Aeon Zen started off on a great note for what was then largely a one-man act, these compositions really benefit from a full band performance. Of the three, 'Portrait' is my favourite piece, balancing ambient clean vocals with death growls and rhythmic riffs that recall Cynic. 'Rain' is a much softer track; guitars give way to piano here for the most part. While the track benefits greatly from a much improved production, I'm left wanting something more aggressive from the band; the smooth saxophone solo recalls Dream Theater's 'Another Day' and is an unexpected contribution, but doesn't work as well with the rest of the band's sound as it was probably intended to. 'Demise' has been significantly shortened from its original twelve minute length.

While Aeon Zen has been a good band from the start, their recent material is a firm step up from their origins. While I'm sure it was Aeon Zen's intention with Self Portrait to emphasize that fact, I would prefer to hear newly written material rather than revised versions of older songs. Enigma remains a favourite of mine, and has made me anxious to hear more from the band. Comparing these older compositions to the recent stuff however, it's evident to me that Aeon Zen have improved in more than their mere execution. Self Portrait doesn't hold my interest as much as an EP of fresh material would have, but it's a worthy addition to the history of one of progressive metal's most promising contemporary acts.

 Enigma by AEON ZEN album cover Studio Album, 2013
3.80 | 51 ratings

Aeon Zen Progressive Metal

Review by AtomicCrimsonRush
Special Collaborator Symphonic Team

4 stars Aeon Zen's "Enigma" has enough progressive metal to satiate the palate of respective headbangers and yet retains some very melodic songs with exceptional singing. At times the band launch into full blown death metal complete with deep devilish growls on 'Divinity', 'Eternal Snow' or 'Downfall', but they mainly opt for the Dream Theater style of keyboard drenched melodies with metal blasts and crystal clear vocals such as on 'Artificial Soul'. The softer side of the group is a delight and can be heard on the dreamy 'Seven Hills', that has a wonderful synth trumpet sound and multilayered harmonies.

Rich Hinks on guitar and bass has exceptional style as does fellow guitarist Matt Shephard. Andi Kravljaca handles the vocals well and there are some excellent drum figures at the hands of Steve Burton. Shaz is fabulous on keyboards, and often lends a rather ambient atmosphere in tracks such as the instrumental opener 'Enter the Enigma' and the intro of 'Warning'. This latter track also has a dense distorted metal riff that locks in and the melody and style reminded me of a Devin Townsend song. There are some nice sax tones heard on 'Downfall' that break up the frenetic metal blastbeats, and the vocals are always appealing and especially the killer lead guitar frenzies such as on 'Eternal Snow' or 'Still Human'.

Overall this is a great album, that will appeal to prog metal addicts, especially those who prefer the melodic side similar to Threshold, Haken, or Dream Theater.

 Enigma by AEON ZEN album cover Studio Album, 2013
3.80 | 51 ratings

Aeon Zen Progressive Metal

Review by Second Life Syndrome
Prog Reviewer

3 stars I honestly don't know a thing about Aeon Zen. My fellow writer at wrote a glorious review of their new album "Enigma", and he gave it accolades to spare. Obviously, I had to give it a listen.

The first thing that came to mind when I heard this album was how uninspired it seems. Sure, you've got the standard metal riffs, the orchestration, the growling and (*shudder*) James Labrie-wanna-be vox, and the speedy drums. But, you know what? I'm tired of that. Those things are only interesting if the composition, themes, and lyrics are interesting, too. "Engima", however, doesn't really hit that mark with me. It seems like a bunch of riffing and boring orchestration smashed into a vacuum. No soul. No emotion.

Sure, there are some great moments and songs, and there are some truly groovy moments; but I don't feel like they save anything. This is just standard prog metal that embraces the technical side of prog, but not the soul of prog. Dream Theater? Symphony X? Etc? Etc? Etc? They have all gone stale. I want something original. Something emotive. Something inspired. I want something that is truly progressive.

 Enigma by AEON ZEN album cover Studio Album, 2013
3.80 | 51 ratings

Aeon Zen Progressive Metal

Review by Conor Fynes
Prog Reviewer

5 stars 'Enigma' - Aeon Zen (9/10)

In 2009, a band called Aeon Zen came out with "A Mind's Portrait", an album that, while rooted in what detractors may call 'Dream Theater clone territory'- was impressive enough to put them on the radar for those who heard it. Alongside bands like Haken and To-Mera, Aeon Zen are at the forefront of a British wave to revitalize the progressive metal style into something fresh, exciting and relevant. In what is undoubtedly the band's most consistent work to date, "Enigma" lives up to the promise of their debut. Although they have not yet broken free from the shackles of the progressive metal old guard, Aeon Zen's fantastic blend of musicianship and composition sees them flying leagues above much of what the genre has recently produced. Progressive metallers take note- this is one of the most impressive albums bound to come out this year.

Aeon Zen are part of what I might call (without wanting to sound too clichéd or the least bit pretentious) part of the New Wave of British Progressive Metal. If you've heard the way Haken or Threshold seamlessly blend melody with technical flair, Aeon Zen aren't too far off. Led by multi-instrumentalist Rich Hinks, Aeon Zen are a firm indicator of where the scene is at. The infamously overused conventions of Dream Theater have their place in Aeon Zen's sound, but there is a great attention paid to what's been happening since then. If you look past the breathtaking musical flow, melodies and spacious production, the band's capacity to mix so many sounds together may be their most impressive trait. "Enter the Enigma" is a very fitting overture for the album, seamlessly flowing from the rhythmic pulse of 'djent', to symphonic metal and progressive synth arrangements. From there on, the album flows as would a single forty-five minute epic. Although the Kamelot-esque "Artificial Soul" and single-worthy "Divinity" both function quite well on their own as self-contained pieces, "Enigma" is graced with a number of pleasantly recurring themes and a near-perfect sense of flow.

Aeon Zen also take care to acknowledge the more extreme side of metal that has played such an important role in prog in recent years. When "Divinity" isn't conjuring the cinematic quality of symphonic metal, it is basking in technical death metal territory, although the growls come and ago fairly quickly, so as not to put off the less-acclimated listeners. The album's most triumphant moment comes with "Warning", a slow build up that gives a not- so-subtle nod to the style of a Mr. Devin Townsend. Complete with wall-of-sound production and a soaring lead melody, it's difficult not to think of Townsend's "Terria" or "Synchestra" when hearing it. These nods to the styles of other bands certainly don't end with that either. "Divinity" features a chug and pick slide straight out of the Gojira canon, and there's a guitar solo on the album that I could swear I've heard to some extent before on a Blind Guardian album. Add in some overt Between the Buried and Me influences, and you have a a molten pot of progressive metal with something to offer to virtually every fan of the genre. Most times, I would accuse a band so closely emulating the styles of others of unoriginality at best (or plagiarism at worst), but in the case of Aeon Zen, the way all of these different sounds come together is something in itself. While they may not win any prizes for uniqueness with "Enigma", the composition is what gives the album wings. I would have had doubts if I had heard so many sounds within prog metal could come together into something half-decent. In Aeon Zen's case, they've gone much farther; although the year is young, I'm not sure 2013 will produce another album with such a solid flow.

Lyrically, Aeon Zen do not excel nearly as much as they do on the musical end. Although there is the vague impression of a concept tying the record together, "Enigma" follows a tired trend of modern progressive albums aiming for a more abstract sense of narrative. Although this 'idea-over-action' style of revealing a concept may have worked well for To- Mera last year on "Exile", Aeon Zen do not have the same such luck. Simply said, the lyrics on "Enigma" do not feel particularly relevant, instead feeding off of the genre's 'thinking man' clichés. Fortunately, the vocal standard is held to an incredibly high standard throughout the album. Andi Kravljaca is one of the modern progressive metal scene's most impressive singers, and the inclusion of other singers (most notably Atte Pettersen of Above Symmetry and Rich himself) gives the album a greater vocal range, although none of them sound wildly different from one another. In the end however, Aeon Zen is a band all about the guitar, and reverence of the progressive riff. Despite his youth, Rich Hinks is a monster with the guitar. Contrary to many youngblood virtuosos, Rich's talent with the instrument is multi- faceted; although he is very likely to impress you with his burstfire lead playing, he is just as skilled with the rhythms, and mellower end of his playing. The musicianship is excellent throughout, with Steve Burton's dynamic drumwork standing out alongside Rich for his richly dramatic performance.

In short, "Enigma" is a satisfying progressive metal epic that trims off alot of its genre's fat without losing any of the magic. Really, it was the sense of bombast-for-bombast's-sake that had prog metal floating in rough water for some time. Although Aeon Zen are still well- rooted in the sounds of many of the more innovative prog metal acts, it's rare that I get such a satisfying impression from an album. Originality regardless, "Enigma" is a near-perfect mesh of thoughtful riffs, dynamic musicianship and conscious homages to their influences. Especially considering the band's relative youth, I think we can only expect greater things from them in the future.

 Enigma by AEON ZEN album cover Studio Album, 2013
3.80 | 51 ratings

Aeon Zen Progressive Metal

Review by Rivertree
Special Collaborator PSIKE Team & Band Submissions

4 stars AEON ZEN are from the UK, headed by multi-instrumentalist Rich Hinks. This time - in contrast to the former albums - it looks like that he has formed a real band for the recordings, and the live performances in the same way. Two years in the making 'Enigma' turns out to be an ambitious workout. Initially released on the band's own label Time Divide Records in 2012, this effort was adopted by famous metal label Nightmare Records recently - a praise per se - and will be out at the end of January 2013. My writing is based on a promo download actually, not the physical CD which additionally includes two bonus tracks.

The promo sheet references several bands from the tech/extreme and melodic prog metal front, to name Dream Theater, Symphony X and Cynic or Between The Buried And Me for example. That suits in some way, no question - but Aeon Zen are Aeon Zen, not a copy-cat band. Stylistically a proper bandwith is to state while comprising crashing eruptions and growls in the same way as haunting ballad-esque moments. Those parts where they turn into a more experimental direction - though definitely being in the minority - do not affect me too much, I'm more at home on the melodic prog metal playground here, to make it clear.

The short opener Enter The Enigma - literally meant of course - arises from an orchestral synth arrangement where Artificial Soul - among other things - shines with great vocal management, safe to say, for the benefit of agressive and enchanting voices which compete and complement here. That said, I mean it was worthwhile really to invite some additional singer ... well, not intending to downplay Andi Kravljaca's role as the main vocalist of course. Also considering some excellent song-writing qualities and extraordinary sense of melody this is the album's highlight definitely. The following Divinity goes wild then apparently, sinister growls included.

Like 'Anna Lee', known from DT's 'Falling Into Infinity', Seven Hills immediately follows as a charming ballad with pop appeal, yeah really! This by now makes it clear, here we have an achievement that presents great variety, many metalheads - no matter which subgenre they prefer - will find something which appeals, I'm sure. The entry of keyboarder Shaz seems to be a great benefit overall. Due to piano excursions as well as orchestral string implementation, the keys are partially rather symphonically tinted. Expectedly the guitars are playfully appointed - shredding here and empathic there like to experience at the very start on Warning for example. Turned To Ash unfolds to a really tricky song after a while.

Some pieces are skillfully placed with repetition on this album ... 'Rising And Falling From The Ashes' ... which leads to some appealing recognition value ... and even sing along yearning after a while. Let me also mention Eternal Snow which shows an excellent flow (huch, some particular rhyme here). where the nicely arranged vocals, inclusive growls, once again attract attention. 'Enigma' is a fine new album by AEON ZEN which grows with every round. Great variety to state, though far away from any patchwork attitude this sounds completely rounded. Even some saxophone contributions are successfully implemented within two songs. So this deserves 4 stars now finally.

 The Face Of The Unknown by AEON ZEN album cover Studio Album, 2010
3.39 | 27 ratings

The Face Of The Unknown
Aeon Zen Progressive Metal

Review by toroddfuglesteg

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

 The Face Of The Unknown by AEON ZEN album cover Studio Album, 2010
3.39 | 27 ratings

The Face Of The Unknown
Aeon Zen Progressive Metal

Review by b_olariu
Prog Reviewer

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.
 The Face Of The Unknown by AEON ZEN album cover Studio Album, 2010
3.39 | 27 ratings

The Face Of The Unknown
Aeon Zen Progressive Metal

Review by usa prog music

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.

 A Mind's Portrait by AEON ZEN album cover Studio Album, 2009
3.73 | 30 ratings

A Mind's Portrait
Aeon Zen Progressive Metal

Review by 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.

 The Face Of The Unknown by AEON ZEN album cover Studio Album, 2010
3.39 | 27 ratings

The Face Of The Unknown
Aeon Zen Progressive Metal

Review by Mellotron Storm
Prog Reviewer

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.

Thanks to progmetalhead for the artist addition. and to Plankowner for the last updates

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