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Synaesthesia / Kyros - Vox Humana CD (album) cover

VOX HUMANA

Synaesthesia / Kyros

 

Crossover Prog

3.99 | 73 ratings

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tszirmay
Special Collaborator
Crossover Team
4 stars Kyros is the emancipation of Synaesthesia, a tour de force debut from prog wunderkind Adam Warne that simply shook the foundations back in 2014 when the album was released, garnering both adulation and high marks for an artist barely 20 years old at the time. Great vocalist, songwriter and keyboardist, Adam provides a modern as well as retro sound to the music he writes and that first album was easily one of the finest in recent memory. While basically mostly Warne on all instruments and a crew of session players to fill in the gaps, the decision was made to incorporate those guests, drummer Robin Johnson, bassist Pete Episcopo and guitarist Sam Higgins into a full-band effort, adding Joey Frevola on guitar as well. Thus, Kyros is a way more guitar-centric vision, though still quite keyboard-led but fully reliant on bombastic melodies, huge arrangements and shimmering appeal. No soft ballads here, my friends. Adam's voice has also grown into an ability to modulate according to the needs of the piece, a most welcome progression. 'Vox Humana' is a splendid 2 CD masterpiece that proves to be a violent upgrade on the previous experience, a bruising ride set off by the turbo-charge ignition of the 30 second title track, leading into the pulsating 'Technology Killed the Kids', an extended reworking of an instrumental track found on Synaesthesia, that now gets the full song treatment, a very cool concept about how modern equipment can actually be detrimental, or just outright mental. The beefy twin guitar attack makes one shrivel in abject fear, swerving from spooky (the menacing bass ramblings) to angrily despondent, garnished with choppy riffs, shaking synths and tectonic drumming from the incredible Robin Johnson. Warne sings with raging abandon, making this quite a revelation, offering dynamics, melodic disposition and immediate charm.

'Cloudburst' is the maxi-single and while much more immediate than previous and upcoming material, it has a huge cinematic quality, a chorus to die for and some earthshaking instrumentation. The style is closer to accessible crossover prog acts like Frost* or It Bites to be sure, certainly appealing but nevertheless intricately made. Things get decidedly proggy on the sensational 'Persistence of Vision' which has a classic soft/hard dynamic made famous by bands such Porcupine Tree, rhythmically calculating and endlessly exciting to say the least. When the mood gets heavy, the sulphurous guitars sizzle like molten lava, the keyboards roam like the wind, as both the bass and drums keep everything firmly encased in rhythmic governance.

With a title like 'The Lamb, the Badger and the Bee', don't expect a pop song about frivolous subjects, quite the contrary. This mellotron/synth heavy affair is volcanic, aggressive and guitar pounded into submission, turning on a dime with dense variations, fixating on obsessive details, flicks of wrists and switches. The immediate drum work is quite impressive as well as the huge central melody sung with apathetic zeal from the intricate Mr Warne. Poly- harmonic singing reminds us that someone must have listened to Gentle Giant and decide to add a little snippet of vocal folly.

The bass-propelled 'New Paradigm' instils more bombast, as if that was possible, with towering synth/mellotron expanses, carved by heavy guitar riffs and an avalanche beat. The vocal is pained and sorrowful, desperation in the air, rage barely scratching the surface and assured delirium ahead. The choir work is stunning in intensity and placement, making Adam shed a tear or two, lips trembling and heart bleeding. A bold mid-section that has a vocal and an electronic beat , more like Depeche gone Mode, completely surprising and unexpected. A nearly 9 minute epic, this is another highlight among many highlights on the first CD.

Maintaining the manic pace on disc 2 , the 'Mind Electric' rekindles frozen images of mechanical spirits, dangling soundtrack-ish images that shake the foundations, as Warne feels suddenly 'confined and confused', looking to 'unlock your mind' with a uber-high pitched vocal snippet before the monstrous onslaught slams through the speakers. Hydra-drumming and gangland guitar slashes combine to influence the hysterical vocal, frenzy and panic clasping hands in sheer fear. Nasty and futuristic. Sign of the times?

As if a brief antidote of sorts, a slick and highly melodic guitar solo comes to reassure and relax, before evolving into a playfully complex entourage of sound and purpose, 'Speak to Me' has pizzicato strings, soaring bass lines (Pete is quite talented) and shearing drum blasts. The almost classic synth chorale is pure symphonic prog and adds a lot to the creative vision of the band.

Adam seems to like the word 'persistence' (see above) as he now offers up 'Persistence of Perfection', a phenomenal track with a melody that will drop you to your knees in abject submission. Big, bad and beautiful in every single way, the arrangement offers a colossal beat, immediate beauty, winks of insanity, slippery synth warbles and a sense of incredible resolve. Wow! This feeling is maintained on the ensuing powerhouse 'Monster' , which simply shuttles the musical earthquake further, displaying some intricate guitar shavings that explode all over the room. The voice is synthesized to add cruelty and gore, hushed voices kneeling in full distress, as Adam states 'you are a monster'. Gulp!

Finally, some respite after an hour of explosive tunes that seemed at one point relentless and eternal, the lovely 'Hounds' certainly starts out all pastoral and serene, yet with a sense of foreboding and imminent danger, as if Adam is playing with your senses (his art and passion, seemingly). He hits a high note and then everything goes tornado, swizzle stick guitars and lemon synthesizer zests fool around with odd-ball electro drums. Macabre and gloomy as if some na've nightmare set to carnival music, 'The Darkness Grove' acknowledges a sense of guilt and menace that permeates the entire disc. Cemetery pealing of bells, echoing synthesized specters, radio hisses and a voice from beyond the pale.

A kaleidoscope of chaos, 'Boiling Point' is aptly titled, as its sheer sonic mayhem. Hysterical, oblique, slightly deranged, barely disguising a rant from a person who has crossed the Rubicon and entered the human asylum unwittingly. 'Deadly poison I can feel' he intones. Twilight zone and outer limits all rolled in one, the middle section unfazed and serene but only briefly before machine gunning drums salvo skywards like an ack ack gun gone haywire. More punishment comes with 'Ego', a 'me/myself and I, rant that streaks like a grating muffler on a freshly paved autobahn. Strong Steve Wilson feel here, a deeply psychotic, internalized and spooky mirror that is cracking or perhaps even already fissured.

No brakes on this baby, 'Dilate' keeps the foot on the metal pedal, adding huge swirls of bombast that would make Ayreon proud, an 8 minute epic ride that slips into more symphonic territory, armed with a glorious chorus and offers up a supreme guitar slice that is truly majestic and heartfelt. Adam once again shows off a voice that has matured immensely since the debut and is first class here and elsewhere on the disc.

This album is a heavy, unrelenting, manic and desperate bulldozer that smashes boldly forward, listeners beware! Very little respite and certainly no surrender, I was truly tired after listening to the whole thing, as there are very few down-tempo moments here to be found. Straight ahead heavy prog all the way through with occasional curtsies. I am still enamored with the debut but soon I might just be equally impressed with this. It needs a few more spins, in my view, to really sink in.

4.5 choir beings

tszirmay | 4/5 |

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