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


Aeon Zen


Progressive Metal

3.43 | 30 ratings

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

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.

usa prog music | 4/5 |


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