Released By: Nightmare Records
Release Date: January 22nd, 2013
Genre: Progressive Metal
Rich Hinks – Vocals, Guitar, Bass
Andi Kravljaca – Vocals
Matt Shepherd – Guitar
Shaz – Keyboards
Steve Burton – Drums
Featuring guest vocals by:
Nate Loosemore (Lost In Thought)
Atle Pettersen (Above Symmetry)
Jonny Tatum (Eumeria)
1. Enter The Enigma
2. Artificial Soul
4. Seven Hills
6. Turned To Ash
7. Still Human
8. Eternal Snow
+ CD ONLY Bonus Tracks
10. Survival (Bonus Track)
11. Time Divine 2.0 (Bonus Track)
In this reviewer’s opinion, there are few progressive metal projects out there that hit as many cylinders as Aeon Zen, the creative baby of multi-instrumentalist and producer Rich Hinks. Back in 2010 he gave us The Face Of The Unknown under this moniker, an album that was quite entertaining in its own right: it even featured guest vocals from the mighty Nick D’Virgillo of Spock’s Beard fame and Jem Godfrey of Frost*. But after a monstrously good outing like that though, it becomes a question of not even whether or not you can top it with your next release…but rather, can it be at least AS good as its predecessor?
The answer, of course, is to make an even sleeker and more theatrical metal record, complete with hooks galore and enough momentum to run mountains down to rubble! And that’s precisely what we get in 2013’s Enigma, complete with an epic cover depicting the forces of good and evil clashing….INNNN SPACCCCCCCE!
From the orchestral ‘Enter The Enigma’ through the equally single-worthy pair of ‘Artificial Soul’ and ‘Divinity’, Rich’s maturation as a commercially oriented metal maestro is immediately apparent. The former pulses with the vitality of a classic early 2000’s THRESHOLD cut whilst the latter, with its vicious pre-chorus and anthemic main verse wouldn’t be out of place in the repertoires of any of the today’s top melodic death metal bands. It definitely sounds out of left field for typical prog. metal fans, but it serves as ample evidence of just how progressively minded Mr. Hinks is to go in that direction to begin with.
There are numerous other highlights the further in you delve: great melodicism in the mid-tempo pair ‘Turned To Ash’ and ‘Eternal Snow’, whilst the shredheads among ye will get a kick out of the clean djent of ‘Still Human’. My favorite song on the whole record, though, is closing number ‘Downfall’: it spins off as joint blend between classic late 80’s DREAM THEATER and FATES WARNING with more modern production, even featuring a sax (!!) break near the 3 minute mark.
All in all, regardless of how stale or vital more straight-ahead progressive metal has been in your mind since the 90’s, AEON ZEN has contributed yet another wonderful album that emphasizes the stylistic strengths of the genre whilst having a few things of its own to say. And bar a complete game-changer like Images & Words from DT or other similarly influential albums that came out from the prog. metal big leagues back in the late 80’s, you can’t ask for much more than that.
Written by Derek