Released By: Lion Music
Release Date: June 15th, 2017
Genre: Progressive Metal
Simo Silvan – Vocals
Timo Niemistö – Guitars, Backing Vocals
Antti Horttana – Bass
Antti Hakulinen – Keyboards
Henrikki Markula – Drums
1. The Calling
2. Under Burning Skies
3. Oath of Darkness
4. Siren’s Song
5. Painted Shadows
6. Rhapsody of Fire
7. My Dark Morning Star
8. Fallen Souls
As a reviewer, it’s generally best not to overdo it when making comparisons between bands, but sometimes a band will come along that wears their influences so clearly on their sleeves, that such comparisons are unavoidable. In the case of Finnish progressive metal band Anthriel, one only needs to hear brief samples of their music to know they were clearly influenced by Symphony X, particularly the more neoclassical flavored sound they had going on classics such as The Divine Wings of Tragedy and V: The New Mythology Suite. This was obvious on their 2010 debut The Pathway, an album that didn’t get a lot of attention but was largely praised by fans of the genre who heard it, and now on their highly anticipated sophomore effort, Transcendence, this influence is only all the more obvious. However, just because the band uses a familiar sound, that doesn’t mean they can’t deliver their own take on it and do something hugely impressive, which is exactly what Anthriel have done. Just as on The Pathway, they have taken a sound that worked well in the past and have put their own stamp on it, making easily one of the best prog albums of the year.
As on their debut, Anthriel has delivered the mix of prog, neoclassical, symphonic and power metal elements one would expect from a Symphony X album, and they’ve also included two epic length tracks, something the latter hasn’t done so much recently. At a first glance, Transcendence may seem like more of the same, but in reality, it actually has a much different feel from its predecessor. Where The Pathway generally leaned towards the softer, more melodic side of their influence, with even some prog rock elements at times, Transcendence is definitely a much darker, harder hitting album. If anything, I’d say this album feels like what could have happened if Symphony X had evolved into the heavier sound of their later albums a bit more naturally, while keeping the neoclassical elements in, as well as continuing to use longer compositions. Basically, where The Pathway leaned fully towards the old, Transcendence almost feels like it gives listeners a welcome middle ground, combining the best elements of both eras, while still being distinct enough to feel like its own work and not just a copycat.
Either way, you look at it, Anthriel are definitely top notch musicians, with the guitar work, in particular, being out of this world good at times, with some incredible solo work and complex, yet hard hitting riffs, as well as tons of neoclassical flavored guitar work. Of course, the use of keyboards and symphonic elements for atmosphere is also quite prominent in their music, and the softer sections are still as impressive as on the debut, even if they aren’t quite as frequent this time around. In the songwriting department, everything is excellent, with a nice mix between more straightforward and speedier tracks, as well as more epic, drawn out compositions with varied tempos, as fans would expect.
One element of the band that really stands out for me in a positive way is the vocals. Simo Silvan definitely has the kind of gruff and powerful voice needed to deliver the songs, but I find his voice is a lot deeper than most prog or power metal singers, and he goes especially low on various sections of this album, sounding quite impressive. Some of his more powerful vocals come from these deeper sections, on tracks such as “Oath of Darkness” and “Rhapsody of Fire”. At the same time, he can certainly deliver higher, soaring vocals on the choruses as well, and does an equally impressive job during these sections. He’s able to vary his approach expertly to fit in with both the heavier and more melodic passages on the album, and his vocals are always a definite highlight.
The album gets off to an interesting start, with the intro track “The Calling” mostly using acoustic guitars and keyboards, and the vocals on this track are much softer than they are anywhere else on the album. It feels a bit weird to have a light sounding track leading into something as heavy as “Under Burning Skies”, and initially it felt off putting, but over time it has grown on me, and it does its job of serving as a nice intro. Speaking of “Under Burning Skies”, though, that track is an excellent opener, with an immediately recognizable guitar sound and lead riffs that should sound familiar to many listeners, with epic keyboards used in the background. As the song gets going, it moves along at a fairly brisk pace, speeding up for its epic chorus, which showcases Simo’s talents greatly, and then there’s a nice softer section in the second half. It’s one of the more straightforward tracks on the album, but it serves as a great introduction to the heavier sound the band has gone for this time around.
Next is the first of two epics, the 11-minute mammoth “Oath of Darkness”. This track opens up with a fairly soft and atmospheric instrumental section, but it doesn’t take long for it to get heavy, and once it does it goes full force. The verses here are extremely intense, with Simo using his deepest and most powerful vocals, almost coming close to death growls at points, and these sections are very dark and super epic. Eventually, this gives way to a huge chorus, where Simo again shines, and then as the song moves on we get some epic instrumental sections before the song slows down and we get an extended softer section, with some very beautiful guitar work. Eventually, the vocals come back in, and this leads into an incredibly epic finale. This track may take a couple listens to open up, but once it does it’s an incredible track and definitely one of the best prog compositions I’ve heard in recent years.
The next few songs are a bit more straightforward, though there’s still some interesting stuff going on through each of them. First up, “Siren’s Song” is another more atmospheric track, with some very nice sounding keyboards and it definitely has a strong classic Symphony X feel throughout, leaning towards the more melodic side of this album. It moves along at a nice pace and has one of the best choruses on the album, and it serves as a nice change of pace because while the guitar work is still great, especially during the solo section, it’s the keyboards that really dominate and steal the show on this track. The most neoclassical flavored track is next, in “Painted Shadows”, where the guitars and keyboards have a very classical feeling to them throughout, as well as the symphonic elements being more prominent than normal, and this is definitely the fastest paced track on the album, with some strong power metal influences. It’s also one of the heaviest tracks and certainly one where the guitars dominate, with some excellent riffs, though there’s an outstanding keyboard solo in the middle and the chorus is outstanding as well, as is the epic vocal section that comes near the end. Simply put, this track is one of the absolute best on the album. Next is “Rhapsody of Fire”, and despite its name, it isn’t really a power metal track or even all that symphonic. It’s a more mid paced track, and again the guitars dominate, with excellent riffs and an absolutely stunning solo section in the second half, and I think this track has probably my favorite chorus on the whole album, with Simo delivering epic soaring vocals. The second half of this track is simply incredible, and enough to make it my absolute favorite on the album, even though there isn’t a single less than excellent track here. Next is yet another instant favorite in “My Dark Morning Star”, another heavier track which stays fairly slow and subdued throughout, though it has a speedy and very catchy chorus, as well as yet another amazing solo section.
Last up, we have the massive 19-minute epic closing track “Fallen Souls”. This track is very slow building, with a ton of extended softer sections throughout, as well as some very lengthy instrumental sections. It moves at a fairly slow pace throughout, though it does have a few tempo changes in the middle and it does get pretty intense at points. The vocals are once again a highlight, as Simo delivers some very epic vocals throughout, and does a great job of varying his approach as always. As the name would suggest, it’s a dark and very atmospheric track, with some of the riffs even having a slightly sinister feel to them and the keyboards are used very effectively to add a creepy feel, while even some of the solo sections feel a bit sad and are of course brilliantly done as always. It’s one of the more challenging and less immediately engaging tracks for sure, but it’s a very well written track that gives the album the grand finale it deserves.
Anthriel fans had to wait almost seven years for a follow up to their excellent debut The Pathway. But at last Transcendence has arrived and it is an absolutely brilliant album for sure, providing some of the best prog metal to be released in the last few years. It continues along the same path as its predecessor, while a delivering a darker and heavier sound, that is sure to please fans of early Symphony X in particular. For fans of that band, this album is an absolute must hear, and I’d also highly recommend it to any fan of prog, power and neoclassical metal, as it expertly blends all those elements together for an incredible album that I would even say is a big improvement over the band’s already impressive debut.
Reviewer: Travis Green