Release Date: Out Now!!!
Genre: Progressive Metal
Frank Vermeiren – Vocals
Erik Callaerts – Guitars
Benny Vercammen – Bass
Kjell De Raes – Drums
1. Skin People
2. Before Sunrise
When thinking of metal bands, Belgium isn’t a country that comes to mind very often, but there are a few promising bands from there that pop up from time to time. The latest of these to come to my attention is progressive metal band Cygnus, who are set to release their full-length debut in the near future, which is said to be an ambitious concept album. In order to give fans a taste of what to expect, the band has released a four-track EP this year, titled The First Hour, which can be streamed and purchased through their official website. After giving the EP several listens, I’ve been left impressed by what I’m hearing, and also quite interested to see what the full release will bring.
Cygnus play a brand of melodic progressive metal with a nice blend of calm vocal driven passages and heavier passages with some more aggressive riffs and more complex drum patterns. From a purely musical standpoint, this release is quite impressive, as the heavier parts feel very powerful, the melodic passages are very enjoyable and memorable, and some of the calmer sections are atmospheric and are nicely done. The sound production is a bit raw, but for an independent band the sound quality is quite solid, with the guitars being at the front of the mix, and everything sounds clear enough to be enjoyable while having a powerful and raw sound. While the main style here is prog, there are also some elements of other genres, such as some clear traditional heavy metal sound in the guitar work at times, particularly on the second track “Before Sunrise”, as well as bits of power metal, and the songs are quite varied and each can stand on their own easily.
One problem I tend to have with bands from countries not as known for metal is the vocals, but that is not a problem with Cygnus, as vocalist Frank Vermeirend is a very strong singer, with a deep and powerful voice that fits the music quite well. He has a strong delivery and brings a certain amount of grit to the heavier parts of the songs while sounding smooth but emotional during the softer passages, and he proves himself to be a great fit for a melodic prog band, so he’s a great find, for sure. At times his voice reminds me a bit of Blaze Bayley, though his vocals are generally a bit deeper and more intense.
An area where I’ve struggled with some prog bands on recently has been in the songwriting department, usually due to a lack of variety in the songs, making it tough to find the motivation to sit through a full release. Obviously, the fact that this is an EP already helps with that, but Cygnus have done themselves quite the favor here by making four distinct tracks that each has their own feel, while still clearly belonging together. I’m interested to see how well a full-length album by the band will hold up, but at least when it comes to The First Hour, it feels like the band has done a great job of coming up with four tracks that provide a nice sampling of different song styles we can expect to hear when their full-length debut comes.
First up is “Skin People”, a mid-paced melodic prog track which has some nice calmer sections where the guitars add some atmosphere during the verses, and the overall feel of the track is very moody, with this feeling enhanced by Frank’s emotional and powerful vocals. The guitars get heavier as the track moves on, and there’s some great riffs mixed in with the calmer sections, as well as a nice chorus that manages to be memorable without being overly flashy. Same goes for the guitar solo in the second half, which is nice and melodic without being overly showy or without dragging on for too long. Overall, it’s a nice opening track which delivers some great melodic prog with just enough of a rough metal edge to make it stand out.
The longest track here is next, with that being “Before Sunrise”. This is a speedier track with a mix of power metal tempos and some heavy metal styling, especially some of the melodic leads, which remind me of classic Iron Maiden at times. It’s a much heavier and more explosive track than the opener, and it also has some of the best guitar work, with some flashy leads and a nice solo section, but it stays melodic throughout and is an excellent track overall.
Moving on to the final two tracks, we start out with “Cyborg”, the softest track on the EP. It feels like a power ballad most of the way through, being a slower track with a couple heavier riffs here and there, but for the most part, it’s a softer track, with some great vocal melodies, and a nice chorus, which does a great job of showcasing Frank’s voice. It’s the most relaxed track out of the four, but It still remains engaging throughout. Lastly, we have the instrumental track “War”, another heavier track with some great up-tempo sections, which eventually give way to a calm and slow ending, filled with great melodies. The track is enjoyable throughout, with memorable riffs and some great drum work, and it feels like the band nailed the balanced between keeping it easy to follow, while still having enough going on that it never drags.
Overall, The First Hour is a great four-track EP from Cygnus, which serves as a nice teaser for what fans can expect when the band releases their full-length debut in the near future. There’s a nice variety to the tracks, with each one having its own feel, and everything here is very well done and very enjoyable, so if this is an indication of the quality we can expect from the band, I have a feeling their official debut could be one to watch out for!
Written by: Travis Green