Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Album Review: Pyramaze - Contigent

Not every story is linear. Some meander around the crux of the plot, trying to give different perspectives before making the main point. Bands can follow the same pattern. Not every band is going to stay together and go from one album to the next in a predictable fashion. Pyramaze has been one to defy that normalcy. Starting out as a classic power metal band, they then became an Iced Earth clone when the brought in Matt Barlow for one album, and then they became a modern power metal outfit when he was gone, after a brief spell with another known singer that didn't even generate an album. To say that there has been turmoil in the Pyramaze world would be a bit of an understatement. But things are stable now, so how do we get along with this new record?

Pyramaze has once again made a shift in sound, this time becoming a more cinematic outfit, turning their music into something more epic and grand than before. It's still a heavy, down-tuned version of power metal with progressive elements, but they are trying to make something with more weight to the compositions.

We don't get to hear much of that in the opening "Land Of Information". That's probably a wise move to transition us into where they are going, giving us a more traditional song that moves through its time with some heavy riffs, a good melody, and just a hint of cinema creeping in at the end. "Kingdom Of Solace" introduces us full-scale to what the band is aiming for. Opening with a full film-score setup, there is absolutely a heightened sense of drama added to the song. There are plenty of details to focus on, letting the song be enjoyed on more than one level. The problem is that for all the good of the music, the melody of the song is weak, which undercuts the whole point.

There are two ways of utilizing orchestral elements in metal. You can slap them on as needless window-dressing, or you can write the songs around those elements. Pyramaze is frustrating here, because they try to split the difference. There are times when they use the epic sounds as the base for a song, but there are other songs where those elements are almost non-existent. It gives the album a disjointed feeling, as though these songs were from two different projects.

That is all about the style, not the substance. Pyramaze is a talented band, and there is ample opportunity for them to show that throughout this lengthy conceptual piece. Songs like "Star Men", "A World Divided", and "Nemesis" are all very good power metal. They don't rise above that like the press release says they were aiming for, but good music is good music.

The only thing "Contingent" suffers from is ambition. The album is trying to be something that I don't think the band was quite ready to pull off. There's a good modern, heavy power metal album in here, but it has too many bells and whistles trying to doll it up as something more. If Pyramaze had dialed back a bit, they could have made something great here. As it stands, "Contingent" is a good album that could have been better. It's up to you to judge if that's good enough for you.

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