There’s a lot to be said for progressive metal. It’s not like you can record a progressive metal album over the weekend in the garage with nothing more than a 4-track and some secondhand guitars. There’s precision, ebb and flow, highs and lows and a narrative involved in a proper progressive rock album that needs to be taken into account. Without it, it’s just another metal album. Fort Wayne’s Thematic have unleashed their relenting album debut with The Endless Light, a mix of Dream Theater precision with Tool heaviness and a good amount of classic speed metal to get all the hardcore metal heads excited. I can’t say for sure if The Endless Light is a concept album, but it has the flow and timing of one. “Precipice” opens the album quietly with some Tangerine Dream-like ambient vibes before “Epoch” comes roaring in to tear your face off. It has the vibe of those classic Metal Blade Records albums from the 80s. Fates Warning comes to mind on this track especially. It’s heavy in the verses and soars in the chorus. “Tempest” has the sound of a beefier Incubus with some King Crimson thrown in for good measure, “Evoke” brings back many a 80s metal memories. If you’re at all familiar with those classic Shrapnel Records releases in the 80s you’ll love the guitar in this track. Vinnie Moore would be proud.
The album continues on a path of both relentless heaviness and quiet interludes, all of which was expertly composed, arranged, engineered and produced by the band itself. You get intricate, metronome-like drum precision that blasts double-kick madness, standing up to drum titans with names like Dave Lombardo and Charlie Benante, not to mention Neal Peart and Mike Portnoy. And that’s on top of guitars that shoot effortless speed runs out of the speakers with ease and vocals that both growl and soar.
“RE:M” provides a break in the metal and gives us a quiet moment of piano balladry, something Savatage did very well back in the day. “Obsidian” sports some monster riffage and tons of angst while “The Beating Heart” is an acoustic-led track with some great drumming backing it up. “Deep Field” ends the album on a quiet note with some ambient guitar tones.
Thematic do their progressive forefathers right by making a great debut album. Metal and progressive fans alike can find something to love on The Endless Light.
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