French progressive power metallers Anthropia have set their sights on a lofty target with this release. A concept album based on the Cthulhu mythos and all things Lovecraftian certainly spells ambition and roping in Arjen Anthony Lucassen of Ayreon fame, the modern day master of the concept album to provide narration duty certainly sounds promising. Let’s see if the great tentacled one would approve of this, or would he destroy it along with humanity?
“Strange Aeons” is an instrumental opener. It has a simple acoustic melody, dramatic swelling synths and some sinister whispered likes from the great tentacled one himself which builds the tension great. Going right into “The Melancholy of R.C”, a pounding riff with a drone like feel gets your attention straight away along with the samples and atmospheric synths. The vocal duties are primarily provided by the female vocalist though the male vocalist does provide some lines and harmonies. The bass sounds rich and deep and the drums steady and the chorus has some big heavy chugging chords and synth moments. The second verse is slightly faster and heavier with that droning riff and when the song comes to its first break it takes on a slightly darker tone with a really twisting bass-line. The guitar solo is very reminiscent of Symphony X – technical, intense and precise and the final chorus helps add a nice dramatic end, complete with Arjen providing the narration which provides some of the story to help guide it along.
“The Silver Twilight Lodge” is a haunting track, lyrically and sound wise. Taking the perspective of the cultists who worship Cthulhu, it has some real heavy riffs, haunting synths and a real powerful feel to it. The pre-verse has a great sounding bass-line and the verses have shared vocal duties which adds a new dimension to the sound so far. The clean section has some complicated fills in it and it has a foreboding feel to it as the prophecy of the dark ones bringing mankind’s doom is touched on and the instrumental section teases and acts as the divide in the song. The second half of the song has a fantastic ‘intro’ – powerful and dramatic work from the rhythm section along with choir like effects really stand out and the bass melody at one point just screams the ominous part of Iron Maiden’s ‘Rime of the Ancient Mariner” and some of the riffs in this part have a great headbanging feel to them. “The Part of Them in Me” features pianist Laurent Tardy’s talents and it starts off acoustic with some harmony vocals and choir-like synths which create a big build up feel. It’s slower than the previous two tracks at first and it has a really huge sounding chorus with some dramatic vocal work and choir effects which are quite powerful sounding. Arjen pops up once more to help guide the story along and there are some great moments instrumentally – the mellow section features some great clean guitar and bass interplay whilst the heavy section is dramatic and has some furious lead guitar work.
“Unknown Kadath” is another instrumental track which has more powerful synth and guitar work. It has an ominous and grandiose feel to it along with sounding heavy as hell with some pounding drums, headbang friendly riffs and a great groove which eventually mellows towards the end. This seamlessly transitions into “Seeds of Decay” which picks up on the clean sound but keeps the dramatics up with the bass and synths building up the atmosphere. The verse retains this clean sound with dramatic synths and the slight key change in the pre-chorus paves the way for a big melodic chorus with a great vocal hook which captivates you. As it picks up in volume, the guitars are steady paced with some twisting big riffs and the synth lead is very surreal. There is a great primal feel section with some dramatic synths, pounding drums and twisting bass-line along with some chaotic vocals which come and go in terms of handling. This constant switching with chaotic chant like backing works great and there is a big vocal moment which builds to the lead section which has that Dream Theater vibe to it. Arjen’s narration helps build on the intensity over some dramatic instrument work and there is a huge heavy groove laden riff section to end it.
“When The Stars Come Right” opens with a clean melodic sound which gradually builds up into a powerful sounding harmonic laden riff with some really dramatic synth work over it. The second verse in this one has a real dark feel to it in the vocals and the guitar has so many little fills which help add to the feel of the song whilst the bass sounds perfect on this one. It has that big chorus feel to it as it revisits the groove riff section and it repeats this formula, mellowing but staying complex in the verses and going groove orientated for the choruses for maximum dynamic effect. There is a good part of this song which comes across as sounding a lot like Ayreon (makes sense given Arjen’s narration duties) which is a pleasure to listen to, especially in the lead sections and when it picks up the pace, the intricate guitars don’t miss a single beat and as usual, the narration brings a change in the feel and furthers the story some more. “Crawling Chaos” is a powerful track with hard hitting guitars and drums. It has an almost thrash-like feel to it at times and this provides a real cutting edge to it under the melodic and strong vocals. This song brings back the dramatic choir like effects again which help build the tension, especially in the chorus sections and before the fantastic solo.
“The Snake Den” features two guests – Edu Falaschi on vocals and Pascal Aligare on lead guitar. It’s a fast paced song, filled with heavy, quick riffs and incredibly fluid feeling lead fills. Vocally it’s fantastic and the switching prominence between male and female works wonderfully on this track, especially when the two harmonise. It has a great bass-line in the verse and the chorus has a real kick to it courtesy of the synth and guitar work whilst the main solo courtesy of Pascal is John Petrucci worthy! The song is full of intricate musicianship and it keeps it up right to the end when it finally tails off. “Lost In Time And Space” opens with a string section and steady paced, march-like feel drum. It has a moody feel in the intro and choir like vocals help give it that big sound. The acoustic guitars and soft, eerie sounding vocals in the verse along with the synths give it a haunting feel and the distorted sections have a grandiose feel to them – guitar and synth harmonies with pounding rhythm. The narration allows the song to ease off just in time for the solo to be delivered with maximum impact and the clean section after it revisits the choir effect and acoustic guitars, a fitting ‘end’ to the Cthulhu themed story. This track perfectly transitions into “Fucou” is a classical themed instrumental which relies heavily on the virtuoso performance on the acoustic guitar, delivered at times with the flair and fusion feel of Cynic to some great backing work from the rest of the band, this ends with the final narration from Arjen, revealing the protagonist of the album’s name and setting up the last track.
“Credits” has a real power metal feel to it with all the Ayreon like progressive grandness giving it an extra layer or two. The bass is extremely funky sounding with some fantastic slap style playing and the guitars are punchy. Vocally it’s pretty strong and in a way it loosely ties in with the theme of the album, saying that everyone has their role to play in life (The protagonist of the story knew Cthulhu was coming and he was faced with the choice – save mankind or let it die). It doesn’t fit well with the rest of the album musically, but it’s a decent enough track to wrap it all up.
“Non Euclidian Spaces” is a terrific concept album. What I write here only really scratches the surface in terms of the story and if it interests you, I urge you to get this album and check it out properly. Musically though, I will say it is spot on. It’s everything progressive power metal should be, dynamic, expressive and melodic whilst keeping the balance between complexity and simplicity to keep the listener engaged. If only the last track ‘fit’ better…