Formed in 2006 and recording what Metal Hammer’s Greek publication declared as one of the top ten best ever metal albums to be released from the country back in 2008, Poem are a four piece progressive metal band from Athens. Having had eight years to hone their craft, create new material and even form another band entirely (singer/guitarist George also fronts Mother Of Millions who I covered for this site back in 2014!), the four piece returns with its follow up effort – Skein Syndrome. Let’s see how this one turns out.
As expected, this release has a real modern progressive metal edge to it which entails musical and technical proficiency with fantastic use of atmospherics, creating a rather thought provoking release. Opening track “Passive Observer” opens up with a hard hitting riff with a very polyrhythmic feel to it and really powerful vocal deliveries which ring out with authority and clarity over the complex melodies underneath them. With intense delivery, some phenomenal drums and a real epic feel to it, this opens the album well and serves as a taste of what is to come.
“Fragments” gives a slight sensation of unease as it begins with an ominous sounding progression and when the verse hits, the almost urgent feel of the vocal delivery makes it seem like all isn’t quite right, not in the musical sense, but the emotional and situational sense. Controlled chaos, much like that of some of the more expressive and elaborate Tool tracks, this track has the incredible drum work once again with even more power in the vocals, including some real expressive and raw vocal roars which usher in some changes in feel and work brilliantly, keeping you guessing just what is coming next. “The End Justifies The Means” and “Bound Insanity” which follow on from here bring in a more rounded approach. The vocal and drum based performances are still up there as key selling points, but the basslines and lead guitar phrases are really melodic and help create a more solid feel to the tracks, helping the pace build, drop off, the volume to increase and decrease and the general pulse of the song to go from subtle and steady to full on frantic with little warning or need for a transition.
“Weakness” demonstrates the softer side of the band with a hauntingly clean guitar melody, rich bassline and softly delivered vocals which turns to a more emotionally charged and raw musical delivery as the drums and distortion kick in, really highlighting just how adept the band are at turning the mood and feel on its head with a simple vocal line growing in power or a drum fill leading the way for a great transition and personally, this is the track of the release which showcases just how good this band are. “Desire” has a hypnotic feel initially, full of mesmerising and exotic feeling riffs and leads, delightful harmonies and some real powerful metal sounding moments but as good as it is, it doesn’t match up to the previous track!
Closing the release is “Remission Of Breath” which serves as a good summary of the album. Drawing from all the previous tracks for various parts, it begins with an exotic, middle eastern feel section with whispered and chant like vocals adding a hypnotic effect which then progresses, bringing in the complex and captivating drums and dynamic vocals for full effect before it becomes heavier, letting the stringed section of the band have their prominent moments with guitar and bass harmonies and phenomenal riff and lead sections, leading to a hypnotic and complex ending full of intricate patterns.
Overall, “Skein Syndrome” can only be described as brilliant. It has diversity about it and unlike other modern progressive metal bands who go on needlessly sometimes with the extended musical breaks in songs or try to make things as grandiose as possible, Poem have a massive impact with straight forward inputs. A great chemistry exists in this band and they all bring out the best in each other musically. Vocally solid and rhythmically intense, it’s a great album and well worth a listen for fans of prog and those who fancy something different!