ThirdIonSo when a bassist from Devin Townsend’s band gets together with a guitarist from Into Eternity, it’s a pretty fair bet that project is going to lean towards the progressive. And Canada’s Third Ion are certainly of the progressive metal persuasion – expect plenty of time changes and more notes than you can shake an arpeggio at! Initially I had an inkling that this is musically where Into Eternity would probably have ended up if guitarist Justin Bender hadn’t branched out to form this band (such is his personal guitar style), but with former Annihilator vocalist Dave Padden bringing a smooth mid-range delivery to this their second album, the band are firmly creating their own identity.

An extra factor in the band’s identity is their love of old video games (a clever example is on the beepy intro and then opening riff of the title track – it’s the same tune!). These little quirks are scattered all over the album to varying degrees and just brings that added element of playfulness to the maelstrom of notes and time signatures that sprawl out across each song. Never short on technicality, the first listen to “Biolith” rather seems to smack you in the face (quite randomly and at different tempos of course…), and leaves you a little shell-shocked by the end. But, as any good prog metal release should, with repeated listens different musical hooks worm their way in and everything starts to slot into place a little more.

It’s probably best not to expect a Dream Theater style chorus to be lurking around a musical corner (a good or bad thing depending on your level of prog appreciation!), as there will no doubt be a style change and new time signature instead. Actually, on that subject, I have to say the drumming by Aaron Edgar (a new name to me) is quite stunning, capturing perfectly the style of so many great prog rock and metal drummers of the past and present, but particularly Jon Macaluso – especially in tracks like ‘Status Undetermined’, of which the latter half particularly reminds me of his time in Ark. Bassist Mike Young has plenty to please followers of Steve DiGiorgio through to Martin Mendez, lending so much diversity to proceedings and bringing his bass to the fore, driving the intricate guitar lines into further unexplored realms. From the full-on Technical Progressive Metal of the opener through to the fabulous psychedic prog rock of the closing track, Third Ion seem to have it covered.

And really, that’s all you need to know. It’s prog, so everyone will listen for something different – the great thing is, whatever you listen for I reckon Third Ion have squeezed it in there somehow. This isn’t a disjointed album though, there is always cohesion within the tracks…though not much is repeated, so enjoy each element while you can! All you Progressive Metal fans out there that yearn for complexity and dexterity should not miss out on this lot!

(7.5/10 Andy Barker)