I’ve followed Pyramaze since their debut album back in 2004 and I must admit I feared the worst a few years back, but with this album (their second in three years) it looks like they are back to top form and there’s no stopping them now! After two impressive albums with Lance King at the vocal helm, there was then a third with Iced Earth’s Matt Barlow stepping in – a shrewd step to replace a vocalist of King’s calibre with an even higher profile name. It was quite an impressive album by all accounts, however I felt the band lost a little of the identity they had forged earlier. Then nothing for seven years. I thought that was it for Pyramaze, a real shame, but fabulously they returned in 2015, better than ever with new vocalist Terje Haroy, capturing perfectly the band earlier spirit and feel. With the line-up now stabilized they return with “Contingent”.
Terje Haroy is a relative unknown compared to the band’s previous vocalists, but Pyramaze’s realization that they don’t need a “name” singer is surely paying dividends now. Now that his confidence is even greater the harmonies and structures of his vocal performances bring the songs alive. He has a real sound of David Readman (high praise indeed in my opinion) and because of this Pyramaze have an initial sound somewhere between Pink Cream 69 (obviously) and Silent Force. But with the added power and progressive elements that they also through in, it makes them even more interesting.
There’s always a fabulous chorus, usually with beautifully layered vocals waiting to enthrall in every song, which gives each track a nice flow from one song to the next, but it also gives Pyramaze license to put in imaginative and intricate moments that make each song also stand out from the next. The opening track is an absolute gem and absolutely nails everything a powerful melodic metal track should contain – exciting riffs and guitar, driving bass, dancing keyboards and powerful, insistent drumming. Plus great vocals of course that peak with an excellent chorus. This formula crops up in different guises throughout “Contingent”, but the band are always wonderfully keen to keep you guessing.
There’s those progressive elements for instance, that sometimes remind me of bands like Silent Call and sometimes Royal Hunt, but then a track like ‘Star Men’ manages to blend the exploratory late 90’s prog metal of Time Machine or Dreamscape with Pyramaze’s own polished sound and arrangement to such great effect. The progressive side is something that unveils itself gradually with further listens, which is how it should be, but it’s also that added element that you can explore once the gloriously rich and smooth melodic metal fascia has lured you in. As another nice twist, the structure of the album is almost split into three by the insertion of two short instrumental passages which are ‘Contingent’ parts I and II. Rather than pick one as the perfect intro to the album the band realized that the opening track already pretty much had it’s own, so interspersed these into the record. It’s a great way of punctuating proceedings as well as a much less predictable way of having a “title track”. They both have a Kamelot feel, a theme which continues on ‘The Tides Won’t Change’, a rather nice ballad-esque duet with Kristen Foss.
In all honesty though, it’s hard to pick out specific highlights from an album crammed so full of them. This is quite simply Melodic Prog/Power Metal at it’s best and where this style is concerned I’m pretty sure this will be one of my favourite releases of 2017. Professional, slick, intriguing and interesting with every listen, Pyramaze are top quality and their re-emergence three years ago is completely justified by this excellent album.
(9/10 Andy Barker)