Just to call a band Progressive Metal poses further questions nowadays. Many years ago it was easy, it used to be that you would see the term and just think Dream Theater and that’s an end to it, but it’s a badge that thanks to the movement being…err…progressive, means there’s a need for clarification before you even get to listening to the music. So basically these Romanian (nay – Transilvanian no less!) progsters may start with the Metal leanings of say Opeth and Arcturus, but it doesn’t stop there…
Each of the seven intriguing and engaging tracks on the band’s debut offering “Stardust”, weighs in between six and nine minutes, with the opener luring the listener in with plenty of atmosphere, lilting melodies, intricate understated drums and much un-distorted guitar. So much so that when the second track ‘Pathways’ starts in a similar style it had me wondering where the “Metal” was…and then there it was, half way through the track a sweeping dose of the earlier promised Arcturus heaviness coupled with hints of Green Carnation and latter-day Anathema. The band are obviously crafting a deeply involved soundscape here and the following song ‘Planes Of Creation’, also favours a mellow Riverside-style opening before a couple of haunting pieces of key switching and melodrama throws us straight into mid-career Opeth with some extreme vocals lobbed in for good measure. These tracks set the scene expertly for the whole album.
The drums throughout have that skipping, dexterity with cymbal-wizardry utilized in bands like Borknagar etc. and expertly displayed throughout the album, always backing up the intelligent and intricate musicality perfectly. With bass and guitars swapping moods extensively the vocals then serve themselves up in a variety of well executed styles, lending themselves perfectly to whatever each song demands. The Arcturus theme happily continues on through the album (both Garm and Vortex eras) with occasional extra dashes of all the above bands, plus loads to spike the interest of fans from Winds to Porcupine Tree, Vintersorg to Scapes or Empyrium to Ulver – the band have their twitchy fingers in many a musical pie.
It’s all there if you’re looking for it, but these bands are just a guide, a way for me to put across the wide range of appeal that The Thirteenth Sun have. All this is wrapped up in such a personal way by a band with it’s own sound, cherry picking their own ideas, molding them into interesting songs with their own identity. “Stardust” exemplifies everything that a fan of any of the bands I’ve listed will embrace and enjoy. It’s an album that I’ve a feeling many a reviewer will over-analyze and pour over in great detail. Me? I just decided to name a few bands, pique the interest of people who might like it, outline the band’s sound and let you all make your own minds up when you discover the band for yourselves. Because if you’ve got this far, I reckon you will – I don’t think you’ll be disappointed!
(8/10 Andy Barker)