Formed in Oxford back in 2008, Prospekt are a five piece progressive metal band with a wide range of influences to their sound, most notably titans of the genre in the form of Dream Theater, Symphony X and Circus Maximus. With their debut full length, “The Colourless Sunrise” released back in 2013, the follow up 2017 release expands on the band, both in terms of releases and band members. Adding a fifth member in the form of Michael Morris (ex Hallowed Point) to handle vocal duties, “The Illuminated Sky” is a bold step forwards. So with some light shed on the sky, let’s see what is up there.
“Ex Nihilo”, the Latin phrase which means ‘Out Of Nothing’, something usually found in conjecture with creation is an instrumental opening track. Usually I am critical of these, seeing them as a waste of time, however this one, like many progressive metal instrumental opening tracks actually fits the purpose of setting the scene. Reminiscent of bands like Dream Theater, Symphony X and Ayreon, it is a huge sounding symphonic overture which builds up. Orchestral arrangements augment the conventional instruments and it serves as a good opening statement, fading into the title track of the album.
“The Illuminated Sky” is a fast paced number. With its intricate drum patterns and rapid fire riffs, it has a real surging feel to it. With powerful vocals running through it, reminiscent of Geoff Tate when he used to actually be able to belt them out, it is a real heavy hitting statement of a track. Clinical precision, touches of flair and exotic sounds in the melodic progressions and some slick lead guitar work all make for a thrilling display of technical playing at its finest.
“Titan” keeps up the fast pace, once again bringing shades of Symphony X to mind (Think Sea Of Lies) and the talent on display from all band members is incredible. The slick delivery of the intricate leads and guitar fills and the rhythmic precision of the complicated drumming captivates with ease and even when it slows in places, it still retains that fierceness. “Distant Anamnesis” is more atmospheric and slower paced number. With its short length, it is more of a transitional instrumental track and it lends more to the prominence and role of the synths and samples.
“Beneath Enriya” is one of the more atmosphere heavy tracks of the album. With instrumental arrangements featuring piano melodies, string sections and distorted heaviness, it keeps a relatively conserved pace, only seeming faster at times due to the complex arrangements. With moments of real intensity and impact, it has a solid sounding, dynamic delivery and this allows for the guitar wankery sections to really shine through! The epic feel songs don’t simply end here. “Alien Makers Of Discord” is a very sci-fi/surreal sounding, near 10 minute epic which again has a lot of dynamic delivery in it. With powerful sounding sections, heavy impacts and technical proficiency on display, it does engage the listener but at times, it can feel like a chore to endure.
“Cosmic Emissary” has a gratuitous amount of neoclassical guitar wankery rushing through it. The surging and frantic pace in combination with the symphonic elements and very Euro-Metal edge to it brings a lot of pomp and grandiose flair to the table whilst “Akaibara” which follows it is a total 180, an atmospheric, gradual build feel song which has more of an impact with regards to the emotional nature in the lyrics and the effect the string sections have. More subtle than the rest of the release, it is definitely a break from the fast paced wild delivery, acting as a good set up for the big ending track. “Where Masters Fall” is the grand finale for the album and once more, it goes back to the more metal sounding approach the band has, leaning again towards the feel of Symphony X and Dream Theater. Shifts of pace between surging and subdued, bouts of clean melodies and distorted heaviness, big sounding choruses and intricate progressions all duel for supremacy for the duration of this impressive but lengthy closing effort and as impressive as it is in places, it does feel fairly familiar in parts, a problem many progressive metal tracks of significant length can suffer from at times.
Overall, it’s bright up there in the skies Prospekt are taking to. Those who appreciate progressive metal, especially that which has been released in the past decade should find this rather easy to enjoy, but for those who tend to shy away from significant complexity and virtuosity, you’re better looking for the grim clouds of the murkier sounds.