It’s handy to have contacts. Without naming names and probably without needing to, the guy behind this Belgian progressive thrash metal project has roped in vocalists from Soilwork, Revocation, Dagoba, Uneven Structure and a bunch of others for this album. Hopefully it wasn’t going to be a case of “vocalist spotting” and the whole was going to be greater than the parts, I thought to myself, as I looked at this cheesily titled album in advance of playing it.
The excessively flowery, self-indulgent intro didn’t put me in the right space, but as often is the case the first real track “Thrive” bore no resemblance to it. I sensed death metal coming on, and it came. Bizarrely two and a half minutes in there’s a clean melo chorus, signalling Mr Strid’s arrival. With flamboyant guitar work going on, the death metal resumed before the flat chorus rudely interrupts it again. Oh, it was apparently time for a languidly widdly guitar solo. Can someone tell me what’s going on round here? At least the impressively crunchy death metal is taken forward into “I Bleed Worlds”. The cogs turn, it grinds us down as good death metal should do but bloody hell, that sodding guitar widdlery reappears, but it’s ok, death metal resumes in an epic and progressive form. This is like Battle of the Bands. Various iterations of technical thrash, sombre moodiness and death metal later, it ends and I’m none the wiser about all this.
“The Death of Spheres”, which is in two parts had more discipline, I’m pleased to say, and didn’t go off at tangents. Part I is impressive. The colourful instrumental work is reined in and enhances the impressively dark djenty metal. Part II takes it forward in an airy and haunting way. I recognised the vocals instantly as those of Uneven Structure’s Matthieu Romarin. Indeed Part II is in their style. The style of this album depends on the track, which for me is not a plus point, but that’s what is and so the majestic and moody “The Death of Spheres” is followed by a piece of thrash metal. In fact “Utopia” isn’t that but a hybrid of thrash, Queen like pomp, prog metal bombast, flowery power metal and a bit of thumping death metal again. And let’s not forget the guitar solo. It’s not random but I hesitate to call this fluid. I guess it’s progressive at heart but there’s so much self-indulgence here that it’s tough to follow the progress. What actually follows “Utopia” is an acoustic classical-style dreamathon called “Lunar” – quite pleasant but as ever unpredictable in terms of context as there doesn’t appear to be a context to this album.
After all that had gone before, I was almost breaking into a cold sweat at the prospect of listening to the 18 minute “Always in Motion”. I must say I did like the lush colours that started it, but it turns out to be a meaningless intro as the world changes colours … several times. While it’s sorting out what it is, there’s an impressive extreme section. The instrumentals have urgency and match the harsh vocals but inevitably it’s spoilt with a cheesy harmony. Sindre Nedland and Björn Strid supply the vocals. My issue is not with them, nor indeed with the quality of the alternating heavy and lush instrumentals, but with the bewildering structure. On it blunders through thrashing fields and acoustic Mediterranean lands. The weather turns stormy, which all leads to a wondrous world of progressive bassy darkness. As throughout this album, the darker deathly sections had impact for me, but watering them down with emotive harmonised sections didn’t work and detracted from that impact. A saxophone solo comes in after 16 minutes and it’s good, but there was just too much happening here for it to make sense. I could see that the lyrics pointed to flying high and across the seas in a quest for learning, but the music didn’t convey that to me. The album did have a nice measured ending in the instrumental “Solar” to round things off.
“Thriving Force” is a bold venture, I suppose, and credit to Tom Tee for rounding up all his collaborators, but it doesn’t really come off. I don’t know what this was supposed to be. The quality of the musicianship and vocals is good, but as a production and musical experience, this was a mess.
(5/10 Andrew Doherty)