With the cover art and a name like Thoughts Factory, it was always going to be a bit of a surprise if this German band turned out to be brutal Death Metal. Nope, Progressive Metal of a high standard is the order of the day, and on this, the band’s second album, they get to hone their sound and spread their creative wings even wider…right from the start. Dream Theater and Symphony X are obvious and easy comparisons, not only because of this bands style, but also because of their polished, complex delivery, but that’s not the whole story.

Mind Odyssey were another band that sprang to mind as the first track kicked in…but as the song is actually called ‘Mind Odyssey’, there was no great mental leap there after all – but there’s definitely a hint of their fellow countrymen about the track, so maybe a bit of a tribute? Happily for yours truly, Thoughts Factory steer clear of getting too complex and self indulgent, a trait they share with Symphony X, Vanden Plas, Shadow Gallery and the like – the music is suitably technical, but there is usually a memorable melody lurking nearby – whether it’s via vocal, keys or guitar, it’s an essential part of each composition.

Thoughts Factory’s overall sound is mainly aimed at the Metal end of the progressive spectrum. It stops short of extreme metal territory and dwells happily among professionally crafted Progressive Metal with its roots in the late 80s/early 90’s Fates Warning/Dream Theater era, rather than the more twiddly, inward-looking progressive rock of the 70’s. Each song is suitably different to the previous one and each preceding track has different elements to that. All band members are of course excellent at their craft both individually, but importantly as a unit as well.

They are brave enough to throw in a ‘The Ytse Jam’ type instrumental as early as the third track (despite the vocals on all the other tracks being of the highest quality and delivered as well as you could possibly hope for on an album such as this), such is the confidence this band already possesses. And really, that’s possibly the key to the album – it’s projected and sculpted in such a way that belies a band on their second offering. It exudes a vibe that makes you feel they have been doing this for years so surely you must have heard something by them before? Yet when you really listen and embrace this rewarding release, Thoughts Factory have their own subtle take on this formidable genre, and as someone who has heard a lot of albums in this style over the years, it’s great to hear this fresh, yet familiar approach to it.

(8/10 Andy Barker)