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Aeon Zen

The Face of the Unknown

Review by Josh Turner

The title of this album is a bit of a misnomer since it features well-known talent. At the same time, its mastermind is a 21-year old wunderkind named “Rich Hinks” who writes, produces, sings, and plays numerous instruments. He then shows maturity and awareness by reaching out and acquiring the services of a several notable guests. The result of his efforts make for a very good album. From A to Z, Aeon Zen’s The Face of the Unknown has something for everyone and will impress the most veteran ear.

What’s great about Aeon Zen’s The Face of the Unknown is that many of its starters first surfaced while Hinks was still in diapers. There’s hope for the genre when somebody so talented and young has stepped up to the plate.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2010  Volume 6 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Salvation

Hitting the listener with an unexpected curveball, a fast-paced number starts the album. Instruments fly with the ingenuity of Magellen. There are time-signature changeups on the level of Tiles. What shines here is Hinks’ ability to make a complex yet refined composition. Obvious references could be made to Dream Theater’s Images and Words. Even so, this musical collage has a modern feel and the closing notes are chilling.

Visions
In the follow-up, the guitars climb the rafters like Queen’s Brian May while the singing is more along the lines of Boston and Kansas. It’s consistent with the last but it’s far from redundant. While the lyrics imply that the protagonist’s lips are sealed, Andi Kravljaca has no problem knocking this one out of the park.
The Heart of the Sun

This takes its direction from Symphony X, Hourglass, and Frameshift. Like those balanced acts, soaring guitars and keyboards help to maintain equilibrium where there is heaviness.

Crystal Skies

Due to the fact that Nick D’Virgilio dotes on every verse, this takes on a different mood than the others. His expressions are less dense without losing much power. While the composition and instrumentations are solid, it’s the corked pipes—of this drummer gone singer—that earn the MVP here.

Natural Selection

 Again, a new voice takes Team Hinks in a different direction. Jem Godfrey’s buoyancy sends this one floating over the fence.

The Face of the Unknown

The title track is the best representation of Hinks’ potential. In no-nonsense fashion, he does a little bit of everything. After the wind-up, the song becomes prosaic in a pinch. When circling the bases, it takes on a casual gait. This would be cookie-cutter if it weren’t for his crackerjack execution and Kravljaca’s homerun-hitting notes.

You’re Not Alone

Rather than succumb to the seventh-inning stretch, he presents a number that one-ups previous efforts. The pianos provide passion in the intro. Subsequently, Hinks takes the lead with his singing and his output is superb. Due to a mound of creativity, this short ditty is one for the highlight reel. Additionally, this seems to be music-school inspired. The first part could be presented in a play setting. The latter is madrigal—almost formal—in nature whereas the third movement combines the two tactics. It’s a cool experiment that fuses commercial facets to classical gambits. It very well could have been influenced by Queen’s A Night at the Opera.

My Sacrifice

Away from stadium lights, we step into darkness and are met by a couple blunt instruments. The guitars growl while the basses bark. The singer’s ominous notes are daunting. Eerily, this is a lot like Dream Theater’s cover of Deep Purple’s “Perfect Strangers.”

Start Over

At the bottom of the ninth, the curtains ascend as we enter into a movie score realm. Lyrically and in its delivery, it’s apparent this has been influenced from reverie under the shadow of Porcupine Tree’s Fear of a Blank Planet. Likewise, its germ has likely grown from the loam of Blackfield’s turf.

Redemption’s Shadow

This outdoes all other tracks, because the wave of energy it elicits is awe-inspiring. There is interplay between slow balls and heat seekers. A melodious blitzkrieg comes at fans from all directions. It’s like led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir;” however, it’s as if its player have downed a six-pack of five-hour energy shots apiece. Due to its no-holds-barred approach, it’s the album’s overriding highlight; a grand slam that seals the deal. This is sure to be replayed on the stereos and in the minds of spectators. In other words, there is no afternoon crash after this bombastic rally completes the album.

 
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