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Metal/Prog Metal CD Reviews

Antiquus

Eleutheria

Review by Mike Korn

Antiquus is a peculiar name for a band but I suggest you make a place for it in your mental filing cabinet. You're going to be hearing a lot more of it in the years to come. In fact, I wouldn't be greatly surprised if some years down the road, Eleutheria will be considered on the level of a Sad Wings of Destiny, a Rage for Order or a Killers...a record that announced the arrival of a great new force on the metal scene.

Hailing from Vancouver, Antiquus is the kind of band who is not into metal for a quick buck or a Myspace page. Their classic approach is both epic and timeless and Eleutheria is meticulously and thoughtfully assembled in the manner of great concept albums. It is musically rooted in both 70's progressive hard rock and 80's power metal, yet it does not seem dated. With Jesse White, Antiquus has an awesome voice to relate their complex lyrics. White's voice is clear, pure and full of emotion, adding another layer to music already bursting with energy and ideas. White is not particularly reminiscent of any one singer, just as Antiquus doesn't sound like any one band. However, you can hear traces of classic Rush, Queensryche, Fates Warning, Iron Maiden and even Kansas in their sound.

Eleutheria sets up an intriguing tale that at first seems to be the story of a sea captain and a mutiny against him. Stick with it, though, and you will see it goes in a much different direction. By the last song "KT Event,” it takes on cosmic proportions. This is an album I can recommend without reservations to any lover of classy heavy metal, hard edged progressive rock or just great music in general.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2007 Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
O Captain, My Captain
This first track comes in hard and heavy but it doesn't take long for the band's trademark twin guitar melodies to enter the fray. Jesse White's pure, strong tones tell the story of a Captain who is given command of the ship Mercy Childe and who sets out for parts unknown. The flow of the track is tremendous as it easily segues from riff to riff and tempo to tempo. Andrew Bak's drumming is very hard hitting, a lot more than you hear in many prog metal bands. The whole tune is a terrific introduction to Antiquus' classy sound.
Eleutheria
The delicate guitar picking that starts this off gives the tune a mysterious and haunting sound. It's immediately obvious that guitarists Geoff Way and Trev Leonard are master soloists and they show their skill here with some terrific work. The cut soon gains heaviness and a straightforward chugging power that cuts right to the quick and then the pace picks up to speed metal velocity. The music is so much better with White's clean singing than the barking or shouting so many other vocalists would use. This cut is the album highlight.
Meta Incognita
The Captain gives a spoken narration which relates how the Mercy Childe has been taken over by mutineers and how they have set him adrift in the "Second Sea.” Musically, this is an extraordinarily beautiful acoustic ballad not a million miles away from Kansas' "Dust In the Wind.” Antiquus is one of the very few bands where the acoustic work is the equal of the heavy guitar and holds the attention just as well. The tune is the album's briefest but is no less effective for that.
Redemption
A tentative bass plucking initiates this tune, which also begins in a relaxing fashion but then kicks out the jams with some killer power metal riffing that will get the horns flying and the fists pumping. Jesse's vocal hooks are memorable and compelling and the guitarists let fly with some scorching lead soloing that will initiate a lot of air guitar. This is a very anthemic and uplifting metal song.
I Am Alive
This monster track, clocking in at over 11 minutes, definitely casts light on the epic side of Antiquus. It's got enough ideas for three or four lesser albums. The tempo is pretty fast in the early going, but the cut diverts itself into a lot of side alleys, including a long series of guitar arpeggios, an atmospheric vocal section where Jesse White again demonstrates his excellent voice and a more restrained acoustic part where we again hear the voices of characters delivering dialogue. It appears the Mercy Childe's Captain has been picked up and he is now on trial for the murder of the ship's pilot. This is such a huge track - reminiscent of Rush's "2112" in scope if not actual sound. Some may find it overbearing, particularly the narration, but everything contributes to the overall story.
Leaves of Grass
Crunching, surging heaviness and slamming drums start off this cut, which is only slightly less lengthy than "I Am Alive.” The mixture of crushing metal riffs and emotional guitar and vocal melodies is outstanding! Pay attention to the lyrics here, because several major revelations are given...but I won't reveal them. This is the most consistently heavy song, still boasting a very progressive structure that builds to a huge climax with tons of trade-off guitar soloing. This music is so cinematic; you can almost envision a movie made from it as you listen!
Mechanismo
There's more than a hint of old Queensryche and Fates Warning here. Scott Unger's excellent basswork, so unintrusive yet so important, underpins this tune, which is based on choppy power riffing and lots of twin guitar harmonies. I wouldn't say this is the album's standout track, but for many other bands and albums, it would be.
KT Event
What an incredibly beautiful and moving ballad this is. Usually I hate ballads on metal albums, but Antiquus again defies the stereotype. The acoustic guitar melodies are just wonderful and White's vocals are heart-breakingly moving. There's some electric guitar on show, too, but the overall feeling is sad and melancholy. The "KT Event" was the great disaster at the end of the Cretaceous period that spelled doom for the dinosaurs and this is what the song is about. How it ties into the story of the Mercy Childe, I don't know, but it certainly gives it a cosmic feeling. This quiet piece ends a tremendous album with just as much emotion as a raging metal monster.
 
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