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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Aeon Zen

Enigma

Review by Greg Olma

Aeon Zen is a new progressive metal band that I was recently turned onto by a friend.  It still amazes me that even in a time when there are so many bands out there, things slip through my fingers and I don’t discover these groups until they are a few records into their career.  Aeon Zen is a prime example of a band that was not on my radar but now after hearing their third release Enigma, I am hooked.  These guys are based out of the UK and have been making music for the past four years, yet I am just getting to them now.  I guess it’s better late than never.  While each of them is a master of his instrument, they possess the ability to create great songs and forego the musical self-indulgence into which a lot of prog ands fall.  They are definitely influenced by Dream Theater but they add touches of harsh vocal here and there to splice in a bit of a modern sound.  Andi Kravljaca has a great voice and he uses it to full effect throughout this release.  There are a number of guest vocalists who add to the overall sound but still manage to give Enigma a nice continuity.  The other stars of this record are the guitarists Rich Hinks and Matt Shepherd.  These two know their way around a fretboard but always have the song in mind when performing.  Enigma is a very solid release and although the year is still young, this record is already in my top ten for 2013.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2013  Volume 3 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Enter the Enigma
The CD starts off with this three minute instrumental that is very dramatic.  It is fairly typical for a lot of prog releases but it does build things up nicely for the main group of songs.
Artificial Soul

Starting with some dreamy vocals, this track has many parts that have elements of Dream Theater (the heavier sections) and Marillion (the softer portions).  You can make out many different vocalists here but they are not that different so it doesn’t distract from the song.  There is also some great soloing from Hinks.

Divinity
This cut starts off extremely heavy and adds some of those “cookie-monster” vocals that I usually despise but here they somehow work. The track only utilizes this vocal approach for just a little bit and then we get the clean vocals and a heavier prog song.  Even though the cut does start off really heavy, it ends on a more traditional prog metal sound.
Seven Hills

I was surprised at this ballad of a track.  It is basically piano and keyboards with vocals on top.  While it’s nice to get some variation, I would have put this later in the disc.  That is pretty much my only complaint on the whole record.

Warning
The start of this track is very much like “Enter the Enigma” with its dramatic feel but as the cut progresses, it becomes quite a riff heavy tune.  It reminds me of the heavier side of Dream Theater but the vocals have a bit of that hair metal style here and there.  Towards the middle of this piece, I hear some Enchant influences.  The song ends with some great soloing from Hinks.
Turned To Ash

If you are a fan of the band Enchant, this track is for you.  It has that perfect mix of keyboards, vocals, and riffing.  Each instrument complements the other and creates a full sound without overloading the sound.  If pressed on which cut is my favorite, I would have to say “Turn To Ash” but that would be like asking you which is your favorite child.

Still Human
This track contains some heavy riffing but mixes that with prog metal and symphonic metal.  For those of you who listen to metal, you know what I am getting at.  It has some of that majestic sound that symphonic metal is associated with yet it has an underlying prog metal sound that can’t be ignored. 
Eternal Snow
The Dream Theater influences are really prevalent on this piece.  It reminds me of “Learning to Live” off of Images and Words.  The cut builds as it moves along and there is some great riffing along the way.  Those “cookie-monster” vocals also make an appearance during the heavier riffing end.
Downfall
The album ends with a funky progressive piece that is quite heavy in parts.  There is a great piano middle section that reminds me of Enchant.  It is a great way to finish off Enigma because it makes you want to start the whole disc all over again.
 
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