Sometimes a band decimates our senses through an innovative, outside the box experience that you never saw coming. Other times, a band achieves the same sense of wonder by simply creating an experience that is finely tuned and just very well written. Anthriel’s new album “Transcendence” is definitely in the latter crowd, as the progressive metal on this album is somewhat by the numbers. What they lack in innovation, they make up for in heart and awesome writing.
Anthriel’s last outing seems like forever ago. The Finnish band released “The Pathway” all the way back in 2010, and I’d wondered if the band was gone for good. I rather enjoyed that debut with all its glorious prog metalisms, and I was thrilled when they finally announced this new album. There have been some changes in the line-up on drums and bass, and honestly I feel like for the better. The band now consists of Timo Niemistö on guitar, Antti Hakulinen on keys, Antti Horttana on bass, Henrikki Markkula on drums, and Simo Silvan on vocals.
Anthriel’s style is definitely progressive metal, complete with the fantastical themes, hefty riffs, lots of glorious keys, a dynamic singer, and an overly long epic to finish the album. For goodness’ sake, there is a song on this album called “Rhapsody of Fire”! Can it get any more progressive metal than that? All of these elements are done so very well, however, that you cannot help but love what you are hearing.
Anthriel has this way of carving awesome riffs and grooves out of nowhere. You honestly won’t even see the wall of rhythm before it takes hold of you, and there are these massive bassy booms that really punctuate certain songs with a cinematic feel. Timo’s guitars are heavy and intricate, with lots of headbanging moments available, not to mention the solos that feel like they are telling a story. Antti’s keys were my favorite part of the debut, and once again they shine: They range from ethereal atmospheres all the way down to more urban, bluesy piano moments that I really appreciate.
Henrikki’s drums and Antti’s bass feel quite rich with a satisfying oomph and a nice ominous hum from the bass. The more I listen to the album, the more I realize just how strong this rhythm section is. Oh, and, damn, do Simo’s vocals remind me of Mike Andersson from Cloudscape sometimes, and that’s a good thing. His tone is often like James Labrie’s, as well.
In more than a few ways, I think I like Anthriel because they give me what Dream Theater hasn’t produced since the early 90s: lots of space musically, but also lots of riffs and great keys. There is an artistry and melody to their music that doesn’t try to impress us with technicalities, but instead tries to offer a complete experience that stands out for its inspiration. Really, these guys just play and write their hearts out without caring whether or not they are reinventing the genre.
This album has several noteworthy tracks. “The Calling” is an intro of sorts that I honestly love: It has this cinematic feel, almost like it is inviting you into a whole new world. “Oath of Darkness” is a stunning 11+ minute song with lots of transitions and a central melody and riff that flows through your veins. “Siren’s Song” feels absolutely huge with lots of larger than life keys.
“My Dark Morning Star” is one of my favorites. The guitar work is incessant and melodic, but the song is still plenty heavy, too. As far as epics go, “Fallen Souls” is a great offering that never gets too pretentious for its own good. I love a good epic, and this one definitely keeps your interest, especially through the piano work it features. Honestly, it doesn’t feel 19+ minutes long.
“Transcendence” is an album that feels magical and very familiar, and that’s a very good thing. It’s definitely out there in themes, with all sorts of fallen souls and lots of fiery this and that, but it’s all part of an experience that will have you smiling in the end. I seriously hope that Anthriel does not take seven years to produce another fine piece of progressive metal.