BMH Audio 2018
Bedfordshire band brace themselves for victory lap but stop short of getting laurel wreath.
With eyes on the prize, this English ensemble seemed determined to win it, and 2014’s "Caerus" – the quintet’s second album that stressed their love for classicism went way beyond Latin titles – was a true contender at the time when competition in a prog metal field became heavy. “Invicta” had to take the group on a pedestal yet, sadly, the lads’ sense of self-importance prevailed, and postponed potential triumph until the next record. Which doesn’t mean there’s no abundance of abandon on display here.
Of course, following the story told across the ten tracks is optional, once the urgent splashes of “Quetzlcoatl” have shaped up a special atmosphere whose picturesque heroics are cleverly compromised by infectious choruses and dynamic lapses that add pop sensibility to the heady mix of hefty riffs and cosmic ivories, but the bare vocal harmonies scattered around other pieces won’t fail to keep the listener focused. A cappella passages infuse “For Our Lives” with irresistible magnetism before dissolving the assault in folk-tinctured reflection, and turn “The Light Fantastic” into a tapestry of blinding interplay and the impressive range of Matt Young’s pipes. Stripped of clanging intent, “Line In The Sand” is a deep ballad which opens the doors to a different dimension of the ensemble’s multiverse where spaced-out synthesizers reign supreme, yet the elegantly ticking piano leading to “Ultimatum” adds softness to its ticking expanse, while “Pariah” exposes Al Beveridge and Tom Smith’s sensual guitar weave.
Still, the 15-minute drama of “The Devil’s Coin” may test a fan’s patience despite the epic’s inner variety in terms of tempos and moods, although it’s more of a demonstration of the band’s technical abilities than a proper aural spectacle – unlike “Victorious” that’s an almost orchestral, spiritual surrender to the glory. One step beyond, and the deed will be done.