AEON ZEN – Enigma (2013)
AEON ZEN was founded in 2008 in UK by multi-instrumentalist Rich Hinks (vocals/guitar/bass) who has brought on board newer recruits Matt Shepherd (guitar), Shaz (keyboards) and Steve Burton (drums) for their latest release “Enigma”.
In addition, Hinks has enlisted the talents of vocalists Andi Kravljaca (Silent Call), Atle Pettersen (Above Symmetry), Jonny Tatum (Eumeria) and Nate Loosemore (Lost in Thought).
Aeon Zen specializes in upbeat, melodic progressive metal, long on soaring vocal harmonies, heavy riffs, symphonic keyboards and strong hooks. They can also dazzle you with instrumental virtuosity as well, but “Enigma” is not all about shredding or solos but songs, and the power, drama and emotion they carry.
The CD starts with a nuanced, eerie sound that creeps up on you in the form of the opening track “Enter The Enigma”, an instrumental with a melee of strings, distorted guitars and thundering drums giving an almost sympho metal feel.
This rolls straight into one of the best tracks on the album: “Artificial Soul”, with layered vocals accompanying a blistering riff after the opening build up. The song is a perfect example of all this band can deliver, which includes crisp, powerful instrumentation and some memorable melodies.
Next track “Divinity” musically at the beginning scared me a bit, as the opening vocals are growl in the death-metal style, not my cup of tea for sure. But immediately a soaring clean singer appears and the song turns into a great heavy prog metal as it should be. The riff is really heavy over double bass drumming, fat bass and dark keys.
“Warning” has a bit of a Dream Theater-meets-Vanden Plas feel to it (some great vocals and guitar riffs here), and the engaging “Turned to Ash” mixes lush progressive rock with modern metal riffs for a truly enjoyable listening experience.
In fact, this band does the straight Prog thing quite well, best heard on the excellent ballad “Seven Hills”, and later in “Eternal Snow”, a gorgeous number featuring majestic piano, and guest female and male vocals making for a really rich and full sound, that surprisingly turns into a crushing symphonic metal track at the very end for an intriguing turn of events.
Also, look for some wonderful jazzy saxophone on the otherwise bruising Dream Theater-styled epic progressive metal of superb closer “Downfall”, which is chock full of sizzling guitar work and majestic keyboards.
This CD version features 2 exclusive bonus tracks: the superb uptempo “Survival” featuring monster breaks and a very accomplished vocal work, and the groovy, more classic “Time Divine 2.0”, a really powerful number.
“Enigma” is pure Prog Metal in the absolute definition of the genre. Although Aeon Zen is truly controlled by Hinks, his bandmates’ musicianship is out of this world.
The songs are tight, full of great riffs, giant rhythm section and stunning keyboard parts. Also the singers are terrific, clean but powerful, alternating high pitched moments with really melodic performances. Production & mix are perfect, and grand part of the success of this killer release.
Rock solid from top to bottom, “Enigma” shows a band truly on the rise creating some of the most intriguing and enjoyable pure Progressive Metal being released in recent years. Make sure you don’t miss this one.
01. Enter The Enigma
02. Artificial Soul
04. Seven Hills
06. Turned To Ash
07. Still Human
08. Eternal Snow
CD Only Bonus Tracks ;
11. Time Divine 2.0
Rich Hinks – vocals, guitar, bass
Matt Shepherd – guitar
Shaz – keyboards
Steve Burton – drums
Andi Kravljaca (Silent Call) – vocals
Atle Pettersen (Above Symmetry) – vocals
Jonny Tatum (Eumeria) – vocals
Nate Loosemore (Lost in Thought) – vocals
BUY IT !