PYRAMAZE – Epitaph (2020)
If you enjoy your prog metal full of melody, emotive vocals, plenty of hooks and big choruses, then, you need to discover this amazing Danish band: PYRAMAZE. These Scandinavians delivers on all levels, and their new album “Epitaph” should be their best so far.
What makes this album so enjoyable is the underlying emotion at the base of each song. There aren’t any risks being taken here, but that’s not what this kind of music is about. “Epitaph” lets you escape into a beautiful musical landscape as each track paints a picture and tells its own story.
The album’s strength lies in its ability to allow you to listen effortlessly as you journey through each song. Each note has its proper place; nothing is wasted or unnecessary.
And they rock, greatly, delivering terrific anthemic songs, and helped by a fantastic mix / production courtesy of Jacob Hansen.
Formed in 2001 by guitarist Michael Kammeyer, a root system of sorts was thus established with a permanent fold of musicians that included the highly prolific vocalist and Nightmare Records owner Lance King, and this very root system would find itself cut away as King and his brief successor in Iced Earth’s Matt Barlow would part ways with the fold, and eventually Kammeyer himself would retire with this band still arguably in its adolescence.
Though many years would pass between their 2008 studio album “Immortal” and a follow up, the remnant of Pyramaze’s lineup would prove undeterred and like the weeping willow alluded to previously, would take root once again with the triumphant comeback that was 2015’s “Disciples Of The Sun” (featured here at 0dayrox).
With a highly charismatic new front man Terje Haroy, perhaps best known for his work on the Norwegian metal act Memorized Dreams, and the band’s longtime producer Jacob Hansen assuming guitar and bass duties, this album would prove a formidable and more modernized comeback by an act that most were about to consign to the memory of the prior decade.
Yet while all of this was accomplished and a highly ambitious, if somewhat underwhelming, follow up in the 2017 post-apocalyptic conceptual work “Contingent”, some of the band’s early fan base were missing the mystique of the fantasy-driven storytelling of the Lance King years and the more power thrashing intensity featuring Barlow at the helm.
It is into this context that 2020’s “Epitaph” emerges to challenge any naysayers regarding this outfit’s post-2000s incarnation.
Far from being an overt throwback to the days of power metal yore, what has been accomplished here on “Epitaph” is better understood as a brilliant synthesis of this band’s newer, brighter and more progressive sound with the melodic splendor and drive of the good old days.
The first taste of this mixture of past and present manifests in a cinematic prelude and extravaganza of keyboard-produced orchestral pomp as only Jonah Weingarten can muster in the instrumental opener and title song “Epitaph”.
Feeding off the rise in drama built off the aforementioned intro, the colossal opening pounder “A Stroke Of Magic” begins with a mighty thud, sticking a tad closer to the rhythmic nuance of the band’s most recent offerings, but having more harmonic interplay between the guitars and keyboards, often reminiscing upon the loftier moments of “Immortal.”
Other examples of mid-paced, prog-infused rock majesty such as “Particle” and “World Foregone” tread a similar stylistic path, but lean a bit more heavily on the newer side of the Pyramaze coin and remind heavily of standout moments originally heard on “Disciples Of The Sun.”
The animated anthem “Final Hour” showcases a different sonic approach while chugging along at a fairly swift tempo, though the lead guitarist showcase by Toke Skjonnemand is the chief draw as his flashy guitar solo segment sees him paying tribute to Brian May with a less than subtle partial quotation of a passage of “Bohemian Rhapsody”.
The modern chug-fests in the riff department such as “Steal My Crown” and “Indestructible” prove highly infectious, and Terje’s soaring howls even sound a bit similar to what Lance King originally brought to said album at times. The symphonic duet with Unleash The Archers vocalist Britney Slayes also hearkens back to the primordial days of the band, albeit with a chunkier production and a female vocal foil about as gritty and intense as her counterpart.
As a whole this album is a monumental accomplishment, but amid the compact and highly engaging songwriting that rounds out the lion’s share of its duration, the absolute coup de grace comes at its conclusion in the form of a 12 minute magnum opus dubbed “The Time Traveler”.
The genesis of this masterwork was likely the famed 2016 Power/Prog performance that featured this already formidable outfit reunited with their two prior front men, Matt Barlow and Lance King respectively, and the trio vocal assault that emerged then was so astounding to fans the world over that it just begged for a studio successor.
The song itself stands as one of the more ambitious works ever dedicated to recording in all of prog metal’s history, blending every characteristic from this band’s near 20 year history into a singular epic tale.
The synchronicity between Barlow’s beastly roar and King’s hypnotic, almost esoteric croon with Haroy embodying a perfect middle ground between the two is nothing short of breath-taking, and the instrumental performance surrounding them is nothing short of magical.
Every album is regarded as a band’s best effort when it’s about to hit the shelves and the hype machine is in full force, but this is one where the hype falls far short of the fact.
“Epitaph” is a melodic prog metal little masterpiece.
01 – Epitaph
02 – A Stroke of Magic
03 – Steal My Crown
04 – Knights in Shining Armour
05 – Bird of Prey
06 – Your Last Call
07 – Particle
08 – Indestructable
09 – Transcendence (feat Brittney Slayes)
10 – Final Hour
11 – World Foregone
12 – The Time Traveller (feat Lance King & Matt Barlow)
Terje Harøy – vocals
Jacob Hansen – guitars, bass
Jonah Weingarten – keyboards
Toke Skjønnemand – lead guitars
Morten Gade Sørensen – drums