AEON ZEN – Transversal (2021)
AEON ZEN, one of the best rock / melodic progressive UK acts, unfortunately call time on career with final album titled ”Transversal”, to be released tomorrow. But they say goodbye with a great piece of music.
And we say piece of music because it happens that ”Transversal” despite being split across 10 tracks, is designed to be listened to as one song, just as it was written as a single piece of continuous music. It serves as their final, epic release as Aeon Zen end on a high and ambitious note.
It’s only 30-minute long, but with more substance than many rock albums out there. It’s a really good blend of melody and rocking pulse, think a mix of TEN, BALANCE OF POWER, SAGA, Nineties QUEENSRYCHE, GARY HUGHES…
The band were formed initially as a solo project for current Annihilator guitarist Rich Gray, released their debut album ‘A Mind’s Portrait’ in 2009 and have released four more albums, the most recent being Inveritas in 2019.
Lyrically, ”Transversal” looks back on a career with many twists and turns and expresses the love and gratitude that this band has put into the music and the wonderful experiences they received in return.
This thematic full circle, as can also be seen in the ”Transversal” artwork which contains elements of every previous Aeon Zen albums – provides perfect closure to the Aeon Zen journey.
They have designed this album as a way for them to go out with a bang, rather than just fade away, and oh how it does that. Structured as 10 parts of an overall piece, Aeon Zen have created a body of work that looks back and reflects on their career. And what a beautifully perfect circle it is.
Featuring as guests ex- Aeon Zen guitarist Matt Shepherd and ex-DragonForce keyboard player Vadim Pruzhanov, this album is a masterclass in progressive, and indeed musical technique and composition in general.
Full of soaring and catchy melodies, orchestrations, and harmonies, it paints a decadent and emotive musical picture full of so many layers that nothing I have to say will do it even the remotest bit of justice.
Opening with ‘I: Twilight’, the mode is set with atmospheric synths and strings, and beautifully harmonized vocals, all of which grow and swell to a climactic point featuring sumptuous guitar work, and insane cross rhythms.
Then, dropping back, it prepares the stage for the dawning of ‘II: A New Day’. In stark contrast, this begins in a spikier fashion, with staccato strings and timpani featuring heavily, alongside more fantastic guitars in harmony. This movement is driven by classic elements, making it a very cinematic piece. Simply stunning.
‘III: Chase The Sunrise’ shows us the real technical prowess of all the musicians here. It is fantastically prog, but with catchy hooks, and huge riffs. This theme continues throughout the album, as it gathers pace, and becomes more frenetic and full-on.
‘V: Force Of Fire’ is a powerful movement, giving way to a tense and intense minute in ‘VI: Lines Redrawn’, which also features a quite frankly epically delicious bit of guitar work. This is then instantly outdone by the opening guitar and synth work of ‘VII: Purgatory Rechristened’, which could have been written by Beethoven.
And this blistering movement just keeps getting better and better, teasing and exciting all my synapses. Holy hell, this album is something else!! This is what all rock music should sound like! It should be the law.
‘IX: It Ends As It Began’ is the penultimate piece of this mesmeric work, and it does indeed begin to close the gap on the circle, drawing from the rest of the album, in pace, rhythm, and harmony.
Darkness falls on the album with the final movement ‘X: Forever’. Beginning with cyclical piano in a minor key, it maintains the pace, and expansiveness, but begins to bring things down. It goes without saying that it’s entirely beautiful, and perfectly formed. It draws heavily on classic influences again, and comes to a close with just piano and voice…
In mere half hour, ”Transversal” delivers an absolute musical ecstasy. For sure the best Aeon Zen album – and that’s something, as all are good – and one of the best in this genre you’ll hear this year.
But this is very bittersweet. Tinged with sadness… Does this really have to be the end?
II: A New Day
III: Chase The Sunrise
IV: 10,000 Eyes
V: Force of Fire
VI: Lines Redrawn
VII: Purgatory Rechristened
VIII: Twilight Reprise
IX: It Ends As It Began
Andi Kravljaca – Lead Vocals
Rich Gray – Guitars, Bass, Backing Vocals, Keyboards
Alistair Bell – Lead Guitars
Vadim Pruzhanov – Guest Keyboards
Matt Shepherd – Guest Lead Guitar