The Third Grade – Of Fire and Ashes Part 2 (Art Gates Records)

Tuesday, 31st March 2020
Rating: 9/10

Conveying a brilliant, individual take on the progressive metal genre, The Third Grade from Spain are a four-piece outfit that explore multiple influences and atmospheres throughout this third full-length Of Fire and Ashes Part 2. The follow-up to their 2017 EP release which was their first for Art Gates Records, you’ll gain the opportunity within these nine tracks and over one-hour playback to understand a set of musicians and songs that can be very melodic and hook-driven, while also being bombastic or introspective often over the course of the same arrangement – the ideal push and pull aspect that makes progressive metal intriguing, exciting, and ever-evolving.

What’s immediately noticeable are the dual female/male vocals of guitarist/pianist Jose Masiá and singer Maria Cobos – both having rich, multi-octave melodic ranges, when they choose to harmonize together there are clusters of spots which recall classic Yes or Styx. Check out their work together in “Polaris” for instance during the tranquil, serene verses on through to the heavier sequences and most listeners will be mesmerized by their emotional magnificence and cinematic, theatrical, and vibrant switch-ups. The music can also possess equal versatility – guitars and keyboards that cascade like raindrops against Maria’s pop/symphonic melodies puts “Intertwine” into outer galaxy territory, the tapping and djent/heavy sequences swinging in the aural breeze to cause energy shifts of mammoth proportions, the drumming groovy while still progressive in an Opeth/Tool-like maze. Electronic/cyber pulsations signal the opening strains of “The Darkest Times”, an 8:22 cut featuring jagged guitars, atmosphere shifts of a clean to power variety and wild keyboard/guitar/rhythm section interplay that rivals Symphony X and Dream Theater during their prime creative years. Choosing to end the record on a 16-minute plus effort for “A Cold Awakening”, The Third Grade leave no stone unturned when it comes to musicianship in this epic – harmonies and melodies abound, layers of heavy crunch against circular progressive parts, acoustic embellishment and serene vocal harmonies keep interest on high to a bluesy, emotive lead break conclusion.

The Third Grade embrace elements of symphonic metal, modern metal, and progressive rock to keep these songs alive and kicking, where you will gain fresh insight and deeper appreciation on subsequent listens. Of Fire and Ashes Part 2 is an ideal record for those who want to step away a bit from the norm and enjoy solid mechanics and songwriting in the process.

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