Empyrios – Zion (Scarlet Records)

Wednesday, 17th April 2013
Rating: 8.5/10

Progressive metal is a wide open playing field these days. Many artists focus on technical brilliance, at the expense of writing anything remotely relatable to the average music consumer. Others though, synthesize elements from diverse genre camps in the quest to create their own piece of the landscape.

On their debut album And The Rest Is Silence, Italy’s Empyrios appeared content to develop with Symphony X/Nevermore fluidity and attack. This third studio offering Zion may have elements of both – but it appears the quartet has been taking in copious amounts of Devin Townsend’s Strapping Young Lad catalog, along with doses of Fear Factory and Meshuggah low-tuned polyrhythmic insanity.

The key to great progressive metal in my view is retaining an underlining riff or vocal melody current that is somewhat down to earth – amidst all the time signature drum shuffles and dazzling axe and bass displays. Zion fortunately is chock full of hooks and jaw dropping songwriting; the jab and stabbing “Masters,” the industrialized, mechanized meets smooth progressive metalized “Unplugged,” or the calmer, reflective title cut all rating high on my radar screen.

Silvio Mancini as a vocalist can power things with a Russell Allen edge and also be devastating with his extreme screams, check out “Nescience” and “Reverie” for polar opposite deliveries that elevate Empyrios to the more original terrain to stand head and shoulders above the Dream Theater imitation pack. Add to this guitarist Simone Mularoni’s obvious jazzy-fueled meets Jeff Loomis/Yngwie Malmsteen lead break propensity and you’ll quickly discover plenty to latch onto with each successive exposure.

Zion could have a wide appeal, as I can see the younger generation enjoying the low tuned bounciness while the 30-somethings and above freak out over the genre splicing and stellar musicianship.


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