Heir To Madness – Nightflyers (Self-Released)Wednesday, 17th May 2023
Probably not as rare a story to hear as most in the music world when it comes to the latest album release for Texas-based progressive metal/rock act Heir to Madness. Under the helm of Jason Wiscarson, his previous full-length The Citadel came out in 2008, then he went into the corporate world for numerous years before the creative bug hit again to execute a follow-up effort. Well fifteen years later, Nightflyers sees the light of day, and it’s a testament to the perseverance and passion Jason has for this style – blending together a mix of sophisticated progressive metal with moody, emotionally captivating vocal melodies as well as brooding musical transitions/shifts that keep the listener fixated on what could happen next.
Tackling all the instrumentation, it’s evident that Jason has remarkable tact and finesse throughout these nine songs – able to push the time signatures in intricate measures yet knowing when to pull back for a more melodic, catchier measure. His drumming is superb during “Spit in My Third Eye”, especially free-flowing at the back half of the arrangement when choosing to inject a lead break that’s equally alluring as it is tasteful to the main musical components on hand. Vocally the delivery comes from more of a progressive rock meets slightly alternative veneer – another aspect that can make for immediate appeal, especially the exotic-oriented textures for “Gottfried All Night”, leading to some sinister guitar, bass, and drum interplay movements that progressive mavens treasure. Worry occasionally can creep in when looking at longer arrangements chock full of ideas that can branch off into specialized atmospheres – Heir to Madness though always reigns things in either with softer, calmer sequences or circular aspects that seem easier on the ears, making songs like “Pawns, Rooks & Kings” and “Little Deaths” healthy to consume even as nine to ten-minute plus tracks. Ironically leaving the title track as the shortest song last, it’s a soothing conclusion that brings about Katatonia meets Porcupine Tree aspects in terms of the clean guitar lines, lower, emotionally driven vocal melodies, killer harmony layers, and general brooding feel that contrasts darkness into light.
We should be thankful that artists like Jason still willingly take years to compose, record, and deliver their work to the world – as in the end, Nightflyers is a mandatory record for all who love progressive rock/metal that pulls from a variety of intriguing sources in its aural tapestry.