Next To None – A Light in the Dark (Inside Out)Thursday, 17th September 2015
Young musicians need a lucky break or a network opportunity to establish themselves in this overcrowded heavy music scene today. In the case of Lehigh Valley area PA quartet Next To None, having the son of Mike Portnoy in your corner isn’t necessary a bad thing. Still in their teenage high school phase of life, A Light in the Dark sees the quartet step things up to the big leagues.
Assuredly comparisons to Dream Theater will pop up, as certain songs possess that driving guitar/keyboard propulsion while bassist Kris Rank and drummer Max Portnoy deftly handle the changing time signatures and key transposing. Take in the 10 minute plus “Control” or opener “The Edge of Sanity” and you’ll hear interplay and intuitive dynamics that usually take place in groups with a decade or so of experience together. Even throwing in video game sound clips (love the Pac-Man chopping) breaks up the progressive metal template a bit.
Overall, there is a more modern aspect to the proceedings – the musicians choose heavier tones, incorporating more of an emo-oriented vocal pattern as well with keyboardist Thomas Cuce plus cyber/power groove elements that will probably have many running for cover. The dual clean to metalcore scream method gives “Runaway” texture beyond the norm – the problem is, the main hook sounds like something I would expect from Trivium, not a progressive metal outfit. The classical keyboard pitch bending that opens “Lost” could have been something possibly shortened up a touch, as this six minute arrangement features a mini-drum solo from Max before the verses kick into gear.
Maybe the younger generation will dig the fusion of modern rock, alternative, and progressive metal present in this almost hour-long album. A Light in the Dark contains too many divergent elements that Next to None’s direction stylistically seems compromised. Who you know certainly opens doors, but in the end your own songwriting and performances will seal the deal for permanency.