Sonic Prophecy – Apocalyptic Promenade (Maple Metal Records)Sunday, 22nd March 2015
Forming in 2008 to capture the excitement of 80’s power metal and its current resurgence, Utah’s Sonic Prophecy know as a sextet the tough road they need to climb to establish legitimacy. Location aside (Katagory V and Visigoth are two metal bands that made inroads from the same Western state), the most popular acts in the genre these days climb out of mostly European countries. So trepidation regarding how the band’s second studio album Apocalyptic Promenade would unfold through the ears came to the forefront – especially as the prospect of an 11 song, 73 minute record could test the patience meter.
A major plus right out of the gate resides in Sonic Prophecy’s musical philosophy that two guitarists and one keyboardist allow the band to paint their arrangements with atmosphere and tension, but still remember at the core that this is power metal and not a cinematic, flowery version that forsakes any heaviness. You’ll be thinking in parts like Kamelot or Judas Priest, but given a little bit of that epic US sound that helped put early Queensrÿche or Blind Guardian on underground alert. Check out some of the killer twin Darrin Goodman/Sebastian Martin harmonies and active Ray Opheikens bass underpinning for “Temple of the Sun” or the Celtic folk twinges that give way to deeper cultural riffing on “Legendary” and you’ll understand their smart riff construction and dynamic differentiation.
The 12:41 “Oracle of the Damned/The Fist of God” could be a head turner or head scratcher as Apocalyptic Promenade’s epic opener. The narrative intro commands your attention the first 90 seconds, while vocalist Shane Provstgaard rides over the top as a bard delivering words to the huddled masses during this stirring track. His piercing screams put him in the Tate/Rivera category, but he also has a little Tobias Sammet nature to some of his lower register that makes the Kamelot-esque “Born of Steel and Fire” endearing (although a couple of fill spots by drummer Jeff Dreher seemed too forced or out of place). Prepare to partake in boiling volcanos, dominions of horrors, and frolicking/undulating visions that bring fantasy and sci-fi to life.
Four years between records can give a band plenty of time to churn out a boatload of ideas – the wish here would have been for a slightly shorter output though to separate the impressive songs from those that are merely okay (place “Hells Most Beautiful Angel” and “Dark Is the Dawn” here). Overall there are pockets of people that love traditional power metal not focused on speed and virtuosity but rather setting moods and exploring mid-tempo, epic, and/or slower textures. Sonic Prophecy is different than the norm, and for that be applauded.