After the somewhat dissapointing CD Machine, Artension has returned with their strongest release in years. Perhaps due to a few of the band members going off and doing other projects, the guys seem more focused and refreshed this time around. As a result the songs come across as more powerful and memorable than anything they have recorded since Phoenix Rising.
As many of you already know, lead singer John West joined Royal Hunt a little over a year ago, but still puts his recording time in with Artension when needed. Judging by his performance here, I'm sure the band is reveling in their decision to keep him around. West has one of the best voices in prog-metal today. His husky, Glenn Hughes inspired vocals turn "Running Out of Time" into one of the most memorable and melodic tunes the band has ever written. Likewise, on "The Killing" , West's snarling delivery perfectly complements the manic guitar and keyboard virtuosity from Roger Staffelbach and Vitalij Kuprij. In fact, Kuprij proves that he has the skills and drive to become one of the leaders of the new wave of keyboard maestros alongside Jordan Rudess, Erik Norlander, Michael Pinnella, and Derek Sherinian. One listen to his lightning classical riffs on "The Emperor" will give you goosebumps. The trio is reunited with original members Mike Terrana on drums and Kevin Chown on bass, which also might be another reason for the inspired playing and songwriting here, as this line-up was a formidable force on their first two releases.
There is something to be said about a band sticking to a tried and true formula and making it work. Artension has seemingly bounced back from a small rut and put together some of their strongest work to date. With a killer rhythm section, a hot shot guitar player, and two awesome forces in Kuprij and West, this group has all the tools. Add neat songs based on fantasy and sci-fi to their neo-classical metal sound, and you have one of the upper echelon bands working today. Now if only we could get a small tour out of them the package would be complete.