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Thought Chamber: Psykerion

Welcome inside the Thought Chamber. Yes, one of the coolest band names I've heard since…of course…Dream Theater. Well…first I must admit that I missed the early train leaving the station to review their last album, Angular Perceptions, which was another masterpiece. So, I am writing this review a day after receiving the promo to make certain history does not repeat.

The creators in the Thought Chamber are Ted Leonard, on lead vocals; Michael Harris, composer, guitars, keyboards, and harmony vocals; Jeff Plant, bass; Bill Jenkins, keyboards, (Enchant); and Mike Haid on drums.

Psykerion is a concept album drawing together elements of prog-metal, jazz-fusion and acoustic rock. The concept behind Psykerion as described by Michael Harris, the composer and chief lyricist is, "somewhere between sci-fi and a human drama, and musically somewhere between the furious and the tranquil. The story takes place well into the future and is told from the eyes of a young boy, Avakus. While witnessing a perilous mission aboard the futuristic city-like ship, Kerakryps - One, as it traverses through the galaxy of Psykerion, Avakus' life is forever altered, causing him to reflect on and question his own life, as well as the objectives & destiny of all mankind". Psykerion is a 16 track monster, clocking in at just over 64 minutes of mind bending music.

It will be released on September 16th, 2013 in Europe and on October 1st, 2013 in North America via InsideOutMusic. The album's cover artwork, was designed by John E. Holland at MistyMountainGraphics.com. This band knows how to locate the best artists for their album covers. Their last album, Angular Perceptions had one of the best album covers and artwork of 2007. Psykerion's cover maintains the standard well. I am looking forward to purchasing the full CD to see all of the artwork when the album is available.

The album was mixed and mastered by Tom Size, (Y&T, Aerosmith, Mr. Big, Enchant), at Tomland Studios in Pacheco, CA.

I advise headphones for this one. After all it is a thought chamber, right? You will be better able to appreciate all the time and effort devoted to the album mastering by Tom Size. However, roaring down the freeway you will probably get just as much enjoyment.

The opener "Inceptus" kicks off with solid drums, space flight level lead electric guitars, signpost bass, and launching keyboards before the real rumble of drums, the grinding engines of the lead electrics and the soaring keys take off. Ignition and lift – off.

"Exodus" opens with spacey zero gravity keys. Like something I hope to experience from the movie Gravity next month. This opening keyboard sound will give you that effortlessly floating feeling immediately. But prepare for thundering drums, roaring guitars, soaring diamond keys, heavy bass and plenty of space atmospherics.

When you hear some great Geddy Lee level bass guitar you know you will have made it to "Psykerion: The Question". Thought Chamber waits until this third track to unleash the dynamic vocals of Ted Leonard. Leonard's vocals will take you back to Steve Walsh's vocals from some of the classics of the band Kansas. When he sings, "Eyes unyielding through a cosmic sea. World of conquest. Furthest degree fate upon us. Spirit reborn to reach Psykerion". It really is remarkable the unbelievable similarities. In this part of the thought experience we fly through space and then dive through the atmosphere of a planet; experiencing "Rapid is our descent. Burning through the atmosphere. Blinded by prismatic light approaching us so near. Quadrant Three trajectory a treacherous travail".

Then acoustic guitar welcomes us to "In the Words of Avakus". Despite the awesome acoustic guitar and soft keys, everything is not copacetic. Leonard sings, "Spinning through time; on a decline. Trapped in the world around me all that I see is obscurity. Yet my purpose seems so clear a varying scope. A glimmer of hope radiating through me. Still the darkness will transcend". The acoustic guitar accompanying him will take you back to Rush and some of Dream Theater's best tracks. Later Leonard sings, "But as I stand, tomorrow's hand reaches over to me. Lending courage to my cause".

"Light Year Time" opens like a great Kansas/Yes match; full of those deep organ keys and heavy bass you remember, and of course Leonard's Walsh – like vocals. The highs he reaches will bring back so many magic moments of Kansas' past. One of the best tracks, full of emotion and great vocals. The keyboard interlude in the middle of the song will take you back to classic Styx, but the heavy electric guitar will bring you back to the Thought Chamber.

"Kerakryps" opens with excellent deep space atmospherics along with some deep bass accompanying. Leonard's vocals deepen as he draws a lyrical picture of the city like ship. Avakus speaks through Leonard to his mother and father, "I'm sorry we're apart. And to my dearest Leva, I give you all my heart. I promise you we will return. Our mission will not fail". Spacey keys, excellent cymbal work, deep punctuating bass and solid drums flow with the metal guitars and Dream Theater like sounds filling the air.

Michael Harris, the chief composer, whose father is a jazz musician, definitely displays his jazz influence during "The Black Hole Lounge". The little over a minute, instrumental jazz excursion will take you away to maybe the "Cantina Scene" from Star Wars, only with less of the oddities.

But the power eventually transitions back to a heavier rocker on "Circuits of O.D.D.". This song is full of some dramatic keyboards reminiscent of Jordan Rudess and others as the bass and lead guitars build momentum.

"Behind the Eyes of Ikk" opens with flashy electronics and atmospheric effects that must be heard with headphones to appreciate their full effect. They will otherwise freak out the neighbors if played loud on good speakers. (At least that was my experience). The Rudess – like keys will stun and amaze. But the metal grinder guitars fill the air with power. Leonard's Walsh – like vocals get better with each track. The piano played later in the track is another brilliant album highlight. More great Geddy Lee – like deep bass chords as well. This is the second longest track at 8:36, so sit back and get comfortable for the symphonic ride.

Ocean waves and soft keys fill the air on the "Isle of Bizen". Cool spacey keys and an almost Yes, "And You and I', acoustic guitar melody helps lift spirits even higher. Yah, imagine "And You and I' with an ocean opening. Nice. Only this time Leonard has you thinking Walsh singing the Yes classic. After all, this is a thought chamber and why not drift a little. But the lyrics here are full of their own inspiration. My second favorite track on the album.

"Xyrethius II" opens with those dark, but grandiose eerie keys, before a soaring lead electric guitar solo rocks through the atmosphere. The solo continues until the heavy bass, pounding drums and surrounding keys join in on the ride that then later turns to a march. A wonderful spacey instrumental.

"Recoil" opens with cool lead electric guitar and searing violin. The power drums, heavy bass return, with more excellent keyboards that will just lift your mind beyond the atmosphere.

"Breath of Life" is a wonderful mood altering soft guitar and deep melotronic/organ keyed track that will further relax the mind and body. Leonard sings, "While we're here. If we face the fear. And we will live one more day". Then he explodes with some of his most powerful vocals on the word "day". The synthesizers and keys that follow are great.

"Transcend" is the epic track at 9:39. And by epic I do mean they pull out all the stops. As if there were any there to begin with. The opening key and lead guitar riff will stay with you long after the track ends. This is the best song on the album. It is full of everything that has been building up so far on the album. Leonard's vocals, the heavy bass, the powerful lead electric guitar and those pulsing drums. It's all there and with no holds barred. They add acoustic guitar only pushing this track further over the top. Add in a little reggae beat and wow. Prepare for a mind bending experience with that bass. Oh, and don't forget the short drum solo…

"Planet Qwinkle" opens with some cool spacey atmospherics and that powerful deep bass, before the dancing lead electric guitar takes off with drums in tow. Another cool instrumental joined by keys and some acoustic guitar as well. Dramatic and full of sonic power. Adding organ was brilliant. There are a couple of licks which will take you back to bits and pieces of Kansas' magnificent "Magnum Opus". Let's see if you can remember the exact sections of the epic.

"Inner Peace" closes Psykerion with remnants of Rush's 2112's Overture, mixed well with some Keith Emerson – like ELP extracts. Behold the splendor.

Well, I feel much better after having both experienced and written about this masterpiece of modern prog. This is one of the best albums of the year. Like an Arjen Lucassen space odyssey with the best of Dream Theater, Kansas, Geddy Lee and Yes on board the Kerakryps-One. Setting the mind on a course for an inner mental journey to the stars. We are made of star stuff after all. Use your own thought chamber to dream of what it might be like up there. This album will help take you there.

Close the door to your thought chamber and put on some headphones and enjoy the mind journey that is Psykerion. You will not regret the experience.

Track Listing:

1. Inceptus
2. Exodus
3. Psykerion: The Question
4. In the Words of Avakus
5. Light Year Time
6. Kerakryps
7. The Black Hole Lounge
8. Circuits of O.D.D.
9. Behind the eyes of Ikk
10. Isle of Bizen
11. Xyrethius II
12. Recoil
13. Breath of Life
14. Transcend
15. Planet Qwinkle
16. Inner Peace

Added: September 23rd 2013
Reviewer: Mark Johnson
Score:
Related Link: www.facebook.com/ThoughtChamber
Hits: 4229
Language: english

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» SoT Staff Roundtable Reviews:

Thought Chamber: Psykerion
Posted by Pete Pardo, SoT Staff Writer on 2013-09-23 08:05:38
My Score:

Thought Chamber are a band that burst on the progressive metal scene in 2007 with Angular Perceptions, and what was originally an idea of guitar shredder/multi-instrumentalist Michael Harris kind of turned into an all-star line-up that also included vocalist Ted Leonard (Enchant/Spock's Beard) and members of Haji's Kitchen and Outworld. Here they are back in 2013 with Jeff Plant (bass), Bill Jenkins (keyboards), and Mike Haid (drums) joining the band alongside Harris & Leonard for the highly enjoyable Psykerion. Musically, not much has changed over the years, as the band are still delivering melodic, hook laden progressive metal with sizzling instrumental performances and catchy vocal harmonies. Though this time around there are 16 tracks and most of them being on the shorter side, the results are just as stellar. Leonard is really on a roll these days, with his recent coupling with Spock's Beard resulting in one of 2013's best releases, he's now once again appeared in another prog classic this year. Though I've always been a fan of Enchant, he's doing some of the best work of his career now and if Enchant never records another album I don't think he will miss a beat. Harris once again shows what a truly remarkable musician he is, delivering some stunning guitar work here and meshing quite well with the blazing keyboard stylings of Jenkins. Let's not forget the top notch rhythms from Plant & Haid, with the bassist laying down some nimble bass lines at times, especially on the complex burner "Kerakryps".

Like a mixture of Dream Theater, Planet X, Kansas, Rush, Yes, and Symphony X, Psykerion is a complete joy, and I urge any progressive rock/metal fan to make sure not to miss this one.

Thought Chamber: Psykerion
Posted by Steven Reid, SoT Staff Writer on 2013-09-21 10:16:15
My Score:

Not content with already fronting one of the strongest Progressive albums of 2013, Enchant and Spock's Beard (it is with the latter where he has shone already) singer Ted Leonard makes a quick fire return, this time with Thought Chamber. Six years have passed since the last collaboration between Enchant mates, Leonard and Bill Jenkins (keyboards), Darkology/Arch Rival guitarist, keyboardist Michael Harris, who writes the majority of what is on offer here, Mike Haid (drums) and Jeff Plant (bass), however absence certainly hasn't blunted the Thought Chamber attack. Wild, varied, captivating and focused, Psykerion is an album revealing all things to all Proggers and succeeding as it does so.

Want complex and uncompromising? Hit on opening pairing "Inception" and "Exodus". Looking for romping and heavy? Well there's "Behind The Eyes Of Ikk" or "Circuits Of ODD". A jazzy interlude? Take a seat in the "Black Hole Lounge". Melody driven sweetness your bag? Then you'll adore "Light Year Time" and "Isle Of Bizen". Need all that wrapped up in a sci-fi, humanity concept and delivered with a sharp understanding of complexity against accessibility and song against instrumental workout? Well hey presto! Psykerion is all those things and many others. Most importantly, all put together it is engaging, impressive and in places stunning.

References whoosh past at light speed. Rush keyboard embellishments, bass and vocal melodies (although the vocals do not sound like Rush), Kansas and Styx layered backing vocals (Ted's vocals do on the other hand sound very like Steve Walsh), Dream Theater flurries and excursions, Presto Ballet melodies and smoothness, Vanden Plas complexity and grandness. They are all present and correct, while never dominating to the extent that will make you feel you are listening to copyists.

Obviously the musicianship is first class and beyond question. However unlike so many complex, varied, eclectic Progressive offerings these days, what Harris and Thought Chamber have created is sixteen tracks that you genuinely want to spend time getting to know, being rewarded by snippets of freshness and individuality every time. The best Progressive bands are progressive without trying to make it so, technical without feeling like algebra homework and Thought Chamber have hit that balance squarely on the head, combining talents and skills, not being afraid to use them to the max, but keenly aware when more would be too much and equally adept at knowing when not enough means you have to crank it up a notch or fifty. These are the abilities that take good Prog albums and make them great and Psykerion is great.

Would it be too much to ask for, to hope for Leonard to complete the hat-trick and deliver an equally impressive and overdue comeback from Enchant next? Possibly, but then two masterpieces in one year should be enough for anyone....


» Reader Comments:

Thought Chamber: Psykerion
Posted by Dan Bus on 2014-02-01 11:19:26
My Score:

Great Review! Clear, focused, and plenty of adjetives, ideal to read while listening the album. Very descriptive. You are a good vendor!
Thannks




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