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Epysode: Obsessions

The major success of star-studded metal operas from acts like Ayreon, Star One, and Avantasia has clearly had a large impact on the progressive power metal landscape, and now it seems that more and more seasoned musicians are taking a stab at this format of music making. Epysode is Samuel Arkan's (of Virus IV fame) first attempt at a bombastic prog metal opera, complete with a lyrical concept, top-notch guest vocalists, and impressive session musicians. Obsessions is the first (and hopefully not final) album from this project, and the sleek melodic progressive power metal style exemplified here is sure to win over fans of Evergrey, Symphony X, Star One, and the like. Obsessions isn't without its flaws, but it's an impressive debut from this ambitious project.

One glance at Epysode's lineup is sure to have plenty of progressive metal fans drooling all over their computer screens. In addition to guitarist Samuel Arkan of Virus IV, you also have Kristoffer Gildenlöw on bass (Pain of Salvation, The Shadow Theory, For All We Know), Leo Margarit on drums (Pain of Salvation), Christophe Godin on guitar (The Mörglbl Trio), and keyboard player Julien Spreutels (Ethernity). As you can probably imagine, the musicianship is just about as professional as it gets - the rock solid rhythm section, blinding guitar leads, and tasteful keyboards always get the job done right, and it's always a pleasure to hear such a fantastic cast of musicians on one album. The vocal cast is just as, if not even more, appealing than the instrumental lineup - the singing talents on Obsessions further deepen the conceptual feeling of the album, and the vocalists themselves all deliver fantastic performances. A lineup that consists of Kelly Carpenter (Beyond Twilight, Darkology), Oddleif Stensland (Communic), Rick Altzi (At Vance, Thunderstone), Magali Luyten (Ayreon, Beautiful Sin, Virus IV) and Liselotte Hegt (Ayreon, Dial) should undoubtedly catch the eye of most prog/power metal fans.

In addition to the strong musicianship in all departments, the music and lyrics are also exceptionally well-written and cohesive. Epysode embrace the concept album format on Obsessions, and the lyrics tell a story about a police officer who must investigate a strange string of homicides that lead him to multiple supernatural encounters that slowly unravel more and more about the mysterious crimes. A very interesting and original concept indeed, the lyrics of Obsessions often bring the epic heavy metal horror stories of King Diamond to mind. The songwriting is a bit "conventional" by progressive power metal standards, but I don't mean that to sound like a bad thing at all. Expect plenty of heavy riffs, melodic choruses, and instrumental acrobatics on Obsessions - a band like Everygrey certainly wouldn't be a bad point of reference. I would've liked a bit more originality and experimentation in Epysode's sound, but it isn't a major issue when the music is this well-written and professionally crafted.

My major gripe with Obsessions ultimately lies in the hands of the production. Despite being mixed and mastered by famed metal producer Tommy Hansen, I can't shake the feeling that the sound here is exceptionally weak. Not in a "lo-fi" sense, but more in the generic, overproduced, and sterile nature of the production. While that's not a crippling flaw by itself, the super-loud mixing gives Obsessions an almost "muddy" quality that I doubt was the intended effect.

Epysode may not have crafted a flawless debut here, but it's a very solid effort that fans of progressive power metal will undoubtedly get a kick out of. If you also enjoy a nice thriller concept story, that's yet another reason to give Obsessions a shot. A big 3.5 stars are deserved in this case. Obsessions is an impressive album marred by a weak production - if you're able to easily look over production-related flaws, I'd recommend this album in a heartbeat. One of the better progressive power metal albums from 2011 for sure, people who enjoy the catchy intricacy of Evergrey's early albums, the heavy-edged prog metal of Symphony X, and the operatic tendencies of Ayreon should be sure to give this debut album a shot.

Track Listing:
1. File 41807 (1:07)
2. Silences of Dawn (1:26)
3. First Blood (4:38)
4. Obsessions (4:17)
5. Invisible nations (5:04)
6. Gemini Syndrome (5:42)
7. Fallen's Portrait (5:16)
8. Season of Redemption (4:10)
9. The Other Side (4:08)
10. Shadow Lord (4:42)
11. One Chance (6:53)
12. Divine Whispers (5:32)
13. March of the Ghosts (7:11)
14. Last Sunset (4:37)
Total time 1:05:13 

Added: October 6th 2011
Reviewer: Jeff B
Related Link: Epysode Website
Hits: 2958
Language: english

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