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Aeon Zen: Enigma

The UK's Aeon Zen are one of the shining stars recently added to the Nightmare Records roster, and led by multi-instrumentalist Rich Hinks (vocals/guitar/bass) who has brought on board newer recruits Matt Shepherd (guitar), Shaz (keyboards), and Steve Burton (drums) for their latest release Enigma. In addition, Hinks has enlisted the talents of vocalists Andi Kravljaca (Silent Call), Atle Pettersen (Above Symmetry), Jonny Tatum (Eumeria) and Nate Loosemore (Lost in Thought). Aeon Zen specialize in upbeat, melodic progressive metal, long on soaring vocal harmonies, heavy riffs, symphonic keyboards, and catchy hooks. They can also dazzle you with instrumental virtuosity as well, but Enigma is not all about shredding and solos, but songs and the power, drama, and emotion they carry.

"Artificial Soul" is a perfect example of all this band can deliver, which includes crisp, powerful instrumentation and memorable melodies. I like the mix of guest death metal growls on the otherwise extremely melodic prog-metal masterpiece "Divinity", as the soaring clean vocals do battle with the extreme vocals for a nice touch. "Warning" has a bit of a Dream Theater-meets-Vanden Plas feel to it (some great vocals and guitar riffs here), and the engaging "Turned to Ash" mixes lush progressive rock with modern metal riffs for a truly enjoyable listening experience. In fact, this band does the straight prog thing quite well, best heard on "Eternal Snow", a gorgeous number featuring majestic piano, and guest female and male vocals making for a really rich & full sound, that surprisingly turns into a crushing symphonic death metal track at the very end for an intriguing turn of events. Also, look for some wonderful jazzy saxophone on the otherwise bruising Dream Theater/Symphony X styled epic progressive metal of superb closer "Downfall", which is chock full of sizzling guitar work and majestic keyboards.

Rock solid from top to bottom, Enigma shows a band truly on the rise creating some of the most intriguing and enjoyable progressive metal being released in recent years. Make sure you don't miss this one!

Track Listing
1. Enter The Enigma (3:03)
2. Artificial Soul (5:55)
3. Divinity (4:04)
4. Seven Hills (3:38)
5. Warning (7:06)
6. Turned To Ash (4:30)
7. Still Human (5:03)
8. Eternal Snow (6:17)
9. Downfall (7:03)
Total Time: 46:39

Added: February 1st 2013
Reviewer: Pete Pardo
Related Link: Band Website
Hits: 3876
Language: english

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Aeon Zen: Enigma
Posted by Steven Reid, SoT Staff Writer on 2013-02-01 14:15:29
My Score:

Now this is how to do it. Rather than traipse out tired clichéd prog-metal motifs and instrumental sections that barely hide a need to show off, the UK's Aeon Zen have across their first two releases combined a far wider range of influences to create a sound that while not exactly original, certainly steers well clear of the expected. Everything from Ayreon, Threshold and Vanden Plas to Devon Townsend, Presto Ballet and yes, of course a tadge of Dream Theater, smashes together beautifully. The end results being enigma-tic (sorry...) music intent on grabbing your attention through a restrained grandeur that manifests in ever varying attacks.

Album number three finds A-Z continuing down similar interesting paths that they've already established, but with an ever expanding outlook dismissing any possibility of stagnation. Atmospheric in the extreme, but bullish, and ferociously aggressive in places - well at least for this style of music anyway - Enigma works in a variety of ways. Beautiful melodies where keyboards and guitars combine sumptuously, crunching staccato riffs which pummel the senses relentlessly and electro-imagined soundscapes of shimmering intentions are all the order of the day. Combine all of that with an ever changing vocal cast, where superb growls jostle with heavenly clean vocals to create an album that is ever changing, while always cohesive and you begin to have something pretty special. Don't get me wrong, if it is ranging solos and brisltingly intensive instrumental workouts that float your boat, then prepare to be dazzled with the likes "Still Human" where fiery guitar bursts continually jab at your senses, or "Divinity" where the keyboard swathes surge impressively over a wall of guitars. However the real strength of the latter of these two tracks is the manner in which it pits growled vocals against clean, if no less forceful singing, both approaches battling and ultimately complimenting each other superbly. A trick ably repeated on "Eternal Snow".

Rich Hinks as ever takes the helm, providing a dazzling array of tastefully and enthusiastically executed guitar, bass and vocal work. However it is impossible to underplay the contributions of Matt Shepherd (guitars), Steve Burton (drums), Shaz (keyboards) and this album's guest list of vocalists Andi Kravljaca (Silent Call), Atle Pettersen (Above Symmetry), Jonny Tatum (Eumeria) and Nate Loosemore (Lost in Thought). Impressively however things never fall into "project" territory, with the stellar microphone abusers constantly coming together in a way that avoids any "Oh I wonder who's singing this one" distractions. Something a quick sample of the riff fuelled but melodically infused "Warning", or the deliciously bruising beauty of "Turned To Ash" will ably attest.

Even before Enigma, Aeon Zen had firmly established themselves as one of the few new prog-metal acts truly worthy of your attention. With album number three they've upped the ante to the extent that any fan of this genre still not giving this band their full attention really is missing out.

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