The best of today's progressive metal has its roots in classical music.
That may be a bold statement, but listen to Time Requiem's two studio albums. There are dozens of prog-metal bands who can write wonderful melodies with nice song structures, build in all of the elements of prog, and produce music that ranges from okay to very good. But for a metal band to elevate itself to the rarified level of a Sea Of Tranquility 4½ or 5-star rating, there has to be something really special. Richard Andersson is the mastermind behind Time Requiem and his song structures and his musicianship and his classical influences follow the virtuoso levels of a Uli John Roth, an Andre Andersen (no relation), an Alex Masi, or his friend and Swedish compatriot, Yngvie Malmsteen.
The Inner Circle Of Reality is Anderssen's second studio album under the guise of "Time Requiem" and just one listen to the complex, deeply textured 11-minute title track and you'll be convinced of both – the classical and the prog influences. Then fast-forward to the wonderfully melodic "Quest Of A Million Souls" and those classical influences are so strong that you'll wonder if this is really metal. The son of a music teacher, Andersson was something of a child prodigy whose first record purchase was a Mozart piece; and he admits to using Paganini and Bach themes as the basis for some of the tracks on this album. But there's no mistaking the fact that this is metal, complete with double-base, wailing vocals, crunchy rhythm and blistering solos – some on guitar, others on keyboards with a guitar patch a la Dream Theater. The pace of this music is breathless, even in the slower songs, which are too upbeat to be called ballads. The intensity and the relentlessly driving rhythms will leave you exhausted.
Besides those passages that emulate high speed guitar solos, Anderssen's keyboards add orchestral Mellotron-like backdrops and classic Mini-moog-like solos that mimic Rick Wakeman. Apollo Papathanasio's ballsy vocals have been accurately described as being close to Russell Allen – strong, flexible, good range, but never breaking into a falsetto wail. Probably the strongest musical feature is the very tight interplay between the excellent guitar work and those virtuoso keyboards. And don't be misled by the inclusion of the bassist and drummer from The Flower Kings. These guys' performance is also pure metal, and nothing like the jazzy-prog sound of their home band. As a matter of interest, bassist Jonas Reingold co-produced the album with Andersson.
Symphony X fans will appreciate Time Requiem because of the intricate riffing and the mature song structures, Dream Theater fans will appreciate the technical elegance the Rudess/Petrucci-esque soloing, and the complex melodies carried on blistering arpeggios. Or imagine a slightly simpler version of Royal Hunt. Whatever the comparison – the musicianship on this record is excellent, the tunes are memorable, and most of all, it gets better with multiple replays.