What would it sound like if classic bands like Dream Theater, Fates Warning, and Saga decided to combine their efforts and put out an album together? Probably something like the debut self-titled release from Italy's Heart of Sun. Formed by guitarist Gianluca Ferro (Arkhé, Fiurach, Doomsword, and Time Machine), the line-up of Heart of Sun also includes keyboard player Mark Vikar, singer Pino Tozzi, bassist Davide Betelli, and drummer Sigfrido Percich. The band is now on Lance King's Nightmare Records, a very good place for them, as their music perfectly fits in with the progressive and power metal acts that currently reside on that label's roster. Ten tracks make up the CD, bookended by two instrumentals (the closing one's called "Sea of Tranquility"-gotta give them props for having a song with the same name as everyone's favorite webzine!), with lots of crunchy, melodic, and symphonic progressive stuff in between. The album is also a concept piece, so be prepared to read along to the Sci-Fi lyrics while you are grooving to the majestic instrumentation.
"The Last Experiment" just screams Dream Theater, from the beefy guitars, to the sweeping keys, to the locked in rhythms. Tozzi's vocals amazingly go in two directions on this one, at times he hits LaBrie type menace, at others he gets a strong Michael Sadler-ish melodic flair. Both avenues really work, and add a nice dimension to this strong track. "Not Through Our Eyes" is a less bombastic piece, certainly more atmospheric, with some spacey Saga-ish keys and moments of doomy guitar riffs. This segues into the memorable "Evil Tree", a juicy slice of dark & heavy prog metal, with just a hint of latter day Dream Theater or Fates Warning. With a catchy chorus and plenty of complex interplay (as well as a stunning guitar solo from Ferro), this one's a winner all around. "2016AD.Net" is a pretty neat little instrumental, with a strong jazz-fusion vibe, allowing the band to drop in some tasty solos, especially Vikar's synth, Betelli's bass, and Ferro's guitar.
On "Into the Black Hole", you'll once again be reminded of early 90's Dream Theater, with Tozzi sounding amazingly like James LaBrie, and that delicious blend of heavy guitar riffing and bubbling keyboards just bursting through your speakers. "Proxima Centauri" is bombastic and heavy, yet highly melodic, with some great, emotional vocals from Tozzi (this guy's the real deal folks!) that just soar over the mix. Also be on the lookout for some tricky drum fills from Percich throughout this piece. Symphonic prog with an AOR flair is all the rage on "The Invention Of God", again bringing to mind the legendary Saga, and this one is a feast for Vikar and his vast array of keyboard sounds. Similar prog/pop waters are treaded on the catchy "Solar Wind", a tune with addicting hooks, layers of keys, some crunchy riffs, and passionate vocals. That 'tranquil' number rounds out the CD in calming fashion, featuring some gorgeous piano from Vikar.
While Heart of Sun might not be the most original progressive metal release you will ever hear (yes, they do wear their influences on their sleeves), what they do they do very well, and you can't fault a band for writing memorable and well thought out songs. Catchy songs, heavy riffs, tasty instrumental interplay, and solid vocals make this debut from Heart of Sun well worth seeking out for fans of the genre.
1. Res Amissa - (instrumental)
2. The Last Experiment
3. Not Through Our Eyes
4. Evil Tree
5. 2016AD.Net (instrumental)
6. Into the Black Hole
7. Proxima Centauri
8. The Invention Of God
9. Solar Wind
10. Sea Of Tranquillity - (instrumental)