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Elysium Theory: Modern Alchemy

Here in the Hudson Valley in Upstate New York, progessive rock is not necessarily an art form that is making lots of waves, so I was quite surprised and thrilled to be contacted by Elysium Theory, a five piece prog band who also happen to be from this beautiful yet 'prog-less' area that I live in. Their debut album is called Modern Alchemy, a strong collection of songs that rely on tight musicianship, well thought out songs, strong vocals, and plenty of melody. Though there are similarities at times to Dream Theater, Elysium Theory rarely go over into progressive metal territory, though Modern Alchemy can certainly be looked at as a more aggressive prog album. In truth, the album walks that fine line between progressive rock and progressive metal, making it a release that both camps can easily enjoy.

The band is comprised of Dan Peterson on vocals, Tim Reid on guitars, keyboard player Benny Reyes, bassist Jeff Fister, and drummer Ted Feeney. After the brief opening instrumental "Lorimer's Pulse", the band kicks into the title track, a moody, driving number complete with pumping guitar riffs, majestic keys, and the soaring vocals of Peterson. You can instantly hear just how talented a singer Dan is as the band dives into "Spiritcom", a real symphonic number that recalls early Dream Theater as well as Saga, and his commanding pipes deliver the goods on the heavy "All Seeing Eye". If there was a perfect middle ground between James LaBrie and Michael Sadler, Peterson would be it.

Plenty of highlights abound on Modern Alchemy, including the textured "Beyond Yourself", which has a great guitar solo from Reid and a warm extended synth passage courtesy of Reyes, as well as the epic "The Source". This one takes the listener through an exciting journey, as the band impresses on many levels not only with solo spots (Reyes & Reid turn in wild solo exchanges) but also with tight ensemble playing, especially Fister, whose acrobatic drum fills will keep you entertained for the duration. If you like heavier material, there's the crunchy "Chaos" and the bombastic "Russian Winter", but seeing as most prog fans love epics, the other near 9-minute piece, "Intrigued by Faith" closes out the CD in fine fashion. Plenty of atmospheric keyboards on this one and some Hackett/Rothery inspired fret work, plus the dramatic and powerful vocals of Peterson.

Another plus is the great cover art, which is especially well done considering that this is an independent release. If there are any slight quibbles, it's on the production side, as the mix could have been a tad brighter and the guitars a little more upfront, but otherwise those are minor points on what is otherwise a very solid release. Elysium Theory have been the Hudson Valley's little secret for a while, but now that Modern Alchemy is out, I'm sure that many of the prog-rock record labels will be taking notice.

Track Listing
1. Lorimer's Pulse (1:39)
2. Modern Alchemy (5:31)
3. Spiritcom (7:36)
4. All Seeing Eye (4:50)
5. Beyond Yourself (6:54)
6. The Source (8:39)
7. Chaos (5:46)
8. Russian Winter (6:50)
9. River in the Sky (5:31)
10. Blacklight Reflection (5:01)
11. Intrigued by Faith (8:24)

Added: March 29th 2011
Reviewer: Pete Pardo
Related Link: Band Website
Hits: 5583
Language: english

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Elysium Theory: Modern Alchemy
Posted by Jeff B, SoT Staff Writer on 2011-03-29 16:35:28
My Score:

The self-released debut from Elysium Theory has really left me stunned. It's certainly not every day that you hear a debut with this much power, emotion, and technical mastery! This young group from New York has created a monumental progressive rock/metal outing with Modern Alchemy; an album that hasn't left my rotation since I first received it in the mail. There are technical hitches along the way, but they seldom distract from the top-notch music that Elysium Theory has created here. This album manages to merge unforgettable melodies with technical prog sensibilities, and the result is nothing short of magnificent! People who enjoy their prog on the heavier side should find a lot to love on Modern Alchemy.

Elysium Theory walks a thin line between progressive rock and progressive metal on Modern Alchemy. The most noticeable influences I can hear are from Dream Theater, Riverside, and Marillion. The technical mastery hints in the direction of their New York-based prog metal brethren, but the heavy atmospheric sections and melodic guitar solos give Elysium Theory their own distinct sound. Modern Alchemy is an album that can easily satisfy progressive metalheads, without ever completely alienating the traditional progressive rock fans.

After opening up with the brief intro "Lorimer's Pulse", the album takes a straight dive into progressive metal excellence with the title track. The rest of the album encompasses power ballads, heavy prog metal riffs, and plenty of unforgettable melodies. One thing that has blown me away about Modern Alchemy is the sheer quality of the vocal melodies and choruses - every song has a highly memorable chorus, which is, in part, due to the spectacular vocals from Dan Peterson. He simply has a stunning voice that is often akin to James LaBrie (circa Images & Words) or Ray Alder. Elysium Theory isn't all about vocal melodies, though, as the musicianship is spectacular across the board. Benny Reyes delivers a perfect level of atmosphere to the album through his keyboards, and even delivers some terrific synth solos. Tim Reid masters metal riffing and emotional solos on Modern Alchemy, and is yet another shining asset to Elysium Theory's sound. Just listen to his solo spot on "The Source"! The rhythm section consisting of Jeff Fister (bass) and Ted Feeney (drums) is also excellent and provides a solid foundation for the rest of the band.

The only significant complaint I have about the entire album is the production. The mix is a bit muddy, the guitars are often drowned by the over-emphasized drums, and the overall sound is lacking in power. The music is certainly good enough to look past its technical setbacks, but a professional production would've definitely benefited Elysium Theory.

All in all, Modern Alchemy is a tremendously successful debut effort from Elysium Theory. This band has a knack for creating terrific melodies, yet never forgets about creating interesting instrumental sections. Elysium Theory is one of the most promising bands from the current U.S. progressive rock scene, and Modern Alchemy is definitive proof of this. I cannot wait to hear what this band has up their sleeve next! Although I have a few gripes with the production, 4 stars are still very much deserved for this stellar effort. I'd recommend all fans of progressive rock and progressive metal to give this excellent band a try - you won't be disappointed.

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