Let's face it; amid the countless variations of the classic Heavy Metal format, Symphonic Progressive Metal has remained a constant, dominant force since arguably originating via the avant-garde Celtic Frost jewel Into The Pandemonium (1987). Personified throughout by the once unthinkable incorporation of cellos, violins and, to a lesser extent, backing choirs, it grew in popularity throughout Europe as groups from Finland (Nightwish), Netherlands (Epica, Within Temptation) and Sweden (Therion) solidified their increasingly intricate tonalities. Among the latest--and most underrated--pioneers of this sub-genre are Israel-born upstarts Scardust. Emerging via their debut EP Shadow (2015) and the independently-issued Sands Of Time (2017), the group quickly earned a reputation as a creative force not to be ignored. Accordingly, with the release of their M-Theory Audio debut Strangers now nearly upon us, the group appears destined for the worldwide recognition they rightfully deserve.
On the brilliant Strangers (2020), an expertly assembled eleven song collection of Symphonic Progressive Metal, each track, beginning with the slow-building--albeit highly effective--“Overture For The Estranged” and the delightfully rumbling, hook-laden “Tantibus II”, immediately commands the rapt and undivided attention of all parties involved, myself most definitely included. Integrating a staggering array of elements of the Classical genre (including, perhaps most notably, the gleeful pomp and circumstance and attention to detail and nuance) along with the obvious Symphonic approach within an already largely unconventional format, the group wastes little--if any--time flexing their largely unproven but more-than-considerable creative muscles early and often. Quickly yielding a series of auditory excursions that are both finely-tuned and overwhelming to the senses, the group excretes a swaggering, 'been there, done that' sense of self-confidence that only adds to their presentation.
Continuing with the oft-groove-laden “Concrete Cages” and the ferocious, occasionally speed-of-light jewel “Huts”, the unnervingly airtight combination of vocalist Noa Gruman, guitarist Yadin Moyal, Rimon School Of Jazz & Contemporary Music-educated keyboardist Itai Portugaly, ex-Somnia bassist Yanai Avnet and drummer Yoav Weinberg (ex-Promiscuity, Sonne Adam, Vipress) steamrolls ahead at what can only be described as a carefully-calculated pace. Deftly re-channeling a remarkably pure essence of the Symphonic Power Metal sub-genre into a boldly unique amalgam that relies more on musicianship than raw, unadulterated power, the group surges ahead, laying the foundation for the veritable avalanche that follows in it's ever-widening wake. Driving home each key focal point while avoiding the 'reinvent the wheel' mentality of yore, they deliver the proverbial goods without, believe it or not, burying any would-be pursuers within a series of overly-complex redundancies.
Mixed and Mastered by a tandems of Yonatan Kossov (Amorphis, Distorted Harmony, Orphaned Land) and the acclaimed Jens Borgen (Amon Amarth, Kreator, Symphony X), other standouts, including the impossibly virtuosic, quasi-operatic “Addicted” and the brief--yet equally impressive--closer “Mist”, effectively prove the female-fronted genre does not, in fact, exist. Forcing the proverbial average listener to develop an opinion based entirely upon their merits, the group sheds a much-needed light upon the plights of their like-minded brethren. Exhaustive in both it's focus and overall execution, even those still understandably unfamiliar with a limited sample size, you'll only have yourself to blame for not wholeheartedly embracing everything they have to offer. With the mighty Strangers potentially serving as their commercial breakthrough, the end result(s) of the group's more than considerable efforts will, for better or for worse, dictate their ability to succeed on a long-range basis.
In conclusion, the oft-mighty Strangers 'hits' far more than it 'misses'. With the group representing the dawn of a new era for the Symphonic Progressive Metal genre, the majority--if not all--of the decidedly tuneful wares contained herein serve as an ideal showcase for the group's unabashed lyrical and compositional prowess. An absolute must-have for every Amaranthe, Nightwish and, to a lesser extent, ReVamp enthusiast, what ultimately separates the undeniably talented quintet from their few contemporaries is a ceaseless dedication to honing their already razor-sharp chops, making it one of the finest new releases of the now rapidly waning year. Needless to say, if you've once again found yourself in search of a refreshingly imaginative reprieve from the painfully, mindless Pop and Hip Hop laden din and clatter that is so often force fed en mass via the mainstream, then this, my friends, might just be the high-octane catholicon for whatever ails you. Trust me, you won't be disappointed.
Sands Of Time (2017)
Copyright © 2008 - 2020 www.BigMusicGeek.com, LLC. The views and opinions expressed on this website do not necessarily reflect those of www.BigMusicGeek.com. The content of this website cannot be reproduced in any aspect, either electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or informational storage and/or retrieval systems without the express written consent of www.BigMusicGeek.com.