So…here we are with a brand new take on the composition of a concept album, and who better to introduce it than a band no one knows, whose popularity is sure to explode very soon. The process of listening to a concept record is demanding, and though it can either appear as multiple tracks or a sole song, its length often induces an immediate selection of an audience. As well as providing the story in either lyrical or musical form, a concept always comes across substantially more effective if you meld the two. Between the story of the lyrics and music lies a bridge where musical boundaries can be purged, potentially allowing that much more of the emotional response to reach the listener. It is with these methods, as well as all unique attributes of each composer, that a concept can be expressed.
However, the best thing about being a composer is that the above paragraph can either be interpreted to your own beneficial effects, or ignored altogether. There are no rules, and therefore no boundaries. One of the most interesting things about this album specifically is the band actually developed a new language dubbed Kal, with its own grammar, semantic, calligraphy, and etymology. Kal results from the study of different living, dead or imaginary languages such as Sanskrit, Latin, English, Arabic, Greek, German, Japanese, and even Quenya and Tengwar. It required, as its creator Brett Caldas-Lima acknowledges, "a totally stupid amount of working hours in regard to the few times it is used". Plus, there is a myriad of guest musicians, such as Angela Gossow (Arch Enemy), Arjen Lucassen (Ayreon), Paul Masvidal (Cynic), Tom Maclean (To-Mera), and even Andy Sneap in the recording studio. All this added with the multiple duties of the four core members of Kalisia slaving over their instruments and computers for ten years humbly introduce to you Cybion.
This 70-minute sci-fi epic is said to be regarded as one piece of music rather than its allotted twenty tracks. Its structures are there to provide reference points to the listener, and may only make sense in its entirety, just like a movie. According to the band, “music and lyrics are very closely connected, developing atmospheres trying to provoke various emotions to the listener (oppression, happiness...), proposing (and not imposing) the listener a succession of pictures and feelings corresponding as closely as possible to the development of the story.” How well this will work naturally depends on you, but because the amount of genres present in this album is so eclectic and smooth in execution, and that there are no breaks between tracks, this can also become selective or welcoming depending on how open-minded and patient the listener is.
The music itself can range from melodic death metal to symphonic progressive metal to electronic to jazz to Arabian and so on, but the way the piece develops is seemingly influenced by movie soundtracks and modern classical composition. It begins with what could be called an overture with many orchestral elements slowly unfolding to a main theme performed by synth leads, fast-paced guitar, and intricate drumming. The harsh vocals are pretty typical, sounding exactly like the guy from Mors Principium Est, but his cleans meld sublime with the choir and female vocalist. The expansion of themes from this point on bond the multiple emotional attributes lyrically, vocally, and musically, for example using the old film noir saxophone mood to great effect, or the sound effects of computerized voices to drive the story into new dimensions…followed by a strange organ driven progressive jam.
At this point one would assume that it’s apparent this is nigh flawless. However, its faults are not only predictable, but consistent. For one, it has too many fallback points where it seems that at numerous areas there was a lack of direction so they just wrote another melo-death part to fill space until they came up with something else. This shows that it relies too heavily on this style, therefore outlining a sense of repetition, not in the form of recurring themes but in a redundant manner of sequences. In fact, it’s redundancy that distills the ultimate errors of the album, with not only the aforementioned hackneyed melo-death style, but with the one-trick harsh vocals, very similar drumming during said parts, drawn-out solo sections that are usually pretty indistinguishable, and a sort of loss of course during the third section. Plus, there’s no big finale, which was a bit disappointing.
That being said, there are handfuls of shining moments on display. The implementation of the many small snippets of those outside influences works in such a way that they do not seem forced, but rather short-lived in a manner that grabs your attention. Applying these sections to the concepts of the story and what response the music is trying to get out of you is an interesting experience in itself, as if the record wants you to think about what it’s doing, whether or not a part has purpose, or if there’s a reason this part goes on for this amount of time. Or, to contest my previous criticism, question why bring back the heavy sections so often. The music’s involvement with each section isn’t necessarily set in stone, however, and it seems as though one could jump in to a designated area and replace it with another interpretation of what they would want to hear to proceed and precede its counterparts.
Some will automatically claim this a classic based on the amount of dedication put into the album, the progressive tendencies and length attributes, and its technical proficiency. Though, you should ask that regardless of how much time and effort was put into the making of the album, was the end quality it worth it? Also, were many of the sections progressive in structure due to pretentious wishes or because the song required it? Lastly, were the majority of the parts technically played for the sake of being technical, or did those solos need to be that complex, and those drums that machine-like and involved? The problem with most concept albums is that one person will not like how a certain section plays out and begin to question more and more the quality of what they’ve been listening to, further understanding that some parts did not need to be there whatsoever, and this part should be put here instead of there. This is relative to Cybion because it certainly seems that a few portions sound like filler, and though the arrangement flows exceptionally well considering it’s amoebic qualities, the placement of overused elements such as guitar solos or synth-driven backgrounds begins to turn stale. However, if you consider the authenticity of many of the sections and the fluidity of a 70 minute song, Cybion can be illustrated as a massive stepping stone for the band to further progress their storytelling medium to brand new heights, this certainly retaining a fantastic starting point, and even if you do not get into this record that much, you’ll damn well be keen to find out what the band will release next.