Review Summary: This hidden gem in progressive metal combines traditional prog influences with a whole new level of classical influence and a touch of jazz fusion with the result being a powerful and enjoyable listen for fans of progressive metal/
To start out, I’d just like to point out that this is not a Dream theater clone. When Time fades could draw more similarities to Symphony X, but Suspyre quite a bit more complex, experimental, and classically influenced. Overall the sound of the album is dark, yet melodic and not necessarily dark in the sense that most metal is. Jazz fusion is more beneath the surface here than on past albums, but still contributes to Suspyre’s fairly original sound. If you find the rest of my review to be too boring and not worth your time, I still encourage to check this album out as its beautiful, powerful, heavy, and complex at the same time and a refreshing take on neoclassical prog for those who find the genre to be stagnant and losing creativity.
Lyrically, When Time Fades is fairly strong, occasionally coming off as cheesy but also being thought-provoking and powerful at times. As far as I know, Suspyre has no religious affiliation but there are times which the lyrics sound somewhat Christian. Suspyre is certainly not the first prog band to claim not to be religious and then use spiritual sounding lyrics, and they are most likely more of an attempt at sounding profound (or just me misinterpreting the lyrics like I always do) than anything related to the actual concept.
The entire album is filled with fantastic guitar work. Some may be annoyed by the technical higher toned lines that could possibly detract from the vocals, but for fans of more complex music, they not only keep the listener entertained, but also show both the technical skill of the guitarists and the careful composing of these harmonized riffs. Although Suspyre makes frequent use of these higher, dual guitar lines, the album also contains heavier down tuned metal riffs (thankfully avoiding the unoriginal single-note palm muted chugging that so many metal bands get stuck into) that pack quite a punch, especially when woven in and out of the keyboards and lead guitars.
Being a guitarist myself, I don’t tend to notice the quality of drumming on a song and I’m honestly not a very good judge of it. However, for what it’s worth, Marshal seemed like a very accomplished drummer to me, always keeping in time despite the frequent time signature changes and technical array of fills. Let freedom ring is the song where the technical level of the drumming is most evident.
The orchestral work on this album is top notch. I’m no expert on classical music but Suspyre certainly takes the term “symphonic” to a new level on this album. There are a lot of passages of just classical music that are thickly layer and carefully composed. Perhaps the fact that on Suspyre’s facebook page half the listed influences are classical composers makes this point better than I could.
On Suspyre’s past albums the vocals got frequently criticized a lot for being weak. While I never really noticed this, there has been steady improvement in this area. On When time fades, the vocals remind me a lot of Russell Allen, and while nothing spectacular, Barton constantly sounds good while occasionally sounding great, particularly on siren.
Oh yeah, I did notice that I talked about every instrument except bass
This is one of those albums where everyone seems to have a different favorite song, so before continuing on to the track by track, keep this in mind as there really isn’t much difference in actual quality between different songs.
1. Possession: The negative: 4.5/5
The album starts off with a diminished sounding arpeggio which is quickly built up with added layering; this immediately sets the tone for the album and lets you know that you’re in for a treat. Although less reliant on orchestral arrangements not therefore not as grandiose as some of the other tracks, Possession is a solid opener which features a catchy chorus and an array of great guitar riffs and interwoven keyboard lines.
2. Evolutions: 4.5/5
Evolutions is another solid track which stands out for its bombastic symphonic parts and dark, almost sci-fi sounding vibe. While this most obviously comes from the weird robotic voices (these were pretty cheesy and off putting- the main reason why the song’s rating drops to a 4.5), I sort of felt like the other parts of the song contributed to this atmosphere. The middle of the song features a cool saxophone solo which shows some of Suspyre’s jazz fusion influence.
3. Lighted Enthymeme (is that even a word?): 5/5
One of the strongest songs on the album features a dark strings part beneath the vocals and lead guitar on the verse (if you could call it that, except for possibly a few songs Suspyre doesn’t use a lot of traditional structure). The real highlight here comes towards the end of the song however where a strictly classical breakdown is built back up into metal where the song climaxes with a chaotic ending.
4. Manic main point check: 3.5/5
This is only 1:53 long and serves as more of an interlude than a song, it does have some cool riffs though.
5. Siren: 5/5
This incredibly complex and powerful song competes with Let freedom ring for the position as the album’s “epic”. The first 3 or 4 minutes of the song feature a repeating chorus of Clay Barton’s beautiful leads being backed by a choir that seems to just build and build every time around. The song then moves into a more traditionally progressive instrumental part that includes another saxophone solo before returning to the musical themes from the beginning to finish the song leaving the listener ultimately satisfied.
6. Reign: 4/5
On most albums I would have noticed this a lot more as being and excellent song but on here it just kind of blends in as another solid number without much to set it apart from some of the more interesting songs. That’s bound to happen though when you do so much experimenting on one album. Suspyre generally does an excellent job of experimenting without sounding out of place but the mandolin solo on this song is actually kind of ridiculous.
7. Fallen stars: 3/5
This is the album’s customary ballad which holds a very un-Suspyre like mainstream sound. While it annoys me that the band seemed to have wrote this song simply cause it a tradition to have one full ballad, it does have a nice melody and acoustic guitar part. Judging from the rest of the album it seriously seems like they could have been at least a bit creative here though.
8. A world with no measures: 4/5
This song is similar to reign in the sense that there’s not that much to say about it. That being said it’s still a good song so don’t just skip over it just because I didn’t rant about how epic it is like I do for most songs I like.
9. The light of the fire: 4/5
Other than the fantastic, catchy chorus the most notable thing about this song is Barton’s use of growls which are fine, but nothing special and a little off-putting for fans of more melodic prog. I think I read in an interview that we wouldn’t have any of that on the next album.
10. Apparitions: 4.5/5
The insane keyboard arpeggios in the introduction of this song makes it one of the weirdest yet best (in whatever progsnob sense of the word being used here) musical movements ive heard. A heavy guitar part quickly comes in behind them. For this song, think of the intro for Possession, but times 1000. The rest of the song is borderline brilliant with its array of fantastic melodies, guitar riffs, etc. On the negative side, this may be the song where some listeners decide it’s simply too much and decide to turn the album off, the speaking vocals in the verse could also been seen as slightly off-putting.
11. Let freedom ring: 5/5
A political song in nature, Let freedom ring takes the listener on an 11 minute long ride of catchy melodies, fast guitar riffs, and grandiose symphonic elements while still driving home a message about the governmental abuse of power. I don’t usually pay too much attention to lyrics as progressive metal lyrics, while occasionally meaningful and powerful, tend to be either cheesy or too hard to understand. This song however, is defiantly not restricted by these flaws. The lines “Attached to the world of debris
Far from the land of the free” seemed particularly well executed to me.
As ridiculous, overblown, and pretentious as critics might say this album is, its progressive metal and Suspyre thrives on these things, so if you can wrap your head around this album, hopefully you will enjoy it for all its complexity and wackiness as much as I did. The album certainly has its flaws, but these almost always come from simply trying to pack too much experimentation and awesome music into one song, which in my opinion should be respected rather than criticized and although strange, provides a thoroughly enjoyable listen. I wanted to give the album a 5, but on this site a 5 is a “classic rating” and although it’s sad, hardly anyone even knows about Suspyre whether because of its complexity or simply because of its obscurity. either way, as excellent as this album is, I can’t see this album ever considered a classic by very many people other than myself.