Review Summary: While Opus Arise doesn't contain every progressive metal trick in the book, Lost in Thought succeeds often enough, and mightily enough when they do, to stand out in a crowded field.
While I always prefer bands that come along to reinvent the wheel, sometimes that isn’t totally necessary as long as the music captures my attention, I remember it, and despite remembering how it sounds, enjoy it. During the recording of 2011’s Opus Arise
, Welsh five-piece progressive metal band Lost in Thought was currently well through the progress of transition towards their own distinct sound, and the group’s revelation that several songs are years old confirms this. Originality aside, the musical output of Opus Arise
does capture my attention, I remember exactly how it sounds, and still enjoy it, and thus it is a strong debut and a pathway to a stronger follow-up.
It takes but a few seconds into the album to discover that Lost in Thought is metal
first and prog second: a Portnoy-esque speedy fill leads into a crashing chord, a muddy guitar hidden behind the mix, and then a jackhammer riff. After another silence, the guitar and drums fade in pounding for one bar, and then the full band kicks in. Much of this opening track, entitled Beyond the Flames
, is highlighted by the lethal combination of guitarist David Grey and drummer Chris Billingham, who exploit an element rarely seen in progressive metal: breakdowns, but actual metal
breakdowns that don’t always repeat the same pattern. The technique is fairly common through the rest of the album, and these sections in tracks like 2, 3 and 7 are often among the high points. The use of a seven-string guitar helps matters, turning barnstormers like the closing track into metal juggernauts almost too intense for many prog listeners. When combined with impressive, but never overwhelming technical skill, the results can be stunning: the instrumental second half of Entity
allows the last vocal note to meld with a deliberately marching breakdown and a corrosive guitar solo; Billingham displays impeccable taste and control over time and tempo shifts, while keyboardist Greg Baker shows off some wacky patches similar to those of Jordan Rudess, but more retro in aesthetic. Bassist Simon Pike is the most reserved musician of the bunch, his primitive metallic tone audible underneath the music, supplying a rock-solid low-end; breaks in intensity allow the bass to be clearly heard, and Pike impresses when he takes the lead; the quiet bridge of Assimulate, Destroy
merges marching bass with a crudely delivered, militaristic spoken-word passage.
Special mention must be reserved for the vocals, always a focus of more straightforward metal and the less complex brand of prog metal Lost in Thought plays. Nate Loosemore is a stunning discovery, a merging of range and tonal similarities to James LaBrie and the blistering high-end power of metal screamers such as Rob Halford and Kelly Carpenter (Outworld
). The melodic, surging, symphonic Delusional Abyss
showcases Loosemore’s highest register, reaching far into tenor (5:42 is an incredible height!), and also some of his quieter moments; he tends to impress more, however, in the middle to high ranges. His voice is also colored with a Welsh accent, which rather than degrading his singing, lends it a slightly darker, tenser quality than expected, allowing him to fit into more musical environments and lyrical scenarios. The twisting, macabre strains of the (almost) title track, the longest opus on the CD, is the most representative and unique composition of the band: two destructive breakdowns, shifting riff patterns, threatening synthesizers, and Billingham’s most technical drumming performance with the inclusion of some polyrhythmic beats create an overall mysterious atmosphere that permeates the song, but in particular the memorable chorus. The manner in which Loosemore drops the body out of his voice and emphasizes his accent at the end of several syllables carries the disembodied feel of the lyrics, seemingly about a deadly encounter with vampires and other evil creatures (perhaps only in the mind, as a representation of good and evil in ourselves) and the threat of assimilation. Loosemore puts forth one of the strongest debut performances on a progressive album in recent memory, and yet there is still room for him to grow as a vocalist.
I heartily enjoy Opus Arise
, as it is an exciting, professional journey into Lost in Thought’s journey towards their own style. There is still a thread of influences running throughout the album, most demonstrated in the middle of the album, its weakest section in comparison to the classic material that starts and ends it. Seek to Find
is the only track on the album not written by the entire band, but by David Grey, and was originally an instrumental composition; Baker’s keyboard approach and the lead guitar work are strongly reminiscent of Dream Theater
. New Times Awaken
is a decent enough ballad, featuring Grey on lead vocals for the verses; he does an excellent job with the vocal melodies and grieving lyrics, but the constant acoustic strumming feels rather listless and the lead phrasing is almost identical to Petrucci. Quiet moments are not the band’s strongest point. Other closely related bands include Circus Maximus
and Seventh Wonder
, combining the heaviness of the former with the focus on melody and catchiness of the latter; Blood Red Diamond
is a cross between the two styles that still comes off as superbly executed, with an irresistible keyboard hook, a deceptively complex verse riff and an ingenious breakdown. Lost in Thought also includes several uncommon elements in their music, such as Baker’s extensive library of retro-cinematic synthesizers and the unexpected Middle Eastern flavor of the sitar; the punishing bridge of Seek to Find
sounds strongly Arabian even before that instrument enters, and the sitar doubling the main riff of Beyond the Flames
adds an extra eerie dimension to the track. The ethnic style is explored most on album closer Assimulate, Destroy
, combining a rather authentically Arabian-styled intro with metal madness, composed of a devastating
guitar riff, Loosemore’s siren calls, and vengeful gang vocals. Its lyrics relate the history of the Catholic Knights Templar and their preparation for the Crusades, and the chilling fusion of styles (considering the subject) carries the track, and the album, towards a monumental climax with an intensely reverberating note singing over the main riff, just before war breaks loose.
The only other flaws worth mentioning lie in the production. The sound quality is generally excellent, although the kick drum could be slightly more solid and the bass tone lacks mid-range such that although you can hear the bass, the actual notes are obscured by Pike’s more ebullient bandmates; the guitar is the best-produced instrument in the mix, as its tone is trebly, but extremely solid, reverberating and very
heavy. The biggest problem is the excessively loud mastering, which is not necessary in the progressive genre; the music itself is sufficiently intense and layered to punch hard regardless, but it still decreases the enjoyment of cranking up the volume knob on music that deserves it. This issue can be easily resolved on the follow-up, and based on the musical direction Lost in Thought has chosen, the next album will be even more worthy of blasting through your speakers. Opus Arise
is a noteworthy start for this talented ensemble: a gateway into the British prog metal scene and an ideal transition to prog from a metal background because of its heaviness and concise nature, and one of the most promising releases of 2011.
“I just need to see your face call out to me now.
I know we would find a way somehow...
Take me to the place where we'd be eternal!”