Review Summary: A release for the community.
While all the most well-known progressive metal musicians are busy writing concept albums about space, time travel and similarly over-the-top concepts, this year's Sithu Aye is in the corner of the scene, meditative and thoughtful. He’s always been familiar with the goal of his music-- “happy progressive music,” as he himself says-- and this is what distinguishes him from the straight-faced crowd of interchangeable shredders. Aye's music is an equitable blend of restraint and fun, pushing boundaries only to politely put them back in place when the curtains close. And 26
may be the most telling release from the solo musician yet, because it was created in a single weekend. One wouldn’t be able to tell from hearing the EP, as it’s as seasoned as expected. But the release satisfies because it plays out in the jam-session manner for his style of music has always strived. This is the miracle of the spontaneity Aye utilizes-- it emphasizes instinct, preventing him from getting carried away with his own thoughts.
Melody is at the forefront on 26
, as if lead single “Mandalay” didn’t make this clear enough. The track’s concluding guitar lead may be the most memorable moment of Sithu’s music yet, and shows a satisfying shift from his earlier releases’ rhythm-based groove. It’s about the notes played, not the way they’re arranged. This is why 26
, (and Sithu Aye, respectively,) stands out from the progressive metal crowd, because it cuts the nonsense and follows gut feeling. It functions as an ode to the distinct style Aye has carved over the last few years, and is the most comfortable the guitarist has been thus far in his musical career. He finally sounds like he’s home, which is why the record’s halcyon cover art makes sense-- this is Sithu Aye playing music as intimate as he can manage, but this time his following wants to share the moment with him. 26
is a release for the community, and that’s why it’s so easy to relate to.