Review Summary: What you'd expect from early 2000s Dream Theater or Porcupine Tree, both good and a little bad.
Haven't you always wanted just one more track out of your favorite early 2000s prog metal album? One more bonus track from In Absentia
or Scenes from a Memory
? Then read on.
Italian prog metallers Althea openly draw comparison to prog hybrid outfits like Dream Theater, Porcupine Tree, and Fates Warning and it's apparent from the very beginning of Eleven
that the comparison is well-warranted. Flaunting catchy, soaring vocals and hooks to complement their suitably "experimental but not too experimental" variations on rock and metal, Althea skirt a fine line between influence and unabashed idol worship. But when the results are positive, what's there to argue with?
"Just a Man" draws immediate and just comparisons to Porcupine Tree with an intro riff that sounds like it was ripped directly from "Shallow" only to be complemented by whispy synths and prominent bass work a la In Absentia
. Combine that with a musical soul that's an even and delightful mix of most of the elements of Deadwing
and enviable vocal hooks that would easily suit Steven Wilson and company and you've got a winning prog rock formula. Not falling far behind, the same can be said for follow-ups "1.000 Storey Tall" and "Lies," both of which resemble a synth-heavy, wank-lite Dream Theater.
All three of these tracks tread that fine line between carving a new image in a similar style and mimicking the original image entirely. Yet if each track is only a nod or a bow to its respective artist, they are so masterfully crafted that with only a few minor tweaks, you'd have a hard time believing the counterfeit isn't the real deal. While the obvious influence may pose a bit of a moral dilemma to some, the appeal of the material is undeniable to fans of those bands Althea draw influence from.
In all fairness, I'd even rate Eleven
a bit higher if ballads like "Silence," "I Can't Breathe," and the start of "Dreaming Veil" didn't stuff an unappealing cheese into the album's runtime. Perhaps the nostalgia factor runs just as deep for some in tracks like these, but, to me, they represent wasted space when we could be listening to another "Just a Man." After all, given the choice between Sonata Arctica's "My Dream's But a Drop of Fuel for a Nightmare" and "Deadwing," who'd pick the former?
Despite close comparisons to obvious influences, Althea prove that they have uncanny chops and the capacity to make a phenomenal
progressive metal album on Eleven
. "Just a Man," "1.000 Storey Tall," and "Lies" all have that spark needed to light a fire under prog fans old and new and burn for days on repeat. The question for the future of this quintet moving forward will simply be whether or not they can shuffle just a bit further from their influences while maintaining that instantly recognizable sound that will pull in a well-established fanbase without a problem. In the meantime, fans of the genre should all eagerly await the answer and enjoy the stellar standouts of Eleven