Review Summary: A rule by which modern, progressive-death metal albums should be measured.
According to Alustrium's Facebook page, they have been awarded 'My Mom's Favorite Metal Band (2009-Present)'. Alustrium's wonderful mother obviously has a solid taste in music as their second outing is nothing short of brilliant. Showing serious promise in their debut (which has been re-mastered and is free on their Bandcamp page), they have not only exceeded expectations, but shattered any preconceptions as to what the band was capable of. 'A Tunnel to Eden' truly is the definition of a modern, progressive-death metal record; and one that any enthusiasts of death metal, progressive metal, or metal in general should consider for their end-of-year-best-record lists for 2015.
'A Tunnel to Eden' opens with the title track. A brief intro of some beautiful orchestral work leads into a progressive-death onslaught. It is important to note that Alustrium never aim to be the kings of technicality. The riffs used in the opening track and tracks to follow are simply enjoyable, rather than always overly complex. The album is very musically technical, but not just for the sake of being fast. The title track ends with a soaring solo that hearkens back to old-school heavy metal acts and is an utter joy to listen to. The proceeding tracks, 'The Atheist Phenomenon', and 'In His Own Image' follow a similar structure to that of the opening track, but kick away the orchestra. 'In His Own Image' contains one of the most enjoyable solos in the album, boasting technicality and clever uses of melody that rival that of David Davidson's work on Revocation's self-titled. The second half of the album houses all of the epics. With the three closing tracks all being above 9 minutes, as well as being part of a group known as 'The Illusion of Choice', the identity of the album can be found here.
Every member of Alustrium fires on all cylinders in 'A Tunnel to Eden'. A large surprise to many would be the vocals; an effort that almost steals the show from the brilliant performance of the rest of the band. Sticking primarily with a half-and-half combo of low and high growls, the ferocity and placement of lyrics is nothing short but fantastic. Paired with the thought-provoking lyrical content, the vocal performance truly is top-tier.
For a genre of metal so guitar-centric, the kit work in 'A Tunnel to Eden' is masterful. The production on the drums is an absolute pleasure to listen to; every intricacy of play is clearly audible and wholly enjoyable. The drum work is a combination of precise, and fun. It compliments the guitar work perfectly and never feels over-played. The implementation of blast-beats suits each situation brilliantly. Even when placed up against progressive metal legends, this is an undeniably solid effort that shines finesse and skill while leaving room to be silly when necessary.
The guitar work is brilliant. While an increased use of harmonies between the rhythm and lead guitars would have been beneficial (take the intro of 'Procreate Eviscerate' for example: the brief riffs harmonized sound brilliant but are used very sparsely), the riffs are very enjoyable and the progression of songs is always logical enough to sound concise but unique enough to catch listeners by surprise. 'A Tunnel of Eden' is not a string of unrelated riffs and solos that progressive metal has become known for. Each song is identifiable and repeats key themes so the identity of one song never melds into the identity of another. It is a wonderful feat; something even the the more popular bands such as 'Between The Buried And Me' could learn a thing or two from.
This album bleeds fine tuning. From the opening orchestral piece to the closing onslaught, every second is just as exciting as the last. Boasting some of the most enjoyable solos to be heard in recent times as well as some incredibly tasty riff work, 'A Tunnel to Eden' is a must for the shelves of every modern metalhead. While not the technical powerhouses we have seen in the likes of 'Archspire' or 'Beyond Creation, it is still an utterly delicious record that will be remembered by the progressive-death community for years to come. A truly solid album, this is definitely a worthwhile investment.