Review Summary: If 2017 neo-prog introduces itself with such an album, prepare for a great year.
All of us music lovers have experienced that unique feeling of hesitantly checking new music by artists yet unknown, and happily realize they trigger a chain reaction inside us, prompting us to follow them with high fidelity. Such is the case of me and Need, a band I connected with too quickly for my own good, when I first spun their third album three years ago. Uprising bands are often interesting to attend, their course of evolution makes the whole process similar to watching a child grow, from a 'person-to be' lump inside its mother's belly to a fully developed personality.
Need gained massive popularity after the release of their third LP, Orvam: A Song for Home
, and grand touring across Europe and America, opening for big names, such as Symphony X and Candlemass. Their vision became clear: sophisticated lyrics, a decent into our thoughts and feelings and a general disdain towards the social structure. The lyrical axis is typical of their progressive metal tendencies, as is their instrumental proficiency - which is a given with Need - , but here is when things start to deviate from the norm.
Need have a certain ritualistic aesthetic, that is put across not only from the songs and albums' titles, but from the music as well. The band is more confident to blend different scales and techniques into their compositions, which is mostly evident vocally. Singer Jon V. usually uses his voice in a more melodic way, emphasizing vowels, in a way reminiscent of eastern music. Additional vocals from Sappho Stavridou only underline that mid-eastern necessity, with gentle dirges and wailings on Tilikum
and the title track. For the first time, three singers share the microphone, with keyboardist Anthony being responsible for the harsher parts.
I see Hegaiamas
as the other side of the coin in Need's pocket. While Orvam was dark, pessimistic, timid and navel-gazed, Hegaiamas is brighter, optimistic and bursting with energy. The two albums can only be considered twins due to the striking similarities in structure and themes, but are not co-dependent, but rather shine on their own individuality. The stellar production - by the band themselves and Hector Tsolakis (of HD Factory) - makes the songs sound meaty and massive, highlighting the already heavy material. Every little detail is heard, all instruments shine without dragging the music with instrumental blabbering and the songs flow into each other with great ease, almost if it's a single song with different chapters. I.O.T.A.
is a dialogue, possibly inspired by the series 'Westoworld', which functions as a prologue to the twenty minute magnum opus that concludes an already spectacular album. The track doesn't collapse under its own weight, showing Need's deeper understanding of composing long epics.
Their use of language is admirable and lyrically it is apparent they have been influenced by the zeitgeist, but they stay at a distance that prevents them from actually taking a stand. The concept of freedom is serious and fragile, but is explored from the typical lyrical generality that prog has us used to. If there is a single complain I would make, that would be it: artists (Need for that matter) shouldn't be afraid to be political and specific.
Despite this minor detail, it is a relief to see artists true to their art, constantly trying to surpass themselves. Need have proved to be a band of great potential and already valuable legacy. Faithful to their predecessors, such as Nevermore, Faith Warning and Dream Theater, carve their own signature sound on the great old tree of progressive metal, giving new life to what could easily be considered as a stale and unbalanced genre.