Review Summary: Superb on quite a few levels
Ohio based Progressive Metalcore/Djent band "Wide Eyes" have been on the scene for a couple years now creating albums such as "Volume" and "Samsara". Listeners would usually just take or leave these albums, but more commonly, leave. The reason for this is because the albums were just too long. 26 tracks in Volumes case was simply way too long for even a veteran in Progressive Instrumental music to sit down and listen to for damn near 2-hours. The band's formula progressed over time taking bolder strides on "Terraforming" before dropping their most ambitious record to date in "Paradoxica". The band's core sound has always been a focus on groove and slow but very melodic arpeggiated scales, as well as the use of synths providing another dynamic to their sound as a whole.
You can tell immediately from the track listing of Paradoxica that this is a much more focused effort than previous albums. With only 5 tracks, there is a lot of room to take advantage of, and they absolutely do take advantage of this in form of extended length cuts. No track shorter than 6 mins with the longest track eclipsing the 14 min mark.
Use of lush chords, not only on guitars but piano as well separate this album from the bunch, granting the effort it's own unique identity. With a theme of outer space travel the project feels oddly grounded (within context), even with the synthetic like song structures, it seems to still feel, in its core, human. This is the biggest strength of the record to me, the groove induced sections are only made stronger when infused with these chords, almost giving each note purpose, and reason to be there. The slow-moving section about 3 mins into the title track is a breath of fresh air, probably the best example of lush chords in the entire record, the arpeggiated synth lines over the chords is a wonderful sound to behold. Only to provide a break within the track as the synths taking center stage, with guitar layered over it the next couple bars. The band letting us know they are not a one trick pony and they can take on a multitude of different stylistic choices, and all within one song, very impressive.
Sections pummel such as the breakdown section in "The First Contact", and the almost entirely rapid groove-based "Hollow Rain", while arpeggiated sections layered over these only accentuate the music even more so. Atonal riffs are also included in breakdown sections of "The First Contact", which probably would sound terrible to use on paper, but work quite well within the context of this cut, and actually instead provides a character to the track itself, because it is a section that is hard to forget because of it's boldness and risk.
Lead playing in a general sense is quite impressive from bending of strings to legato playing, and so on. The guitarist manages to find the perfect lead to use over many of these sections, and to be quite honest, it is the element that keeps me the most interested, not because it is all shreddy, but in fact the opposite, the guitarist does not let technicality outweigh enjoyment factor. For instance, in the title track "Paradoxica", the final quarter of the track is not even a guitar, but a synth, only for the guitar to come in later to tail end the track, this end portion is basically 20% technicality and 80% enjoyment factor, a very superb section.
"Vertigo" is essentially the title track but spaced out to a whopping 13 mins and 27 secs in length, easily Wide Eyes most ambitious cut to date, but does it transcend space and time itself or does it fall flat on its face" The track starts off with slow guitar leads providing the overall themes, not long after setting into gear with the whole package with arpeggiated synths and groove-based rhythms. Much like many cuts on the record, chords are the core element of what makes this track so great, lush and vibrancy are oozing from this track. Although not staying a pummelling force for long, as it provides a small break around the 3 min mark, mirroring the title track in this aspect. Around 8 mins in the same breakdowns from the title track are reprised, only to stay in the mode for the final section 10 mins in which throws everything but the kitchen sink at you, a truly awe-inducing conclusion to the album. For this final section, the guitarist could easily shred over this finale, but instead decides to space it out, providing room within the section, almost comparable to "The Best of Times" by Dream Theater, the cut from "Black Clouds" was slow moving, very impactful, very similar to this final track we see here on "Paradoxica" in terms of lead playing.
In conclusion, Wide Eyes provide a beautiful album that is most suited towards those who enjoy Instrumental Prog/Djent type of music, but does not provide much enjoyment for this who aren't into the genre already, and the album won't convert you to love the genre. The album does not ultimately provide much new to the genre but what it does provide, is a very enjoyable listen through mind-bending groove sections, and fantastic guitar playing from beginning to end.
1) Paradoxica (4.8/5)
2) The First Contact (4.5/5)
3) Hollow Rain (4/5)
4) Oresteia (4/5)
5) Vertigo (5/5)
OVERALL ALBUM RATING: ~4.5/5