Psion is the new band from Tom MacLean (To-Mera, ex-Haken), and their eponymous debut EP arrives two after McLean first began the project. After some shifting in the early months, the full lineup is completed by Bryan Ramage on vocals (Cilice, Ramage Inc), Jasper Barendregt on drums (Dodecahedron, Ulsect) and guitarist Nik Wolf, while MacLean handles lead guitar, bass, synth and orchestration duties.
Stylistically, the EP hints at a number of influences but creates something quite unique, with no obvious direct comparisons to be made. The music is dark, atmospheric and often intense. There is, unsurprisingly, something in common with To-Mera and occasional flashes of Haken. Ramage’s impressive vocals also lend some of the EP’s grander moments a slight air of Symphony X. But Psion don’t sound like any of them. Their closest comparator is probably short-lived prog metallers Biomechanical, only slicker and more engaging.
Oddly-titled opener enTrance(D) kicks the EP off in cinematic fashion. It is immediately apparent that Psion are producing some big music. The production is sonically full, rich and dynamic, courtesy of mixing and mastering from Joris Bonis. It’s a short, instrumental opener that sets the tone for the rest of the record.
We are then treated to three epic songs of around nine minutes each. Performances and production are tight and powerful throughout, and the music seamlessly blends giant cinematics, crushing riffs and even a bit of groove, interspersed with gentler, brooding moments that keep the record varied and ensure the heavy moments don’t lose impact.
Void demonstrates well the excellent balance that Psion have achieved on this record. Intense verses and enormous choruses give way, halfway through, to a delicate bridge section that keeps the pacing just right before bringing the heavy back to close the song.
Recoil is, arguably, the strongest track on the EP. It is ominous and dramatic, stretching the band from their quietest moments to their most brutal, all built around a consistent motif that makes it the most coherent and memorable song on the record. It is harmonically rich, and, like much of the album, almost ludicrously epic at times.
By contrast, closer Tyranny is more energetic and has a sense of eclectic fun to it in places. It is no less dark, but the band play around more with styles and pacing. It also contains some of the album’s best riffs, which get the blood pumping and the head banging.
This self-titled EP is an incredibly promising and exciting start from Psion. The different elements have come together superbly, and with a strong vocalist in Ramage, MacLean is able to really go all out in his epic compositions.
One word of caution for the band going forward. The music here is intense, but it never gets too much thanks, in part, to the short run-time of an EP. When producing a full-length LP, they will need to think carefully about how keep it all in balance. But that’s for another day, and takes nothing away from just how good this debut is.