Progressive metal is a genre that in the contemporary musical scene is hard to find in its true essence, because there are bands out there who are trying hard to build an identity as a progressive metal band, but their influences and some other things let them be a progressive metal band with other elements infused. I for one am a huge progressive metal fan and, like me, others who are true to this genre, they have the ears to instantly recognize and appreciate if they hear something from progressive metal family that is true. The band in consideration with me today is Ivanhoe and we will be breaking down their album Systematrix for you guys so that you could have an easy time finding out what to expect before you go on and listen to them.
Ivanhoe is a band from Germany and has been around for a while with their first release Visions and Reality from 1992 confirmed their style of being from the progressive metal family. All of the work by the band has technique and feel that makes them a talented group who are willing to deliver in the best of their abilities. People who have been listening to them compare them to bands such as Queensryche, Angra and Elegy but not the exact copies of them because every band has influences and then add personal touch and flavor to what they produce. The lineup consists of Mischa Mang on the vocals, creating a specific atmosphere throughout his vocals that you will continue to admire. Chuck Shuler on the guitar, Giovanni Soulas on the bass, Richie Seibel on the keyboards and Mathias Biehl on the drums. IVANHOE signed a new deal with Massacre Records and the band entered The Red Room Studios in February/March 2012 with producer Andy Horn (LANFEAR,EDENBRIDGE, VOICES OF DESTINY) to record the follow-up to 2008’s “Lifeline”. The new album called, “Systematrix”, was released on May 24 and is the album I’ll b saying a few things about.
So after my fair share of listens the first thing I would like to tell you about is the overall talent of the band and the one word I’ll use is “Talented”. The first track Systematrix started with a Pantera feel to it and by this I mean Dimebag somewhere sitting within it. The vocals on the album are, for me, pretty impressive by Mischa Mang and his singing abilities are clearly evident from the first track and I think I wouldn’t have continued listening after the first track but this magical vocalist made me do so, and trust me I wasn’t sorry, like in the second track Human Letargo, I was drawn to Mang’s harmonic he just did at the start in a very high octave and well, I must say, I am a fan. This guy is really talented , especially for people who truly admire vocalists in a band, this is your man. For me this track is one of the tracks that stand out. The band takes you to the 90s with a grungy and post grungy feeling in the track Tin Cans Liberty, something you can relate to stuff by Alice in Chains, but quickly returns to its true genre of metal. War of The Centuries feels like a bad ass track, that one aggressive track that you would want to listen if you are going to destroy your boss’s car in anger of not being promoted to that happy position you wanted. The arrangement is a lot better for this to be a diehard progressive metal track, with an alternate picking part by Chuck Schuler, some good drum intervals, and bass as usual being top notch. Mad House is a totally held back effort, slow and mellow. Mischa Mang will throw the sand of vocal talent in your ears yet again with beautiful and powerful vocals, and a themed track with muffled vocal parts along the way. A cross between Dream Theater, Megadeth and Iron Maiden in terms of musical arrangements is seen in Learning Path, the solo by Chuck Shuler here has some notes being played deep from a desert in Cairo.
Second half of the album starts totally at a different pace with the next track Walldancer and the album sort of feels to be shifting gears now and improving track by track, feeling as if the band was trying to touch every element of the metal genre and now is finally settling down . The album has a portion of tracks that go along in parts, with the first part called The Symbiotic Predator- Seduction and instantly you’ll fall in love because your mind will now make you forget the rest of the album and totally give that ear to you to get ready for what’s coming. A very solid musical arrangement with all the instruments and the musicians working in harmony will make you anticipate for every second of the ongoing music. And just like that with a spontaneous break we go into the second part called The Symbiotic Predator –Resolution, Richie Siebel will inject some mellow notes with a cello playing in the background accompanied by well-arranged violin notes and the track will calm things down for the listener with right amount of metal still lingering around. My word for this is: Balanced, balanced down to the core and I am still wondering about the first half of the album not delivering and this being totally the band’s rebirth in terms of musical glory and finally like me you guys will appreciate what you are hearing. Entering into the third part The Symbiotic Predator –Late Recognition vocals are introduced into the track and if I would make a comparison to what I am hearing, it is something that Dream Theater would do if they are making parted tracks. Very fine musical arrangements in the form of guitar/bass/drum parts will ensue and make your listening experience even better. I don’t know why I keep hearing backing vocals reminiscent of Mike Portnoy at instances but having a spice of their own. Brokers Lingua Nera, will give a marching feel you hear in most of the heavy metal and progressive metal tracks with you yet again appreciating the pace the album has all of a sudden achieved and the last track Symbols of Time follows a theme for me, as if the ending credits are being played for this album, but also quickly displaying each and every musician’s talent and again you will not cease to admire the vocalist this band has and the potential of each and every musician.
To summarize everything in an honest way, the band Ivanhoe is extremely talented and has potential, but the band’s album is lacking somewhere because once you hear the whole album you will feel the same thing which I felt: “it is good, but something is missing”. The talented vocalist is delivering throughout the album and you must be wondering why I am constantly mentioning the vocalist. Well the reason for this is that every album has an element that shines throughout and it can be the band as a whole but in my opinion the vocalist stood followed by the bassist and the rest of the band. The album has the potential to grow on you, but this will not be the case for most of the listeners since the first half of the album just tries to suck you in and the success in that is achieved when the album reaches the second half, where you as a listener, will feel the change in what you are hearing and what you will comment. But then again this is my opinion because i have an open mind and I might be wrong but have a listen for yourself and see if my breakdown matches yours. But I would highly recommend you listen to it and I’m sure you will admire the whole effort.