Jeff Lynne once sang, “Sun is shinin’ in the sky, there ain’t a cloud in sight, it’s stopped rainin’ ev’rybody’s in a play and, don’t you know it’s a beautiful new day hey, hey.” You may be thinking, “What the hell is this Limey dude waffling on about with his E.L.O references?”, well, my friends, I am using it to set the scene, imagine if you will, a sun steeped early morning sky on a fresh and glorious April morning, I’m up early and on my way to the leisure club for an intense workout, I’m in a great mood and, I’m reminded of E.L.O’s Mr Blue Sky (see, got there in the end.) For my extreme session at the gym though, I’m going to need something with more power and clout, for this I need metal and, today folks, it’s glorious progressive metal from Greek band Psycrence.
To be fair, I had never heard of Psycrence until a promo video was pointed in my direction by the awesome founder of this webzine and, to put it lightly, I was blown away. Whether I was in the right place at the right time or just damn lucky, I happened to be the first one to grab the promo of this band’s debut full length album, ‘A Frail Deception’ and I used my Usain Bolt like levels of acceleration (don’t laugh!) to leg it and find a hideaway before anyone could attempt to wrestle it from me!
Psycrence hail from Athens, Greece and were formed in 2009. The and consists of Takis Nikolakakis (vocals), Thomas Kouris (bass), Michael Aggelos Kouropoulos (guitars), Kimon Zeliotis (more guitars!) and Timoleon Valsamakis (drums). They released a self-produced demo EP in 2010 titled ‘Distance’ which received very encouraging reviews and, in late 2013 the band finished recording, mixing and mastering their debut full length album, ‘A Frail Deception’.
Through their music Psycrence attempt to combine the aggressiveness and heavy sound of 7 string guitars with melody and atmosphere. Influenced as they are by Dream Theater, Symphony X and Pink Floyd, they write music infused with progressive elements but which, at the same time, remains focused and direct.
Let’s concentrate on the album now, the first track is A Losing Game and begins with a melodic metal staple of piano and synth overlaying a light guitar, very nice and measured, then a crashing but calculated riff hoves into view to give some meat on the bones. The vocals kick in and, my, what impressive vocals they are, powerful and full of heart and soul, the guitars carry on riffing the hell out of everything and the drums are mean and moody, add in a suitably catchy chorus and we have some archetypal melodic power metal going on here, perhaps with a bit more added decorum. There is nothing out of the ordinary here but, there is definitely something hiding just out of reach that gives you pause and, as opening tracks on a debut album go, this leaves you wanting and expecting more! Convergence begins with a neat, compact riff that matches the staccato vocal perfectly, the song morphs into a coruscating guitar and pounding drums before reverting back to the machine gun riff and vocal combo. Takis’ voice has a commanding edge to it and holds your attention as the guitars are given more of a free reign, especially on the towering mid-section of the track. What follows is pure prog-metal class, the guitars are given a basic brief and fire off riffs and solos exquisitely, coming at you from all directions to surround you in a wall of guitar driven sound, the way the song runs out to an abrupt ending is classic. Things are building up impressively here, let’s see what’s coming next.
The intro to Forced Evolution is complex and elaborate, keyboards and guitars working a web of music around your head. The fast paced riff that follows works well with the impressive drums and bass to run you into the main body of the track. The vocals are emotive and lend a gravitas to the song, the chorus is a thing of wonder, one of those that sticks in your head for a long time, the twin guitars giving a serious depth to the sound that the band produce, I’m thinking that we could be onto something rather special with this album and, when the guitars go off on another extended and entwined run of brilliant solos and elaborate licks, that feeling is emphasised even further. Moral Decay is everything turned up to 11, the intro is monstrous, chaotic riffs, manic drumming and gives a burning intensity to proceedings. One thing that doesn’t change is the impressive range and depth of Takis’ vocal, even on this hard edged technical rocker of a track, his voice is an island of calm in a vortex of mayhem. That crushing riff is the heartbeat of the whole song giving it a soundscape like a yawning abyss, the technical wizardry of the two guitarists really comes to the fore on this track, keeping things neat and precise amidst the maelstrom and the solos are exquisite, I’m just not sure I can keep up at my age!
A slow burner, the intro to Subconscious Eyes wells up as if from the bowels of the earth then has guitars swirling around your head and the drums punching you in the solar plexus, things calm down to an insistent riff that hammers at you whilst the compelling, dynamic vocal drives this track on emphatically, reaching some higher ranges than before. Along with the previous song, these are the most progressive tracks on the album so far, technically precise and more industrial yet every bit as accessible, this album is really starting to make the hairs stand up on the back of my neck. Boom! The intro to Incised Path with definitely blow the cobwebs away, no warning, it just thunders into view with a suitably epic riff and drums that seem a thousand feet tall, the sound is just mountainous. Takis does his best heavy metal voice and you are in a world of black leather and mosh pits, without a doubt, this is the heaviest track on the album and has me grinning from ear to ear, the way these guys can move through the genres is amazing. If you think that is as good as it gets then you are so wrong, what happens next is magical, an extended section where the guitars are just let loose and produce a cornucopia of brilliance, scorching and burning riffs combine with imposing, intense solos, just superb and they produce an ending to the song which just has to be heard, take my word for it!
Distance is another progressive metal edged track, an incessant, pressing riff leads in the song and stays there in the background as the fervent vocal takes centre stage, full of meaning. The chorus sections increase the intensity and the song flows neatly into a prolonged twin guitar solo that mirrors the darker feel of the track, I have a definite feeling that the subject matter is not a happy one. Once again, the guitars take a leading roll in the delivery of this sterling song and add another layer to the musical competence of Pyscrence. Yet another superbly crafted song, Reflection has an exceptional intro where the guitar just grabs you and will not let you go, shining an intense light into your musical soul, a super cool riff then pulls you away and the song takes flight, fast paced and upbeat, you are taken on a mad music ride, like life in fast forward. The vocals are peerless, Takis has a fantastic voice that really gives the lyrics a life of their own,the drums are a sonic beast and the bass keeps everything in check, apart from the guitars that refuse to be caged, are just amazing and are the lifeblood of the band’s sound. It is to easy to call it melodic metal or progressive metal, Psycrence give a passing nod to both but, put their own unique stamp on it. I am left in awe by the way the guitars work together to produce something quite transcendent as the song comes to a satisfying close.
Hold Close The Flame is the one slower, ballad like track on the album and begins like a Whitesnake ballad from the late 80’s, keyboard heavy, gentle guitar, drums virtually non-existent, throw in Takis’ powerfully emotive, heartbreaking vocals and you’re virtually there, minus the massive hairstyles but, take a step back and, there is something else, an added layer of sophistication. There is a definite nod to that era in this track but, that’s all it is, the vocals have more depth and meaning and the music is just well, better. After the full on power mad eight tracks that have preceded it, this song is a thing of delicate beauty that plucks at your heart strings, even the solos are scaled back and graceful in comparison to the almighty and forceful delivery heard previously. Another slice of musical inspiration, how do they keep doing it?
If you have bought the CD copy of the album, it’s time for you to take a short break however, if you bought the digital download of the album, you will have a bonus track so, stay where you are and read on!
Lights is a digital download only bonus track and is quite different to the other songs, the intro is all piano and keyboards, almost nu-metal or pop metal in its delivery, the echoing, faint initial vocal becomes something that can only be described as ‘dance metal’ (don’t ask) and the short, erratic riffs really do make you think of Limp Bizkit or similar but, you know what?, I really like it. It is something upbeat, cheerful and makes you glad that Psycrence tried a different avenue on this bonus track, keyboards, screaming guitars, punchy drums and a pop like vocal combine smoothly and, throw in a nicely shredded solo and you have a seriously likeable song.
Whether you got the bonus track or not (trust me, you’ll wish you had) there is nothing frail about ‘A Frail Deception’ it is a wonderful album full of substance and brilliantly devised and delivered. I’d go as far as to say that Psycrence have produced something akin to musical nirvana with their debut album and 2014 has produced yet another classic album that should become a staple in anyone’s musical collection.