Every so often, a first listen to an album leaves me stunned, speechless, and truly humbled. The only proper course of action in this situation is to keep replaying, replaying, replaying, replaying, until I am able to absorb the album enough to function once again as a human being. It seems that one or two albums a year hit me in this fashion. In 2012, it was Beyond the Bridge’s debut The Old Man and The Spirit. 2013 brought us Karnya and their debut Coverin’ Thoughts. The common thread between these two and the subject of today’s review, Lost by Thoughts Factory, is that they nail the holy trinity of progressive metal music, for me at least. Each one has brilliantly complex and structured instrumental work, stunningly powerful vocals, and a gripping emotional concept delivered through deep and thoughtful lyrics. By the merging of all three through solid production they created, for this reviewer, musical perfection.
Thoughts Factory hail out of Frankfurt, Germany. Originally a studio project by keyboardist Sven Schornstein and vocalist Marcus Becker, the complete lineup was filled by 2011 with the addition of drummer Chris Maldener, bassist Bernd Shonegge and guitarist Markus Wittmann. Recording of Lost began in December of 2012, with the final product entering the last phases in mid 2013. In charge of engineering was Kristian “Kohle” Kholmannslehner (Seiges Even, Subsignal). I sincerely want to offer thanks to the forces of nature that coalesced to bring all the above mentioned together in just the right place and time to bring to the ears of the progressive metal world Lost, by Thoughts Factory…
The album opens in classic prog metal fashion, with a few minutes of solid instrumental work that kick off the lead track, Awakening, and Thoughts Factory immediately serves notice that they, if not anything else, are going to kick some serious ass. Hard riffs, beastly bass, explosive drums, and keyboard work that can live up to any of the masters, they blend all these elements with just enough of a melodic touch to slip right into that perfect zone that so many bands try to hit. And take note, they continue this throughout the album. Once through this part, the vocals of Becker take over, and folks, this guy can sing, period. Crisp, clean, with tremendous power and range, he has all the tools to be the prototypical prog metal singer. Also, we are introduced to the concept of the album, and a harrowing one it is. Lost is the tale of an emotional journey taken after the suicide of a loved one. Yeah, heavy stuff, but to their credit, they treat the subject with as much grace and dignity as possible, while still managing to touch on the huge array of emotions involved within. The conceptual nature really takes hold in the first of three epics (yes, three!!!!) on the album, The Deep Forest. The tone is a subdued fury through this twelve minute powerhouse of a song. The anger and rage are palpable, delivered with perfection via Becker’s vocals and some breathtaking instrumental work. In the latter part of the song, some fitting and tasteful growl vocals bring into play the darker aspects of the struggle, and the clean and growl vocals pair off in a wonderful transcript of the fury and despair within. It leaves the listener empty and searching for answers that just don’t seem there.
Two shorter tracks follow, Desperation and Light. Desperation is the first of the really straightforward rocker songs, leaving no bones as to who’s in command. Wittman’s guitar work is especially mind-blowing, his riffs cutting through so solidly, his deft touch ripples throughout the tune. Becker takes a more straightforward approach as well, settling into the pace of the song well, pushing with force the desperate tone that the song is portraying. Light is a brief transitional number, with just Schornstein on the keys and Becker’s vocals. It serves to settle us down, and set the stage for the big number, Voices from Heaven. This song bursts through with huge guitar and the keys, and sets about on a thirteen minute journey of musical perfection. The opening instrumental passage is a perfect marriage of the prog rock and prog metal sides of the band, blending the disparate factions with grace and surety. The rest of the song continues on with the opening, a grand song, raising the bar for pretty much any band who dares to follow. Thematically, it is the first semblance of coming to terms, and finally looking at the life lived as opposed to the one that ended. The regret and anger is still palpable, but it is finally starting to blend into the rest of life. The middle to closing passages are about as beautiful as music can get for me, soaring to epic heights that only the best of progressive metal is capable of. Songs like this are why I love music. Seriously, I could write about this one for hours, and still never give my full appreciation of what this song does to me, so I will just humbly wipe the moisture from the corners of my eyes and move on.
And just when I thought we were out of the woods, Thoughts Factory delivers a jaw dropping riff fest they call No Way Out. I’m going to step out of my proper writing style, and just say simply that No Way Out is a fucking beast. So. Much. Riffage. It’s one of those songs that grabs the listener by the short and curlies, and drags them around the room, banging them off every piece of furniture, without remorse mind you. We aren’t out of the woods thematically, and probably never will be, this song is a coming to terms with the futility of trying to understand. It’s a roundabout argument, with no solution. The song portrays this perfectly. The conceptual part of the album finishes with Mire, which opens with a shockingly brilliant guitar section that settles into the finale. Again, they hold to the classic form and build to a crescendo of biblical proportions to close this one out. It’s all I can do not to stand up and applause in the solitude of my room where the album has me its prisoner.
Now, we aren’t done by any means folks. Death of a Dream closes out the album, the third of the epics, and the longest track. It’s listed on their page as a bonus track, and oh what a bonus it is. With the thematic feel of the rest of the album being carried on, the band blows the top of the roof with this monster track, bringing all the elements previously explore and simply killing it. Mercy man, mercy, I’m done for guys.
I do have to say, review writing is a matter of perspective. What appeals to me may not appeal to others, though I know a great deal of people in my circles who will drool as freely as I did over this album. No matter what your perspective is though, any prog metal fan will fully appreciate the skill, talent, and hard work that went into this album. To take a subject matter as delicate as the one contained within these tracks, and treat it with the deference and respect that it deserves, while still managing to literally blow away all musical expectations a fan will have of a prog metal debut. Well done guys, well done.