Prog metal is a genre that continues to excite like no other. That may be due to the infinite possibilities inherent in its DNA. There are no rules in prog metal, although it helps if you can master your instruments to PhD standard and have at least one musician with a background in jazz and an understanding of unorthodox time signatures. Combine this approach with heavy chug riffs and virtuoso shredding, and you’re onto a winner… Or at least this is the case if your aim is to impress other musicians. Attracting the attention of those that like their music fast, heavy, and to the point is trickier. Isle of Man quintet, Aeons, can do both and even take the time to sharpen their song-writing skills on their sophomore effort. Is it possible to be complex and catchy at the same time?
You know an opening song called ‘Rubicon’ is going to be momentous, just like the river that Caesar marched across in a decisive moment in the history of the Roman Republic. A dialogue recording of a treatise on the impossibility of moral absolutes gives way to a fade in of down-tuned bounce riffs and a bubbling aggressive undercurrent that explodes into the open like a troop of infantryman with bayonets fixed and an enemy in sight. It’s 1997 all over again as if Roadrunner Records were still the epicentre of the metal universe but with a Periphery makeover and a Rivers of Nihil roar. Listen to the rhythm section lock in on the syncopated guitars and brace yourself for vocalist, Skippy Hilton, as he sways between a threatening neurosis and a tuneful chorus melody. The zen keyboard atmospherics on ‘Hades and Persephone’ are just as enthralling. Classic Dream Theater meets the modern edge of Nottingham metalcore outfit, The Five Hundred, with the effortless manoeuvre through the tempos and time changes of Between the Buried and Me. There’s a lot going on, but Aeons know not to saturate it with a superfluous barrage of notes and shred patterns. In fact, their sense of restraint is one of their strongest assets.
The standard of vocal ability is higher in prog metal than any other genre, and Aeons are no exception to this. Three of the five band members are comfortable on the microphone, and nowhere is this more evident than on the cascading folk guitars and husky rock vocals of ‘Blight’. Here, they transport you back to the soul-baring emotion of Armored Saint in their Symbol of Salvation prime with the expert backing harmonies of King’s X. It makes the successor song, ‘Thoughts of a Dying Astronaut’, bite with more intensity just when you’re settling into a mellow posture. The opening to this one is as violent and technical as the first Veil of Maya record, yet it acquires a dream-like daze underneath the aggression that should not be possible. You soon realise that the late-night trespass of classic 90s prog mixed with the chugging brutality and double-kick action of modern groove metal is what makes Consequences such an enjoyable record. ‘Lighthouse’ balances these two strands with great competency and imagination. Only on ‘Bloodstains’ do they lapse into the cliches of nu metal revivalism with the staccato riffing and pseudo-rap vocal lines sung through the vitriolic roar of hardcore aggression. The change of key for the melodic chorus does it no favours on repeat listens.
The band look back with pride on the making of Consequences as a two-year obsession that absorbed every minute of their lives. You can tell in the way they end the album with the eleven-minute epic of ‘Evelyn’. This one starts with gliding guitars and works into a settled groove of palm-muted riffs and mid-range melodies. Prog metal is at its most enduring like this – challenging but catchy, menacing but memorable, experimental but disciplined. When these guys go heavy, they do it in style, yet they also build a floating hook like John Barry’s ‘Midnight Cowboy’ into the morass of distorted guitar patterns. If only we had a lyric sheet to follow the twists and turns of each verse…
It’s a testament to the quality of this record that your main complaint will be a regret – a regret that it’s not a double album. Whatever happens, you wouldn’t bet against Aeons finding their way onto the roster of InsideOut Music in the future.
Release Date: 10/09/2021
Record Label: Self Released
Standout tracks: Rubicon, Thoughts of a Dying Astronaut, Evelyn
Suggested Further Listening: Detritus – Myths (2021), Periphery – Periphery III: Select Difficulty (2016), Rivers of Nihil – The Work (2021)