4 Years in the making, Harmagedon is as sumptuous a slice of progressive rock/metal as one could wish to hear, awful title notwishstanding. A concept album based on the bible (or at least that portion of the bible which forecasts the ‘end times’), this album brings to mind giants of the genre Kansas, such is its breadth of scope and ambition and the musical dexterity displayed by all those involved. Vocalist Ted Leonard (you may remember him from Spock’s Beard) is a dead ringer at times for Kansas/Mastedon singer John Elefante (interestingly Elefante was brought into Kansas when that band ‘went Christian’ in the early eighties), though he is good enough to be considered more than just a karaoke pomp God: His emotive vocalizing is a treat throughout whoever he sounds like.
The same can be said for guitarist Daniel Fries, whose playing on this album marks him out not only as someone to watch in the future but also flags the fact that he’s right up there with the established greats of this genre now. Take one listen to the album’s centerpiece, The Rapture, for proof. The likes of Steve Morse and Ian Crichton will be shaking in their shoes!
While we’re talking about splendid musicianship, let’s mention the raft of guest keyboardists that add to the overall splendour of Harmagedon. Spock’s Beard alumnus Neal Morse, Alex Argento, Derek Sherinian and Jordan Rudess all weigh into proceedings here, everyone of them gilding an already splendid lily that’s dripping with aural gold. Did I mention this band sounds like Kansas? Don’t believe me? Take one listen to the awesomely brilliant Cry Song for further proof. An utterly beautiful song, Cry Song really does evoke memories of the glory days of pomp rock (although I’m too young to have been there at the time, I’m sure this is what pomp rock’s salad days must have sounded like…)
Falling Away & Rise of the Beast carries on the epic theme too, and features some superbly bubbly bass work from Symphony X’s Mike LePond. Yep, the prog pedigree keeps getting better and better, eh? But once that’s done the title track is upon you, crashing in on an intro that sounds like 1987-era Whitesnake before settling into a pleasingly Maidenesque gallop that’ll have you rocking out before you know it, no matter where you happen to be when the riffs take hold. You have been warned.
Intersetingly, the evocative Cry Song aside, all these ‘songs’ aren’t that as such. There are no refrains or choruses, with the passages from the bible being sung straight and the band arranging music around them. It makes for an intriguing listen, whether you believe or not, and it’s a testament to the skill of everyone involved that the whole thing emerges flowing so naturally. This is a remarkable album and it deserves your undivided attention.