I am always skeptical about reviewing albums submitted to ProgSnobs, but of course the one or two that turn out to be excellent always revives my interest in continuing the blog. Kingcrow‘s Phlegethon is one of those albums, pure progressive metal on their own terms. It is well-composed, well-paced, and the entire album never outlasts the spectacle.
The first song “The Slide”, more of a prologue, includes the use of traditional progressive rock album opening tropes, the sound of the sea on the beach and a haunting single-note piano. It works. It segues into “Timeshift Box”, a hard-driving and well-composed instrumental that sets the tone of the album and frames the band’s progressive metal style.
“Lullaby For An Innocent” has a unique sentimentality that cuts into a rocking solo and leaves us with a haunting acoustic solo. “Evasion” exemplifies the perfect pacing this album offers and the vocals sounds like something coming out of a Porcupine Tree album, but works perfectly with the song. Rather than wearing their influences on their sleeves, Kingcrow’s use of this compressed vocal supports the song’s theme. “Numb (Incipit, Climax, Coda)” is one of the longer pieces that poses a journey and features a build-up leaves a lasting impression.
“A New Life” is another banging construction, particularly in the mid-section before the song takes a breather and begins its lyric. “Fading Out Pt. III” has the most similarities to Pain of Salvation on the album, but the album ender and title track “Phlegethon” is the proper culmination of the entire album. Nearly perfect. Goosebumps.
Unlike many prog metal bands, Kingcrow‘s songs, at least on Phlegethon, are shorter and more concise with few frills. It shows that the band knows how to compose and present their songs, even in a concept album format and in a sub-genre where most bands fail to recognize where their compositions need to end. The post-millennial progressive metal influences such as Porcupine Tree and Pain of Salvation are evident, but not at all suffocating. Kingcrow has a sound of their own, they seem to know what is best for themselves and the songs.
A biography of the band states that the band naturally evolved into a progressive metal style and have done so rather well. The band dates back to the mid-1990s but the maturity on Phlegethon shows future promise. Why am I only hearing about the best 2010 releases in early 2011 like Aquarius? Is there also an awards season for progressive metal? The current scene seems to have grown exponentially over the years, and the reign of Dream Theater and Porcupine Tree has reduced almost at the same rate. With bands like Kingcrow, it rekindles my spirit toward the future of this sub-genre.