Aeon Zen - Enigma
Nightmare Records
Progressive Metal/Rock
9 songs (45'00")
Release year: 2013
Nightmare Records
Reviewed by Alex

In my lengthy time reviewing for MetalReviews I have rarely touched progressive metal albums. Not that I don’t enjoy the genre, but putting all of the complexity involved in words is slightly above my writing grade. Besides, when things get too convoluted I tend to lose track and sometimes interest. Keeping this in mind I always wanted to issue a memo request to the progheads. Please, keep your music beautiful and make your sound enjoyable. I can get plenty of raw intensity, nasty heaviness, fast playing and sheer catchiness elsewhere in metal genres. I just need my moment of accessible brilliance to come from you. UK based Aeon Zen either get my memo, or they subscribe to a similar theory, but in all of their various music forays on the latest full-length Enigma, the beauty concept eventually wins over and shines through.

To be fair, Aeon Zen, the brainchild of multi-instrumentalist Rich Hinks, is not “pretty”, this is not some sugary sweet music. The album, just like earlier works by the band, branches out and touches many aspects of progressive metal and rock, but beginning with the intro Enter the Enigma, Aeon Zen knows how to come up with striking unison playing, when keyboards, guitars and syncopated rhythms blend into perfect harmony. The latter, harmony, is the lifeline present throughout the album, something the band is willing to extend to the listener periodically to pull him/her back into the fold having previously submerged him/her into the vortex of styles. There is always a softer, tender side next to the harder edge on Enigma. Artificial Soul begins with the spacey Ayreon moments, only to gain an almost hardcore intensity mid-way. Still Human finds the way to unveil a gorgeous melody after progressive phantasmagoric riffs, with the heavy parts in that song having an almost sinister edge and bass guitar going snappy nuts. Shimmering bells in a distance and idyllic paradise of Warning lead to full-bodied strange vibe connecting 70s prog rock and Megadeth Blood of Heroes chug, culminating with a sing-along chorus. For every out there, weird, tough, Nevermore-riffed and prog death venture (Divinity, Eternal Snow), Aeon Zen is able to channel their inner Pink Floyd (Eternal Snow) soothiness, and do it with the multitude of instruments, like grand piano (Eternal Snow) or combination of piano, violin and what I think is saxophone (Seven Hills). The vocals also range from soft, balmy, holy unction poured on the wounds by Andi Kravljica to Rich Hinks doing his best Dan Swano growling impersonation (Divinity, Eternal Snow). The main man Hinks also took significant care of Aeon Zen sound to be complete. If songs are groovy (Downfall, Turned to Ash), they are rich and intense, the drums pound, and the bass goes ballistically syncopated. If the aforementioned harmony is king (Seven Hills, beginning of Warning and Eternal Snow), then keyboards are appropriately given the prominent lead role, yielding in time for guitars to take over.

Many a band have “aeon” in their moniker these days, and I, for one, just reviewed Swedish death metal Aeon outfit for all their brutal glory on Aeon’s Black. Looking up the meaning of the word, one could see that it stands for both “life” and “forever”. Combined with “zen”, it might mean that the UK progsters recommend you explore the eternity of existence through the prism of Buddhist attainment of enlightenment. Enigma is one progressive album, which gets better with every listen and grew on me a lot every time I put it in. This review was delayed, therefore, but I think it was worth it. Strongly recommended for the fans of Circus Maximus, in particular, and Symphony X and Dream Theater, in general.

Killing Songs :
Enter the Enigma, Aritifical Soul, Warning, Downfall
Alex quoted 86 / 100
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