Pyramaze - Epitaph
AFM Records
Prog / Power Metal
12 songs (61:42)
Release year: 2020
Pyramaze, AFM Records
Reviewed by Ben

Where do I begin with this review? Pyramaze have had a quite storied history and have morphed from a burgeoning young Power Metal band at the beginning of the century into a refined Prog / Power hybrid machination. There are two very distinct eras of the band. The first three albums with guitarist and songwriter, Michael Kammeyer, and the most recent three albums with his replacement, producer Jacob Hansen. The reason I bring this up is because when Michael was in the band, Pyramaze was his vision, his laser focused dream. And most importantly, his guitar playing was so fucking cool and awesome. Michael Kammeyer is one of the few guitarists out there who is influenced by Iced Earth and can play similarly and it showed, Oh sweet Samsonite how it showed. He had this forceful and melodic galloping riff style with lots of interspersed triplets and he and keyboardist Jonah Weingarten were able to craft simply amazing songs. It really was the most perfect blend of real metal heaviness and keyboard accentuation.

Well, following the 2008 release of album three, Immortal, (this was the album that brought Matt Barlow back to metal!) there was a lengthy hiatus from the guys in Pyramaze. An eight year absence where they lost a bassist, a singer, and they lost Michael. He became an author and handed the reins of the band over to Jonah and Jacob. In their hands the band has risen up again, but now as a refined, oiled, slick prog metal band. Three albums with this lineup has produced Epitaph, this, their finest record of the most recent era.

The most dramatic performances on Epitaph are the keyboards and the vocals. There is so much stellar piano work going on with this album. Piano is used to accentuate passages as well as lead the melody. If it's not piano, then the orchestrations are lush and room filling. There's a few keyboard solos here and there, but for the most part it's piano and strings. Vocally, Terje has a powerful voice, but he also has the ability to inflect very different timbres into his singing. He doesn't sound like he has fifty guys living in his head, but he is able to add smoothness, to add swagger, to add emotion with different tones in his delivery. At times he sounds like a super skinny thin guy, others he sounds like a roaring black bear, other times he sounds like an adventurous mercenary. Guitarwise, we unfortunately don't have many if any memorable riffs. Guitars are used as percussive type instruments like in the verses to A Stroke Of Magic and swelling chords. There are no triplets, no gallops to be found. This is a huge detriment to me. I much, much prefer Michael's way of playing to the style we have here. Oh God do I miss Michael!

There are two songs which have guest singers. Both of them are the best tracks on the album. Transcendence has Britney Slayes from Unleash The Archers and wow, she has some serious pipes! Britney sings in a traditional metal type of soaring manner, and has a real excellent "rock" voice. I should probably check out Unleash The Archers. I just assumed that since they were on Napalm Records they were another shitty joke metal band that plays dress up. Also, the guitar solo at the end here is the best one of the album. Lead guitarist Toke has his bar band showing through with his six string wailing. The massive twelve minute monster The Time Traveler closes out the record and lo and behold, it has both former singers of the band, Lance King and Matt Barlow as guest vocalists! This is a really bad ass song and the only truly fast one on the album. Although if you notice, even though it's fast, there are no triplets or gallops. Both Matt and Lance sound great here and I think that's because this is a fast song like on the albums they were on. The speedy passages give you a sense of tumbling down a tunnel of time as you ride the timeline to a new destination.

There's some more highlights to be found on Epitaph, just don't go looking for them in the guitars. Steal My Crown starts with a keyboard led intro before segueing into an uplifting chord driven intro before diving into downtuned guitar play. A great pre-chorus and chorus make me wonder why this wasn't the first single. Bird Of Prey sounds like a heavy melodic rock song. This is as close to a ballad as we get on Epitaph. Pyramaze go full prog with Final Hour. The guitar is a constantly slithering and bouncy presence that Terje does vocal hop scotch with.

There is a clear line in the sand with the sound of Pyramaze. The first three albums, and the last three albums. As far as this current era of the band, Epitaph is by far the best album. This is a fully formed, "adults are speaking" band that sounds like a mature, solid force in metal. If this band existed only from Disciples Of The Sun on, they would be hardcore on my metal radar. But in my opinion, the albums with Michael, especially the first two, are unmatched in their greatness. I know I'm in the minority and I don't care.

Killing Songs :
Transcendence, Steal My Crown, Knights In Shining Armour, The Time Traveller!!! and Particle
Ben quoted 80 / 100
Other albums by Pyramaze that we have reviewed:
Pyramaze - Contingent reviewed by Joel and quoted 92 / 100
Pyramaze - Disciples Of The Sun reviewed by Joel and quoted 90 / 100
Pyramaze - Immortal reviewed by Ben and quoted 95 / 100
Pyramaze - Legend Of The Bone Carver reviewed by Ben and quoted 95 / 100
Pyramaze - Melancholy Beast reviewed by Ben and quoted 97 / 100
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