Antiquus - Ramayana
Power/Prog Metal
10 songs (58:49)
Release year: 2005
Reviewed by Crims
Surprise of the month

One of the great things about writing metal reviews is every now and then I receive CDs like this in the mail. Antiquus is a newly formed band out of the Vancouver area (not exactly a hot bed for well-known Metal, except for Annihilator and 3 Inches Of Blood). The first impression you usually get from a CD is the cover. Featuring an Indian woman on the cover with what appears to be swirling colors, the first thing I thought was that this was some sort of Gothic Metal band. Then I opened up the promo package and a nice huge band photo greeted me which screamed Heavy Metal. Well, I was sort of the right with the latter guess. Antiquus is a five piece band that plays Power Metal with a strong progressive and heavy metal touch. The band cites their main influences as Iron Maiden and Iced Earth, but I’ll also throw in Jag Panzer and Eidolon as a reference point.

Ramayana is a concept CD of sorts, mostly dealing with cultural topics ranging from 19th Century Europe to India, to even the future. It’s a very varied CD lyrically and is definite highlight of the CD to those of you who enjoy reading booklets. Musically the band is very successful. What stood out to me at first was the production and tone of the guitars. They have an excellent crunch to them (similar to Eidolon) and almost every second of the music is very riff heavy. Though the band never quite get into Thrash Metal territory comparisons can be made to Jag Panzer’s heavy moments and similar US Power Metal bands… and even certain prog bands such as Symphony X (minus the ultra-thick-clean guitar tone… this tone is much dirtier). Though there are no keyboards the band has a whole whack load of leads for the melodic aspects of the music. This is where the Iron Maiden/Iced Earth influence comes in the most. Every lead, which is usually harmonized, has a unique feel and structure to it that I don’t usually hear in too many bands. These leads tend to compliment the verses and choruses quite well and then, naturally, the band also lets loose with absolutely ripping solos. The best example is on Hanuman which has one hell of a smoking lead to finish off the song. Some Prog fans might be turned off by a lack of keyboards but honestly Antiquus don’t need them. The riffs and leads give the music all the epicness and energy, not to mention melody that it needs. The fact that the guitars are so dynamic helps matters.

For any band that has progressive elements the question always arises: do the songs remain interesting. In the case of this release, that would be a definite yes! I must stress again how awesome the guitar playing is; think a more progressive Jag Panzer and you get the idea. The rhythm section is also especially notable. Thankfully, the bass guitar can actually be heard giving the band an 80’s Thrash feel in that department and it’s a nice change of pace from typical modern bands where the bass just gets lost in the low end. The drumming is very varied as well. Sure you have your double bass runs and aggressive sections but the majority of the music is mid-paced with heavy guitars and lead noodling with slight and subtle tempo changes. So the drums have to remain as dynamic as the guitars and moods are in the songs, and they definitely succeed in achieving that. In fact, I was reminded by Dream Theater in the percussion section… not the sound, which is very different, but the style. There’s always something going on with the drumming, whether it’s a crazy fill or some funky jazz-influenced pattern, it always gets the job done and remains interesting.

So we know all about the sound of this band from an instrument stand point. We know that the songs feature plenty of build-up and a lot of leads, with a lot of riff heavy moments, and did I mention middle-eastern influences in the guitars as well? You might be thinking to yourself, “what about the vocals”? I’m glad you asked. Mostly staying in an 80’s Power Metal style of mid-range to high-end wails, the vocals get the job done. They’re not wussy, or overly melodic; instead they have the right amount of gruffness and balls to keep in tune with the dirty guitars and bass. That’s not to say that vocal melodies aren’t present; because they are… once again, think Eidolon mixed with Jag Panzer in that department. Though the singer isn’t quite as good as Harry Conklin (few are) he shows impressive sustain and has a varied delivery (something Eidolon has always lacked) that should appeal to fans of US Power Metal singers and I can only see him improving in future releases.

If you’re the type of Power Metal fan that prefers the US style over the European style then I recommend you check these guys out in a big way. Just remember that because of the progressive elements they always aren’t as fast as say Omen or Destiny’s End, but in a way it makes the music more engrossing and interesting to those listeners who like tempo changes, mood changes, and multi-faceted songs without typical verse, chorus progression. The music isn’t without its faults, but considering this is the bands first release and an independent release at that, it’s amazing how tight and professional the band sounds. Most of the ideas work here, but some better than others, and I have no doubt improvements will be made and I can’t see this band remaining unsigned for long. A lot of progressive bands are a show case for the members musicianship, and that works every now and then, but this band is strictly about the music. The compositions are clean and feature just enough technical prowess, without the all-too-common show boating, that a lot of newer prog bands could learn a thing or to.

Killing Songs :
Empire Rising, Tanlin Bridge, Hanuman, Sri Lanka, He Who Makes The Universe Scream
Crims quoted 86 / 100
Other albums by Antiquus that we have reviewed:
Antiquus - Eleutheria reviewed by Alex and quoted 83 / 100
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