Review

INSIDE THE SOUND Wizard's Eyes

Album · 2017 · Progressive Metal
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4/5 ·
siLLy puPPy
Although the Ukrainian band INSIDE THE SOUND began merely as a side project of guitarist / keyboardist Max Velychko (most notably from Modern Rock Ensemble as well as Karfagen, Sunchild and Hoggwash) and bassist Dmitry Trifonov while working on other projects, the promise of fusing all the love of their disparate genres of music proved too tempting not to engage in a fully realized development of the band’s potential. While sort of put on the shelf for a few years with only sporadic recordings emerging, they found enough quality material to release a debut titled “Time Z” in 2010. What may have seemed like a one shot release as the years slowly sputtered by, it turns out that Velychko and Trifonov were simply taking their sweet time to carefully craft the perfecting qualities that took the template laid out on “Time Z” and further expand into unthinkable arenas. The result is that finally in the year 2017, INSIDE THE SOUND has finally released the second long awaited album in the form of WIZARD’S EYES and although i wasn’t aware of this band at the time of their debut, i have to say that for fan’s who were holding their breath for a new release can finally exhale and take in an exhilarating new inhalation of some of the most pleasing progressive symphonic prog meets metal i’ve encountered in a while.

While “Time Z” laid down the foundations of an Allan Holdsworth type of instrumental progressive rock sound complete with heavy rocking guitar laced with jazz-fusion compositional styles, WIZARD’S EYES takes everything that came before and perfects them and then adds a plethora of new ideas and sounds to the mix. The core trio remains the same with Velychko performing exquisite guitar workouts and atmospheric keyboard nuances while Dmitry Trifonov returns for bass duties as does Max Didenko on drums. New to the band is Dmitry Yeryomin who contributes an expanded role on the keyboards and adds a whole new layer of intensity to the band’s symphonic and atmospheric touches that the debut album only hinted upon. Also new to the band’s sound is the inclusion of four guest musicians, each offering a unique stamp on the band’s already established and accomplished sound. The biggest contributors are Indranila who adds his Indo-raga charms on acoustic sitar and Vedic chanting as well as Nila Goal who supplies a nice touch of tabla that is interspersed judiciously throughout the album. The track “Friends” receives the royal treatment with two more guests in the form of Antony Kalugin on extra keys and Daniel Ilyin on electric violin. The combo effect of all these musicians in tandem creates some of the most divinely pleasing melodic progressive metal that while does include some steaming hot metal outbursts, more often than not tends to merely simmer in progressive rock stews.

While the album is touted as a prog metal journey into instrumental fantasy worlds of epic proportions, WIZARD’S EYES is far more varied and magical than that mere title insinuates. Graced with superior production techniques and intricate compositional flows, the album begins quite nicely with an almost soundtrack type of orchestration that slowly but surely ratchets up the the drive and intensity that finally erupts into a more heightened tension as it bursts into a heavier form of rock with great care paid to every detail. The opening track “Intro: A Secret Journey” truly sounds like a jazz-fusion project of the great Allan Holdsworth only on a higher energy level with a Steve Vai sort of prog metal infusion that at times reminds me of some of the more adventurous antics on his “Passion and Warfare” album. While the jazz meets metal thing is the underpinning of it all, the music is laced with intricate symphonic polyrhythms and counterpoints that add smooth atmospheric suavity to the metallic guitar riffs and jarring time signature workouts. “Dreaming Deja Vue” ratchets up these very attributes of the music with exquisite instrumental interchanges and driving dynamic shifts. “Fantasia” is more of a jazzy ballad with sensual piano lines providing the melodic underpinning while the guitar solos are the most reminiscent of Vai on the album.

“Friends” is a quirky number that provides a smooth jazz sort of feel that veers off into more spacey territory and delivers outstanding key and violin solos. “Empire V” reveals a subdued influence of Eastern European folk music as the melodic developments hint of the virtuoso guitar compositions of Serbia’s Borislav Mitic however Velychko displays some of his most creative guitar soloing on this track that successfully creates a lighter than a feather weightlessness to the sound. “Haribol” is the most exotic sounding track with the inclusion of the sitar and Vedic chanting that offer a taste of musical curry and naan. “Horizon” delivers yet another midrange rocker while the title track provides the album’s most scorching hot metal track complete with rapid fire guitar riffing and percussive overdrive as well as interesting counterpoints delivered by the exotic flair of the keyboard approaches. It also offers some of the most intense progressive time signature workouts making it one of the most daring tracks to be heard. For me the weaker tracks on the album arise at the end as “To The Sky,” “Outro” and “The Cold Spring (which is considered a bonus track) seem to run on auto pilot where the album needs to go out on a bang but instead finds a comfort zone.

INSIDE THE SOUND has crafted a beautifully manufactured product on WIZARD’S EYES that displays all the details and loving touches that all the years of creation incur. The musicians are of top calibre and meld their respective talents together in a seamless fashion with strong compositions to boot. The production is crystal clear and offers a plethora of subtle touches that make blasting this on full decibelage a true delight. While this is almost a perfect product for me as a huge lover of both Allan Holdsworth and Steve Vai, i have to admit that sometimes the influences are a wee bit too strong in their direction despite the compositions maintaining a fierce independence streak that gives the album a unique charisma. Overall an impressive sophomore offering from the Ukraine with only a few tracks at the end fizzling out the excitement of hearing these dedicated musicians hard at work. WIZARD’S EYES is indeed a magnificent display of intricate musicianship that shows a true depth in musical tastes. The term progressive metal will surely be misleading because while the progressive term remains a constant throughout the album’s 51 minute and 44 second run, the metal part does not partake as much with the majority of the album falling somewhere in the orchestrated ambient rock universe with the metal riffing and soloing only emerging part time. While personally i would prefer a few more heavy hitting numbers, i have to admit that the skills displayed on this album make me think of what i wanted the Liquid Tension Experiment albums to sound like because the care and scrutiny of every detail is impressive indeed. A worthy and heavier companion piece to the Modern Rock Ensemble project. Excellent.
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