Greek Prog Metal veterans HORIZON’S END return to discography with their fourth “The Great Destroyer” album.
I have been following the band since their debut album days (I was too young to get their two demos on the time of their release although I listened to them later), always being a surprised witness of the step-by-step evolution and metamorphosis of the band’s soundscape, album by album. What I am trying to point here is that HORIZON’S END were never keeping a solid formula for their music: Each of their albums has a very specific sonic trademark of its own, identifying a band that follows big steps of great progress keeping at the very same time all the elements that seal their overall artistic statement.
Is the “Sculpture on Ice” debut similar to “Concrete Surreal” sophomore? No. Is “Concrete Surreal” similar to “Skeleton Keys” that marked the band’s return to discography? No. However all those releases are featuring very specific and unmodified musical elements that are shaping the band’s artistic status: One of a kind.
Well we are all about to witness and confirm all the above in the band’s fourth chapter which is called “The Great Destroyer”.
In fact, four years have passed since the release of “Skeleton Keys” previous album. HORIZON’S END are now opening the fourth chapter of their imaginary book of sights, sounds and melodies.
I have to point that this is the band’s darker album, with its lyrics being a very important starting point: Lyrically, “The Great Destroyer”, while not a concept album, has a common theme in all songs, mainly war and its devastating effects, especially in the lives of children, a theme that’s discomfortingly relevant even today.
“And what about the music?” I am hearing you asking. Well “The Great Destroyer” takes the band to the very next level in terms of musicianship and songwriting. It is a magnum opus that combines a wide range of influences (from classical music, to Manos Hatzidakis’ artistic vision and from 70s Symphonic Prog and 80s futurism to the Progressive Metal of yesterday and today).
All the above (and even more) influences have been perfectly balanced to highlight a unique musical result, able to be created and performed by this particular band only!
I will put it straight and simple: There are lots of great Prog Metal bands around but noone sounds and feels like HORIZON’S END (well as you you will read bellow I am not the only one believing this). And their latest masterpiece is the biggest proof for the above statement.
The band’s mastermind and keyboardist Sakis Bandis has composed a phenomenal album which is trademarked by the brilliant performances of Kosta Vreto on guitars, Stergios Kourou on drums and Kostas Scandalis on bass. Vasilios Topalides vocals are greater than great, generously offering a serious touch of the darkness that is included in this release.
If agony has a melody, then this would be the very intro theme of the “Damage” opener. The song is taking you by storm in its -ala SHADOW GALLERY– distress. A combination of aggression, anger and sorrow is giving birth to the first guitar themes. Sharing the very same feelings the vocal melodies would progressively conquer the verse(s), before letting the -ala QUEEN / Hatzidakis / Broadway musical- chorus to overtake the mastery of the song.
“Last to Succumb” (the album’s second single) is a magnificent flashback gate to the 90s golden Prog Metal era and the band’s debut album. The ala LEVIATHAN main riff that shapes the verses would take to heaven all those who so hardly miss this kind of music. You would not expect a Hatzidakis inspired vocal melody to fit in there but it is happening. The song’s chorus would stick into your mind for ever and ever.
“The Trail of Notes” is a great study to the musical-storytelling: An imaginary play featuring actors that have the blackest real stories to tell while the music of Hatzidakis’ & NEW YORK ROCK ‘N’ ROLL ENSEMBLE and QUEEN are combined on an expanded Progressive Metal delirium.
I really do not want to point that “Another War” highlights all the late 90s and early 00s Prog Metal excellence on its first part. I don’t really want to refer to its great -ala Vitalij Kuprij– keyboard solo -I love the fact that in this one Bandis still uses this very specific sound that takes me straightly back to the ARTENSION debut (he was using this particular keyboard sound on some parts of the previous album as well)-. I just want to refer to a fact that has to do with this very specific keyboard theme / melody played on the song’s middle (3:16), a magnificent -and so much inspired by the Italian 70s Cinematic & Prog genre- melody that actually develops the core of the whole song: For weeks now I have been listening to the whole album. Initially I was not paying attention to song titles, letting the music to just flow on my mind. After those initial listens I left the album aside -having various other things to listen or write about-. But soon I found myself singing the above mentioned melody in random time points during the days followed. It has been saved inside my head and it was stuck there. As it was returning back again and again, I tried to recall from which song it was and I couldn’t. As I returned to the album for a more careful per song study, I discovered the source of this magic melody. So what have happened in here? Even from the very first listen, the melody entered my head and remained there. And I was just witnessing this little piece of heaven again and again, trying to discover from where it came from. Well to me this is pure magic. And it only happens on the HORIZON’S END realm.
“Catalyst of Fear”, would take you band to the days of the “Concrete Surreal” album. Complex and melodic it is also blessed with a serious Symphonic Prog touch, among other great features.
“The Will Rise Again” reflects the intelligent aggression that is developed on the “Skeleton Keys” era as it highlights a great influence from the last SYMPHONY X era (“Paradise Lost” album and beyond).
I love how Bandis manages to gently transfer all his influences -and personal favorites if you prefer- on the HORIZON’S END universe. Symphonic Power Metal movement of the 90s it is called and after all it has been perfectly balanced on a magnificent Progressive Metal composition which is called “Nightmares”. The early SHADOW GALLERY reflection is another beautiful gift to the overall composition I must point.
“The Parade” is a deep musical manifesto combining the futuristic 80s synth-based realm (from synth-pop to the (shining) synth based sonic experiments that the Prog bands of the 70s were into, during the 80s), highlighting at the very same time selected portraits of the Scandinavian Prog scene of the 90s. A wide touch of inner melancholy would be transformed into main melodies that would be progressively turned into pompous crescendos: an element that can be found on the music of favorite Scandinavian bands like ANEKDOTEN.
The surrealistic moment of the album belongs to the “Voices from the Sea” track. Complexity, futurism, enigmatic choruses and even some brutal vocals (!) performed by Theoharis Lirantzakis (HAIL SPIRIT NOIR, TRANSCENDING BIZARRE?).
The epilogue of the album belongs to the darkest song that the band has composed so far: “Postcards from War” (the album’s first single / lyric video). I have to point that Vasilios Topalides delivers a soulful vocal performance in this one. What can someone write about this song? If mourning is turned to melody it would sound like this…
The album is a masterpiece. It is based on a composing formula that highlights the songwriting as the record’s main feature, following the classic “intro-Verse-Chorus-Solo-Chorus” structure. This way the listener is more easily connected with “songs” and not “musical pieces”. Songs that are highlighting -and straightly transferring- the album’s common message about the war devastation. It is a clear challenge for a Progressive Metal band to attach all the desired features and elements on songs that -because of the above mentioned formula- have to last sorter than usually expected on a Prog album. HORIZON’S END have managed to achieve this difficult goal.
“The Great Destroyer” is produced and mixed by Kostas Scandalis and Sakis Bandis, mastering by Kostas Scandalis at Infinity Studios (Thessaloniki, Greece), Artwork and front cover are created by Panagiotis Sifakis.
The Veterans are back. With their so far greater album. Get ready for an one of a kind musical experience.
I would like to close the review with some words of Steel Gallery Records mastermind Kostas Athanasoglou. He shared with me those thoughts after the very first listen of the album’s final master:
“For me, HORIZON’S END are not the only ones who play Progressive Metal, but they are definitely the only ones who play this kind of Progressive Metal. I can’t compare them to any other band.
Through their own unique way, they combine the art of virtuoso performance with the melody and the pain that are expressed through their vocal lines.
Only a true work of art will bleed if you scratch it and that is the music of HORIZON’S END.“
Check the discussion about the album on our forum pages.
Listen the first single on our radio show.