(Maple Metal 2015)
Sonic Prophecy are a six-piece power metal band hailing from Utah. They’ve been a going concern since 2008, and released their generally well-received debut, ‘A Divine Act of War,’ in 2011. Now, four years and multiple lineup changes later, Sonic Prophecy return with an ambitious sophomore album entitled ‘Apocalyptic Promenade,’ released through Canadian niche label Maple Metal Records. When I say ambitious, I mean that Sonic Prophecy have tackled an 11-song, 73-minute opus in which many of the songs appear to be thematically linked. It’s a tall order for even the most skilled band (just think of how the likes of Judas Priest and Iron Maiden have struggled to maintain quality and energy levels through their recent lengthy output).
There’s a lot to appreciate about what Sonic Prophecy have done here. They are mining a style of U.S. melodic power metal that was prevalent in the mid- to late 1990s but that has fallen into disuse in the intervening 15 years. Think of bands like Jacob’s Dream, Mark Vanderbilt-era Kamelot, Talamasca, Fiarro, Ion Vein, Defyance, Mystic Force and so on, you know, the distinctly American school that took old Queensryche and Fates Warning, added a high-pitched wailing vocalist, sprinkled in a few Maidenisms and Euro influences, and set a course for the underground. It brings back happy memories for me to hear a band operating in this sonic territory today. Furthermore, when Sonic Prophecy are on target, the results are impressive indeed. The 12-minute opener, “The Fist of Gods,” answered my skepticism with a well-placed fist to the chin, as it’s a well-written track with dazzling harmonized guitars, a hypnotic Jag Panzer-type marching rhythm and an effective chorus. Elsewhere, high-quality tracks like “Temple of the Sun,” the slightly folky “The Warrior’s Heart,” “Born of Steel and Fire” and the triumphant guitar theme in the title track all demonstrate unquestionable promise and talent.
Unfortunately, ‘Apocalyptic Promenade’ is not without drawbacks. Some of these are technical. For example, the mix sometimes does the band a disservice, with uninteresting keyboards much too high in the mix, sapping the power/bite from the guitars and drowning the vocals. Indeed, the overall sound job feels a bit “cobbled together,” if you will, which makes sense when perusing the liner notes that delineate the multiplicity of studios used in the recording process. Also, vocalist Shane Provstgaard is blessed with an amazing capacity to hit the high screaming notes, but he tends to overuse that gift by going for the over-the-top stratospheric vocal histrionics at every turn and eventually fatiguing the listener. Finally, some of the songs simply aren’t of the same caliber as their colleagues, and there are too many midtempo tunes and low-energy moments for my tastes. And the tunes are so lengthy that they tend to overstay their welcome. The result is an uneven listen that can be rewarding at times but somewhat frustrating at others. My hope is that Sonic Prophecy can focus on the positives, smooth over the negatives, and deliver an album #3 that delivers fully on their promise. They’re in the ballpark, but not quite there yet on ‘Apocalyptic Promenade.’
~ Review by Kit Ekman~