Progressive metal is something I tend to stay away from. While I’m not fundamentally opposed to all of the essential traits of the style, I find that it’s not usually something done all that well in practice. With that said, “Cynosure”, the second record by Canadian metal group Viathyn, is a definite exception. It still features a couple of things I really dislike in progressive metal: exceptionally long albums (64 minutes in this case), and somewhat meandering songs that don’t conform to the standard (or even identifiable) song structures. In spite of these characteristics, this is a really good album, which says something about the things Viathyn is doing right.
Part of what makes “Cynosure” such an interesting listen is that it draws influence from a variety of sources. Some might call this power metal, and that's certainly a dominant sound that is mixed with prog here. There are lots of soaring melodies, and while the vocals do not sound like Michael Kiske, they would not be out of place in a Helloween-esque band. Viathyn transcend the power metal label though. The guitar solos are incredibly virtuosic, and though they can resemble a band like Gamma Ray, they just as often resemble shreddier artists like Jeff Loomis or Michael Angelo Batio. In fact, on “Shadows In Our Wake”, the band pays tribute to the god of shred, Jason Becker. There is a lengthy section in this song where the guitars are clean and play harmonized classical leads. Anyone familiar with Becker’s “Perpetual Burn” will love this section, and it proves to be the highlight on the entire album. Another way Viathyn mixes things up is that they use harsh vocals (see “The Coachman” and “Albedo”, among others). These gutturals are relatively well performed, and in no way resemble anything in the metalcore realm. On “Countess of Discordia”, there is quite a bit of tremolo picking that will please fans of more extreme metal. The connection to extreme metal is also very evident in the rhythm section. The band’s drummer is quite active as he varies up different drumbeats. While there aren’t any blast beats, nor streams of absurdly fast double bass, there are plenty of interesting fills and rhythms. This diversity helps keep things interesting over the course of a very long record.
“Cynosure” does have the occasional flaw. The biggest offender here is the use of laid-back, quieter parts. Quite a few minutes of “Time Will Take Us All” lacks vocal power, simply because the music is too tame to support the great voice of Viathyn’s singer. Likewise, “Albedo” has some of these moments as well. When both tracks pick up the pace, however, they manage to sound equally as potent as anything else on the album. Ultimately, it is easy to recommend this album to anyone who digs any kind of progressive music, and even for those of us that are naturally averse to it, there is still plenty of quality offered by Viathyn on “Cynosure”.
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"Shadows In Our Wake"
4.1/5 or 82%.
Written by Scott