It is a genre that is often lost on me, because the bands that get thrown beneath the label are bizarre and obscure bands that don’t understand that certain sounds do not go together. For instance, a flute, death-core breakdowns, obscure shouting and rapid bursts of synth tones do not go well together. All my (bad) experiences with progressive metal have led me to severely dislike the genre with perhaps the exception of bands like A Perfect Circle and Uneven Structure. So when I am presented with a progressive metal band, I usually become incredibly cynical and prepare myself for the worst. This is how I approached progressive super group Escapethecult, despite members being from prog metal legends like A Perfect Circle, Uneven Structure, Kamlath and Mercyful Fate.
Escapethecult managed to break down my steady dislike for progressive metal with their superb debut album, All You Need To. They seem to understand that being progressive does not necessarily mean incorporating every genre under the sun into their music. Instead they opt for a chugging guitar-driven melody with the bass riffs providing a firm structure for melody of their music. This allows guitarist Mike Wead (King Diamond and Mercyful Fate) to build intricate guitar melodies which weave themselves in between the aural landscape that the combination of Peter G. Shallmin’s (Kamlath) chugging bass riffs and Tim Alexander’s (A Perfect Circle and Primus) thunderous drumming create. The vocals of Matthieu Romarin (Uneven Structure) soar above the already mind-blowing instrumentals with the same sense of power that one would expect from a power metal band. Escapethecult has made music that is actually good, and you aren’t left with half-an-hour-long guitar solos consisting only of power chords. Although, you do get the sudden urge to go off adventuring and slaying dragons to the tune of All You Need To.
The entire album seems to embody that same fantastical element that you experience while listening to power metal bands like Dragonforce. The technical structure of the album seems intent on creating that same ballad-like quality while Romarin’s vocals seem to take direct influence from power metal. You are thrown into a landscape that seems to be governed by some force of sorcery as Wead’s guitar work reflects the aural equivalent of black magic when he shifts from acoustic-style guitar chords to heavier riffs that hit you with the same force as Miley Cyrus’s wrecking ball – minus the half-naked lady. A good way to prove the presence of this black magic is on Escapethecult’s longer songs like “Feel the Flight” and “Where No Grown Up Grapes.” Wead paces himself like a good long-distance runner as he alternates between rapid bursts of speeds and moderating himself with moments of steady melody as he builds up the momentum and stamina to launch into fast paced riffs. That is not to say that Wead does not show the same kind of black magic on the shorter songs, although “short” is an overstatement. Most their songs reach the four-minute mark, so the band is given a lengthy amount of time to show off their superb technical skill.
If there was ever the belief that progressive metal is a dying breed – perhaps that it was even becoming a genre that has become laced with clichéd obscurity – then Escapethecult is here to dispute that claim. They raise the banner of progressive metal high above their heads and come armed with a fine-tuned bend of melody and mind-blowing chord progressions. If you don’t like power metal and need a soundtrack to a day of slaying dragons and other creatures in Skyrim, then I highly recommend listening to Escapethecult. It worked like a charm for me.
Purchase a CD and buy concert tickets here when they become available.