Following up their 2013 debut album, 'The Colourless Sunrise', UK's Prospekt are back with their sophomore full-length work, 'The Illuminated Sky'. I previously praised their debut for its flawless display of musical virtuosity, although thought it was "emotionally colourless". A case of technical abilities overwhelming the compositions, to the point where it became an exercise in generic prog wizardry, rather than actual songs. I did, however, like the album's layer of film score, symphonic grandeur.
Well, what has changed during the past four years? Vocalist/keys man left the band in 2015, to be replaced by two new guys - singer Michael Morris and keyboardist Rox Capriotti. Stylistically, it's all very much the same, although this new one is most definitely a step above its predecessor. 'The Illuminated Sky' now sees Prospekt posit their virtuoso musicianship within the context of some great compositions. It's way better fused than before, and now it feels as if their technical abilities are an inherent part of each composition, rather than shitting all over the songs with excessive widdle. There is still a little "for the sake of" feeling to certain parts, where the virtuosity does feel like it's merely showy and excessive, although these parts are few and far between.
Sweepingly epic keys/guitars combine over a rhythmically varied backbone to create some truly riveting passages of music. Prospekt's fusion of metal with a layer of filmic/symphonic sounds works great. It's all as clichéd as hell, but they've deployed their adopted clichés with a healthy amount of panache and imaginative flair. There are a few neo-classical flavours here and there, à la Yngwie Malmsteen, and even the lead guitar tone veers towards that of the Swedish maestro on occasion. Keyboards are well integrated (both compositionally and in a great mix by Øyvind Larsen at Lionheart Studios) and, aside from the fretboard/keys virtuosity, there's a phenomenal drumming performance throughout.
Morris' singing is good enough, in terms of a standard histrionic metal delivery, but it could be a tad more refined; particularly within the context of his own limitations and abilities. There are a number of moments where he sounds pained to reach some of those high notes, and the forced, rather than natural, feel of these detracts from, rather than integrates with, the instrumentals. Occasionally, the vocals are as uncomfortable to listen to as much as they sound like they were uncomfortable to perform. I will hasten to add that tuning's never generally an issue; rather, it's their ball squeezing discomfort that makes them a tad grating.
It's worth noting that a couple of guests appear on the album - US session/solo guitarist Greg Howe lends his fretboard skills for a solo on 'Alien Makers of Discord', and DragonForce frontman Marc Hudson provides some vocals on 'Where Masters Fall. Not the most obvious choice of musicians, but their contributions add a bit more depth and variety to Prospekt's music, particularly the former.
Production-wise, the album sounds great, aided by a supreme mastering job by Jens Bogren... and I've now lost count of the amount of times I've typed that man's name in reviews over the years... his discography must extend to 100s... a ubiquitous Swede, it seems! All in all, 'The Illuminated Sky', like Prospekt's debut, will undoubtedly excite fans of technical prog, but now will also appeal to those who like to feel an emotional connection to the music, despite the virtuosity. And, with their sophomore release, Prospekt are now an exciting prospect within the UK prog metal scene.
THE ILLUMINATED SKY
Review by Mark Holmes
21st July 2017
1) Ex Nihilo
2) The Illuminated Sky
4) Distant Anamnesis
5) Beneath Enriya
6) In the Shadow of Earth
7) Alien Makers of Discord
8) Cosmic Emissary
10) Where Masters Fall
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
"...with their sophomore release, Prospekt are now an exciting prospect within the UK prog metal scene."