Pyramaze were formed in 2001 by guitarist Michael Kammeyer; he later added drummer Morten Gade Sørensen and Jonah Weingarten manning keys, whom remain current members, even after Kammeyer left. Most lineup additions are Terje Haroy on lead vocals, in addition to Toke Skjønnemand shredding on guitars, and Jacob Hansen working guitars and from time to time as session bassist since 2011. I must admit, the first time I had heard of Pyramaze was in 2008 with the signing of legendary vocalist Matt Barlow, just after he left Iced Earth. I was so excited to hear more of his voice that I became an overnight fan, going back to 2006’s release of ‘Legend of the Bone Carver’ to create familiarity with the band. I was blown away by the stylings of this new discovery and I quickly reviewed 2004’s ‘Melancholy Beast’, realizing that this little touted band have every right to be recognized as leaders in the progressive metal scene.
When ‘Immortal’ was finally released with Barlow, I was left with somewhat mixed feelings. While it was very much Pyramaze-y, it had a bit more edginess with dashes of Iced Earth touches that their new lead singer was known for. It was absolutely enjoyable; however, it felt like a bit of the momentum that Pyramaze had going for them was brushed to the side to make way for something different. It took the tandem nearly SEVEN years to recover after Barlow left, finally releasing ‘Disciples of the Sun’ in 2015, with Tarje Haroy on vocals. Not only would I consider this newest incarnation of Pyramaze to be a completely transformed version of themselves, but also at their absolute best! How does 2017’s ‘Contingent’ compare to the collective? Let’s find out!
I’m proud to announce that 2017’s offering is just as powerful, bringing a fantastic blend of symphony and progressive metal anthems to your listening tastes! Which is a breath of relief as each Pyramaze release has been a bit like a rolling of the dice with varying styles from album to album, with key players interchanged in and out.
Diving in: ‘Land of Information’ is a powerful symphonic open, building to a big chorus and a strong focus on brilliant keyboards. ‘Kingdom of Solace’ continues with Terje’s vocals being the focus, with spectacular range in a complete sound explosion. ‘Star Men’ opens with an excellent transition from piano keys to a sharp grinding guitar riff. This is beautiful metal. A powerful roar within ‘A World Divided’ takes command from the sincere intro to its wonderful climax. Fairly mellow track pairing (from tracks 3-4) in the early goings, but still keeps a strong impactful presence. I have not found any failure in anything thus far!
‘Nemesis’ has much of what made Pyramaze such a wonderful act back in the mid-2000s. A moving chorus and incredible build from beginning to the closing moments. Much of this track brings back fond nostalgic vibes throughout. The title track, ‘Contingent Part I: The Campaign’ works as a very fine instrumental, connecting the dots between itself and moving into ‘20 Second Century’. Fantastical choruses, thus far, in nearly every track! If these anthems aren’t ringing in your ears after listening to them for weeks on end, you may need to check your pulse. ‘Obsession’, while a strong track in its own right could be lost in the cracks as a fairly straightforward, and good, progressive rock song, while not exactly offering anything mind blowing. ‘Heir Apparent’ grinds things up a bit with one of the heavier tracks, thus far, leading the way into the prophetic ‘Contingent Part II- The Hammer of Remnant’, which is wonderfully delivered with powerful keys. Next comes the wondrous combination of piano and vocals in ‘Under Restraint’, which feels like an inspirational journey through your inner being.
I have complained of uninspiring ballads plopped in the midst of many metal records prior to today’s review, finding the tradition to be somewhat painful to get through, and often ruining a potential ‘good’ record. However, with ‘The Tides that won’t Change’, you are hand delivered such a lovely song, crafted together perfectly. Kristen Foss provides lead vocals with Terje offering the complementary voice, with truly breathtaking symphony and piano backing. Metal is Metal, pure and brutal and punch you in the gut power, as it should be, but once in a great while you get such a moving track that feels so secretive and fragile you never tire of hearing as a sort of segue between all the violence. ‘Symphony of Tears’ closes us out with great punch and well-timed spark, reminding the listener of what to expect from this crew.
The 2017 release of Pyramaze’s ‘Contingent’ is a prime example of excellent song writing and brilliant lyrics, with perfectly delivered vocals. This stands up as one of their greatest works and should be an absolute MUST HAVE album for fans of Pagan’s Mind or Evergrey. Nothing is force-fed to the listener; it falls together so effortlessly, creating something truly special. Everything you could ask for in near perfect progressive metal is presented with this offering. Amazing!
Inner Wound Recordings
Review by Joshua Jaeger
28th April 2017
1) Land of Information
2) Kingdom of Solace; 3) Star Men
4) A World Divided; 5) Nemesis
6) Contingent - Part I
7) 20 Second Century
9) Heir Apparent
10) Contingent - Part II
11) Under Restraint
12) The Tides That Won't Change
13) Symphony of Tears
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
"If these anthems aren’t ringing in your ears after listening to them for weeks on end, you may need to check your pulse."