With masterful potency and invigorating imagination Transcension, the new album from progressive metallers Sleepers Awake, takes senses and thoughts on a seventy minute flight through incendiary soundscapes and emotionally fuelled journeys leaving the richest captivation on ear and passions. It is mightily compelling and accomplished slab of inventive melodic fire which incites the surest pleasure and ignites a new beacon within the genre.
Formed in 2005, the Columbus, Ohio quartet of vocalist/guitarist Chris Thompson, guitarist Rob Bradley, bassist/backing vocalist Kedar Hiremath, and drummer Chris Burnsides, first made a wider impression on certainly the progressive and post-metal underground with debut album Priests Of The Fire, a release which was no stranger to acclaim with its adventurous intent and diverse flavours and textures. The self-released Transcension is no different and destined to find the same reception at the very least, and one suspects, even stronger passion fuelled acclaimed reactions with its impressive and thoroughly exhilarating evolution. The greater invention to songwriting and sound is breath-taking at times and always enthralling as tracks and album lifts the listener into a realm of torrential emotive provocation. There is also an anthemic energy to Transcension, its excited presence and voice thrusting a rich fascination of ideas, lyrical narrative, and seductive enterprise straight to the heart. It is not a perfect album but walks the rim of that plateau from start to finish, standing as one of the most thrilling albums this year.
The names of the likes of Tool, Opeth, Mastodon, even Rush have been cast over the band leading up to the album release and at times it is easy to see why especially in regard to Tool but there is much more to their sound and immediately across the opening tracks we would add the likes of Life Of Agony for the depth of emotion and dramatic structures to the songs, and Poet Of The Fall for the more instantaneous melodic temptation offered. Do not mistake this as suggesting the album is an echo of such references or from the constant mention of its melodic heart that it is a mellow or restrained beast. The album stands apart from most with ease and has a snarl and aggression which leaves you exhausted. It offers a seamless merger of glowing sonic beauty and stern merciless shadows making for a sensational exploration.
With a concept based around the tale of an augur (a priest in the classical world) and his struggle with higher forces while exploring the depths of existential contemplation as the venture moves through magical worlds lined with fantastic creatures and surreal imagery, Transcension opens up its experience with The Augur and takes mere moments with its first breaths of sonic guitar beckoning to draw strong attention. Soon into its charged presence with the excellent vocals of Thompson making a further deeply persuasive introduction to the unfolding lyrical emprise and mutually charismatic sounds, the track stirs up appetite and emotions with continually intriguing and evolving invention, intensity and melodic imagination a fluid shifting instruction for hunger and rapturous reactions.
The impressive start is soon built upon further by the outstanding Burdened and the equally stunning Apparitions. The first of the pair is a nine minute plus epic of melodic parades and vigorous rhythmic enticements which again never stay in a single stance for longer than necessary as it ignites visual soaked thoughts and poetic imagination. There is a loud Perfect Circle/Life Of Agony whisper across the track, especially vocally, as well as a prowling and intimidating guttural glaze found by the vocals which adds a caustic embrace ensuring the course of the song is never straight forward and safe. Arguably the track is over long for personal tastes but in saying that there is never a moment where captivation wanders or thoughts look at the hands of their impatient watch. Its successor opens on an expansive ambience with the enveloping breezes soon joined by fervent expression and zealous emotion from vocals and the melodic call of the guitars. Veining this throughout the drums and bass reveal inciting sinews for a predatory essence behind the even more Keith Caputo like tones of Thompson. It is a song of aural alchemy and such its power and craft alongside its predecessor gives the rest of the album a tall order to replicate, something it valiantly fails at such the strength of these songs.
If the album started at this point there would still be nothing but full praise and greed for the release, the likes of the rapacious Slave Within with its unexpected guttural squalling, the equally scowling Saint Condemned, and the magnetic instrumental riveting Circles Without Division, all explorations of and inducements to the ripest depths of mind and soul. The fusion of light and ferocious dark in the first two of these songs is immense whilst the crystalline sonic shimmers and melodic flames around a busy populace in the third pure temptation.
Through to its conclusion the album continues to seize and paint upon the listener’s emotional canvas, the deliciously descriptive beauty of Throat of Winter and the tempestuous Equa Mortuorum two more major landmarks in the traversing of the chronicle. Transcension is an intoxicating album which though it has its greatest strengths at the fore of its spellbinding company never slips below giving an intensely emotion and mentally arousing impact, and leaves one final slice of galvanic glory with closing track The Fulcrum to linger in its wake.
If progressive metal with true heart and sizzling imagination without any form of indulgence is on your menu than Sleepers Awake and Transcension is a must. It is a fulfilling and invigorating piece of artistry, a must have should have for all melodic metal fans.
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