only a year ago when Aeon Zen barged into the Metal scene with “A Mind’s
Portrait”. Rising to what must have been a daunting challenge of emulating
that impressive debut, the band returns with “The Face Of The Unknown”.
yet unfamiliar with the ‘band’, Aeon Zen is mentored Rich Hinks, a young
musician from Cambridge, England, who plays most of the instruments as well
as producing the band’s recordings. With this new full-length, Mr Hinks
seems to demonstrate a more mature compositional approach. The instrumental
execution is once again of a high standard - moreover the guitar solos
possess a vibrancy that wasn’t so evident before. Another surprise is that
this time Rich also plays drums and does a damn fine job of it, too.
review of “A Mind’s Portrait” (elsewhere in this webzine), I remarked on the
music’s lack of identity – however I feel that “The Face Of The Unknown”
contains subtle but positive developments in that regards, particularly with
tracks such as ‘You’re Not Alone’ and the excellent ‘Redemption’s Shadow’.
a number of vocalists have been invited to articulate Rich’s lyrics, namely:
Michael Eriksen (of Norwegian band Circus Maximus); Andi Kravljaca (of
Silent Call – Andi is also part of Aeon Zen’s touring line-up) and Nick
D’Virgilio (of Spock’s Beard, Genesis and Brand X, amongst others). Also in
“The Face…” are two English vocalists - Jem Godfrey (Frost*) and Jonny Tatum
(Eumeria). Rest assured there is no weakest link in the vocal department but
I particularly enjoyed the warmth of Jonny Tatum’s vocals in ‘Redemption’s
Shadow’ and the way Andi Kravljaca’s voice gives the album’s title-track
such a cathartic feeling. Even Rich has a go at singing in a couple of songs
– one being ‘Start Over’, where he uses a ‘whispering’ but emotionally
intense vocal style that is perfectly suited to this melancholic ballad.
artwork of “The Face…” was created by Mattias Norén who is intimately
connected with Prog Metal, having worked for bands such as Evergrey, Into
Eternity, Wolverine, Arena, Kamelot, Mind’s Eye, amongst many others. In all
honesty I didn’t like what he did for “The Face Of The Unknown” – all the
detail is focused on the bottom left-hand corner which leaves the rest of
the front-sleeve rather empty.
As for the
album’s content, it should certainly find appreciative ears amongst fans of
Rush, Evergrey, Kamelot and Mind’s Eye. “The Face Of The Unknown” is a joy
to listen to and, paradoxically, should make Rick Hinks the most known face
of Prog Metal.