While Heaven Wept is back with "Suspended at Aphelion," which for me was highly anticipated. WHW get better and better with each release and their last album, "Fear of Infinity," was a masterpiece. For those who don't know, the band started its life as a doom metal band but has slowly (no pun intended) evolved into a progressive metal band that seems to have the black cloud of doom trailing close behind them. Their pace has certainly quickened, and their outlook seems to have brightened as well.
Most of the positive energy comes from the voice of ex-Altura vocalist Rain Irving, one of my favorite voices in progressive metal. Rain never screams and has no need to since he has a tremendous range and plenty of power. On "Suspended at Aphelion," his voice is like a beacon of light shining through the clouds of mastermind Tom Phillips' music.
The album starts with an instrumental piece called "Introspectus," which is revisited during the album and at the very end with "Retrospectus." The next track, "Icarus And I," is the first single from the album and introduces the not-so-secret weapon of the proceedings, ex-Fates Warning drummer Mark Zonder. Another ex-Fates Warning member, Victor Arduini, guests on guitar. "Icarus and I" and "Ardor" showcase the band's power and prove that While Heaven Wept has completed its transformation into a progressive metal outfit.
"Suspended at Aphelion" is considered to be one piece of music, though it is separated into 11 tracks. Most of the tracks work fine as standalone songs. However, the last few tracks really belong together, as "Souls in Permafrost" segues into "Searching the Stars" and "Reminiscence of Strangers" segues into "Lifelines Lost." The great thing about "Suspended at Aphelion" is that you WANT to keep listening. The album has plenty of melody and also plenty of fireworks -- none better than on the proggy instrumental "Indifference Turned Paralysis."
The production on "Suspended at Aphelion" is particularly clean and strong. Tom Phillips is not a fan of the "loudness wars," so the production never overwhelms you. Another plus is the artwork: possibly my favorite album artwork of 2014 graces the cover of "Suspended at Aphelion." Brilliant.
If you like progressive metal with a majestic bombast and heartfelt vocals, you need to listen to this album - it is a true masterpiece.