Being young and wanting to be taken seriously as an aspiring musician is a tough task to accomplish and I see friends, either playing in local bands or in orchestra, trying to reach this goal for all one is worth. I see talented bands working hard 24/7 and I can imagine how grateful these musicians are for professional support like big labels. And in some cases, bands even enjoy the support of worldwide renowned musicians.
Next To None is a band consisting of very young musicians, and by that, I mean teens around 15. Regarding their age, they can even beat my last year’s favorite newcomers Arion, a band of Fins aged around 19 years.
When I started my research about this band, I found band pictures featuring guys who could be easily (and probably are) attending high school and who play in a band labeled as progressive metal. And to top it all, one of the members is called Max Portnoy. Yes, you read right. The drummer of Next To None is legendary Dream Theater drummer Mike Portnoy’s teenage son. Mike Portnoy also produced the band’s debut A Light In The Dark. As you could imagine, things started to get really interesting from then.
To start off with the basics: Next To None play progressive metal and as chance would have it, their music sounds a lot like Dream Theater – songwriting as well as production wise. You can’t really blame them for that, though. Max Portnoy’s biggest idol is actually his own father, so he’ll obviously pay attention to what he’s playing on the drums and will play something similar. Even Thomas Cuce’s clean vocals reminded me a bit of James LaBrie’s nasal voice. At first glance, it all appeared as if Next To None were just … well, Dream Theater 30 years later.
After several listens, though, things changed. No, A Light In The Dark didn’t transition to a completely unique and revolutionary album, but it started to show its true quality and I’m glad I gave it enough time to actually evolve instead of just writing lies about it.
To mention Arion again, their influences were really obvious as well. While listening to their debut, you could actually pinpoint to bands or even songs the different compositions sounded like. Despite all that, the band didn’t imitate their idols and knew what they were doing. Their debut actually made it to my top 5 of 2014, and even though I chose an extreme example, it makes clear that evident influences don’t necessarily have to be a disadvantage.
All four members of Next To None are absolutely high-talented musicians for their age, not only technically, but also songwriting-wise, and this is indeed rare. That’s why A Light In The Dark turned out more than well.
The album is consisting of nine tracks with three of them being over 8 minutes long. It kicks off with the cinematic “The Edge Of Sanity”, a very technical and diverse track; it continues with “You Are Not Me”, a more straight-forward song featuring chugging riffs, guttural vocals and a catchy chorus. I liked the next song “Runaway” right from the beginning because the band’s identity really starts to shine through from now on. The ballad “A Lonely Walk” sounds nice all-in-all, but lacks the overload of emotion and the heartfelt vocals great ballads need in my opinion. The Train Of Thought-inspired “Control” is the longest track of the record and one can truly dive into it and get lost. The next track “Lost” starts with a melody that actually sounds completely like the main theme of Edvard Grieg’s “Peer Gynt”. Classical music fans, eh? The album continues with “Social Anxiety” and “Legacy”, which acts more like an introduction to the last track “Blood On My Hands”. The final track closes up the record nicely while presenting another cinematic composition.
To sum up, I really admire these guys for what they are capable to do. Although their debut has some rather average or weaker moments, those remain an exception within a well-produced debut that has been put together very intelligently. And, to disprove my initial assumption, Next To None don’t copy, but get inspired by Dream Theater and use their finest elements to enhance their own music.
Although Mike Portnoy supports his son’s musical ambitions, he himself pointed out that Next To None wrote all the presented material themselves, which is very nice to hear. This is definitely a band worth following during the next years and as a classic progressive metal fan, you should absolutely check out A Light In The Dark.
01. The Edge Of Sanity (09:39)
02. You Are Not Me (04:55)
03. Runaway (04:58)
04. A Lonely Walk (05:31)
05. Control (09:58)
06. Lost (06:12)
07. Social Anxiety (03:44)
08. Legacy (03:56)
09. Blood On My Hands (08:14)
Playing time: 1:05:41
Release date: 29th June, 2015 (EU)
Label: InsideOut Music