While they aren’t NEPA born and bred, Psychoprism, New Jersey’s metal phenom can certainly call Scranton/Wilkes-Barre a second home. The band has performed here regularly over the past couple of years, notably at the annual Metal Meltdown held in Pittston the past few summers, gaining a valuable network of local band contacts and fans in the process. Psychoprism, thanks in no small part to the voltage-soaking strength of their live shows and chaotic, progressive-minded musicianship, recently scored a deal with European label Pure Steel Records, resulting in “Creation,” the follow-up to the band’s 2014 debut EP, “Bloodlines.”
The calling cards of “Creation” are easily two things: the stratospheric vocal range of frontman Jess Rittgers, and the manic acceleration of guitarist Bill Visser’s multi-pronged attack. Let’s be clear – this is a heavy record, the atmosphere is dense with Gothic keyboard flourishes and water-tight rhythmic plunder. Somewhere between the blueprint for melodically progressive metal laid down on Queensyche’s “The Warning,” and the more modernly dark agitation of Kamelot’s “The Black Halo,” is where the album finds its legs, with a certifiable neo-classical/power metal slant demonstrated by bands like Rhapsody of Fire and Blind Guardian.
Tracks like the title cut are thick with riffs pulled from the trick bag of Euro-minded thrash like Iced Earth’s Jon Schaffer. “You took my life, take my faith, mold it into your dreams,” shouts Rittgers in a decidedly Geoff Tate-inspired phrasing – the song rolling on a rail of mid-tempo heavy groove and inspired urgency. “Chronos” recalls the best of “Visions”-era Stratovarius, with the classically themed imagery of “mystery and intrigue” abounding, while Rittgers subtly touches upon vocal shades of Helloween’s Michael Kiske and Visser draws a tasteful line in the sand between Yngwie Malmsteen and Jake E. Lee, with a solo that’s faster than the speed of light.
The dungeon-dwelling clean guitar/synth intro to “Friendly Fire” is as delightfully unsettling as it comes, cold enough to penetrate the walls of the plodding, eternal sadness stronghold the track builds up – the melancholic side of Psychoprism, if you will, finding Rittgers proclaiming, “I don’t’ need tomorrow.” Elsewhere, “The Acclaimed” is a progressive standout, with some of the most infectious keyboard lines this side of Malmsteen/Stratovarius’ Jens Johansson. The track features some of the most dazzling instrumental spectacle on the album, as there are several extended double-bass drum bursts and guitar solos throughout, seemingly climaxing near exhaustion.
Thoughtful metal drafted from a keen, compositional eye, “Creation” stuns with brilliance in every shadow – calculated madness and majesty all at once.
Mark Uricheck is a Weekender correspondent who writes weekly CD reviews. Reach Weekender at [email protected]