Empyrios – Zion

Italy’s Empyrios have been in the game for a lot longer than many people may realize. In fact, as of this writing they are 12 years into their career and have 3 full lengths in the bag, this one being their third. They are, of course, coming to the listener from the new school of Progressive Metal, full of harsh and clean vocals, bouncing and rhythmic riffs, and liberal doses of synthetic instrumentation. North American contemporaries like Periphery and Animals As Leaders come to mind, but the saving grace with regards to originality is the decidedly European melodicism in their song structures.

Zion is produced to perfection. So many times with bands and albums in this vein you’ll get knob-work that is far too heavy on the distortion, which makes every band sound like Meshuggah (it works for them, but not for everyone). This is not one of those bands and definitely not one of those albums. Everything is crystal clear, with the guitars sounding blunt but not all consuming, and the Vocals right in front and emoting perfectly. Every sound and instrument is in its proper place and it makes for an engrossing listen.

Back to that trademark Italian sense of melody, the defining factor of this opus. It’s that sense of melody that makes songs like “Unplugged”, “Domino”, and the title track come together as more than just a collection of technically precise and bludgeoning riffs. Everything is tied together with a grandeur and sense of adventure that is the hallmark of all good Progressive Metal. The compositions are allowed to breathe and stretch like the best Dream Theater material, without losing that modern edge and aggression. It really is quite a spectacle for the ears. The only complaint is that it’s hard to distinguish one song from another. A small problem when they’re all this good.

I can’t stress just how fantastic Silvio Mancini is on mic duties. His cleans are smooth and precise, and his gutturals are used sparingly but to devastating effect. This is one of the most talented vocalists you will hear on an album like this, and he alone would make the disc worth whatever you spend on it. Everyone puts on a clinic though, with drummer Dario Ciccioni being another highlight, his timing and fills showing creativity and inventiveness on every song.

Though I do consider myself a Prog fan, it’s a sub-genre that almost always takes time to sink in for me. Zion grabbed me immediately. Take a listen to these Italian technicians. I promise you they’re something special.[signoff predefined=”Signoff 1″][/signoff]