SIEGES EVEN is not your typical Prog Metal band. If youíre looking for a bunch of over the top guitar riffs, neoclassical shred solos, crazy time changes, superhuman drumming, and just general wankery, youíre looking in the wrong place. These guys have a really mellow and mature sound which is a rare thing to find in this genre. And donít think I mean boring when I say "mellow and mature." "Paramount" is one of the best Metal albums of the year and an absolute must have for all Prog fans.
The best way I could describe this album would be to take all the best elements from RUSH and mix in the general feel and sound of AGALLOCHís classic album "The Mantle." Of course thereís a lot more to the band than that, but as with a lot of Prog, you just have to hear it for yourself to truly appreciate the depth and complexity of the music. And speaking of depth and complexity, the songwriting on this album is exactly that. It might take a few listens to notice all the different layers and details, but "Paramount" is an album youíll want to listen to time and time again.
Whatís truly impressive is not the fact that the songs are really well written, itís the fact that every instrument blends together beautifully all throughout the album. The songs are intricate and deep, but not just for the sake of being so. You never get the feeling that these guys are competing to see which one is the best or most technically skilled, you get the feeling that they have great chemistry and have really honed the craft of writing great songs. "Mounting Castles In The Blood Red Sky" being a song that immediately comes to mind in this regard. Itís an instrumental that features audio clips from Martin Luther King, Jr.ís famous, "I Have A Dream" speech mixed in between melodic clean guitar parts. Iíve never heard a band use an audio clip in a more effective manner than in this song. It gives the song a huge emotional and inspirational feel. Very powerful and moving. I should also add that the overall production of the album is incredibly crisp, clear, and professional, which only adds to the already great music.
Guitarist Markus Steffan focuses on using a lot of acoustic and clean electric guitar passages throughout the album to create a really mellow and soothing sound. There arenít very many heavy riffs to be found, but the ones that are here sound even heavier and more effective because of how well they compliment the clean sections. The rhythm section of Alex Holzwarth on drums and Oliver Holzwarth on bass really create a solid foundation for the songs. The drumming is always interesting and technical with a great deal of finesse, but never sounds out of control. There are lots of cool basslines to be found in here as well, namely in songs like "Iconic," "Where Our Shadows Sleep," and "Duende." Singer Arno Menses also really shines on this album, lyrically and vocally. Songs like "Tidal," "Eyes Wide Open," and "Bridge To The Divine" show off his majestic voice with really upbeat and catchy vocal melodies. The chorus of "Tidal" in particular has one of the most haunting vocal lines Iíve ever heard. The lyrics in general are all really well thought out and meaningful as well and usually focus on aspects relating to philosophy or politics. Pretty interesting stuff and they leave a lot of room for different interpretations as well.
There are a couple of things holding this album back from perfection, but none of them should stop you from checking it out. The lack of heavy riffs and the constant mid tempo feel throughout the album could be a problem for some people. I also wish there were more guitar solos. Steffan gives us a little taste of his lead playing near the end of "Tidal" with a cool flamenco sounding acoustic solo, but even that one is too short. Incredibly tasteful playing that I wish there was more of on the album. But like I said, none of these flaws are major concerns and in a year where not a lot of truly great albums have been released, "Paramount" is definitely an album you donít want to miss.
(Online November 21, 2007)