There is a unique charm to be found in the blending of Power Metal and science fiction, mostly because of its keyboard friendly and atmospheric nature, which is only rivaled by maybe a few Black Metal bands. Both styles are conducive to throwing in some occasional Progressive elements, but the former is the most warmly receptive of virtuoso guitar work that spans beyond a few 15 to 20 second slots on half of the songs found on an album, if not less. Sure, the style may be a bit formulaic, but even within the confines of a predetermined format; there is room for ideas that are quite innovative.
When comprehending the inner nebula of catchy melodies and tempered virtuosity of “Comprehension Of Self”, a one-man project delving into a fairly well-known style just west of his native Russia, the charm is mostly found in its subtlety. Naturally there is nothing subtle about this style, as it reaches heavily into a host of well-known European acts such as STRATOVARIUS, DRAGONLAND, YNGWIE MALMSTEEN and FREEDOM CALL, save a few occasional references to Progressive Metal acts here and there. But in the absence of lyrics and vocals, the focus of this style shifts towards attentiveness to thematic detail and stylistic nuance that differs heavily from what most of these European bands would normally engage in.
This takes shape in multi-instrumentalist Timo’s songwriting, as he displays not only a technical flair at putting together a successive series of technical and melodic ideas on the guitar and keyboards, but also a keen sense of how to articulate the title of each composition through non-lyrical storytelling. There are serene yet mysterious atmospheric qualities found in “Darkness”, which sounds like a sort of intergalactic lullaby mixed in with the cosmic atmosphere of some imagined other planet during nightfall. Likewise, a gentle atmosphere with a series of guitar harmonics and detached keyboard sounds do well to synthesize the feel of rainfall on “Autumn Drops”, followed by a triumphant section of lead passages that could be interpreted as the great waterfall or the storm after a gradual build up in precipitation.
At other times Timo’s approach to composition goes more into multifaceted yet fairly obvious emulation of already established acts. The album’s opener “I See The Sign” comes off as a fairly less technically oriented homage to YNGWIE’S “Eclipse” album, presented in a manner that also runs heavily parallel to STRATOVARIUS during their “Fourth Dimension” era. There are some original touches here as well, mostly in the synthesizer work which has a computer-like/Techno quality to it, resulting in an image of MALMSTEEN entertaining an audience of androids on a space station somewhere in the Pleiadas cluster. The really fast and catchy “To The Edge Of Universe” also invokes similarities to STRATOVARIUS, along with DRAGONLAND around the time of “Holy War”, when Power Metal was mostly about speed and intrigue rather than catering to arena goers with an over-produced, mostly mid tempo approach.
Much of the rest of the music on here falls in between emulation of the late 90s Power Metal style and a strong merging of Progressive musical storytelling and technical flair. One of the better songs falling into this category is “In The Grip Of Fire”, which takes some cues from YNGWIE and MAGIC KINGDOM/IRON MASK’S Dushan Petrossi in terms of riffing style, yet somehow manages to sound more like an attempt at emulating the actual nature of a roaring fire rather than a simple technical display. The agitated guitar lines and driving Power Metal beat just have this light and heat to them that gives off images of a roaring bonfire with Slavic warriors telling tales of recent conquests. “Eternal Sun” also does a good job in putting forth a pleasant and triumphant melody to mirror the glorious nature of the sun at its highest point during a summer day, drawing some slight similarities to MARTY FRIEDMAN and maybe to a lesser extent JOE SATRIANI.
The strongest part of this album, however, is the lack of pretentiousness to it. Despite being highly technical and very impressive, it doesn’t really scream out to its audience “Hey, look at all this fancy stuff I can do”, but instead pays careful attention to keeping the song as the center of focus. It is both artistically fulfilling and entertaining; two essential elements in any successful merging of Power and Progressive Metal. If this album seeks to be an act of self-comprehension, then one has to guess that inside of Timo’s head might be a vast galaxy with every known form of cosmic phenomena contained within. If you like your Metal deep yet fun, if you are one of those geeks at heart like me who can’t get enough astronomy in your music, this is one to look into.
(Online February 22, 2009)