Released: 2012, CNI
Formed in 2008, progressive mettalers Heartache hail from Rome, Italy. Enduring early lineup changes, the band has persevered and released their first EP APHOHIS, which is a suite in four parts. APOPHIS will precede and likely build anticipation for their debut full-length EMPTY GARDENS OF SKY set for a near future date. The five member band plays a familiar and welcome style of progressive metal, pioneered by Fates Warning but with touches of Enchant as well. Apophis is the name of an ancient demon but it is also the name of an asteroid that passed close to Earth back in 2004, and I am guessing that is the inspiration for the suite.
The initial EP is just over 18 minutes long, enough to give a sense of the massive potential of the band but not enough to determine if the momentum can be sustained over a full-length album. However, the opening movement “Apophis Pt. 1” immediately caught my attention, because it is precisely the type of progressive metal that I enjoy; clean picked arpeggios that invoke a dream-like ethereal quality. The inspirations derived from Fates Warning’s greatest album, PARALELLS are obvious, but there are many elements of Enchant’s best qualities as well. It is well over four minutes before we are introduced to Thomas Gabriele’s vocals which are refreshing in the sense that he has a more mid-range frequency instead of the expected Labrie/Tate school of how high can you go. In places Gabriele’s vocals recall Ray Alder but a bit lower in range. The limitations of Indie label production are not noticeable until the distortion kicks in, where an undeniable compression and lack of full dynamics are evident.
Overall, this is a fantastic release. The guitar work is of particular beauty and restraint, the riffs being progressive but not overblown or self-indulgent. It will be interesting to see how the band sounds with more distortion, as APOPHIS is primarily atmospheric but perfectly listenable and enjoyable. I am definitely looking forward to hearing the full-length from these guys, and if you are a fan of Fates Warning, Enchant, or Spock’s Beard then you will be looking forward to that date as well.