Released: 2013, Massacre Records
Ivanhoe is a German progressive metal band whose last appearance in a Metal Rules review, was a dismal 1.5 score for 2005’s WALK IN MINDFIELDS from Mr. Anders Sandvall. The band got dinged for being Dream Theater clones, which let’s face it, is about a third of all progressive metal bands, with the final 2/3s sounding like Fates Warning or Queensryche. On SYSTEMATRIX, the band has moved away from Dream Theater worship, and now sounds a bit more like Ray Alder’s Engine project while incorporating down-tuned modern rhythms featuring start/stops and staccato chords.
Rhythmically, there are lots of interesting and mathematical time changes, made more easily assimilated by reigning in the density of notes and simplifying the complexity of the riffs. Singer Mischa Mang sounds a bit like Roberto Liapakis of Mystic Prophecy, adequate but not a really compelling singer, and one that rarely reaches for higher ranges. The music though, is often mid-paced to slow, the guitars bordering on almost lazy auto-pilot. The keyboards are well done, Richie Seibel proving to be a true weapon in a band possessed of very few. From the three-track suite at the end, to the leadoff track the album screams uninspiring. The best tune for my ears was track 9, the instrumental “The Symbiotic Predator – Resolution”, a worthy and inspirational tune that shows the band has potential when they are not caught in a creativity malaise.
Hence the root problem of this album is not talent, or production which is quite decent. The issues are that the songs are bland to the point of vanilla, no song serving as an anchor from which to test other areas of the ship. I found this mostly boring, and unlistenable our good Anders discovering the issues with this band way back, and I have now confirmed it. I almost did not review this album, but I felt compelled as this represents everything wrong with progressive metal that serves as points of derision from non-progressive metal fans. This is not how good progressive metal is, and any fans looking to branch into what is often a confusing but rewarding genre, do not let Ivanhoe color your perceptions. Not recommended.