Reviewed: September 2009
Released: 2008, Self-produced and released
Reviewer: Kyle Moore, the Metal Magnus
I write this review with some difficulty. First of all, a Metal-Rules.com colleague of mine has already examined this album, and apparently he liked it (read it here – www.metal-rules.com/review/viewreview.php?band=pyramid&album=&post_by=&rating=&month=&year=&pos=1) That’s fine – he’s entitled to his opinion just as much as I am. But I deeply disagree with my colleague in every way possible. VOYAGE TO THE STAR is probably the most pretentiously awful attempt at progressive metal I have ever had the displeasure of hearing. To rebut my colleague, I will now spend the next several paragraphs disparaging this record in the most heartless manner I can contrive, so that I might ward innocent metalheads away from tossing their cash into this abyssal vacuum of astonishing suck.
I accept that I am not an expert on progressive metal, but when I hear a talented band like Zero Hour and how they’re able to effortlessly meld technical virtuosity, brilliant songwriting, and gorgeous vocals into a blissfully transcendental experience, it sets tougher standards for other acts that follow (see review HERE – www.metal-rules.com/review/viewreview.php?band=zero&album=&post_by=&rating=&month=&year=&pos=15). Despite my higher expectations, I am lenient and understanding when it comes to newer acts who are cutting their teeth against the merciless backdraft of body-destroying tours and an unsympathetic press corps. In return for this leniency, I expect a new act to show me their passion, attention to basic songcraft, and something that makes me take NOTICE of what could be a rising star in a fiercely competitive music world.
But VOYAGE TO THE STAR does none of these things. Rather, it tries to combine the leftover crumbs of far greater bands into some kind of abominable sonic porridge that lacks any originality, flavor, or desire to do much besides revel in painfully long, emotionally devoid guitar solos that stink to the burning hells of soulless wankery. If Yngwie Malmsteen, John Petrucci, and Joe Satriani merged into a single entity of absurd shred, they couldn’t hold a candle to the masturbatory prowess of Pyramid Theorem guitarist, keyboardist, and vocalist Stephen Di Mambro. Granted, two of the four tracks are instrumentals (in which I’d expect heavy soloing,) but instrumental tracks need a lot of groove, dynamics, and flow in order to retain a listener’s interest. Both of these tracks possess none of these things – they’re languid, utterly stagnant, and seem to function solely as a showcase for been-there, done-that guitar & keyboard solos. Take “A Town in Ruins,” which my colleague referred to as “the best track of the lot” – each riff sounds like it was extracted from a Dream Theater B-side, while maddeningly irritating keyboards plunk along to a tired melody with the same three 80’s-era synth sounds. I wonder if keyboardist Mr. Di Mambrio bought a beaten-down Cassio synth at a pawnshop, and then picked a few canned sounds at random, thinking “whatever, good enough!”
I realize that I am being extraordinarily harsh on Mr. Di Mambrio – but that’s partially because I want to rest most of the albums’ gargantuan faults on his shoulders. Whatever passes for vocals on this album are astonishingly bad. If you took the most tone-deaf karaoke singer you’ve ever heard at a dive bar, then combined it with Chad Kroeger from Nickelback, you would have a decent approximation of how bad of a vocalist Mr. Di Mambrio is. Progressive metal bands are often over-focused on the technical side of music, and without an emotive singer it’s easy to lose the “human” element in what can otherwise be a coldly robotic sonic environment.
As my colleague noted, if this band is to have any hope of improvement, they absolutely must find a more competent singer before they do anything else. Secondly, they need to remove the sound-alike guitar solos that might have all the technical fancy of more famous shredders, but none of the intricacy, craft, or soul. There’s so much more to a good guitar solo than running the same tapping patterns over and over again, but that’s not something a person (or a nasty review) can teach.
Should Pyramid Theorem ever read this admittedly harsh review and think to themselves, “this guy is just some spiteful troll who likes ruining people’s dreams,” know that it isn’t personal. They have some talent as technical players, but that’s about all. Crafting a listenable album requires a lot more than fast fingers – you need to take your listener on an emotional journey. This is something the band has failed to do on every level. While listening to these four songs, I thought they sounded like they belonged in a cut-rate shooter video game. Or maybe as nagging background music in a corporate lobby. But never in a metal CD. Never.
Fellow metalheads, you’ve been warned – stay away.
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