posted on 5/2009 By:
OK. Grab your favorite beverage, go to the rest room, stretch out and get a butt cushion - this may take a while.
First off, I don’t want to take credit for discovering this unsigned gem, but a fellow writer at another of my writing outlets actually reviewed this album, thusly prompting me to check it out. And ultimately, I was rewarded with one of the most ambitious, gratifying and stellar albums I’ve heard in my 20 plus years of metal listening. Lofty praise, right? And I’m sure as with most killer releases, I’m caught up in the moment, but in all reality, the full length debut from this French collective is going to be one of those rare albums that will simply be regarded as a true ‘classic’ in years to come.
Comprised of 5 extremely talented gentlemen who play in various other fairly obscure French bands (Chrysalis, Fairlight, Malmonde and Auspex), the group actually started in 1994 and put out a couple of demos, but the concept based Cybion is their first debut album, so it’s essentially been 15 years in the making and it shows, not only musically but, the package itself (a magnificent 3 panel gatefold CD with a 36 page booklet and bonus CD), shows this was a true labor of love.
On to the music (finally). Cybion is in the grand tradition of the ‘metal opera’ a la Avantasia, Ayreon and Xystus; An epic, conceptual musical undertaking, enlisting a host of musical guests (Angela Gossow, Paul Masdival, Arjen Luccassen to name a few) and a tangible story arch within the music. Heck, the band even invented their own language called “Kal” for parts of the release. And what is the music? Well, one could look at the bonus CD and see the band's primary influences in their choice of cover tracks; Dream Theater’s “A Fortune in Lies,” Cynic’s “How Could I?,” Emperor’s “I am the Black Wizards” and Loudblast’s “This Dazzling Abyss.” Personally, I would also throw in a heavy dose of Edge of Sanity (especially the Crimson albums), some Dol Ammad, Nightwish and maybe a smidge of The Project Hate. That specific enough for you?
So what you have is a 4 part, 20 track album that tells the science fiction based story of immortality, interplanetary fates and such. The album actually plays more like a sound score with the various array of vocals (death metal growls, clean female and male croons, vocoded spoken words, etc.) serving as the dialog between the characters rather than simply vocals on a song. However, rather than songs, Cybion is a full piece that simply tells the story with the expected builds, swells, peaks, climaxes and emotional let-downs of a big time Hollywood movie score except riffs and solos are used in conjunction with copious choirs, synths and programming.
It's impossible to single out moments or standout parts, but starting with the ‘opening credits’ if you will, of “Introduction / Domination” and the high energy, attention grabbing opening scene that would be “Reception / Translation,” you know you are in for something special with lavish orchestration and choirs amid some nifty keyboard solos and the vocal interplay. Then the seamless transition (as are the transitions between all 20 tracks) to an early album highlight in “Union / Construction” and “Declaration / Revolution” with some just gorgeous melodies and epic solos from both guitar and keyboard. Then there’s the pure Crimson worship of “Fusion / Rebellion,” epic mid album highlight “Destination / Alteration,” and pure melo-death stabs of “Illusion / Desperation” and “Resolution /Protection.” To be quite honest, to go through the entire journey in this fashion would be exhaustive, covering every nuance of every facet of every part, is simply impossible and frankly, there may not be enough superlatives to cover everything. Needless to say Cybion MUST be experienced and absorbed.
Of course, as with most concept albums or metal opera, there’s a bit of down time as some of the tracks merely serve as interludes or spoken word sections to move the story along, but they are often as engaging as the music itself. Also, listeners may simply get overwhelmed with the incredible array of sounds and styles colliding on Cybion; the noodly prog metal, the gruff melodic death metal, keyboard solos, soaring operatics and theatrics, and even a big band jaunt (“Education / Deification”) and some quirky techno/dance beats and programming (“Damnation / Seclusion,” “Violation / Condemnation”) just may simply be too much for some. However, personally, when appropriately paced, epic closer “Salvation / Connection” ends the experience, I literally collapse into an awestruck, post coital mess, mumbling “Oh my god” to myself over and over - then hit ‘play’ again.
Admittedly, the asking price is a bit pricy, but when you consider the quality of the album, the packaging, as well as the bonus CD that contains the aforementioned cover tracks as well as the band’s much more raw and death metal based 1995 Skies demo, the complete end result is simply fucking amazing and a certain shoo-in for top three albums of 2009, if not one of the top albums of the last 5 years. How a label did not want to release this is beyond me.
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