Heavy metal is a universal language misunderstood by thousands but comprehended by millions more. From bright and bold cities across the world to small and secretive crevices in every corner of our multi-faceted globe, this malleable genre has been moulded and crafted into anything that could be life-changing or questionably weird. Greece’s own prog-metal goliaths Need walk this border with seasoned expertise, manipulating the line with their teetering balance between avant-garde and traditional fifth album, Norchestrion: A Song For The End.
Opening track ‘Avia’ sees keyboardist Anthony Hadjee make a valiant entrance, impending malicious tones soaked in seductive slithers force you to acknowledge the synth’s warranted presence in heavy metal. As Stelios Paschalis’ metalcore drums and George Ravaya’s clean guitar hooks enter, an undertone of funk weighted bass tickles the tracks underbelly, offset with Jon Voyager’s vocals and melodies influenced by the epically formidable sound of the forefather’s of New Wave of British Heavy Metal.
Classical piano licks bob beneath the water on ‘Beckethead,’ never quite breaking the surface but somehow crucially gelling the bands whole arrangement together. With a pre-chorus that breaks down in self-inflicted anger, the lyrics of ‘The answers are lost, and I’m choking on words that could have once saved me’ are met with bassist Viktor Kouloubis’ militant demand; choral chanting panned equally left and right as the song plays out generates a sense of hypnotic tyrannical brainwash.
Dissonant piano trails accentuates Black Sabbath early doom vibes in ‘Bloodlux,’ before an onslaught of ‘howling echoes as we’re sailing onward beneath a pitch black sky’ seethe with the same ferocity of Iron Maiden’s Bruce Dickinson, assisting with the bands emotive storytelling.
Each track exhibits similar and predictable arrangement patterns with hardcore verses, soft piano/synth led pre-choruses, into a melodic and epic chorus followed by a punctuating synth solo to really hammer home the instruments versatility. One track is unlike the others though, as ‘V.a.d.i.s.’s entirety is a spoken word dialogue over a deep and demeaning organ, the think-piece discussing the collective idea of world extinction. The feminine ethereal voices speak of the apocalypse as an on-going process; ‘instead of meteor strikes and mountains of fire, we’re stuck with this ever-growing ocean of plastic and a barren tapestry of empty candy wrappers, used condoms and useless souvenirs.’ The trippy, dystopian track induces an existential crisis that an already anxious mind would not appreciate.
‘V.a.d.i.s.’s musical soundtrack is the proceeding ‘Norchestrion,’ it’s sudden post-apocalyptic punch heightened with an Iron Man-esque death growl, the type you hear emitting from a mythological villain in a video game boss battle. In a moment where you’d usually expect a soaring guitar solo, the space is instead occupied by shredding synths that transports you to another dimension not of this world.
More than an album of genre-bending heavy metal, the synth component adds a whole individual chapter of soundscapes to play the master of puppets on your musically emotional journey. The 18-minute epic of ‘Ananke’s utilisation of bongos conjures images of trekking through the scorching dessert, clinging onto the last few gasps of breath in your lungs as the tumbling drums and guitars stutter with impending nightmarish mirages that twist and coil around your futile mind. The journey doesn’t take you to any pit-stops or final destination, and instead reminds us that we’re part of an ever-revolving sphere, stagnant in our desperately fruitless voyage; ‘a song for the end.’
Norchestrion: A Song For The End is released January 12th via Ikaros Records.