Aeon Zen is a prog metal project that started about 5 years ago and is the brainchild of the young and sickly talented U.K. multi-instrumentalist/composer/producer Rich Hinks, who, when he was only about 21, came out with the first Aeon Zen album, A Mind’s Portrait which was a fantastic heavy, melodic progressive metal album where Rich did everything except for the drums and some guest vocals. (what the hell was I doing when I was 21, seriously!) Two years later we got The Face Of The Unknown which continued with the same heavy melodic style and Hinks used some really amazing prog rock and metal singers like Jonny Tatum (Eumeria) and Nick D’Virgilio (Spock’s Beard). Great stuff and definitely an auto-buy for any self-respecting prog metal lover. That said, nothing on either two albums prepared me for what was to come on the new album Enigma which is one of the most beautifully deep and exciting albums that I’ve heard in a long time.
So what makes Enigma so great? Well, for starters, unlike the earlier Aeon Zen albums which were a collection of disparate songs with a ton of great ideas, Enigma is a very cohesive, thematic album and every song flows perfectly right into the next one. The album begins with a powerful, melodic instrumental prelude (it’s really beautiful and not at all a cheezy pseudo-classical prelude that I sometimes hear from other bands attempting an epic suite or album) then goes into the slow, heavy progressive and very melodic Artifical Soul which has some wonderful vocal harmonies. This leads right into the heaviest song on the album, Divinity (the video is below this review), a total progressive tech death-fest with Hinks handling the harsh vocals but it’s countered with a great clean vocal melody. Seven Hills is a beautiful non-metal ballad with saxophone that goes right into the incredibly poweful prog rock song Turned to Ash. Two great prog metal numbers come next and then we get yet another complete knockout, this time the stunning piano and vocal harmony led Eternal Snow which ends by transitioning into a heavy prog metal piece with more of Hinks’ heavy vocals. The album finally ends with Downfall which closes by restating the main theme before ending in a quietly perfect ending statement. There’s not a weak moment on the album and it’s one I’ll be going back to many times.
Aeon Zen is now more than just Rich Hinks’ project as they’ve been a live band for a few years and this cohesion shows really well on Enigma. The album does have some great guest vocalists in the Aeon Zen tradition – Nate Loosemore (from another fantastic U.K. band, Lost in Thought, Norwegian, Atle Petterse, and the return of Jonny Tatum), I’m not sure how much the rest of the band contributed to the songs on Enigma, but the result is so much more deep and resonant than I was led to believe would be coming from this band. Obviously, you’ll have to hear it for yourself, but I’m guessing that, even at this early stage, Enigma will be a definite contender for progressive metal album of the year.
If you want to keep up with our reviews, interviews and other news in the world of progressive metal, please subscribe to our email list and don’t forget to “Like” us on Facebook (via the sidebar link) or follow us on Twitter (@Progmetalzone).