Every genre has its tropes. Power metal’s unhealthy obsession with dragons and unicorns, for example. Thrashers shower but twice a year. Did you know that most black metal musicians are allergic to both colors and happiness? All true facts! Progressive metal is no exception. The genre has a long, rich history full of drugs, inflated egos and a nearly painful amount of wanking. While such clichés have given rise to a metric fuck-ton of terrible metal, a lot of good has come of them too. This brings us to Need. Before penning this review, I was aware of Greece’s growing purveyors of prog but I had never given them a go. Now after a great many spins of Hegaiamas: A Song for Freedom I have drawn two conclusions. Firstly, Need is incredibly definitive of the ‘classic’ progressive metal stereotype. Only in prog can a band reach up their ass, pull out a word like Hegaiamas, say it means freedom and then write a 60 minute concept album about it. Secondly, Hegaiamas is a very solid offering of quality progressive metal.
Hegaiamas begins with “Rememory,” a great opener that sounds like a Symphony X tinged Fates Warning. The song starts with a beautiful melody that gives way to a massive sounding chorus. Vocalist Jon V. has the perfect pair of pipes for Need‘s sound, and he actually reminds me quite a bit of Russel Allen, or possibly Ray Alder (Fates Warning, Redemption). His voice has a great timbre to it and isn’t overly high pitch, as I find is often the case with many progressive metal singers. The opener gives way to “Alltribe,” a much more technical song with a classic Dream Theater feel to it. By the time this second track comes to a close, it’s obvious that the musicians of Need are quite skilled. Ravaya handles the frets with all the finesse you’d expect from a high-caliber act, and keyboardist Anthony’s playing creates some of the most beautiful moments on the album.
All the skill in the world means precisely nothing when it’s not applied correctly, and Need‘s awareness of this fact is what elevates their album from good to great. Every riff in Hegaiamas is interesting and unique; every song paced and purposeful. Need are expert songwriters, and the way they’ve pieced Hegaiamas together makes it one of those albums you’ll want to hear from beginning to end. The mastering job on Hegaiamas is also top notch. Every member’s contribution can be heard loud and clear, and the strong rhythm section and lower-end is balanced beautifully with the more delicate sounds on the record.
Hegaiamas‘ finale deserves its own analysis as it will undoubtedly be point of discussion for many listeners. “Iota” marks the beginning of the end with a track that once again exemplifies prog-metal to a tee. Without batting an eye, Need tosses five minutes of straight up air-headed philosophical narration at the listener. At first I couldn’t help but gawk, but “Iota” actually ends up working in Need‘s favor. The characters are voiced well and backed by a beautiful piano score, and while the story being told is absolutely shameless in its cheesiness, it does contain a sense of self awareness and works to both break up the pace and set the tone for the true closer, “Hegaiamas.” This 22 minute epic brings together everything introduced thus far in what ends up being a cohesive listen. While a few sections lag near the middle, “Hegaiamas” contains some of the best material on the record and Need‘s closing statement on the topic of freedom is strong overall.
If you’re a fan of progressive metal and/or good music in general, you’re going to enjoy Hegaiamas. It’s not exactly a leap forward for the genre but boy has Need produced some killer music on this record. We’re only a few weeks into 2017 but I’ve enjoyed Hegaiamas more than a great many albums from the gong show that was 2016. While I still have no idea what a Hegaiamas is, A Sound for Freedom is a great start to the new year and if you have yet to check Need out, get on it.