Pyramaze is a tough nut to crack and an even tougher one to anticipate or graft expectations onto. They released two very well done platters of crisp progressive power metal with Lance King at the helm in the early 2000s, the latter of which, Legend of the Bone Carver, ended up one of my favorite albums of the decade. When Lance left, they acquired the mighty Matt Barlow of Iced Earth fame and released the far heavier, very Iced Earthy Immortal. Then they fell silent and despite rumors of this singer or that joining the fold, no new material was forthcoming. Now, seven years later they finally reemerge from the Danish hinterlands with a new album, new guitarist and a new singer. But what do they sound like after so much time away? Like a completely different band, that’s what. Disciples of the Sun has very little in common with their past, aside from still falling into the prog-power genre generally. Gone is the heavy crunch of Immortal and the Euro-power frills of Legends, and in their place is something akin to recent Anubis Gate and Pagan’s Mind mixed with traces of indie rock. Regardless of how you categorize it, this is an absolutely brilliant slab of hooky prog-power and easily one of the best albums of 2015. Go figure.
Had someone played this for me without telling me who it was, there’s zero chance I’d think it was Pyramaze, and I’d have guessed it was Anubis Gate. And with guest appearances by member of said band and the addition of a former member into their ranks, it’s not surprising that songs like opener “The Battle of Parides” deliver the same kind of straight-ahead, vaguely proggy power with heavy guitar riffs accentuated by tasteful, twinkling keys and slickly smooth vocal harmonies courtesy of new front man Terje Haroy. It’s that perfect mix between technical and memorable that few bands besides Threshold can pull off, but pull it off they do and every song here nails the formula like they invented the damn thing.
The title track shimmers with moody and regal purpose, building up to an emotionally satisfying chorus and the music is very similar to what Pagan’s Mind did on their Heavenly Ecstasy outing with little traces of Evergrey‘s trademarked sadness mixed in. “Fearless” is a standout on an album of standouts; simple and direct in its approach with a great chorus where Terje’s vocals really pop. Other big moments come with the melancholy of “Perfectly Imperfect,” the darker edge of “Exposure” and the very Anubis Gate-ish mega-moody but disastrously named closer “Photograph” (look at this photograph!).
All the songs are written to stick in the mental crawlspaces you can never fully clear out, and stick they do. This is an album that gets better every time it’s played and soon enough it has you in its clutches. There’s the perfect mix of heavy, technical and melodic running through all the songs and there isn’t a sour note to be found over the album’s 52 minute runtime. That’s quite a rare feat.
Long-time guitarist Toke Skjonnemand is joined by new axe Jacob Hansen (Beyond Twilight, ex-Anubis Gate), and though I’m a little bummed Hansen isn’t singing as he did with Anubis Gate since he has an amazing voice, he certainly brings a lot to the guitar tandem. There’s an endless supply of fluid, techy solo work and highly memorable harmonies on display throughout the album and they surely know how to impress. The same can be said for Terje Haroy. His vocals are powerful and appropriately soaring, but offbeat enough to give the material extra character. It’s easy to imagine him singing in an indie or alternative rock act like Circa Survive and his delivery is a bit unusual at times, but that only makes things more interesting.
The more I listen to Disciples, the more their progression reminds me of how Pagan’s Mind evolved, incorporating ideas from metalcore and pop into their prog-power template. It worked for them, but it works even better for Pyramaze. They may compulsively shift styles, but this is a band with a winning track record and this is another victory for the Great Danes. Hell, I think they’d even sound good with Gilbert Gottfried singing for them. Hear this album, especially if you love Anubis Gate.