It’s well known that I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with power metal and progressive/power. Some of my favorite bands ever—Symphony X and Blind Guardian the most obvious among them—fall into this category, and I keep an ever-watchful eye peeled for new additions to my catalogue. Yet the genre is also plagued by some serious annoyances for me. First, many of the most popular vocalists are people who I find nigh-on unlistenable (Warrel Dane). Second, unlike my esteemed colleague and dictatorial collaborator Lieutenant Corporal Steel Druhm, I find that much of the music being produced within this scene just isn’t terribly heavy. Bands that others worship—see Anubis Gate—feel washed out and bland, offering up little “metal” to keep me engaged.1
When I popped on Sunburst‘s Fragments of Creation it was clear that it suffered from neither tepid songwriting or irritating vocals. Instead, Fragments of Creation is a tight record, chock full of fat riffs, slick songs, and hooky melodies. It barrels out the door with the appropriately named “Out of This World” and it doesn’t let up until the 12 minute epic “Remedy of My Heart” kicks in. On the way, these Greeks demonstrate that “metal” and “progressive” certainly can still coexist in the same sentence. There’s a genuinely heavy crunch to these tracks, reminiscent of the later approach of SX or at times even Nocturnal Rites.
While vocalist Vasilis Georgiou does have classic “power metal voice,” he doesn’t push his way into what I once, in a previously life, infamously called “That Guy from Sweden” territory. Rather, while he effects tone that nudges in on “guys who could have sung for Yngwie,” he’s got a touch and feel that so many power metal vocalists lack. On the album’s epic, “Remedy of My Heart,” his falsettos are delivered with a touch that he can also blend with a raspier growl when he wants it. His power and range or excellent; rather than sounding like he’s pushing for the upper ranges of his vocals without concern for what he’s actually capable of, Georgiou shows off that he’s a consummate veteran. On every song he works within himself and complements slick riffs with vocal gymnastics—even going so far as to growl in different spots!
With those problems out of the way, listeners are free to sit back and enjoy the slab of metal that is Fragments of Creation. From the driving and chunky (“Reincarnation” or “Beyond the Darkest Sun”) to the mid-paced and noodly (“Forevermore” and “Dementia”), these guys balance their riffs well. All the songs on here, be they a bit softer or a bit heavier, are quality, but the peak for me is probably “End of the Game,” which features stellar riffs and Georgiou at his absolute best. It helps that Gus Drax (y’know, of Paradox and Suicidal Angels) is swinging the axe for Sunburst because his chops are immense. Drax’s virtuoso riffing and solos work in perfect tact with Kostas Milonas (also of Paradox) who’s behind the kit and Nick Grey (wait, he’s not Greek!) holding down the low end. Unfortunately, the low end that Grey is holding down is a lot more buried than I’d like it to be because: modern production.
While Sunburst bucks the trend of testicle-less power/prog that’s been plaguing the genre for the past decade, they’re certainly not challenging the status quo when it comes to production. Fragments of Creation is—like every single power metal record I have reviewed in the last 5 (10?) years—over-produced. The drums are flat, the bass is buried, the guitars are chunky and crunchy, and there’s too damned much tinkly synth thrown in to make things feel busier than it actually is. The writing here is good—with no real filler and the only song that breaks the flow is the closer, which makes it quite easy to just skip if you’re not in the mood—but when the guys over at r/PowerMetal complain about how we never score power metal high, it might have to do with just how uniform the genre is these days. While Fragments of Creation knocks out ballsy power/prog that is a blast to listen to and to which I’ve come back dozens of times, the record is produced just like Angra, Stratovarius, Myrath, InnerWish, Serenity, Brainstorm… I could literally just copy and paste my critiques of the sound in each of these reviews. When will enough be enough?
That rant might seem like a big caveat, but I think you should remember that I’ve listened to this album dozens of times and think it’s very good. Despite being frustrated with the production, these guys have serious chops, excellent songs and the record has a nearly flawless flow. Sunburst is a band whose debut album is genuinely good and, while totally unexpected, is very much welcome. I recommend Fragments of Creation to fans of prog, power, and thrash. Sunburst breathes life into my hope that the scene will start feeling like metal again!