What do you get when you take equal parts O(ld)peth, Rush and Devin Townsend, chuck it all in a cosmic blender and turn it on? The correct reply is ‘a throbbing erection,’ but second place goes to upstarts The Thirteenth Sun, set to release their debut full-length 5 years in the making. Though a relatively new band, the members are all experienced musicians, and with a debut like this, the Romanian quintet is bound to make a formidable crater when Stardust hits the shelves. It’s a fantastic slab of progressive music, a coarse blend of dreamy space-rock, grand and sweeping theatricality, and pounding sections of proggy death.

The opening hat-trick is the strongest part of the album, each track displaying the band’s knack for slowly climbing from laid back space-rock into a grand prog-metal cataclysm. “Universus” starts off with a quiet, bass-led air of mystery, with vocalist Rada’s warm voice guiding the song slowly into heavier territory. When the track is let off the reins halfway through, he evokes the gruff operaticism of Devin Townsend in a lofty cosmic display. “Pathways” follows in equal fashion, creating an intentional lull in a Rush-like manner before battering with tremolo riffing and pummeling double bass. Rada surprises on “Planes of Creation” with a fantastic åkergrowl, layering the music further and adding diversity to the vocals.

While the rest of the album isn’t quite as powerful as the opening trio, there is plenty of great material left, from the epic assault of “Universe is Burning,” via the ominous “Melting Skies,” to “Fabric of Time,” which features a few quieter passages that remind me of Subterranean Masquerade. These tracks are lengthier than the others and eschew the linear buildup template, making them harder to digest, so they take a little longer to grow.

With no choruses to speak of, it’s a task to remain consistently engaging, but the songwriting on Stardust is an absolute triumph in both length and breadth. Though the individual sections in each song are fairly simple, their arrangement make them all a journey. Nothing feels out of place, yet the album does not lack in twists and surprises. The layering is also superb, with synths evoking a spacey atmosphere that reminds me of King Goat, without going overboard with an 80’s style. Although the various instrumental layers fit together so well in the composition that separating them is a sin, I still have to give extra credit to drummer Septimiu Harsan (Pestilence et al) who switches between fast and technical one second, to slow yet diverse and evocative the next.

My prose is becoming sufficiently moist to water a football field, but it’s not a completely flawless album. The simplicity of the different track sections can bore a little when weaker strands go on too long, such as the near-silent midsection on “Universe is Burning.” This is largely negated by the strength of the rest of the material, however, because by the time you feel like something starts taking too long, it’s already in the past, and due to the progressive structure it never returns. The only true letdown is closing instrumental “Glowing Sun,” which misses any sense of development and feels included merely to prolong the end of the album. It’s not bad, but it doesn’t add anything, and because of its placement the album fades like a white dwarf star, rather than going out with a supernova.

However, this single mark has another merit to compete with. Stardust is infused with a wonderfully balanced and dynamic production. The sound is rich and open, avoiding the kind of suffocation many bands struggle with when aiming for a glorious operatic sound. The bass is present from the first second to the last with punch and clarity, even during the heavier sections. I doubt it’s possible to perfect the mix further: if anything, the vocals may be a tad forward, but the instruments sacrifice nothing and the lower position of the keys and synths allow them to influence the sound without overpowering it.

The Thirteenth Sun created one hell of a debut with Stardust. It’s easy to listen to since it’s not overly technical, but the superb arrangements drag you in like a black hole and keep you in orbit, hitting play again as soon as it’s over. The lukewarm finale is a minor smudge, but it does little to diminish the shine of one of my favorite albums this year so far. If only hardcore technical ability gets your panties dripping, you may consider this boring, but if you love great progressive compositions, don’t miss out on this.


Rating: 4.0/5.0
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 192 kbps mp3
Label: Aural Music
Websites: thethirteenthsun.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/thethirteenthsun
Releases Worldwide: May 12th, 2017

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  • mindbleach

    This and Voyager this Friday sounds like a strong combo to me.

    • Tim Daniel

      I just found Voyager too!

  • Martin Knap

    Progmetal… reminds me about Ayeron – or lack there of :-P

    • GardensTale

      Never heard of Aye Ron. Is that a military Harry Potter themed band?

      • Martin Knap

        Ayreon – I’ve been always saying it wrong :-)

      • Didn’t she write a book about a Fountainhead?

        • GardensTale

          Atlas Headbanged

          • Frost15

            You guys rock! One of my favourite novels ever.

      • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

        Nay, Aye Ron is Ron’s Alestorm tribute band.

        • GardensTale

          It was either that or Arr Ron and they thought people would mistake it for Aaron.

      • sir_c

        It’s the long-legged pirate, Aye Ron Jeremy

    • I thought of Arjen Lucassen too.

  • TheCurlyMetalhead

    I am a simple man, I see the names Devin Townsend and Opeth mentioned I click and I listen :D

    • foreverAlfon

      I am a simple man, I see Rush, I click, listen, even consider pre-order.

    • Tofu muncher

      Namedropping Opeth and Rush is enough to get me hot and bothered.

  • CongregationofFoxes

    So much good music so little money in my bank account

  • Reese Burns

    O(ld)peth?? Count me in!

  • Nick Maestas

    I saw the names Rush, Devin Townsend, and Opeth and was immediately prepared for something cool as heck and got it

  • Embridioum

    I’ve been patiently waiting to hear this album in full. The pieces I have heard have been fantastic!

  • You wot m8?

    Angry Progressive Rock Guy?

    Nah, doesn’t have the same ring to it…

  • Sean Sky

    First sentence piqued my curiosity enough to listen. Clickbait!

  • ssorg

    Was about to make a comment about AMG lovin’ on every band that is only 20% metal, but that hammond organ-driven breakdown (with good harsh vocs) in the linked track is pretty good…

    • I kind of feel it shouldn’t appeal to me quite as much as it does, but damn, I really enjoy this stuff.
      Bands like this kind of makes for good examples to why a lot of other serene prog don’t work.

  • Frost15

    They have influences from late Enslaved too, easily appreciable. Will check.

  • a glass o’ milk

    the embedded track sounds alright, the arrangements are indeed good, but it’s overall nothing that I would get too excited about…

  • hallowed

    Second part of that song is Ye Ole Opeth all the way. And namedropping Rush makes my blood rush to my…head.

    • GardensTale

      Is your head… throbbing?

  • Fat&Furry

    great album i love it!

  • bvh222

    Embedded track sold it. I’m in. Wow.

  • Ein Sophistry

    G-Garm, is that you?

  • Gage

    This is good stuff

  • Planex

    “equal parts O(ld)peth, Rush and Devin Townsend”

    I let out a deeply sexual moan and everyone in the room thinks less of me now

    • sir_c

      not the best thing to do when you still live at your parents’ place ;-)

      • Tim Daniel

        Damn that’s funny. Well played

  • andym

    Wow, this review is spot on, the middle and then latter part of the embedded track screams classic Opeth. Marvellous stuff.

  • Schmitzel

    I’m pretty stoked to see a band from my hometown covered here! It’s awesome to see these guys get the recognition they deserve. Also if you ever get a chance to see them live, do it, they truly make the stuff shine.
    Thank you for the review GT!

    • GardensTale

      My pleasure!

  • Eli Valcik

    Not enough vikings

  • rumour_control

    “The lukewarm finale is a minor smudge.” Agreed. Enjoy the instrumental interlude in the middle, to break up the flow, or enhance a previously-mentioned section. At the end is always a bit of a filler killer, in a way. Depends on the overall piece.

  • John Mosley

    There is some Nüpeth in here as well.

  • mtlman1990

    Vocals remind me of Garm “Ulver”.

    • Feytalist

      Definitely – especially his later Ulver clean vocals. Surprised it wasn’t mentioned.

      • GardensTale

        Never wound up acquainting myself with Ulver, that’s why ;)

    • Jeffrey Dean

      Which is one of the main reasons this reminds me so much of early Arcturus, specifically The Sham Mirrors.

      • mtlman1990

        I must go spin that vinyl now.

  • Levly

    To add to the bands references, I detect a strong whiff of Arcturus as well on the embedded track ;). Completely sold, this sounds awesome, thanks for the review!

    • Feytalist

      Well if I wasn’t sold before, I am now :D

    • [not a Dr]

      Throughout the intro, I kept thinking the embedded song was going to morph into Anthrax’s Intro to Reality.

    • Jeffrey Dean

      I’m glad I wasn’t the only one that heard Arcturus here! There’s some serious Sham Mirrors stuff going on in here!

      • Jeffrey Dean

        I mean, listen to the track Pathways. I swear that if I hadn’t known what this was, there are parts that I could have sworn were right off of Sham Mirrors.

  • Nate Sweet

    Clean vocals sound eerily like Genesis. Great song will definitely check out thanks for the review.

  • A Feed From Cloud Mountain

    What’s this? Space-themed metal being compared to the likes of Heavy Devy and classic Opeth?

    Why yes, I DO happen have money to spare for you, Thirtheenth Sun.

  • bolok

    I was initially sucked in by the Costin Chioreanu artwork and amused by “The correct reply is ‘a throbbing erection,’ ” and the continual references to moisture within this engaging and well written article. The music itself immediately grabbed me with the cooing bass-line, a sirens call to the band-camp page by which time semen was spraying all over the keyboard, shuddering I gasped at what was on sale and instantly pre-ordered the aquamarine LP *drool* dammit i’m gonna be broke before payday XD

  • AlphaBetaFoxface
  • Innit Bartender

    Including Rush and Opeth in your first phrase, you just rewrote the rules for the Great Book of Hooks on the Internet.

    • Caio

      Rush, indeed, is a click bait

  • Thomas Wilkens

    I need this album in my life.

  • Caio

    I did understanded that “et al” you used. Nice one.

    • GardensTale

      I considered “etc.” but I prefer using “et al” when I’ve only listed one other. Saying “Pestilence etc.” doesn’t feel right. Plus with etc. it seems the readers should be able to infer the rest of the list from what is given.

      Metal reviews: serious business.

  • herrschobel

    Lord ! i don´t like this ! at all …haha…noodledidoodle metal of the finest kind … where is the grit ? the mean dirty rock n roll spirit ? it´s buried underneath all this smartassery … oh i hate this so much…it´s getting redundant … good review though

    • GardensTale

      I knew there had to be someone who would dislike this. It stands to reason it would be you.

      • herrschobel

        haha…but i like you and your sharp quill…oh boy that sounds weird ! that should be enough for today :-P

        • GardensTale

          Hey, it’s possible to enjoy a review without agreeing with the writer’s taste! My introduction to AMG was the Book of Souls review, and although I agreed with the criticized points and really enjoyed the writing, I would have rated it a full point higher anyway. I’m already pretty ecstatic that with 50 comments, only 2 didn’t enjoy it! That’s a lot better than Disperse!

          • herrschobel

            agree .. and i have to admit that i never liked anything remotely ‘proggy’ when it comes down to metal…makes me all fidgety and angry :-) … there is only a few Bands that can be progressive and keep their cool at the same time IMO…see captain Beefheart or Frank Zappa…but that´s progression of a higher order i guess ..

  • Aguy

    Man, that six minutes goes by fast.

  • This is now on Spotify. I’m not sure if someone mentioned this before, but I hear Arcturus Ad Astra-era influences. The arrangements, but also because the singer kind of reminds me of a younger Garm.

    • Jeffrey Dean

      It could be a direct sequel to The Sham Mirrors. I noticed almost immediately!

  • Frost15

    I bought this album and I confirm it’s freaking awesome! I pre-ordered the translucent vinyl immediately.

    • Embridioum

      They also re-released their 2012 EP now.

      • Frost15

        I received the double LP with the EP you mentioned yesterday. I don’t know if I was lucky but my vinyl copies played gently and silently, like this album is meant to sound. The vinyl master is slightly more dynamic than the bandcamp flac version (DR:9 vs DR:6)…, or that’s what the TT meter says about the needledrop, yet to these ears it’s difficult to appreciate any discernible improvement. Anyway this album definitely escalates to my top 3 of this year so far. Emptiness’s “Not for Music” and this one are competing in my mind for the aoty right now.

        • Dymanic

          Hey, that was useful, thanks for the info.

  • Here’s Johnny

    Sounds awesome but am i the only one hearing some awkward drumming parts in first couple minutes of the embedded song?

    • Dymanic

      He is weaving in and out of the beat very competently from what I can hear. Nothing sounds out of place to me.

  • Tim Daniel

    This is a simply stunning album… in my car all week! If it wasn’t for this site I never would have found this band. Bravo!