“Cinematic progressive metal.” Now there’s a tag rife with possibilities. Theatrical djent? Dream Theater 2.0? Coheed Jr and Cambriette? Prior to this review, I’d never heard of Australia’s Great Leap Skyward. Subsequently, I had no idea what I was in for when I rescued Map of Broken Dreams from Angry Metal Guy‘s Home for Wayward Promo. Trvthfully, I was hoping for a corn-riddled shit-heap to go full Muppet over and draft up a scavenger hunt to disappointment in lieu of a “normal” review, but it turns out this is actually a pretty solid album so I have to actually write a pretty solid review. I’m just as upset as you are.
Map of Broken Dreams may reveal a direct route to prog metal joy, but the scenic genre tour it takes the listener on is about as direct as Bell Witch are speed metal. A song might begin with industrial ambiance, or maybe desert-y flamenco guitars (“Junkyard Planet” and “Sepulcral y Sin Nombre,” respectively) but before long it’s doing something else, maybe something proggy or maybe something downright blackened. Before that dust can settle, BAM! Doom it up a notch! BAM! Here’s some power metal! BAM! Have some djent! I say BAM! because I’m ridiculous, yet the band’s frequent changes in genre direction are anything but jarring, and never are they needless exercises in sonic wankery. The flamenco bit is a tad unexpected, and there’re some gang-vocals “Hey! Hey! Hey!” nonsense towards the end of “Sepulcral y Sin Nombre” that could just as soon maybe not happen ever again — and thankfully doesn’t — but “less is more” wins again with every genre leap skyward, and the ease with which any given song glides through any given genre is impressive and effective no matter how you spin it.
That GLS know their way around a genre convention or thirty will come as no surprise to in-the-know proglodytes; this may be GLS‘s debut album, but GLS is Australian prog supergroup Knightmare‘s sophomore incarnation, and the collective wisdom and experience of its members is ridiculously apparent in every song. Besides the wealth of varying musical influences to be discovered along the 8 track journey, even a novice Angry Metal Progling will recognize the seasoned strength evident in the dynamic songwriting of Map of Broken Dreams. Beyond the seamless nature of the transitions themselves, the songs actually do transition and morph into distinct passages, rather than applying a new tonal varnish to a core melody every 6 measures or so. The overall effect is comparable to the cinematic flow of Coheed and Cambria‘s conceptual compositions, and this tonal fluidity is by far GLS‘s greatest strength. Honestly, I’m already all kinds of curious as to where these Aussies will take their smorgasbord of sounds next.
So it probably sounds like these guys sound pretty sweet so far, but just what do they sound like? There is no straightforward answer to that, as each song changes too frequently to be contained within any single descriptor, but the short answer: GLS sound awesome, yo. “I am the Black Matriarch” is a hard-hitting hodgepodge of TesseracT, Draconian, and Dream Theater, whereas “Kindred” offers something to the effect of Ne Obliviscaris with an Enshine finish. Tool-y modern Katatonia prog flourishes grace “Junkyard Planet” amidst soaring power metal choruses, and all of it just fucking works. The vocals largely linger in that clean yet slightly gravely sweet spot between prog and power metal and are delivered as tastefully and skillfully as everything else on Broken Dreams, yet there is more than enough excellent Dimmu screaming throughout the album to keep the more extreme crowd satisfied. Given the downright cinematic way that this metal album progresses through its 52 minutes, I can see Map of Broken Dreams making a prog believer out of the most kvlt and brutal our listeners. Well, the honest ones anyway.
Given the presence of palatable power parmesan, the lack ov deep black sadness, and the daunting promo bin genre tag, I should hate this; I want to hate Map of Broken Dreams, it’s deeply rooted in anti-Muppet music and my dreams of unconventional review nonsense were dashed before the titular album opener was so much as two minutes in, yet my only complaint about GLS‘s ‘debut’ is that they didn’t give me anything to complain about, those selfish fvcks. Thanks for ruining everything, GLS, I hope you choke on that rating knowing that your magnificent works come at the cost of broken Muppet dreams.