Imminent Sonic Destruction like to call themselves progressive super metal. The brainchild of sweater-vest lover (and songwriter/guitarist/vocalist) Tony Piccoli, this group of prog-loving pals could more accurately be referred to as playing kitchen sink metal – as in, everything-but-the. And with influences ranging from Pantera to Dream Theater to Meshuggah to Genesis, that’s a pretty apt term. Triumphia is the band’s second release. It seems to be a concept album about new life in a post-apocalyptic world. Gee, we haven’t heard of that theme before in prog metal. Luckily, the concept is difficult enough to figure out that we can ignore it, and focus on the songs.
Album opener “The Crashing Waves” is one of two epic-length songs on Triumphia. Over eleven minutes long, it opens in typical dramatic fashion with soundtrack-esque ambiance and a radio voice telling everyone the world is done for. The crescendo builds, but not to massive metal goodness; rather, we get a forlorn piano track before the aforementioned metal blowup, which is a mix of good and bad. The good: slick-sounding, well-arranged prog metal, with strings, keys, odd syncopation, and a couple of clearly thought out arrangements only five minutes in. The bad (and this will afflict most of the album): a tendency to lean on metalcore breakdowns and squeal-filled riffs as first heard at 3:40, and again around the eight-minute mark. Such promise, let down by something that was only cool when Zakk Wylde over-played it last decade. Still, “The Crashing Waves” is an entertaining, well written, mostly enjoyable prog metal opener and the rest of the album follows suit, with dynamic songs such as “Something in the Way” and “Sleepless” demonstrating the deft touch the band has with melodies and arrangements.
Breakdowns and Zakk Wylde adoration are annoying, but there is a bigger problem with Triumphia, and it’s the vocals. Simply put, singer Tony Piccoli does not have the world’s greatest voice. His clean singing, which is most often used, makes him sound like Larry Gowan’s younger and less fortunate brother. His hardcore vocals are even poorer, but luckily sparsely used – we first hear him unleash his version of an unearthly howl at the two-minute mark of second song “Something in the Way” (another track with a couple of squeal-infected breakdowns), and the hardcore passages are short enough to only be mildly cringe-worthy. Not to be a complete grump towards the poor guy, I will say he sings exuberantly and in tune, and the backing vocals are well done. There is one breath of fresh air on the vocal front, but it sadly does not present itself until the conclusion of Triumphia – guest singer Rachel May on “Arborous Calm,” the 23-minute closer and an excellent slice of prog metal aside from, yes, breakdowns. Her voice has the passion, power, and technical prowess lacking in Piccoli. Sadly, her solo lines last exactly one minute, after which she is pushed to the background of a duet that ends with a harsh scream. Why she’s present at all only to be used for one verse on the entire album is puzzling.
Production is excellent on Triumphia. Sounds are big and bombastic, dynamics are great, and every instrument sits where it should. These guys want to sound big and heavy, and they do, but the quieter passages are still presented in a clear, delicate fashion. Vocals are a bit high in the mix considering the skill level, but that’s the only real nitpick. Song arrangements are also outstanding and show that musically Imminent Sonic Destruction leans towards a heavier, slightly less technical, metalcore-tinged version of Dream Theater. Their fusion of traditional prog with modern progressive metal and even some slightly heavier flair makes every song an interesting listen.
Imminent Sonic Destruction are at their best when melody rules the day. Piccoli clearly has above average songwriting chops and a penchant for melodic arrangements and harmonies. Triumphia is so close to a great sophomore effort, but the downsides make it a tough listen at times. Unless Piccoli improves, Imminent Sonic Destruction will find the progressive metal success ladder a tough one to climb. I hope they keep trying, though, because there’s a ton of potential here.