Lance King, the former vocalist of Balance of Power and Pyramaze and pride of prog-metal lovers everywhere, has been too quiet for too long. Running Nightmare Records seems to keep him plenty busy, as his last solo outing was 2011s A Moment in Chiros, but 2019 finally sees the man flexing his golden pipes once again on ReProgram. Backed by a large supporting cast of musicians from acts like Pyramaze, Anubis Gate, and Darkwater, Lance’s second solo outing tracks the kind of highly melodic prog-power style he’s known for, while exploring concepts of self-identity, belief systems and the influences that shape our thinking. Heady stuff to be sure, and as one of my favorite vocalists in metal, I always get amped for something new from Mr. King. As expected, everything is handled with copious amounts of class, polish and top-flight musicianship, and the material is strongly influenced by the man’s former bands, which is a good thing to be sure.
Opening title track picks up right where A Moment of Chiros left off, delivering the same clear, crisp prog-power designed to accentuate Lance’s laser-focused vocals. The combination of sharp, concise riffs and twinkling keyboards provides an ideal foundation for Lance’s smooth delivery and the vocal hooks are there in spades. The simple but effective structure is accessible and memorable, partially obscuring its proggy nature (call it prog-lite if you must), and it’s a nice, easy lead-in to what quickly becomes a more prog-intensive journey. Followup “Pointing Fingers” is much more varied, borrowing a great deal from Threshold and Pagan’s Mind with its layered approach based around thick crunchy riffs and soaring vocals. At times it gets quite heavy and aggressive, which works beautifully with Lance’s commanding delivery. “Stand Your Ground” and “Limitless” provide a happy mix of urgent energy, satisfying crunch, hooky choruses and slick musicianship, while less immediate numbers like “Reaction Formation” effectively harness a dark, moody Queensrÿche vibe. Standout cut “Technology” lets all these elements hang out, with a bright, instantly likable chorus and a sweet long-form jam solo courtesy of Anubis Gate‘s Kim Olsen that drips with Pink Floydian emotion and pathos. I keep spinning and respinning this one, and the pairing of a bouncy, airy chorus with a melancholic mood really works.
Another high points is “Perfect World” where a slight Goth rock influence joins the usual prog antics with good results. Mammoth closer “A Mind at War” manages to make the most of its ten-minute runtime without subjecting the listener to boredom or clock watching. The song’s pacing and flow are impressive, making the time go by much faster than you’d expect as high-caliber musicians let their hair down without wanking you into a noddle coma. The quasi-flamenco guitar-work on the back half is gorgeous, the Moog keys bring a nice 70s rock touch, and Lance elevates everything with a great performance. Only “Chaotica” falls below the album’s high standards, but even that’s salvaged by some phenomenally wicked guitar-work which makes it well worth sitting through.
At an hour, ReProgram would benefit from some pruning, and dropping a lesser track or two would make for a much stronger album overall. Additionally, the lyrics can sometimes be a bit clunky and silly, though for the most part they’re solid enough. I do appreciate their positive, upbeat message, which feels refreshing in this day and age. The production by Jacob Hansen and Lance King is good, with a clear, modern sound, and Lance’s voice sounds as sharp and powerful as ever, with no wear, tear or fraying audible. His crisp high register tones are there and very little has change in his delivery since his early days with Balance of Power. He was born to sing over this kind of music and it’s great to hear him again. His crew of musical mercenaries perform all sorts of wonders over the album’s runtime, with the guitar-work of Kim Olsen and Markus Sigfridsson (Darkwater) and bass-work of Rich Hinks (Annihilator) being especially impressive.
ReProgram is an interesting and surprisingly deep, diverse prog-power album that grows and rewards the listener with each successive spin. It’s more consistent than A Moment in Chiros, and sure to appeal to fans of Pyramaze and their ilk. This is exactly the kind of prog-power I love and once again Lance proves his knack for putting this sort of material over. Hopefully we don’t have to wait another eight years for the followup. Get working, Lance!