Greek prog/alt quintet Mother of Millions have two albums under their belt, and now Artifacts is their third, and while (full disclosure) I haven’t heard the first two, I now have them queued up for future spins. Those of you who only like your metal fast and brvtal, carry on. But those of you who might’ve enjoyed last year’s Kontinuum release, keep reading: Mother of Millions are right up your alley. Think equal parts cinematic (Kontinuum), progressive (Katatonia), and alternative (Dead Letter Circus), and you have a rough idea of what’s to come.
The seven songs on Artifacts deal with feelings and ideas in the form of objects with ritual value. The songs are awash in atmosphere and emotion, due in no small part to the stunning vocal performance of George Prokopiou, who endows every song with sublime feel. In fact, his work on the songs “Cinder” and “Artefact,” two of the best tracks here, vault those cuts to the top of my “Best of 2019” playlist. “Cinder” is a brilliant showcase of pensive melancholy, building through quiet notes and hushed vocals to a heart-rending crescendo. And “Artefact” is a ten-minute epic bordering on post-metal, with movements consisting of synth soundscapes, haunting piano, a female voiceover (perhaps in Greek?), and a towering three-minute finale, all with haunting vocals.
Speaking of, one other standout aspect of Artifacts is the piano playing. Makis Tsamkosoglou tickles some mean ivories. In fact, the three-minute “Nema” is simply a piano interlude, and it is beautiful, moving from melancholic to nimble. I don’t know if this is a real piano or an extremely good sample, but it’s hard to beat the emotion of a well-played piano regardless. Piano is sprinkled throughout the tracks, but is put to best use in the final numbers, “Anchor” and “Artefact,” neither of which would be nearly as impactful without it. “Anchor,” in fact, is one of the heavier songs on Artifacts, and the keys add a layer of wistfulness to an otherwise churning, deliberate song. It may seem odd to mention piano as a highlight on an ostensibly metal album, but there you have it. Throughout all these songs, Mother of Millions are never sidetracked by extravagance, staying focused on the message they want each song to deliver.
“Rite” and “Soma,” while solid songs, don’t quite stand up to the remainder of the album. That’s a testament to the strength of the other songs more so than a complaint about those two, though, and everything else on Artifacts makes up for them. Production is on par with the emotion conveyed, as well. Lush swathes of keyboards commingle with the clear, precise rhythm section (featuring my favorite snare sound of the year, with just the right amount of rim), and Kostas Konstantinidis finds plenty of opportunities to display his guitar prowess, whether through glistening melodies or almost-shredding leads. It’s all overshadowed, but only to the slightest of degrees, by Prokopiou’s superb vocals. What it all adds up to is a fantastic-sounding record.
Artifacts is an alluring, contagious mix of atmosphere, emotion, and power. The album, and in fact each song, has an ebb and flow to it that speaks to the band’s songwriting chops: they succeed in telling a story through both lyrics and music, and holding our interest at all times. They’ve managed to incorporate a number of influences (including those they’ve supported on tour such as Pain of Salvation and Leprous) into their sound while avoiding sounding alike. Short and sweet, Mother of Millions have created a standout album of taut, vibrant, vivid alternative prog that is sure to find its way onto many playlists. One thing is for sure, next chance I get I’m visiting their back catalog.