Thoughts Factory – Elements Review

Thoughts Factory - Elements 01One’s musical taste changes and evolves all the time. I like to pride myself on having an extensive palate when it comes to metal, and I make an effort to expand it further whenever possible and learn to appreciate ever less accessible forms of music. Lately, this has come to include more brutal, technical, and dissonant death metal (thanks largely to Teeth), as well as black metal. But it’s good to realize that my tastes may also change to exclude music I have loved before; after all, I once thought Adema was awesome. So when I pulled my head from the murk of the most grimy, gritty, and distorted music metal has to offer to review the clean, keyboard-laden progressive metal of Thoughts Factory, my initial reaction was that of a belligerent child forced to take a shower after playing in the mud: I don’t like it this clean! Make it more filthy! But does that knee-jerk reaction hold on repeat listens?

Turns out, it mostly doesn’t. I will come back to that modifier later but suffice to say I was merely experiencing unexpected sonic whiplash, something my mindset wasn’t ready for. It’s true that Thoughts Factory play very clean music; a simplified description would be a Fates Warning with Yes textures. This means keyboards play an important role, and the mood is largely upbeat and life-affirming, with the ever-evolving compositions in a major key. Where I was wrong was my initial reaction that this was a problem, because Thoughts Factory are very good at what they do. Cornelius Wurth’s got a Harry Potter worthy name and an enviable set of pipes, with a range and timbre reminiscent of Geoff Tate on the highs. The drumming is complex without posturing, the guitars showing a wide range of techniques and the keys weave deftly through the other instrumentation without upsetting the balance.

So the technical suffices, but this is progressive metal, so the songwriting gets a x2 modifier. Thoughts Factory realize that by penning an excellent set of tunes that flow with an easy vitality. The rhythm section plays effortlessly with timing, often extending a bar by one or two beats or adding bursts of double speed, adding up to a playful dynamic that never gets mired in stagnation. The tracklist has a fairly typical construction, including the pop hook of the addictive “Fire Away,” the power balladry of “Nightfall” which recalls Devin Townsend in its positive grandeur, the free-form epic of the “Dawn” two-parter and the introspective self-titled closer. But though these tropes are well-trod, they are executed with such spirit and variety of approach not to feel overused or stale.

Thoughts Factory - Elements 02As noted before, I wasn’t entirely wrong with my initial disparagement, and that has everything to do with the production. The density of the master makes Elements a less relaxing listen than it should be and gives me a sense of sonic claustrophobia. Between the chugging riffs, front and backing vocals, gently humming bass, the drums and keys, there’s a lot of elements crammed into small living quarters and the album screams for more breathing room. It reminds me of a housewarming party I once went to, where nigh 20 people were sat in a room that could comfortably seat half the number. The solid mixing and balancing alleviate the issue a little, and I always thank an engineer giving space to bass, but it is damage containment rather than repairs and makes repeat spins that much less inviting.

And yet, with the occasional break, I find myself not just willing but eager to give Elements another spin, owing to the excellent songwriting and vital, dynamic sound. The album has the variety to remain fresh indefinitely, the songwriting to envelop you and carry you on the flow, the playfulness and positivity to keep it lighthearted and bright, and the technical skills to make it all sound easy. No molds are broken here, nor is the production nearly as dynamic as it should be, keeping Elements from charting levels of quality. But if you’re looking for a cleansing break from dissonance and ugliness, Thoughts Factory have your back with this lovely and addictive little gem.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 5 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Melodic Revolution Records
Websites: | |
Releases Worldwide: January 24th, 2020

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