Until recently, I don’t think I could have named more than two Greek metal bands—Rotting Christ and the excellent but underrated The Elysian Fields, in case you were wondering. Now I’m reviewing my second Hellenic release in three weeks. Today’s subjects could not be more different from their countrymen, however. Until Rain deal in progressive metal and have been doing so since 2009, with four full-length albums already under their belts prior to Season V. I confess, I’m only familiar with their most recent release, 2017’s Inure, which offered up dark, moody prog, featuring heavy bass lines and, at times, even flirting with djent and blastbeats (see, for example, “This Solitude”). I didn’t love it but I certainly liked it and there is no question Until Rain showed some vision and genuine songcraft on it. The tag “progressive” metal seemed apposite.
Sadly, the same cannot be said of their fifth release, Season V. Apparently inspired by surrealist TV series The Leftovers, a show with which I am utterly unfamiliar,1 there’s little leftover from what I heard on Inure. Although there are heavier tracks on here, these are back-loaded with much of the front-end devoted to melodic, sentimental but somehow completely soulless numbers. Although the lineup has not changed since the last record, Until Rain have lost something in the intervening two years. Vocalist Cons Marg now croons, where previously his voice soared; the keyboards lead, where previously they complemented; songs… just are, where previously they grew and developed. Season V features extended melodic passages on this album, where keyboards and sultry vocals meander on, showing little hope of going anywhere. That the album opens in this fashion doesn’t help, with “Inner Season” feeling a lot longer than its near-three minutes. At times, particularly in the first act of the album, there are inescapable and unflattering parallels with early 2000s nu metal of the Evanescence school, although the female vocals here are restricted to backing on just a couple of the tracks (see “The Long Break,” for example).
That’s not to say it’s all bad, it isn’t. The songs where Until Rain make use of heavier sections, allowing bassist Linus Abrahamson more license, still have something about them, notably “Miracle,” and the final three songs on the record, with “Ascending” and closer “Time Escape” probably the pick of the bunch. On these, while we are not dealing in virtuoso prog guitars here, the riffs and solos come to the fore a little more, with Marg also varying his vocal delivery, increasing the power and introducing a few guttural growls. Indeed, on these one can hear a little more of Dream Theater and Avantasia coming through in the influences, albeit without the subtler notes and vision of those bands.
The promo material claims that this is an album that matures with each listen and I will say that I did hear a little more in it with multiple spins, although I can’t say I approached each new listen with much enthusiasm. At least part of that has to be blamed on the production, which was all handled by Until Rain‘s keyboardist Lef Germenlis. The keyboards themselves are certainly prominent, as are the vocals but Theodore Amaxopoulos’ guitars are often what can only be described as muddy, with the drums sound tinny and unconvincing. Abrahamson’s bass, a real highlight of Inure, often goes missing altogether. While it would not, I think, solve all the flaws of this album, remixing it to clean up the heavier sections and re-balance the moodier, acoustic passages would certainly be a big improvement.
My overriding sense coming away from this album is confusion. Confusion because of what I heard on their previous record, which got me genuinely excited to see where the band would go on Season V. If, I thought to myself, Until Rain can continue in this vein and maybe even step up the darker, proggier aspects of Inure, this fifth outing could be a real belter. Sadly, they did not. On the contrary, Until Rain have managed to deliver a record that left me completely unmoved and, to be perfectly honest, a little bored. There are enough flourishes here to mean that I will probably listen to whatever they produce next, out of curiosity as much as anything, but if their current direction of travel persists, my hopes are not high.