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Atomic Symphony - Redemption

Atomic Symphony
by Julius “Dreadheart” Mikkelä at 17 January 2016, 3:41 PM

Citing what bands influenced your music is usually a no-brainer for most upcoming bands, since it’s a quick and relatively efficient way to help you get through to your target audience, but it can come with a serious downside: Expectation. Certain bands are.. problematic, to cite as a source of inspiration, as their mere mention carry a weight of expectation that is often impossible to live up to. One example of a band faced with this issue is the Swiss band ATOMIC SYMPHONY and their relatively recently released debut album, “Redemption”.

Because when you up-front say that your top 4 influences are, and I kid you not; SYMPHONY X, EPICA, DREAM THEATER, and motherhumping NIGHTWISH, my brain start making loop-de-loops of excitement and expectation. These giants - nay, Titans - of Progressive and Symphonic Metal are hardly argued among the best musical acts not only in their respective genres, but in Metal music at large - and living up to a legacy like that is, well, impossible. Might as well close down this review right here and now, right?

Wrong. Dead wrong. Because as far as new Progressive Metal acts go, ATOMIC SYMPHONY is distinctly among the most promising I’ve heard in years. Heavily influenced by the style of the aforementioned SYMPHONY X, with clear hints to the orchestral arrangements of EPICA more so than NIGHTWISH, with solos dominated by a DREAM THEATER-esque touch, “Redemption” stands almost freakishly strong for a first effort, with strong compositions; a dynamic, diverse and yet coherent sound, convincing overall performances, and what I can only describe as a natural talent for writing Progressive music in the way that excites rather than bores.

I really must emphasize the last point there, because “Redemption” turned out to be among the few albums I stumble across in my line of work that I actually actively listened to the whole way through, because the music was so intriguing, and because in true - nay, ideal - Progressive fashion the music dynamically flowed with such ease between tempo, style and sometimes even genre changes. That’s a feat even few experienced Progressive Metal acts pull off, much less an out-of-the gates act like ATOMIC SYMPHONY, so these Swiss to enter the stage this strong is nothing short of applause-worthy - with an album that’s self-produced to great effect, nonetheless!

And if it wasn’t clear by association by now: “Redemption” isn’t just a freakishly good overall experience, but also a great track-by-track album. The clear highlights of this album are the sweeping "Abyss" and the empowering "Face The Evil", both being lyrically touching and musically memorable tracks even when compared against the big acts. Then we have lesser, but still very enjoyable and noteworthy, entries like "Asylum" and "Delusive Dreams", which stand out thanks to some crazy creative instrumental sections and solos, and the heavier tracks "Fate of the Gods" and "Walk Through Fire and Pain" that feature a healthy balance of riffage and powerful choruses. Left are the somewhat underwhelming opener "Lost Eden", the semi-epic album closer "Shattered", and the mixed style "Breathing Rage" that, while not tracks I'd put on by themselves I think, still deliver in one way or the other.

Alright, so these guys know how to write Prog - but do they know how to play prog? Because as we all know, true Metal can only be measured in vocal range, BPM and the median length of solos throughout an album. Well look at the end of the last paragraph and you have the resounding answer: Yes. Sure, Roberto is no John Petrucci or Devin Townsend; Jasmin can’t stand tall against world class vocalists like Simone Simons and Sharon den Adel, and Thomas need to step up his game if he intends to stare down Geddy Lee, but the second we lower the bar to anything resembling a reasonable level, there’s no arguing that ATOMIC SYMPHONY is a quintet powerhouse on an individual level that can only improve from here that deliver many times over throughout the album.

An impulsive part of me wants to give this one a 10/10, just to make a point clear: ATOMIC SYMPHONY is a band to be reckoned with going forward. But while “Redemption” just bought itself a one-way ticket into my playlist with such ease that it made me feel cheap, it’s not a masterpiece. These newcomers may have taken me by storm, but they still have lessons to learn before they can proclaim themselves the new big thing in Symphonic Prog, because there's still a "rough around the edges" feel to their songs (which is most notable on their "lesser" tracks); their production - while applause-worthy for an self-made debut release - could use a more experienced hand to really nail the finer details of their mixing, and ATOMIC SYMPHONY still have to prove that they have the kind of musical vision and maturity that marks the true masters - something that, for example, NE OBLIVISCARIS had from the get-go with their masterfully crafted, iconic and unique sound.

But mark my sodding words: Next time they might. Next time we see ATOMIC SYMPHONY, they may very well be bringing us the next “The Divine Wings of Tragedy”, “Images and Words” or “Portal of I”. And until they do, I know of literally no reason why you shouldn’t make “Redemption” part of your daily dose of Progressive addiction, as had I encountered this album closer to its release, this might very well have made it to my Top 10 of 2015.

4 Star Rating

1. Lost Eden
2. Abyss
3. Walk Through Fire and Pain
4. Breathing Rage
5. Face the Evil
6. Delusive Dreams
7. Fate of the Gods
8. Asylum
9. Shattered
Jasmin Baggenstos - Vocals
Roberto Barlocci - Guitar
Carlo Beltrame - Keys
Thomas Spoegler - Bass
Marc Friedrich - Drums
Record Label: Independent


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