|Aeon Zen was founded in 2008 when Rich Hinks and Lloyd Musto decided to form a new studio project. Unlike their previous bands, such as Timefall, which had a one-to-one correlation of members and instruments, Aeon Zen consisted of just the two members, with Musto playing drums and Hinks on all other instruments and production. Vocal duties were, on their debut album, shared amongst guests. According to the band, the name Aeon Zen was chosen to portray an "eternal state of bliss and enlightenment", although the use of Aeon as an adjective is a non-standard construction.
Writing and recording for their first album started in late 2008 and took roughly 4 months to complete, with both writing and recording occurring simultaneously. Several of the songs on A Mind's Portrait were written several years before the album was released, with Hinks composing the majority of the material.
Following the completion of the album, the band was signed to the record label Time Divide Records Ltd. in November 2008. This signing, and subsequent likelihood of an album release, helped in the conscription of the necessary guest vocalists such as Nils K. Rue (Pagan's Mind) and Andi Kravljaca (Silent Call, ex-Seventh Wonder), among others. The album was finally released on May 1, 2009. Artwork for the album was designed by Mattias Norén, who had previously undertaken work for groups such as Outworld, Evergrey and Into Eternity, among others.
Shortly after the album release, Lloyd Musto left the band to pursue other projects. As of 2009, Rich Hinks was working on a 2nd album, as well as putting together a live band and rehearsing with session musicians to tour and play shows.
In July 2010 the band played their first live gig at the Luminaire in London, a performance that was praised for its high fidelity sound but critiqued for the undersized venue. During this time, Hinks had been working on a follow-up album and, on the 5th of August 2010, he announced that The Face Of The Unknown would be released on October 12th of the same year under the Time Divide label. Guest vocalists announced included Michael Eriksen (Circus Maximus), Andi Kravljaca (Silent Call), Nick D'Virgilio (Spock's Beard), Jem Godfrey (Frost*) and Jonny Tatum (Eumeria). Artwork for the album was, once again, designed by Mattias Norén.
In early 2011 the band announced that they were embarking on a 23 date European tour in support of the The Devin Townsend Project, spanning the UK, Germany, Sweden, Norway and Holland, among others.
Aeon Zen's music has been described as transcending stylistic and generic boundaries, moving from soft to heavy and defying categorization as purely metal, rock, progressive or even classical. A fusion of "many stylistic elements", Aeon Zen's music, as exhibited on A Mind's Portrait, includes "catchy melodies", "a diverse mix of songs and styles", and "progressive time changes" which "run through the gamut of emotions".
In terms of comparison, many reviewers have noted their affinity with others in the Progressive Metal field, notably Dream Theater, Queensrÿche and Symphony X. The main departure from these groups is in the montage of styles presented on the album. Some reviewers felt that the "multiplicity of ideas" could be too overbearing for listeners unfamiliar with a new group, or even that such an overloading led to an overall "incoherence" on the album. Other reviewers felt that, rather than being a sign of weakness, it was a commendable feat to have enlisted the vocal services of so many prominent artists within the field.
Nevertheless, the band felt obliged to counter these assertions by stating that the intermixture of styles is exactly the effect that was intended:
"I wanted to create something different to anything I had done before and I also wanted to achieve an effect with the album that was truly breathtaking and I was sure I had enough quality material to stand up on its own and be noticed."
Furthermore, in a video interview, Rich Hinks stated that "(on A Mind's Portrait) you even have piano ballads, there's even an orchestral track (mixed in with heavier progressive rock and metal tracks). Vocally, there's everything ranging from operatic power metal style singing, all the way to death metal growling. Nothing is out of the question." However, even those critics who believed the band were yet to find their "musical identity", praised the album as a bold statement of intent, particularly given the young age of the musicians.
Four years after their formation, and having released two albums, in 2012 Aeon Zen are continuing from strength to strength, bringing their own brand of creative, complex, melodic progressive metal to fans all over the world, along with their highly energized live shows.
The band are set to release their new album entitled Enigma on September 10th 2012, produced by the band's own Rich Hinks, which is set to push Aeon Zen's sound to new limits, from early influences of the likes of Dream Theater, Metallica and Opeth, to creating their own unique sound and identity. Aeon Zen's third album features Shaz's debut performance on keyboards with Aeon Zen, filling a position that has seen a number of highly talented musicians, none more so than Shaz. The album also features a number of guest appearances alongside Aeon Zen's line-up.
Of the new album, Aeon Zen's creator Rich Hinks says: "This album has been two whole years in the making, building our strongest and most ambitious album of music to date. It's been a really cathartic process with many ups and downs which can only have helped make for our best album yet.
We've really tried to push ourselves with every aspect of this album. From the concept, to the flow of each song into the next, to the interplay with vocalists, and everything in-between. I'm really proud of what has been achieved with these songs and can't wait to see where it takes us!
We all can't wait to get this new album out there later this year and play on more stages throughout the world. I'm ecstatic with how the album sounds, it's definitely something special!"