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Ring Of Gyges - Metamorphosis review

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Band: Ring Of Gyges
Album: Metamorphosis
Release date: May 2023

01. Dragonflies
02. Cabin Fever
03. Nautilus
04. Go
05. The Choice
06. Holy Water
07. Parasite
08. Fading
09. The Face Of God
10. Sea Legs
11. Find Me Here

Only 2 days ago, I referred to Omnerod’s latest record as “an amalgamation of everything that’s happened in heavy progressive music since the turn of the millennium”; the new Ring Of Gyges similarly feels like a journey through a plethora of prog-metal bands, but in this case it’s specifically those on the more melodic side.

Ring Of Gyges hail from Iceland, but they follow more in the footsteps of Agent Fresco and Kontinuum than those of the myriad black metal bands that the island nation has increasingly become known for. The music on Metamorphosis, save for a few screams on a couple of tracks, defiantly walks the path of melody in a prog-metal scene in which new bands are more and more frequently teetering between cleaner and more extreme sounds, and it’s a joyful display of tonally bright prog, albeit one occasionally tinged with melancholia. It’s also one that slightly ventures back in time as it progresses.

The implication of that last sentence is that the album’s earlier songs more obviously represent a modern take on prog-metal, and I’d consider that a fair assessment; certainly, the tracks in which the influence of djent can be heard linger in the first half of the tracklist. This is a very light djentiness, however, and one that resembles Karmanjakah’s own melodic, metalcore-free take on the sound; triumphant opener “Dragonflies” and the lively “Go” both could have conceivably come from Karmanjakah writing sessions, although the latter stands out for its bright, thick synth tone. “Cabin Fever” has a djent groove and math rock whimsy to it as well, but I’d say this song overall feels closer to something that might have come from the alt/prog Australian heavyweights Caligula's Horse or Karnivool.

As the album progresses, I feel more of a potential influence from these two groups; part of it comes from the vocals, as accomplished frontman Helgi Jónsson’s singing has more than a hint of Jim Grey to it, along with that of another renowned prog vocalist I’ll come back to later. The softer, slower “Holy Water” in particular gives me Caligula's Horse vibes, especially with its brief, crunching ending. “Fading” similarly opts for a slower, gentler approach, but it’s taken to a whole new level emotionally; the track, without building in volume, has a gradual escalation of emotional heft in preparation of a showstopping and evocative climax. It’s a really powerful moment that stands out amidst a consistently strong tracklist as one of the key moments on Metamorphosis.

Now, where’s the ‘venture back in time’ that I referred to earlier? For that, I’m talking about a song that sounds like a classic prog-metal band, and a song that sounds like a more recent band that is very classic in their approach. The latter is the one that I feel any song here most closely resembles; specifically, “The Face Of God”, to my ears, has rather strong Haken (albeit more so Aquarius/Visions-era) vibes. Part of that is the fact that it’s 12 minutes and makes full use of that runtime (on replays, I’ve kept thinking the next song’s started, to only find it’s still the ending of this one), but it’s also very much down to the execution, from the heavier riffs to the synthwork, and also in the ways that the track evolves across its runtime.

“The Face Of God” feels like Haken with a large side course of Caligula's Horse to me, and the vocals feel like a slight inverse; that second vocalist I was thinking of was Ross Jennings, although it really came to me only when this song played. I’ve been open before in not being particularly fond of Jennings’ voice, but somehow Jónsson manages to capture some of his best traits without having the same tonal pitfalls; it’s that Jim Grey tone to his voice coming to the rescue. Now, I have my opinions on what (or rather, who) the vocals of Ring Of Gyges sound like, but the greatest moment of déjà vu on Metamorphosis occurs in following track “Sea Legs”; I feel this song generally has a hint of post-2000 Dream Theater to it, but I’m sure my opinion on that is at least somewhat influenced by how much the synth motif around the halfway mark sounds like “In The Presence Of Enemies Pt. 1” from Systematic Chaos.

I have spent a lot of this review drawing parallels to other bands, and I do feel like it’s a helpful way to paint a picture of how Ring Of Gyges sound, and how broad the range of influences they seem to take on board is. However, it’s doing a slight disservice to Metamorphosis to rely too much on these comparisons; it has a personality of its own, a lot of which comes from how uplifting its tone is (even when factoring in the tenderness of “Fading” and a few other key moments), and also just how consistently enjoyable the tracklist is as a whole. This sophomore release has been a long time coming for the group, arriving 6 years after debut Beyond The Night Sky, but it’s worth that wait.

Rating breakdown
Performance: 8
Songwriting: 8
Originality: 6
Production: 8

Written on 26.05.2023 by Hey chief let's talk why not


Comments: 2   Visited by: 21 users
31.05.2023 - 08:41
Managed to check out "The Face Of God" and I'm not a fan of the vocals
Do you think if the heart keeps on shrinking
One day there will be no heart at all?
30.06.2023 - 03:16
Rating: 7

Nice review. I agree the vocals were the weakest part but I still enjoyed them and found this to be a really solid album.

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