While Heaven Wept are a long running symphonic metal band from Virginia who have made an astonishing new concept album in Suspended at Aphelion. This is the kind of flashy but layered master work that every prog-minded metal act dreams of pulling off, strong songsmithery rapturously focused technical skill and a huge epic sound. The idea of being as far away as possible from the sun before orbit begins back towards warmth is the central metaphor here and the music is up to the huge task. I enjoyed this space journey more than the film Gravity.
Suspended At Aphelion will appeal to fans of Queensryche, Stratovarius, the lighter side of Scar Symmetry harmony driven vocals, The Old Dead Tree or even Protest the Hero’s Fortress. The style of prog here is not what most kids think of these days (BTBAM) but more of a hybrid of prog with classic metal and symphonic power. From the moving piano opening of “Introspectus” to the vocal glow of the amazing “The Memory Of Bleeding” to “Souls In Permafrost” pulling so much from me emotionally like the best fiction, wondering if we someday might have to leave the planet. “The highest of hopes left impossible debts of darkness and pain and deeper regrets/facing our future of paradise lost/interred my soul in permafrost,” sings Rain Irving with beautiful melodic command.
Also a highlight of this album, which really has no bad songs and pitch perfect production for the material, is Jason Lingle’s keyboard work. The keys augment each song so well, setting up real impact which can then be a great platform for Queen-big guitar solos to racing shred moments to “he nailed it” drumming from Mark Zonder.
Anyone looking for a great reason to not stray far from whatever item they consume music with and who loves metal that is less heavy than about huge themes spanning the galaxy should give this a spin. Maybe sci-fi and symphonic metal are escapism but this album has real questions humanity must wrestle with amidst the story and sweeping movements. “Lifelines Lost” will leave you hanging at the very edge, wondering when we will return for home and, perhaps, ecological and spiritual or compassionate redemption. Like The Ocean’s Pelagial it is not scared to go all the way to the farthest reaches to make a big creative point.
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