It has been three years since the eponymous debut album (2013, see review) by Synaesthesia who have since rebranded themselves as Kyros. That debut, spearheaded by the then teenaged multi-instrumentalist, composer and arranger, Adam Warne, showed great promise and Vox Humana is its follow-up. Warne on keyboards, vocals and mixing is joined by Joey Frevola on guitars and programming, Sam Higgins on vocals, guitars and additional programming, Peter Episcopo on vocals and bass guitar and Robin Johnson on drums. Also featured on the album is a full live brass section with parts arranged by Raymond Hearn of Haken while Jens Bogren, who has worked with Haken and Opeth, mastered it at his Fascination Street Studios in Sweden.
There is a storyline to this album, the first CD being about a man obsessed with technology who moves out of the city and, in his new splendid isolation, attempts to build the perfect human companion. CD 2 takes the viewpoint of his creation, effectively the Vox Humana (Human Voice). It's certainly an ambitious canvas on which to paint and the journey it takes is long and occasionally rather sprawling.
It begins with Vox Humana, a brief cacophony of “life” sounds, paving the way for Technology Killed The Kids, a huge slab of electronically-driven, techno prog, choc full of haunting vocals and big riffing guitars set against a killer rhythm. That techno theme continues into Cloudburst, featuring some delicate touches on synths, distorted voices and a very strong melody line which comes and goes throughout the track.
The hypnotic keyboards that introduce Persistence Of Vision open out into a staccato rhythm and a swelling bank of instrumentation that darts off into different directions. There's also a spooky vocal and keyboards section before it flies off into heavier waters, guitar and keyboards, raising the stakes higher and higher into Rush territory.
The Lamb, The Badger And The Bee provides a more angry, direct approach interspersed with orchestra effects, a jazzy vibe, a soaring guitar solo then a slower passage. They certainly pack it all in and include a balalaika effect, rounded off with some close vocal harmony singing.
New Paradigm sweeps along majestically, a powerful, all-embracing rock composition taken at a stately pace with a touch of pomp here and a tinkling synth motif there. It morphs into a vocal chorus, followed by more delicate keyboard trickery and a muted downbeat vocal-led passage.
Now, we enter new territory on CD 2, starting with the metallic groove of Mind Electric, that picks up one of the melody lines from CD 1 before it begins its own evolution, rumbling along menacingly both vocally and instrumentally.
That edge continues in Speak To Me, a multi-faceted instrumental, which ebbs and flows taking in a billowing guitar and choppy Oriental passages. Persistence Of Perfection arrives in a swathe of electronic pomp, that switches to a gentler more muted groove, the soaring vocals and a metal-inspired guitar giving it extra texture.
Monster roars in, this being more a prog pop song, whose driving beat and chunky guitar has echoes of It Bites. There's a sweet acoustic opening to Hounds but then it steps up several gears to become increasingly dark and brooding through the introduction of brass and some sinister clanking effects.
The brass is heard to better effect on The Darkness Grove, which also features more distorted voices. It is around this time that the Vox Humana appears to be going into meltdown and the juddering, bone-crunching Boiling Point captures this.
That theme continues in Ego in which guitar, bass and keyboards come together in a big flurry, a dramatic vocal section coming along with more brass, synths and crunching drums.
Bringing it all to a close is Dilate, pianos, bass and synths kicking it all off as it gradually takes off, especially the voices which almost hit falsetto at one juncture, followed by a resonant guitar solo.
It's certainly an adventurous offering by the band and occasionally takes on the cinematic scope which Haken have perfected. There's a lot of music on Vox Humana, which has its sublime moments and some strong themes that are a great step up from the first album. Kyros are still very much a work in progress and hopefully they will not take another three years to deliver the much anticipated next album.
*** Alison Reijman
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