Athem is a prog metal band from New Jersey (USA) and The Extended Mind is their debut album. Some critics call Athem the grandsons of Yes, whatever that may imply since I hear no resemblance whatsoever with that band. Thank goodness for that, by the way! The music of this young quintet, however, is bombastic, enthusiastic, melodic, heavy, epical, theatrical and really symphonic. While listening to the nine tracks I hear influences from Enchant, Dream Theater, Pink Floyd and The Beatles and I must say that I'm impressed by these youngsters. Especially singer Will Shaw and guitar picker Shawn Baldissero steal the show and bring back memories of James LaBrie and good old Steve Howe.
Overture is an almost classical piece with lots of strings, before the band get caught in the heavy song Fallen God, featuring a cool guitar solo and many heavy staccato riffs and melodies. Away is a typical ballad-like power song, followed by the Enchant-like prog tracks Prince Of Lies and Wake Up Screaming. Then Athem treats us to the best song of the album called Enigmatic Reverie. This epic piece lasts over twelve minutes containing great vocals, many piano passages and is dominated by the guitar of Baldissero. The title track is an instrumental showing that these guys certainly know how to play their instruments! Although the song isn't very original, it's still interesting enough to listen to. The album ends with another epic track Lifting The Veil, the most complex song of The Extended Mind. At certain times I even found it a bit chaotic and hard to listen to, but if you like your prog metal to be diverse then you will love this piece. After fifteen minutes of tempo changes the song ends with an orchestral finale and the album comes full circle. Highly recommended if you're into prog metal!
**** Martien Koolen (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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