I don't think I have to sum up the biography of Sun Caged. People who like progressive metal should be aware of this Dutch highlight in this genre. My first acquaintance with Marcel Coenen, the band's guitarist and mastermind, was his appearance on a tribute-CD for Rush with a song called Working Man. Here I got my first impression of a new album that was due to release. I bought Lemur Voice's Insights and from that moment on I kept following the musical path of Marcel Coenen, and bought his albums. When he started a new adventure with Sun Caged, after Lemur Voice had broken up, the first eponymous album (2003) felt good to me. However, when the band presented their second album Artemisia (2007) including the new vocalist Paul Adrian Villarreal, I was totally shocked. Where did they find this very talented singer, who was able to lift the band to such a high level? The reason why The Lotus Effect took so long could have something to do with Villareal's other 'hobby'; in February 2011, his third child was born during the making of the album! Anyway,
I find myself confronted with an almost impossible task: how shall I describe the music on The Lotus Effect? During my holidays I often listened to it via my i-Pod and every time I discovered some new and amazing aspects that I hadn't noticed before.
While listening to the opening song Seamripper, you'll get the impression of a death metal band, but as soon as the singer starts singing you get a sublime vocal line that curiously reminds me a bit of Marcel Coenen's previous band Lemur Voice. However, musically it's much more metal and the guitars sound like real heavy seven strings. The combination of heavy guitars, softer keyboards and the vocals give The Lotus Effect a promising start. The following Tip-Toe The Fault Line shows a Sun Caged-song in its full quality: ultra fast progressive metal with an almost trashy guitar, melodic keyboards and a slightly distorted voice supported by a steady bass and drums. On the other hand Ashes To Earn is relaxing, slowing down for a moment with wonderful clean guitar play. This is more rock than metal; just another component of the music of Sun Caged, very suitable for progressive rock fans who think this band play too loud. Soaring keyboards with heavy riffs; we've entered the range of the seventh string again. The combination of Paul's deformed vocals in the mix and his normal singing voice is exceptional. Check out Roel Vink's funky bass part and the guitar sound switching from one speaker to the other. Vink is now replaced by the German bass player Daniel Kohn, but according to the website he's still playing on this one. The more emotional and sensitive side of the band can be heard in the passionate Reductio Ad Absurdum. Here the vocals are really impressive while Coenen shows that he's much more than a heavy metal guitarist: this piece contains lots of emotion! In On Again / Off Again the fine keyboard layers of René Kroon compete with the heavy guitar. His very melodic playing works perfectly in contrast to the guitar; this killer song reminded me a bit of Symphony X or Ayreon.
The 8 Auspicious Symbols is an impressive epic divided in eight sections and lasting for twenty-four minutes. Influenced by a band like Pain Of Salvation, this piece of music grows towards a huge crescendo in the final part, but don't underestimate Pareidolized containing great piano work, fretless bass, a synth solo and off course Paul's majestic vocals. Moebius Knot is a tremendous instrumental piece with a combination of keyboards, piano and an ultra-heavy guitar ending in a stunning duel. The song's climax is the end section Let It Wash Away wherein the band reaches the ultimate highlight. After the cooling down on the piano you get the chance to let the music enter your brain, before it ends.
Sun Caged have taken their time to create a new highlight in their career. They have incorporated a wider range of influences like fusion, death metal and even some old progressive rock passed in review. For me it's clear: Sun Caged is still climbing the ladder of the international progressive metal scene. I don't think they have reached their peak yet, although The Lotus Effect is an amazing album. I hope I haven't stretched the envelope for the next album, but anyway: let's replay this 'must have' album once again!
****+ Pedro Bekkers (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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