Monday, June 22, 2015

ION VEIN

by MMB
Ion Vein (U.S.): Ion Vein (Mortal Music)
What a perfect balance of metal Ion Vein is. The discerning metal audience into traditional forms of metal should notice many things about this album that are excellent and outstanding. One initial element to observe is how remarkably complete the album sounds: the experience and the skills shine through very well, and there is an overall vibe that the band has worked a lot on the album, showing that this work is the result of years of thinking about how to construct their art. This aspect—when an album sounds carefully crafted—is something that should be commended because it demonstrates respect for the music, respect for themselves as musicians and respect for the audience that will listen to this album. It is like the band knows that if the targeted listener hears this album, that listener—if that listener pays attention—will notice that this work is no hurry-up or minimal-effort project.
The perfect balance of Ion Vein consists of bringing the best elements and putting them to great use on this album: traditional heavy metal, prog metal, thrash, power metal, shred metal and classic rock. Listen, however, don’t misunderstand: Ion Vein sounds very smooth and not like some annoying mixture of different styles. Ion Vein does not sound like an irritating compilation album. Above all, Ion Vein sounds like experienced, intelligently crafted heavy metal.
Perhaps the greatest difference with Ion Vein is the sound of experience. For instance, the prog metal is there, but Ion Vein does not sound too proggy, like music for musicians. Ion Vein is heavy metal, but the musicians have been around the block and sound like it. It’s not like some bands that are happy that they can make their songs sound like Angel Witch or Blitzkrieg or whatnot. It’s not like, “Wow! Look, we can write songs that sound like Judas Priest!” This band could do that in their sleep. Seriously, this band could play those Priest-like riffs until the cows come home if they wanted, but Ion Vein is beyond the novelty aspect of heavy metal. Another example would be Ion Vein’s incorporation of thrash. In thrash metal, it is often the case that the bands seem satisfied and content that they have fast, galloping riffs, as if that is the main thing that is necessary for a song. The greatness of this Ion Vein album is to be found on how smooth the band makes the songs. To illustrate the point, I will not talk about any of the first eight songs. Why? Because bands tend to frontload the albums with the good songs upfront and leave the filler at the end, as if they figure that nobody will notice. This album has 12 songs, so, actually, I will not talk about the first eight songs at all, which all sound very good, by the way, excellent, actually, but let’s not talk about them now. Let’s go straight to the last four songs and let’s see if Ion Vein left the filler songs at the end of the album.
Let’s really put Ion Vein under the microscope and let’s see what we find! Is the band hiding the mediocre songs? Song number nine is called “Alone.” First of all, it sounds wonderful, perhaps a little bit like “Recreation Day”-era Evergrey working with Symphony X. It is heavy and emotional, and sounds like a hit. It is a hit with me! So, let’s get this right, Ion Vein left this excellent song for number nine? I like the soloing and the overall atmosphere, too.
Let’s go to number ten, then: “The Will of One.” This is a thrashy, heavy-metal-thunder headbanging song. What a nice contrast with the previous song, too; this is Ion Vein letting their hair down and rocking out. The band displays its heavy tone to the guitars, a bit downtuned thrash/prog. Number 11 is called “In the End” and the music displays not speed but rather feel. The band lays down some heavy prog/thrash rhythms and lets the singing take over the song with a catchy chorus. Number 12 is called “Twist of Fate” and with it the band has decided to go out with a bang, not a whimper. If you want to hear a heavy thrash, and even a bit of extreme metal guitar feel done in the context of Ion Vein, then check out this song. This is a headbanging song and how does it manage to sound like prog metal, too? That’s Ion Vein. Awesome-sounding soloing, too. The song is a nice little summary of the great consolidation of styles that is Ion Vein. It goes to show you that some heavy metal bands do pay attention to the metal music around them. Think about this: I did not even tell you about the first eight songs on this album. If I were to tell you about them, this review would be too long and it might as well be an essay.
The origins of this band reach back to the 1980s in Chicago and the musicians have been around the block more than a few times. As you can tell from this review, the band can play. The final thing I would like to mention is the singing. The vocals are both melodic and gritty, and sound strong and upfront. There is a great quality to the singing, it’s one voice, and it is not weird/schizophrenic, just traditional metal singing, but traditional in the sense that it sounds like one voice that has shades and nuances. The only question that remains is whether this band can deliver live. Being the curious George that I am, I went to YouTube and did not find a whole lot. However, I did find one video of the band performing “Fools Parade” (song number 1 from this album) in 2013 in Chicago. Upon hearing and watching the video, which sounds very, very good and very impressive (it shows that this band can, in fact, really bring home the bacon live), I wonder if this is the band’s live performance or was it enhanced in the studio. Hey, I am a skeptic! So, here’s the situation: to my ears, this live video sounds like great evidence that Ion Vein is the real deal. It means that this band, and this album should not be ignored by any serious metalhead into looking for quality and talent. It looks like Ion Vein can do it all, after all. I want to buy plane tickets to Chicago and witness this band live for myself because this band sounds that good.
Very, very highly recommended for listeners into quality metal of traditional forms.
ION VEIN - Fools Parade (Live at Metro Chicago - Feb 9, 2013)
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