Kalisia – Cybion – 4.5/5
So it dawns on me that this album, released earlier this year, has yet to be reviewed, and so I take it upon myself to correct this oversight, and perform this monolithic task, for this is no ordinary album. Intended to be listened to in one sitting, over 70 minutes of progressive masterwork telling an in depth story, it should instead perhaps best be considered a sci-fi novel, complete with script and an in depth backing score that delves deep into melodic death metal, with jazz interludes and solo’s, electro passages, all the time retaining a sound of epic proportions. Featuring guests such as Tom Macleon (To-Mera/guitars), Arjen Lucassen (Ayreon/Vocals) and Paul Masvidal (Cynic, ex-Death/guitars), it assists in providing a unique rollercoaster ride of an album.
As is critical in a piece such as this, the lyrics (found here) and vocals are critical to the end result, the use of vocals does little to make the task of comprehending the rapidly unravelling story any simpler. Despite the number of guest musicians, the majority of vocals are performed by the mastermind behind the operation, using an array of electronic effects, clean as well as deeper guttural and higher pitched growls, in an attempt to distinguish between roles, it is nonetheless only partially effective, for identifying the actual words spoken becomes almost impossible. This is made even truer by the inclusion of an alien tongue, ‘Kel,’ which was specifically created as a fully fledged language using a number of dead and still existing languages. It is thus best advised perhaps to have the lyrics open and to be reading along as the album unfolds.
But even if you fail to find the time to fully comprehend the story, the music itself holds up remarkably well on its own. Fluidly it transforms from one section to the next, making using use of drums to keep the tempo of the music, creatively creating the appropriate sense of tension or calm as the story dictates. Making effective – if perhaps at times too prominent – use of keyboards for atmosphere, ‘setting the backdrop’ if you will, creating a audible array of epic tones, starry spectrums and down to earth desperate dark tones, holding up high the impeccable guitar work. Dynamically displaying upbeat jazz riffs, and making use of incredible technical displays that would feel out of place only without understanding the chaotic context they find themselves in.
This album has seen an unprecedented level of detail go into its creation, a verifiable musical equivalent to “Lord of the Rings,” and the results are a joy to behold. Requiring much attention to appreciate its detailed intricacies, it allows you to read along, letting the music create images in your mind to fill in the blanks whilst the music itself supplies an atmosphere to become lost within. It may have taken as long as 14 years to create, but the results speak for themselves.
Bonus: The Synopsis
If you wish to discover this in your own, then do not read onwards.
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There are a number of characters and factions that emerge, each with a fundamental role to play, and whilst I won’t list them all, the major roles are as follows:
Arkens – An alien race that visits Earth.
The League – A coalition consisting of an agglomeration of races including the Arkens, and later, humans.
Realitionists – A large rogue faction opposing the collaboration with the Arkens.
Cybion – A powerful probe sent to Jupiter, which mysteriously returned to Earth.
Keiji – The main protagonist of the story.
Stephanie – The love of Keiji.
The story opens with the Cybion, despite the incredible advances in science and technology man has made, returning to its origins at Earth. Intended for a 3-year voyage to Jupiter, it returns, modified by the league to allow for cognitive thought, and as a means of communication between the Arkens and the citizens of Earth, who observed the unknown technology, recognised potential, and utilised it to discover its origins.
The Arkens, superior in their intellect, offer to teach the brightest citizens of the Earth so as to advance their society, offering revolutionary techniques in all fields of science. They furthermore offer to facilitate the gradual unification of language and currency into a single global economy; the Arkenian language and economy. For fear of losing their humanity, of losing cultural identity and heritage, the Realitionists fight against co-operation with the Arkens, choosing isolation from the League and their technology, over potentially losing what identifies them as human.
Enter Keiji, he too fears losing his humanity at the hands of the Arkens, but his love, Stephanie is slowly dying. Rapidly aging beyond all comprehension, she will soon be lost to him, and her only possible hope is advances in nanotechnology, which could potentially save her life. Reluctantly, he agrees to be taught by the Arkens, risking his own life so that he may one day rescue hers…
Disclaimer: This is from my own perceptions of how the story unfolds.