Icycore – Wetwired – 4/5
An album that has seen its way to regular play of late, another prog/power album from the illustrious Italian scene, flooding with such efforts of late; the ‘Dream Theatre’ comparisons are perhaps inevitable with particular note of the similar capabilities of the vocalist and the clean, clinical finishing of the guitarist making a notable appearance. Where they differ, however, is that they have gone one further step into unusual territory, taken their sound and infused it with an ultimately ‘sci-fi’ motif, retaining all the emotion of ‘Awake’ and catchy melodies of ‘Images and Words,’ leaving behind much of the stagnation that plagued their latter material.
Ordinarily I would be first to criticise the overrated abilities of James LaBrie (Dream Theatre), and whilst the tone used often feel remarkably similar the manner it is used is more varied. With less emphasis on hitting those high notes, he displays a great breadth of tone throughout the album (even throwing in the odd growl), going easy on the use of falsetto to create soaring melodies. Complementing this is the counter melody emerging from the guitars; often lightly distorted his time is devoted between supplying the chords maintaining the backing rhythm for the vocals and weaving riffs and solos between the lavish keyboard work. At no point does he feel incapable of showing his abilities, but with a focus on atmosphere and melody, as often as not choosing an electronic space-like tone as a clinically neo-classical, he lends a diversity that feels altogether fitting to the piece, fluidly integrated if not as overtly impressive as other contemporaries.
For me though, it is the keyboard use that well and truly steals the show; from the basic atmospheric synth backing, delicate classical piano capable of captivating you alone, or the hugely electronically toned riffs – whatever the rest of the instrumentation is doing, he seems to be supplying the bulk of the atmosphere for the track and performing a marvellous job at it. The bass can be heard, most notably when the guitarist is no longer playing chords maintaining the bottom layer of rhythm to sustain the track. The drums too maintain the pace as required, but feel overshadowed slightly in the production, not performing as perhaps they could.
At 68 minutes, there is a huge amount of variety in the tones and atmospheres produced – from the epic ballad ‘Hollow Man’ to the electro/thrash overtones of ‘Watchdog & Virus’ – and the cryptic lyrics displaying hints at the intentions behind each track, it ultimately results in an album that has a lot to take in, even for the largest prog enthusiast, and one that will likely take multiple listens to fully appreciate. Whilst there is little in the way of weaker tracks, at no point does it truly stand out and captivate you for the entirety of its duration, and therein lies my main issue with the album. They are clearly talented musicians, capable of producing something to be placed amongst the best, but this quite simply isn’t it