Aeon Zen – Enigma
Written by Chris Foley
I wasn’t sure what to expect from Aeon Zen’s third album Enigma. Being my first taste of the band, and having heard the lead off track “Divinity” prior to going in, I had bizarre expectations (more on “Divinity” shortly). At first I was certainly a little underwhelmed, but the more I’ve listened to Enigma the more I’ve come to appreciate Aeon Zen’s genius.
Straight off the bat I will say there is a fair bit of genre splicing throughout the album, I’ve found this to be both an asset and slight flaw to Aeon Zen’s sound, although for the most part I lean towards the former. What I will say is great about Enigma is the album’s flow. Enigma burns slowly at first throughout a well developed intro in “Enter The Enigma”, right into the slow grooves of “Artificial Soul”. Touching on the aforementioned genre splicing again, by the time “Divinity” kicks in, Aeon Zen turns everything they’ve so far established on its head, with a blazing, almost Scar Symmetry-style aggressive assault, and this is how the album plays out; you can never tell what the band are going to pull out of the bag.
As I’ve hinted earlier, whilst this is certainly an interesting approach (and really what prog is all about), sometimes it feels that they’re trying to ape a particular act. On my first listen I remember sitting there thinking to myself “this part sounds like Dream Theater, oh wow here’s a spot of Meshuggah, oh and this song sounds like it could have been on a Devin Townsend album, and this part sounds like a Seventh Wonder style run”. Fortunately I found this aspect fade from my mind as I came to appreciate the songs and the album on the whole, I won’t lie; there are some genuinely superb moments on this release.
Performances are well done across the board, with every member of the Aeon Zen having their time to shine. It’s definitely the collective effort that pulls the most throughout Enigma though. From the wonderful ballad “Seven Hills”, which features some truly beautiful piano work and some “Another Day”-style saxophone (which certainly pleases me), right the way up to the Devin Townsend homage served up in “Warning”; a veritable feast that will please fans of Ocean Machine and Terria to no end.
Overall this is going to be well worth checking out for progressive fans, especially those who crave something that is actually progressive and somewhat out of the box (without resorting to any of that swing crap). Whilst the album isn’t without its flaws, the good definitely outweighs the bad and if you can look past some moments that sound dangerously close to other bands then expect a fair amount of mileage from Enigma. The album works very well on the whole, with themes that tie themselves into to other tracks, and a wonderful dynamic throughout. Recommended!
3.75 // 5