Thought Chamber – Psykerion
Reviewed by Christopher Foley
Okay, I’m going to do my best to avoid any jokes about Thought Chamber and the very obvious similarities that this band’s name has to others. Hailing from the US, these guys sport a brand of overtly technical, start/stopping progressive metal, which I think wants to come off as more progressive than it actually does. As a quick reference point, think of early Circus Maximus or Dream Theater at their most superfluous, and we’re speaking Thought Chamber’s language.
Psykerion is a bloated, self-absorbed album which sadly rams its technicality and pseudo progressiveness down your throat in a brazen fashion. Any semblance of a well-written song is hard to find across the sixteen tracks here, although there are a few diamonds in amongst the rough. You will have to sit through the first five tracks to find anything noteworthy though, and you can expect to find a lot of boring clean channel sections and acoustic strumming throughout, even in the first quarter of the album – and to think people complain the new Dream Theater album is too tranquil.
As is expected with the style, the performances are technically outstanding. I can’t contest the quality of the musicianship here, and it’s clear the band members have practiced hard with their chosen instruments. It’s a shame they couldn’t put together some more exciting songs, as the chops are definitely there. In terms of individual performances, the vocals are well done, if uninspiring in the lower registers (lacking any particular sort of drama or flair); the high register is certainly good though. I do have a slight problem with some of the keyboards: as one of the effects being used really hurts my ears (see the later moments on “Inceptus”). I can see a Keith Emerson vibe was intended, but it doesn’t quite work. That aside, the rest of the keyboards are inoffensive. As for guitar, bass, and drums, they’re exactly what you’d come to expect from any post-Images & Words, technically proficient progressive metal act – impeccable really.
As I hinted earlier, there is some good stuff here despite the band’s mission to bludgeon the listener into submission with jazz ballads and more use of start and stop than an Olympic timekeeper. “Kerakryps” is an enjoyable Circus Maximus type track which, low and behold, houses some actual riffs. “Circuits Of O.D.D.” is pretty cool (again with the riffs), and I think the album on the whole would have greatly benefited from the inclusion of more tracks like this one. “Behind the Eyes Of Ikk” manages to kick up some dust too, despite its overindulgence.
Unfortunately there’s a lot here which I just can’t look past – and this is coming from a guy who loves prog. Thought Chamber has the makings of a good band deep down, but if they can’t better channel their songwriting, then I’m really not interested. Mere start-stopping and piling on acoustic guitars does not a prog band make. I’m also unsure as to whether this is meant to be a concept album, but if it is, I’m certainly none the wiser. This takes everything people criticize about the genre and pushes it in your face like an over-zealous salesperson.
If you have a love for fruity, technical prog, then I’m sure Thought Chamber will provide a suitable dose of enjoyment. I’m sure those who would be wary of this release should be well aware by now, but if you cut your teeth on the likes of Threshold or Symphony X, you know bands who put the songwriting first, and I’d suggest approaching this one with extreme caution. There’s a lot going on here, and as such, there’s a lot to digest. It’s just unfortunate that it leaves an unpleasant aftertaste. I can appreciate the time and effort that went into this release, but the final product just doesn’t do much for me.
2.25 // 5