Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Review: WithoutEnd - WithoutEnd (2004)

Lone Wolf Music

To be quite honest, I'm not a very big fan of prog metal. I feel that music should be listened to, felt, and experienced - not deciphered. While progressive elements most often add a touch of depth to many sub-genres of heavy metal when used responsibly, I find the over-the-top complexities some bands strive for to be more than tedious. So it was with a certain degree of skepticism that I approached Australian WithoutEnd's debut, self-titled album.

Formed in 2001 by drummer/singer Nick Georgakopoulus and guitarist Michael Totta in Melbourne, the duo soon added bass player Sam Schepis and headed off to the studio to record this album with the help of renowned jazz/fusion guitarist Endel Rivers. The Rivers touch is more than evident throughout the album, as the production is precise and well balanced. The resulting 9-track disc transcends my predetermined definition of prog metal, delivering a thoroughly enjoyable listening experience while maintaining the technical complexities expected of the genre. Key to my satisfaction with WithoutEnd is the dark mood of the album, as every song takes on a somber atmosphere through introspective lyrics and the uncommon, for prog metal, voice of Nick Georgakopoulus. He sings in a lower range, almost Gothic or Dark Wave style and occasionally incorporates a bit of a Middle Eastern waver to his delivery. I think of Peter Murphy or David Gahan, with a bit of Geoff Tate thrown in for good measure. Nick is in no way mimicking any of these singers, but has a very distinctive and emotive voice that expresses in words the passion that can be heard in Totta's talented fretwork.

While just about every track is enjoyable, I found "Analyze" to be the strongest song on WithoutEnd, with Nick delivering his most powerful performance and Totta displaying his variegated talent. As is to be expected from a prog outfit, WithoutEnd provides plenty of time changes and elaborate rhythms here and elsewhere on the album, but they never sacrifice melody for showmanship (major points in my book!). "Analyze" is also the first song on the album in which Nicoletta Kardas makes an appearance. A graduate of the Victorian College of the Arts, her operatic presence is utilized as backing instrumentation and adds yet another dimension to WithoutEnd's sound.

Overall I was pleasantly surprised by what I heard on WithoutEnd. The keyboards, so often overemphasized by prog outfits, are integral to WithoutEnd's sound but are used in moderation and blend very well without taking center stage to Totta's guitar. This band is one to watch for both prog fans and those who enjoy dark, somber metal.

Track Listing
1 Again 6:40
2 In Transit 4:58
3 Analyse 5:30
4 I Still Remember 8:01
5 Searching for Meaning 4:30
6 Descend 4:35
7 Comfort Zone 3:17
8 Compulsion 5:17
9 The Third Day 3:08

Search eBay for WithoutEnd: