Through the Labyrinth is a debut album by Dutch progressive metal quartet Epic Mind. The record which was in the making for a few years was released in February this year, and is comprised of eight songs, two of them being over 10-minute mark.
Epic Mind falls under the heavy shade of the prog metal spectrum: guitar crunch and aggression take precedence over complexity or excessive tonal breadth. It is a complex style of music that maintains intensity throughout, and success requires a certain sense of immediacy carried by musical and lyrical intensity. After the opening instrumental intro “Epitome,” the 11-odd minute “The Voyage” — which is also on Prog Sphere’s Progotronics 2 compilation — progresses through series of heavy riffs, a laid-back piano passage, emotional singing and guitar soloing. Leon Vonk’s voice deals very well with darker and less melodic, even strained at the right moments, carrying the heavier, more personal themes of the album.
“Depths of the Unknown” opens with hypnotic guitar, marching with deadly deliberation until Vonk enters. The song is full of quaking, urgent guitar riffs of Raoul Van Oosten, and the lethal punch of bassist Jari Stoppelenburg. The contributions Stoppelenburg adds throughout Through the Labyrinth cement his place in the band; his tone and playing style sounds professional, imposing and purely metal. “Salvation” is a slow-paced but still heavy number that fees as a needed “break” in the album’s course. Only now, after four songs in, does the intense assault even break at all, but the mood is anything but calm; bass melodies circle around and Vonk’s weathered baritone register pleads for freedom from the nightmarish lyrical imagery.
The album quickly slides back into high gear for the defiant instrumental “Denim Recipe”: a marching riff, keyboard/guitar melody and furious drum fill drop out into a bass groove, transitioning onto an altogether more deliberate, harmonically tense main guitar riff. The music develops steadily, with Stoppelenburg’s bass playing a significant role.
“Nameless” is another mellow moment on Through the Labyrinth, which is just Vonk on vocals with piano melody provided by Folkert van Blom, whose main instrument on the album are drums.
The closing, 20-minute epic “Perfect War Machine” is a carefully architected suite that easily sums what Epic Mind is about. It takes its time to grow and is contrastingly gentle and furious, weaving a selection of emotions throughout its structure. The instrumentation is without fault and simply stunning. Jari Stoppelenburg on bass lays down a thunderous groove but substitutes it down the line with harrowing emotional lines that Van Oosten places melodic guitar and effects over. It is a fitting and satisfying climax to a truly great album to say the least.
To conclude — the power, the tight performance, the sound — it’s all there. If you’re looking for something new, check this album out, you may be surprised.
Get a copy of Through the Labyrinth from Bandcamp.
2. The Voyage
3. Depths of the Unknown
6. Denim Recipe
8. Perfect War Machine
* Leon Vonk – vocals
* Raoul Van Oosten – guitars
* Jari Stoppelenburg – bass
* Folkert van Blom – drums