Athem – The Extended Mind

It is often quite difficult to review the music of a band like Athem. Although commanding an undeniable grasp of musicianship and tightness among the band members that verges on that of brilliance, when it comes down to the music itself, there is virtually nothing here that hasn’t already been heard before. Falling into a common trap among progressive metal bands, Athem decides to go for a default sound, the likes of which is spawned equally between prog metal titans Dream Theater and Symphony X. Although Athem delivers nothing new to metal with their debut record ‘The Extended Mind’, the band manages to foster a decent observation with their highly melodic brand of metal.

Although Athem is a fairly youthful act, ‘The Extended Mind’ is quick to show their intelligence as music-makers. ‘Overture’ introduces the listener to some very tastefully arranged programmed symphonics, a fairly staple sound for the band throughout the rest of the record. As the metal aspect of the band takes over, one can still hear a heavy draw upon classical music that works well for the band. Much like Symphony X, the band’s heavier moments are focused on speed and vicious technicality, but there is always the depth of the keyboards to fall back on. When the band isn’t delving into one of their many Dream Theater-styled instrumental cuts, the music centers in on the highly melodic voice of Will Shaw, who is quite a technically skilled vocalist, although the vocal melodies rarely leap out, and the lyrics are generic at best.

Sadly, the word ‘generic’ creeps up far too often while I listen to ‘The Extended Mind’. The rather uninspired album cover that seems to attempt to give an air of class but comes across as being cheesy and uninviting. Although it is fairly typical for bands not to have a firm grasp of their personal identity and style on the first record, Athem seems to be content with rehashing ideas that Symphony X and Dream Theater both mastered years before. Many of these riffs and synth patches sound far too familiar even on the first listen, and this does not lend well to a listener that seeks out truly progressive metal. It cannot be emphasized enough that ‘The Extended Mind’ is nothing in the way of originality, but for what it’s worth, Athem does the style well. It is also clear that the band is trying to find their sound throughout each of these songs. The single-worthy highlight ‘Fallen God’ points the band in the direction of Symphony X’s darker material, whereas the follow-up third track ‘Away’ goes down a much more upbeat and peppy prog rock sound. One can only hope that if Athem comes out with a second record, they will have finally found a more unique voice for their talent out of these experimentations.

Athem’s ‘The Extended Mind’ is not a bad record necessarily, it just feels a little unnecessary when there have been so many bands to have already covered this sound to death. Especially in 2009, the formula has become stale, but Athem still manages to pull off the sound fairly well, despite being seemingly content with the label of being a Dream Theater clone.


1. Overture (1:32)
2. Fallen God (6:23)
3. Away (5:58)
4. Prince of Lies (7:21)
5. Wake up Screaming (7:30)
6. Enigmatic Reverie (12:25)
7. Merciless Eyes (4:56)
8. The Extended Mind (4:59)
9. Lifting the Veil (15:26)


* Will Shaw – vocals
* Shawn Baldissero – guitar
* Louis Vasile – guitar
* Mike Haas – bass
* Alex Gonzalez – drums


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