Appearance of Nothing – A New Beginning

Appearance of Nothing - A New Beginning

Appearance of Nothing first came to my attention back in 2011, with the release of All Gods are Gone. Even if their second album had not sold me entirely on their sound, it was clear that the Swiss progressive metallers had skill and potential enough to evolve into something greater. With this in mind, I met The New Beginning with some measure of anticipation; after all, there have been several instances in progressive metal recently where bands would come unto their own with a stronger sense of style on the second or third album. Haken‘s latest album The Mountain found the band finally crawling out of Dream Theater‘s shadow and forging a sound they could call their own; Leprous‘ third album Bilateral turned out to be one of the most impressive and creative metal records I had ever heard, period. Anyways, with All Gods are Gone, I saw some of that same potential in Appearance of Nothing. With that in mind, I may have been disappointed to hear The New Beginning toting much of the same middle-of-the-road melodic prog metal mashup that they were doing before, but a mild and derivative style has not stopped the band from creating an otherwise solid and nuanced hour of music for proggers to dive into.

As was the case with their preceding work, Appearance of Nothing take a varied approach to progressive metal, with a firm emphasis on melody. Although many passages here dared to be compared to Dream Theater,Appearance of Nothing are distinguished from that American prog powerhouse in the regard that melody is made to be the most prominent aspect of the sound. Even if they may occasionally jump into death metal territory, the music is built on firm song structures over the sort of longwinded instrumentation one tends to expect from the genre. “Without a Reason” and “Forsaken” are two examples of Appearance of Nothing‘s impressive ability to merge the longform scope of prog metal with the tight songwriting craft you would usually only find in songs of a more typical length. Although Appearance of Nothing can be commended for putting an emphasis on something that the prog metal style often ignores, it’s resulted in a bit of a middle-of-the-road sound that lacks the shock and excitement I usually look for with bands of the style. Each of the longer pieces feel excellently paced and structured, but the concise approach has come at the cost of the exciting instrumental sections I usually long for in prog metal. When Appearance of Nothing do go instrumental, it has a tendency to feel restrained; it’s as if they are still trying to make room for vocals when none are present. The songwriting is solid, but Appearance of Nothing feel disappointly reserved when it comes to unlocking their weirder side, if one happens to exist.

Melody by itself isn’t necessarily a bad thing to emphasize in progressive metal, but Appearance of Nothing‘s melodic writing, vocal or otherwise, feels mildly underwhelming. Some of the choruses- most notably the anthemic, single-worthy “The Seer”- are plenty catchy and even memorable, but – to put it bluntly- the melodies don’t feel interesting or all that creative. At their least provocative, some of Appearance of Nothing‘s melodies can sound like dry AOR rockers, melodies fleshed out with bombastic production, but too uninteresting to strike a real emotional response. Like many other prog metal bands, Appearance of Nothing‘s talent lies in their instrumental arrangement, and I often got the sense listening to The New Beginning that the music would have fared better without the commitment to a vocal-friendly structure.

It’s worth noting that Appearance of Nothing have two vocalists. Bassist Omar Cuna and rhythm guitarist Patrick Gerber both lend their voices here. The vocalists offer distinctive performances from one another, with the mellower of the vocalists recalling the voice of Orphaned Land‘s Kobi Farhi, and the other providing a more bombastic delivery in the same neighbourhood as Sabaton‘s Joakim Broden. Both musicians are decently skilled in the vocal department, although the gruff machismo of the latter has a tendency to wear pretty thin some fist-pumping choruses into the album. A handful of death growls are thrown in, and while they aren’t entirely out of place, it isn’t natural for the otherwise intensely melodic nature of the album, instead feeling like a somewhat contrived attempt to jump on the post- Opeth prog metal bandwagon. The lyrics are effective at times (“Leaving without a reason, is like dying without belief”) but there are times when they’re almost laughably awful (“I wanna keep your smile, because I like your style”). Then again, lyrics are rarely a progressive metal strong suit, and the inconsistent lyrical quality rarely gets in the way of the music itself.

Even though it’s easy to take a band’s virtuosic skills for granted in progressive metal, Appearance of Nothingare indeed remarkably skilled and tight as a band, even moreso now than they were on All Gods are Gone. The guitar pair of Berger and Gerber offer some strong riffs and leads that express a healthy awareness for the genre’s legends. Marc Petralito’s keyboard work and Omar Cuna’s bass contributions are more subtle, adding a solid foundation of sound for the music, but almost never donning the spotlight themselves. The real standout here however is drummer Ronny Wolf, also known for his work in Lunatica. Even if the songwriting places the clear emphasis on guitars, Wolf’s drum patterns are what caught my attention the most. His playing feels nuanced and powerful in the same way that made Mike Portnoy a legend.

Though I’ve been heavy on the criticism and I still can’t say I’m really sold on the band, The New Beginning is a noted improvement over past work, taking them one step closer to realizing the potential I know they have locked in them. In trying to go so many directions (between melodic rock and death metal) at once, the end result is something that feels like it’s stuck in the middle of the road, a jack-of-all-trades, but master of none. In order to unlock that potential, I feel Appearance of Nothing will need to make some decisions about which element of their sound they are going to want to emphasize, because as it stands, their style strikes me as being indecisive. Even moreso, their instrumental skill is a beast waiting to be unlocked, and the songwriting needs to give those skills a greater room to breathe and explore; that can be done without any cost to their melodic sensibilities. In spite of these thoughts, The New Beginning has made for an enjoyable slab of progressive metal, stronger than a fair bit of its melodically- inclined kin. On a surface level, it’s easy to see why some people have been calling this the prog metal album of the year so far, but as my thoughts were when I heard All Gods are Gone in 2011, there is some evolving yet to be done for the band to start shining.


1. Chains of History
2. Without a Reason
3. The Seer
4. A New Beginning
5. Forsaken
6. Echoes
7. When the Glass Breaks


* Pat Gerber – lead vocals, guitar
* Omar Cuna – lead vocals, bass
* Peter Berger – lead guitar
* Marc Petralito – keyboards
* Ronnie Wolf – drums


Nikola Savić is a prog enthusiast, blogger and author, in addition to being the founder of Prog Sphere, Progify, ProgLyrics and the ongoing Progstravaganza compilation series.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: