Band Website: www.atmosfear.net
Label: ProgRock Records
Label Website: www.progrockrecords.com
Release Date: 2009
Formed in 1996 this is the third disc from German prog-metal proponents Atmosfear. This no-nonsense quintet plays a kind of “take-no-prisoners” progressive metal with a special emphasis on musical gymnastics. The group is made up of Oliver Wulff (vocals), Stephan Kruse (keyboards), Boris Stephanow (guitars), Burkhart Heberle (bass) and Olaf Sorgenfrei (drums). The performances here are super-tight and there’s certainly a high degree of musicianship.
We’re treated to a full 71-minutes of music on Zenith but only 6 tracks listed so you know right off the top there are going to be some long songs. Other than the brief introduction, we have two tracks over seven-minutes, two over twelve and one that’s just about 30 minutes if you include the hidden track. Stylistically there are some vague similarities to Dream Theater in that it is definitely guitar centric. Which is not to say the keyboards don’t play a prominent part, they do. In fact I heard more keyboards than in some DT but it’s just that the guitars are SO up front, you might be forgiven for not noticing the myriad of keyboard sounds, but there sure are lots there. After the brief keyboard introduction “Beginnings” [1:11] we launch seamlessly into “Loss of Hope” [7:53] where in no time at all the keyboards build to a climax and then give way some beautifully crunchy guitar and mid-tempo double kick-drums. You quickly lose count of the musical change-ups. While I’m not a huge fan of the double kick set-up here I’m reminded of early Rush where Neal Peart was constantly changing patterns and rarely seemed to play the same thing twice. But then that’s true of everybody in the band, there is so much going in the music ofAtmosfear; soft and moody one minute, heavy and dramatic the next all driven by some stellar guitar work and supported with lots of great keyboard sounds.
Zenith is one of those records that will instantly appeal to fans of the prog-metal genre, and these guys are very good at what they do. My guess is that fans of bands such as Dream Theater will really love Atmosfear. But my guess is that given the complexity of the compositions and the heavy use of keyboards this is a disc that will appeal to fans of heavy symphonic prog as well. If you haven’t checked’em out yet, what’s your problem? Do it!