Matrix - Thrice Upon A Time

Year of Release: 2004
Label: independent
Catalog Number: n/a
Format: CD
Total Time: 37:55:00

Formed in Surrey, England, Matrix is an independent five-piece power metal band with a philosophical outlook and a mission to be straightforward and down-to-earth - interesting undertaking in a genre which is usually the exact opposite! Matrix does its best to combine thought-provoking lyrics with their music, and by and large this is not a bad effort.

Overall there's work needed in various places, but after tightening a few screws here and there, this could be a very sound album. The production's got a fair bit of oomph to it, the sound nicely chunky if lacking in crispness and clarity, and the mix is mostly ok, though the vocals can be overloud in places. My biggest problem is lack of energy to the playing. It's frustrating to listen to songs which could be very good if only they weren't played so ponderously ? given a decent dose of wakeup juice, this would be a lot more enjoyable.

The album opens well with "Paradox" and a nice acoustic section followed by a chuggy riff. The vocal entry isn't crash hot, but this does improve by the second verse. It's followed by "India," which I like quite a lot. The opening features a sitar-like tone and octave-jumping harmonies which are faintly reminiscent of the opening bars of Dream Theater's "Home." The first half of this instrumental has a kind of lazy, trippy mood, and consequently doesn't suffer from the lack of energy which so plagues the rest of the album; this then changes into a more upbeat version halfway through. It's very well played and I enjoyed this track.

By "Overlord," I'm really starting to find the vocals of Dave Crowe don't agree with me. I don't think there's anything actually wrong with Crowe's singing, but his tone seems at odds with the timbre of the instruments, which grates on the ear. There's some nice soloing to listen to in this track at about the halfway point, guitarist Lawrence Mills making free on the fingerboard, which we love to hear. I will revise my opinion on the vocals for the sake of "The Wicker Man," where Crowe's gritty quality fits much better, particularly in the chorus, and there's good work on the lyrics here. In "The User," too, the vocals have been tinkered with to give them a slightly spacey edge, which is well done.

Now I'm not too sure how I feel about ending the album with a metallized version of the theme from "Steptoe And Sons," although the solo section in the middle is some of the best playing on the album ? very jivey, very cool. I guess it lightens things up, which is always a good thing. Especially when the album so desperately needs a pick-me-up. There were just too many places during this where I was thinking ... damn ... this could be so much better if it were more lively. Attitude and mood are so important in a genre like power metal.

Overall I reckon these guys have the talent and could be pretty good live, so if they're around you, they might be worth a look. However, they'll need to put some work into their production in order to lift their studio material into the ranks of the truly enjoyable.

[This review originally appeared March 2004 at the ProgPower Online review site -ed.]



Thrice Upon A Time (2004)

Genre: Progressive-Power Metal

Origin UK

Added: January 1st 2005
Reviewer: Karyn Hamilton
Hits: 746
Language: english


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