CYRAX - Pictures
Two years after their acclaimed debut album Reflections, Milanese prog metal band Cyrax is back with its follow-up Pictures. While the first album was distributed by prog label Musea Records, the sophomore effort came out on Italian metal label Bakerteam, and while this may be a smaller company, itís probably a better fit stylistically.
It was already clear on the debut that Cyrax were not your typical progressive metal band, and from there the guys have even broadened their horizon, coming up with a heady mix of complex prog metal structures and symphonic operatic excursions. A promiment female co-vocalist emphasises that latter part.
Whereas the debut was a little on the short side, we get this time just as many songs but a few minutes more music. But letís start at the beginning, with the phenomenal opener Cyrax, starting with an electronic part, but soon the guitar take over. The lyrics are well meant but ultimately a little silly in a Manowar true metal way. So letís concentrate our energies on the music, and thatís where Cyrax ultimately prevail. This track is the most progressive one I have heard of the band so far. The song is jumping from one part to the next one, never staying anywhere for long, cramming an insanely big amount of ideas into this five-minute piece. Marco Cantoni once again shows that he is one of the finest prog metal vocalists of his time and age, and it becomes clear that he sounds more and more like Alan Tecchio. This often recalls parallels to Hades and Watchtower.
The following The 7th Seal features more the symphonic side of Cyrax, although there are still a lot of progressive elements in this six minute epic. The female backing vocals add a chilling drama effect, and one gets the impression that Italian must have the opera in their genes. Back to the less baroque with Cockroach, which is the only regular track under four minutes and would be an ideal candidate for a single hit. The song is just as complex and crazy as the opener but comes with a catchier vibe. Itís those two tracks that show Cyrax from their most amazing side. These Green Valleys is a ballad with a string section, a less progressive song that highlights the bandís classical folk side. The last regular track is Oedipus Rex, a more modern sounding progressive metal track.
Shine Through Darkness is a fifteen minute suite divided into three parts, with the first one as long as the two others taken together. Part 1 is the most playful one, Part 2 is an instrumental interlude that starts in a baroque way before turning metal again, and Part 3 ends the suite in a modern progressive way. The concluding Phunkrax is considered a bonus track and is a funk instrumental. If you remember, the debut album also ended with one of these strange fun tracks.
I really liked Cyraxís debut album, and Pictures is another huge step forward. Cyrax are an excellent band that never lacks entertainment. The frustrating thing is that occasionally they are utterly brilliant. This time itís the first three songs that are among the best prog metal I have heard in a very long time. And while the remaining half hour is still much better than average, one canít help thinking what could have been? Cyrax are that one band right now that could become the successor to Watchtower, in my opinion the most exciting prog metal band ever, because they sounded complex as hell yet still always very catchy. The songs Cyrax and Cockroach are successfully aspiring to be just that. But maybe itís better to have a band constantly evolving towards a still faraway goal than see them at their zenith from which the only way is down. Fans of demanding prog metal who donít mind operatic excesses will find a lot to like on Pictures.