A band sporting not one, but two Zoltans (and a Gyorgy and a Laszlo to boot) might make you think you're gonna be in for an eastern European knockoff of progressive metal better suited for the expensive studio budgets of the First World. And to be sure, there are places where AGE OF NEMESIS comes across as a little, well, threadbare. The production is clean and crisp, but a bit thin, and vocalist Zoltan Kiss hits the occasional bunk note that might have been Pro-Tooled into submission, had "Psychogeist" been recorded in the States.
But within a minute or two, prog-heads will stop noticing these minor distractions, as the impressive songwriting and playing on "Psychogeist" unfold. An ambitious quasi-concept album, "Psychogeist" hits like early DREAM THEATER without their tendency at the time for soggy AOR balladry – the guitarwork is particularly Petrucci-an. There's an epic scope to the songwriting here that recalls the most expansive stretches of the latter-day FATES WARNING catalog, as well as the occasional nod to early 80's RUSH. AGE OF NEMESIS are quite adept at mixing technical prog touches into the songs without turning them into faceless gymnastics exercises — indeed, they have more personality on display here than a host of second- and third-tier prog-metal acts!
Once the "Psychogeist story" is over (including a slamming and surprisingly thrashy title track), "Goddess Nemesis" kicks in. It's an exuberant, fun instrumental that should endear anyone with a pulse to AGE OF NEMESIS, prog-geek or not. This is progressive metal that doesn't forget to rock, and it sounds like it was created by human beings having a great time in the studio. And check out "Eye of the Snake", with its pseudo-Egyptian flourishes slithering out of MERCYFUL FATE's tomb before building into a FATES WARNING-style soaring chorus. "Abraxas" is arguably the peak out of many high points; nearly eight minutes of moody, suspenseful and urgent music with more peaks and valleys than many album sides.
The aforementioned thin production, and some (perhaps deliberately?) outdated keyboard sound choices, will turn some people off to this band — but don't be that superficial, please. This band deserves nothing less than the full support and accolades of the ProgPower set, plain and simple. Any of you who involuntarily drool when new EVERGREY or SYMPHONY X product hits the racks, you've just received your marching orders — AGE OF NEMESIS, on their fifth album, should next in that line of succession on the international stage. Make it happen.