Artist: Lost In Thought
Album Title: Renascence
Label: Independent Release
Date of Release: 8 November 2018
Very proudly, I can declare that this review is an exclusive. Out of nowhere, I received an email from drummer Chris Billingham offering me the chance to be the first to hear and review the brand new and long-awaited second release from UK prog metal band Lost In Thought. To quote Chris:
“I am in the middle of trying to look at getting a review done of Lost In Thought’s new record. I am keen though, to only offer it to one person and I think that should be you. I’m a fan of your work and I know that your writing comes from the right place.”
Following a compliment like that, how could I refuse? However, the shameless ego massage was unnecessary as I have been a fan of Lost In Thought for a number of years, pre-dating even the release of their debut ‘Opus Arise’ in 2011, having heard some of their embryonic rough demos early in their fledgling career. I then reviewed ‘Opus Arise’ for Powerplay Magazine back in the day, remarking that they were clearly influenced, amongst others, by the likes of Dream Theater, Pagan’s Mind and Circus Maximus. I concluded my review by suggesting that:
“As debuts go, ‘Opus Arise’ is fantastic and the lads from South Wales have lit a new beacon for British progressive metal.”
Long-term readers will also be aware that this band have featured a few times in my round-up posts where I look at the news in the metal world that excites me most. It means that the debut has retained its impact upon me and I have been dying to hear some new material from the Lost In Thought camp ever since.
The first thing to comment upon is the change in personnel since the debut. In around 2013, fans were informed that the band was effectively torn in two and that the recording of the second album had been abandoned. So it’s wonderful news that Lost In Thought are back in existence, albeit not with the original line-up.
One of the big draws to ‘Opus Arise’ was the vocal performance of Nate Loosemore. That guy could sing and I was concerned about the effect this move might have on new material. In has stepped Deane Lazenby and, I have to say, I think the band have made a great choice here, arguably a step up. If I had a reservation about Loosemore, it was that his vocals could sometimes be too high-pitched. Lazenby in contrast sounds smoother, more rounded but equally passionate and powerful. Plus I really enjoy some of his phrasings that just feel different somehow.
As far as the rest of the band is concerned, only drummer Chris Billingham and guitarist David Grey (no, not that one) remain from the original incarnation, with Josh Heard taking up bass duties in 2016 and keyboardist Diego Zapatero joining the following year.
Requests like this, as humbling and complimentary as they are, also fill me with a certain amount of anxiety, because I open myself up to the potential of being placed slap bang in the middle of a moral dilemma. What if I don’t like the record? I’m not very good at being the bearer of bad news because by doing so, I’ll upset a group of musicians who have worked hard on their creation. But, if I like the record and give it a positive review, will I be accused of nepotism and a lack of objectivity having been given the honour to be the first to hear the material? I therefore approach the first spin cautiously with a mix of emotions.
And then I realised that I worry too much about the feeling of others. That’s all well and good in my day-to-day life, but with reviews, I need to be honest and objective. And so, with this epiphany fresh in mind, what follows is 100% honest and my considered view based on multiple spins of the new record.
Put simply, ‘Renascence’ is a genuinely excellent progressive metal album. I really mean that.
This statement is not without its caveats of course, because ‘Renascence’ is not perfect. For a start, there is very little to be heard on this record that hasn’t been done before. The huge swathes of synths are very ‘classic’ prog, the more ‘modern’, bold keyboard additions can call to mind the likes of Haken, Leprous and Caligula’s Horse and some of the heavier riffs veer close to djent territory. Indeed, it appears that the rise of Haken in particular has had an effect on the Lost In Thought guys without them completely turning their back on old favourites like Dream Theater. The music here is certainly not derivative or anything like that and Lost In Thought definitely put their own stamp on their output but to remark that ‘Renascence’ is truly unique and one-of-a-kind would be inaccurate.
That said, what Lost In Thought do, they do exceedingly well. The few rough edges of the debut have been smoothed, the songwriting strikes me as being more polished and experienced and the production mastered by Jacob Hansen, provides the music with a rich veneer. Those with more technical knowledge will be able to comment on the detail, but to my ‘average Joe’ ears, I have very few complaints. I have listened on speakers and headphones and experienced no problems of fatigue or grumbles at the clarity of the various instruments, although as is often the case, I wish the bass was a touch clearer within the mix.
As always, the melodic sensibilities of this band strike a chord with me; big, vibrant choruses or clever hooks always keep my attention however technical or ‘progressive’ the compositions become. In fact, I’d liken them to Threshold in the way in which the quintet have managed to balance memorability and listenability with complexity. I’m sufficiently engaged by the music but the melodies stick long after the album has finished playing.
‘Renascence’ opens up in a not-too-dissimilar way to the latest Haken effort, in that we are greeted with some ominous synth sounds that grow in strength only to be then joined by a more prominent keyboard melody as the track moves to the next phase, which is dominated by a cool riff from Grey, powerful drumming courtesy of Billingham and presents a first listen to Lazenby behind the microphone. His voice effortlessly lauds it over the metallic sound below and then, when the song unexpectedly shifts down a gear and offer a much quieter and more contemplative section, he demonstrates a sensitivity that is ideal for the music. The chorus, when it arrives, is a sprawling affair that is something of a grower but eventually burrows its way into your brain. The swathes of keyboards offer a dreamlike quality, before the progressive tendencies take greater effect with several transitions, each one bringing something interesting and enjoyable to listen to. The lead solo in the latter stages is sophisticated and vibrant too.
If ‘A New Life’ is a song that requires plenty of time to fully appreciate, follow-up ‘Ascendance’ is the complete opposite. It springs into life with a glorious upbeat keyboard melody underpinned by muscular riffs and subtly complex drumming which then moves into double-pedal territory as the intensity and flamboyance momentarily grows. I adore the chorus which offers fleeting nods to Circus Maximus in that it is just so insanely catchy, almost AOR and pop-like dare I say it. It sparkles with life and a wonderful ‘joie de vivre’ that’s incredibly uplifting. But the song’s construction is not pop-like, as the instrumental dexterity comes to the fore nicely in places throughout, including an extended guitar solo that segues into another rendition of one of the strongest choruses I’ve heard all year. It is at this point that Lazenby completely blows away any lingering fears I may have had.
‘The Promise’ has a much more modern feel to it, as well as an altogether darker tone which manifests itself in some striking lyrics, bold synth effects and heavily-effected vocals in places. I really like the way in which the song almost completely shifts just after the half-way mark, from a more confrontational, jagged, and in-your-face song to something quite different. The heaviness drops away to be replaced by something much more 70s prog in tone, with a lamenting lone guitar solo gradually joined by the remainder of the band to move towards a gorgeous melodic crescendo, ended by a dextrous keyboard solo and a final reprise of the opening chorus. Indeed, it is here that new keyboardist Diego Zapatero shows his mettle and considerable abilities.
One of my favourite songs on ‘Renascence’ has to be ‘Save Me’. Not only does it feature some of the most delicious melodies on the album, culminating in a killer chorus but I also like the foray in the mid-section into relaxed jazz territory dominated by tinkling piano notes, acoustic guitar and relaxed atmosphere. Mind you, the bold drum and bass introduction is nicely fashioned, allowing us to really get our teeth stuck into Josh Heard’s playing.
I have to admit that I rather like the ‘gang’ vocals that feature within ‘Don’t Fear Me’, a definite nod in the direction to Caligula’s Horse who used a similar technique within their latest record. Some superb drumming from Chris Billingham signals the end of the heaviness for a time as the song drops into deep shade, a cavernous thought-inducing section of instrumental minimalism. Lazenby’s increasing power and intensity explodes with some huge notes, supported by meaty guitar chords and a muscular rhythmic backbone as the band emerge unscathed from the darkness to end the track on a high.
If you like strong, hook-laden melodies, then I suggest you turn your attention to ‘Open Your Eyes’. This powerhouse ballad-like song builds gradually from humble, yet intriguing Wolverine-esque beginnings to produce an irresistible, anthemic chorus. The ebb and flow is expertly judged too, increasing the impact of the heavier sections when they arrive, whilst the orchestral flourishes near the end just add an extra spice to an already brilliant piece.
Keen to step things up a gear again, the opening to ‘Delirium’ has Haken written all-over it, as it is dominated by huge swathes of keys and a chunky, lurching and roiling down-tuned riff, the kind that gets your head nodding regardless of where you’re listening. In fact, I’d venture that this is the heaviest track on the record, providing much justification for the ‘metal’ in their ‘progressive metal’ tag. And yet, for all the muscularity, melody is not forgotten, breaking through the aggression masterfully.
More bruising metal emanates from the speakers signalling the arrival of ‘Legacy’. The choice of bold synth sounds lends the song something of an 80s melodic hard rock vibe, as well as throwing up echoes of Amaranthe strangely enough. The mid-section descends almost into death metal territory thanks to a cool, uncompromising riff, signalling the opportunity for the band to collectively go nuts and shower us with an instrumental interlude that threatens to come off the rails momentarily.
The final composition on ‘Renascence’ is entitled ‘Absolution’. The intro has hints of the Middle East about it, a flavour that’s carried on subtly throughout the remainder of the song via the chosen melodies. It seems entirely fitting too that the final song carries within it one last memorable chorus, suitably grandiose and epic, the ideal way for ‘Renascence’ to sign off.
I have to admit that, whilst I secretly hoped Lost In Thought might deliver an album this strong, I didn’t dare believe that they would. With a past dogged by turmoil and uncertainty, you could forgive them if they threw in the towel. Joyously, they are made of sterner stuff it appears. ‘Renascence’ signals a new era for the band and judging by the music they have produced, they have grasped the opportunity with both hands, suggesting a strong future ahead. As such, if you are hankering after some seriously high quality melodic progressive metal that deftly straddles the traditional and the modern, make it your mission to check out Lost In Thought and prepare to be seriously impressed. I certainly am.
The Score of Much Metal: 9.5
If you’ve enjoyed this review, you can check out my others from 2018 and from previous years right here:
Into Eternity – The Sirens
Fifth Angel – The Third Secret
Ashes of my Memory – Raptures /// Disillusions EP
Anathema – Internal Landscapes
Samskaras – Lithification
Seventh Dimension – The Corrupted Lullaby
Hate Eternal – Upon Desolate Sands
Witherfall – A Prelude To Sorrow
Northward – Northward
Seventh Wonder – Tiara
Warrel Dane – Shadow Work
Haken – Vector
Beyond Creation – Algorythm
Ultha – The Inextricable Wandering
Amaranthe – Helix
Ghost Ship Octavius – Delirium
Decembre Noir – Autumn Kings
The Odious Construct – Shrine of the Obscene
Fauna Timbre – Altering Echoes
The Moor – Jupiter’s Immigrants
Revocation – The Outer Ones
Riverside – Wasteland
Ethernity – The Human Race Extinction
Dynazty – Firesign
Deicide – Overtures of Blasphemy
Brainstorm – Midnight Ghost
Krisiun – Scourge of the Enthroned
Kingcrow – The Persistence
Cast The Stone – Empyrean Atrophy
Omnium Gatherum – The Burning Cold
Helion Prime – Terror of the Cybernetic Space Monster
Madder Mortem – Marrow
A Dying Planet – Facing The Incurable
Árstíðir – Nivalis
Mob Rules – Beast Reborn
The Spirit – Sounds From The Vortex
Aethereus – Absentia
Unanimated – Annihilation
Manticora – To Kill To Live To Kill
Rivers of Nihil – Where Owls Know My Name
Halcyon Way – Bloody But Unbowed
Michael Romeo – War Of The Worlds, Part 1
Redemption – Long Night’s Journey Into Day
Distorted Harmony – A Way Out
Tomorrow’s Eve – Mirror of Creation III – Project Ikaros
Atrocity – Okkult II
Lux Terminus – The Courage To Be
Kataklysm – Meditations
Marduk – Viktoria
Midas Fall – Evaporate
The Sea Within – The Sea Within
Haken – L-1VE
Follow The Cipher – Follow The Cipher
Spock’s Beard – Noise Floor
Ihsahn – Amr
The Fierce And The Dead – The Euphoric
Millennial Reign – The Great Divide
Subsignal – La Muerta
At The Gates – To Drink From The Night Itself
Dimmu Borgir – Eonian
Hekz – Invicta
Widow’s Peak – Graceless EP
Ivar Bjørnson and Einar Selvik – Hugsjá
Frequency Drift – Letters to Maro
Æpoch – Awakening Inception
Crematory – Oblivion
Wallachia – Monumental Heresy
Skeletal Remains – Devouring Mortality
MØL – Jord
Aesthesys – Achromata
Kamelot – The Shadow Theory
Barren Earth – A Complex of Cages
Memoriam – The Silent Vigil
Kino – Radio Voltaire
Borealis – The Offering
W.E.T. – Earthrage
Auri – Auri
Purest of Pain – Solipsis
Susperia – The Lyricist
Structural Disorder – …And The Cage Crumbles In the Final Scene
Necrophobic – Mark of the Necrogram
Divine Realm – Nordicity
Oceans of Slumber – The Banished Heart
Poem – Unique
Gleb Kolyadin – Gleb Kolyadin
Apathy Noir – Black Soil
Deathwhite – For A Black Tomorrow
Conjurer – Mire
Jukub Zytecki – Feather Bed/Ladder Head
Lione/Conti – Lione/Conti
Usurpress – Interregnum
Kælling – Lacuna
Vinide – Reveal
Armored Dawn – Barbarians In Black
Long Distance Calling – Boundless
In Vain – Currents
Harakiri For The Sky – Arson
Orphaned Land – Unsung Prophets And Dead Messiahs
Tribulation – Down Below
Machine Head – Catharsis
Bjorn Riis – Coming Home EP
Twilight’s Embrace – Penance EP
Bloodshot Dawn – Reanimation
Rise of Avernus – Eigengrau
Arch Echo – Arch Echo
Asenblut – Legenden
Bleeding Gods – Dodekathlon
Watain – Trident Wolf Eclipse