Artist: Thoughts Factory
Album Title: Elements
Label: Melodic Revolution Records
Date of Release: 24 January 2020
During my time at ProgPower Europe 2019, I heard a lot of chat about a band called Thoughts Factory. I’d never heard of them before but when there’s a buzz about a band at this great festival, I tend to sit up and take notice because the punters know their music. Regrettably my inability to get to bed at a reasonable hour on any night in Baarlo meant that I missed the impromptu listening session that was set up to hear this record. Nevertheless, I made it my mission to ensure that I checked out Thoughts Factory when time allowed.
As it happens, with the album being released at the tail end of January, I have had plenty of time to rediscover my love of writing and discover everything I need to about Thoughts Factory. For those who, like me, are unfamiliar with the name, I can reveal that they are a German progressive rock/metal quintet, comprised of Vocalist Cornelius Wurth, keyboardist and mastermind Sven Schornstein, guitarist Markus Wittmann, bassist Bernd Schönegge and drummer Chris Maldener.
I can also reveal that this is Thoughts Factory’s sophomore release, having released ‘Lost’ a number of years ago.
Words like ‘classic’, ‘powerful’ and ‘symphonic’ crop up within the press release and I defer to the same press release to most efficiently and accurately describe the lyrical content:
“The 10 songs take the listener on a musical journey through the elements of humankind’s coexistence and the obstacles of affection. These are represented by the emotional stages of a growing young man, who has to deal with life and death, love and hate, hope and depression. It’s a plea for more sustainability relating to the political and ecological challenges we’ll be facing in the near future.”
It’s fair to say then that ‘Elements’, on paper, appears to tick most of the boxes required for a quality progressive metal release, especially when you factor in the rather gorgeous cover art that adorns this record as well. However, full judgement has to be reserved for when the ‘play’ button is pressed and so it is time to discard the press release and instead focus on the music that ‘Elements’ delivers.
Firstly, I am pleased to report that the production, handled in-house by Sven Schornstein, is of a good standard. There is plenty of clarity and I don’t feel fatigued listening to the album. Being the Man of Much Metal, I’d always love an even more muscular guitar sound but there’s an argument to suggest that this might only serve to muddy proceedings and reduce the impact of the other instruments. So I will defer to the band on this aspect, especially as the more I listen, the more I like what I hear.
I know that I said I wanted to discard the press release but it is interesting to note a couple of other adjectives that are used to describe the music, as they turn out to be quite accurate. ‘Modern’ and ‘indie rock’ are normally words that make my toes curl, especially the latter. But don’t think for one minute that you’re going to hear jangly guitars and the sound of Liam Gallagher strangling a cat; instead, where Thoughts Factory are concerned, it is merely an accent to some of the material and allows there to be a certain amount of variety on offer within the 55 minutes of music here. It also means that ‘Elements’ remains relevant in today’s music world. An example would the chunky, modern-sounding riff that kicks off the muscular ‘Fire Away’
It is fairly obvious within a few moments that the mastermind of the band is the keyboardist, Sven Schornstein because the compositions are layered liberally with symphonic embellishments, synth sounds and tinkling keys. Personally, I find this a very appealing aspect of ‘Elements’ because the keys provide a certain amount of smoothness to the material, allowing much of it to wash over you and envelop you. The keys also deliver plenty of wonderful depth, atmosphere and a demonstrable cinematic quality.
As I hinted at earlier, the music gets better and better with every spin. Those songs that initially didn’t click start to work their charms to full effect and crucially, the talents of new vocalist Cornelius Wurth come more to the fore after a inconclusive first impression; the guy has a really decent set of pipes and can certainly handle the higher range without ever sounding forced or strained.
As I sit and type, favourites include the opener, ‘Mind Odyssey’ thanks to some delicious melodies and its dramatic, flamboyant intro. I’m also head over heels for the simply electric instrumental track, ‘Frozen Planet’ which delivers killer lead solos from guitar and keyboard alike, frequent changes in pace and groovy-as-hell riffs. Equally, the softer, more gentle ‘Nightfall’ has a significant charm to it, testing the listener with something quite different, but allowing the excellently understated bass work of Bernd Schönegge to take the spotlight. Then there’s the epic grandeur of ‘Dawn Pt 1’ which is a sprawling delight which occasionally channels their inner jazz leanings in amongst the vibrant cinematic progressive metal backdrop.
It has taken me a few concerted spins but I am delighted to report that Thoughts Factory have well and truly won me over. And what a positive start to the New Year. I really hope that this quality level remains for the next twelve months. But one thing’s for certain, ‘Elements’ is a cracking release that will appeal to anyone who likes high quality progressive metal music with a cinematic, symphonic edge. Nicely done.
The Score of Much Metal: 89%
You can also check out my other reviews from previous years right here: