Artist: Myth Of I
Album Title: Myth Of I
Label: The Artisan Era
Date of Release: 10 April 2020
Four words to either make you salivate or recoil in horror are these: Berklee College of Music. For some, these words are the stamp of quality and suggest a level of skill that most of the rest of us can only dream of. For others, these words signal the likelihood that the music will be complex, technical and, dare I say it, pretentious. Depending on which side of the fence you sit, you’ll either want to eagerly read on or run for the hills. Or there is a third way and like me, you’ll sit somewhere in the middle, approaching this album with an open mind. For Myth Of I are indeed a band formed of musicians who met at the Berklee College of Music, therefore treading the path of other notable artists such as Dream Theater, Native Construct (whatever happened to them?) and Bent Knee.
And an open mind I have had to have when listening to the self-titled debut from this quartet of gifted musicians. Their names are Jennings Smith (guitars), Tyler Fritzel (guitars) Matt Lippa (drums), and Aodán Collins (bass) and they’ve literally left nothing at the door on this record. Except vocals of course, as Myth of I are an instrumental outfit. And for me, as someone who doesn’t always appreciate instrumental music, this was another hurdle to overcome.
But hey, when I’m already tackling a record that professes to blend elements of ‘progressive metal, death metal, groove metal, post-metal, and jazz fusion’ together, what’s one more obstacle between friends?
And, whilst I make no bones about it, that this is one hell of a complex and technical record, to their credit, Myth Of I have not forgotten one important factor: melody. And in turn, this has meant that by and large, the compositions are not just an exercise in technique and dexterity; there are real songs to be heard, with a heart and personality.
Let’s start, depressingly conventionally, with the first track, ‘Pandora’. It may only be a short sub-two-minute intro piece that differs from the main body of work on this record but it is important, nonetheless. And that’s because its light and delicate guitar notes, accompanied by the sounds of birds chirping, underlines my previous point, and immediately tells me that these guys understand melody and the integral role it can play. Coming to the album with some preconceived ideas if I’m honest, I wasn’t expecting such a beautiful start.
Up next is the conveniently-titled ‘The Illustrator’, because it is the perfect illustration of everything that Myth Of I are about; heavy djent-like riffs, time changes aplenty, and a myriad of layers, sounds and textures. In their press release, the band mention the likes of Animals As Leaders, Scale the Summit, Between the Buried and Me and The Contortionist, all of which are clearly influences on the quartet. But I also hear echoes of latter-day Haken within the complex compositions, particularly the way in which there’s a cheekiness and quirkiness to be heard amongst all else. The song never forgets to inject just enough melody though, to provide the hooks necessary for someone like me to want to return for another listen.
‘Cherophobia’, the description for someone with an irrational aversion to being happy, is another aptly-named track, given that even before I knew the meaning, I had written notes to suggest the song had a darker, more abrupt and confrontational feel to it. The melodic intent is more hidden within what is ostensibly a more jagged and spiky track.
‘Myth Of I’ is an album full of surprises, with new ideas surfacing at almost every turn. At the half-way mark and then again at its close, ‘Obsidian Tide’ offers a nod towards that gorgeous intro piece, with the melodies and the birdsong re-emerging to nice effect. Then there’s arguably my favourite track of the entire record, ‘Glass Castles’. In contrast to what has gone before, this is a composition with real drama and breathless urgency, but still with plenty of melodic intent within the veritable whirlwind of chunky riffs, driving bass and inventive, expressive drumming. It is a cracking song that is later made even better by injecting some of the heaviest guitar notes on the record, juxtaposing them with moments of lighter, more mellifluous guitar playing.
Other highlights include ‘The Maze’ which, at nearly eight minutes in length, is the most expansive piece on the album. It introduces some warm acoustic guitars at various points but otherwise refuses to sit still from start to finish. Like a small child, it flits from one idea to another, never settling for too long in one place, eyes wide with wonder and mischief. It is within this song that I am reminded most vividly of Haken, although the short section somewhere in the centre that verges on black metal in terms of the drumming attack and general pace is a surprising inclusion.
‘Kodama’ is an utter delight if I’m honest, whilst the intriguingly-named ‘妖怪(ようかい)’ contains a surprising electronic beat within it, just to add something else new to the mix.
If I were to criticise this album in any way, it’d be that it feels just a little too long. It may only stretch to around the 50-minute mark but for such a complex, intricate and technical album with no vocals, it’s one, maybe two songs too long. At least, that’s my opinion. But that aside, there is no getting away from the fact that Myth Of I are an incredibly talented band who have crafted one of the best instrumental technical prog metal/fusion albums I have heard…possibly ever if I’m honest. Not bad for a debut eh? Well done chaps, massive credit where it’s due.
The Score of Much Metal: 85%
Check out my reviews from 2020 right here:
My Dying Bride – The Ghost Of Orion
Infirmum – Walls Of Sorrow
Inno – The Rain Under
Kvaen – The Funeral Pyre
Mindtech – Omnipresence
Dark Fortress – Spectres From The Old World
The Oneira – Injection
Night Crowned – Impius Viam
Dead Serenity – Beginnings EP
The Night Flight Orchestra – Aeromantic
Deadrisen – Deadrisen
Blaze Of Perdition – The Harrowing Of Hearts
Godsticks – Inescapable
Isle Of The Cross – Excelsis
Demons & Wizards – III
Vredehammer – Viperous
H.E.A.T – H.E.A.T II
Psychotic Waltz – The God-Shaped Void
Into The Open – Destination Eternity
Lunarsea – Earthling/Terrestre
Pure Wrath – The Forlorn Soldier EP
Sylosis – Cycle of Suffering
Sepultura – Quadra
Dyscordia – Delete / Rewrite
Godthrymm – Reflections
On Thorns I Lay – Threnos
God Dethroned – Illuminati
Fragment Soul – A Soul Inhabiting Two Bodies
Mariana Semkina – Sleepwalking
Mini Album Reviews: Moloken, The Driftwood Sign & Midnight
Serenity – The Last Knight
Ihsahn – Telemark EP
Temperance – Viridian
Blasphemer – The Sixth Hour
Deathwhite – Grave Image
Marko Hietala – Pyre Of The Black Heart
SWMM – Trail Of The Fallen
Into Pandemonium – Darkest Rise EP
Bonded – Rest In Violence
Serious Black – Suite 226
Darktribe – Voici L’Homme
Brothers Of Metal – Emblas Saga
A Life Divided – Echoes
Thoughts Factory – Elements
You can also check out my other reviews from previous years right here: