Album Title: Norchestrion: A Song For The End
Label: Ikaros Records
Date of Release: 12 January 2021
Starting the year as I mean to go on, I’m tackling a band that I’d heard things about, but had never had the time to delve I to their music. Well, the fact that they have a new album out at the beginning of 2021, means that it is finally the perfect time to broaden my horizons. Mind you, had I not missed the 20th Anniversary of ProgPower Europe in 2018, I’d already be well versed in the ways of Need. I really should stop putting my kids first!
That aside, the grandly-titled ‘Norchestrion: A Song For The End’ is the fifth full-length release from the Greek progressive metal band, and I’m thoroughly delighted to have made their acquaintance finally. Comprised of vocalist Jon Voyager, guitarist/vocalist George Ravaya, keyboardist/vocalist Anthony Hadjee, drummer Stelios Paschalis, and bassist Viktor Kouloubis, it has not taken me long to become enamoured with the output of this quintet.
The accompanying press release is brief but it is incredibly accurate, in that Need’s sound is said to be influenced by bands such as Dream Theater, Pain Of Salvation, and Nevermore. I couldn’t have said it better myself because I genuinely do hear echoes of these bands within the music here. I’d also add in Fates Warning, principally because lead vocalist Jon Voyager does have a touch of Ray Alder to his tone and delivery as far as I am concerned. However, it must be said immediately, that ‘Norchestrion…’ is not a copycat record, a flimsy homage to other acts. The sound that is created within the nine tracks is very much their own, strangely original in many ways despite the obvious signposts.
After an initial couple of spins where I noted a great deal of variety, complexity, and ambition, not to mention a fair symphonic tone, I started to hear the melodies, the structures, the passion, and the atmospheres too. And the blend of all this quickly becomes very impressive and magnetic. As such, even though I have much to listen to and review, I’m a little wrapped up in this record.
If I had anything negative to say, it would be that, at 66 minutes, it’s a hefty affair and could have been trimmed ever so slightly. Having said that, aside from the closing three-minute ‘Kinwind’, I’m struggling to identify where the trimming could take place, such is the overall quality of what I’m hearing as I listen for the umpteenth time.
As the gorgeously rich sounds of opener ‘Avia’ wash over me, the warmth of the music comes through in spades. Sometimes progressive metal can be a little cold and clinical, but with Need, despite the obvious technicalities at play, the composition feels very inviting. The bass of Viktor Kouloubis rumbles with intent, the drums are crisp, the riffs are really engaging, and the keys provide good atmosphere, all enhanced by a really great production. But it is the melodies and the ebb and flow of the track that makes it such a powerful opening statement, not to mention Jon Voyager’s passionate vocal delivery. I love the lead guitar work towards the end of the song, too, as well as the almost euphoric explosion of sound at the death.
Keys take a lead alongside the bass in the intro to ‘Beckethead’ before another chunky riff and interesting time signature take over. But again, there’s plenty of light and shade to be heard, as the tinkling of cascading piano notes litter the quieter passages to compliment the heavier, riff-hungry segments. There’s even greater atmosphere to be heard in this song, arguably due to the slightly more pronounced synths, whilst the five musicians are all allowed to demonstrate their undoubted prowess without ever causing detriment to what is another catchy, welcoming progressive metal composition that flies by in what seems to be a fraction of its seven-minute length.
Up next is ‘Nemmortal’, an altogether heavier track than the preceding two, as well as sounding more modern in a way. It also has a greater urgency and potency to it, as if it’s a hungry, rampaging beast. But it is still an incredibly catch piece of music, with plenty to keep you coming back for more. The same intensity, heaviness and technical ability can be heard at points within ‘Bloodlux’, with the guys pushing the progressive elements even further to the fore. Shifting dynamics, extended instrumental sections, interesting sounds; everything that the discerning prog fan could want is wrapped up in one excellent track.
One of the most striking compositions has to be ‘V.a.d.i.s.’, which comes as a surprise to me. It is essentially a conversation between two female protagonists discussing whether or not the world has ended. It is an intriguing conversation, made more compelling by the dystopian-sounding synth background music, which is disarmingly beautiful in a strange way.
The opening to ‘Norchestrion’ has a vaguely Maiden-esque feel to it, like it’s the beginning of one of their more recent brooding epics. But those echoes are soon erased with the introduction of a thunderous riff and some really cool drumming. The mid-song descent into something altogether more ethereal, alongside some striking vocals from Voyager, is a great touch, further demonstrating the clever use by Need, of inter-song dynamics to create differing atmospheres and moods in what is otherwise another potent metal composition.
Then there’s ‘Circadian’, which delivers some cool grooves and more strong melodies within a complex structure. The centrepiece of the entire album, however, is the near-nineteen-minute ‘Ananke’. It starts quietly, with arguably the most pronounced Pain Of Salvation vibe on the album. It reminds me a touch of the title track from ‘In The Passing light Of Day’, purely in terms of the beguiling minimalism and simple, effective and emotive melody. As you might expect, there is room within the composition for plenty of solo dexterity via extended instrumental passages. However, they don’t bore me at all, and I find myself invested from beginning to end, with the melodies getting stronger in the second half of this epic sonic construction. Towards the end, the waltz-like tempo and beat is irresistible, as expressive lead guitar notes are joined by suitably rousing choral-style vocals. To be honest, it really ought to have been the closing song.
So there you have it. My first review of 2021 and it’s a good one…the album, not the review! I am hugely impressed with Need, and I feel very inspired to go back and listen to their previous records. ‘Norchestrion: A Song For The End’ is a fantastic album, where technicality and complexity have been carefully blended with groove, melody, chops, and well-honed songwriting ability to create music that I just want to listen to over and over again. It was been on a constant loop these last few days and I’m more certain than ever that Need have set the very high benchmark for all other progressive metal bands to follow throughout 2021.
The Score of Much Metal: 92%
You can also check out my other reviews from previous years right here: