CONSORTIUM PROJECT III – TERRA INCOGNITA (THE UNDISCOVERED WORLD)

Out now on Lion Music

Part III of Lion Music’s Consortium Project ‘quadrilogy reissues’ with remastered sound and 2 bonus tracks.  After the excellent starting two movements Consortium Project III seemed to embrace the progressive metal elements a little more than on its predecessors, in some ways parallels could be drawn with the likes of early Symphony X, perhaps in part due to the mystical Egyptian feel in some of the tracks.

Generally speaking its all very good stuff once again, with another stellar backing cast to Ian Parry’s premier vocal including guitarists Stephan Lill (Vanden Plas), Mike Chlasciak (Halford) and drums from ever present Casey Grillo (Kamelot) amongst others.

Opener The Council Of Elders has the by now obligatory scene setting story part before hitting it stride, but Spirit Of Kindness and The Ark (of the covenant) are as strong as anything heard elsewhere in the five album suite.  Big riffs, a good sense of pompous atmosphere and all round excellent performances. Lost Empire begins as if from a movie soundtrack before hitting a fervent progressive power metal vibe, here the aforementioned similarities with Symphony X are depicted nicely. Reductio Ad Absurdum is a nice multi-faceted number with a nice blend of calm and imminent foreboding evil in equal measures.

The almost new-age calm of White Sands (California Lighthouse) do perhaps seem a little out of place but offer up a nice rest bight midway through before Great Exploration kicks back in with its mid-tempo pomp and is home to a majestic chorus.  Across The Seas is another highly melodic track before Across The Seven Seas takes you on a musical voyage being a prog metal treat, home to fantastic guitar solo too and arguably the highlight of the album.

Nemesis is back to the dark metallic edge, whilst Beyond The Gateways Of Legends  sees a quite magnificent soaring vocal from Parry and ranks as another highlight.  Its hard to think of another voice in metal other than perhaps the much missed Ronnie James Dio that can capture such impressive power with a the ability to give the listener visual imagery with their delivery.   The title track sees the original 11 track release with a fitting finale being majestic in scope, yet also offering up an insight into the sound that would later be heard on Consortium Project IV.

As it stands this new “quadrilogy series remaster” gives us a demo version of Great Exploration and the title track and its nice to hear how the final track grew from this more stripped down demos.

Overall Terra Incognita is another fine slice of progressive power metal from Consortium Project.  In some ways it’s a different beast to what came before yet shares many of the trademarks of its predecessors e.g. strong performances, good songcraft and all round executed to a very high standard.  If you enjoyed parts I and II then III will not disappoint and is on a par with those other fine releases.

Rating – 92%

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CONSORTIUM PROJECT II – CONTINUUM IN EXTREMIS

Out now on Lion Music

Second reissue CP reissue from Lion Music in a run that sees parts 1 to 4 get a remaster  + bonus tracks reissue.  As with all albums in the series, Consortium Project is a prog power metal delight led by the leather lungs of Ian Parry (Elegy).  Backed by an all star cast including members of Vanden Plas, Kamelot and Elegy this is again good quality stuff not a million miles away from the sound heard on CP1 ‘Criminals & Kings’.

If you like your metal bombastic and epic this is definitely for you.  Stand out cuts come in the likes of the opening title track, the absolutely crushing “The Catalyst” which marrys massive riffs, lush keyboard orchestrations and a healthy dose of melody from Parry.  Yet the albums piece-de-resistance is the progressive treat that is “Lapse Of Reason” which sees melody to the fore over great chord changes and its reason enough to buy the album.

Continuum In Extremis offers up another slice of high quality metal and if you’ve yet to check out the band this is as good a place as any to start.

Rating – 90%

CONSORTIUM PROJECT I – CRIMINALS & KINGS

Released 18th November 2011 on Lion Music

First of Lion Music’s expanded and remastered reissues of the Consortium Project back catalogue which follows on from their release of the bands final outing “Species” earlier in 2011.

Led by vocalist and mastermind Ian Parry this is a hard striking effort from 1999 shortly after Parry left progressive metallers Elegy and this release follows in a similar vein.  Guitar work comes from the highly reliable roster of Stephan Lill (Vanden Plas), Patrick Rondat (Elegy) and Thomas Youngblood (Kamelot).

Opener “House Of Cards” sets the scene in blistering fashion, a great opening track driven by a powerful riff and powerered along further by the leather lungs of Parry.   The metal assault continues for “Banquet Of Thieves” before the commercial punch of “Evilworld” with another blistering riff is another highlight, and this is how it continues pretty much unabated for the rest of the release.  Strong powerful metal tracks with excellent performances with the extra spice of Parry’s vocals to take them over the edge.   Some respite from the full on metal assault if needed can be found in the instrumental “The Entity”, the power ballad of “A Miracle Is All We Need” and the upbeat pomp rock of “Chain Of Fear” so there is a nice dose of variety on offer.  It has to be said though that this is gripping stuff pretty much from start to finish.

As the added incentive we get 2 bonus tracks in an acoustic version of “A Miracle Is All We Need” and a cooking demo version of “Evilworld”.  By no means making the album they are nice additions none-the-less.

Backed by a strong production which is arguably more classic than that heard on “Species”, this is an excellent debut and starting block for the Consortium Project story.  If you like your metal on the intelligent side with powerful bold performances look no further.

Rating – 92%

CONSORTIUM PROJECT V – SPECIES

Released 15th July 2011 on Lion Music

I must confess despite being a fan of Consortium Project’s mastermind/vocalist Ian Parry’s work with Elegy I have never until now heard a Consortium Project album. Now having heard “Species” I am kicking myself as this is a finely crafted slice of prog power metal of the highest calibre.

Ian Parry’s voice is undoubtedly one of the most distinctive in metal, none of your usual run of the mill metal vocals here folks, but a voice with power and depth, not to mention great projection and one that adds true drama to the compositions.

The music is equally grand, expertly crafted by Parry with a variety of musicians including guitarists Stephan Lill (Vanden Plas), Niels Vejlyt (Infinity Overture), Veith Offenbächer (Dawn of Destiny). Bass tracks are performed by Kris Gildenlöw (Pain of Salvation) and Jens Faber (Dawn of Destiny) whilst Casey Grillo (Kamelot) provides the magnificent drumming. To create contrast to Ian’s vocals we get a pair of female voices in Lene Petersen and Ani Lozanova who work well also. A fine supporting cast indeed and it seems Ian knows how to pick the right musician to support the framework of each track with all tracks working nicely as a cohesive unit.

Essentially this is the final instalment of the Consortium Project 5 part story which sees “Species” take mankind on a final epic journey into outer space met with dire consequences the world has never seen!

Musically CP-V is mainly about big riff orientated metal numbers over a variety of tempos with a pleasant aggressive streak running for the majority of tracks. This big musical push is then backed up by some truly infectious vocal melodies and strong chorus such as the delightfully swooping lines of “Life On Earth” and “The Worst Is Yet To Come” where images of the impending apocalypse are brought to life through Parry’s delivery.

“To The Earth & Back” is epic whilst the “Sirens” has a nice punchy commerciality about it where the rhythmic interplay of the riff builds nicely. “Pitch Black” is another scorched with a truly thunderous riff after the contagious chorus.

The delicate female vocals at the start of “Silence Calling” have an ethereal angelic quality to them that contrasts nicely with the tracks heavier middle before the commercial tint of the title track is another success. “Enemy Within” then lays to waste everything in its path with its brutal delivery that sees Parry adding to the fervour more so and this is another excellent number. The album then draws to a close with the strong bookend that is “Oracle” which serves as musically rich and melodic closer.

As my first taste of Consortium Project I am mightily impressed with the quality on offer from “Species”. The songwriting and performances are all first class and the album has an excitement about it from start to finish. All of which adds up to make this essential listening.

Rating – 95%

P.S. Lion Music will also be releasing remastered and expanded versions of the first four Consortium Project albums beginning later in 2011.