The Chronicles Of Israfel - Starborn, Tome I
Bridge Of Hands
Modern Progressive Metal
13 songs (58:52)
Release year: 2007
, Bridge Of Hands
Reviewed by Goat
Surprise of the month

In recent years, advances in musical expression has resulted in a new wave of relatively mainstream bands embracing adventurous styles, with the likes of Tool, The Mars Volta, and Coheed & Cambria making commercial leaps and bounds. Of course, any metalhead worth their salt will tell you that Prog and Metal are very closely bound, with huge names such as Opeth, Dream Theater and Enslaved melding Prog and Metal in a variety of ways. The very genre that most ignoramuses would have you believe is beer, blood and women is actually at the forefront of musical evolution.

Having said this, it’s a pity that the majority of Metal fans would be likely to turn their noses up at a band like The Chronicles Of Israfel because of the manga-related imagery that surrounds debut album Starborn, Tome I. Presented as a piece of art as much as music, the Canadians have clearly put much work and love into the project. Dominic Cifarelli, former member of Alt-Metallers Pulse Ultra, plays all guitars, keyboards and bass on the album, and his skill is apparent. From the acoustic strumming of The Equinigma to the almost Meshuggah-twisted riffs that close Starborn Part III: On A Forever Road, it’s obvious that he’s the leading force behind the band. Despite this, what makes the majority of songs special is the vocals of Americo Antonucci, and although there might be a few initial bristles at the mild – whisper it – emo sound to his voice, with time it sounds almost like Maynard James Keenan (Tool, A Perfect Circle), and is certainly much superior to the downright odd Claudio Sanchez (Coheed & Cambria). Songs are uniformly catchy with hooks galore – even a rather cheesy spoken interlude can’t spoil the essential pop power of Nation.

No doubt the Prog-Power hordes have stopped reading in disgust by now to go and find the latest Dream Theater clone, but the ones who still remain shouldn’t be put off this band merely because of a modern sheen and a focus on catchiness. In the ‘Thanks’ section of the booklet (beautifully made and sheltered in a DVD case) Steve Vai and John Petrucci are mentioned as having shaped Cifarelli’s musical mind, and their inspiration on the music isn’t that subtle. Another example of the Prog nature to the band is instrumental track New Mood Therapy For A Medicated Babylon, which admittedly has a silly name but the Rush influence is heavy.

If there is a downside to the album, the drums could be slightly more complex. The band also never quite reaches the heights of the first three tracks, Starborn parts one, two and three, which are easily the best songs on offer, opening the album with an epic tone and making the other songs seem better by mere association.

The Chronicles Of Israfel is ultimately a band that has rejected the easy path and instead decided to play the music they love. It’s impossible to fault, in spirit at least, and fans of any band mentioned so far in this review should find much to like in Starborn, Tome I. No, it doesn’t surpass any of them, no, it isn’t a lightning blur of technical chops and solos that will take you painful hours to understand, but it is a forward-looking Modern Metal album that’s well worth your time and patience.

Killing Songs :
The Starborn trio, Laundanum, Nation, New Mood Therapy For A Medicated Babylon
Goat quoted 84 / 100
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