Helion - Fool's Paradise
Finnish progressive band Helion make their debut with a self-financed album and it is a debut the oozes with confidence. Intentionally the album was supposed to be an EP, but the material gathered was enough to make an entire album and with borrowed equipment and some stuff on their own, their rehearsal room was transformed into a recording studio. Everything was recorded in their rehearsal room apart from the drums, which were recorded in a professional studio where they also got help to do the mixing and mastering.
Helion are just as much of a straight heavy metal band as they are a progressive band. They seem to have much in common with the band Tad Morose and also managing to reach close to the heights of Dream Theater at their most playful moments. Otherwise it's less complicated progressive metal like a harder version of Threshold or Tiles, and with some of the song structures a more heavier and rawer Symphony X with a thrash basis. And despite their Finnish heritage they do not always go along with the typical cheerful melodies that often come from Finnish bands, but instead melodic in a harder way without being necessarily aggressive for that matter. Like many of the bands in this genre, the interaction between keyboard and guitar is also present here in a good way and the way they can switch from calm and melodic to burst into a thrash part is really great and something that gives them a bit of a sound of their own.
Heavy riffing close to straightforward heavy metal topped with progressive elements lay out the basics. Although the instruments tend to melt into each other at times in the mix, there is often an apparent flow that is created by either guitar-lines or keyboard. And as the guitar parts with the progressive lines and flow which create harmonies are what are best with Helion, more of those would have lifted this album even more. There is a trio of songs that stick more with me than the others. King Of Fools that has a great solo-part with keyboard on top some heavy thrash riffing from the guitars, Stay Human with the flow and the mood that they get going, and Meditation that starts like a straight forward heavy metal/thrash attack to then burst out into a wonderful melodic and progressive part with a softer touch creating a antipole.
The production is rather ok but could have been better, but considering the way they recorded the album it sounds fairly good. Songwriting is well on its way of being very good, but I feel that there is more to them than what is shown here, sometimes it is like they are stuck on a demo stage while at other times they show proof of sounding like an established band. Some more balance and they can go far, but not just yet.
Note: Kim Högberg on vocals left the band in October
2004 and has now been replaced by Jukka Salo.