I have heard some people argue, recently, that progressive metal is in a bit of a sad state right now. They point to the endless array of Dream Theater clones, which come in cycles and range from the very good to the very, very bad, and wave their hands in dismissal, saying that the genre doesn't seem to have much new to offer.
To these folks, I have a simple message: pick up Labyrinth's Return To Heaven Denied, and your faith will be restored.
Tight as nails and filled to the bursting point with great melodies, Return To Heaven Denied is one of the best progmetal releases in recent history. Rob Tyrant's seamless, gorgeous voice traces complex and catchy vocal melody lines while guitarists Mat Stancioiu, Olaf Thorsen and Anders Rain, bassist Chris Breeze and keyman Andrew McPauls lay down layer upon layer of rich, tightly woven metal crunch. The sound achieved on Denied is a perfect mix of 80's harmonized guitar tone and 90's modernity.
From the first few moments of the opener "Moonlight", it is readily apparent that something very special is going on here; what Labyrinth has crafted is nothing less than a perfect marriage of progressive loftiness and power-metal gallop and heart. These are songs that ring in the head for days, the kind of songs that make you rush home from work just so that you can hear them one more time.
In particular, there are three songs on Denied which leap out of the speakers upon first listen and are completely unforgettable: "The Night of Dreams," "Heaven Denied," and "Lady Lost In Time."
(Although I would like to say this, as an aside: metal bands need to start being very careful about the use of the phrase "lost in time". It's popped up more than a dozen times in recent memory, and is on the verge of becoming hackneyed and silly, if it hasn't already.)
Metal Blade has a real find in Labyrinth. Return To Heaven Denied proves that there is much life left in this beloved genre. Easily one of the best albums of the year.