Pyramaze - Immortal
(4 reader votes, average 3.50 out of 5)

 by Ben Perry

Pyramaze Immortal review

Band Name: Pyramaze
Album Name: Immortal
Release Date: May 30, 2008

Band on Record:

Michael Kammeyer: Guitars
Morten Gade Sørensen: Drums
Jonah Weingarten: Keyboards
Niels Kvist: Bass
Toke Skjønnemand: Guitars
Matt Barlow: Vocals

Track 1: “Arise”
The perfect intro, especially considering the next song as Phoenixes are known to rise and as the lyrics state “from the ashes. The song is mostly a vocal intonation with choral backing. Sounds good overall.
Song Rating: 8.5 out of 10


Track 2: “Year of the Phoenix”
This is possibly my favorite song on this album. Matt Barlow sounds like he did in his best days of Iced Earth, and the music is absolutely crushing with start-stop assaults of the instruments. The keyboards add depth to the “wall of sound” and the lack of guitar melody does not do much to dampen the singability of the song. There is one ripping solo on here that plays along with the keyboards making for an interesting duel. Good stuff :B.
Song Rating: 10 out of 10


Track 3: “Ghost Light”
A wonderful keyboard sprinkling kicks it off with the crushing guitars from the previous track continuing their assault. There is a little more guitar melody in here, provided mostly through chords, but is adds another dimension to the music and that is a good thing otherwise it would get rather monotonous. Barlow maintains some great vocals again on this track. The title of the tune may also be alluding to the will-o-the-wisp which appears as a ghostly light over bodies of water at night.
Song Rating: 9.5 out of 10


Track 4: “Touched by the Mara”
Starting off with what sounds like a ballad, the music picks up and assualts you with Barlow belting out lyrics between the throws. The soft music does crop up again, and boy, does this band know how to both rock and drive it together with the softer edge of metal to showcase the best of both worlds. There is again a lack of melody within the heavy sections of the song, but the introduction of some flute melody and another great solo make up for that neglection. Interesting tidbit, a mara is a creature from Scandinavian folklore that torments people in their sleep by giving them nightmares. Mara is the Swedish form of the word.
Song Rating: 9.5 out of 10


Track 5: “A Beautiful Death”
Written as the mindset of the Spartans in the movie, graphic novel, and in real life may have felt when they faced off against the Persian army, this song uses a lot more melody within the song structure than the songs that came before. The music is also more “war driven” in its delivery and the piano during the chorus adds depth to the finality of their stand. The only downside to the song is the many vocal overlays in the chorus.
Song Rating: 8.5 out of 10


Track 6: “Legacy in a Rhyme”
This is the power ballad that appeared to be “Touch by the Mara,” and it’s a relatively piano driven track that also draws upon keyboard backing to create a despairing mood. Barlow does a pretty good job singing the loss of love, but not as effectively as some of his earlier work with Iced Earth.
Song Rating: 8.5 out of 10


Track 7: “Caramon’s Poem”
If anyone read the Dragonlance series, this song is based on that series and two twins that were featured in the first trilogy The Chronicles and Twins Trilogy. There is some more melody on here than before, and Barlow’s vocals are absolutely spot-on singing each section perfect for what he needed to convey. The music accompanies his vocals and adds even more layers to the song, creating perfection.
Song Rating: 10 out of 10


Track 8: “The Highland”
A great song if you enjoy things fast. Both the music and vocals are spat at you in a furious matter, with the vocals having a rather melodic meter to them. Keyboards provide a back-drop of melody, but that’s about it besides the vocals and the piano break that leads into the solo. This is probably my least favorite cut on the album.
Song Rating: 7.5 out of 10


Track 9: “Shadow of the Beast”
In French 18th century history, there are tales of a beast from Gévaudan, a wolf to be precise. This wolf, actually wolves, caused many deaths and injuries and are believed to be werewolves. That is what this song is about, and there is an air of mystery with the music that starts and stops on an odd time signature compared to the other songs as well as there being melody between the breaks. Barlow’s vocals are great here adding their own musical qualities to the song.
Song Rating: 9.5 out of 10


Track 10: “March Through an Endless Rain”
Ending the album on much of the same note that began it, the song is not complicated but mostly driven by a marching drum beat (in accordance with the song title, of course) that adds some good guitar harmonics and keyboards as well. A good ending to a mythological album.
Song Rating: 9 out of 10


Overall Review:
Matt Barlow has been away from the music scene for around 7 years, and his return was not with his most famous band, Iced Earth, but with this little known band Pyramaze. It should be noted that he is only with the band for this record and then moved on to Iced Earth, but that does not diminish the performance he delivered on this record. It is as good, if not better than the work he did on Something Wicked Part 2 with Iced Earth. He has truly come back to a great vocal form with this and the Iced Earth album proving his tiny sabbatical was worth the wait!

The guitars and rhythm create an atmosphere perfect for the album’s theme. As every song deals with fantasy in some way, the atmosphere created by the keyboard and crushing riffs show both the mysticism and the danger each legend or myth portrays. “Year of the Phoenix” shows the rise of the phoenix from the ashes and parallels it to the rebirth of society: “Out of the old let the new arise” and “Thirsty souls bound by the silence/shall be reborn by their own story.” That also entails the power of stories, and how through them the history and myth of events and things is passed on as the Phoenix rises from the ashes so do stories based in truth, but made mythical always rise to the top of society.

“Ghost Light” and “Touched by the Mara” each deal with a mythical entity that has the potential to bring harm to humanity. The will-o-the-wisp on “Ghost Light” can “lead you astray” but you are implored to “Stand your ground till it’s done.” Humanity has a way of stumbling around blindly in the dark, and when a light appears, without any regard to the consequences people tend to follow it in hopes of finding a way out of that dark. The music shows this perfectly with a little bit of keyboard to show a false sense of security, and then the power comes in and you know something is wrong. The song is metaphorical to the time we live in right now and the populace appears to follow any person that offers a “change” from what is perceived as the “dark times we are in.” Nightmares are the bane of the Mara (or mare, depending on which Scandinavian country you are in) and torment those it suffers with horrible dreams. The nightmare may not just be in someone’s sleep, but in the rough times of the present that nightmare could be reality, especially overseas in the Middle East where fighting is constantly happening (battles are mentioned in the song).

“A Beautiful Death” and “Shadow of the Beast” are both songs based on historical events that have come to take a legendary story in their telling. “A Beautiful Death” is the story of the 300 Spartans who fought against the Persian army and has been much glorified in recent years with the movie 300 particularly. “The Shadow of the Beast” is a bit more obscure in its historical context, but the mention of Gévaudan is the main key to the large wolves that attacked that region of France back in the 18th century. People believe those wolves to be werewolves because of their immense size and brutal killing of humans. In both these songs, however, the advent of history and the retelling of the story backs up the claim of “Year of the Phoenix” that legends do survive through stories, even the most obscure such as the Gévaudan wolves. Both of these songs are musically great, with “A Beautiful Death” sounding like war, not just singing about it and with the off stop-start of “Shadow of the Beast” a sense of mystery to the song’s progression ties in with the mystery of the wolves themselves.

Other references to literary include “Caramon’s Poem” and the Dragonlance sagas he was part of, and “The Highland” mentions the mythical place of Avalon from King Arthur literature. Just as the two songs above keep the legends of history alive, these songs keep the literature of the present (not based in history, though there is debate with Arthurian literature) alive and in the minds of people.

Immortal is an album that only suffers from one aspect and that is the chord arrangements on the songs tend not to change up all that much, particularly on the first few tracks. Looking beyond that you find a rich musical album that also draws on a rich literary history. The addition of Matt Barlow on vocals does not hurt in making this album a great one either.
Overall Rating: 9 out of 10

 

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