Artist: Pyramaze

Album Title: Epitaph

Label: AFM Records

Date of Release: 13 November 2020

When I reviewed Pyramaze’s previous release, ‘Contingent’, I remarked that I felt underwhelmed and didn’t initially rate the melodies on offer across much of the record. I ended up giving that album a score of 9.25. This time around, I can safely say that ‘Epitaph’ was an instant hit for me. Huge choruses, giant hooks, and mellifluous vocal lines struck me from the very beginning when listening to this, their sixth album. So I dread to think what my score will be when I reach the end of this review. Want to find out? Keep reading, dear friends, metal heads, loyal readers, casual observers, and anyone else unfortunate enough to happen upon my own little slice of the Internet.

First thing to state is that the line-up has remained unchanged for ‘Epitaph’. It means that Terje Harøy takes his place once again behind the microphone, joined by keyboardist Jonah W., lead guitarist Toke Skjønnemand, drummer Morten Gade Sørensen, and guitarist/bassist Jacob Hansen.

The press release that accompanies this album suggests that ‘Epitaph’ “will prove to be their most melodic and accessible creation to date” and by heck, the good folk at AFM are not wrong on that score. This is verging on melodic manna from the Gods. It does mean that the quintet may need to give their ‘melodic progressive power metal’ tag a slight re-think though, because the progressive nature of the music seems to have retreated somewhat in favour of bigger and bolder melodies. Some longer-term fans may baulk at this, but despite being a prog fan, I’m a sucker for good hooks too, so I can absolutely get on board with the approach here on ‘Epitaph’.

I’m not kidding when I say that pretty much each of the twelve tracks on the record offers something juicy and memorable. At just over an hour in length, I’d normally be suggesting that a little fat could have easily been trimmed away. However, I’m on my third straight spin of the evening as I write, and I’m not showing signs of boredom or fatigue.

The title track is the ubiquitous symphonic instrumental opener, but to its credit, it is done very well and floats on a pleasant melody, working to heighten the anticipation for what’s to come by getting more intense as it reaches its climax.

The true opening composition is entitled ‘A Stroke Of Magic’ and it blasts into life with a chunky riff, layers of keys, a pounding rhythm section and an overall muscular presence. Terje Harøy sounds fantastic as he enters, but when the chorus hits, my mouth falls open. I can’t help but be reminded of Pagan’s Mind at their most melodic, as the hook-laden chorus weaves its considerable spell immediately. There’s no ‘this could be good after a few spins’ thoughts – it’s an instant love affair. To it’s credit, there is a vague progressiveness to the song, but that chorus…and the ensuing lead guitar solo…it’s electric.

A word at this point about the production, because as you might expect if Jacob Hansen is involved, it sounds crystal clear, and full of vibrancy. There’s enough separation within the mix to allow all of the instruments to be heard, even Hansen’s very own bass, which rumbles with authority throughout.

If I thought the rest of the album would be a let-down, I was soon to be proved very mistaken. ‘Steal My Crown’ is insanely good. As I wrote my notes, I scribbled: ‘one of the best songs of the year’. I cannot tell you how superb the chorus to this song is, it is absolute bliss to my ears. Groovy, hook-laden and beautifully executed, I get withdrawal symptoms if I don’t listen to it at least once an hour, it’s that good.

Pyramaze are not finished there either, not by a long chalk. ‘Knights In Shining Armour’ is a fast-paced, double-pedal-led power metal anthem that calls to mind Kamelot due to the melodies and symphonics at play, particularly in the choruses. It literally skips along from start to finish, laced with tinkling keys, rich atmospheric synths and a joie-de-vivre that’s infectious. Contrasts on ‘Epitaph’ aren’t always obvious but on ‘Bird Of Prey’, the band dabble with more of a hard rock vibe, almost radio-friendly in its construction and delivery. But, at risk of sounding like a parrot, it is another song blessed with a killer chorus, soaring and uplifting in equal measure.

I refuse to descend into a song-by-song review here, so instead, let’s explore some of the best tracks that remain on ‘Epitaph’. First up is ‘Particle’, a composition that offers insane vocals as well as dramatic symphonics mixed with darker, brooding verses that explode into yet another blistering chorus.

‘Indestructible’ is great fun, features a breakdown of sorts, and reminds me of Amaranthe, albeit more serious in tone and without the triple-threat vocals. ‘Transcendence’ is equally enjoyable, featuring a guest vocal appearance from Brittney Slayes of Unleash the Archers, another big favourite of mine this year. Together Harøy and Slayes mesmerise and put on a vocal masterclass that sucks me right in.

‘World Foregone’ is the penultimate track and it pushes ‘Steal My Crown’ for the honour of the best song on the album. It is a slower-paced affair, with huge symphonics, chugging, stomping verses and an intoxicating ballad-like, anthemic chorus. It’s the kind of song you want to bust your lungs to, as you sing along at the top of your voice. The lyrics might be a touch cheesy, as is the choir-led closing reprise of the chorus but I simply don’t care because this song is pure magic.

There’s just time for one more and it comes in the shape of ‘The Time Traveller’. Not only is it the longest track on the record, it features ex-vocalists Matt Barlow and Lance King. At twelve minutes in length, it is a monster epic track in every sense of the word. For a kick off, it’s easily the most ‘progressive’ composition of the entire record, changing pace and intensity smoothly and efficiently. It reaffirms the band’s technical abilities as if they were ever really in doubt, whilst creating an epic finale to sate even the most demanding of metal thirsts. Synth solos, bruising riffs, bombastic symphonics, warp-speed tempos, electric vocal performances and yet more killer melodies; it has everything and more besides.

Yes, yes, and thrice yes. Without realising it, Pyramaze have put together just about the perfect album for me right now. It remains to be seen how well it fares in terms of longevity – will I return to it this rabidly in a few months’ time? – but right here, right now, it is blowing me away. I love just about everything about ‘Epitaph’ and whilst it might not be progressive enough for some, it is an undisputed thrill-ride and for sheer entertainment value alone, it is easily one of the best metal albums of any genre that I have heard during the horror show that has been 2020.In fact, I’m going to sod off and listen to it again!

The Score of Much Metal: 96%

Check out my reviews from 2020 right here:

Necrophobic – Dawn Of The Damned

Fates Warning – Long Day Good Night

Draconian – Under A Godless Veil

Mörk Gryning – Hinsides Vrede

DGM – Tragic Separation

Perduratum – Exile’s Anthology

Carcass – Despicable EP

Mors Principium Est – Seven

Cult Of Lilith – Mara

Helion Prime – Question Everything

Soul Secret – Blue Light Cage

Enslaved – Utgard

Dynfari – Myrkurs er þörf

Amaranthe – Manifest

Kataklysm – Unconquered

Structural Disorder – Kingdom Crossing

Skeletal Remains – The Entombment Of Chaos

Prehistoric Animals – The Magical Mystery Machine (Chapter One)

Ihsahn – Pharos

Hinayana – Death Of The Cosmic
Oceans Of Slumber – Oceans Of Slumber
Okyr – Premorbid Intelligence
Manticora – To Live To Kill To Live
Pain Of Salvation – Panther
Vanishing Point – Dead Elysium
Unleash The Archers – Abyss
Veonity – Sorrows
Nyktophobia – What Lasts Forever
Ages – Uncrown
Awake By Design – Awake By Design
Black Crown Initiate – Violent Portraits Of Doomed Escape
Gaerea – Limbo
Buried Realm – Embodiment Of The Divine
Navian – Reset
Selenseas – The Outer Limits
Quantum – The Next Breath Of Air
Ensiferum – Thalassic
Long Distance Calling – How Do We Want To Live?
Airbag – A Day At The Beach
Re-Armed – Ignis Aeternum
Atavist – III: Absolution
Frost* – Others EP
Darker Half – If You Only Knew
Atavistia – The Winter Way
Astralborne – Eternity’s End
Centinex – Death In Pieces
Haken – Virus
Pile Of Priests – Pile Of Priests
Sorcerer – Lamenting Of The Innocent
Lesoir – Mosaic
Temnein – Tales: Of Humanity And Greed
Caligula’s Horse – Rise Radiant
…And Oceans – Cosmic World Mother
Vader – Solitude In Madness
Shrapnel – Palace For The Insane
Sinisthra – The Broad And Beaten Way
Paradise Lost – Obsidian
Naglfar – Cerecloth
Forgotten Tomb – Nihilistic Estrangement
Winterfylleth – The Reckoning Dawn
Firewind – Firewind
An Autumn For Crippled Children – All Fell Silent, Everything Went Quiet
Havok – V
Helfró – Helfró
Victoria K – Essentia
Cryptex – Once Upon A Time
Thy Despair – The Song Of Desolation
Cirith Ungol – Forever Black
Igorrr – Spirituality and Distortion
Nightwish – Human. II: Nature.
Katatonia – City Burials
Wolfheart – Wolves Of Karelia
Asenblut – Die Wilde Jagd
Nicumo – Inertia
The Black Dahlia Murder – Verminous
Omega Infinity – Solar Spectre
Symbolik – Emergence
Pure Reason Revolution – Eupnea
Irist – Order Of The Mind
Testament – Titans Of Creation
Ilium – Carcinogeist
Dawn Of Ouroboros – The Art Of Morphology
Torchia – The Coven
Novena – Eleventh Hour
Ashes Of Life – Seasons Within
Dynazty – The Dark Delight
Sutrah – Aletheia EP
Welicoruss – Siberian Heathen Horde
Myth Of I – Myth Of I
My Dying Bride – The Ghost Of Orion
Infirmum – Walls Of Sorrow
Inno – The Rain Under
Kvaen – The Funeral Pyre
Mindtech – Omnipresence
Dark Fortress – Spectres From The Old World
The Oneira – Injection
Night Crowned – Impius Viam
Dead Serenity – Beginnings EP
The Night Flight Orchestra – Aeromantic
Deadrisen – Deadrisen
Blaze Of Perdition – The Harrowing Of Hearts
Godsticks – Inescapable
Isle Of The Cross – Excelsis
Demons & Wizards – III
Vredehammer – Viperous
H.E.A.T – H.E.A.T II
Psychotic Waltz – The God-Shaped Void
Into The Open – Destination Eternity
Lunarsea – Earthling/Terrestre
Pure Wrath – The Forlorn Soldier EP
Sylosis – Cycle of Suffering
Sepultura – Quadra
Dyscordia – Delete / Rewrite
Godthrymm – Reflections
On Thorns I Lay – Threnos
God Dethroned – Illuminati
Fragment Soul – A Soul Inhabiting Two Bodies
Mariana Semkina – Sleepwalking
Mini Album Reviews: Moloken, The Driftwood Sign & Midnight
Serenity – The Last Knight
Ihsahn – Telemark EP
Temperance – Viridian
Blasphemer – The Sixth Hour
Deathwhite – Grave Image
Marko Hietala – Pyre Of The Black Heart
SWMM – Trail Of The Fallen
Into Pandemonium – Darkest Rise EP
Bonded – Rest In Violence
Serious Black – Suite 226
Darktribe – Voici L’Homme
Brothers Of Metal – Emblas Saga
A Life Divided – Echoes
Thoughts Factory – Elements

You can also check out my other reviews from previous years right here:

2019 reviews
2018 reviews
2017 reviews
2016 reviews
2015 reviews