Progressive rock has existed for over half a century, making it increasingly difficult for new artists to stand out with a unique and worthwhile sound. Yet, with their first two LPs (2011’s “Immured” and 2015’s “Stagehound”), American troupe Advent Horizon certainly did. The latter work, in particular, was a stunning showcase for their knack for balancing superb songwriting with distinctively welcoming yet complex instrumentation. As such, they had quite the task in front of them in trying to equal—if not surpass—that achievement (especially since it’s been nearly a decade since “Stagehound” arrived).
Miraculously, they’ve done it with “A Cell to Call Home.” Beyond being worth the eight-year wait, Advent Horizon’s third full-length sequence ups the ante in just about every way (due in no small part to contributions from outstanding musicians such as Jordan Rudess, Dave Meros, Jared Roswell Hill, and Randy McStine in addition to other guest contributors). Full of excellent songwriting, singing, and arrangements, it’s easily the band’s crowning achievement and one of 2023’s greatest progressive rock records.
Conceptually, the album dives into “the interplay between love, dependency, and loss – told in first person through the eyes of a protagonist who is battling through the struggles of overcoming addiction.” Ultimately, it “urges the listener to examine their own weaknesses before criticizing those they love.” Produced and mixed by Advent Horizon, “A Cell to Call Home” earns even more credibility for being mastered by Jens Bogren (Opeth, Haken, Between the Buried and Me) and for having its artwork designed by Travis Smith (Opeth, Devin Townsend, Riverside).
Opener “Water”—which introduces the protagonist “as he attempts to find his way back from the ‘point of no return’”—is remarkably dynamic and alluring. Mixing some of the groups’ heaviest riffs and rhythms with gentle piano chords; catchy melodies; sleek synths; and hypnotic harmonies and intersecting vocal lines, it’s an exceptional example of how Advent Horizon use intricate musicianship to complement (rather than overshadow) top-notch songwriting.
The same holds true for several ensuing gems. For instance, and in their own distinctive ways, “Calling It Off,” “Truth,” “Cell to Call Home,” and “How Did It Get So Good?” juxtapose soothing passages and touches of Spock’s Beard/Neal Morse playfulness with progressive metal-esque aggressive guitarwork and keyboard theatrics. Along the way, “Rain on Open Water” harnesses radio-friendly appeal without losing originality or sophistication, whereas finale “Hold Me” is mostly a serene ode with fiercer trimmings that brings robust and affective closure to the collection.
On that note, a few other tracks fully reveal the ensemble’s softer side. Specifically, instrumental interlude “Snow Child” capitalizes on Hill’s talent for crafting classy piano introspections, just as gorgeous acoustic duet “Your Flaws” is highlighted by the angelically meditative singing of Kristen McDonald. Later, “Control”finds digital tones and a thrilling saxophone solo (courtesy of Hayden Payne) benefiting an already powerful statement reminiscent of Devin Townsend’s full-bodied ballads. As for heavenly reflection “Maybe,” well, it’s among the group’s most breathtakingly impactful pieces to date.
At the risk of sounding hyperbolic, “A Cell to Call Home” is an incredible journey in every way. From its immensely polished, diverse, virtuosic, and fitting arrangements to its heartfelt songwriting and captivating vocals, each component enhances the others perfectly, yielding a spotless and wholly enchanting experience. No matter how long it took to get here (or why), there’s no doubt that Advent Horizon poured everything they could into it, resulting in a clear labor of love that’s both the band’s masterpiece (thus far) and arguably 2023’s greatest progressive rock record.
Release Date: October 6th, 2023
Record Label: Self-Released (Bandcamp)
Genre: Progressive Rock / Metal
- Rylee McDonald / Guitars, vocals
- Mike Lofgreen / Drums
- Cason Wood / Keys
- Grant Matheson / Guitars, vocals, keys
- Kris Hartman / Bass
“A Cell to Call Home” Track-list:
2. Snow Child
3. How Did It Get So Good?
4. Rain On Open Water
5. Your Flaws
7. Calling It Off
10. Cell to Call Home
11. Hold Me
Order “A Cell to Call Home” HERE
Full of excellent songwriting, singing, and arrangements, “A Cell to Call Home” is easily the band’s crowning achievement and perhaps 2023’s greatest progressive rock record