SUNBURST – Manifesto (Album Review)

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A musical supernova is codified.

There is a fine art to taking the insular and arguably inaccessible world of progressive metal and presenting it to a wider audience in an accessible package. Many artists that dabble in said sub-genre have attracted sizable crowds with their technical feats and style-defying compositions that often go well past the 10-minute mark. But the world of progressive power metal is one where the improbability of said approach is brought a little closer to Earth, resulting in music that remains technically impressive but is easier for fans of simpler styles to enjoy and understand.

In the same grand tradition as the likes of Conception, Symphony X, Dream Theater, Nevermore, and a few others, Greek quartet and Inner Wound Recordings affiliate Sunburst would stand as one of the few to effectively strike this enigmatic balance on their 2016 debut “Fragments Of Creation.” Despite 8 years of subsequent studio silence, lightning has now struck twice with the unleashing of this dark horse act’s riveting follow-up LP “Manifesto.”

The impressive conjunction of elements that makes up this band’s membership results in a signature sound that proves as familiar as it is unique. The blend of steady grooves, off-kilter rhythms, and elaborate fills that flow from drummer Kostas Milonas’ kit speaks to a level of ambitiousness and love for Neil Peart’s ground-breaking accomplishments as that of Mike Portnoy. In a similar spirit, bassist Nick Grey’s contributions don’t shy away from extravagance, often mirroring the insanely swift and jarring fills that fly from the drums and guitars, but of the quartet, he leans the most towards maintaining a congruous foundation.

Axe-slinger Gus Drax is arguably the most auspicious player in the fold, slamming down on the heavy-ended and frenetic riff work with the darkness and intensity of Jeff Loomis and Michael Romeo, though his soloing segments tend more towards the methodical nature of John Petrucci. Studio keyboardist Bob Katsionis might as well be the fifth member of the fold, though his contributions are more atmospheric and understated compared to the rest. But at the center of it all, and arguably the most gripping part of this whole is vocalist Vasilis Georgiou; who’s mostly smooth as silk high baritone croon is almost a dead-ringer for Roy Khan, though he occasionally explores rougher territory and also embodies the exaggerated melodrama of Warrel Dane at times.

“Manifesto” Album Artwork

In comparison to their much-lauded debut, the songwriting that emerges here is of a similar caliber and bent, though instead of one outright towering epic number upon which the rest tend to orbit, these 8 chapters function as equally yoked mini-epics unto themselves. That being said, there is a general structure and flow to how this album unfolds that sees certain songs in this collection possessing a greater degree of bombast and largess.

Bookending it all are two highly bombastic and heavily orchestrated journeys in “The Flood” and “Nocturne” that see the greatest amount of musical drama and largess, perhaps being best likened to epic numbers from mid-2000s era Kamelot with a Dream Theater twist, particularly in Gus’ solo work, which is far too technical to be mistaken for Thomas Youngblood‘s.

Likewise, the thrashing speeder “Hollow Lies” could almost be likened to a faster entry off “The Black Halo,” though Drax’s riff work and the more ornamented assault of the rhythm section bring in Nevermore elements from the same period. Other entries like “Perpetual Descent” and “From The Cradle To The Grave” come the closest to an orthodox emulation of the progressive metal style as codified by Dream Theater during the 90s.

It’s a foregone conclusion that anyone with a taste for the elaborate and the melodically consonant will be drawn to what Sunburst is serving up here, though “Manifesto” takes things a step further compared to its distant predecessor by covering even more stylistic ground. The old cliché about a band’s sound maturing, though annoying given its obvious and inevitable application to every band in the business, bears mentioning here as this fold’s execution of their craft has definitely been ratcheted up something fierce.

The result is an album that can be best described as a near-perfect amalgam of nearly every unique progressive metal expression that has occurred in Europe and North America from 1992 through the 2000s, accentuating the strengths of each while minimizing some of their downsides.

Those who want Nevermore with a cleaner vocal delivery, Dream Theater without the excessive time lengths, and Symphony X with a more measured level of virtuosic lead guitar work will find the ideal album here, while everyone looking for an excellent album in the progressive style need to look no further.

Released By: Inner Wound Recordings
Release Date: June 14th, 2024
Genre: Progressive Metal

Musicians:

  • Vasilis Georgiou / Vocals
  • Gus Drax / Guitars
  • Kostas Milonas / Drums
  • Nick Grey / Bass

Manifesto” Track List:

  1. The Flood
  2. Hollow Lies
  3. Samaritan
  4. Perpetual Descent
  5. Inimicus Intus
  6. From the Cradle to the Grave
  7. Manifesto
  8. Nocturne

Order ManifestoHERE

9.1 Excellent

After an eight-year studio hiatus, Greek-born enigmatic progressive metal upstarts Sunburst pick right up where they left off on 2016’s “Fragments Of Creation” with an even more potent blend of progressive virtuosity and melodic extravagance that bridges the divide between Conception, Symphony X and Dream Theater

  • Songwriting 9.5
  • Musicianship 9.5
  • Originality 8.5
  • Production 9
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