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Aeon Zen: Enigma

Third album from Rich Hinks’ ambitious prog metal outfit.

Rich Hinks has achieved more in his mere 23 years than most musicians accomplish in a lifetime. He’s now three albums into a career that has seen him play with musicians from notable progressive metal bands Seventh Wonder and Above Symmetry, and he fortified his prog credentials by accompanying Devin Townsend on tour around Europe last year. These are just some of his many musical credits mentioned in the press notes for Aeon Zen’s latest release.

Enigma saunters with the kind of gargantuan confidence that belies its creator’s limited years. Conjuring up tenets of prog both old and new, the scope and ambition of the record is staggering. The theme of the work is built around the kind of complexities of personality that Pink Floyd wielded on The Wall.

Musically, it’s a patchwork of brass flourishes and enveloping atmospheric passages, to tight, furious episodes of Opeth-style carnage. However if this makes make Enigma sound like the fever dream of someone with multiple personality disorder, it isn’t. There is an overwhelming sense of cohesion on this record, and that’s down to Hinks’ singular creative direction. The throbbing instrumental opener Enter The Enigma gives way to Artificial Soul and Divinity, both of which showcase Aeon Zen’s exciting and wandering focus.

Within these songs all four of the band’s vocalists get outings, enhancing the swirling, surging feel of the music. Hinks’ soaring, sumptuous guitar embellishments are delivered with neck-snapping ferocity, as Enigma’s protagonist is thrust into a godless, hopeless universe.

The album’s storyline may meander through various contemplations of Man’s condition, but thankfully the tale of Enigma never wanders too far from home. Its unlikely hero is reinstated in Still Human which has a remarkably grandiose, Muse-esque swing to it, complete with spikey riffs and disorientating changes of pace. The razor-sharp changes of feel and tempo, its colossal riffs and intricate guitar work all come together on the magnificent Survival.

Excessive eagerness in music may not be your cup of tea, but only the cynical would condemn Aeon Zen for it when Enigma oozes this much charisma. If the first two acclaimed albums – A Mind’s Portrait and The Face Of The Unknown – set out the band’s musical stall, then album three capitalises on that promise. If anything it’s a beast of surer purpose.

Having whittled his craft to a sharp, brutally efficient point, Master Hinks continues to realise his potential on an album loaded with ambition, fire and musicality.