Greek mythology is known for its archetypal figures and epic narratives; the imperfections and struggles of gods and mere mortals alike in these stories are stark in their portrayal of human nature. In the grandiose spirit, if not content, of these ambitious stories is Athenian progressive metal band Need’s new record, Hegaiamas: A Song For Freedom, released on January 17 through Trailblazer Records and Laser’s Edge. Formed in 2004, the quintet have released three full-length records before Hegaimas, including 2014’s Orvam: A Song For Home. Combining classic progressive tendencies with a modern production and gargantuan riffs, Hegaiamas is a generally concise, enjoyable record that occasionally veers into excess.
The record opens with the haunting refrain ‘Try to breathe under the water’. This, a recurring motif within the album’s seven songs, flows into a leading bassline that gains momentum with the addition of distorted guitars, punchy drums and striking keys. It quickly becomes apparent that Need do not seek to dazzle anyone with overt technicality, which is a refreshing approach in progressive metal. The group’s songwriting and powerful, hooky riffs play a significant role in the appeal of the record as a whole. Vocalist Jon V.’s voice has a 90s alternative rock vibe that adds a catchy anchor to the group’s forward-thinking arrangements.
Need shines most when delivering pounding, elephantine riffage. There is no better example of this to be found on Hegaiamas than on “Riverthane”. Easily the heaviest song of the seven which make up the album, guitarist Ravaya wields his low-tuned guitar with intention, intermingling tasteful leads and gentle chording amidst Dream Theater-esque riffs. Sci-fi synths further this comparison to the progressive metal legends. However, where the aforementioned group is known for their technical forays, Need instead choose to focus on strong choruses, memorable riffs and tasteful leads in (comparatively) concise song structures. Though the majority of the songs on the record average around the seven minute mark, the group manages to sculpt memorable and interesting passages that remain interesting throughout their runtime.
However, this concision and tact do not last throughout the entire record. Hegaiamas‘ final two tracks, as mentioned earlier, fall into the excess and cheesiness that progressive metal is unfortunately given to. “I.O.T.A” is a five minute spoken word interlude overlying a gentle piano performance. Overtly cerebral, the conversation seems to be between a protagonist and some sort of Freudian psychoanalyst or grandfather figure. Although spoken word components can be an important feature in progressive music and concept albums, the five minutes of heady conversations certainly diminished the momentum established by the album’s earlier pieces. The title track, at twenty-one minutes, closes the record. While filled with of a plethora of hooky vocals and powerful riffs, it was nevertheless challenging as a listener to discern the purpose of the sprawling arrangement, especially considering Need’s previously established penchant for engaging, focused songs.
Need’s Hegaiamas: A Song For Freedom, for better or worse, seems to be a modern metal take on classic progressive rock. Narrative and engaging, but intermittently given to the superfluous, the record manages to be engaging but for the first five songs. The spoken interlude and expansive closer significantly lose momentum, thereby diminishing the impact of the album’s finale. Nonetheless, if you are looking for progressive metal that is full of excellent guitar work but not needlessly technical, Need’s Hegaiamas: A Song For Freedom may be just what you…need.
Notable Tracks: “Rememory”; “Riverthane”
FFO: Dream Theater, Wings Denied, Face the Maybe