After waiting and waiting and waiting, Long Island NY's prog geniuses Optic finally give us their full length album Iris In, and it is every bit as impressive as expected. The songs are drenched in Dream Theater influence, which is NOT a bad thing, especially when it comes to the vocals. The musical prowess displayed on this album is nothing short of phenomenal. This is not the sound of a freshman release of an unsigned prog band.
The album opens with a short instrumental in "Hemlock," however, the song can stand on its own (albeit a bit shorter than the rest of the album) as a good song instead of just an introduction to the album. From "Hemlock" we get thrown into "Blind Apathy," which has a drive that sends me back to my early days of metal listening to Dream Theater and Blind Guardian. Clean vocals are something that I've come to miss in metal these days, and Optic does it so well. The vocals range from power/prog clean singing (FAR better than that of LaBrie I might add) to melodic death metal growls. One awesome things bout the harsh vocals is that they never seem forced and always compliment the music that's being played.
After a wonderful riff/solo filled track, we get the first epic clocking in at 10:45 with "Falling From the Sky." One of the things I've found that I love about this band is how prominent the keyboard is throughout the album. Ryan Patane doesn't sit in the back layering the songs with obnoxious synth noises, but rather is at the forefront of the band laying down solos as impressive as any guitarist. It's just something that you don't see a lot of in metal these days. Then, just as expected, the song takes a turn for the fast as it picks up speed and the harsh vocals kick in. These guys layer clean and harsh vocals very well, something that I've found most bands do poorly, sounding like a symphonic pile of generic boredom. And then we come to the first bass solo of the album, and yes it's good. The solo sections on this album feel important, at times feeling like riffs to the song more so than wanking for the sake of wanking. The keyboards never compete with the guitars as they seem to switch places and take turns in the spotlight of the song.
For those of you who haven't already been blown away by the Drown the Earth EP, both tracks are on the album and have been punched up in production a bit. One of these tracks includes the 13:19 epic Drown the Earth which is what drew me to this band in the first place. Withhold the Sun was also released early as a teaser for the album, so you've already heard that as well, right?