When one thinks of havens for hard rock and heavy metal, Bulgaria is usually not the first place that pops up. Actually, this ancient nation has dedicated a public statue to the late Ronnie James Dio and is known to be very appreciative of classic bands such as Deep Purple and Rainbow. With the band Colobar, they may now be ready to take to the world progressive metal stage.
Colobar is clearly influenced by the kings of modern prog metal, Dream Theater, as well as the likes of Spock’s Beard, Kansas and Rush. There is nothing particularly innovative about what they are doing on Beyond the Veil of Oblivion, but the execution and songwriting is outstanding. This is an extremely well-played and produced 40 minutes of music straddling the fence between melodic metal and progressive rock.
With “Changes of Ages”, the harder and more metallic side of the band is in sharp focus. This is a fast and driving tune with a crisp digital sound…a speedy guitar riff gives way to a stuttering, choppy hook and the vocals of Carl Sentance unfold. Sentance has a nasal but multi-faceted voice that greatly resembles Glenn Hughes. He fits the music here like a glove. “Change of Ages” gets the album going with an aggressive kick and already there’s some cool guitar/keyboard duels.
The title track is the album’s epic and shows a much more expansive side. Beginning gently with nature sounds, this turns into keyboard-oriented prog where the piano dominates. Then the song becomes harder and more guitar oriented. This pendulum-like trade-off between hard metal and key-centered prog forms the very essence of Colobar. Every musician gets a chance to shine on this lengthy track, with drums and bass also throwing in cool fills and flourishes. Some would say Colobar is a pretentious band…well, a certain amount of pretension comes with the territory in prog metal and is even expected.
“Timeline” and “Listen” are two compact and hard-edged rock songs with good vocal lines and catchy hooks. Colobar doesn’t reinvent the wheel with these songs, but they make sure the wheel they’ve got rolls smoothly along. “Secrets” is a delightful tip of the hat to prime Kansas, with a lusty violin run accenting a fast guitar riff. You almost expect to hear Steve Walsh’s voice chiming in, but no, Mr. Sentance does the honors and serves the song well. It’s one of the album’s best tracks.
The last two tracks are moodier and not quite as instant as the preceding tunes. “The Way Out” has a dark tone but once more provides a real workout for the musicians. The final song “Can’t Feel” drops most of the metal feel for something resembling keyboard-oriented rock. It may take more than one listen for this one to sink in, as it doesn’t seem at first like the proper ending to the album.
Behind the Veil of Oblivion is a thoroughly professional and well-done example of modern progressive metal and I don’t think Colobar will have too long to wait before they start making a bigger impact.
Review by Mike Korn
Rating: 4.5 stars (out of 5)