Company: InsideOut Music Release: 2015 Genre: Progressive Reviewer: Greg Watson
Light years beyond their young years
Hailing from Pennsylvania, Next to None is a collective of young prodigies delivering what is sure to be the future generation of progressive metal. "A Light in the Dark", the quartet's full-length debut offers up a mix of stunning prog fused with metalcore, NWOAHM, pop-punk and traditional metal. What is absolutely mind blowing to me is that nobody in the band is over the age of 18!
Singer/keyboardist Thomas Cuce, guitarist Ryland Holland, drummer Max Portnoy and bassist Kris Rank show a maturity far beyond their young ages and a musical ability that is both staggeringly impressive and thoroughly mature. Take the intro to the song "Lost" for example. Kicking off the song is Thomas Cuce's own take of Prokofiev's "Peter and the Wolf", a familiar classical piece to many and a very impressive surprise on the album.
The songs can get a bit tedious and lengthy at time, delving in to Dream Theater lengths at times and over staying their welcome on others. For instance, the opening track "The Edge of Sanity", is almost 10 minutes long and really kind of struggles at times to continue to keep the listener intrigued and invested. But, we have to remember that these are kids who aren't even in their prime music-making years yet, which is both equal parts impressive and frightening. The album's shorter tracks tend to begin heavier and then mellow out a little bit before ramping up the speed once again (check out "Runaway" for a prime example of this). The vocals tend to be a mix of clean, slightly-whiny vocals interspersed with some metalcore styled growls and a few gang vocal choruses at times, none more evident than on the album's closing track "Blood On My Hands".
Another impressive quality on the album is the fact that a handful of songs tie together in a conceptual storyline; again, something that is just astounding given the ages of the band members. To be able to write songs that weave a story throughout the lyrics and the music is light years beyond their young years and even better off than some of their more well-known peers.
Produced by Mike Portnoy (Winery Dogs, ex-Dream Theater), the production allows all the band members to shine in their own respects and provides a good, cohesive sound throughout. Yes, Max Portnoy is Mike Portnoy's son but that doesn't matter as Max and his band mates shine on their own with their incredible musical abilities, song writing skills and overall solid material.
While the album has its growing pains and things tend to get repetitive with some slight annoyances, it shows that these young men are going in the right direction already. In a few years, as this band continues to improve, Next to None will be the next name in progressive metal that will be mentioned with the affection that bands like Dream Theater and Symphony X currently enjoy. When listening to this album, try not to be overly critical and just listen to the music this band has created--music that will pull you in, leave you shaking and shivering and searching for the hope of "A Light in the Dark".
About this Writer: Greg Watson // Greg Watson has been hooked on the loud and heavy sounds since the summer of 1994 when he first heard the opening notes of "Operation: Mindcrime" by Queensryche. Since then his tastes have expanded and grown like the ever evolving heavy metal tree of genres. He has been an active member of Maximum Metal off and on for 10 years. In his spare time, Greg enjoys deciding the fate of his loyal subjects in the realm of Skyrim and secretly playing air keyboard to "Separate Ways" by Journey when no one is watching. He currently resides in Roanoke, VA with his wife and his metal wannabe beagle.
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