Album review: METHOD TO MADNESS – Guilty As Sin

Method To Madness [Release date 04.13]

Method To Madness is an American prog metal band that proudly sticks to its task of producing a concept album with a preface, three acts and 15 tracks.  The concept is about a policeman wrongly accused of murder and who as a consequence faces serious life changes issues: ‘Truth is just an illusion, two way mirror believes, all judgement based on perception, the world that others perceive’.

In truth, the album cries out for a lyric sheet. Apart from the obvious chronology of the story – the 18 years are referenced by the 5, 7 and 13 year anniversaries of his sentence – this is a double album with a weak narrative which struggles to be heard above some bone crunching rock.

The band does however achieve its aim of a story based narrative within the progressive hard rock spectrum. But as with many concept albums the plot is a little thin and the album too long, though by the time of the closing ‘From The Ashes’ you do feel as if you have shared a significant musical journey.

‘Method To Madness’ combine Dream Theatre style prog metal riffs and melodies with Rush’s shifting time signatures (as on ‘Meltdown’) and Floyd influenced classic rock on the jammed out ‘Masquerade’. Occasionally they also dip into the Yes cannon for some soaring harmonies. And while the band doesn’t quite have strong enough songs to stamp their unique character on some familiar sounding material, they do have the chops to push their arrangements to the limit.

They overcome a potential conflict between song structure and virtuosity through the conviction of their playing. They also bring unexpected impetus and fresh dynamics to bear on their music mainly because the rhythm section occasionally shifts from strong rhythmic support to front line players.

Method To Madness explore proggy influences on ‘Eyewitness Overture’ and add stuttering guitar parts, bristling percussion and strong harmony vocals on ‘Welcome To Paradise’ which concludes act one.

For every staccato, stop-start rhythm, there’s an uplifting counter balance. ‘Yesterday’ combines subtle tempo changes with an uplifting harmony vocal and a sudden edit that ushers in a gentle groove.  ‘Burning the Night’ is much heavier and the doom metal, call and response vocals, steely riffs and incredible pounding drums give the album its sense of a linear musical progression. The contrasting fusion and metal guitar parts on ‘Together Again’ and a vocal duet make up for the fact that the lyrics aren’t always clear on a production that favours impact over clarity.

‘It’s A Crime’ moves  from a TV sound bite narration, via droning riffs and thunderous staccato rhythms to convey a claustrophobic feel that reflects the court’s passing of its sentence. The intricate guitar line, sudden tempo change and subsequent melodic resolution of ‘Yesterday’ also makes the same connection between the music and lyrical meaning, on a track that finds enough room to let the melody breathe.

Act 2’s ‘Within Without’ reverts to archetypal metal riffs, propulsive drum rolls, a rumbling bass and an unaccredited female narrator, before being transformed into an upper register duet. Jessi Hamilton adds poignant piano and Kevin a soaring vocal on a surprisingly straight forward melodic ballad ‘Pictures’. The latter is full of glistening harmonies on one of the best arrangements on the album.

The band returns to their prog metal blueprint on ‘The Dungeon’ and they explore a weighty duet on ‘Dreaming of You’ and work towards a bombastic finish in keeping with a 79 minute concept album

‘Guilty As Sin’ may not quite have the lyrical depth to totally convince as a concept album, but there’s enough hard rock intensity and exciting musical progressions to appeal to  a new generation prog metal fans for whom music comes first and lyrics a distant second. ***(3/5)

Review by Pete Feenstra

The latest Facebook Live session from Canadian singer-songwriter Josh Taerk Sunday 21 February, 16:00 EST, 21:00 GMT

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