RATING: 8/10

Increasingly regarded as leading lights in a still-flourishing prog metal world, PYRAMAZE haven’t taken the easiest route to prominence, with persistent line-up issues seeming to slow their well-deserved ascent. By this point, no such problems exist. The arrival of vocalist Terje Harøy for 2015’s “Disciples Of The Sun” seemed to lift every aspect of the Danes’ sound, sharpening their songwriting and dragging their overall sound cheerfully into a more adventurous future. This is, after all, a prog metal world that encompasses everything from DREAM THEATER to TESSERACT.

If “Epitaph” proves anything, it’s that there remains a lot of room to maneuver within a genre that has often been artistically reductive. Not that PYRAMAZE have forged some brand-new style of metal here. It’s just that these songs exist on their own plane, at some sublime midpoint between the all-out technicality and traditional melodies of the old school and the futuristic, post-post-rock abandon of the modern era. As an added bonus, Harøy‘s voice, which never quite adheres to any familiar stereotype, adds an additional layer of uniqueness and no small amount of soul.

Opener “A Stroke Of Magic” is simply glorious: with welcome shades of EVERGREY, not least in the sledgehammer emoting of its chorus; it’s an immaculate show of strength and a sublime entry point for the rest of the record. “Steal My Crown” repeats the trick, as incisive hooks skitter across swaggering, groove metal bedrock, the whole thing sparkling like the night sky; ethereal ambience leaking through slender cracks in the syncopated squall. In contrast, “Knight In Shining Armour” belongs firmly on symphonic power metal turf, right down to its irresistible melodic hook and the HELLOWEEN-esque rattle of the riffs. “Bird Of Prey” is different again, a shiny slab of radio-friendly alt-rock balladry. It may be a little too saccharine for many metalheads, but a giant, singalong tune is a giant, singalong tune on this or any other planet. Both “Your Last Call” and “Particle” dive into heavier, darker waters, with Harøy in particularly mesmerizing form and that tricky-to-define hybrid of traditional melodic metal and post-djent pugilism making exquisite, life-affirming sense.

Two moments stand out, in particular. The first is “Transcendence”, an audacious and willfully overwrought gothic metal power ballad, with a show-stealing cameo from UNLEASH THE ARCHERSBrittney Slayes and enough floodlit, 4K melodrama to give WITHIN TEMPTATION a run for their money. The second is “The Time Traveller”, a monumental, 12-minute, quasi-spiritual journey through many of PYRAMAZE‘s best ideas yet, with two legendary former vocalists— LANCE KING and MATT BARLOW (ICED EARTH) — joining the party, with predictably epic and over-egged results. For those with an insatiable enthusiasm for such flagrant pomp and power, it’s one of 2020’s most wickedly indulgent creations.

A top-notch prog metal record brimming with huge melodies and theatrical glee, “Epitaph” is aimed squarely at open-minded fans of the genre’s past, present and future.

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