10 December 2017 (released)
26 March 2018
Metal was always to be the natural progression of classical music as we forge ahead in this new millennium. Outside observers may scoff that the traditional soundtrack of the aristocracy and the cacophonic rantings of tattooed maniacs have little to nothing in common. However, one could easily argue that metal's obsession with demons, plagues and torture very closely mirrors the admonishing themes of classic symphonies that use violent and grandiose motifs to tell of the devil's deeds and wrath brought on by the defiance of God. We are not here today to argue that point but rather to appreciate the musical thread that connects classical's weighty past with its electrified future.
Hong Kong artist Oliver Cheung began his musical career with the cello, honing his skill and developing an ear for arrangement before making the switch to guitar. Making use of today's many compositional technologies, Cheung set out to create modern metal symphonies using drum machines and the DIY approach of bands like Periphery and Animals as Leaders. Today's symphonic metal eschews the constant screeching, cock-rock style of the 80s prog metal purveyors, instead opting for more nuanced, textural soundscapes. On his new album, Remembrance, Cheung lays out three pieces with ever-evolving movements ranging from calmly contemplative to dense tsunamis of sound.
The title track begins the album with patient chords and chiming arpeggios echoing the earth's natural rhythms. The whisper of wind flows through them. The breeze gains steam as the guitars amp up like a gathering storm. A frenzy of stop and stutter beats wreak havoc like tree branches being blown from their trunks. 'Remembrance' concludes in a thrilling apex with guitar riffs slicing and dicing to ever pummelling drums.
The two subsequent pieces 'Fragments' and 'False Hope' both rise and fall with the same intensity. Cheung's guitar washes over the tracks like a mighty waterfall with monstrous power as well as a soft mist. There is definitely a sense of natural beauty that one derives from the work. The rhythms and melodies seem to reflect the unguided actions of the untamed world. Modern progressive metal seems to be more of a bowing to the wonder of the natural world than a testament to its higher powers. Perhaps they are one in the same...but that's a topic for a different article.