Phavian are a Los Angeles band consisting of five members, Elizabeth Matson (vocals, keyboards), Pusan Hassani (acoustic, electric guitars), Rob Cubillos (acoustic,electric guitars), Jason Lobell (bass guitar) and Patrick Hassani (drums, keyboards).
The debut album, Kiena, was released in 2009 and the band toured and promoted their music extensively, but what was probably not known at that time was the huge step that the band were about to take with the impending release of the follow up album. Phavian decided that the music they were composing would form, in effect, an epic piece of work that would be spread over four albums, released closely together over a time scale of two years. The first album in the sequence to be released was Meridian I in October 2011.
As a taster of all four albums, the EP Foreword, was released, this release contains four tracks, one from each of the four album series. “Feldgrau” from Meridian 1 starts off with a wall of sound, before Elizabeth’s voice comes in, but fails to win the battle against the guitars initially. Her voice is no different to many female fronted progressive metal bands and the early impression is that this is just “another band of the genre.” When the guitars pick up the melody however, there is a change and the track becomes much more interesting. There is a change in tempo, loss of the “sound wall” and the voice sounds much better suited to the track. The ending of the track is much the same as the start.
“Watersong,” has an acoustic start with gentle bass and drums before the female voice comes in, sounding much more in control of proceedings, and seemingly floating over the melody. The guitars pick up the melody and the impression is very promising. The bass/drums start to drive the song along into the “wall of sound “again and the ongoing battle between the music and the voice returns. At about 6 minutes, I felt the song was long enough. Better lead guitar work follows, and there is good interplay between the guitar and the voice of Elizabeth briefly before a rock riff from the past enters, but again the song seems to have lost its way. The last 2 minutes of the track again changes, with Elizabeth and the guitars driving the sound toward the finale, and again, giving an insight into what the band can/might achieve.
Track 3, “Green Iris” has an excellent guitar motif to start but again the conflict of guitar/bass/drums against the voice appears. A pleasant enough track and indeed, at times, Elizabeth’s voice reminds me of Sonja Kristina (Curved Air, although going back a fair bit) and gives the suggestion that there is more to the voice than is being shown. This is another example of a track losing direction as it drifts toward the ending.
Finally, “Acolyte,” track 4 on the EP, fires up and there is an immediate sound of freshness and it makes you want to hear more of the song, although again, I felt that the vocal track could be further forward in the mix. This is a long track again, clocking in just over 10 minutes and the rest of the first half of the song is similar to what has come before, but the sound gets pared right back at the halfway point to drums/bass/keyboards and promises great things. The guitar comes in and the whole sound has changed with Elizabeth’s voice much more in sync with the music but the norm sets in as the track moves to completion.
There are brief glimpses that this is not “just another female fronted progressive metal band” but they are brief. Fans of this genre of music will not be too disappointed with what Phavian are doing and with all tracks having a similar overall feel to them, it lets people know what the next 3 albums will be like.
My feeling about the music on this “sampler” means that people will not get to hear the evolving of Phavian’s sound. All bands progress musically the longer they work together and this vast undertaking of a 4 CD set means no “new” sound until at least the middle of 2013.
Could the second half of track 4,” Acolyte,” be the future?
Jim “The Ancient One” Lawson-MuzikReviews.com Contributor
July 30, 2012