It's been six years since the sophomore effort from the UK's Shadow Keep, and based on what I hear on this new record, those years have been kind. I was turned off by some of the vocals on their first two albums, and the music wasn't quite good enough to ignore them. With The Hourglass Effect, things have changed. New vocalist Richie Wicks has done some time in NWOBHM legends like Angel Witch (as a bass player) and Tygers of Pan Tang (vocals), and he brings a crystalline atmosphere to some well constructed songs.
The sound is rooted in classic bands like Fates Warning, Queensryche and Dream Theater, as well as a lot of classic 80s speed and power metal. Comparatively, I heard a little Lizzy Borden in here, maybe a little Lethal too. Some of these songs just annihilate you with their composition and Wicks' excellent range. "Incisor" is a great example infusing some excellent lead work, a metric ton of quality riffs and some furious vocals. "Leviathan Rising" totally reawakened the 80s prog metal lover within me, and I have to admit even the acoustic ballads like "Six Billion Points of Light" and "Heart Shaped Stone" are quite good. I can't honestly pick out a weak track on the entire album, the vocals alone are inspiring enough that I'd recommend it to any fan of high pitched vocals and progressive metal musicianship.
The mix of the album is superb, you can hear everything as if the band were plugged in right next to you and playing in perfect harmony. There are some synths used but generally for background effect, and to this extent they succeed. It's not a perfect album, but The Hourglass Effect is certainly the sound of a band coming of age. It easily trumps all their prior work and I hope it affords the band some recognition.
Verdict: Win [8/10]