Ring of Gyges / Icelandic Progressive Metallers take the breath away with sophomore release

You would be forgiven for thinking that Ring Of Gyges was the name of a high-speed Technical Death Metal outfit. It’s certainly got that resonance about it. But then look deeper and ask what is the Ring of Gyges. According to the Oxford reference, it was a ring that rendered the shepherd Gyges invisible, allowing him to commit his crimes with impunity. He used this cloak of invisibility to seduce the King’s wife and usurp the kingdom. And suddenly, you realise that rather than Death Metal, we are in the realms of the Progressive.

Ring Of Gyges – Metamorphosis (ViciSolum Productions)

Release Date: 19 May 2023

Words: Paul Hutchings

Thankfully, it’s the type of Progressive Metal that retains the hard Metal edge. The band are Icelandic, formed in 2013, with their debut release Beyond The Night Sky now six years old. High time for a new release, then, and this sophomore record is something special.

I know little about them, but that hasn’t stopped me from thoroughly enjoying Metamorphosis. From the opening bars of the first song Dragonflies, it ticked all the boxes. The music is intricate, complex, thoughtful, and beautifully executed.

Heavy riffs, powerful drumming, and the soaring clean vocals of Helgi Jónsson grab the attention. There are streamlined melodies, catchy hooks, and an explosion of emotion. It’s a super start, and the album never looks back from this tremendous opening.

Ring Of Gyges - Metamorphosis. With heavy riffs and soaring vocals this album is a must-listen.
Ring Of Gyges – Metamorphosis. With heavy riffs and soaring vocals this album is a must-listen.

Over the 11 tracks that make up Metamorphosis, Ring Of Gyges paints sonic soundscapes that swoop, soar, and make you gasp. The music is, as you would expect, detailed, with ample irregular time changes, patterns that switch tempo, and huge swells of sound that work magnificently.

The band can bring the heavy, as they do on Nautilus, with Guðjón Sveinsson (I assume) adding the death growls that add heft to the song. It’s become almost fashionable to include growling alongside clean vocals in several genres, but it doesn’t always work. Here it does, complementing the heavier elements that the band bring with ease. There’s also some fantastic lead guitar work, which screams out of the dark, brooding atmosphere.

It gets a bit Steven Wilson-like on Go, with some of the more abstract elements of the band coming to the fore. It doesn’t distract one iota. They can bring it down to the more classic style with songs like the sweeping The Choice and use subtle linkage to segue between tracks. The Choice moves seamlessly into Holy Water, with Gísli Þór Ingólfsson’s subtle keys and synths providing depth and layers to the band’s sound.

As with most Progressive albums, there’s an epic lurking somewhere. The Face Of God is that song, and at a second shy of 12 minutes, it’s certainly a biggie. It’s also the central pillar of the album, switching styles and tempo throughout. It’s a genuinely thrilling piece of work, with the complex mid-section seeing harmonised dual guitars, big bass, and the whole band engaging in a musical tussle that slowly rises to a stunning crescendo. It’s something a bit special in an album which is nothing less than that throughout.

By the time you arrive at the closing song, Find Me Here, it’s highly likely that you will be experiencing a range of feelings. If you love music that genuinely makes the heart swell, then Metamorphosis is likely to be something for you. It has complexity but also some delicate straightforwardness which provides the necessary balance.

It veers from melodic Hard Rock to crunching Heavy Metal with effortless simplicity. In short, it’s a beautifully crafted and packaged album which is sure to be on the playlist for months to come.

Sleeve Notes

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