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Mix opera, prog, musical theatre, jazz, doom metal, symphonic metal, hard rock, thrash and choral music together and you’ll get something closely resembling the debut album from Israeli prog metal band Scardust. The band have stayed true to their roots as duo Somnia, working on the rock operetta 'Gates of Dawn'. That project may have been put on hold, but gradually the band have expanded the original concept, adding musicians to widen their sound until Scardust was born.

Sands of Time begins with an operetta dividing the title into four acts. The distinctly classical Overture which soon combines other generic elements. It sets the scene for an album that is diverse, original, theatrical and sometimes too clever for its own bloody good.

The songwriting may be fantastical ( think Nightwish meets Kamelot) with lyrics about being rebirth, darkness, demons and mysticism but it’s the musicianship that stands out on the album. Yadin Moyal's progressive style shredding is on par with bands like Haken, or even early Genesis and is frequently jaw-dropping. The masterful percussion (drummer Yoav Weinberg, bassist Yanai Avnet) is forceful while retaining the subtleties that can often get muddied in over-produced symphonic albums; Hourglass is a fantastic example of their percussive syncopation in action. Vocalist Noa Gruman has a staggering range and versatility. She’s able to switch between sweet melody on tracks like Dials and heavy growls within a few bars. Her demonic vocal, which conjures up images of a possessed Regan from The Exorcist is downright disturbing at first and most certainly not becoming of a lady; but the fact that she’s able to use her voice as a bona fide instrument on par with her bandmates is nothing short of remarkable. Like the lead singer, the band are able to change direction like turning on a pin. After their mini-opus ends Arrowhead’s melody darts around continually messing with time signatures and key changes as if Katniss Everdeen were taking pot shots at the band. The majority of Arrowhead is more conventional metal in terms of its chorus melody line. Halfway through it switch’s again offering some more fine playing, a tingling operatic descant, and a staggering piano run down from Itai Portugaly that will make you giggle like a kid due to their unexpectedness and fluidity before finally ending up with the pizzazz of a Broadway show. (The only thing missing from the track is a rousing ensemble belt of “home” to resolve the final chord) This is Scardust at their utmost best, melodic, progressive, clever and epic.

Queen of Insanity and Out of Strong Came Sweetness are further examples of this awesome band fusing together sounds and theatrics to create a full sonic experience. Fans of symphonic metal and prog will be in for a rollercoaster ride like they have never heard before, and those who just stumble onto the album will have to buckle up and be prepared to have their minds and their senses blown.

Groupie Rating 4/5

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