By Dr. Abner Mality

“Smooth” is not a word that has been beaten to death in metal reviews, like “brutal” has been. But that’s the word that comes to mind after hearing “Biolith” by Third Ion. Everything about this intriguing band flows as smoothly as a mountain stream...the album glides by effortlessly.

Science fiction is all the rage in heavy metal this year and progressive metal seems to be a natural match for that subject matter. Third Ion talk a lot about singularities, event horizons and cosmic intelligences on “Biolith”. Somehow they make that seem smooth as well. They can thank their new vocalist Dave Padden for a lot of that. Yes, the same Dave Padden who sang lead for Annihilator for years. He is a real pleasure to listen to here. His phrasing is completely articulate and almost soothing as it handles some sophisticated lyrics. He fits Third Ion to a T and has a very different tone than most prog metal vocalists.

The music itself is enjoyably unique…a combination of Meshuggah-style choppy riffs and odd time changes mixed with a Dream Theater kind of melody and almost jazzy solos and hooks. “State of Flux” is a signature tune for the band…nine plus minutes of constantly shifting but consistently engaging progressive metal. And the metal content is high here. The guitars sound nice and thick, not over-processed. This natural sounding approach makes the weird song structures of the title track and “Illogical” easier to take. Gentle melody with jazz fusion touches predominate on “Status Undetermined” and “Corpus Solaris” but these softer tunes are so pleasing to the ear that they fit very well with the harder-edged material.

“Biolith” is one of the better prog metal releases of the year from a challenging band of excellent players. I recommend it.