One of the great frustrations of many progressive metal fans is that the progenitors of the genre have, over the course of their long careers, more or less steered away from metal in favor of prog. Not that this is a bad thing altogether but it was, after all, the metal in those early albums that attracted metal fans, even if the progginess was a crucial breath of fresh air in the era of big hair and man make-up. Hunted, a four piece out of the UK (they’ve recently added a second guitarist, making them a quintet), have fashioned an intriguing homage to the might-have-been fantasies indulged by many a fan of The Warning and When Dream and Day Unite. Hunted’s fascination with classic progressive metal centers cleanly on Queensrÿche but extends beyond Jet City limits, as swaths of early Fates Warning and Dream Theater cut across their three track demo, Alone. More than mere tribute, influences here are infused rather than pasted into a modern power metal take on the style, complete with some newish thrashiness and a few daring forays into largely uncharted territory (e.g., blastbeats on opener “Impaled”).
Chris G.’s vocals, which are something like a sandpapered visage of Rage for Order era Geoff Tate delivered with No Exit era Ray Alder style, don’t have quite the elemental intensity of that other Tate/Alder disciple Chris Salinas but are still ardent and compelling. G.’s powerful intonation is complemented by plenty of catchy riffs, cleverly layered rhythms and vivacious interlaced leads, all of which are wrapped up in the requisite sinuous song structure of progressive metal.
If there is any complaint to be made here it’s that, in a few places, listeners will happily brace themselves as they ride a wave of accelerating crescendo only to see the breaker dashed on the rocks of another decelerated time and tempo change. This is the stuff of prog of course, and while Alone presents a clearly defined focus on dynamics, it remains to be seen whether Hunted come to realize a more conciliatory sense of fluidity in their songwriting.
Although the vocals are mixed a little too far ahead of all this power-prog goodness and there isn’t a lot of bass to be heard, even the muddiness of the DIY production can’t obscure the promise emanating from within. Ultimately, the shortcomings of Alone are greatly outweighed by the burgeoning potential of this impressive demo effort. Anybody who digs him or her some power-inspired progressive metal while yearning for the earnestness of the genre’s glory days ought to be waiting very impatiently for Hunted’s LP debut.