“Beyond the Prog Metal Greats!” – ‘Beyond the Exosphere’ by Pyramid Theorem

Pyramid Theorem are a Canadian progressive metal band from Ontario. Founded in the late 2000’s, the lineup consists of Sam Ermellini (lead guitar, vocals), Christian Di Mambro (bass, vocals), Stephan Di Mambro (keyboards, guitar, vocals) and Vito De Francesco (drums). Since their formation, this talented quartet have established themselves as heavyweight players in the world of prog metal, playing live alongside the well known greats including Fates Warning and Symphony X. Their first two albums succeed in showcasing their abundant skill and imagination – but their latest 2020 release, ‘Beyond the Exosphere’, is a huge step up from their previous material. I would even go as far as saying that it champions over the recent material Dream Theater have been releasing, and they are known for being leaders in the world of prog metal – ‘Beyond the Exosphere’ is good enough to catapult this band towards the very top of prog metal fame.

One of their strongest influences, that played a role in their formation, is Rush, which can clearly be heard on their 2017 album ‘Elements of Surprise’; songs such as ‘The Scratch Funk’ and ‘Drive’ wouldn’t be misplaced on an early Rush record such as ‘Fly By Night’. Their latest album also communicates an obvious Rush influence but also demonstrates a cohesiveness that ‘Element of Surprise’ doesn’t offer. The songs on ‘Element of Surprise’, as great as they are, each feel separate from each other; the hard rock influence heard on ‘Drive’ and ‘Outlaw For Good’ juxtapose the grungier sound on ‘The Fight That Never Ends’ and the balladic ‘Lifeline’. The heavier and dramatic ‘Toxic Holocaust’ would foreshadow the direction Pyramid Theorem would take with ‘Beyond The Exosphere’, an album that is serious, focused and more memorable as a whole package. There is, furthermore, something to say about the production on this album which, unlike their past records, was produced professionally by Rich Chycki, known for his craft on Rush and Dream Theater records. The overall sound of the album, as a result of Chycki’s immense production skills, is much bolder and punchier than previous Pyramid Theorem offerings.

Now before I dive into the music, the reason I mentioned Dream Theater (quite derogatorily) earlier on is because I have been put off by their recent approach to song writing: a formula that consists of making everything as complex as possible for the sole sake of complexity. Pyramid Theorem don’t fall into this same trap; the opening 17 minute epic could easily have fallen into that trap, thus rendering it a forgettable mess of overblown and purposeless complexity – but this couldn’t be further from the truth. The title track effortlessly weaves its way through thick and thin, light and dark, each movement contrasting the previous. The band are careful in allowing the melodies to shine through by forcing the virtuosic complexity to take a back seat, particularly in the ‘Regenesis’ section of the piece. The ‘Ascension’ section that the piece begins with is my favourite; the clear Rush influence, the tasteful guitar melodies, the gentle fusion of strings and piano to accompany the vocals, the Sherinian-esque keyboard lines…the list is endless! However, the magnificent drum solo that emerges out of the ambiguous opening of the ‘Planetary Transit’ section is also a real highlight. The final section, ‘Quantum Leap’, is where the band let loose and showcase their virtuosic talent and expertise in the genre of prog metal – I can hear a greater Dream Theater influence here. This carefully crafted epic, split into four parts, deserves to be canonised in prog metal history. 

The other four songs, while shorter in length, match the compositional strength of the title track. ‘Under Control’ will impress any regular metal fan; a chugging guitar riff that tears its way through the tranquil opening, rapid and densely populated verses and open, anthem-like choruses. Couple this with virtuosic keyboard and guitar lines that interplay throughout the song and there you have a creation that no metalhead will complain about. It gets better with the next two tracks that both convey an evil and dread provoking atmosphere. ‘Freedom’ is probably the heaviest sounding track on the album and furthermore the most straightforward in terms of structure. Nevertheless, the instrumental section, beginning with a modulation to the major key signature, really is sublime, and for me it is one of the standout moments of the album. ‘Closer To The End’ deceives those who initially believe this to be the ballad of the album: out of nowhere they are hit by a sprinting guitar riff that brings out the drama of the song. The whole piece is an intense listen, especially at the 2.50s mark where the music becomes very nightmarish; the intensity is only heightened by an incredible keys solo that devastates its way through the piece. The final song, ‘Intonate’, provides respite from the haunting sounds explored in the previous two songs. The ending is another breath-taking moment; beginning with an acoustic guitar, piano and strings, the ending grows into a beast that claws at the listeners heartstrings. The drums develop until they go insane, the chords are huge, the guitar melody is soulful and contrasts the dramatic counter melody on the strings – and it all unites to create a giant euphoric end to a masterful album.

After hearing this the whole way through I can only hope that this band receive the fame that the likes of Dream Theater seem to still bask in. This united, cohesive and imaginative album is a welcome offering in the world of prog metal and I hope fans of the genre will agree once they hear the craftsmanship that has gone into creating these five songs. With the direction of their sound looking clearer than ever, their next album will hopefully follow in the successful steps of ‘Beyond The Exosphere’ – and hopefully this band will become more recognised in the future!

Written by Dominic Sanderson.

You can find Pyramid Theorem on Instagram and Facebook. ‘Beyond the Exosphere’ is available to listen to on all major streaming platforms!

Published by Prog Rock Review

Nik is a musician and music journalist. He serves at founder and editor of Prog Rock Review, a community-based platform highlighting progressive rock, old and new. Dominic Sanderson is the chief writer for Prog Rock Review. He is currently studying music and literature in university, and has a huge passion for prog. He loves composing and performing, with his main instruments being the guitar and vocals. He also enjoys writing music reviews and is working on building a portfolio of written work on the music of various prog bands.

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