When drummer Brandon told me about his new side project, I got rather excited, having already heard his drumming prowess previously not only in his studio works, but also through his live performances with Shirlyn & the Unexpected. So here we are with the debut album of Singaporean progressive metal band Coen – Remnants of Yesterday, a year-long songwriting and recording effort of some of the finest musicians from our Little Red Dot.
Melody seems to be a extremely key feature of Coen‘s music, as the band easily infuses elements of technicality into their brand of progressive metal. The band claims Dream Theater to be one of their main influences, and this is clear from the start with Island in the Sky. It is hard to say whether the music is complex or simple, as the band often indulges in odd time signatures, yet the music remains catchy as hell, with one finding himself bobbing his head to the music. Brandon executes his lines with much ease, and channels the inner Mike Portnoy into his creation. Even the backing vocals on The Craven reminds one of those of Portnoy’s on his works with Dream Theater.
The guitars of Rudy here are somewhat less technical than those of John Petrucci (in no way discounting his playing), though this is for the better good as it fits the musical style of Coen like a glove, compared to a more robotic style. Songs like Perpetual: Remnants of Yesterday shows us the other influences as well, with some of the opening riffs being reminiscent of Joe Satriani‘s Rubina.
While each of the instruments are on point, the main concern for most discerning listeners would be the vocals, but vocalist Derrick hits each of the notes with ease, and has a rather soothing quality to his voice, making it fitting especially for slower or more emotional tracks. Further reinforcing the Dream Theater comparisons, the band even got the stamp of approval via the appearance of Jordan Rudess himself on the title track, which also happens to contain some of my favourite bass sections of Kelvin and guitar solos on the album.
Songwriting-wise the band ensures that the listener is kept engaged, with a variety of styles and emotions on the album. There is that somewhat aggressive Freedom, to the emotional ballad Goodbye. Yet all the while the band maintains their sharp technicality, never once slipping up.
But as with all records, not everything here is perfect. For instance the sudden inclusion of the child’s spoken part of Goodbye felt a little bit jarring and out of place, with the sudden switching from a pretty neutral accent in the singing to one that leans closer to a Singaporean one on the spoken parts. That said, it does expose the air of innocence meant to be on the track. Production-wise, the guitars could be mixed slightly higher, as they sound rather veiled compared to the rest of the band at times. And this is obvious from the start as the guitars made a rather unimpressive entrance due to it’s low presence in the mix.
Coen has broken new ground (at least locally) with their debut, with the excellent musicianship and songwriting prowess evident on Remnants of Yesterday. So if you’re a fan of melodic progressive metal or Images and Words-era Dream Theater, be sure to not miss this album.