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Next To None - "A Light In The Dark" (CD)

Next To None - "A Light In The Dark" CD cover image

"A Light In The Dark" track listing:

1. The Edge Of Sanity
2. You Are Not Me
3. Runaway
4. A Lonely Walk
5. Control
6. Lost
7. Social Anxiety
8. Legacy
9. Blood On My Hands

Reviewed by on September 25, 2015

"An overall mixed bag, “A Light In The Dark” shows a band with a solid grasp of the core principles that is still getting its footing."

It's always a pleasure to catch a new progressive metal band in its earliest stages of development to watch where it goes in the future. Add in the fact that Next To None consists of teenagers already playing at a high level and the hype of a Portnoy being involved and you've got a recipe for something very interesting here with “A Light In The Dark.” In the long run that hype may end up hurting the band, but for now the only question that really matters is whether the music on this debut stacks up against other prog metal acts and will be worth your time.

Frankly, the answer varies from track to track. The near 10 minute opening song “Edge Of Sanity,” for instance, is a bit scatterbrained, with a horde of elements introduced and not all of them mesh together properly as the band strives to be progressive and avant-garde by mixing opposing musical forces. Some of the odd sound effects on this track in particular don't seem to really add anything, and are there more to fit an archetype than because they need to be there. The backing keyboards will bring to mind both Dream Theater and later Opeth however, so if that's where your tastes lie there's still some appeal to be found.

The album's shorter tracks following the opening monster are much more unified and keep more to a central theme, with a few changes here and there but with less major, abrupt shifts. “Runaway,” for instance, has a fun energetic riff running throughout its play time, while “A Lonely Walk” focuses on piano, strings, and more emotive smooth singing. Although probably the least heavy of the tracks (with the exception of the darkly melancholy “Legacy,” which also focuses strongly on piano), “A Lonely Walk” might actually be the best constructed song on the disc.

Ron Bumblefoot also makes a guitar guest spot on “A Lonely Walk,” and because this is prog, there is a of course mellotron. Where Next To None breaks from those prog metal conventions is in the mix of harsh and clean vocals, and the overall feel of groove/nu metal to the guitar tones. For the most part the musicianship doesn't reveal the young age of the band members (except for perhaps in the ending track, which has more of an amateurish feel in the opening minutes) although the lyrical content does. While perhaps I wouldn't go so far as to call it “angsty,” its worth noting every song does deal with feeling invisible, misunderstood, wondering what it all means, running away, etc.

An overall mixed bag, “A Light In The Dark” shows a band with a solid grasp of the core principles that is still getting its footing. You can hear the talent, although there are plenty of times where it sounds as though the band is playing at a level it hasn't quite actually reached yet. It'll be interesting to see whether Next To None remains together and continues improving on this sound or if the members end up going their separate ways for other projects in the future.

Highs: Prog metal gets a groove facelift with a mix of harsh and clean vocals.

Lows: The varying musical elements don't always come together well and the vocals could use some polishing.

Bottom line: A teen prodigy band enters the scene to contend with the prog metal big dogs.

Rated 3 out of 5 skulls
3 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)