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Third Ion - "13/8Bit" (CD)

Third Ion - "13/8Bit" CD cover image

"13/8Bit" track listing:

1. 13/8 Bit (4:23)
2. Capitol Spill (5:34)
3. Zero Mass (4:23)
4. Collapse (6:27)
5. Particle Replacement Mechanism (7:10)
6. The Kineticist (6:15)
7. Time Lapse Beta (13:42)
8. Van hAlien (6:57)

Reviewed by on April 17, 2015

"...'13/8 Bit' is exactly what the prog doctor ordered."

Modern progressive metal, rock from an era 20 years past, and video game soundtracks from before the Playstation or Xbox even existed collide in “13/8 Bit,” the debut full-length from Third Ion. With successively longer tracks across the disc (starting out at 4 ½ minutes and capping at 13 ½ minutes) and a wide range of stylistic influences, “13/8 Bit” is exactly what the prog doctor ordered.

Despite what the title and cover artwork suggest, it would be erroneous to outright label this a “video game metal” album. Rather its a prog / tech metal album that happens to have some video game-themed songs. Much like Machinae Supremacy's “Phantom Shadow,” some of the tracks are focused on the video game sounds and others ditch it entirely. The opening title track is easily the most notable game-themed track, weaving in Sega Genesis/SNES style sounds across the song, and ending with something that sounds quite a bit like Mega Man blowing up into blue particles from those early entries in the series.

Things change up a bit on the next track “Capitol Spill,” and that's where one of the other big influences comes to light in both vocals and guitars. While a heavy metal album, many of the tracks exude a '90s grunge rock feel, with echoes of Stone Temple Pilots and Soundgarden hidden in the music. Amid the technical time signature changes and proggy symphonics, “Time Lapse Beta” is another track that will strike with its ability to bring out the memorable dark rock from the golden '90s era.

“Zero Mass” introduces the technical side in force, offering an electronic/industrial take on the music and bringing out the sci-fi elements. From this track onward the mixing of science fiction themes with prog and tech gives off a feel not altogether dissimilar from the clean singing-focused songs of Nothnegal.

“Collapse,” meanwhile, goes into full melodic prog mode, switching through about four different sub-genres in less than seven minutes. Ending on a bizarre note, “Van hAlien” is much heavier than the preceding tunes, but also much more experimental with static sound effects, a chaotic frenzy of notes, and a strong dose of the technical. If it weren't for the overly repetitive last two minutes and the odd screeches placed so far down in the mix they can actually be missed if you aren't listening closely, this would be one hell of an ender.

There's a little bit of everything on “13/8 Bit,” from technical flourishes and tricky bass soloing to strong clean vocals and an even a loving look back at sprite-based gaming, and its a no-brainer that prog fans are going to love this one.

Highs: Solid mix of prog, darker '90s rock, video game sounds, and technical metal.

Lows: Could use a little more variation on the vocal front, and some of the stuttering technical passages where they try to mash up drastically different tempos don't always work.

Bottom line: Prog, SNES game music, technical metal, and more all come together in this unexpectedly awesome ride.

Rated 4 out of 5 skulls
4 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)