REVIEW: Sunburst – Manifesto

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Sometimes, a band puts out a debut album so spectacular and impressive that you can hardly wait for the next one. And then, as time ticks by with no word of a second album on the horizon, you end up thinking of that band as a beautiful, but distant, dream. Until this year, this was the case with Greek metal band SUNBURST, whose 2016 outing, “Fragments of Creation,” made a big impression on the metal scene. Now, the progressive power metal unit are back with “Manifesto,” and the wait was more than worth it, as the saying goes. The album came out on June 14th, 2024, via Inner Wound Recordings.

Clocking in at almost 50 minutes and delivering only eight tracks, “Manifesto” manages to engage and fascinate the listeners with its rich and complex soundscape of soaring vocals, groovy rhythms, sweeping keys, and lavish guitars underpinned by skillful songwriting. What the quartet did on their sophomore release was to take all the best elements that made “Fragments of Creation” such a top-notch album and expand, amplify, and build a more progressive sound around them. The end result is an album brimming with intricate melodies, excellent guitar solos courtesy of Gus Drax (BLACK FATE, SUICIDAL ANGELS), cinematic soundscapes, and well-crafted instrumental passages, capped off by Vasilis Georgiou’s lush, nuanced, and dynamic vocals. This makes “Manifesto” an all-around bombastic and grand album that proves once again why SUNBUSRT are one of Greece’s best up-and-coming metal acts.

The bombast begins as soon as the play button is pressed with the layered and orchestrated progressive metal epic “The Flood.” From the soft and mellow opening, the song not only gains momentum but also builds in intensity as it progresses along its nearly 8 minutes of runtime. There are some orchestral arrangements in the background that only enhance its cinematic vibe as Vasilis passionately sings about the negative influences of social media celebrities on society. It also features an incredible guitar solo that contrasts and complements the track’s brooding ambiance. First single released, “Hollow Lies,” is a melodic and heavy offering with a great chorus section and some more backing orchestrations that make it feel fuller and more layered without cluttering the soundscape. However, its main drive is the trade-off between the galloping riffs and velvety smooth vocals, as the rhythmic section keeps a steady beat underneath. Latest single, “Samaritan,” is a wonderful ode to friendship that offers a slight glimpse into what made their debut so great as it rides high on fast-paced guitars, groovy rhythms, and an upbeat, driving melody that somehow leaves more room for the vocals to shine. The blazing solo blends in so nicely with the instrumentals and the mood of the song, and I really appreciate Gus Drax’s restraint in delivering exactly what the song needs and not showing off.  

As per SUNBURST’s larger-than-life songwriting style, even the more emotional and atmospheric pieces like “Perpetual Descent” and “From the Cradle to the Grave” have solid instrumental backbones. As such the former track starts on ambient tones only for the guitars to barge in and deliver some upbeat riffs. The track finally settles into a mid-paced swagger with a groovy vocal line at its heart, while the Kostas Milonas’ drums add weight and the solo injects some melody to the fold. The spiritual successor to “Lullaby” and the album’s second single, outstanding “From the Cradle to the Grave” is more melancholy and emotional in nature as it serves as a memento mori to us all, though the pounding rhythms, and soaring, popish chorus keep it grounded in heavy sounds. Nestled between these two is the up-tempo and catchy “Inimicus Intus” which boasts such great energy and groove to the verses and instrumentals that it feels like a shot of adrenaline even if the chorus is more subdued and loaded with emotion. The title track is carried by some of the album’s strongest melodies and heaviest rhythms boasting another impressive chorus section with an almost bluesy mid-section that leads into my favorite solo on this record as Gus Drax delivers such a perfect merger of passion and technicality. Closing the album in the same bombastic fashion as it began is “Nocturne,” a sweeping 7-minute progressive metal epic, complete with wonderful instrumental passages, a delightful cinematic vibe, and backing orchestral arrangements that add a dramatic touch to the track’s atmosphere and emotional message.     

These eight wonderful tracks prove that “Manifesto” is much more than a simple comeback album or even a sophomore release that is meant to show that the band is still active and creating music. I see it as a strong statement of intent from four musicians that have given it their best in the studio, piecing this album together with incredible care and undeniable skill, making each track as individual and memorable as possible. The high degree of technicality seen in both the excellent songwriting and tight deliveries coupled with the emotional and personal stories it tells elevates “Manifesto” and makes it stand out as one of the year’s best. But then again, this album was among my most anticipated releases of the year so I may be a bit biased here. Nonetheless, because of all the melodic beauty and progressive intricacies they have packed into this album, “Manifesto” is easily in my top three albums of this year, it is that good!

Written by Andrea Crow

Tracklist

  1. The Flood
  2. Hollow Lies
  3. Samaritan
  4. Perpetual Descent
  5. Inimicus Intus
  6. From the Cradle to the Grave
  7. Manifesto
  8. Nocturne

Lineup

  • Vasilis Georgiou – Vocals
  • Gus Drax – Guitars
  • Kostas Milonas – Drums
  • Nick Grey – Bass

 Label

Inner Wound Recordings.

Links

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