There are two ways to look at Michigan's THE OMEGA EXPERIMENT. On the one hand, this is one hell of a debut, yet on the other hand, the frequent low-key production and a few offsetting quirks makes it a case of "what could've been".
For all intents and purposes, THE OMEGA EXPERIMENT is a two-man prog metal operation with a few guest vocalists chiming in on their self-titled first full-length essentially bred from their 2011 EP, "Karma". Dan Wieten (guitars, bass, vocals, samples and production) and Ryan Aldridge (keys and samples) cover as much ground on their own as any five- or six-piece band. It's nearly frightening how skilled these two young gents are and how efficient they can stitch five-to-ten minute compositions together. Yet at the end of "The Omega Experiment", the final analysis carries a dual feeling of awe and anticlimax. Assembling this album on their own in Gen Tech DIY spirit, "The Omega Experiment" suffers from weak sound finishes at times, often diminishing the impact of its tremendous songwriting. That, and some overused speaking tracks that get in the way of the frequently awesome spectacle Wieten and Aldridge craft together.
Reportedly a self-biographical concept album drawn from Wieten's confrontations with drug addiction, death, depression and ultimately his personal catharsis, "The Omega Experiment" is thus rich, detailed and theatrical in scope. Even the opening sequence of the lead track "Gift" is reminiscent of John Williams' Kryptonian overture at the beginning of the 1978 "Superman" movie. The song turns towards a succession of power pop and later, a progressive-oriented finale featuring tempered soloing and a decorative exodus. The sense that you've fallen into some sort of subgenre collision between STRATOVARIUS and "Stand in Line"-era IMPELLITTERI is undeniable. As the album continues, Wieten picks up the pace with his strumming and the feel is more in line with IMPELLITTERI's future shred modes.
THE OMEGA EXPERIMENT then goes right for the bar by heralding rock opera elements of STYX within the opening bars of "Stimulus". STYX and latter-day YES play heavily into THE OMEGA EXPERIMENT's execution along with late-Eighties power rock. Wieten and Aldridge deliver with such grace and finesse they manage to caress not only receptors, but souls. Other variables find their way into Wieten and Aldridge's assembly process and they're worth hanging out for. At one point, "Stimulus" hits such an ear-pleasing sensory surplus of a STYX-meets-DEFTONES sonic ambience it's striking how radiant it sounds. Afterwards, the swaying descant of "Motion" is so alluring it becomes classifiable entrapment.
On the more extreme side, "Furor" is a nifty coupling of hostile and verdant moods. The brisk and crunchy composition rings like a prog-oriented interpretation of FEAR FACTORY with a lot of double-hammer and rapid-fire thrash thrusts in-between the gusty harmonies of the choruses. Unfortunately, the song is later drenched with so many synthetic pieces, spiraling keys and overdubbed vocal tracks it creates a shrill tone instead of an intended lushness. Even as Wieten expressively conveys the madness rampaging inside of his lyrical cogs, he does have enough conscience to weave melodic sprawls into "Furor"'s combusts.
The album's biggest misfire is a sampled interview segment chawing through an electro-pulsed instrumental on "Bliss" then again on the intro to "Terminus". One understands the intended creative process at work, which is for Dan Wieten to purge his demons within the context of his metallic grand illusion. The concept of his album is simplistic, contrary to the complex and elongated songwriting breathing about it. To lay out a confessional in music form is potentially a powerful thing, which THE OMEGA EXPERIMENT achieves to great lengths. Unfortunately, what worked for the BAD BRAINS' "Jah Love" from their recent album "Into the Future" doesn't wash here in this case. The former possesses a legacy, while THE OMEGA EXPERIMENT only has one in the making should they be able to court investors with access to more expensive recording technology.
The interview loops may be trite, yet Wieten gets his point across far better with his borne imploring on "Karma" and "Motion" before it. There are fused-in growls of ambivalence and brief death metal and thrash blasts on "Karma", transporting the ugliness swirling within Wieten's badgered id that gets both pampered and wrung out throughout this album. "Karma" is the album's finest achievement with its constant interchange. The acapella exchanged between Wieten and his guest singers Victor Lazareus, Jeremy DeWitt and Bob Guthrie escalates that melodious STYX cadence previously hinted at earlier. Finally, there's no denying Wieten and Aldridge pulled out all the stops for the album's heady closer, "Paramount".
If you're listening to this album through a computer or on an iPod, you're not necessarily going to detect the random mix muddles and occasionally hissy replay. An actual stereo playback will reveal those lacking nuances. The finest compliment to pay "The Omega Experiment", however, is that it deserves of a redo or at least a scrupulous remix inside of a well-backed studio. Dan Wieten and Ryan Aldridge are gifted composers, there's no denying it. Their meticulous structuring and layering would've come off as not only spectacular but cosmic with the right benefactor to polish this album to its full luster. As it is, though, let the prog metal sanction take note, from full ensembles to lone wolf expeditions; THE OMEGA EXPERIMENT is for bloody real. When someone with guts and financial backing gets turned on to this album, there's no telling what we're in store for.