Next To None – ‘Phases’ (Album Review)

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When Next To None unleashed their debut album A Light In The Dark a couple of years ago, it was immediately obvious that they were a special band with a shit-ton of potential. Unfortunately, if anyone does anything that makes them stand out from the crowd, you can guarantee that they will attract plenty of envy and hate. People who aren’t satisfied with where they’re at have two options: Work on themselves and build themselves up, or tear others down by any means necessary.

One option is much harder than the other – and so it’s hardly surprising that when it came to A Light In The Dark, many knives were drawn in the dark shadows of the Internet. Next To None’s critics had plenty of ammunition, given drummer Max Portnoy’s heritage – but they were too busy wearing out the word “nepotism” to remember one of music’s most basic principles.

You can’t polish a turd – and A Light In The Dark was far from excrementitious. It was a quality album, and a lot of listeners simply couldn’t handle it. Hence the hate.

So now we come to the point at which Next To None are expected to prove themselves worthy of the progressive metal world’s respect. Sitting down to listen to Phases felt like sitting down to watch a climactic episode of Game Of Thrones. Will the stars of the show survive – or will they be eviscerated?

It all comes down to which way the plot twists go – and you can rest assured that things are going to get brutal, bloody, and complicated before it’s all over.

Like Game Of Thrones, Phases isn’t afraid to provoke, shock, or smack you around the head with blunt-force impact. It’s also that rarest kind of release: Something genuinely unique, one of a kind.

At least one Dream Theater comparison is going to be unavoidable, so let’s get it over with. Like their drummer’s father’s former band, Next To None take an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach to prog metal. Nothing is off limits, as long as it’s either heavy as God’s balls or as complex as quantum mechanics – or ideally both.

Imagine Mike Portnoy’s old outfit jamming with Meshuggah, Limp Bizkit’s DJ Lethal, Bring Me The Horizon, Between The Buried And Me, The Dillinger Escape Plan, Skrillex, and Korn. That would be sick enough as it is, but we’re not done. Add in some Opeth, some Devin Townsend, a fair amount of balls-to-the-wall shredding, a climactic track (The Wanderer) that clocks in close to twenty minutes, and something indefinable.

That all-important X-factor. The X-factor that distinguishes genuine greatness from the kind of half-baked crap that belongs on the actual X-Factor TV show. Something you could, without reservation, call genius.

Were Next To None really nepotism-reliant hacks who’d have next to no hope of getting anywhere if their drummer didn’t have a famous dad, they’d never have been able to pull Phases off. Not in a million years. A lot of words are going to get eaten on July 7 – and they will taste like bullshit.

For me, Phases is a strong contender for metal album of the year – and one of the greatest musical fuck-yous of all time.

LTK RATING: 100% (Essential Listening!)

What do you think of Next To None and Phases? Leave a comment, follow me on Twitter, and let me know!

Phases drops July 7; pre-order it on iTunes here.

Posted on 28 June 2017

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