After coming out of nowhere with one of the best pure prog metal albums of 2011 in the form of Flight of Fancy, Estonia’s X-Panda return with a boatload of expectations and hype for the second outing, Reflections. Right from get-go, it appears the band has taken immense strides in shedding the Dream Theater worship that occasionally bogged down their first album and it shows – this is a much more refined, honed, and captivating album than Flight of Fancy.
Starting with the up-tempo “The Game,” Reflections’ more metallic fare works in X-Panda’s favor, as vocalist Tamar Nugis belts out his soon-to-be patented high notes with relative ease over a bed of chunky, hard-nosed riffs. The same bodes for album standout “Denial” another prog rocker that is spiced up by a bevy of sound effects and nimble keyboard work.
The aforementioned Dream Theater influence hasn’t quite evaded the band. The instrumental “On the Way” is a virtual labyrinth of the progressive fusion playbook, while the two-part “Reflections” suite comprised of “Inner Battle” and “Silent Friend” takes the band down more progpower territory with ever present symphonic arrangements, a prominent feature on Reflections.
Reflections is full of progression on all fronts for X-Panda. The band has obviously gelled and is now capable of putting together a solid album with few throwaway tracks, something Flight of Fancy struggled with. With perhaps the best vocalist prog metal has seen since a long time, the band has the ability to gently graze the outer fringe of prog metal and potentially tap into other nice genres. That may not happen now, but it will happen soon enough.