When it comes to Progressive bands these days, White Arms of Athena is easily among one of the top referenced groups. Ever since their 2007 demo Ancient started making its rounds, their name was on the tip of many a tongue. 2011 saw the release of their debut full-length album Astrodrama, a blend of Progressive Metal, Metalcore, Psychedelic Rock, and even some Mathcore elements that created a wild and highly varied ride that was quickly embraced by an equally as loud and vocal community. Three years have passed since then, and the group has reportedly reinvented themselves with their follow-up studio full-length simply titled White Arms of Athena, which is set to see life through Prosthetic Records. But does this new direction act as another career defining effort, or is it a major step back?

Fans of the band's ability to blend aggression with subtle Progressive audio landscapes like on Astrodrama will feel left out this time around, pretty much right from the very starts of this self-titled album. "Truth, The Greatest Lie Ever Told" starts off with a mournful, almost out-of-body experience. The distorted off-key clean vocals behind deeper harmonies make for a depressing start that, even at just under two-and-a-half minutes, gets really annoying by the time the repetitive "Be the light!" starts at about a minute-and-a-half in. What follows on "Heavy Sleep" is a mixture of less nasal Jane's Addiction style enthusiastic singing that sometimes is a bit on the rough side, layered over some technical Mathcore material that gradually increases complexity in both execution and timing.

"Manifest; Withdrawal" is the only "edgy" track to be found, sadly, and even that's being generous. The music has a little more energy to them that creates some really catchy riffs and bass grooves when the pace picks up. The problem is that these passages are few and far apart, caving to more slower moving music that sounds relatively cold, especially during the incredibly moody guitar solo. It's a huge departure from the material on songs like "Participating in and Awakening to the Cycle", a three-and-a-half minute instrumental of orbital effects and Shoegaze-like held notes at varying distances and volume levels, all setting up a great sense of isolation within the night time sky, as well as the incredibly dull "The 'I'" and it's bland Reggae-esque material that tries to channel an eighties Jimmy Buffet-era sound.

But its the astral performances that manage to stand out at all here. "On the Edge" is a little more uplifting with a sleeker atmosphere thanks to the laid back performance and the slight echo of the cleaner leads from the guitar. The additional volume to the bass guitar is a nice touch as well, bringing in an interesting mixture of jam band tomfoolery with the mellow tendencies of the Alternative Rock group Incubus or even Hoobastank. "The Transition" also fits snugly into that frame of reference across its eleven minute length. Thick droning distortions kick off the festivities, taking a good two minutes before the guitars finally become a little more obvious behind the b-grade Science Fiction noises, as well as a matching desolate drum presence that makes it all seem like some kind of bad acid trip, only sobering up when the vocals kick in as you approach the half way point. While the remainder takes its time to build to a richer calm departure, the song itself ends up not exactly filler, but just not that good.

The final damning element of this album ends up the vocals. Where as Astrodrama had some growling going on from time to time, this album is nothing but that nasal clean singing approach that really offers very little range, not to mention can sometimes be off pitch with the music, out-of-place, or insanely monotone. The latter is how White Arms of Athena starts off, as well as how it all ends. This only adds to the confusing atmosphere that the band is trying to achieve. One minute it sounds like you're in outer space, the next you're on some beach sipping margarita's with your Jamaican brothers and sisters, or even just hanging outside with your friends listening to Sublime. There's very little that seems to flow smoothly from one song to another, relying largely on the atmosphere some of the longer tracks or instrumentals create, which rarely get the job done effectively because the following passage or track completely destroys what the past minute or two just build up so well.

The bet way to sum up White Arms of Athena would be that it is just too inconsistent and amateurish a follow-up. The variety on display has even less fluidity to it than their previous album or demo, and everything even feels dumbed down to the point where the target is your every day college stoner in need of some laid back tunes while he or she lights up and won't even remember sitting through this album the next day. In fact, White Arms of Athena have effectively created an album that has so little lasting appeal that even if you're clean and sober you won't really remember the material being performed. It isn't so much a bad album as it is incredibly weak and boring one with some good ideas that can't quite get their footing, leaving this new discography addition inevitably collecting dust far quicker than you can possibly imagine.

Review originally composed for Apoch's Metal Review.