Album Review: Traveler - Prequel to Madness

Album Review: Traveler - Prequel to Madness

Calgary, Alberta’s Traveler recently released their anticipated third LP Prequel to Madness on No Remorse Records. At their technical thrashiest, Traveler harkens back to 1980’s Fates Warning (the John Arch era through Ray Alder’s debut on No Exit), Watchtower, Lethal cult classic Programmed, or even Heathen and Toxik. The five-piece’s most recent release maintains the consistency of their eponymous debut and sophomore effort, 2020’s Termination Shock, while crafting even more intricate leads after a four-year release hiatus.

Traveler idolized England's Diamond Head to such an extent they covered “The Prince” from Lightning to the Nations as a single in 2022. The early-NWOBHM influence is readily apparent throughout the record, along with a heavy dose of prog-thrash.

After a one-minute introduction track “Mayday”, Traveler immediately kicks into a harmonized speed metal opening on “Take the Wheel”, one of their best compositions and a worthy “true” opener in the same vein as “Shaded Mirror”, track one on their prior release. The band transitions into “Dark Skull”, which resembles the bombast and thundering work of stalwarts Grand Magus, Visigoth (think “Dungeon Master” from The Revenant King), and New York City’s Tower with more speed metal elements.

The Law” features an anthemic chorus immediately followed by a screaming guitar solo into a harmonized bridge before vocalist Jean-Pierre Abboud briefly channels Rob Halford on “Freewheel Burning” at 2:26. The tune ends with a catchy harmonized guitar melody courtesy of Matt Ries and Toryin Schadlich.

Rebels of Earth” is a rare mid-tempo song that bears similarities to Judas Priest British Steel-era material, with twin guitars at the forefront and Abboud sounding eerily similar to Geoff Tate on Queensryche’s The Warning or Rage for Order (i.e. “Walk in the Shadows”).

Heavy Heart” - for which the band released a music video - opens with a dynamic wail from Abboud, consistent double bass drumming of Nolan Benedetti, and a strong overall vocal performance supplemented by a “gang vocals” chorus. The song would fit well on the Crimson Glory epic Transcendence or a Manilla Road album.

Bassist Jake Axl Wendt showcases his chops on “No Fate” and “Vagrants of Time”, which exhibit even more harmonized axe histrionics. The record concludes with the 7:17 title track, arguably its pinnacle. The Priest influence is once again transparent, with Abboud providing a diverse performance that includes perfectly layered vocals, before a lengthy guitar solo duel ensues that would make Symphony X maestro Michael Romeo proud. The album concludes with tapping harmonics before a brief Opeth-esque acoustic outro.

With respect to the album artwork, Bylan Barstad created a cover that is conceptually similar to their prior records, with the octopus once again prominently displayed in another futuristic setting.

Traveler is yet to release North American tour dates in support of their newest record, though the band announced it will perform in Europe this fall.

In sum, Traveler’s Prequel to Madness is forty minutes of entertaining melodic prog-thrash that maintains the trajectory from the self-titled debut and Termination Shock with incremental improvements on their formulaic yet dynamic sound.

Rating: 7.5/10

Release Date: February 23, 2024

Released by: No Remorse Records

FFO: Fates Warning, Heathen, Visigoth, Toxik, Hellfire, Watchtower

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