Prodigy/Oracle were a progressive power metal band from Florida – given a description like that, Crimson Glory and Savatage immediately come to mind and indeed Prodigy fit in nicely with those two. Unfortunately for the band, they were a day late and a dollar short and by the time they released their only offering, As Darkness Reigns, interest in the style had long since waned and they were relegated to relative obscurity. Luckily for die-hard fans, the internet gives us a fantastic avenue to appreciate and share bands that didn’t quite make it in their own time.
Prodigy started out in 1988 and released this demo four years later in 1992. This was still back during the time when some more bands would release what is essentially a full length album as a demo in hopes of being signed and that’s exactly what we see here. Clocking in at just over an hour, As Darkness Reigns is a demo in name only. Prodigy self-released it on cassette and it would later be reissued on CD in 1993 by Massacre Records. This release came with a different track listing, new artwork, and a new band name: “Oracle”. You’ll typically see this release referred to under Oracle more often than not.
As Darkness Reigns is a varied release that takes from the best of both proggy and aggressive US power metal. This album truly has a bit of everything for you to sink your teeth into whether it be thrashing riffs, complex song structures, neoclassical touches, or powerful vocals. Despite being a relatively complex and varied release, Prodigy don’t slouch in any area. Vocalist William Wren belts his heart out for the entirety of the demo and you can rest assured that he makes good use of falsetto. As Wren gives it his all, so does the instrumentation – there’s no shortage of intricately layered riffs and solos with a bass and drum to match.
This is an incredible demo, but it isn’t without its flaws. As expected, the production isn’t perfect from a demo quality recording (something a reissue can’t quite fix). The production is something that’s easily forgiven for a demo, but the biggest issue I have with this release is the lack of conciseness. Prodigy are the victims of their own ambition. Clocking in at over an hour, As Darkness Reigns is much longer than it needs to be and given that most of the songs are between seven to nine minutes long, even the individual tracks drag on. The songs could be shaved down without losing much impact and trimming ten to fifteen minutes off the total album run time would make for a much smoother listen. As it currently stands, I rarely find myself finishing the album front to back despite being a big fan of it.
Prodigy, like many bands before them and since, were sadly relegated to obscurity due to timing and circumstance. Don’t let that deter you though, because this is a fantastic demo that’s certainly worth your time. As Darkness Reigns is perfect if you’re looking to scratch that progressive power metal itch bands like Fates Warning, Cauldron Born, Helstar, and Slauter Xstroyes give.
Favorite track: Knights of the Round Table