One of Optic's members handed me this sampler at a recent Fates Warning show they opened for. Not particularly contaminated but full of sweet tones, Optic's Iris In Sampler places this Long Island unit in a very positive light. The musicianship here is quite excellent. The keyboards are a prime focus, standing out prominently in the mix and the longer, yet well written songs give enough space for guitars and bass to exploit gaps in the composition so that individual instruments do not feel over represented. A close reference point would be combining Edguy's early, less simple material with the feel of Andromeda's Extension of the Wish (the original version before they miserably redid that album). Threshold is also a close similarity and obvious Dream Theater influence is present.
Only two songs appear here, the less intense "Withhold the Sun," which flows, is bright and airy and appeals greatly to ears geared towards smoother, less abrasive metallic forms. Notably with "Withhold the Sun" are Ryan Patane's keyboards, which are used to great effect to help the song move through its rounds. The highlight of his parts is at the end of the song coming out of what is the hardest section of the track, a thrashier and harsh riff - probably the only thrashy riff in the song - and swoops in with two really tasteful and memorable keyboard solos, each of which uses different tones, that acts as the song's climax. Steve Christopher on guitars acts as a rhythmic instrument for this track, not really doing a huge amount of leads - that is left to Ryan - however the progressions require some amount of sandiness so the track doesn't sound super limp. The slight dirt provided by the guitar is integral here.
"Blind Apathy" is the heavier and faster track. While there is nothing particularly terrible with it, I don't feel the same attraction here. The harsh vocals compared to the clean vocals don't do anything for the track. They add no intensity to the material here, which is buffered by the keyboards in terms of heaviness. I was not expecting them, and I still can't really see their appeal other than someone feeling that they were necessary because "metal is supposed to have screaming!" I'd remove them and I'm going to assume that the full length album is probably dragged down by them. They're also not particularly strong vocally as they are obviously overdubbed several times. The track is not as heartfelt as "Withhold the Sun" and I think it suffers from that. Michael Intrieri's bass playing and Scott Genovese's drum work comes across really welly on this track though. The faster tempo demands a bit more from them and they provide the additional gruff.
For a two song sampler, this does the trick which it was intended to. Optic get's you interested in their brand of more complex metal, give a lot of different looks at what the band is capable of and, at least in the case of "Withhold the Sun" offer one very memorable song which is sure to get some people to check out the band. My only issue with this track would be it's placement on the sampler. I believe this should culminate the sampler instead of open it. With the heavier track coming second, I don't know if people looking for something heavier would be turned off by the more accessible track coming first. Usually you want to open strong and while "Withhold the Sun" is the stronger track objectively, I think more people would still say that "Blind Apathy" is the better song because it appears to be a heavier and stronger track. This is the order they appear on the full length as well, with "Blind Apathy" coming before "Withhold the Sun" in order. Probably should have kept it that way.