Opeth, the modern day, love 'em or hate 'em prog band. 12 now 12 albums under their belt, the band has become very comfortable with their transition into progressive rock, hard rock, and heavy metal; rather than the death metal that makes up most of their catalog. This third album since the watershed Opeth album....Watershed, Sorceress makes no mistake that this sound is here to stay. Even if they get heavier at points, the band is past their death metal part of their career and honestly, that's just fine by me. Let me explain why.
The album starts with the acoustic intro, Persephone. A very nice, majestic opening that sets the mood for the darkness (lyrically) to come. Following this short piece is the title track, Sorceress. It begins with a short drum fill, leading to a 60-70s prog rock style jam led with keys from Joakim Svalberg. After the psychedelic freak out, the song really kicks in with the heaviest riff on the album, proving that Mikael Akerfeldt and Co. don't need death metal to be heavy and evil. It focuses more on a doom metal, prog rock style that is quite welcomed. It is an absolutely solid track. The Wilde Flowers starts off with another drum fill intro leading right into the riff. This is more fast paced than the title track, but still at a comfortable rock tempo. While being a minute longer as well, it feels to the point and feels like a song that could have fit right in with Ghost Reveries or Watershed. The last half of the song showcases more of the acoustic, mellow side of the band, before exploding into the fast moment on the album in absolute chaos with double bass everywhere. Will O Of The Wisp is the first ballad of the album. It feels like a song that Mikael and Steven Wilson would have listened to while listening to the song Trains by Porcupine Tree. It's a great, laid back song that, musically, can put you into such a relaxed state. Chrysalis is easily the heaviest song on the entire album. Honestly, if Mikael felt the need to add growls to this album, this would have been the song to include them. And with that, it doesn't need them. It's just as heavy as anything off Blackwater Park or Ghost Reveries, just without the consistent double bass thrown everywhere. the latter half of the song gets more into the mellow side once again, while staying mid-tempo. This also leads to the song fading away into Sorceress 2. This is an acoustic continuation of the title track. A quite breathtaking breather after the last track. The Seventh Sojourn starts with acoustic guitar and middle eastern style tribal drumming which continues through 3/4ths of this instrumental. the final quarter has faint piano and background vocals. Strange Brew start with just vocals and piano. Living up to it's name, this is one of, if not, the most eerie song on the album. The song finally kicks in about a quarter of the way through and it explodes! With Martin Axenrot's extremely talent drumming over Joakim's eerie keys. Half way into the song it breaks into a killer 70s style hard rock solo section that continues on as Mikael gets back to singing. This all leads to more eerie and chilling solo keyboard moments before kicking into the most grandiose riff of the album. Picture the ending of Pink Floyd's Comfortably Numb done during the Blackwater Park era of Opeth and BOOM! A Fleeting Glance is up next. It starts with more acoustic guitar and Mikael's haunting vocals that (pun intended) sound fleeting. This song is very reminiscent of the Damnation era of Opeth with just more 70's keyboards in the forefront and some heavier moments thrown in for good measure. The solo 3/4ths of the way through is so melodically perfect. One of the finest solos in the band's career. The song ends with long organ chords before kicking into the last song with vocals, Era. Starting with very quiet piano, the song slowly, but surely builds up into one of the fastest riffs on the album. Picture if Deep Purple wrote the song, Deliverance instead of Opeth. The pace continues all the way through the song. The ending to Era is possibly the highest point of the album. This immediately splits right into Persephone (Slight Return) which is the piano coda of the first track to help close out the album.
Sorceress is breathing new life into prog in 2016. Opeth make it completely their own, adding the finest touches of the past and showing what else can be brought to the table. Lyrically, this is as dark and evil as any of their albums have been in the past; even spookier than some albums of the past. While people should realize by this point that the screams and growls are not on this album (and for the foreseeable future, never coming back. That is such a good thing. I wouldn't want Mikael Akerfeldt to rehash the past if he is not inspired by it. I would much rather have an inspired throw back to evil prog rock than a Blackwater Park II that doesn't live up to it's predecessor. Sorceress proves that Opeth really does showcase the fact that they have not lost their touch to write faster, heavy, music, yet can keep things just as evil with their mellow, prog, and hard rock havens they are in today.
Opeth- Sorceress is available September 30th through Moderbloget Records/Nuclear Blast
Circus Maximus- Havoc
FFO- Progressive Rock, Progressive Metal, AOR
Norway's Circus Maximus is a band whose light has been shining brighter and brighter since their debut album, The 1st Chapter hit back in 2005. Since then the band has gone through a major change as well that made it's first appearance with 2012's Nine. Instead of going full on progressive metal, the band explored much more into what makes the band tick. Exploring melodies, harmonies, and styles you don't see often in the prog world, which is of course, poppy, more mainstream moments. Havoc, despite having a very metal name, is not as metal as you would imagine. In all honesty, that is what makes the album shine.
The albums tarts with the first single, The Weight, which is quite polarizing for some fans. The organ driven, Led Zepplin's Kashmir style intro riff leads into a very melodic verse and overall melodic song. It almost have a Muse/Coheed And Cambria vibe to it as well. The middle section is where the prog begins to shine with a very technical and beautiful guitar solo that leads into a great prog instrumental section. Overall, a great choice for a potential radio single. Highest Bitter begins with a very Chris Cornell style vocal style with a proggy breakdown style that continues throughout the song. A dark song overall that would have fit well as a song from Dream Theater's Awake album. Without question the title track, Havoc is the most polarizing song on the album. You are either in for the ride or not. It is the song that is undoubtedly the poppiest and top 40 style. If you can't appreciate radio rock in anyway, just skip the song. If you can appreciate top 40 rock, there is a lot to like about the song and it makes you wish that more bands would sound like this on said stations. I know I wouldn't be disappointed. Pages sounds like a loving tribute to Lighting Shadows Off A Dream by Dream Theater. While being overall heavier than said song, the style brings out those great memories. The Instrumental sections are absolutely fantastic. A very mystical sounding song that works great in the middle. Flames starts with an opening keyboard and drum fill before leading into a guitar riffing and vocal melodies that remind you of U2. This is more of what the average CM fan would be hoping for in a poppy song from the band, poppy, yet filled with prog moments. A very beautiful song that I'm sure will sound fantastic live. Loved Ones is BY FAR the best song on the album. A very loving tribute to those that we love in our lives. This has everything that a CM fan could want in a song. Soaring vocals, the right amount of prog, majestic instrumentation and musicianship. It can really bring a tear to your eye. After The Fire starts with a bouncy keyboard line that hearkens you back to Pain Of Salvation's Remedy Lane album mixed with Matt Bellamy vocal melodies. This is carried throughout the songs as one of the proggy slower to midtempo numbers. This song proves that Circus Maximus didn't fully abandon their prog roots. Remember is another poppy tune that is filled with happy sounding keyboards and a very upbeat and uplifting feel throughout. The solo section is one of the coolest moments on the album. The whole song would have been cool enough to end on and give you that rise up and cheer moment, but alas, there's one last song. Chivalry is the song that is not like the others, but unlike The Electric Company, this song DOES belong. It starts off very ominous and sounds far away, it slowly builds up to become fully audible about a quarter of the way in and leads to the best chorus on the album. Slower to midtempo in speed, yet absolutely gorgeous. The instrumentation to this song working the way it does. and makes the very end of the song one of the highlights of the entire journey and makes the whole ride, that is Havoc, worth it.
Havoc is going to be a polarizing album for the band. Dream Theater's Falling Into Infinity as a great example. While it still features moments of what brought you into the band. it showcases some moments you never would have expected. Surprisingly pop friendly moments, shorter track lengths and what may or may not be, an attempt to reach a new audience. You either enjoy the ride or you hate it. For myself. I have listened to the album every day since I received the promo and enjoy it more with each listen. If you are looking for The 1st Chapter or Isolate, you won't find it here. If you enjoyed Nine, you will find something to love about the album. Havoc proves that there doesn't need to be boundaries between prog, metal and pop, good music is good music!
Circus Maximus- Havoc, available NOW through Frontiers Records
Legendary musician, Steven Wilson, has just released his latest EP, 4 1/2. It is a a collection of B-Sides that were not ready or just did not make the mark for Wilson's latest album, 2015's Hand. Cannot. Erase. and even in the writing sessions of 2013's The Raven That Refused To Sing. As it is evident by the title. This serves as a companion piece to Hand. Cannot. Erase. and is definitely implying that album 5 will be released in the future. Would any of the song's have fit in those albums? ABSOLUTELY! But this serves a great reminder that Wilson wants to release any music that he thinks is worth checking out. Let's see what 6 songs are deserving to be heard in 2016.
The EP starts with My Book Of Regrets. Easily the best song on the EP. I had the pleasure of hearing this song (When it was originally untitled) back in early June 2015 in Minneapolis. A few days later, I also had the pleasure of doing an interview with Steven 2 days later over the phone where he first let me in that an EP was in the works that would include this and other songs that didn't make the cut for the new album. I was so excited when i heard this song would be included because it is one of the best things he has ever written, especially now that is a complete song. The song was recorded in late June 2015. The song starts off in the Porcupine Tree realm. It reminds you of Time Flies off PT's last album, The Incident, but poppier and proggier at times(if that even makes sense) and not as musically dark. The middle instrumental solo sections are really something to behold before entering a mellow atmospheric section that makes you feel like floating away. Towards the end of the song, it gets back to the original section of the song and leaves on a floating note. Year Of The Plague is an instrumental piece that oddly enough, sounds like the mellow sections off of Ne Obliviscaris' latest album, Citadel. Synth string sections mixed with acoustic guitar, bass and piano. Happiness III starts off with acoustic guitar before kicking into another pop-driven proggy song. The song is very much in the vibe of PT's In Absentia, which makes since because it was originally written in 2003. Take out the heavy parts of the song Trains and replace it with more twang, and you got it! Sunday Rain Sets In is another, moody, instrumental track. Very depressing sounding and give an eerie vibe. Towards the end of the song it picks up for just a few seconds with distortion, bass drums, etc but then settles back down closing out the track. Vermillioncore is oddly enough not a Metalcore, Deathcore, hardcore, or Djent song, but rather a a midtempo song in the vein of Halo off of 2005's Deadwing by Porcupine Tree. Just heavier, moodier, and instrumental. The EP concludes with a cover of Porcupine Tree's Don't Hate Me off the 1999's Lightbulb Sun. The song, recorded live, also features a very strong appearance on the chorus from Israeli vocalist, Ninet Tayeb (who is also featured on Hand. Cannot. Erase.). The song is structurally the same, but with the addition of the female vocals, it gives a very different vibe that is definitely a love it or hate it situation. I am of the love it side. The middle, instrumental section is a bit more spread out than the original version. it features much more organ than the original and give more of a Pink Floyd vibe than done previously. Overall a fantastic rendition.
4 1/2 has left some fans polarized and some wanting more. The ones polarized don't appreciate that the EP coasts about the same as a full album and also, more notably, the cover of Don't Hate Me. While others believe that the EP is sheer brilliance and the only disappointment is that they have to hit the play button again to start it all over. I am closer to the latter. The beginning and end of the EP are worth the price of admission alone. I'm not entirely sold on most of the middle of the EP but they serve as great instrumental segue ways through the EP. Overall, I highly recommend checking this EP out. Steven Wilson is at the top of his game and I can't imagine him slowing down any time soon. And if he has this kind of material left over, there's is no reason to ever stop until the tank is empty.
Steven Wilson- 4 1/2 available NOW via Kscope Records!
The Mute Gods- Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me
FFO- Progressive Rock, Alternative Rock, Pop Rock
The Mute Gods is the brainchild of Nick Beggs (contributor to the likes of Steven Wilson, Lonely Robot, Steve Hackett and so much more) on Chapman Stick, Vocals, Guitar and Bass. Also featured on this album is Marco Minnemann on drums and Roger King doing production and playing Keys. The album is an extremely catchy brand of prog rock layered in pop and alternative rock. Imagine Steven Wilson doing Hand. Cannot. Erase. with 70's prog instead of having electronics and BOOM! Let's dive right into this amazing album.
The album starts with the title track, Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me. While having the awesome 70's prog twinge, the chorus is unbelievably catchy. There is a good reason why this was, indeed the first single from the album. Praying To A Mute God starts quite mid-tempo and keeps that similar speed much like the former track, but expands upon it. Much more diversity and fills happen throughout the song giving a little bit or room to show off on each instrument. The second half of the song is a great example of that. Nightschool for Idiots is much more mellow and piano driven. A great, almost relaxing song, until you hear the lyrics. It definitely has the Steven Wilson cynical lyrical charm to it. Feed The Troll is the second single off the album. It starts off bass driven and an electronic movement before kicking into a darker, almost King Crimson style riff. The song is one of the heavier moments on the entire album as well. Very dark and brooding, but so enjoyable. Your Dark Ideas follows next and is a bit more uptempo. It almost sounds like a track Steven Wilson penned around the time of In Absentia or Deadwing. A very killer track. In the Crosshairs is the shortest track on the album. Being that it is instrumental, it showcases every instrument in the band in a great way. A great change of pace in the album. Strange Relationship starts with a great 8 bar, almost Opeth like, swing beat provided by Minnemann. The song is quite mellow in comparison to other songs on the album and features quite a bit of keyboard changes until the song. The fading piano notes of the last track segue way into Swimming Horses. The song begins more atmospheric before kicking into a mellotron style riff mixed with guitar, then finally kicking into a dark, brooding song. It features song Middle-Eastern style riffing and very bass and chapman stick driven. The second half of the song is where things start to pick up in tempo before progressing back to the dark mood it left before. Father Daughter closes out the album and features a Porcupine Tree feel and more of the electronic faded drums that Steven Wilson is famous for in so many moments before kicking in. The album ends in a very electronic way as it dramatically stops, leaving you wanting more.
All in all, The Mute Gods have provided an absolutely phenomenal debut album. Combining all the best parts of prog rock mixed with a great nod to the likes of Steven Wilson and Steve Hackett throughout. The lyrical content is very much intended to be a way of living your life to the fullest and not giving into the world we currently live. Explore, Create and most importantly, try to make the world a better place for those that will follow us in this world. It is a great sentiment!
The Mute Gods- Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me available January 22nd via InsideOut Records
Trees On Mars started in January 2013 and in that almost 2 year span have created their debut album, The Sapling, which will be coming out November 4th. Grant Tyler (Guitar), Hayden Graham (Guitar) and Scott Barber (Bass & Drums) come from Columbia, SC with their unique spin on Instrumental Prog. While many Instrumental albums are either way too short or start to feel too long, The Sapling comes in at just a tad over 35 minutes, which is nearly perfect. Along with a perfect album length, the songs are all well crafted and flow together seamlessly. Let's divulge into this spectacular album.
The album starts with It's Not But It Isn't, which has a very unique start by fusing together acoustic, almost Bluegrass sounding guitar work over Progressive Metal. Once the song fully kicks in it shifts into many forms. One thing to particularly notice on this song is Barber's fantastic use of drum fills right before the end of the song. After this comes Hey Man, That's Not Cool. But unlike the song title, it is indeed very cool (haha, play on words). The song is upbeat and very melodic with it's Prog roots and ends with a nice mellow note held out. In The Wake starts off sounding very melancholic and brooding, slowly getting heavier and heavier. The second half of the song, after some nice fill work again by Barber, gets into Doom Metal territory and slowly fades out. The tempo picks up again on Niacin. This song would not be out of place on a Scale The Summit album, and that is very much a good thing. The last quarter of the song gets very aggressive with some blast beats and some very thrashy guitar work, which adds some diversity into the sound. Birds & Squirrels is another awesome uptempo song. It is very catchy and a great song that leaves you wanting more. Blueberry Jam comes up next and brings things down to a nice mellow jam session. It has a great Post Rock feel throughout. The guitar work near the middle of the song, while simplistic, really shines through and is so pleasing to the ear. While being one of the more mellow and simplistic songs on the albums, it is easily one of the best and a great change of pace for the album. Ode To The Vulture (Featuring Plini) is the longest song on the album at just over 5 minutes. This song is arguably the best showcase of what Trees On Mars is all about. Phenomenal songwriting from everyone in the band and 22 year old Australian guitarist Plini, really shines as well with his guitar solo roughly half way through the song. Just a very fun and catchy song all the way through. First Place At The Turtle Race, much like the name sort of eludes to, starts off quite mellow and gradually picks up the pace in tempo and musicality. The song shifts quite a few times throughout everything from Jazz to Samba to Post Rock with tremolo guitar. The song is an incredible rush of a feeling. Explosions On Olympus Moons has a very spacey vibe. Throughout the song it feels like you are floating in outer space (While not sounding the same, think of the imagery in the video for Mastodon's Oblivion with a heavier Pink Floyd vibe musically). This a great song to hear at night and just relax. The album ends with Would You Believe Me If I Told You I've Been There Before. It starts off somewhat as the album begins with acoustic guitars in the background over Prog Metal. It's a fantastic song to end the album with, much like Drifting Figures was the perfect song to end Scale The Summit's The Collective. It keeps building and building then suddenly fades away.
Trees On Mars is well on their way to become one of the best bands that Instrumental Prog can offer. Throughout the album you can hear so many shades of the band's influences with it all flowing together and sounding authentic and organic. And with production and mixing from Eyal Levi (arguably one of the greatest up and coming producers in music, let alone Metal) it adds such clarity and quality to the overall experience. Once The Sapling springs to life November 4th, 2014, things will only get bigger and bigger for Trees On Mars.
Trees On Mars- The Sapling available November 4th, 2014 via Bandcamp
- Josh Rundquist
Wings Denied is a Progressive Metal band from Washington D.C. that formed in 2012 and have been slowly rising ever since. They have an amazing blend of Progressive Metal that has the riffs of Periphery, the atmosphere of Cloudkicker, the vocal melodies of Fair to Midland, and the sensibility of Porcupine Tree. this great formula has lead to the band's debut album, Mirrors For A Prince. Could this be the start of what is to come in the world of Progressive Metal?
The album kicks off with their single that was released in 2013, Generation Y. The opening riff is a great nod to Protest The Hero in guitar. The album has an occasional scream but it is predominantly filled with Luka Kerecin's soaring clean vocals. Like mentioned before the vocal melodies have a great approach much like what is used in the band Fair To Midland. The actual song itself is very atmospheric along with it's heaviness. The album does have the chugs used in the Djent side of Progressive Metal, but in no way is this a Djent band. This song is filled with so many different changes and dynamics that all make perfect sense. it is the best choice to start off this album. The Machinist is next and it is a bit more on the poppy side. It still crushes, but it more upbeat overall. Great use of dynamics once again and makes for a very fun song. In Search of Sunrise is a bit of change up. It starts off with clean guitar and very mellow, but that quickly changes into a very heavy, crushing riff willed with amazing clean vocals. In a odd sense it feels like a great midtempo, almost ballady song (which is strange to say because the main riff of the song is so heavy). Not nearly as time change filled or dynamic crazy as the songs before, but it is a killer song. Maiden is the next song up, and once again it is a great left turn in the album. Much like you could almost sense from the title, it has a Iron Maiden feel. Almost as if Iron Maiden wrote Djenty Progressive Metal songs. The song stays predominately midtempo (much like Maiden songs) and has that Classic Metal vibe throughout. 3/4s into the song features one of the rare appearances of full on growls in the album, and it fits perfectly. The next song is called Signs. This is another song that is quite upbeat and Poppy amongst the Progressive Metal going on. Towards the middle of the track is gets a bit more mellow and softer (though not too much). The song then picks back up for a fantastic finish. Néant is the next song And it starts off the slowest the album has come so far. Very dark and ethereal, leading to one of the heaviest, chuggiest riffs on the entire album. It is a good mix of a Stoner Metal song and a tribal warfare march. Lots of heavy, doomy atmosphere fill this track. Picture Sleep meets Meshuggah meets Fair To Midland. Next up is Clockwork. The song starts off like a very melodic and early day Periphery song. Through the course of the song it keeps that Periphery vibe going on. For Djent fans, this is a dictionary definition song of Djent, and that is definitely a good thing. The End Of History is the next track. The song has a great melodicness throughout. A bit more scaled back and atmospheric, all while still keeping everything going at a good pace. It's not until roughly half way into the song that the Djenty guitars come back into play, but it ends much like it started when the song picked up and finishes strong. Up next is Courtesan. The song starts off again much more laid back and mellow in comparison to the rest of the album. it still has a great heavy vibe, but not overbearingly heavy. It has a good TesseracT vibe throughout. A great mellower track for what is to finish off the album. The album does end in true Progressive Metal fashion, with an epic. Six years And A Day. The song starts off with one of the catchiest riffs on the album filled with tremendous tom work and great atmospherics. The song then turns into the Djent version of the riff. Again this song just crushes and showcases everyone in the band's talents in a fantastic way. About 3/4ths of the way into the song, it plays on as it began with that catchy guitar riff and tribal tom drumming, then explodes into one of the heaviest riffs on the album, matched with that sexy guitar riff. This all leads into a mellow section, before leading into one final epic riff that has one of the best showcases of Kerecin's vocal abilities, then a quick reprise of the first Heavy riff of the song into piano to close out the album.
For a Modern Day Prog Metal fan, Mirrors for A Prince seriously has it all. Super heavy riffs, incredible dynamics, fantastic musicianship, catchy melodies and harmonies, and above else, 10 amazingly written songs. The band recently concluded their first full US tour and I know it won't be there last. Check out Mirrors For A Prince and go see these guys when they come back to your area. Wings Denied could be the forefathers of what Progressive Metal will become in the future, and if they do, Progressive Metal is going to soar like never before.
Wings Denied- Mirrors For A Prince available NOW via Wings Denied's Bandcamp
- Josh Rundquist (That Drummer Guy)
It's hard to think that a band that has been around since 1987 has only put out 3 albums. Cynic is on their third album (and fifth release), Kindly Bent To Free Us. To those who have followed the band, Cynic has been progressively getting lighter and lighter over their years, especially since their return in 2006. Kindly Bent To Free us is much more of an experimental album than the two done previously. It divulges more into Progressive Rock and Jazz Fusion this time around. though this may sway some loyal fans to back away with it's lack of overall Metal, it is still a very profound album when given the chance.
The album starts with True Hallucination Speak. The song slowly fades in then kicks off with a grand opening. The main riff is very proggy and technical, while more Prog Rock, it still sounds very much like Cynic. The song rumbles through quite strong till around the middle where it breaks into just vocals and guitar. After this it rolls right along till the end where it fades away with some synth sounds ending the track leading right into the next song, The Lion's Roar. Arguably one of the catchiest songs on the album. The song would fit right at home with something on Top 40 Hard Rock Radio. Just like the rest of the album, Paul Masvidal's clean vocals make this song shine (there is no screams or growls and very minimal, vocoder on the entire album). Towards the end of the song it reaches one of the highlights of the album, when the double bass kicks in and the whole song feels like it soars above the heavens above. The song also fades in the end leading into the title track. Kindly Bent To Free Us starts off with just synth sounds and vocals before kicking into a riff that sounds like it was recorded straight from the days of Focus, while having that feel of Traced In Air. There's not much variance in this song, just a straight up great song from beginning to end, and another fade out song. Infinite Shapes is next and starts with just guitar and bass. When everything kicks in, it has a great heavy feel to it, before quietly going back down again. Very mellow and relaxed until the chorus hits when one of the best drummers in Metal, Sean Reinert, shows off his great display of tom work and complicated, yet perfectly placed, rhythms. (a great signature of his). A fantastic display from everyone in the band. Moon Heart Sun Head comes up next and starts off with a great guitar riff from Masvidal. The song is one of the more different songs on the album with a lot of dynamics. From excelled tom rhythms to very proggy and heavy guitar riffs, this song showcases all of what the band is capable of now a days. Gitanjali starts off a lot like some of the better tracks on Traced In Air, with a fade in of a killer riff. It's easily one of the heavier songs on the album. It does feel like a song from Traced In Air throughout, which is definitely a great thing. Holy Fallout may be the best song on the album. It is indeed the longest song on the album, yet it feels like it flies by. To put it simply, this song showcases everything Cynic is about in one song. The tribal drumming mixed with beautiful soundscape, yet not being afraid to keep things heavy in all the right spots. It feels like the perfect song to end a live set before going into encores. Endlessly Bountiful closes out the album. The song slowly soars in, but instead of getting heavy (or even having drums for that matter) it stays very ethereal and atmospheric. Just synths, guitar, vocals, and bass. Its the type of song that feels like a flight angels take from the earth into the sky above. The song ends with acoustic guitar drifting away to close the album.
Kindly Bent To Free Us is a bit of a polarizing album. It doesn't have the feel of the heaviness of Focus nor Traced In Air, and is more inclined to their EP, Carbon Based Anatomy, but more heavy in spots. Some people's major problem with the album (besides the lack of Metal) is the lyrics. If you are not a fan of abstract poetry, this album will whiz over your head. A better idea to fully appreciate this album is to focus on the vocal melodies instead. Those are still pure Cynic to a T. Masvidal, Reinert, and bassist Sean Malone (who is actually touring with the band for the first time since 1994) all 3 of the best musicians that the music world will ever know. While this time around the Metal isn't there, they still create some of the most beautiful and optimistic music that a metalhead can appreciate.
Cynic- Kindly Bent To Free Us available NOW via Seasons Of Mist
- Josh Rundquist (That Drummer Guy)
Bend Sinister is great band out of British Columbia that combines Classic Hard Rock, Indie Rock, and whether the band wants to admit it or not, Progressive Rock. The underground band just started getting some real recognition from their last album, Small Fame back in 2012 when drummer Mike Portnoy picked up on the band and showed interest. They are back with their 5th album (and 9th release overall), Animals, and it really is a fantastic showcase of how a band can show their diversity all while having it making sense.
The album starts off with the longest song on the album, Best Of You, which is a fantastic eight and a half minute masterpiece which takes you on a journey of sound. The lyrics are very inspirational and positive, which is missing in a lot of Rock music now a days. The first of two two main lyrical lines that are repeated is "This world ain't seen the best of you yet." A good message of keeping on, keeping on. With that message, the first half of the song is very upbeat with lots of great guitar and keyboard interludes. The second half of the song gets very slow and dramatic. throughout the second half of the song the only phrase sung is "And the world It brings you down. Keep your head up high and your feet on the ground." The more the phrase gets repeated, the more the song grows to be more and more epic and grand until it reaches it's climax of sound and brings you back down to the world (Ah ha, get it?). While a song like this would be best set for the end of an album, the band ahs said they chose this to be the first song because they feel it is the best son on the album and they want everyone to hear it. And a great choice that was.
Now onto the rest of the album. Fancy Pants is the next song up, and it is very much a type of Indie Rock and Classic Rock song. Very upbeat with big choruses and even a trumpet in the song. During the middle of the song is slows down for a big "La La La" sing a long section and ends just as upbeat as it began. I Got Love is the equivalent of the scene in The Blues Brothers where Joliet Jake Blues becomes Born Again and dances in the Gospel Church. This song even features a Gospel Choir in sections. A very fun song to headbang to if your a rocker, and dance to if you can dance. Better Things To Do is another throw back to the Indie Rock/Pop Rock sound. The lyrics also have the same feel to it as well. It's a good mellow song after the speed of the last couple songs. Thunder And Lightning is the heaviest song on the album by far. The song is pure 70s Hard Rock in the vein of Deep Purple. It starts off with a Judas Priest style intro much like The Hellion segues into Electric Eye. From that point on it's pure Deep Purple and so cool. Fast, heavy, great 70s style vocals. The next song, Teacher, also goes into the 70's Hard Rock vibe. It starts off mellow with keyboard chords and builds up into a blazing Rock song. It resonates well as a mix between Deep Purple and Boston. It's safe to say that almost every song on the second half of the album has a deep love for 70s Hard Rock and Deep Purple. The song, Seventeen, also showcases this point very well. A slower track then the previous few, but very heavy Hard Rock with the Deep Purple keys. The album takes a break from the Hard Rock vibe and goes back into Indie Rock territory with the song You Remind Me. Even if you aren't into Indie music, the lyrics are very relatable when you hear them, especially if you are starting relationships. Through The Week is the slowest song on the album and a great ballad. Very piano driven and just a great lay back and chill song. It again harkens to the Classic Rock sound with their ballads. The album closes with the song It Will Never End, a great ending song to close the album. it starts upbeat and kinda Indie but a great heavy beat behind it so even rockers can really appreciate it. Just as you think the song is done it ends on the heaviest riff of the entire album. While short, it is almost as if they decided to be a Speed Metal band for a few seconds and then doing a proper grandiose ending to close out this killer album.
It is easy to see why Prog fans are drawn to Bend Sinister. they don't just stick to one genre. While the band does not consider itself Prog, you can at least say they are very diverse and bring a lot of different offerings to the table. Whether you have a love for Classic Hard Rock, like Indie Rock, or just like music that has a lot of style changes all while making it sound like it fits. Bend Sinister is the band for you. And support these guys if you dig them. They are awesome guys that deserve all the attention they can get.
Bend Sinister- Animals available NOW via FILE UNDER MUSIC
- Josh Rundquist (That Drummer Guy)
Anathema is a great example of a band who can change their sound for the best. Starting off as a very Gothic, Doom Metal band, and slowly turning into the emotional Progressive Rock powerhouse they have become. Anathema has recently released their 10th album, Distant Satellites back in June and it is a bit of a genre bending album to say the least.
In recent years, Anathema has been widely known for their last two albums, We're Here Because We're Here and Weather Systems. Both albums are a perfect blend of Progressive Rock and pure, unadulterated emotion that in the right mood, can bring a tear to your eye. Distant Satellites is no different.
The album starts off much like Weather Systems does with a 2 part song (In Distant Satellites' case 2/3rd of the song), called The Lost Song Part 1 and Part 2. Part 1 is an emotional juggernaut that indeed has the feeling of Weather System's Untouchable Part 1. A real emotional roller coaster in just one third of a song that is of course brought to us vocally by Vincent Cavanagh. Part 2, again, much like Untouchable Part 2, is sung by female singer, Lee Douglas. It is a bit more somber than Part 1, which is part of the charm, but towards the end of Part 2 really showcases the band's orchestral sound once again. Instead of going into Part 3, The band does a couple songs in between to change the mood. Dusk (Dark Is Descending) is the next song and the first song on the album to feature everyone in the band. It is a great standard on the album and a great showcase of the band if you don't want to venture into their most epic sounding songs. Ariel is one of the saddest sounding songs on the album. It's a beautiful ballad that is filled with pure emotion. One of things that really captures people about Anathema is their lyrics. When you divulge into their lyrics and listen to how they are sung, they grab you and never let go. Ariel is a prime example of this, along with its great orchestration from the entire band. Next up is The Lost Song Part 3, which is actually quite different than Part 1 and 2. It is more upbeat and focuses more on the music being played along with the vocal approach (which like every Anathema song with lyrics, is quite strong). It's not the most epic sounding of song endings, but it indeed does the job quite well. Lastly on the things you know about Anathema well, is the band's self titled song, Anathema. The lyrics are very much about the struggles of the band to get where they are now and does have a deep orchestral background that is somewhat reminiscent of the band's mid-era career with albums like Judgement and A Fine Day to Exit.
This is where the band does a complete genre change. From the first couple notes of You're Not Alone, it starts off like any new day Anathema album with somber piano, then the vocals come in and repeats in a Electronic way, then the electronic drums come in. Roughly half way into this 3;27 song it it goes full on guitar driven Electronica. The lyrics repeat throughout the entire song giving an illusion of chaos towards the end of the song. Firelight is a short instrumental song that focuses on synth sounds and orchestration an it a great natural build up to the album's self titled song, Distant Satellites. Distant Satellites is a song that would not feel as natural if it had natural drums on it, which is a very odd thing to say. To match the emotion of the song of feeling far away, like in space, the electronic drums give the song a very nice touch of early day EDM. The rest of the song is filled with piano and Vincent's soothing vocals. While this may seem like a drastic change in sound for the band, it feels like a natural progression for the band. The last song on the album, Take Shelter is another song in the Electronic world. The song again features no real drums, all electronic as done by former acoustic drummer, now electronic drummer/keyboardist, John Douglas (Acoustic Drumming is now being performed by Daniel Cardoso). The song is a great way to close out the album because it does feature the most prominent features of the whole album near the end of the song. Strong orchestration from the beginning of the album, the soaring vocals which is all throughout, and the EDM programming at the end. Near the end it makes you feel like you went through a musical journey of many different musical genres, yet still feel like an Anathema album
What can be said most about Distant Satellites is that Anathema is not afraid to show their changes in a band.from their Gothic Doom Metal days, to their haunting Alternative Rock days, to their emotionally driven Progressive Rock, to what very well could be the new sound for the band, the early day EDM stylings. Anathema will write the music that their heart is behind and this album is a great showcasing of that. Starting off with the sound they are known for currently, and slowly but surely switching genres once again to match the music they wanna create, and honestly, that is where the best music comes from is the music that means the most to you at the time of creation.
Anathema- Distant Satellites, out NOW via Kscope
- Josh Rundquist (That Drummer Guy)
Opeth makes a triumphant return with their 11th album, Pale Communion. Many people consider their 9th album Watershed to be...well...a watershed moment. It marked a transitioning point for the band where the Death Metal aesthetic of the band was slipping away for a more Progressive Rock feel and Mikael Akerfeldt's Death Metal growls had disappeared since their last album Heritage. Many people gave up on the band at that point feeling that the band had jumped the shark musically. So with that being a strong case for a lot of former Opeth fans, they are skeptical of what the band would be putting out next.
The band has made it their niche to make evil sounding music whether it is from their beginning of Orchid, to their mid career point (at least so far) Blackwater Park, to arguably their most crowd pleasing and highly regarded album, Ghost Reveries.
Pale Communion is no different. Lyrically, Opeth is just as dark and evil as ever. Vocally, the Death Metal growls are still gone. Maybe one day they will return, but much like albums like Damnation and Heritage, there is no need for them here. The album starts off (Eternal Rains Will Come, Cusp Of Eternity, Moon Above, Sun Below) much in a way that parts of Ghost Reveries, Watershed and Heritage go, where it is sinister in a heavier Progressive Rock feel without the need to go into Death Metal territory. It still has some Heritage vibe to it, but unlike Heritage, it more rocking and upbeat. Elysian Woes sounds like a track that was taken straight from the Damnation days, a great somber ballad placed in a great spot on the album. Goblin has been said by Akerfeldt, to be heavily inspired by the band Goblin, and indeed it is. The song is all instrumental, just like Goblin, and showcases the evil that 70s Progressive Rock can be. River starts off with an acoustic into and beautiful vocal harmonies. The song eventually picks up a bit, but not in a Hard Rock but very much like a mid-era Porcupine Tree (Signify-Lightbulb Sun) song would be. Although Porcupine Tree frontman, Steven Wilson mixed the album, he did not help write any of the songs, but Akerfeldt was indeed inspired by Wilson. The second half of River goes back into the evil 70s Progressive Rock and gets into one of the darkest and heaviest riffs of the album. Voice Of Treason starts off with very ominous keyboards followed by a very Ghost Reveries inspired song riff. the song is one of the most upbeat on the album and one of the few instances of double bass on the album (although only used in one riff about 3/4ths through the song). the song ends how it begins with ominous keyboards with segue ways into the final track, Faith In Others. This is another track that really focuses on the somber side of the band with it's slower-mid tempo stylings. It starts off much like their song, Burden, and mid way through goes into a keyboard (piano)/vocal break with leads into the classic Opeth signature tone for ballads. 3/4ths into the song it has a grandiose orchestral moment what is one of the best moments in any Opeth song, finally closing into a slow and somber end to the album with keyboards and strings and Akerfeldt's final words for the album.
Clocking in at 55;38, Opeth's 11th opus is nothing short of what many will consider to be a miraculous comeback album. If you are one of those who only like Opeth for the Balls and Chunk Heavy side of Opeth, again, you will be disappointed. If you dig Opeth's 70's Prog side that they experimented with on Watershed and on the most with Heritage, this will be to your fancy. But more so than anything, if you enjoy the dark, somber stylings of Damnation, the clean sections of Ghost Reveries, and of course Watershed and Heritage, this album is for you. To put it best, this is the album that should have came out after Watershed.
Opeth- Pale Communion (Roadrunner Records) Release Date: August 26th, 2014
- Josh Rundquist (That Drummer Guy)
That Drummer Guy: Radio DJ, Interviewer, Reviewer, overall...an OK guy.