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!
Soilwork- The Ride Majestic
FFO- Melodic Death Metal, Progressive Metal
Soilwork has been a staple in Metal since their debut, Steelbath Suicide back in 1998. So how is the band holding up 17 years later? Like many bands in that amount of time, they have changed almost drastically. Although the band does keep their MDM roots in check, the band, now a days, is focusing much more on a proggier approach to songwriting, The Ride Majestic almost marks a turning point in the band, in which they are continuing to blend chaos with beauty. A great example of this is one of the sexiest ways to play Metal: Blast Beats Over Clean Vocals. The Ride Majestic also showcases a very mature approach to songwriting, no added segments, just because, no extra frills and shakes, just solid playing. Now how does this album compare to the past?
The albums tarts with the title track, The Ride Majestic. It starts with a slower, bluesy guitar riff before coming in with complete devastation and heaviness. What really sells the song is the melodic guitar over the heaviness. The song hearkens back to the days of Figure Number Five in the verse and the chorus of The Living Infinite. Alight In The Aftermath starts off extremely heavy with vibes going back all the way to Steelbath Suicide in parts. This is the first example of doing blast beats over clean vocals. The song goes through many tempo and style variations with a very bluesy solo in between the acts of chaos the rest of the song is. Death In General starts off with some guitar feedback and guitar in the background before the drums kick in with a tom assault. The main riff is a bluesy metal riff over a Meshuggah style beat. While still fast, this is one of the slower songs on the album verse wise. Then mind screws you with some blast beats before the second chorus. Enemies In Fidelity is one of the highlights of the album. It hints at the Figure Number Five and Stabbing The Drama eras of the band with a chorus that blows you away and is the best example of blast beats over clean vocals as the chorus (seriously, how sexy is this?). Petrichor By Surfer is a more dancey, almost pop metal song with a very haunting chorus. If mainstream radio gave it a chance, this would be a great single to have on Top 40 Rock. The Phantom is the most surprising song on the album because it touches on a genre you'd never expect, Black Metal. It even has some Black Metal screams in the beginning of the song. It completely feels like a mix of Melodic Death Metal and Black Metal (that's a genre that should be started asap!). The Ride Majestic (Aspire Angelic) is essentially Soilwork does Dream Theater, but with more blast beats. A part two of the title track if you will, lyrically. Whirl Of Pain starts off with a somber guitar riff and continues on with the slowest song of the album. Even with this being a “ballad” it is still incredibly heavy. All Along Echoing Pain is one of the more mid tempo songs on the album and again, has a Dance Metal feel to it though most of the song. This is quickly changed as soon as blast beats come into play. This could turn into a really great remix if someone decides to give it that kind of attention. Shining Lights is without question fastest song on the album. While the whole song isn't just about speed, it does tears everything apart in it's way with aggression and the right amount of melodicness. Father And Son Watching The World Go Down has a very Progressive Metal vibe throughout due in part to the keyboards and the drums. It has one of the most epic feeling choruses on the album and absolutely perfect closer to the album.
The Ride Majestic is, without question, the highlight of Soilwork's career so far. Everyone is performing at their absolute best. The absolute star of this album is Dirk Verbeuren. I had the pleasure of talking to Dirk a couple years back in support of The Living Infinite and at the time of the interview, he referred to Soilwork as similar to playing in AC/DC where he can, for the most part, relax and groove, compared to what he normally does outside of Soilwork. That is no longer the case. On this album he is balls to the wall from start to finish and showcasing some of his most impressive drum work he has ever recorded. I didn't think it was possible for Soilwork to out-due themselves with the double album, The Living Infinite, but they have shattered all my expectations and released possibly the finest albums in the world of Melodic Death Metal. The Ride Majestic gives to meaning to the words Brutality, Chaos, Melody and Perfection!
Soilwork- The Ride Majestic available now via Nuclear Blast Records
Intronaut- The Direction Of Last Things
FFO: Progressive Metal, Sludge Metal, Atmospheric
Intronaut is back with their 5th album and it is their most ambitious album to date. Going back, somewhat, to their roots, the band is starting to venture back into it's jazzier roots and instrumental sections and adding quite a bit of clean vocals to boot. Having Devin Townsend come in at the end for mixing was an absolute great touch!
The album starts with the single, Fast Worms, which is a pretty accurate portrayal of the direction of the album. Heavy and aggressive in the right spots, jazzy in the right sections, clean and growled vocals as needed and the right amount of adventurous genre bending. Digital Gerrymandering starts off completely heavy and sludgy with a mix of Devin Townsend style guitar riffing then builds up and up till it kicks in with almost CKY-ish style vocal melodies which continues throughout the song. The Pleasant Surprise starts off with a Brann Dailor style drum intro, not to be outdone with the Mastodon style riffing and arrangement to match. The song stays consistently fast and is arguably the heaviest song on the album. The Unlikely Event Of A Water Landing is the centerpiece of the album. It starts with a errie soundclip then begins. There is a big Cynic vibe on this song. Mellow pacing with lots of intricate sections on every instrument. The middle of the song picks up a little bit with heaviness ala Devin Townsend. The ending of the song (5:26 till the end) is the real highlight of the album. While staying mellow. The bass starts to really shine before the guitar leads kick in ala Cloudkicker's mellow side. A great Post Rock-ish way to end the song. Sul Ponticello, the other heaviest song on the album starts off ferociously almost Death Metal, then glides back into the Intronaut style we all know and love. The song stays more mid tempo with the right moments of heaviness thrown in and sludgy all the way through. The song ends with some soundclips and chanting. The title track, The Direction of Last Things, starts off nice and heavy with lots of double bass throughout almost the entire song. Lots of Sludgey style Progressive riffs that the band is best known for as well. 3/4ths of the way into the song, it switches into a Cynic style Jazz section once again with lots of ethereal vibes behind it before unleashing a crushing riff to close out the track. The album ends with City Hymnal which almost sounds like a tribute to Cloudkicker, but with vocals. Crazy off time drums and staccato guitar and bass riffing with an atmospheric, Post Rock leads behind everything. Much like Cloudkicker, the song builds up then back down then builds up until the end but then ends on an abrupt note, much like a hymnal being closed shut angerily.
Overall, Intronaut has knocked it out of the park once again. The band is on record saying the album only took 4 days to complete recording, which is a shocker in today's age. But it also proves that all you really need is to be able to get your songs down as tight as possible before going into the studio. This is going to be held very high as one of the best albums of the year and arguably the band's best album. It is very much worthy of that notion. This is an album that Intronaut fans have wanted all along and any real fan of the band will not be disappointed!
Intronaut- The Direction Of Last Things available November 13th via Century Media
Z² (aka Ziltoid 2 aka Zed Squared) has been in the works for quite a long time now. Devin Townsend knew that if he was to make a sequel to his 2007 solo album, Ziltoid The Omniscient, he would have to make it bigger, better, and even zanier than before. Since he formed The Devin Townsend Project back in 2009, he has a full band in his arsenal to make this possible. Drummer Ryan Van Poederooyen, bassist Brian "Bev" Waddell, and guitarist/keyboardist Dave Young help fill out the main parts of the band with a guest appearance on Sky Blue by Anneke Van Giersbergen and guest appearances by Chris Jericho (Captain Spectacular), Dominique Lenore Persi (War Princess) and even Anneke on some parts of Dark Matters. Where does Hevy Devy venture on this double album? There's only one way to find out for sure. Indeed....
The first of the two discs is Sky Blue. Sky Blue is the DTP album of the two discs and fans of the albums Addicted, Epicloud, Ki, and Infinity, will definitely not be disappointed. The album starts with Rejoice. It starts off with some light scattered instruments before the band fully kicks in. The song is deeply reminiscent of something off Addicted, but a bit more refined. Rather than more of the standard Rock beats that drives most of Addicted, RVP lays in some double bass throughout the verse. Anneke and Devin share vocal duties on this mid tempo song. It chugs along graciously. If Top 40 Rock radio knew better, this would be a solid Top 10 hit without question. Fallout is the next song and it starts with a very solid riff by Devin with Anneke's vocals slightly in the background before she fully takes over and sings the verse. For anyone that's a fan of what she has done in the past with DTP's work, this is another fantastic representation of what she can do. If you had to compare it to anything, imagine Hyperdrive mixed with The Way Home. A very happy, beautiful track.
Next up is Midnight Sun, which starts off with a nice acoustic guitar intro before kicking in a mellow to mid-paced ballad. Picture the beautiful moments of Terria and Infinity mixed with Where We Belong off Epicloud and that is a great description. Devin lays a very emotionally driven solo in this song that can bring the right person to tears. An amazing track. A New Reign is the next song that starts off very light with Devin and an acoustic guitar, with Anneke just starting to sing before it kicks in. This is another very emotionally driven ballad that can tug at your heart strings. It is a bit faster than Midnight Sun, but still a bit soft and hits home. In typical Devin fashion this song does take a couple twists and turns that you wouldn't expect, like some monster growls right before the song gets pretty heavy in the middle section and climaxes right back to where it started before finishing strong and powerful. Like a lot of Devin songs, this song has a bit of some ambiance at the end of A New Reign before completely taking a 180 and going into Universal Flame. To the typical music listener, Universal Flame is the most fun, poppy song on the album. Even if you are not paying attention to the vocals, the song just fills you with good spirits and makes you wanna take a cosmic journey. Imagine if True North from Epicloud as even more poppy and throw in a little Bend It Like Bender for good measure and you have the most fun, positive feeling song on the entire album. Again there is no real reason why this shouldn't be a Top 10 Rock song, there just isn't.
Next up is Warrior which starts with some "Ahh Ahh Ahh's" before kicking in. This is indeed one of the more technical songs, even if it doesn't exactly sound like it at first. Upon repeated you hear how insane this song is. While a more midtempo number, this is one of the highlights for RVP, with the intricate double bass in the verse to the double cymbal work in the chorus, this is an impression job of playing for the song and showing off your chops at the same time. Anneke does the majority of the vocals on this one and they are stellar. The title track, Sky Blue is a bit of a different direction than we have heard from the DTP to date, a bit more electronic overall and feels like a majestic pop song. Screw Rock radio, this is top of the Pop charts worthy. It's very danceable, features the vocal affects and synths of pop music, Devin and Anneke make this song come to life with the vocals. If there was ever a Metal musician you wanted on Pop radio, it's Devin, this proves it. Silent Militia is the next song up and it starts off with faded vocals before kicking in with snare and guitar before kicking back into heartbeat tempo, chuggy guitar driven goodness. This song feels like it could have been right off of Infinity, if Infinity was made right now. It's the right mix of dance music and heaviness to make it fit on that crazy album known as Infinity. The song ends crazy with double bass before drifting away into the atmosphere.
This leads into Rain City, which starts off as beautiful as Devin can get with a great piano and vocal intro leading into some programmed drums. It has a great Ki feel before getting just a tad heavy. Rain City feels like a song that should have been on Terria, in the best way possible. The song mainly ends right around the 4 minute mark and gradually drifts into the atmosphere with some bells, synths, acoustic guitar and a Ki/Ghost like feel. Forever is the next track up and it starts right off in the Ki world with Devin and piano. This beautiful song continues until near the end of the song where you hear some, well, almost Black Metal sounding faded screams. With a few seconds left of forever slowly but surely rising, it leads into Before We Die, which is the longest song on the album at 8:25. Once again this features some very beautiful and epic moments from everyone in the band. Imagine Save Our Now from Epicloud and Numbered from Addicted with the epic Universal Choir in the chorus. This is simply gorgeous in every way. Once again Devin features a short, but awesome, guitar solo before the mid section of the track. The main part of the song ends with synths, acoustic guitar and Anneke's beautiful vocals. The ending of the full track ends with some dissonant synth sounds while ending the album with The Ones We Love. This is a short outro track featuring some spooky sounds along with Devin and Anneke's vocals. The song slowly fades away leaving you wanting more, but as if Devin already had that planned, there is more...much more.....ATTACK!!!
*This review of Dark Matters will not contain spoilers to the album's story, that is meant to be heard on it's own in full. So don't read about the premise. Buy the album and listen to it and love every second.*
The album that made all the fans of Strapping Young Lad stop questioning whether Devin could still be heavy, Ziltoid The Omniscient, now has arguably one of the very few sequels worth checking out, Dark Matters. The Ziltoid album starts with the double album title track, Z². This starts off slow and brooding, but don't worry, it builds up like the intro music to a movie. The song just builds more and more and doesn't stop the attack once it kicks in. The end of the song in particular features the heaviness that fans of the original album will love. The next song is From Sleep Awake and it is more of a grandiose song, if not the most grandiose song on both albums. Oddly enough, Anneke is featured prominently on this song. The song is majestic and is a great intro Ziltoid and the story starts to begin from here. Ziltoidian Empire is the next track and this is where a lot of the fun begins. The song starts off like a great DTP song, just slightly darker and more double bass, then it just gets nutty. RVP's insane double bass power starts to shine in this song before just going off the deep end on a killer drum fill. After a short story interlude, the music reminiscent of the first Ziltoid album starts to take over, and it gets insane from everyone apart of the album. The nutty odd time signatures start to come into play and the song starts to feel like you are amidst an alien battlefield. The song only gets faster and faster as it ends and gets into SYL territory, yes...Strapping Young Lad (Detox) thrashy, style fun. War Princess is the next song up and like the title suggests, it gets into detail about the character played by Persi. The song starts off quite midempo goodness. The song showcases how amazing of a singer Persi is *If you are not familiar with Stolen Babies, go check them out ASAP!* While being midtempo, the song crushes with it's heaviness, just like Sumeria did on Deconstruction.
The next song is the first official song released from Z² , Deathray. The song has been labeled as a bit polarizing as many imagined that the first song released from Dark Matters would be an over the top crazy odd-tempo orgy, but Deathray is actually one of the most straightforward songs on the album. All you gotta do is think of the film, Mars Attacks, and that should describe the zaniness of this song. It's a solid number and does exactly what needs to happen, set the stage for the story while being a rocking song. While not entirely similar imagine Ziltoidia Attaxx! combined with Vampira from Synchestra and you've got Deathray. March Of The Poozers starts off with a very heavy, Gojira like, march riff. While containing a couple quirks, the song stays pretty much the same level the whole time, a fun heavy mosh song, like you would at a Gojira show. Next up is Wandering Eye. the song starts with kooky keyboards and Devin's vocals. The song eventually starts to pick up and starts to get zany again before showing off more of the story leading into the second longest song on the album, Earth. It starts off a bit triumphant once again but the chaos is about to commence. This song has all the craziness that you were hoping for. While everyone shines on this song, no one shines more on this song than Mr. Ryan Van Poederooyen. If you followed his posts on social media, you know how he was talking about how this album had some of his craziest, hardest and most jaw dropping moments, it's almost entirely on this song. Earth is essentially all the craziest moments on ZTO in a 7 minute song. *I consider RVP one of the best guys I know in metal, both personally and in drumming and I am proud to call him a friend and so very proud of his work here, it proves that he is now an unstoppable drumming machine.*
Ziltoid Comes Home doesn't stop in the relentlessness. This starts off with an absolute bang. It is super fast and thrashy. While it's not really fair to compare this to SYL, it has some SYL moments. The chorus of this song is one of the best moments in the Ziltoid story. So epic feeling and hits perfectly at the right time. The death growls come back in this song just a tad but are also well placed. Again I must say it the chorus, especially the ending chorus is one of the best moments in Ziltoid history, it is so perfect. Absolutely insane, epic feeling, and grandiose. Through The Wormhole is a story segment. That brings the story to a climax *but you'll have to listen to the album for what happens* Dimension Z features the Universal Choir again and sing in perfect harmony and love just like the Whos in Whoville in The Grinch That Stole Christmas and the story ends with a bit of an epilogue at the end that brings the story of Dark Matters to a close.
Z² is exactly what you'd hope for from Devin Townsend. Sky Blue showcases the lighter, poppier, emotionally driven side of Devin while Dark Matters brings all the zaniness, craziness, wackiness, and shear chaos that you'd expect from Ziltoid. In short, Z² is almost like a best of The Devin Townsend Project with all brand new material. Everyone involved is at their absolute prime on these two albums. Anneke again proves that she should be a permanent member of the DTP. Jericho serves his purpose perfectly as Captain Spectacular and Persi, in all honesty, could very well fill in for Anneke anytime at a show and fit in just like Anneke was there (plus, throw in the occasional killer scream). Townsend has been reported that he may be taking an extended break after the Ziltoid musical in 2015 (at least over a year) and honestly, if anyone has earned a break, it is Devin. Let him refuel is batteries, get some more of the world's finest coffee bean and present us with what he will have in store for all of us after this magnificent triumph known as Z².
*Once again, in case you did in fact skip the review, no spoilers for the story of this album. But the album, listen to it and full and enjoy!*
The Devin Townsend Project- Z² (Sky Blue/Dark Matters) available October 28th via HevyDevy Records/Inside Out
- Josh Rundquist (That Drummer Guy)
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
The Contortionist is a band that has gone through a few major changes since their beginning in 2007. Their biggest change being what they sound like. Back on their first EP, Shapeshifter, the band sounded like a Deathcore group. But in those 7 years, 1 EP and 3 albums later; The Contortionist has flourished into a modern day Progressive Metal band. Old fans of the band will always love the debut album, Exoplanet, the most and do not like the change in sound for the band. But newer fans of the band and those who can appreciate a band trying to spread their wings and explore their creativity will find things to appreciate on their second album, Intrinsic and now, Language. 3 almost major changes in the band is in the new lineup. The Contortionist now features 3 new members consisting of new frontman Michael Lessard (also of Last Chance To Reason), full time keyboardist Eric Guenther, and new bassist Jordan Eberhardt (Formerly of Scale The Summit). Language is a continuation of stepping away from the Deathcore sound and showcasing the broader aspects of Progressive Metal. If you haven't heard the album yet, here is what Language is all about.
The album opens with The Source, which may be one of the most soothing openings to a Metal album in recent times. The intro mainly showcases piano, synths and Lessard's soothing vocals. Light acoustic guitars also are featured lightly in the background. It feels very much like a New Age song. Very soothing and beautiful beyond words. This quickly changes when the song transitions into Language I: Intuition. This was the first single from the album and a brilliant choice for a single. The song starts off mellow with clean guitar and synths and then transitions itself heavier with the inclusion of the rest of the band. Lessard shows off his great clean vocal approach while also beginning to show his growls and screams in the right spots. Overall, while the first part of this two part song is quite mellow, it does feature it's share of heavy moments near the end before exploding into Language II: Conspire. The second half of the song Language starts off with what sounds like a very cool off time drumbeat by Joey Baca and continues being very heavy. It has it's share of clean, beautiful moments as well. The ending of the song Language may be one of the most beautiful moments in Metal in 2014. Integration is the next song and starts off once again with some very spacy synth sounds before launching into a nice, Cynic influenced, riff. The song is a quaint, mellow song overall, even with its distorted guitars and odd time signatures. But near the end it gets nice and heavy again with screams and Exoplanet style riffing. Thrive is up next and it is easily the overall heaviest song on the album. With the exception of the middle section, which is in 9/8 and features a bass solo by Eberhardt (his only contribution to the album before joining), the song is just heavy from start to finish. Very fast and upbeat with lots of time signature changes. It's easily one of the best tracks on the album. Primordial Sound is one of the more mellow songs on the album, but it features such a great musical soundscape. It is perfect from start to finish. While there isn't too many heavy moments on this song, except near the middle, it flows together so well. Arise is right up there with Thrive as the heaviest song. The song absolutely showcases Robby Baca and Cameron Maynard's exceptional guitar work. It also features one of the only uses of blast beats on the entire album. The next song up is Ebb & Flow. Unless you count Language I and II as one song, this is the longest song on the album. This once again showcases a huge Cynic inspired Progressive Metal sound. It once again is one of the best songs on the album. Joey Baca showcases his amazingly dynamic drumming on this song flawlessly. The ending to Ebb & Flow is the biggest highlight of the entire album without question, so heavy, so beautiful, so perfect. The perfect...Ebb & Flow. The album ends with The Parable. This song is a great blend of mellow, intricate, heavy, and catchy. In a way, it's the entire album of Language fit into one song and the perfect way to close the album.
All in All Language is a perfect album for fans of Prog Metal. Again, old school fans of The Contortionist will have a hard time digesting this album because it's not "Brutal," but the fans who care enough will see Language and enjoy every second of it. It's an easy contender for 'Feel Good Metal Album Of 2014'. While treading on the subject of Language as a whole, it does feel like a concept album about the use of Language in life. Just imagine where you'd be in life without Language, both the vocation and the album. Now go support The Contortionist in any way you can (and Last Chance To Reason as well!)
The Contortionist- Language available NOW via eOne/Goodfight Music
- Josh Rundquist (That Drummer Guy)
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)
Lantlôs, is a band who much like Alcest, was known for very dark Black Metal and slowly, but surely, moving away from the sound on every album. But unlike Alcest who is very much a Post Rock band now a days, Lantlôs is still keeping Metal in the sound, although in a much different way. With the band's latest release, Melting Sun, the album is technically one song separated into 6 tracks. All 6 are quite different in sound from the next, yet all fit together seamlessly.
The album begins with Azure Chimes. The track starts with just a haunting guitar and builds its way into the song. Unlike Lantlôs albums of the part, this album has zero screams, all clean singing, but still beautifully heavy. The sound is more reminiscent of Post Metal and Alternative Metal. If there was a way to compare the sound, a fair comparison is the bands, Anathema, Long Distance Calling, and TesseracT. The next track is Cherry Quartz, which again builds up slowly, but this time with synths and haunting guitar before kicking in. This is much more upbeat beginning and very heavy. It's a strange joy hearing Lantlôs using downtuned guitars now, but it so oddly works. The song slowly gets to a Sludge Metal feel followed by a very mellow interlude, then it all kicks back in. A very heavy, sludgy, Post Metal riff with clean vocals, it is very sexy. Aquamarine Towers is the next track, and what is a theme in the beginning of the album, it starts off quiet and slow, then builds up. The track is the most Post Rockish sounding track on the album. Lots of tremolo picking and atmospheric riffs fill the song. It feels much like listening to the likes of Isis and Pelican. Arguably the best track on the album comes up next, Jade Fields. This has a very Djenty feel throughout. Once again the track starts with synths and guitar before kicking in. TesseracT absolutely comes to mind in this track with the distorted Djent riffs in the middle of the track and like TesseracT, has that great atmospheric landscape as well. Definitely the standout track of the entire album. Up next is a short, almost 3 minute synth and soundclip interlude called Oneironaut, which leads way into the final track, Golden Mind. It starts off very laid back and waltzy. It almost feels like being in the middle of the ocean and slowly being hit by wave after wave in a calm blue ocean (strange image isn't it?) The song slowly and slowly builds up with the waves getting bigger and bigger until it fades away, ending the almost 41 minute song known as Melting Sun.
Melting Sun is a phenomenal piece of work. So many layers and soundscapes in just under 41 minutes and 6 tracks. it gets heavy, it gets Posty, it's all entirely beautiful and exactly what needed to be made. For the last few years Atmospheric Black Metal has been slowly picking up steam and bands like Deafheaven have brought it to the mainstream. Lantlôs has done what Alcest has done and moved away from the sound to create something beautiful, but still be Metal. For those that are bummed that Alcest has gotten rid of all of their Metal side, give Melting Sun a chance. It's the beauty of Alcest, the power of Post Rock, the atmosphere of TesseracT and the entity that has become Lantlôs.
Lantlôs- Melting Sun available NOW via Prophecy Productions
- Josh Rundquist (That Drummer Guy)
Novembers Doom is a criminally underrated band that sadly doesn't get the amount of love that they should. For those unfamiliar with the band, Novembers Doom is a great blend of Doom (who'd guess by the by name, haha) Death, Progressive, and Folk Metal. On their latest album, Bled White the band expands even further in their sound and reaches what could possibly be their best work yet.
The album starts off with the title track, Bled White, And it is in traditional Novembers Doom style. Great dark riffing with the right amount of death growls and clean vocals (vocalist, Paul Kuhr is a master at both styles, which is hard to accomplish in this style). The next track is Heartfelt, and it showcases musically what Novembers Doom is best at, faster, but still midtempo, destruction of the soul. Just Breathe follows next and is a very dark song. Slow moving and a bit uneasy. The mid way point of the song is picks up the pace all while Kuhr keeps up is haunting clean vocals. The song changes variances a couple more times before closing out. Scorpius is a short acoustic guitar interlude that matches the theme of the album perfectly, then from out of nowhere comes Unrest. Unrest is a a nice, heavy, unrelenting song. Just overall awesome Novembers Doom goodness. The Memory Room is a bit of a different kind of track for the band. While the riff sounds similar to the song, Buried, off their last album Aphotic, it doesn't get entirely too heavy on this one. It is as if Novembers Doom was listening to the style of Alice In Chains. It's a nice change of pace as well. The Brave Pawn is one of the heaviest songs on the album and easily the fastest. Pure unadulterated chaos. Clear is another haunting somber song. It is another song that features Kuhr's cleans done properly. Mid tempo and done right. The Grand Circle is another slower song, much in the vein of Clear, but more vocally driven and does have growls in it as well. Animus starts off with a chilling clean guitar riff that just blasts into brutality shortly after. The whole song has the Death/Doom sound that Novembers Doom can master like no one else. The album ends with the longest song on the album, The Silent Dark. This 9:29 epic of a song starts off with haunting sounds with clean vocals. It's not until 2:42 where things up up and the song get heavy. The whole song has that feel that all good longer songs have where it's meant to be this long and doesn't get old. A great send off to a beautiful, heavy, and somber album. I wouldn't want a Novembers Doom album any other way.
Bled White may be the band's finest work to date and that really says a lot considering their back catalog. It is filled with some of the most tasteful guitar solos you will hear in the genre, masterful drumming, the perfect combination of clean and death vocals. If you haven't heard of the band yet, this is the perfect album to start with. If you have, this will be the best one you hear.
Novembers Doom- Bled White available NOW via The End Records
- Josh Rundquist (That Drummer Guy)
Fallujah just might be saving Death Metal from it itself. With the band's second album, The Flesh Prevails coming out July 22nd, 2014, the band has explored an area that many Death Metal bands steer clear of, adding an atmospheric touch to their sound. It has been explored a lot in the realms of Black Metal and Post Metal, but not so much in Death Metal. While the band has somewhat done this on their two previous releases; the debut album The Harvest Wombs, and their EP, Nomadic, it has not been explored like it has on The Flesh Prevails. This is very much a revolutionary album.
The album starts with Starlit Path, which has a very atmospheric intro of clean guitars, synths, and bass, which gradually builds up when the drums get added. When the distortion gets added it turns into Atmospheric chaos. it's not until around the 2:10 mark where the Death Metal truly kicks in. While the rest of the band is playing in true Death meal fashion, there is guitar overlays of cleans and synths that add a fantastic layer of melodicness and atmosphere. This is featured through the entire album. Songs that have already been released (Carved In Stone, Levitation and Sapphire) are very beautiful pieces of Death Metal, again, not a phrase that you would normally hear in the genre. The title track, The Flesh Prevails is arguably one of the highlights of the album. While one of the shorter songs on the album, it showcases the perfect use of dynamics, slowly building up into an expulsion of fury. Alone With You is a short instrumental interlude that is pure atmosphere which leads right back into the chaos that the rest of the album brings. Allure is another instrumental track that contains all the power the rest of the album brings but without vocals, shows off what the music side of the band is capable of in terms of the beautiful chaos. The album ends with Chemical Cave, which is a fantastic final song for an album that showcases the musical side of the band once again in Prog Metal fashion. Almost as if Dream Theater wrote a Death Metal instrumental.
Fallujah's The Flesh Prevails that can save Death Metal from the overabundance of the "Same Ol, Same Ol" approach of just being brutal and the over the top Technical Death Metal approach that only those who can achieve the same sound on their own playing abilities can enjoy. It's a great blend of Atmospheric Death Metal, in a sense that you can have your Death Metal brutal, but have that kick back and relax feeling at the same time. The only thing that I can say that some people may not enjoy about the album is that the latter part of the album does not feature as much vocals as the first half, but again, that's a matter of taste. Musically, it all gels well, and I dare say will be a pioneer in the next Generation of Death Metal.
Fallujiah- The Flesh Prevails Available July 22nd via Unique Leader Records
- 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.