Metal Music Reviews from Andyman1125

SOT Kind of Saltz

Album · 2011 · Avant-garde Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 7 ratings
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Any band takes a risk when they experiment with music. Music, an art that has been tested in nearly every way, shape, form, and style in nearly every conception of the human imagination, never ceases to transform itself in the face of the listener. So, when any band takes the common understanding of rock music and starts to play with it, my first reaction is to take the music with a grain of salt (small pun). However, luckily the Norwegian band SOT (short for "Salt of Tusj," these guys seem to like salt), their experimentation with avant-garde structures is easily digestible. The band's debut, Kind of Saltz, is an eclectic blend of many different styles mashed together tastefully to make a very interesting album from this young band of talented musicians. The band, formed of three experienced Norwegian musicians, a guitarist, a drummer, and, uniquely, a tubist, effortlessly combine the three guys' many influences, ranging from jazz to folk to metal to pop to much more in between to make a very unique sound. At first glance the music seemed to be a combination of the dissonant ferocity of Orthrelm, the aggressive and avant tendencies of Koenjihyakkei, and some jazzy folk artist that I haven't discovered yet. Further inspection led me to discover a bit of influence from Zu, Univers Zero, and other avant flavors. But of course the music has sounds that personally I have yet to put my finger on where it came from. The widely eclectic and experimental style certainly keeps the listener on edge, and, on top of the all-encompassing sound, the band seems to have an almost attention deficit, as they switch from theme to theme as if with the breeze. The emphasis on complexity and odd time signatures makes the music a little difficult to keep track of, but overall the fast-paced action of the beat and instrumental agility makes it a nice joy ride.

With a tubist in the band, it's hard to not almost focus entirely upon the "odd" instrument in the mix. Indeed, the low-tuned brass is prevalent in many parts of the album, giving a great dynamic to the already diverse sound. While the brass bass is not always there, Lars Andreas Haug is always present in some form, whether in trumpet form, vocals, or indeed lending the signature low-end grumble of his tuba. Of course the rest of the band is in no way not present either! Skjalg Reithaug's intuitive and creative guitar lines create a fantastic harmony with Haug's varying instrumental contributions, and Anders Hunstad's rhythmic contributions to the album create the quintessential backbone to the entire album. One thing I always like to hear in an album is when each member truly has a quintessential role in the formation of the music on the album, and that quality is certainly present on Kind of Saltz.

Overall, I was very pleased by this album. It goes without saying that three professional musicians with nearly (if not over) 20 years' experience in the music industry will carry a degree of professionality in their recording and composing. While at times the music may seem quirky, the guys still keep it together instrumentally, melodically, and technically. The songs are well-arranged, tight, and extremely well-performed, displaying a strong sense of diversity and innovation. Away from all the technical critique, the album was a blast to explore, and hosts a myriad of multifaceted dynamics for the listener to discover. Whether a particular harmony between instruments is put together in a genius way or a whole swath of arrangements just fits perfectly, the album is chock full of many great moments put together very well in a cohesive and pleasurable way. 4 stars.

METALLICA Lulu (with Lou Reed)

Album · 2011 · Heavy Metal
Cover art 1.67 | 68 ratings
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To many Metallica seemed to be a dead horse the moment the band released their eighth studio album St. Anger in 2003. The amateur production, undeveloped and raunchy compositions, and overall rather, well, bad album seemed to signal the death of the once most popular metal band in the world. Band tensions were at an all-time high, and the band seemed to be on the verge of dissolution. Yet, the band returned in 2008 with the significantly better Death Magnetic. The album signaled the apparent return to their thrash metal riffs, and while the songs on the album were not as progressive or forward thinking as some on their earlier albums, the album was decisively not bad. When the band announced in 2011 that they were to be collaborating with legendary experimental artist Lou Reed, understandably many fans were rather frightened at the prospect. The two famous musicians, Lou Reed and Metallica as a whole, are very well known not only for their strong headed beliefs but also their general jerk-ish nature. While other similarities may have made it seem as the collaboration might have had some lick of potential, the interesting pairing was bound to have issues. Lou Reed, who is just about 70 years old, is certainly in no position to start making music with a famous metal band. Metallica, whose strong headedness and desire to not care about anyone else in the music business, was not exactly in the position to make music with this 70 year old musician. Nevertheless, LULU was made. The LULU project was an interesting concept to say the least. The album is a double concept album based off the drama of the same name by playwright Frank Wedekind. Reed was allowed to lead the vocal output as well as write all the lyrics. What emerged was the single "The View." The song was abrasive, to say the least. Reed's more "elderly" voice recites his amateurish "poetry" in a spoken word style over Metallica's thrash metal based riffs. The riffs weren't the most creative the band's ever produced, and Reed's choppy vocal work made the whole song entirely humorous. This laughable effort made me, as well as most critics and fans, very worried about the overall release.

The listener's trepidations were answered on Halloween 2011 with the official album release. The 80+ minute album was a true pain to endure through. Reed's vocal performance on "The View" is sadly one of the best on the album, with his vocal work on "Brandenburg Gate" and "Cheat on Me" being especially horrendous. I must say if I begin to laugh hysterically at any body of music that is meant to be released entirely seriously is not a good sign. The awkward, badly coordinated and uncomfortable don't aid this either. While the music behind the awkward vocals as well as James Hetfield's strong backing vocals are overall "good," I really can't take Lou Reed's chanting seriously.

Somehow I can see how the band seemed to enjoy making this album. The music they wrote is not bad. It has that thrash flair that was present on Death Magnetic and is overall quite good for the classic thrash band. They obviously still have somewhat of an experimental bone in them, and what they heard of Lou Reed's dissonant screeching must have impressed them somehow. Also, I can see that they thought it might have been cool to stick to the music industry with this album. Somehow they succeeded in not only drawing me in to the album but getting it and listening to it a number of times, despite the fact that I hated near every listen. There is a point where "avant-garde" and "experimental" becomes "terrible" and "pointless," and this album has for sure crossed that threshold by many miles.

There's not much more to say on Metallica's tenth studio album. The album, pointlessly running at over 87 minutes, is spread over two discs and is a laborious listen the whole way through. Each song has something hysterical to laugh at, and usually its Reed's warbling spoken word vocals. The album also features a few "epics," most notably the pointlessly long 19-minute drone piece "Junior Dad," which really ends at 3 minutes yet continues on for another 16 minutes in a vindictive rant of droney strings, Reed's occasionally haunting wolf moan, occasional actual music, and an overall pointless run of ambient mush. In the end, LULU has shown itself to be Metallica's most controversial release yet, and it doesn't tilt in their favor. 1 star.


Album · 2009 · Alternative Metal
Cover art 3.90 | 23 ratings
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Anyone with the desire to peruse the progressive hard rock genre can see a clear dichotomy in the genre. On one side is the classic 70s sound, with thick Hammond swaths, overdriven guitar riffs, and a blues-rock based sound. On the other side is the more modern style, made up of the post-hardcore, punk, alt-metal, and other "modern" heavy rock bands that dabble in more progressive styles, most notable Porcupine Tree and The Mars Volta. While both constitute "heavy" prog, it's almost amusing how different the two styles can be. Karnivool rose out of a Perth-based garage band formed by singer Ian Kenny in the late 90s. The band initially played a quite standard form of the nu-metal which had exploded over the past decade. The band, which gradually evolved over the years, released first the Persona EP in 2001, then the Themata LP in 2005, both displaying their rather average brand of alt metal. Finally, around 2008 something snapped. With the addition of Steve Judd on drums and John Stockman on bass, the band suddenly seemed driven to experiment with their sound. The masterful product of their mind-opening music adventure was their 2009 opus Sound Awake.

The sound of this album is hard to explain outright. The band, in their four year rest period from Themata, had obviously dabbled in countless different genres, ranging from atmospheric post rock and metal, jazz fusion, some kind of bass-heavy music, progressive metal, Porcupine Tree-esque psych-flavored hard rock and metal, and countless other experimental and progressive styles. On top of this, the quintet's chemistry as a compositional team exploded, as the album's fluidity and ease of transitions is expressed with ultimate grace constantly throughout the 75+ minute album. The crystal clear production and spot-on musicianship shines through the quintet's obvious passion and desire in their music. The harmonies, communication, and liquid nature of the music is perfect. Whether they are gently floating down melodically dense passages, cruising through aggressive sections of near metallic fury, the band is accurate in every attempt they make at composition.

Similar to the majestic Australian countryside, Sound Awake takes the listener on a musical journey, travelling across Outback plains of sand and stone, cityscape vistas of metropolitan chaos, and oceanic masses of majestic beauty. With dynamic like the beauteous soundscapes and post-rock inspired "New Day," the fast-paced and ferocious "Set Fire to the Hive," the epic grandeur of the 20-minute duo of "Deadman" and "Change," and every delicious second that lies out and in between, this album certainly has its share of masterful beauty. And while the band has technically been around for over a decade, this sophomore release certainly shows the band's alarming amount of maturity in music.

Speechlessness is most likely my first reaction on a simple perusal listen of the album. At first I thought a 76 minute album by this (at the time) unknown Australian band may have been a bit too daunting for one digestion, but I was quickly proven wrong by this breathtaking album. The consistent quality, constant pleasure, and commanding masterfulness of the album make it easily one of the best new releases by one of the "modern" heavy prog band. While at the time of this review's authorship Karnivool have yet to release a new album, many are eagerly awaiting more of this delicious formula, and understandably so. Highly recommended. 5 stars.

X-PANDA Flight of Fancy

Album · 2011 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 3.99 | 9 ratings
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The flight of a lifetime

X-Panda is a very new band to emerge on to the already crowded progressive metal scene. Hailing from Estonia, a country not necessarily synonymous with metal or prog, the band seems to have declared their duty to forge their own path in the music world. Armed with professional music education and the drive to make some of the most well-crafted prog metal on this side of the multiverse, the band certainly has made quite a hit with their debut full length album Flight of Fancy. As jazz fans as well as metal fans, the band has encapsulated a love of melody within a love of technicality and metal. The glorious 70 minute album is comprised of eleven (or more accurately ten, not counting the intro) contains easily some of the best prog metal released in many years, with the mostly instrumental music reaching sonic heights not often reached by even the more established bands. The melodically dense music sends the listener on a fantastic journey, which is a feat for any band, never mind a young, yet-unestablished band. X-Panda seems to know what they’re doing and yet they’ve just begun.

It’s not often that I’ll find a metal album that has a heavier (excuse the pun) emphasis on melody than it does on the “metal” aspect of the music, that is the crunching riffs, intense atmosphere, hard-hitting drumming, etcetera. X-Panda seems to have the “lighter” route, with songs noodling around delicate lines of melody and wonderfully orchestrated harmonic sections between the four instrumentalists. I really love how the drums work equally with the guitar, bass, and keyboards as a definite aspect of the music, weaving in and out of melodically-based rhythms and, as noted in the liner notes, Gavin Harrison-esque “rhythmic illusions,” with sections seemingly in 4/4 actually being in triplet form of 12/8, polyrhythms of 7/8 feeling like perfect 4/4 until the perfect “unsynchronized” moment, and so on. While of course there were sections of the album where riffs dominated the music, these tend to not only be the weaker points of album but are also quite scarce across the entire play time.

Easily the best quality of the entire album is the joyful and ethereal quality the solos and melody take on in their context in the songs. Especially on the songs “Dickybirds” and the title track, the melody seems to become alive within the song, exploring new sonic depths not only due to the clean and well-done production, but because of their very nature of pure music. In the context of jazz-fusion tinged prog metal, such a style, especially on the piano, truly shines through and makes the album that much brighter.

In the end, X-Panda’s debut album Flight of Fancy will easily go down as one of the better prog metal releases of the decade. Although through 70 minutes the songs begin to seem to blend into one near indistinguishable song (with obvious reprieves of memorable and distinct tracks), the album still holds its own right as a wonderful melodic journey. Of course the obvious influences can be derived from the music, with guitar solo structures and arrangements often having strong similarities to one Mr. John Petrucci and other typical progressive metal influences. However, these barely hinder the fact that the band has compiled a truly wonderful collection of ten (full length) songs for the listener’s enjoyment - and enjoy it I did. 4 stars.


EP · 2011 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 3.94 | 5 ratings
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Short in stature, colossal in depth

Caligula’s Horse is a young Australian Progressive Metal band founded in early 2011. The band was originally intended to be Quandary guitarist Sam Valen’s solo project, until he found vocalist Jim Grey whose powerful voice fitted Valen’s fresh prog metal music quite wonderfully. The duo’s debut album Moments from the Ephemeral City contained about 40 minutes of truly delicious and quite fresh-sounding prog metal takes, so when the duo recruited a full band and recorded two new tracks with the new lineup pointed towards release as an EP and as bonus tracks on the physical release of the band’s debut, I was excited. I was not disappointed. The two-track EP Colossus only runs a short 10 or so minutes, but the two tracks host a wealth of creative spirit, exciting styles, and inventive sounds.

The short EP contains the title track and the song “Vanishing Rites (Tread Softly Little One).” The EP is much the same style as the preceding full length, with adventurous, dynamic, and diverse sounds all melding into a continuous stream of powerful and very progressive metal. Grey’s strong voice perfectly accentuates Valen and Zac Greensil’s well-placed guitar playing, and Dave Couper and Geoff Irish, bassist and drummer respectively, hold down a wonderful rhythm for the entire band to play around. Now a full band, the EP is also less guitar-centric, with the bass and drums both being much more prevalent in the mix, which makes the music sound much more full and embellished. The diversity of the music is also very much present, with the frequent shifting from mellow melodic rock to happy-go-lucky near-shuffle-esque “metal” to djent-inspired prog metal riff sessions - all of which are quite wonderful for the ears.

The Colossus EP, the second release from this young and promising Australian progressive metal band has blown me away in much the same way the band’s debut album did - the guys in the band have made it quite obvious that they are chock full of creative talent, compositional know-how, and the ability to produce a kick-ass album. The two tracks are dripping with some of the better modern progressive metal to emerge from the scene in the last few years. I can see this band becoming one of the “big ones” in the near future. Highly recommended. 4 stars.

DREAM THEATER A Dramatic Turn of Events

Album · 2011 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 3.97 | 114 ratings
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Breaking all illusions

Dream Theater is a band that needs to introduction. They are the single most popular progressive metal band in the industry, selling millions upon millions of records and playing shows to thousands of die-hard fans. They almost single-handedly forged the path of one of the most prosperous genres in modern progressive rock. They have some of the most dedicated fans of any band as well as some of the most dedicated haters of any band. They’re signature sound can be heard from miles away and has been imitated by countless bands. Their mix of “melody, metal, and prog” has become the standard for near all prog metal bands in their echelon, and the band’s incredible amount of virtuosity has made them gods among technical-loving musicians everywhere. However, the past year has been the most tumultuous time in the band’s entire history. Dream Theater has had its share of “drama.” In 1994-95, the band’s first keyboardist Kevin Moore left the band, and lead singer James LaBrie ruptured his vocal chords due to a food poisoning incident, all right before the band’s second world tour. In the band’s 2010-11 season, however, something eternally more shocking occurred - DT’s driving force and founding member Mike Portnoy announced his departure from the band. Of course, this created an upheaval of reactions from the band’s legions of fans, and much discussion, bittering, and outright arguing occurred between the fans. The band had decided to continue on as a band, which was contrary to what Portnoy had wanted. So, the band stayed in secrecy about their new drummer, announcing they had gone back to the studio in January, and that their new album was to be titled A Dramatic Turn of Events (an aptly, but perhaps a bit too aptly, titled title), before announcing in April of 2011, near 6 months after Portnoy had left, that legendary drummer Mike Mangini, former holder of the fastest single stroke player (over 1200 hits in a minute) was the band’s new drummer. They also announced in documentary form that they had auditioned 7 drummers: Mangini, Virgil Donati, Aquiles Prester, Marco Minnemann, Thomas Lang, Peter Wildoer, and Derek Roddy. In June, the band excitedly released their first single off the new album, “On the Backs of Angels,” which displayed a less metal-dense and very typical progressive Dream Theater sound, which, for the most part, excited fans. The progressive world then patiently waited until September 13 (or, for some, a wee bit earlier due to some less than legal activities) for the release of the band’s new album.

The 77 minute album was a treat for most. The band seemed, despite popular belief, to still be able to write music without Mike Portnoy. In some cases, it seems Portnoy’s insistence on metal seems to have lightened a bit, as there are more ballads and more of a balance between the guitar, keys, and bass (I’ll get to the drums later). Although the metal aspect of the music is still very much present, it seems the album has a heavier emphasis on progressiveness and melody, rather than simply riffs, riffs and more riffs. Rudess and Myung both seem to be much more present (Myung especially) on this album as well, giving a more dynamic approach then just Petrucci’s constant dominance over the music. The entire album is brimming with signature Dream Theater songs - with Rudess’ interesting use of silly keyboard voices, Petrucci’s virtuoso riffing and soloing, and now Mangini’s mechanical and precise drumming, it seems this is the band’s true return to form, and easily the band’s best since 2005’s Octavarium.

Now I’m well known around these parts as a massive Dream Theater fanboy, and that really any opinion of a new Dream Theater album will be slightly skewed based on nearly every prog fan’s natural bias towards the band, good or bad. However, despite my undying love of this band, my opinion of the album seems to have evened out after eleven or so listens. My first listen was skewed by an excitement-high that had me nearly writing a perfect 5 star review. I stopped myself, though. My second listen wasn’t as grand. I seemed to think the album was just another Octavarium with a little Images and Words mixed in; good but nothing special. However, with the third, fourth, fifth, and so on listens, I began to hear the little bits of true greatness the band seemed to have baked into the album. The metal tracks were aggressive, epic, and progressive. The ballads were sincere, intimate, and well played. The longer tracks were arranged well, although not as well as they once were (arrangement was Portnoy’s strong suit). The instrumentation was spot on, with Petrucci’s solos as good as they’ve ever been. Myung’s bass lines are masterful and also, amazingly, audible (at least with a subwoofer :-P). The lyrics weren’t anything to write home about, but they were typical to Dream Theater - seemingly political, ambiguous, and with an overuse of the words “soul” or “life.” Not every song is perfect, with the second track “Build me up, Break me Down” seeming like a cheesy James LaBrie solo career ripoff radio attempt, which seriously drags the album down. Mangini’s drumming seems to have been forced to take the back seat in the mix, which is a daunting contrast to Portnoy’s ever-present drumming in former mixes. LaBrie’s singing, which is usually a sore spot amongst fans and haters alike, is wonderful on the album, and he does an excellent job especially on the album’s 3 ballads.

Each track on the album seems to have a little something special to it, even the lesser ones of the album. The opener, “On the Backs of Angels” is the cozy song for fans, a kind of “hey, we’re still Dream Theater!” that retains the band’s classic sound in a very traditional and signature way. The track is a fantastic showcase of Rudess’ skill, with a great keyboard part really shining in the song. “Build me Up, Break me Down” is easily the weakest song on the album, yet still has a distinct quality to it. It is the album’s “radio friendly” song, although it’s quite the traditional metal song; it is similar to Systematic Chaos’s “Constant Motion” in its intent, methinks. “Lost not Forgotten” is the album’s first “long song,” clocking in at around 10 minutes. Lyrically, it is about the fallen kingdom of Persia, and musically, it’s just as epic as that ancient kingdom. Vast, emotive, and powerful, it is certainly a high point on the album. It is followed by the first ballad on the album, the emotional and moving “This is the Life,” which has a potent dynamic of near-AOR-esque guitar riffing and truly beautiful piano and vocal work. It is easily one of the band’s better ballads in their discography, and it adds a really nice touch to the album. “Bridges in the Sky,” originally titled The Shaman’s Trance, is the second 11 minute epic of the album, which is full of interesting dynamics, intense riffs, and very strong instrumental and vocal performances. It features a classic Dream Theater instrumental section, with precision synchronization, Petrucci/Rudess switch off solos, and an overall incredible virtuoso show-off session. “Outcry” follows suit with “Bridges…,” with an 11 minute length and an epic dynamic metal Dream Theater-fest. Much in the same way of “Bridges…,” it features an epic instrumental section, full of technical mayhem and progressive epicness. “Far From Heaven” is by far the most melancholic song on the album. It features tender vocals by LaBrie, emotive piano work from Rudess, and a very well placed string quartet. “Breaking All Illusions” is the album’s true epic, clocking in at over 12 minutes, and containing all that the album has been building up to. Epic riffing, intense instrumentation, powerful vocals, and even very well written lyrics by none other than John Myung make this easily the best song on the album and a treat for all progressive metal fans. The album finally ends with the guitar-led ballad “Beneath the Surface,” which has a very similar approach to “Far From Heaven,” except in a major key. The song is uplifting and calming, with the subtle strings and Petrucci’s laid back guitar work meshing beautifully with LaBrie’s vocals. It ends the joy ride of an album on a truly spectacular note, wrapping the entire album up in a pretty plush blanket that makes you feel all nice and fuzzy on the inside. Overall, the album has its ups and downs, but it certainly makes for a wonderfully enjoyable roller coaster.

Although this may seem like an over-long and verbose description of how I love this album, I think there’s a little bit of reason behind my 1600+ word review. It has been established time and time again that Dream Theater seems to be in a slump in their creative careers. Needless to say the last few albums have simply been decent, average modern Dream Theater material, with nothing truly outstanding about it. Post-Scenes From a Memory, Dream Theater seemed to be going downhill, and downhill fast. However, it seems that perhaps they have turned their noses up slightly. The album is the band’s true return to form in my opinion. Vast, dynamic progressive metal that’s not drowning in metal riffs but rather floating on a sea of well-developed and carefully chosen riffs is truly what makes up this album. It’s sad that it took a truly dramatic turn of events such as their drummer’s departure for the band to wake up and produce such a masterful album such as A Dramatic Turn of Events. I believe this is the best thing Dream Theater has created in the past 6 years. 4+ stars.

RANDOM Todo.s los colores del

Album · 2011 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 3.96 | 15 ratings
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As far as possible

Random is a young Argentinian progressive/alternative thrash metal band hailing from Argentina, who fuse numerous styles ranging from good ol' 80s thrash to alternative metal to djent to progressive death metal and more, making a truly eclectic and varied blend of metallic mayhem to greet your ears upon a first listen of their debut full length album, Todo.s los Colores Del (or, All the Colors of?), which easily blew me away. The three piece easily formulates sections of fast moving thrashy parts, extremely heavy near- gurgling low-range guitar riffing parts, quirky alternative metal parts, technical progressive metal parts, and endless other quips of style peppered throughout the dense ground work of heavy, heavy, heavy metal. The entire album is a wonderful display of the three guys' talent, both instrumentally and compositionally.

The album opens with a "Cachafaz" (Spanish for "rascal"), which is a great gauge of the style of the rest of the album. Opening with some industrial sounding electronics which is then complimented by some intense riffing, which switches between various styles willy- nilly and different levels of heaviness (all staying quite heavy throughout), the song shows the band's capability to write a generally insane, heavy, and progressive track with ease. Although the song's structure is a bit haywire, with the countless ideas and riffs within the song seemingly just slapped together in a truly eccentric and eclectic way, dueling the song as an absolute mess musically and a mind blowing journey of slap-happy progressive metal, the song is a great display of the band's talent, with the music being perfectly balanced between emotion and technicality (although the quirky aspect of the music makes it seem a bit silly at times).

Much of the album shares a similar style to the opener, with the epic 11 minute "Tururu" laden with heavy as all hell riffs and rapidly shifting styles, the softer "As Far as Impossible" adding a wonderful dynamic to the heavy music, and the melancholic and beautiful "Cuando el Blanco no es Color" (or "when white is not a color," I believe) adding another solemn dynamic to the album with very deliberate nylon acoustic work and atmospheric vocals and other instrumentation. Throughout the album this eclectic blend of heavy and occasionally light moments makes the album a real treat for fans of the "artsy" side of heavy metal.

In the end, Random's Todo.s los Colores Del is an incredible ride. As I've said many times, three guys obviously have a huge range of influences as the album contains within its 56 minutes a near uncountable number of eclectic and diverse sounds that all mesh together into one truly wonderful product. Although at points all these influences seem to boil over and the band has a hard time connecting all of their ideas into a cohesive piece of music, the album still flows with a wonderful aura of maturity in the riffs, composition, and production of the album. Being a debut, I was wary of what the quality of the music would turn out to be, but the band seems to have nailed the production wonderfully, with a great blend of clean sound and slightly damp atmosphere to give presence to the heavy, deep guitar riffs, intense rhythms and rumbling bass lines that make up the trio of musicians. This combined with professional music make this album a true gem in the progressive groove metal genre, and setting this new band on the path to great things. 4 stars.

TORMAN MAXT The Problem of Pain (Part 1)

Album · 2007 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 1.45 | 10 ratings
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(Intended for ProgArchives readers)

Oh boy

Here we have a classic album - classic as the classic love to hate it album on PA. Torman Maxt is a name that elicits no sympathy for classic Archivers. A few months after the band's third studio album, The Problem of Pain Part 1, was released, the band was a featured artist on the ProgArchives homepage. When a negative review was published of the album, the band wasn't too happy and even asked to have the review removed while they were featured on the site, creating quite the controversy at the time. The band has been ridiculed and bashed in reviews and on the forum. But one may ask - are these simply reviews responding to insults received or some other personal message? I'd be safe to say no, no they are not.

The album starts out on a rather positive note, with a somewhat pleasant, but overall quite simple overture, full of textbook theory tricks with counterpoint and harmony. The instrumentation was overall rather simplistic, which so far wasn't a bad thing. However, once the album kicked in with 'Job's Song,' I knew where these reviewers were coming from. The vocals are amateurish, shrill, and just barely listenable. They warble in the upper registers without a cause, grating on my eardrums and seemingly tainting the music. The compositions only begin to deteriorate at this point. They begin to become more amateurish, desperately attempting to be progressive, and have no continuity or symmetry at all. Songs end, begin, and end again within the same track, hardly trying to act like a cohesive piece of music. And again - those melodies! Indeed the problem of pain is this music - causing pain for listeners across the world.

And then, the concept. Oh, the humanity! The album was originally intended to be the band's very own 2112, not a tribute, but more a desperate attempt to make a killer concept album (even though 2112 isn't a concept album - perhaps that's where they went wrong ;-). The band chose the concept of copying the biblical book of Job, where Job is trying to find just what the title implies - the reason for pain and suffering in the world. Well they took that concept, put it into a blender, poured out a heap of peppy upbeat Christian themes, and called it a concept. The album immediately starts out with an obvious Christian overtone (made truly atrocious by the terrible vocals). The lyrics, who do somewhat stay attuned to the lose concept, sadly do not match the feel of the music at all. One part of a concept album, as even their non-conceptual influence album displays wonderfully, is the music! It is a concept album of music anyway. To write an adequate concept album one element must be conceptual music, following the feels, storyline, atmosphere, emotions, and whatnot of the main character or story. However, Torman Maxt thought it would be better to focus on peppy, upbeat, happy themes and ditch any attempt to attach the musical themes to the lyrical themes.

Not only are the lyrics overall quite weak (which is ironic compared to their incredible lyricist influence Neil Peart), but the musicality of the album, as I have said, only decreases as the album goes on. The music lacks direction, emotion, or drive at any given point on the album. It is apparent that the band is much more occupied with making their music seem progressive, with random compositional theme shifts, songs within songs within songs with no apparent reason, and a wonton use of amateur theory tricks to try to make the music seem more professional or mature. Even with the use of counterpoint and six different instruments playing simultaneously, the music emits a terribly amateur vibe. In the end, the band displays their incredible skill at making bland and uninviting music.

When I look for new music, I rarely blind-buy or download music that I know is bad or doesn't sound very good. Therefore my music collection is, in my opinion, mostly 'good' music. I don't happen upon albums like this very often. However, I couldn't resist trying this infamous album in PA history out. A free download, it was even more irresistible. However, with even my first listen, I could see that the flack that this album received was all but hot air. This album is quite possibly one of the worst albums in PA history. The terribly amateur music, the atrocious and unbearable vocals, and the simplistic and pathetic lyrical concept make this album quite... well' bad. I like to consider myself a rather generous rater, but this album is certainly an exception. 1 star.

MASTODON Crack The Skye

Album · 2009 · Sludge Metal
Cover art 4.24 | 90 ratings
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Mastodon is well known as one of the most powerful bands in the modern progressive metal scene. With a fresh, creative style, young, fierce spirit, and the capability to make incredible music, they have a lot to offer. Through four studio albums, the band has shown their technical ability, willingness to experiment with their sound, and amazing ability with the music they make. On their latest offering, Crack the Skye, the band displays a much mellower, progressive sound, full of incredible experimental dissonance and sludge metal overtones. The entire album is an experimental powerhouse, packed to the brim with the band's finest music crafted yet. Overall, this album is truly a marvelous showing of 2009 and easily the band's best.

One thing that is obvious about this album's music even in the first few seconds is the infectious dissonance that is perfectly insinuated between the melodies and harmonies. The band's compositional quality is not that of what one would hear on an everyday progressive metal album, which makes this album truly unique in a really spectacular way. The band crafts their music in such a way as to keep that epic metal that they're known for while procuring a wonderful progressiveness about their music as to appeal pretty much any experimental metal fan.

The whole atmosphere of the music on this album is also quite incredible. To augment the dissonance about their music, the band inserts very subtle and appropriate filler aspects similar to what The Mars Volta has done; they use very quiet and subtle strings, chorus, and mellotron/Hammond fills to really fill in the gaps of their playing in a truly incredible way. It adds spectacular colour and depth to the music, and making the entire album a real blast to ride on. The whole album is brimming with genius compositions, and the great sludge- inspired insinuations add a nice flavor to the already experimental metal. Overall, musically, this is a truly wonderful album, and the band's best so far.

In the end, Crack the Skye is easily one of the better metal albums of 2009. Chock full of fantastic melodies (sludgey and scratchy but still fantastic), a wonderful experimental feel, two sublime epics (Czar and The Last Baron), and so much more. The band has truly shown their true colors here, expressing their willingness to morph the very sound they pride themselves on and their ability to delve into uncharted territory in the musical spectrum. Overall, this is truly a great album, and I recommend it to every metal fan out there. 4 stars.

SPIRAL ARCHITECT A Sceptic's Universe

Album · 2000 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 4.22 | 11 ratings
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Is that a solo or a tornado?

Spiral Architect is an interesting band. They emerged like a small flame in the intense heat of the mid 90s’ “jazz metal” frenzy, where bands like Death, Atheist and Cynic were releasing revolutionary music with the interesting fusion of jazz and technical death metal. Spiral Architect has a very similar style to Elements era Atheist, with an intensely fast and speed driven jazz fusion esque bass and guitar lines, this time with more melodic vocals. The band released a single album, A Skeptic’s Universe, in 2000 before disintegrating into oblivion. The band, even with just one, obscure album, has succeeded in leaving a significant mark on the progressive metal world with their interpretation of a brief musical movement.

The album’s musical makeup is very similar to much of the jazz metal of the era, with a bit more thrash metal, melodic vocal pieces, and a slightly dissonant guitar feel at points. Although they have obvious influence in the likes of Atheist and Death, the band is still able to break away with a slightly more unique style, fusing more traditional progressive metal, jazz, and thrash metal to make an interesting view on the jazz metal scene. The songs have some really superb points, but others seem like essentially every other jazz metal band of the time period – fast, intense, technical metal manias with ample shredding and hard post-bop influenced bass lines. Although the music at times seems like nothing special with the slew of bands just like it, it does have a slight attractive quality that makes the cold lines of intense music appealing.

One think I’m really bent on is whether to say I really love the incredible audible, intense bass lines, or say that they’re unnecessary. Although I absolutely love the fact that they are on the same aural level as the hissing guitars, some part of me thinks their over-technicality adds some kind of a frigid, inaccessible quality to the music. Although they are “necessary” to make the music have that “jazz” feel, at times they just aren’t right for the music. However, I must commend the band for their incredible skill of adding an odd harmony between the tornado off bass lines and the crunching, technical guitar lines. Although at times the crazy frenzy is a little scary, overall the band has done a superb job of crafting a very interesting technical metal album.

Overall, this album, all together, is a very balanced display of technical metal. The band manages to balance being like every other tech metal of the age with having a unique and defining sound, making for a good, but not overly remarkable album. This technical monstrosity has its genius moments, its “that was unnecessary” moments, its moments of almost ironic melodic grace, and its moments of “this is just like every other tech metal band ever,” equaling out to a good, but non-essential album. One can find more pleasure with bands like Death, Cynic (especially Cynic), and Atheist. Although this album is in no way bad (it is quite good, in fact), it is no essential addition to a collection, unless the listener wants a more inclusive tech metal collection. 3+ stars.

JAMES LABRIE Elements of Persuasion

Album · 2005 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 3.49 | 17 ratings
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Slightly out of touch

James Labrie’s solo effort began in the late 90s with his project/side band Mullmuzzler. The band released two official albums, one in 1999 and one in 2001. Labrie then took a break from the solo field, before coming back in 2005 with an entirely solo (with his name on the cover) album, Elements of Persuasion. The album was released shortly before Octavarium, and the album actually leaked onto Limewire prior to its release, and many mistook the album for Octavarium. The album, while sharing the same singer, has a starkly different and significantly darker feel than Labrie’s home band Dream Theater. Although the progressive metal aspect of the album is shared between the band, Labrie’s solo project is much more electronic, thrashy, and by leaps and bounds more heavy than Dream Theater. Laden with near metalcore breakdowns and near thrash metal riffs and blast beats as well as mellow ballad like tracks to contrast these, the album is a high stakes, non-stop album, full of energy and fury as Labrie and his band (which included future Dream Theater drummer Mike Magini) crafted a rather interesting, if not just a bit generic, album.

One thing that really hit me while listening to this album was the heavy accessibility Labrie is obviously striving for on this album. The odd electro beats that open many of the songs, the synthesized atmospheres encasing many of the songs, and much more of the electronic aspects of the album also add to this odd popularly leaning feel of the album. Whether this adds or detracts from the album, I still can’t decide after listening to the album for a number of years now. It’s obvious that Labrie was looking for some kind of pay with this, but was still looking to keep that progressive edge that Dream Theater is well known for (probably to attract more fans of the band; that is how I found this album!).

The great guitar work of Marco Sfogli adds both a fantastic and a bit detracting edge to the album – at times his playing is perfect for the atmosphere and feel of the song, yet at others his senseless shredding really doesn’t fit the music he’s soloing over. The whole atmosphere he has created, however, is a nice change of pace from Labrie’s traditional work, even if it is a bit on the heavy and popularly-leaning side.

Of course, this intense heavy metal is essential to get DT fans, which were just exposed to Train of Thought in 2003, to like the album. Whether Labrie was intending to produce a near progressive thrash metal album or not, the fusion of this thick music with techno-ish sounds makes for a more unique progressive metal sound. Although it still has the obvious leanings of someone who is intent on making a progressive metal album, it still is a bit of a change of the more virtuoso-esque Dream Theaterian music. Again, whether this is good or not, I can’t really tell. I like the more mature compositions of the aged Dream Theater song writers, but Labrie’s compositions aren’t all that bad. Although his lyrics are even cheesier than some of Dream Theater’s, at times they are pretty damn good.

The odd contrast to the heavy metal tracks on the album are the near cheese wheel ballads that dot the album, covered in cheesy electro beats and stereotypical Labrie ballad melodies. Although they are nice, I can’t help but laugh. The steady beat, low, breathy vocals, and lyrics so cheesy they could supply a busy deli, most of these songs are just too much for me to take. If one ignores the obvious clichés of the music, they make for nice melodious tracks, but in the end they are quite silly.

In the end, this album receives a very mixed feeling from me. Although the majority of the album is a decent progressive metal album, the album balances out with both equally cheesy and fantastic songs. Labrie, no stranger to the progressive metal genre, has crafted what many bands seem to have failed to do – a good Dream Theater clone album. Of course this may be biased seeing as Labrie is Dream Theater’s singer, but overall the music on this disc isn’t all that bad. Overall, the album is just slightly out of touch with a truly good album, yet is better than a non-essential album. I think this is a fantastic addition to any Dream Theater fan’s collection, but isn’t really necessary elsewhere. 4- stars.

PELICAN March Into The Sea

EP · 2005 · Atmospheric Sludge Metal
Cover art 3.65 | 6 ratings
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The wonderful world of post metal

Pelican is a group that has a select group of massive fans, and a larger group of listeners that holds no particular love for the band but just an apathetic hold on their music in order to have some post metal in their collection. The band's music is sludgey, noisy, and a whole host of other skin-grating qualities that at times are appropriate and at others just a mass of noise and speaker-blowing mess. However, at points the music transitions into striking beauty, defying the baritone guitar mess with accents of acoustic grace and even sections of strings and piano. This EP, released shortly before their sophomore studio album, contains just two tracks, and lengthier, more improvised and at points more majestic and melodic version of the title track (on the full length it is titled "March to the Sea" rather than "into the Sea") and a remix of Angel Tears off their debut. Overall the EP is a grandiose post metal gem, and an obvious high point in their discography.

I'm a self-proclaimed lover of long songs, so the presence of two lengthier songs was an obvious bonus as I spelunked along Pelican's discography. Now I'm not a huge fan of post rock, and the combination of metal and the former genre is not high on my list of favored genres, but this band surely does a good job with it. Although, as I said before, much of the music is a mess of baritone guitar riffing and loud, overbearing drumming, this EP has a surprising amount of structure and melody to compliment it. The remix has a nice ambient almost electronic effect to it, which really accentuates the post rock feel behind the music. Overall, the two tracks are real treats for any post metal or even any post rock fan, and I recommend them to anyone who doesn't mind enduring a few grueling minutes of growling baritone guitar riffs. 4- stars.

OPETH Damnation

Album · 2003 · Non-Metal
Cover art 3.93 | 109 ratings
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The conjuration of a wisp of beauty

Opeth are one of the most revered progressive death metal bands in the entire progressive world. Since the mid-90s, the band has gotten progressively more.. well' progressive in their approach to the genre. With the groundbreaking Still Life, they amazed the community with their truly innovative style and willingness to bend the rules of metal. With each consecutive release, the band developed their sound into one of the most mature death metal acts out there. When they released their 2002 album Deliverance, Mikael Akerfeldt had the idea of doubling the metal-laden album with a near metal-less album the following year (without the consent of his band mates). The result was the sublime Damnation in 2003. The album, full of incredible mellow melodies and jazz inspired and appropriate rhythmic qualities, was a stark departure from their normal style, yet it seemed appropriate for the direction they were headed. Overall, the album is a beautiful representation of this band's potential.

From a band so well known for their inventive metallic output, it's often difficult to believe such a mellow, melodic album came from the same band. The songs, consisting of clean guitar riffs, jazzy rhythmic backings, and a strong bass line accented by various keyboard textures contributed by none other than the revered Steven Wilson of Porcupine Tree fame. The whole atmosphere of the music is truly incredible ' Akerfeldt composes melodies to compliment dark lyrics and themes, with the jazz inspired rhythmic work of Martin Lopez carrying the gentle guitar work along paths of melodic grace, traversing into the airwaves with the conjuration of a simple wisp of musical beauty. This music is truly special. Wilson's accurate use of the mellotron, Rhodes, and other keyboard textures adds to this almost dissonant ambience, filling in the gaps between the band's playing, the vocal melodies, and the harmonic dissonance. This ingenious and minimalistic keyboard work really adds to the music beautifully.

In the end, I must profess my love for this album. It's essentially perfect. It may not be a 'masterpiece' in MMA terms, but this album is still damn good. Full of infectious yet highly progressive melodies, inventive playing, composing, and drumming, the whole album is brimming with a sense of vigor and life, yet is easily the band's gloomier and doomier album. Naming this album's genre would be difficult, for it's almost composed entirely of 70s progressive influences, contains no real metal, yet still has that melodeath twinge of Opethian fame and a slightly doom metal edge going on. However, the album is still a spectacular display of this band's might. It's really incredible that this four piece (five including Wilson) has crafted such a magnificent work of art. Overall, this album is truly spectacular. 4- stars. (adjusted for its lack of metal)


Album · 2009 · Metal Related
Cover art 3.82 | 47 ratings
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The undeserved bashing needs to end

Porcupine Tree is a widely loved band in the progressive community. Since the early 90s, the band has released a number of classic records, from the quirky debut On the Sunday of Life to the more metallic and incredibly diverse In Absentia. With their latest album, The Incident, the band's second album on the acclaimed (and also declaimed) label Roadrunner Records, host of many a prog-lover's bands, the band truly exemplifies the sound they began to approach back in 2002. The album is essentially one 55 minute long epic, with an EP length disc 2. Comprised of a more metallic edge, a fiercer outlook, and a dynamic range of sonic excellence, the album truly is a treat. Sadly, compared to 2007's great Fear of a Blank Planet, many were skeptical with the release and the album's ratings quickly began to decline. Although this album may not be your everyday Porcupine Tree album, it certainly packs a fantastic punch and is a great display of this band's excellent prowess.

Porcupine Tree is known for its more psychedelic output of the 90s. In the 2000s, the new drummer Gavin Harrison announced almost a new era for the band, with a sharper turn in the Progressive Metal direction with his appearance on In Absentia. The band has steadily progressed in that direction ever since. On this album, a whole slew of influences can be heard, from a slightly psychedelic to mellower rock, great punchy metal lines, and even some more art-pop oriented regions all appearing on the fantastic epic. Although this may not reach the level of the superb long epic like "The Whirlwind" or "Mei", but it certainly marks a superb display of modern prog. Steve Wilson has shown his compositional knowhow many a times, and this album only extends this. With tasty sections and rhythmic and harmonically beautiful sections, this album certainly has a delicious proggy flair to it. Even on my first listen I was captivated by a few incredible tracks, most notably Time Flies and I Drive the Hearse. Although the lyrical theme can seem silly at first, it quickly delves into more philosophical matter and at times has some superb lyrics. Overall, the album is a real treat. Although at times one may speculate the band has sold into a more poppy region of music, the album really stays true to its original genre and is a great album for the year.

I'd like to talk about two tracks on this album that really strike a chord with me on this album - Time Flies and I Drive the Hearse. Both are incredible, impeccably composed and mastered and overall just wonderfully done. When I had first heard Porcupine Tree around 2007 or 2008, I was still a huge metalhead and thought most of the band's music, which was overall much lighter, was boring and not listen-worthy. Despite the fact, I got The Incident. When I heard Time Flies, I was blown away. The gentle chords, the simple yet complex rhythms and the potent atmosphere created by the truly genius Richard Barbieri really made a spectacular effect on me - it showed me the power of more "simple" music; that music didn't need to have shredding solos or intense riffing sessions, that it truly could just be this incredible blend of psychedelics, popularly leaning melodies, and an overall wonderful atmosphere that could make up a spectacular song. Overall, this track is genius and a wonderful gem on this album.

The next real kicker for me was the final movement, I Drive the Hearse. This is probably one of the most pop-oriented tracks on the album, yet I absolutely love it. The incredible simplicity of it, the fantastic lyrics, and the overall spectacular atmosphere of the music really turned me on to this classic of the PT discography. Although it may seem one of those "sell-out" sort of tracks, it really is an almost retro-PT track, reaching into the back catalogs of PT's sound and extracting a truly marvelous song - and an incredibly addition to this album.

It's quite sad how this album is poo-pooed by so many critics. It really is a great album, and although it may not be a masterpiece of the band's discography, it really is a magnificent addition to a line of great albums. Yes, the band seems to be moving in a more popularly leaning direction, but this album is in no way pop - it still has that PT vibe, the slightly psychedelic, almost metallic, superbly progressive, and overall great atmosphere associated with a Wilson production. Overall, the album is a great addition to anyone's collection that is yearning for a more accessible but still fantastic prog record. 4 stars.

OSI Blood

Album · 2009 · Alternative Metal
Cover art 3.57 | 19 ratings
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False start

OSI began as a collaboration between Jim Matheos of Fates Waring, Kevin Moore of Chroma Key (and formally Dream Theater), and Mike Portnoy of Dream Theater. After two albums, Mike Portnoy was fed up of feeling like a studio drummer rather and a collaborator, so he dropped out of the problem after the band's sophomore album Free. As a replacement, the band brought in Porcupine Tree drummer Gavin Harrison to record their next album, Blood. Having a much more ambient and electronic feel than their debut (sadly I have yet to hear Free) the album is much more contemplative and mellow feeling to it with much less metal on the album. The balance of ambience and metal found on the album is a little off balance, however, with only a few hard hitting (and fantastic) metallic tracks only dotting the many more slow ambient tracks, some of which can be a bit slow moving and uneventful.

Blasting off with the killer The Escape Artist, I was at first hopeful for a fantastic album full of thumping metal tracks accented by Harrison's jazzier approach to metal and Matheos' inventive riffing. However, the album debuted on what I would soon call a False Start (ha, a pun), seeing as the album quickly halted after the end of that track. Although the ambient and psychedelic work of Kevin Moore began to grow on me with further listens, I was at first bored by his keyboard layers and atmospheric work. However, these short, hard hitting metal moments start to emerge as nice dynamics to the music, spicing up the ambient continuity with spices of metallic bliss; although the harder tracks are shorter and less contemplative than the ambient material, they pack a potent punch of dense Moore-esque metal, with incredible lyrics, very mellow melodies accenting crushing metallic riffs, and an overall fantastic display of composition work. However, as the atmospheres decline from psychedelic bliss to boring repetition, the greandeur of this album starts to diminish. Although I am supremely impressed by Moore's lyrical skill, his vocal style, and his prowess with the ambient keyboard loop, I am doomed to consider this album a rather non-essential release; the band has a great lineup and some truly spectacular moments, but overall the album does not do all that much for me, except make for a relaxing musical journey whenever I feel like being serenaded by this electronic amalgamation. Until Microburst Alert, which is little more than a jazzed up (instrumental) hip hop song.

In the end, this album is a very good release. However, its genius is limited. With only two truly metal songs and seven good but not as good ambient atmospheric tracks, the album begins to drag out by the time the title track rolls around. I do find it difficult, however, to sound like I'm trashing this album when it truly is a very good album. I just thing a little more metal injection would do it some good, especially with the massive success I found with The Escape Artist and False Start. Moore's atmospheres and lyrics make for a nice sublime journey, but they can't really compete with some of the heavier material on the album. Overall, Blood is a good album, but not an absolute necessity. 3+ stars.


EP · 2011 · Deathcore
Cover art 3.53 | 8 ratings
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Cognitive Dissonance

Auckenrose is a young Rhody based progressive deathcore act. Phsysis, the band's debut EP, is a tasty mix of progressive metal, deathcore, and jazz-tinged groove metal. The compositions are each interesting, with death and melodic breakdowns spicing up a rather dead (ha, I made a pun) genre. Although the production quality is a bit lacking and the overall atmosphere of the music seems a bit amateur, the debut is a great introduction to this young deathcore act who are sure to pop up on metal radars now and in the future.

Inhale Silence is a mellow opener; it is comprised of some nice clean guitars and quiet drumming. Although this opens the album's theme of unprofessional production (the song has an odd reverb effect that doesn't sound like it was intended), the music is nice and pleasant.

Awakening (Your Truth) opens with a heavy deathcore riff session, with math influenced rhythms and rapid fire guitar chugs. However, this great moment is ruptured by the appearance of a certain flaw in the band's music - the clean vocals. Mostly due to production flaws, the vocal melodies, although nicely harmonizing the music, have a very harsh dissonance to the, alienating the great music behind it. However, the band is able to recover with a great breakdown that slips almost into the sludge department. Overall, the song, musically, is really good. Some really great death passages are contrasted beautifully with melodic passages. However, the main flaw with this song, as I've stated before and will most likely state again, is the production. The mixing and production flaws are glaring, and seriously detract from would most likely be a much better song.

Cognitive Dissonance is the powerhouse track of the EP, opening with a rapid thrash metal riff session and even dipping into some Opethian metal feels. The transition from the heavy thrash death section to the melodic section is a little awkward, but the melodic section does turn out to be a really great piece of music. Utilizing some nice guitar melodies and rhythmic backing, the section is a nice dynamic for the song. Another rather interesting dynamic to this track is the "jazzy" section near the end, showing the band's quirky willingness to experiment with their sound. In the end, the song is definitely the high point of the EP and, even with the production flaws (which are significantly less apparent in this song, other than the awkward bass drum mixing), it is a really great track.

Arachaea is the pure deathcore track on the album, with intense insane riffing and rapid fire gravity-style drum beats, typical to the genre. The short song has no shortness of ferocity, to be sure, and really fleshes out this band's roots.

Exhale Silence is the least "metal" track on the album, with less straightforward deathcore atmospheres and a much more ambient feel to it. Opening very slowly and with a mellow guitar melody leading the way, which eventually leads into a power-chord field day, more reminiscent of a hard punk track than a deathcore track. However different it is from most of the band's material, the song has a nice atmosphere to it, and closes the EP on a more relaxed note than the insanity that preceded it.

ALBUM OVERALL: There are two main aspects that have influenced this rating: 1) the music that is being played, which is quite good, and 2) the production quality of the music, which is quite bad. Of course, the music takes massive priority over the production quality, but the quality of the recording, more akin to a demo than an official EP, needs to be considered. Auckenrose have truly whipped together a great collection of tracks, each with their own set of dynamics and qualities. However, the mixing and production really can't do it justice. Each of the songs also have glaring flaws in quality that alienate the music, most obvious the watery mess the bass drum sounds like. Overall, however, the EP is good, and, with more careful analysis of the production value, the band's future material shows great promise. 3+ stars.


Album · 1994 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 2.69 | 39 ratings
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A premonition

Symphony X is one of those bands that emerged in the 90s as a fusion of power metal and the quickly growing genre of progressive metal. At first, like many others, they stumbled, making more generic power metal than anything else. The compositions were pretty uninventive, with some quick neo-classical tricks and standard proggish tendencies to spice up the music with some cheesy symphonic effects and layers. Symphony X’s debut album follows this formula pretty well, outlining what much of the band’s discography will be like in the future. Michael Romeo shows his technical prowess throughout the album, ripping out shredding neo-classical solos meant to wow but are pretty mediocre overall. This particular album is really nothing special; it serves as a decent introduction to the Symphony X sound.

Into the Dementia is a one minute ambient intro with some effects and quiet guitar soloing behind the symphonic atmospheres. The song transitions into the true opener for the album, The Raging Seasons. The track opens with a nice riff and some symphonic layers to back it. This song is one of the better on the album, with some of the proggier and more creative riffs to compliment it. However, the guitar solos tend to detract from the song a bit. They consist of mostly tasteless shredding, with some awkward transitions to go along with them. Overall, the song opens for the album well, showing the listener the general Symphony X style without really showing you anything that special.

Premonition opens with a nice piano and symphonic piece, opening for a nice cheese filled prog/power metal riff session. The melodic qualities for the album are pretty poor, especially with the cheesy choir attempts backing Rod Tyler’s voice. My favorite part of this track is the sweeping guitar/synth sounding layer behind the guitar chugging, but sadly it is rather quiet and not mixed well. Overall, the song is another pretty mediocre effort, continuing a theme for the album.

Masquerade is certainly my favorite track on the album and one of the better compositions of this period (the “power metal” period). Although it is very neo-classical centric, the riffing is some of the better seen on the album, and Tyler’s vocal work is the best seen on the album. Although the stereotypical amateur mixing problems still remain to hinder the track, it does have some nice qualities and cool breakdowns. Overall, although it still isn’t fantastic, it is decent.

Absinthe and Rue is one of the better and the worst tracks on the album. At some points, the riffing is great, with some great foreshadowing to Symphony X’s future style. At other times, the melodic breakdowns and instrumental work is a little pathetic, with awkward transitions and other pretty bad qualities. Throughout the song it’s really a swinging game, with really great verse and then a wall at the chorus with some pretty cheesy power metal riffing.

Shades of Grey is one of the more awkward songs I have ever heard. Although the future style of Symphony X can be heard at times with some really cool use of polyrhythm and adventurous chords, the vocal melodies are painful at times. The attempted jovial feeling of the track is a bit of a failure on the band’s part, with Rod Tyler’s vocal style not fitting the song at all. Overall the song has the seeds of the band’s success, but also contains some of the band’s worst moments.

Taunting the Notorious is mostly just a stereotypical neo-classical track, with some steady riffing and double-bass work. Nothing that special comes out of this track, with some pretty standard Yngwie Malmsteen-esque soloing, although the switches between the guitar and bass solos are quite nice.

Rapture or Pain is in the same vein as Absinthe and Rue. It has some really great parts, such as the cool intro, but also has some pretty awkward moments as well. The instrumentation in this song is some of the better on the album, with some cool polyrhythmic moments and atmospheric guitar riffing. However, just like much of the album, the vocal melodies seriously lack at sections. Overall, the song is again pretty mediocre; with some generic riffing and at parts great sections, and at others pretty bad parts.

Thorns of Sorrow is just like many of the other tracks: some interesting keyboard work with some neo-classical power metal riffs to go along with it. Overall it is again pretty mediocre; the majority of the song is just some pretty standard verse-chorus-verse structure and some uninteresting riffs and themes.

A Lesson Before Dying is the 12 minute epic of the album, and a culmination of all the stress of mediocrity that built up over the album. Opening with a mellow acoustic part and some pleasant melodies for a change, the song is the first dynamic to really show up on an album filled to the brim with fast-paced power metal riffs. The track takes a while to get started up, which is a relief, and shows the band’s budding progressive metal taste as well. The track has some of the album’s best compositional goodies, with some jazzy feels and great proggish atmospheres. Overall, the song is definitely one of the better songs on the album.

ALBUM OVERALL: The immaturity of Symphony X runs amuck on this album, but just like any child, the traits of maturity are sown all over the place. Although the majority of the album is just standard neo-classical riffing and over-accentuated and muddled soloing, it does have a few (a very small few) select redeeming qualities. From songs that show the band’s developing styles to some interesting use of symphonic layers, the album is almost decent. However, the overbearing sense of mediocre power-metal riffs and mediocre neo-classical influence, the album is seriously put down from where it could have been alright. Overall, it’s not really very good, but is just a shy better than bad. 3- stars.

CALIGULA'S HORSE Moments from Ephemeral City

Album · 2011 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 3.74 | 13 ratings
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Alone in the world…

Caligula’s Horse is an obscure, young, indie Australian eclectic progressive metal band. Started as a solo project for Quandary’s guitarist Sam Vallen, when vocalist Jim Grey joined the project, the band grew into a fully functioning project. Their debut album, Moments from Ephemeral City, fuses the melodic progressive rock/metal of the guitarist’s main band Quandary with the heavier metal of his aspirations for a truly eclectic brand of progressive metal. Each track fuses a great melodic diction with heavy bursts of fury with strong diversity running through the entire album. An overall powerhouse of modern progressive metal, and a fantastic and professional album as well, showing this band’s apparent maturity and (hopefully) lasting mark on the genre.

The City Has No Life opens the album, first light and jovial, with some nice guitar work. It soon transitions into a nice guitar solo, with some nice harmonizations between the guitars. Quickly it transcends into the throes of trepidation, throwing in heavier riffs and rhythms to back the accelerating solos. The song takes no prisoners, however, having no trouble in transitioning into a mellow and melodic section. Even from this, the song flies into the heavier spectrum yet again, only to transition again and again, keeping the listener tuned to the stereo as the band throws countless dynamic changes in this apparently highly diverse music. Even from the first track, one can see the alarming skill the band possesses, with effortless transitions and compositional goodies peppering the track the whole way through. Despite being harsh at times in a lyrical sense, it has use with accents on the harsh swears at the most opportune times, accentuating the music at the essential parts. Overall, the song perfectly displays this band’s vision, and outlines the way this band functions very well.

Silence opens with a mellow ambient acoustic part, with another great guitar solo to back it. Throwing in more ambient tricks, the song has a more spacey feel, with a much heavier emphasis on melody than metal in this track. It has a very chill atmosphere, fusing a cool proggy feel with some contrasting melodies. Although not as strong as the first track in a metal sense, it still has a strong creative output and a nice atmosphere.

Singularity has a stronger metallic groove going for it, opening with a great sweeping solo. It is a superb instrumental, showcasing the instrumental prowess of Vallen and co. (I’m not sure if there is a “co.”). Although the themes get a bit repetitive, the great soloing and layering going on during the track really give it a nice spice.

Alone in the World, the massive 11 minuter on the album, is one of my favorite tracks on the album. Opening for once with a crushing djenty riff and some nice groove backing it, the track is the most obviously metal on the album. It sweeps in and out of a killer riff session and a great melodic vocal theme. With another killer guitar solo, the song’s instrumental section is easily the best on the album. Vallen’s unique style, although apparently Petrucci-influenced, has a really great vibe to it and has some great harmonization going on. The mellow breakdown in the middle of the track provides a nice breather to the intensity of the track and makes a nice contrast to the intense metal preceding it. The exiting solo is great, utilizing some really nice sounding sweeps and shreds. Overall, it is a fantastic track, fusing much of the band’s overall style into a nice concise track.

Ephemera is a fantastic little melodic track, with some sublime harmony between the vocal parts and some really great acoustic work. The atmospheres and ambient layers also really add to the track very nicely, giving it a fantastic spacey feel. Another great feature is the symphonic pieces, accenting the music nicely. Overall a shorter, but very pretty, track; it gives the album a nice dynamic.

Equally Flawed, next to Alone in the World, is my favorite track on the album. Opening with a fantastic little piano diddy, it soon transitions into a sweeping metal groove session. Combining some really great melodies to front the great metal riffs and some really nice lyrics, the song has not trouble getting into the upper sonic echelons, utilizing some really amazing arrangements between each instrument for different themes from earlier in the track and countless other really fantastic compositional pieces.

Calliope’s Son, although it opens with most likely the cheesiest opening I’ve ever heard is a great track. Although the first notes set you up for one of the cheesiest track ever, they soon modulate into a really fantastic mode. The song flows into a really great adventurous metal track, reaching heights as the smash hit success Haken did last year (2010), with some really fantastic metallic section and some really great contrasts and dynamics between each instrument. Overall it’s a really fantastic track which really closes the album well.

ALBUM OVERALL: For a debut, this is spectacular. For an album, it’s damn fantastic as well. Blasting out of only a little experience with an indie prog metal band, Sam Vallen and his trusty vocalist Jim Grey have come forth with a highly professional and superbly crafted section of music, with a fresh style and a great vision for the genre. Each track has countless little diverse tidbits that really give the album life, breathe air into a great composition, and set this band off onto the great road to success, and a great cult following of devoted prog listeners. 4 stars.

CYNIC Re-Traced

EP · 2010 · Metal Related
Cover art 3.60 | 14 ratings
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Reaching for expectations that can't be met.

After the release of their second studio album, Traced in Air, Cynic decided to release a remix EP called "Re-traced," remixing some of the tracks off that album. The tracks are remixed in a more electronic fashion, with more mellow DJ-like rhythms and electronic melodies (even though the melodies on the album were electronic already. The mellow atmosphere of the songs are nice, but don't live up to the incredible compositional qualities seen on the original album. The shorted titles of the track titles give away a certain degree of what the EP is like -- a stunted version of an original great.

The EP starts off with Space (short for "Space for This"). It immediately starts with a rotating electronic beat, with mellow quiet guitar chords and muffled vocals backing it. The track is very slow and ambient, focusing more on the atmosphere of the overall song than the actual progressions of the music. Some interesting variations on the chorus riffing is seen, but it can't really stand up to the original track's prowess.

Evolutionary (short for "Evolutionary Sleeper") is the massively slowed down version of the classic track off the original album. With a nice atmosphere, the song has little to it's other than that atmosphere. The remix has certainly come a long way from the sweeping grandeur of the original track. Overall, although it has a nice atmosphere, it has little else to call it exceptional.

King (short for "King of Those Who Know") follows the same formula as the rest of the album - slowing the original track into a pleasant atmosphere with nice interpretations on the original chord progressions and riffs. Overall not spectacular, although this song does feature some nice false buildups and releases, making for a nice relaxing sensation. It is one of my favorite remixes on the track and has some of the cooler muddlings of the original sound.

Integral (short for "Integral Birth") takes a turn and is essentially an acoustic version of the original, with some pleasant atmospheres backing it. Although it is still rather slow and contains little but pleasant ambient overtones, the song is quite pleasant, offering a nice new outlook on the presence of the track.

Wheels Within Wheels is the only "actual" Cynic track on the EP, breaking out Cynic's more metallic compositional skill, and reminiscing the glory of Traced in Air without rupturing the river of a song's incredible ambiance with an electronic remix. Overall it may not live up to the amazing expectations of Traced In Air, but still has a great riff sequence and chord progression, making for another classic Cynic track.

ALBUM OVERALL: Re-traced is nothing special. With some pleasant remixes and nice atmospheres to its name, the EP is nice to listen to a few times, but is no classic album. The best track on the album is the last, actual track, and features some of Cynic's more melodic qualities, rather than the electronic remixes of former Cynic masterpieces. Overall, the album is good, and I'm not condemning the remixes as horrid, but they don't function as worthy representatives to the original tracks. 3 stars.

TO-MERA Delusions

Album · 2008 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 4.24 | 22 ratings
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The Glory of To-Mera

To-Mera is an English progressive metal group that fuses the great stuff of prog metal with jazz and other adventurous qualities for a great form of progressive metal. "Delusions" is their second studio album, and it certainly a killer of an album. Staggering in depth and maturity, the album mixes a great deal of styles into an eclectic and exciting form of progressive metal. With precise musicianship and swinging styles and dynamics, the album never ceases to amaze me, with countless transitions to mellow jazz pieces and intense metal riffing moments. Rich melodies contrast raging guitar riffs and metallic drumming. Overall the album presents a great new vision for the development of the genre.

The album blasts off with the killer track The Lie. Opening with a growling 7-string riff and reaching into the lower registers with a fiery passion and fury, the song has no shortage of ferocious attitude. Fantastic dynamics and great harmonizations between each instruments keeps the song in a constant groove, with swinging themes and solos flying all over the place. A great jazz breakdown adds a fantastic dynamic to the track. Overall a spectacular opener.

Mirage opens again with a roaring and growling guitar riff. With some nice synth and keyboard work, the song swings in and out of dynamics with ease. Again a strong sense of jazz is present in the music, with some fantastic melodic sections present within the music. Some really nice section transitions also compliment the music, with some fantastic soloing by Tom MacLean. The song really has a nice vibe overall, with some fantastic contrast between the melodic guitars and vocals and the screaming riffs.

The Glory of a New Day rushes in with more low-toned riffing, this time with a great polyrhythmic vibe. Some really nice contrast between the jazz piano and heavy riffing is nice, as well as the ethno-fusion brought in to accent the music as well. The song has some of the best songwriting present on the album, with the band bringing out all of their juicy compositional skill. Mixing in djent to the sound as well, the band has so shortage of tricks up their sleeve for sure. Through the countless dynamic changes and great melodic sections, the song quickly emerges as one of my favorites on the album.

Inside the Hourglass opens with a more ambient intro, the first track on the album not to jump start into a heavy riff session. The song has a more soaring metal outlook, with some fantastic high flying riffing to start off the track. The melodic characteristics of the song are superb, showing the bands more creative side, other than just adventurous metal. The strong metal sense is still present, just slightly muddled by the stronger heavy prog feel. Some great moments emerge in the track, and overall it is one of the better tracks on the album.

A Sorrow to Kill is another more melodic track on the album, with some more quiet and heartfelt moments during the music. It opens with a mellow piano piece, before breaking into a quiet mellow melodic section. Away from this, the song effortlessly transitions into a sweeping solo section, comprising of some of the heavier sections of the album, with some of the best solos on the album. Overall, the song is easily another one of my favorites for the album.

Asylum is one of the more avant-garde tracks on the album. In the spirit of avant masters Unexpect, the song mixes dissonance and atonality with jazzy instrumental work. The song encapsulates the adventurous vision of the band, with some crazy mathcore-esque periods mixing with avant atonality and instrumental prowess, to make one hell of a track. It has one of the most avant jazz solo sections, with an amazing sax solo and some of the best jazz fusion instrumental I've heard in the genre.

Fallen From Grace is one of the more haunting tracks on the album. Opening with haunting organ chords, the band sweeps into a great Opethian section, with really nice use of guitar chord progressions and riffing. The song has some of the most pleasant use of female vocals, and is one of Julie Kiss' better performances on the album. The instrumental section is jazzy and adventurous as always, and has some really nice moments.

Temptation is the beautiful melodic closer to the album. Opening with a sublime piano/vocal duo, the song has a strong feeling of classic jazz. Before it breaks into a haunting jazz metal masterpiece, of course. The song soon transitions into a quickly accelerating (literally, the tempo accelerates) beast of a track. Closing the album with some of the better music on the album (it seems like all the music is the better on the album), it fleshes out what To-Mera is all about, melody, metal, and jazz. The instrumental section is a good summary of the band's great musical vision, and the cool use of dynamic in the exiting vocal and instrumental section shows you what To-Mera is all about.

ALBUM OVERALL: To-Mera certainly knows how to write an album. In the vein of Haken (the bands share two members), the music is adventurous and sweeping in nature, and has one hell of a creative vision. The music has countless dynamic, theme transitions, and other goodies it's hard to comprehend the complexity of the composition. The production may seem a bit muddled at time and the timing not perfect, but the album still presents one hell of a ride. I'm certain that I'll be on the lookout for anything new by this band, and you should too! 4 stars.


Album · 2010 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 4.09 | 5 ratings
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The fortunes haze...for a stunning debut

Look to Windward is a new progressive metal band founded in New Zealand. The Kiwi act is a project of Andrew McCully and Benjamin Morley, and they certainly seem to know what they're doing. The "bedroom producers," as artists of their kind are called, have written and recorded a spectacular and extremely professional album. "Fortunes Haze" is their debut, and is full of some of the most innovative music I've heard in a while. The progressive metal genre today is an overcrowded and often uncreative place, full of wannabes and copy bands. Look to Windward is able to rise above this trend with an extremely unique vision and a musical direction that is sure to go extremely far.

The album kicks of with the killer track Danger Eyes. Even the first few seconds of the album show the great creativity these guys have. No traditional riffing or virtuoso soloing all over the place, these guys pull out a great riff that is bombastic and in your face the whole way through. The use of melody is spot on, perfectly complimenting the (tastefully) harsh guitar work. The rhythms are dead on, polyrhythmic, and inventive. The instrumental section is subtle and quiet, showing that this band has no trouble in slowing down and dishing out something more sincere and mellow. Overall, this is easily one of my favorite tracks on the album, and for good reasons.

The three part 16 part epic title track starts out with the death inspired part one, Assemble. With a throbbing groove metal feel, the song is easily one of the heaviest tracks on the album. Dishing out more of the spot on polyrhythmic mastery, with bombastic and throbbing drum beats and rhythm guitar backing. The screaming vocals suit the music perfectly, complimenting each note with a great dynamic. The clean vocals are slightly distorted, making for another nice dynamic. Although this track is not the strongest on the album, it is still a great song.

Parts 2 and 3 of Fortunes Haze are Exodus/Return, combined into one track. The song is much slower and opens with a voice. The music slowly crescendos, into a distorted ambient soundscape with rumbling guitars and quiet atmospheric soundscapes. Most of "Exodus" is very quiet, with the mellow piano interludes slowly building to a crashing and sweeping metal piece, most likely the transition to "Return." The majority of the song is a great mellow mix, fusing together the inventive prog metal from the rest of the album with some great ambient, mellow, and melodic interludes and calm sections. Overall, this is one killer track, just hitting 11 minutes, and full of some really fantastic stuff.

Control opens with another mellow intro, starting with some dissonant acoustic, piano, vocal, and string dynamics. Most of the song is an atmospheric trip, mixing even some electronic feels into the music. It takes a good 4 minutes for the great acoustic and electronic soundscapes to transition into a harder hitting alternative metal masterpiece, fusing alt metal with some really cool prog metal elements, with more electronic twists and polyrhythmic and off beat rhythms that really fit the music. Overall, Control offers yet another fantastic track for this album.

Zero Parallax is a two minute ambient track, with little but some interesting soundscapes to its name. Its main purpose is to set up an interesting transition between the first half and second half of the album.

Behind Red Curtains starts out slow, very slow, with some doomy riffing and steady atmospheres. Soon the song breaks into a hard hitting sludge metal track, with some slow and steady sludge riffs and some heavy rhythms behind it. A mellow mellotron interlude breaks the sludge, with some nice flute and string effects. The rest of the track continues that sludgey feel, ending the song with a more mellow but still heavily doom/sludge influenced. Overall another good song.

Vad Åskan Sade is another one of my favorites off the album. Quoted from my review of the band's EP: "Vad Åskan Sade with a jazzy twist, throwing in some brass with some cool jazzy guitars. The song then flows into a symphonic grace period, mixing some zesty metal with orchestral beauty. Somehow, the band is able to fuse some cheesy keyboard voices with intense and heavy guitar work to make a really epic piece of music. The whole track contains countless ideas melded together in absolute grace and lucidity."

Deception starts slow again, with some mellow piano/acoustic guitar harmonizations. The 10 minute long song encompasses more ambient soundscapes, mixing some great vocal melodies with spacey backgrounds before breaking into the heavier riffing. The heavier sections start out slow to, with some cool creative rhythms backing it, and soon breaking into some really great arpeggio sweeping. The instrumental section has the strongest standard prog metal influence, but still has some really great twists to go along with it. The adventurous sound of Haken comes to mind on this song too, fusing the great jazzy and spacey elements of their adventurous sound. It ends with similar to how it began, with a nice ambient piano outro. Overall, being 10 minutes long, the band was able to pack in quite a bit of great stuff, and they had no trouble making it worth the listener's while.

Forest is Moving, the 12 minute closer piece, opens for the first time in a while with a pretty steady throbbing prog metal riff session. Combing this time some really great post-metal feels, the song builds slowly after the first riffing piece to a great experimental metal section. Even entering into mathcore-ish rhythms at times, the song never stops surprising me. Multiple ambient interludes throw you off guard, until the last couple minutes where the song keeps a steady metal fist of fury and charges into oblivion. The first real vocals come almost 10 minutes in, with avant-garde fury, also. Switching from death growls to soprano squealing, the song almost never stops. The album slowly fades out, as the song slows to a bearable pace, and this fantastic debut is done. Overall, Forest is Moving is another of my favorites on the album, with a supernumerary amount of dynamic elements and surprises musically. It ends the album in a spectacular fashion, summing up most of the musical vision that this band takes. Through all 12 minutes of mastery, it never gets old.

ALBUM OVERALL: What a spectacular debut. All the way from New Zealand, Look to Windward has delivered a sucker punch of some of the best prog metal I've heard in 2010. Mixing subtle post-metal influences with bombastic prog metal mastery, the band is able to flesh out some really creative stuff. With the perfect amount of polyrhythmic drumming and off beat guitar accents, each song has some really cool elements. And on top of all this, it was released on my birthday! 4 stars.


Album · 2010 · Metalcore
Cover art 3.58 | 2 ratings
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So crazy it's mellow, so calm it's insane.

A little less than 5 years after the young British band's inception, Cyclamen has released their first full length debut: Senjyu. The band has evolved from a one man solo project to a full fledged quintet band over the years, with dozens of demos and recordings to the band's name. Here we have Senjyu, a 38 minute, 12 track piece of insanity, embedded with melody, and encased in a thin film of serenity. The album is brimming with tracks ranging from absolute insanity to downright beauty. Although some tracks may seem a little too all over the place, each of the 12 tracks has its own little world to contend with.

The album opens with a quiet vibraphone piece called Mother, slightly introducing the quiet and slightly electronic ambiance of this band's music. Nothing special, the track is a real trick, bringing you to believe the album to be quite and mellow, while in reality it is quite the opposite.

The Seeker is the first hint of what this band truly is: a pot brimming with a mix of technical death, mathcore, and progressive metal. With flinging guitar riffs, quickly changing dynamics, and some great melodies in the choruses, especially with the sublime drumming work, the track, albeit short, is certainly a good introduction to what the band truly is, and is one of my favorites of the album.

Thirst is yet another one of my favorite tracks on the album, with even more rapid fire dynamic changes, avant-garde insanity brimming in every savory second, and some of the fanciest and most inventive djent riffing I've heard in a while (not a slugh slugh slugh but a bugh bugh bugh), as well as some extremely inventive work with intervals and Meshuggah-esque rapid-fire riffs. Through all this pure insanity, the only detriment, as much of the album has, is the scratchy nasally screaming. Although the peculiar death/emocore vocals of Hayato Imanashi can easily grow on you, in a first impression they are dreadful.

Hope is like a brick wall in front of a fast moving wall, in terms of the style of the music. A quick shift from the non-stop insanity of the previous two track, the song is much slower and much more melodic, having a slight twinge of mellow serenity in the quiet string chords and the rhythmic guitar crunches. The most impressive part of the song are the vocals, soaring in a graceful manner above clouds of audio, bringing the song to heights that are hard to reach. Quiet and mellow are understatements in describing this song; the somber post-rock feel give the album a dynamic apart from quick shifting riffs and solos, bringing light to a darkened musical spectrum and moving the album out of the mathcore stereotype.

Comfort, melodically, is by far my favorite track on the album. The rhythmic and quiet guitar licks are genius. Vocally, the track is in the same vein of Hope, with careworn and sincere melodies gracing the sonic spectrum of this track. Although not massive in depth, the track brings a great feel to the album, and supplies a sharp and pleasant contrast to the extremes presented on the next track.

With Our Hands, a return to the insane tech prog metal/mathcore madness earlier in the album, also has some fantastic dynamics present all throughout. Although having a predominantly "prog" emocore feel to the verses, the melodic breakdown chorus and the great blackened thrash bit near the end of the track give a sharp dynamic to the song.

Grand Annihilation is in the same vein as the same track, but with more djenty post metal fusion present. Opening with a great djenty riff section and transitioning into a grand cinematic and epic section of soaring mellotron chords backing djenty riffs and swooping vocals, the song's chorus has some of the better songwriting on the album. The breakdowns are genius, encompassing some of the more creative djent work today. Overall, the track is one of the better on the album.

Devoid, the longest track on the album so far (the self titled track will beat it in length by less than 10 seconds), has some of the more deep and intuitive composition, opening with a very serene and somber piano piece, slowly transitioning into a cinematic experience, with a great post-rock atmosphere. The entire track keeps a very slow and calculated approach to the sound of the song, never once breaking into some insane riff session, and keeping the constant ceremonial feel of music, even with the harder hitting post metallic chord sweeps and atmospheric drum work.

Hellrise with rise out of the ashes of the slow Devoid with a (although seemingly less intuitive) more hard hitting and straight prog metal track. The short instrumental lacks the great creativity some of the other tracks has, but still kicks some ass in the end.

Revenge (of the Greeks) is by far one of the craziest songs I have heard in a while, reaching the insanity reached by mathcore giants The Dillinger Escape Plan, and putting a crazy Cyclamen spin on it. Licking at 100 miles an hour and then in a split second leaping to a djent riff session then switching to a soaring and melodic lick section, the song doesn't stop very easily, but it certainly stops quick; the song is less than 1:50. It's tiring, but damn good.

Senjyu is the longest and by far most melodic, somber, and serene song on the album. Encased in a atmosphere of post-rock illusion, the song utilizes every post-rock trick in the book, with quiet, ambient guitar work, mellow and melodic (and often incoherent) vocals, and soft rhythmic drumming. The song is certainly no fluke, either. The song ever but surely crescendos to an eventual breaking point, where the song emerges as a melodic and beautiful ceremonial musical masterpiece, with crunching but appropriate guitar chords, hard hitting and spot on drumming, and mellow and melodic vocals fit only for a song of this stature.

Full Moon Night lets you down easy. After the tear-jerking title track, the intense following track opens in a mellow way and quickly begins to crescendo into the flying beast that it is. Although most of the creative steam the band has has already blown out, the song still manages to dish out a decent amount of inventive atmospheres and riffing. Overall, the song is an appropriate closer for the album, and sums up the musical imprint this band tried making quite well.

ALBUM OVERALL: This album is a hit and miss masterpiece. With high points higher than many of the top prog and extreme metal favorites, the album balances out with some pretty low points as well. The song writing is some of the most creative I've seen in a while, putting a fresh spin on a style of music that is quickly running dry, but also has some of the most peculiar vocals I've heard in a while. As I pointed out above, the screaming vocals, although tolerable after a few listens, can be quite painful on the first listen, and a few consecutive listens after that, and can easily detract from the otherwise great music. Overall, however, the album is a fantastic debut full length by this band, and is recommended, with some hesitation, to any tech metal fan. 4- stars.


Album · 2011 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 4.24 | 12 ratings
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Where'd the adventure go?

Carving Desert Canyons, this band's sophomore album and a great favorite of mine from 2009, had me dying for more of this tasty band. The licks, soloing, and overall "adventurous" atmosphere of the music was purely infectious. This year, when they announced the release of "The Collective," I was ecstatic. To hear more was going to be purely sublime! The studio updates, little snipets of news from the bands, and anything else I could get just fed my desire for this new album. However, when they released "Whales" a few weeks before the release of the album, I was puzzled: where'd the adventure go? The band had turned to a bit more riff based, more "metal" album. However, with more and more listens, the track began to grow on me: the new style fused the bands already great uniue style with their influences of Cynic and Dream Theater into a jazzy and dynamic debut for the band. When the album came out, again I was not greatly impressed, but soon the album began to grow on me. Sections where at first cringed began to turn into boughs of joy, and the album took a turn for the better for me.

The album opens with an ambient soundscape the leads into the "colossal" track Colossal. Breaking off from the ambiance with a smashing riff and some sweeping riffing, the track starts the album off on a great foot. As we've known since the beginning these guys are no musical amateurs- they can rip out a kickin' solo any day of the week without a sweat- which is seen plenty of times on this song, and on this album.

Whales, as I mentioned in the intro, is certainly a grower. Opening with a more mellow lick, the song takes a slow entry. It takes a little while for the jazzy progressions to really get on their feet, but once they start to move, they certainly move. A very strong Cynic influence is heard throughout the song, giving a tasty dose of jazzy metal influence to spice things up a bit. Once the solo section kicks in, that's where the true power of Scale the Summit's composition can be heard. Complementing harmonies with spot on melodies with spot on rhythms with spot on low ends and high ends and everything in between, the band sure knows how to rip open a song and fill it with only the good song. Certainly a favorite of mine from this album.

Emersion drags the album down a bit. The opening is one of the most awkward musical pieces I've heard in a while, with the band trying to utilize chromatic jazz- and it doesn't work out very well. However, once the song starts to get started, it matures into a great and adventurous piece of music- even though it is only 2 minutes long.

The main purpose of Emersion in my opinion has to be as a great intro to the next track: The Leviated. One of the more jazzy tracks on the album, we hear more two hand tapping, just like the landmark track Great Plain on the last album. The song is very chill and laid back, building and receding, emerging and returning, throughout the whole thing. Overall, this is another one of my favorites for the album, displaying the bands more emotional and heartfelt side of composition.

Secret Earth is another very mellow and jazz-based track. Instituting a great dynamic between melodic noodling and heavier riffs behind it, the song starts off immediately on a great foot. The solos are heavily melody based and take you off on an adventure to secret earth. Another fantastic track, for sure.

Gallows is certainly the heaviest track on the album, kicking off with a rotary style drum solo and some fast riffing from the guitar department. An obvious departure from the bands usual style, the song serves a dual purpose of giving the album a nice dynamic and broadening the band's musical portfolio. The solo tapping section is a great solo also, utilizing some sublime harmony skills. Overall, although different from much of the band's usual show, the song shows the band that they can do pretty much whatever they want and get away with it.

Origin of the Species, although again being only 2 minutes, is another fast and fierce track. Fusing the adventure and riffing that have made this album more dynamic than usual, we can see a great trend here. Although it does not seem as original as some of the other track, it still proffers some great new sounds to their discography.

Alepnglow is another jazzy and melodic track. The song starts with a mellow lick, and breaks into a nice solo with a bit of a harder edge. Although the solos in this song can get a bit repetitive, they still can give a great case for musical dominance. Years spent at the Musicians Institute seem to have served these fine gentlemen well. Overall, this track is another great one, even if some transitions seem a bit sudden and soloing can be a bit repetitive.

Black Hills, the longest track in their discography as of yet (just about 8 minutes), understandably contains a lot of great material. The song has some fantastic dynamics, transitioning flawlessly from sweeping riff sections to mellow and ambient sections. The solos again are near flawless, showcasing this bands awesome musical prowess.

Balkan sees the winding down of the album. It opens slowly, and although the licking gets a little heavier, it still retains that mellow tempo at which the song with sustain through the first section of the track. Soon the track with transition into a sweeping force that quickly traverses through fields of sonic mastery, giving way to even more great output from the band.

Drifting Figures, the closing track, is a great closer. Maintaining a mellow tapping rhythm for most of the track, the song acts as a relaxing piece of music, great for letting the listener slip into a post-Collective trance to contemplate the beauty of the music they just experienced. Overall a great closer to a great album.

ALBUM OVERALL: The Collective is certainly a grower. If you are not impressed by your first listen (I wasn’t), listen again. And again. The album’s natural ability to wow will kick in sooner or later. Now I’m in a quandary on how this racks up against Carving Desert Canyons, seeing as the albums are so drastically different, but I think I will go for yes, this beats the great CDC, for its superb compositions and ambiances, it’s great atmosphere and musical virtuosity: yes, The Collective is a very near masterpiece, and certainly the best this band has to offer us yet! 4 stars.

ANTI-DEPRESSIVE DELIVERY The Best of Anti-Depressive Delivery

Album · 2010 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 3 ratings
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A great Lifekeeper album.

Anti-Depressive Delivery is a relatively new blues rock/prog metal fusion, making an excellent case for a heavy prog (prog metal) band. This album, oddly named "The Best of..." isn't a compilation at all, but I guess does encompass some great music, so maybe it is their best...? The band combines a delightful mix of Hammond organ, slightly distorted bass, bluesy guitar, steady drum lines, and a delightful bluesy singer, too. This album is a short little 42 minute display of some fantastic throwbacks to the heavy prog bands of the 70s, featuring 6 killer tracks.

In Pine is a very strong opener. Opening with some simple guitar work before melding in with some bass and synth riffing, the song has a steady head bobbing rhythm and a catchy melody. The great synchronization between the Hammond and the guitar is a really nice sound reminiscent of those signature bands back in the 70s mixed with some modern herbs and spices. The song has a strong blues influence, mixed with a great hard rock and prog influence to make a great tone for the rest of the album. The track opens strong for an overall very strong album.

Glasses is a harder rocking track. It has a more serious tone that its predecessor, and a quicker more deliberate feel. The melody is infectious and, well, melodic. The singer in this band has such a great voice, really making any melody catchy and well developed. Each part in the band plays his part, whether its keeping the fantastic rhythm, filling out the music with chords, or helping push along the epic proggy breakdown leading to a keys solo that is really great, which really pushes that prog influence.

Lifekeeper, as I implied in my first line, is one of my favorite tracks on the album. It really has such a great dynamic and feel rather than just straight on blues rock. Over time this track has really grown on me. It has a really chill mood to it, keeping a more psychedelic sound with some really Richard Wright sounding backing keyboard layering. The melodies are powerful and emotional and compassionate. Overall, the track has one of the bets overall feels on the album.

Goodbye is a little ballad with a chill and funky sound. The song has a much less prog or even blues but more melopop ballad feel. The guitar work is nice, and the vocals are very emotional and compassionate.

True Love brings back that bluesy rock that we heard in the first track. It also mixes in some great hard rock influences and proggy dynamics. The Hammond-guitar duo again has a great sound, as well as the sax that's mixed in. The melody is again really catchy and emotional. The instrumental section features some fantastic soloing and really great bluesy instrumentation. Overall, this is another really great track on this fantastic and dynamic album.

Alive is the 13 minute epic of the album. Obviously prog from its length, the song is one of the best on the album. Featuring many different styles, from blues to psychedelic to hard rock to prog to so much more, the song is the most dynamic on the album on the album. Some of the parts are sweeping and melodic, others crunching and epic, others bluesy and sweet; the song is able to effortlessly weave together countless styles into a wonderful piece of music enjoyable by virtually any rock music listener.

ALBUM OVERALL: An excellent blues rock/prog crossover, with countless other styles sprinkled in for a tasty mix of modern music and classic throwbacks. Anti-Depressive Delivery has really created a gem here. The album has such a chill sound to it, being able to mix sounds from bands such as The Rolling Stones and Lynyrd Skynyrd and then bands like Rush, Uriah Heep and Pink Floyd into a brand of music that is unique and highly enjoyable. The music can a little cheesy at times, but other than that there are very few flaws in the entire album. The album definitely grows on you, for the first time I listened to it I hated it, and now I love it! 4 stars.

ALCEST Écailles de lune

Album · 2010 · Atmospheric Black Metal
Cover art 4.15 | 49 ratings
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Now a days, I tend to find less and less truly 5 star albums. I've widdled my rating process from 5 stars if it's "great" to 5 stars if it's genius. I need to be wowed first time through, and continue to be wowed each other time true. Écalles de Lune, Alcest's sophomore effort, is no doubt one of these cases. Encompassed by breathtaking melody and dazzling aggression, the album shows the side of "black metal" that caters to those who don't particularly care for ice-cold ferocity and never ending riffs and blast beats. The album contains a tender innocence known to very few albums. Now, to fuse black metal and virtually any other genre is a risky business, often ending in an awkward and noise abusing experience. Alcest, however, has deftly maneuvered around this daunting prospect and pulled off by far my favorite black metal album yet to be released.

The title track (translated as Moon Scales, or something like that) blasts forth with a somber shoegaze riff not of this realm. I have never really been a huge fan of shoegaze or post-rock, but this is certainly one exception, along with Sigur Rós's Ágætis Byrjun. The 18 minute epic is an exciting journey, expertly fusing in divine transitions mellow guitar passages with thrusting black metal riffing, skipping any of the uncertainties of black fusion. Both parts contain a truly celestial aura, feeding any who thirst for that perfect blend of..... well a perfect blend of pretty much everything. As I found on maudlin of the Well's Part the Second, the music is so perfectly crafted it seems that very little could ever surpass it in it's unprecedented grandeur. Not lacking metal in any sense, this amazing two part track is, well, perfect, in virtually every way.

Percées de Lumière continues this incredible string of pure music, although with a more popularly leaning guitar melodies and shoegaze feels. However, the track still encompasses the essential things that I love about music.... all of them. The song, which has a much harder rocking feel than the previous two (or one, whatever floats your boat). It keeps a constant rockability to it with less spacing out (which isn't a bad thing at all). Overall, the track is again a masterpiece of black fusion.

Abysses is a somber atmospheric ambient piece, making a very mellow and haunting transition to the next track.

Solar Song is again much more popularly leaning, or as far popularly leaning a genre such as this could possible lean. It has very accessible melodies while at the same time retaining the amazing sense of experimentation and shoegaze mastery put into the album. Overall, this tracks is yet another fantastic track on this masterpiece of an album.

Sur l'Océan Couleur de Fer is another very somber and mellow track, with much less rockable black riffing and more melodic guitar work and great vocal melodies also. The track functions as a beautiful guitar solo by Neige. It ends the album on an uplifting and symphonic note, slowly graduating through boughs of ecstasy and bursts of joy. Overall, this is another one of the greats on the album, ending one of my new favorite albums of all time and a pure masterpiece.

ALBUM OVERALL: I don't think I can really say very much more. I've looked. I can find nothing wrong with this album, perhaps maybe popularly leaning melodies in some songs, which can easily be seen as good. The album is as some people call an "eargasm;" the first time I listened to it's pearly sounds my ears did nearly hum in a joyous celebration that another life form has in fact made a great masterpiece of modern art -- celebration to the minds of humanity! Truly, this album touches my heart and my mind in a most divine way, making this an instant classic in my log of insta-classics. 5+ stars.


Album · 1995 · Non-Metal
Cover art 3.43 | 17 ratings
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King Crimson goes metal -- all the way!

Eleven years after the release of Three of a Pair, King Crimson came back, with a much harder edge and an intense new feel. THRAK was (and is) by far the band's most experimental and "metallic" album of their discography, mixing intense riffs with heavy rhythms and metallic melodies. The album borders on through and through progressive metal, and even has a somewhat thrashy feel to it at times. Overall, THRAK is an odd album as King Crimson's oddness goes, and in some ways that is great and in some ways it doesn't work out perfectly, but it is still a damn good album.

VROOOM kicks the album off with a taste of the experimental thrashy side of the music, with a great riff and some polyrhythmic drumming a la Bill Bruford and co. This is the first album that we hear the "double trio" lineup, which makes the music that much more interesting to listen to, especially with the layering of each instrument. The track has some great dynamics, switching between the metal riffs and the melodious sections rather easily, making this an overall great track and a great opener.

Coda: Marine 475 is the coda to VROOOM, and acts as a nice closer to the first section of the VROOOM on this album (there is another section at the end of the album). The track can seem a little boring at, seeming to crescendo forever and ever. The track does, for the most part, until it bubbles off and just drops you at the end with a sour taste in your mouth. This track lacks a bit, but still has that cool experimentation for the album.

Dinosaur is one of my favorite tracks on the album, and contains some of my favorite elements of their music. Finally we hear Adrian Belew signature voice, gracing some great melodic verses before breaking into some ingenious choruses with some really cool lyrics. Overall another fantastic track, furthering the new metallic vision of the band.

Walking on Air is by far the most melodious and beautiful tracks on the album, bringing back nostalgic feels from King Crimson's symphonic period in the 70s, and making a purely idyllic dynamic for the album. Both Fripp and Belew's guitar work is genius, not crazy or atonal nor lazy and boring, but a perfect balance, making a cool atmosphere for the song to just chill in the soundscapes of the air.

B'Boom breaks away from this beauty. B'Boom is essentially just a great drum duet between Bill Bruford and Pat Mastelotto. Being a drummer, I absolutely love it, but on the album it seems a little out of place. It takes an eternity to really get started up, but once it does it's a rocking track with some really cool rhythmic properties to it. As a single track, it's great, but it seems to break the flow of the album.

Here we have the mother of this album's experimentation. THRAK, the title track and a pure avant-garde metal track, is beautiful.... in it's own way. The riffs are just short of insane, throwing noise and music into an amalgam of pure insanity, King Crimson style. Overall, it is another one of my favorites, but not for the reasons I liked Dinosaur. THRAK brings you on an entirely new sonic journey, through the twisted avenues of Robert Fripp's sonic genius, and into the haunted realm of THRAK!

Inner Garden I is an interlude-like track, breaking swiftly from THRAK into a haunting melodic garden of despair and great lyrics. It is slow and atmospheric, truly making you feel like you are in some abandoned garden in a dark forest.

People brings yet another crazy dynamic to the album: funk. Yes, People is basically a funk metal album. It has some really great moments and riffs, but overall the track lacks the inspiration of the rest of the album. It's really catchy and has a great feel to it, but for some reason I feel it's not right for the album.

Radio I is the next interlude suite, this one again featuring some atmospheric and haunting soundscapes.

One Time is another great melodic song, again bringing back that 70s feel, with a modern twist. It's slow and atmospheric, not even as rocking as Walking on Air. Overall, the track is great and is extremely easy to relax with.

Radio II is just like Radio I, a slow and haunting atmospheric soundscape, similar to the stuff Fripp had been making since the 70s.

Inner Garden II is also just like Inner Garden I, a slow and haunting melodic journey through that same haunted garden.

Sex, Sleep, Eat, Dream sees the return of the funky experimentation, this time with more fervor and deliberation. This song fuses the avant metal and the funky experimentation of the album into one coherent track. The instrumental section is crazy, and effortlessly moves around feels and dynamics. Overall, Sex, Sleep, Eat, Dream is another great track on the album, moving the album forward in a great way.

VROOOM VROOOM continues the VROOOM "suite," bringing back similar riffs reprising the avant feel of the songs. As well as tieing the album together into a circular and complete loop, the song also introduces new riffs and atmospheres to the great string of songs. The song is one of the more metallic on the album, other than THRAK. Overall, this track, as well as the next one, make for a great closer to the album as well as a breathe of fresh air in the experimental spectrum of music.

VROOOM VROOM: Coda ends pretty much everything, the album, the VROOOM suite, and this "era" of King Crimson's history (no more studio recordings will have this strong of an experimental feel). This section takes many of the characteristics of the previous VROOOMS and processes them to an almost incoherent mesh of industrial noise and avant riffing. Overall, despite being one of the more crazy and incoherent tracks of the album, it does end the album in a feel appropriate to this crazy album.... crazy.

ALBUM OVERALL: It's kind of hard to rate an album that's as experimental as this. There are experimental albums that have no sense whatsoever and are just musicians destroying instruments, then there are experimental albums that really aren't experimental at all and are really just variations from their genre. Then there's THRAK. THRAK seems to be a happy medium, mixing the incoherency of the extremes with the beauty of the forefront. Overall, THRAK is easily one of my favorite King Crimson albums, even though I like all of them. It has a perfect blend of just about everything, making it an excellent addition to any collection of a listener who want something to new to listen to. 4 stars.

KING CRIMSON In The Court Of The Crimson King

Album · 1969 · Proto-Metal
Cover art 4.32 | 70 ratings
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c. 1969: "What in the devil is that?"

King Crimson is well known for their experimentation. From distorted vocals to heavily affected guitars, through their 40+ year existence, Robert Fripp has been well known for his musical..... "anti"-genius, breaking down every single rule made for music to make some of the most inventive music of the time period. In the Court of the Crimson King, the pseudo self titled and debut album of the band, showed just how willing to experiment the band was. Each track has a tasty amount of prog, proto-metal, jazz, and King Crimson-esque noise.

21st Century Schizoid Man, one of the band's signature tracks, is an odd way to open up an album. Blasting forth with intense saxophone/guitar work, immediately one can see just how freely Fripp is willing to work. The distorted vocals add an intense metallic touch to the already intense music. The instrumental section is full of proggish virtuosity and jazzy fun, making the track just a blast to listen to. Overall, the track is easily one of the best openers I've heard, and certainly one of the better tracks the band has put out.

Being 1969, the band was in no position to put out an all "metal" album, and they needed to almost appease their critics. So, I Talk to the Wind, a beautiful melodic piece, contrasts the insanity of the previous track. Cool and melodic, the track is one of the more laid back the band has produced, and has many pleasant instrumental solos and vocal sections a la Greg Lake. Overall, the whole track is cool and melodic, making for a very relaxing ride.

Epitaph is next, a somber and again melodic journey. Featuring some of the most classic KC lyrics, the song is again one of the better tracks the band has released. With haunting mellotron chords and some very somber vocal work, the whole track is a beauty.

Moonchild is the strongest jazz influenced track on the album, featuring more jazzy guitar solos and softer keyboard. However, the track isn't purely jazz. The track has a certain degree of experimentation to it, not the type seen in 21st Century Schizoid Man, but a crazy avant type that featured random muted chords and eccentric drum splashes and such. Overall, a much more avant-garde and creative track is seen here, showing how willing to do what they wish the band truly is.

The "title track" The Court of the Crimson King is the last and one of the best tracks on the album. It features a very fantastic mix of everything that was played on the rest of the album, with heavy sections, somber melodic sections, uplifting melodic sections, and everything in between for a great overall experience, which ends an absolutely fantastic album.

ALBUM OVERALL: King Crimson sure knows how to compose music. With their debut album, the band fleshes out of the some of the best progressive music ever, holding it's wait even 40 years after it's release. The album holds virtually every element that is desirable in the genre, experimentation, great instrumental sections, melodic beauty, and so much more. On the metal spectrum it may be lacking a bit, but 21st Century Schizoid Man certainly can hold it's weight to make the album an exceptional proto-metal album as well. Overall, In The Court of the Crimson King is certainly a masterpiece of progressive music, and is certainly a near masterpiece when it comes to influencing the metal bands that we all love. 4+ stars (MMA).


EP · 2010 · Metalcore
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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Spewing metal all over the place.

Everything After Zero is a relatively new avant metalcore band from Canada who released their debut EP last year (2010). Within the EP are 6 tracks (and an opener) that are, well, all over the place. The band fuses progressive elements with metalcore and mathcore elements as well as a multitude of other spices for a rather unique blend of music. Overall, the EP blasts the band out into the metal music scene on a rather inventive note, while putting a generous amount of ringing in every listener's ear.

The album's starter Hey Man I Know is a mellow ambient minute long track that does not reflect what the rest of the EP will be like. At all.

After the opener, Chiasmus blasts forth with a blend of tasty jazz metal, metalcore, and even a healthy dose of rap metal (odd fusion, I know). With a generous dose of all-over-the-place riffs and bopping bass lines, the track truly exemplifies the avant nature of their music. The band certainly isn't afraid to whip out the music they really like, as they find no trouble switching from intense metal to melodic and quite beautiful sections. Overall, the track is the epitome of all E.A.Z. can do, and provides a nice "overture" to what kind of music can be found on the rest of the EP.

Away From is a little more mellow, but still packs quite a bit of punch once the song really starts up. It has a more sweeping feel, bringing out their strong progressive influence. Overall a nice song, complimenting some of their more melodic influences.

Porky's Rant is virtually the opposite of Away From, bringing out their heavier influences with an intense display of near deathcore intensity. The song features some of the heavier riffs and some slightly avant sections. Overall, another good track, but slightly all over the place in a less than admirable way (but only slightly).

Palate is in the same strain as Porky's Rant, fusing much more intense metal, with some cool guitar passages added. It is certainly one of the more progressive tracks on the album, with much more instrumental virtuosity added into the tracks for some interesting solos and cool tapping sections. Overall, yet another great track to a so far great debut.

King of the Hill is one of the most metal tracks on the album. The majority of the track is just heavy riffing with non stop intensity. Although the track may be lacking in some the inventiveness some of the other tracks had, it is still a very strong track.

Seize th Day opens kind of harshly, with an atonal vocal/guitar duo, that rings on a negative not in this music freak's ears. The track quickly recuperates, however, but still lacks in the creative edge that the rest of the EP had. As a closer, the song isn't the best, and as a single track it also lacks a bit, but still can kick some heavy duty ass.

ALBUM OVERALL: Everything After Zero certainly knows how to make some intense music. Throughout this EP, the band fleshes out quite a bit of metal, mixing in a multitude of different flavours, from progressive metal to rap metal to just avant-garde music in general. Overall, the EP has very strong points as well as some low points, making for a strong, but not essential release. 3+ stars.

MAGELLAN Hundred Year Flood

Album · 2002 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 3.36 | 3 ratings
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Massive and majestic.

Trent Gardner seems to have this thing for long songs. Every album, there is at least one song (at the very least) that has a 10+ minute long song. On nearly all his side projects, he writes really long songs. On Hundred Year Flood, he writes a 35 minute long long song. Wow. Taking up well over half of the album, the epic piece of music shows the band's intense musical stamina and songwriting ability. The album is a concept album about the Gardner brothers' older brother who died in Vietnam. Overall, the album provides a fantastic ride with great dynamics, really cool sounds and a great Magellan-esque sound.

I'd heard many good things about Magellan, one being a big influence of theirs was Dream Theater. I tried to find their best album, which was difficult, so I picked one at random, the Hundred Year Flood. Seeing as I have an affinity for long playing tracks, I was in love with the 35 minute long The Great Goodnight, and not only because of its exceptionally long play. It opens with a great vocal performance, which adds a nice variety. The entire song is great, with repeating elements that tie the song together nicely. The one negative part of this song is that, seeing as it is a personal album (dedicated to his brother who dies in Vietnam), the vocals are personal and sometimes do not fit the music very well. The lyrics break away from the typical virtuosity of progressive rock, despite that the music is absolutely wonderful. Overall, The Great Goodnight is one of the better 30+ minute tracks I've heard, and I've heard more than you would expect. Fantastic instrumental sections, great part changes, and a great linear structure make this a staple in a long track collection.

Next is an instrumental Family Jewels, which has an excellent flute solo introduction, with a keyboard section at the end. Overall, the song shows the band's more folky and earthy song, balancing the big track's massive grandeur.

As a great ending, Brother's Keeper tops the album off nicely. It was featured on their myspace at the time I discovered them. The song was one that helped me get into the band. It has great musical parts and better lyrics than The Great Goodnight; it's hard to tell if their actually personal, which is good. On my copy of the album, there is a one-minute space between a message from Trent telling his listeners who the album is dedicated.... I think the one minute is unnecessary, 20 seconds or so would have been more appropriate.

ALBUM OVERALL: Wow. This album features a massive 35 minute epic, tending to my huge affinity for lengthy tracks. The whole album is a beautiful display of music, featuring lush keyboard work, great guitar work, and some really great melodic and rhythmic work. Although the lyrics may seem a little off at times, they do have a really great message. Overall, this album is really great and I recommend it for new Magellan fans, as long as you are an experienced prog listener and can stomach a 35 minute long track! 4- stars.

RIVERSIDE Second Life Syndrome

Album · 2005 · Metal Related
Cover art 4.29 | 80 ratings
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Conceiving greatness.

Riverside is one of the new progressive metal acts of this (well technically last) decade. However, one thing really separated Riverside from the rest: they’re damn good. Unlike the countless number of new progressive metal acts that have flooded the scene, most of which are just copies (or slight variants) of Dream Theater, Riverside really exemplifies the spirit of creativity and inventiveness in the genre. The band is exquisitely unique and enjoyable, combining softer heavy prog with a deliberate and ambient avant metal. From all this, we get a tasty blend of a new brand of progressive metal, Riverside style.

The album starts with After, a haunting vocal piece, before breaking into an ambient and mellow “ethno-fusion” track with some cool percussive effects and some great textures to go along. Overall the track acts as a spectacular transition to a slowly crescendoing album full of tricks and tasty treats.

Volte-Face fades in from After and slowly crescendos into a rocking and experimental groove fit for kings. The song is the first taste of Riverside’s incredible ability to dish out intensely creative music. The song has no trouble modulating between feels and utilizing Hammond textures and supreme riffs and instrumental sections. The band obviously has intense compositional skill, and they are able to utilize it in fantastic ways. Overall, the track poses the first taste to Riverside’s great ability on this fantastic album.

Conceiving You is one of my favorite tracks on the album. Blasting open with a near tear-jerkingly beautiful piano melody, the song shows Riverside’s interpretation of Progressive Metal’s compassionate and melodic side. Overall, the track is easily one of the best on the album and shows how Riverside can effortlessly take music and meld into the beautiful form it deserves – a skill not many possess.

Second Life Syndrome is the monster 15 minute track of the album (every album needs one!). The song has a long buildup wait, which is highly paid back by the catchy bass line and atmospheric and highly infectious guitar playing. The song slowly builds into a rocking and highly amazing epic of, well, epic proportions. The song is very traditional to the great Riverside sound, with much slower tempos than much of Prog Metal and an overall very atmospheric and reliant more on sudden accents for excitement than crazy instrumental sections. Overall, the title track is another fantastic track, with high points at the atmospheric instrumental sections, some damn infectious bass lines, and just an overall sense of intense inventiveness. The melodic structure of Duda’s voice is very unconventional and refreshing. This song is just great!

Artificial Smile is the first real “rocking” song on the album. Starting right off with a great riff and breaking into a still great rocking and atmospheric verse and easily modulating in and out of that feel. We hear a strong influence of harder metal influences like Opeth in this song especially. Overall, this song is yet another great track of the album, exemplifying all the great qualities of Riverside’s music.

I Turned You Down is one of the more atmospheric and ambient of the album’s track. It has a much greater emphasis on vocal melody than instrumental value. It has a slower, more deliberate and moving feel to it than the others. Overall a great track also.

Reality Dream III is the final in a trilogy of Reality Dream instrumentals, and it does not disappoint. It has a slow crescendo into a rushing and amazing dynamic that is very atypical of the album’s music feel but also has strong ties with the “ethno-rock/metal” feel of their music. Overall, the track provides one of the most musically refreshing rides that I’ve experienced in a while. The band really goes all out on this one. Each member has his say in where he plays, when he plays, how he plays, just to make the absolute perfect track.

Dance with the Shadow is just a fantastic track. Opening with an ominous and atmospheric melodic vocal section, the song slowly builds into a rocking and greatly dynamic track, mixing great metal riffs and slower more deliberate and hard progish riffs and ethno rhythms. The song is really the first to show the band’s true connection to the genre with a great and crazy instrumental section with a cool synth solo that just drops right back into the slower and melodic beauty of Doma’s voice and bass playing. Overall, it is the next epic and a fantastic show of the band’s skill in every aspect.

Before, the ending, ends the album on a similar to note to what it began, a more atmospheric and ethno sounding track. It closes the concept of a man who can’t stand his own self and refuses to accept reality (at least my perception, I haven’t looked into the lyrics very much). The song is a fantastic “summary” of what you have just experienced, mixing some of the heavier aspects of the song with more of the slower and deliberate and melodic feels of the album in a marvelous amalgam of music. Overall, the track ends the album fantastically, leaving you excellently satisfied with life.

ALBUM OVERALL: It’s easy to see why this album is considered one of the best of the progressive metal genres, even though the band and the album aren’t even 10 years old (well the band is 10, but the album is merely 6). To see such a “youngling” excel amongst 25 year vets like Dream Theater and 20 year runner ups like Pain of Salvation is extremely impressive. The album success is mainly due to its great new style – nothing that the average prog metal head has ever heard of. The band fuses a delicious blend of ethnic metal and progressive rock to make an infectious brand of music – Riverside style. Overall, the album is nearly perfect, except some of the atmospheric stuff could have been forsaken. But, other than that, the album has not a single flaw and provides one of the most exciting and refreshing musical rides the genre has heard in a long while. 5- stars.


Single · 2010 · Mathcore
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
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Non stop, no break, out of breath, crazy.

Well, for a single (with only one track also) there isn't much to write in a review. The Dillinger Escape Plan is well known for being the most obviously recognizable "mathcore" band: broken down, it's absolute insanity. Crazy riffs played at insane speed backed by insane rhythms with eccentric vocals, melodies, and just about everything else in the music. Farewell, Mona Lisa is no different. The band has no trouble dishing out numerous time signature and tempo changes, intense chord progressions, and just an overall sense of insanity. The track includes a highly avant-garde feel to it, fusing a lot more jazz influence into the music than usual. Of course the crazy up and down the neck "soloing" is present, with plenty of tasteful part changes. Overall, the track is a great track. But, being a single, I really can't give anything more than... 3 stars.


Album · 2008 · Melodic Metalcore
Cover art 3.84 | 20 ratings
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Great ideas that don't go very far.

Protest the Hero a relatively new mathcore/progressive metal band from Canada. They smashed onto the scene with their killer debut Kezia, which reached far bounds in their genre's sonic spectrum. The band comes back in 2008 with Fortress, an overall good album but a bit lacking. The band has very good ideas with their music but they fail to develop them very far. Overall, the band delivers a vicious punch of intense and technical metal, but they fall short of creating anything truly special.

Bloodmeat smashes open the album with a killer little riff that quickly breaks down into another riff that quickly breaks down into another riff that then switches to another riff... whew! With this song we see early on how the band has plenty of absolutely fantastic ideas, but they don't develop them into any cohesive track but just cram as much stuff into a 3 minute track as possible. Overall, the song is very strong and doesn't fall short of intensity, but has way too much going on to be considered an overall excellent song.

The Dissentience is a little better than the last track, with more concise ideas being further developed than just a rough cut guitar riff. Still, however, the song shows signs of way too much (or not enough) thought put into such a short time span. With some of the ideas present in the track, a lengthy metal epic could have been made. The track is strong, but lacks a unique spark that would make it a spectacular track.

Bone Marrow is one of the best tracks on the album, making an absolutely epic duology (with the next track). It contains some of the more creative ideas, albeit there are way too many of them shoved into the song. A little bit of funk is heard, with some fantastic mathcore riffs synchronizations heard. The whole experience of Bone Marrow could be seen as an almost surreal one, with bass boosts put in at the perfect spot and keyboard textures being sprinkled in here and there. The melodic transition at the end of the track marks the finishing of "part 1" of the album and the advent of part 2. The whole little section is beautiful, either adding or subtracting to the overall feel of the track.

Sequia Throne is my absolute favorite track on the album. Absolutely brilliant riffs, great soloing and harmonizations between the two guitars, and some absolutely fantastic bass and drums synchronizations. Overall, the track displays what Protest the Hero can do: rape your ears for all they're worth. The band dishes out an insane amount of mathcore madness, with hectic time signature changes, insanely fast soloing and synchronized breakdowns. Overall, this is easily the strongest track on the album, although I would love it if the ideas in the song were developed further.

Palms Read marks the slow decline of my interest in the album. After the relatively incredible tracks, little more can be done for the album. Of course, this song also contains some purely genius ideas, but still they are so all over the place that it makes it hard to consider this a serious song but more like an album teaser. Overall, the song is really good, but is nowhere the best of the album.

Limb from Limb is alright, but nothing special. Some really standard metalcore riffing and crazy instrumental prowess make this rather unspecial compared to the rest of the metalcore genre. The song can get a little "boring," with way too much craziness making it a combination of boring and harsh.

Spoils is a really nice, but a little odd, "fusion" song of power metal and alternative metal. Some great ideas again are a little hectic and underused in an insane song. The song, like so many of the songs before, contain way too many ideas shoved into a short time span. The really only exceptional part of the song is the beautiful transitional piano piece at the end of the song.

Wretch is so much like the other song. Some great riffs and ideas shoved into a short time span and made way too crazy. Some really awkward modulations to major also detract from this song a lot. Sometimes, there is a point where a musician needs to step and ask himself what is he putting into a song and why. It's pretty obvious they did not do this as they shoved riff after riff into an obese track. Overall, the song has some great ideas, but the song overall is way too hectic.

Goddess Bound is yet another way too overstuffed song. This time, throw in some odd and sometimes way too generic lyrics and mix in an overused concept and you get the Goddess Bound/Goddess Gagged duology. The song is good, but like essentially every other track on the album, has way too many great ideas shoved into it.

Goddess Gagged is an appropriate ender to the album. Using much more proggy riffs than just metalcore, and seem to have a much more structured song built this time. Finally, only a select few ideas were used, and tastefully. The song has some really great ideas too, some of the better ones of the album. Overall, the track is actually a rather strong ender, albeit it does end rather suddenly. It has some strong ideas that are a little more structured, although it still seems a little all over the place at times.

ALBUM OVERALL: From the tone of the review, one may assume that I hate this album, which is not true. First time through, I was blown away. But, I slowly began to realize that the band had just pumped the album full of great ideas meant to explode your mind while truly they were feeble and underdeveloped ideas. The instrumentation is spectacular, hammering in another great metalcore performance, but the music preformed is nothing special. As I said time and time again, the ideas used on this album are stunted and underdeveloped. Overall, the album has fantastic ideas, but they provide for nothing more than a tiring and exhausted ride. 3 stars.

NEAL MORSE Sola Scriptura

Album · 2007 · Metal Related
Cover art 4.44 | 26 ratings
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Mix Dream Theater and Spock's Beard...

In 2002, Neal Morse, celebrated prog musician from Spock's Beard, Transatlantic, and Yellow Matter Custard announced he was leaving the prog world to pursue his recent conversion to Christianity. Through the 5 years since then, Neal has gone on to become a solo artist, his primary genre being Christian Rock. However, every once in a while he slips back into his comfy shoes and makes a tasty prog album. Fist with Testimony, then with One, then with ?, and now with this epic masterpiece, Sola Scriptura. The album consists simply of 4 songs... but runs for nearly 80 minutes. Long epics pepper the album, consisting of Neal in all his prog (metal) glory. Whipping out his amazing song writing skill, he has no problem writing 30, 25 and 16 minute long tracks, each of which are essentially amazing. Of course Neal mixes in his faith with a concept of Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation. Also he manages to slip in a little Christian rock, but it barely detracts from the album.

The Door is the 30 minute epic of the album. But, unlike most massive epics, the song does not take a minute or two to build up. This track right up and slaps you in the face in the first couple seconds. No, it's not some insane technical death metal riff, but neither is it a slow lap steel guitar solo. Neal shows off his ability to wow a crowd with his amazing overture, as any lengthy epic should have. With plenty of tricks, the song easily modulates from major to minor to major to haunting to happy to epic to fast to slow to melodic to metal and about 35 other feels. Overall, the simple overture is purely amazing. And we still have 25 minutes left. With contributions from Mike Portnoy also, the music is given a great fusion feel - mixing the symphonics of Spock's Beard with the metal of Dream Theater. The only negative point is the cheesy qualities of both "In the Name of God" and "All I Ask For," both of which have some..... not-so-preferable qualities, with some overbearing Christian rock influence and some really cheesy melodies. But, the rest of track, including quite a few infectious little proggy sections, balance this song into stardom. Overall, The Door kicks Sola Scriptura into hight gear, making this a highly recommended release already.

The Conflict opens right off with a heavy metal riff and a totally bitchin solo courtesy of Paul Gilbert. The intro has strong Alice in Chains and other alternative metal influences. Throughout the song, we see a few themes explored by the overture furthered, and some great ideas blossoming into beautiful sections. Although the song does slip back into a little bit of Christian rock again, the song sticks to it's prog metal guns for 90% of the time. The song has one of the strongest Spock's Beard influences, with some cool jazz fusion feels going along with it during "Two Down, One to Go." Overall, this song presents yet another amazing furtherment of Neal Morse's incredible songwriting ability.

Heaven in my Heart is the downer of the album. Only 5 minutes long for one thing, it is essentially a pure Christian rock song, consisting of mainly just piano, strings, and some drums. Compared to the two amazing prog epics preceding it, it presents a less than satisfactory effort from the good man Neal. Of course, the melodies and piano work is nice and pleasant, as are the string quartet work. However, the overall feel of the album isn't exactly what I was looking for in the album.

The Conclusion is, well, a really good conclusion. Smashing open with a crazy instrumental jam between the three main members of the band, it also finishes all the main themes of the introduction, as well as re-introducing the album.... again. It does have some cool riffs though! This song really picks up what Heaven in my Heart left off, because it left a lot. A lot of this song functions mainly as just a cap to Martin Luther's story and then after that a massive instrumental jam where all the guys show off what they can do - which is a lot of stuff. The Re-introduction is a crazy and infectious prog jam, which reprises a lot of the material covered in the previous two epics. Overall, this song is a fantastic conclusion to a fantastic album, summing up an epic concept and ending the album with one of the better riffs of the album. Bravo!

ALBUM OVERALL: This album really sums up what Neal Morse can do. Consisting of 3 long epics and one shorter track, the whole album oozes genius. Form sweeping prog rock and metal riffs to simplistic melodic sections, the whole album has an aura of a musical genius at work. Neal Morse can easily dish out just about anything after this album. However, the album has its serve of negative points also. The songs dip into Morse's Christian tendencies, detracting from the overall feel of the album considerably. However, overall the album does present an absolutely amazing ride of music, and I highly recommend it for any experienced prog head who isn't afraid to listen to a 30 minute long track - it's worth it! 5- stars.

ANIMALS AS LEADERS Animals as Leaders

Album · 2009 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 4.09 | 47 ratings
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Electrocution by djent.

Animals as Leaders is the new project by celebrated classically trained and dedicated metal guitarist Tosin Abasi. From acoustic to 8-string, the man can whip out riffs like no one else. Pulling out tapping arpeggios at over 200 bpm or noodling with a nylon guitar, the album contains a fantastic dose of heavy, melodic, and just overall intensity. Each track has something a little special, even if some lack what some others possess. Although synthesizer openings and programmed drums may sound a bit cheesy at times, the album is able to pull together some fantastic chops and superb musicianship for an outstanding album.

Tempting Time is the amazing opener. When I say "amazing opener," I really can't stress how amazing it truly is. It opens with a somewhat "trippy" synth and guitar intro, before breaking into pure beauty at the hand of Abasi's 8-string guitar. The song contains within it the absolute perfect combination of djent, melodic riffing and soloing, and those sublime polyrhythms. If I were asked to take out any part of this song, I wouldn't, because every savory second is so perfect. The songwriting, musicianship put into it, production quality and just about every other aspect of the song is what I would call "perfect." I've tried to find something bad about this track, and I cannot find one single thing.

In the wake of Tempting Time, Soraya seems meager at best. The song, consisting of considerably slower riffs and melodies, has a certain dissonance to it that doesn't sit well with me. Although the "chorus" and main riff is a very nice tapping bit, the solos and rhythms seem a little weak, even set aside from Tempting Time. Overall, the song is nice, but leaves a small aftertaste that doesn't sit perfectly well with me. It's alright, but nothing spectacular.

Thoroughly at Home is a another considerable slower track consisting of more deliberate traditional heavy metal riffs and some steady attack of metal. Some interesting experimentation is heard, with some more creative djent riffs. At some points some extremely inventive soling is heard, with some infectious polyrhythms and tapping. Overall another strong song, but again nothing outstanding.

On Impulse is much more melodic and mellow, showing Abasi's more compassionate and "musical" side of song writing. Played on his 8 string in a beautiful fashion, Abasi obviously has some intense guitar skills as he rocks along with a steady rhythm. Again this song isn't outstanding, but does have a bit of a higher grade of songwriting than the precious two tracks.

Tessitura is a short little semi-acoustic piece. Abasi is all alone on this one, quietly playing his guitar with his insanely unique style. The song transitions beautifully into the next track.

Behaving Badly is the next impressive track on the album. Fusing all the elements found on the album into a concise four minute track. Abasi utilizes his insane skills to make a great fusion between his melodic playing and his metal playing- an infectious duo, it makes. Some of the chops heard on the track are truly sublime, showing off Abasi skill even more with insanely fast and melodically dense riffing all throughout.

The Price of Everything and the Value of Nothing is the next track to feature that signature "fusion" that Animals as Leaders will easily develop into a very unique sound. The song has some great riffing from Abasi with some fantastic polyrhythms and interesting synth parts. Overall, the song presents another very strong track with a great fusion between guitar melodies and heavy metal riffs.

CAFO (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation) is easily one of my favorite tracks on the album. The song kicks off with a sweeping tapping part before breaking into an intense djent riff with infectious tapping backgrounds. After this bombardment, the song breaks down into a simply vivacious tapping section where Abasi goes all out on his poor guitar neck. Smacking away at arpeggio after arpeggio, the song keeps a constant sweep of guitar notes. The whole song presents a ride of pure bliss in the form of djent.

Inamorta keeps this trend, blowing the listener away with some more great riffs and tapping solos. At this point, the trend is beginning to run a little dry, but the constant bombardment of sound seems to give at least some vigor before the intermediate tracks come back in. Overall, this track is good, but runs another common trend on the albumL having very strong single tracks that can't really stand up to the greater tracks of the album.

Point to Point is a short little guitar solo consisting of a short guitar noodle. The song is nothing spectacular, but does have some interesting riffing and other instrumental gems. Overall, the song just acts mainly as a transition into the next transition...

...Modern Meat. This track is the first truly acoustic track on the album. The 2 minute long song features Abasi on a nylon guitar, pouring his heart out over the strings (or maybe not). In reality, though, the song is a really great little classical guitar piece, showing Abasi's classical training in the form of pure composition.

Song of Solomon is a fantastic closer. Holding up to it's counterpart opener Tempting Time, it balances TT with a considerably lesser degree of insanity and fury with a great degree of melodic beauty and grace. Again featuring some great soloing and tapping by Abasi, the track has a perfect blend of everything found on the album, acting as a spectacular summary of everything the listener has exposed himself to on the album. Overall, the track is one of the greats of the album and will become a definite pro to the band's discography.

ALBUM OVERALL: Amazing. Overall, the album is amazing. Pure excellency. As a masterpiece? I wouldn't go that far, but as a debut, this album is as near to perfect as your gonna get. The album has virtually everything you could possible want in a metal album: intense, heavy riffs, moments of brief and poignant melody, and an overall heaviness that can categorize it as metal. Overall, this album is killer, and is highly recommended to any djent fan. Although some songs do seem to lack a little bit in comparison to others, track by track the album does have a great sense of charm. 4+ stars.

DISTRICT 97 Live at CalProg

Live album · 2010 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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One of the few albums where female vocals really work.

*Note* Written for its progressiveness more than its metal-ness. District 97 is a relatively new American prog band who has released a studio album and now their first live album, their entire set list from the CalProg festival. On the album, they play three of the five tracks on the album, as well as a cover and quite a few new tracks. They cover UK's Presto Vivace and Genesis' Back in NYC in a great little medley. They also play the mammoth 27 minute long Mindscan off of the album in its entirety. This is a great album, with some fantastic tracks played along the way.

I Can't Take You With Me is a great Crossover track. These Crossover songs are the kind of songs where the pop influence really sounds legitimately good alongside the prog influence. Some creative songwriting is really seen in this track, with great polyrhythmic moments, superior melodies, and great harmonization between the guitar and the vocals. The instrumental section has some obvious Liquid Tension Experiment, Genesis, and Yes influences in the way it is structured.

Termites is one of the "hits" off the new album, and it still is a crushingly great song on this album too. Some really creative synchronization between the vocals and instruments occurs on this song, something you don't always see on other songs. The songwriting again has its influences in the right places, really mixing the prog metal influence with the prog rock influence really nicely. It has the perfect amount of heavy, as well as the perfect amount of symphonics. However, the guitar effects used on this song are a little cheesy and remind me of the midi settings found on a keyboard.

Who Cares? is a slower and more Flower Kings-esque song. More hesitant and delicate, the instrumentation lacks a little bit. The vocals are a little more compassionate and a little less "vocal." Overall, the song is alright, but doesn't match up to the greatness of it's predecessors.

The Back and Forth is by far my favorite song on the album. Right from the beginning, a really cool tapping synchronization between the guitar and bass reminds me of Steve Hackett's tapping in Genesis. Some really great crossovers between prog metal and prog rock. Fantastic songwriting and powerful vocals really makes this track a quintessential crossover track.

Presto Vivace/Back in NYC is a fantastic medley between UK and Genesis, which are two obvious influences of the band. Leslie Hunt's vocals are actually a spectacular representation of Gabriel's powerful voice. Sadly, in most prog bands who have female singers, the singers can't reach the depth needed to match up with the music, but she really can rip! What a great singer!

Mindscan is the massive psychedelic track lasting 27 minutes, with trippy instrumental sections and fantastic body sections. The songwriting can seem a bit cheesy at times, but the majority of the song is a fantastic ride.

Open Your Eyes is, I'm guessing, an original song and not some far out arrangement of the Yes song. However, it's an alright song, although it does drag a little bit.

ALBUM OVERALL: This is a great live album by a great band. The songwriting is top notch, with creative bits with a synthesis of a great many influences ranging from Liquid Tension Experiment to UK. Highly recommended to anyone who enjoyed the studio album, for the recording is very high quality and the new tracks are spectacular. 4 stars.


Album · 2010 · Atmospheric Black Metal
Cover art 3.29 | 6 ratings
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Melodic black metal?

Lantlos' sophomore effort, .Neon, is a rather peculiar album. The band seems to be a rather interesting mix of experimental and melodic metal and a crushing and harsh mix of black metal. With screeching high black growls and actually quite nice instrumentation backing it, it's hard to decide whether the album presents a pleasant contrast or a horrid discordance. A few select passages are nice, but the overwhelming majority is a sad and near-painful amalgam of melody and dissonance - and not the good kind.

The album opens with Minusmensch, the first taste of the band's fusion of good melody and.... not so good melody. The song constantly bombards you with some interesting, if not somewhat strained, instrumentation backing some rather traditional black vocals, contrasting the melody in a very harsh, but not quite beautiful, way. The instrumental sections are the obvious plus to this song, and the whole album in general, adding a slight twinge of progginess and melodic experimentation.

These Nights Will Be Ours is another meloblack fusion track (rhyme win). The black metal vocals seem to be in better accord with the more depressing nature of the track, giving it an edge of downright experimentation, with even some heavy post-rock ambiance mixed in. The song seems to soar a little higher than Minusmensch, with a more melodic guitar backing and some great ambient guitars, some of the very little ambient guitar work I actually enjoy (I could never get into post-rock). Overall, this song presents a strong effort in the band's experimental category, fusing even more feels and influences for a highly dynamic track.

Pulse/Surreal is just that, a pulsing and almost surreal black metal ride. With some obvious influences from the likes of maudlin of the Well and Agalloch, the band institutes clean vocals, both a great relief to hurting ears and a pleasant surprise of melodic beauty. The band doesn't hesitate to modulate into a more.... screechy tone with the reinstitution of the black metal vocals, adding an unnecessary contrast to something that easily could have been fantastic and beautiful. The song does taper into a post-rock zone that is something I have come to expect from the genre - lengthy and unnecessary ambient sections that ruin any somewhat melodic sections, but overall the song is a strong effort, with a few down points.

Neige De Mars slips into territory I don't really like. The song blends the boring aspect of post-rock with the screechy aspect of black metal to make a less than stomachable mix. The music is quite harsh at times, lacking the pleasantries of melodic instrumental sections and instead substituting a sleep-inducing post-rock jam. The song has very few high points, with most of the song.

Coma breaks the monotony with a harder driving and more pure black metal track, although post-rock and some more melodic experimentation is still seen. The song presents a little less creativity in it's standard-sounding pop-punk chord progression and a little less creative instrumentation as seen in the earlier tracks of the album. The song has up points, but presents one of the less inventive and more "run-of-the-mill" depressing black metal tracks on the album.

Neon, the epic title and closer track, is instrumental and oozes the creativity in the instrumentation that the band showed in the beginning of the album. Without the black screeches, the instrumental side of the band is able to soar and excel in its position in the band: to smother you in creative post-rock/metal experimentation and melodic funzies. The band is able to mesh the post-rock they had in most of the album with the "better" and more enjoyable experimental metal.

AlBUM OVERALL: Lantlos had come back with a rather interesting album. The album has both very high points and very (very) low points. The band has an obvious fondness for post-rock, and is also obviously intent on fusing this with their black-metal roots. At points, this becomes a great experimental mastery with just a small lack of really creative melody, and at times it creates a near-horrid fusion of dissonance and ambiance. Overall, the album is really a balance between great and gross, making an overall good, but really not very necessary album. 3 stars.

TRIVIUM The Crusade

Album · 2006 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 3.32 | 19 ratings
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Leading their own crusade, even if critics don't like it.

Trivium is one of those metalcore bands that is really more thrash than metalcore. The Crusade, the band's third effort, takes much more influence from Metallica, Megadeth, and Anthrax than their last, more "death" based album. However "unoriginal" the album may sound, the band is able to weave a very unique thrash/metalcore sound into all of their albums. This is the first album where we really hear Matt Heady's clean vocals, unlike the growling heard on the previous two. The band weaves a small degree of progressive metal into the music also, making this album especially rather unique and creative.

Ignition cracks open the album with an intense thrash riff and some interesting rhythms backing it. The song is a little bland, without much variation from the riff, except for an intense solo that is extremely short and uninventive. Overall, the song is a rather weak opener, but is still intense and truly metal!

Detonation seems to act as a "part 2" to Ignition, fading in from the ending fade of the last track. The song has a hint of more creativity, but still has that consistent riff-riff-riff style going for it. The does have a tiny amount of dynamic, with a more creative and slightly lengthier solo, which still has intense Metallica influence. The song does modulate to a different section and a different feel, making it slightly more interesting but still not as inventive as it could be (and will be).

Entrance of the Conflagration is the first creative and interesting track on the album. With some cool riffing and synchronization between guitars and some great rhythms, the song has a great instrumental effort. Both lyrically and vocally the song is very interesting, telling the story of a woman who loses her mind to Satan, while trying to live a Christian lifestyle. Again we have a slight dynamic change and a cool synchronized switch off solo between the two guitarists. Overall, the song still lacks the true creativity that the band possesses, but it is still a strong effort.

Anthem (We Are the Fire) is a little bit more of a "breakaway" from the traditional Metallica influence, but it is still present. The song is a little more popularly-accessible leaning, and almost painful to listen to when the strained-sounding swears are thrown into the lyrics. Musically, the song does present some more interesting riffs, but overall it still is a little boring and uncreative.

Unrepentant is by far the most Metallica-influenced track on the album. I mean, I'm pretty sure the opening riff is a Metallica riff. The song has a very Iron Maiden-influenced story base, and some Iron Maiden-influenced soloing also. So, I guess I could say that this song is more like the band's tribute to some of the best metal bands around.

And Sadness Will Sear is the break from the intense thrash metal surrounding it. It really marks a turning point for the album, stopping for the most part the constant Metallica riffs and adding a bit more dynamic and interesting riffs. The song has some cool rhythms and instrumentation, and some great melodies, though they are rough and metalcore. The solo is the first genuinely creative and interesting, making this one of the better songs on the album so far.

Becoming the Dragon is the second great and inventive track, starting the string of the songs that has a more unique to Trivium sound. The riffs on the song are slightly more creative and interesting, making the song also quite interesting.

To The Rats is another supremely Thrash metal song, but it mixes Trivium-esque metal with said Thrash, making a more unique sound. The song is rather unremarkable, however, just adding another song to the album, and can be easily looked over.

This World Can't Tear Us Apart is, in one word, cheesy. I mean it's a metal love ballad. Yes, this song is musically unique and more inventive than most of the other songs on the album, but I can't get over how freakin' cheesy the lyrics are... "all the pain in the world can't stop us now, for we have each other..." I mean seriously, who puts that into a serious metal song? I don't mean to rip on their lyricist's ability to write lyrics, but this is truly comical. Musically, however, the song does have quite a few bright spots, balancing out the song, somewhat. Overall, the song is one of the weaker songs on the album, and has very few bright spots, except for a little more creativity and inventivenes going into music writing.

Tread the Floods is the begging of the build up to the epic conclusion to the album. It has a much more creative riff base, with more technique-based riffing than just quick chugging. The instrumental section is actually really nice, with some really great soloing and fantastic backing tracks. Overall, this song is one of the better and more inventive tracks that lacks creativity dearly.

Contempt Breeds Contamination is the next in the ladder to the epic closer. The song has the same roots as Tread the Floods, with more creative and technically difficult riffing and some more creative instrumental sections. Overall, this track also is one of the better tracks on the album, building up an amazing ending.

The Rising fuses much more traditional hard rock than thrash metal for a really album-unique track. The song has some really interesting quality that sets apart from the rest of the album, and the band's main genre, also. Overall, the song is the final step before the epic ending to the album, and is a great dynamic for the album, also.

Here it is, The Crusade, the magnum opus, and the epic ending to the track. Here we have a track that isn't metalcore at all. This track is progressive metal, as pure as you can make it. An epic 8 minute instrumental, the track contains every tasty element a prog metal head could want, from great polyrhythms to dynamic changes and time signature changes. The song has amazing melody, great rhythms, fantastic instrumentation, and an overall fantastic ride. Overall, the song provides a dose of what the album has severely lacked all the way through. Every member of the band contributes a small piece of their overall instrumental ability, in which all of them have an incredible amount of. Overall, this track is my absolute favorite of the album, the band, and one of my favorite of the genre. It is one of the best closers I have heard in a very long time and certainly the brightest point this album could hope for. Bravo!

ALBUM OVERALL: Overall, this album is for the most part mediocre. As many critics have said, this album seems to be a copy of Metallca. The influence is blatantly obvious, but in no way is it an outright "copy." The album possesses distinct qualities and hints of individuality which sets it apart from the Thrash kings. Although many of the songs do lack any particular spark of creativity, the band is still able to flesh out a great album. The best point, as I pointed out in the track by track review, is the title track, a smashing instrumental that really holds this album above a 2 star review. Overall, this album is good, and is a little better than good, but the avid metal listener should be warned that the album is not the best thing that has ever graced the earth. 3+ stars.


Album · 2007 · Metalcore
Cover art 4.21 | 55 ratings
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Between mastery and perfection.

Colors is the 5th release from progressive metalcore master Between the Buried and Me. Fusing classic progressive metal elements with the thrash and furious elements of death metal, they have produced a rather unique sound in a genre that doesn't really have any creativity, for the most part. With colors we can see a great variety of sounds, from melodic piano interludes to crushing and quick metalcore thrash sessions. The album displays a near perfect mix of all these elements, making this album a must have for any seasoned or avid metalcore fan.

The album kicks off with the Foam Born duology, first with Part A "The Backtrack," a mellow piano and vocal piece. The part slowly builds into a slightly more rocking piece, instituting a slight keyboard/guitar solo arpeggio sweep and some more major sounding backtracks before modulating into the much heavier and metal music the band is known for. The song seamlessly transitions into Part B "The Decade of Statues," a much faster and heavier hitting song. Sometimes the song seems to have way too much going on at once, with crazy vocals, crazy guitars, crazy bass, crazy drums, and pretty much just an overall craziness, and it can be somewhat overwhelming. But, the song does have an amazing attribute going for it: at the end of the song, there is a short period of jazzy synchronization that is purely infectious. Each member puts forth a key effort, making those short seconds a blast to listen to.

Informal Gluttony opens with a somewhat Arabian or ethnic sounding riff, before breaking into a more traditional BtBaM riff and metalcore thrashery. The album has some interesting dynamics, switching often between crazy metalcore riffs and more mellow breakdowns. Sadly, this often seems to act as a detriment to the album, with some awkward transitions happening between feels. There are some good ideas in the song, but occasionally they seem forced into the song unnaturally.

Sun of Nothing is the first 10+ minute epic on the album, and it certainly delivers. Again it has some intense metalcore riffing with some heavy guitars and vocals. The song has some of the more "listenable" material, with more audible guitar riffs rather than low register, mad fast guitar chugging. The instrumental section are great, with some great synchronized solos and some interesting guitar melodies and harmonies. A much more melodic section can be found in the song, making this one of the tastier and more dynamic songs on the album. It has strong jazz and progressive rock roots, showing the band's many influences. Overall, this song is one of the better tracks on the album, with great dynamics and some really great ideas.

Ants in the Sky is the seamless transition from Sun of Nothing, and the second longest song on the album, clocking in at over 13 minutes. The song is similar to the last track, with some interesting soloing and more melodic dynamics. The song has another jazzy synchronized instrumental section, which flows into a great mellow section, which flows back into a more metal section, which flows into yet another jazzy and infectious synchronized instrumental section. Whew! The song, as you can see, has its healthy dose of creativity and inventiveness. The song as a whole contains so many genius ideas that sometimes its hard to wrap your head around it, but overall the song just oozes creativity and fun.

Prequel to the Sequel is a surprising breath of fresh air-- with a song in a major scale! The song is, surprisingly, happy. The extremely happy music contrasts the not-so happy vocals actually quite nicely, making an oddly pleasant track. The song does modulate to a much more heavy and metal feel though, but doesn't hesitate to keep up the intensity, despite dropping the great happy/evil contrast. The song has plenty of dynamics, however, with a peculiar parlor-like section near the end, which flows into a more thrash-metal like section, which flows into a pseudo-black metal section. Overall, the song is good, but has even more ideas shoved into it than the last track, making very peculiar to listen to.

Viridian is a short instrumental track, consisting of a much slower and more ambient feel. Mellow guitars slowly pick their way through the track and some jazzy guitar soloing fronting that. Some really ambient keys in the back make the song especially ambient and trippy. Overall, the song acts most as a transition to the last and most epic track on the album, and can for the most part be overlooked as an individual track.

White Walls is the definitive epic of the album, clocking at over 14 minutes and containing a generous amount of epic music. The whole song provides an amazing ride. Opening intense, like always, the song has a certain original quality that most of the other songs don't seem to have. Instead of just intense riffing all the way through, the song has a steady build up to the more fierce stuff, and the fierce stuff has a certain melodic and dissonant quality to it that is unique to the track. The band has no trouble switching dynamics, going into a much mellow and melodic section midway into the song, adding a fantastic charm to the song. This dynamic makes for an extremely enjoyable progressive section, with some fantastic instrumentation and progression in their music. Overall, the song outputs one of the strongest and most creative efforts for the album, making it an especially amazing closer to the album.

ALBUM OVERALL: This album is easily one of Between the Buried and Me's best. The whole album is a blast to listen to, containing some of the best dynamics I've heard in a metalcore album. Of course, as in any album of the genre, some of the music can be a little unnecessarily intense and fierce. However, many of the songs can easily switch up this norm with jazzy interludes and great progressive synchronizations, melodic breakdowns and mellow ambient sections, and so much more. The band has no trouble making a great and dynamic album which just misses the masterpiece tag. 4+ stars.

DOMINICI O3: A Trilogy, Part 3

Album · 2008 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 3.62 | 11 ratings
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A brilliant show of continuity and traditional metal.

*And a note, I'm rating this on it's progressiveness...* At last, we have the final installment of Dominci's epic trilogy, 03, the story of a terrorist who's mission was to essentially end the world by converting 02 (oxygen we breathe) into 03 (ozone, poisonous to breathe). From each edition, Dominici tweaks and messes with his sound. On the first album, he debuted as a solo acoustic guitar/singer, on the second he debuted his top-notch Italian prog metal band in an epic foray of great progressive metal, and on his third album, he continues this prog metal, but mixes a great many spices (some of them a wee bit stale) of traditional metal and thrash metal that dampens the great taste he had on the last album. Now, the last album was essentially another Dream Theater album with Vanden Plas mixed in, but it was still a great album. On this album, he tales all that and adds some not-so desirable influences. The album as a whole is good, but it's not spectacular. For the plot, it has broken completely from the main character (who has presumably died) and focuses on the entire world as an omniscient character, with some focuses on the detective (apparently named Anthony Dam).

The King of Terror outlines the current state of the world at war. It talks about the absolute chaos the population is currently in, after the massive explosion/terror attack that the main character had initiated. Musically, the song is quite diverse, starting out as a slow and somber track, but at one point it blasts into a metallic fury, which is actually quite a blast. The music is a little boring at times, but the lyrics, as always in this trilogy, are actually quite creative and poignant.

March Into Hell continues with the story of the chaotic state of humanity, delving deeper into the fact that the apocalypse is coming quite soon (if it hasn't already happened). Musically, the song is a little harsh. Dominici really strains is vocal chords this time with some crunchy vocals in the verses... it's a little alienating. The music sounds a little traditional, with some interesting instrumental sections and some pretty simple soloing, not like the complex solos heard in the last album.

So Help Me God focuses on the Detective Anthony Dam. Dam is praying to the Gods who he blames for the most part for the tragedy. He prays to stop it and get him out of this, which is legitimate. Some really great lines can be found in here lyrically, with some fantastic meanings. Musically, this track is another "eh" track. Of all the tracks, it is the most "eh" track. I mean, it borders on pop. Everything about it screams cheesy ballad, which is a little sad for the great metal man Dominici.

Liquid Lightning is one of my favorite tracks on the album, with some actually pretty cool riffing and instrumental and vocal pieces happening through the album. This track details how the armies of the world are experiencing the first signs of divine or extraterrestrial influence in the wars. This shows how the Anti-Christ wars detailed in the book of Revelation (I'll get to that in a second) are beginning. Musically, as I said before, this song for the most part ends the trend of boring tracks on the album. However, this track is one of the more Metallica-inspired tracks with a little but more thrashy roots, with much more "prog spice" thrown in as well, making this one of the better tracks on the album.

Enemies of God (the first 10+ minute track he's made! hooray!) is the next in line for this album's better tracks. This track details someone's (most likely the detective's) experiences with some kind of capture (most likely of a divine nature). Musically, it is again pretty interesting, with a lot more divergence from the typical thrash metal of the rest of the album. Typical of any good "epic", there is some really nice dynamic changes, from the hard metal to a softer proggish sound. Overall, this is one of the better tracks on the album.

Revelation is, sadly, an "eh" track in a chain of great tracks. Lyrically, it is essential, detailing how the detective dug "deep" and found a long lost (gasp) bible! In the bible, he found the (gasp!) book of Revelation, which essentially told the same story as what was happening around him. Musically, I call it an "eh" track only because the tracks surrounding it are bounds better than it, but it is bounds better than the tracks before Liquid Lighting (the "very eh" section). The music can get a little but traditional pop-metal at times, but then it breaks into some really cool experimental soling and prog metal-sounding soloing.

Hell on Earth is a good track, although Dominici's vocals sound rather strained again. It tells of the Gods' disappointment with humanity because of their failure to do anything they (he? she? it? I don't know) told us to do. Musically, the song is rather interesting, with some rather creative sections, and some more traditional sections, which continues the amazing continuity of traditional metal throughout the album.

Genesis is no doubt the best track on the album. Nearly no boring repetitive metal sections are found in this quintessential track. This track, lyrically, is purely amazing. The God's take Anthony Dam, the last living human on earth to a secluded garden where he is to live the rest of his days. His name tag when he is first captures reads "A. Dam," so the divine figures refer to him as Adam. They take some human DNA from his ribcage to make a female counterpart for him so they can live in harmony, restarting the cycle of life. Musically, it is spectacular, opening with an infective little proggy riff on the keyboards, which quickly is matched by the guitar, bass, and drums. This creative riffing changes throughout the song, but is still incredibly proggy and creative. The song puts such a great twist to the story and ends the trilogy spectacularly. Bravo!

ALBUM OVERALL: The epic conclusion to an epic trilogy is... not as epic as I just made it sound. At the forefront of this album, one may begin to believe Dominici had fallen into the grasp of popular metal. The music is a stale combination of the prog metal that most of us love, and the thrashy metal that most of... don't. As the album progresses (how fitting), the music gets progressively (ha ha) more progressive! Traditional song structure breaks down, songs get longer, all that good stuff. The story line is really what holds this album up above a lower rating, however. Dominci's lyrical skills haven't diminished since he helped Dream Theater way back in 1989, and this album's great lyrics and story really hit a chord. Overall, 03 part 3 is good, but it's not a must-have. 3+ stars.


EP · 2010 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 3.25 | 2 ratings
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A taste of what's to come (or already has).

Look to Windward is a new New Zealand prog metal band that fuses pop rock elements with some really great tech prog metal elements for a zesty new brand of music. The two man band has quickly gone from bedroom-producers to a small, but considerable seeing they are independent and from New Zealand, international audience, thanks to a few posts on the ProgArchive forum (or at least that's how I found them). The Assemble EP is a taster for what has appeared on the latest (and first) studio album, Fortunes Haze. The music is a tasty mix of metal, and I strongly support getting a copy of this EP.

Vad Åskan Sade starts the album off with a jazzy twist, throwing in some brass with some cool jazzy guitars. The song then flows into a symphonic grace period, mixing some zesty metal with orchestral beauty. Somehow, the band is able to fuse some cheesy keyboard voices with intense and heavy guitar work to make a really epic piece of music. The whole track contains countless ideas melded together in absolute grace and lucidity. A great opener, to say the least.

Assemble, the "title" track, could be seen as a little weaker than the opener, but still has a very strong output. From the start, the song has a throbbing groove metal feel, with djenty guitar riffs and some great screaming vocals. The song even spaces out a little with some more ambient guitar solos and backing tracks. The song then proceeds to breakdown into a mellow melodic section with some cool percussion and spacey guitars. The slightly distorted vocals are little out there, but the backing band does make up for it with some cool extreme metal backings. Overall, this song has many more weak spots that the last track, but still outputs a strong effort.

Danger Eyes is certainly my favorite track on the EP. The opening riff is highly inventive and infectious to listen to. The song really shows the band's creative talent and technical ability. This song has another melodic and mellow/ambient breakdown, with some odd mixings of quiet vocal harmony and randomized clean guitar chords. The song is able to weave in and out of these sections, peppering in a few harder hitting metal sections with some softer sections, making this another exceptional track of a rather exceptional release from this new band.

ALBUM OVERALL: Look to Windward has done a great thing with this EP. Releasing it as a free download on their Bandcamp, they allowed everyone to taste some of the best music off of their debut album. And with this taste, I got hooked. The three tracks featured show the band's intense talent and creativity within a genre that often lack creativity. The production is highly professional, which is great for a basement recording session. However, the reason I didn't give this a 5 star rating is mainly because all it is is an EP with some tester tracks, and although they are great, they really aren't the most essential thing. If you want good LtW, get the debut album. 3+ stars.

OPETH Watershed

Album · 2008 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 3.92 | 112 ratings
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Melodeath mastery.

Opeth, after a string of fantastic albums, have continued a rather enjoyable trend of great progressive melodeath metal. The band, combining Akerfeldt's diverse influences from 70s rock like Camel and Yes to extreme acts such as Death and Atheist, are able to pull off a rather incredible feat, with some of the most dynamically acceptable death metal available. While the vocals can still be a bit harsh for the non-death metal lover, Akerfeldt's soft clean vocals still permeate the album like a calming perfume. Musically, as always, the band pulls off an amazing feat, synthesizing extreme metal and prog rock elements into a cohesive and dynamic release.

Coil starts the album off with a soft acoustic melodic piece of music. Akerfeldt's soothing acoustic guitar and equally soothing classically trained voice meshes quite nicely with Lorichs' vocals, which contrast Akerfeldt's in a musically beautiful way. Mellotron sounding keyboards back the guitar, adding a spectacular texture.

Heir Apparent fades in slowly and then crashes down with a deliberate power and thrust typical to Opethian epics. The song builds and recedes and builds until a final crescendo with the growling vocals. Some great Opethian riffing is heard, with some fantastic keyboard textures added. Fantastic jazzy breakdowns pepper the track, along with stupendous instrumental sections and psychedelic guitar solos, making this track another fantastic Opeth track, and the official start to this great album.

The Lotus Eater essentially picks up where Heir Apparent leaves off, using some of the same ideas to kick start the track. The advent of Akerfeldt's clean vocals on the metal section of the album is heard on this track, making this a go-to track for the more melody-loving metal heads. Some more psychedelic and 70s inspired instrumental sections are present on the track, with more Opethian riffs and rhythms. The major upside and most inventive part of this track is the funky keyboard solo with some great jazzy drumming, great funky guitar chords, and some great funky bass, too. That one feature is really what makes this track special and not falling into the monotony of Opethian riffs and solos.

Burden is a slower, more melodic ballad-like track with a much more melancholy outlook, with lots of modulated piano and great mellotron-strings textures. Great melodies are the main pro to this track, with some cool jazzy rhythms and solos. A great Hammond solo is another plus to the track, making this one of the more jazz inspired tracks on the album and a really great addition to this great album.

Porcelain Heart is one of my favorite tracks on the album. The song has one of the best mixtures of melodic rock, especially with that infectious acoustic section, and some great melodeath metal. The song again features some of that great liberating jazz influenced rhythms, with some great instrumental sections fronting them.

Hessian Peel, the longest track on the album clocking in at over 11 minutes, and it packs in 11 minutes of very epic music. Another melodic metal fusion track, the track poses both fantastic musical value and a rather haunting lyrical value. The song opens with a rather lengthy melodic section with mostly acoustic and clean guitars with mellotron textures added. About halfway in, the song starts to build, and then erupts into a death metal frenzy. The frenzy may leave you out of breathe, but fret not, because a beautiful melodic breakdown awaits. An absolutely genius acoustic riff is a major plus of the album, spicing up an already hot melodic breakdown. The song speeds up again, the fades out with an eerie Hammond riff. Spooky!

Hex Omega is one of the more "traditional" Opethian groove metal songs. It starts out as a steady metal song, with great groove-based Opethian riffs, and then breaks down into a more melodically based track. The two feels frequently switch back and forth, making this one of the more dynamic, if not more uninteresting, tracks on the album. The track ends the album in a more average fashion, ending as most of the other tracks on the album end, with a slow fade out of a keyboard texture.

ALBUM OVERALL: Watershed is one of Opeth's better albums in a string of great albums. Starting with still life way back in 1999, Opeth hasn't failed to deliver since. The album contains all of the essential Opeth elements: melody, intensity, death(ity), extremeness, acoustic beauty, and great backing band qualities, from the fantastic Melotron textures to the jazzy freestyle drumming. Each track has a little spice to add to the album, making it one hell of an album. However, this particular style, with riff then solo then Opethian riff than solo can get a little stale when a more inventive solo like a jazzy Hammond or mellow acoustic solo isn't thrown in. That is truly the only reason this album is short of a masterpiece label. 4+ stars.

DHAMPYR To Vanish Into The Earth

EP · 2010 · Non-Metal
Cover art 2.50 | 1 rating
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It oozes depression.

Dhamphyr is a Rhode Island based one man black metal project that pumps out demos and EPs by the month. One of the more recent releases, To Vanish Into the Earth, is one of such EPs. The release contains 3 exceptionally depressing and ambient tracks of varying lengths. The music is long and atmospheric, featuring varying soundscapes and ambient experimentation. The demo can be rather boring but can also be a rather interesting ride to listen all the way through. It is easy to lose yourself in the waves of ambiance and psychedelic nonsense.

Fog-Soaked Mesmerism opens the EP with exactly what I described above - depressing, black, atmospheric soundscapes fit for an acid trip. Seeing as I don't do acid and don't plan to, the song has a lost value on me. However, this played at exceptionally loud volume could easily relax to unmeasurable amounts.

Melting the Ether is the longer track on the EP and has a much darker outlook and atmosphere. Still we have slow, atmospheric, black soundscapes, but here it is more wavy and pulsing. Again I think you really need to be in a drug induced state to truly appreciate this song, which I am not (and won't be) in.

The Yellow Sign of Hastur is just more of the same, with a little bit more audible happenings. Again the song is lost on someone who isn't high, but does have the acute ability to relax those who are stressed or are needing some way to just bathe in an effervescent and depressive swath of black ambient music.

ALBUM OVERALL: Well, there isn't much to say on the EP, but one thing I will say is that if one does plan on partaking in any kind of hallucinogenic, I recommend downloading the album, for I predict it will heighten the high quite a bit. Overall, the album does have some interesting qualities, especially with the trippy soundscapes, but there really isn't anything special about this EP. 2+ stars.


EP · 2004 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 4.43 | 39 ratings
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The word stamina is an understatement when describing this song.

I (I have no idea if it's the letter or the number so don't ask me) is a rather adventurous idea by Meshuggah. The EP is just one track, the title track, that runs for an incredible 21 minutes, flat. The song doesn't let up once, not once, throughout the whole 21 minutes, except for those typical discordant and dissonant clean guitar solo things that Meshuggah does. The song is fast, it's hard, it's intense, it's brutal, it's heavy, goddammit it's Meshuggah!

The song starts out with a 2 or so minute long session of just crazy riffing. Two whole minutes of just wacking on the band member's guitars and drums and basses and whatever else they used. Like I said first thing, stamina is an understatement when describing how they did this. Once the craziness "breaks," there was no stopping these guys. The whole way through they played their music, that crazy brand of Meshuggah-intense music, until their fingers were bleeding (at least that's how I envision it). The polyrhythmic journey is full of intensity and fear-breeding fury that could make a seasoned metal-head's ears bleed. The song contains every aspect that Meshuggah fans enjoy, from crazy time signatures to crazy thrash metal riffs to the signature djent, to discordant solos to so much more. Overall, this is easily one of Meshuggah's best tracks.

ALBUM OVERALL: This song is almost too intense. And that's the reason I'm not giving it 5 stars. For musicianship, intensity, polyrhythmic value, and all those types of quality, the song is perfect. But in a musical sense, there is no melody, no harmony, or any of that. Now of course this is truly one of the things that Meshuggah has prided themselves on, but I think that they should let up somewhat somewhere in the song so your head doesn't explode whilst listening to it. Overall, the song is fantastic, but can be a little overkill at points. 4 stars.


Album · 2008 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 3.86 | 47 ratings
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If you can dance to this, you've got skills.

Meshuggah has come back after the great Catch-33 with obZen, a more thrash-based than "jazz"-based album. Here you'll find just constant bombardment of heavy guitars and fast drums throughout the album. Each song can hold its own, but overall the album can easily fall into "monotony" and overbearing continuity, with some more creative and "refreshing" sections. Everything typical of Meshuggah's signature sound can easily be found within the album, with crazy guitar riffing, crazy polyrhythmic drumming, and some wacky solos that really make no sense whatsoever.

Combustion opens the album on a smashing note, opening just 13 seconds in with an intense thrash metal riff, bottomed out by 8 string guitars. The song doesn't let up, but just keeps going, and going, and going, and going, until the 4 minute song ends. The song is good, but can be a little tiring after a while.

Electric Red is similar to Combustion, with a more djenty riff going on then just constant chugging. The song is a little more creative, with some cool rotational tom-filling backing the djenty guitars. Most oft he instrumental sections lack creativity, and the riffing can get a little stale. At points the song picks a certain inventive charm, but it's lost rather quickly by the return of the verses.

Bleed is one of my favorite tracks on the album. It opens immediately with a triplet-based riff at an intense speed. The song is over the top intense and a massively intense ride. The instrumental section is highly experimental and creative, making for an exceptional track.

Lethargica is another intense thrash metal riff based track. For a creative aspect, the song does include a very experimental discordant and dissonant "solo" and instrumental section that makes the song an interesting addition to the album.

Obzen is also one of my favorite tracks on the album, with another triplet based thrash riff with some really cool dissonant guitar melodies backing it. The song is intense the whole way through, keeping a head band worthy polyrhythm throughout the whole song.

This Spiteful Snake drops for the most part the intense insanely fast tempo for a slower more deliberate approach to the djent. The song features a more steady attack of guitar and drum that the others, making an overall good and different track.

Pineal Gland Optics continues the intensity of the thrash metal, this time with even more bopping djent influence. At this point the music is getting a little tiring and my interest plummets until the advent of the last track. The rhythms and riffs seem to be repeated and ideas become stale. Overall, the individual track is great, but running through the whole album the track is very boring.

Pravus is actually a fun track. Rather than gust a chug-chug-djent-chug pattern of riffing, they throw in some more creative riffs with some really cool dissonance and discordant elements. The inventiveness of this riff only lasts for a short time, however, as the song soon slips back into the world of overbearing thrash and djent nonsense (at this point).

Dancers to a Discordant System is no doubt my favorite track on the album. Nearly 10 minutes long and full of pure epic progression and spite, the song is near perfect. This song is a just reward for listening to 50 minutes of virtually the same thing. The intro is a purely fantastic discordant and dissonant polyrhythm, that breaks into a dynamic show of thrash, djent, discordance, rhythmic mastery, and all that good stuff. Here we have the return of Meshuggah to their more "jazzy" influences, with crazy time signature changes, odd rhythms and groupings, and an overall fantastic ride. Overall, the song has everything you could possibly want from a Meshuggah song, packed into a 9 minute long capsule of evil joy.

ALBUM OVERALL: The album is a mixed blessing. Just like I said in my review of Carving Desert Canyons by Scale the Summit, song to song the album is fantastic. But to listen to the whole thing through and through, it gets incessantly boring and repetitive. A few bright spots on the album can keep you tuned to the music, but long passages of constant bombardment by the same djent and thrash metal riffing. Overall, the album is good in places, bad in others, and overall just an average album. 3+ stars.

MESHUGGAH Catch Thirtythree

Album · 2005 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 3.85 | 33 ratings
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Caught in a mind's mirror of insanity and meshuggah!

The djent progenitors and masters of the EXTREME thrash/jazz/fusion/progressive genre (seeing as they're really the only true ones in it), Meshuggah have released a number of insane and bombastic releases, and Catch-33 is one of my favorites. One epic 40 minute track, the album is similar to Dream Theater's Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence but a ton heavier and more extreme (similar in the fact that it's a 40 minute epic broken into parts!). The band, equipped with dual 8-strings and a drummer from hell, flesh out some extreme music. The whole song, as the title suggests, revolves around paradoxes and "catch-22s." Overall, the album gives an absolutely insane ride of bumps and banging rhythms and insane guitar riffs.

Now, I won't review each of the 13 parts individually because they make up for a whole one song. So, Catch 33 is currently the longest Meshuggah song to date, bypassing 2004's 21-minute "I." This song offers a 10 times more dynamic, intense, and invigorating ride. Yes, for most of the time you do get Thordendal's crazy up-down-up-down-up-down-wammy guitar riffing, but occasionally he throws in one of his weird experimental solos or a more creative riff. The song stays rather constant for the first couple minutes until you hit Mind's Mirrors, the first variation from the bombardment of insanity. Here you have some "clean" vocals, distorted by god-knows-what effect, leading some growling guitar massacre by a tremolo bar, and other insane and ambient effects. This song breaks into my favorite part in the song In Death -- Is Life, which opens with an absolutely killer riff that makes anyone want to bash their head through a wall. The song continues with more creative sections and great parts such as In Death -- Is Death, a 13 minute djent session that could leave the most seasoned of head bangers gasping for breath. Shed is another great section, with some more intense and more creative riffing, with even a slight sign of a melodic solo/guitar work. Personae Non Gratae begins the end of the song, that zeniths at Sum, a 7 minute epic djent session that ends this song with a huge smash.

ALBUM OVERALL: Meshuggah, Yiddish for crazy, is quite the proper term for this type of music. Catch-33 is an insane idea, full of insane music, lyrics, rhythms, guitar riffs, solos and so much more crazy stuff that is so typical for Meshuggah. The 40 minute epic takes on a paradoxical ride of djenting guitars, polyrhythmic drumming, and every aspect that you would expect on a Meshuggah album. The riffing can get boring, seeing as there really isn't much to do with djent--ja--ja-ja--djent--ja--ja-ja over and over again, but when there is something really creative put in, it's incredible. Overall, the album is great, with a few boring sections but overall a great ride. 4- stars.

SCALE THE SUMMIT Carving Desert Canyons

Album · 2009 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 3.43 | 10 ratings
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An adventure of massive proportions.

Scale The Summit are a relatively new progressive (or as they call it "adventure") metal band that have toured with prog metal giants Dream Theater and have gathered quite the cult following, especially amongst technique loving musicians. Carving Desert Canyons is their latest album, and it certainly delivers a tasty punch of adventurous instrumental metal that can easily leave you flying high above the clouds in the ecstasy of the band's great music.

Bloom is the killer opener that really does just that, bloom, into a wonderful little 2 minute opener. Sadly, it is only 2 minutes and does end leaving you hanging a little bit. The melody and rhythms all mesh spectacularly in one wonderful piece of music. Every member pulls their weight to start this freight train to keep on chugging throughout the album.

Sargasso Sea has a swift chugging opener that soon flows into some soaring solos from the guitars and some really epic synchronizations with the 8 and 7 string guitars, which break into some heavenly polyrhythms that are just right in every way. Oddly, this song's 5 minute length seems a little bit much for the song. The song has some great ideas, but to make it 5 minutes they needed to throw in a couple extra that make for some awkward transitions. Overall, a good track, but could have used a trim (and that excess could have gone to Bloom!!)

The Great Plains is the absolute best track on the album. A fan favorite, a band favorite, a critic favorite, the whole track is a tasty piece of music. Through the killer first section you can hear genius at work- from great harmonizations with the two guitars and the bass to the meshing of rhythm and melody. The whole thing is just great. However, the thing that really makes this track spectacular is that signature tapping section. Featured on virtually every guitar outlet around, it's obviously amazing. Every infectious note makes my body shake with excitement. The only bad part is the wait they put you through to reach the good stuff!

Dunes is a quick little riffing piece similar to the other songs, with some great harmonization, instrumentation, technical skill, and all that great stuff. Polyrhythms abound in this track also, making it even more infectious to a polyrhythm lover like myself!

Age of Tide is yet another adventurous riffing piece full of creative harmonizations and synchronization. The song has some great transitions between the band's ideas with where the music is going, from a soaring solo section to a low to the ground 7 string chugging section, and back again.

Glacial Planet is my second favorite track on the album. The song starts out slow, building in melodic steps of joy. Soon, the song breaks open into a bopping and infectious guitar riff. The solos are melodic and fun, reviving a slowly decaying system of riff-solo-riff with some more creative solos and riffs. The song is almost bipolar (in a good way), with song switching madly from soaring solo to chugging in the 8th string register, to melodic picking, back to solos and all of it again. The track is a great ride to go on, making that Glacial Planet an epic image indeed.

City in the Sky does continue the overbearing motif of adventurous riffing with adventurous soloing. Listening through the entire album, at this point the music begins to fade into a continuous stream of the same thing, but if you pick one song at a time, the music is incredibly inventive and fun. This song does feature some more interesting parts, such a much more prominent bass solo, breaking from the countless guitar solos. It also has another pseudo-tapping section, and some more creative harmonizations.

Giants is the "giant" track on the album, clocking in at over 7 minutes (gasp). The song is faster and more hard hitting that the rest of them, with a swifter rhythm and some quick and attacking rifffing. Some cool octave/harmony things are going on throughout the song that also make the song a nice treat and a fantastic ending to this great album.

ALBUM OVERALL: This album has extremely strong up sides and very few downsides. The best way to listen to this album is to listen to the first 3 tracks uninterrupted, then listen to all the other tracks individually, because over the sadly short 40 minute length of the album, the music can get somewhat repetitive and begins to seem boring. The music is insanely good, but many of the same ideas seem to be used more than once. Overall, musically the album is incredible, melodically, rhythmically, harmonizationally, and every other good aspect of music is in there in perfect quantity. However, as I said before, the music begins to taper into "been here before" territory. So, listen to the essential tracks individually or else you may ruin them for yourself. 4 stars.

TESSERACT Concealing Fate

EP · 2010 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 3.95 | 9 ratings
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I found it hard not to give this 5 stars after listening to the first second.

After delaying the debut studio album release again, (and again, and again, and again), TESSERACT decided (reluctantly) to please the fans by releasing their epic 27-minute Concealing Fate (of which I had heard bits and pieces before, to my great pleasure) as an EP.

PART I opens up somewhat slowly, with that delayed clean riff that beautifully permeates the whole piece. It then breaks into a sweeping djent-y distortion riff, while proceeding to enter in Dan's great vocal capacity. The whole opening piece is, well, a great opener. It acts almost as an overture, introducing some of the riffs of the other songs.

PART II breaks into a similar clean riff. This is, in my opinion, the best of the six parts. Dan's vocals, the guitars, the bass, the drums, they all come together in a endeavor of near musical genius. The instrumental sections are magnificent, as is the rest of the track.

PART III is a bit more mellow, showing a bit of a slower tempo and less djent. A small slap bass solo is a nice change in pace for the song. Dan's vocals are again magnificent.

PART IV is, as the tile (Sadness) suggest, an even more melancholy, although there is a wee bit more djent in the short part.

PART V greatly reminds of PERIPHERY more than any of the other tracks did. It's a wonderful djenty piece running for about 1:30. It really shows the extreme metal influence in their music.

PART VI is a nice closer. It's reminiscent of PART I, it stars slowly and eventually breaks into a much heavier sound.

ALBUM OVERALL: The whole track is nice to listen to. Although the band is djent oriented, they aren't a stifling extreme tech death mashup of distorted guitars and screaming strangled vocals. Dan is a magnificent vocalists, easily one of the better of the trade. Really the only down point is that it was released by it own and not with the rest of the album! Other than that, there is a bit of redundancy in some tracks, with just djent-djent-djent-djent-djent-djent-djent-djent-djent over and over again. This isn't a bad thing, but it should be something used sparsely. The whole track is 27 minutes long, but when the riff is used 3 times a part, it can get a LITLLE bit old. Other than that, the track was magnificent. 4+ STARS.


Demo · 2007 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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A taste of what's to come... In 2007, Tesseract, (sadly) with a different singer than who sings currently, released their first demo with three fresh new tracks. The new metal band out of the U.K. Their sound was some what new, similar to what the also unsigned Periphery had been doing in the US for a while. The sound was fresh and creative, mixing the djent that Periphery, and before them Meshuggah, has coined with melodic and more "traditional" progressive rock/metal tones. The writing style is excellent, new, and creative. Melodies mesh with rhythm which mesh with heavy distorted guitars, which makes for a beautiful new sound.

Concealing Fate, Part 1 is the opener to an epic that was recently released an EP. The first part of the epic is incredible, meshing melodic and clean guitar with heavy distorted 7 and 8 strings. The vocals can be harsh at times, but the singer's vocal quality improves when he switches to clean vocals rather than screaming. The music in general is fantastic. The rhythms are head bang worthy, although sometimes mixing in a fun and interesting polyrhythm and maybe a time signature change--which is never a bad thing!

April Song is very Periphery-esque.... either Periphery got the bass intro idea from Tesseract or Tesseract got the bass intro idea from Periphery, but either way the intro is fantastic. Heavy in the intro, heavy in the chorus, beautifully melodic in the verses. The song is overall very balanced and spacey. The rhythms are creative and enjoyable, with that underlying bass rhythm throbbing throughout the entire song. The vocals are actually quite nice in this song, with no growling or harsh screaming, which he is not the best at.

Sunrise is a short and not so fun of a song. It opens with a general death metal beat, but luckily breaks into more melodic territory after the intro. The rhythms again are creative, but the vocals are harsh against a melodic background. Once the melodies break into a much heavier beat, the vocals are not as harsh sounding, but the singer screaming vocals are not very nice to listen to in general, and they are distorted over again, making them worse. A weaker track, but still good in general.

ALBUM OVERALL: A great demo for a great band. At the time of this review, no full-length studio album has been released, but soon there shall be one, and it shall be good. The recording quality, surprisingly for a demo, is phenomenal, as is the quality of the music. High points: creative melodies and rhythms. Low points: vocals are weak. Definitely a 4- star album.

DREAM THEATER Train of Thought

Album · 2003 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 3.94 | 123 ratings
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Me Dream Theater. Me metal band.

After Dream Theater decided to cover Metallica's classic "Master of Puppets," they also decided to record a metal (and I mean METAL) album with great amounts of Metallica influence. What resulted was a spectacular album instrumentally, but a little bit lacking album vocally. The whole instrumental aspect is perfect, but LaBrie's attempt at... rapping... didn't go over as well as the band has planned. There are still some fantastic moments throughout the album, which so make this a very good Dream Theater album.

As I Am officially ends Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence (seems odd, dunnit?). After the last notes of SDOIT fades away, the great bass intro comes in, setting you up for a great metal track. The whole band (minus LaBrie) brings to the table everything they've got, with the sweeping solo by Petrucci, the intense drum and bass lines by Portnoy and Myung, and those essential keyboard backings by the Wizard Rudess. However, the only weak link (although still somewhat strong) is LaBrie's exaggerated and strained vocals. He does a good job, but he could do much better than what he did.

This Dying Soul is the first epic off the album, running at nearly 12 minutes. The song continues the AA Suite that Portnoy has crafted, and the song as a whole is spectacular. Instrumentally again, the whole band is top notch, and even LaBrie does a fantastic job with smooth and compassionate whispering and soaring (if not a little shrill) screams against intense metalling. You can really see the Metallica influence especially in this song, with some great chuging of the guitars and baking rhythms. The instrumental section is purely supreme, showing off the band's impressive talents once again.

Endless Sacrifice starts out slower, but quickly begins to pick up into an epic killer of a track. There is certainly a reason why the track was included on the band's greatest hits, for it certainly is a really great song. The instrumentation is again amazing, and on this track the vocal melodies are very good also.

Honor Thy Father is both an absolutely incredible track and the worst track on the album. The intro outright just slaps you in the face with Portnoy's amazing mini-drum solo, and the polyrhythmic instrumentation following is fantastic. Throughout the song, this great instrumentation continues, although the riffing does get a little dry and boring at places. However, the really weak link in this song is LaBrie's atrocious singing. I mean, he raps at times. James LaBrie is not a rapper, I think we can all agree on that. The lyrical theme of the song is great, but LaBrie sadly butchers it with horrid singing.

Vacant adequately makes up for the horridness of the last track with a short, melancholy, compassionate song that shows LaBrie at his best talent- softly sung compassionate "ballads." The cello compliments LaBrie's voice fantastically and makes the short song very nice and (positively) depressing to listen to.

Stream of Consciousness is one of Dream Theater's best instrumentals. Slow and deliberate, the song delivers a steady attack of incredible progressive metal music. The guys all contribute a little bit to make an amazing and complete whole. The song for sure does not leave you wanting for any more or any less, because the whole ride is magnificent and a masterpiece.

In The Name Of God is the true epic of the album. Over 14 minutes long, the album has everything standard for a great Dream Theater "long song": Great story, great instrumentation, great vocals, great movements, and a great overall ride. The whole track is brimming with superior melodies, rhythms, harmonization, synchronization, and everything that Dream Theater is well known for. Telling of the lyricist's (Portnoy's) atheistic sentiment or of someone's atheistic sentiment, I can really connect with the mindset (being atheist myself). The instrumental section is supreme, with another amazing guitar solo from Petrucci and the 5 star backing band. Overall, the whole track is a great ride and a gem on the album.

ALBUM OVERALL: The album certainly has strong pros and strong cons, but luckily most of the time the pros outweigh the cons. This is certainly an album full of great instrumental prowess, with sweeping guitar solos, fantastic instrumental melodies, a smashing instrumental track, and some of the band's best rhythmic backings. But, the biggest con of the album are LaBrie's many weak songs. Sadly, the insanely talented singer has been asked to sing what he cannot sing -- rap, and heavy metal music. He has strong sections, such as vacant, but for most of the album LaBrie's performance lags behind that of his comrades. But, overall, the album is still very, very strong, and is still an excellent addition to any metal collection, especially a metalhead who has not yet been introduced to the gods Dream Theater. 4 stars.

RUSH Moving Pictures

Album · 1981 · Hard Rock
Cover art 4.53 | 152 ratings
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Hit after hit after hit after hit...

Here we have Rush at their absolute best. With this, they achieved an even higher critical acclaim and popularity than they had with 2112. The album contains 7 smashing songs full of life and vigor that really set the standard for progressive rock and proto-metal of that era. With the classic Tom Sawyer opening for the album, you can see how much of a classic the album really is. The album truly is a pure masterpiece.

Tom Sawyer is the opening for this album, and it's one heck of an opener indeed! Coming forth with the classic synth-drum duo, and those typical Geddy Lee-style vocals, the song is an instant hit. The whole length of the track is pure amazingness. The song has intense instrumental talent, great melodic value, superior rhythmic support, and just about everything else you could possibly want in a song.

Red Barchetta is the kin of song that needs to mature, for me. The first time I heard I thought it was alright, but nothing special. As I continued to play the album, I began to realize what a spectacular song it truly is. The song has some of the best melodies of the album, and a really great rockability going about it.

YYZ is the essential Rush instrumental. I can talk for days about the technical ability all these guys have, but this one song about sums it all up in 4 minutes. Every savory second is full of great 5/4 fun, with that great triangle-intro to the on-off feel of the guitars and drums, and those solos! Everyone gets a solo, with Lifeson ripping on his guitar, and Lee wacking on his bass, and of course Peart smashing away at the skins.

Limelight is yet another timeless classic, and was actually one of my first exposes into the sound of Rush. That classic verse and chorus makes this song an absolute timeless classic, all about Rush in the Limelight-- or not.

The Camera Eye is the epic of the album, clocking in at around 11 minutes, depending on your version. The song takes a little while to really get started, but you can be tamed by the psychedelic and ambient intro the band threw in, before the song really kicks into action. The song contains some of my absolute favorite Rush moments, with that great guitar melody and the great vocal and drum tracks that back it. The whole song is just an absolute blast to listen to.

Which Hunt is the only real "weak" track on the album, but that's only because it is on the tail end of 5 amazingly spectacular tracks. The song has a much slower and "creepy" feel to it, with some real "supernatural" feeling ambiance about it. The track is good, but nowhere near as good as Tom Sawyer or Camera Eye.

Vital Signs is a great ending to an absolutely fantastic album. The song is a little weak compared to the smashing successes of Tom Sawyer and The Camera Eye, but the great funky dynamics of the song give Rush's music a whole new dimension. The great funky chorus and verses really accent the album with some really cool effects. Geddy shows off his funky bass ability and Lifeson shows off his great jazz chord ability as the whole band meshes into one cohesive and impressive body.

ALBUM OVERALL: This album is the quintessential Rush album. Every single song, from Tom Sawyer to Vital Sings, is a smash hit, a classic, and a model for every band who ever liked Rush (which is most of them). Every single second of the 40 minute long album is intensely enjoyable and never do you wonder "why did they put this on the album?" Overall, the album is just a pure classic and a masterpiece of progressive and proto-metal music! 5 stars.

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