Metal Music Reviews from The Crow

MASTODON Remission

Album · 2002 · Sludge Metal
Cover art 3.73 | 45 ratings
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The Crow
Debut full length of the Atlanta's kings of trash-death-technical-prog-metal!!!

This album contains the typical hoarse vocals of Troy Sanders and his saturated bass playing, great and technical guitar playing by Brent Hinds and Bill Kelliher, and the well-known amazing drumming by Brann Dailor and tons of heavy and progressive tracks.

Sadly, the songwriting is not so compelling like in the similar but much better Leviathan or the proggier Crack the Skye, making this record a bit dull in the long term despite some tracks where the band tries to make something differing like the sludge-prog Trilobite and the much more melodic and very interesting Elephant Man.

Best Tracks: March of the Fire Ants (typical Mastodon power), Where Strides the Behemoth (great riffs and a classic in live concerts), Trilobite (one of the most progressive tracks of the album with excellent guitars on it) and Elephant Man (melancholic and meditative guitar work, which shows the band's versatility which would make them great in the future)

Conclusion: this first album of Mastodon is much in the vein of the later Leviathan, but with a songwriting which is not so refined yet and some repetitive ideas which makes the hearing of the album a bit boring in the long term.

So, although Remission is a good tech-metal album with some killer tracks and passages on it, if you are new to Mastodon, I would recommend you to start with one of their later albums!

My rating: ***

MASTODON Lifesblood

EP · 2001 · Sludge Metal
Cover art 3.10 | 8 ratings
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The Crow
So, I'll finally start to review the Mastodon's albums, a band that I've followed for years. This little EP, their first official release, is their least worthy work!

Mainly because the true style of the band would be later developed. While in this album the dominant key is death metal, with some trash and stoner rock elements, and a bit of experimentation. Ok, this mixture is the Mastodon's trademark, but in Lifesblood the direction of the tracks is not really clear, and a bit too chaotic. The poor production doesn’t help to improve the sensation these five tracks give. The vocals are poor in comparison with later Mastodon's albums, and they are too synthetized and artificial.

But if you are a Mastodon fan, of course you'll find some interesting things here. Like I found! We Built this Come Death has some of this macabre and odd ambience that Mastodon can give to their songs. The little initial riff of Hail to Fire has the typical sharp and special Mastodon's guitar sound, and Brann Dailor was impressive behind the drumkit. And of course, Battle at Sea is a worthy track, a little Mastodon's classic.

Nevertheless, if you are new to the band, I recommend you start with one of their full-length albums (specially Leviathan or Crack the Skye).

Conclusion: if you are not a Mastodon's fan, you will hardly find anything interesting here. Because this album is maybe too rough, and the later Mastodon's style is almost invisible here and yet to be developed.

So, in my humble opinion, Lifesblood is only recommended for fans and the band’s completionists.

My rating: **

PAIN OF SALVATION Linoleum

EP · 2009 · Non-Metal
Cover art 3.12 | 13 ratings
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The Crow
Prior to the release of Road Salt One and Two, Pain of salvation released this EP called Linoleum as an aperitif

It contains one song of Road Salt One (the fine Linoleum), one of Road Salt Two (the repetitive and disjointed Mortar Grind) and four tracks which were not included in these discs.

Sadly, If You Wait is a short blues-rock track with no interest. Gone is better but the production is too raw (just like the Road Salt albums) and it is boring and repetitive in the long term.

Bonus Track B is a curiosity just for fans, and finally Yellow Raven is a very dramatic version of an Uli John Roth song which is not enough to make this EP interesting if you are not a die-hard fan of the Road Salt era of this band.

My rating: **

PAIN OF SALVATION Road Salt Two

Album · 2011 · Non-Metal
Cover art 3.51 | 27 ratings
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The Crow
Road Salt One was a strange album... Not pleasant for old fans of the band while having also a difficult style to find a new public, very much 70's oriented and with a rather dry production.

This second part is an exploration further in this direction, but luckily it also contains more links to the past in the form of some symphonic elements (Road Salt Theme, End Credits, To the Shoreline), a bit more of prog (The Physics of Gridlock, although I find the end of this song rather boring), an homage to the sound of their album 12:5 (Healing Now) and a better singing from Gildenlow.

Nevertheless, they continued to explore this strange 70's oriented rock (Conditioned, Eleven, Mortar Grind') which makes them sound like some kind of revival band of this decade like Ocean Color Scene or the more modern Greta Van Fleet. Not bad, but just not my cup of tea and definitely not what I expect from a band like Pain of Salvation.

However, like I said this album contains more pleasant moments than the previous one and is also a bit better in terms of songwriting.

Best Tracks: To the Shoreline (beautiful orchestral melodies for the best track of the album), 1979 (beautiful lyrics and good songwriting) and The Deeper Cut (a song which retrieves the old style of the band from the 90's and 00's)

Conclusion: Road Salt Two is better than Road Salt One in general terms and although it does not get back the old prog-metal style of the band, Gildenlow was able to replicate part of the incredible atmosphere of the first (and best) four albums of the band with a pair of really good tracks.

Sadly, despite being the best album of the band since Remedy Lane, this record also felt in no man's land being not adequate for metal fans and not really satisfying for prog-rock lovers, making Pain of Salvation to travel further into oblivion.

My rating: ***

PAIN OF SALVATION Road Salt One

Album · 2010 · Non-Metal
Cover art 3.49 | 48 ratings
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The Crow
After the confusing and too experimental BE and the directly horrendous Scarsick, Pain of Salvation (or Daniel Gildenlow) returned to a better path with Road Salt One!

But fans of the older material of the band be aware, this is not a return to their roots. Some trademarks of Pain of Salvation are here, like some syncopated rhythms, a pair of polyphonic vocals and a bit o prog (No Way, Innocence), but the album is mainly blues-rock influenced by acts like Link Wray or Robin Trower with some experiments like cabaret music (Sleeping Under the Stars) and a pair of ballads (Sisters, Road Salt)

And another curious fact that this album has is some different singing of Daniel. I don't know if this man lost his voice or he just uses it differently here... But I think he shouts too much. It's even a bit unpleasant sometimes.

Nevertheless, the album has enough good moments to be considered a return to form for the band after some obscure years following the release of the grandiloquent (and maybe best work of the band) Remedy Lane.

Best Tracks: No Way (cool blues melody with a surprising instrumental interlude), Sisters (pure Pain of Salvation magic, melancholic and touching), Darkness of Mine (dark, like its title), Linoleum (will please old fans of the band) and Road Salt (truly beautiful singing here and great lyrics)

Conclusion: Road Salt One supposed a return to form for a band which lost its way with BE and Scarsick. Nevertheless, die-hard fans of the old Pain of Salvation albums will maybe also dislike this one, because it's not prog, and it's not metal.

It's another experiment of Gildenlow with new sounds for the band in the form of blues, soul, cabaret and country. It's not overall excellent, but good enough to be considered a worthy addition to the band's discography.

My rating: ***

PAIN OF SALVATION Scarsick

Album · 2007 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 3.22 | 51 ratings
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The Crow
After the disappointing and unsatisfying BE, the fans of Pain of Salvation were waiting for a redemption and an album which were able to retrieve the band to the prog-metal Olympus... But then Scarsick came.

We knew that this album was secretly called The Perfect Element Pt.2, so the expectations were very high at first. But after a couple of hearings, I just could not believe my ears. What happened to our beloved technical, atmospheric and intimate prog-metal band? Where were this challenging and innovative songwriting? Where were the intricate rhythmus and nervous drums? Where the hell were all the magic gone?

Because Scarsick is an insipid collection of rap-metal songs with lousy exceptions like the ridiculous America and the horrible Disco Queen (this song is really a shame not only for Pain of Salvation. It's a shame for the music) where the prog-metal is almost gone, being replaced for a lazy and reiterative songwriting where almost all the songs starts and ends with the same bad riff and insipid vocals.

Just bad, my friends. And with the perspective given by the years, Scarsick has not improved. It's still the same lame album now as it was back in 2007.

Best Tracks: Flame to the Moth (the only track of the album which is actually good and diverse) and Enter Rain (powerful despite its repetitiveness)

Conclusion: Scarsick is the worst Pain of Salvation album. The band tried to retrieve their fan base after the dividing experiment of BE, but they just made a step further in the wrong direction, demonstrating that Daniel Gildenlow had definitely lost his grip.

It's not a surprise that Kristoffer Gildenlow gave up before recording Scarsick... And he did well in my opinion.

My rating: *

PAIN OF SALVATION BE

Album · 2004 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 4.05 | 62 ratings
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The Crow
After two masterpieces of prog-metal, The Perfect Element Pt.1 and Remedy Lane, Pain of Salvation released the most ambitious album of their career!

Which sadly was a big step back for them, dividing the opinion of fans and critics equally.

What I think of this BE? I consider this album a boring and disjointed attempt to create a concept bigger than life, which revolves around philosophy, religion, God, apocalypse and tons of other ideas inside Gildenlow's head at that time. I cannot say that Be is a bad album, but it's too irregular and full of disposable tracks to be a worthy follow up of their previous four records.

There are fifteen tracks here, and I would say that only four or five are really worthy of Pain of Salvation. The rest are a repetition of ideas, melodies, simple instrumentations and tons of voices and dialogues in service of the history, forgetting what a good and enjoyable album really is... Moreover, that makes the hearing of BE on its integrity an odyssey by itself.

Even the fine folk and orchestral elements cannot hide the lack of more consistent and hearable songs.

Best Tracks: Imago (fine primitive and folk melodies), Lilium Cruentus (very cinematic), Nihil Morari (one of the few songs which reminds to the true Pain of Salvation of previous albums), Iter Impius (incredible vocal performance by Gildenlow)

Conclusion: BE is an irregular, pompous and pretentious album where Pain of Salvation tried to make something different and ground-breaking forgetting almost all the trademarks which made them big in their first four albums. Gildenlow set the history above the music and the result is an album with lots of fillers, absurd tracks and just a few good moments.

Sadly, BE supposed the end of a glorious era for the band. And I think that they never really recovered themselves of the flop of this strange and messy album.

My rating: **

PAIN OF SALVATION Remedy Lane

Album · 2002 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 4.32 | 67 ratings
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The Crow
Which is better, The Perfect Element Pt.1 or Remedy Lane?

I think it depends of personal tastes. The Perfect Element is darker, harder and more difficult to appreciate. However, once you are into the world of this album it takes you forever. Remedy Lane is melancholic and dark sometimes, but also shows a more romantic and sentimental side of the the band (or Gildenlow). For this very reason, I think it is also more accessible while maintaining all the elements that made this band so great back then, marking the peak Pain of Salvation's career.

The production is crystal clear, especially the incredible vocals mix from Gildenlow who has in absolute top form here (producing also the album together with Anders Theander), and everything sounds just perfect. The concept of the album is autobiographical and very touching, giving the best lyrics of the whole band's career in my opinion, and as I said, this is one of the few prog-metal album that is instantly accessible (This Heart of Mine, Waking Every God) and very complex (Fandango, Rope Ends) at the same time.

Best Tracks: Of Two Beginnings, Ending Theme, Fandango, A Trace of Blood, Undertow, Chain Sling, Second Love... There is no weak moment to be found here. Really!

Conclusion: Remedy Lane marked the creative peak of Pain of Salvation in my opinion, being of the best prog-metal albums of the last decade. Intricate but accessible, dark and romantic, soft and fierce, and with a beautiful lyrical concept which deserves to be delighted slowly and many, many times.

Sadly, after this masterpiece nothing would be the same for Pain of Salvation again.

My rating: *****

PAIN OF SALVATION The Perfect Element, Part 1

Album · 2000 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 4.39 | 80 ratings
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The Crow
Prog-metal for the new millennium!

After two excellent albums, Pain of Salvation released one of the best prog-metal records ever made with their third effort. Deep, catchy and challenging, with a dark concept full of meaning and mixed feelings. This is the natural evolution of acts like Dream Theater and Queensryche.

The only complain I have with this album is that it's a bit too dense, maybe also too long sometimes. But this is a minor fault when you are enjoying tracks so splendid, diverse and well produced like these. Perfect mixture between virtuosity, great songwriting and accessibility.

And I want to give a special mention to Daniel's vocals... One of the best singers in metal history in top form here! Just awesome.

Best Tracks: there is no filler here. Really!

Conclusion: dark, melancholic and complex prog-metal with an incredible songwriting, very good production and lots of new ideas and influences (rap, industrial, jazz...) very well crafted in a collection of great songs which helped to create the path to follow for tons of new metal bands in the new millennium.

Not for every day, but perfect to be enjoyed every so often. A true prog-metal masterpiece!

My rating: *****

PAIN OF SALVATION One Hour by the Concrete Lake

Album · 1998 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 4.15 | 53 ratings
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The Crow
Marvellous Pain of Salvation's second act!

If Entropia was a very eclectic (it's a great album anyway), One Hour by the Concrete Lake is fair to its concept, offering a diverse but very well structured and funny piece of prog metal, full with changes and surprises, but in a clear and personal direction. Every song fit perfectly in the concept, and the sound of the album is homogeneous the whole time. This was the main problem if always found in the debut album Entropia, and they fixed it perfectly with this second opus.

Mixing the typical Pain of Salvation's jazz influences with some folk elements, and the complex hard riffs parts, Daniel Gildenlow made another outstanding performance with his voice. You only have to hear Water, or Pilgrim... I will never be tired of saying this man has the best voice in prog metal ever. Just incredible singing. The rest of the band also makes well. Ok, I never liked the Johan Langell's drum sound, a bit empty and too noisy, but it is not a big problem anyway. The production of the album is crystal clear, and a special mention deserves the keyboards sound, very well accomplished.

Best tracks: New Year's Eve (great guitar melodies), Water (what a way of singing!), Black Hills (dark, complex, and complete track), Pilgrim (the most beautiful Pain of Salvation's acoustic?) The album is full with good tracks, and except a few dull parts, the level is outstanding. The short length also helps to enjoy the full album without avoiding any song.

Conclusion: after the very good Entropia, Pain of Salvation improved their style to making their first full conceptual album. Their personal, dark and complex way to understand prog metal is here yet. And even this album doesn't reach the levels of The Perfect Element or Remedy Lane, is an excellent addition to any prog collection, without a doubt.

My rating: ****

P.S.: this review was originally written for ProgArchives.com, and rewritten to be included here.

PAIN OF SALVATION Entropia

Album · 1997 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 4.23 | 54 ratings
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The Crow
Very good debut form this fantastic progressive metal band!

This album has very good ideas and instrumental development for being a debut. Here we can hear very mature compositions with a good production too (only the drum’s sound it's a little weak in my opinion, the double pedal it's almost indistinguishable) I think the most important fact for what this band should be heard by everyone it's the Daniel Gildenlow's voice: he is probably one of the best singers in prog-metal history!!! His voice it's simply incredible, powerful and with a lot of variety and interpretation's possibilities. And he sings with a lot of sentiment, really feeling and interpreting the lyrics.

Another important fact of this debut album it's the former member Daniel Magdic's presence, because on the contrary of later POS's releases, the music isn't composed only by Daniel. Magdic composed part of some songs of Entropia, and it's great, because his influence made this songs variated and this fact rest a little of the melancholy and sadness of the Gildenlow's compositions. This fact makes this album a little different, it has its own personality. The Daniel Magdic's way of composing music is a little Drean Theater oriented, and it can be heard in songs like ! (Foreward) and Stress. For me, it's a pity that this is the only POS's album where he played, because I think his playing and compositions are very good.

And I love the bass's playing and sound too. The bass sounds amazing in songs like People Passing By and Nightmist. Better than other Pain Of Salvation's albums! It's a little mysterious... Maybe the Magdic's influence too?

Best tracks: Winning a War (funny and hard-rocking tune), Oblivion Ocean (a precious one), Nightmist (this songs has all that a good POS's tune should have) and Leaving Entropia (beautiful acoustic song with a kind of medieval feeling on it)

Conclusion: very recommended album for melancholic-but-powerful prog metal lovers!

My rating: ****

This review was originally written for ProgArchives.com, and rewritten to be included here.

ORPHANED LAND Unsung Prophets & Dead Messiahs

Album · 2018 · Folk Metal
Cover art 3.96 | 4 ratings
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The Crow
After the mediocre All Is One and after the departure of the great Yoshi Sassi, my expectations about Unsung Prophets and Dead Messiahs were low... What a mistake!

Because this album fully retrieves the energy and the magic that this band had in the past, offering their typical mixture between metal, death, progressive and folk with outstanding songwriting. Chen Balbus and Idan Amsalen are fully integrated in the band till the point that Yoshi Sassi is almost not missed here, while the rest of the band makes also a splendid work.

It's very rewarding to hear that while some band like Opeth or Pain of Salvation lost their sound and personality with line-up changes, Orphaned Land retrieves all their elements and characteristic sound throughout the years despite all the members that gave up.

I wish also to mention the great collaborations that this album contains, playing Steve Hackett a fabulous guitar solo in the outstanding Chains Fall to Gravity (one of the most progressive tracks in the whole band's career) and singing Hansi Kürsch (from Blind Guardian) and Thomas Lindberg (At the Gates) in Like Orpheus and Only The Dead Have Seen The End Of The War respectively.

Best Tracks: it's complicated to pick only a few songs, because the overall quality of the album is very high, but The Cave is one of the best Orphaned Land's tracks, All Knowing Eye is touching and Kobi sings great, Chains Fall to Gravity is surprising and very prog, My Brother's Keeper (pure Orphaned Land magic) and The Manifest - Epilogue (precious homage to Victor Jara)

Conclusion: Unsung Prophets & Dead Messiahs is not only a triumphant return of our favorite Israeli band, it's also one of their finest records. Maybe not so great like Mabool, but at least as good as ORwarriOR. A varied, touching and very well crafted collection of folk-prog-death-metal with a beautiful message inside and tons of memorable songs.

After this album, I can only wish the best of lucks for this bands in the future! You have managed to give me back my faith in you.

My rating: ****

P.S.: this review was originally written for ProgArchives.com

ORPHANED LAND All Is One

Album · 2013 · Folk Metal
Cover art 3.39 | 15 ratings
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The Crow
I am sure that All is One was a difficult album to make for Orphaned Land... Moreover, the music shows the band's problems at the time.

Avi Diamond, their drummer in their two previous (and excellent) albums did not return this time, along with their female (and great) singer Shlomit Levi. The founder guitarist Matti Svatitzki also left the band in 2012, and the main guitarist Yoshi Sassi also gave up shortly after the releasing of All is One, being this album his less inspired work.

The result is a disjointed and irregular record, which sounds like a mixture between the epic Mabool and the more intimate and folk ORwarriOR, but without reaching the quality of none of them and showing a worrying inability to bring anything new to the band's career.

Been there, done that feeling the whole time.

The production is fine, and the sound of the album is more orchestral than ever with violins sounding all the time. However, they cannot hide the lack of inspiration (or energy) that this album has with exceptions as the energetic All is One, the beautiful Brother and the epic Our Own Messiah.

Best Tracks: All is One (splendid opener), Brother (the best lyrics of the album), Our Own Messiah (a song which almost achieve to retrieve the magic of ORwarriOR)

Conclusion: All Is One was the reflection of the problems and line-up changes of this great band at the time. I has its good moments and a pair of fine additions to the band's classic song list, but after a the seond or third listening it turns out to be boring, repetitive and not challenging at all, being a clear step back in Orphaned Land's career.

I almost lost my faith in the band with All is One... Fortunately, this would change in 2018 with the release of Unsung Prophets and Dead Messiahs!

My rating: **

P.S.: this review was originally written for ProgArchives.com

ORPHANED LAND The Never Ending Way of ORwarriOR

Album · 2010 · Folk Metal
Cover art 4.43 | 25 ratings
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The Crow
After six long years, the follow-up to the masterpiece Mabool arrived!

And the surprise was big when the Orphaned Land aficionados realized that this album was some sort of return to their roots, retrieving the formula of El Norra Alila but improving it in a very beautiful and challenging way. The result is an album that is not so epic, diverse and accessible like Mabool, but excellent anyway.

The production is also more straightforward than Mabool, with a not so extensive use of keyboards (played by Steven Wilson by the way, who also appears in writing credits), clear and natural drumming and wonderful guitars. And talking about the guitars, they are the absolute protagonist in ORwarriOR, acting Yoshi Sassi as a true guitar hero!

Sadly, the songwriting is not so incredible like in Mabool, leaving a pair of subpar songs here (the too obviously commercial New Jerusalem, Barakah...) But the overall quality of the album is superb anyway.

Best Tracks: From Broken Vessels, Bereft in the Abyss, The Path, and Disciples of the Sacred Oath II.

Conclusion: improving and expanding the folk-death-prog metal formula of their first two albums and leaving a bit of the grandiloquence of Mabool, Orphaned Land created a truly great record with a ton of memorable songs, an incredible guitar work from Yoshi Sassi and beautiful singing and Arabic melodies, which is still one of the best prog- metal album of this decade, despite its obvious flaws.

Shocking at the beginning, hauting in the long-term.

My rating: ****

P.S.: this review was originally written for ProgArchives.com

ORPHANED LAND Mabool: The Story of the Three Sons of Seven

Album · 2004 · Folk Metal
Cover art 4.23 | 40 ratings
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The Crow
Sometimes, when you think you've heard everything in music, appears something that surprises you and make you keeping the passion for this culture!

Is difficult to explain everything Orphaned Land has to offer, because these guys are really variated, and their music has a lot of details to explore... Basically, they make progressive metal. But they come from Israel, and the western influences are very very prominent. Here we can hear a lot of Arabic and Israel's music mixed with metal, but there's a lot of death metal, black metal and some hard rock influences, medieval tunes, some classical music... They sing in 6 different languages too. The final mixture is totally coherent and cohesive.

But I think is better to explain making a track to track:

1. Birth of The Three (The Unification): the album opens with the sound of kids playing and singing, very pleasant and mysterious... And then, the strong and melodic electric guitars appears. This is very surprising, because from the first moment you can hear the strong folkloric influences of the band, even in the stronger parts... The initial Kobi Fahri's growls lead to a very melodic and clean chorus. After that, appears the acoustic and Israelite instruments mixed with the heavy section. Incredible! The last three minutes are superb, with a lot of rhythm changes, real prog-metal mixed with western music, with the first example of the incredible Yossi Sassi's abilities to playing guitar. Awesome!

2. Ocean Land (The Revelation): maybe the most commercial song of the album. Great acoustic opening. The electric guitars are awesome, and the Avi Daimond's drums are really good in the first riffs. The verses are growls but very melodic, both acoustic and electric. The chorus is very catchy and Kobi Fahri demonstrates that he is a great singer here. Matti Savtitzki plays a fine solo too. How good are both guitarist of this band! The end of this song was secretly recorded inside the Taj Mahal by Kobi.

3. The Kiss of Babylon (The Sins): very strong and groovy guitars riffs opens this songs, with some great electric guitars... Then, comes a good section with clean vocals, interrupted by a catchy oriental acoustic part. After the second chorus, comes the best section of the song. Great duets between Kobi Fahri and Shlomit Levi with strong guitars. These choirs are really catchy and the end of the song, with Shlomit singing alone will surely make your skin bristle.

4. A'Salk starts united with the previous song, but then comes a totally folkloric instrumental development, with more voices from Shlomit Levi again. This is a great transition towards the next song...

5. Halo Dies (the wrath of God): my favourite track of the album. This song has everything that a prog metal fan can imagine. Just perfect from the first second to the last one. The guitar solo from Svatitzki is just incredible! One of the most passionate solos I've heard... Really, if you are a true prog fan, you can't die without hearing this song.

6. A Call to Awake (The Quest): this song is very curious. The first section is totally on the 80's ways, with very melodic guitars and a slow chorus with oriental guitars. Really curious... At the end of this first sections comes a great Yossi Sassi's solo. But the final section is very much stronger, and for some reason, remembers me a little to the most oriental parts of Dream Theater. Great Eden Rabin's keyboards playing and solo here...

7. Building the Ark: the song opens with an oriental choir in Latin. Very beautiful acoustic work... Then, comes a short part sung by Kobi, and the best section of the song. Three guitars solos: one acoustic, another with Spanish guitar, and acoustic again. Precious ending of this song! These guys are masters with acoustic and traditional instruments...

8. Norra el Norra (Entering the Ark): another highlight of the album. This is an Israel's traditional tune, but sounds like the rest of the album, fits perfectly with the whole record. Sung in Jewish, with very strong guitars and hen-skin maker choirs. The jazzy final piano solo by Eden Rabin is so cool. 9. The Calm Before the Flood: the first instrumental song of the album, totally acoustic. Its name describes perfectly the mood of the song, very beautiful and ethnic. At the end of the song, comes the rain, which lead us to Mabool.

10. Mabool (The Flood): maybe the harder song of the album. An orchestral opening related with the previous song. Storm, rain and thunders, and The Flood begins. The rhythm is always the same, except some breakings towards the end. But it's still totally progressive, because there's a lot of melody variations. The Uri Zelcha's bass is very prominent here. This is also the most related song with the previous works of the band. No guitar solo here, but it's not necessary because the song is totally variated and with a great structure. And the best solos are to come in the next tune!

11. The Storm Still Rages Inside: another rhythmic song, really epic, providing a perfect climax for this album. Here is also the best instrumental development of the album. Every instrument shines here, with protagonism for everyone. The music together with the sound of the sea remembers me to Savatage's "The Wake of Magellan". And this is not the only thing that remembers to Savatage, because the passionate Yossi Sassi's guitar solos are in a similar style of Al Pitrelli's ones. But, of course with the unique oriental feeling of this band. The final section, with the entering of the Spanish guitar, is another example of the ability of this band to give impressive moments.

12. Rainbow: the second and last instrumental song of the album. This song has some medieval feeling that makes it very special. Is a melancholic track, but the hope and happiness of the end of this story is also present here. This song leaves you wandering how only 6 guys and some collaborators are able to make so incredible music.

I wish also to talk a little about the history of this album. This is a conceptual record. The tale of three warriors of the light, representing the first monotheistic religions: Christianity, Judaism and Islam. These warriors try to fight against the sins and horrible acts of the humanity, but they failed in their attempt. And the humanity is condemned to The Flood. And then, appears another very well known hero with an ark... Marvellous history, and marvellous lyrics. Like I said, this album is sung in 6 languages: English, Jewish, Arabic, Latin, Yemen and Gibberish (a language invented by the own band). But the main language is English, and there is also translations to English of all the foreign lyrics, so there's no problem to understand everything. Maybe the strong religious influences of this band will not please everyone, but the way of writing the lyrics and expressing their believing is very original and they have a kind of "universal" feeling that make these lyrics and story very interesting and pleasant... Is different, for example, to the Neal Morse's lyrics, which I find a little disgusting and annoying.

Conclusion: a must for every prog lover... If you want to discover a band which really sounds to anything you've heard before, then listen "Mabool". You will find an incredible world of adventures, vast deserts, beautiful oasis, intricate oriental cities, devastation and desolation... Orphaned Land are capable to provide you so much feelings.

One of the best prog metal album of the new millenium!

My rating: *****

P.S.: this review was originally written for ProgArchives.com, and rewritten to be included here.

ORPHANED LAND El Norra Alila

Album · 1996 · Folk Metal
Cover art 3.62 | 9 ratings
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The Crow
El Norra Alila is another Orphaned Land's journey in search of their true sound!

And on this attempt, they added even more elements to their mix. Dozens of oriental instruments which are more prominent than in Sahara, female vocals, choirs, Arabic chants, percussion, violins... But the result is nevertheless not so far from their debut album, sounding this record too immature compared to their later works, when they truly developed their authentic sound and personality.

But the album has its moments and is rather enjoyable despite being too long and lacking more catchy melodies. They increased the epicity of the songs, with great guitar solos from the very gifted Yoshi Sassi, and they added more clean vocals and tons of keyboards, being this album more accessible and easier to hear than previous records.

The production and musicianship are also good enough, and I can imagine that this album was not easy to make!

Best Tracks: Find Yourself, Discover God (powerful opener), The Truth Within (great guitar solos), A Never-ending Way (good slow track), Of Temptation Born (the best riffs of the album), The Evil Urge (in this precious acoustic track can we hear what a great singer Kobi Fahri is)

Conclusion: it's easy to hear that the band invested great effort and that they tried really hard with El Norra Alila to surpass the quality of their debut Sahara, crafting a pair of good songs in the process (sometimes even very good)

Nevertheless, El Norra Alila is a record that you can easily avoid if you are not a die-hard fan of the band.

My rating: ***

P.S.: this reveiw was originally written for ProgArchives.com and rewritten to be included here.

ORPHANED LAND Sahara

Album · 1994 · Folk Metal
Cover art 3.62 | 7 ratings
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The Crow
Debut full length album from Orphaned Land, one of the most original and disruptive death metal bands of the 90!

The production sounds old school and dusty these days, being the guitars the most damaged part of the album, among the noisy drums. But the extensive of oriental instruments like oud, darbuka and kanun, together with the powerful Kobi Fahri's vocals make this album more attractive than tons of other death metal records from the 90's.

Sadly, the songwriting is a bit irregular and sometimes even boring in the Sahara part of the record, being the compositions which come from The Beloved's Cry demo the best ones. However, the mystic and attractive mixture of their music among the prog approach to extreme metal will surely appeal both death metal hounds and prog archeologists.

Best Tracks: The Sahara's Storm, Season Unite, The Beloved's Cry.

Conclusion: dusty, poorly produced (despite the recent remaster) and too old school, Sahara is otherwise an enjoyable prog- metal album which still is one of the wildest death metal adventures of the 90's and a true example of how to mix very different musical (and not only musical) cultures.

To be tasted with the right perspective.

My rating: ***

P.S.: this review was orginally written for ProgArchives.com

WATAIN Trident Wolf Eclipse

Album · 2018 · Black Metal
Cover art 3.74 | 3 ratings
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The Crow
After five years of silence, Watain are back!

And this straightforward album is a good sign that they have not lost punch through the years, offering a true ferocious and direct record with great riffs and dusty (intentioned) production.

Maybe this album is a bit less experimental than previous ones, being some kind of return to their roots. But at the same time, is also more accessible and directly enjoyable.

Sadly, not great in my opinion given the predictable songwriting and lack of surprises, but perfect to be played live, where this band really shines.

Best Tracks: Nuclear Alchemy, Sacred Damnation, A Throne Below, Towards the Sanctuary.

Conclusion: Trident Wolf Eclipse is raw, direct and perfect to be played live. Sadly, this return to the origins for Watain suffers from being too predictable, being unable to create true excitement to the listener.

However, fans of the band Will surely love it!

My rating: ***

RIVERSIDE Memories In My Head

EP · 2011 · Metal Related
Cover art 3.79 | 15 ratings
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The Crow
After the stunning Anno Domini High Definition, Riverside managed to reach the quality of their fourth opus with this incredible EP.

Retrieving part of the atmosphere and the soul of Out of Myself but maintaining the complexity and great instrumental skills learned through the years, Riverside gave us a great present in the shape of three songs, a bit more of 30 minutes of pure prog-rock at its best.

Goodbye Sweet Innocence starts with an incredible bass and wonderful guitar melodies, great verses and a powerful instrumental interlude. Is a song in the Out of Myself vein, but with strong 70`s influence. A band's classic in my opinion!

Living in the Past has a rhythmic beginning with keyboards which give way to a wonderful melody of bass and guitar, later accompanied by keyboards again. The verses and chorus are pure genius, while the instrumental part is pure prog-rock which lots of changes, progressions where the whole band shines, specially Lapaj and his wonderful keys around minute 6. And what to say about the section "Even clowns..." Scary, brilliant, genius! The bass after 08:48 introduces another marvelous instrumental section very in the mood of Anno Domini High Definition.

Forgotten Land starts with a melody which in my opinion is a Little homage to John Carpenter! Just listen The Thing or Escape from New York... But after this Little section a piercing bass of Mariusz introduces the melody of another great song which again brings automatically Out of Myself to mind, with an intense vocal interpretation and a very atmospheric ending, delighting the fans of this side of the band.

Conclusion: Memories in my Head is maybe short, but everything is almost perfect. The three songs included here count among the best that the band ever recorded and should be played live in every concert they make. True modern prog-rock classics!

I hope that in the Wasteland tour that they will start after summer they retrieve one or two of this wonderful songs for their performances, because they are a must for every fan of modern progressive rock and should be never forgotten.

Best tracks: the three songs are just great!

My rating: *****

P.S.: this review was originally written for ProgArchives.com

RIVERSIDE Love, Fear and the Time Machine

Album · 2015 · Non-Metal
Cover art 3.98 | 12 ratings
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The Crow
Love, Fear and the Time Machine is maybe the most personal and controversial album of Riverside.

They showed here the most luminous and happy? side of their music, with some positivism that was not well receive amongst all their fans. But after some hearings most of the songs of this album start to dig deeper in your soul until you discover yourself hearing this record again and again. It's compelling, passionate and very well made. And it also contains some of the best lyrics of the band.

The overall sound of the album is also lighter, with cleaner guitars (lots of acoustics) and drums and not so heavy bass lines from Mariusz, who made his best vocal interpretation to date in my opinion here. Lyrically the title of the album is a good summary of what we can hear throughout the album, which is an exploration about the childhood's world where the origin of feelings like love, fear and friendship resides. Just beautiful!

And just like Shrine of New Generation Slaves was an homage to 70's music, this can be considered the same for 80's music, with even some The Cure gothic-sounding parts like #Addicted.

Best Tracks: Lost, #Addicted, Caterpillar and the Barbed Wire, Saturate Me, Discard your Fear.

Conclusion: if you are prepared to hear a slightly happier version of Riverside with a bit less of melancholy and desperation in their lyrics, then Love, Fear and The Time Machine is for you. Sadly, the overall quality of this album reaches not the level of their best works, but in my opinion was an improvement over (the also excellent) Shrine of New Generation Slaves and opened new and exciting horizons for the band.

Sadly, this was the last album that Piotr Grudzinski recorded with the band... We miss you, mate!!!

My rating: ****

P.S.: this review was originally written for ProgArchives.com

RIVERSIDE Shrine of New Generation Slaves

Album · 2013 · Metal Related
Cover art 4.25 | 44 ratings
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The Crow
Four years after the outstanding Anno Domini High Definition and with another incredible EP in the middle (Memories in my Head) the best prog rock band from Poland released Shrine of New Generation Slaves.

This album is some kind of return to the origins for the band in songs like The Depth of Self-Delusion and We got Used to Us (much in the vein of the most intimate moments of Out of Myself and Second Life Syndrome) while they also explored some new territories in tracks like New Generation Salve and Escalator Shrine where they made their particular homage to the 70's rock with even some Deep Purple-sounding keyboards.

Sadly, some other tracks like the boring Deprived and the too commercial Celebrity Touch are not so inspired, but the overall quality of the album is high. I would highlight the very missed Piotr Grudzinski's work on this album, maybe his best and most ambiental, and the general lyrical concept of the album where the band shows an acid criticism towards the enslaver work rhythm of modern society, making this album some kind of conceptual sequel to Anno Domini High Definition (not so much musically)

Best Tracks: New Generation Slave, The Depth of Self-Delusion, We Got Used to Us, Escalator Shrine.

Conclusion: Shrine of New Generation Slaves is a conservative and innovative album at the same time, offering some typical Riverside songs while they also dared to explore new territories with strong outcomes, but sadly making a pair of mistakes in the process.

Nevertheless, this is another true excellent album of this incredible band which surely should be in every prog-rock collection.

My rating: ****

P.S.: this review was originally written for ProgArchives.com

RIVERSIDE Waste7and

Album · 2018 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 3.12 | 3 ratings
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The Crow
After the sad passing of the guitarist Piotr Grudzinski, I'm sure that Wasteland was not an easy album to make.

For this reason, I consider this record a transition one while they let another guitarist to take part (hopefully) on their next record and bring some new ideas and sound. Because one of the first facts that we can clearly hear in Wasteland is that a true guitarist is missing. It's obvious that Mariusz Duda is not a professional guitar player, and because of that in almost all the songs the complex guitar work of previous albums is sadly gone, and the pedals used are also not the most adequate, making the guitar riffs sounds hollow and cheap.

And curiously the same can be said for the drums, which sounds too high pitched, lacking the deep and strength that the heavier parts of the album so desperately need! Why? I just don't know, because the Piotr Kozieradzki's drumming is awesome in other records from the band.

But apart from the production, the musical quality of the album is also a bit irregular. Some outstanding songs like Acid Rain, Veil of Tears and River Down Below are mixed with other average tracks like the not so exciting Guardian Angel, the repetitive The Struggle for Survival and the risky but not really successful Wasteland (I love the western influences though!)

This irregular songwriting makes the hearing of the album on its integrity a bit dull sometimes, and that's the first time that I feel something similar with a Riverside record. Is not a drama, but talking about one of the best prog-rock acts of the last decades, is some kind of a letdown.

Best Tracks: Acid Rain, Veil of Tears, Lament, River Down Below.

Conclusion: I must admit that the band has managed to overcome the death of their guitarist with a good album, which shows both the heaviest and mellowest sides of the band while maintaining the spirit of innovation that this musicians always had, diplaying some very good new ideas like the gothic and obscure Lament and the cinematic but flawed title track.

But in comparison to works like Second Life Syndrome and Anno Domini High Definition, Wasteland just pales.

My rating: ***

This review was originally written for ProgArchives.com

RIVERSIDE Anno Domini High Definition

Album · 2009 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 4.40 | 73 ratings
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The Crow
After the slightly disappointing Rapid Eye Movement, Riverside returned to top form with one of their best albums to date!

Based on a concept which talks about uncommunication and isolation in modern society given by technology, hedonism and egoism, Riverside managed to create five wonderful songs in the vein of Second Life Syndrome (not so dark like Rapid Eye Movement) but even heavier, making this album their hardest to date.

The album is more guitar oriented than their previous three and the keyboards are also rockier, with extensive use of Hammond, making this album sound a bit less symphonic and more straightforward heavy prog. The drumming is also fantastic and so are the incredible bass lines and mellow (and sometiemes really harsh) singing of Mariusz.

Best tracks: all of them! But Left Out is a marvelous melancholic classic.

Conclusion: Anno Domini High Definition is one of the highest peaks in Riverside's career in terms of quality, and it's also their heaviest record. All five tracks are just an outstanding sample of modern prog rock at its best, making this album one of the most prominent of the last decade.

A masterpiece of music in general and an absolute must for every prog lover!

My rating: *****

P.S.: this review was originally written for ProgArchives.com

JUDAS PRIEST Rocka Rolla

Album · 1974 · Hard Rock
Cover art 3.57 | 83 ratings
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The Crow
Curious debut of the great Judas Priest!

Here they typical sound of the band was not really developed, and they showed their influences which move from Black Sabbath to Deep Purple, among other symphonic rock and prog-rock acts.

The result is an eclectic and diverse collection of songs with some fine tracks (Never Satisfied, Run of the Mill, Rocka Rolla) with some big mistakes (the boring suite Winter, the strange Dying to Meet You), but far of the characteristic sound that would make them big in 1976 with Sad Wings of Destiny.

Best Tracks: Never Satisfied, Run of the Mill, Rocka Rolla.

My rating: ***

ORPHANED LAND The Beloved's Cry

Demo · 1993 · Death Metal
Cover art 3.09 | 6 ratings
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The Crow
The debut of this incredible band from Israel was this good EP...

Their ideas was not really clear yet, and the sound is poor... But this is a really interesting hearing anyway. The first song from Orphaned Land were more Death Metal oriented than their later El Norra Alila, and not so complex, imaginative and improved like the masterpiece Mabool. But it's original enough to having a good rating...

The rough death metal riffs are mixed with some oriental instruments, and hearing some Arabic melodies mixed with the Kobi Fahri's growls is something unique... We must admit that Orphaned Land were maybe the pioneers of this mixture between 80's and 90's death metal with the traditional music from Israel. And we have better work from this band than this immature EP... But the roots and the good ideas were here yet.

Best tracks: Seasons Unite (good and complex track), Above you All (with a great oriental melody used again in Mabool...) and The Beloved's Cry (a classic acoustic and obligated in the Orphaned Land's concerts).

Conclusion: rough, immature and short... But full of new ideas and some good songs. Sahara improved this style and some of this songs later, El Norra Alila was another step forward, Mabool was the confirmation and their great masterpiece... But The Beloved's Cry gave us a glimpse of the incredible potential of this band: deep and conceptual lyrics, good Kobi Fahri singing, the typical Yossi Sassi solos, and use of traditional instruments.

The elemets were here, they only had to be polished.

My rating: ***

P.S.: this review was originally written for ProgArchives, and rewritten to be included here.

SAVATAGE Sirens

Album · 1983 · US Power Metal
Cover art 3.42 | 26 ratings
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The Crow
Savatage's debut album will not appeal the prog or symphonic metal lovers, but is still a very enjoyable NWOBHM album.

In addition, some of the band's most recognizable virtues are yet present, like the crystal clear Criss Oliva's solos, Jon Oliva's piercing vocals and an overwhelming ability to create catchy riffs, a clear heritage of the brother's admiration for the early Black Sabbath. Maybe the in the text of the title track we can guess the love of this band for fantastic and bombastic themes, but it's really impossible to imagine that this band is the same that after a few years would make masterpieces like "Gutter Ballet " or "Streets".

Sirens starts with a strong riff and catchy vocals, while Holocaust shows the fiercest side of the band, both lyrically and musically. The good level of the compositions is maintained in the splendid I Believe and the powerful Rage, where the drums of Steve "Doc" Wacholz gain protagonism. On the Run, Twisted Little Sister, Living for the Night and Scream Murder are not so good, but nevertheless very listenable, while Out on the Streets flirts with AOR, with a moderate success.

Conclusion: Sirens is not an album for late Savatage fans, because it lacks the complexity and diversity of the grandiloquent rock operas of the 90's. Nevertheless, if you like the New Wave of British Heavy Metal of bands like Judas Priest of Saxon, you should give this record a chance. The Oliva brothers were able to show their ability on vocals and guitars, and of course, the title track is a little classic of the 80's today, while the rest of the album is also pretty good.

I miss you, guys! I still hope that Savatage will come back with full force someday... Call me a dreamer.

Best tracks: Sirens, Holocaust, I Believe.

My rating: ***

DREAM THEATER Images and Words

Album · 1992 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 4.40 | 209 ratings
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The Crow
This is probably the progressive metal's most important album, and one of the most important albums of progressive music too!

Due to this disc and the later Awake, the progressive genre enjoyed from really good health the last decades, because a lot of people (like me) discovered this way of understand music with Dream Theater. For that I must give a lot of thanks to Dream Theater for revitalizing the progressive music at the beginning of the 90’s.

The album itself it's a true masterpiece. All the songs are magnificent, with a fantastic production and instrumental development. Maybe the keyboards are in a little too 80's way sometimes, but I'm still loving this entire album completely.

Pull me Under starts with a mysterious guitar melody and original keyboards, and soon derives in a very strong guitar riff which are soon accompanied by the great La Brie’s vocals. After that we can hear the typical masterclass of songwriting and variations that this album had in their first albums. Another Day is even better, with a memorable saxophone playing and an outstanding guitar solo.

Take The Time is simply the best Dream Theater's song in my humble opinion, and among the best progressive songs ever recorded. Just incredible! Surrounded it's different from the rest of the album, and maybe for this reason has a special place in my heart. It has some Rush and Saga influences and sometimes it sounds even Neo-Prog for me. Just great!

Metropolis – Part I has another atmospheric beginning leaded by the Kevin Moore’s keyboards and after that, just like Pull me Under we can hear a collection of great riffs which lead to the verses. This composition is more obscure and dramatic than the rest, and a very good central track. I will never forget the first time I heard the instrumental part of this song which begins at 4:17 many years ago. I was blown away! And I’m still amazed of the quality of these musicians.

Under a Glass Moon has a majestic beginning, worthy of the best science fiction film! Then the strong drums beef up the song, which derives in another heavy riff and very original verses with the initial melody. The instrumental development of the song is also fantastic. Another classic of this album with a superb guitar solo!

Wait for Sleep is a slow and beautiful ballad driven by a marvellous piano melody. Here we can also hear the ability of La Brie to sing in lower tones. And Learning to Live is the final masterpiece. Another brilliant piece of pure progressive metal with the best keyboard work of the album, great bass lines and another outstanding example of good songwriting and musicianship.

Conclusion: Images and Words is one of the peaks of progressive and a must for everyone. Even if you don’s like progressive metal, this is a must hearing album.

Last fact I want to comment: James LaBrie couldn't never reach again the great voice and the incredible high notes that he reached in this album. In Awake he sounded rougher and he has been losing his voice along the years for the reasons we all know.

And that’s a pity.

Best Tracks: Pull Me Under, Another Day, Take The Time, Surrounded, Metropolis – Part 1.

My rating: *****

This review was originally written for ProgArchives.com years ago, and rewritten today to be included here.

METROPOLIS VI Saltos En El Tiempo

Album · 2002 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
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The Crow
A good album from a band which deserved better!

Metropolis VI was born in Madrid back in 2001. I had the luck to see them live in Granada in 2003 in Sala Quilombo, and I have to say that they were just great playing live! I will never forget this marvellous evening of splendid music. And Saltos en El Tiempo, their first CD, is also very enjoyable.

Sadly, the band suffered different problem which led to their break-up years later. But their albums are still here to be discoverd for true progressive metal fans!

Saltos En El Tiempo opens with Destino, a very Dream Theater influenced song with a good bass melody and great riffs. The lyrics are not the best, and the vocals from Marcial are just tolerable, but the song is pretty good nonetheless. The chorus is good and the solo is even better. Reflejos is darker, stronger and it contains another outstanding bass line.

¿Por Qué No? offers one of the best guitar works of the album, especially during the verses and the instrumental section, while Quisiera Volver has another very competent instrumental work, despite the weak chorus.

Hay Algo shows the hard rock influences of Metropolis VI, in the vein of King's X. It has a very catchy riff and even a heavy section which remembers me to another great Spanish band called Los Suaves. Good track! Otro Mundo has an almost jazz beginning, and another Ty Tabor influenced riff. Good verses for another decent song.

Mi Lugar is the best track of the album and it also contains the best vocal interpretation from Marcial, alongside an impressive guitar solo and good acoustics. The very melodic final part is superb! Saltos en el tiempo and Vértigo are a bit darker and heavier, following the influence of Dream Theater, while Tres Minutos is a nice hard rock track with very good melodies during the solo. The lyrics are also pretty funny!

Conclusion: if you want to hear a mixture between Dream Theater and King's X, and you are eager to hear some good progressive metal in Spanish language, Metropolis VI is your band despite the lack of true personality that they always had. The vocals are OK, the guitar and bass playing are over the top, and the rest of the band also made a good job. And the songwriting was also really good! And that's the most important fact.

Moreover, if you don't understand the lyrics please don't worry. They are the worst aspect of this band!

Best Tracks: Reflejos, Por Que No, Mi Lugar.

My Rating: ***

KING'S X Out Of The Silent Planet

Album · 1988 · Hard Rock
Cover art 3.98 | 18 ratings
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The Crow
After almost 30 years after its release, Out of the Silent Planet still sounds fresh and surprising!

King's X are not strictly progressive. They are an alternative hard rock band from the end 80's which decided to mix their Rush and progressive influences with a strong song-oriented songwriting, a bit commercial but complex enough to appeal the prog fans. It's like Saga meets Rush but with a touch of grunge and alternative rock in the vein of Pixies or Sonic Youth. That makes the sound of King's X kind of unique and interesting.

The album also sounds pretty good, with emphasis on the strong Ty Tabor guitars and the outstanding voice of Doug Pinnick, one of the best prog singers of all time in my opinion. Jerry Gaskill is also solid on his drums, making King's X a true power trio in the best tradition of the mentioned Rush.

Out of the Silent Planet opens with In the New Age, a powerful and modern song with great guitar sound making a very good alternative hard rock tune. But Goldilox is even better with its great lyrics and the impressive vocals from Pinnick. A mellow and catchy song, and a real King's X classic. Power of Love is a bit more conventional, typical hard rock from the 80's very well sung.

Wonder is maybe the lowest point of the album, despite its good chorus. Just too repetitive! But the album gets better with Sometimes, funnier and with another good chorus. King is even better with its distorted bass line and good choirs, while What is this? offers interesting psychedelic voices together with an impressive singing on the choir.

Far, Far Away is the most progressive track of the album and one of my favorites. Great guitar melodies! A song which influenced in the progressive sound of the 90's. Shot of Love remembers me to the best Extreme with its vocal melodies, and it has surprising folk melodies in its riffs. Visions is a mid-tempo with an accelerated final section, leaving a very good impression.

Conclusion: Out of the Silent Planet supposed a great debut for King's X. A band which sounded just great despite its youth, with powerful guitars, an impressive voice talent who also plays bass pretty well, together with a strong drummer. This album is a very stimulating mixture of hard rock, alternative rock and some prog elements, with full of splendid songs, catchy chorus and great songwriting. Recommended!

Best Tracks: In the New Age, Goldilox, King, Far Far Away.

My rating: ****

FU MANCHU No One Rides For Free

Album · 1994 · Stoner Rock
Cover art 3.09 | 2 ratings
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The Crow
Debut of this splendid stoner rock band leaded by Scott Hill!

Brant Björk, ex-drummer of Kyuss, achieved a typical stoner guitar sound while maintaining some hard rock elements in the sound of the band, especially in the strong drums and clear bass. The result is a very compact album which is not a mere copy of Kyuss.

Time to fly demonstrates that Fu-Manchu are good scholars of Black Sabbath’s Master of Reality, despite the weak vocals. The riff after 2:20 is just astounding! Ojo Rojo is even better, with a mastodontic riff and very catchy melodies. Pure stoner-metal from the 90’s at its best.

Show and Shine is a more accelerated track, even hard rock despite its muddy sound. Mega-Bumpers is not so inspired and a bit repetitive at the beginning, but at the end of the second minute it introduces a fast and catchy riff.

Free and Easy is a relaxing tune with some funny guitar melodies, increasing the variety of the album in a much appropriated way. But Superbird comes to bring the stoner metal back, with another splendid riff at the beginning and good percussions throughout the song. One of the highlights of the album in my opinion!

Shine it On is lighter and a bit simplistic. But not bad nevertheless! And Snakebellies is luckily better especially because it’s psychedelic elements in its second half, leaving a good feeling about this album and band.

Conclusion: despite being produced by Brant Björk, Fu-Manchu are more that a copy of Kyuss or other stoner bands like Sleep. On No One Rides for Free they made an interesting mixture of stoner and hard rock, not so dense and complex like other bands of this genre, but very interesting and catchy nevertheless.

They improved a lot on subsequent releases, but No One Rides for Free is a good point of entry if you want to discover this band.

Best Tracks: Time to Fly, Ojo Rojo, Superbird, Snakebellies.

My Rating: ***

DREAM THEATER When Dream and Day Unite

Album · 1989 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 3.29 | 107 ratings
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The Crow
Decent debut from this essential band!

The Charlie Dominici's voice it's simply correct, like the poor production of the album. But there's some good songs here, like The Killing Hand, YTSE Jam, Light Fuse and Get Away and Only A Matter Of Time, which is the best of the album in my opinion.

I you get a little of Rush (Status Seeker, Afterlife), another little from Queensrÿche and some Metallica's riffs and rhythms, and other contemporaries and classical progressive influences, you'll get this album!

The band hasn't developed their own style yet, but here you can hear some of the elements wich would make Dream Theater one of the most influential prog metal bands.

Conclusion: not bad, but maybe it's not worthy for Dream Theater's non lovers!

Best Tracks: The Killing Hand, YTSE Jam, Light Fuse and Get Away, Only a Matter of Time.

My rating: ***

This review was written for ProgArchives, and rewritten to be included here.

A.C.T Silence

Album · 2006 · Metal Related
Cover art 3.00 | 7 ratings
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The Crow
After two great albums (Today's Report and Imaginary Friends) and a third which was not so brilliant but very good nevertheless (Last Epic), A.C.T failed to deliver a competent album with Silence.

The style of the record is the same as their previous three efforts, but this time with a bit more serious tone and with darker lyrics. And I think that's one of the biggest mistakes that they made with Silence. The lyrics of A.C.T were never their stronger point, and this time are so cheesy as always, but not as funny. And I think that's unforgivable!

The production of the album is very good again, but I find the vocals of Herman Saming lost a bit of strength this time and I don't really don't know why. He sounds tired, or bored. At least in most of the songs. Maybe it was deliberated, but then that's also a mistake, just like the lyrics. The rest of the band sound so good as always.

Truth is Pain is a good summary of what this album delivers. A darker shade in the lyrics, tiresome vocals and a worrying lack of authentic new ideas. Even the instrumental section is not so good as always, despite the great musicians. Puppeteers is not better, with its typical Saga-riff, Queen inspired choirs and a very weak chorus. What happened to you, guys?

This Wonderful World is a boring mid-tempo which talks about ecological matters in a very predictable way (it pales in comparison to Waltz With Mother Nature), while Out of Ideas is just lame, despite its fine Ola Andersson's solo. At this point I'm really worried about the compositional abilities of the band.

But hey' Not everything is lost!

Hope suddenly rises the level of the album, with a powerful pseudo-thrash metal riff with palm muting and a catchy chorus despite the less than stellar interpretation of Herman. And this good line is maintained by Into the Unknown, with another good chorus, verses with symphonic arrangements and an outstanding progressive instrumental section.

No Longer Touching ground is not so good, but it has a nice bass during the verses. Useless Argument is an uplifting tune, with some nice hard rock elements and a guitar solo which oddly reminds me to Joe Satriani! An interesting one. On the contrary, The Voice Within is another forgettable mid-tempo.

Call in Dead has strong Queen influences in the verses and a funny chorus. In the second block of verses some Arabic melodies appears, contributing to the variety of the album. Silent Screams is an introduction to Consequences, the long song of the album, advancing some of the melodies that we will hear later.

Introduction is the second introduction to the epic of the album (a bit weird, I know), this time in the form of a nice acoustic melody, which remembers me to Spock's Beard. Then The Millionaire appears to introduce the concept of the epic, which talks about wealthy and its consequences. The song is far from being brilliant, nevertheless.

Joanna is far better, being maybe the best instrumental moment of the whole album. Powerful and precise, just what this album lacks. A Father's Love has lovely keyboard melodies and a splendid chorus with orchestral arrangements, while Memory to Fight brings another typical A.C.T riff and good choirs, alongside a great final section with splendid guitars.

The Diary is one of the best sections of the album, with imaginative riffs and constant tempo changes. I specially love the riff after the bridge, the one we can hear in the chorus. Just fantastic! This is what I expect from an album of A.C.T.

And so is A Wound That Won't Heal, another very good song with a marvelous final section, which contains a very delicate guitar and vocal arrangements. Why were they not able to achieve this quality through the whole record?

The Final Silence closes this album with a very good guitar solo, ending an epic which is the best section of the album despite its unfitting lyrics.

Conclusion: Silence is by no means a bad album. It has some fine songs and a very good epic. The problem is that alongside we encounter five or six forgivable tracks, and a pair of really bad ones. Maybe lack of inspiration? Or a futile attempt to search new paths for the band? Or just too long? I don't know, but this inconsistence makes Silence the worst effort of A.C.T

In addition, the lyrics are also very poor. More than ever. And considering that this was always the weakest aspect of A.C.T's music, you can imagine how bad and unfitting they are.

Best Tracks: Hope, Into the Unknown, Useless Argument and Consequences.

My Rating: **

This review was originally written for ProgArchives, and rewritten to be included here.

FAIR WARNING Fair Warning

Album · 1992 · Hard Rock
Cover art 4.09 | 4 ratings
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The Crow
Very solid debut from a very solid group!

Fair Warning is one of these bands which continued to play 80’s influenced AOR-hard rock through the 90’s. But the difference is that they made it better than most of their contemporary similar groups. And that’s was not really a surprise given the experience and quality of the members!

The album has also a great production, thanks to a good engineering work by Frank Wuttke. The keyboards sounds dated today, but that’s just the style of early 90’s AOR. Take it or leave it!

Fair Warning starts with Longing For Love, where we can hear the great vocal capabilities of Tommy Heart and the professional work of every member of the band. The strong guitars of Helge Engelke and Andy Malecek, together with Heart’s vocals, are maybe the most remarkable aspect of this band. Great electric solo on this track!

When Love Fails is a good mid-tempo with strong AOR sounding hard rock, elegant and with a good songwriting, while The Call of the Heart a very good hard rock ballad, which remembers me to the best moments of Bon Jovi. Crazy is funnier and faster, with good doubled guitars.

One Step Closer is a harder, more dramatic track, in contract to Hang On with its almost funky rythms, good chorus and another interesting solo. Out on the Run is heavier, and it remembers me to the Judas Priest of Point of Entry. Very good!

Long Gone is another ballad, just correct and this time with acoustic arrangements. The Eyes of Rock is a piece of accelerated hard rock, flirting with heavy metal again. Take a Look at the Future is not so remarkable, but it contains good choirs in the chorus nevertheless.

The album takes its final stretch with The Heat of Emotion, very melodic, with some pop elements and tons of keyboards. The style is a bit different, because it’s a track which was originally composed for Zeno, a band formed by Zeno Roth where the bassist Uli W. Ritgen played. And Take Me Up is another soft ballad in the style of Scorpions, making a good ending for the album.

Conclusion: Fair Warning is a very good AOR-Hard Rock album. It has strong songwriting, very good musicianship highlighting the great voice of Tommy Heart and the good guitar solos, and a pristine production.

Today it sounds a bit dated, and can be even boring if you are not experienced in AOR, but I consider it will make an excellent addition to any hard rock collection anyway. Recommended!

Best Tracks: Longing for Love, The Call of the Heart, Crazy, Hang On.

My Rating: ***

RIVERSIDE Rapid Eye Movement

Album · 2007 · Metal Related
Cover art 3.66 | 46 ratings
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Compared to other Riverside albums Rapid Eye Movement is just average. But it's miles away over the average of prog-rock releases from the last decade!

Riverside tried to become a bit more accessible in this one, sacrificing their most progressive side in some tracks while maintaining their trademark of strong bass lines, atmospheric keyboards, detailed drumming, great riffs and solos, alongside with tortured lyrics. It was a bit shocking for the fans of the band back in 2007 and considered as a step back, but ten years after the release of the album we can appreciate the tremendous quality of the songs without prejudice and look at this record as the unique and especial step further in the career of the band that undoubtedly is.

Beyond the Eyelids, nevertheless, follows the path of Second Life Syndrome with an intricate and strong beginning, very progressive and even darker as their previous compositions. The chorus is great and so is the final atmospheric solo. Rainbow Box has a brutal initial bass which opens a song which talks about metal illness and the effects of its treatment. Intense, good and why not, with some Porcupine Tree influences.

02 Panic Room has some electronic basis in the vein of the EP Voices in my Head. The great chorus and the incredible final part polish one of the hits of the alum, with lyrics based on the splendid videogame Silent Hill 4: The Room. This two tracks are more direct, not so progressive and they brought a not very welcomed new style for Riverside. But I find both songs just awesome!

But for the fans of Second Life Syndrome, Schizophrenic Prayer brings the mood of this album back, with its insidious vocal melodies at the beginning. The rhythmic base is original and unique, and the ending of the song is a bit more conventional, but very good nevertheless. And also fantastic is Parasomnia, which contains the darkest lyrics of the album and one of the most progressive instrumental developments. I specially love the section after "Drugged from sleep?" Pure Riverside magic!

Through the Other side is a fine acoustic song in the vein of Us from Voices in My Head (this EP totally introduced the style of Rapid Eye Movements) which is a welcomed changed of intensity in the album. Sadly, Embryonic is another acoustic track but not so good this time, giving the impression that the album lost a bit direction at this point, despite the good guitar solo towards the end of the song.

Cybernetic Pillow tries to get the album back on track, but it's not as good as the first five song. The Tool-based riffs are just fine, and after the chorus we can hear a typical Riverside melody. Just Ok. But luckily Ultimate Trip saves the album from disaster, because is one of the best song included here, and also the most uplifting one. It has an outstanding instrumental work, even with some classic hard rock influences and another incredible final section, which contains the best guitars of the album and a very good bass line.

I had the luck to enjoy Riverside playing this song with my beloved wife in Madrid, back in 2011, and it was just unforgettable! Since then, I like Ultimate Trip even more.

Conclusion: Rapid Eye Movement is not perfect. It suffers from a clear drop after the just fine Through the Other Side because of two lackluster songs, and this gives the false impression that this album is worse than actually is, because it contains six other tracks which can easily be considered true Riverside classics. And taking in consideration the quality of this band that's just awesome.

In addition, the slight musical change to make some songs a bit more accessible was not very well welcomed by fans of the first two albums back in 2007. But after ten years I consider this album even more especial for that reason, despite the initial shock that we had the first time we heard it. And sincerely, it also contains some of the best and darkest lyrics of the band's history.

Best Tracks: the whole Fearless section plus Ultimate Trip.

My Rating: ****

This review has originally written for ProgArchives.com

VEKTOR Terminal Redux

Album · 2016 · Technical Thrash Metal
Cover art 4.45 | 19 ratings
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A brutal travel through space and death!

Hearing Terminal Redux is like being propelled through light years of heinous wars, apocalyptic starship crashes and obscure mythologies. The concept of the album is obtuse and difficult to understand, but also an adventure to discover, just like the music of Vektor. They proudly carry the banner of technical death metal today. And they deserve it!

The production of the album is also very solid, leaving space for every instrument. I would mention the guitars, which sound piercing and pristine, and also the powerful drums. Maybe the bass is a bit low for my taste, but that's usual in thrash and death metal anyway. But let's talk about the songs!

Charging the Void introduces us in a very powerful way in the style of the album. A very technical and fierce death metal but with tons of epic melodies, really catchy for adventurous listeners. The DiSanto vocals are pure black metal nevertheless, and they are accompanied in this song by splendid clean female choirs. A very solid, progressive and surprising song!

Cygnus Terminal is a bit more melancholic and melodic, but also powerful and it contains incredible drumming from Blake Anderson. LCD is even faster, with brutal lyrics with helps to define the concept of the record. And then comes Mountains Above the sun, a very wise track which introduces variety while being just an introduction for Ultimate Artificer, a song which is a bit more classic death metal, but it contains some of the best riffs of the album.

But hey... The second half of the CD is even better! Pteropticon is one of the most complete songs of the album with its devilish speed and brutal melodies. Is one of the best written tracks. Psycotropia increases the craziness level and it contains one hell of a bass solo. And Pillars of Sand follow the more straightforward line of Ultimate Artificer... At this point we start to feel again the album needs a change.

And then we find Collapse! A semi-acoustic and beautiful track with clean vocals which increases its intensity progressively bringing a beautiful moment when clean vocals and growls unite, making a very original and catchy section. The final part of the song is a bit more conventional, but also great. Another marvelous bass playing from Frank Chin!

Recharging the Void... If I had to introduce Vektor to someone, this would be the chosen song to do that. Over 13 minutes of epic melodies, haunting clean choirs, brutal guitars and incredible riffs. It's arguably the best song of the album and one of the highlights in Vektor's career. Just a must hearing song for every prog metal lover! Just like the rest of the album.

Conclusion: Terminal Redux has a pair of not so brilliant moments where the music can be a bit repetitive. But as a whole is just one of the best metal albums of this decade. Superb songwriting, cryptic concept and impressive instrumental skill which recalls the best technical death metal moments of the 90's while it achieves to sound different and very actual. If you are not scared by extreme metal and black metal vocals, you should give Terminal Redux a chance. It's a very impressive release from which confirms that Vektor are not the future of metal anymore. They are the present!

Thank you for this great experience, guys.

Best Tracks: Charging the Void, Pteropticon, Psycotropia, Collapse, Recharging the Void.

My rating: *****

This review was originally written for ProgArchives.com

RIVERSIDE Voices in My Head

EP · 2005 · Metal Related
Cover art 3.26 | 10 ratings
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While lacking the quality of full length releases, Voices in my Head still delivers a unique experience!

Recorded after the release of Out of Myself and prior to the masterpiece Second Life Syndrome, Riverside consolidated its line- up with this EP which has a good production and some very good ideas.

Us follows the melancholic path of Out of Myself, but it contains a surprising acoustic guitars work. Acronyum Love starts with a beautiful piano which introduces a real classic of the band, with wonderful and very elegant guitars (we miss you, Piotr!) and a final accelerated part in the vein of Out of Myself.

Dna Ts. Rednum Or F. Raf, despite its weird title has introduces fine electronic rhythms and beautiful vocal melodies. The long instrumental part together with the electronic sounds is some kind of advance of what the band would do in the future with Rapid Eye Movement. The time I was Daydreaming is another acoustic song in the vein of Us, but this time with a glimpse of trip-hop in the guitars and rhythm, typical also from Out of Myself with another intense and dramatical ending. Stuck Between has also a bit of trip- hop influence and it has an excellent layer of keyboards and guitars, very good combined, together with a fine bass and very good harmonic voices. These voices are left alone at the end of the track to close this fine collection of new songs in a very good way.

After the new songs we encounter live versions of I Believe, Loose Heart and Out of Myself, very good played and with enough variations to be enjoyed despite being heard a thousand times in Out of Myself.

Conclusion: with this EP, Riverside experimented with more acoustic sections and more trip-hop melodies than in Out of Myself. This was a cult release these days, so they were allowed to do that without receiving the anger of fans. The result is a very interesting disc with four good songs and a true Riverside classic, which is Acronyum Love.

Maybe is not an essential addition for every collection, but it's obligated to hear this album if you like Riverside, because it's very important to understand their first years as a band and know their influences.

Best Songs: Us, Acronyum Love, The Time I Was Daydreaming.

My rating: ***

This review was originally written for ProgArchives.com

RIVERSIDE Second Life Syndrome

Album · 2005 · Metal Related
Cover art 4.29 | 80 ratings
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The Crow
After the splendid Out of Myself, Riverside achieved to do even better witch Second Life Syndrome!

Not just the production is better, also the playing of all the members of the band improved since their debut, raising the level of complexity and deep to previous unknown limits for this band. The general style of the album is a bit less jazzy than in the band's first release. So, if you are a diehard fan of Out of Myself, maybe you'll miss the most trip-hop atmospheric sections.

But the band gained tons of skills in songwriting, achieving a collection of songs which is far superior. I honestly think that the band's peak is here. In Anno Domini High Definition they almost achieved the great quality of Second Life Syndrome, but it's a step under nevertheless. Let's discover what made this record so good!

The album starts with After, a very dramatic and appropriate intro with splendid vocals and the rest of the band sounding just perfect. This song is like an introduction of what Mariusz Duda would make in its parallel project Lunatic Soul, ethnic influences included. Then Volte-Face comes like a punch in your face with its strong riffs, passionate singing and oriental melodies. Stronger, very stronger than Out of Myself.

But then Conceiving You brings back this most intimate side of the band, much in the style of In Two Minds of the previous release. The lyrics are also perfect, making a milestone in the band's career, just like the title track... An authentic progressive tour de force in three acts with perfect songwriting, marvelous lyrics and an epic guitar solo towards the end. Outstanding!

And the guys of Riverside wanted not to bring the party down, so after Second Life Syndrome they included Artificial Smile, another great and rocky song, very prog and perfect to be played live. But if you think that the thigs could not be better, then listen to I Turned You Down... The best song of the album and one of the best of the band's whole career. I can't even describe what this song means to me... And my wife. I just LOVE it.

Reality Dream III is a superb instrumental track with protagonism for Lapaj and the solos of the very missed Grudzinski. Better than the Reality Dreams of Out of Myself in my opinion. And what's to say about Dance with the Shadows? It starts in a very soft way, with a very catchy vocal melody from Duda, and it soon evolves to a very dynamic and complete progressive metal song, with the typical Riverside's more atmospheric and dramatic sections in the middle. The lyrics talk about loss and craziness, introducing the main theme of the next album Rapid Eye Movement. Great riff after the minute 9!

And Before ends the album in the same way that OK did in Out of Myself... Another precious lyric from Duda for a track with trip hop influences.

Summary: Second Life Syndrome is not perfect, but every song included is just great. If you like melancholic crossover prog with strong lyrics, great playing, a very personal approach to instrumental sections and a unique voice this is the best place to start. This is still in my opinion the Riverside's best album to date.

An outstanding masterpiece and one of the best progressive rock albums from the last decade.

Best Tracks: all of them.

My Rating: *****

This review is dedicated to the great and very missed guitarist Piotr Grudzinski. Rest in peace wherever you are, brother!

OPETH Still Life

Album · 1999 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 4.34 | 172 ratings
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The Crow
For me this is the first Opeth's masterpiece, and of course it’s also one of their best albums

Dan Swäno's production is very proffesional, and the guitar's sound is killer! The riffs of Serenity Painted Death and White Cluster are amazing, for example. And here we can hear a clear improvement in the acoustic parts too, which sound in a more melodic and classic way, not as dark as in Orchid or My Arms Your Hearse, much more in the vein of the 70’s influenced Morningrise.

For that reason, I think this album is the true follow-up of the excellent Morningrise but much better and mature. I consider that in My Arms, Your Hearse they lost the right direction a bit, despite being a very good album. Face of Melinda, for example, it’s almost a sequel of the song To Bid You Farewell from Morningrise.

Conclusion: the best album for Opeth's beginners, and one of the best metal albums of all time. The band reached their next level with this record, taking all that they learned in the three previous efforts and achieving an incredible mastery in songwriting.

To be experienced many, many times. An immortal classic!

Best Tracks: Every song in Still Life is marvelous, and I can't really decide which are the best. Maybe The Moor, Godhead's Lament and Face Of Melinda are a little over the rest, but all the others are great too.

My rating: *****

This review was originally written for ProgArchives, and rewritten to be included here.

RIVERSIDE Out Of Myself

Album · 2003 · Metal Related
Cover art 3.98 | 48 ratings
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Splendid debut of one of the most interesting bands appeared in the last decade!

The music of this album is not strictly progressive metal. For me it’s in the same vein of crossover prog bands like Porcupine Tree or Anathema, with a lot of experimentation and complex passages, being the influence of Pink Floyd also very obvious. The metal comes in some parts, but it's not the main aspect of their music. The experimentation is the keynote, with marvelous keyboard parts and hypnotic bass lines. Most of the songs are really catching thanks the amount of small details they have and the ascending instrumental parts they contain. The bass lines are the body of the songs, and the complex layers of guitars alongside with the great keyboards. Mariusz Duda vocals are dreamy, deep and sometimes even ripped... This man is the soul of the band, with his outstanding bass and good vocals abilities.

Both the long and shorts songs are good, but maybe the last two are not so great. The Courtain Falls is not bad, but not so catchy for me despite being a classic in live concerts of the band. And OK, the slow and ambiental last track, is not the perfect ending in my opinion. It lacks strength and emotion, despite being an interesting trip-hop experiment.

But the rest of the album is really outstanding. The Same River shows what this band is able to do, with long instrumental parts, both peaceful and strong. Out of Myself is a short and powerful track. I Believe is a wonderful acoustic track, in the same vein as the later In Two Minds, one of the highlights of the album... In two Minds is really marvelous, a track in the same with strong Porcupine Tree but much more sentimental. I really love the lyrics of this song.

The instrumentals Reality Dream I and II are catchy and shows the band's skill and potential. And Loose Heart is another hit, a really catchy song, with beautiful lyrics and great tempo. If you want to know the true personality of this band, I think that Loose Heart is a perfect introduction to their sound.

Conclusion: if you are into experimental and progressive rock, you must hear this band. They have many influences, but they are able to translate them brilliantly into their music, making an original and exciting mixture.

If you like acts like Porcupine Tree, Green Carnation, Wolverire, Anathema... You must hear this band. And Out of Myself is perfect to start with them. Not so complex and cohesive like later albums, but with a very good songwriting and great musicianship from the best progressive rock band born in Poland since Collage.

Best Tracks: The Same River, I Believe, In Two Minds, Loose Heart.

My rating: ****

This review was orginally written for ProgArchives, and rewritten for being included in this site.

OPETH My Arms, Your Hearse

Album · 1998 · Death Metal
Cover art 3.90 | 95 ratings
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This is, in my humble opinion, the weakest Opeth's album of their first years.

The main problem I have with this record is that the songs are very similar between them: April Ethereal, When, Karma... The songs of this album have a composition and structure very similar between them, what makes this album some dull and boring sometimes. It's a bit repetitive for me, and talking of a band like Opeth that’s a sort of letdown.

In addition, the sound of the drums is bad, same with the bass. It's obvious that Mikael isn't an experimented bassist, because he plays the bass guitar in that record, and it sounds very low and with a lame sound. Same with the acoustic parts, too dark and sometimes strangely uninspired.

Nevertheless, I don't consider this a bad album at all, because although it's repetitiveness and lackluster production, songs like the great Demon Of The Fall and Creedence are pretty good, same with the Prologue and Epilogue. In addition, here we can see an anticipation of Still Life, in some guitar riffs and the fantastic choirs like the song When.

Conclusion: I think this is a transition album, and although that’s not necessarily a bad thing in this case the result was an album which is far from being a highlight in Opeth’s discography. They suffered the lack of a bassist and a weak production.

Nevertheless, the record has great moments and it’s an obligated stop for technical death metal lovers or Opeth’s fans.

Best Tracks: Demon of the Fall, When, Creedence.

My rating: ***

This review was originally written for ProgArchives.com

BLACK SABBATH Sabbath Bloody Sabbath

Album · 1973 · Heavy Metal
Cover art 4.30 | 133 ratings
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The Crow
Maybe the most progressive Black Sabbath's album... But also their best? I don't think so.

Heavily dealing with drug abuse, the band decided to make a more symphonic and progressive approach for their songs. In addition, with the band fully stablished as one of the strongest rock bands of their time they had enough money to make a lavish and rich production.

However, I think they lost some of their charm in the process and this raw power that their first albums had. The guitars are not so hard this time, Iommi's solos are not so good and Ozzy incorporated his typical synthetized and filtered vocals that would become his trademark from this record till now. Bill Ward and Geezer maintained their typical and powerful sound nevertheless.

Let's talk about the songs!

Sabbath Bloody Sabbath is the best track of the album, introducing a very hard and splendid riff which leads to a more psychedelic chorus. The second riff is even better and it has surprising high-pitched vocals from Ozzy. This song is, like Wheels of Confusion in Vol. 4, a successful attempt to broaden the musical range of the band this time even more progressive than before.

A National Acrobat starts in a very Vol. 4 style, but with the aforementioned synthetized vocals. It is a sort of diabolical hard rock with great wah wah guitars and a very progressive part after the fifth minute. Very good! Sadly, Fluff is a letdown in the album. A song in the style of Laguna Sunrise but less inspired despite its good keyboards.

However, Sabbra Cadabra raises the mood with a very rock n' roll feeling. It's an accelerated and funny song with Rick Wakemann keyboards and lot of progressive influences. In addition, it also contains a great piano improvisation towards the end. A fine surprise! Killing Yourself to live starts with a weak riff, but after that the song gets better with good melodies and doubled guitars in the solo. Nevertheless, is a sort of lackluster.

And another lackluster is Who Are You?, a strange and dark song driven by synthesizers which is a bit boring despite its obscure lyrics. Looking for Today is better, despite being a bit too positive and festive in comparison to previous Sabbath's releases. The psychedelic influences appear again in the chorus in the form of mellow acoustic guitars and flutes. Fine song.

Spiral Architect is another interesting moment of this album, because it has surprising orchestral arrangements. It starts with precious acoustic guitars which lead to a riff which reminds me to The Who every time a hear it. After that we have a soft hard rock song again very festive and happy, with unfitting lysergic lyrics. Strange and not really brilliant, but interesting anyway.

Conclusion: tons of keyboards, mellotron, synthetisers and even orchestral arrangements.... Black Sabbath evolved their sound thank to the influences of the successful symphonic and progressive rock at the time Sabbath Bloody Sabbath was recorded. Sadly, the songwriting was not so outstanding this time, and they lost a bit of strength in their guitars and riffs too.

This album has great songs and very good intentions. And it's also a capital and influential record for the developement of heavy metal and hard rock. But as a whole, I think it was their less stellar release since their debut.

Best Tracks: Sabbath Bloody Sabbath, A National Acrobat, Sabbra Cadabra.

My rating: ****

This review was originally written for ProgArchives.com

OPETH Morningrise

Album · 1996 · Death Metal
Cover art 3.86 | 84 ratings
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I think that Morningrise clearly surpasses its predecessor!

This was the most acoustic Opeth's album before the Damnation's coming. Some songs from this album are half metal, half not, like the beautiful The Night and The Silent Water. To bid you Farewell is the first attempt of Opeth to make something more relaxed and in a classical style from the 70's, and they made a great song, in that style that they will follow more deeply in the future. It reminds me of Face of Melinda.

Black Rose Immortal deserves a place of honor in the Opeth's career, their longest song, and it has brilliant moments, especially in the center of the track, with a wonderful mix of relaxed and strong parts. But in the opposite side, this song has some moment not very good, with a weak sound. Although that doesn't mean that it isn't a great song.

Conclusion: really, a great work, for me the best of their three first releases. I think it's the best Opeth's album to know the early years of the group. The production could be better, and the songs aren't too different between them, but the romanticism and the gloomy feeling that this album inspires it's wonderful. Like the bass guitar of Nektar, the powerful riffs of Advent.

Best Tracks: The Night and The Silent Water, Black Rose Immortal.

My rating: ****

ANATHEMA The Optimist

Album · 2017 · Non-Metal
Cover art 2.42 | 4 ratings
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The Crow
Why, Anathema? Why?

Distant Satellites was by no means a bad album. It had even truly brilliant moments. But its experimental parts were too vague and disoriented. And The Optimist is sadly a follow-up of all this. We can hear a band trying to retrieve the alternative feeling of A Fine Day to Exit without achieving that, offering a monotonous and repetitive collection of songs unworthy of a band with this status.

32.63N 117.14W is just a brief introduction to Leave it Behind, which starts with the typical Anathema guitar, which automatically bring to mind the most alternative records of the band like the aforementioned A Fine Day to Exit or A Natural Disaster, despite its horrible electronic rhythm at the beginning of the song. But the song it's too repetitive to be considered a brilliant track, and the instrumental interlude is just awful.

Endless Ways brings the much appreciated Lee's voice and the album automatically get better. In addition, the orchestral arrangements of the song are beautiful. Sadly this track is also too repetitive for my taste, but better than The Optimist nevertheless, which is a dull and absolutely not inspired song, despite its fine guitar melodies towards the end. Till this point the quality of the album is not good, but acceptable.

But then we find San Francisco... A piano melody which repeats itself during four minutes without any kind of progression or interest, apart from its U2-type guitars. What the hell is that? Are you trying to cheat us, guys? And Springfield is even worse, another swindle with absurd lyrics and repetitive melodies... Again. Because that's the main problem of this album. The melodies and compositions are Ok, but the repetition of the same melodies again and again in almost every song give an impression of vagrancy and lack of compositional work that deeply disappoints me coming from one of my favorite bands.

Luckily, Ghosts is the best track of The Optimist. Very beautiful orchestral arrangements (this album is pretty symphonic) and vocal melodies from Lee, who sings a rather brief text. That's another interesting point of the album... The lyrics are pretty short in words and ideas. I don't really know the goal of this very minimalistic approach in the lyrics, but that's also a disappointment coming from a band with wonders like One Last Goodbye.

Can't Let Go is more lively and more guitar-oriented. Vincent's voice sounds very contained, like in the whole album... And that's also a shame, because his voice was so incredible in the previous albums! Nevertheless, it's a good song. In opposite to Close Your Eyes, another boring and insipid moment with uninspired lyrics. Only the final part with wind instruments which reminds me to Van Der Graaf Generator deserves a mention. Wildfires is one of the lowest points of the album. Depressing, repetitive and with horrible vocal effects. I really don't know how a track like that could make it into the final record. Even the typical increase of intensity in its final part is foreseeable and lame. But Anathema had mercy of us and they managed to put a decent song at the end of the CD named Back to Start, which contains good verses with a warm interpretation from Vincent and good piano melodies. The chorus is not so good and so is the final part, unnecessarily bombastic and pretentious. This could have been a good ending for a better album... But after the average or directly bad content of The Optimist, Back to Start is just utterly overblown.

Conclusion: The Optimist would be an average release for a novel band. But talking about Anathema, this record is their worst album, including their doom metal ones. A repetitive, uninspired and pretentious collection of songs with a worrying lack of ideas and direction. The attempt to retrieve the alternative rock of A Fine Day to Exit failed, and despite the orchestral arrangements the musicians don't shine like in other records of the band.

I really hope that they make it better in their next album, because after the just decent Distant Satellites and this mediocre The Optimist, I am really not so optimistic about the future of the band.

Best Tracks: Ghosts, Can't Let go, Back to Start.

My rating: **

This review was originally written for ProgArchives.com

ANATHEMA Distant Satellites

Album · 2014 · Non-Metal
Cover art 3.88 | 21 ratings
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The Crow
After two rather similar (although fantastic) albums, Anathema tried to evolve their sound... But was it in the right direction?

The album starts brilliantly with the powerful The Lost Song Part 1, which follows the patch of Weather System but with a cleaner production, leaving a bit the familiar wall of guitars from previous releases. And we can also hear how Vincent sings even better than before! The voice of this man has no limits.

The Lost Song Part 2 is one of my favorites here thanks to the very sweet Lee's vocals and precious arrangements. The magic of Anathema is still here and it continues in Dusk despite its cheesy lyrics. This tune starts with the typical fast acoustic guitar and slowly increase its intensity towards and epic ending. This is pretty good, but maybe this Anathema formula sounds a bit old and overused here... Time for a change.

And Ariel is not really a change, but it's breathtakingly beautiful nevertheless. Marvelous vocals, great piano melodies, and a prodigious guitar. This song is pure magic, and one of the highlight of the album and also in Anathema's career. It's like that all that Anathema tried after A Natural Disaster came together in this very song. Just perfect!

Sadly The Lost Song Part 3 brings nothing really new to the other two, despite its powerful bass lines. It tries to recover the most alternative moments of A Fine Day To Exit and A Natural Disaster, but it fails. It's not bad, but it pales in comparison to the four previous tracks. But then comes Anathema! An autobiographic song which supposed a return to the Judgment's (and maybe Alternative 4) sound bit with an orchestral filter. Very intense and with great vocals from Vincent... Again.

And what the hell happened after this moment, guys?

When I first listened You're Not Alone I thought "Ok, it's just another experimental track... No luck this time. Let's hear the next song" And the next song is a very insipid keyboard instrumental track named Firelight. "Ok, the title track is of course better..." And what we found with Distant Satellites is a very ugly electronic rhythm for a very repetitive, not interesting and uninspired song. I just can't believe it! The album was very good till Anathema. And what's all this mess?

But Take Shelter starts good. And I thought "This will be a good Anathema song"... But no! The unnecessary electronic rhythms are back for a song which end in a pretentious and bombastic way, really inappropriate. It brings some melodies from the first songs back, but that's not enough to leave the listener really pleased with this very irregular album.

Conclusion: Distant Satellites is maybe the most irregular Anathema album. It has great songs like The Lost Song (Part 1 and 2) and Ariel, and some of their worst and more shameful moments (You're Not Alone, Distant Satellites) I think it's honorable, even necessary, when a band tries to evolve their sound. But the experiment that Anathema made in some of the songs included in Distant Satellites is just dull and wrong in my opinion.

It's by no means a bad album. It has even unforgettable moments, but there are other I would rather forget.

Best Tracks: The Lost Song Part 1, The Lost Song Part 2, Dusk, Ariel, Anathema.

My rating: ***

This review was originally written for ProgArchives.com

BLACK SABBATH Vol 4

Album · 1972 · Heavy Metal
Cover art 4.02 | 116 ratings
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The Crow
Vol. 4 is an album of a band going through changes (and dealing with sever drug abuse) But they managed to create another milestone for hard rock and heavy music!

This fourth effort is a bit less heavy than Master of Reality and it has a muddier and darker production. I really don't know if this dirty sound was deliberate or not, but it had a capital importance through the years. After 45 after its release, we can check that Vol. 4 and its special and distinctive sound inspired bands like Kyuss, The Obsessed, Sleep, Cathedral and many more.

The album starts with Wheel of Confusion, which contained a rather complex riff and structure if compared to previous records. It is a long song, which shows a worthy attempt to reach new levels for the band. Tomorrow's Dream confirms the dirty and sloughy sound of the album, with a typical Sabbath riff and great verses.

Changes is a weird attempt to create an intimate song, and despite not being really memorable, it has the best vocal interpretation from Ozzy. It can even sing in this song! In addition, the mellotron is pretty good. Sadly, FX is just forgettable. An experimental piece of trash that last 1'43'' too long.

Supernaut retrieves the energy with another powerful riff and a great psychedelic interlude with great drums. Snow Blind brings back the style of Master of Reality and it talks about the drug abuse that the band was suffering at this time. A classic with impressive keyboards towards the end! And Cornucopia is another hit which starts with a doom rhythm and continue with a melody with rock and roll influences but filtered with the ultra-heavy and dirty guitars from Iommi.

Laguna Sunrise is a beautiful surprise, because it demonstrates that this band was able to create competent orchestral arrangements and it shows a wider musical range. The good keyboard work of this song and others from this album give a good advance of what the band would do in Sabbath Bloody Sabbath.

St. Vitus Dance is maybe not so memorable, but it is a short and funny track, which mixes wisely heavy riffs with blues-rock influences. Moreover, Under the Sun / Every Day Comes and Goes is another classic from this album. The energetic and powerful ending that this album deserves.

Conclusion: Vol. 4 is one of my Sabbath's favorites. It is not so groundbreaking as the first two albums and not so damn good as Master of Reality, but apart from FX it's almost a flawless album, which shows a band succeeding in their attempt to expand their sound with keyboards and orchestral arrangements. In addition, it has a dirty and muddy production, which professed a capital influenced through the years, especially for Stoner Metal bands.

However, if you are searching the more Heavy Metal side of Black Sabbath, I recommend you to start with albums like Sabbath Bloody Sabbath or Heaven and Hell.

My rating: ****

This review was originally written for ProgArchives.com

OPETH Orchid

Album · 1995 · Death Metal
Cover art 3.62 | 75 ratings
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The Crow
This is a great debut album, in my humble opinion!

Here we can find really good tracks like In Mist She Was standing, Forest of October and The Twilight is My Robe, being the last one the song I like most from this album. But it's obvious that they were trying to get their own sound, and we can find a lot of death metal here.... Another weak fact is that this album is maybe a bit too repetitive. The tracks are not really different between them. Nevertheless, the quality of all them makes the listening really worthy.

The Fredrik Norström's production isn't bad, but far from the last Opeth's releases. I think that up to "Still Life" they would not achieve a really good sound... But here, like in "Morningrise", we can hear a great bass sound and playing by Johan de Farfalla, who is a great bass player in my opinion (better than Martín Méndez in my opinion... At least he's more original!)

Another interesting fact from this album are the instrumentals, both very good. Silhouette its maybe my favorite Opeth's instrumental song, great job from Anders Nordin here. And they have not released another song played only with piano

Best songs: In Mist She Was Standing (great opening... It gives a good idea of what the album is), Forest of October (the most complete track in Orchid... A bit slow, with even some doom elements. A little classic) and The Twilight is my Robe (the best acoustic work of the album... Romantic and beautiful tack)

Conclusion: this album is not for Opeth's beginners, because due to its obscurity and not well-developed sound, it can be too hard to newcomers... But if you are acquainted to the career if this great Swedish band, then I strongly recommend you this album, because apart from its obvious quality, is the beginning of this metal legend. And a really good beginning, in my opinion!

My rating: ***

ANATHEMA Weather Systems

Album · 2012 · Non-Metal
Cover art 4.01 | 37 ratings
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The Crow
After their very welcomed comeback two years before, Anathema released an album just as good as We're Here Because We're Here. If not even better!

Steve Wilson was not involved in the mixing of the album this time, but the production is also splendid, with a bigger predominance of strings and an even more variaty of moods and ambiences. The direction in this album is a bit more melancholic of in the previous effort, especially in the second half of the album, but not so dramatic like in preterits times.

Untouchable, Pt. 1 opens the album brilliantly, with an obvious continuation in style and mood. I think that Weather Systems was composed through the years along with We're Here Because We're Here, because the two albums are rather similar and they share too many points in common. Great guitars, beautiful melodies and intimate lyrics.

Untouchable Pt. 2 is follows the same musical theme, but in a slower and very melodic way. Lee's voice is introduced in the second verse and in the second chorus Vincent and Lee offer a marvellous duet. Just marvellous! The Gathering of the Clouds opens in a very dramatic way, with fast guitars and ominous piano chords and overlapping vocals in the style of Savatage. This song is some kind of introduction to Lightning Song, the best Anathema's song in my opinion and a moment of pure magic. Lee's voice is just disarming in this one, and so are the touching lyrics. I chose this song for the end of my wedding... And the guests were really surprised.

Sunlight comes with the voice of Daniel Cavanagh, and his warmth help to create another great song for this album. The Storm Before the Calm is just life Get Off Get Out, the experimental moment of the album. But luckily much better this time! The cold robotic voices are perfect for the lyrics, and the second half of the song is a return to the style of A Natural Disaster.

The Beginning And the End is in my opinion another highlight of this album, with its marvellous piano keyboard, strong bass and the best Vincent's singing. Period. Just an almost perfect song! Sadly The Lost Child is a bit boring and repetitive, despite its classicism and fine orchestral arrangement. And Daniel's singing is also not so good in this one.

Internal Landscapes follow the path is like a mix between Presence and Hindsight from the previous album, but better than both and with an outstanding central section in the purest Anathema's style. Intense and strong guitars, alongside a bit of prog and charming melodies.

Conclusion: Weather System was not a big surprised compared to We're Here Because We're Here. Is like a second part of this album, but a bit better in my opinion. The 2010 released had an outstanding first half, but a weaker second one. Weather System is regular and therefore more enjoyable as a whole, making it the third better Anathema album after Alternative 4 and Judgement.

Sadly the band would not be able to achieve this great level on later releases... But that's another story.

Best tracks: all of the, except the weaker The Lost Child.

My rating: ****

This review was originally written for ProgArchives.com

ANATHEMA We're Here Because We're Here

Album · 2010 · Non-Metal
Cover art 3.99 | 43 ratings
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The Crow
We had to wait seven years for Anathema to come back... And they returned with one of their best albums!

Taking the deep and mature sound of the underrated A Natural Disaster, Anathema developed their sound a steep further with the help of the mixing of Steven Wilson, achieving not only their best sounding release to date, but also their most homogeneous in terms of songwriting and quality.

Thin Air opens We're Here Because We're Here energically, with beautiful lyrics and enough progressive moments to satisfy the most demanding fans of the band. The general ambient of this song is a less dark and melancholic the in previous albums, offering a surprising change in the band's direction, a lot more optimistic and bright. Just like the cover of the album!

Summer Night Horizon brings back the best moments of A Natural Disaster with mellow melodies but intense drums and a precious duet between Vincent and Lee, confirming that this album of 2003 was an advance of what the band would later do. Dreaming Light is even better, and a tremendous proof of how Vincent Cavanagh improved his voice through the years. Maybe the lyrics are a bit corny, but that's not so important while we are hearing the marvelous guitar and keyboard solo.

Everything was a single that we heard years before We're Here Because We're Here was released, and a great song despite its obvious Coldplay influences. It's also a very good act in live performances of the band. Angels Walk Among Us is my favorite song of the album. Another sentimental lyrics with splendid guitar melodies in the background. Prodigious!

Presence is musically a follow up of the previous track, but it contains some kind of philosophical speech in consonance with the mood of the album. A Simple Mistake is a bit more melancholic, a bit in the vein of Judgement but without reaching the best moment of this album. A good track nevertheless, with strong guitars towards the end.

Get Off Get Out is the most experimental moment of the album, and also one of its lowest moment. Is not a bad song, just anodyne? Luckily Universal is a better. A orchestral song with beautiful singing from Vincent and a very powerful second half. This should have been the ending of the album, because Hindsight is just pleasant, but not brilliant. And also a bit too long, making a good second half of the album, but not so outstanding as the first five songs.

Conclusion: despite its weak moments, We're Here Because We're Here is a very good Anathema album. Sometimes even excellent. It introduced a brighter and more optimistic stage for the band, which would encounter an excellent follow-up on Weather Systems.

It has also a very competent production and mixing (the hand of Steve Wilson is there) and even the sometimes showy lyrics can't ruin the excellent songwriting that the band achieved during its almost seven years without releasing an album.

Best Tacks: Thin Air, Summer Night Horizon, Dreaming Light, Everything, Angels Walk Among Us.

My rating: ****

This review was originally written for ProgArchives.com

ANATHEMA A Natural Disaster

Album · 2003 · Non-Metal
Cover art 4.04 | 37 ratings
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The Crow
A transition album never sounded so good!

Because in my opinion, A Natural Disaster is a compilation of almost all the tendencies that Anathema showed since they were born in 1990. In this album you will find some of the deep melancholy of Alternative 4 and Judgement, alternative rock elements like in A Fine Day to Exit, and some tracks which give a glimpse of what Anathema would do in the future in albums like We're Here Because We're Here.

But despite this variety of sounds and influences, A Natural Disaster is one of the best Anathema's albums in my opinion, containing a lot of the band's true classics and with very few weak moments.

The album starts with Harmonium, a strong alternative rock song with electronic touches, making a great intro for Balance, a Radiohead-influenced song with a nice vocals work, really intense. Then come Closer, an Anathema's live classic, really hypnotic and unique. Like unique are Daniel Cavanagh voices in Are You There?, a wonderful song, very intimate, wich introduces the dreamy and sentimental style of future albums. Childhood Dream is a little ambiental tune with a beautiful guitar and keyboard work, while Pulled Under at 2000 Metres a Second offer the harder side of the band, on the same vain of Panic from the previous band's efforth.

A Natural Disaster is one of the best Anathema's songs, with a perfect interpretation of Lee Douglas. A song that could fit in Judgement, the true Anathema's masterpiece. And Flying does not fall behind, because it's another almost perfect tune with an outstanding chorus and vocal work from Vincent.

But my personal favourite of the album is Electricity, a very soft and mellow song also sung by Daniel with an interesting british feeling on it, in the vein of other british prog acts like the later Marillion. Marvellous! And Violence closes the album properly. Maybe it's a bit repetitive, but the precious ending piano make up for it.

Conclusion: A Natural Disaster shows a band searching for new paths while maintaining its personality. And this quest for a new style and audiences brought a few of the best Anathema's songs and a very solid, listenable and interesting album. Afther this, Anathema would remain silent seven long years, before returning with the also excellent We're Here Because We're Here, recovering one of the most interesting british bands of the last decades. The rest is just history!

Best Tracks: Closer, Are You There?, A Natural Disaster, Flying, Electricity.

My rating: ****

This review was originally written for ProgArchives.com

ANATHEMA A Fine Day to Exit

Album · 2001 · Non-Metal
Cover art 3.70 | 33 ratings
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The Crow
Another step further in the surprising evolution of this wonderful british band!

"A Fine Day to Exit", of course has nothing to do with the first doom metal Anathema albums... And It's also far away from the gothic and enchanting "Alternative 4". Maybe it's a bit similar to the previous "Judgement", but less acoustic and with a more alternative feeling, taking elements of bands like Radiohead... Maybe it can be difficult to accept this change, but after a few listenings, it's ovious that the band did not lost any quality in this transformation progress.

The album opens wonderfully with Pressure, where we can notice that this is obviously still Anathema, but with a different orientation... Nevetheless, through the album we can find some tracks in a similar style of previous works, like Leave no Trace, in the best "Judgement" vein, and Underworld, wich reminds me to the hardest parts of the same album. Songs like Looking outside Inside and Panic are more experimental, and others like A Fine day to Exit, Barriers, along with the named Pressure, help to configure this renewed Anathema orientation.

Maybe I miss some of the old Duncan Patterson's bass lines, and the genuine melancholy of "Alternative 4" and "Judgement", but "A Fine Day to Exit" shows that the last thing that the brothers Cavanagh want, is to repeat themselves. And they achieved their intention, because "A Fine Day to Exit" is different of the rest of their albums, but it sitll has the typical elements that make this band so special, and recognisable.

Best tracks: Pressure (I really love the chorus...), Release (great acoustic intro, and marvellous electric guitar melodies... One of the album's little classics), Leave no Trace (maybe the best track here), A Fine day to Exit (the most melancholic song, and it's a perfect example of the departure with the previous Anathema albums...) and Temporary Peace (great ending... And another marvellous chorus)

Conclusion: If you are waiting of another "Alternative 4", or a new "Judgement", then you'll be dissapointed with "A Fine day to Exit"... Because it's a definitive departure from the more gothic style, a departure that we could anticipate in "Judgement", and he is fully stablished. It has a more alternative rock orientation, and more variated, and it opens a new and proggier way for the band that was continued in "A Natural Disaster". Luckily, this album is only a little step under the quality of the previous two albums, and if you did not like this gothic and depresive style, then maybe you'll find a satisfying experience in "A Fine Day to Exit". Excellent!

My rating: ****

This review was originally written for ProgArchives.com

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