Metal Music Reviews from The Crow

SAVATAGE Sirens

Album · 1983 · US Power Metal
Cover art 3.66 | 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: ***1/2

DREAM THEATER Images and Words

Album · 1992 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 4.29 | 201 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 3.90 | 17 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 · Hard Rock
Cover art 3.50 | 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 3.09 | 105 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 2.90 | 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: **1/2

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

FAIR WARNING Fair Warning

Album · 1992 · Hard Rock
Cover art 4.29 | 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: ***1/2

RIVERSIDE Rapid Eye Movement

Album · 2007 · Metal Related
Cover art 3.72 | 46 ratings
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The Crow
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: ***1/2

This review has originally written for ProgArchives.com

VEKTOR Terminal Redux

Album · 2016 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 4.32 | 17 ratings
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The Crow
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: ****1/2

This review was originally written for ProgArchives.com

RIVERSIDE Voices in My Head

EP · 2005 · Metal Related
Cover art 3.42 | 10 ratings
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The Crow
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: ***1/2

This review was originally written for ProgArchives.com

RIVERSIDE Second Life Syndrome

Album · 2005 · Metal Related
Cover art 4.21 | 78 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 4.41 | 171 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 3.78 | 48 ratings
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The Crow
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 | 94 ratings
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The Crow
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: ***1/2

This review was originally written for ProgArchives.com

BLACK SABBATH Sabbath Bloody Sabbath

Album · 1973 · Traditional heavy metal
Cover art 4.12 | 127 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: ***1/2, rounded up to four stars.

This review was originally written for ProgArchives.com

OPETH Morningrise

Album · 1996 · Death Metal
Cover art 3.87 | 84 ratings
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The Crow
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 2.12 | 2 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 3.70 | 19 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 · Traditional heavy metal
Cover art 4.00 | 110 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 3.64 | 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: ***1/2

ANATHEMA Weather Systems

Album · 2012 · Non-Metal
Cover art 3.74 | 33 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: ****1/2

This review was originally written for ProgArchives.com

ANATHEMA We're Here Because We're Here

Album · 2010 · Non-Metal
Cover art 3.98 | 41 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 3.80 | 33 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: ****1/2

This review was originally written for ProgArchives.com

ANATHEMA A Fine Day to Exit

Album · 2001 · Non-Metal
Cover art 3.64 | 30 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

ANATHEMA Judgement

Album · 1999 · Non-Metal
Cover art 3.82 | 47 ratings
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The Crow
A perfect follow up to Alternative 4.

No so dark, but a bit more complex and alternative pop-rock oriented, but still with the dark and sad personality of this band. The leaving of Duncan Patterson, the main songwriter of the band, was not a drama because the Cavannagh brothers took the duty of making the entire songs, and they did it wonderfully, giving us another brilliant album, maybe not so good as their previous efforth, but different and really enjoyable.

The pianos and strong bass lines of Alternative 4 and replaced for layers of guitars and mellow keyboards, and a lot of accoustic passages. The style started with Eternity is here perfectionated and variated. And Vincent sings better than ever! He sound really confident with his vocals for the very first time.

Best songs: Deep (a great opening, with marvellous vocal melodies...), Forgotten Hopes (great guitars...), One Last Goodbye (a really moving song, I absolutely love the lyrics... My favourite of the album), Parisienne Moonlight, Judgement (strong guitars in a good proggy piece...), Emotional Winter... Except a pair of songs, the whole album's level is outstanding.

Conclusion: a step further in the Anathema's career. Not so gothic and dark as their previous albums, but more proggy and alternative rock oriented, Judgement is an excellent album not te be missed for people who seek a melancholic, sad and sensitive way of seeing progressive rock, in the vein of Porcupine Tree, Riverside, Wolverine... But with an unique and special feeling.

These songs are a real pool of talent.

My rating: ****1/2

ANATHEMA Alternative 4

Album · 1998 · Metal Related
Cover art 3.98 | 45 ratings
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The Crow
"Alternative 4" is, in my opinion, Anathema's masterpiece.

I just think is their most cohesionated work, their most perfect one... Maybe not in musical skills, but in composition. Taking the style of the previous "Eternity", perfectionating it, and adding a lot of melancholy, a sense of desperation in almost every song, and some of the most beautiful cello arrangements I've heard in a rock album.

Musically, there was a big progression since "Eternity", where Vincent sang to really well... But in "Alternative 4" he improved his vocals dramatically. He is even better in the most recent efforts, but in this album he sang deeply, dramatically and adding a lot of sadness to the great lyrics. The rest of the band was also very inspired... The guitars are really rich in comparision with their previous album, and it's obvious that Duncan Patterson is the main compositor... His bass is very dominant in almost every song, having a lot of protagonism through the album. Like in the dark tittle track.

The keyboards (specially the piano sounding ones) are also very important here. This is the main difference between "Alternative 4" and the later "Judgement", where the guitars are the absolute protagonist, specially the acoustic ones... "Alternative 4" is maybe harder, with a stronger layer of bass and keyboards, and not so progressive. Is the most gothic and sad Anathema's album, and because of that it can be a bit difficult for the usual prog taste.

Maybe this album has not a track so impressive like One Last Goodbye from "Judgement", and is not so variated like "A Natural Disaster"... But every track included here is excellent. There is not a single second of bad or average music to be found in "Alternative 4". And this is the reason I give this album five stars. It's just the only flawless album Anathema has released.

Best tracks: all of them.

Conclusion: like I said before, "Alternative 4" is Anathema's best release, the one they have still to top... Really melancholic and incredibly beautiful. Their most gothic one and their most cohesionated collection of songs. Maybe is not their proggiest, so if you are looking for an usual prog album you'll not find here... But if you want to discover one of the most deep and captivating albums released in the 90's, please give "Alternative 4" an opportunity.

My rating: *****

This review was originally written for ProgArchives.com

ANATHEMA Eternity

Album · 1996 · Doom Metal
Cover art 3.11 | 23 ratings
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The Crow
The album where the Anathema's musical direction changed definitively... Thanks God!

But the style of the band was not really orientated yet. After closing their Doom Metal era, they maked this album based on Pink Floyd and 70's sounds, and with some gothic and symphonic influences... And the new Anathema's style was born!

They keeped their metallic roots, but giving the music a lot of more sentiment and diversity. The clear Vincent vocals are far from the Doom Metal growls. Ok... But I muss say they are not really good. This mand could not really singing yet. He is not very bad, but sometimes he sounds out of tone, and I think his voice was not under his total control. It's a pity because some great parts of the album are spoiled by the weak Vincent's singing. He would improve a lot for the next realease (Alternative 4), but in Eternity he sounds just unpleasant.

Nevertheless, the female voices in some songs are much better. The album is maybe still harder than the later Anathema's milestones... But the acoustic and ambiental passages avoid this album being hard for not-metal lovers. Some songs have even new age influences. Like Eternity Part II, and the very Pink Floydish Sentient. This is still metal, but a mellow view of this style, and more accesible than the previous Anathema's extreme works. So if you are not into hard sounds, this is not a problem.

Best songs: Angelica (one of the most beautiful guitar meodies Anathema has ever made...), The Beloved (hard and catchy song... Despite the bad vocals), Hope (one of the most original songs, with good guitar layes and some keyboards), Far Away (a little classic of this album...) and Cries on the Wind (I like the egipcian influences of this track...)

Conclusion: the first album where Anathema starts to showing the style they make now. Really different of their Doom Metal beginnings, and far better in my opinion. This album has some weak points, like the poor production, and the bad Vicent's singing. But every Anathema's fan will find it interesting. I would also recommend this album to the rest of listeners.

But despite this is not a bad work, if you are new to Anathema, I recommend you to start with later albums like the marvellous Alternative 4, or the equally excellent Judgement, because Eternity can be a bit hard for beginners.

My rating: ***

This review was originally written for ProgArchives.com

ANATHEMA The Silent Enigma

Album · 1995 · Death-Doom Metal
Cover art 3.61 | 28 ratings
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The Crow
A doom band trying to find a new path... That's The Silent Enigma.

After the good but not excellent Serenades, Anathema expanded their sound by introducing a lot of keyboards and even orchestral arrangements in an album with a much deeper songwriting and variety. The result is a doom/gothic record with traces of progressive rock and psychedelic elements which is really interesting and very important for the band's career.

The production is also better than in their previous release, while Vincent took his role in vocals that he would never leave. He can't really sing in this album, but he sound tortured and dramatic enough, making him an appropiate frontman for a doom metal band. They also used female voices here, another trademark of Anathema's sound.

The Silent Enigma opens with Restless Oblivion, which starts with a 100% Anthema-typical guitar. After that we find a strong doom metal track with powerful bass lines and aggresive voices. The composition is surprisingly variable, almost progressive. And so is also Shroud of Frost, with a tortured vocal line from Vincent and excellent Danny's guitars toward the end.

Alone is my favourite track on the entire record, starting with a mellow acoustic guitar and keyboard melody. After that comes a beautiful female voice, with a strong melancholic feeling which introduces the mood of later releases like Alternative 4 or Judgement. Sunset of Age is a bit more gothic, very melodic, while Nocturnal Emission is a slow doom metal track with surprising psychedelic elements.

Cerulean Twilight es another typical doom metal song which suddenly transforms itself in a semi-acoustic tune in its second half. The Silent Enigma has very good melodies and a romatic ambience in the vein of the later Eternity. Good song! And also pretty good is A Dying Wish, maybe the best song of the album with typical riffs and Anathema's first epoch.

Black Orchid is an appropiate instrumental ending which woks as a summary of the album's style, both mellow, romantic and very dark.

Conclusion: the fans of Anahtema's last records will be dissappointed with The Silent Enigma. But this was my first Anathema's album two decades ago, and I still have a special affection for it. It's a good example and a band searching new ways to expand their music while maintaining the core style of their first album.

Therefore is a perfect recommendation for doom metal lovers, but also for people desirous to discover one of the most interesting and stimulating transformations in prog rock history.

Best Tracks: Alone, The Silent Enigma, A Dying Wish.

My Rating: ***1/2

This review was originally written for ProgArchives.com

ANATHEMA Serenades

Album · 1993 · Death-Doom Metal
Cover art 2.94 | 21 ratings
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The Crow
It's well knows that the musical beginnigs of this bands were very different of the music they make today. But it's still interesting to hear the evolution and discover that this first albums had some of the elements of the last!

"Serenades" is doom metal. A cascade of slow, distorted and heavy guitars with lyrics talking about desperation and love. This genre (and many others...) was primarily painted by Black Sabbath in the seminal "Black Sabbath", and at the end of the 80's / beginnigs of the 90's it was popularised by bands like Candlemass, Cathedral... And Anathema! Their albums "Serenades" and "The Silent Enigma" are still two highly apreciated albums between the doom metal lovers.

But in "Serenades" we can hear some of the elements that his band would use and increase in later releases. Some of the melodies are not really differnet of the ones included in albums like "Alternative 4" and "Judgement", like some Daniel's trademark guitar sounds, although the style is really far from the alternative prog they make since "Eternity".

Also the lyrics, speaking about tortured love and obscure feelings are in a similar vein (but obviously not so good...) The end of the album is also special for a doom metal band... A 23 minutes new age song! It's something the band would use again in the future, at the end of "A Fine Day to Exit" and "A Natural Disaster".

So although this album is not for everyone's taste, if you like Anathema's last albums, then you should give "Serenades" a listening. Maybe you'll be surprised, because you'll discover that after all the years and all the changes, it's obvious that we are talking about the same band.

Best tracks: Sweet Tears (I love the groovy guitas...), J'ai Fait une Promesse (it remembers me to Parisienne Moonlight in "Judgement"...), Sleepless (a little gothic classic... Cradle of Filth made a cool version of this one!), Under a Veil (of Black Lace) (precious guitar melodies...) and Nailed to the Cross / 666 (Bonus track) (I love this great stoner feeling...)

Conclusion: if you like doom metal, you must hear this album... It's one of the genre's pillars, and it has great songs. If you don't like it, then avoid it, because it has anything interesting for you. Nevertheless, it can also be enjoyed by modern Anathema's fans, because it has a lot of links with later and more famous releases.

My rating: ***

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

A.C.T Last Epic

Album · 2003 · Metal Related
Cover art 3.68 | 10 ratings
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The Crow
Nothing new in the horizon...

But with this superb production and strong songwriting is also this lack of surprises is not so important. If that's the first A.C.T album you hear you'll be totally blown away with their eclectic vision of prog-rock, dramatic changes in almost every song and their influences, which balance between Dream Theater, Saga, Queen and musical and cabaret spectacles.

The king of the record is still Ola Andersson and his marvellous guitars and solos, alongside with the good vocals (but a bit too high pitched for my taste) of Herman Saming. The rest of the band is also great! And they managed to expand a bit their instrumental sound with some strings arrangements this time.

Nevertheless, I have the problem that I heard the A.C.T two previous albums before Last Epic, and therefore I find this third effort a bit repetitive and not really better, despite the general opinion. Actually, I think is under Today's Report and Imaginary Friends in terms of quality. It's obviously not so progressive and too ballad oriented, and the lyrical concept just weak.

Wake Up, Manipulator and Mr. Landford are outstanding and dynamic tracks, while others like Ted's Ballad are just average. Nevertheless the whole album is enjoyable thank to the incredible Andersson solos and imaginative riffs, along with the spectacular choirs and vocal melodies.

Conclusion: Last Epic brought nothing really new to A.C.T fans, apart from another very good example of eclectic prog, strong songwriting and pristine production. And all of this is great, but I'm a bit disappointed with the lack of evolution of the band. They just made a record which sounds just like the same of the two previous albums, but a bit less progressive and more conventional. Maybe they were trying to be more commercial?

Hard to say.

Best Tracks: Wailings from a Building, Mr. Landford, Wake Up, Manipulator, Dance of Mr. Gumble.

My rating: ***1/2

This review was originally written for ProgArchives.com

A.C.T Imaginary Friends

Album · 2001 · Metal Related
Cover art 3.41 | 8 ratings
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The Crow
After the wonderful debut "Today's Report", A.C.T managed to release a very worthy successor.

"Imaginary Friends" is not a departure in style from "Today's Report", and it doesn'st really surpases it in terms of quality. Maybe the main difference, is that "Imaginary Friends" is even more accesible than the band's debut album. Take it Easy is a very catchy song, with a dynamic chorus; She/Male is very funny, similar to Cat Eyes of the previous album; Biggest Mistake is the best track of the album, with a wonderful chorus and ending part, although the song is very reminiscent to Saga... The epic Relationships is also very good, maybe better than the epic Personalities in "Today's Report". So this collection of easy to listen but still complex tracks are maybe perfect for a band's newcomer.

The sound of the band here follow the path of the first album, being a curious mixture of Queen, Saga, Dream Theater, jazz, cabaret. But finally getting a coherent and catchy result. The range of influences is not so high in this second offering, but it's still huge.

Talking about the musicians, the Ola Andersson's guitars are marvellous again. This man has a great style (on Svetlana he rocks!), with a wide range of abbilities, and wonderful sound. The another pilar of A.C.T's distinctive sound are the Jerry Sahlin's keyboards, they give a fundamental part of the band's eclectic prog. The rest of the guys they also play in a great level.

Best tracks: Take it Easy (an A.C.T's trademark song...), Biggest Mistake (the most catchy and emotional song of the album, although it's almost a copy of some Saga classics...) and the epic Relationships (specially Svetlana and Mr. Unfaithful).

Conclusion: "Imaginary Friends" is not better than "Today's Report"... In my opinion, it's even under the the band's debut. Nevertheless, it has more accesible tracks and a great epic, being a worthy purchase both for newcomers and A.C.T's "aficionados".

My rating: ****

This review was originally written por ProgArchives.com

A.C.T Today's Report

Album · 1999 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 3.43 | 7 ratings
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The Crow
An excellent debut álbum and a big surprise to me!

This band mixes elements and influences of a lot of bands I love. Rush (Saming's voice...), Saga (specially in the Ola Andersson guitar's sound, wich is sometimes very similar to this band, both in riffs and instrumental interludes...), Queen (the vocal harmonies and choirs...), Dream Theater (specially in the harder parts...), Supertramp (A.C.T are so eclectic as this band, and they have a similar dramatic feeling)... But adding a lot of originality in the form of a curious sense of humour, and a some odd musical experiments (calypso, pure jazz...) The results are simply brilliant and very funny. It's a pleasure to hear this album again and again, because it's catchy, fresh and hilarious.

The quality level of the tracks is also really high. Maybe the song Today's Report is under the rest of the tracks but it's just my personal taste. The rest of the tracks are good, with a lot of highlights. The long one, Personalities, it's just a collection of short songs put toghether, and it lacks some musical coherence, because there is any melodic connection between the fragments... But I love it anyway, because it's catchy, funny and wonderfully played, despite the silly lyrical concept.

The production of the album is also very good. Not spectacular, but very efficient and clear. I specially like the guitar sound, powerful and Saga-oriented, and the keyboard's arrangements. The musicianship is also very competent. Every instrument has its protagonism, and the friendly Herman's voice is well adapted to the funny musical direction. The main composer, Jerry Sahlin, makes also a very good work with the different keyboards.

Best songs: Abandoned World (powerful track wich opens this album in a heavy way...), Waltz With Mother Nature (maybe the best song of the album, with an incredible instrumental part and a funny calypso melody...), Welcome (very catchy verses, and another great musical interlude...) and Personalities (funny and really catchy, although a bit unconnected...)

Conclusion: a band with a true personality. Being not afraid of showing their influences, A.C.T are able to give the sensation of being hearing something new, fresh, and full of brilliant ideas. The prog metal lovers will find some interesting moments. The eclectic prog aficionado will also enjoy this work. And the people searching for humor in prog will be surprised! So I can strongly recommend this album to everyone, because being so variated, well executed and with this amount of good compositions, every listener will surely find something interesting on it.

My rating: ****

This review was originally written for ProgArchives.com

BLACK SABBATH Master Of Reality

Album · 1971 · Traditional heavy metal
Cover art 4.39 | 154 ratings
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The Crow
In my opinion Master of Reality is Black Sabbath's true masterpiece.

A (almost) flawless album with thunderous bass, incredible guitar riffs, an Ozzy in his best moment and great drumming too. The bass in the mixing of the album is almost too loud, but I love bass oriented bass so I just love the Geezer playing in this one.

The style of Master of Reality is more coherent and cohesive than the two previous efforts, achieving a very solid collection of songs with no real letdowns. They wanted to make a groovy yet heavy album, and they made a real milestone for stoner and heavy metal. Even more than Black Sabbath and Paranoid.

Sweet Leaf has a catchy, very groovy riff that together with its lyrics talking about smoking drugs defined the terms of stoner rock and stoner metal. The final part is great and the bass playing is really strong. A real classic!

After Forever starts in an ominous way, introducing a dynamic melody which ends in another anthological riff. The bass sounds even stronger than guitars! And I just love it. Just like a love Embryo, a little yet terrifying instrumental which leads to Children of the Grave, where Heavy Metal was really born in my opinion (together with Speed King and Bloodsucker from Deep Purple's In rock) It's incredible to hear a song which generated so much amount of influence through the years. A big part of the 80's heavy metal was already in this 1971 track!

Orchid is another good instrumental song, obviously very influential for bands like Opeth (the first album of the Swedish band was named just like this track and the acoustic sections sound similar) and Lord of this World introduces another great riff. The whole discography of bands like Sleeps come from this song! It's really difficult to measure this album's influence through the following decades, and Lord of this World is another good example.

Solitude is similar to Planet Caravan from Paranoid, but very much better in my opinion. An intimate and sad song with beautiful vocals from Geezer. And then comes Into the Void! Another incredible song which starts with a very groovy and funny guitar melody which soon derivate in a brutal riff, which also give way to another heavier and faster riff. And after the solo comes another different but also splendid guitar riff! The songwriting is really good, and so much improved since Paranoid... Just the best moment of this musician's career.

Conclusion: if songs like Black Sabbath supposed the birth of doom metal and other songs like Paranoid gave way to heavy metal, it's adequate to say that Master of Reality is the true birth of stoner metal. A bit of psychedelia, great and variated riffs and songs that talk about drugs and other obscure themes. And with such a great quality! Maybe Master of Reality lacks hits like Paranoid or Iron Man, but as a whole is the better album of the band. Just eight very influential songs which aged very well and a true pleasure for the ears.

Best Tracks: all of them (Ok, maybe Embryo and Orchid are not top notch, but also very good)

My rating: ****1/2

This review was originally written for ProgArchives.com

BLACK SABBATH Paranoid

Album · 1970 · Traditional heavy metal
Cover art 4.43 | 187 ratings
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The Crow
An essential album in rock music history!

But also not a perfect one, of course. For that the sound and production should be better, and the overall songwriting stronger. Don't get me wrong, there are true classics in here, but also a pair of fillers which not deserve the status or masterpieces.

Black Sabbath forgot a bit their blues-rock roots in this second release and they increased the importance and weight of the riffs, achieving this "heavy" and sound that together with albums like Deep Purple's In Rock would plant the seed of heavy metal.

War Pigs starts with sirens and heavy guitars, which introduce one hell of a riff and vocal melodies from Ozzy, who sings a critic and apocalyptic text with dark passion. The riffs salad towards the end of the song is just magnificent! Just like Paranoid, another milestone from this album despite its repetitiveness.

Sadly Planet Caravan comes with its boring psychedelia, making a true setback, which vastly dismisses with Iron Man, maybe the best song in the whole record and with the riff in Black Sabbath's history. And there is a lot of riffs in Tommy Iommi's career!

Electric Funeral is together with the song Black Sabbath the birth of doom metal, mixed with some very heavy passages towards the end. It's also a pleasure to hear how the stoner rock was born with songs like Hand of Doom, despite being not so remarkable like other classics from this disc. Rat Salad is forgettable in my opinion, despite the grandiose Bill Ward's efforts on drums.

Fairies Wear Boots, like the previous track bring back the style of the debut album, constituting a solid ending for Paranoid. Conclusion: Paranoid is one of the best albums from Black Sabbath. Is not my personal favorite, but I recognize the sheer importance of its heavy riffs, slow hard passages and accelerated rhythms in the creation of heavy metal, doom metal and stoner metal. It has three outstanding songs, three very good ones and two just passable. Excellent overall and maybe not so important for prog, but necessary to understand modern rock music.

Best Tracks: War Pigs, Paranoid, Iron Man, Electric Funeral, Hand of Doom.

My rating: ****

This review was originally written for ProgArchives.com

BLACK SABBATH Black Sabbath

Album · 1970 · Traditional heavy metal
Cover art 4.25 | 153 ratings
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The Crow
This Black Sabbath's debut album is also one of their finest.

A milestone, which sounded really hard, scary and original back in 1970. The creepy lyrics, together with the strong guitar riffs and the powerful Geezer Butler's bass, are the basis of this influential album. Before Black Sabbath made their appearance, any band brought so many obscurity and darkness into a simple record.

This scary lyrics are maybe a bit laughable today, and the music is not really dark, compared with other actual bands but the fact is that these bands are here today in part because the Black Sabbath's legacy. It's impossible to find a single band, from which so many genres were developed: Stoner Rock, Doom Metal, Heavy Metal, Black Metal... The influence of Black Sabbath is just too big. Only bands like Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple and the usually forgotten Uriah Heep are comparable... But not really!

The album itself is not so hard as later albums, and like the first Led Zeppelin's work, it has a lot of blues influences (Behind the Wall of Sleep, Sleeping Village...) and some psychedelic elements too (N.I.B., The Warning...), while the true Black Sabbath's style was still to be developed.

But it has also the deep and hard Iomi's riffs, which together with the odd Osbourne's voice, are the Black Sabbath's trademark. So the style is not so well developed as the classic Paranoid, and not so well orientated as the stoner-milestone Master of Reality, a fact which makes this album a diverse piece of rock, where Black Sabbath shows all their influences, and where they started to make their own very important legacy. However, it's not their most representative album in my opinion.

Best songs: Black Sabbath (the main riff is the born of Doom Metal... I like the accelerated final part), N.I.B. (another album's classic... The bass intro is great, and so is the chorus) and Sleeping Village (this dynamic riff, is the root of stoner metal...)

Conclusion: this album is excellent, and its influence has been very big in the past four decades. Maybe Black Sabbath is not a blind recommendation for young and unexperienced listeners, but if you are curious to discover the origin of modern heavy metal you must hear this record.

My rating: ****

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

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