Metal Music Reviews from arcane-beautiful

FLYING COLORS Second Nature

Album · 2014 · Non-Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 4 ratings
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arcane-beautiful
It seems that Mike Portnoy super groups don't just last for a while...they last forever. But If I had to pick a favorite one this would probably be it. I was shocked at how much I enjoyed this project the first time round, and I was even more shocked at how much I enjoyed this album too.

After a pretty good critically and fan praised album, the band have come back...with more prog than pop. I have to be honest, I do prefer the first album to this due to the bigger focus on pop, but this at least shows the band in a rather different light. So expect longer tracks and more experimentation with their song writing craft.

The real reason that attracted me to the band is the voice of Casey McPherson. Out of all the guys in the band, Casey is the one that really surprised me the most (which is funny, cause the the other 4 guys are absolute masters at their crafts). Casey is a brilliant lyricist and vocalist and really is the saving grace for this project (without him, this may just be another prog rock supergroup involving Neal Morse & Mike Portnoy).

I think a good comparison to this album would be another one of Portnoy's supergroups/side projects, Transatlantic who released their 4th album “Kaleidoscope” this year. Now after 4 albums, their new album is alright, but it does feel a bit samey and predictable. And I did fear that this project may suffer from a similar fate. To be honest, when I first saw the artwork and heard the samples from the album, I wasn't overall impressed. But, having set down and listened to it from start to finish, I was suprisingly annoyed at how much I liked it.

Opening track “Open Up Your Eyes” is what should have been a Transatlantic opening track. While I did like “Into The Blue” on “Kaleidoscope”, this song is much better at introducing the album. Starting off with a pretty epic repetitive intro, it climaxes into a great and epic opener.

A track that I'm still on the fence with would have to be the album's single “Mask Machine.” Now I don't automatically dislike this song, in fact most of it I enjoy, but I am very much against the chorus with very cheesy 'woo-hoos'. The bass riff on this song is pretty killer and memorable too.

One of my personal favorite tracks on the album would be “Fury Of My Love.” Very much a ballad with a dark twist, the song really is pushed to the edge with a very passionate vocal performance from Casey.

On the of the albums catchiest tracks would have to be “Place In Your World.” With some Beatlesque sounding moments the big climax is a brilliant catchy chorus full of joy and sweetness.

One of the most interesting tracks on the album would have to be “Peaceful Harbor.” Having a hymn like quality, the music is very relaxing and shows off some great vocals from Casey & Neal. Great arrangement on the track too.

The album closer “Cosmic Symphony” is a song split up into 3 parts. The parts do interweave together well and do show a lot of promise. Not the strongest track on the album, but the final movement “Pound For A Pound” is really the tracks highlight with a beautiful vocal delivery from Casey.

Overall, for some odd reason I went into this album expecting to dislike it. I don't know why I did, but I am glad I came out of it rather liking the album. I do slightly prefer the first album but I think this album holds incredibly well on its own merits. I think they now have established themselves as just more than a super group and I expect a good few albums to come from this project in the future

8.3/10

Genres: Progressive Rock, Pop, Hard Rock, Symphonic Rock

Country of origin: USA

Year of release: 2014

DEFTONES Adrenaline

Album · 1995 · Nu Metal
Cover art 2.92 | 14 ratings
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So here we have the genesis of one of the most loved bands to have survived the “nu-metal” wave. While I never really thought of Deftones as a “nu-metal” band, I do think without them, the scene wouldn't have been influenced as much and probably would have lost a lot of spark.

This album reminds me of System Of A Down's debut album. In many ways they have similar tones (with the latter being better produced slightly better) and are perfect examples of brilliant debuts. Not the bands best albums, but they are pretty damn good statements of a sound.

Musically the album is very much Deftones sound. Yes, it is very much in its infant stage but this is very much the blossoming of the bands sound. The best way to describe it is a mixture of early post hard core mixed with experimental rock and at the odd times rap influences. Lyrically Chino is very cryptic in this album, with the lyrics needing a lot of explaining.

One criticism I would have with this album would be the production. Now I'm not expecting outstanding production from a debut album in the early 90s, and I have to admit some of the production is pretty good at times, but it is a slight gripe. Vocally Chino is pretty great on this album, but I have to admit that at times he can go slightly off pitch. His odd use of whispering narratives at times can be a bit repetitive, but it usually tonally goes with the music of the track.

Opening track “Bored” is pretty much an anthem of teenage rebellion...the rebellion of boredom. With a pretty killer intro the song really shines when the chorus comes in and Chino sings his heart out.

“Minus Blindfold” shows influences from and edges towards rap metal. Lyrically Chino paints an interesting almost childish image and it really adds to the chaotic tone of the song.

“7 Words” is one of the most interesting tracks on the album. Starting off with a rather fun almost funky intro, the song explodes and implodes throughout with some interesting instrumental work throughout.

One of Chino's most impressive vocal moments on the album would have to be “Birthmark.” With a brilliant build up in the verse, the chorus is brought to newer heights with a very impressive high note sung by Chino, which sends shivers down my back everytime I hear it.

The albums final track “Fireal” is one of the most experimental tracks on the album. Mixing noise rock with some art rock moments, the chorus is a mad jabber of mad and distorted metal. Pretty epic at moments too.

Overall, this album is a pretty great debut. Deftones have always been a different yet energetic band, and this debut pretty much has them landing with their feet on the ground and running in the right direction. Packed full of tunes and having some pretty killer riffs, the band showed major potential on this album, and I think it may be a tiny little bit

8/10

Genres: Alternative Metal, Post Hardcore, Experimental Rock, Nu Metal, Noise Rock, Rap Metal

Country of origin: USA

Year of release: 1995

CASUALTIES OF COOL Casualties of Cool

Album · 2014 · Non-Metal
Cover art 4.45 | 4 ratings
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Devin Townsend is a genius. I don't need to say anymore. But is he going mad?

After a 5 album string which pretty much showed no weakness, Devin pretty much did whatever he wanted and received a lot of success. But this was backed by record companies who oddly enough had enough faith in his music. So on this album, why did Devin turn his back on financial backing? To be honest, it makes perfect sense.

Devin is a modern music cult hero. Taking secret audiences around the world he has been able to sell out a lot of big gigs and festivals. But, having strayed away from his metal roots and gone for a rather odd country and blues rock sound, this may have alienated fans, or as he stated himself “people who liked Epicloud are gonna be pissed.” So did it work?

Ha. Did it work? Let's just say Devin became a rich man in only a short amount of days. Now, being the artist he is, a good amount of money is funding his next project, the ever awaiting sequel to “Ziltoid The Omniscient”, but if their ever was a reaction from fans to show their love, this surely is.

Now lets get down to the meat of the album and that is the music. Now this isn't too much of a dramatic change for Devin musically, in fact Devin experimented with some of this older rock and blues sound on “Ki”, but decided to flesh it more out. The album is also a daring leap for Devin because this isn't a solo album. In fact the album is a collaboration with singer songwriter Ché Aimee Dorval who did vocals before on “Ki.” As much as I love Devin's songwriting I always found a lack of cohesion in his stuff at times, and I think Ché's vocals, songwriting and lyrics really fleshed out Devin's experimental songwriting style. The only negative I can have with this album is that it is so different musically that you have to kind of getting used to it and I think that this is an album that needs a few listens before you can really love it. I can't see anyone hating this album though.

Opener “Daddy” is a brilliant introduction to the album. Taking the blues rock sound and adding a lot of Devin's personal quirks, the song soon turns into a sonic hailstorm of sound. The same can be said with “Mountaintop” which continues the blues sound and mixes with some rather melancholic melodies, especially with Ché's vocals.

My favorite song on this album would have to be “Flight.” A very simple idea with some beautiful melodies and a few interesting changes throughout, the song is incredibly beautiful. Lyrically the song deals with suicide and is one of the best penned lyrics about the subject. A beautiful piece of music and definitely up there with some of my all time favorite tracks of all time.

A very interesting track can be seen in the form of “Moon.” Starting off very spacey and with a lot of limited space, the song then explodes into a mix of groaning vocals and some beautiful saxophone playing.

One of the albums strongest tracks has to be “Bones.” Lyrically the song is one of the most relating to the concept, with some very interesting words and images being presented. The music of the song adopts a rather baroque pop feeling and it works incredibly well, especially with Ché's vocals.

One of the oddest tracks on the album would have to be “Deathscope.” Supposed to be the angry side of the protagonist, the song shows off some of Devin's metal material from the past and the dynamic vocals he has.

The album closer “The Bridge” is very reminiscent to the track “Ki” for me. Starting off slow and calm before building up to a massive climax and pays off very well. Experimenting with choirs and flutes, the song is a very experimental move for Devin's work. Great ending to the album (not including “Pure” which is a bit silly and long).

Overall, this album impressed me and confused me. It confused me because I don't know whether I should love it or like it. At the moment I'm on the cusp of loving it. Devin has really been able to create something very unique in his catalogue and really step out of his comfort zone for this one.

8.5/10

Genres: Blues Rock, Country, Alternative Country, Country Rock, Ambient, Progressive Rock, Baroque Pop, Experimental Rock, Post Rock, Experimental Metal

Country of origin: Canada

Year of release: 2014

HAMMERFALL (r)Evolution

Album · 2014 · Power Metal
Cover art 3.81 | 5 ratings
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arcane-beautiful
If you haven't guessed it by now, I have an incredible soft spot for power metal. Now, I'm not a major fan, I do think some bands can be a bit stale and repetitive. I also believe that some bands can maybe be a bit too cheesy. Now Hammerfall are cheesy...but they are pretty great songwriters too and are band that are incredibly technically efficient and have a very underrated vocalist in the form of Joacim Cans.

Ever since their first hiatus, the band came back with a sound that was unparalleled and was even better than their early days. “Chapter V: Unbent, Unbowed, Unbroken” and “Threshold” would be up their with some of power metals best. But sadly the follow up “No Sacrifice, No Victory” was a slight let down. “Infected” was actually a step in a better direction but didn't see much acclaim from audiences, resulting the in the band going on another hiatus. The band are now back, showing promises and traits of their earlier days, proto and post first hiatus.

Musically the band show flickers of their old sound, but do now and then show off some of the dark moments which sprung up on their last 4 albums. In many ways, the band are still doing what they have always been doing. Some of the cheese which they tried to loose is back, but a bit of cheese never hurt anyone, especially when the songs are good, and proven on this album...they are.

I do admit, I did prefer the band whenever they had their classic line up. While Pontus is an absolutely astounding guitar player, I always think Stefan Elmgreen was and is more to my taste. The band have shown some experimental moments on this album too and it ends up being rather enjoyable at times...but it's all about the cheese.

Opening track “Hector's Hymn” is very much a return to form for the band. An anthem dedicated to their mascot, the song is pretty anthemic and would be perfect for opening live gigs off. The music video for this song is pretty cool, which pretty much builds a narrative around their old album covers.

The album's lead single “Bushido” is definitely one of the strongest on the album. With some pretty spellbinding guitar work, the song is carried well with a pretty great sing-along and powerful chorus. Anthemic and fun, how could you not like it.

Two very interesting tracks on the album would be “Ex Inferis” & “Evil Incarnate.” Taking a darker lyrical stance, the band talk about Satan and evil and stuff, which is a big step away from warriors and templars of steel. The songs musical styles have heavier riffs and “Evil Incarnate” even has some death growls spreading on it.

My favorite song on the album would probably be “Winter Is Coming.” Now, I am a big “Game of Thrones” fan so this is a little biased, but other than that, I do think this is one of the most unique songs in Hammerfall's catalogue. Showing off a great vocal performance from Joacim and a pretty cool slow arrangement, the song is pretty epic.

One of the cheesiest songs on the album and probably one of the most enjoyable songs would have to be “Tainted Metal.” A great sing along chorus with some cheesy moments and oddly funny lyrics, you gotta love the pure nostalgia of this tune. One of the fastest tracks on the album too.

One of the oddest tracks on the album would have to be “Wildfire.” With an odd and rather epic chorus with some pretty cool choir sections, the song has a rather symphonic approach to it. One of the most interesting tracks Hammerfall has ever made.

Overall, this is pretty much a return to form. The band still have a slight edge to their sound from their past releases, but the cheesiness and anthems are back. If you want to put on some leather, grow your hair and bang your fist into the air, this is an album for you.

7.9/10

Genres: Power Metal, Heavy Metal, Hard Rock, Fist, Speed Metal, Symphonic Metal

Country of origin: Sweden

Year of release: 2014

OPETH Pale Communion

Album · 2014 · Non-Metal
Cover art 3.68 | 39 ratings
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arcane-beautiful
Opeth have had a very interesting past few years. With the release of their last album “Heritage”, the band have had mixed opinions due to their change in sound. One of the biggest problems is the loss of the death metal vocals. Now, I really don't mind if the death metal vocals are not their, in fact “Damnation” is probably one of my favorite Opeth album, but I will admit that the mix of the two styles in their earlier material is probably the reason I got into the band in the first place.

While many people will complain that Opeth aren't the same band anymore we have to take into consideration that these guys are getting older. Mikael really can't growl the way he did 10 years ago and I really respect their decision to loose the death growls. But while Mikael's vocals have gruffly diminished, he has been able to explore the diversity of his clean vocals.

Musically the album is pretty much a progressive rock album with the metal bits saturated. Now I know what your saying...”same as “Heritage” I bet. Well no. I remember seeing Opeth live during their tour for their last album and all I could think of was “this is like stoner psychedelic music”...which it was. This album is a lot more classic prog so I find it very much more enjoyable with more fluid arrangements with less improvisation and more sustenance.

Opener “Eternal Rains Will Come” is a great intro to the album. Starting off with blazing organs and clashing rhythms it then morphs into a more easier listening track with some pretty cool multi layered vocals.

“Cusp Of Eternity” is one of the heavier songs on the album. Reminding me of a more classic heavy metal style, the song has some pretty cool riffs and is a good little nod to an older metal sound.

“Moon Above, Sun Below” is the albums longest track and is probably one of the most diverse tracks on the album. Full of many different moving parts, the real highlight has to be the diversity of Mikael's vocals, showing off some clean gruffness which is a big departure from the evil growls on previous albums.

The ballad of the album “Elysian Woes” is an interesting and soothing moment on the album. I was pretty impressed by the instrumentation of this track, showing some pretty mature and experimental choices of arrangements for guitar and keyboards.

The albums instrumental “Goblin” is an interesting tribute to the 70s prog band Goblin. Full of proggy organs and some interesting prog instrumentation, the song is a prog lovers wet dream.

One of my favorite tracks on the album would have to be “River.” Starting off with a very almost joyous feel, this track is very different to what the band have ever done before, with a more lighter and nicer sound to the bands repertoire with very little bleakness or Gothic undertones. May be a new direction for the band.

In conclusion, this album surprised me. I went in expecting to hate it, but I was generally impressed by what I heard. These guys are never going to go back to their earlier styles, but at least it seems they are moving in a better direction than everyone thought they would. A great listen I would recommend to modern and older prog fans.

8.1/10

Genre: Progressive Rock, Progressive Metal, Hard Rock, Doom, Psychedelic Rock, Prog Folk, Folk Rock, Jazz Fusion, Heavy Metal

Country of origin: Sweden

Year of release: 2014

CONCEPTION The Last Sunset

Album · 1991 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 3.71 | 17 ratings
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I won't lie. I am a bit of a Kamelot fan. How could you not love them. Roy Khan is very much one of the sexiest metal singers alive (I'm relying more on the timbre of his voice, rather than actual appearance...as a gay man, he is alright looking). When I first got into the band I was shocked to know that he was not the bands original vocalist and that before he even joined the band he was in a full blooded progressive metal band from Norway called Conception. I was even more joyous to find a copy of their first album in a second hand shop. Win win nostalgic situation.

One of the most interesting parts of the bands sound is the interesting mixture of metal and now and then flamenco guitar moments which spruce up. Mostly the band do have a pretty standard prog metal meets power metal sound. Sound wise the band pretty much have it down, but because this is a first album, you can't expect perfection.

One of the biggest problems with this album would have to be the production. Everything on this album sounds very weak and very quiet. The guitar sound especially. The riffs on this album are pretty cool, but the production just makes it sound very weak. The vocals are mixed very badly too, with Khans voice being rather quiet. It really should be against the law to have as little focus put on Roy Khans voice, cause it is very unique, even if he does sound like a pre pubescent teen on this album (which he probably was at this point).

The opening track “Building A Force” is a pretty great opener with one of the best chorus on the album. Killer riffs and some nice vocals from Khan too.

“War Of Hate” is probably one of the most heavy songs on the album. Having some rather groove metal influenced riffs the band show off their heavier sound. Sadly the production doesn't bode well with the heavy sound of this track.

One of my favorite tracks on the album would have to be “Fairy's Dance.” Having some folk influences, the song's lyrics also tell of a rather comical fantasy inspired tale. Some nice guitar work throughout too.

The title track is probably one of the most interesting moments on the album. Showing off the bands more gentler side, Khans vocals are pretty stellar, with him singing some of the highest notes I've ever heard him sing.

The final track “Among The Gods” is the longest composition on the album. The first half is rather interesting, with a lot of interesting tempo changes throughout. The ending is pretty much an extended instrumental section and I believe it overstays its welcome. Bit too long, but still pretty interesting.

In conclusion, for a debut this album is alright. The passion and material is pretty much there, but you can tell this is very much a band trying to find its feet. The band would go on to do better things, both as Conception and other projects which followed.

6.7/10

Genres: Progressive Metal, Power Metal, Speed Metal, Heavy Metal, Progressive Rock

Country of origin: Norway

Year of release: 1993

ANATHEMA Distant Satellites

Album · 2014 · Non-Metal
Cover art 3.70 | 19 ratings
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Anathema to me can do no wrong. After their last album being an epic masterpiece, and their previous effort being a brilliant album in its own right, I was so incredibly stoked for this album.

The band have shown an almost found love for what they do after coming back from a hiatus in 2009, and their new reinvigorated sound means that the band have been able to release albums consistently every 2 years.

Musically the album takes a darker move than compared to their last two albums and touches upon some sounds from “A Natural Disaster.” While “Weather Systems” was very much a bright and joyous album, this one touches upon more melancholic feelings. There are some very beautiful and joyous moments throughout, but this is definitely one of the bands darkest albums in the past few years.

The album also seems to have two very noticeable sounds. While the first half is very much a prog rock album, the other half dwells on more experimental and electronic sounds. Now it does make the album a little less cohesive, but it does make the album that much more interesting.

The opening track “The Lost Song Part 1” is an epic opener. Opening with some beautiful strings the song goes into an offbeat drum pattern with some brilliant instrumental decorations. A brilliant and passionate vocal performance from Vincent and Lee also adds a lot of depth to the song.

One of the biggest growers on the album would have to be “The Lost Song Part 2.” While “Ariel” was tugging at my heart strings these past few days, this one has probably over shadowed it. In fact, this is definitely up there with my favorite Anathema songs and would probably be one of the most beautiful songs ever written. A beautiful arrangement and some heart felt vocals from Lee, the track can almost bring a grown man to tears.

My personal favorite track on the album would have to be “Ariel.” An almost sister song to “The Lightning Song”, it is a more melancholic departure for the band. Incredibly beautiful with some brilliant clashes and crescendos.

One of the darkest tracks on the album would have to be “Anathema.” Building up and climaxing into and epic chorus and a pretty amazing ending guitar solo, the song is a very emotional track with some brilliant clashes and crescendos throughout.

“You're Not Alone” is a very interesting track. With some electronic beats and over layered vocals, the song bursts into a heavy and clashing ending. Probably one of the heaviest songs on the album.

The title track is an interesting take for the band. Focusing more on the electronic sound of the band, its a very soft song with some beautiful melodies. I do feel the song does drag on a tiny bit too long, but it is pretty good nontheless.

The albums ending “Take Shelter” is a very soft and beautiful way to end the album. With some light falsetto vocals from Vincent and trip hop inspired beats, the song ends very beautifully...as an Anathema album should do.

In conclusion, I don't prefer this to their last album “Weather Systems.” But in all honesty, “Weather Systems” is probably one of my favorite albums ever recorded. This album is a brilliant follow up and a masterpiece of songwriting. Experimental and a step in the right direction, the band have again proved that they are probably the most interesting musical act going. This album takes a good bit of time to digest...but when it does, the after taste is sweeter than honey.

9/10

Genres: Progressive Rock, Experimental Rock, Electronic, Symphonic Rock, Art Rock, Post Rock, Pop Rock, Hard Rock, Trip Hop

Country of origin: England

Year of release: 2014

DREAM THEATER Black Clouds & Silver Linings

Album · 2009 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 3.57 | 124 ratings
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After the success of “Systematic Chaos” due to a popularity rise from their record deal with Roadrunner records, the band went back into the studio to record another. Now before it's release, Portnoy's mouth didn't stop running, saying that this album would be like “having “Octavarium”, “Pull Me Under” and “A Change Of Seasons” all on the same album.” Now this isn't true, basically there's an 8 minute song and 2 songs that are near 20 minutes. But what really is this album like...well to tell you the truth when this album came out...I was disappointed and to this day I'm not as disappointed...but I am still not loving this album.

Musically the band decided to go into a more darker direction. The band have been promising a darker album for ages, so this is what we get, with a lot more focus on minor chords and such. Now, tone wise this isn't too bad. In fact most of the problems lie with the material, which mostly is good. It's just fragments of the songs which really let the tracks down. Some are too long and some are quite weak. One big positive is that this may be the best I've heard James' voice in a very long time, with him pulling off some great vocal moments.

The special edition of this album would be worth getting a buy, because it does feature a bonus disc full of cover songs. Now, the band does do covers pretty well and I won't dwell upon them too much, but there are some interesting versions of these songs. The Queen melody for one is brilliant with a very interesting vocal performance from James LaBrie. “Stargazers” and “To Tame A Land” are also brilliantly crafted too.

The album opener “A Nightmare To Remember” is another song which could have been a brilliant and classic Dream Theater song. Starting off with a riff which is pretty much a slower version of Cradle Of Filths “The Promise Of Fever,” showing off extreme metal and black metal influence. The main body has some great twists and turns but the real catcher of this track would have to be the slower part. A brilliantly crafted melody with some great vocal harmonies, this is one of the shining moments on the album. Sadly the track goes into some mediocre instrumental passages and then it happens. A section of the song which has a death metal influence...so the bands crazed drummer decides to take the mic and do one of the worst impersonations of death metal. This has to be one of the most embarrassing moments on the bands career. Luckily there is a live version the band did with Mikael from Opeth doing the growls, and it sounds way better. The song does close off pretty well with some surprising blast beats and luckily it doesn't drag too much. I do feel a lot of this song needed to be trimmed off, but there are moments on this song which are incredibly majestic.

The first single to be dropped from the album “A Rite Of Passage” is probably one of my least favorite Dream Theater songs. It starts off pretty well with a pretty good riff, but the first verse is terrible with stupid effects and reverb on the vocals. Luckily the chorus is pretty good and the second verse does pick up and become more enjoyable, but the instrumental section comes out of nowhere, but I did like the noisy and interesting keyboard solo from Jordan. The lyrics are also a bit poor due to a lack of knowledge about the song's topic (it's about Freemasons by the way). Probably the poorest song on the album.

The song which I would probably agree has no problems on it would be “Wither.” The ballad for the album, the song is perfectly crafted and beautifully written. It does verge on cheese at times, but a bit of cheese never hurt anybody. The lyrics which deal with writers block are beautifully written and the wordplay is pretty good too.

“The Shattered Fortress” being the last of the 12 Steps Suite does seem to be a song which is supposed to tie loose ends. Now, after the release of this album, Portnoy did explain that this suite did almost seem like homework at times for the band. Some moments on this song do have some nice moments, but other than that it is basically a re hashing of old ideas from previous songs. I will let some riff slide, but it is very deja vu.

Trying to lay into the “The Best Of Times” is rather tough due to the nature and background of the track (with it being about Portnoy's dad who sadly passed away), but there are some minor flaws. The intro is absolutely beautiful, with some beautiful piano work from Jordan and a brilliant violin accompaniment. Then the song goes into ultra Rush mode. Now being heavily influenced by Rush and Rush being one of Portnoy's father's favorite band, I will let the obvious rip off fly. The lyrics are decent being very direct and personal to Portnoy, but I did prefer his lyricism on “A Change Of Seasons” (being about the death of his mother) to be better due to better crafted metaphors and word play. The song is one of the strongest on the album, but it still could have been handled way better.

“The Count Of Tuscany” starts off with one of the most beautiful sections the band has ever composed with some amazing guitar work from John Petrucci. As the idea expands it then crashes into a metal riff that easily could be found in a Trivium song. Now, riff wise it's not too bad, with LaBrie doing a great delivery of Petrucci's lyrics about a man he met on holiday in Tuscany. The chorus is really what lets this down. While having a great melody, the chorus is ruined by Portnoy's failed attempts at death growls. As the song moves on the instrumental sections are enjoyable with some Zappa influenced synth sounds. Then the song slows down with a Pink Floyd interlude. Then the last 8-9 minutes is one of the best compositions Dream Theater has composed. Very simple in nature, it tells the rest of the story perfectly with some beautiful instrumental passages. Sadly this song could have been so good, a staple in the bands career, but it missed the mark just slightly.

In conclusion, this is probably my least favorite Dream Theater album. But...this album has some of the bands best moments in their whole career. In fact, I find that mostly every song would be a brilliant track, but due to arrangements is usually left feeling very flawed and uninspired. I do blame Portnoy's almost obsessive control over the bands music. Luckily after his departure the band re ignited their former passions. I would recommend this for certain moments, but other than that this album is the perfect example of so close but yet so far.

6.9/10

Genres: Progressive Metal, Progressive Rock, Extreme Metal, Heavy Metal, Hard Rock. Symphonic Metal, Symphonic Rock

Year of release: 2009

Country of origin: USA

MASTODON Once More 'Round the Sun

Album · 2014 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 4.04 | 25 ratings
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What really can I say about Mastodon. Ever since these guys came out, they have been receiving nothing but praise. I even have seen people describe them as the most important metal band out at the moment...and I have to agree. These guys have been surprising audiences and critics alike for over 10 years now have been wowing pretty much anybody who listens to them.

After the success and absolute madness that was “Crack The Skye”, the band returned to their metal roots with “The Hunter” but where showing some slight touches towards a more contemporary style. Now they have pretty much gone fully contemporary. Musically the album has the band going towards the light of...popular music. Now don't get me wrong, they aren't doing songs with Avici or Nicki Minaj, but the band are sounding a lot more polished and poppier. The songs definite have a lot more focus on chorus and standard song structures with melodic phrasing. Drummer Brann Dailor's vocals are now way more prominent, which I believe to be a good thing because I think he has a brilliant voice. I have heard a few people criticise Brent's vocals on this album, but I think his vocals are better than ever. Now and then his vocals can be rather hard to interpret, but melodically they sound great. And as always, Troy's vocals are getting better album by album.

Now, this album isn't perfect, I do have some gripes. The first half does slightly eclipse the second half, but I overall don't think there is a bad song on this album. One slight gripe I have is with the production. Now having a lot more noticeable and catchier vocal hooks, I do feel that the vocals are a bit too low in the mix. While I do like Brann's vocals becoming more prominent I feel his drumming is lacking on this album. On albums like “Leviathan” and “Blood Mountain”, Brann's drumming was almost Keith Moon in nature. On this album, they are pretty normal. Still impressive but nothing mindblowing sadly.

The opening track “Tread Lightly” is a brilliant opener. An all out riff fest, the song also shows off the vocals from Troy and Brann, with some nice hooks and musical moments throughout.

One of the albums best tracks has to be “The Motherload.” Having a rather 80's Ozzy Osbourne feel to it, Brann gives off one of his best vocal performances singing a great chorus. Probably the catchiest song on the album and a possible next single.

The album's lead single “High Road” is the perfect choice. Starting off with a black metal influenced riff, the verses are heavy as hell before the chorus kicks in with a rather anthemic feel behind it. The real moment to shine on this track has to be the guitar solos in the middle 8. The music video for this song is also pretty great too.

“Chimes At Midnight” to me reminds me of previous track “Black Tongue.” Packed full of kick ass riffs and boasting a brilliant vocal performance from Troy. One of the most interesting instrumental songs on the album and being more focused towards Mastodon's previous sounds.

“Asleep In The Deep” is probably one of the most unique songs the band have made so far. At times the song edges on pop/indie rock sounds before turning into a space rock mammnoth by the end. Some great vocals by Brann and Troy throughout too.

One of the oddest tracks on the album has to be “Aunt Lisa.” Being rather ecclectic with its arrangements, it has some odd twists and turns, including an ending with female gang vocals.

The final and longest track on the album “”Diamond In The Witch House” is a song which features Scott Kelly from Neurosis. One of the least catchiest songs but musically interesting songs, it truncheons along like a Mastodon would do if they where still walking about today. I do think this sounds too familiar to Kelly's band Neurosis, but it does have some nice moments throughout.

In conclusion, this album pretty much proves the band can't make a bad album. Going into a more mainstream direction can be dangerous territory for certain artists, but Mastodon have been able to 'Tread Lightly' into a more contemporary style while still being true to themselves. Packed full of tunes and opening many doors for the band. Godspeed to them as they continue to make great music.

8.3/10

Genres: Heavy Metal, Hard Rock, Progressive Rock, Progressive Metal, Pop Rock, Sludge, Space Rock

Country of origin: USA

Year of release: 2014

DREAM THEATER Awake

Album · 1994 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 4.06 | 139 ratings
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After the incredibly successful “Images & Words”, the band where on a pedestal. The problem with releasing a masterpiece is that you have to follow it up with another masterpiece. Now, this album was met with a tiny bit of confusion when released, but I do believe that out of all their albums, this album is probably the one which has aged the best.

The album is definitely a lot more darker than any of Dream Theater's other releases, and I think the reason is because they were a band that got dicked about a lot by their record company. At around this period, metal was starting to go towards a heavier and groovier motion (with the birth of Nu Metal on the rise), so the band where convinced to go heavier. These guys could have really faked this notion and released a god awful Pantera rip off, but the band where able to adopt this style and meld it into their own very successfully.

Sadly this album was the last to feature Kevin Moore. Apparently he became very introverted during the making of this album, but there is something about his playing and sound that I really love on this album. James' vocals are also some of the best I've ever heard him. Sadly this album was made before his tragic vomiting food poisoning incident which damaged his vocal chords. But, for all we know, this album is the one which wrecked his voice.

The opening track “6:00” is a drummers wet dream. Opening off with a very noticeable drum intro the song turns into a pretty great pop metal tune. The rather comical lyrics and sound clips also add a lot of atmosphere to the track too.

“Caught In A Web” is probably one of the most aggressive and heaviest songs the band have released. With some pretty heavy riffs and a brilliant keyboard riff, the song is really propelled by James' incredibly rough and angry vocals.

The album's instrumental “Erotomania” is definitely up there with one of the bands best instrumental pieces. Technically proficient with some pretty great riffs, the song is pretty impressive.

One of my personal favorite tracks has to be “Voices.” A brilliant composition with some brilliant arrangements, the song really is a surprising shining moment from the band. With incredibly poetic and cryptic lyrics that deal with mental health, the song is a beautiful and twisted tune with some very haunting moments.

A very weird choice for a single, “The Silent Man” is an acoustic ballad. With a very nice arrangement with some nice lyrics and a great performance from James, the song is very touching. I have had a great history with this song (having covered it a lot of times myself) and is up there with one of my favorite Dream Theater ballads.

A song that has started to grow on me would be “Lifting Shadows Off A Dream.” I do think this is a bit of a rip off of U2's sound, but the poetic lyrics and great keyboard riffs do save this song. I know a lot of fans really like this song, but I do know when to call a bluff a a bluff, and this is a bit of a bluff.

The album's longest track “Scarred” is a very interesting tune. With some pretty cool riffs and a pretty mad vocal performance from James, the song really comes to a climax with an amazing instrumental section in the middle of the track.

The album closer “Space-Dye Vest” is a very different moment for the band. Being a solo composition from Kevin Moore, the song is a very minimalist composition with very simple keyboard riffs and a low pitched vocal performance from James. Brilliant ending to the album.

In conclusion, this album is pretty much a classic Dream Theater album. After making the album of their career in “Images & Words” and go through some serious turbulence, the band came back with a dark and brooding masterpiece. It may not be my favorite Dream Theater album, but it definitely is a milestone in the bands career.

8.9/10

Genres: Progressive Metal, Progressive Rock, Heavy Metal, Groove Metal, Hard Rock, Pop Rock

Country of origin: USA

Year of release: 1994

DREAM THEATER A Dramatic Turn of Events

Album · 2011 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 3.86 | 112 ratings
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This album has a bit of history behind it. After the dramatic departure of drummer Mike Portnoy (I remember a similar reaction whenever the last pope died), the metal world was split. You either now loved Dream Theater or hated Dream Theater due to the decision of one band member. Personally I couldn't really care. Mike Portnoy is a brilliant drummer and yes he did bring a certain flair to the band, but change is always good, for better or for worse. So with the dramatic change, the band started the hunt for a drummer, in an almost Simon Cowell manner with auditions and videos showing the audition. Bit cheesy, but it seemed to be beneficial for the band as they where able to hire drum genius Mike Mangini to join the band.

Personally I think this change has done them for the better. Their last album “Black Clouds & Silver Linings” I personally saw as a bit of a mixed bag, and Portnoy's demanding influence seems to be the reason for some of the albums weakest moments. But now that his overt personality is not seen on this album, it is replaced with a more group effort. Sadly Mangini did not contribute any composition work on this album, but his drumming is still impressive nontheless

The only slight criticism I would have with this album is the production. I wasn't too fond of Portnoy's drum mixes on previous albums, but I fear that maybe the drums on this album have been turned down a tad too much. It is nice to hear the band become not so percussion heavy, but a slight turn up would be good. The guitar mixing I believe to be very muddy as well. There is something about Petrucci's tone on this album which I am not the biggest fan of. I would admit that this may be the best album to hear John Myung's bass, with some pretty impressive musical moments from the man himself. Jordan's keyboards have finally spruced up too, with less experimentation with new technology, approaching with a more classical approach on this album.

The opening track and Grammy nominated lead single “On The Backs Of Angels” is a pretty great opener. With some pretty kick ass riffs, it starts off the album on a good note. I was surprised to see this song get a Grammy nomination, with it being an 8 minute track, but these guys do pull of a pretty great prog metal track, with a lot more prog rock than metal.

My least favorite track on the album would have to be “Build Me Up, Break Me Down.” There are moments of the song I do like a lot, but at times it just sounds like a rip off of a Disturbed riff. The saving moment has to be James' crazy screams in the chorus.

“Lost Not Forgotten” starts off with a beautiful piano intro before exploding into one of the most technically efficient songs on the album. The instrumental section also has some pretty killer riffs too.

One of the album's ballads “This Is The Life” has some pretty great instrumental moments and arrangements. James' vocals on the song are also pretty great, showing off some very diverse moments too.

“Bridges In The Sky” is probably the heaviest track on the album. Using his 7 string, Petrucci really shows off some pretty kick ass riffs on this track. The chorus is also one of the strongest on the album too. The intro is a bit odd and silly, but the real meat and bones of the track is where the song really takes shape.

One of the most oddest compositions on the album has to be “Outcry.” Starting off as a rather anthemic rock track, the song moves into a rather eclectic instrumental section with a lot of experimentation with atonal and chromatic music moments. The song does take a while to get into, but it's impressive nontheless.

One of my personal favorite tracks has to be “Far From Heaven.” A beautiful piano and string arrangement, the song deals with the topic of forceful parents who work their children to the bone. Brilliant lyrics and a brilliant vocal performance from James, the song is rather touching.

The albums longest track and definite strongest moment on the album is the 12 minute epic “Breaking All Illusions.” Now I know that Dream Theater get a lot of abuse for showing too much virtuostic musical ability, but I think this song is an example of the band showing virtuostic talent, but still in a very musical and compositional manner.

The album's closing track “Beneath The Surface” is another ballad that displays some beautiful melodies. I do like the rather minimalist approach behind this song and shows that the band can tone it down to make something rather special. Odd but good way to end the album.

In conclusion, this is probably up there with one of my favorite Dream Theater albums. After having gone through certain difficult circumstances, the band where able to prove that they are very much still relevant. Whether that still holds up today, I'm not sure. But this album definitely proves that the band have still got it in them to take the crown of Prog Metal kings.

8.2/10

Genres: Progressive Metal, Progressive Rock, Hard Rock, Heavy Metal, Symphonic Rock, Symphonic Prog

Country of origin: USA

Year of release: 2011

DRAGONFORCE Valley of the Damned

Album · 2003 · Power Metal
Cover art 3.36 | 26 ratings
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For most bands, debut's can be a real hit or miss time. Most bands (especially metal bands) I know really show themselves on their second albums. Now, some bands can get lucky and release a stellar debut album...and then fade into existence.

Dragonforce I believe are very much a band that really propelled with their second album (with Sonic Firestorm being my personal favorite album from these guys). But, I always find that a bands debut for me is like a guilty pleasure, and I must admit...this album is a guilty pleasure. I have to admit, some of the tunes on this album are

Musically and lyrically the band are pretty much what you expect. This is their first album, so their sound hasn't changed too much from there future sounds, but this is the genesis of the band, showing off what they can and can't do. I have read some reviews of this album with people comparing them to Spinal Tap, and I can kind of see why. Dragonforce are a band for fun, and you really don't need to take these guys too seriously.

One criticism I have with the album is the mixing. Now to be honest, as a first try this is pretty decent, but with most Dragonforce albums the vocals are way too low in the mix and the guitars are up way too high, and with this album this statement is exceptionally true.

The opening title track is probably one of my all time favorite Dragonforce songs. Opening with a kick ass riff, the song takes many nice twists and turns. The song is really propelled though by ZP's incredible vocals. Some killer guitar solos in this track too.

One of my personal favorite tracks on the album has to be “Disciples Of Babylon.” Probably one of the most interesting compositions Dragonforce has written, with a bit of a different take on melodies followed by an instrumental section which mixes progressive rock with some jazz fusion and folk rock moments. The track also has a pretty epic chorus to boot.

A Dragonforce album wouldn't be complete without a cheesy power ballad. “Starfire” is a pretty decent ballad for the band, but it is incredibly cheesy. It does break the mood of the album slightly and it is pretty obvious what the band where trying to do, but this is a pretty enjoyable bit of cheese.

The album's final track “Heart Of A Dragon” is very much an official anthem for the band. With a cheesy chorus and some fist pumping multi layered vocals, the song is like the bands theme tune. Don't think this is a major live staple, but I could imagine the band signing off with a song like this.

In conclusion, this album is a pretty brilliant debut. Yes, the band aren't the most serious metal band on the planet, but power metal isn't exactly the most serious genres out there. A great debut with some absolute tunes. This would definitely be up there with my favorite Dragonforce albums.

8.2/10

Genres: Power Metal, Speed Metal, Fist, Progressive Metal, Progressive Rock

Country of origin: England (With members from South Africa, Hong Kong & Ukraine)

Year of release: 2003

DRAGONFORCE Ultra Beatdown

Album · 2008 · Power Metal
Cover art 2.66 | 23 ratings
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After releasing their album which would cement them in the annals of metal history, the band decided to follow up their two classic releases with a dip in the experimental pool. Now, the band didn't strive too far away from their sound (this is Dragonforce, they never really change), but there are slight changes in their original plans of songwriting, with some changes in sounds and arrangements.

Musically the band saw a slight departure from their last album. The speed has been toned down a tiny wee bit as heard on previous material with only slight dips in tempo now and then. While I would claim this album to be the band's most experimental release, it still doesn't strive too far from the power metal sound, but it does incorporate some elements of progressive metal and at times black and death metal.

Sadly this would be ZP's last album with the band. I was sad to see him leave the band because what was heard on this album could have been the start of something rather interesting for the bands career. Yes the band are going in a slightly different direction, I do think ZP's voice is one of the most unique in power metal.

The album's opening track “Heroes Of Our Time” is definitely one of the bands most strongest singles to date. Incredibly anthemic in nature, the song has an incredibly catchy chorus with some pretty great multi layered vocals.

One of the album's strongest hooks can be heard on “The Fire Still Burns.” A brilliant chorus with one of ZP's best vocal performances, it soars above many of the tracks on this album.

One of album's most interesting tracks has to be “Reasons To Live.” Instrumentally showing off some insane blast beats and noisy instrumental sections, the song is able to counter act the madness with a pretty melodic and catchy chorus.

One of the album's longest songs and one of the bands biggest achievements has to be “The Last Journey Home.” Full of interesting twists and turns and some pretty smart arrangements, the song is one of Dragonforce's most unique compositions.

Two songs which in my opinion really let the album down are “Heartbreak Armageddon” and “Inside The Winter Storm.” These songs aren't particularly bad, its just that they are pretty much Dragonforce by numbers, and really slow the album down, especially with the experimental feel which is found in most tracks on this album. Pretty forgetful hooks too.

The album's bonus tracks “Strike Of The Ninja” and “Scars Of Yesterday” are actually two of the albums strongest songs. While “Strike Of The Ninja” technically is a cover song from Sam and ZP's side project Shadow Warriors. Short and to the point with a catchy chorus to boot, the song has a lot of staying power that this album badly needed. “Scars Of Yesterday”is probably the bands most experimental track to date, with some riffs tending to move towards black metal territory at times. An interesting listen no doubt.

In conclusion, this does at times put forward and interesting take on the bands sound, but all sounds can become too familiar after a while. Has some decent tunes and in my opinion could have been a brilliant step in the right direction for the band.

6.8/10

Genres: Power Metal, Fist, Speed Metal, Progressive Metal, Experimental Metal

Country of origin: England (with members coming from South Africa, Hong Kong, France and Ukraine)

Year of release: 2008

EPICA The Quantum Enigma

Album · 2014 · Symphonic Metal
Cover art 4.10 | 19 ratings
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While I did enjoy Epica's last album “Requiem For The Indifferent”, I did think that it was the bands weakest albums. I did like the change in direction that the band where attempting, but I did feel that while they did write some brilliant tracks, there was a mad amount of filler. But now the band have steered towards their older stuff yet still have held their newer influences and sounds.

Musically the band have definitely went into a more heavier direction, with the guitar sound being a lot more prominent and heavier on this album. This album has also seen the band bring back the focus on choirs, with the choir being a big main attraction on this album. One of the bands biggest positives has to be Simone's vocals, which in my opinion are the best they've ever been.

One of the bands biggest attractions would have to be the bands lyrics, with the band going in some interesting directions. Dealing with concepts on humanities inability to deal with aspects of reality which are too hard to contemplate (explaining the reference to the id, ego and superego on the album cover). I do believe the band have some pretty cool lyrical moments on this album, but sometimes the bands lyrics can be a little bit generic, although very rarely though.

The opening track “The Second Stone” shows off one of the bands most interesting riffs in the past few years. Pretty catchy chorus carries the song too.

The first song to be previewed from the album “The Essence Of Silence” has to be one of the bands strongest and most interesting songs to come out in a while. With an epic choir adding to the bands epic sound, the songs real highlight is the chorus which shows off some very impressive vocals from Simone.

One of the albums most interesting tracks is “Sense Without Sanity -The Impervious Code” Lyrically dealing with a lot of different philosophical ideas being brought forward. The songs arrangement is also pretty interesting too.

The album's single “Unchain Utopia” is a rather interesting choice for a single. With a chorus which is channelled by a choir based chorus, it is rather catchy, but I do find better and more obvious examples which could be used as the albums lead single.

The albums interlude “The Fifth Guardian” is probably one of the bands best interludes in the past few years, with some lovely instrumental arrangements. The interlude is also a brilliant passage way into “Chemical Insomnia.” A kick ass guitar riff and a pretty cool chorus, this song is definitely one of the strongest tracks on the album. Lyrically the song has a lot of beautiful poetry, which is strange because the song (which is about drug abuse) is quiet hard to do, but the band have done it before in their classic track “Chasing The Dragon.”

One of the albums most anthemic and catchiest songs has to be “Omen – The Ghoulish Malady.” With an anthemic chorus and some pretty cool vocals, the song is one of the albums more sing all songs.

The album's final track “The Quantum Enigma – Kingdom Of Heaven Part II.” Being the bands most epic song in the past few years, with some pretty impressive arrangements, especially with some briliant clashes between clean and guttural vocals. Lyrically the song is pretty impressive too, attacking religion with some pretty interesting view points.

In conclusion, this is pretty much business as usual, but it is a definite step in the right direction when compared to “Requiem For The Indifferent”. By a long shot this isn't their best album, but it is a pretty strong effort nontheless. Packed full of surprising tunes and showing a heavier sound to the band, fans of the band will definitely love this album.

7.9/10

Genres: Symphonic Metal, Progressive Metal, Death Metal, Extreme Metal, Power Metal

Country of origin: Netherlands

Year of release: 2014

SWANS To Be Kind

Album · 2014 · Non-Metal
Cover art 4.16 | 7 ratings
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Swans are a band that I've let fly past me these past few years. Now don't blame me personally, it's just I have a mixed opinion about Pitchfork relate artists or hipster worthy bands (sometimes they are a bit too much style and not enough music). So after all this time, I have decided to give this band a chance. And of course, I'm glad I have.

If I had to describe this band to anyone, the best way to sum them up would be if The Velvet Underground where to jam with Captain Beefheart and Sleepytime Gorilla Museum. The band also have a rather Pixies take to their music, with a big focus on the loud and quiet dynamic of their music. The band have a brilliant ability of being able to take minimalist riffs and ideas, yet building upon them into big climaxes or to something completely different entirely.

While the album is mainly music, one thing I really love about this album is that the lyrics are very simple and almost mono syllabic at times. While the songs titles and music already paint a picture in your head, the lyrics are almost their to portray instantaneous emotions rather than telling actual stories.

The opening track “Screen Shot” is a brilliant example of what the band can do. With a soft start and a climactic build up, the soft to hard style of the bands classic stuff is shown. Brilliant start to the album.

“A Little God In My Hands” is another personal favorite of mine. The best way to describe this song is if the Pixies where to jam with Captain Beefheart and Current 93. A brilliant track with some absolutely brilliant vocals from Michael, showing off some insane vocals.

The album's longest track and the bands longest song to date, “Bring The Sun/Touissant L'Ouverture” is a massive piece of music. A multi layered and multi parted track, the song goes through a lot of different feelings and emotions. Starting off with a post metal opening and going into a psychedelic jam, it then explodes into a noisy chasm and then moves into a slow jam with Michael shouting and raving in both French and Spanish. Now, being over a half an hour long, I do believe that this song is pushing it a little bit, but I still think the experience of this track is a rollercoaster that is an interesting experience nontheless.

The album's second longest track “She Loves Us” is another interesting moment on the album. The song being rather slow in nature at first, it then explodes into a sonic wall with Michael screaming over the music with overly sexual suggested lyrics. Mad as a hatter, but it perfectly fits with the chaotic nature of the album.

One of my personal favorite tracks on the album has to be “Kirsten Supine.” Taking influence from Lars Von Trier's film “Melancholia”, the song shows of some rather delicate yet explosive sounds, very much like the film it was inspired by.

My favorite track on the album has to be “Oxygen.” With a mad mash of different rhythms throughout and some incredibly insane vocals from Michael. For some reason I am getting a Smashing Pumpkins vibe from this track, especially with the breakdowns with only vocals and drums.

The title track which ends off the album is an interesting anti folk influenced sonic build up. Some lovely instrumental work on this track showing off some of Swans instrumental technique, before becoming more dark and twisted near the end of the track.

In conclusion, this album shows off the bands styles and sounds in ways which have bettered their previous releases. While some songs may be a bit too lengthy and outstay their welcome a tad too much,, you can't deny that journey that some of these tracks take you on. A good example of a long double album not being exceedingly boring. These guys will always excite.

8.3/10

Genres: Experimental Rock, Noise Rock, Avant Garde Rock, RIO, Post Metal, Avant Garde Metal, Post Rock, Anti Folk, Art Rock, Progressive Rock

Country of origin: USA

Year of release: 2014

DRAGONFORCE Sonic Firestorm

Album · 2004 · Power Metal
Cover art 3.69 | 25 ratings
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With a pretty decent debut, the band really let themselves go on their 2nd album, showing off their complete skills and ability to compose some of modern power metals most classic anthems.

This album holds a lot of nostalgic ground with me, which may be one of the reasons I hold this album so close to my heart. But even with multiple listens over the past 10 years, this album still doesn't weaken in any way. With Power Metal, I do have a love hate relationships with certain bands, and at times Dragonforce fail to interest me. But in their earlier career, lets not forget that these guys where pretty unique. But with time their sound got a bit repetitive and some copy cat bands trying to attempt Dragonforce's success.

The production value when compared to the album that would follow (“Inhuman Rampage”) I actually prefer in comparison. The sound is moulded perfectly together, with the guitars on this album actually sounding like guitars, rather than sounding like Pac Man on steroids. The vocals are well mixed at times, but they can be rather low in the mix. Musically the band had adopted a more progressive style than heard on their debut “Valley Of The Damned,” with certain moments being rather experimental for a power metal band.

The album opener “My Spirit Will Go On” is the first track I ever heard from the band. I remember getting this song on a CD that came free with “Total Guitar” (a magazine for guitar players that sucks now because they seem to focus a bit too much on certain people, I'm guessing some back door payments have been made). I remember being blown away by the bands ability to play incredibly complex music yet have a large focus on composition. Opening the song with one of the heaviest riffs in the bands career, the song explodes into a frenzy of power metal glory. Lyrically this may be one of the bands strongest tracks, with some good lyrical moments throughout.

My favorite track on the album and probably my favorite track on the album has to be “Fury Of The Storm.” With one of the bands fastest and most aggressive riffs, the song is only made better by a soaring and anthemic chorus.

The album's ballad “Dawn Of A New World” is probably one of the bands best ballads to date. With a lot of interesting twists and turns throughout, the band show off some good composition skills in this track.

Another one of my personal favorites is the track “Across The Winter Moonlight.” Mixing ballad moments with a power/progressive metal, the song really is epic with probably ZP Theart's best vocals to date. Some brilliant instrumental sections in this song too.

The album's longest track and then band's longest composition to date “Soldiers Of The Wasteland.” Full of interesting instrumental twists and turns the songs biggest attraction is the epic chorus which includes some pretty cool multi layered vocals.

The album closer “Once In A Lifetime” is a brilliant ending to the album. An epic and anthemic song, the chorus is soaring with catchiness and just makes you want to grab a sword and repeatingly shove it up and down in the air.

In conclusion, this is an underlooked power metal classic. Yes the band have become more of a joke over the past few years and they didn't exactly take themselves too seriously on this album, but this album is definitely the bands greatest work to date. I really can't see them doing any better than this album, but time could suprise you.

9.1/10

Genres: Power Metal, Speed Metal, Progressive Metal, Fist, Heavy Metal, Hard Rock

Country of origin: England (with members coming from South Africa, Hong Kong, New Zealand and Ukraine)

Year of release: 2004

DRAGONFORCE Inhuman Rampage

Album · 2006 · Power Metal
Cover art 3.47 | 30 ratings
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Having released one of their most successful albums and in my opinion their masterpiece, the band had received some minor success in the UK metal scene. So, they decided to put their minds together and craft a pop metal album none of which has never been seen before.

Now this is the period in then bands career where they really saw who and what they where. They are fun. These guys aren't supposed to be taken seriously. In fact, most power metal bands shouldn't be taken seriously. Now, Dragonforce don't have the poetry of Sonata Arctica or the prop budget of Hammerfall, but they do have a sense of humour. Multi cultural and based in the UK, the band are like an EU version of the village people, except not gay and faster than the speed of light.

Musically the band have taken a spin from the well crafted power metal and added some newer influences. Faster and probably more melodic than the previous album, this album was pretty much gonna be a commercial success before its inception. The only criticism I have with the band is that I think the guitar sounds on this album have too much effects on them. Now and then, wah and whammy pedals do overly distort Herman and Sam's tones, which is a shame, cause some of the guitar work is bloody brilliant. Also, the video game effects can grow tiresome at times.

Lyrically most of these songs are all the same. I know I can be quite critical of bands with bad lyrics (take Bullet For My Valentine for instance), but with Dragonforce I take with a pinch of salt. This album (along with “The Power Within”) is probably the worst lyrical period for the band. A lot of the phrases and metal genercisms are stupid, but unlike Bullet For My Valentine for instance the band do have brilliant melodies to suit the poor lyrical choices.

The opening track and lead single “Through The Fire & Flames” is pretty much the song which broke the camels back for these guys. Now, “Sonic Firestorm” did see the band rise into popularity, but because of this song (with a lot of help from the Guitar Hero video games), the band seemed to take off over night. Now I have to admit, this is probably the one of the bands most catchiest songs and it does have some pretty kick ass moments, but by far is it their best song. I admit, it's definitely up there, but it doesn't compare to a lot of the tunes heard on the album previous. I do sing along everytime I hear it though.

“Revolution Deathsquad” is probably one of my personal favorites. One of the heaviest songs on the album, the track really hits a climax with the incredibly anthemic chorus, and showing off some pretty brilliant vocals from ZP. The black metally sounding vocals are also an added flavour too.

The album's second single “Operation Ground & Pound” is probably the most anthemic song on the album. With a catchy chorus and one of the bands best instrumental sections in my opinion, the band really shine on this track and show that they are not just a one hit wonder. The music video for this song is also very enjoyable too, with some funny comical moments throughout.

One of the album's most interesting tracks has to be “Body Breakdown.” Composed by keyboardist Vadim, the song has a slightly different instrumental path with a lot more focus on keyboards. Vadim always seems to take a backseat in the band, and it's great to see a composition of his show off his very creative and unique style of key work.

The album's longest track “Cry For Eternity” is a rather interesting track. With an interesting breakdown instrumental section in the middle, showing off some pretty impressive slap bass playing and clean guitar solos, the song is backed by a pretty anthemic chorus to boot.

The album's final track “Trail Of Broken Hearts” is a cheesy power ballad. Now, this is pure cheese, but it is a pretty nice song with some nice melodies throughout and a brilliant vocal performance from ZP. Great ending to the album too.

In conclusion, this album isn't the bands best, but it is a brilliant follow up to what I believe to be their masterpiece. The band have shown that their sound doesn't really change too much on this release, but I have to admit, there is a good few tunes on this album. If you want a fun power metal album with some catchy as hell songs, look no further, because this album would be perfect for you.

8.3/10

Genres: Power Metal, Speed Metal, Battle Metal, Progressive Metal, Fist, Hard Rock, Heavy Metal, Pop Rock

Country of origin: England (with members coming from South Africa, New Zealand, Hong Kong and Ukraine)

Year of release: 2006

DRACONIAN Turning Season Within

Album · 2008 · Doom Metal
Cover art 4.34 | 8 ratings
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Draconian are a band that I have kind of let slip past me these few years. In all honesty, I don't even remember buying this album, I just kind of always had it lying around. But now and then, when I'm in the mood I'll put this on. And...well. I love this album.

Now when it comes to Doom, I like a lot of aspects of it. But if I was to really pin point the main reason why I love doom, Draconian sum it up best (yep, even more than My Dying Bride). Their sound is just incredibly beautiful. Now it isn't beautiful in a major key kind of sense, but yet more in a minor chord melancholic sense. Personally, I just think their sound and songwriting ability is beautiful. If you haven't heard this band, the best way I can describe the sound of this band is they are like a slower and less complicated version of Opeth but with occasional spoken word passages and female vocals. I also love the use of keyboards throughout this album. Sadly the band don't have a full time keyboardist (at least on this album they don't), but the melody lines being accompanied by soaring mellotrons do add a mad amount of atmospheric tones to this album, making it really stand out in the doom genre.

Along with the beautiful music these guys make, the biggest positive aspect they have is the contrasts between harsh male vocals and clean female vocals. The male vocals are extremely impressive, with Anders being one of the best growlers I have heard in a long time. The female vocals are great as well. Albeit not the best female vocals I've heard and maybe not the most attractive melody lines, they still show a beautiful side to Anders harsh growls. The spoken word passages now and then are also something which isn't heard a lot in metal music, but they do add certain atmospheric tones to tracks now and then.

Lyrically the album is kind of a concept album, with each song detailing the breaking apart of a relationship between two people. Now, being a metal album, the lyrics take some rather Gothic twists, so expect some minor references to self harming and a lot of pathetic fallacy.

The album opener “Seasons Apart” shows off beautiful vocals from Lisa and mixing them with Anders guttural growls. Beautiful poetry and music surround the song too, creating a very brooding and melancholic atmosphere.

“When I Wake” is another personal favorite of mine. One of the heavier songs on the album, the song definitely shows off some of Anders best vocals. Some pretty killer riffs too.

The album's longest track “Earthbound” sees the band tackling a lot of different moods and atmospheres, with a lot of twists and turns, including piano interludes, bone crushing riffs and acoustic breakdowns.

My personal favorite song on the album is “Morphine Cloud.” An absolutely beautifully crafted song with one of the most beautiful riffs I have heard, showing that a guitar can be used in a more unique and heart-warming manner.

“The Empty Stare” is probably the song which should have been chosen as a single (not sure if a single was chosen for this album).

In conclusion, this is probably one of the best modern doom metal albums released in the past few years. The band have been able to successfully mould their own unique sound and have really carved a nice path for themselves. Terribly underrated and overly talented.

8.7/10

Genres: Doom, Melodic Death Metal, Death Metal, Gothic Metal

Country of origin: Sweden

Year of release: 2008

DIMMU BORGIR Stormblåst MMV

Album · 2005 · Symphonic Black Metal
Cover art 4.32 | 13 ratings
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Dimmu's decision to re record their 2nd album left a few fans scratching their heads. “Stormblåst”, considered to be a black metal classic, would usually be seen as perfect. But Dimmu saw things a bit differently.

Back in the day of 'kvlt black metal', production of music was glanced over, with image and discordant tones being the real selling point. Sadly, Dimmu's music, while being rather evil was still quite technical and melodic compared to most of the bands coming out of Norway at the time. As seen on their next album “Enthrone Darkness Triumphant”, Dimmu's music was beyond 'kvlt black metal' and pretty much was ready for a more mainstream audience. So, having spent 10 years with poor quality, the band decided to re record this album having achieved the rights for their music from a previous record label.

Now, how does this album hold up. Well, compared to the original the band have been able to successfully re record these tracks while still keeping the spirit of the music alive. Yes, the production on this album is miles better than the previous recordings, but the production does still have a lot of rawness behind it. The drums aren't triggered and the guitars have a very natural fuzz effect on them, creating a more black metal style atmosphere. Musically the band have relied on only 4 members of the band, with Galder and ICS Vortex taking a break from the band and enlisting Hellhammer on drums for some proper kvlt status.

The album opener “Alt Lys Er Svunnet Ven” is a brilliant symphonic blast to the face. Some brilliant instrumental work throughout with some pretty impressive melodic guitar playing.

“Broderskapets Ring” is a rather interesting doomy track. Some of the riffs and musical passages on this track are pretty beautiful. It is a shame that Silenoz's vocals kind of ruin the track.

One of my personal favorite tracks on the album is”Når Sjelen Hentes Til Helvete.” While the song continues at a steady pace, a quiet piano interlude is interrupted by some of Dimmu's fiercest riffs. Possibly one of the bands more heavier moments in their catalogue.

The album's lead single “Sorgens Kammer – Dell II” is a newer arrangement of the song (due to the old keyboard riffs being stolen from the soundtrack of a videogame...plagarism...yay). I have to admit, I'm really glad these guys re arranged this track, because what they created is one of their most classic and kick ass songs in a long time. Shagrath's vocals on this song are hellishly freaky, with a tone and vocal effect which could make you soil yourself in the middle of the night. The music video for this song is also worth a watch, for some pretty nightmarish imagery.

One of the most interesting moments on the album can be heard on the track 'Guds Fortapelse - Åpenbaring av Dommedag.' Starting off with a sample from Bartok's “Concerto For Orchestra”, the song explodes into a black metal fury of riffs and evil vocals.

In conclusion, this album proves that the band pretty much can do whatever they want to do. Re recording their old material to suit their own needs is pretty selfish of them, but I can see why they did it, and I'm glad they did. The songs which now have way better production are given new life, showing off some underrated black metal classics.

7.9/10

Genres: Black Metal, Symphonic Black Metal, Extreme Metal, Melodic Death Metal

Country of origin: Norway

Year of release: 2005

DIMMU BORGIR Spiritual Black Dimensions

Album · 1999 · Symphonic Black Metal
Cover art 3.82 | 26 ratings
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Having pretty much grabbed the metal world's attention with their 3rd release “Enthrone Darkness Triumphant”, the band decided to bite back, with a rather harsh and sharp bite with this album. Being a rather distant sequel compared to the previous album, this album is a bigger foot in the direction of the band's more recent material.

Faster, more aggressive and more dramatic than any of their other albums, it is a big change for the band and turns more towards the traditional black metal sound that dominated the late 90's and early 2000's. Now the band did make a big change with their next album, but this album is rather unique in its sound and style. The songs are faster at times and the mood is definitely darker. The band line up changed, with the additional of Astennu playing lead guitar on the album and the addition of Vortex on vocals (who would soon become a full member of the band) providing a very different dimension to the band. In fact, it could be argued that this album sounds like a faster Arcturus at times. One problem I have with the album is that their newer sound on this album did take away certain characteristics off the bands sound which in my opinion made the band more unique leaving the album to sound like every black metal band out at around this time this album was released.

Lyrically the band have moved into even more evil territory on this album, with more references to Satan and black magic. In fact, some of the lyrics even take dips into rather sexual territory which is something very different for the band. Nagash's lyrics on the album are also a brilliant addition, woth Silenoz taking a rest on the penmanship of the lyrics. Also, the artwork is pretty epic too.

The opening track “Reptile” is a pretty great intro the album. Fast and furious, the song is able to successfully mix Shagrath's icy cold growls to Vortex's luscious tones, with some pretty kick ass guitar work throughout.

One of the most interesting tracks on the album has to be “The Promised Future Aeons.” Starting off with a low synth intro, the song explodes into a big and epic track with some pretty cool twists and turns throughout.

The real highlight of the album comes in the form of “The Insight & The Catharsis.” A brilliant piece of music which mixes then bands heavier side with some brilliant vocals from Vortex throughout. A great build up throughout with an amazing pay off at the end.

One of the most dramatic tracks on the album “Grotesquery Conceiled (Within Measureless Magic).” Mixing demonic narrations with deafening screams and mad Disney sounding music throughout, the song really is a feat of excellence.

The album's closer “Arcane Lifeforce Mysteria” is an interesting tune. Starting off with a keyboard intro which sounds like something out of a Rush song, the song explodes into a dark yet beautiful affair.

In conclusion, this is definitely up there with one of Dimmu's heaviest affairs. While it may not be a personal favourite of mine, it still shows off some brilliant skill from then band and how they can create very unique albums. Probably the band's most evillest album.

7.7/10

Genres: Black Metal, Extreme Metal, Symphonic Black Metal, Progressive Metal

Country of origin: Norway

Year of release: 1999

EDGUY Space Police - Defenders of the Crown

Album · 2014 · Traditional heavy metal
Cover art 3.67 | 9 ratings
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Edguy have a been an odd obsession with me for quite a while. While I do slightly prefer Tobias Sammet's project Avantasia due to it's more serious nature, Edguy are a band that are pretty much a sex fuelled parody band...but are they.

Edguy's career has been a very interesting one. Starting out as a pretty straight forward power metal band, the band seemed to have gotten a little bit more light hearted in their old age, especially with the release of my personal favourite album of their's “Hellfire Club.”

Edguy's last album “The Age Of The Joker” was a step down for the band, taking their original hard rock/power metal sound and making it a bit too comical. To be honest, when I saw the album cover and album title for this album, I did fear a little bit. But don't fear, this album...ain't half bad. Don't get me wrong, this is far from their best, but it ain't their worst either.

Musically the band are slowly turning into The Darkness or Scorpions...which isn't a bad thing. They are still able to not shy away too much from there roots too much, but the band have changed, in my opinion for the best. If you like a heavier hard rock band with some cheese and power metal elements, this album is for you.

The only criticism I would have with this album is Tobias' vocals. Back in the day, Tobias was one of the strongest vocalists in the game, showing off some pretty impressive Bruce Dickinson esque wails. On this album, there is a rather odd sound to his voice, which I feel may be due to age and strain (even though the guy isn't even mid 30's and yet and looks like he never ages). I think Tobias should really rest his vocal chords, cause they may be taking some strain.

The first single and opening track “Sabre & Torch” is probably one of the heaviest songs these guys have released in a long time. At times the riffs in this song wouldn't go amiss off of an early Metallica song.

“Space Police” is a very interesting song. One of the most proggiest and Queen esque song on the album, it goes into a lot of weird and wonderful territory. Some of it will make you laugh and some of it will make you raise your fist in the air with glee.

“Defenders Of The Faith” is a pretty cheesy song with a lot of anthemic moments and some rather odd and crazy lyrics. Some pretty impressive vocals from Tobias as well.

The album's lead single “Love Tyger” is a very cheesy song, but it's catchy as hell. Taking a cue from The Darkness, the band have a silly song about sex mixed with a very enjoyable cartoon video. 80's to the max, but still a kick ass song. Warning, this song will get stuck in your head for days.

One of the oddest moments on this album comes in the form of the classic tune “Rock Me Amadeus” as originally performed by Falco. This song would have eventually been covered by a rock band, and I'm glad Edguy were able to get their hands on this tune. Pure cheese put pure self indulgence.

The final track, the near 9 minute epic “The Eternal Wayfarer” is a pretty interesting affair. Building up throughout, it does have a pretty successful climax at the end. Some pretty impressive song arrangements and instrumental work throughout too.

In conclusion, this album is pretty much full of cheese. Some Edguy staples can be hear throughout and a slight change in direction is heard, but it is pretty much business as usual. One of their more eye catching albums in a while and one of their more stronger efforts.

7.6/10

Genres: Hard Rock, Heavy Metal, Fist, Power Metal, Comedy Rock, Classic Rock, Progressive Rock

Country of origin: Germany

Year of release: 2014

DIMMU BORGIR Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia

Album · 2001 · Symphonic Black Metal
Cover art 3.86 | 25 ratings
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After pretty much progressing their sound away from kvlt black metal standards, the band decided to take their music to the next zenith...with the help of an orchestra.

Yes. This is the start of Dimmu's collaborations with orchestras and in my opinion it is their best album to date and a very underrated one to say the least.

Ok...this song may not have an instant classic tune on it like “Progenies Of The Great Apocalypse” or “Gateways”, but as an album I believe this is a more cohesive effort, with a lot of room for experimentation but with a long running thread throughout.

Musically the band are very much on par with this album being the start of their classic line up phase. Very much almost being a supergroup of black metal, for this album the band where able to recruit Old Man's Child mainman Galder, the clean vocalist and bass player from Arcturus I.C.S. Vortex and the old drummer of Cradle Of Filth (who even played on my personal favourite album by Cradle) giving the band one hell of a new sound. One thing I always noticed about this album is that this has to be one of the loudest albums in existence. For some reason, whenever playing this on CD or browsing through it on my Ipod, I always need to turn my headphones down to stop my eardrums from bleeding. A definite winner in the loudness wars I think.

Lyrically the band see a departure from their more fantasy based lyrics and into a world of philosophical Satanism. With existentialism and misanthropic ideas floating about, the band have a created a very meek atmosphere, both lyrically and musically. Some of the language throughout can be heavily metaphorical and may be lost in translation at time. Also, the cover is a marvel to behold as well (as are the inner artwork of the album's booklet).

The opening instrumental is an orchestrated piece entitled “Fear & Wonder.” A beautifully crafted eerie yet beautiful musical moment, it really does start of the nature and emotions of the album to follow.

The album's real opener “Blessings Upon The Thrones Of Tyranny” is a mammoth of a song. With some of Dimmu's most kick ass riffs, the song is a face melter. One of the band's heaviest songs in their entire back catalogue.

The epic “Kings Of The Carnival Creation” is a rather interesting affair, with some cool moving sections throughout. Rather slow in nature at times, it is mainly kept with Shagrath's icy narrative tingling the hairs on the back of your neck.

“Hybrid Stigmata – The Apostasy” is probably one of my personal favourite Dimmu tracks. With some pretty cool moving sections throughout the real highlight comes in the slower moments which have some incredibly beautiful string parts. The real emotional climax can be heard in the middle section with Vortex providing a beautiful vocal performance. An underrated gem and a unknown classic in my opinion.

“Architecture Of A Genocidal Nature” is a very interesting track due to it being one of the only songs I have ever heard Shagrath showing off some melodic vocals. Bit of an oddity, the song is still very twisted and depraved throughout.

The album's lead single “Puritania” is a very interesting moment for the band. Taking in industrial influences and electronic sounds, the song is a rather odd track, with some eerie digitalized vocals from Shagrath throughout.

One of the album's most insane moments can be heard on “Indoctrination.” The main highlight of this track is the orchestral arrangements which can go from Disney esque to Hitchcock like horror in a matter of moments. A real thrill ride of emotions.

The album's closer “Perfection Or Vanity” is one of the most beautiful endings I may have ever heard to an album. A clashing instrumental with soaring strings, it really carries the album into a new zenith, mixing a multitude of emotions throughout.

In conclusion, this is my favourite Dimmu Borgir album and in my opinion an underrated metal classic. Definitly a highlight in the band's career, it really proves the creativity and uniqueness that these guys have brought to the metal world. The cover also has tits on it, which never goes wrong in my books.

8.7/10

Genres: Symphonic Black Metal, Black Metal, Extreme Metal, Symphonic Metal, Industrial, Progressive Metal

Country of origin: Norway

Year of release: 2001

DIMMU BORGIR In Sorte Diaboli

Album · 2007 · Symphonic Black Metal
Cover art 3.38 | 21 ratings
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After pretty much bringing black metal to the masses with their previous album, Dimmu decided to come back with something a little different. A concept album!

I remember when this album had first come out. Having just got into the band, I was really excited for this album due to it's first single, its concept and the cover. I really have a visual arousal for the cover of this album, due to my slight obsession with the Baphomet figure. Always a treat and usually always seen as the wallpaper on my phone or laptop. I'd print the cover of this album out as wallpaper for my house if I could.

Musically the band see a bit of a departure from their last 2 albums. With the departure of Nicholas Barker, the band where able to recruit legendary black metal drummer Hellhammer to provide some sick drumming on this album. Don't get me wrong, Nick Barker was an astounding drummer, but nowhere does he come close to the powerful feet of Hellhammer. Another pretty massive change for this album is that there is no orchestra accompanying the band anymore. But instead, Mustis' keyboards provide the orchestrations, and I have to admit, what he is able to do with simple keyboards and programming is pretty impressive.

Lyrically the album tells of a story of a monk in the Middle Ages who goes on a spiritual journey to find God, but instead find the Devil instead and become the Antichrist. Now I would say that this story is rather cheesy, but lyrically it's very ambivalent. Dimmu's brand of Satanism is very smart, with blasphemy taking a backseat for genuine philosophical debate.

The opening track and first single “The Serpentine Offering” is definitely one of the bands biggest achievements. An absolutely powerful dark and twisted song, this track is just perfect in every way. From some of the most crushing riffs the band have ever created, to Shagrath's amazing vocal delivery to the beautiful middle section sung by I.C.S. Vortex, this track is a masterpiece of metal.

The album's third single “The Chosen Legacy” is probably one of the most anthemic songs on the album. With the albums title being chanted over and over again in the song, it is hard not to bang your head and rock the devil horns while listening to this tune.

The album's second single to be released “The Sacrilegious Scorn” is very interesting piece of music. Almost split into many different sections, the song moves into different movements and emotions throughout the song, almost showing the emotional side of the protagonist of the album's concept. Maybe not intended to this way, but to me it very much represents it.

The albums emotional climax is very much seen on “The Sinister Awakening.” With a powerful anthemic Satanic chorus, where can't you go wrong. Some pretty killer and chilling riffs are heard in this song too.

One of the best lyrical moments on the album has to be “The Fundamental Alienation.” The song gives a rather ambivalent spin to the story which I like. The song has a pretty killer chorus too.

In conclusion, this album is pretty much a classic for this band. I wouldn't say this is the band's best release, but it is definitely up there among their most classic material and is one of my personal favourites from the band. Evil as hell with a concept and story to boot, the band really outdid themselves on this challenging release.

8.4/10

Genres: Symphonic Black Metal, Black Metal, Symphonic Metal, Extreme Metal, Progressive Metal

Country of origin: Norway

Year of release: 2007

DIMMU BORGIR Godless Savage Garden

Boxset / Compilation · 1998 · Symphonic Black Metal
Cover art 3.29 | 9 ratings
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EPs can sometimes be rather hit or miss with me. Sometimes they can be alright, a complete waste of time or they can harbour some of a band or artists best material. For a band like Dimmu Borgir, I'm always up for added material from these guys so I jumped at the chance to get this release.

On this EP, there is a very good variety of material. The main focus has to be two songs which where apparently left out of “Enthrone Darkness Triumphant” (although I don't believe where, due to the slight change in sound and massive change in lyrical styles), a few live songs (these guys are pretty astounding live) along with...a cover. Yes. A cover. Of an Accept song. (Doesn't beat Cradle Of Filth covering Cliff Richards).

Musically the album presents a slight change in direction for the band which would be a lot more noticeable on their next album “Spiritual Black Dimensions.” While their previous album “Enthrone Darkness Triumphant” had more of a Gothic rock influence, the newer material on this release is easing towards a more bombastic, symphonic and epic approach to their music.

The opening track “Moonchild Domain” is a slight change in direction for the band. With an even more melodic sound and even a guitar solo in the middle of the track, it definitely is one of the highlights on this EP.

The re recordings of earlier tracks like “Hunnerkongen” and “Raabjørn Speiler Draugheimens Skodde” are probably the weakest moments on the album. While musically they sound a lot better than the original recordings, they still are quite lack lustre due to Silenoz's vocals being nothing compared to the power and presentation of Shagrath's.

The EP's longest track “Chaos Without Prophecy” is a pretty interesting song. Being over 7 minutes in length, the song harkens to an almost doomy feel, with Shagrath screeching an interesting tale of kings and such. Great vocals and some pretty kick ass riffs throughout.

One of the oddest but slightly more enjoyable moments on this EP can be seen in the form of the Accept cover “Metal Heart.” Obviously arranged in black metal fashion, this cover does have some interesting moment, with Shagrath showing off some nice Kind Diamond esque head voice in the chorus. Cheese, but with a dark twist.

In conclusion, this is a pretty enjoyable EP. With some added material, re recordings and cover songs, it is a good add on of additional material for any fan of the band. Half the price of a normal album, and worth the price.

6.8/10

Genres: Black Metal, Melodic Death Metal, Gothic Metal, Symphonic Black Metal

Country of origin: Norway

Year of release: 1998

DIMMU BORGIR Enthrone Darkness Triumphant

Album · 1997 · Symphonic Black Metal
Cover art 4.03 | 27 ratings
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I think in order to fully understand this album, we need to see where this album fits in the black metal timeline of the 90's. After the backlash of Euronymous' death in 1993, one of the biggest black metal albums of all time Emperor's “In The Nightside Eclipse.” One of the reasons why this album was so successful was because it took the Black Metal sound and added something so different to it that it pretty much changed the genre...for the better.

Now at this point, Dimmu Borgir started out as a 3 piece black metal act, with only Shagrath and Silenoz being prime members. Their first two albums “For All Tid” and “Stormblast” while brilliant albums where pretty much standard black metal releases, with the added keyboard sound oomphing their atmosphere. So in order to really gain attention to themselves, Silenoz and Shagrath decided to recruit 2 other members to the band, morph their sound with more modern and experimental influences.

I think the reason for the popularity of this album was how contemporary the band where able to make their sound. Now don't get me wrong, black metal is still black metal, with even most metal fans turning their nose up at mass amounts of discord. But with the popularity and rise of the Gothenburg melodic death metal scene, Dimmu decided to take splices of melodic guitar work and mix it with the darkened black metal sound. The keyboard playing from Stian Aarstad is a real highlight on the album, adding extra Gothic tones to the bands sound, with some very 80's organ, string and choir sounds.

This album also marked a different path for the band, with the lyrics of the album all written in English, rather than the bands native Norwegian. The lyrics on this album move from rather beautiful dark poetry into the odd Satanic verse now and then. Personally, I love a good bit of Satan worship now and then, but the rather beautifully penned lyrics are a good thing to see now and then.

Opening track “Mourning Palace” is a majestic piece of metal music. With haunting string melodies along with an experimental song structure and many moving instrumental sections, the song is really pushed along with Shagrath's powerful bellows.

An all time classic track has to be “Spellbound (By The Devil).” Opening with one of the most played keyboard riffs on the planet, the song has some incredible shrieks from Shagrath and in my opinion some of the best riffs ever in a black metal song.

One of the album's most darkest moments comes in the form of “Relinquishment Of Spirit & Flesh.” With blastbeats going throughout, the song is an evil piece of music, with very little melody or harmony throughout.

One of the album's most interesting moments can be heard in the track “Entrance.” With a slow and almost doomy feel to the song. Some of the best moments of this track are seen in the instrumental sections, especially the moments with just keyboards and drums.

Closing track “A Succubus In Rapture” is a rather beautiful and sexy black metal tune. With Shagrath telling the tale of a mischievous Succubus, it is a rather interesting Black Metal love song, with some astounding instrumental accompaniment.

In conclusion, this album is pretty much perfect. It is a staple in the Black Metal world and is pretty much critically acclaimed as one of the most influential albums of all time. This album is perfect in its musicality and even for an early black metal release, it still stands the test of time. Bringing the Black Metal mentality even more to the masses, it really is a paradigm of the black metal sound.

8.7/10

CANDLEMASS Tales of Creation

Album · 1989 · Doom Metal
Cover art 4.15 | 31 ratings
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Doom metal is a secret love of mine. It's not a genre I am always having my nose in, but whenever I'm in the mood, a good bit of doom never does any harm. Especially, when a Candlemass CD is near.

The band's earlier career was met with some line up confusion. With multi changing vocalists, the band's most longest and frequent vocalist (and in my opinion the best) Messiah Marcolin's presence on this album sadly met a short end, due to this album being his last with the band (before his reunion with them for what I agree to be the bands strongest album).

Music wise the album is pretty much what you expect. Black Sabbath esque doom with a slower and more 80s feel to it, the sound does show a natural progression from their earlier sounds (with some slight surprises along the way too). Lyrically the album seems to be based around a concept. The basic story involves someone who dies and is able to go the afterlife. Creative in style and wording, the story isn't too in your face, but still is there for lyric buffs like myself.

The only real negative bone to pick with this album is the production. While musically the album is pretty good (nothing much you can really do with 80's style distortion), the vocals are probably the biggest problem. Messiah's voice is definitely one of the most unique and powerful in the Doom metal genre, so it is a bit annoying to hear his powerful warbles so low in the mix.

The real shining moment for on this album has to be the opening track “Dark Reflections.” A more upbeat moment for the band, the song has some pretty cooler riffs and a damn fine chorus.

One of the oddest moments on the album appears on the instrumental track “Into The Unfathomed Tower.” A neo classical style instrumental, almost done in the vein of Yngwie Malmsteen or Stratovarius, it is an interesting little interlude on the album, showing off the virtuostic talents on the musicians which isn't very much the focus usually of Candlemass' music.

A track which really shows off the vocals of Messiah has to be “The Edge Of Heaven.” Some pretty cool doomy riffs and some mad warbles gives this song an extra oomph.

One of the most interesting songs on the album is probably “Through The Infinite Halls Of Death.” Starting off with a slow doomy riff, the song soon turns into a faster and more aggressive song with some interesting twists and turns throughout.

The album's closing track “ A Tale Of Creation” is definitely one of the more epic moments on the album. With some poignant lyrics and a rather interesting arrangement, the song is a brilliant ending to this heavenly based concept album.

In conclusion, this album is pretty much classic doom metal at its best, done by one of the pioneering bands of the genre. While some of the production on this album can be rather weak, there are some blistering tunes on this album with the classic line up of the band being present. A definite must have for fans of doom.

8.2/10

WITHIN TEMPTATION Hydra

Album · 2014 · Symphonic Metal
Cover art 4.02 | 11 ratings
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Within Temptation are a band I see as a bit of a guilty pleasure. I admit that albums like “Mother Earth” and “The Silent Force” are pretty much modern metal classics, but their more recent albums did have me wondering about the direction these guys are going in. The bands last album “The Unforgiven” was a mad concept album full of pretty interesting compositions, but at times songs that wouldn't go amiss on Eurovision. So on this album, the band have decided to kind of do something a little different.

Sound wise, the band have named their album “Hydra” in order to describe the multiple styles and genres that the band have covered over their long spanning career. So expect flourishes of older stuff emerging, including gruntal vocals and newer influences. The best way I can describe this album is that it is rather cheesy. But a good type of cheese. It belongs to a genre of music that I like to call fist (a genre made for putting your fist in the air and shaking it...like a polaroid picture).

For the past few years the band seemed to have gained a weird fetish for covering up to date pop songs. Now don't get me wrong, I do like a good metal cover of a pop song now and then, but there is a certain moment whenever hobby becomes obsession. So, surprise surprise there is a bonus disc on the special edition of this album containing a few covers. Now it is obvious that this new found hobby has influenced their sound. At the moment I'm saying it's a positive thing, but familiarity can breed contempt...

The opening track “Let It Burn” has to be one of their best songs in a long time. Powerful and anthemic, it is a perfect opening to the album with some pretty impressive vocals from Sharon.

The album's first single “Dangerous” is definitely a highlight on the album. Featuring vocals from Howard Jones (ex Killswitch Engage), the song is heightened by the combination of powerful male and female vocals. A killer riff throughout and pretty damn catchy too.

One of the album's most controversial moments on the album has to be found on the track “And I Run.” Mixing metal and rap with the help of Xzibit, the song is actually very enjoyable and flows very well with the mixture of 2 styles. To all the 'haters' of this song, don't fret, this has been done before.

The album's second single “Paradise (What About Us)” is another mammoth pop tune, showing off the bands original symphonic style with the help from Tarja (ex Nightwish) on guest vocals. Pretty catchy chorus and some pretty powerful vocals, the song is another powerful pop tune.

One of my persona favourite tracks on the album has to be “Silver Moonlight.” Taking a rather Celtic sounding musical approach and mixing grunts which haven't been heard since their first album, it really is something different for these guys, and a good little departure from the tone of the rest of the album.

One song that I really disliked on this album was “Dog Days.” Very repetitive, very annoying and pretty much a filler generic moment. Luckily this is the only real weak moment on the album.

The album's closing track “Whole World Is Watching” is cheesy as hell...but pretty damn great. Featuring guest vocals from Dave Pirner from from Soul Asylum, this song could easily be a Bon Jovi ballad.. But...Within Temptation bring this song to brilliant cheesy justice.

In conclusion, I have to say that I surprisingly really enjoyed this album. I do admit that the band's change to a more poppier sound does have their songs sounding rather cheesy, but I am a fan of the cheese now and then. For metal purists, this may be a bit too poppy for your liking, but for people like me who dreamed to have been born in the 80's, this is pretty much greatness for me.

8/10

TRANSATLANTIC Kaleidoscope

Album · 2014 · Non-Metal
Cover art 3.75 | 8 ratings
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The return of the international prog super group is back! And it's pretty much business as usual.

One their last album “The Whirlwind”, the band did the unthinkable and crafted a near 80 minute song with interweaving parts throughout. While this ended up as being the bands most successful release to date, I felt that the album was maybe just a tad overwhelming. Now don't get me wrong, I love mad prog epics more than the next guy...but maybe 79 minute songs are pushing it a little bit.

So...after the drama of Mike Portnoy's departure from Dream Theater had toned down, him and the rest of the guys (who avoid drama at the best of times) decided to finally bite the bullet after their big comeback in 2009 and finally release a follow up to the critically acclaimed “The Whirlwind.”

I have to say, at times this album did surprise me at times. After hearing a thousand copycat nostalgia prog bands doing re hashes of old Genesis material, it was a breath of fresh air to see Transatlantic doing something different. Now, this being their 4th release in 15 years, a similar pattern is emerging and certain generic traits are noticeable, but as entertainment showing off incredible virtuoustic talent, this pretty much hits the nail on the head. Musically the band haven't changed too much, but odd flourishes do grab my interest now and then. I also like how the shared vocal duties of the band have been more equally this time (with Neal mainly taking the reins most of the time on earlier releases). Now...Mike and Pete don't have the best voices, especially when compared with Neal and Roine, but there are moments on this album where they can suprise you.

The opening 25 minute opus “Into The Blue” is probably the album's strongest moment. Taking a more sinister feeling to their sound, it shows off a different side to the bands songwriting. The highlight on the song for me was on the section “Written In Your Heart” with guest vocalist and touring member Daniel Gildenlöw (who currently is unwell due to picking up a bacterial infection) providing some beautiful vocals.

The album's lead single “Shine” is a very nice country influenced ballad with some nice vocal harmonies throughout. The main attraction has to be Roine's ripping guitar solo in the mid section of the song.

One of the more enjoyable moments on the album is on the track “Black As The Sky.” A more upbeat rock infused song, the songs biggest highlight comes in the chorus showing of the bands use of four part harmony.

The weakest moment on the album has to be the albums title track, which clocks in at near 32 minutes. While it is still pretty enjoyable, it does drag on a bit at parts and is a rather lengthy affair. Other than that, it still does have some pretty great prog infused moments.

In conclusion, it's pretty much what you expect. I will admit that this album is better than their previous effort “The Whirlwind” it still doesn't match up to their magnum opus “Bridge Across Forever.” Still a highly enjoyable album with enough prog touches to entertain anyone into nostalgic prog and newer prog sounds.

8.2/10

SONATA ARCTICA Pariah's Child

Album · 2014 · Power Metal
Cover art 3.97 | 8 ratings
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Sonata Arctica have a been a band I have admired for a very long time. During a period of power metal popularity, these guys where very much in the background doing their own thing. The band have very much gained a cult following over these past few years with no real mass popularity.

The band's consistency in material has been all over the place in the past few years. Since 2007s very dark “Unia”, the band have had a rather confusing string of albums. While their past few albums have been interesting listens, it does almost sound like the band have had an identity crisis (could be due to the bands ever changing line up).

Apparently according to the band, this album is supposed to be the follow up to “Reckoning Night” (my personal favourite Sonata album) and it is noticeable. Now this statement is a bit of a stretch, with obvious sounds from “The Days Of Greys” and “Stones Grow Her Name”, but it is one of the most recent Sonata albums which bode well to their original sound.

One of the bands biggest attractions has to be Tony Kakko's fun word play in his lyrics. Edging on great storytelling, interesting humour and beautiful poetry. Musically the album jumps between hard rock based power metal along with more progressive and darker moments. But, the album is a lot more joyous than previous albums, going back to a more carefree moment in Sonata's career.

The opening track and first single “The Wolves Die Young” is pretty much a return to form for the band. Catchy chorus, nice melodies and a cheesy music video.

One of my personal favourite songs is “Take One Breath.” Slightly mad in it's arrangement, Tony shows off a wide versatile range to his vocals, going from the harshest of shrieks to the calmest of tones in the drop of a heartbeat. The sci fi inspired lyrics and fun wordplay are also enjoyable.

One of the bands most interesting songs on the album has to be “Blood.” With a rather sporadic arrangement harkening back to the material heard on “Unia.” With a lot of musical twists and turns, it's a very interesting moment on the album. This song also teaches you the exact definition of blood....cause metal isn't just for fun. You can learn stuff too.

The rather cheesy but fun power ballad “Love” is a rather interesting moment on the album. Even though it does have some rather cheesy moments, the statement and song is still very pretty. It's good to see these guys showing a more sensitive side.

The albums closer and longest track “Larger Than Life” is a mad explosive rollercoaster. Being mixed with a power ballad and an almost musical and operatic feel, the song is a very interesting piece, with great over layered vocals by Tony. Great ending to the album.

In conclusion, after a few confusing years of weird experimentation, Sonata Arctica seemed to have finally put their feet more firmly on the ground with a rather 'return to form.' A mixed blend of all of the bands strongest sounds, the album is definitely on par with their more classically renowned releases.

8.2/10

BEHEMOTH The Satanist

Album · 2014 · Death Metal
Cover art 4.09 | 17 ratings
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Whenever I heard Nergal got leukaemia I was generally shocked. Behemoth are band I have loved for a very long time and have respected Nergal for a very long time. Having been nearly arrested for blasphemy charges and always spouting intelligent anti theist statements. So after a miraculous recovery, the band have released 'The Satanist'....a statement very much defining the bands Anti religious status.

Compared to their last album, this one is definitely a massive step ahead. Having rather enjoyed their last album 'Evangelion' (although I did think it was a step down from their previous release 'The Apostasy'), this album has pretty much defiled their previous material and has put the band into even more exciting and newer sounds and heights.

Taking influence from the fathers of Black Metal like Bathory and Celtic Frost along with some new influences from Black Metal legends like Deathspell Omega and Enslaved. One of the most shocking things I found with this album was how melodically based the songs where. The songs are also a lot more carefully constructed when compared to other Behemoth tracks, with the additional use of hooks and chorus' which can be very rare in death metal (and I agree should be more common).

The album is more simplicity in style, but surprisingly enough, the simplicity of the songs has added a lot more depth to the bands music. Showing off a bigger focus on harmony, melody and instrumentation, the album is a real landmark for these guys, proving that extreme metal still is a genre that can shock and suprise people.

Nergal's vocals have also changed a hefty bit, with slight tonal similarities to his earlier growls on albums like 'Satanica' and 'Thelma 6'. It may be due to his recovery after surgery and chemo, but it does show a lot of pain and passion that I felt may have been lost in Behemoths more recent recordings.

The first track and lead single from the album 'Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel” is very much a continuation in the same field of 'Alas, Lord is Upon Me' from their last album. Slow and doomy in style, the song builds up to an amazing crescendo with some epic guitar hooks, horns and epic growls from Nergal.

One of the darkest and most twisted moments on the album is “Amen.” Lyrically moulded on a Christian prayer, the song takes a dark twist on the concept of prayer and spits on it with Satanic malice. Very much influenced by Deathspell Omega, the darkened riffs and blast beats are a power house to be matched.

One of the albums defining moments is seen in the title track. Definitly one of Behemoths most powerful and melodic tracks, it really is a highlight in the bands career. Lyrically and vocally, Nergal takes the listener on a spiritual and powerful journey.

One of the most interesting songs on the album has to be 'In The Absence Ov Light.' Having very limited lyrics, this song is flourished with some spoken word and a pretty beautiful uplifting saxophone solo. Don't know why saxophone and extreme metal go so well together...they just do.

The albums closer and longest track 'O Father O Sun O Lucifer.' A brilliant build up throughout with some rather beautiful instrumentation and a moving vocal performance from Nergal. An amazing ending to a contender for album of the year.

In conclusion, this album was a daring feat that really could have resulted in a rather weak effort. But after Nergal's death scare, the passion from this band that I have heard in previous releases is finally back. Wearing their influences on their sleeves, the bands sound has progressed into a more accessible and more unique sound. While this album is a masterpiece of metal, the band really have put the mark higher for their next release. A daring and interesting emotional experience I would recommend to any metal fan.

9/10

TRANSATLANTIC The Whirlwind

Album · 2009 · Non-Metal
Cover art 3.93 | 16 ratings
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Wow, I was expecting this.

To be honest, when I heard these guys where reforming, I did do a wee dance.

This was really unexpected. I know their last album was just perfect in everyway, but a 78 minute song, wow, that was something unheard of.

I think this is the longest song ever made, and 2009 was the year of big long songs (Procupine Tree's 55 minute epic The Incident). But which is better...there is only one way to find out...FIGHT!!!! (only Harry Hill fans would understand that).

I. Overture/Whirlwind - A beautiful instrumental stating all the themes, in all their beauty. 10/10

II. The Wind Blew Them All Away -Great song with some amazing vocals from Neal. Very calm and suprising eerie. 9/10

III. On The Prowl - That bassline is very Pink Floyd. Very rocking with a great chorus. 10/10

IV. A Man Can Feel - Suprisingly touching and very joyous. 9/10

V. Out Of The Night - A more rocking subject. Great riffs and instrumental work. 9/10

VI. Rose Coloured Glasses - Has a bit of a country feel to it. Great chorus and vocals provided by the band. 9/10

VII. Evermore - Great vocals. Amazing isntrumental work. 10/10

VIII. Set Us Free - Loving the return of the keyboard theme. Great chorus. Very joyous. 10/10

IX. Lay DownYour Life - Wow, what a riff. Very death march theme. Amazing and very angry vocals from Neal. 10/10

X. Pieces Of Heaven - Pretty kick ass instrumental. Very crazy. 10/10

XI. Is It Really Happening? - Quite laid back and sombre. The instrumental sections are amazing. 10/10

XII. Dancing With Eternal Glory/Whirlwind (Reprise) - Very epic and very beautiful. Great ending. 10/10

CONCLUSION: Definitly a contendor for the best album of last year. Very epic and if you disagree, then you have no soul (their is no such thing as a soul, but you know, metaphorically speaking)

TRANSATLANTIC Bridge Across Forever

Album · 2001 · Non-Metal
Cover art 4.18 | 15 ratings
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Supergroups can be quite a curse, look at Blind Faith, The Traveling Willbburries, Emerson Lake & Palmer, Chas &Dave (I just wanted to play spot the odd one out).

But I think these guys are the only successful supergroup...ever.

These guys actually take the genius from all 4 contestants and put it to good use, with Neal's amazing songwriting and beautiful key work, Roine's amazing improv guitar, Pete's impressive bass skills and Mike's God like drumming to a complete unison of use.

This album is just perfect in every way, and I would even say it is one of the greatest abums I have ever heard. The first and last song are the main contendors, but the middle songs are just as good.

1. Duel With The Devil - A master composition. The main theme Motherless Children is very beautiful, and put to amazing uses. The instrumental work is flawless, with the middle saxophone melody being my favourite. Just amazing. 10/10

2. Suite Charlotte Pike - Mixing Beatle esque harmonies and melodies with some great improv sections, this song really does not fail one bit. Not a dull moment. 10/10

3. Bridge Across Forever - A beautifull ballad. Not my favourite Neal Morse ballad, but still a worth while composition. 9/10

4. Stranger In Your Soul - Best song on the album, and one of the greatest songs ever made. This song has a special place in my heart, because it encapulates some of my all time favourite memories, one of them was when I was walking home at 11 o'clock at night, with this song blasting in my ears. It was pitch dark, and I could have easily been atacked, butI didn't care, cause I was listening to this song. My brother got me into this song, forcing me to watch the live version of it, and I soon got the DVD, just for that song (the rest are pretty good as well). From the beauty of the string section, to the rocking of Hanging In The Balance, to the beauty and solemn of the middle section, to the epic ending. It's beyond great. 11/10 (Yes, 11, take that up your pipe and smoke it)

CONCLUSION: Perfection, in every way possible.

NEAL MORSE Lifeline

Album · 2008 · Non-Metal
Cover art 3.35 | 4 ratings
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FACT: Neal Morse can't make a bad album.

I had heard bad comments and reviews on this album, and I went into it with a sword in my hand...but to my suprise, it was a great album. I didn't get bored, I thorougly enjoyed it, It was an amazing listening experience.

I believe that this was the missing link between Neal's solo stuff and what he left behind in Spock's Beard. The songs were upbeat, in major keys and had great chorus'. The arrangements were well done and the vocals were to die for. Again, it was a bit preachy, but after listening to a bunch of angry Christians all my life, Neals calm attitude to the subject was approachable, again, his faith I do not believe in and do not have any real remorse (haha rhymes with Morse) for their believes. But Neal I can deal with, cause he's nice and makes great music.

1. Lifeline - The songs title track and definelty a flashback to Spock's Beard. The first time I heard this song, was when I was doing my GCSE's, and to be honest, was feeling a little down, but the organ riff in this song was enough to cheer me up. Amazing finger work from Neal, spectacular drumming from that Jew fella and the basslines are better than anything Chris Squire or even Dave Mereos could ever fathom. This song is an amazing dose with happy with a side of epicness. Amazing start to the album.

2. The Way Home - This is definetly a homage to the great ballads that were created in Spock's Beard, e.g. Waste Away, June, Love Beyond Words etc. Amazing chorus with beautiful melodies.

3. Leviathan - King Crimson...Van Der Graaf Generator...Antonius Rex, basically a dip in the eclectic pool for Neal. Crazy saxaphoning, amazing jaunty riffs and riffs that could kick the head of Satan himself.

4. God's Love - An amazing teary ballad with amazng harmonies provided by the vocal side. What more can I say, great song, see, I could say more.

5. Children Of The Chosen - A more gospel and preachy side, there always is one of these, so I don't mind, I enjoyed it.

6. So Many Roads - The epic, monster of a song. I thought this would sound like something of "Sola", but It was steering to a more "At The End Of The Day" mood. The themes are amazingly presented, Neal pushes his fingers and voice to the limit, pop culture references...basically a mammoth of a song.

7. Fly High - A great ending and a solo from that New Zeleander with the amazing fingers. A great end to a great album.

CONCLUSION - Not his best, but an amazing album non the less. Buy all his albums, your soul will be saved :)

NEAL MORSE One

Album · 2004 · Non-Metal
Cover art 4.50 | 4 ratings
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Wow, Neal is a musician, who basically procreates amazing music.

This album was a must have for me, after I had heard Sola Scriptora (check my review on how I believe it is the greatest album ever made).

Now a fully fledged Morse fan, I ordered One online and recieved it on Halloween...oooh spooky.

This album was actually quite raw and experimental than Sola Sciptora and was even more flexible with arrangements and technique. The songs I believe don't stand out as much as they did in Sola Scriptora, but I do believe that each song had it's own goal for Neal, even if it's to make use of heavy distorted guitars, contrapuntal vocals, amazing keyboard sections, folky and acoustic sections and even some gospel and liturgical inspired moments.

Lyrically and concept wise, the album is about how Man had lost his way with God, and how at the end he comes back, a slightly more modern view of The Prodigal Son parable. Being an athiest, I took the lyrics with a pinch of salt, but now and then, the idea of what modern and youthfull Christian religious bait strings up, which, basically means, "God just wants to love you and give you a big hug", which is great and all that, but I always answer this question with, "Then why doesn't he...Come on, I'm waiting." No answer is ever recieved, Christians just leave me alone and reflect upon their faith, as they usually do.

Once again, there is amazing musicianship from Neal, Mike & Randy.

1. The Creation - This song starts off very beautiful, with a amazingly arranged chamber style section. After 4 minutes of prog induced musicianship, the vocals come in, and as always, Neal colourful tone, lightens up the song. This song reminds me of a Genesis song, something off Nursery Crime or Foxtrot, where there needn't be any hooks, just alot of dramatic twists and turns to grab the listeneres attention. All in all, a classic and amazing piece of prog masterpiece.

2. The Man's Gone - This is a bit of a folky tune, with a sad melachonic mood to suit the lyrics, leads into the necxt song quite weridly and perfectly.

3. Author Of Confusion - How can you not love this song. The Dream Theater esque instrumental with touches of King Crimson & Van Der Graaf Generator like madness. Then the vocals come in. Counterpoint has always been a common thing in Spock's Beard (Neal's old band) and to see Neal going back to his routes was amazing. The layered vocals performing create amazing harmonies and discourse. The song ends off on a slightly sadder mood.

4. The Seperated Man - This song takes many dramatic twists and turns, from upbeat, to melachonic, to angry, to cheery and then a more reflective mood. The instrumentation in this song is to die for, especially the wonderfully arranged acoustic section. Another epic on this album.

5. Cradle To The Grave - This song reminds me of Heaven In My Heart, in that it is the ballad of the album. The other vocalist on this song reminds me of Irelands favourtie folk master, Kieran Goss, and I thought it was him, but it turns out it wasn't. Probabbly the most cathiest song on this album, expressing deep emotion, amazing vocals and great musicianship.

6. Help Me| The Spirit & The Flesh - This song is probabbly the most liturgical on the album, and is probabbly the most nicest moment as well. Beautifully arranged.

7. Father Of Forgiveness - Another ballad, but more upbeat than Cralde To The Grave. Still a great song though.

8. Reunion - I would have made a more epic end, but as this album ends on a happy ending, I'll let Neal off with this one. The brass sections remind me of ska, like Less Than Jake, for some strange reason. I like the layered vocals for the ending.

CONCLUSION - Not as good as Sola Scriptora, but not much is. I loved how the limit for a one disc album is 80 minutes, and Neal made his 79:57. Ha, what a genius. But it, or else...

RUSH Signals

Album · 1982 · Non-Metal
Cover art 3.77 | 36 ratings
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Now we enter the bottom of the cold dark barrell.

I really don't want to give Rush a bad review, but it's their own faults, for making this album

Now this album isn't terrible, it's okay but I wouldn't say it's good.

Having left the prog and technical side of things, Rush decided to make their songs sound like...the 80's basically, which I don't mind, I'm a massive fan of cheesy 80's synth pop bands, but I'm also a big fan of Rush, the reason being that they weren't an 80's synth band (if that makes sense).

Half of this album is substandard but a big enough fraction is terrible.

1. Subdivisions - I like the Genesis meets Spock's Beard like intro, with synths. The instrumental sections are quite cool. The chorus is ok, but it doesn't compare to early Rush choruses.

2. The Analog Kid - The riff still shows a lot of Prog. Very happy and upbeat rock song. I also think the chorus is quite good. Pretty cool chorus.

3. Chemistry - Very 80's synth soaked intro.The lyrics of the song don't make any sense and the chorus is pretty weak.The verses aren't that bad. They are trying way too hard.

4. Digital Man - Wow, what an amazing bassline throughout the song. This song isn't that catchy and to be honest the instrumentation is the only thing that holds the song together. Way too drawn out length wise. They're trying too hard to become an electro version of the police. It's not working for them.

5. The Weapon - Oh, part II of Fear. But the 3rd part of this song was made before the 2nd, I'm confused. The intro is quite cool. Another weak chorus.Alex Lifeson sounds really bored in this song, just letting a chord ring out for a while, they're not Oasis. The instrumental section is quite cool. There is nothing really interesting with Geddy's vocals. The ending sounds very rushed.

6. New World Man - This song is really good. The chorus is really good and overall the song is interesting.

7. Losing It - I like the intro. The violin is quite interesting. This song is really interesting and quite experimental. I like the instrumental asection with the question and answer with guitar and violin. This song is alot closer to good Rush.

8. Countdown - I like the build up in the intro. A wee bit weak, but overall I like the atmopshere.

CONCLUSION: Would have been quite good if some mistakes could have been plastered.

ICED EARTH Plagues of Babylon

Album · 2014 · US Power Metal
Cover art 3.90 | 20 ratings
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Another band who I haven't gotten around to reviewing an album of. And it's odd, because I've been a very big fan of these guys for a good few years.

For those who never have heard Iced Earth before, my best description of the band is the perfect middle ground between Metallica and Iron Maiden. Basically a mixture of thrash metal with melodic power metal.

Having released one album already with new vocalist Stu Block, the band are back with a pretty solid affair. Musically the band have stuck to their own melodic style of thrash/power metal, but I do notice that this album is probably one of their more darker and heavier releases since “Burnt Offerings.”

The first half of the album is also a concept “suite” with songs relating to Schaffer's ongoing Something Wicked saga. The concept is based around a zombie apocalypse. So basically it's like “The Walking Dead”. Lyrically the band haven't been the best, but whenever concept material is set on the band, that is where their strengths shine.

One of the slight criticisms I have with this album is from new vocalist Stu Block. Now, this also goes pretty hand in hand with another similar story and a similar styled band Kamelot. Both bands lost their lead singers respectively. Both bands got new lead singers from 2 active but slightly less then heard of bands (Stu coming from Canadian prog metal band Into Eternity and Kamelot getting Tommy Karevik from Swedish prog metal band Seventh Wonder). Both singers did an absolutely amazing job in their old bands, with their talent pretty much driving the bands to some cult success. In fact, their talent was what won them over to the bands they are currently in. But...sadly, because Kamelot and Iced Earth are pretty big bands with pretty big shoes to fill when their old singers leave, both Stu and Tommy almost mimic the old vocalists. Now, I know Matt Barlow (Iced Earth's previous and most prominent lead vocalist) was a massive part of the bands sound, Stu would have some big shoes to fill. But in Into Eternity, Stu's vocals where completely out of this world, showing off a mad high register with a great use of death metal growls and screams. In the band, Stu seems to stay in the same register for most, which usually is a quite high baritone, rather than the high tenor he is used to. I do admit, he pulls it off very well, but I would prefer a little bit more presentation and variation in his vocal stylings for Iced Earth's material. The mixing of the vocals is also a little low, and should be turned up just a little.

The opening title track is a pretty great and epic feeling intro. Some nice bombastic moments with some nice arrangements throughout. The mix on Stu's vocals are also pretty kick ass too, showing off some of his hidden abillity.

Hansi Kürsch also makes an appearance on the album on the song “Among The Living Dead”. Sadly his vocals are rather low in the mix, but the man is pretty hard to miss. A pretty great tune too.

One of the album's more epic songs would have to be “The End?” With a lot of interesting twists and turns, it ends of the concept part of the album pretty well.

“If I Can See You Now” is very much an almost sequel to the Iced Earth classic “Watching Over Me.” Pretty cheesy obviously, but I actually suprisingly really like it. In fact it's one of my personal favourites.

The album's strongest moment has to be “Cthulhu.” With Lovecraftian themed lyrics and some of Block's best vocals on the album, it really is a paragon moment for the band.

Another ballad on the album is “Spirits Of The Time” is another suprisingly enjoyable moment on the album. Originally a track by Schaffer's solo outing Sons Of Anarchy, the song is a bit sullen, but is still rather nice, with some nice vocals from Stu to add some flavour to the song.

The Jimmy Webb cover “Highwayman” was a bit of a suprise, but oddly enough it was rather enjoyable. The help from Russell Allen was also a help.

In conclusion, this definitely isn't their best album but it's not their worst either. A pretty strong and consistent album throughout. While they may not be in their “glory days” anymore, this album did prove that the band are still packing quite a mighty punch in their near 25 year tenure. Long may they live.

7.8/10

DIMMU BORGIR Death Cult Armageddon

Album · 2003 · Symphonic Black Metal
Cover art 3.48 | 28 ratings
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This being the bands biggest selling album, you would this to be the band's strongest achievement musically. And in many ways it is. After “Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia” the band had really defined their sound with the use of an orchestra and the addition of clean vocals to their sound. But what really was holding them back was their rather dark sound. So, for this album, the band cut back on their darkness and looked to make a more contemporary album. And it worked wonders, with the band being as big as they could ever be.

Musically the album is a little bit more contemporary, but it is still very much a rather dark affair. Lyrically the album is very bleak, with a lot of songs being based on rather misanthropic and self loathing topics. I agree, the moments of Satanist power are rather anthemic.

The biggest weakness that I find on this album is probably it's length. Over an hour long, the album does stretch into some rather uncommon territory for a black metal band (with most releases being between 30-50 minutes). Personally I find the album to be rather unbalanced. While the first 8 songs are all between the same length (4 and 5 minutes), the last 3 songs are between 6 to near 9 minutes long. To me, it seems a bit uneven and rather odd to see. The last half I believe is also the weakest half of the album, with more slower placed moments seen and a good bit of 'open space.'

The album opener “Allegiance” is a brilliant and dark opening. With some eerie noises and industrial clinks to begin the song, the song trundles like a behemoth through a forest.

The band's biggest and most known track “Progenies Of The Great Apocalypse”, this has to be one of the most epic and bombastic tracks in metal history. With an absolutely astounding orchestral arrangement by keyboardist Mustis and a build up which leads to a bombastic middle section sung by Vortex and a conclusion which involves Abbath from Immortal's chilly delivery, the song is a metal classic. It is sad it is not as known as it should be.

The album's second single “Vredesbyrd” is a classic Dimmu tune. It's very rare for a song in a foreign language to have me singing along, but the chorus of this song is pretty killer.

One of my personal favourite tracks on the album has to be Allehelgens Død I Helveds Rike. With some killer riffs and an absolutely astounding vocal performance from Vortex, the song is a bit of an underrated classic. This track also has one of the greatest outros ever in a metal song.

One of the most over the top songs on the album has to be “Eradication Instincts Defined.” With a brilliant orchestral intro, the song builds up to a pretty epic and amazing climax. Definitly one of the highlights on the album.

In conclusion, even though this is the bands most successful album, I believe it to be not one of their best. This is still a pretty great album with some absolutely spellbinding tunes and metal classics. I recommend this to any metal fan, because there are some tracks on this that if you haven't heard already, you need to hear at some point.

8.1/10

DIMMU BORGIR Abrahadabra

Album · 2010 · Symphonic Black Metal
Cover art 3.79 | 24 ratings
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For those who don't know, Dimmu Borgir are pretty much the biggest black metal band on the planet. Now...they aren't the most important or ground breaking, in fact many see them as betrayers of “true kvlt black metal” side., but...I do see Dimmu at least to be one of the more enjoyable black metal bands, and one of their reasons being their ability to take their dark sounds to more contemporary heights. Now, I don't think they'll be getting Timbaland to produce any of their albums any time soon, but these guys are pretty much expanding their sound further than their black metal roots.

After releasing their last album “In Sorte Diaboli”, which saw the band strip back their sound and put a hold on orchestras on choirs (yet still make insanely bombastic music), the band saw a rather dramatic change, with members Mustis and ICS Vortex leaving the band (and new drummer Hellhammer leaving the band earlier due to a foot injury). This was a giant change, with Mustis being a musical genius who composed a lot of the band's orchestral arrangements and ICS Vortex adding a new dimension to the band in the late 90s, with the addition of clean and operatic vocals to the bands sound. So, with Shagrath, Silenoz and Galder left, the band decided to create a new album, with no addition of new members. So, taking what they had, the band decided to get a good bit of outside help. With the help on an orchestra and choir on their side again, along with the help of a few guest musicians and vocalists, the band have been reborn.

Some of the arguments and criticisms I've seen for this album have been rather odd. One of the biggest criticisms was the use of the orchestra, which is funny, because these guys have been using orchestras for the past 10 years. Criticisms can be so silly.

Musically the band have seemed to have adopted a more melodic side to their sound. Now, these guys have flirted with more melodic sounds on previous albums, but this one has a lot more melodic sounds heard. Now, I should warn you, a lot of the songs on this album are still very dark and disturbing, and incredibly heavy. Lyrically the band have also seen a bit of a change, with a more defined direction to their Satanist side, with some embellishments of Crowley and Lovecraftian vibes.

The album kicks off with “Born Treacherous”, which is definitely one of Dimmu's most unique and oddest album openers. With some rather odd twists and turns and some pretty cool embellishments from the orchestra and choir, it really adds an epic feel to the song.

The album's first single “Gateways” did come with a slight touch of controversy. With the helpings of vocal talents from Agnete Kjølsrud, this song received a bit of criticism, with people saying her vocals just didn't fit in the song, and that she even sounded like a crazy witch. The orchestral arrangements had also been described as making the music sound like something from a Disney soundtrack. In my opinion, I think both Agnete's vocals and the insane Disney soundtrack sounds bodes the song a lot of strength. Of course its something very different, but for some odd reason, it just works and makes the track even better. The music video is also worth a watch, for some pretty cool visual effects and dark imagery.

A song where the orchestra really shines is on “Chess With The Abyss.” With a brilliant choir and orchestra ensemble, the song excels in heights of epicness. The interesting vocals from Snow Shaw don't go unnoticed either.

Like many classic acts before them, it is always good to have a song named after yourself. “Dimmu Borgir” I think would be then bands song to their fans. With a rather melodic take, the song is very much an anthem.

“Ritualist” is probably one of the bands catchiest songs I have heard to date. In fact, I'm surprised this one wasn't released as a single. But...beggars can't be choosers.

One of my persona favourite tracks has to be “Renewal.” With some insane black metal music moments with some insane vocals from Shagrath, this is definitely a highlight on the album. The riffs on this song also pack a mighty punch.

The album's closer, “Endings & Continuations” is a pretty epic closer as well. With some very odd vocals from Ulver frontman Garm, the albums chorus is anthemic as hell. Great ending to a pretty magnificent album.

In conclusion, I really don't see why people have been complaining about this album. I know this isn't Dimmu's best album, but it has to be up there with their best. And if not, this will probably be one of my personal favourites. If anyone tells you this is an album to avoid, don't listen to them and give this one a listen. A hidden gem if I must say so...or “A Jewel Traced Through Coal” (bit too far...I know).

8.7/10

DIABLO SWING ORCHESTRA Pandora's Piñata

Album · 2012 · Avant-garde Metal
Cover art 3.72 | 17 ratings
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I have to admit...this band has flown by me these past few years. But thank the lord for relationships because they definitely bring in new music.

I have to admit, when first hearing this band, one of my first thoughts was, “Oh luck...a gimic band.” But, as I was shown more and more stuff from this band, I was slowly becoming more impressed and becoming rather guilty at liking the very odd mix of swing and metal.

Now, most people associate these guys as “swing metal.” Now, to a degree they are, but they are so more. Basically, these guys aren't afraid to dip their toes into a lot different genres, with a lot of surprises throughout.

Musically the band is just perfect. With an incredibly large ensemble, making rather complicated music could seem a challenge, but these guys pretty much are able to take a lot of styles and fuse them together without worry.

The opener “Voodoo Mon Amour” is the perfect opener for the album. With a very catchy chorus and a danceable groove, this song just makes you want to get on a table and dance like your in the 50s.

The single that was released from the album “Black Box Messiah” is a very odd and interesting song. With a chorus that sounds like every J-Pop song compressed into one and some rather odd instrumentation throughout just add to the oddness of the song. Also, if you don't mind having an epileptic seizure, I recommend you watch the music video for this song.

One of the biggest highlights on the album has to be “Aurora.” Very much an aria, the song is a beautiful blend of orchestration with an absolutely jaw dropping mezzo soprano from Annlouice (Tarja...eat your heart out).

“Honey Trap Aftermath” is definitely one of the more easy listenable songs on the album with a very funky bassline on it. The mix of male and female vocals go very well together.

My personal favourite track has to be “Of Kali Ma Calibre.” This has to be one of the best symphonic metal songs I have heard in the past few years, and probably of all time. With an incredibly boisterous vocal performance from Annlouice and an absolutely astounding instrumental performance, taking power and rhythms to new heights.

The final track, “Justice For Saint Mary” is an epic blend of an acoustic ballad and an over the top orchestra. With a beautiful falsetto based vocal from Daniel, the song is an absolute masterpiece. The ending, which received a lot of mixed looks with the dubstep sounding electronic bits. Personally, I really like it and I think it's an insane way to end an album.

In conclusion, these guys are doing something very different to what most bands are doing now. They're fun, enjoyable and very entertaining. Musically they are spot on, vocally they blend styles very well and they compose some pretty impressive music. The album seems to be their best effort so far, and only shows that this band's next release will just be as exciting as this album.

8.7/10

DREAM THEATER Dream Theater

Album · 2013 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 3.47 | 53 ratings
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Oddly enough, this is my first time ever reviewing a Dream Theater album. Which is odd, because I have been a massive fan of this band for 10 years now. In fact, if it weren't for this band, I would never have started to play guitar. I wouldn't have discovered the wonderful world of progressive music. So...here we go...

After a return to form with their last album “A Dramatic Turn Of Events”, this new album, a self titled 13th studio affair is pretty much a taster of what's to come for the band in the future. So how does it hold up, Well...its a mixed bag really. Much like every Dream Theater album (except for the classics obviously).

Mangini's drumming, which is pretty much the hook for the album is pretty impressive. I've always been in love with this guys technique and ability. It is odd not hearing Portnoy's sound (dugga dugga dugga as I like to call it), but I do like a new spice added to an old broth. James' vocals are also show a pretty noticeable change, with his vocals sounding a lot more comfortable than on previous releases. And with his solo album doing so well, this guy is probably on top of the world at the moment (with his facebombing beard...and a beautiful beard it is).

Mix wise, this album is a lot better. This time the guitar sound isn't too overbearing, and finally...the bass can be heard. John Myung is one of the best players on the planet, yet his bass sound over the past album has almost been inaudible. Good to hear the funk put back in the band again.

And as usual Petrucci and Rudess sound amazing...but they always do. Damn those wizards.

The album's opener “False Awakening Suite” is the band's attempt at creating opening music for their tours. In many ways it reminds me of a Symphony X instrumental, with the intro to “Paradise Lost” coming to mind. A nice little composition with some pretty cool riffs and bombastic uses of orchestration.

The lead single “The Enemy Inside” is one of the best introduction songs these guys have released since “Constant Motion.” With a rather heavier approach to the bands sound with some modern metal influences, with the use of discords and stuff, the band show a more modern sound. Lyrically the song deals with the topic of post traumatic stress disorder, and I have to admit, it does have some good lyrical moments.

“The Looking Glass” is probably one of my favourite songs on the album. Now, I will admit, the main riff is pretty much a Rush rip off (maybe a tribute, just to be nice), but as the song goes on, it does move in to rather more beautiful territories. The lyrics deal with fame and are aimed at people who get fame from no work and stuff. I have to admit, some of the lyrics and lines I'm pretty impressed by.

In all of Dream Theater's albums and career, I have never heard what I would describe as a 'filler track'...but I'm afraid that I finally have found one. “Behind The Veil” pretty much just sounds like certain sounds heard on this album meshed together. The chorus is rather weak but there is some rather good moments throughout it.

The album's final track “Illumination Theory” is the album's longest track, being just under 20 minutes (with a hidden Easter egg at the end). In many ways this track reminds me of “The Count Of Tuscany,” except the opposite. On “The Count Of Tuscany”, I really didn't like the metal bits and favoured the softer bits. But, the metal bits on this song I absolutely love, mainly because it reminds me of a more classic style of metal. The softer moments on this are rather good, but the most oddest bit would be the middle part of the song. It does sound nice and al, it just comes from nowhere. The ending Easter egg is also pretty cool and rather beautiful...and if this was the start of the next album, it would be a pretty cool idea.

In conclusion, this album reminds me of the way I felt when I listened to Rush's “Clockwork Angels”. A good album, a return to form, joyous music...but still not 100% rubbing me the right way. By far not their best and by far not their worst, this is a pretty decent affair. Their ain't no instant classics on this album, but there is some pretty decent minor experiments cropping up now and then. In all fairness, James' solo album is in fact a way more enjoyable affair...which I know is a very odd thing to say, but...it makes sense. At the end of the day, Dream Theater have become the new Rush. They will always excel with their talent, always impress with their old and new material and to this day are one of the biggest cult bands on the planet. So really nothing I can say will dampen their already perfect image. Good on ya lads!

8.1/10

AYREON The Theory of Everything

Album · 2013 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 4.06 | 37 ratings
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Having loved Ayreon's last album, I was so excited to hear that Arjen had decided to get this project off the ground again. Not sure whether this was due to his failed projects Guilt Machine and his first solo album, but whatever...I am so glad to see him get this project off the ground again.

Now Arjen's reason for stopping the project was due to the criticism on Ayreon's last album “01011001.” Now personally, this album is one of my all time favourites, but some harsh words from critics who claimed the album to be “the same old thing”. Hurt by these comments, Arjen decided to put the Ayreon project to bed...but now he's decided to wake it up, and it's ready, awake and an album is here for us to listen to.

Now, Ayreon's biggest quality is the ability to take some of the greatest talent in music. And I have to admit, I was rather surprised at who he got. With big names like John Wetton (King Crimson, Asia) Cristina Scabbia (Lacuna Coil), Tommy Karevik (Kamelot, Seventh Wonder) and Marco Hietala (Nightwish, Tarot), the vocals really shine, with each vocalist surprising me and impressing me multiple times throughout. The biggest shock was seeing Michael Mills name on the credits. Being from a rather unknown band called Toehider, who I've just recently gotten into these past years. I knew this dude was a good singer...but...wow...people need to check the talent this guy has. JB from Grand Magus also has one hell of a role in this album too. One of the slight criticisms I had with this album (same I had with “The Human Equation”) was the lack of attention focused on the main character. The Prodigy (as played by Tommy Karevik) is really one of the top vocalists for this album, but sadly he really doesn't get a big enough part, which is a shame. I do think allowing the other vocalists time was a good idea, but a bit more focus on him really would have fleshed this album a lot more.

The musical line up is also a lot bigger than it has ever been. Bringing in some help from Jordan Rudess, Rick Wakeman, Keith Emerson, Steve Hackett, Troy Donockley and some other famous faces. I have to admit, with this help, musically this project hasn't been stronger. In fact, this also may be Ayreon's heaviest album to date.

Story wise, it's a rather odd one. Based around the trials and tribulations of a child prodigy, the album does have a pretty strong and encapsulating narrative throughout. I have to admit, some of the lyrics aren't the best in the world, but as you listen and enjoy, you get hooked. Also, no spoilers, but a rather surprising twist can be seen at the end...which in all fairness, I really liked.

Whenever I saw the track listing for the album, I was surprised slightly. 4 big suites! My first impression was...'is this going to be some sort of “Tales Of A Topographic Ocean.” Luckily it wasn't. Unlike Yes, this album doesn't seem too over indulgent...in fact, it's pretty to point, which is one of the reasons I actually liked the suites being split into separate tracks. Now, I wouldn't have minded 4 long tracks, but I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the separate tracks.

In conclusion, I am rather mixed with this album. By far this isn't the best or worst effort from Ayreon...but at least it's something different. While the music and vocals in this album are absolutely stellar, the songwriting isn't as strong, due to the lack of hooks and songs that where in the previous albums. Still a great album from Arjen, and proves that what he thought was getting old is still sought after, and whatever he decides to do next, there will always be an audience for Ayreon.

CKY Volume 1

Album · 1999 · Alternative Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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CKY are a band I have always liked. Oddly enough, I have never really seen a lot of criticism thrown against these guys, especially nothing too harsh, cause these guys can actually play and write some rather unique metal tunes. And this being their debut proves my point.

Warning, this is a debut album. In fact, its pretty much a self funded project at best. The production was actually done by the band, and it's pretty impressive what they where able to do on a shoestring budget.

Now sound wise, the band have worked out a rather effective formula. A great riff makes a song. Now, I will admit, this album is chocked full of amazing riffs. Guitar riffs and grooves that I believe will stand the test of time. But that's it. The main thing going for these guys at the time was their ability to create some really stellar guitar riffs. Song writing wise, these guys wouldn't tap into their full potential until their 2nd album I think...and I mean it, there are some absolute tunes on that album. This album does have tunes but it does lack some lustre...but, this is also a rather interesting listening experience.

Another problem I have with this album is that it rather all over the place. In many ways, this album is a collection of 9 songs, with each song pretty much being a collection of the bands influences. Some songs eminate their later style, but some songs pretty much show the band with their favourite band's on their sleeves. Now don't get me wrong, this album isn't like Avenged Sevenfold's “Hail To The King” with blatant rip offs, but a well trained ear can hear certain musical moments emerging.

The opener “96 Quite Bitter Beings” doesn't really need describing. If you haven't heard this song then you are incredibly young or incredibly old. The riff, being the pinnacle of the song, really is the highlight and focus. The rest is alright though.

The oddest song on the album has to be “The Human Drive In Hi-Fi.” A disco funk song. Who would have expected it. It's rather enjoyable though...in a very wrong way.

“Lost In A Contraption” sees the band going in a rather middle eastern vibe, mainly with the guitar riff. Most bands have done this, but I'm surprised to see these guys going in this kind of direction. In many ways, this could be an ode to classic metal, which I feel this song pretty much is.

“Knee Deep” is a song I remember from “Viva La Bam.” It was one episode where Bam challenged his dad and his uncle as with rockstars and their final performances was with CKY, where they would be performing this song. The song itself is probably one of the bands more heavier moments with a rather doomy main riff. The middle riff is the real hookline though.

The album's comical moment comes in the form of “My Promiscuous Daughter.” With some rather obscene and graphic lyrics, it is a rather funnier direction for the band.

“Sara's Mask” is probably one of the most interesting songs on the album. A slower more ballad type of song, it really does have some rather beautiful instrumental moments and some nice vocal arrangements too.

In conclusion, this album has some strong points and weak points. I would recommend this to anyone, because it pretty much is a very accessible album. It's all over the place direction wise, but it does have something for everyone. Better things would come for the band, but as a debut, this is pretty impressive.

7.5/10

TIMO TOLKKI'S AVALON The Land of New Hope

Album · 2013 · Power Metal
Cover art 2.77 | 3 ratings
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Being a fan of Stratovarius for a few years now, I am saddened that I haven't given any of Timo's current projects a look. So seeing that he had a “metal opera” I was immediately intrigued. So...is it any good...yes...and no.

The biggest flaw on this album is probably the concept. The story is very basic. The world pretty much is in ruins with floods, storms and a whole load of crazy stuff happening. The last of humanity decide to go to a place called Avalon...and then they go there. Yep, nothing really over the top. Nothing too deep and the biggest flaw...no characters. The stuff that made Avantasia & Ayreon's albums so interesting and enjoyable was that each guest vocalist played a certain character, which was important for the plot and fluidity of the album. The guest vocalists on this album don't really portray any characters and if they do, I can't see any of them. In fact, each character seems to have the same goal...to get to Avalon. That's not good storytelling if all your characters act the same. Even Rhapsody's vast concept albums have some great characterization and very in depth plot lines, so storywise, this album falls incredibly short. The guest musicians which include such legends as Derek Sherinian & Jens Johannson don't hold much weight either. Blink and you'll miss them.

Now, the album does hold some strengths, and it pretty much comes from the performers. As a guitar and a songwriter, Timo can be a bit underlooked at times. I admit he's not a songwriting icon, but he is pretty good, especially the stuff he wrote for Stratovarius, being the band's main songwriter from the late 80's till his departure in the late 2000's. I do admit, comparing to the melodies on this album to Stratovarius' most recent releases, Timo does prove to be the better catchier songwriter. The other strengths come from the guest vocalists themselves. With Timo's rather simple recording technique, the performances given sound very raw, showing off the complete talent of the vocalists at hand, with no special over the top overdubbing or pro tools used to enhance their voices.

The opener “Avalanche Anthem” is a pretty kick ass way to start the album. I do have a slight problem with the chorus. The song tries to have a rather kick ass operatic feel, but because of the production, it kind of falls flat.

Tracks like “A World Without Us” and “Enshrined In My Memory” are the more catchier and rocking moments on the album. Great chorus and both could be used as singles, with “Enshrine In My Memory” already being the lead single for the album.

One of the most interesting tracks on the album has to be “In The Name Of The Rose.” Starting off rather slow with a beautiful vocal performance from Elzie Ryd., it slowly descends into a more rocking song with a powerful vocal performance from Russell Allen. Great mix of styles.

Tony Kakko's vocals on “We Will Find A Way” are rather odd. In fact, I was rather shocked to find out it was him. Usually Tony's vocals, but on this track it' hard to tell if it's him at times, which worries me and impresses me at the same time. Mixed opinion really.

Another shining moments comes in the form of the track...em...”Shine” oddly enough. Sharon Den Adel nails it in this song with some of her most powerful and impressive vocals to date.

The album closer, which is also the title track is also the album's 'epic' being near 9 minutes long. This is probably the weakest song on this album. In many ways it seems that Timo was trying to write a song similar to an old Stratovarius tune called “Fantasia.” The only problem is, it really isn't as diverse as the song it's trying to eminate. It's very repetitive and rather slow pacing. It's such a shame that he decided to get Michael Kiske to sing this one, cause his voice really does pack a punch. Bit of a let down and an anti climax if I'm being honest.

In conclusion, this album did suprise me. I'm not completely loving it, but it did get me slightly more interested in Timo's current endeavours. This album does suffer from serious flaws, especially when comparing to other metal opera's like Ayreon & Avantasia which it would never be able to challenge. Apparently there's going to be a follow up to this album which will actually be the prequel. If Timo can iron out his mistakes, it could be a very interesting and surprising listen, but only time will tell.

6.7/10

DEVIN TOWNSEND Ki

Album · 2009 · Metal Related
Cover art 3.78 | 40 ratings
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I remember the day Devin said he was quiting Strapping Young Lad. I was watching a very old British TV station called Rock something or other (it was very good but it didn't meet viewers needs and kind of fell into the ground). Devin was performing a puppet show as Ziltoid and made me laugh like the hyenas from The Lion King.

Then Devin comes out and says “I'm done!”

I was saddened. I had just gotten into Devin's work and hearing him say he was retiring from music pretty much was sad. But...luckily enough he was pretty much stating he was leaving Strapping Young Lad.

So a year or two passed and Devin emerged again. He was looking healthier, he had shaved his head and he said he was going to release a 4 album series that was going to be like a 4 course dinner. And that the first album Ki, would be like an appetizer. And in many ways this is pretty much a great appetizer.

This album did receive some slight confusion whenever it was originally released, mainly due to it's vast difference to anything Devin has done before. In many ways it does harken back to some of Devin's earlier material and touches of his original sound, but it very much is a very different and rather different type of album.

The opener “Coast” has to be one of my personal favourites from Devin. A very beautiful song with some rather interesting guitar lines. The ambient sounding backgrounds are also very beautiful as well. A great vocal performance from Devin as well, showing a lot of diversity in his softer and operatic tones.

“Disruptr” is one of the more heavier moments on the album with some brilliant build ups throughout. This song and the next track are rather similar in nature, with Disruptr having a slightly more calmer effect. The next track has “Gato” has to be one of my personal favourites on the album and is definitely one of the more heavier songs. Also, any lyrics about cat people will always interest me. Devin's vocals in this track are pretty insane at times.

The ballads on the album “Terminal” and “Lady Helen” are also very interesting. With very minimal and quiet music behind them, it harkens back to some of the more prettier moments found on an album like “Terria.” Terminal in particular is done brilliantly live in “By A Thread.”

My favourite track on the album would have to be the longest composition “Heaven Send.” A rather relaxing start with a rather bluesy groove, it builds up with some brilliant distorted guitar grooves and an almost gang like chorus. The guitar solo in the song is also one of Devin's most interesting guitar solo, with great use of a whammy peddle.

One of the prettiest tracks on the album has to be “Winter.” A very beautiful song with a very large instrumental base, with the vocals being very simple. A beautiful and relaxing song.

One of the most oddest tracks has to be “Trainfire.” A song inspired by 50 and 60's rock and roll, it really gives off a rock a billy train feel to it. The ending is also very different with the song taking on a rather different and more interesting form with some beautiful guitar playing.

The title track is one of the more interesting tracks on the album. Again, another song that wouldn't go amiss on “Terria”. A very quiet start slowly building up to a multi layered contrapuntal musical masterpiece. Great production on this track with some spellbinding guitar playing from Devin.

The album closer, or the should be album closer “Quiet Riot” is a rather beautiful acoustic ending, taking melodies and lyrics from Slade's (or Quiet Riot's) “Cum On Feel The Noize.” A very beautiful ending to the album, along with the other close “Demon League.”

In conclusion, this album does get a lot of mixed opinions from people, but I personally I really like it. I do admit that it does have a lot of styles and is a lot less cohesive than most of his albums, but personally I find the album to go through a whole range of emotions due to Devin going through a whole load of emotions at the time. This is a mixed bag, but there is some really beautiful and powerful moments on this album. Something very different, but something very interesting.

8.8/10

DEVIN TOWNSEND Epicloud

Album · 2012 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 34 ratings
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This album basically came out of nowhere for me. I remember hearing him talk about this album at one point, and all of a sudden, it appears from nowhere out of the blue.

I have to admit, even though this album is insanely different from anything he has ever done, I really love this album. I usually get into bands and artists through personality. If someone I enjoy genuinely is making something happy and positive, I'll feed off those feelings.

In many ways, you could say this is the second part of “Addicted!”, but in many ways is taken a step forward. While “Addicted!” was very much an album full of joy and happiness, Epicloud almost takes this idea of joy and happiness to an almost religious sense. Yea. Being not religious at all, this album is pretty much as religious I'll ever get. In fact, anytime I'm forced to do any religious stuff due to my family, I'll just be like to myself 'I could be listening to Epicloud.'

The opener “Effervescent!” is a brilliant start to the album and is pretty much the occurring theme of the album. Nothing beats like a big gospel sounding choir.

The first real track “True North” I have a slight problem with. Now when I first heard this song, and the intro came on...I nearly cried. I admit it, this intro really is one of the most beautiful things I've ever heard and anytime I hear it, it touches me very much so emotionally. As the intro goes on it builds up amazingly, but the song takes some rather interesting turns, and all I can think of is...'where's the intros.' I do love this song, but I do have a tiny grudge against it. Still an amazing composition though.

The album's single “Lucky Animals” is just an incredibly catchy song. This song was made to be a sing along song, and it works perfectly. You can't listen to this song with a sad look on your face. Cheer up and listen to this song.

“Liberation” has a very Kiss vibe to it. A very upbeat song I could totally see people rocking out to during a live set. Total cheese, but kick ass.

“Save Our Now” reminds me a lot of Dream Theater's “I Walk Beside You.” A very upbeat pop song...but doesn't sound fake. Rather beautiful with some great catchy moments.

One of my personal favourites on the album has to be the re recording of “Kingdom.” Definitly one of Devin's best vocal performances ever and the newer arrangements work so well. Probably one of my favourite songs ever.

Out of all the slower songs Devin has made, “Divine” has to be one of Devin's best ballads. A really simple and beautiful arrangement with some of Devin's softest vocals ever. The hidden ambience also is the perfect atmosphere for the song.

The ultimate pinnacle of the album comes in the form of “Grace.” Very much, this is the religious moment on the album. With some heart achingly vocals from Anneke, the song is backed up with some incredibly heavy and joyous guitar riffs. Mixing metal with gospel really does work a treat and this has to be one of my all time favourite songs.

“More!” has to be one of the more joyous songs on the album. The lyrics make me laugh a lot, and to me are rather smart.

“Hold On” could easily have been a Britney Spears or Myley Cyrus song. A very beautiful song with one great pop chorus.

The ending track “Angel” is a brilliant ending. A beautiful composition mainly built around vocals, the song has a very uplifting and. The ending in particular I love, which bring back the album's main theme.

In conclusion, this is just a beautiful uplifting and fun album. Pretty much, this album has a bit of everything for everyone. I would recommend this to anyone, because it is pretty much a joyous album and always puts me in a good mood. But, it is also a very emotional album at times and can really bring a tear to your eye. Definitely one of Devin's greatest achievement. In fact you don't need to be a music fan to like this. Just buy it so Devin doesn't starve of artistic hunger.

9.3/10

DEVIN TOWNSEND Deconstruction

Album · 2011 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 3.90 | 51 ratings
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So now we approach Devin's biggest challenge to date. Now before releasing this album, Devin pretty much did say this was going to be his heaviest and craziest album. Now, I was expecting something big and crazy, but this takes it even a step further.

Musically this album is batshit insane. Pretty much anything Devin could think of has been crammed into this affair. The best way I can describe this album is actually to compare it to the “Euthanasia Rollercoaster” which is a concept created by Julijonas Urbonas. The rollercoaster is supposed to actually kill you in the process but give you also a great sense of euphoria among the impact of death. Pretty much, this is what this album will give you. A great euphoria out of something that is probably driven by insane fear and confusion.

The concept is present on the album, but it isn't a story driven one. The rather absurd idea story of the a man going to the devil and being presented a cheeseburger that holds all the secrets of life, but he can't eat it cause he's a 'veg eh ma tarian' is present, but its not a linear narrative. In fact many of the lyrics are pretty much absurdist vignettes, with Devin pondering life and reality by presenting some rather interesting images and words throughout. Pretty much, the music does the talking on this album.

The only negative I would have with this album is that some of the tracks aren't as enjoyable by themselves. As part of the album, they are perfect companion pieces but by themselves they do sound rather confusing at times. I recommend listening to this from start to finish. Another negative I would hold against the album would be its production. Because everything is so big in style and production, a lot of sounds can be at times sound watered. I think a good sound system really is needed to blast this album with.

The opener “Praise The Lowered” is a nice calm intro to what will be a rollercoaster. I love the first half of this song a lot actually. The second half is a pretty great introduction to the musical tone of the rest of the album.

“Stand” is more of a heavier and slower affair. With some great build ups throughout, Devin and Mikael Åkerfeldt's duet works a treat in this track with a great mixture of tones.

The only possible single for the album is “Juular.” An insane affair that sounds like Disney movies in hell, the guest vocals from Ihsahn provide an evil and angry approach to a rather calm metal affair.

“Sumeria” is a Gojira sounding song with some pretty earth shattering riffs. Joe Duplantier's vocals are as usual sounding great. The ending of the song also features some very pretty vocals from Paul Masvidal, which is a perfect segue into the next track.

The most insane song on the album has to be “The Mighty Masturbator.” Starting off rather prettily with some nice instrumentation it builds up to a big epic chorus. Then it changes into a rave pretty much, and then ends with some almost patriotic sounding instrumentation that wouldn't go amiss at a presidential inauguration. Also, Ziltoid makes an appearance on this song, which is always great to hear. Greg Puciato's vocals are amazing, as usual too.

“Pandemic” is one of the fastest and most extreme moments on the album. With some great operatic warbles from Floor Jensen, the 2 work a charm on this track.

The title track is the real highlight and climax of the album. Starting off with sounds of defecation and rather drunk ranting, it bursts into to some Devin's best guitar work...and in my opinion his bet vocals. The songs ultimate climax is the cheeseburger bit, which when you hear it, you will quote it for the rest of your life. The ending is incredibly epic and beautiful. Also, Oderus from GWAR does some great vocals on this song...as usual and the guitar solo from Frederik Thorendal is pretty mind blowing.

The ending song “Poltergeist” is pretty much a great ending to a crazy affair, and in many ways could be the closest thing Devin has gotten to Strapping Young Lad in a long time.

In conclusion, this has to be one of the craziest album’s I've ever heard in my life. Devin promised crazy and that's what we got. The problem with this album is...is it too crazy. I believe it is, and that's the reason I like it. This album really isn't for everyone, but if you like jumping into pits of alligators while having an epileptic fit, then this is definitely for you. You really have to respect the lengths Devin went to make this album, from orchestra's, choirs, guest vocalists and the time effort putting into writing, arranging, recording and performing this beast of an album. In many years when the planet is taken over by aliens, it's this album that will scare them away.

8.7/10

KATATONIA Dethroned & Uncrowned

Album · 2013 · Non-Metal
Cover art 3.70 | 13 ratings
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Katatonia in many ways have been the darker half of what Anathema have been doing in the past few years. Also, it isn't too hard to make a connection between these 2 bands. Both originally starting out as death/doom metal bands, over the years they have adopted there own sounds and have experimented a lot in their long careers. While I believe Anathema has definitely found their sound these past few years and have received a lot of praise over there challenging new musical adventures, Katatonia have also been doing a similar method, but have definitely kept there foot more in the metal world while Anathema has crossed over to the prog world.

But, over the past few years, having listened to stuff off there previous releases, I have noticed some slight differences to their sound, with the metal tone been toned down just a tad. And in fact, the band have even admitted that they have now become slightly tired of their metal sound. In fact, the last album “Dead End Kings” was supposed to originally have been this album with all arrangements in tact.

Musically the album strips the songs down to their basics, with very limited percussion and more highlights on acoustic guitars, keyboards and string sections. Comparing them to the originals, you can notice a slight difference. But, the slight negative is that these songs where originally metal songs, so some of the musical moments don't translate too well to a more softer feeling. At times it's pulled off very well, but I would love to hear new material made with this sound, rather than having the last album done acoustically.

The opener “The Parting” kicks the album off with some amazing vocal harmonies from Jonas. Great start to the album.

“The One You Are Looking For Is Not Here” is one of the most interesting tracks on the album. With guest vocals from Silje Wergeland from The Gathering, the mixture of female and male vocals bodes well to the song.

My personal favourite track on the album has to be “The Racing Heart.” The arrangement on this song is beautiful, with some very light instrumentation and the odd pacing and movements of the vocal melodies. Some very nice vivid lyrics throughout and definitely the catchiest song on the album.

The most eclectic track on the album would have to be “Buildings.” With some rather jazzy riffs and instrumentation, it goes well with the dark moods of the song.

“Undo You” is probably one of the more darker tracks on the album. With some rather dark chord progressions and rather chilling vocal lines, it definitely is the pinnacle of darkness on the album.

“Lethean” is probably one of the more brightest songs, with the drums actually being heard on the song. It's still rather depressing, but not as depressing as the rest of the songs on the album.

In conclusion, this album is a mixed bag for me. I think having listened to his has really made me discover why I like Katatonia so much, and its because the great mix of beauty and darkness in their music. Jonas' beautiful crooning mixed with the heaviness and power of the guitars works very well. This album was pulled off very well and the sounds created are pretty great, but I would have liked to have heard material written for this sound, rather than arrangements of the last album.

7.5/10

DEVIN TOWNSEND Ziltoid The Omniscient

Album · 2007 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 4.15 | 95 ratings
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When this album first came out I was rather intrigued but slightly confused. I had always known that Devin had a rather odd sense of humour. Watching the preview videos for it, I knew this was something I had to buy. In all fairness I wasn't expecting much, but what I got was probably one of my all time favourites.

The production of this album is pretty limited for Devin due to his decision to make this thing pretty much completely by himself. While the guitars and keyboards do sound giant, the drums have a very mechanical feel to them, mainly due to the fact that they where programmed. But, because of this, the drums on this album are doing things that a human is pretty much incapable of doing with his body. Vocally Devin has really shown how diverse he is, by portraying most of the characters on the album.

For those who don't know, this album is a concept album about an alien who comes to Earth looking for coffee, tries to take over the world, and then decides to learn more about himself. I know to many people it sounds stupid...and it is, but it's pulled off so well. A lot of people always compare Devin to Frank Zappa, and, yea this album proves this completely. Zappa who was well known for making rather silly concept albums such as “Joe's Garage” and “Thing-Fish.” The thing is, even though these albums where rather silly in nature, there was brilliant satire in them. In many ways, this album is a satire...a personal satire. If you read the lyrics very carefully, and even look at the image of Ziltoid...it is pretty obvious that the puppet is Devin. In many ways, this is Devin's most personal album to date. I would explain more, but then you might not want to listen to it...and you should listen to it.

The opener “ZTO” is pretty much the theme tune for the album. A brilliant way to open this rollercoaster of madness.

“By Your Command” is pretty much the opener for the album, and shows a lot what the album has in store for you. As usual, Devin's vocals are as diverse as ever. The real highlight is the rhythmic and almost chant like ending, with some absolutely brain melting riffs.

“Ziltoidia Attaxx!!!” would have been the perfect choice for a single, mainly due to its catchiness, its groovy nature and it's plain craziness. The drum programming for this song is insane. I don't think a drummer could move his feet this fast. The guitar work on this track is pretty impressive as well, even if it is rather satirical.

“Solar Winds” is pretty much the ballad on the album, and compared to the rest of it, it's a lot more gentle in nature. Some very beautiful parts in this song, with Devin giving a very honest and quiet vocal performance for a lot of it.

This album also contains the first incarnation of “Hyperdrive.” I have to admit, I do prefer the “Addicted!” version mainly because of Anneke's voice, but this original is pretty laid back and rather pretty.

My least favourite song on the album would have to be “N9.” I can kind of see why it was on the album and it does have some pretty nice moments, but in all fairness, it does seem a tiny little bit out of place.

One of my personal favourites would have to be “Planet Smasher.” With the introduction of one of the coolest ideas for a character ever, Devin voices him with an insane low death metal growl. Definitly one of the catchier songs on the album and one of the most impressive.

The album's closing epic “Color Your World” pretty much ends the album. While most of it is pretty much heavy and crazy, the middle section of this song has to be one of the most beautiful pieces of music Devin has ever created. A great climax to the album.

The final song “The Greys” is very much the ending song. A very relaxed ending with a rather nice and catchy chorus. One of the more simplest songs, but still very effective.

In conclusion, this album is definitely something that everyone should listen to. It's so accessible, and its rather ingeniously done. If you don't like metal, you may at least find this album funny. If you aren't a comedy fan, you may enjoy the album's music. Pretty much, you got to respect an artist who makes a joke album, and is able to make it one of the most successful and meaningful album's they've ever done.

9.5/10

DEVIN TOWNSEND Terria

Album · 2001 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 4.15 | 82 ratings
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Having released what was a disappointment to most of his fans, Devin felt a bit lost. Then an idea hit him...why don't I make an album about myself and my native land of Canada.

To most people, this idea would seem barking mad, but because it's Devin behind the wheel, he has made what I think to be one of the most beautiful albums I've ever heard in my life.

Musically this album is a sonic step in the right direction. The loud parts of Devin's music are even more like a giant wall of sound, with the production being spot on. But, with the loud comes the quiet, with some moments of this album being some of Devin's most prettiest and beautiful musical work to date.

On this album Devin has gone into more personal territory, especially lyrically. But, the lyrics throughout are very vague at times, making the album seem a lot more personal in nature. The album themes also cross into native territory, with Devin showing signs of homesickness to his native Canada. The artwork in this album is also astounding, with artist Travis Smith, creating some of his best artwork to date.

The opening track “Olives” is a rather comical opening to the album. Some nice instrumental work throughout too. In many ways, the song reminds me of something Pink Floyd would have done during the late 70s.

The weakest song on the album for me would have to be “Mountain.” I kind of feel this song is almost the intro of the album, but to be honest, “Olives” is already the perfect intro to this album, so it seems that it's not really needed.

“Earth Day” has to be one of my all time favourite Devin Townsend tracks. If you haven't heard this track you need to here this one. This is definitely one of the more diverse songs in Devin's catalogue, fusing metal with more groovy orientated rock. Lyrically the song is also rather humorous, which makes the song even more enjoyable.

“Deep Peace” is a song that has it's roots grounded in its instrumental work. With some stellar guitar work from Devin showing off a wide spectacle of Devin's guitar work, moving from Pink Floydian moments to neo classical showmanship. A pinnacle of the album.

“Down & Under”, the album's instrumental shows off a lot of compositional skills. Building upon a simple acoustic guitar riff, the song explodes with a lot of power and energy.

“Nobody's Here” is very much the ballad of the album. A very simple song for Devin, but behind the simplicity, the beauty shines forth even more.

One of the album's epics “Tiny Tears”, it has a very beautiful feel throughout. In fact, how it builds up without the need for a giant explosion is very smart, and works very well in the songs favour.

The album closer “Stagnant” is a brilliant ender to the album. A song that pretty much ties a lot of strings together musically, it has a more relaxed feel with some stellar vocal work from Devin.

In conclusion, this is an absolute beautiful and odd masterpiece. This is a must have for fans of Devin;s music, because pretty much everything great about his musical talent and skill is all here on this album. A progression is also seen to what would soon become his more standard sound. While “Ocean Machine” birthed his musical sound, this was a step in the right direction and a further progression into Devin's musical world.

8.8/10

DEVIN TOWNSEND Physicist

Album · 2000 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 3.40 | 25 ratings
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Another history lesson, and more facts of information. During the late 90's, Devin had started to take his musical experiments even further, by getting in contact with Jason Newsted from Metallica. The 2 jammed and where about to release an album under the name of IR8. But, if anyone knows the history of Metallica, apparently James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich where not big fans of their bass player going off and starting side projects.

So, having a load of material and no band, Devin decided to give his friends in Strapping Young Lad a call and have them as his backing band for this album. Which makes me ask the question...

Why wasn't this a Strapping Young Lad album!

Ok, I know this wouldn't have went well with the Strapping fans, but I have to admit, this album isn't too far from what the band would have been doing a few years later on their self titled album. Musically at times there are a lot of harkenings to the sounds created on Devin's previous 2 albums, but other than that, at least more than half of this album would have been perfect material for the band, and also, the line up for this album is al the guys from Strapping anyway, so it really wouldn't have been too much of a dramatic change.

The album opener “Namaste” is a brilliant opener. With a lot of power and some absolutely insane vocals from Devin, it starts the album off on a positive but rather insane note.

“Victim” has to be one of the heaviest songs on the album. In fact, the riff in the song is very similar to the riff in “Detox.” An absolute heavy and bone crushing song.

The early version of “Kingdom” is alright, but I have to admit, the “Epicloud” version of this song completely shadows it. I do like the instrumentation in this one, making the music have a very thunderous approach.

“Death” is probably the most insane song on the album. With music that almost touches on almost grindcore moments, Devin babbles like a basket case.

One of my personal favourites has to be “Irish Maiden” (mainly because I'm Irish). The rather folky and relaxing nature of the song adds well with the insane heaviness of the rhythm section behind it.

The album closer “Planet Rain” is the real epic on the album. A pretty simple enough idea, but as it builds up throughout, it does reach a brilliant and rather epic climax. A bit of an underrated Devin song if I'm being honest.

In conclusion, everyone's going to have a mixed opinion about this album. Personally I rather like it, but I would admit in saying that this is one of Devin's weakest albums. I would prefer if this was a Strapping Young Lad album or if the IR8 project with Jason Newsted, but it is what it is, and I rather enjoyed it. I wouldn't recommend this to every fan or prog fan, but metal fans might get a kick out of this album, cause it is pretty nuts.

7.7/10

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