Non-Metal

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Not every band on Metal Music Archives exclusively plays within a metal or metal related sub-genre. Some start as such only to later leave their old sound behind, others become relevant to the site later in their careers. Some bands like to release one-off experiments. The Non-Metal tag on MMA is used to cover releases that are completely removed from metal music in style, so in a sense is a catch-all sub-genre for releases that don't fit anywhere else.

Sometimes, artists will be added under non-metal exclusively due to being related to the metal genre and scene by association with metal artists, such as the symphonic prog act Transatlantic who feature the former Dream Theater drummer Mike Portnoy, the ambient project Neptune Towers by Darkthrone's Fenriz or the folk band Fejd, who have members who are/have been with a couple of different metal bands (Fejd later became metal themselves, but were accepted on MMA long before that). Such artists are typically covered by the metal media due to this association with the scene, and are as such included on MMA for the same reasons.

Mostly however this tag will be used for releases belonging to other genres by metal (or other metal related) artists, such as Opeth's progressive rock albums Damnation and Pale Communion or Elvenking's folk/folk rock album Two Tragedy Poets.

- Written by adg211288 (August 2015).

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TRANSATLANTIC Bridge Across Forever Album Cover Bridge Across Forever
TRANSATLANTIC
4.61 | 15 ratings
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MOTORPSYCHO The Death Defying Unicorn Album Cover The Death Defying Unicorn
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ELOY Ocean Album Cover Ocean
ELOY
4.51 | 12 ratings
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SWANS The Seer Album Cover The Seer
SWANS
4.80 | 6 ratings
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RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS Blood Sugar Sex Magik Album Cover Blood Sugar Sex Magik
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4.42 | 14 ratings
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TRANSATLANTIC The Whirlwind Album Cover The Whirlwind
TRANSATLANTIC
4.36 | 17 ratings
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KILLING JOKE Killing Joke (Debut) Album Cover Killing Joke (Debut)
KILLING JOKE
4.71 | 6 ratings
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ALICE COOPER From The Inside Album Cover From The Inside
ALICE COOPER
4.27 | 22 ratings
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NEAL MORSE One Album Cover One
NEAL MORSE
4.75 | 5 ratings
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ZZ TOP
4.43 | 10 ratings
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MEAT LOAF Bat Out Of Hell Album Cover Bat Out Of Hell
MEAT LOAF
4.44 | 9 ratings
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KILLING JOKE Night Time Album Cover Night Time
KILLING JOKE
4.54 | 7 ratings
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non-metal Music Reviews

CYPRESS HILL Cypress Hill

Album · 1991 · Non-Metal
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Unitron
While Cypress Hill's debut lacks the ominous atmospheres that they would become known for, the band still already had a unique sound of their own. It's funky, not unlike a lot of hip hop at the time, but DJ Muggs is a master sampler which creates a really busy sound. B-Real and Sen Dog both have really unique voices, that I haven't quite heard elsewhere. B-Real's nasally and cocky delivery is filled to the brim with personality, and he can make gangsta lyricism fun as all hell. Sen Dog contrasts with an incredibly low and strained style, and the two play off of one another really well.

How I Could Just Kill a Man is a classic for a reason, but that's just the beginning of how many bops are on here. Light Another, The Phuncky Feel One, and The Funky Cypress Hill Shit are so damn funky that they immediately get your body movin'. Along with the aforementioned How I Could, Hand on the Pump and Hole in the Head are other songs that sound like a more upbeat version of followup Black Sunday.

While not quite the perfection of Black Sunday, Cypress Hill's s/t is a very close second and an essential hip hop classic.

PENDRAGON The Window of Life

Album · 1993 · Non-Metal
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siLLy puPPy
Once PENDRAGON moved on from the train wreck that they released in the form of “Kowtow,” the band developed into a neo-prog powerhouse and released some of the best albums of the genre in the 90s starting with “The World.” With the stable lineup of Nick Barrett (guitars, vocals), Clive Nolan (keyboards), Peter Gee (bass) and Fudge Smith (yep, a drummer named Fudgie!), PENDRAGON continued to exhibit a compositional maturity only matched by bands like IQ and Nolan’s other gig, Arena.

With THE WINDOW OF LIFE, PENDRAGON crafted six strong tracks that found the band’s instrumental interplay blossoming on a whole new level. Recorded at the band’s new 24 track studio, it really sounds like the musicians took their sweet time in composing the best melodic emotional displays of neo-prog prowess that they could muster up and when the album hit the market in November of 1993, the band found a surge in its popularity and has remained one of the top dogs in the neo-prog world ever since. (Reissues have four extra bonus tracks which are weak and forgettable.)

The album immediately starts out bursting with confidence as a four minute bombastic organ run augmented by a very Pink Floydian guitar solo slowly ratchets up the tension before the vocals kick in along with the walls of atmospheric synth sounds, a bleating bass and drums. The band also began to develop the modern neo-prog staple of ratcheting up the dynamics ever so gently until crescendoing in heavily distorted rock guitar bombast and cyclical looped melodic riffs that offer subtle variations complete with various guitar antics to add some spice. True a Marillion classic sound but PENDRAGON was exploring the nooks and crannies and filling the cracks with various tones and timbres.

“Ghosts” displays Clive Nolan’s keyboard techniques as he adds various timbres through the piano and other keyboard sounds. The track is more of an instant emotional connection as the intro is less dynamic and the focus is on the lyrical delivery which finds Nick Barrett’s vocal performances in top form. Less prominent is drummer Fudge Smith’s excellent and tasteful drum fills as his role is subdued by the overpowering melodic harmonies and thematic presentations but still vital for the overall dynamism of THE WINDOW OF LIFE. While much of neo-prog could be considered nothing more than progressive ballads or sophisticated AOR a lot of the time, “Breaking The Spell” is clearly the most mellow track on board with a soft introduction and a slow ratcheting up effect that slinks over the nine minute mark but never breaks mid-tempo at best.

“The Last Man On Earth” is my personal fave. It nearly hits the 15 minute mark and has some of the best melodies, most outstanding twists and turns and maintains its emotional tug throughout its run and best of all never wears out its welcome. Roughly speaking, it changes gear every couple of minutes and offers new variation on old themes. Careful listening will reveal how clever these guys are at the subtle differences that affect the emotional center in subliminal delivers. It has one of the most unique parts of the album with guest musician Simon Forster delivering a wild harmonica performance with what sounds like a banjo accompaniment towards the end.

“Nostradamus (Stargazing)” has another Floydian intro at least as far as the sonic textures and slow spacey effects are concerned but sounds very different as far as the riffs and keyboard mixes are concerned. This one was a favorite as an opener for live shows at the time. While mostly a ballad, the album turns into a veritable rocker towards the end and reminds a lot of the Fish era Marillion rockers at their best with lots of key changes and that distinct bouncy bass groove. The album closes with “Am I Really Losing You?” which as expected is a tear jerking ballad which is soft and tinny and my least favorite track on the album as it is just too cliche for its own good but also thankfully the shortest track and forgettable.

In summary, THE WINDOW OF LIFE delivers all the neo-prog goods with an excellent band back on track and on the right course to deliver a few more excellent albums that follow. Only the last track rubs me the wrong way as it’s just too sappy and predictable but the rest of the album is chock full of beautiful melodies crafted by the beautiful entwinement of instrumental harmonies that result in a beautiful display of atmospheric progressive rock in all its glory. After hearing THE WINDOW OF LIFE, it’s quite obvious as to why PENDRAGON began to stand out of the neo-prog pack that was getting bigger by the day. Despite all the excellent tracks, they flow together so well and each has its own distinct personality. Personally i’m not sure if this one or the following “The Masquerade Overture” is my favorite of the PENDRAGON lot but all i can say is that for anyone who loves the progressive space pop sounds of neo-prog can’t go wrong with this beautiful specimen of the genre.

PENDRAGON The World

Album · 1991 · Non-Metal
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siLLy puPPy
After the train wreck that resulted from the ill fated commercial nonsense attempted on “Kowtow,” PENDRAGON learned the lessons of straying too far from its neo-prog aspirations and bounced back pretending as if the previous album was nothing more than a very bad dream. While the usual neo-prog cheese is displayed in full progressive pop splendor, the band was looking more towards “Wind & Wuthering” era Genesis and 80s Marillion for their return to the progressive rock universe and in the process launched themselves into the spotlight as one of the best neo-prog bands to sail through the 90s and into the 21st century.

PENDRAGON’s third album THE WORLD redefined the quartet of Nick Barrett (guitars, vocals), Clive Nolan (keyboards), Peter Gee (bass) and Fudge Smith (drums) de-cheesifying from what many consider the awful 80s (in terms of progressive rock) and allowed them to join the new renaissance of prog with the band’s first 90s offering. Before the world of neo-prog adopted a more hardened exterior by adopting metal guitar riffs and a more bombastic approach, the style went through its fluffy bunny and unicorn stage as evidenced on THE WORLD’s fantastical album cover art. With a penchant for the late 70s symphonic prog sound, the style was evolving slowly into its own and PENDRAGON was along for the ride.

“Back In The Spotlight” exudes a rather 80s feel with U2 styled jangled guitar riffs as made famous by The Edge and a Peter Gabriel type of melodic drive similar to early tracks like “Salisbury Hill” but subtly recycled throughout his career. The keyboards generate an atmospheric resonance that extend into the entire near hour playing time and the vocals of Nick Barrett propelled PENDRAGON into the forefront of the neo-prog scene which would continue with a series of strong albums. “The Voyager” is the epic track of the album and dips past the 12 minute mark. It’s here where PENDRAGON really blooms into a veritable neo-prog band. The composition takes on meany meandering fantasy fueled themes with Steve Hackett inspired soaring guitar work, emotional tugs in the form of nebulous visions of ocean dreamers and playing dolphins and a strong sense of compositional fortitude that builds up the intensity.

“Shane” delivers a more space rock vibe from the Pink Floyd playbook whereas “Prayer” is a piano driven tune that brings classic 70s Supertramp to mind complete with military drum marches and a folky flavor. “Queen of Hearts” while technically three tracks is basically a three part suite and the result of various song ideas being stitched together into a more cohesive whole and perhaps the most 80s Marillion sounding track of the album although Marillion were clearly one of the major influences as was most neo-prog of this era. The rest of the album follows suit with similar tracks taking the usual neo-prog twists and turns however different guitar riffs and the mixing it up of Floydian space rock with Mariliion and Genesis inspired symphonic elements keeps it from becoming monotonous.

While i wouldn’t call THE WORLD the defining moment of PENDRAGON it’s certainly no slouch. That is if you can stomach the somewhat cheesified hangover from the 80s only crafted into a more palatable 90s approach. Neo-prog by definition exudes a strong connection to pop music and in that regard THE WORLD succeeds in crafting instantly cute and cuddly melodies that grab you by the hand and take you to that world where nothing bad is lurking in the shadows. While i find the albums that follow to be of better quality, THE WORLD dishes out an album’s worth of strong tunes that while not revolutionary in any particular way sure don’t disappoint in the presentation of the classic neo-prog sound. As with any examples of this style of prog, if the vocalist doesn’t cut the mustard then the experience will fail miserable but Barrett does an excellent job at crafting the nice vocal subtleties that make this album work for me.

ELOY Performance

Album · 1983 · Non-Metal
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Unitron
Among the many bands that made the transition from the 70's to the 80's, Eloy was one of the best at adapting to the new decade. They perfected their space rock/heavy metal hybrid in the 70's with the trilogy of Inside, Floating, and Power and the Passion, and with Performance they perfect a new sound appropriate for the decade.

Performance, as well as the equally excellent follow up Metromania, are a bit hard to pin down as far as genre goes, but they're so wonderfully 80's in the best ways. It's basically a combination of multiple 80's sounds, from new wave to the new wave of heavy metal, it's made to fit Eloy's own mold. Opener In Disguise is a fantastic piece of 80's new wave-tinged hard rock, and is what should've actually been Top Gun's theme song. Shadow and Light has some great metal riffing, Mirador is an instrumental dominated by bass and synth interplay, Heartbeat and Fools are more fantastic 80's new wave rock, and A Broken Frame closes out the album in a majestic fashion.

The best part about this album is just how electrified and energetic the band sounds. Even a song like Surrender which is just drenched in 80's cheese, turns into a total bop with how much these guys are having fun. It translates to the listener so well, it feels like I'm watching these guys on stage at a big arena.

Is it 70's heavy space rock? No, but it has no reason to be. If you want that, there's the fantastic albums they did in the 70's for that. It still sounds like Eloy, just with a new sound that fits the decade much better.

JOHN ZORN Angelus Novus

Album · 1998 · Non-Metal
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siLLy puPPy
After a fairly fruitful musical career established in the 1980s, JOHN ZORN really got productive all throughout the 90s especially around 1995 when he released five albums. The ensuing years would prove to be equally or even more productive and ZORN was always eager to take detours from his avant-garde jazz comfort zone. One of the lesser known aspects of his musical career ZORN was also a classical chamber ensemble composer but many of these compositions remained in the vault for many years to come.

ANGELUS NOVUS which was released in 1998 (the second of eight released that year) was the first album in a series that documented ZORN’s interest in the world of classical music. The album which consists of four lengthy compositions spanned three decades. “For Your Eyes Only” the opening chamber symphony was originally composed in 1988, the piano torture of “Carney” in 1989 and the title track the newest of the lot was crafted in 1993. The two part “Christabel” dates back all the way back to 1972 when ZORN was just a student and was inspired by the romantic mystic poetry of Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

ANGELUS NOVUS is yet another album where ZORN steps out of the limelight as a musician and occupies the role of executive producer but has always been quite unique in the fact that he releases these albums under his own name. Stephen Duty is the conductor, producer, artistic director and pianist of the project while the other instruments are performed by the Callithumpian Consort of the New England Conservatory who mastered the spontaneous jittery angularities of ZORN’s restless nature and pull it off flawlessly. “Christabel” the oldest piece on board is a piece for five flutes and a viola and a clear tribute to the European 20th century classical masters.

“For Your Eyes Only” features a 20-piece ensemble and wends and winds through various obtuse passages with occasional bursts of cartoon music and also a snippet from the occasional melody from the classical history books. The track skirts along for almost 14 minutes but keeps things spiced up to give it various flavors that keep changing. “Carny” is a 13 minute piano performance by Stephen Drury. This avant-garde piece exemplifies his mastery of precision and sounds like a mix of Chopin-esque technicalities with the dissonant abstractness of jazz virtuoso Cecil Taylor. This is definitely difficult listening if there is any but the rhythmic drive provides an underpinning of tangible compositional fortitude.

While the first half of the album is fairly engaging, the latter half is comprised of the title track divided into five different suites. It is very much a fragmented work that takes on many themes. It was dedicated to Walter Benjamin and encompasses both 20th century avant-garde classical flavors as well as inserting various traditional Jewish themes. It is a rather slow burner and the least interesting part as it sort of slinks around aimlessly although the execution is brilliantly performed. Overall it’s just missing that extra magic that gives it an engaging run. The tracks seem to lack a cohesive connecting tissue that makes it all seem relevant. Still though not a horrible piece by any means.

While ANGELUS NOVUS is a grand execution of ZORN’s compositional fortitude in the world of avant-garde classical music, i can’t say this is his best works by any means. While it’s above average for a jazz musician’s ability to effortlessly take on a completely different genre of musical expression, the second half of the album just comes off as way too sleepy and ho hum to make this album absolutely essential however for diehard ZORN fans, this is surely a worthy addition to the collection of countless albums that he has cranked out. The first four tracks alone are interesting historical perspectives of ZORN’s dabbling in this saxophone-free style of music. While this won’t go down in history as one of classical music’s crowning achievements, ZORN did successfully bring new perspectives into its purview and this does make great background music for when you’re feeling really disconnected from reality.

non-metal movie reviews

NEAL MORSE Live Momentum

Movie · 2013 · Non-Metal
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Kev Rowland
One of the disadvantages of living at the end of the world is that these days I get most of my promos as downloads, which generally isn’t too much of a pain but here I find myself reviewing a DVD set where I haven’t actually seen the DVDs! Okay, so this has been released as a double DVD (more than 4 hours), along with a triple CD set and it is the latter that I am reviewing. This recording took place on October 11th, 2012 at The High Line Ballroom, New York, and captures the band in incredible form. I have no idea how many live recordings of Neal there are in my collection, from duetting with NDV through Spock’s Beard and Transatlantic and of course his solo work, but there are one or two. I have seen him in concert with SB as well as on the ‘Testimony’ tour and have had the privilege of interviewing him a few times as well, so I guess you can say that I am a fan.

I greatly respect the way that he decided to stand up for what he believed in (even though I don’t share those beliefs), although I still regret that SB never had the chance to tour ‘Snow’ which is easily their finest work. I have never given anything that he has been involved with a bad review, and there is no reason at all to start now as this triple CD set (2 hours 45 minutes) is as close to perfection as one could hope to hear. When it came to choosing the musicians to form the band he brought in close friends Mike Portnoy and Randy George and then used YouTube for the audition process! He ought to do that more often, as during “Sing It High” he gets it right when he says that the guys are “Sick”. Adson Sodré (guitar, vocals), Eric Gillette (guitar, keyboards, percussion, vocals) and Bill Hubauer (keyboards, violin, sax, vocals) do a stunning job. Mind you, it’s handy when you have three multi-instrumentalists in a band as it does mean that you can spread the wings. Vocally they are all in fine voice as well, just listen to “Author Of Confusion” to see what I mean.

Both Adson and Eric really riff and shred as the need requires, and this is probably the heaviest that Neal has ever sounded as he works his way through material from throughout his career: this is much more than just a live rendition of the latest album. The suites from ‘Testimony’ and ‘?’ work incredibly well and it is the longer sections that really allow Neal and the guys to shine. There are four songs more than twenty minutes long and one more than thirty!

But, for me one of the major highlights sees Neal taking a back seat, literally. One of my favourite live albums that feature Neal is ‘One Night in New York City’ by Yellow Matter Custard. This was a band put together by Mike Portnoy to play Beatles’ numbers, and the line-up was completed by Neal, Paul Gilbert and Matt Bissonette. The whole purpose of that band was to provide a new take on classic numbers and have fun at the same time. Well, on “Crazy Horses” Neal takes over on drums while Mike becomes the frontman, and everyone has an absolute blast. Mike says that when he first heard the song when he was five years old that it was the heaviest song that he had ever heard, and the band certainly do it justice. I defy you to listen to this and not smile throughout. There are some people who don’t enjoy what Neal does, and feel that he hasn’t dramatically changed since he left SB, but I sincerely hope he keeps going in this vein for the rest of his very long career as I love it.

So there you have it, a five star review for a DVD set that I haven’t even seen. But to me they are just an added bonus as this triple CD set is just mindblowing. www.insideout.de

ANATHEMA A Moment in Time

Movie · 2006 · Non-Metal
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Conor Fynes
'A Moment In Time' - Anathema (5/10)

First off, might I say that the rating for this work is not based on the music itself. 'A Moment In Time' is being rated here for what it is; a piece of visual media. The songs themselves are amazing, and have been commended as such on other reviews. As far as being a vessel for such beautiful music however, this DVD really comes up short. There are so many errors that make it a sloppy creation, that could have been avoided and corrected had extra care been given.

As far as the musical arrangement goes, things are really good. As well as the band performing, there is a string quartet that plays throughout, as well as a guest appearance from a talented female vocalist. The vocal passion I generally expect from Vincent Cavanagh is a bit lacking here, but that can be forgiven. There's a nice setup here, a beautiful selection of songs, so what could go wrong?

Throughout watching 'A Moment In Time,' I find myself increasingly agitated over the camera work. The camera is fixated on the vocalist, and fails to give a visual mention to either the bass player or rhythm guitarist almost at all!

Another issue is the recording of the sound. For example, during the climax of 'Empty,' the vocals drown out completely for a few seconds. For a band that's had such a high standard of musical quality, my jaw dropped at how they could ever let a DVD release come out to the general public with that sort of negligence.

Despite it's flaws and failure as a professional DVD release however, being an Anathema fan; it's hard to not at least find some enjoyment in it, and there's an CD counterpart included as well! Two stars.

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