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Vision Divine is one of those bands that took me a long time to get acquainted with. More to do with money and time constraints, than with quality from their side by the way. But allright, the time has come to dive into their 2009 release 9 Degrees West Of The Moon. First question is how to tag this music. Is it heavy metal with progressive overtones, power metal, or? Something like that anyway.
Singer is Fabio Lione, who I think is also part of the (also Italian) Rhapsody crew. The rest of the names did not ring many bells, though I think I heard the name of guitar player Olaf Thörsen before. What I find strange is that the latter is responsible for the concept of the album, but is not mentioned as a writer. Or he uses a pseudonym?
The album starts with the epic Letter To My Child Never Born, with almost 9 minutes the longest track on offer. Which is as progressive as it gets I think. From flashy metal pieces full of solos, to quiet piano parts with singing, it is all there. The singing is as expected, full of drama. Harmonies are a bit choir like, which sounds better than you´d think. What you hear in this band is a piano line over the rhythm guitars, introducing the melody. Somehow that creates openness not always present in this type of “busy” music. I am sure producer Timo Tolkki (former Stratovarius mastermind) knows how to handle that type of stuff .
All in all a pleasant addition in this genre. Lots of melody and dynamics, good band!
A CD I was very looking out for to listen to. But failed to connect with the first couple of spins. Must be my frame of mind, because after leaving it alone for a couple of days, now I am finally getting into it.
Everyone familiar with the band will know their brand of progressive metal. The mighty Ray Alder (Fates Warning) on vocals, and Bernie Versailles on guitar, Redemption is in essence still the brainchild of Nick van Dyk. The music is often complex, with fierce riffs, many fills and breaks. But the good thing is that the vocal melodies really soothe the muscular musical attack and let the songs shine. And to be honest, when one has been listening to more mellow stuff a lot lately, you really need great melodies to be able to listen to the blur of notes. But like I said, that is just the state I am in at the moment.
I am sure this will grow on me with every listen, as so far this band has never failed me before (see my previous post). And I am also sure that will apply to every reader that has a knack for progressive metal or the players involved. This band is just too good to let things slip out of their hands!
Ah, a progressive metal band that is stretching the boundaries of the genre! And succeeding at it too… I believe Southern Cross are a Canadian band, and so far have released a couple of albums. All independently which again says absolutely nothing about the quality on offer here. This sounds big and professional, so no worries.
But let´s get back to that stretching thing. In progressive metal we have come to expect a couple of things: heavy grooves and guitar riffing, technical interludes and mind blowing solos on guitar and keyboards, that type of thing. And yes, Southern Cross come from the Dream Theater side of things. But I feel they added some accents that seperates them from wannabees.
First I think they have quite a good ear for melodies. Both vocally as instrumental. Themes are often revisited, albeit with different arrangements. So even the longer songs attract and keep your attention. I would even go as far as to say their melodic capabilities are a huge selling point. Even in regard to to my second highlight: they sometimes use growling vocals. And while I cannot say I am a big fan of those, here I feel they fit the band and music really well. It did not turn me off one moment, so kudos for that. And I really think the lead vocals are very pleasant (but that is more department 1 in this case).
So what we have here is a band that write songs that stick, meet nowadays standards of the genre, and stretches out a bit. In total a winning combination that I hope all lovers of the genre will look into. Totally deserved!
Quite sure this is an album that the more traditional progressive metal followers will lap up easily. After all, 4 songs, with the closing track being a 31 minute epic is sure to raise the adrenaline level with the in-crowd. Luckily for me they divided that track into 6
And to be honest, the first songs did not help me much. Pretty much modern progressive metal by the numbers. Aggressive riffing, a lot of notes from all the musicians, breaks ´n stuff, you know, the works. And lengthy stuff as well, the first 3 songs clock in at over 23 minutes together. So it was kinda strange that ultimately the epic proved to be the track of most interest. Not only because they show a bit more of an identity, but also because this song, Perspectives Chapter 1: Drawing The Lives Of Mortal Existence (with a title like that it wóuld be strange to write a 4 minute song) is to me the most adventurous track. More dynamic, some quieter parts, some female vocals, a lot better to digest and fall in love with.
There is no doubt in my mind that this band (I think they are from Norway) know their stuff and deliver in the chosen field. For me, I like them best when they go a little crazy and draw a bit outside the lines. More colourful that way! Nevertheless, another quality release from ProgRock Records and not only for genre accumulators.
Out of the famed Gate Studios in Germany comes another (international) project, yet with several usual suspects. Anyone familiar with bands that are using the studio and it´s main occupants (producer Sacha Paeth, who also writes and plays guitars, etc, and the fabulous orchestrations of Miro) will also be familiar with singer Amanda Somerville. On initiative of Amanda, together with Sander Gommans, they have created this album. Another guest is the mighty Jorn Lande.
And with names like that on board you expect this album to be metal, with twists and turns, to sound heavy but clear and to be “good” to say the least. After listening to this several times I can confirm Trillium delivers on all fronts. I have heard Amanda before (her singing is matched by her looks) and it is a real joy how she managed to let all her vocal possibilities come to the fore. From almost screaming to whisper soft, the music matches her. So within the actually short songs (3-5 minutes) a lot is happening.
Still there is never a feeling of a lack of vision. All is done with purpose and held together with ease. These musicians are all far to experienced to let things slip out of their hands. So the simple advice is that if you know (some of) the names mentioned, this is a save buy. A wonderful album that keeps getting better on repeated play.
Consisting of brothers Chris (guitars and backing vocals) and Mark (drums and backings) Poland, David Randi (bass and backings) and Dave Clemmons (lead vocals and guitars), this is a tasty bite of metal with quite some progressive twists. On a Fates Warning scale of things, so no über complex wall of notes and ever changing time signatures here. But true to the genre, with plenty of style and mood variations.
One of the more remarkable features of this album is the sound. While some may be put off by it’s dry nature, I really love this type of production when it is done this good. It is crystal clear, you hear it is metal yet is is far from heavy, it has a lot of room to breathe and is not compressed to death. Quite unique, even for 1993 standards.
Clemmons voice might be an acquired taste, but I dig him. Lots of harmony vocals, so in the total picture this comes out pretty melodic. And with a guitar player of Chris Poland calibre on board, you can be assured of tasty playing and non standard riffing. Only one flaw to detect: why only one album?
A new star on the progressive music firmament is Fredrik Larsson, or Fredde Gredde. In essence he is a one man army. Only with the lyrics he needed some help here and there. The CD has 13 tracks, lasting between 2 to 15 minutes, with an average somewhere around 5. The music is a mixture of progressive rock and progressive metal. So the moods differ a lot. From heavy riffing, jumping to acoustic guitars. From playful and dreamy to complex and loud. Within seconds.
So it will be apparent that this is not an album for the faint of heart. It is quite something to excel on guitars, and a whole lot of other instruments. Even the rarely used accordion is present (also on the cover). But rest assured, the emphasis is on the melodic side of things. A reason for that might be his voice. In fact the only thing I am less sure about. For some tracks it works great, where as with the heavier stuff I feel he is not enough of a rock singer. But again, your taste might be different.
From our correspondence I know Fredrik wants to establish himself as a professional musician. While he has got the talent to do that, I don´t know if the chosen style is the right one. This music normally needs a lot of touring to grow a steady fanbase. After all, it is complex stuff, and not everyone is into that, certainly if you are starting a career.
Yet, if you all visit his website and buy the thing, it might become easy…
A band that deserves more attention in my humble opinion is the Italian outfit Arachnes. Core of the band are (brothers?) Franco Caruso on guitars and backing vocals, and Enzo Caruso on lead vocals and keyboards. On this disk they are accompanied by Gabriele Baroni on bass and backings and Stefano Caironi on drums. All musicians are accomplished players and for a quartet they are able to make a lot of noise.
Their style is a combination of power and progressive metal. So sometimes the double bass is a bit much, but the way they combine more vintage sounds like Hammond and Piano with the traditional metal sound is quite fun to these ears. Though I own a couple of their albums, I am not sure how extensive their back catalogue is, or even if they still exist.
The voice of Enzo, or Vincent, needs some time getting used to. I especially like him singing the more subtle stuff. More heavy parts have a vibrato and high pitch I can understand people find harder to get into. Still like it though, and quite some backing vocals present as well.
As I said at the start, I feel this bands deserves more attention, as I hardly ever read about them. So that is a good enough reason to pay attention to this quality band. CD´s are still pretty easy to find, and perhaps on sale, so pick one up when you get the chance.
Though I am sure Mikael Akerfeldt from Opeth cares a lot about his fans, when it comes to writing a new record, he cares more for creating something he cares for. And from an artistic point of view, I agree that is the best, if not only way to stay on the fore. So it will not be a surprise that the new Opeth album is again a departure from previous releases. No grunts being the most obvious difference. And while Akerfeldt is about the only one I can stand the grunting of, I can´t say I miss them.
Opening with the dreamy piano instrumental title track, things start off slow. The Devil´s Orchard is more familiar terrain, with Akerfeldt maintaining his reputation as an admirable singer. Lot´s of changes and a great feel, fed by numerous vintage sounds. I Feel The Dark starts with acoustic guitar before the song slowly builds, again with utilizing vintage sounds like Hammond and a haunting Mellotron. Looks to me as guitarist Fredrik Akesson has blended in perfectly. Quite a departure from his previous band Talisman, but he, like all other musicians gets chances enough to shine. Slither starts life as a kinda Rainbow influenced rocker, before morphing into an acoustic work out. I could go on about the other tracks, but by now I am sure you will have understood this is a great album.
Starting from a Death background, it is fascinating how Opeth have evolved into a full-blooded progressive rock / metal band. To me their best release yet, so we have exciting things to look forward to. Gorgeous!
The first time I played this record I was pretty shocked. This is complex music, but how they were able to surpass my brain and go straight for the heart is just amazing…. So this tells us these 4 German dudes are doing something terribly right. Let me try to shine a little light on the mystery at work here:
The band mix several ingredients: main dish is progressive metal, yet with a heavy emphasis on keyboards and synths that sound like a mixture of ambient and industrial. Added are numerous vintage sounds like piano, acoustic guitars, flute, violin and organ. In and between songs there is a lot of room to breathe, all to surprise and entice. Sometimes they rock damn hard, sometimes they whisper and throw in a classical inspired interlude.
The vocals are clear and supported by anything they need to sound good. Effects, harmonisation, etc.. Beatles, or Beach Boys, who knows. Sounds not unlike A.C.T in some respect. And the often so obvious accent is just for the insiders to hear.
And on top of all that, it is just plain beautiful music with melodies that last and touch you. So not for the faint of heart because of the complexity that is present (hey, I did mention that progressive metal thing did I not), but anyone with time to spare and wanting to hear something that grabs you firmly, this is one to dig up. I just love it!