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prog metal

Oceans Of Night, Midnight Rising, 2014

oceans of night - midnight risingAll around nice guy Scott Mosher (guitars, bass and keyboards) and his Oceans Of Night project are no strangers to the blog. So it is with pleasure that I write some words on the new album, Midnight Rising. Typed as ambient metal, or progressive metal if you will, Midnight Rising was again mixed and mastered by Joey Vera and features guest appearances by Vivien Lalu, Chris Rifkin and Stephanie Warren and as before, lead vocals by Scott Oliva and drums by Alan Smithee.

Like on its predecessors, Oceans Of Night deliver a melting pot of prog metal, melodic hard rock and ambient sounds. So you will understand that there is a lot of light and dark here. But Mosher bridges the styles to compliment each other, rather than write songs in specific genres. Listening back and forth to this, I think the balance between power / aggression and dynamic / flowing is pretty good on this album. And I also feel that production wise this is one of the best sounding releases of him so far. Damn nice if there is still progression after six releases!

With 10 tracks ranging from just over 3, to 10 minutes, this is almost an hour of music. Soaring guitar solos, guitar riffing, keyboards in multitude and melodic choruses, it is all here. I like this music very much and heartily recommend it to lovers of the genre. Should you be afraid of ambient, just think of it as prog metal and give it a try!

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Fates Warning, Darkness In A Different Light, 2013

Fates Warning - Darkness In Fates are back! And if you consider yourself a fan of the band, than that is all you need to know. Get it!

Okay, the readers that apparently are still here, will not be so familiar with Fates Warning. Which means they have been missing a lot. So let me try to give you some insight. For many the attraction of the band´s music will lay in (in random order) a) the singing of Ray Alder. Very recognisable voice, an unique ear for melodies and still melodic. b) the song writing skills of Jim Matheos. The guitarist is a master in combining clean parts with metal riffs, counter play and songs with dark and light. Pun intended. c) the skilled and very inventive drum work of Mark Zonder. Oh wait, Mark has left the band and now Bobby Jarzombek is hitting the skins. And does a pretty good job at it too.

These 3 important factors have secured Fates Warning their own sound and place in the annuals of prog metal history. And on this album they continue where they left us a couple of years ago. And before you think they do not develop, you are wrong. At least partly. But I like the band and their music. Old partner Frank Aresti is back and the band sound in good spirits and inspired. Which makes me hope the next release will not be 8 years from now (wild guess, I did not look that up). Welcome back!

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Telergy, The Exodus, 2011

telergy - the exodusAnd now on to something different! Brainchild of producer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Robert McClung, Telergy has set out to translate the bible book The Exodus unto music. And instead of shrinking it down to song lyrics, he did it with instrumental songs! In between you can hear a grandmother tell parts of the story to her grandson, but a lot of the tale is left to the music and your imagination.

Of course which such a grandiose project you need help. Se we get people on cello and violin, flute, didgeridoo, choir, and Hebrew vocals. McClung uses quite the range of instruments himself: guitar, bass, ukulele, lap steel, balalaika, keyboard, etc. So as you will understand the album utilizes a range of styles and moods. From sparse violin in Pleading, orchestral in Plagues, progmetal in Enslavement and Escape (with Orff like Choir) to more world music in Pharao´s Revenge, acoustic in Avadim Hayinu or Wandering. And that is not all…
I read some comments saying that it would have been better to separate the songs from the storytelling, but personally I think it works just fine this way. Still Robert let me know in the future he will edit them into separate indexes.

So all music lovers with an open mind, a lot of beautiful melodies here, both in the more heavy parts as in the intimate pieces. Great work!

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Dream Theater, Black Clouds & Silver Linings, 2009

dream theater - black clouds and silver liningsEveryone into progressive metal will know Dream Theater. Or should. And probably a lot of people into symphonic rock as well.
The band is regarded as one of the founders of the current genre and sure as hell kick major ass with their often mind boggling combination of technical prowess and musicianship.

Led by drummer extra-ordinaire Mike Portnoy and guitar wizard John Petrucci, they have recorded another set of songs to set your world on fire.
By adding more vocals (mostly Portnoy) they even succeeded in broadening their already broad horizon. But I guess we already know what to expect when we see 6 tracks clocking in at over 75 minutes.

Yes, that would be a lot of time changes, various moods within and between the songs, excessive soloing and ultra fast playing from all members, and James LaBrie trying to hold it all together with his singing. And while the latter has often been ” accused”  of screaming, I think he does a terrific job here. More natural, more feel and more melodies. Great.
Also I feel that there is more room for the songs to breathe here. And that space works really well. At least I had little problem listening to the album a couple of times in a row. Whereas some previous albums suffered from too much ideas in too little time. And too many notes at the same time.
So I my book this is one of DT´s better albums in recent years. No personal play tips, you get what you expect here.

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Circle II Circle, Delusions Of Grandeur, 2008

Circle II Circle - Delusions Of GrandeurWith to me a new cast of characters singer Zak Stevens (ex-Savatage) reports back to the front. So what is there to notice besides some new names behind the instruments?

First thing is the much more heavy sound of the guitars as album opener Fatal Warning so aptly demonstrates. And keyboards  going largely missing in the process. Of course the recognizable voice of Stevens is still present. And also more up tempo songs with a pretty menacing and fierce wall of sound to back them up.
Track Echoes breathes some similarities to his past band because of the piano. But here also the guitars claim a big part of the sound. Great guitar solo by the way. And not the only one I might add. Final track Every Last Thing would have fitted on any Stevens fronted Savatage record without problems. Ah yes, the vocal harmonies we all know and love!

So if memory serves me right this album is a lot heavier than the previous one I posted about. With a lot less reference to Savatage. I think this is a good development, because they needed to create an identity of their own in my opinion. Alas sound wise this could do with more variation. Maybe it is deliberate, making it more of a metal, and less of a progressive album. Repeated play will tell how they fare with this policy. Stevens has a voice type that I like very much, so listening still is a pleasure. It is a heavy and ass kicking release, so many will enjoy it with fists swaying and heads banging.

Personal play tips: Forever, Echoes, So Many Reasons.

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Platitude, Nine, 2004

platitude - nineMaybe you have that also sometimes; there is so much going on in a record, you kinda get lost listening to it.
This is what happened to me when I started playing this disk. These 7 musicians (2 keyboard players and 2 guitar players!) fire away constantly making this a hard album to get into.

But after several spins it grows on ya. After all this is melodic metal with a lot of progressive twists. Despite all the notes fired at the listeners, this is a very enjoyable affair once you get used to it. And from that point on you start hearing the melodies. Without doubt a very competent band, that maybe should consider the adagio less is more. But then again, there is a market for this I am sure. And understand me well, these guys know what they are doing!

So for all you tech freaks out there, pick this one up. If you prefer more instant melodic music, this may be a little heavy weight. I think this will continue to grow on me.

Personal play tips (subject to change): Dark Mind, Catch 22, Supernova.

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Riverside, Anno Domini High Definition, 2009

Riverside - Anno DominiDon´t know about you, but when I read about a band who gets seriously hyped I almost always get suspicious. But then again, if you don´t give them a try, you will never know, right?

So when the opportunity presented itself, I bought Anno Domini High Definition by Polish band Riverside. So the first question to answer is, is it any good?

I can honestly say I think it is. Especially music wise this is a very convincing album that speaks loudly of its qualities. This is somewhere between symphonic rock and progressive metal, with some unexpected twists added. Think of brass (really! and it works) and some more modern sounds (sequences). It rocks where it needs to, the guys know what they are doing, know how to write a good tune, can lock into a groove and how to spice it all up with clever arrangements.

The only 2 things I feel leave room for improvement are the lead vocals and the length of the album. I think 44 minutes is rather short and as far as the vocals go, they are in no way bad, but fairly clean. I would love to hear Jorn Lande or Steve Hogarth doing this. I know, 2 very different types, but both are able to add an extra dimension to a song.

That said, these remarks are obviously minor. This is top notch without doubt. If you haven´t checked them out yet, do it, you will not be disappointed!

Personal play tips: hey there are 5 songs on this record…

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Enochian Theory, Evolution, 2008

Enochian Theory - EvolutionThough this came highly recommended here and there, I wasn´t sure what to expect. But this proved to be no disappointment and a very intriguing affair.

So what´s cooking here? Well this band mixes a lot of styles, while trying to sound coherent. I don´t think they have everything 100% together though. By using all these influences (think grunting, (weird) soundscapes, clean guitars, heavy riffing, beautiful orchestrations, multiple vocals, melody, melancholy, and so on), this is going to be an eclectic disk. And I must admit I admire the bands guts. A lot of this I actually enjoy (this needs more spins obviously), but like I mentioned before, not everything operates on the same high level. Or I just need to get more into it?

As I believe this is their first effort, I am sure that this band will grow. For now this mix proves a amusing listen and a growing pleasure. For me they could do without the screaming, but time will tell. Normally I don´t compare bands, but in this case I think some references might help. If you consider bands like Pure Reason Revolution, Coheed and Cambria and or Opeth to your liking, give this lot a listening as well.  By the way, I have no idea what the story behind the name and all is. If someone out there knows, leave a comment. Also needless to say, these guys do know their way around their instruments. No worries there.

Personal play tips: At Great Odds With…, Movement, Waves Of Ascension.

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