Tomorrow’s Eve, Project Ikaros, 2018

tomorrow's eve - mirror of creation 3With Project Ikaros, German based progressive metal outfit Tomorrow’s Eve release part 3 of their Mirror Of Creation saga. Which are built around the works of Edgar Allen Poe. In total this is album #5, although I don’t think earlier work has been presented here (even when at least part 2 is somewhere in the collection).

Anyway, what the band present here is certainly worth your time and money. Not only because people like Mike Lepond (Symphony X – bass) or John Macaluso (Labyrinth, Ark – drums) are joining long term singer Martin LeMar and founders Rainer Grund (guitar) and Oliver Schwickert (keyboards). But also because the band have managed to deliver an album that not only ticks all the proper genre boxes yet still has its eyes firmly on melodies.
So the 11 songs and 68 minutes of music are diverse, go from powerful to intimate and from aggressive to epic. And with the strategically placed catchy choruses they still manage to keep you attracted throughout.
Of course all musicians involved are top notch. But I would like to give special props to singer LeMar, whose range and ability to adapt to the various moods really lift the band to the top of the game. Fans of Savatage, Circle II Circle, or the names mentioned above, better pay attention!

Yep, Tomorrow’s Eve are back with a vengeance and ready to take any stage by storm. Should be entertaining!

Website

Hekz, Invicta, 2018

hekz - invictaOh yes! Took a while but with help from Matt (vocals and bass), the latest offering from UK prog metal band Hekz has landed. And the guys even signed it for me, cheers!

Well should you not be familiar with the band, think of them as a cross between the less technical side of Dream Theater with the melodic senses of Threshold, and add to that bits of Rush and Iron Maiden. Yet when I say less technical it does not mean that these guys are not up to par on their instruments. Au contraire, but to me it just feels they use technique as a means, rather than as a goal.  So every song will have exciting playing, but more important, hooks and melodies that attract you to invest time in it. And of course, in my book that is a good thing!

So from opener Quetzlcoatl to closer Victorious, we are taken on an exciting 65 minute journey by a band that seems to go from strength to strength. For a fairly young looking bunch they are well aware of their influences, and now, with a couple of EP’s and 3 full lengths under their belt, seem ready to conquer the world. And when you can bring songs like For Our Lives, The Light Fantastic, the epic The Devil’s Coin or the already mentioned Victorious to the table, that world had better be ready! Talking of Victorious, if ever a prog song seems tailor made to get picked up by a premier league team, this is the anthem that will get the blood pumping.

A clear winner, better check it if you are into progressive metal!

Website

 

OH, Metallia, 2018

oh - metalliaThis is the second time Olivia Hadjiioannou, better known as OH., makes an appearance here on the blog. The first time was the first ever vinyl here (still is I think) and now she is back with a stunning looking digipack and lush booklet. And this is not the only stunner here. Olivia is a true one woman force. She writes, plays, records, mixes and masters all her music herself, is very into (award winning) video, and if I am not mistaken also models for her art. Truly mindblowing. And speaking of mindblowing, here we have a musician that seems to excel at everything she does. Fluent in drumming, bass, guitars, piano and violin!

So how does that translate to the music on this EP?

Red Lion is opening with her voice (used as an instrument on this release), followed by a slapping bass and then frenetic riffing. She can shred like the best of them. The use of her voice is pretty intriguing throughout. Singing multi layered counter melodies, or dramatic wails, she creates atmosphere for sure. Not an easy introduction maybe, but a colourful and energetic show piece of her abilities. Bee opens with acoustic guitar and proves a song that keeps transforming. Androgyny welcomes you with multi layered vocals before the thrashy riffs take over again. But the combination of vocals and metal again creates something special.
Of the 6 tracks, my personal favourite so far is Dragon Kiss. Maybe one of the most melodic pieces, yet still testament of her vivid imagination and skills to pull off amazing musicality.

I can imagine that people get confused because of the frantic pace of change throughout. But I cannot help but be impressed by the creativity on display. Unique!

Website

Hillsphere, Florescence, 2018

Hillsphere - FlorescenceLots of prog releases and debuts have been arriving here at YMB HQ, and this one doubles as both qualities apply. Hillsphere are a new Dutch prog rock / metal band and Florescence is their way of saying hello to the world. The band are a 5 piece in a familiar prog band setting. Who have decided they’d like to start with a concept album. Bold move!

The album opens with the beautiful and melancholic title track on keyboards whose only problem is that I would have loved to hear more of it… Next track The Breeding Of Us gives us more insight in what we can expect. Modern synths, heavy guitars, dynamics, riffing and soloing. And a band that cares about melodies, even in instrumental pieces. Next up is Home, which is again instrumental, but like Florescence, it is short even when this time mainly based on ambient synths. On track 4, Our Physical Way Of Speaking, we hear vocals for the first time. And they are a combination of clean melodic singing and in part aggressive screaming. For me they could have been more prominent in the mix, but hey, that is a matter of personal taste. The song itself is again very dynamic, something the band proves to be very good at. Which is of course always a bonus as that opens up every album.

The album has 4 more tracks, with a special mention for closer Clairvoyance which I love to bits. The 8 tracks  and almost 50 minutes of music have proven to be a pleasant listen. Lots of emotions, great playing, melody in abundance, job very well done! Congrats to the Layered Reality label.

Website

Mile Marker Zero, The Fifth Row, 2018

mile marker zero - the fifth rowHere the first album from Mile Marker Zero, at least the first one I have listened to, as this marks the album that made me aware of them. But as it turns out, they have been around since 2005 and already have released a couple of EP’s and a full length in 2009.

And maybe that bit of history explains why the band sounds so mature. Everything on the album has a thought behind it it seems, and the result is, simply put, quite mindblowing.
Yes I can honestly say that the modern prog on offer is having a very positive effect on how I feel when I listen to it. Even when I am bad with comparisons, I regard it a mix of, say, Coheed & Cambria, 30 Seconds To  Mars, a bit of Rush and Spocks Beard, and with the late Chris Squire playing bass. But the best thing is, they have managed to avoid sounding like any of them, and created their own identity.
And the energy pouring from a track like The Architect is just awesome. The riffs and the melodies hook you in and refuse to let go. And then to end it with a bit of violin playing over a kind of film soundtrack, just great.

I could go on and on about how I love this CD, but my advice to you is: if you consider yourself to be serious about modern exponents of prog, then you MUST hear this album. Killer.

Website

Weend’O, Time Of Awakening, 2018

weend'o - time of awakeningAh, a French band. And with a female vocalist, should be interesting. Especially when the press sheet talks about a subtle (!) mix of rock, atmospheric prog and metal. Think Pink Floyd mixed with Tool with Anneke van Giersbergen singing.

Well I am not so sure about the name dropping, but what I am sure about is that the band did manage to pull off an interesting album that is indeed succeeding in mixing atmosphere and rock. With a message calling out to keep faith and hope in a world in conflict, as an added bonus.

In true progressive style, the album holds 3 parts of Time Of Awakening, a seperate track in Angel Dust and then 2 parts of Elea.. Together the 3 part title track clocks in at 20 minutes and is a showcase of the styles and talent present in the band. I am not sure about the history of the band, but it all sounds very mature. Lots of dynamics. And they can rock too, with the transparent voice of Laetitia Chaudemanche (who also wrote the lyrics and played keyboards) able to shine over anything the band throws at her. Talking of the band, Terence Nguyen Van has a crisp guitar sound and plays in service to the song, even when it becomes clear he is a gifted player. Bass is provided by Maxime Rami and Nathanaël Buis drummed and created the beautiful artwork. Together they lay down a solid foundation.

All in all a very pleasant surprise, a very moody and melodic album. Will be interesting to see how they develop!

Website

 

Overwind, I Can Do It Again, 2018

overwind - I can do it againNot sure there are many bands consisting of Russian musicians and a Spanish singer, but this is one. And to me Diego Teksuo seems a find too, as I quite like his voice and melodies. And he needs to be, because he is accompanied by a band that likes to throw a mix of progressive metal, power metal and sometimes even some extreme vocals at him.

To me the result is an album that is mature and professional and can compete easily with anything within the genre that is more known in our western world. All 11 songs clock around 4 minutes so come across as focused and energetic. Considering they are varied too, there is never a dull moment. And despite the sometimes frantic passages, all songs have memorable melodies than makes them easy to listen to. To such extent that even the harsh vocals do not bother me. The band is very tight, with Anton Emelyanov’s guitar providing tasty licks and solos over the foundation laid down by Misha Gigava (bass) and Sergey Krasnozhen (drums). There are also some additional keyboards and guest vocals, to add extra dimensions to the arrangements.

A very pleasant surprise, all songs are good and some are excellent, with my personal favourites being Sleepwalker, Dancing Spirits and Get Over Crisis.

Website

The Stranger, Self Titled, 2018

The Stranger - The StrangerAlas I have not received any info on who the Stranger is. All I know is that he or she (probably he) is from Burbank California and wrote all the melodies and handled the drums and synths on this release. Tim Lawrence added guitars and bass and mixed and mastered the album. Or maybe it is an extended EP, with 8 tracks clocking in at  35 minutes.

Anyway, what we have here is a modern metal album. The modern aspect being that part of the singing is of the aggressive type. A bit metalcore or screamo I think (sorry, you should know by now that genre tagging isn’t my forte). But don’t let that prevent you from listening in, overall this is a melodic metal album with some progressive accents and 2 piano pieces too!
Opening is the track Enough, high energy drumming with keyboards adding light to the dark riffs on guitar. Good introduction! While You Can continues in the same vein. Scarlet Moon is one of the longer tracks (almost 5 minutes) with again a by now familiar synth sound. Track 5 is called The Difference and is just piano and voice. Actually nice to have a break here, after 4 full on songs. The piano sound is rich and full but with the right dynamics to support the emotional vocal delivery. From the last 3 songs the first 2 are again heavy yet melodic and closer Ghost is another piano and voice song.

Overall a nice effort to welcome The Stranger into the world of music. For me a little more variation in synth sounds would be good, and I think the lead voice is good enough to have a little more presence in the mix.

Website

Cryptic Nature, Pandor, 2017

cryptic nature - pandorTalking about a labour of love; apparently it took Koos Thönissen (the full name of the project is Koos J. Thönissen’s Cryptic Nature) some 8 years to finish this double album! From writing the story (a fantasy tale about dragons, unicorns and other creatures), to translating that into 14 songs and finding the right people to add to his creations. So with guests like Huw Lloyd Jones, Sascha Burchardt, Emmelie van Deurzen, Jacqueline van Elsbergen and Cathy van der Valk on vocals, Jeroen van den Biggelaar on a guitar solo or Ron van Rhee on flutes, Koos set out to make his dreams come true. All this meaning he performed all the other instruments himself! Or as he puts it himself, it was a steep learning curve, but so worth it.

For this album it is important to know the context of a song. Thankfully we have a storyteller (Ian Jillings) to guide us. So from the opening sequences of A Dragon’s Tale, the grandeur of Aenoor, the playfull and catchy Glynyd, to the much more extreme Gol Matoo / Meteor Impact or Ael Hathor / Nebuccor Captured, all songs serve a purpose and are shaped to recreate the vision. And it has to be said, a lot of time must have gone into creating the soundscapes used throughout the album. Be it horses, the evil Molgar, or other elements, the music and all around it somehow seem very visual.
This also means the diversity on the album is enormous. From soft, almost folky, to melodic progressive metal to ambient like parts to extreme vocals. In that respect one could compare this to for instance the work of Ayreon!

The culmination of all that hard work was that the album was chosen as one of the best concept albums of 2017 by Dutch radio show Progressive X Grooves, literally on its release day. One to check for sure, for instance via this video:

Website

TDW, The Antithetic Affiliation, 2017

tdw - the anthithetic affiliationAnd here we have Tom de Wit, a.k.a. TDW returning. With a double disc no less. And there is also a special edition with an added bonus acoustic live DVD. Another change is the inclusion of a band, Dreamwalkers Inc., making this an octet (yes, that is 8 people). Besides probably making every stage seem crowded, I guess there are many benefits for having a band perform your songs. More instruments (violin!) and diversity, more vocals and perhaps even more ideas to enrich your musical concepts.

So where does this leave us? Well disc 1 is called The Idealist, or the light disc. Disc 2 is The Cynic, so the dark side. Every CD holds 4 songs, with one of those being of epic (22 minutes+) proportion. Total play time is over 80 minutes, so you are definitely in for a ride! It’s been a couple of years since his previous release, but if memory serves me right, this sounds a couple of notches better. I also think Tom sounds more confident with his singing now, but that might be imagining on my part.
Since this falls into prog metal territory, y’all know what the genre standards are. And all the boxes are ticked. While this music always requires repeated plays to show its true colours, I think Tom and band deliver in spades. From big, almost operatic parts, to thrashy speed metal, to fragile fragments and everything you could imagine in between. Solo’s in abundance of course, we do want them to show off a bit now don’t we?

All kidding aside, I say hats off to TDW and Dreamwalkers Inc.. Impressive from start to finish and something anyone serious about the genre needs to digest.

Website