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progressive metal

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Matheus Manente, Illusions Dimension, 2017

matheus manente - illusions dimensionThis is the debut from Matheus Manente, a Brazilian multi instrumentalist and one man band. To be honest, when I started listening to this album I wasn’t all too sure about it. Sure, great shredding, a lot of stuff happening in a short time, but missing a bit of hooks and melody. And then track 4, Inner Peace comes on…. Mind blown! What a feel in this song. Absolutely fabulous in delivery, melody and all. So that really peaked my interest in what was to follow. Symmetry Of Evil proved to have plenty of hooks, or had I started listening properly? Then again, any song that plays way past 9 minutes needs positives to keep the listener interested. So it managed to kept the momentum going. Market Garden has quickly become a fan favourite. It is complex and rich in structure, and it’s rhythmic and harmonic changes fulfil the genres standards. Keyboards have a more prominent role as well, so that makes for a nice change.

By this time is was clear to me that Manente is a very impressive player. Maybe the drums need a bit more work to sound less mechanical, but the rest of his playing is without doubt classy. He is not shy of using light and dark in his compositions, so as a whole the album delivers. Because of the sometimes almost serene parts, he avoids flooding you with a wall of sound.

Great debut, job well done!

Website

Seventh Station, Between Life And Dreams, 2016

seventh station - between life and dreamsAlas I have little information about this album. I think someone contacted me about it, but cannot find a bio or anything. Except what it says on the website: that it deals with the concept of being caught between two stools, having different secret signs showing different ways and choices. Key musician is Slovenian guitarist Dmitri Alperovich, and guesting are Turkish pianist and conductor Eren Basbug and Israeli singer Davidavi Dolev. So the music will have to do a lot of the talking.

We are in progressive metal territory here. Although it has to be said that there a several moments of classical or clean guitar playing, embellished by orchestrations. And for me those moments are amongst the best on offer. That is mainly due to the fact that the singing voice of Dolev is an acquired taste. He tends to ‘metallize’ his performances a lot, adding sharp edges to it.
As we have come to expect in the genre, most of the songs clock in between 5 to 10 minutes, so the end result is 65 minutes for 8 songs. A lot of ideas are used, so there is much going on. While this is also a genre thing, it also means that it takes time to get familiar with the structures and some melodies take time to discover.

There is no doubt that fans of the genre will find this to their liking. Personally I would like to suggest to take more time to develop ideas and add more melody, take Morning’s Silence as example.

Website

X-Panda, Reflections, 2016

X_Panda_Reflections_2016Second X-Panda CD that made it into my player. And like first time around, I find myself pretty impressed by the album. But since it has been 5 years since that album, a few things have changed. Bass player Tamar Nugis now functions as the full time vocalist and Roland Jairus is added to take over on the low end. Not sure about all the other guys, although I am fairly sure that Kaarel Tamra on keys was around first time as well.

Style wise this another slab of prog that ventures into metal and a dash of fusion. But what has stayed are songs and melodies that are impossible to resist and make it once again easy to connect to the album. Nugis has a pleasant voice so I don’t mind him taking centre stage. Especially since Jairus isn’t a slouch either. Opener The Game will conquer you in a heartbeat. What a great opener and addictive song. Denial is a great epic (12+ minutes) that never tires. On The Way is full of great playing and a prime example of intricate fusion arrangements. Several songs are graced with the company of the Tartu University Symphony Orchestra. Thus creating an even more impressive audio palette.

So I guess it is fair to say that the 5 years have been worth it. Fans of the genre should not hesitate and buy it on sight.

Website

BlurryCloud, Far From The Sea, 2016

blurry-cloud-far-from-the-seaSometimes out of the blue, you are grabbed by a song. In this case it was because of the message of Jack DeMaio pointing me to the track Currents from his new release Far From The Sea. After listening to that I just had to hear the whole album.

It seems BlurryCloud is another one man band, and one operating in the instrumental progressive metal genre. Think the musical madness of Devin Townsend, mixed with the rhythmic riffing and off the scale soloing of Caligula’s Horses’ Sam Vallen, add a dash of Vai and cross that with the female choirs of Therion, and you will have an idea of what is on offer here. Jack wrote the music, recorded all of it, mixed it and even made the (beautiful) art!
So when I say instrumental, because of the choirs, there are voices throughout the album. The music is powerful, at times heavy, but also very dynamic and partly almost ambient peaceful. Just listen to the intriguing track Of Hollow!

Very talented musician and a fresh and impressive album, up for grabs for a few dollar on bandcamp. Do it!

Website

Alarion, Waves Of Destruction, 2016

alarion - waves of destructionAlarion is a project from Dutch guitar player (and a lot of other instruments) Bas Willemsen. He invited a bunch of guests to shape the sound in his head and amongst them are known names as Damian Wilson (Threshold, Headspace) and Irene Jansen (Star One, Ayreon) as well as a load of friends.

The album contains 11 tracks and almost an hour of music. From short to epic, from furious to serene and everything in between. Opener Chains Of The Collective will give you an idea of what to expect. Heavy riffing paired with the mighty voice of Wilson, and then  a chorus that reaches  out and grabs your attention with a keen melody. It is a good thing that melodies prove to be important in his music as often they serve as a thread to hold on to, between the madness or the grandiose. Because another influence is classical music, so big is a word that applies here.

So while sometimes a lot is happening, creating a somewhat nervous surrounding, before you know it you are hit by another beautiful piece or fragment. Over time your relation with this album will deepen, a feature we have come to expect from the genre. By all means an attractive album, especially for a debut.

Website

Awake By Design, Carve The Sun, 2015

awake by design - carve the sunShould anyone need proof that progressive metal is still alive in the UK, you might be interested to check out this bunch. I did not receive a lot of info from the band, but from their website I learned they are a 5 piece with vocals, bass, drums, guitar and keyboards.

But lets first take a look at the album, their second. On it are 10 songs with a running time of almost 50 minutes. For a independent release it sounds well produced and balanced, and manages to pack a punch. And like fellow countrymen Threshold, their brand of progmetal focuses more on melody than on technique. And every follower of the blog will know that is extra points in my book. The band are also not afraid to use dynamics in their songs. I must say singer Adrian Powell is at his best in the more quiet pieces in my humble opinion. When the band play full on, he has a hard time topping them with his melodies and voice. But that might also be down to the way they wanted it mixed.

I had fun listening to the album. Good songs, enough variation to keep me interested. A bit sad they have to do it all by themselves, but if we all buy the thing instead of downloading it from a torrent site, that might change… Recommended!

Website

Caligula’s Horse, Bloom, 2015

caligulas horse - bloomSomehow I guess that on account of their rather excellent 2013 release The Tide, The Thief and River’s End, Caligula’s Horse were signed by renowned label Inside Out. And rightly so! As far as I am aware, Bloom is the third release from this Aussie prog collective around guitar wizard Sam Vallen and the voice of Jim Grey. The band also consist of Zac Greensill – guitars, Dave Couper – bass and Geoff Irish – drums.

If you haven’t heard them yet, you are really missing out. For me this band is a prime example of how exiting prog can be. Their songs are melodic, dynamic and show a band whose members are masters of their instruments. But that surplus of technique is used to create interesting songs that nest themselves in your system. Especially the play with soft and loud impresses me every time I hear them. And Grey moves along to the music as if it is the most normal thing on the planet. Never afraid to throw you off with a turn left or right, Grey holds all that is happening together with his singing. All I can say is they easily continue the high level of the previous release, and should find a home with every lover of things prog. Awesome band and album!

Website

Docker’s Guild, The Heisenberg Diaries, 2016

dockers guild - the heisenberg diariesThe full title of this second Docker’s Guild release is The Heisenberg Diaries, Book A: Sounds Of Future Past. Maybe qualifies as one of the longest album titles ever? Anyway, this is the first of 4 transitional albums placed between the 5 that tell the main story. So when Douglas R. Rocker gets his way, we will have a total of 9 albums by the time he is finished with what he has planned. Just let that sink in for a moment…9 albums!

Well, as far as storytelling goes, this one focuses on the youth of Doctor Heisenberg and in particular his love of Science Fiction. So all music are covers that relate to SF movies and series. Which results in a big trip for me, being quite the fan. Just some names to give you an idea: Queen with Flash Gordon get a suite, as well as Toto with their fantastic Dune soundtrack. The Neverending Story, Dr. Who, Red Dwarf, Barbarella, Space 99 and a few others.
All is done in typical DG style, with Douglas, who handles vocals and keyboards, being surrounded by an all female cast. More name dropping here: Nita Strauss, Roxy Petrucci, Elize Ryd, Amanda Somerville and Anna Portalupi to name a few of them. We could have been treated worse here.

If you liked the first album, or if you are into SF, or just because you like female artists and or prog, this will prove a worthy addition to your collection. I was fortunate to be able to check the CD release. With spectacular artwork from Blekkmark and some hints as what is yet to come, surely something you will not want to miss. Digital formats are already available, the CD will hit the streets on February 26 on Rock Company and other retailers. Make sure you check it out!

Website

Rendezvous Point, Solar Storm, 2015

rendezvous point - solar stormConsidered one of the most exciting and promising progressive metal bands from Norway, Rendezvous Point have just delivered their first album on Karisma Records. And if I say the members met studying rhythmical music at the University of Agder, does that make you think of some other band? Well, these guys may grab your brain and use it as a bouncing ball through illogical rhythms, they do know how to hook you with melodies. So do not expect to be dazzled with a million notes per second!

And being a supporter of things melodic, I think they made the right choice here. Rhythmic patterns might sometimes be complex, all songs are held together by the vocals of Geirmund Hansen. In a way they resemble Leprous a bit, which makes sense as they share the drummer in the person of Baard Kolstad.  Completing the line up are Petter Hallaraker on guitar, Nicolai Tangen Svennaes on keyboards and Gunn-Hilde Erstad on bass.

The album consists of 7 songs with a total running time of just under 45 minutes. Most songs are around the 5 minute mark with the exception of the epic Mirrors, that clocks in at over 10 minutes. Besides fans of Leprous, also people into Opeth or Devin Townsend should check this. Heck, every serious fan of prog metal should, as this is beyond promising. This album is worth buying straight away, it is that exciting!

Website

ReSolve, Wayward Sanctuary, 2015

resolve - wayward sanctuaryAn important rule in my book is listening to an album with an open mind and no expectations. You always have to realise that budgets, especially for independents, are limited and normally artists put their heart and soul into what they do. So even when I think something is not quite up to par, I try to find the good. Tastes differ, and what I like or do not like, might feel completely different to someone else.

With all that in mind, this album gave me a hard time. I am used to progressive metal being not the easiest thing around, and when raw male vocals are involved, that always takes me time to digest. So let’s see what is to like about this band and album. First I think they are a creative bunch with skilled musicians and a lot of ideas. The guitar and keyboard playing are class, and the rhythm section lays down a solid foundation for them to excel on.

The bad news is that I think the drum sound is quite synthetic, especially the snare drum sounds flat. The singing of Radina Dimcheva is not 100% in key, although her Gothic style is convincing. And where I said earlier they are creative, I also feel this sometimes leads to a lack of focus. Than the songs tend to become over stretched with too many things happening. Yeah, I am aware that a lot of prog metal is keen on showing off, but for me technique is a means and not the purpose.

Overall for me this needs some work, but for prog metal heads this might be the album of the year. At least give them a few listens, as I also noticed the album grew on me with every spin.

Website

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