Classic: Nme Within, Science Krucifikktion, 1997

nme within - science krucifikktionAlas this is the only full length album of Nme Within I am aware of. From the day I heard it, this has always been an album I present as an example of how metal can be mixed with other styles (industrial, techno, progressive, trash) and still work.

Yes you read it right, the type of genres I mention may seem at odds, but this is a nifty little thing that grabs your attention from the first few seconds. I think for the most part the attraction originates from 2 things: the grooves and the melodies. The grooves because every track is a monster in its own right. Heavy maybe, but filled to the brim with energy. And the melodies attract big time. Every chorus is a winner. And all this without becoming cheesy or delivering something you have already heard a million times before.

A special mention must go to the song titles (all in consequent wrong spelling, as in the CD title, for example Illushuns Of Grandeur) and especially all the humour involved. Be it in the interludes (squeal like a pig boy) or in the hilarious texts in the booklet, the boys leave no stone unturned to prove they don`t take themselves all too seriously. Gotta love them for that alone.

So if you like a little adventure in your music and don’t own this already, try to lay your hands on it, it is so much worth the effort! At least listen to tracks like Retaliation, Dining with Theotokos, Bellikose Hamlet or I-con if you get the chance. Timeless and still relevant!

Therion, Sitra Ahra, 2010

Therion - Sitra AhraTherion are a pretty recent discovery to me. And I must confess that the combination of classical music, metal, vocals in the vein of Orff’s Carmina Burana, Gothic and orchestrations really manages to stir me up. And in a good way!
Mastermind Christofer Johnsson let more people in the current line up contribute to the song-writing. So we can hear tunes by the great Thomas Vikström and Snowy Shaw as well.

As expected, there is a lot of variety on board. But the melodies and arrangements are striking as always. I think a lot of work must go into thinking this out and recording the little symphonies. Lot´s of detail and piecing things together I am guessing. But as said, the result is intriguing to say the least. Maybe not for everyone, but for people into Gothic, Classical music and or metal, this is something you have to delve into!
As I am not familiar with Therion’s complete back catalogue, I am not sure how the vocals on older material sounded. On this disk we sometimes hear more screaming parts and those are new to me. Yet I think they only add colour to this already beautiful palette. Kudos to Therion, they did it again!

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Helloween, Unarmed, 2010

helloween - unarmedDespite a policy of not discussing Live or Best Of albums, in this case I want to make an exception. In previous posts I already stated that many metal heads are pretty peculiar about their favourite music and fave bands. And a lot of them think bands should obey to certain rules. So it is of little wonder that this “compilation” of Helloween has been met with great criticism when it was released. And you know what: that is a huge mistake!

Like the cover already hints at: Unarmed is a special kind of compilation. The boys have chosen 11 songs from their back catalogue and gave them an unique treatment. Accompanied by instruments like piano, violins, cello’s, horns and so on, they recreated their magical moments. And in all honesty, without knowing their whole output, I think this is a brilliant effort! These songs really live in these arrangements and make me keep hitting the play button. I find this CD a testament of stunning beauty. The feeling this gives me is awesome. High praise to Helloween for having the guts and quality to pull this off. So I can only recommend you give this an unbiased listen and predict you too will be touched by it’s sheer brilliance.

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Vanderhoof, Same, 1997

vanderhoofVanderhoof is of course the band with Kurt Vanderhoof (Metal Church guitarist) on board. This outfit will later be named Presto Ballet (see an earlier post here). Truth be told, I don´t know much about the regular dayjob of mister Vanderhoof, but I like his side projects very much. And some more attention will not hurt.

Vanderhoof is just like Presto Ballet firmly rooted in seventies music, from both progressive and hard rock origin. Think Hammond, guitars, melodies, and songs with depth and variation. Hence the progressive tag.
The quality of the playing is without question and I would like to mention the sound of the drums, which is very natural and especially the kick drum has a lot of click in the sound which I happen to like very much.

Although I feel that Presto Ballet is even more adventurous and perhaps in some aspects better (after all, they are older and wiser now), this is still a great album that easily withstands continuous play. So look out for it and pick it up. There are 2 albums under this name, this self titled and A Blur In Time. Very worth your money and time.

Grimmstine, Self Titled, 2009

Grimmstine - GrimmstineSinger Steve Grimmett teamed up with axe slinger Steve Stine and they decided to call their new band (or project?) GrimmStine. With the help of Hat on bass and Dave Johnson on drums, they delivered this self titled album in 2009.

Opening with the wonderful little acoustic guitar intro Memory, which is little testament of what is to come. Following track 911 makes it clear that this is gonna be a metal album with no prisoners taken. Heavy riffing, the raspy voice of Grimmett, it almost borders in new metal territory. Happily next track Supernatural puts more emphasis on melody, while retaining that metal feel.
And this phenomenon happens more, with one track stressing the heavy guitars, and the other being more melodic and progressive if you will. Nothing overly complex, but a lot of ideas anyway.

Only with repeated play the album discloses it´s potency and pulls you in. The vocal lines start to make more sense and you start noticing the little details and breaks.
But for lovers of guitar based metal, there is a lot on offer. With 16 tracks and a playing time of over 77 minutes, it is value for money as well. Though maybe with a couple songs less, it would have made a bigger impact.

Personal play tips: Supernatural, To Catch A Killer,You´ll Never Know.

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Scott Mosher, Virtuality, 2001

scott mosher - virtualityIn my earlier post on a Scott Mosher album, I already mentioned the uncommon combination of ambient, sometimes dance music inspired aural extravaganza of this multi instrumentalist with some progressive rock overtones.

This album, albeit some years older, is of the same calibre. And while I can imagine some people being put off by words like “dance” or “extravaganza”, I truly admire Scott´s work for being so damn original. To make it sound like a logical set of songs, is even more proof of his abilities to blend styles that are so far apart from each other. True, not everything is instant, but from my point of view that is actually a bonus. For what it´s worth, isn´t this what progressive music should be all about?

Though limited in appearance, my previous comment about the vocals also applies to this album. Not bad, but a more commanding performance would render him more credibility. Then again, the combination works, so why bother.
The bad news is, his website is still running, but information about his musical adventures is hidden so deep I can´t find it. The artwork design is his also, but nada musical info. Perhaps he has given up on convincing people this works. A pity, as I feel this could appeal to a broad audience. Or should! A Season Of Fire being a prime example.

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Red Star Revolt, Self Titled, 2008

Red Star RevoltThis American trio (Aaron – vocals, bass, percussion, Clutch – guitars, keyboards and Dino – drums) has created an album that will not leave you untouched. That is, if you take the time to sink your teeth into it.

Consisting of a mixture of alternative with a punk attitude, and rock with some serious progressive touches, this is a challenging listen. But very much worth of your precious time. Think Muse playing ball with Rush while Masters Of Reality and Porcupine Tree are joining…

All those influences don´t cumulate into an album with many faces. No, they guys made sure there is a lot going on, but kept it all together. First because of the songs and the way they approach the arrangements. Variation, accents and mood-swings yes, several loose ideas glued together, no. Second it is the production. Clear, powerful, yet full of dynamics so the music breathes.

I actually love bands like this who are not afraid to experiment and stick to their own beliefs and convictions. We need more bands like this in my humble opinion. So if you don´t shy away to discover something new, this band deserves your attention. Oh, and the challenge does not mean they don´t write songs with melodies, they do!

Personal play tips: just fire it up and take it from there.

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Porcupine Tree, The Incident, 2009

porcupine tree - the incidentTo me, one of the beauties of listening to a new Porcupine Tree CD is the not knowing what you are gonna get. But you are always sure that Steven Wilson comes up with intelligent music with a message. And sure, some tracks need time to get into. They slowly get into your system, at first making you feel  uncomfortable, but as time progresses that feeling changes to familiarity. And keeps you coming back. Now if that isn’t a sign for some serious good music that will last, I don’t know what is.

This album is no different. What we have here is a double disk. The first containing one song (the title track), divided into 14 segments of various lengths and lasting over 50 minutes!  Some bits are instant, others need time. But again, what beauty and what feeling. I truly admire his ability to work with light and shade. From small and intimate, to big, strange and forceful.

The second disk contains 4 songs that probably would have fitted on the first disk as well. But perhaps to focus the listeners attention, this choice was made.  The songs are typical PT. So I guess y’all know what to do!

Personal play tips: the first disk played as a whole and then play the second disk.

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Pure Reason Revolution, Amor Vincit Omnia, 2009

pure reason revolution - amor vincit omniaThe previous album from this British hopefuls (The Dark Third) was an absolute highlight. Rare you find a band with an immediate identity of their own. Pure Reason Revolution (PRR) blend various styles together (progressive rock, alternative sounds, electronic music) and keep it together with a breathtaking use of vocals.  No wonder with 3 vocalists, 2 men and 1 female, who all play at least one instrument as well. They not only sing harmony, but counterparts or canon´s as well. All executed with class and highly hypnotic.

So now to this album. First impression is that a lot of guitars have been traded in for keyboards. The rhythms also seem more dance based than rock this time around. The signature vocals are still there though.
More close listening reveals this is not all there is to it. I think it is more a case of different choices in the playing and mixing. The keyboards are more prominent this time, and are used more.  There is a risk that the more conservative progressive rock listener (nice contradiction by the way) will be put off with this kind of experimenting.

I feel PRR are exploring their possibilities and deserve credit for that. Yes, they avoided making an album sounding like the big success The Dark Third was. But it is still instantly recognizable as PRR. An achievement a lot of bands will not accomplish.
I recommend this for all open minded people. Especially if you are not into progressive rock…! This is a whole new sound and deserves to be heard by many. And when you get the chance, buy the edition with extra DVD. You get 5 live songs that way and can convince yourself of their capabilities.

Personal play tips: Victorious Cupid, Apogee, Deus Ex Machina.

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Freestone, The Temple Of Humanity, 2008

Freestone - The Temple of HumanityThis album by fellow countrymen Freestone is the first, at least to my knowledge, dealing with the Freemasonry. All art and lyrics form a concept about this perhaps mystical theme.

But as we are here for the music, how about that? I think of this as symphonic pop / rock. It has a constant vibe and a lot of medium tempos, but that may also be considered a flaw. This is a beautiful album in many ways, but musically it is on the safe side. Little hard rocking here. But if quality is your thing, you can´t go wrong with this.

From start to finish this album tries to put a spell on you with it´s melodies and arrangements. The clever use of sax and other instruments here and there, adds to the atmosphere. I think the project (don´t know if this is an actual band, as all music and lyrics are written by Harm Timmerman, who also plays a lot of instruments) was created with a lot of labour and love.  The lead singer is by no means bad, but could benefit from a little more bite. On the other hand, as this also applies to the music, it must be a conscious choice. So very classy, but not very ballsy. Nevertheless, I recommend it, as all is done with style.

Personal play tips: Turn The Key, Children Of The Widow, Documentum Intellige,

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