Reviews in this issue:
- Symphony X - Symphony X
- Symphony X - The Damnation Game
- Symphony X - The Divine Wings Of Tragedy
- Symphony X - Twilight In Olympus
- Iced Earth - Glorious Burden
- Green Carnation - Light Of Day, Day Of Darkness
- Green Carnation - A Blessing In Disguise Duo Review
- Threshold - Extinct Instinct
- Mister Kite - The Hunger [Single]
- Divertigo - Gentle Chaos
- Ultime Atome - Dark Visions
- Death Machine - Death Machine
- Dark Avenger - X Dark Years
Symphony X - Symphony X
[Special Edition Reissue]
Tracklist: Into The Dementia (1:01), The Raging Season (5:01), Premonition (5:38), Masquerade (4:28), Absinthe And Rue (7:17), Shades Of Grey (4:41), Taunting The Notorious (3:21), Rapture Or Pain (5:05), Thorns Of Sorrow(3:55), A Lesson Before Dying (12:07)
Enhanced Element: Band Interview Part I & Screensaver
Symphony X - The Damnation Game
[Special Edition Reissue]
Tracklist: The Damnation Game (4:32), Dressed To Kill (4:35), The Edge Of Forever (8:59), Savage Curtain (3:31), Whispers (4:48), The Haunting (5:22), Secrets (5:42), A Winter´s Dream – Prelude [Part I] (4:04), A Winter´s Dream – The Ascension [Part II] (5:40)
Enhanced Element: Band Interview Part II & Screensaver - *not included in total running time
Symphony X - The Divine Wings Of Tragedy
[Special Edition Reissue]
Tracklist: Of Sins And Shadows (4:58), Sea Of Lies (4:18), Out Of The Ashes (3:39), The Accolade (9:51), Pharaoh (5:28), The Eyes Of Medusa (5:26), The Witching Hour (4:15), The Divine Wings Of Tragedy (20:41), Candlelight Fantasia (6:45)
Enhanced Element: Band Interview Part III & Screensaver - *not included in total running time
Symphony X - Twilight In Olympus
[Special Edition Reissue]
Tracklist: Smoke And Mirrors (6:09), Church Of The Machine (8:57), Sonata (1:25), In The Dragon´s Den (4:00), Through The Looking Glass [Part I, II, III] (13:05), The Relic (5:03), Orion – The Hunter (6:56), Lady Of The Snow (7:09)
Enhanced Element: Band Interview Part IV & Screensaver - *not included in total running time
The release of their last album The Odyssey has finally started to bring the sort of recognition that these fine purveyors of symphonic, progressive, heavy metal have long deserved.
Having just completed their first headlining tour of the USA and with a diehard following around the world, it seems amazing that Symphony X are already about to start work on album number eight. Yet their first four CDs never even got an official worldwide release. Anyway, I'm sure the new-found fame and the lack of early distribution is the main reason why their current label has acquired the necessary licences to now re-issue all four of these first albums.
In terms of quality, the logic of starting with the most recent of this foursome and moving backwards is more than borne out by the reality. Put simply, the band's forth release, Twilight in Olympus is in my opinion one of the best albums of it's kind ever released. The first of the band's albums that I acquired and the one that I still regard as their most enjoyable. Probably more straightforward and certainly the heaviest of their albums, tracks like Church of the Machine and Smoke and Mirrors rate as some of the best songs the band has ever written.
In contrast, their self-titled debut is the sort of album, that if received from an unknown band, would end up with a review that said something like: 'showing plenty of promise but in need of plenty of improvement'. The vocals of Rod Tyler are fine but clearly not in the same league as the man who quickly replaced him. There are some good songs - Absinthe and Rue in particular has a good vibe - and even at this early stage, the guitar genius that is Michael Romeo stands out like an erection at a nudist camp. This was the one album I'd never heard before and it's a fascinating record of how the band has evolved. But in the wider scheme of things it's nothing more than a creditable demo.
In between, came the progressive-tinged crunch of The Damnation Game followed by the more gracious symphonics of Divine Wings of Tragedy. Both are good if not great albums that have their fair share of quality moments. Their interest however lies in the way that you can clearly see how the band is developing its sound and how each of the members is discovering how to mix their ingredients into the unique and perfectly-blended dish that is the Symphony X sound of today.
I do feel an opportunity has been missed to add a couple of proper bonus tracks to these re-releases. It would certainly give a bit of credence to the 'special' part of these 'special editions'. For starters, the band's recent live album was recorded over several nights of their last tour and so there must be loads of material that never made it to the album. I also know the band was keen to re-do a couple of the tracks from the debut, with Allen adding fresh vocals. Either of these ideas or just some unreleased demo material would have added a touch of spice to the package. Instead, all we have is a very poor quality video interview. I must admit I failed to get past the first few minutes. The sound and images are abysmal. I've done video interviews before and I'd be totally ashamed if I produced something this bad.
Other than a new digipak format, the covers and inlay cards are pretty much the same as the originals too. Therefore, for fans who've already got these, I can see no reason to splash out again here. However for anyone who has only just caught onto this amazing band, then this is an ideal opportunity to find out what you've been missing. Start at the end and work backwards though.
Symphony X: 6 out of 10
The Damnation Game: 7 out of 10
The Divine Wings of Tragedy: 7.5 out of 10
Twilight in Olympus: 10 out of 10
Iced Earth - Glorious Burden
Disc 1: The Star Spangled Banner(1:13), Declaration Day (4:59), When The Eagle Cries (4:06), The Reckoning (4:56), Greenface (3:02), Attila (5:36), Red Baron/Blue Max (4:05), Hollow Man (4:25), Valley Forge (4:46), Waterloo (5:48), Bonus – When The Eagle Cries [unplugged] (3:34)
Disc 2: Gettysburg (1863) –  The Devil To Pay (12:13),  Hold At All Costs [7:05],  High Water Mark (12:35)
Iced Earth should be a familiar name to fans of ‘traditional’ metal, gaining kudos by ignoring trends and working their way to the top of the metal pantheon by the old fashioned method of hard gigging and word of mouth. Consequently, ‘The Glorious Burden’ has been eagerly awaited by the band’s loyal and ever-growing fan-base for some time now.
As ever with Iced Earth, Jon Schaffer, rhythm guitarist, songwriter and undisputed band leader, has rung the changes with regards to the line-up. Apart from Schaffer, only drummer Richard Christey remains from the band which recorded 2001’s Horror Show, with bassist James McDonagh returning to the band after a few years absence, and Ralph Santolla (Millenium) coming in as lead guitarist. The biggest change, and one that has divided the fan-base, is the departure of much-loved vocalist Matt Barlow (rather strangely so he can pursue a career in law administration), and his replacement by former Judas Priest front-man Tim Owens. Personally, I think the band have recruited wisely – Owens received criticism during his time with Priest, but generally this was down to the poor quality of the material the band were writing. Anyone who saw Owens perform live will testify to the fact that he’s got a tremendous voice for metal – his range (particularly in the higher levels) is far greater than Barlow’s, and if his voice perhaps lacks some of the warmth that Barlow obtained, I’d still maintain that Owens is the stronger vocalist. He also does a sterling job here given that most of the material was written with Barlow in mind, although understandably there are a few moments where his delivery seems somewhat awkward.
The general concept (there always is one with Iced Earth) on ‘The Glorious Burden’ is war and conflict, with subject matter ranging from the reign of Attila The Hun (the cunningly titled Attila) to the events of September 11th and its aftermath (When The Eagle Cries). On the first disc the lyrics are reasonable although nothing special, with clichés raining down pretty heavily. The second disc, consisting of the epic Gettysburg (1863), is a different matter entirely – a veritable rock opera which Schaffer has clearly put a lot of thought, time and effort (not to mention money!) into.
As a side-note, its worth noting that there are several different versions of The Glorious Burden around, with a couple missing off various tracks and putting the whole album on to a single disc. It really is worth seeking out the two disc version; not only do you get all the tracks, but Gettysburg (1863) is best appreciated as a separate entity from the rest of the album.
The first disc opens with a suitably over the top rendition of The Star Spangled Banner. This melds into the anthemic power metal of Declaration Day, and from hereon in CD1 is very much ‘business as usual’ as far as Iced Earth is concerned. Iron Maiden meets Metallica-style romps (The Reckoning) rub shoulders with solid (if somewhat histrionic) power ballads (When The Eagle Cries); full-on 80’s style thrash (Greenface) nestles with more traditional, bombastic fare (Red Baron/ Blue Max). This is all enjoyable, fist-pumping stuff – but it must be said that much of the material is not on a par with the band’s previous best (such as 96’s excellent The Dark Saga). Only a couple of tracks really stand out (the mini-epic of Attila, with its insanely catchy central riff and excellent call-and-response vocal section, and Waterloo, which has a very strong multi-tracked chorus and some excellent vocals by Owens on the bridge section), and coupled with the presence of the odd below par track (Hollow Man reeks of filler, and the acoustic version of When The Eagle Cries is unnecessary) means that, had it been released on its own, this album could perhaps be considered a little disappointing.
Thankfully however, there’s more to come. Gettysburg (1863) is Jon Schaffer’s retelling of one of the most famous battles of the American Civil War. Schaffer admits to a passion for American history in his written introduction to the work, and as he states ‘real passion will translate into real passionate music’. Split into three parts to reflect the three days of this momentous battle, this is quite simply a tour de force. Expertly utilising the 55-piece Prague Philharmonic Orchestra, using different motifs such as traditional melodies to denote the two opposing forces (‘Dixie’ for the Confederates, ‘When Johnny Comes Marching Home’ for the Union), telling the events through a variety of different characters eyes, and using a range of styles and moods to tell this epic tale, Gettysburg (1863) is a triumph for Schaffer. The piece has an epic, majesterial sweep to it, and connects with the emotions, which I’m sure was Schaffer’s aim. Its hard to pick out highlights, but (perhaps suitably) the emotive ending, illustrating the thoughts of General Lee as he is forced to retreat under the threat of the Union forces, is very well handled, and a poignant way to end the piece.
The icing on the cake is the fact that Schaffer has decided to include in the booklet not only the lyrics but some words of explanation as to what he’s trying to illustrate with each section. This is enlightening, and does help to convey the feel of the piece. My own knowledge of the American Civil War is pretty hazy, and Schaffer certainly had me dusting down my old history books – which I imagine is as much a part of his aim as is creating a fine piece of music in its own right.
Overall then, this is an album which I can wholeheartedly recommend to all power metal fans – even if the first disc isn’t as strong as some of the band’s previous work, its still head and shoulders over much of the competition, and anyway Gettysburg (1863) really lifts the album to a greater height. For those fans who aren’t so keen on the traditional metal side but are into progressive metal a’la Symphony X and their ilk, I’d say that this is definitely worth a dabble, as Gettysburg (1863) is one of the best concept pieces in this vein I’ve heard in a long while, and is worth the price of the album alone.
Disc One: 7 out of 10
Disc Two: 9+ out of 10
Light Of Day, Day Of Darkness &
Blessing in Disguise
It took a while from some of us at DPRP to notice Green Carnation. This might be caused by the fact that a number of band members have their roots in doom metal and that is just not our cup of tea. Their debut album Journey To The End Of The Night highly confirmed that prejudice, so that didn't help either. As you can read in the reviews it was Progpower (read here and here ) that made us see our erroneous ways and because of this we hope to finally put this to rights with the following reviews.
At the end of this summer, the new Green Carnation album The Trilogy will be recorded (release date still unknown). To make sure we are not lagging behind we have finally posted the reviews to Light Of Day, Day Of Darkness and Blessing In Disguise. From these reviews you can conclude that here is yet another band to add to your shortlist.
Green Carnation - Light Of Day, Day Of Darkness
Tracklist: Light Of Day, Day Of Darkness (60:06)
After seeing Green Carnation at progpower I made a promise to myself to buy at least one of their albums. So on a Friday, returning home from work, I bought Blessing In Disguise. A very very enjoyable album. So on Monday, I returned to the record store to also buy Light Of Day, Day Of Darkness. If I thought Blessing In Disguise was that good, LOD, DOD completely knocked me of my socks! I would like to correct my top 10 albums of 2002 and rank this album as my number one (just before Six Degrees Of Inner Turbulence).
Any of you know the feeling: you discover a new band and can not understand why it took you so long to discover them and furthermore why is the whole world not in complete awe of this album. It happened to me twice last year with (A.C.T. & Evergrey) but none of them hit as hard as Green Carnation did. If at the end of this review you do not feel the urge to buy this CD then I feel I have failed! So just to make sure you understand: buy this album, you will not regret it!
Green Carnation started of in 1990, as a death metal band. At this time they did not record an album but in 1991 a demo was made. Because Tchort, one of the main members, left to play with Emperor the band seemed to end right there. But, luckily for us, Tchort remembered his old band and in 1998 they got together again and recorded Journey To The End Of The Night. And after that in 2002 they released Light Of Day, Day Of Darkness.
It might look easy to do a track-by-track review of this album: as it contains only one track! This is because Tchort (who has written all music and lyrics for this album) feels that he has a story to tell in this album and does not like people to cut up this story in pieces. At first I found this a bit annoying because it means you cannot skip to parts you especially like but I found that once I have heard the first few notes it is very hard not to listen to the complete album. This is one of those albums that holds you in its spell for as long as it lasts. I get really annoyed once I hear the start of the last part, because I know it means the album will soon be over. In more than one occasion I have given it a second spin after the first spin ended.
From the start the atmosphere of this album ranges from despair and grief to joy and hope. But all in all, I do not experience this as a joyful album. It is the story of someone wrestling with his deepest emotions. It is from Tchort's life: while his newborn son is bringing joy to his life, his thoughts are with the daughter he has lost. The story is told with much expression, using acoustic guitars, heavy electric guitars, strings, choirs, (superb) drums and a lot more that could easily have made it a very bombastic album in the negative sense. While parts do have the grandeur of large orchestra playing, other acoustic parts are very tiny and intimate. Bombastic is not the word, impressive is.
I don't think I have before had such a hard time to describe the music but because I feel I have the duty to force this superb album on you I have written down my best try in the next paragraphs. Hope you can cope with my small sentences and shreds of thoughts and impressions.
Starting off quietly sounds of wind and keyboards the music builds up to drums, atmospheric electric guitars and children's laughter, just before 4 minutes the first heavy guitar yanks can be heard. The vocals become a bit harsh and woman's singing can be heard, then finally, the first up-tempo guitars: a theme that returns a couple of times throughout the whole track. It then fades out to quiet again. Dark atmospheric guitars and double vocals changing into grunts (screams?) and dark heavy guitars and this interleaved with the dark guitars again. Dark guitars, vocals. Although most guitar sounds are dark and much lower than I am used to - never during this album the melody is lost in oceans of sounds and screams. It is all heavy but still melodic.
At 11 minutes an acoustic guitar is accompanied by the drums. Drums are playing a melody as well and although I am not pretending to know too much of drums/drummers/drumming I certainly admire this stuff. A rocking guitar and short sentences of lyrics continues the music. Small tingles of keyboards and strings in the background while the title of the album is finally sung. Slightly distorted electric guitars go on with a pumping beat with double bass drums, a small break to a slower tempo but quickly picking up the correct speed. Dark heavier guitars (slower) picking up a theme heard before. And again pumping more classical metal (if it wasn't for the vocals). At about 22 minutes two guitars pick up a new rhythm, an electric guitar 'howls' through it while strings accentuate the music. More up tempo heavy dark and pumping guitar soon to announce the center point of the album. But just before that is reached it builds up again to more up tempo, some of the best lyrics of the album, again all modest gloomy, heavy guitars, repeating some of the first lyrics and than finally at around 33 minutes - zap into quiet, some sounds and a woman's voice. It took me a lot of spins to get used to this part of the music, at first I found it breaking down the rest of the album, the saxophone is a bit irritating and it takes much too long to pick up the music again. Now after all the spins I can appreciate it very much, but must admit it still is not my favourite section of the album. It does serve as a nice basis for the next part of the album which builds from the melancholic feel using an acousting guitar that gets replaced by electric guitars and again gloomy lyrics. The solo acousting guitar that starts of the next section sends shivers down my spine every time I hear it: building up to heavier, screaming guitars and a nice keyboard loop in the background. What an amazing guitar solo. Although around 44 minutes there are still 15 minutes of music left it marks the end piece of this album. Again an acoustic guitar, bells of a clock and a strange laugh in the background, a small drum break, vocals accompanied by dark keyboard sounds, overtaken again by metal guitars, chaotic keyboard sounds, then a distorted robovoice. The female voice returns and heavy guitars leads into the theme that is used throughout the complete album. Screaming guitars, pumping guitars, double bass drums returning to acoustic guitars and children's voices like at the start of the album. A musical box and a click ends another amazing musical experience.
Putting a specific genre label on this album does it terribly wrong so I will sum up that it contains heavy metal, doom metal, progressive metal, progressive rock and psychedelic rock elements (and still it is a very coherent piece of work). Musically it is of very high standard but the atmosphere and emotions conveyed on this album are equally important. For those that like prog metal: buy this album. If you like progressive rock and are not easily scared of by a heavier sound, it might be a bit too dark at first but my guess is that a number of spins will be enough to make you love it. In my opinion this is the best album I have heard in the last five years so my views might not be too objective. I am off now, giving Light Of Day, Day Of Darkness another spin, yet another full hour of sheer musical enjoyment!
Conclusion: 10 out of 10
Tracklist: Crushed To Dust (4:28), Lullaby In Winter (7:51), Writings On The Wall (5:28), Into Deep (6:11), The Boy In The Attic (7:15), Two Seconds In Life (6:30), Myron & Cole (5:55), As Life Flows By (4:47), Rain (8:06)
I have to confess, that was it not for their spell-binding performance at last year’s Progpower Europe fest, then this album would have totally passed me by.
I do always try to encourage my son to ‘never judge a book by its cover’. Sadly I plead ‘guilty’ to originally taking one look at the make-up of Green Carnation and quickly moving on. With members from bands such as Emperor, In The Woods, Blood Red Throne and Carpathian Forest – normally just mention the words dark, gloomy and black metal and I’m off. However from the moment they bounded onto the stage in Baarlo, I knew I was going to enjoy Green Carnation – a band where excellent song writing, mixes with lyrical sensitivity, sterling musicianship and not a sniff of fear of transcending the musical boundaries.
Having since also dipped into the band’s back catalogue, I can say that A Blessing.. is a very sharp change of direction from the 60-minute concept epic that was its predecessor. While I can truly appreciate the artistic and musical appeal that won so many admirers, I personally found Light of Day - Day of Darkness, just too big and too bitter a pill to swallow in one mouthful.
I guess the change of direction was pushed by the band’s desire not to stand still - to evolve, transform and continue an exploration of musical ideas. However if the change was in any way pushed by a desire to produce something more readily accessible, then they’ve very much succeeded. A Blessing in Disguise has songs that combine melancholic doom, with heavy guitar chords, quiet melodies, splashes of keyboard and some unbelievably – and I mean unbelievably - catchy choruses.
The biggest compliment I can pay; is that it was a good two months after hearing Green Carnation play for the first time that this album arrived. Yet every song that I heard on stage, struck an immediate chord of recognition when I played the CD. With tracks like Crushed to Dust, Myron & Cole, As Life Flows By ….. I can’t stop humming those choruses. The lyrics are hardly light-hearted, yet tracks like As Life Flows By are just gagging to be played on the radio.
There’s also more than enough progressive tendencies to deserve the attention of this website (send us a promo next time chaps!). Lullaby in Winter is a two-part song with the first part having clean guitar and floating tender and serene vocals by Kjetil Nordhus. As the outstanding drumming by Anders Kobro begins to ratchet up the pressure, something that started out as a dark Pink Floyd goes into a jazzy Deep Purple with a string section clearly heard in the background.
Such mood changes are also prevalent on Two Seconds in Life, where voice over bare melody shifts to a full instrumentation, combined with strings, in a matter of seconds. While not being overly symphonic A Blessing in Disguise bears enough symphonic elements and string instruments (cello on Two Seconds in Life and harp on Rain) to really make the whole effort multi-dimensional. There’s also a distinctive folk/rock vibe that repeatedly reminds me of New Model Army and adds another very distinctive element to the sound that I really like.
Throw in a production that’s as crisp as a Norwegian winter’s morning, excellent musicianship, and a nice sleeve layout and you have a quite stunningly, mature and addictive album that deserves to be heard. As they say on Wall Street – BUY! BUY! BUY!
It must have been a very hard job for Green Carnation to beat the quality of Light Of Day, Day Of Darkness. Their second album was at such an high level it must have been a heavy burden during the making of this album. To be honest I don't think they have succeeded in topping their second album with this. And that's not a shame, LOD, DOD is such a masterpiece that I think it is almost impossible to level it, let alone top it.
A Blessing In Disguise is in my top 10 of 2003 and if you look at it from that point of view: ranking it to other albums from that year and not benchmarking it against it's predecessor they did a pretty good job, well, they did an excellent job. To me it ranks as one of the best albums of last year. Having a peak at Andy's top 10: he came to the same conclusion, it is in his top 10 also. So now we are to explain why this album is also a great album.
In many ways it is very different from LOD, DOD: it contains seperate tracks for one and it is not the sole creation of Tchort. There are of course tracks by his hand but also a number of tracks by other band members. In that respect this album might even be considered a step forward: it is Green Carnation acting as a band on all levels.
Crushed To Dust washes over you with it's guitar filled sound, sligthly distorted guitars set the beat to this music. Dark lyrics of a murder (or a movie of a murder?) Lullaby In Winter is a track of nostalgic mood. It's music is moody and mellow - it appears on the verge of speeding up all the time but never really does. This "might become uptempo" just around the corner is one of the strenghts of this track. Excellent drums in the middle part and keyboards filling in the details, a very good track.
Writings On The Wall most striking feature are it's lyrics. Let me disclose that the ink used to write on the wall is blood. This track might justify the remark I made on Green Carnation in my prog power concert review: Green Carnation delivers a mix of folk and metal. This tracks rhythm has a distinct Proclaimers feel. The powerfull guitars mixed with accoustic guitars (?) and the superb guitar solo accompanied by a terrific rhythm section make this my 2003 favourite track.
Into Deep has guitar stretching out it's notes just in the middle of the mix, in my opinion it could even have been more up front. I like that guitar. There are even some strings in this track. These however do not soften the music, it is firm as a rock. The Boy In The Attic keeps up the tradition of dark lyrics although it's not before the last line of the lyrics that you discover that. It is a bit of a bombastic composition (but in exactly the correct doses). The glooming bass throughout the complete track adds to that, especially because it is enclosed in piano parts. The vocal harmonies are a bit strange (I can find no other way to describe it) but again in a good way, that is. This track is growing on me steadily and even now, months later, I am wondering if it might become my most favourite track of this album.
Two Seconds In Life has a very nice build up it climaxes to the strings and guitars to become quiet and then end for the closing lines of the lyrics. Compared to the other tracks on the album it appears to be the odd one out, not a Green Carnation track. But on the other hand it could be an extension to Light Of Day, Day Of Darkness and that's extra strange if you consider this track is written by Kjetil Nordhus and not Tchort. Myron & Cole written by Stein Roger Sordal just like Crushed To Dust has a pumping rhythm of guitar and drums. Not at all a simple track, the intro immediately makes that clear. It took me some time to get used to this track probably because of the way the lyrics fit to the music (or better: the way the don't fit exactly).
As Life Flows By sounds like some song I should know but somehow cannot put my finger on (Anyone on the forum??). It's the track best suited for a single in my opinion (it might even make a hit). Then again the lyrics would probably tick some people off. Live Flows By on the way down before hitting the ground. Although Green Carnation does not create simple music, this is the track that comes closest. It has a firm chorus, refrain, chorus structure. The bass played during the refrains is excellent. Despite the dark lyrics this song has a very optimistic atmosphere. Rain is a dark odd track with a complex build up. Some of the vocals appear to be distorted. This track has some highly attractive parts and then some that I don't like at all. I can appreciate the originality but this is not my most favourite track.
Some time ago (in fact on the way to Progpower) I had a discussion with someone on how everything has been written (book-wise) and composed (music-wise) and that there are no real suprises to be expected anymore in our genres of music and books (we share the same intrests). At that time I could not think of a good reason to disagree but since then it has amazed me how many bands have a distinct sound you instantly recognise them by without it meaning that they have been copying themselves over and over again (think: Pain Of Salvation, Evergrey, ACT, Treshold). To that list we can safely add Green Carnation, they do have that very distinct sound and their last two albums are as good as the other bands mentioned.
If you went out to buy LOD, DOD (and you should!!) and liked it, This album is also a must buy. It might not be as epic, but it would be a pity if that was the reason you skipped this album. If you are not that into heavy bombastic stuff but like good uptempo prog metal then this album will be to your liking.
Threshold - Extinct Instinct
Track list: Exposed (6:26), Somatography (6:26), Eat The Unicorn (10:06), Forever (4:36), Virtual Isolation (5:33), The Whispering (7:50), Lake Of Despond (6:22), Clear (3:22), Life Flow (6:00), Part Of The Chaos (8:17), Segue (1:40), Mansion (3:00), Exposed  (4:37), Virtual Isolation  (4:16)
A bit of history… Following the success of Threshold’s second release Psychedelicatessen in 1994, the band took a break before embarking on their third studio album Extinct Instinct. During that period vocalist Glynn Morgan left the band along with drummer Jay Micciche to form Mindfeed, and Threshold once again recruited vocalist Damian Wilson who originally sung on the band’s debut album Wounded Land. With him came new drummer Mark Heaney and Extinct Instinct was recorded in the latter half of 1996. The album was well received by critics and fans alike and was selected as “album of the month” by Germany’s Rock Hard magazine upon it’s release in March 1997. The album led to a European tour supported by US progressive rock band Enchant. Notably this was Wilson’s only tour with Threshold, and was also the first time that drummer Johanne James was seen in the band, replacing Heaney who had other commitments. Arguably the most progressive of Threshold’s first three albums has now been remastered with the addition of three bonus tracks previously not commercially released worldwide.
The bonus tracks are Mansion, originally called The Truth, an acoustic song (written by Damian Wilson), which was the bonus track on the Japanese version of Extinct Instinct. Exposed [radio edit], this version was released on the fan club album and Virtual Isolation [radio edit], originally released on Decadent with the arrangement modified to reduce the song length for radio. Last but not least there is an acoustic guitar “song” called Segue, this track was in fact an untitled hidden extra on the UK release at a time when hiding music at the end of an album had first become fashionable. Of course the “old” tracks on this fantastic album are still worth listening too. My favourites are: Eat The Unicorn, Virtual Isolation, The Whispering and the amazing Part Of The Chaos. Especially in that song Damian Wilson sings like a young god and the chorus is soooo catchy. This album is still one of my favourite Threshold albums ever, and I have you do not have this CD, now is your chance to buy it; do it!!!
Conclusion: 8.5 out of 10
Mister Kite - The Hunger [Single]
Tracklist: The Hunger (4:17), How Long (5:08), Bloodsucker (4:51)
Not a full-blown album, The Hunger is a three-song single released as an appetizer for Box Of Fear, the second album from Swedish ProgMetallers Mister Kite. This five-piece band received a lot of positive feedback for their debut album All In Time. Released two years ago, it was a pretty mixed bag of songs, with a frequent leaning towards Queensryche and Kings X.
Now, if this is anything to go by, then Box Of Fear is gonna be a very different proposition. The Hunger (of which this is a radio edit) is a meaty slab of modern rock with a heavy nod towards the likes of Nickelback and Alien Ant Farm. The other new song is How Long. This takes a similar, maybe more nu-metal approach. It's a bit heavier, with a better verse but not such an addictive chorus. Singer Alf Wemmenlind's angst-ridden voice reveals no hint of an accent, and either songs would be right at home on practically any American rock station.
While the modern rock approach that the band has taken, leaves the initial impression, on further listens it becomes clear that there is a lot more going on within the songs than either of the above mentioned bands have ever dared to fit into their string of hits. The instruments are given room to develop several themes and both tracks have a nice mid-section change in pace and mood. For example there's a haunting piano is introduced towards the end of The Hunger and a cool, progressive, flowing guitar solo takes over the bridge in How Long.
The third track, won´t feature on the forthcoming album. It's a cover of the Deep Purple song Bloodsucker that was featured on the recent Lion Music tribute disc Blackmore´s Castle. It's not one of Purple's better tracks and to be honest, in taking the modern rock approach again, the band looses the blues swagger that was it's one redeeming feature. Full marks for trying to bring a fresh approach to an old chestnut at least.
As mentioned before, their debut album certainly offered plenty of variety. So whether these two tracks are typical of the rest of the album, it's hard to tell. But the band is due to appear at the Headwayprogressive music festival in Holland in April and if the songwriting on the rest of Box Of Fear is up to this standard, then the new album should be worth investigating.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10
Divertigo - Gentle Chaos
Tracklist: At the Gates (2:49), Meeting in the Valley (3:42), Fall Together (2:14), Mothers' Arms: [I] Goodbye [II] EverBleeding [III] Brink of Enlightenment [IV] Between Friends (15:04), Saving the World (5:44), Hand of Fate (0:49), Peril (3:46), Soul on a Screen (4:23), Relapse: [I] Fear [II] Liberation (8:38), Grey Skies to Golden (8:19)
Does this ring a bell with you? You go out to a restaurant and seen something on the menu with a really bizarre mix of ingredients. It sounds absolutely gut-wrenching. Yet out of sheer curiosity, you decide to give it a try and end up being pleasantly surprised at the way the unusual flavours mix together. If so, then that’s what listening to this album is like.
Divertigo is a one-man project and the one man behind the project is American Steve Douglas. Gentle Chaos is his third release and as he states on his website: ‘The name was to suggest diverse music that promotes an alternate way of thinking... to craft honest compositions which are not afraid to transcend any musical boundaries in order to convey the idea.’ And that is actually a fair summary of what you will find if you care to descent into Steve's gentle chaos.
A musical journeyman, not limited by musical borders, Steve plays most of the instruments, provides some excellent vocals and from the looks of it, even printed off the labels, on this self-produced effort.
The album opens with the New Age instrumental At The Gates, from where we launch towards the other extreme with a fast, thrash, power chord attack that leads us into the ProgMetal of Meeting In The Valley.
The next track, Fall Together is completely different. This starts off as pure pop. Not my dish at all but I will admit that’s its very well done in its honest, yet catchy, simplicity. However the track evolves to become another meaty ProgMetal song. You’d never think The Proclaimers mixed with Vanden Plas would work, but this track is actually the best dish out of the Divertigo kitchen!
And from here on, the album continues to pick and mix its musical styles in a similar manner. The four-part Mothers Arms starts off as a nice slice of modern prog (reminiscent of Polish progsters Satellite with a trumpet), flows into a jazz lounge bar instrumental with a Thrash undercurrent, followed by a bit of neo-clasical keyboard metal and then into a dose of Pink Floyd mellow moodiness. And that's just the first four minutes!
However, for me, in the second half of the album, the songs have a bit too much of the ‘pop’ ingredients. There's nowhere near enough of the diversity and the more heavyweight flavours that filled my appetite at the beginning.
Saving The World is a fairly straight and extremely mellow pop ballad and Peril is so wimpy and limp-wristed that it has the potential to drain me of the will to live if I ever listen to it again. The short, metallic guitar burst of Hand of Fate that splits them, just reeks of tokenism.
Soul On The Screen owes too much of a debt to Vangellis while Relapse is good in parts but reminds me too much of the 80’s electro pop bands that almost ruined my teenage years. Grey Skies to Golden closes the album as it started, on a gentle note, with some new age influences.
If you like the milder and popier moods that Divertigo offers, then this is perfectly well put together and provides a constantly moving soundscape that certainly keeps your attention. But for me, the album just looses its bite and inventiveness in the second half. The production is a bit lame and the drum machine, where used, sounds hollow, but overall this shows plenty of good compositional ideas.
If you like experimental, yet extremely accessible music (with a heavy pop leaning) then check out the Divertigo website which has various sound samples and from where you can grab a copy for $8. Just for Kicks is handling distribution in Germany or you can order from the CD Baby website.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10
Ultime Atome - Dark Visions
Tracklist: Meine Liebe (14:07), Battlefield (22:08), Eternal Warrior (8:39), Dreamland (9:46)
Ultime Atome is a French band consisting of Jean Marc Tesorio on vocals, Isabelle Dechamps on keyboards, Walter Ginannecschi on guitar, Bruno Vente on bass and Patrick Delmas on drums. The band has been around for a good ten years, yet the album Dark Visions, released on the Musea label last year, is their debut album. If you ever wondered what it would have sounded like had Fish joined Black Sabbath after leaving Marillion, then Ultime Atome offers a teasing glimpse of an interesting alternate universe. The music is dark, complex and heavy, while singer Jean Marc Tesorio does one of the best Fish impersonations I've heard in a long while. It does however seem a bit of place, since the first half hour of the album has absolutely nothing to do with the old Marillion musically, and it definitely takes a while to get used to.
On the whole, the album does need time to get used to, as it is far from an easy listening experience. The music is raw and very bombastic and with only four songs totalling to an hours worth of music, very difficult to digest in one go.
And in that Dark Visions is somewhat of a disappointment, as the band certainly show potential, but they force all this potential down your ears all at once.
The words 'too much' certainly come to mind with the epic Battlefield, which in true prog-style is divided into three parts. Discarded of any subtlety 22 minutes of dark, often gothic music blast through your speakers, while Tesorio tells the account of a dark goddess unleashing her wrath on the earth. Not entirely unlike Marillion's Grendel, though Tesorio's manner of singing lacks the variety needed for such an epic. The track certainly has plenty great moments (especially the atmospheric transition between the second and third part of the song pushes the right buttons for me) but on the whole it lacks the melodies needed to capture one's attention and it simply becomes too much to digest. (and coming from someone who rates a couple of 40+ minute songs as his favourites of all time that is telling something).
Better are the two 'short' songs at the end. Eternal Warrior comes closer to the sound of early Marillion, or perhaps I'd rather compare it with Arena, as you hear someone who sings quite like Fish, yet it is obvious enough that it isn't Fish himself. Especially the second half of the song sounds quite like the beginning of Arena's Sirens.
With album closer Dreamland Ultime Atome manages to close the album in a satisfactory manner, with a finale building to a crescendo that follows true prog fashion, and a pretty good guitarsolo that echoes the works of Rothery and Gilmour.
In conclusion: certain caution is needed for this album, but fans for the dark and heavy will certainly dig this.
Conclusion: 7- out of 10
Death Machine - Death Machine
Tracklist: Loss for Words, Separate, Tangled Root, Last Breath, Mere Reflection, Schmeg, Inflicting, Believing, Genocide, Cycle of Conscience, Dead, Not To Be
Having given a big thumbs up to the efforts of the Tipton twins and their progressive metal masterpiece Zero Hour, I thought it worth a trip into usually unfathomable waters, to see why their ‘side project’ is gaining an equally healthy amount of interest.
With its self-titled debut release, Death Machine walks a similar path of pain and anger but from a far more aggressive, progressive, death metal point of view. Clocking in at just over 37 minutes, it’s of course all very short and very sharp and very to the point. The wierd make-up and costumes may catch your attention cause they look funny (watch the website video) but their music isn't funny at all! The lyrics are just what they need to be, dark, emotional, personal, and totally depressing.
Cookie monster vocalist Throat makes up for a somewhat limited range with a full throttle vocal assault. Death vocals are something you either like or don’t like – and for me it’s a sound that just doesn’t go anywhere near my g-spot. But I can appreciate the appeal and Throat’s throat generates sounds that would make anyone of a nervous disposition, do what I used to do when watching Doctor Who – hide behind the sofa!
It’s all flawlessly, technically played, with the guitars and rhythm section owing more than a passing nod to the sound of Zero Hour. Devin (Troy Tipton) weaves a thick mangle of groove with his bass. In many ways the bass is actually the lead instrument on many of the tracks – giving the band a ferocious timing and intensity. His low, rumbling bass lines are perfectly matched in the deep, grating guitar noises presented by Thrak (Jasun Tipton) who damages the air with riffs that seemingly arrive straight from the netherworld. Their dual assault is more than matched by Mike (Guy), who hits clean and very, very hard.
An element of theatricality comes with the addition of electronics, courtesy of Elias who adds a rigorous counter element of melody and atmosphere at unexpected moments – adding a distinctive element to the band’s sound.
Death Machine has been added to the bill of the Headway Festival due to take place in Holland in April. And that’s good enough to make them ‘progressive’ in my book. Fans of Zero Hour may want to investigate if not put off by the vocals. But for those looking for a more progressive version of Meshuggah or Soilwork, this is well worth a listen.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10
Dark Avenger - X Dark Years
Tracklist: Dark Avenger 2003 (8:11), Caladvwch (6:57), Utther Evil Pt 1 (2:20), Utther Evil Pt 2 (6:00), Unleash Hell (5:22)
For ten years now, Brazilian-based Dark Avenger has been ploughing through the metal furrow, but I must admit theirs is a name that has totally passed me by. After releasing two albums (Dark Avenger and Tales Of Avalon) they've decided to release an EP entitled X Dark Years to celebrate their 10th anniversary.
With one re-recorded song, two new tracks and another for which the accompanying information sheds no light at all, this provides evidence that this is a band certainly worthy of further investigation.
As the title suggests, Dark Avenger 2003 is the newly re-recorded version of the title track from their 2000 release. Judging from the samples I could hear before, the song itself has not really changed, the production, though, has improved massively. Huge, fat slices of power chords that really grab the attention.
Caladvwch begins with a stringed arrangement performed by the musicians of the Teatro Nacional de Brasília Orchestra with some cool acoustic guitar, before leading into a nice folky, symphonic ballad where the word 'excalibur' crops up at regular intervals.
However it is the two-part Utther Evil that has really captured my attention. The first part is purely classical piano - hauntingly played - while the second part brings us more of the regular Dark Avenger sound. Again this sits firmly on the demanding side of Power Metal. There are some great variations in tone and tempo, some liberal splashings of keys and singer Mario Linhares takes numerous twists and turns in his delivery. The end result is a very powerful mixture of Midnight-era Crimson Glory and Oliva-era Savatage.
That leaves Unleash Hell, which, again as the title suggests, is a fast, double-bass-driven metal anthem. It's okay but nothing special.
Reading between the lines, I think the two new tracks see a slight departure for the band into a more adventurous style of music which from my point of view can only be welcomed and which I feel the band is more than capable of delivering.
Dark Avenger sits firmly on the progressive-power side of the metal fence. The song structures are clearly progressive, yet without ever getting complex or delving too far into the widdly excesses of the more 'traditional' ProgMetal bands. The band mixes-up European and American Power Metal influences well, while Mario Linhares has a very characteristic style - a clear accent but not kitchsy or cheesy in any way. I quite like his voice, but it may not to be everyone's taste - so try before you buy.
Probably not for the ProgMetal purists. But for those who favour more traditional metal with a progressive ear, then this is a worthwhile release.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10