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:: PART I ::
- Nevermore – This Godless Endeavor
- After Forever - Remagine (Duo Review)
- Novembers Fall – Broken Memories
- Dreamtone - Sojourn
- Wastefall - Soulrain 21
- Circus Maximus - The 1st Chapter
- Communic - Conspiracy In Mind (Duo Review)
- Brides Of Destruction – Runaway Brides
- Ata D’arc – Call Of Peace
- S.I.N. - Equilibrium
- Disenchant - Dilemma
Nevermore – This Godless Endeavor
Tracklist: Born (5:05), Final Product (4:21), My Acid Words (5:41), Bittersweet Feast (5:01), Sentient 6 (6:58), Medicated Nation (4:01), The Holocaust Of Thought (1:27), Sell My Heart For Stones (5:18), The Psalm Of Lydi (4:16), A Future Uncertain (6:07), This Godless Endeavor (8:55)
Nevermore was formed from the ashes of 80’s Seattle metallers Sanctuary by vocalist Warrel Dane and bassist Jim Sheppard, releasing their self-titled debut back in 1995. Their real breakthrough (at least in mainland Europe) was in 1999 with their third album Dreaming Neon Black. A very dark concept affair, the band concocted a complex mix of power, progressive and thrash metal that marked them out as a band to be reckoned with. The following year saw Nevermore team up with famed producer Andy Sneap for Dead Heart In A Dead World, which showcased a slightly more direct approach, coupled with a heavier, more modern sound.
The band then took something of backward step with the follow-up that emerged some three years later, Enemies Of Reality. Due to budgetary constraints imposed by their label they were unable to hire Andy Sneap as producer again, instead settling for ex-Queensrÿche man Kelly Gray. Unfortunately Gray made an utter hash of the job, rendering Nevermore’s sound raw, unbalanced and completely lacking the sharpness and clarity that had become their trademark. In addition, only about half of the tracks (out of a measly 40 minutes playing time) were really up to snuff. Its fair to say the band’s progress was somewhat stifled, thankfully however, 2005 sees Sneap back in the producer's chair, the creative juices flowing again, and a new fire in the band’s bellies, the result being This Godless Endeavor, one of the best metal releases I’ve heard this year.
Nevermore are often labelled, rather lazily in my opinion, as a power metal band – whilst this might be true if you took the words at face value, listeners expecting cheesy euro-metal a’la Gamma Ray and Helloween are in for a shock. The band don’t lead listeners in gently with this album either, instead blasting into opener Born as if their lives depended on it, all hyper-speed riffing, jack-hammer drumming and growled vocals. Things soon settle down, in relative terms, as the song becomes a more ‘typical’ Nevermore track – sharp, grinding riffs, a thundering rhythm section, skilfully executed pace changes, magnificent, melodic guitar solo’s, all topped off with Dane’s passionate, anguished vocals.
Nevermore have developed such a unique style that its somewhat difficult to explain to those who haven’t heard them what they actually sound like – nonetheless, if you imagine a cross between Painkiller-era Judas Priest, mid 90’s Death (who despite their rather blunt name, actually produced some terrific, complex technical progressive metal in their latter days) and fellow US flyers of the ‘true metal’ flag, Iced Earth, mixed with a smidgeon of Dream Theater, all topped by Dane’s vocals, which you could (at a stretch) compare to a particularly depressed and pissed-off Geoff Tate, you’d at least be in the right ballpark.
One of the downsides of having a distinct sound, and a criticism that I’ve heard levied at Nevermore on more than one occasion, is that you could say that the band have a tendency to sound the same, track by track and, indeed, album by album. Whilst this may have a grain of truth to it, particularly with regard to the last album, even a cursory listen to This Godless Endeavor reveals some superbly crafted songs, each having that distinctive Nevermore sound, but boasting their own character and feel. The likes of Final Product and Bittersweet Feast see the band at their most direct and, although I hesitate to say it, commercial, boasting strong vocal hooks, riffs set to make any head bang, good momentum throughout, and, particularly in the case of the former, some absolutely stellar solo work from Loomis and new recruit Steve Smyth (Smyth, by the way, proves to be an excellent recruit, not only boasting his own style that both compliments Loomis’ and adds further variety to the bands’ attack, but also penning the music for three of the songs – previously Loomis-only territory).
My Acid Words mixes slower, churning sections with some fast, tight riffing and boast one of Dane’s most, ahem, acidic vocal turns, whilst The Psalm Of Lydia nods to prime time Bay Area style thrash metal. Whilst its fair to say that lighter moments are few and far between, the band do slow things down on a couple of occasions; Sentient 6 is something of a power ballad, Nevermore style, very much in the vein of fan favourite The Heart Collector (from Dead Heart…) – a good track, but one that perhaps overstays its welcome a little and suffers from over-familiarity; stronger is the Smyth-penned Sell My Heart For Stones, which builds up a strong sense of foreboding in the verse before delivering an impassioned, chugging chorus.
Nevermore leave the best for last, however, with the absolutely superb title track; almost nine minutes of some of the best metal you’ll hear all year, this has everything – slightly eerie, acoustic-led build up, anthemic main section, superbly worked pace and mood changes, and some exemplary lead guitar trade-off’s between Loomis and Smyth, who seem well on the way to being the best guitar-wielding double act in metal since Priest’s Tipton and Downing. Throughout, the band’s control of mood and atmosphere (basically very dark!) never wavers. It certainly ends the album on a very high note indeed.
It wouldn’t be true to say that the band’s hand on the quality control button never wavers – Medicated Nation seems like a lot of bluster and rage in search of a decent tune, whilst The Holocaust Of Thought – basically a bass solo featuring some widdley solo work from guest guitarist (and one-time thrash metal titan) James Murphy – seems rather pointless - but this really does seem like nit-picking when what you have is undoubtedly one of the stronger metal releases you’ll hear this year. The fact that it all comes wrapped in an excellent cover by Hugh Syme (known particularly for his work with Rush and Dream Theater) which matches the tone of the music contained within perfectly, is just the icing on the cake. If you’re a fan of modern metal, in the true sense of the term, you should get your hands on this album immediately!
Conclusion: 9 out of 10
After Forever - Remagine
Tracklist: Enter (1:06), Come (5:02), Boundaries Are Open (3:44), Living Shields (4:11), Being Everyone (3:37), Attendance (3:27), Free Of Doubt (4:40), Only Everything (6:33), Strong (3:38), Face Your Demons (4:57), No Control (3:17), Forever (5:10)
Since the departure of guitarist Mark Jansen (now, of course, with Epica) following 2001’s Decipher, After Forever appear to have streamlined their approach somewhat – the lead track on the next release, the EP Exordium, was a relatively mainstream ballad (My Choice), and whilst their next album, Invisible Circles, was a concept affair, it still saw the band, whilst hardly forsaking the bombast and symphonic approach of yore, at least marrying it to more conventional song structures. Inevitably that led to a mixed response from the fan base, many of whom were clearly disappointed with the more ‘mainstream’ approach the band had taken. It must be said that those fans are hardly likely to be placated with Remagine which, whilst certainly containing moments comparable to that which could be found on Prison Of Desire and Decipher, in the main takes the approach honed on Invisible Circles and runs with it. Unlike that album, this isn’t a concept affair, and this perhaps allows the band more freedom, and has arguably led to a release of greater stylistic variety.
Following the now-customary orchestral intro, which has a particularly dark feel thanks to a main keyboard melody which echoes that of the Exorcist theme, the opening track proper, Come is a good illustration of the band’s sound in 2005; there’s a typical, grandiose intro but when the guitars enter they have a sharp, modern buzz to them. Vocalist Floor Jansen’s delivery is controlled and classy on the verses, before soaring to higher places on the symphonic chorus. The mid-section of the song has a Middle-Eastern flavour to it, whilst there’s a strong vocal section where Floor goes into a vocal trade-off with the now-familiar After Forever Choir.
Whilst Come could be seen as having its foot in both the past and present After Forever sound, Boundaries Are Open has a much more straightforward approach, a strong catchy track with a memorable, spiralling lead riff, good chorus and convincing momentum – certainly one that has commercial potential. In contrast, Living Shields showcases the heavier side of the band, with Floor reaching well into her soprano range for the chorus, whilst guitarist Sander Gommans' exercises his love-it-or-hate-it vocal growls during the verse sections. The riffs here are pleasingly weighty, bearing some similarity to Master Of Puppets-era Metallica.
Being Everyone is a grandiose but easily accessible track, building from a slow-paced verse, through a somewhat eighties-style hard rock bridge section to a big, bombastic chorus. Attendance keeps the pace at pedestrian level; it’s a slightly odd track, which grinds along to a rather clunky, almost industrial rhythm. Not my favourite piece on the album, but its enlivened by a strong choral vocal section towards its end. Free Of Doubt, meanwhile, is probably one of the few tracks which would have sat easily on their earlier releases. Its perhaps a little more simplistic than Decipher-era work, but is still in that vein. Only Everything is the album’s obvious ‘epic’, a grandiose track which sees the band covering all bases of their sound, from the balladic opening to a trade-off vocal section between Floor and Sander, and encompassing plenty of tricky tempo and mood changes. I’d imagine those fans pining for a return to the band’s earlier sound will be at least a little placated by this song.
Strong lets listeners take a quick breather, as it’s the (almost obligatory) ballad on the album, and a good one at that, quite poignant, with Floor’s vocals at their best. Keyboardist Joost van den Broek gets a good church organ-like sound out of his keyboards which suits the track, and there’s a very strong melodic guitar solo. Face Your Demons sees the band back playing up-tempo, aggressive metal, with Floor’s vocals displaying a convincingly ‘evil’ side. Following strong verses, the chorus is a bit weak, and the sound a Floor producing a very ‘nu-metal’ vocal style in the latter part of the track may not go down too well with some of the band’s traditional fan base!
No Control keeps the heaviness, and is distinguished by the fact that vocals are handled by Bas Maas and Sander Gommans, with no Floor; a pity, as her voice would have fitted the song well and improved it considerably. The album concludes with Forever, a symphonic piece which, musically, edges into Kamelot territory, especially on the lengthy introduction, with its sweeping keyboards and Middle-Eastern flourishes. It’s a reasonably strong way to close out what is a reasonably strong album. Personally I think it’s a little below the standard of Invisible Circles, and as I’ve previously said will doubtless not go down well with some fans of the band’s earlier work; then again, the music’s directness and accessibility may see them attract a new generation of fans weaned on the likes of Evanescence and Nightwish (I imagine that’s the hope anyway). Certainly worthy of investigation for fans of the scene, even if you’re new to the band. I just hope the awful cover doesn’t put too many potential purchasers off!
From their founding onwards After Forever have always been a steady factor in Gothic Metal, yet they never really succeeded to break through to a larger public (the way e.g. Within Temptation and Nightwish did) I think this is totally undeserved as After Forever scores high on originality and musicality. This new offering is very much proof of that. While they are not really leaving their Gothic roots behind, After Forever has certainly moved on. Feeding the doubt whether the label for this band should be Gothic Metal or Progressive Metal, this new album is a large step towards the latter. Not in the least because there is much more of a keyboard sound, and this keyboard orientation is not a real surprise as former Sun Caged member Joost van den Broek joined After Forever. The booklet states that together with Floor Jansen and Sander Gommans he had a large say in the music of this album. But part of the band's change can also be accounted to Floor Jansen vocals: she does not only do opera-like soprano.
The band did not have an easy time before the release of this album, of course keyboard player Lando van Gils left, but more importantly their drummer André Borgman fell seriously ill. This was at the time the album was supposed to be recorded but still they could make use of his pre-production work. Borgman is now touring with the band again so hopefully this means he is fully recovered.
There are some pleasant surprises on this album, they are the reason for pronouncing this album a shift towards prog metal. It is of course something that already started in their previous album Invisible Circles. But tracks like Being Everyone (a keyboard melody), Attendance (electronic drums) and Strong (almost Dream Theater like guitars) are not found on previous After Forever albums, and even the name Lacuna Coil pops-up every now and then while listening to this album. After Forever did not do a 180 degrees turn of style, they are still a very guitar oriented band and are still not satisfying people that have been asking for more guitar solos, but much melody and solos can be found in the keyboard parts. And of course in Floor's voice - tracks one can easily recognize as After Forever tracks are also there (Living Shields, Free Of Doubt), they are good but to me less interesting.
There is something about this album that I really don't like: the cover. Luckily After Forever got rid of the tight glittering suits of the previous release but the photograph with Floor in front, with her hair all strange over her head, the rest of the band standing/sitting behind her doesn't do anything for me.
The DVD that comes with the special edition shows a band in the studio, having fun, goofing off and being disappointed when things go wrong, but it struck me how young this band still is - I had never realized that before. The DVD is nice enough, and does have a 5.1 sound track, but does not really win me over enough to the buy the special edition, especially because the other version of the album is a SACD. Transmission has already released a number of SACD's and I can only applaud them for taking this 'new' medium so seriously. Of course it is a hybrid CD which means that it can also be played on "normal" CD player.
The SACD mix sounds quite cool but as soon as Floor starts to do "her opera voice" it becomes a bit hollow - as if they were recorded in a bathroom. At first I thought it was my system because I do not have a subwoofer, but all the other music on this album sounds good, so probably this is the way it is intended.
This new release shows After Forever is progressing without losing their identity. The new things I hear sound very very interesting. Still this is not their best release but it is a good album. Within a Gothic scene that is getting a bit overcrowded with much the same sounds, it is good that After Forever is evolving. In my opinion they could have made a larger step, but maybe it would be too much too soon. Anyway, not only does this album show the promise of After Forever's future but they show once again that they deserve their spot in the higher regions of prog metal (or was it Gothic)?
Novembers Fall – Broken Memories
Tracklist: Novembers Fall (4:34), Brutal Truth (6:12), Life Between Tiles (6:35), Warcult (7:47), Dropped to Death (6:06), Alter Ego [bonus track] (5:39)
Novembers Fall wants to be Opeth. Well, who doesn’t? I’m a lousy bassist and even worse guitarist, but I want to be Opeth, too. Especially after hearing their extraordinarily fine new album, Ghost Reveries, I can easily understand why any new metal band with progressive-death inclinations would want to be Opeth. I’m not a contender, though, I’ll sadly concede – but, if any new metal band is justified in its pretensions to lifting Opeth’s sound and adapting it to something at least slightly different, that band may well be Novembers Fall.
This six-song demo (which has very good audio quality for a demo, incidentally) illustrates the range of the band’s ambitions very well. But it has to be said that, despite the band’s laudable intentions, Novembers Fall hasn’t quite yet transcended the basic subgenres they’re clearly rooted in. Take the oddly named Life Between Tiles, for example, beginning with a strange but compelling calliope-like melody on guitar, the song quickly launches into fairly standard fast, heavy black-metal pummelling and shrieking before – yes – breaking for a quiet interlude with “clean” guitar and vocals, the kind of interlude all Opeth fans are familiar with and love. Then come more shredding and shrieking before the song ends with a reprise, heavy and distorted this time, of the beginning. A nicely crafted song, but a bit obvious.
Similarly, the album-ending bonus track [how can a demo have a “bonus track”, I find myself wondering?] Alter Ego brackets a quiet, almost spoken-word section with skilful, entertaining, but unsurprising black metal – black metal, it must be said, with progressive-metal ambitions. Brutal Truth works yet another vein that’s already been pretty well mined in this subgenre, beginning with a truly gorgeous arpeggiated guitar introduction that segues (if that’s the word) via a sudden squeal of feedback into – right – more invigorating but unexceptional black metal. Yes, though I want to find something to say about this band to set it apart, I find myself returning to that initial comparison: here’s a band that is already a fairly skilled if lesser version of the mighty Opeth, and their challenge will be to find a way to distinguish their music, to offer something new to fans of that majestic band now at the top of its game.
What might improve the band’s music is a greater emphasis on the nuances, on dynamics expressed in some way other than the “now we’re loud/now we’re quiet” manner so evident on this demo. On the evidence of these songs, the musicians who constitute Novembers Fall (guitarists Jonas Janßen and Benjamin Marschner, bassist Fabian Swars, and drummer Michael Zetti), superb musicians all, are up for a challenge. The challenge might be to incorporate all the sounds they employ on these songs into more inventive (dare I say “more progressive”?) song structures. I mean, Opeth didn’t invent the loud-quiet thing – think of (just as the best among countless examples) Black Sabbath’s Children Of The Sea. And Novembers Fall needn’t bind itself to that simple dynamic. What’s called for (and, again, this is more or less a variation on something Opeth’s already discovered) is a way to blend the shadows and the light not just in the same song but in the same bars of a song – combining menace with finesse, technical dexterity with beguiling melody. As I say, on the evidence of the musicianship in these songs, these guys are up for the challenge.
Good stuff, this band and this demo. Although I can’t praise it overmuch for originality, it passes one very important test for me: unlike seven-eighths of the CDs I receive for review, this one will get played with some frequency in the weeks, probably months, and perhaps even years to come – only because it’s really, really good at what it does. I recommend it particularly for those whose taste in progressive rock tends towards the heavy end of the spectrum (and, of course, specifically for fans of Opeth!) – but so long as black-metal and death-metal vocals don’t scare you off, you’ll enjoy the musicianship on this CD even if you aren’t a big fan of the genre. I’ll be looking forward to the next work from this band, who claim that their “style is permanently changing” – either an oxymoron or a promising prediction.
Conclusion: 7.5 out of 10
Dreamtone - Sojourn
Tracklist: Sojourn (3:48), A Transition (0:50), Behind The Face (4:02), A Dream (0:16), Escape (3:59), Reasons (5:05), Come To Me (2:57), The Teaser (3:55), Realisation (0:52), This Is A Goodbye (4:14), My Last Dawn (0:40), Nightmare (6:27), Riot (4:01), An Angel Fell (0:31), The Pact (1:07), Nemesis (4:14), Epilogue (3:01)
Two years ago a pleasant surprise from Turkey landed on my doormat. Dreamtone's first offering I described as "a diamond in the rough". And now it is time to have a listen at the second offering. For me the most obvious question would be, "did the diamond get to be more polished"?
The answer to that is: yes. Yes, because this album is much more mature and less "messy" than the previous one. Unfortunately that also means that some of the young men's enthusiasm of the previous work has gone. The album is more balanced but this balance pushed out some of the speedier work. It does not mean however that Sojourn is a boring album: on the contrary: the atmosphere is a bit more gloomy, there is a more important role for the keyboards but also still for the up tempo guitars.
The voice of Oganalp Canatan is not one that everyone will instantly like, in fact it will probably not be liked by many. Personally though I have always liked a characteristic voice and Oganalp certainly has that, so he has my support. It is something to distinguish Dreamtone from other bands.
The music on this album appears to take you from recognition point to recognition point ("was that a piece of Iron Maiden", huh? "That was like the tune to Buffy The Vampire Slayer ". "Bit of Metallica there"). The band makes no effort to hide their references. But "not hiding" is not the same as copying, Dreamtone's music can stand on it's own perfectly. But to give an idea of what to expect: think Blind Guardian, Iron Maiden, Dream Theater and Ayreon.
This concept album tells an interesting story both musically and in the narrations done by Gary Wehrkamp (Shadow Gallery). It is the story of an angel who is tricked by the gods to give up his soul. The narration are counterparts of atmosphere and tranquillity to the music. The voice of Gary Wehrkamp works really well for that. Two other guests also participate on this album, Ozan Alparsan (keyboards) and Yasmin Genc (vocals), and because they are excellent additions, in my opinion both should be added to the band.
The artwork is by a young artist, Kerem Beyit, who has also done some artwork for book covers (mainly Turkish). The cover fits to the story but leaves enough to the listener's imagination.
From the first tones of Sojourn it is clear that Dreamtone has once again created crafty loops and pumping rhythms. All embedded in compositions that do have a point. Dreamtone's music is clever and has enough turns and changes to keep your attention. The emotions of the story are very much conveyed by the music and lyrics. But the fact that Dreamtone is taking me from recognition point to recognition point instead of surprising me makes me come back to the first question - Dreamtone did not fulfil the promise I thought they would (but still think they can).
This does not mean that this is a bad album, on the contrary, I have very much enjoyed this one but it is not the masterpiece I expected (or hoped) it to be. Maybe the fact that there is so much talent in this band made me hope for even more. So this small disappointment is caused by my expectations not by the bands doing. Dreamtone has delivered a firm prog metal album with a well thought out story, good compositions and deserve appreciation for that. So if you like good traditional progressive metal in the style of the bands described above: Dreamtone is a sure bet. I have been very much doubting to DPRP recommend or not, but when there is doubt the answer is already given.
Conclusion: 7.5 out of 10
Wastefall - Soulrain 21
CD 1: Soulrain (2:55), Stunned To The World (5:06), Empty Haven (7:19), Lullaby For The Gods (6:40), Lesser (6:46), Live With It (5:28), Summerlonging Angels (4:55), Self-Extinction Project (5:13), Riot Of Oblivion (10:34), 21 (5:03)
CD 2: Fountains Of Fire (5:56), Numb Lake (5:16), Stunned To The World [Video]
This is one of three releases that I'm reviewing in this DPRP ProgMetal spectacular, which I actually went out and exchanged for my own hard-earned currency, in the light of positive feedback from various internet sources and friends. As you will read elsewhere, my three purchases resulted in a 100% success rate - with this being my current favourite (just).
A progressive metal band, hailing from Greece, is a pretty rare commodity. A progressive metal band that takes a heavy influence from Pain of Salvation is even rarer. A progressive metal band that actually manages to turn those influences into something worthwhile? Well that's unprecedented. But that is exactly what Wastefall have achieved, with this, their second release, following 2003's Falling Stars And Rising Scars.
By saying that, I don't wish to imply that this band doesn't have its own style. Indeed, I'd steer well clear from some of the comments I've read, that seem to suggest that Wastefall are mere PoS copyists. There's an abundance of individuality and ideas across the whole of this CD, which allows it to stand on its own two feet. However, I will agree that it is hard not to mention Daniel Gildenlow and his crew when listening to this disc. But that's no bad thing, as in many ways, it offers more to PoS fans than PoS have of late - 12:5 and Be in particular.
Right from the opening instrumental, Wastefall sets out its stall with aggressive and chaotic chord structures, the passionate and hard-edged vocal style of Domenik Papaemmanouil and wave after wave of instantly addictive melodies. I'm reminded more than once of Faith No More and Mordred for the modern groove and of Nevermore for the heaviness.
I'm finding it hard to select any favourites from the album as they are all of a consistently high standard. However, if I use the words beautiful and powerful in equal measure when describing a track - I know an album is hitting all the right buttons. Pretty much every track has superb dynamics, with the band constantly seeking adventurous twists and turns while incorporating all the different styles of metal, with seamless transitions.
The songs are connected by samples, effects, and softer passages that make the 70-plus minutes seem like one long song instead. And boy do those 70 minutes fairly speed by.
The songs themselves are dominated by the heavy groovy riffs, including some momentary speedy passages that will thrill those of you who like your music on the heavier side. Alongside, sit some Middle Eastern and traditional Greek elements, a selective use of scratching, plenty of lighter passages with piano and violin, and even a few rap sequences (again in a similar way to PoS).
The production is pretty raw, which in a way suits the band's aggressive thrust. However I'd be interested to see how their sound works with crisper edges and a sharper definition of the different instruments. There also appears to be a tendency to overdo the bottom end, that my speakers don't always appreciate!
Possibly due to being signed to a Greek label, this disc seems to have remained a bit of a hidden underground secret. Quite why this band isn't getting more attention, is a mystery, as with Soulrain 21, they've put out as good a ProgMetal album as you are likely to hear.
PS: If you cast around, without too much searching you should be able to find this is a 2-CD set. The video is worthwhile in allowing to actually see the band in action while of the two extra tracks, the first is a pretty straight song which suffers from a lack of decent melodies, while the second is very experimental with an extended jazz/rock/fusion section. Interesting, but not really worth repeated plays.
PPS: (In case you wondered, the album title is dedicated to the 21 students who were killed in a tragic accident in Greece when returning from an school excursion at about the time that the band entered the recording studio).
Conclusion: 9 out of 10
Circus Maximus – The 1st Chapter
Tracklist: Sin (5:53); Alive (5:38), Glory Of The Empire (10:27), Biosfear (5:22), Silence From Angels Above (4:07), Why Am I Here? (6:05), The Prophecy (6:44), The 1st Chapter (19:07), Haunted Dreams [Bonus Track] (6:30)
I believe I'm correct in saying, that Circus Maximus actually comes from the same part of Norway as the acclaimed Pagan's Mind. If so, I wish they could bottle whatever they put in the water up there and give it to every wannabe Prog Metal band. The 1st Chapter has to be one of the most proficient debut albums, ever to come out of this genre.
That's not to say that this is yet more of your standard progressive fare. Circus Maximus has taken the unusual step of mixing melodic hard rock anthems, with heavy and complex progressive bits and pieces. The result, is an audio feast that really has huge cross-over appeal, to fans of bands such as Symphony X, TNT, Dream Theater, Seventh Sign and Crimson Glory.
Circus Maximus formed in 2000, consisting of long time band-mates Michael Eriksen on vocals and brothers Mats and Truls Haugen on guitar and drums respectively. With the addition of keyboard mastermind Espen Storø and Glen Cato Møllen on bass, the line-up was complete and work began on creating their first musical chapter.
After recording two demos, which received rave reviews in their home country, Circus Maximus hooked up with the American label Sensory Records and with Italy's Frontiers Records for the European release of their debut disc. The fact that one is a hard rock label and the other is a progressive specialist, should give you an idea of the potential markets.
The band has a wide variety of musical influences, all of which are melted together to give a mixture of great melodies, grooves, heavy riffs and odd time signatures.
The album, was recorded in various studios in Norway and mixed at the Jailhouse Studios with well-known producer Tommy Hansen (Helloween, Pretty Maids, Wuthering Heights). The sound is impeccable, the musicianship is top class, and as for the singer - then Michael Eriksen will be a name to watch - what a voice!
As for the songs, opener Sure hits very hard and very melodic, in an American, 80s heavy rock sorta way. There's some clever guitar and keyboard touches and the whole thing is instantly catchy.
A lighter, melodic rock tone is taken for the second song, where Journey and Night Ranger memories rush back, with the chorus and harmonies. In between, the instrumental sections are varied and numerous and Eriksen shows he can hit those high notes perfectly.
Glory of the Empire is a totally different beast and the first real hint, that this is a real progressive beast. We begin in a mournful mood, with a flute and the pace slowed right down. After that, there's a surprise around every corner. The band dips in and out of numerous styles in short bursts, but all within a solid structure that makes it a very successful, 10-minute adventure.
Unlike most instrumentals, Biosfear is a real song, with a real purpose, and again highlights the great musicianship that the band is able to call upon.
Silence From Angels Above is a light, atmospheric ballad, which starts off well but withers away to nothing. Coming straight after the instrumental, one's attention does tend to waver here. It would have been better, to have had something a little harder-edged and melodic, like the anthemic Why Am I Here which manages to get things back onto track, thanks to some powerful, Symphony X -style riffing - not too sure about the irritatingly parpy, off-beat keyboard work though!
Around the next corner, The Prophecy stands as the most left-field of the album's offerings. We begin in traditional, singer-songwriter mode, with just vocals and guitar. At 1 minute 30, piano and harmonies are added, before at 2 minutes, a very Genesis keyboard opens the door for some of the album's heaviest, darkest riffing. When we reach the chorus, it takes on a very Dave Lee Roth style - that can be rather cheesy or rather fun, depending on your tastes (I don't like the taste of cheese!). The song then shifts in and out of another half dozen styles, before reaching its climax.
The 19-minute title track is a very ambitious, symphonic, ProgMetal epic, where all the instruments have a good go at grabbing the limelight - but as usual, it's Michael Eriksen who steals the show. We close with Imperial Destruction, which is the darkest and most solidly metallic song on offer. It is similar to Beyond Daylight in mood and delivery, but suffering from a distinctive hook to hang all the thumping guitars on, the album wouldn't have lost anything, if this had been left off.
As you've hopefully surmised by now, in places I think this is absolutely superb. The opening two tracks, the melodic chorus of Why Am I Here and the sheer ambition of the title-track, provide an astonishingly addictive listen. However, I'm not quite sure why, but this is not an album that I come back to in its entirety, as often as the discs by Communic or Wastefall, which I bought at the same time, or the more recent releases by Sieges Even and Redemption.
Maybe it is just too diverse for its own good. Tracks like The Prophecy, just switch between too many ideas. Most are good ideas, but the overall listening experience, suffers from the song having no clear identity. And with a playing time of around 70 minutes, The 1st Chapter is a rather long one. But with a debut album, showing a young band capable of covering so many styles, so well, I wait in eager anticipation to see what they decide to do with a follow-up. A very promising opening chapter.
Conclusion: 8 out of 10
Communic - Conspiracy In Mind
Tracklist: Conspiracy In Mind (7:38), History Reversed (6:18), The Feed On Our Fear (9:53), Communication Sublime (7:28), The Distance (7:56), Ocean Bed ( 6:44), Silence Surrounds (10:54)
Why did we miss this superb release by another great Scandinavian rock band? (Release date was 21-02-2005!!) Maybe this is due to the fact that it is a rather heavy album with lots of metal influences. Communic is a musical trio that was formed just 2 years ago and Nuclear Blast directly spotted their musical talent and offered them a long term record deal, which is very well deserved in my opinion.
The musical style of Communic can be best described as a mix of classic progressive metal/hard rock bands like Psychotic Waltz, Nevermore, Sanctuary and Soilwork. Especially the vocal work of Oddleif Stensland shows obvious (not intentional) similarities with the throat of Nevermore’s lead singer Warrel Dane. That is why songs like Conspiracy In Mind, They Feed On Our Fear and Silence Surrounds sound so obvious like Nevermore. All 7 tracks exceed at least the six minutes mark, the last song on this album even clocks almost 11 minutes, and all of them are musically very diverse, filled with lots of rhythm changes and complex song structures.
Communic’s musical style is indeed very rich and includes a lot of musical elements from various metal genres like: powerful, sometimes even catchy vocal melodies, smashing bass and guitar lines and most of all lots of very recognisable metal guitar riffs. Their music is even very progressive at certain times, like in the absolute highlight of this CD The Distance. A song with an amazing instrumental intro, followed by a balladesque musical part and some divine melodic guitar solos. The rest of the song material on this album is true and pure prog metal of the finest kind and if you enjoyed albums like the new one by Nevermore or Dream Theater’s Train Of Thoughts then this is an album for you.
Communic really is a sheer exciting, promising, sometimes brilliant band. A band to remember even though this is their debut album. One of the best prog metal albums I have heard this year, so far ...
Communic is a new Norwegian band and their debut is one of three albums that I'm reviewing in this ProgMetal edition, purchased in the light of positive reviews and comments almost every where I looked.
The band was formed two-and-a-half years ago by former Scariot pair, Oddleif Stensland (guitar/vocals) and drummer Tor Atle Andersen. The duo, became a trio, with the arrival of bass player Erik Mortensen. And what started out as a project for Oddleif and Tor Atle, soon became a fully-fledged band.
A three-track demo, of which the band made just 100 copies, proved a great success, in that it led the band to hook up with the Danish-based Intromental Management. Then, last summer, the band signed a long-term record deal with German label Nuclear Blast, and Communic spent three weeks in the studio with producer Jacob Hansen to record their debut album Conspiracy In Mind.
For some reason, most of the comments I'd read about this album seemed to indicate that this is more of a mainstream, modern metal work in the vein of Nevermore, Soilwork and In Flames. Well, it may be that those sort of bands are the normal fodder to hail from the Nuclear Blast label, and perhaps the magazines and webzines, who receive promos from that label, tend not to be so aware of progressive music. But this is light years away from Soilwork, and several universes away from In Flames. I've never liked Nevermore, but absolutely love this album.
The musical style of Communic is impossible to pigeonhole and I can't really find any band that I'd care to compare them too. This album abounds in emotional depth and musical broadness and includes many elements from numerous metal genres. Catchy vocal melodies, thrilling bass and guitar lines collide a dark, yet optimistic mood.
There's no doubt that Communic is made up of highly-skilled musicians, able to deliver quality metal with variety and originality. The range of sounds on this disc, stretches my belief that it can be made by just four musicians. There's plenty of power, some thrash, some progression and a bit of doom and groovy metal. Oddleif is fabulous. His clean and vibrant voice, really roasts over the meaty riffs.
Joining the band on the album is Danish keyboarder Peter Jensen (ex-Sinphonia). A very smart move, as it really gives the music far more atmosphere and a warmer, fuller sound.
I must mention too, that there's a very clear Celtic/Norse folk vibe which resounds throughout this disc. If any of you remember a UK band called Beltane Fire, who made a wee impact in the 80s, you may understand what I mean.
However, all I can say is that Communic is a band with a unique sound and adventurous approach, which really deserves to get some attention from outside the mainstream metal field. As I said before, it's come out on Nuclear Blast, and has won warm praise from the metal community. I wonder, if it had been released by Inside Out, accompanied by comparisons to Crimson Glory and Queensrÿche, whether the progressive metal community would have been racing to welcome Communic into their bosoms with open arms. You can see why so many bands hate genres and comparisons.
Anyway, if you are still in any doubt as to whether this is for you, then I'd recommend a check on the band's website. In addition to some good samples, it features a handful of live videos to woo you as well. I love this album, which will definitely be sitting somewhere near the summit of my Top 10 in a couple of months time.
Brides Of Destruction – Runaway Brides
Tracklist: Aunt Biente (1:08), Lord Of The Mind (4:23), Dead Man’s Ruin (3:01), Criminal (4:11), This Time Around (4:02), White Trash (3:47), Brothers (3:27), Never Say Never (5:14), Blown Away (2:56), Porcelain Queen (4:22), White Horse (3:15), Tunnel Of Love (4:38), Dimes In Heaven (5:12)
I really do not know if this band should be reviewed in this medium as Brides of Destruction is known for their dirty and mean rock and roll song material, and not because they are so progressive...
The debut album of this band was released in 2002 and it was a huge success. The band then consisted of Nikki Six (Motley Crue), Traci Guns, Kris Kohls and Adam Hamilton and now three years later the only band member that is still around is guitar picker Traci Guns. Six went back to join the Crue again and maybe that is the reason that this new Brides of Destruction album sounds a bit “weak”. I mean, the production is perfect and the sound of the CD is great, however I feel that there is something missing. All the 13 songs are mean, dirty and swinging rock and roll tracks, reminding me of great bands from the seventies!
Fast songs like Dead Man’s Ruin, Blown Away or Tunnel Of Love all have great hooks and catchy choruses, but are in no way progressive or original, as they sound like a blend of Motley Crue, The Cult and Guns N’ Roses. The two longest songs Dimes In Heaven and Never Say Never are also the most diverse ones - both feature dreamy guitar intros and are followed by power ballad like melodies with at least some tempo changes. The rest of the material is sheer unoriginal power rock and roll, not badly performed in any kind, but I wonder if fans of progressive music will even listen to this record? So, maybe this is not the right medium to review this album as I already said in my intro, but then again, not all progressive releases are worth reviewing, so if you are in for something different, why not try Brides Of Destruction? However I would advise you to buy the debut of this band with Mister Sixx!
Conclusion: 7 out of 10
Ata D’arc – Call Of Peace
Tracklist: The Call Of Peace (4:23), Shadows (6:54), Dark Eyes (7:24), Searching For The Light (1:17), Streets Of Darkness (5:25), Time For The Time (4:37), Helpless Cry (4:40)
You would not have to be a genius to guess, after a brief look at the cover art and song titles of this Brazilian band’s debut offering, what sort of music Ata D’Arc play. Therefore its little surprise when the opening title track bursts from the speakers, packed to the brim with galloping guitars, waves of symphonic keyboards, histrionic vocals and Iron Maiden-esque solo’s. Both this track and the similarly styled Streets Of Darkness bear the strong influence of fellow countrymen Angra.
Elsewhere, the band stretch out into more progressive territory with the likes of Shadows and the ambitious Dark Eyes, which adds some classical guitar to the mix and features some Dream Theater influenced melodic guitar work at the end. Time For The Time is a mellow ballad which slows proceedings down for a while, before the final track of this short album, Helpless Cry, sees a real sense of urgency enter proceedings as the band tear through this up-tempo number.
As it stands, this is reasonable, though not earth shattering or particularly original, fare, with the guitar work of Otavio Medeiros coming across as quite impressive. However, the band are held back somewhat by a couple of things. Firstly are the vocals of Tulio Torres – trying for a delivery in the Bruce Dickinson mould, he sometimes struggles to hit the right notes, particularly in the higher ranges, and on some of the slower sections his rough-sounding voice rather jars. The second is the recording and production, which are really no more than demo quality – not terrible, but the sound (particularly in the album’s heavier moments) really needs to be cleaner and more powerful for this sort of material.
Overall then, not a bad effort, but serious improvements (particularly on the part of Torres) will be required for Ata d’Arc to make further headway in what (as I seem to constantly be saying) is a seriously overcrowded progressive/ power metal scene.
Conclusion: 5 out of 10
S.I.N. - Equilibrium
Tracklist: Nail It To The Wall (5:06), One Small Voice (4:29), It's Forever (5:58), Walk Away (4:19), Fight For My Life (5:38), The Reason (4:26), Johnny's Running (3:54), Nightwinds (5:09), For Getting Over Us (4:34), Winding Road (5:24)
The German band Somewhere Into Nowhere (S.I.N.) was formed in 2002 by guitar player Deddy Adler and English singer Jason Marks. In 2003 they released their debut album, consisting of 10 songs, which received good reviews especially in Japan and Germany.
The new album, Equilibrium, is again melodic with musical references to the eighties and a band like Dokken comes to mind after listening to the first track called Nail It To The Wall. S.I.N. really tries to capture the listener with very recognisable compositions, choirs, choruses and the truly excellent vocal performance of singer Marks.
Walk Away is the first ballad, which is cliché, but still very nice to listen to, although I like songs like Fight For My Life, Johnny's Running and Winding Roads much better, as these have much more power and are mostly dominated by rather heavy and catchy guitar melodies and lines.
If you like your rock music to be melodic, but rather predictable, then maybe S.I.N. is something for you. A warning however, there is nothing progressive about this band whatsoever, it is sheer old-fashioned, solid Kraut rock. Nothing more and nothing less.
Conclusion: 5.5 out of 10
Disenchant - Dilemma
Tracklist: Dilemma (6:52); Confusion (4:03); Aggression (5:27); Gray Tomorrow (4:06)
A first for myself, and as far as I can recall, a first for this site - a progressive metal band from Turkey! Now we all know what happens to turkeys at this time of year, but thankfully this EP is not about to get slaughtered, and it should provide the foundations for the band to be around for many more Christmases.
Based in Izmir, Disenchant began life in 2000, while most of its members were at university. Via several line-up changes and live dates, the band has just released its first recording. It clocks in at just over 20 minutes, although the band says it has another 40 minutes of material ready, when it manages to secure a deal.
In the accompanying letter, Disenchant apologises for the sound quality of this home -produced EP. I don't know why. Okay, its got a raw edge and the bottom end reverbs a bit, but it is pretty well done, giving all the instruments a good, balanced sound. Top marks too for the packaging. I've seen much worse come out from many an official release - although if I'm being picky, try to ensure none of the band members have their eyes closed in the promo picture!! It suggests, a band with enough professionalism to go onto the next level.
The music is slightly atmospheric, guitar driven rock/metal, with the highlight, for me, being the guitar playing. Not sure which of the two guitarists is responsible (maybe both of them), but the inventive use of the instrument shines through all four tracks. The vocals of Burak Ordu are very solid and lyrically there seems to be some sort of story or concept tying the four tracks together (although there's nothing anywhere to explain what it might be).
I don't generally give any marks for demos, but lets just say, that overall, this is an above average demo, from an above average new band.