Dutch Progressive Rock Page
2005 : VOLUME 13

Prog Metal Special 2005 - 1



Kamelot - The Black Halo
Kamelot - The Black Halo
Country of Origin:USA
Format:CD
Record Label:SPV/Steamhammer
Catalogue #:-
Year of Release:2005
Time:57:21
Info: Kamelot
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: March Of Mephisto (5:28), When The Lights Are Down (3:42), The Haunting (5:40), Soul Society (4:18), Interlude 1: Dei Gratia (0:57), Abandoned (4:06), This Pain (3:59), Moonlight (5:10), Interlude 2: Un Assassinio Molto Silenzioso (0:41), The Black Halo (3:43), Nothing Ever Dies (4:46), Memento Mori (8:54), Interlude 3: Midnight – Twelve Tolls For A New Day (1:21), Serenade (4:33)

American based Kamelot released their debut (Eternity) in 1994 and the press praised that album as one of the most promising debuts ever and when the band “found” former Conception singer Roy Kahn, the band got better and better. The Fourth Legacy set a new standard for this melodic progressive rock band and when Kamelot released Epica in 2003 the band proved that they were still able to top their former albums. DPRP has only reviewed just one Kamelot album so far (Expedition), which is really a shame, because I think that a lot of our readers would love the old as well the new Kamelot CDs.

The new album The Black Halo was mainly recorded at the Gate Studio in Germany, but additional recordings were made in Florida and Norway. Sascha Paeth (Angra, Rhapsody, and Aina) produced the album and among the guest musicians you find “notorious” artists like: Shagrath (Dimmu Borgir), Simone Simons (Epica), Mari (Masquraid) and Jens Johansson (Stratovarius). Furthermore the band used a choir (with a.o.: Herbie Langhans (7th Avenue), Thomas Rettke (Heaven’s Gate), Miro and Amanda Sommerville and the complete Rodenberg Symphony Orchestra to give this album that extra classical and bombastic touch.

Although Kamelot is an American band (except for the singer), the music has always been rather atypical for an American band. They play a kind of melodic metal that is mostly associated with Europe and on their new album they come close to perfection; in other words, The Black Halo marks the highlight of Kamelot’s career so far and it will be in my top five of best albums in 2005! The album opens with a classical bombastic overture of 45 seconds before March Of Mephisto really comes to life with great guitar riffs, mysterious serene vocal parts and a howling keyboard solo of Jens Johansson. After 5:28 you are bewildered as a listener and you long for more….. And although the album consists of 14 tracks there are no fillers on The Black Halo; it is a complete album with lots of diversity, out of this world guitar playing, superb song writing and most of all world league vocals and even a few sing-a-long choruses.

A typical classic Kamelot song is, for example, This Pain, filled with staccato guitar riffs, spacy vocals, but most of all lots of melody. Moonlight again has a breathtaking melody, a fabulous guitar solo and a guitar riff that makes you want to get up and do some serious head banging (just kiddin’ there)… But the absolute highlight of this album is Memento Mori, an almost 9 minute melodic epic which cannot be described in words, just listen and enjoy and you will be amazed.

The Black Halo is a concept album that deals with the battle between good and evil (a story which began on their predecessor Epica) and it is adapted from Goethe’s Faustus. It really is about political, cultural and religious events at Goethe’s time, with many cross references relating to Kamelot member lives and political opinions. The Black Halo deals with love, wonder, life and death seen through the eyes of Kamelot and it adds another exciting chapter to the band’s brilliant history. Truly recommended.

Conclusion: 9 out of 10

MARTIEN KOOLEN



Evergrey - A Night To Remember (Live)
Evergrey - A Night To Remember (Live)
Country of Origin:Sweden
Format:2CD
Record Label:Inside Out
Catalogue #:SPV 2CD 089-40842
Year of Release:2005
Time:112.17
Info: Evergrey
Samples: Click here

Tracklists:

CD1: Intro (1:38), Blinded (4:45), End Of Your Days (4:38), More Than Ever (5:17), She Speaks To The Dead (4:16), Rulers Of The Mind (5:33), Blackened Dawn (4:04), Waking Up Blind (4:05), AS I Lie Here Bleeding (4:42), Mislead (7:24), Mark Of The Triangle (6:57)

CD2: When The Walls Go Down (5:28), Harmless Wishes (4:38), Essence Of Conviction (6:07), Solitude Within (5:47), Nosferatu (5:41), Recreation Day (7:24), For Every Tear That Falls (5:22), Touch Of Blessing (7:18), The Masterplan (11:13)

How can you record dedication, enthusiasm and a spellbinding contact with your audience to an audio disk? You should have attended at least one Evergrey concert to know an evening with these Swedes is not just a concert but a real experience. Tom Englund's connection to an audience is unequalled, pointing at 'friends' from a previous gig, laughing at people screaming and, not accepting anyone's unwillingness to join in. Maybe the DVD will give an impression of all that but as this is just audio we will have to make do without all of the afore-mentioned. The music of Evergrey is not exactly what I would call leftovers: before the enthusiasm and sympathy, there is the music.

In my opinion a good live performance (and therefore also a good live album) should do more than just reproducing studio tracks perfectly. Adding something extra to studio tracks is an absolute must. Too often have I seen bands almost perfectly mimicking their studio work, the cheering around you being the only reminder to the fact that you are at a concert. I like it when the music is extended or changed and lyrics are altered or given a different meaning. And although there are no spectacular changes to each and every song there are enough of them to keep the tracks interesting.

An odd thing is the sound quality. At first I found it a bit unbalanced but later on I realized it highly enhances the live experience. So instead of artificially brushing it up, the sound is probably close to actually being at the Storan Theatre, Gothenburg. It does however not mean that it is of bad quality just different from studio sound (duh).

In the letter accompanying this promo the album is described as a kind of 'best of' album, 19 tracks spanning six years of band history. After the first spin I immediately had that idea: if ever I come across someone not familiar with the music of Evergrey I would suggest to buy this album. It is a good overview of the band's catalogue. Of course every self respecting prog metal fan should have at least one of their albums (and automatically more will follow). Then one question remains: should one, already familiar with the work of Evergrey, buy this live double? Without hesitation: yes! Because of all the things I have described above: this is one of the best live albums I have heard in years.

I really love all the tracks on this album (as said before it is kind of a 'best of') but, although Waking Up Blind shows the excellent vocal capabilities of Tom Englund, it will never become my favourite track as it is much too mellow for this album. Noteworthy tracks are : Rulers Of The Mind (the guitars are awesome and the backing vocals are great), Mark Of The Triangle (splendid keyboards in a guitar and energy packed track), When Walls Come Down (with real live strings and a sequencer, the spoken words, that does not diminish the live sound, it works surprisingly well) and the tracks off The Inner Circle that follow, Recreation Day (it has become the Evergrey recognition tune), For Every Tear That Falls (a duet Tom does with his wife Carina), A Touch Of Blessing (the best Evergrey song ever), The Masterplan (for the audience's participation).

Of course you can disagree on musical taste but everyone must agree that this album again confirms how talented a band Evergrey is. I have left little room for any other conclusion than the one I am giving: DPRP recommended!

Conclusion: 8 out of 10

DRIES DOKTER



Green Carnation - The Quiet Offspring
Green Carnation - The Quiet Offspring
Country of Origin:Norway
Format:CD
Record Label:Seasons Of Mist
Catalogue #:SOM091
Year of Release:2005
Time:54:58
Info: Green Carnation
Samples: Click here

Tracklist: The Quiet Offspring (3:59), Between The Gentle Small And The Standing Tall (4:09), Just When You Think It's Safe (5:09), A Place For Me (5:20), The Everlasting Moment (5:01), Purple Door, Pitch Black (4:05), Child's Play - Part I (4:38), Dead But Dreaming (5:18), Pile Of Doubt (5:49), When I Was You (7:14), Child's Play - Part II (4:16)

With their third album in my top 10 for 2003 and their second album in my all time favourite top 10, I was really anxious to hear their latest offering. Although it took them a long time to release a first album, but since then a more steady flow of releases forms into shape. For this fourth album the spot behind the drum kit has been taken by: Tommy Jackson, he replaces Anders Kobro. In my review of Light of Day, Day of Darkness I made clear my appreciation for Mr. Kobro so it is a pity to see him leave.

It's hard to define Green Carnation's musical genre but a prog metal audience would probably be the most interested in this new release. But no specific genre really fits them. In the previous two reviews a number of genres are mentioned. This time they seem to venture along the borders of nu-metal, but mind you, none of the tracks is an outspoken nu-metal track. What is striking for this release is the large diversity of styles: it ranges from dark piano with gloomy atmosphere to up tempo heavier guitars.

The Quiet Offspring is the track most deserving the "at the border of nu-metal" predicate but with a Green Carnation twist to it. Although it seems an uncomplicated song because of the heavy guitar yanks, the breaks and chorus keep it interesting. This can not be said of Between The Gentle Small And The Standing Tall, a track of Metallica-like straightforwardness, luckily there's a very nice part in between breaks that make it a little more acceptable, but all in all it is not the best track on the album. The lyrics: " Come on down, bring it on, come on down" say it all.

Luckily Just When You Think It's Safe is a real Green Carnation tune pumping guitars, smart loops on top of that, a wall of sound but decorated with good melodies, with the lyrics typically Green Carnation and with a sort of uncomfortable darkness. The guitar loops at the end really got stuck in my head for days. A Place For Me starts off quietly and from then builds up to some heavier guitars soon to be followed by keyboards taking the lead, the build up of this song is super, albeit a bit too fast. From this highlight it is on to next: The Everlasting Moment again a typical Green Carnation track, pumping guitars supported by excellent keyboards. In my opinion the best track on the album especially because of the excellent guitar solos .

The next track also a very good : Purple Door, Pitch Black lead by keyboards sounding like Ayreon and long stretched guitar tones. Child's Play - Part I is a typical Tchort song, like Boy In The Attic from Blessing In Disguise. No heavy guitar sound or anything but a mellow song with strings and a very gloomy atmosphere. Dead But Dreaming is a more up tempo song and really catchy. Pile Of Doubt is close to the tracks on Blessing in Disguise and because of that also one of the better tracks. When I Was You is a quiet track with, again, a gloomy atmosphere. Child's Play - Part II is a vocal and piano only track and is the odd one out on this album, with only the piano, some other keyboards and violin sounds, but no guitar or drums at all.

Green Carnation have done it again! There are two lesser tracks on this album: Between The Gentle Small And The Standing Tall and Child's Play - Part II but these are easily forgotten once you hear the three songs in the middle of the album, these are absolutely among the best ever committed to CD. The rest of the album is not too bad either. In fact they are also very good. The tracks are like prog metal but when the guitars are silent it is a lot like death metal mixed into progressive rock, meaning the songs all have a very good build up and a dark atmosphere.

If you liked the previous Green Carnation album you can safely go out and buy this one. I would dare to say Light Of Day, Day Of Darkness and Blessing In Disguise are slightly better than this album, but still Green Carnation have no reason to be ashamed of their latest release. If you do not yet know them, use any of these three albums to get acquainted with Green Carnation and probably you'll end up buying them all. Not many bands are able to uphold such a high quality of work, Green Carnation is amongst those few!

Conclusion: 8.5 out of 10

DRIES DOKTER



James LaBrie - Elements Of Persuasion
James LaBrie - Elements Of Persuasion
Country of Origin:USA
Format:CD
Record Label:Inside Out
Catalogue #:IOMCD 204
Year of Release:2005
Time:66:43
Info:James LaBrie
Samples:-

Tracklist: Crucify (6.01), Alone (5.37), Freak (5.29), Invisible (5.37), Lost (3.41), Undecided (5.31), Smashed (5.34), Pretender (5.33), Slightly Out Of Reach (6.11), Oblivious (5.23), In Too Deep (6.56), Drained (5.10)

Elements Of Persuasion is third solo album by Dream Theater frontman James LaBrie, however, it is the first one under his own name. Once again LaBrie has teamed up with keyboardist Matt Guillory (who co-wrote the album), drummer Mike Mangini and bassist Randy Beller. New chum to the combo is Marco Sfogli on guitars, taking over from Mike Keneally who played on the previous Mullmuzzler album.

Dream Theater is one of my favourite bands and LaBrie is certainly a singer who I rate highly. However, I do prefer his more mellow kind of singing over his screaming style and that is exactly what album opener Crucify is. This track would not be out of place on Dream Theater's latest album Train Of Thought, though the James LaBrie band has a more full-on rock approach than Dream Theater. Musically it is quite alright, but the vocals... well... it is James LaBrie not knowing how to sing moderately and going for the full Sammy Hagar thing.

The Train Of Thought comparison stops with Crucify though, as the rest of the album is much more experimental. Alone for example, has all kinds of weird guitar effects, odd sound effects, computerised drums and even some rap-style scratching and sampling. The next track, Freak, is also quite experimental with lots of weird effects that remind me of Tool.
Another obvious point of reference is the track Oblivious which to me sounds a lot like a Red Hot Chili Peppers track, complete with scat singing and bouncy bass-lines.

Resting points in this rather heavy album are only few. Most notably are Smashed - a track quite in the vein of the Dream Theater track Blind Faith - and the excellent Slightly Out Of Reach. The latter is quite a poppy ballad which almost resembles George Michael, were it not for a killer guitar solo which lasts almost the entire second half of the song.
The strangest song on the album must be Lost, with a melody which, combined with a very artificial sounding drum rhythm, sounds like the work of Enrique Iglesias - not exactly something you'd expect from the lead singer of a prog metal band.
Fortunately (for some) it is the metal that carries the overtone of much of the album. Tracks like Undecided, Pretender or In Too Deep sounds every bit the Dream Theater track, though perhaps without the complexity and with some more experimental sounds and effects coming from the keyboard department.

Hardcore fans of Dream Theater will probably not be disappointed by this album, though I somewhat was. As said I much prefer the melodic side of Dream Theater and cannot not understand why LaBrie continues to force his voice into a direction it cannot go, and continues to sing in such an unnatural way. I much rather listen to his work on Ayreon's The Human Equation or the Frameshift album. It is obvious the prog-side of Dream Theater comes from different members of the band. All in all, the album is not bad, but not overly good either.

Conclusion: 7 out of 10

BART JAN VAN DER VORST



Valensia - Metal Majesty
Valensia - Metal Majesty
Country of Origin:The Netherlands
Format:CD
Record Label:Lion Music
Catalogue #:LMC123
Year of Release:2005
Time:47:28
Info:Valensia
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: We Rocked (5:17), Ready To Roar (4:17), Love Will Make You Bleed (4:32), Hold On the Night (5:06), Burying Heather (2:40), Hell Hounds On My Trail (7:08), Aurelia’s Night (5:04), Alone, Unknown, and On My Own (4:39), Zenith (4:25), Ready To Roar [Instrumental] (4:15)

Valensia Clarkson is an artist who has been around since 1993 yet not a lot of people on this planet of ours know about him. Revealing the fact that he has a vocal aptitude to equal Freddie Mercury may induce a tinge of shock about this negligence. But couple this with the certitude that he can play any instrument you throw in front of him and with aplomb. Sounds too good to be true, doesn’t he? He is.

Although the statements above, in a perfect world, should open up Valensia to a whole new world of fans unbeknownst to his talents, he has in reality been unjustly ditched by a major label and unfairly labelled by his critics as a plagiarist lacking any originality and individuality of his own. As you will see in the accompanying interview, he has even been accused of leaving mistakes in his records, an accusation I mistakenly (with the power of hindsight) levelled at him (see interview).

I have been presented, through this review and by Bart of the DPRP team, with the challenge of illustrating that Valensia is an artist that fits within the category of Progressive Music and therefore worthy of this staunchly prog site. 2005 has a plethora of qualities that are also inherent within Prog music: namely bombastic, octave-defying vocals and virtuoso guitar work, amongst other things I shall elaborate upon in due course.

He pushes the envelope with his singing. Not afraid to pepper his music with vibrant harmonies, he is also prepared to put them in places you would least expect them. An example of this is in Aurelias Night, where in the second verse there is a set of vocal notes that envelope one another, each going down a semitone. It blows your mind mofo.

Flippancy aside, the guitars are majestic and sophisticated in equal measure. V (as he is known by his fans) can play a 10-layered arpeggio as a replicant of Brian May, yet also shred like Yngwie Malmsteen. And that’s just in a verse. Ready to Roar, the second track in 2005 is a prime example, switching between major and pentatonic scales in between singing parts with consummate ease.

A possible description of the overall feel of V’s music on this album would be that it displays a portion but not his entire musical persona. In his previous albums, like The Blue Album, his vocals range from the staccato style of Russell Mael from Sparks, to the moving delivery of Kate Bush. V adopts in this new sequence of tracks what most will acknowledge as the Mercury tone for the whole album, yet still pulls off the vocal gymnastic thrills to keep the listener interested. V sticks to the heavier side of his repertoire yet throws in the odd breather with softer pieces such as Burying Heather and Zenith.

Compared to the previous album, This Is Not A Drill, a progression is most certainly apparent. The production is better, the 80s feel is replaced by a heavy crunch in the guitars, a clarity between all parts and a complete abandonment of synths, owing to V’s opinion of the deceptive flawlessness of digital polyphony. The latter change also gives a more live feel to the album. V doesn’t play live much, but it is somewhat feasible that he could play these songs with a four/five-piece band (and a choir of clones for the vocals). 2005 doesn’t appear to be as derivative as its predecessor. On the first track of TINAD, Grim Reeper, there is a vocal melody at the beginning of the first verse that sounds like it’s been “control c then v’d” from Queen’s The Game from the synonymous album. Such pastiche is not as apparent on this year’s record; V seems to be intent on getting closer and closer to an individual’s palette with this one.

Valensia sure can write a killer hook. From We Rocked to Hell Hounds On My Trail, they will drill into your mind and stay there and you will sing them to yourself at random, without even realising it. The evidence follows: “We Rocked, We Rolled, We did everything we loved, Making life on earth like Heaven and like Hell”.

These are feel-good lyrics that make you wanna throw your fist in the air and “nod your head like this”, except in a very un-Will Smith and hence cool way. V tells a lie saying that the last album was Not A Drill as all his works undeniably are – A powerful, high-calibre HOOK DRILL.

A possible criticism of the album is that two of the tracks on the album are already on an EP that he has previously released called Nonplugged. They have not been changed to suit the album and are slightly out of place in light of the feel of the whole album, but as I said earlier, these two softer tracks add relief to the heaviness. A con that has been suggested by other critics is that this album veers too close to V’s love of Whitesnake and thus ruins his usual eclecticness of influences abundant in previous endeavours. But I say Rock is Rock and with guitar and vocals as good as his, V could be compared to any decent melodic rock band of the past 20 years - from Van Halen to even Extreme. This album is all that is good about rock and its decrement of pomp and excess could make it more accessible to the discerning listener.

But the question still begs, is V progressive? In terms of the genre, V takes the more progressive elements of Queen (Queen II / Night at the Opera era) and combines this with an interstellar performance on all fronts to create an album that could appeal to anyone. He is also on the lookout for the ultimate progression - enough money to have an A-class studio to create proper high-quality analogue music without any synthetic threads. Progressive music is not just about sounding like the classic big three, it is about pushing boundaries and in this current musical climate, V is doing something that NO ONE else can do – sound like someone who was and is the greatest vocalist of all time and have the instrumental chops to back it up. If that isn’t even a slight seismic shift in the boundaries of our beloved music then dogs can talk. Genius is a name that applies to a lot of musicians within the progressive genre: Jordan Rudess, Neal Morse, Keith Emerson are a few examples. I now place Valensia on that same mantle and I hope to not be the only one to do such a thing. To listen is to be enlightened.

GEORGE HERON



Necrost - Conception Of Noise
Necrost - Conception Of Noise
Country of Origin:Russia
Format:CD
Record Label:Monsters Corp
STARLESS
Catalogue #:MC02-2004
STR005
Year of Release:2004
Time:55:19
Info:Necrost
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Divine (4:52), Revelation 2.0 (2:47), Unique(4:06), ‘04 (0:53), ...Behind the Noise (4:55), Spasmodic Consecration (4:50), Ночь в анатомичке (3:18), Pseudo (6:04), M.A.C. (4:34), Worm (6:37)

COOKIE MONSTER WARNING: If you’re not a fan of, or at least willing to tolerate, traditional death-metal singing – the kind of vocals that some have described, not without justice, as resembling somewhat the Cookie Monster from Sesame Street would sound like if he tried to sing heavy metal – then you’re just not going to like this CD. However, if you either like death metal or can put up with that kind of singing if the rewards are great enough, then I’m going to recommend Necrost’sConception of Noise. Even if the band had nothing else to recommend it (and it has, lots in fact), it plays a rare genre of music – progressive death metal – and it’s worth hearing what such a thing sounds like even if you’re not enamoured of the sound of death metal in general.

Consisting of five songs recorded in 1999 and five songs recorded in 2001 (the last five and the first five on the album respectively), Conception of Noise really is what the band claims it is: it’s not progressive metal; it’s not technical death metal – it’s progressive death metal. What does such a hybrid creature sound like? It mixes elements of traditional death metal (the horrific growled and howled singing, the pummelling double-bass-drum work, the heavily distorted guitars) with certain of the simpler elements of traditional progressive rock (interesting song structures, intelligent dynamics, start-and-stop riffing, instrumental virtuosity). The four very clean-cut young men in the booklet photo – identified only by such clichéd death-metal names as “Cannibal” and “Deathstringer” (and that name’s actually kind of funny, because he’s the guitar player), certainly know their basic genre (death metal, that is), but they clearly have ambitions beyond those of, say, such traditional bands in the genre as Six Feet Under or Obituary.

God only knows what they’re singing – really, death metal is multinational, because one often has difficulty understanding the lyrics no matter what language they’re in – but the vocals are expertly done, and they perfectly complement the wild but controlled music. Keyboards are not commonly found in death metal, as I probably don’t have to say, but they appear frequently here, too – not just synthesizers (like the scary-clouds-moving-through-a-Spielberg-sky one that begins Divine and the many other kinds used liberally elsewhere) but even piano, as at the end of Pseudo, an otherwise ripping, savage track. The bass player, too, gets a workout in these songs, and he’s good: several songs (Spasmodic Consecration, Pseudo, and Worm) actually begin with a couple of bars of fancy, clearly recorded bass work, an opening gambit common to the genre. And the razor-sharp guitar soloing that complements the chainsaw-sharp guitar riffing throughout is, well, music to the ears of aficionados of the heavy stuff. However, the dynamics, as I said earlier, the intelligent balance of loud and soft, tempers the brutality, gives the ear something to hang onto other than heavy repeated riffs.

I have to say a few words about the CD’s second track, Revelation 2.0. I call it a “track” rather than a “song” because it isn’t a song. Now, as a fan of ultra-heavy metal, I take it as an article of faith that there exist two songs more terrifying than any other ever recorded. About the first, Slayer’s Dead Skin Mask, a friend of mine has said “Metal couldn’t get any heavier than this, or it would collapse on itself.” About the second, The Triumph of Death by the primitive but brilliant early death-metal band Hellhammer (the group that later evolved into the mighty, influential Celtic Frost), I once observed that the song effectively said both the first and last word about death metal, embodying in itself the extremes that the genre might embrace. Well, Revelation 2.0 is a worthy addition to those two, except, as I say, that it’s not a song. Over a distant background of what sounds like synthesized wind (but not music), a processed voice speaks calmly for about three minutes – while, in the background, we hear a man’s continued, and repeated, and varied (in highly inventive ways) screams. That’s it. Not understanding the words, I’ve no idea what their import could be, but I’ll tell you the effect that this short piece (which seems, believe me, interminable) has on the listener: it’s extraordinarily unsettling, and it announces that this band might be talented and creative, but it also wants to scare our socks off. It succeeds.

I’ll repeat my initial warning: you really won’t like this album if you don’t like extreme metal. Don’t waste your time. However, if, like me, you’ve heard so much of the heavy stuff that something new is a real treat, or if you don’t mind the idiosyncratic vocals and want to hear an interesting, experimental twist on traditional death metal, then I recommend this album without reservation. You might have some trouble getting hold of a copy from Russia, but you’ll enjoy it when you do.

Conclusion: 7.5 out of 10

GERALD WANDIO



Cloudscape - Cloudscape
Cloudscape - Cloudscape
Country of Origin:Sweden
Format:CD
Record Label:Metal Heaven
Catalogue #:0004
Year of Release:2005
Time:48:20
Info:Cloudscape
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: As the Light Leads the Way (4.44), Under Fire (5.29), Aqua 275 (4.14), Witching Hour (5.02), In These Walls (5.37), Out of the Shadows (5.10), Everyday is Up to You (4.02), Dawn of Fury (4.40), Slave (5.35), The Presence of Spirits (4.33), Scream (4.18), Losing Faith (4.56)

Another day of another week of another year and yet another band appears from the never-ending production line that is the Swedish metal scene. And whilst many of the bands that have emerged from the factory floor of late have done little but add to the quality-not-quantity debate, the latest newcomer, Cloudscape does at least fall into the good value for money category.

Metal Heaven did quite well last year with the Finnish power metal outfit Altaria and if you liked that release, then it'd be well worth spending some time with this self-titled debut.

Cloudscape has evolved from the appallingly monikered Doctor Weird, who did make enough of a name for themselves to warrant an appearance at the Sweden Rock Festival in 2000. Fairly honestly describing their music as melodic, semi-progressive, symphonic heavy metal, if you think of a mixture of Kansas, Deep Purple, mid-period Rush, Symphony X, Toto and Masterplan in fairly equal quantities, then you won't be too disappointed. Opener As The Light Leads The Way certainly sets off with a bang, giving the impression of a straightforward melodic metal band. But as you work your way through the 12 tracks on offer, you begin to appreciate that they cover all these bases fairly well.

For me, the best results come when they mix the eighties hard rock feel of tracks like Under Fire, Everyday Is Up To You and The Presence Of Spirits with a direct, melodic metal approach that often brings to mind the superb Magnitude Nine. Elsewhere Dawn of Victory has Symphony X stamped all over it, while the more in-yer-face metal of In These Walls could be lifted off Savatage's Crown of Thorns sessions. Meanwhile, the most commonly used style is typified by the more symphonic Scandie metal of Witching Hour which stands up well in comparison to recent releases from Time Requiem or Morifade.

Vocalist Micael Andersson isn't quite in the same league as those he aims to follow (Jorn Lande and Russell Allen amongst them) but he certainly carries the songs well, with a good range of styles. Where Cloudscape hasn't quite come up with the goods is in the plain quality of the songwriting. Apart from a couple of fillers, all the tracks have the right ingredients but the hooks and riffs just don't press that button which gives me the yearning to give this repeated plays.

Conclusion: 7 out of 10

ANDY READ



Within Temptation - The Silent Force
Within Temptation - The Silent Force
Country of Origin:The Netherlands
Format:CD
Record Label:Gun Records GmBH
Catalogue #:82876645172/SU
Year of Release:2004
Time:54:38
Info:Within Temptation
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Intro (1:58), See Who I Am (4:51), Jillian [I’d Give My Heart] (4:46), Stand My Ground (4:26), Pale (4:28), Forsaken (4:53), Angels (4:00), Memories (3:51), Aquarius (4:46), It’s The Fear (4:06), Somewhere (4:13)

Martien's Review

2003 was THE year so far for Dutch gothic sensation Within Temptation. Their album Mother Earth conquered and captured the hearts of the European rock community. The singles from that album Ice Queen and Mother Earth climbed into the top 20 in Germany and their video clips were shown on the Box almost every day. So, everyone, especially the critics, wondered if WT could top this massive success and maybe that is one of the reasons that the band took so long to come up with The Silent Force. After listening to their newest opus several times I can only conclude that WT did it again. The Silent Force even sounds more powerful, more modern and more sensual than Mother Earth. And if you look at the success of the first single Stand My Ground, then I think that 2005 will even be more successful then 2003. Further the band is confirmed to play at several important festivals this year (Pinkpop and Bospop), so the popularity of WT is still growing….

If you listen to The Silent Force it seems that Sharon den Adel’s voice has grown even more passionate and pure and the music sounds more bombastic then ever before. This is mainly due to the fact that WT called in the help of an 80-piece orchestra and a huge choir (recorded in Moscow, btw), giving this CD an almost complete new musical dimension. Just listen to the almost classical musical intro, where the orchestra and the choir brilliantly mix with the breathtaking voice of Sharon. Follow up See Who I Am really represents the pure dynamics of an orchestra and a rock band, heavy guitar riffs, bombastic violins and intense singing are the keywords of this song.

Jillian reminds me of Nightwish because of the bombastic sound and the great melody, while the first Evanescence-like single Stand My Ground turned into a smash hit already, due to the super chorus. If you like the more melodic and “softer” side of the band then you will love “almost” ballads like Pale, Memories (the second single) or Somewhere. Songs with folkloristic, Celtic influences and the excellent vocals of Sharon in the spotlight. If you wish to experience the elegance of rock, Within Temptation is the absolute must at present. This album is another highlight in the fascinating career of one of the best Dutch bands ever. Highly recommended for gothic fans and lovers of fairy tale metal, although some people might call this album too bombastic, or maybe even too commercial??? Judge for yourself and by the way, best song, according to yours truly: Aquarius.

I am really looking forward to see/hear them play at Pinkpop and Bospop this year, be there!!!

Tom's Review

Within Temptation have, despite just releasing two albums prior to this one, carved out for themselves a career as one of the most popular bands, and certainly one of the figureheads, of the female-fronted gothic-symphonic metal scene that seems to be sweeping all before it. This was mainly achieved on the back of the phenomenal success of their second release, Mother Earth. A significant change in style from their debut Enter, they ditched the (then ubiquitous) death metal growls and more unconventional song structures for a far more approachable style that has seen them shifting significant units, particularly in mainland Europe. The band have also made a name for themselves as an excellent live act, and having seen the band live both on DVD and in the flesh, I can vouch that this reputation is thoroughly deserved.

Its perhaps surprising that the band have taken the best part of four years to follow up Mother Earth, especially given the success that other bands (not least Evanescence and Nightwish) have enjoyed in the meantime. Less surprising is the fact that, despite taking twice as long to follow-up Mother Earth than they did Enter, The Silent Force is far less of a stylistic advancement than its predecessor. The sound that Within Temptation to an extent patented on Mother Earth – and has now become almost ubiquitous within the genre – is all over its follow-up: this is grand, bombastic, symphonic metal, with soaring operatic choirs and swelling strings plastered all over the place, all topped off with one of the finest voices in the genre, that of Sharon den Adel.

This is not to say that The Silent Force is a carbon copy of Mother Earth, as there are certainly some noticeable changes to the band’s approach to songwriting. Whilst Mother Earth tracks such as Cage, Dark Wings and the all-conquering title track could hardly be called the most complex of tracks, they did have a certain edge and style which set them apart from the pack. To a large degree, however, Within Temptation seem to have taken a much more direct approach to their song writing this time around. This is of course understandable, given their obvious desire to capitalise on the genre’s current popularity, but I can’t help feeling something of what made them special in the first place has been lost.

This is not to say that this isn’t on the whole an enjoyable album, as it is – particularly on initial listens. The band haven’t got where they are without mastering the art of writing a strong chorus and lush, grandiose arrangements, and they’re all over The Silent Force. Particular standouts include Jillian (I’d Give My Heart), which is one of the most bombastic tracks (which is saying something in this context), with a simply massive chorus, and Aquarius, which successfully mixes a (slightly) harder edge and again delivers in the chorus stakes. Pale, meanwhile, is a ballad which, with its faux-Celtic feel, could in lesser hands have been twee and rather cheesy, but here is something of a triumph, helped by one of den Adel’s strongest vocal performances.

Most band’s in this genre, whether they like it or not, usually get compared to Evanescence these days; this must particularly rankle with Within Temptation, given that they patented their sound several years before Fallen arrived. However, there is one track where the comparison is obvious and undeniable; Stand My Ground has a very direct, vaguely modern feel, with the verses in particular, where den Adel adopts a rather unconvincing aggressive style, certainly bringing to mind the US outfit’s work. It’s not actually a bad song per se, with the chorus again being irritatingly catchy, but it is disappointing to see the band become followers rather than leaders. You could also say that Within Temptation occasionally seem to drift on to autopilot here; several of the more up-tempo tracks sound very similar to each other, particularly in the verses and build-up to the inevitable big chorus, whilst the closing ballad Somewhere is a rather limp attempt that hardly ends the album on a high note. There’s also a lack of bite to the material, particularly in the guitar sound, which is frequently rather low in the mix and overshadowed by the strings and synths – not always a problem, but some of the songs could have done with a bit more grit.

Ultimately, this album still gets a pretty good rating despite these criticisms; as I’ve mentioned, it’s a generally entertaining listen, and if you have any affinity with the genre you can’t help but admire the well-handled bombast and get carried away with the sheer symphonic might of it all. However the band’s lack of creative ambition is undeniably rather disappointing, and the album certainly isn’t in the same league as recent releases by the likes of Nightwish and Leaves’ Eyes. Overall, then, a good album, but ultimately one that resides in the ‘could do better’ category.

Conclusions:

MARTIEN KOOLEN : 9 out of 10
TOM DE VAL : 7 out of 10



Archetype - Dawning
Archetype - Dawning
Country of Origin:USA
Format:CD
Record Label:LIMB
Catalogue #:LMP 0411-072 CD
Year of Release:2005
Time:77:22
Info:Archetype
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Final Day (6:31), Hands Of Time (4:28) , Dawning (6:59), Dissension's Wake (5:25), Inside Your Dreams (6:09), Premonitions (6:49), Visionary (6:50), Arisen (5:06), The Minds's Eye [instrumental] (5:24), Years Ago (12:36), Reflection [instrumental] (3:29), Visionary [1998 Version] (6:58), Hands Of Time [1998 Version] (4:31)

Dawning is one of three recent re-issues from Germany's Limb Music and a very, very welcome one it is too, as it gives me the chance to wax lyrical about what I consider to be one of the most underrated and criminally ignored Prog Metal releases of recent years (and to give a slightly different viewpoint from this site's original write-up).

This American power/thrash/progressive metal combo's debut album was originally issued in 2002 on the Italian Lucretia Label and received critical acclaim from every corner. Poor promotion, dodgy distribution or just plain bad luck? I dunno, but for some reason it just never burst out from underground. Thankfully Limb's idea to re-release it has given you all a second chance to pick up this little beauty.

This, in essence is a gloriously overblown shred fest - but one that thankfully comes within some memorable and compelling songs. Between and within each song, the band drifts seamlessly between full frontal Thrash, chugging American-style Power Metal and slightly grandiose Euro speed metal. To top it all, there's an ever-present progressive tendency which means you never know exactly what is coming next.

It's easy to hear why it caused such a buzz among people like me, who just love an ever-changing soundtrack of moods and impressions all woven within a ferocious intensity that really makes you sit up and listen. It doesn't all work perfectly, but when it does, as in the opening roller coaster frenzy of Final Day or the 12 minute flurry of ideas that is Years Ago, Archetype manages to be spellbinding.

The only downside for some, will be the sheer length of this album. Even without the two bonus tracks, it clocks in at over 65 minutes. Thus, the sheer intensity of the music, combined with a slight lack of variation, does make it a rather complex mouthful to swallow in one sitting. However, just gnawing on the first three tracks alone would make this a compulsive purchase for anyone into aggressive, progressive power metal.

The two new bonus tracks are taken from the band's 1998 Hands Of Time EP. Although they stand well as songs in their own right, when compared to the versions on the full album, they provide an interesting peep as to how much better a band can sound with a little longer in pre-production and a decent spell in a studio. However I can't help but feel that using just two tracks is a wasted opportunity.

Fans who have one of the numerous original versions of Dawning are unlikely to splash out again for this. Why didn't the label do a proper job and slip the EP into a bonus CD along with the band's impossible to find self-titled demo? With decent packaging and a booklet, that would have been really tempting to existing fans, plus a great all-in one introduction to newcomers. Ah well!

Sadly the impressive vocalist Greg Wagner is not with the band anymore, however I believe they are currently putting the finishing touches to the follow-up, for which this serves as a great introduction.

Conclusion: 9 out of 10

ANDY READ



Opeth - Deliverance
Opeth - Deliverance
Country of Origin:Sweden
Format:CD
Record Label:Music For Nations
Catalogue #:DOC-CD-8437
Year of Release:2002
Time:61:50
Info: Opeth
Samples: Click here

Tracklist: Wreath (11:10), Deliverance (13:36), A Fair Judgement (10:20), For Absent Friends (2:17), Master’s Apprentices (10:29), By the Pain I See in Others (13:50)

Opeth’s Deliverance is one of the best heavy-metal albums ever made. It’s also one of the best progressive-metal, “atmospheric” metal, and art-rock albums ever made.

I thought I might as well be clear up front: this won’t be a terribly balanced review. Although in almost every album I review, no matter how fine it is in general, I find flaws to point out, I won’t be able to do so in this case. I mean, I could object that Deliverance lacks a clear Rolling Stones influence, or that vocalist Mikael Akerfeldt doesn’t sound like either Robert Plant or David Byron. It does, and he doesn’t. But that’s as much of an adverse criticism as I can muster for this masterwork of ambitious, heavy music. If we take the album on its own terms, it could hardly be better.

Well, what are those terms? Most fans of this kind of music know that Opeth decided to indulge their two “sides” in 2002 and 2003 by releasing two separate CDs, each showcasing one of the band’s two main strengths. Even naming those strengths begins to make my point about the band’s excellence: they play slow, quiet, dreamy, doomy music very well, and they play fast, heavy, difficult, loud music very well, too. On their previous few albums – the superb Blackwater Park; My Arms, Your Hearse; and Still Life – Opeth did everything on the same album. Thunderous progressive metal would alternate with lilting, light-but-dark jazzy, folky ballads. On these two CDs, though, which together would have made a two-disc set easily the equal of Therion’s great recent Lemuria/Sirius B album, Opeth mostly disciplined themselves so as to demonstrate their fast and heavy side on 2002's Deliverance and their slow and contemplative side on the following year’s Damnation. Have a look at Tom de Val’s spot-on review of the latter for an assessment of their success at the slow side; it’s my privilege to assess their heavy side.

I should say that, although there’s nothing heavy or fast on Damnation, Deliverance is actually more like a “traditional” Opeth album. Most of the (long, very long) tracks are indeed devoted to crushing, propulsive progressive metal, but the lovely instrumental For Absent Friends, which appears fourth out of six tracks, could almost have been lifted from an early Pat Metheny album. However, it ends soon, and we’re thrown back to the wolves – at least, to Akerfeldt’s wolflike growl. And this might be the place to warn you: I know many people are put off by death-metal-style singing, and that’s pretty much what you get throughout this album. Akerfeldt also has a pleasing “clean” voice, and we get to hear it, too, but it’s used merely as counterpoint to the growling. This is heavy stuff, and it will require some attention for those unaccustomed to this kind of singing. I promise you, though, the attention will be worth your while.

Why? Because these are four excellent, even inspired musicians, all of them working in the service of Akerfeldt’s unique vision. Opeth began as a kind of black-metal band, but, occasional extreme touches aside (drummer Martin Lopez’s superb double-bass work, the sometimes scary speed), this album is as far from, say, Emperor or Dimmu Borgir as you can get and still be working in roughly the same genre. I refer you again to de Val’s review of Damnation for an exact description of Opeth’s achievement: they have become, de Val says, “masters of a genre all their own, one that fuses dark, gothic, sometimes extreme metal with pastoral, mellow folk-tinged progressive rock.” If that description appeals to you, Deliverance will appeal to you too.

The album opens with an extreme-metal flourish: a flurry of drum rolls over which Akerfeldt lets loose an exuberant growled “AAAARGH!” And things don’t let up, as he and second guitarist Peter Lindgren match churning riffs, winding hooks, melodic leads, and chugging power chords throughout the song and throughout the album (For Absent Friends, as I’ve said, being the only exception). Holding it all together is the superb Martin Mendez on bass. Never overplaying but always sitting deep in the pocket, underlining the guitar lines and embellishing tastefully, Mendez is a wonder, and fully appreciating his fine playing is yet another reward for the careful attention I suggested this album deserves.

Standout tracks? Naah. For Absent Friends certainly “stands out” just by virtue of being the album’s sole slow, quiet track, but it’s neither superior nor inferior to the five other superb songs on this album. If you’re a horror-movie fan, shut off the DVD and crank up By the Pain I See in Others: “Rise to submission / I’m still beneath the soil / Discard your clothes / Let loose your hair / We’re intertwined forever and have always been.” If you like grunge dynamics (slow intro, crushing subsequent passages) – especially as they were practiced years before grunge by Black Sabbath, as in “Children of the Sea” – check out the slow, piano-led A Fair Judgement, which begins “Losing sleep, in too deep / Fading sun, what have I done,” before the gorgeous guitars and excellent percussion drive us into the frightening guts of the song. In fact, this track alone is almost a microcosm of Opeth’s sound, offering the scary slow sound, the scary heavy sound, and the tasteful merging of the two that Opeth have perfected by this point in their career.

Yes, this is an excellent album. Perfect? Nothing’s perfect. But there’s little better in any of the sub-genres that Opeth effortlessly dabbles in and combines than these two companion discs, and I happily give this album the highest rating. I hope all fans of good music will get it.

Conclusion: 9.5 out of 10

GERALD WANDIO



Khali - Khali
Khali - Khali
Country of Origin:Italy
Format:CD
Record Label:LIMB
Catalogue #:LMP 0411-073 CD
Year of Release:2005
Time:50:49
Info:Khali
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Cyberpleasure (6:43), Another Day (7:37), Somebody Haunts Me (5:10), Wind Of Ages - Chapter I (9:02), Wind Of Ages - Chapter II (2:16), Spiritual Distortions (4:59), Heaven Again (5:42), So Far Away (5:26)

According to my daily newspaper the date that I received this CD was the most depressing day of the year. Apparently research has discovered that more people claim to suffer from depression, bad moods or simply feeling low on this day than on any of the other 360 plus days in the year. Well, things certainly started off pretty bleak for me when I began to plough though the 50 turgid minutes of semi-prog metal on this rehashed waste of space.

Time Machine bass player Lorenzo Dehò formed this Italian outfit at the end of the nineties, as a medium for, in his own words, the 'especially ambitious, creative ideas which could not be realised with Time Machine. Next he dragged three of his former band mates - guitarist Joe Taccone, vocalist Folco Orlandini and drummer Nick Rossetti - to make up the numbers and started recording this self-titled debut which was initially released in 1999.

All I can say, is that if this is what Dehò thinks is 'ambitious' and 'creative' then I'd hate to have to sit through something he considers routine and boring. I've never really been able to swallow Time Machine with any great hunger but you can at least appreciate their inventiveness and individual style. The songs here are certainly less epic and bombastic, with the obvious intention of recreating the music from Queensrÿche's heyday that had an equal mix of complexity and melody. But what comes out of the speakers here is just plain predictable and dull. The band does okay but the melodies are just too obvious, the arrangements have been churned out elsewhere with far greater passion and it's given no help by a lifeless production job.

If you are some sort of Time Machine completist, then you'll no doubt be gagging to know that this re-release includes a previously unreleased bonus track Will You Remember and you will no doubt reach a huge orgasm if I reveal that Dehò is currently working on a follow-up. Anyway, I had another seven albums to dissect on this most depressing day of the year - thankfully things could only get better.

Conclusion: 6 out of 10

ANDY READ



Sleep Dirt - Shades of Meaning
Sleep Dirt - Shades of Meaning
Country of Origin:Germany
Format:CD
Record Label:Independent
Catalogue #:-
Year of Release:2000
Time:50:00
Info:Sleep Dirt
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Intro (0:40), Walk In The Domain Of... (5:05), Lost In A Dream (6:22), Rondeau (1:39), Menuet (1:30), Badinerie (1:24), Far Beyond The Morning Sun (6:59), Shreds Of Truth (2:37), Legacy (5:58), The Last Mile (8:13), Agony & Fear (9:33)

Here’s an unprepossessing CD-ROM with no accompanying cover or details. However, I kind of like getting a CD for review that doesn’t come with the usual promotional materials touting the band as “possibly the greatest [fill in genre here] band [in years/in a decade/of the century/of all time].” And guess what? The music is good, too.

Sleep Dirt are clearly influenced by various hard-rock and heavy-metal groups, especially seventies and eighties groups. They play heavy but intelligent progressive rock and metal, although they certainly fall more on the heavy-metal than on the progressive-rock side of the divide. Various songs remind me of Yngwie Malmsteen, Iced Earth, and Judas Priest, and in fact their vocalist, if he sounds like anybody, most resembles a more toned-down Rob Halford minus the screams of Rob’s early years. These guys can shred when they want to, too, so that a few of the songs couldn’t have been conceived without the band members’ obviously thorough knowledge of early Metallica and Megadeth. In all, this is an interestingly varied album; I’d say that the band is trying out different styles, and, on this CD, it’s clear that they haven’t yet settled on the one most congenial to their talents.

I was just talking about thrash, and The Last Mile is the song here that most reminds me of something you might hear on Master of Puppets, although – and I should admit before I say this that I’m no fan of Metallica – it’s also more interesting than anything on that album, at least to my ears. The singing’s better and less mannered than James Hetfield’s, for one thing, and the song goes through all sorts of interesting changes: though its body is predominantly straight-ahead thrash, parts of it are plodding (in a good way) traditional metal. Speaking of traditional metal – Far Beyond The Morning Sun and Shreds Of Truth are the ones that remind me most of Judas Priest, with Shreds of Truth not so distantly related to the venerable Priest’s great song Beyond the Realms of Death. Rondeau, meanwhile, is a ringer for the kind of thing Yngwie Malmsteen was doing around the time of Rising Force (mid-eighties); and Lost In A Dream, which begins with some pretty, clean guitar, light percussion, and expressive singing, builds nicely into a power-metalish song reminiscent of Iced Earth.

The musicians, too, are darned good. The drumming is powerful, drummer Frank Konditt clearly versed in the idioms of contemporary extreme metal (especially the quick double-bass rhythms often heard on the CD); Martin Zemke’s bass playing is more than adequate to the songs’ needs; and singer/guitarist Marco Mohtadi’s rhythm-guitar work is adept and occasionally flashy. The solo work is perhaps a weak link. I’ve no real complaint with Mohtadi’s skill or taste; but, if I had to guess, I’d say that he was a bit intimidated by the studio, and, further, that he worked out his solos, at least the longer ones, in advance and carefully played them from memory or from sheet music in the studio. I might be wrong about that, but they sound to me studied and occasionally even a bit laboured rather than spontaneous. They’re good, that is, but neither really fluid nor inspired (or inspiring). Because I can’t imagine how anybody could not choke up in a studio, though, I’m assuming that the fluidity will simply come with more experience.

This is a good album – good enough that I can see myself playing it more rather than less frequently in weeks and even months to come just to enjoy the music. For all the faults (and the clear influences) I’ve noted, it’s a well-written, well-played progressive-metal disc. I really do think that, with a bit more confidence, this band could make some fine albums; they clearly have both the songwriting and the playing abilities to do so. For now, they should be pleased with what they’ve done on this disc.

Conclusion: 7 out of 10

GERALD WANDIO



Axiom - A Moment Of Insanity
Axiom - A Moment Of Insanity
Country of Origin:Italy
Format:CD
Record Label:Independent
Catalogue #:-
Year of Release:2004
Time:49:29
Info:Axiom
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: A Moment Of Insanity (6:13), It’s Too Late (5:00), A New Begin (5:28), Gone (6:27), Mirror Of Life (6:35), Clear (4:10), An Oniric Comedy (5:10), Rising Shadows (5:29), Out Of Control (4:33)

Italy seems to have spawned a fairly sizeable number of metal bands in recent years. Axiom eschew for the most part the more overblown, symphonic route travelled by the likes of Rhapsody and Labyrinthe, instead going for an altogether harder variety of progressive rock. Clear influences on their sound are the likes of (surprise, surprise) Dream Theater, Savatage and (in particular) Evergrey; in fact several of the tracks sound uncannily similar in musical style to the latter named act, plus vocalist Marco Manglapia’s gruff delivery clearly owes something to Evergrey’s Tom Englund (although his voice is not as assured, and begins to grate after a while).

Songwise, the album gets off to a bad start with the rather muddled and directionless title track, which features some less-than-appropriate nu-metal style shouty vocals, but thankfully things do get better. Both It’s Too Late and Mirror Of Life feature some sharp riffs and have a good momentum; Gone is a more considered mid-pace track with some strong melodies; Clear has a more direct, slightly ‘alternative’ feel to it, whilst album closer, the forceful Out Of Control, ends things strongly and should probably have been the lead-off track. The solo work by both the guitarists and keyboard player are also pretty good throughout, with their work on Rising Shadows being particularly note-worthy.

Ultimately though, this album is only patchily successful, with there being quite a few less impressive moments, and the songs lack the structure and focus of the leading acts of the genre. The lack of originality also works against Axiom – there’s just too many generic moments, and in a scene that’s as overcrowded as the progressive metal one at the moment, that’s a major handicap. Lyrically things could do with improving too – titles such as A New Begin hint that the google translator has probably been used, and not altogether successfully – it doesn’t do much to enhance the band’s credibility.

In conclusion then, this is a reasonable genre effort; Axiom certainly show promise, but have work to do if they are to make real inroads in the overcrowded progressive metal scene.

Conclusion: 6 out of 10

TOM DE VAL



Silent Voices - Infernal
Silent Voices - Infernal
Country of Origin:Finland
Format:CD
Record Label: Crash Music
Catalogue #:-
Year of Release:2004
Time:43:28
Info: Silent Voices
Samples: Click here

Tracklist: End of Days (5:14), On the Wings of Rage (5:04), Infernal Mind (4:15), Fate Divided (8:57) 5) New World Order (3:59), Disease: Man (3:50), Prelude - The Spirit of Avalon (1:30), Avalon (10:31)

Silent Voices is a Finnish band that claims to play progressive metal in the vein of Dream Theater. Their debut album a year or so ago got a reasonable press but I never got around to checking it out. On this, their second release, the Dream Theater influences are clearly there but not so obvious that you could label the band mere copyists.

There's a heavy element of more straightforward melodic metal along with the progressive twists and turns and everything is held together by some highly-impressive and very dominating guitar work. The keyboards here, are used mainly as a backdrop, filling out the sound as opposed to having a duel role with the guitar.

The sweeping openers End Of Days and On The Wings Of Rage are the best examples of how Silent Voices' mix of very powerful progressive metal can hit the listener right between the ears.

Silent Voices don't play anything that hasn't already been done many times before but do it with great skill and energy.

The problem is that Infernal just leaves me cold. I can't really place exactly why - the hooks are there but don't stick in my mind, the riffs are there but don't get my head a bangin' and a it's all very well produced but the sound just doesn't draw me in.

If you're into progressive power metal or early Dream Theater, then it is certainly worth a look. Maybe where it just doesn't press the right buttons for me - it may do for you.

Conclusion: 6 out of 10

ANDY READ



Seraphique - Chrysalis
Seraphique - Chrysalis
Country of Origin:The Netherlands
Format:CD
Record Label:Independent
Catalogue #:-
Year of Release:2004
Time:52:55
Info:Seraphique
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Foil A Barrier In Every Bridge (4:11), Chrysalis (6:53), Cirrus (4:16), Umbra (3:57), Helix (4:00), Time Is Idle (9:59), In Between Heartbeats (3:39), Troy (6:22), Promise (9:38)

Seraphique is a Dutch band founded in 1998, which released their debut EP Nehalennia in February 2000. The band deserved their reputation and earned the respect of the audience and the press throughout their gigs. They supported for instance bands like God Dethroned and Within Temptation.

The music of Seraphique is loud, intense and filled with speedy guitar solos, flashy riffs, brutal and heavy rhythms, pounding electrocution and extreme vocals. And there lies the problem of this band, at least for me, the grunts on this album are present in almost every song and I truly hate grunting. In my humble opinion it has nothing to do with singing whatsoever…. And as much as I like the instrumental parts and the complex song structure, every time Rein opens his mouth and lets out another death metal grunt, I am tempted to push the stop button on my CD player.

There is only one song, namely the title track, which has normal vocals, and therefore it is the best song on this album. A song that kind of reminds me of a band like Wolverine. A spacy, dark, mysterious prog metal track, which proves that these guys would be better of without the grunting. But there are lots of people who like that sort of “singing”, but I cannot listen to it and therefore I cannot “grant” this album with more than 5 points; sorry guys. But the musical potential is definitely there, just get rid of the grunting parts and I will become a fan of this extraordinary Dutch band; however, not for now.

Conclusion: 5 out of 10

MARTIEN KOOLEN



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