Tracklist: Prophet (6:11), Ganges (6:20), Komatrance (3:44), On The Border (3:49), Cold Obsession In My Eyes (6:39), Absinthe (4:16), The Secret Window (3:50), Burial Ground (5:10), In His Room (3:59), Where Next? (1:16)
Please don’t let the rather unfortunate name of this band put you off or give you a false impression of the kind of music they play. This is not death metal or black metal or any of that stuff. Yes, it is metal, but it’s that equivocal subgenre that’s come to be known as atmospheric metal – “atmospheric dark metal,” to be as precise as the press release wants to be – but with this important proviso: Cemetery Of Scream dates back to 1992 – before Anneke joined The Gathering! So, while I tend (for better or worse) to measure most so-called atmospheric metal bands whose albums I review against The Gathering – because, let’s face it, most of them are inspired or influenced by that majestic outfit – I can dispense with those comparisons here and describe the impressive achievements of Cemetery of Scream very much on their own terms.
I think what I like most about this band, and there’s a lot to choose from, are the vocals, by Pawel Kluczewski and guest singer Kasia Molenda. And what I like about the vocals is that they are strong but imperfect – and accented. The lyrics are all in English, but the singing is free of the rawk-star intonations too often heard in the vocals of both native and non-native English speakers; the enunciation of the words, especially by Kluczewski, is precise, and his voice, while powerful when it has to be, is often appealingly vulnerable, too (check out the quiet bits of The Secret Window, for example, or the spoken part of In His Room). This isn’t typical metal singing by a long shot; it’s clear and unmannered, and Molenda’s background contributions are reedy rather than ethereal (“ethereal” of course being the gold standard in atmospheric metal!) and yet all the more welcome for being so.
The music is perhaps a bit heavier than fans of atmospheric metal are accustomed to. Guitars are front and centre on this album, for sure, and the drums play a big part, too. The songs are mostly compact and melodic, the music nicely underscoring the vocals, keyboards mostly acting in a supporting role. I also very much like the tasteful (and infrequent) use of electronic percussion and samples – always only what suits the song, never intrusive. Cemetery Of Scream, that is, is essentially a rock band working successfully in this genre – not a band (or so it seems to me) conceived to play a certain kind of music and conforming to the genre. That’s probably because the original incarnation of this band predates the whole atmospheric metal genre as we’ve come to know it – they’ve sort of written their own rules.
A word about the lyrics wouldn’t be amiss here, even though (or perhaps because) they’re written and sung in English despite the band’s being Polish. Well, I think they’re very good indeed, and I mean in no way to be patronizing when I say that. Most of the songs are lyrically dark indeed – the titles alone portend their darkness! – but they’re neither clichéd nor melodramatic. Burial Ground and Komatrance seem to me especially heartfelt, but the lyrics are uniformly good.
I’ve saved for the end the sole real problem with this album: its production. I’m happy to recommend the album just as it is, but my rating would be even higher were the production not so thin and midrangey – this fine music deserved depth and power. I mentioned earlier that the guitars and drums really drive the songs, and unfortunately it’s with those instruments that the production really fails to do its job. The power chords grate and the drums go tunk-tunk-tunk where they should hammer; and the arpeggiated plucked chords on steel-string that underlie the final track, Where Next?, are annoying rather than pleasing. I’ll be blunt: though I expect to listen to this CD a lot in the months to come, I know for a fact that I’d play it a lot more if it had anything like the kind of production such an otherwise musically excellent CD ought to have.
But there you have it: despite that one flaw, this is a fine album, pleasing in its song-writing and execution, a nice example of – what? – alternative atmospheric metal from a band that, at least in Poland, may well have invented the genre.
Conclusion: 8 out of 10
Project Creation - Floating World
Tracklist: The Floating World (7:13), Living Under A Blue Sky (4:21), The Desert Planet (2:21), The Civilization (7:24), Mechanical Dragonflies(5:55), Arriving (5:28), Warming Up The Machines (4:53), Artificial Satellite (7:11), Intervening (2:27), Creating Atmosphere (3:26), First Species (4:26), The Shining Planet (4:25), Cheops (5:08), Returning Home (7:00)
Hear ye, hear ye! Project Creation is the new band of Hugo Flores (Sonic Pulsar). After releasing two fine solo efforts (Playing The Universe, Out Of Place) he definitely hits the mark with his latest effort, namely Floating World.
Floating World is a rock/metal opera based on a sci-fi theme which is about the inhabitants of a dying world who take off on a planet-like space ship (well, a floating world really). Being the first part of a trilogy Floating World is mainly settled in prog metal territory but also borrows elements from progressive rock, folk rock, space rock and hosts two vocalists (one female and one male) and seven instrumentalists to aid Flores on this journey, including a flutist, a cellist and a sax player. The latter three really add an extra dimension and depth to the music which is already quite layered and well constructed.
Unfortunately, one cannot escape the feeling of a Dutch band’s influences all over. Yes, after listening to this record I’m sure many will think of Ayreon as the main reference. They may be quite right, but Flores takes this inspiration, fuses it with some Magellan or Carptree influences and takes it way beyond one can imagine. So even though there isn’t anything extraordinary new, I wouldn’t call this one a clone. Another good thing -at least for me- is that the music is much more direct and not as over-produced as Ayreon which doesn’t necessarily mean it’s less progressive.
Most of the songs contain wonderful melodies, as well as layered compositions which make this CD quite an enjoyable listening experience. There’s a great deal of technical prowess; but no shredding or show-offs, thankfully... Most of the songs differ from each other in regard of style and mood, yet they form a fine unity in the end. Complex, silent, furious, elegiac, atmospheric, spacey, folky passages are all aplenty in this CD and show us how a “diverse” record should sound like. I don’t see the point to mention some standout tracks for conceptual albums, since mostly there are none. Floating World is no exception regarding this issue and must be listened right from the start till the end. Trust me, it’s a quite rewarding process and will be worth your time.
Fans of Ayreon will surely enjoy this record all over. It may be evidently more of a “low-budget project” compared to the Dutchman’s efforts, but it still delivers the goods. I don’t see a reason why Flores can’t be the next Lucassen of our time. Yes, dear reader. If you have a tendency towards Arjenesque efforts, you shouldn’t miss this one. But as someone who is rather distant towards Ayreon and such, even I liked this record from start until the end. Does it mean that it’s better than Ayreon? Not necessarily, but fans of the genre should definitely check this one out. Normally I would give this one a straight niner, but the production could have been a lot better. So, if you don’t care about minor disturbances in sound quality, you may regard my conclusion as 9.
Conclusion: 8.5 out of 10
Speaking To Stones - Speaking To Stones
Tracklist: Still Life (6:43), Rescue Me (5:12), Waiting for.... (5:25), Down (4:57), My Final Sin (9:00), Close to the Sky (5:01), Shallow (10:02),
How easy is it to gain the interest of somebody by saying that a band sounds like Dream Theater? In my eyes it is a very tough job and you always run into the risk of getting people to believe that the band you are talking about is just another copycat. Having said that, I will try to justify why Speaking to Stones is a very
interesting ensemble and - to me - one of the rising forces in the field of melodic progressive metal. The band is a four-piece and comprises guitarist Tony Vinci, bassist Dave Callari, Rich Dellapietra on keyboards and vocalist Richard Fink IV. The majority of the material is written by Tony and the rest gradually added their own building blocks to the completion of this debut album, which took more than two years to be finalised. Notice the absence of a drummer in the line-up - what you hear in the album is drum programming.
Speaking to Stones' music is described by their label as incorporating influences as diverse as progressive and RnB, Marillion, Soundgarden, even Peter Gabriel. Well I do not know if it is a disappointment but I didn't discover SUCH diverse influences. My description would be an amalgam of Enchant with Dream Theater. One could also identify elements of Fates Warning and Marillion or even Queensryche and Conception. Apart from these classical influences I also see an AOR component, which I find positive because it gives a special
colour without appearing out of the blue.
The vocalist is really spectacular and the way he sounds as well as the way he sings is striking. Furthermore, it's a singer with two faces: one is very tender, that you could at times mistake as Enchant's Ted Leonard (as in Waiting For...), but the other is harsher, possibly a bit in the likes of Ark's Jorn Lande. And basically, this by default transforms the nature of the track. The guitar work is of very high quality and at times brings Douglas Ott to mind, at times John Petrucci, or to go a bit further, it has a certain AOR feeling to it. Very pretty and "clean" solos adorn the final product, together with the abundance of acoustic moments. The main difference in the music with Dream Theater is that there are not too many solos, no changes that seem "unexpected" - the approach to
song writing is more simple, direct and...poppy. Keyboard solos are only present in a couple of instances and more as a guest, while throughout the album
the synths mostly fill up the atmosphere.
Most tracks are rather short, with very catchy refrains, combining melodic singing but also some harder parts. Still Life is definitely one the best songs out
there in the genre, and I more than recommend to give a listen to it in their myspace page. Some songs
are more mid-tempo like Rescue Me and other are ballads, like Waiting For... and Close to the Sky. The surprise though are the two long tracks,
My Final Sin and Shallow, which are more of a challenge since you clearly see the group departing from 5'
song writing and going towards more ambitious and
technical areas. Both are very good tracks, the latter a bit too reminiscent of Dream Theater's Home though and the former a bit too long. The vocal melodies are really well done and thus the refrains are really interesting and complement perfectly the technical solos and heavy riffs. The album closes with an acoustic ballad, Nothing, that again points to the AOR side this time of Dream Theater.
Without playing something particularly innovative or being pioneers, these guys play it VERY well. There are very few weak points in this album. Shortly, I doubt that there are many fans of melodic prog metal out there that will dislike this release and therefore this album is definitely recommended. Great
song writing and vocal melodies, great guitar work and a vocalist to remember. I think that they should get a.s.a.p. themselves a drummer, depart a bit from the legacy of DT, and maybe their next work
will be a milestone in the genre. Absolutely great debut from this rising force. If you are into well-played melodic prog metal with a strong catchy AOR-oriented component,
you don't have to look further...
Conclusion: 8.5 out of 10
Spheric Universe Experience - Mental Torments
Tracklist: So Cold (6:08), Now Or Never (7:04), Burning Box Gala (6:21), Saturated Brain (7:41), Moonlight (6:02), Halleygretto (2:41), Mental Torments - [pt.1 Solitude, - pt.2 Reminiscence, pt.3 Losing Control, pt.4 Inner Peace] (15:28), Echoes Of The Stars (10:51)
A few negative reviews stopped me from picking up this CD when it was released last year. The failure of the record label to provide this site with a promo, meant that we never got to experience this particular spheric universe.
Well, I finally got around to picking up a copy and this really is a wee gem that I’m sure many readers of this site who haven’t sought out a copy yet, would really enjoy (hence this short review).
Formed in 1999 as Gates Of Delirium, after some line-up shifts in 2001, they changed their name to Amnesya. Another line-up change in 2002 brought the move to their current moniker. Mental Torments is their second full-length album.
What you have here, takes elements from Dream Theater, Fates Warning, Spiral Architect, Pain Of Salvation, Styx and Watchtower and blends them into a very intense, yet occasionally melodic, style of technical progressive metal.
The singer thankfully isn’t a screamer and can utilize plenty of emotion in his voice. He isn’t quite up there with the best but he has his own style. As long as you don’t mind the wee bit of a French accent, then he adds, more than he subtracts, from the songs.
Talking of the songs, the opening track is an absolute gem, with some great riffing and keyboard embellishments, all wrapped around a superb collection of time signatures and a chorus with a melody to die for. I often just insert the CD to play this one track.
There are more great vocal harmonies on the second track, which also boasts an effective sax (or clarinet) interlude which offers an effective, lighter touch after the four-minute mark.
There are three instrumentals on offer and a couple more-balladic tunes. On the heavier edge, Saturated Brain has some fantastic drumming at the start, before moving between a powerhouse verse, that stands as a heavier Dream Theater, and a chorus that could have been lifted off the last Sieges Even album.
The centrepeice of the album is the four-part title track. It uses its 15 minutes to give a masterclass in technical metal, one that easily compares to the likes of Watchtower and Spiral Architect.
This won’t be everyone’s taste, and the quality does rather rise and fall within each track. There’s also a lack of coherence across the album. There are just so many ideas that the band never really settles on its own sound. As a listener, I find it hard to really relax into the album, as it’s mood, pace and groove is constantly changing. The opening two songs and the title-track are very impressive, elsewhere I like only bits of songs.
However, for those who don’t mind that ever-shifting platform and especially those who enjoy technical, progressive metal with a heavy reliance on instrumental workouts, this should tick more than enough boxes.
Footnote: This album is available from French-based Replica Records, although I got mine from the US-based Nightmare Records. The US version comes with a bonus track, the instrumental Sidereal Revolution that’s well worth a listen.
Conclusion: 7.5 out of 10
Before Eden - The Legacy Of Gaia
Tracklist: [Nomad Soul (6:06), Wizard Of The South (5:58), Essence (5:08), The Legacy Of Gaia - [I. Earth Cry (1:01), II. Enemy Eve (6:19), III. Toast Of Mankind (5:40), IV. Nova (8:48), V. Tomorrow´s Gone (5:51), VI. Everland (3:41)], Reality (7:36)
I know next to nothing about this Brazilian band, as this was picked up on import through a recommendation from a few friends. Though having now listened to it, what I do know, is that this is a band with huge potential. It appears that this is their third release, following a self-titled debut in 2001 and a three-track demo put out a couple of years later.
The opening track is superb. Nomad Soul kicks off with a real biting, technical riff, before lush layers of keys are added and then the rich vocals of Jaison Peixer take things to an even higher level. This guy can sure rip a tune, and from his performance on the ten tracks here, has the potential to develop a really distinctive voice.
As for Nomad Soul, think early Dream Theater mixed with the heavy riffing and darker vibe of Savatage for a rough idea of where this band is coming from. There's a clever change of pace in the middle too, that reminds me a little of Rush.
The next three songs are on an equal par, Enemy Eve in particular has some great riffs and Peixer shows he is as comfortable on the high, as he is on the low notes. Everything is done with impressive power and passion. There's a real energy to this band's playing which I enjoyed.
The second half of the album doesn't live up to the earlier promise. The snare drum, which has been high in the mix throughout, begins to annoy; the song-writing isn't as good; and the hooks are not so catchy. A couple of the tracks also fail to develop from the initial musical idea.
But again, praise has to be given, as these songs show a band willing to try out a few new ideas and not just sticking to a tried-and-tested formula.
Anyway, if that is enough to interest you, I picked up this from US-based Lasers Edge, but it's also on Hellion in South America and Just For Kicks in Germany. There are also full tracks and samples to be downloaded from the band's website as well as a new song from their next album due in 2007. A band that is well worth further investigation - by fans and labels alike.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10
SpiRitual - Pulse
Tracklist: This Battle Is Yours (5:38), Symphony Of Life (7:37), Nahash (5:48), Pulse (8:32), Khundas (4:58), You Believe (5:13), Save and Heal (4:36), Nowhereness (2:36), plus multimedia section.
Now, here's a new sub-genre for the progressive metal market. SpiRitual is the new project from Stefan Hertrich, PC game soundtrack composer and the songwriter for long-running German gothic metal band Darkseed. With some justification, the label that he's given his new creation is 'Ethno Metal'.
Supported by a truly international collection of musicians, with Pulse, the 29-year-old has set out to mix brutal death metal vocals and grindingly, down-tuned guitars, with the ethereal sounds of ethnic instruments and soothing female vocals from the centuries-old cultures of Asia and North and South America.
It's certainly true to say that many bands have played with bringing ethnic influences into metal - fellow Germans Avalon, Australian band Endusk and Israel's Orphaned Land are just three. But it is always there as a supporting influence, never given a starring role.
With SpiRitual, Hertrich has set out to give each element equal exposure, taking the listener on a fascinating, and often mesmerising, musical odyssey. There's flute and percussion from Columbian Shaman Kajuyali Tsamani; some North American female vocals and flute; Indian female vocals are provided via British artist Zero-G; and other vocals by singers from Russia and Germany. Darkseed drummer Maurizio Guolo and a trio of German guitarists provide the more metallic tones.
Hertrich has previously explored distant cultures with 1999's Betray My Secrets and 2004's Shiva In Exile for which he won the award for 'best new age/world album' in the American Just Plain Folks Music Awards. And certainly the blend of world music and death metal may have crossover potential for audiences of both genres.
Musically the mix of two totally different genres works surprisingly well. It's not so much that there are great individual songs here - nothing really jumps out at me in terms of melody or instrumental passages. It's more the overall effect, achieved by the mixing of the two disparate ingredients. At some points on Pulse one element is allowed to shine on its own, but more often than not, Hertrich manages to overlay one with the other in a very effective way.
The main problem I can see, is in finding an audience for this. The two genres are at two such different ends of the musical spectrum, that I'm unsure how many world music fans will be ale to take the death metal and vice versa. I'm actually rather partial to world music and it was that element that I enjoyed here, far more than the death metal growls which I'm less keen on.
For those of you who enjoy exploring the ideas behind the music in greater depth, there's a multi-media section where Hertrich explores the ideology behind his creation through the written word and work with the Russian video team Deviant Creations. There's also contributions from German author and scientist Christian Ratsch, a world-renowned anthropologist and seemingly a major influence on Hertrich's music.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10
Time Symmetry - Fate In Grey
|Country of Origin:||Spain|
|Year of Release:||2006|
Tracklist: The Game (5:24), When The Voice Is Gone (6:50), Cold Mountain Train (6:29), Woman From Loneliness (6:40), Autumn (4:36), Alone He Wanders (7:49), Fate In Grey (6:23), The Portrait (1:19), Sibyl Vane (7:28), Naiad (5:24)
This is a very impressive debut album from a young Spanish band that before the days of the internet would, in all likelihood, never have been heard of outside of their home town or village.
Time Symmetry tread a very listenable middle ground in the progressive metal field. The guitar work tends to keep the rhythm rather than overload the sense with deep heavy riffs. There's plenty of ever-changing time signatures and a smattering of extended solos, but there's also a lightness to the band's sound that has the potential to appeal to rock fans in general. Yet there's also enough hard edges to please the more metal-orientated among you.
If you can ignore the accent, then the singing of David Rubio is emotive, and carries some really good melodies. The instruments meanwhile control the mood of the song rather than act as a showcase for the skills of their owners.
It took a few listens for me to fall into the pace of this album but it's had a constant place on my CD player for a little while now. There's just a certain charm in the melodies and groove that grows on me with every play. A couple of guest musicians are brought in to add an extra depth to the sound. Woman From Loneliness, includes some cool saxophone playing by Daniel Centeno, while the last two tracks feature female vocalist, Mamen Castano.
A lot of thought also seems to have gone into the band's website which is one of the most original designs I've yet to see. There are tracks to download as well as purchasing information. However I can't tell you too much more as it's sadly all in Spanish - which is a bit of a missed opportunity, as an English option would be a great way to spread the word about this excellent new band to music lovers outside of their own country. And that, I think, is where we started.
Conclusion: 8 out of 10
Bloodbound - Nosferatu
Tracklist: Behind the Moon (6.27), Into The Dark (4.31), Nosferatu (6.23), Metal Monster (4.24), Crucified (3.50), Desdemonamelia (4.14), Fallen from Grace (4.45), Screams In The Night (4.40), For the King (3.49), Midnight Sun (3.51), On The Battlefield (5.57)
Just a brief mention for this disk as it will undoubtedly be of interest to anyone who has followed the fortunes of Swedish band Tad Morose. Having been a great fan of that band's recent albums and especially having had the pleasure to meet and interview them after a festival performance in Sweden a couple of years ago, I was hugely disappointed when I heard that vocalist Urban Breed had quite the band earlier this year. The oft-quoted 'musical differences' being given as the reason.
New Swedish band Bloodbound was his chosen destination, which at first caused a bit of alarm. Image-wise they all dress up in gory costumes, painted faces and stand around crucifixes - more death metal than what I'm used to. Thankfully appearances can be misleading and the music on offer on their debut album is top-quality, melodic metal that owes a heavy debt to Iron Maiden. The guitar work is breathtaking in its simple effectiveness and each and every song has an instant lovability. Needless to say Urban's vocal performance is fantastic, showing again why he has a reputation as one of the best metal vocalists around. This will be an instant hit with fans of Tad Morose's last two albums, as long as you don't mind that there's not a progressive twiddle in sight.
As a rather ironic footnote - Urban Breed has now left Bloodbound - along with several other members. The irony is that his replacement is Kristian Andrén, who used to be the singer with - yes you've guessed it - Tad Morose. It's a small world.
Conclusion: 8 out of 10
Prymary - The Tragedy Of Innocence
Tracklist: Dirty Room Part I (2:55), In My Shell (7:34), Soul Deceiver (7:10), Oceans of Insolence (5:54), AMiracle (5:38), Born Again (2:05), Only Love (6:10), What Little Girls Are For (9:35), Running Away (7:00), Dirty Room Part II (3:02), Ask the Angels (5:45), Choices (9:53)
A thought-provoking concept album is the second release from this progressive rock and metal band from Southern California. Twenty-five years ago, the wife of the band's drummer, Chris Quirate, had her life ripped apart in the horrible tragedy that is child abuse. Even more life-destroying was that the abuser was the man who was supposed to love and care for her - her father.
The band has spent two years in getting the right material to do her story the stark justice that it deserves; to create a strong message to other victims that you do not have to suffer in silence.
The result is a very thought-provoking collection of music that uses every aspect of the product to drive the message home. There's high emotion in the singing and playing, subtle and direct lyrics, complex rhythms and a professional use of the presentation, that gives the clear impression that a lot of thought has gone into this release.
The band features two members of the impressive Redemption, drummer Chris Quirarte and bassist James Sherwood, along with singer Mike Di Sarro, guitarist Sean Entrikin, and keyboard player Smiley Sean.
The Tragedy Of Innocence is a sharp step up in class in all departments by this quintet from their self-titled debut released three years ago. Prymary brings a more progressive rock touch to their music than most bands in this genre. Not as instrumental-based as Dream Theater or Zero Hour, there's more going on here than Redemption or Fates Warning.
This album has a dark, heavy atmosphere - especially in the second half of the disc - that lingers long after the closing track has faded from the room. There's some great performances from all the musicians, especially with a huge improvement in the vocals of Di Sarro who really lives and breaths the emotions from beginning to end.
An absorbing listen, song-wise it's not a classic but this stands as a fine piece of musical artwork and a bold statement on the tragedy of innocence.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10
Red Circuit - Trance State
|Country of Origin:||Germany|
|Record Label:||Limb Music|
|Catalogue #:||LMP 0602-089 CD|
|Year of Release:||2006|
Tracklist: Under The Sun (5.19), Is It Gold? (3.34), The Veil (3.54), Where You Are (4.44), So Hard To Be Like God (3.38), Search For Your Soul (4.14), You Might
Have Been Queen (4.02), The Screen (4.51), Go Straight (4.52), Trance State (4.17)
Those who take an interest in all things Vanden Plas-related will certainly want to have a closer look at this new ProgPower Metal ‘supergroup’ project. Red Circuit is the brainchild of German producer Markus Teske, best known for his work with the likes of Vanden Plas, Symphony X, Saga, Neal Morse, and Ian Parry's Consortium Project.
This time however he has stepped from behind the production controls to show off his talents with the keyboards and song-writing, bringing in Vanden Plas vocalist Andy Kuntz to co-produce the album. Another reason to take note of this disk is that vocal duties are handled by Chity Somapala – a bit of a journeyman singer whose credits to date include Avalon, Firewind, Ivanhoe and Moonlight Agony and so on. Guitar work is contributed by a string of special guests that includes Adagio's Stephan Forte, Vanden Plas shredder Stephan Lill and French solo virtuoso Patrick Rondat.
Musically, this sits in the melodic ProgPower Metal category with pretty much every song having a mid-paced heaviness that certainly couldn’t be described as exhilarating, but is very listenable. There are frequent comparisons to a lighter and far less progressive Vanden Plas, especially in respect of Teske’s keyboard work, which is excellent. There are also similarities to Somapala’s previous work especially Firewind, and Avalon when it gets more progressive.
For my tastes, I would mark this down as an okay album but one that doesn’t really excite. It’s not a disk that I think I will return to very often in the future. While I know Somapala has his fans, I’m not one of them, finding his voice too smooth. He lacks the edge and bite, or the expression and soul that I seek in a metal singer.
The songs too are a little one-dimensional for me. There’s nothing bad on this album but equally nothing that has that ‘Wow!’ factor. Fans of mid-paced melodic metal wit a touch of progression (Cloudscape, Avalon, Firewind or other such bands on the Limb label) may however love it.
Conclusion: 6 out of 10