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2008 : VOLUME 02
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REVIEWS IN THIS ISSUE:


Karnivool - Themata
Kanivool - Themata
Country of Origin:Australia
Format:CD
Record Label:Bieler Bros
Records
Catalogue #:KV_874007001526
Year of Release:2005/2007
Time:48:53
Info:Karnivool
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: C.O.T.E. (5:50), Themata (5:40), Shutterspeed (3:46), Fear Of The Sky (5:16), Roquefort (4:38), Lifelike (4:40), Scarabs (4:12), Sewn And Silent (4:12), Mauseum (3:54), Synops (4:53), Omitted For Clarity (0:20), Change (Part 1) {3:28)

Just before Christmas I moved out of the office which I have used for the past seven years. Going through my piles of paperwork, I discovered that it will soon be the fifth anniversary of my first review for this wonderful website. I further discovered, that the next album to come under my scrutiny, would become my 250th DPRP review.

From the moment the first track of this Karnivool album came to an end, I knew none of the other albums that I will review in this ProgMetal special will even come close. Themata is an outstanding piece of music from start to finish.

The big attraction with Themata is that it doesn't have the same texture and feel throughout. It is musically varied and diverse. You can listen to it again and again, without tiring of it. Each song sounds different and unique. Itís not really prog or metal Ė but it possesses a lot of the required characteristics that will attract lovers of both. In a similar way to other great albums from the past year by P.O.B and Dead Air Radio, it has lots of elements of modern melodic rock but with endless layers of different rhythms, textures and counter-playing time signatures.

Everyone will have different reference points for the music to be found here Ė Iíve seen reviews mentioning Dream Theatre, Nine Inch Nails, Nickelback and Journey! Letís just say this disc has got everything. A fantastic singer. Great melodies. Cool song structures. A bassist who plays tastefully outside of the groove. Off-time riffing. Layered instrumentation. Orchestration. Great production. Songs that don't just tread the standard verse-chorus-verse structure, and melodies that stick like glue. I just love the album cover, with the two Os being formed by the flyís eyes!

Having said all of that, this album was actually released independently by the band in 2005, followed by a sell-out Aussie tour. You just have to wonder about the music industry, when a record of this quality goes under the radar for so damn long. As far as I can tell, this album now has a deal covering the US, UK and Australia, and yet, for an album of this quality, it has created next to no media buzz. That may change. The band has just returned to Australia after spending two months in the US on the Great American Rampage Tour with their new friends and label mates Ankla, Skindred and Nonpoint. The bandís first tour outside of Australia, included 42 gigs, 15000 miles in an increasingly smelly / broken van and around 740 burgers. Some insights can be seen on the video blogs on their MySpace. Even with a UK deal, I found it impossible to get Themata at a sensible price. I ended up ordering it from the US-based Lasers Edge. For people living in the US, it is available from the record company website for ten dollars.

My DPRP Top 10 for 2007 contains the likes of Dead Air Radio, Three, Redemption, Sieges Even, P.O.B and Mindís Eye. Karnivool stands easily in such company. Themata is too unique to be exactly the same as any of those albums, but if you share a similar musical taste, then Iíd heartily suggest that you order a copy today. This will easily get a place in your top ten when you vote in the all-important DPRP Annual Poll.

Conclusion: 9.5 out of 10

ANDY READ



Opeth Ė The Roundhouse Tapes
Opeth Ė The Roundhouse Tapes
Country of Origin:Sweden
Format:2CD
Record Label:Peaceville
Catalogue #:TE089
Year of Release:2007
Time:106:08
Info:Opeth
Samples:Click here

Tracklist:

Disc One: When (10:28), Ghost Of Perdition (10:56), Under The Weeping Moon (10:27), Bleak (8:39), Face Of Melinda (9:57), Night And The Silent Water (10:28)

Disc Two: Windowpane (8:01), Blackwater Park (18:59), Demon Of The Fall (8:13)

Tom De Val's Review

Those new to Opeth, or without much background on the band, might consider the fact that a new live album appears just four years (and one studio album) after the last one (the superb DVD Lamentations) is a cynical attempt by the band to cash in on the success of their 2005 Roadrunner Records release Ghost Reveries. However, those people obviously donít know the band that well, and are probably the same ones who thought that signing to Roadrunner would see Opeth Ďsell outí their sound. Opeth (and particularly leader Mikael Akerfeldt) are a band who basically dance to their own tune Ė the fact that many others seem to enjoy their music being merely a bonus.

The Roundhouse Tapes, although sharing a location (London) with Lamentations, is a completely different beast Ė not least the fact that only one track (Windowpane) is present on both releases. Recorded at the legendary and recently renovated Roundhouse venue on 9 November 2006, it saw the band take a tour through their back catalogue, playing forgotten gems and well-loved tracks to an enthusiastic and dedicated audience in atmospheric surroundings. As someone who was lucky enough to attend this concert, I can vouch for the fact that it was one of the finest performances Iíd seen from the band, the combination of superb sound, well-thought out visuals and a band on top-form playing a varied repertoire to a vocally appreciated crowd made for a great nightís entertainment. Therefore itsí no surprise to me that the resulting album is one of the best sounding live albums Iíve come across in recent years.

The nine tracks included here span seven of Opethís eight studio recordings (2003ís Deliverance being the one that is unrepresented), with Ghost Of Perdition from Ghost Reveries nestling next to Under The Weeping Moon, from the 1995 debut album Orchid. Itís a tribute to Akerfeldtís consistently excellent songwriting that this latter track doesnít come across as out of place; in fact, what it does do is highlight the fact that both this song and Night And The Silent Water (from 1996ís Morningrise) were marred by anaemic production and an amateurish rhythm section in their original studio incarnations; when performed as full-bloodedly and with such technical skill as they are here, they gain a new lease of life.

As usual with Opeth, itís a balanced set, with the more raging tunes being interspersed with mellower moments, such as the beautiful Face Of Melinda (from 1999ís Still Life) and Damnation track Windowpane (which Akerfeldt amusingly states is Ďthe song that will get us chicks backstageí). Whilst its fairly obvious, given the size and consistency of their output, some fansí favourites will have been overlooked, few fans can have much complaint with such a quality set-list; personally, it would have been nice to see Deliverance represented (probably by the terrific title track), possibly in place of the overplayed Demon Of The Fall Ė but then you canít have everything, and the band would probably argue that theyíve been closing concerts for so long with DemonÖ that to leave it out would almost seem unnatural, and give an incomplete impression of the live Opeth experience.

Performance-wise, this is extemporary, as you might expect from such as tight and technically excellent unit. The songs certainly donít sound tampered with (the sound, as I say, was superb on the night, so why would they be?) Ė indeed, pretty much the whole concert seems to have made it onto the album, Akerfeldtís typically laid back and self-depreciating patter between songs included (he says of Under The Weeping Moon, Ďthis song has some lyrics which are absolute black metal nonsense!í Ė no po-faced grandiose statements here). The vocal crowd are high in the mix, but add to rather than detract from the experience, especially when they are singing along to the songs (Ghost Of Perdition in particular) Ė no mean feat, given that this is hardly catchy top forty material. Per Wibergís keyboards add extra texture to songs on which they werenít originally included, without being overbearing. Opeth are hardly a band for improvisation, with the songs deviating little in structure from their original incarnations; the exception is Blackwater Park, which on paper appears about six minutes longer than its studio incarnation Ė this is mainly due to Akerfeldt (successfully) getting the crowd to sing Ė and hold- the opening note! Ė and a jazzy coda over which Akerfeldt introduces the band.

Overall, this is an exemplary live album from, in my opinion, one of the most exciting bands to have emerged over the last decade or so. Confirmed fans will surely want this to complete their collection, whilst for newer acolytes it provides a perfect taster of the bandís back catalogue. With the DVD delayed until September 2008, why wait until then Ė this is one live album that is definitely worth owning in both formats.

Chris Jackson's Review

A few years ago, back in my high school days, some friends and I would occasionally get together to play guitar. Much to the dismay of the others who also occupied these homes but, fortunately for them they will probably never have to hear the words Dream Theater and Erotomania mentioned in the same sentence again. During one of these pseudo shred fests I was handed a copy of Ghost Reveries by a friend and fellow guitarist who really enjoyed Opeth. I had been hearing things about them since discovering Porcupine Tree sometime earlier because of Steven Wilsonís involvement on some of their records. One misconception that always stuck with me was that they were solely a death metal band. In a sense this is true, however as I began to become desensitized to the growling vocals a whole new perspective began to open up. There were so many different yet highly compatible aspects of Ghost Reveries that left me stunned and wondering how it was possible to combine them to form a coherent record. Ghost Reveries is not only one of my favourite records, it opened up a new door to a plethora of many other artist that I would have otherwise shrugged off because of their association with death metal. Finally, after over two years of waiting the new live album The Roundhouse Tapes was released.

The Roundhouse Tapes features one song each from Orchid, Morningrise, My Arms, Your Hearse, Still Life, Damnation, Ghost Reveries two from Blackwater Park and none from Deliverance. Considering that Opeth has now released eight albums it comes as a bit of a shock that more songs were not included on this release. Due to contractual agreements they were not allowed, at the time, to release any material from their first four albums on the Lamentations DVD. It would have been nice to see more however, this is just a minor issue. Most songs are over ten minutes so in actuality they are about one sixth of the album.

All of the players were really captured at their peak on this album. Instrumentally and vocally this is a flawless performance. There were some doubts among fans as to whether or not Martin Axenrot could competently handle drums after Martin Lopez left. Most doubts should be dispelled after hearing him now. Axe, as he is nicknamed, has really grown into these songs and made a convincing performance. Mikael Ňkerfeldt masterfully switches between grunts and clean vocals all while juggling highly complex guitar arrangements with Peter Lindgren. Per Wiberg, who many of you may remember as a keyboardist on Anekdotenís first album Vemod, was a very wise choice to add. The sombre and ominous chords in the background really create a whole new dimension to the music.

The sound quality is also excellent. All instruments are perfectly balanced without one taking over in presence. The only exception is Martin Mendez seems to be under mixed throughout the entire performance. It becomes quite annoying to have to strain my ears and really concentrate to hear any signs of bass.

With all minor qualms aside, this is a live album worth purchasing. 2004ís Lamentations DVD was somewhat of a let down as it covered only Damnation, Deliverance and Blackwater Park. The Roundhouse Tapes cover a lot of ground as opposed to the previous live outing. It is interesting to hear Opethís development from a very straight ahead death metal band to one of the most brilliant and unique bands of the last decade. If you are a fan of progressive music and have never listened to Opeth, than this is the perfect place to get acquainted. Highly recommended.

Conclusions:

TOM DE VAL : 9 out of 10
CHRIS JACKSON : 9 out of 10



Vision Divine - The 25th Hour
Vision Divine - The 25th Hour
Country of Origin:Italy
Format:CD
Record Label:Scarlet Records
Catalogue #:SR3039
Year of Release:2007
Time:45:19
Info:Vision Design
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: My Angel Died (0:52), The 25th Hour (5:34), Out Of A Distant Night (Voices) (5:28), Alpha & Omega (5:49), Eyes Of A Child (4:58), The Daemon You Hide (4:49), Waiting For The Dawn (1:47), Essence Of Time (4:43), A Perfect Suicide (5:21), Heaven Calling (3:38), Ascension (2:15)

Vision Divine's fifth CD follows from exactly where the bandís last album left off. For that reason, there is very little I can say about the songs, other than to refer you to my review of The Perfect Machine.

Maybe this time around the song writing and melodies are not quite so sharp. Or maybe after two albums, (Stream of Consciousness was also in a similar vain), of ultra-melodic, ultra-heavy ProgPower metal, the attraction is beginning to wane. Iím not sure, but this hasnít been getting as much time on my player, as itís two predecessors. Having said all that, any set of songs with Michele Luppi singing on it, will always be worth a listen. There really is no-one else around who can nail this sort of music like he can. As on the previous two albums, the riffing of Olaf Thorsen is world class, as is the extended interplay between him and keyboardist Alessio Lucatti.

If it adds anything to your interest, The 25th Hour is apparently a concept album that follows up the story in Stream of Consciousness. It takes place 40 years afterwards and is basically an oddball exploration of the meaning of life. Oddly enough, it ends with the main character killing himself to escape the circle of life, breaking into the 25th hour, and ascending to heaven. I donít really listen to Vision Divine for the lyrics, so didnít really notice a concept until someone told me. I canít say itís the sort of story that will do much for me anyway Ė but each to their own.

So overall, this is still one the best ProgPower releases of 2007 from still one of the best bands in the business. If you enjoyed their last two albums, then depending on how much of the same thing you can still enjoy, this is a blind purchase. If youíve not yet tried Vision Divine, then this is as good a place to start as any.

This year sees the band celebrate its 10th anniversary. However unless they update their approach, I think Iíll probably give the next album a miss. You can have too much of a good thing!

Conclusion: 8 out of 10

ANDY READ



Fates Warning - No Exit (25th Anniversary Edition)
Fates Warning - No Exit (25th Anniversary Edition)
Country of Origin:USA
Format:CD/DVD
Record Label:Metal Blade
Catalogue #:3984-14636-2
Year of Release:2007
Time:CD 40:08
DVD 68:00
Info:Fates Warning
Samples:Click here

Tracklist:

CD: No Exit (0:41), Anarchy Divine (3:46), Silent Criesn (3:17), In A Word (4:25), Shades Of Heavenly Death (5:56), The Ivory Gate of Dreams (21:50) ~ [a] Innocence (1:12), [b] Cold Daze (2:15), [c] Daylight Dreamers (3:06), [d] Quietus (4:23), [e] Ivory Tower (3:17), [f] Whispers On The Wind (2:24), [g] Aquiescence (4:23), [h] Retrospect (1:00) Bonus: Quietus Demo, Ivory Gate.. Outtake 1 & 2

DVD - Bonus Material: Live/Behind the scenes footage from "No Exit" Tour; Silent Cries Video, Anarchy Divine Video

Few fans will regard this as the bandís best release. It was very much the transitional album between original singer Jon Arch and the still-present Ray Alder. As such, No Exit mixed the more mainstream metal of the bandís early years, with the more progressive metal that was to follow.

The earlier style is ably presented in the form of openers Anarchy Divine and Silent Cries, both of which were chosen as singles to promote this album, and clock-in comfortably under the four-minute mark. The 20-plus minutes and seven parts of The Ivory Gates Of Dreams shows where the band was heading. It includes the intense Quietus, which still warrants a place in the bandís live set and has always been my favourite Ďsongí from the bandís early period.

No Exit is generally regarded as the heaviest Fates Warning album. It is certainly the one in which the keen-to-impress Alder uses his higher range the most. Basically, for those who enjoy Awaken The Guardian, this is a natural progression and an essential purchase. If you are coming in the other direction, its frequent use of blunt heaviness maybe too much to stomach.

Nineteen years after it first hit the streets and as part of the celebrations to mark the 25th birthday of the bandís label, No Exit has been re-released in a special box-sleeve set, with loads of bonus material on a second DVD.

The Silent Cries and Anarchy Divine videos look very, very dated, but as a result are very funny! Thereís a demo version of Quietus, two out takes from Ivory Gates... and some poorly shot live material from 1998, including a version of Valley Of The Dolls. The main part of the DVD is a ďNo Exit DocumentaryĒ, which mixes live footage with video clips of the band on the road.

The live material is of the single, hand-held camera variety (i.e. pretty crap) but does offer a good taste of a Fates live show from that period. The road clips are humorous, but of the Ďwatch once onlyí quality. I canít help but thinking that this is a wasted opportunity, as itís all rather haphazardly thrown together. There is no effort to edit the material to tell a real story of life on the road, which Iím sure would have been an interesting one.

If you havenít got it already, then the full album with a bonus DVD is as good an excuse as youíll ever get. If you are a dedicated fan of the band, then the bonus material will make it worthy of consideration Ė just.

Conclusion: 7 out of 10

ANDY READ



At War With Self - Acts Of God
At War With Self - Acts Of God
Country of Origin:USA
Format:CD
Record Label:Sluggo's Goon
Music
Catalogue #:-
Year of Release:2007
Time:56:05
Info:At War
With Self
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Acts Of God (3:37), 911 (5:01), Threads (6:01), Ursa Minor (6:48), End In Blue (7:23), Martyr (6:35), No Place (7:43), Choke Loud (4:19), Refugee (8:33)

This is the second CD to be released under the name At War With Self, the first being the 2005 instrumental album Torn Between Dimensions. In terms of personnel the only link to the previous release is the main guy behind the project, Glenn Snelwar. Glenn achieved some fame by working with Sean Malone and appearing on the debut Gordian Knot CD in 1995, and had the services of prog stalwarts Michael Manring and Mark Zonder on the previous release. This time, on top of collaborating closely with long-time friend and bassist Damon Trotta he has also assembled some other musicians to form a band, albeit studio based, at least for the present time. Another big change is that this disc has five tracks with vocals, the duties being shared by Damon and Mark Sunshine.

The title track, Acts Of God, kicks-off with a bright and breezy 12-string duet which gently introduces some disharmonic weirdness as it goes along before industrial slow thudding with ominous ambient sounds lead into the album proper. Guitars start to wail (that'll be the E-Bow listed on the cover) and to be honest it's all rather creepy. 911 builds up quickly with multiple layers - a slow King Crimson-esque riff, fast metronomic nylon-string acoustic, ambient synths, more spooky noises then some pacey precise drums take up the rhythm with crunchy chords. This is a very good track indeed - a little difficult to place it in the prog schema. There's a lot of Bob Fripp influence in the guitar but it also reminds me in some ways of Pain Of Salvation, in some ways that is but not the production style which is rather harsh. There's a definite industrial vibe here and some excellent guitar work, the solo lines also reminding of Steve Wilson's less melodic stylings. The bass guitar has a deep woody tone much much like the sound used by Les Claypool of Primus although I hasten to add the style is not the same. So far so good.

Threads is the first vocal track and the feel of the music has changed a little, now it sounds a lot like The Mars Volta slowed-down, a bit funky, a bit metal, a bit prog and a bit weird too. The singer's voice takes some getting used to as it's quite distinctive - imagine the love-child of Layne Staley and Kevin Moore and you're there or there about - sort of drawling and depressing. Ursa Minor slows the pace right down, the main focus is on the vocals here with mostly ambient instrumental support (it's those E-Bows again) with the drums jumping in from time to time. The beginning of End In Blue sounds uncannily like The Flaming Lips from the Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots era, all Moog-ish synth bass and tinny drum-machine patterns - this persists throughout much of the track but mostly gets submerged in the guitars, voice and synths. Actually I think the singing here isn't bad, ah yes, this is Damon on vocals rather than Mark Sunshine, works a lot better for me.

Matyr opens with some fake mellotron chords so beloved of our genre - it's all rather foreboding but there's nothing to fear, this is one of the best tracks on the album. After the intro keyboard section the pace hots up, heavy guitar crunching away with very effective acoustic picking over the top. The keyboards keep a present throughout and add some apocalyptic King Crimson tones mid-track. Toward the end there's a cacophonic section that's not unlike some of the avant-garde work of Roger Trigeaux (Univers Zero, Present), it's all very much "in your face" but it's good. No Place once again brings back the Mars Volta thoughts and now the singer sounds like Wayne Coyne from the aforementioned Flaming Lips. The track is a mix of avant-garde, grunge, funk and a little jazz - not the best cut on the album by any means, it feels a bit too ad-hoc. Choke Land starts badly (blippy synth bass and random-ish noises) but really as it progresses into what sounds more like a King Crimson jam from the Beat recording sessions - think industrial Fripp meets Primus.

And so we come to the closing track, Refugee. Like the opening of the album this starts quite brightly, almost sounds commercial with some beautiful steel acoustic bottleneck guitar and a decent melody on the voice. The drum patterns and crunchy electric guitar slowly deteriorate as we go along - it's actually rather clever the way this is done but it should stop around the 4 minute mark, at least before the vocals get in on the act singing an off-kilter version of When The Saints Come Marching In, really I find this un-listenable.

There's a lot to savour on this CD but you have to live with some less great moments. I do think that cutting some of the weaker material (like the final four minutes of Refugee and shortening End In Blue) would have produced a much stronger album. 911, Matyr and Choke Land are all really excellent pieces - the music is heavy and complex without ever going into shredding and will appeal to many prog-metalheads out there. Really a tricky one to either recommend or not, check the samples and judge for yourselves.

Conclusion: 7 out of 10

DAVE BAIRD



Dimension - Ego
Dimension - Ego
Country of Origin:Mexico/USA
Format:CD
Record Label:Nightmare Records
Catalogue #:NMR-332
Year of Release:2007
Time:67:56
Info:Dimension
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Tree of Conscience (5:25), Ancient Song (5:39), Freedom Land (6:45), Broken Heart (5:25), Life (5:32), Dreams (5:14), The Next in Line (9:23), EGO (3 parts) I Am, Myself, The New Reason (19:55), Egoman (6:02)

A progressive metal band from Mexico is rare beast indeed. After listening to this album for the past few weeks, I can say that Dimension is a rather fine beast as well. Founded in 1999 by David Quicho (guitar and vocals) and Mane Cabrales (percussion) in Mexico. The band eventually relocated to Denver, Colorado and since has toured around parts of the USA, Europe, and Mexico. Their first album Universal was independently released in 2002. Distributed by Nightmare Records, it obviously did a fair bit of business, as the band has now been fully signed to the label for this, its second album.

Overall Ego does give me a rather dated feel. There are some striking similarities to the ProgMetal bands of the early to mid 90s, where every song had an extended instrumental workout involving the guitars and keyboards and lots of odd time changes, with melodies that didnít always sink in as easily as they should! But thatís not a bad thing when itís as well done as this. There are some sections, which are really metallic, yet others that could be lifted off albums from the Prog greats of the 60s and 70s. Dimension really has tried to capture a great variety of moods and styles on Ego, which reveal themselves slowly, with repeated plays.

Not everything grabs me. The first two songs are very enjoyable with the sort of melodies that slowly sink into oneís memory. The most accessible track is Broken Heart, where the modern metal groove and mesmerising keyboard riff deliver the strong melody to great effect. The three-part title track, which weighs in at just under 20 minutes is certainly ambitious. In parts it is mesmerising, in others, a little hard going.

One of the most impressive elements is where Quicho breaks off from the more metallic stylings and delivers some beautifully flowing and emotionally bluesy solos. His playing here is superb, as is his deft acoustic picking on the closing Egoman. A gorgeous way to end the album, especially as itís paired-up against lush strings from a guest quartet.  Vocally, he has a very whispful and soft delivery, which still manages to be distinctive and powerful. Some may not go for the slight nasal tone, but I think he suits the music well. I really like the artwork and the bandís website is imaginatively laid out.

Ego is a record which Iíve enjoyed more than I thought I would, after the first listen. For those who like their ProgMetal albums to hold equal amounts of Prog and Metal, with plenty of instrumental input, then this is well worth seeking out.

Conclusion: 7.5 out of 10

ANDY READ



Amorphis - Silent Waters
Amorphis - Silent Waters
Country of Origin:Finland
Format:CD
Record Label:Nuclear Blast
Catalogue #:NB 1881-2
Year of Release:2007
Time:46:54
Info:Amorphis
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Weaving The Incantation (4:57), A Servant (3:55), Silent Waters (4:50), Towards And Against (4:59), I Of Crimson Blood (5:05), Her Alone (6:01), Enigma (3:34), Shaman (4:55), The White Swan (4:49), Black River (3:45)

For many years, Finlandís Amorphis seemed destined to be primarily known for their 1994 breakthrough second album, Tales From The Thousand Lakes. Based (as many of the bandís lyrics are) on Finlandís national epic, the Kalevala, this album saw the bland blend black and death metal elements with the then-uncommon use of Scandinavian folk and Celtic music, not to mention a smattering of progressive touches, to create an epic, if a touch raw, concept album which has been feted in extreme metal circles ever since.

Rather than be the catalyst for further success, the album perhaps turned out to be a bit of a millstone around the then-young bandís necks, and subsequent efforts saw the band travelling further and further from this type of sound. The follow-up, Elegy, saw the band experimenting with Eastern sounds, whilst 2000ís slickly produced, psychedelia-tinged Am Universum can hardly be called metal at all, and at various times even recalls the likes of mid 70ís King Crimson and U2 (yes, really). Unfortunately the band stalled with its follow-up, 2003ís Far From The Sun, which had only a limited release in Europe and was neither a critical or commercial success.

The bandís rebirth in 2006 was therefore somewhat unexpected; however, armed with a powerful new singer in Tomi Joutsen and a contract with one of Europeís most respected metal labels in Nuclear Blast, the resulting album Eclipse was something of a triumph for the band, the blending of some of the winning elements from Tales (the folk instrumentation, a (fairly limited) return of the growled vocals) with some strident, gothic-tinged anthems designed seemingly tailor-made to be belted out on the European Metal festival circuit resulted in an album that seemed to please the bandís existing fan-base, win back some of the lapsed older fans and appeal to a whole new audience.

It is therefore not surprising, at this stage in the bandís career, and released just over a year after its predecessor, that Silent Waters sees the band abandoning their old ways of changing course album after album, and effectively offers a continuation from Eclipse. The only really noticeable development is that Joutsen uses the growled vocal style more frequently (those who dislike the style should be placated by the fact that its pretty timid by modern standards); otherwise most of these tracks could have basically come from the same sessions.

There are certainly some strong songs here Ė opener Weaving The Incantation has a powerful thrust from the off, and shows Joutsen blending the clean and growled vocal styles effectively; Her Alone shows the bands more melodic and emotional side, and Enigma is a gentle, folk-based lament. The strongest track is the grandiose, anthemic The White Swan which has a highly infectious chorus and will surely become a firm favourite in Amorphisí live set.

Unfortunately, there are also a few occasions where the band seem to be almost on auto-pilot and going through the motions Ė A Servant and Shaman being the most obvious examples Ė and whilst the results are OK, they arenít particularly memorable. It must also be said that, possibly excepting The White Swan, there isnít much to match highlights of Eclipse such as The Smoke, House Of Sleep and Under A Soil And Black Stone.

In conclusion, Amorphis have produced a solid album in Silent Waters which should satiate the appetite of those fans won over by Eclipse, but ultimately its not as strong as that album, and I feel that the band need to rediscover their experimental streak and explore a few different musical avenues on their next release, or run the risk of stagnating.

Conclusion: 7 out of 10

TOM DE VAL



Pathosray - Pathosray
Pathosray - Pathosray
Country of Origin:Italy
Format:CD
Record Label:Sensory
Catalogue #:SR3039
Year of Release:2007
Time:52:40
Info:Pathosray
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Free Of Doubt (1:24), Faded Crystals (8:19), Lines To Follow (6:54), Scent Of Snow (6:49), Sorrow Never Dies (5:29), The Sad Game (9:12), In Salicis Umbra (1:39), Strange Kind Of Energy (5:38), Emerald City (7:16)

This debut album from previously unknown Italian band, Pathosray, is probably the most straightforward album that the specialist American record label Sensory has ever released. Formed in 2000, and having released two demos until now, this has all the hallmarks of a band with a bright future ahead of them.

Itís rather hard to precisely pigeonhole Pathosray. Itís certainly not your usual Italian ProgMetal band Ė far more metallic and aggressive in the guitar department and barely a trace of accent from vocalist Marco Sandron. I can hear elements of Vanden Plas and label mates Pantommind in the riffing. A more aggressive version of Darkwater and a bit of Anubis Gate in the power metal passages, and a host of hair metal bands come to mind in some of the lighter melodies, especially early TNT with the technical aggression. Their ability not to substitute melody for aggression, also warrants a gentle Eldritch comparison.

Among almost every song has at least a smattering of progressive elements, but they always flow as part of the song, not just dropped in for the sake of it. Consisting of nine tracks, two of which clock in at less than two minutes, we begin with Free Of Doubt, the album's keyboard-laden, symphonic intro that segues into the stomping Faded Crystals, probably my favourite track.

A blistering progressive riff festí, it is a song with great depth and power, aided by some fantastic synth leads. It takes a long time to get to the chorus but itís worth the wait. Not for the only time, the way Pathosray balances between heavy riffing in the verses, and the lighter, melodic hard rock choruses, reminds me very much of acclaimed Norwegians Circus Maximus. Lines To Follow does just that, along a similar musical path.

Scent Of Snow is the album's catchiest number, and is where the Vanden Plas and Pantommind references are strongest. Some real bone-crunching riffs here, that have a Communic/Nevermore intensity to them. Another great song.

However it is from here that the quality slips a little and why my recommendation to get this album isnít going to be quite so wholehearted.

The balladic Sorrow Never Dies has all the piano and soaring vocals that such a song requires Ė it just lacks the hook to really pull me in. With a cleaner tone to the production, the smooth delivery and phrasing from Sandron, means that this really could be from the Circus Maximus debut Ė especially the abundant, layered harmonies. Sandron certainly has the power, melody and range to be up there with the best. His impressive range of tones, never fails to match the varying styles of music on this album.

Following the one-minute piano ballad In Salicis Umbra, the band forays into the most straightforward number Strange Kind Of Energy, which is little more than a standard slice of power metal. I really hate those chugga chugga riffs on the chorus, and the parpy synths which follow!

The album's centrepiece is The Sad Game, which clocks in just shy of the ten-minute mark. With Alessandro Seravalle from fellow Italians Garden Wall on backing growls, this is the albumís darkest and heaviest offering. Thrashy guitar work, double bass drums and unorthodox chord progressions set things off, with Seravalle's demonic vocals offering fresh contrast with Sandron's clean-sung lines. This just doesnít work for me. Iím no great fan of growls, but I think itís just that the melodic lines and riffs are too disjointed.

Apart from another great vocal from Sandron, the closing song, Emerald City fails to register with me at all. Tommy Hansen's mix is great, but the recording done in Italy is definitely rawer compared to bands like Circus Maximus.

This is a solid debut album from Pathosray. All the ingredients are there, and if they can just sharpen their song-writing skills, the follow-up should be one to watch out for.

Conclusion: 8 out of 10

ANDY READ



Vanishing Point - The Fourth Season
Vanishing Point - The Fourth Season
Country of Origin:Australia
Format:CD
Record Label:Dockyard 1
Catalogue #:DY100382
Year of Release:2007
Time:49:12
Info:Vanishing Point
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Embodiment (4:06), Tyranny Of Distance (5:24), Surrender (4:09), Hope Among The Heartless (5:12), Gaia (1:37), I Within I (4:02), Behind The Open Door (4:44), Ashen Sky (4:59), One Foot In Both Worlds (5:31), Wake Me (4:31), A Day Of Difference (4:52)

These Aussie progressive power metallers have been around for more than a decade. I did check out their last release, Embrace The Silence but can only remember giving it a few spins before passing it on. Therefore, if it wasnít for the firm recommendation by a reader of this site that we should review the bandís latest album, then Iíd certainly have missed out on one of the best albums of its kind released in 2007.

If Spheric Universe Experience is a bit extravagant for you, yet you cringe at the inability of power metal bands to produce anything remotely new or interesting, then The Fourth Season may be an album to fill the middle ground. Along similar lines to the likes of Anubis Gate, Pryamaze and the excellent newcomers Darkwater, this album will provide you with top quality, mid-paced melodic power metal with frequent bursts of progressive twists and turns.

It does take a few listens to peer through the catchy melodies, but this is a surprisingly deep, and mature album. Clocking in at fifty minutes, there is very little fat left on the bones of the eleven tracks. Overall, the closest comparisons I can provide is that of US melodic metallers Magnitude 9 (especially their most recent release), and Lance King-era Balance Of Power. The layered harmonies, the guitar-driven power chords, the mid-paced groove, and a clever eye for an addictive melody, are just what characterises tracks like the superb opener Embodiment.

Thereís a certain Evergrey-lite feel to the riff and groove of Surrender, and again on one of my favourite songs Behind The Open Door. The symphonics and atmosphere that characterise Gaia, suggest a hint of Symphony X. The foot-stomping, head-swaying melodic metal of Ashen Sky is currently my favourite four minutes of music on this disc.

The whole album benefits from a tremendous performance by vocalist Silvio Massaro, and I love the constant addition of little musical details by the rest of the band.

The calm, introspective melody and a spoken word passage by Peter O'Toole from the movie "Man of La Mancha", makes A Day Of Difference, a supremely effective way to close a very impressive album.

There is nothing stunningly original about the eleven songs that make up The Fourth Season. Neither does it quite possess the killer hooks and riffs, and the progressive weight that will take the Darkwater album close to my Top 5 for the year. But this remains one of the finest melodic ProgPower metal albums of 2007.

Conclusion: 8 out of 10

ANDY READ



Vanishing Point - In Thought
Vanishing Point - In Thought
Country of Origin:Australia
Format:CD
Record Label:Dockyard 1
Catalogue #:DY100210
Year of Release:2006
Time:50:00
Info:Vanishing Point
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: The Only One (4:07), Vanishing Point (5:54), Wind (instrumental) (0:46), In Company of Darkness (6:57), Dream Maker (5:10), Sunlit Windows (4:46), Blind (4:15), Forgotten Self (5:46), A Memory (8:10), Inner Peace (3:25)

It may well be considered to a "classic" in the ProgMetal scene, and it may equally have been very hard to get hold of for years. But the Ďlong-awaitedí re-release of Vanishing Point's first album, In Thought, is one Ďclassicí that my collection can easily live without.

It does come complete with bonus video clips, and the studio sessions have been re-mixed and re-mastered, but the production still sounds awfully dry and muddy and the songs are, without exception, the best examples of mediocre and derivative Euro power metal, that you will ever hear.

Okay, it was the bandís first album and their ensuing rise in popularity will ensure there is enough interest to warrant this re-issue. But having heard the huge steps forward they have taken in the past ten years, this really is like one of those goofy childhood photos taken when your front teeth had fallen out on a bad hair day, that your mum keeps on the living room wall.

Having an instrumental called Wind, just about sums it up perfectly!!

The bandís new album (reviewed above) is so far ahead of everything contained on this disc, that I can find absolutely nothing here to warrant anyone buying it, unless you want a very expensive beer mat.

Conclusion: 2 out of 10

ANDY READ



Voyager - Univers
Voyager - Univers
Country of Origin:Australia
Format:CD
Record Label:Dockyard 1
Catalogue #:DY100572
Year of Release:2007
Time:46:32
Info:Voyager
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Higher Existence (4:30), Deep Weeds (3:55), Everwaiting (4:08), Between The Sheets (1:18), Sober (5:10), Cross the Line (5:08), Pulse 04 (4:59), Falling (4:54), What I Need (3:44), One More Time (3:34), White Shadow (5:05) Bonus Track Sober [Video]

This is a review that Iíve not found easy to write. Not because I donít know what I want to say, or because I donít wish to be harshly critical/complimentary. Itís just that I am finding it rather hard to find anything particularly progressive about this disc. This being a website for progressive music, how then do I angle my review to get across the impression, that whilst a good album in its own right, the second album from the Perthís Voyager is a big disappointment from a progressive point of view?

Following in the footsteps of Vanishing Point and Eyefear, quintet Voyager is another Aussie metal band to be signed to the increasingly impressive European label Dockyard 1.

A couple of years ago, both Gerald and I gave the bandís debut, V a big thumbs up, primarily for the way they managed to bring so many different influences together for a veritable progressive metal smorgasbord. Everything from Saga, Dream Theater and Cradle Of Filth, to Bal-sagoth, Rhapsody and Vangelis could be found on ĎVí.

On the back of Sober, the limited edition single released by the DVS label in 2006, this is a far more direct, stripped-down and (I hate to say it) commercial record. Univers is possibly the most melodic, pop-infused Metal album you will ever hear.

There is the odd curve-ball thrown in to keep the listener on their toes. But the overall laid-back accessibility of the album actually makes these diversions seem wholly out of place. For example, Pulse 04 is a mild-mannered, melodic, pop-rock track with a Ďwho who whahí chorus which wouldnít be out of place in the Eurovision Song Contest. Falling, which follows, is built upon a stroked piano, Take That-type lilting melody. In between, at the end of Pulse 04, is a swift burst of Crimson Glory-esque high-pitched metal wailing. There is absolutely no connection with what goes before or after. It is as if you are listening to your favourite music, and your motherís, on an iPod set to Ďshuffleí. Itís certainly different and distinctive, but IMHO itís nowhere near as progressive or metallic as V.

Daniel Estrin does flirt with growled vocals on a couple of tracks, but elsewhere he sticks to his very clean-sounding tones, to go with his soul-searching lyrics. His voice is somewhat distinctive, and with enough range to give life to the eleven tracks on offer. Fans of doleful, gothic bands will love what he does.

There are plenty of riffing guitars for the metal lovers, but equally audible, are the lush layers of electronica, which give a very mellow Ė and again poppy Ė feel to this album.

Having said all that, the melodies are great, and when they crank it up a bit, there is no doubting that Voyager is band with huge potential. The previously mentioned Sober is the standout track, but the opening Higher Existence and the well-structured variety of White Shadow come close. Sadly, at least four of the tracks, especially the dull-as-a-rainy-day-in-Stoke-on-Trent ballad, One More Time, fall too-easily into the Ďfillerí category.

So as I said at the beginning, itís hard to know what particular listeners will make of this. For those who enjoyed the progressive metal maelstrom of the debut, then approach with care. Anyone who enjoys original and highly melodic metal-lite, should check this out straight away. Those who want their music with at least a hint of adventure and proginess, should probably steer well clear.

For me, compared to the expectation I had after enjoying Voyagerís debut album, this is just too lightweight and one-dimensional. Disappointing, but I await the bandís appearance at the ProgPower UK festival in March with interest.

Conclusion: 6 out of 10

ANDY READ



Kategory V - Hymns Of Dissension
Kategory V - Hymns Of Dissension
Country of Origin:USA
Format:CD
Record Label:Nightmare
Burning Star Records
Catalogue #:NMR 342
Year of Release:2007
Time:59:33
Info:Kategory V
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Listen To You, Listen To Me (5:04), Workforce (5:53), Do Feelings Remain (5:11), Lies And Illusions (6:01), Apologetic Heart (5:06), Kings Of The Valley (6:09), Forlorn Child (3:28), Can You Hear Them (5:46), No Matter What (6:34), Anthem Of The Underground [bonus track] (6:36), Evil Princess (2007 Version) [bonus track] (3:55)

Fourth album from this US ProgPower metal band, but the first to get a full European release thanks to the up-and-coming Greek label, Burning Star.

This Salt Lake City band has only been available on import until now. That fact becomes rather mystifying when you get your ears around its combination of straight-ahead, power metal with generous garnishings of old-school thrash and progressive metal. Whilst having a distinct American sound (think Agent Steel, Helstar, Jag Panzer), the nine tracks will have wide appeal to any Euro metal fans who like strong melodies, with an added depth to the arrangements. There is plenty to get your teeth into here.

On the down side, being clearly inspired by metal from the 80s and 90s, the songs can sound a little dated. The twin guitar work is largely riff-based. So if you enjoy the odd extended guitar solo, then this may not be for you. The absence of keys, adds to the direct approach of the band.

Singer Lynn Allers may not be everyoneís taste, tending towards the upper register, and not always pulling the melodies with total aplomb. I find some of his note selection a little against the natural flow of the melody. Itís a technique some people like. For me, it rather breaks up the flow of the songs.

This should be worth exploring for fans of US-style ProgPower metal but I can't see it offering too much to fans who tastes stray too far outside of that genre. This site's rating system says that a score of 6 is for 'an enjoyable album - not all brilliant but with good moments'. I think that sums this up perfectly.

In the USA this has been released by Nightmare Records. The Euro release, on the growing Burning Star label, has two interesting bonus tracks. Anthem Of The Underground is an unreleased studio track. Itís followed by an updated, re-recorded version of the rabble-rousing, anthemic Evil Princess from their 2000 debut album.

Conclusion: 6 out of 10

ANDY READ



Fury N Grace - Tales Of The Grotesque And The Arabesque
Fury N Grace - Tales Of The Grotesque And The Arabesque
Country of Origin:Italy
Format:CD
Record Label:Dragonheart
Catalogue #:Chaos 041 cd
Year of Release:2007
Time:67:31
Info:Fury N Grace
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Tales Of The Grotesque And The Arabesque (7:16), Coma (3:03), The Imp Of The Perverse (5:12), Uncanny Midnights Of The Bride (13:20), Burning Cathedrals (10:47), Black Art (8:28), The Buried (16:37), Maldoror (2:42)

If nothing else, this band must be contender for some sort of record, having taken 13 years to release its debut album! Fury N Grace was formed in 1994, when aged just 15 years of age, Matteo Carnio and Alessandro Del Vicchio started to experiment with a combination of early 90s death/grind (Slayer, Entombed), and the high experimental music of John Zorn and Naked City, mixed with some classic rock in the form of Rainbow and Queen! Two demos were produced in 95 and 96, followed by two albums in the shape of Mephistos Waltz (1998) and Inferno (2003). For various reasons, neither were ever released.

As a result, the pair, along with bassist Christian Grillo, started a new project. Some of you may have heard of Edge Of Forever, a melodic rock act that garnered two albums worth of material on the MTM label in 2004/5, with a third in production.

Del Vicchio has since laid his hat in the Edge Of Forever camp, leaving guitarist Carnio and Grillo along with vocalist Gabrielli Grilli and drummer Emiliano Bertossi to spend a year writing new songs. Thirteen years after they first began, the debut Fury N Grace album has finally arrived.

History lesson over, although it may take me almost as long to really get to grips with this album. As the title suggests, Tales Of The Grotesque And The Arabesque is not the easiest set of songs to familiarise oneself with.

This is definitely a metal album, with guitars very much in yer face and keyboards totally and utterly absent. The arrangements and influences are complex including frequent bursts of death, technical, classic heavy and neo-classical metal with jazz, progressive and classic rock influences popping their heads above the parapet when space allows. 'Experimental' is a word that could have been invented for this album.

Grilli, has a solid, powerful set of pipes. Not sensational. He does display a great variety between the upper and lower registers, but the vibrato is too forced, and the melodic lines donít quite click as easily as they could.

Thereís certainly something of interest here, and with the benefit of a few more plays, over a few more weeks, I believe the joys of this album will begin to sink in. Definitely not for the faint-hearted, but for those with a taste for the more complex fringes of the ProgMetal spectrum, then a visit to the bandís MySpace page is a good starting point.

Conclusion: 7 out of 10

ANDY READ




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