REVIEWS IN THIS ISSUE:
Arcane - Chronicles Of A Waking Dream
|Country of Origin:||Australia|
|Record Label:||Big Cartel|
|Year of Release:||2010|
Tracklist: Glimpse (3:36), The Seer (5:30), The Malice (7:21), The First Silent Year (1:19), Secret (7:18), Fading (11:58), The Second Silent Year (1:48), May 26 (3:17), The Third Silent Year (2:29), Asylum: Acolyte Zero (13:04), Whisper (1:45)
I wasn’t intending to write a review of this album, however as Arcane have given birth to such a gem of a recording, I am resigned to doing my best to spread the word.
Hailing from Brisbane in Australia this quintet has been around for a decade or so. They’ve been dubbed progressive metal. Their approach is aggressive, but their actual sound is not quite that simple. A musical chameleon if you require a summary in two adjectives. If you want real-life comparisons then the closest would be Pain of Salvation as they walked down Remedy Lane. I also recall the long out-of-print classic concept album, 1825, by Danish band Charisma.
Chronicles Of The Waking Dream is a story spun across eleven tracks. A narrator, Acolyte Zero, tells of the very different interpretations that people have of the same event.
Each song is testament to Arcane's ability to blend a gamut of ever-varying musical ideas, instruments, moods and influences. The whole album drips, sweats and cries with atmosphere and emotion. Pure progressiveness for those who like that word. Pure beauty for those who like a more tactile description.
There are mellow bits. There are heavy bits. There is everything in between. Some of the riffs are as good as anything the mighty Redemption have produced. The singer dazzles with his ability to capture varying emotions and groove of the story and music. As for hooks. If listeners were fish, then the lake would be empty. The Malice is my favourite piece of music in the past year. The Seer is not far behind. The album will be in my Top 10 for the past decade.
Now I’d written many more notes in preparation for a track-by-track breakdown as an opportunity to celebrate the uniqueness and appeal of what Arcane has managed to create. However in a way, part of the pleasure I’ve had in discovering this album, is in taking an educated plunge into the unknown and finding a chest of musical treasures.
Thankfully the band has saved me having to solve that dilemma. At the time of writing, the whole album is streaming freely from the ReverbNation link above. There’s also a great little video for The Seer. How easy can they make it?
I ordered direct from the band’s website for 20 Australian dollars (approx 13 pounds or 15 Euros). You can add the band’s debut album, Ashes for another 5 dollars which provides a good insight into how their music has developed. Both arrived in 10 days and have been a constant companion ever since.
Chronicles Of The Waking Dream is an inventive, absorbing, classy and memorable album. I honestly feel that Arcane has created a record which in years to come will be talked of in revered tones. A classic in the making. Buy! Buy! Buy!
Conclusion: 9.5 out of 10
Darkwater - Where Stories End
Tracklist: Breathe (4:37), Why I Bleed (8:16), Into The Cold (6:30), A Fool’s Utopia (5:43), Queen Of The Night (6:11), In The Blink Of An Eye (6:09), Fields Of Sorrow (6:38), Without A Sound (6:50), Walls Of Deception (6:51)
Formed during the later months of 2003 in the western parts of Sweden, Darkwater took a while to get going. Initially the band only played a few selected shows while developing the material for their debut album. This arrived in May 2007.
Calling The Earth To Witness won instant critical acclaim across the world as a perfect blend of melodic and progressive metal. Taking inspiration from bands like Symphony X, Dream Theater and Evergrey, Darkwater’s acclaim as ‘promising newcomers’ was assisted by the quality of its musicianship and especially the strong vocals of frontman Henrik Båth. The 8.5 rating given in the DPRP review by my colleague Tom de Val was spot-on.
A handful of appearances at prestigious festivals such as ProgPower Europe has seen their career slowly gather pace. With all the great reviews for their debut, Darkwater must have felt under some pressure to produce a great follow-up album.
In April 2010 the band entered the studio to record Where Stories End. Make no mistake; this is a great follow-up.
There’s little doubt that many progressive bands get too wrapped up in their own instrumental abilities. Whilst I loved the blend on their debut, there was criticism from some that Darkwater tended towards over-indulgence. Where Stories End seeks to strike a better balance that should please both parties. There’s still plenty of technical prowess but the undeniably excellent song-writing is more focused.
Each of the nine compositions has a complex lushness, but each is delivered in a more direct way. This is most noticeable in the length of the songs. Ranging between six and nine minutes, there’s plenty of intricacies to explore, yet nothing feels overly drawn out.
Whilst it is an evenly-paced and consistent collection of songs, special mention must go to the opening pairing. Breathe, for which the band has produced a great little video
(click here), and Why I Bleed are flawless examples of how a band in this genre can combine power, emotion, melody and complexity that leaves a listener coming back again and again.
Queen Of The Night and Without A Sound blend elements of Redemption, Andromeda and Vanden Plas to sublime effect. Elsewhere, Into The Cold and Walls Of Deception are merely solid.
Alongside the excellent recent offering from fellow countrymen Seventh Wonder, this album places Darkwater at the forefront of the new wave of melodic progressive metal bands. When Stories End is a masterpiece of melodic progressive metal. It will easily be among my Top 5 albums of 2010.
Conclusion: 9 out of 10
Enslaved – Axioma Ethica Odini
|Country of Origin:||Norway|
|Record Label:||Indie Recordings|
|Year of Release:||2010|
Tracklist: Ethica Odini (7:59), Raidho (6:01), Waruun (6:42), The Beacon (5:38), Axioma (2:20), Giants (6:37), Singular (7:43), Night Sight (7:36), Lightening (7:51)
Having pretty much perfected their blend of extreme metal and seventies-influenced progressive rock on previous outing Vertebrae, its little surprise that Enslaved have taken an ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ approach on its successor, the exotically-named Axioma Ethica Odini. Having described the band’s sound in some detail on my Vertebrae review I’m not going to repeat myself here, but will point out a couple of noticeable changes to the band’s music this time around. One is that the overall sound is distinctly rawer, harking back to 2004’s Isa – the guitars in particular have more bite to them. The second is the use of the clean vocals – not only are they better integrated into the songs, but keyboardist Herbrand Larsen gets to use a wider variety of vocal stylings; whereas in the past he’s mainly been a mellow counterpoint to bassist Grutle Kjellson’s ferocious growling, here he takes more of a lead role in places, and injects more passion and power in to his voice.
Both these traits are fully in evidence on the opening Ethica Odini, one of the standout tracks. After an ominous opening, the track gallops off all guns blazing on the back of a memorable, typically battering riff, with Kjellson’s typically harsh, icy vocals in fine form. The countering bridge sees little let-up in pace or power, but sees some rich organ sounds come to the fore whilst Larsen’s voice soars over the backdrop. Whilst these sections form the backbone of the song, there’s plenty of other details, such as the chilled out passage at the song’s mid-point, and a dextrous solo from versatile lead guitarist Ice Dale.
Other highlights include The Beacon, which once again fair barrels out of the gate before crisp, sything riffs intercept the blastbeats; the chorus features some almost Gregorian-style group chanting, and Kjellson even gets some spoken word sections – still growled, of course. Giants majors on strident power chords and a portentous organ-driven opening, and gives Larsen some varied vocal lines, with the interaction of his urgent but clean vocals and Kjellson’s guttural roars later in the song particularly worthy of note. Final song Lightening, meanwhile, sees the band at their most symphonic – perhaps they’ve picked something up from touring with Dimmu Borgir? The wah-wah heavy lead guitar work on this song is particularly enjoyable.
Whilst I mentioned that the band don’t really step out of their comfort zone on this album, there are some interesting variants on their core sound. Waruun revolves around the kind of slow, doomy riff you’d expect to see on a Candlemass record, whilst the folk-influenced acoustic opening of Night Sight is the closest the band have come in sound to the mighty Opeth, usually the band they’re pigeonholed with when trying to categorise their music. The instrumental Axioma, meanwhile, features some very sci-fi-ish keyboard work and a spooky, digitised disembodied voice – despite its short length, it serves as an effective interlude.
Ultimately, I feel the overall quality of the songwriting is perhaps a little lower here than on the band’s previous outing – a song like the mid-paced Singular, for instance, whilst enjoyable, does sound a little run-of-the-mill for a band of Enslaved’s ability, whilst Raidho, despite its impressive show of aggression and power, leaves me a little cold. I shouldn’t overstate the drop in quality, however, and would add that to an extent the wider musical palette on show and the rawer, more powerful sound make up for this.
Overall, Enslaved have delivered another winner in Axioma Ethica Odini. If there was any justice in the world, they would be closely following Opeth on their path to world domination; as it is, one can only hope that this cult band continues to gradually attract those fans who enjoy both the power and aggression of metal and the melodies and boundary pushing nature of progressive rock, as you’ll get both in abundance on this fine release.
Conclusion: 8.5 out of 10
TOM DE VAL
Hookah The Fuzz – Hookah The Fuzz
|Country of Origin:||UK|
|Year of Release:||2010|
|Info:||Hookah The Fuzz|
Tracklist: (D)Illusion (8:45), The Girl Do Voodoo (7:55), Skin And Bones (6:25), Preachers Suck More... [Than A Pro With A Deadline] (8:44), Camp Refoogee (6:30), Munchkin Fever (7:47), Addict (7:50), Hang The Hooker (9:52)
Hookah The Fuzz, like 'em or hate 'em seems to be the consensus and with their debut album they have divided opinions within the progressive metal market. I know I am with the first group. Hookah The Fuzz could be roughly translated as those who have a vibe, although a Hookah is something entirely different as the artwork on the album-cover indicates. Looking at the artwork you might think you will be treated to psychedelic sounds, well quite the opposite is the case I can tell you.
Enough of this chit chat, first of all Hookah the Fuzz are a new and young band so an introduction of who we are dealing with seems appropriate. Roger Ash plays the bass, Ross Hawkins appears to be the guy banging the drums, Harwood Shing plays keys, Si Jefferies does vocals and rhythm guitar and last but not least Alexander Louis plays the lead-guitar.
Little over a month ago Hookah The Fuzz were completely unknown to me. I received their music and was completely blown away after the first listening session. How could I have missed this half a year ago. Is this a debut album I thought to myself. Can’t be, but it is... Taking into consideration the average age of the guys, we surely will hear more of them in the future, I am pretty sure of that. Amazing music that is what this is - odd time signatures, fast changes, strange hooks. Everything is present on this album.
The opening track (D)Illusion - well the title already explains as much - is this illusion or magic. Introduced by a flute-like sound, turning into an awesome Metallica/Megadeth like song, vocally that is, musically speaking we are much closer to Dream Theater or Shadow Gallery. Singer Si Jefferies sounds as a cross between Dave Mustain and James Hetfield - how do you do that? At the end of the track he also sounds as a baritone singer with a awesome dark voice. The type of voice often heard in late 50’s blues, jazz songs.
The Girl Do Voodoo continues with this richness in style, progressive heavy metal so to speak. Starting with a gentle piano introduction and gradually developing into a ballad like song - heavy metal style. Piano soon is accompanied by guitar and drums. The song steadily develops more and more into a power ballad and with a great guitar-solo work by Alex, “Satriani” Louis. Is there really only one person taking care of the vocals, they all seem so different at times.
Skin And Bones is a more standard sounding heavy metal song, no specialties here, although the keyboards do turn it into symphonic heavy metal. Harwood and Alex make a joint effort in both performing a solo just passed the 4 minutes line, after this intermezzo the pounding and beating, pulsating continues.
Throughout the album explicit lyrics are used and cautionary note should be added for younger listeners...
Preachers Suck More...: Great jazzy keyboards introduce this fairly fast paced song. Half way into the song there is a nice break, going way slower and reminding me of Guns 'n' Roses in November Rain, followed by some piano work along with long stretched notes on the guitar. Then back we go back into higher gear. Vocal wise the song goes back to the Megadeth style. The track features grandioso orchestrations with keys and guitar, making it a tad bit more symphonic, but still it stays ultimately heavy progressive metal.
Camp Refoogee features heavy orchestrations in in a neo-heavy progressive style. The singing remains in a hard core framework the choruses, or better multiplied voice, is much more grander. Multiple rhythm changes, make way for instrumental self glorification. And these angular twists make this song less coherent than it could be, especially when it appears to be changing altogether into a more jazzy direction - then instead we go more to militaristic singing with long sounds on guitar and keyboard taking a prominent role - surely Derek Sherinian and Jordan Ruddess must be two of Harwood’s most influential musicians.
Munchkin Fever: Slow bits alternating between faster sections and with heavy hardcore type singing seem to be the trademark of Hookah The Fuzz. In Munchkin Fever, we hear some Indian influence playing, making way for the
"waterpipe" sound? As strange sounding as it seems it still captivates me completely. Like much of the album it may well be the way the songs have been structured, with the choruses, shredding guitar and the ever present melodic guitar solos that make this music so captivating.
Addict: This song starts with easy guitar playing, building up into a ballad - in a style that is similar to how Guns ‘n’ Roses used to build their ballads - climaxing then falling back to the scenario it started with. Just past the three minute mark the song has a nice bridge with a complete different style “ska like”, before further developing the heavier side. Further on is a beautiful tranquil guitar section interspersed with shredding guitar - more and more growing to the real climax at the end of the song. The conclusion is more of an "anticlimax" really with gentle guitar and piano. Great keyboards again.
Hang The Hooker: is heavy progressive rock in a twisting Dream Theater style with keyboards on top of guitars and vice versa - long guitar soloing, long keyboard solos and guitar keyboard interchanges. Another fast paced song with explicit lyrics and the hardcore singing style that is incorporated in every song. It should also be noted that all through the album a steady and consistent backbone has been put down by the great rhythm section Roger and Ross.
Concluding, I would call this one of the biggest surprises in progressive heavy metal of 2010 - and this is a band we most definitely will hear more of. Hookah The Fuzz is a new name to add and with a superb debut album by these five lads from Birmingham in the UK have annouced their arrival. Now surprise me again with the second album, and of course some live shows...
Conclusion: 9 out of 10
Kamelot - Poetry For The Poisoned
|Country of Origin:||USA|
|Record Label:||KMI Ents|
|Year of Release:||2010|
Tracklist: The Great Pandemonium (4:22), If Tomorrow Came (3:55), Dear Editor (1:18), The Zodiac (4:00), Hunter’s Season (5:33), House On A Hill (4:15), Necropolis (4:17), My Train Of Thoughts (4:07), Seal Of Woven Years (5:11), Poetry For The Poisoned - Part I Incubus (2:56), Part II So Long (3:23), Part III All Is Over (1:03), Part IV Dissection (1:57), Once Upon A Time (3:46)
Although their website and online store only recognises this new album as a release, I was an early convert to the Kamelot cause. Along with acclaimed six-stringer Tore Ostby, singer Roy Khan was behind four stunning progressive metal albums with the much-missed Conception. Having joined forces with another guitarist, Thomas Youngblood, to revamp Kamelot in 1997 their partnership reached a crescendo with the band’s forth album. The Fourth Legacy still stands as one of my favourite ProgPower metal discs. The two live dates I saw in support of that album were immense.
Whilst constant gigging, heavy promotion and four more albums have ensured that Kamelot has deservedly grown into one of the premier power metal bands in the world, my interest has waned. The albums Karma, Epica, The Black Halo and Ghost Opera have tended to regenerate melodic lines, Arabian motifs and power riffage to diminishing effect.
The superb One Cold Winters Night DVD is the only purchase with the Kamelot name that I’ve made in the last five years.
So why am I bothering with this current release? Well talk and recommendations from some reliable sources led me to believe that Poetry For The Poisoned signalled a bold change of direction and some killer tunes.
Having lived with this for a few weeks, I can agree – up to a point. This is a very dark album. More gothic: less Arabic. There’s some deathy vocals and electronica here and there. There’s a lovely use of acoustic guitar halfway through. There is a good employment of female singers including the return of Simone Simons of Epica. We’ve got violins, loads of vocal effects and a heavier-than-usual dose of progressive elements. This album is the closest Kamelot has ever got to sounding like Conception. The opening track is fabulous. There are some great hooks and riffs here and there. The packaging is one of the best that I’ve seen all year.
For fans of the Kamelot brand and/or the Roy Khan voice box this will no doubt meet all your needs and perhaps more. It is a superb ProgPower metal album. I enjoyed the first few listens. After that it began to sound a little too familiar .
Current news items and rumours suggest that this could be the last Kamelot album to feature the voice of Roy Khan. To breathe new life into the Kamelot beast it may be that the time is right.
Fabio Lione (Rhapsody Of Fire) will be handling the lead vocals on the forthcoming European tour with appearances by Simone Simons and Tommy Karevik (Seventh Wonder). Personally, with Evergrey in support, I must admit I’m currently more excited by seeing the live show than re-visiting this album.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10
Tides Of Man - Dreamhouse
Tracklist: Not My Love (4:14), Statues (3:46), Home (2:42), Sunshine (3:20), Dreamhouse (3:21), Salamanders And Worms (3:43), Chemical Fires (3:59), Echoes (3:28), A Faint Illusion (4:44), Only Human (4:33)
Tides Of Man is an American progressive rock band formed in Tampa, Florida in 2008. They signed to Rise Records in March 2009, on which label they have released two full length albums, Empire Theory in 2009 and Dreamhouse in 2010.
For anyone waiting for the new Fair To Midland album that is scheduled for Spring 2011, then this is the perfect stop-gap. In addition to that comparison, Tides Of Man are likely to be bracketed with the likes of Karnivool, Coheed and Cambria and Three. This is progressive rock/metal that appeals to the purist and the masses. A crossover band definitely worth paying attention to.
Dreamhouse moves along at a lightning quick pace. Whilst all of the songs are short and sharp, they take many a twist and turn in getting to their point. This is one of those albums where the melodies and hooks enable a casual listen. However there’s far more to be gained by taking the time to fully engage.
At the higher-end register to which he tends to stick, Tilian Pearson’s vocals are a dead-ringer for Fair To Midland’s Darroh Sudderth. However with three guitarists in the line-up there’s a wealth of detail, aggression and bombast within each song and a harder edge to their music. The whole band is clearly technically proficient, yet there’s a rare inventiveness and simple complexity to the grooves and patterns that they weave.
The eccentrically titled Salamanders And Worms is the pick of the crop for its overwhelmingly addictive groove and melody. Almost as good is the strong opening pairing of Not My Love and Statues. Faint Illusion is the most straight-forward composition. Echoes is the only one that fails to endear itself to my ears.
There is a brevity to the songs and the album's playing time. I would have rated this even higher if the band had extended two or three of the tracks by expanding and evolving some of their musical ideas a little more. However short, sharp and to the point seems to be the way this band's tide flows.
If you like what you hear from the samples, then I’d heartily recommended buying both albums at the same time. There is a enough variation between the two and they are both engaging, creative, and ultimately satisfying.
Conclusion: 8.5 out of 10
Absolace - Resolve[d]
Tracklist: Epigraph (1:17), Resolve[d] (7:59), White Lies (7:33), Wade (3:25), Apogee (8:01), Spero Melior (9:55), Breathe (3:37)
Here at DPRP we receive many releases by bands from obscure corners of the planet that few people have ever heard of, let alone actually heard. For me, that has been one of the pleasures of contributing reviews to this site for the past eight years.
Always keen to discover something new, I’ve never been shy of putting my (virtual) hand into the air when such an album is seeking a verdict. A good few duds have been selected this way, but that’s been far outweighed by unpacking the likes of Divided Sky, Acute Mind, Abigail’s Ghost, Karnivool, Lord Of Mushrooms, RC2, Pedestrians Of Blue and Souljouners, to name but eight.
Step forward my first ever progressive band from Dubai.
One of the seven United Arab Emirates, it is a place best known for having the world’s most luxurious hotel, the world's seventh largest shopping mall and summer temperatures which rarely fall below 40 degrees.
Thanks to this impressive debut album, Dubai will soon be known to all lovers of Heavy Prog as the home for Absolace.
The band’s name is a combination of the words “Absolute” and “Solace”. That is rather appropriate as everything else about this album is based on mergers.
The line-up is an amalgamation of different nationalities and varying musical backgrounds. Singer Nadim Jamal, hails from Beirut, with a fondness for the layered harmonies of Alice In Chains. Whilst based in Dubai, song-writer and drummer Greg Cargopoulos appears to have a more Mediterranean heritage. Guitarist Jack Skinner has played with Australian metal band Percuto. Keyboardist Kyle Roberts has a background in electro, techno bands. Hailing from Melbourne, bassist Ben Harris has extensively toured the Middle East club circuits. The recording and production of this album took place in Dubai, Sweden and England.
Resolve[d] blends the musical influences of east and west. The opening title track sets the scene with a perfect amalgam of heavy and light. There is a heavy grunginess to the riffing (think Soundgarden) which intersperses with a more reflective progginess (think Porcupine Tree). White Lies takes a similar line but with some Arabian hand drumming opening a rhythm that is taken up by the guitars. There’s a slightly modern psychedelic vibe here which reminds me of Karnivool. On both tracks the transition between the various sections of music is seamless.
A looping rhythm wraps itself around echoing guitar and synths for the more ambient Wade. A really lovely song.
We’re brought back to life with the album’s best riff announcing the arrival of Apogee. Again the rhythms and essence of the song is led by the man behind the drum kit.
Spero Melior is the longest track and for me the least effective. It again mixes the light and shade but the melodies just don’t stick. We close on a lighter note with Breathe which takes a similar musical path to Wade.
Lyrically the album appears to have some common themes of escapism and a sense of place, expressed through semi-poetic phraseology. The production is sharp and crisp. The cover and design I feel, could have done more to capture the band’s essence.
All members of the band make a great contribution but I must just single out the vocals of Nadim Jamal. A truly exciting new talent. He effortlessly changes his sound to meet the needs of the song with an innate ability to select the right notes and timing. The more ambient tracks in particular showcase a voice with great depth.
With the first ‘song’ being no more than an intro, then just six tracks at under 40 minutes does leave this struggling in the value for money stakes. However for those eager to explore new musical territories and who take pleasure from any of the above bands, this album is well worth seeking out.
Conclusion: 8 out of 10
CloverSeeds - The Opening
Tracklist: Over Camellia (4.02), Fam(L)Ar (4.54), Flowers (6.19), Higher (4.02), Brand New Day (5.29), Calling Me Down (3.51), The Opening (6.01), For Those (5.43), Enough (4.55)
I’ve just been compiling a list of my Top 30 albums for 2010. If I had time to also do a list for the albums with the best production, this would win hands down. Recorded in Germany’s popular Spacelab Studios, under the direction of Everon’s Christian Moschus, and polished to perfection by Grammy Award-winning engineer Bob Katz, The Opening is nothing short of an audiophile’s wet dream.
It’s also a pretty decent second offering from CloverSeeds; a newly discovered French band which seeks to aim for your heart as well as your head.
After a couple of EPs, the band released their debut album, Innocence, on a small French label. Whilst it contained two or three blowout tracks, the rest of the album showed a band still finding its voice. The Opening is a big improvement in all areas and after grabbing the attention of America’s canny Laser's Edge label, it should raise the band’s profile across the globe.
Having spun this disc over several weeks, I find CloverSeeds frustratingly difficult to pigeonhole. I hear elements of Dead Soul Tribe, Riverside, Tool, Anathema, Muse and Radiohead. I’m sure other listeners could add many more influences.
There’s a constant melancholy and darkness to their sound but also a heaviness and drive to their songs. This is not ProgMetal. This is not Prog. It sits in that grey area where so many new bands are fighting for a new voice.
There is a certain sophistication to the arrangements which require a few listens to take on board. I’ve warmed to the singer.
Unusually it’s the opening track that I find the weakest. Whilst a decent enough song, the Alice In Chains vibe of Over Camellia doesn’t really set the scene for what follows at all. The band sets out its stall much better across the next three tracks before reaching the album’s peak. Brand New Day is just a fantastic piece of songwriting. The composition is given time to grow from a simple marching drum beat, building layer upon layer before deconstructing itself for the ending. The interspersed segments of calm and storm that constitute the title track and the raw beauty of Enough are equally rewarding.
This is a band still on a journey, but as a collection of songs, The Opening is a disc that I am just really enjoying listening to.
Conclusion: 8 out of 10
Creation's End - A New Beginning
Tracklist: Of Shadow And Flame (8:58), World Holocaust (6:57), Hollow (7:05), Dissociate (6:52), Still Life (7:39), Forsaken (10:48), Relic (5:32), Creation’s End (11:14)
Remember those pre-internet days when your only hope of hearing something from a new album before you departed with your cash, was on the radio. Restricted to stations within reach of one’s aerial, ProgRock and metal shows were few and far between. Often a purchase decision had to be made on a single song. Often that single song played on the radio was superb. Often, when you finally got the whole album, that single song was the only superb song on it.
A similar thing happened with this debut offering from American ProgPower metallers Creation's End. I heard the song World Holocaust and was desperate to hear more. The rest of the album is good, but that one track is a class above. Thus I was left a little disappointed.
Creation's End is the creation of New York’s Rudy Albert (guitar) and Dario Rodriguez (drums). Having met at school, they’ve been playing and writing music together since 1999. The nature of their material evolved from simple metal tunes in the early years, to the more complex and mature compositions found on A New Beginning.
With a newly renovated studio and producer John Macaluso (James LaBrie, Ark, TNT, Yngwie Malmsteen) on board, they completed a classy lineup by recruiting singer Mike DiMeo, (ex-Masterplan, ex-Riot), Marco Sfogli (James LaBrie), and Joey Bones (Chris Caffery, ex-Zandelle). World-renowned engineer Neil Kernon has mixed the album.
Whilst there are some big names involved, the focus here is more on the songs and less on virtuoso capabilities. DiMeo’s voice is powerful. Sfogli delivers some blisteringly direct solos. The band gets somewhat proggy on the two epic tracks, Forsaken and Creation's End. All eight tracks are heavy and dark with each song centered around a key riff and melody. The second song World Holocaust is brilliant!
Hopefully with US and European tour dates being planned, and a date at ProgPower USA in September 2011 already confirmed, this collection of big names is in it together for the long-run. I feel there is potential here that will take a couple of albums to really hit the mark. Overall this is a solid start that will appeal to those whose tastes veer more towards the Trad Metal than the Prog.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10
To-Mera - Earthbound [EP]
|Country of Origin:||UK|
|Year of Release:||2009|
Tracklist: Mesmerised (4:57), Earthbound (7:28), Arcane Solace (7:00), Another World (8:55)
Its probably fair to say that, since emerging in some fanfare with their debut album Transcendental in 2006, To-Mera have not quite, as at the present time, reached the heights that both they and their fans might once have expected. Boasting an innovative sound which marries progressive metal, symphonic elements, jazz, fusion and hints of a more extreme, technical metal sound, all topped off by front-woman Julie Kiss’ serene, chanteuse-like vocals, Transcendental remains a rewarding listen. Many fans seem to have been put off by the sometimes dizzying complexity of follow-up effort Delusions, but its still a fine (if challenging) album. Following this release, the band had a couple of line-up changes and left their Candlelight Records home. The first fruits of the newly independent band is this lengthy EP, which slipped out somewhat unnoticed in 2009, but is now getting something of a promotional push which the band admit didn’t happen for various reasons on its initial release.
Starting with opener Mesmerised, it’s apparent that the band have adjusted their sound this time around, with Tom MacLean’s guitar sounding rawer and placed much more prominently in the mix. There are occasions where the guitar is over-dominant, but here it’s nicely balanced out by Richard Henshall’s keyboards. Frontwoman Julie Kiss’ sultry delivery is as pleasing as always, although her vocals don’t seem to scan that well in places. Overall this is a decent opener, which eases off on the technicality that was all over Delusions.
The title track kicks off with some churning, hypnotic riffs, before stripping back to a more chilled, jazz fusion-y backing, with elastic bass and slithers of guitar forming a dreamy background for Kiss’ breathy vocals. The chorus ups the heaviness again, whilst retaining a jazzy feel. The guitar feels a bit dominant when it comes in on the second verse, and the song seems to lose its way for a time. Things pick up for some great solo spots for Henshall and MacLean, the latter playing in a style that would fit right in on a prime time Steely Dan album. Kiss’ vocal work on the latter part of the song is varied and impressive, carrying the track home.
Arcane Solace starts gently, but soon the Meshuggah-like bass churn and meaty guitar riffs take over. This is one of those tracks where the guitar seems rather overpowering, somewhat obscuring Kiss’ vocal efforts. The song is more effective when the more ethereal elements come to the fore and the guitar takes on more of a supporting role. The latter part of the song works better, with a smoother flow between the various sections; MacLean’s solo, this time rather like a metallised version of Allan Holdsworth, is again worthy of special mention.
Another World opens in a stately, grandiose manner, before stripping back when Kiss’ vocals enter. The big symphonic chorus is vaguely reminiscent of Within Temptation. The combination of piano and heavy riffing in this early stage of the song works well. Things soon head in a darker and heavier direction, yet the song retains plenty of emotion and drama, as well as the melodic counterpoints which are a trademark of the band’s sound.
Overall, this EP is a good addition to the band’s catalogue, and certainly serves as a decent introduction to the To-Mera sound. Personally speaking, I prefer the full length’s, but it’s good to see the band tweaking and experimenting with their sound. Now that two of the band members (MacLean and Henshall) are getting major critical plaudits with their ‘other’ band, Haken, I hope To-Mera aren’t put on hold, but instead plough on and hopefully we will get a new full length in 2011. (Some recent comments on their MySpace site do spawn some hope that this might well be the case.)
Conclusion: 7 out of 10
TOM DE VAL
Aeon Zen – The Face Of The Unknown
|Country of Origin:||UK|
|Record Label:||Time Divide|
|Year of Release:||2010|
Tracklist: Salvation (10:31), Visions (3:58), The Heart Of The Sun (7:12), Crystal Skies (8:13), Natural Selection (4:49), The Face Of The Unknown (7:00), You’re Not Alone (5:22), My Sacrifice (5:11), Start Over (4:26), Redemption’s Shadow (7:01)
Aeon Zen is the alias of one Rich Hinks, a 21 year old musician from Cambridge in the UK. The Face Of The Unknown is his second full length release, the first released in 2009 entitled A Mind´s Portrait. Aeon Zen is also a one man studio band as Rich plays all instruments himself, although what he doesn´t do all by himself are the vocals on his recordings. The vocals are recorded by a blend of well known vocalists around the globe. Further in the review of the CD the names of the vocalists will be revealed. Live Rich Hinks is supported by a band of very talented musicians to bring the music alive. Matt Shepherd – guitars, Jamie Brooks – keyboards, Steve Burton – drums and Andi Kravljaca – guest vocals.
The Music of Aeon Zen could best be described as Heavy Power Progressive Metal. Why? Because of the variety in the music, I will get into this further on in the review.
Now enough chit-chat let me tell you a little more about the music on the CD.
- Salvation. Straight off we know what we are in for. Heavy progressive metal with aggressively played drums, fiercesome guitar work and great vocals by Michael Eriksen of Circus Maximus fame. Of course we are treated with a guitar solo and a keyboard solo in this fine work of heavy progressive metal. The song would have fitted fine on a Dream Theater or Shadow Gallery album.
- Visions brings us Andi Kravljaca (Seventh Wonder, Silent Call) as vocalist and by bringing in a different vocal the music changes slightly. Arranging a song for a different vocalist needs a change in approach of pitch height and so on. The guitar solo on this crafty piece is performed by Matt Shepherd, who delivers a fine effort. Wider chorus like singing, dual singing if you will, gives the vocals hints of Kansas, although musically it is more into an Ayreon direction.
- The Heart Of The Sun sees Michael Eriksen return to the vocal duties and immediately the heaviness of the song is more intense. This song is more melodic than the opener, sang by Eriksen and here the long notes have great resemblance to James Labrie or Geoff Tate's way of singing heavy progressive metal songs.
- Crystal Skies kicks off very gently and I could almost swear I was listening to a song on a new Spock’s Beard album. The likeness is astounding, yet it is in no way a copy of any of the Beard songs. Guest vocals on this track, you've probably guessed right already, is Nick D’Virgilio. Hence the Beard-like sound. As I stated before the arrangements all are very suited for the guest vocalists. Great, great song.
- Natural Selection begins with a nice riff on the guitar and continuing on at a slower pace, growing into a more or less ballady song - with great keyboards. Yet another great voice in progressive rock makes his entrance, this time we Frost*'s Jem Godfrey doing the guesting. The chorus isn’t quite strong enough for an anthem, but if it were, this could well have turned into an anthem.
- The Face Of The Unknown, the title track for the album begins with keyboards and piano. Very soft at first but getting louder and stronger after about a minute, then the guitars are added and the song evolves into classic rock song around the two minute mark. Andi Kravljaca does the vocal duties once again, a keyboard solo by Cristian Von Schuerbeck and the guitar solo is of course by Rich Hinks himself.
- You’re Not Alone again starts out on the piano and continues, leading into a real power-ballad. All instruments on this one are played by Rich Hinks, including the vocals. I cannot help thinking this is a Spock's Beard or Neal Morse song. Great, absolutely stunning.
- My Sacrifice features a slow, dark and almost doomy progression with keyboards, heavy guitar riffs, pounding drums and dark voices. Jonny Tatum does the vocal duties on this one.
- Start Over Rich Hinks playing everything again, including the vocals. The song also begins with Rich playing the piano and then singing a few lines to this. He continues on the piano adding a string section on keyboards. Calmly progressing and building toward a climax.
- Redemption’s Shadow Jonny Tatum returns to perform the vocal duties again, in a song that is fast, with heavy guitar riffs and great keyboards.
This is a musician to be reckoned with, delivering such a strong album at his young age. He most likely is looking at a promising career ahead of him. In any case this album comes recommended.
Conclusion: 8 out of 10
Fracture - Simple Chaos
Tracklist: Unidentified (6:20), Frame Of Mind (4:27), Rearranged (7:52), The Grand Illusion (4:39), Simple Chaos (5:39), Without End (5:04), The Killing Kind (8:42), A Common Thread (5:02), The Wish (4:22)
I don’t know why, but I'm a sucker for technical ProgMetal. If albums by the likes of Zero Hour, Watchtower, Eyefear, Spheric Universe Experience and Spiral Architect are sitting on your shelves, then be sure to check out this new Australian act.
Simple Chaos is a very solid platter of dark, powerful, high octane ProgMetal for fans of early period Queensr˙che and the first two Fates Warning albums to feature Ray Alder.
Comprised of David Bellion (vocals, guitars, keyboards) and Tony Markou (guitars, bass), with help on drums from Mark Emblin, Simple Chaos is crammed with soaring vocals, decent hooks and guitar work that borders on technical at times but is always heavy.
Personal favourite is the opening track Unidentified, with its sci-fi themed lyrics and neck-breaking riffs, and the staccato riffing of the title track. In pacing, style and delivery there are a lot of similarities to the output of fellow Aussies, Eyefear.
Bellion’s huge vocals are firmly in the early Ray Alder mould, especially on thoughtful The Grand Illusion. Whilst the former Neue Regal, Vauxdvihl, and Star Chamber singer can scream with the best of them, he is equally comfortable in a richer mid-range. I’d prefer a little more variety in his phrasing. Not every note needs to be drawn out with strained passion.
Not every song quite hits the mark and as with all such albums, the intensity can become a bit too much to wade through all in one sitting. Next time, the band will need to throw in a lot more changes of pace and mood to avoid becoming repetitious. A wider use of the keys and more variance in the guitar sounds would also be worth considering.
Bands playing this style are few and far between. Bands doing it this well can be counted on one hand. With Simple Chaos, Fracture has done it very well. A promising start.
Conclusion: 7.5 out of 10
Sebastian Persini – Lost City
|Country of Origin:||Argentina|
|Year of Release:||2010|
Tracklist: Red Dusk (3:17), Lost City (6:38), No Way Out (6:04), Light Future (8:16), Bulbo (6:58), Closer (9:32), 13.73 Billion Years (14:06)
Sebastian Persini is a drummer and composer hailing from Buenos Aires, Argentina and Lost City is his first solo full length album and one he started back in 2008.
In the making of Lost City Sebastian enlisted the help of a large number of guest musicians: Gianluca Ferro (guitars) - David Locke (guitars), Santiago Beis (keyboards), Alex Argento (keyboards), Stefano Troncaro (keyboards) Martin Marron (guitars) and Solange Massa (vocals). As you can imagine Sebastian himself plays the drums and more, he is what we call a all round multi-instrumentalist. Lost City is a nearly complete instrumental album with only one song, No Way Out, that contains vocals. These vocals are performed by Solange Massa.
On the album Sebastian takes us on a journey through a lost city, through a world that lays in shatters after one of so many wars or...
In the "red dusk" you can almost feel yourself present on the outskirts of the city where the red clouds rise out of the sand leaving the world in a kind of dusk. Travelling onward we go straight into the "lost city" - no living soul seems present here, we feel lost in gigantic city that once was. There is no escape "no way out" of this place. But yet we see we have a future. Looking further we see a "light future" ahead of us. What is this, is there life, we start getting "closer" almost leaving the city of the lost. In a lost city we have travelled back "13.73 billion years" in time...
I left out the track Bulbo in my short version of the musical story, as I could not find a way to put it in. Maybe our main character is called Bulbo?
So much for the short story - musically we are presented with a journey in a heavy progressive, but also contemporary rock fashion. Great keyboards throughout, it must be with so many keyboard players present. The liner notes give credit to the players on each different track, however I won’t do the details on that one. The album also features splendid guitar work.
As mentioned earlier, just one track with vocals. And it didn't work for me, too bad, as I feel Solange voice was not the right voice with this type of music. She has a great voice, but not a heavy metal one.
All in all I feel the music bears a lot of resemblance to the solo work of one of the greatest drummers in rock history – in my humble opinion – Cozy Powell. The music is played very well and the compositions are well structured. It is not outstanding album, but it is great stuff to listen to.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10
In Search For – Faith
|Country of Origin:||Russia|
|Year of Release:||2010|
|Info:||In Search For|
Tracklist: In To (5:37), Lady Of The Night (4:21), Skies In Your Eyes (4:28), Strangers Again (5:32), Don’t Fall Asleep (10:12), Departure (0:45), Angels Arise (5:31), 10000 Years (5:55), In Search For “Faith” [1. Prelude (2:26), 2. Ascention (9:50), 3. Interlude (1:41), 4. Descending (4:17), 5. Conclusion (2:28)], Kahanne (6:05), Piy Da Dna (4:09)
In Search For consists of Yann Zhenchak (vocal, keys, violin & viola), Vladimir Ivanov (guitar), Alexey Bogan (guitar), Vladislav Suldzin (growl), Tihon Zolotov (bass) and Alexey Zolotov (drums) with guest including Larisa Simakovich (vocals on 1,6,9 & 14), Ax Vinjhegin (additional guitars on 5, 9 & Faith), Boris Zhenchak (additional backing vocals on Faith), Sergey Osipov (flute on 14) and Roman Bogush (flute on 4).
Do you like beautiful and interesting musical interaction presented by very proficient musicians? Well welcome to the world of In Search For who have created a rather good prog metal album, which is awashed with beautiful and succinct melodies, a feature that runs through the whole album.
The dual guitar work of Ivanov and Bogan really builds the atmospherics, whilst the rest of the band comply, filling in the blanks musically whilst Zhenchak stamps his authority vocally over the whole event, and boy can he sing. His talents don’t stop there, as his instrumentation work is also stunning, complementing the creations.
The album is a game of two halves, with the second half of the album being structured around a concept of a man being the last human alive, being in conversation with an Omni present being. The only faux pas in the conceptual piece is that the spoken word of the omnipotent one who sounds somewhat strangely like Alvin from Alvin and the Chipmunks, which is something that you don’t need when you have created such a strong album. That being said, once you get past that, you are really participating in a truly memorable album.
Not being one to hark on about negatives, I absolutely love the vocal styles, whether it’s Zhenchak adept tones, Simakovich rich and pulsating passion or Suldzin growls that are layered, which only really appear on Don’t Fall Asleep, being one of the strongest tracks on the album. The Zolotov’ Tihon and Alexey are really tight, attuned to each other keeping the album driving forward not allowing it to slump, a prime example of this being on the album opener intro.
The band haven’t been afraid to record in their own native tongue, Belarusian, Kahanne which is a duet that is sensual, beautiful and sedate, fittingly placed after the grim epic that is In Search For; “Faith”.
The band has cleverly used prog metal as their base sound, where they have incorporated symphonic elements and prog rock. This is not a masterpiece, but what it is, is a very fine debut album that sounds very European, Scandinavian in approach, calling to mind Pain of Salvation or Gamma Ray which is probably the best references I can give.
Some time and effort has been placed on the packaging of this album, which has taken the approach of a mini album sleeve and booklet, which also includes a bonus track Piy Da Dna. Would I buy this album with my hard earned cash? Yes I would.
Conclusion: 6 out of 10
Tears - Memories Of Things Unnecessary [EP]
|Country of Origin:||USA|
|Year of Release:||2010|
Tracklist: Time Master [Radio Edit] (4:31), Things Imaginary [Radio Edit] (5:00), Time Master - Memories (0:55), Time Master - I Just Want To Forget (4:29), Things Imaginary - A Childhood Dream (1:25), Things Imaginary - My Hurtful Reality (3:54), Trendy De-Commercialization - Part I (7:31), Trendy De-Commercialization - Part II (4:18), Trendy De-Commercialization (5:03)
I'm little confused! Now it may be just an age thing, however as Tears return with their first release in four years I am still struggling with the origins of this band. I'll refer you to my reviews of their previous EP releases for some background: Falling Certainty (2005) and Emptiness (2006). So what's the confusion? Well the band now seem to be firmly located in the USA, cool, however with the exception of drummer Tassos Deligiannis, they don't appear to include the other original members.
Feasible I suppose.
Anyway and moving on to 2010, Tears now comprise of Gouaime Divanis (vocals, guitar and keyboards), Nick Blackeye (bass) and Tassos Deligiannis (drums) and Memories Of Things Unnecessary is their third EP, albeit this time commercially produced and presented in a gatefold package. A note here that the track timings don't tie in with what my CD player says..
No tracks appear to have survived from the band's debut, but Time Master and Things Imaginary re-appear in various forms from Tears' second EP. The former is a catchy slice of melodic ProgMetal, with a somewhat suspect intro fade in. Things Imaginary [Radio Edit] is a nicely constructed emotional rock ballad with some nice acoustic guitar and a strong vocal performance. Not sure how it differs from the version that appeared on the Emptiness EP - which I longer seem to have...
Time Master - Memories is a nifty instrumental intro using delayed guitar and a string backing. Time Master - I Just Want To Forget is the full length version of the opening track and distinctly more convincing. I commented in my review of the Emptiness EP that the vocals on this track were pretty dreadful, well I am happy to say that with Gouaime Divanis taking on these duties, this is no longer an issue and his warm timbres make this an strong and engaging track.
Things Imaginary returns as two pieces, which to the ears sound like re-mixed and edited versions of the original.
As for the Trendy De-Commercialization trio of tracks - well this is a completely different project, that on the surface bears no resemblance to to the rest of the album. I don't understand the reasoning for their inclusion and as they are also pretty dreadful, I'll just pass on commenting.
Visiting the Tears' website I see they have followed up Memories Of Things Unnecessary with a full length album, Unravelling Travesties. The album also features versions of Time Master and Things Imaginary and perhaps this is the album we should be reviewing here?
Conclusion: Not Rated