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2011 : VOLUME 57
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REVIEWS IN THIS ISSUE:


Arch/Matheos – Sympathetic Resonance
Arch/Matheos – Sympathetic Resonance
Country of Origin:USA
Format:CD
Record Label:Metal Blade
Catalogue #:N/A
Year of Release:2011
Time:54:35
Info:Arch/Matheos
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Neurotically Wired (11:12), Midnight Serenade (5:27), Stained Glass Sky (13:56), On the Fence (8:11), Any Given Day [Strangers Like Me] (10:27), Incense And Myrrh (5:22)

Well I never thought this was going to happen.

It’s been eight years since John Arch released, Twist Of Fate, a two-song teaser of an EP. As the years passed, many had concluded it was to be his swan song.

In many interviews, including one that DPRP did with him six years ago>, Jim Matheos has stated how he hates the John Arch-era Fates Warning albums and would never play those songs live again.

Thus listening to a whole bunch of new material created by Arch and Matheos seemed about as likely as a Beatles comeback album. Never say never.

The songwriting and recording of Sympathetic Resonance was a two-year process. It apparently began with Matheos thinking the material could become the next Fates Warning album. “Ray (Alder) was unable to commit to a record at that time,” he explained, “so I approached John about doing a couple songs together, maybe another EP.”

The list of the other musicians involved in making this album has more than a passing resemblance to Fates Warning. Along with renowned drummer Bobby Jarzombek (Halford, Fates Warning, Sebastian Bach, Riot) and bassist Joey Vera (Armored Saint, Anthrax, Fates Warning, Seven Witches), additional lead guitars are provided by Frank Aresti (Fates Warning).

Over-brimming with odd time signatures, technical proficiency, complex layers and guitar work which encompasses everything from lilting acoustic to full blast speed, there is a lot going on here. Featuring six tracks, three of which go well past the ten-minute mark, the album is perfect in pace and in length.

The biggest impression is left by the voice of John Arch. His departure from Fates Warning 15 years ago has been well-documented, as has how he nearly became the singer for Dream Theater. Instead of making music, he has built a successful career crafting custom-made furniture.

Probably helped by avoiding too much wear and tear on his vocal chords, for someone in his 52nd year Arch’s voice on this album is amazing. He can still hit the high notes but seems to be using more in his mid-range which works much better for me.

It is far from an easy listen though. The first few spins left me feeling that this was a horrible, messy affair. Arch is a one-of-a-kind singer. On a cursory listen, it sounds like he is singing to a totally different soundtrack to the one the band is playing. But there is a method to the madness. It is just that a lot of patience is required.

Matheos adds to this with some of his most extreme yet inventive and heavy guitar work for more than a decade. Top marks should also go to Bobby Jarzombek. He is a drummer who relies more on technicality, beat and rhythm than flourishes of showmanship, if you just sit and listen to his work here you will see how he provides the glue that keeps it all together. It is in no way boring. It is very, very clever.

So onto the six individual songs.

There is a dramatic and powerful opening. Neurotically Wired superbly sets the scene for what is a mega-progressive, super-intense album. The song began life with the title Eyes Of A Child. I think what they ended up with is more fitting. Fates Warning has produced nothing this fierce and complex since 1988’s No Exit or maybe parts of Perfect Symmetry. The series of monstrously technical riffs and rhythms sits firmly in the TechMetal sub-genre. The hook is one of those that will take many listens to sink in – but when it does…

If there was to be a single from this album then Midnight Serenade is the obvious candidate. The verse, chorus, verse structure sits over a far less complex instrumental arrangement and it is the album’s shortest song.

Stained Glass Sky is the longest and my favourite song on the album. It was originally written as two separate songs but was re-crafted and combined. There is a certain roundedness, a neatness to almost all of Matheos’ songwriting. Like a story, his music has a clear beginning, middle and end. Often a song ends in the same key as the next one begins. Often the initial riff or melody is refreshed at the end of the song. All of that happens here. Such an approach is especially welcome when after a vicious flurry of sound, the opening motif is as delightful as it is on this song. Lyrically this is the one track that has a non-personal view point. There is a delicate middle-eastern vibe that sits alongside an exploration of the relationship between the USA and the Arabic nations. Arch’s vocals are at their most supreme on this song. He mixes heavy and light with some exquisite melodies especially either side of the ten-minute mark.

Each song here was crafted one after the other and they sit on the album in that chronological order. The fourth song to be written was On The Fence. It was created at the stage when the pair had decided they were going to do a full album – not just another EP. As such, they were seeking to do something a little bit different with this song. To bring in some elements that hadn’t appeared on the first three tracks. The acoustic opening section is one such element. It can be compared to Left Here from FWX or a lot of the material from Awaken The Guardian. Lyrically the title has nothing to do with politicians but is about the individual at a point in their life where they don’t know where to go to next, and so just sit on a fence. This is my least favourite song. I find the instrumental work a little too chugga-chugga. Here is the only time Arch’s vocals concentrate on his higher range and it does grate with my ears.

Any Given Day is the fifth song. It’s my fifth favourite, but the one that Matheos has stated that he likes the most. The heaviest track and originally written as the final song on the album, it’s also the most progressive, which is probably why it has not quite hit me in the way that some of the others have. The various elements just don’t quite connect or sit with me comfortably.

Having got this far in the song-by-song creation process, Arch felt that he still had more to say. Incense And Myrrh utilises some musical ideas the singer has had lying around his mind for many years. It is also where he gets everything else out of his system lyrically.

So overall, Sympathetic Resonance is a resounding success. It contains three compositions that can be compared with the best progressive metal songs ever written. There are another two tracks which are merely ‘very good’ and one on which I remain on the fence.

Arch’s voice and his vocal approach is very much a like it or loath it affair. If you didn’t enjoy him 15 years ago, the passing years have not altered his approach. However if you enjoyed his last EP and/or have missed his contribution to Fates Warning, then this is a must-buy.

If all six tracks were of the same quality as the first three, then this would have been my second ten-out-of-ten album of the year. As it stands, it falls just short. However for anyone who likes their ProgMetal on the heavy, technical and absorbing side and is prepared to live with an album before it makes sense, then Sympathetic Resonance will easily be among your top 5 albums of 2011.

Conclusion: 9.5 out of 10

ANDY READ



Fair To Midland – Arrows & Anchors
Fair To Midland – Arrows & Anchors
Country of Origin:USA
Format:CD
Record Label:Independent
Catalogue #:N/A
Year of Release:2011
Time:54:37
Info:Fair To Midland
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Heavens To Murgatroyd (0:44), Whiskey & Ritalin (3:37), Musical Chairs (3:32), Uh-Oh (4:16), Amarillo Sleeps On My Pillow (4:42), A Loophole In Limbo (3:39), Typhoid Mary Sends Her Best (0:56), Short-Haired Tornado (4:19), The Upset At Bailey Bridge (0:52), Rikki Tikki Tavi (3:25), Golden Parachutes (3:44), Bright Bulbs & Sharp Tools (3:57), Coppertank Island (3:10), Three Foolproof Ways To Buy The Farm (2:47), The Greener Grass (10:57)

An offbeat musical adventure will be in store for all those who take the latest musical journey on offer from Texan five-piece alt-crossover-proggers Fair To Midland. There is a constant changing of rhythm, pace, mood and time signatures with endless details within every composition that easily rewards repeat listens.

There really is a surprise around every corner. The Queen-meets-Venom contrasts of Rikki Tikki Tavi, the pure melodic joy of opening single Musical Chairs and the Zydeco-Prog of Amarillo Sleeps On My Pillow – how many rock bands can utilise a washboard?

There are two pairings of songs in particular that I keep coming back to. The sublime hooks of Bright Bulbs & Sharp Tools and Coppertank Island and the sheer drive and determination behind Whiskey & Ritalin and Musical Chairs.

Most of the tracks are fairly short, sharp and vaguely to some sort of point. Thus the prospect of exploring 15 tracks isn’t as imposing a task as it may seem. Sure two or three of the interludes, Typhoid Mary Sends Her Best and The Upset At Bailey Bridge, could have been left at home to leave a leaner, meaner album, but is isn’t a big issue.

Arrows & Anchors has more depth and adventure than its excellent predecessor, Fables From A Mayfly. If you’ve only just discovered this band, then buy both albums.

This is not your typical metal record. Neither is it your typical rock record nor your typical progressive record. Fair To Midland have managed to create a sound and approach that is very much their own and I’m more than happy to march to the sound of their unique beat. There haven’t been many more purely entertaining albums in 2011.

Conclusion: 8.5 out of 10

ANDY READ



Chaos Divine – The Human Connection
Chaos Divine – The Human Connection
Country of Origin:Australia
Format:CD
Record Label:Firestarter
Catalogue #:N/A
Year of Release:2011
Time:60:11
Info:Chaos Divine
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: One Door (6.21), At The Ringing Of The Siren (5.05), The Beaten Path (6.36), Chasing Shadows (6.46), Beautiful Abyss (6.43), Silence (5.55), Invert Evolution (4.43), Astral Plane (6.19), No Road Home [Solastalgia] (12.21)

There are very few albums where the presence of growlie vocals doesn’t immediately prevent me from listening to that band ever again. Having a quality, melodic vocalist is pretty much a base requirement for a band to appeal to me. I don’t spend my hard-earned cash to have someone barking and shouting down my headphones.

As with every rule there is the exception that proves the rule, and I can see how the use of harsh vocals as an instrument can bring a certain character or emphasis to a section of a song. If that harsh vocal has at least a hint of melody, then even better. This year Appearance Of Nothing have demonstrated how that can work for me with Dan Swano guesting on a couple of tracks on their superb All Gods Are Gone opus. It is not unknown for me to listen to a bit of Mercenary, Leprous, Raintime and early-Wolverine. Now I can add to that list of exceptions this band from Australia. Chaos Divine did appear at the ProgPower Europe festival in 2009. An advance listen to their then current album, Avalon, meant that dinner at the Chinese was a more appealing dish on that occasion. However I’d heard that the band had utilised a cleaner, more balanced approach to this, their third album, and was urged to give The Human Connection a chance.

I’m glad I did. This is an excellent, diverse collection of songs with a melodic core that mixes the heavy with the light to provide a rollercoaster spin of an hour’s aural pleasure.

For a lot of the time the band uses David Anderton’s splendidly delicate clean vox laid over a more laid-back, delicate riffage similar to that used by fellow countrymen Dead Letter Circus, Cog and Karnivool. However with most songs clocking-in around the six-minute mark, there is plenty of space to chop and change the rhythms and moods (as well as the singing style). This is a heavy album but there is plenty of space to take a breath. The heavier sections are all the better for that.

The opening track with its marvellously delicate riff and melodies-to-die-for will be among my favourite songs of 2011. At The Ringing Of The Silence is more intense yet equally infective. We are then battered and caressed through six complex yet melodic tracks before closing with another highlight, the absorbing 12-minutes of No Road Home.

Only on a couple of songs such as Astral Plane do the growlies occupy too much of my ear-time. It would have been a shame to have missed out on the delights to be enjoyed elsewhere because of that.

A hard copy of this album is a little tricky to get hold of outside Australia where it’s again been released on Firestarter Music. There are the usual download options or you can order direct from the band’s website. You have my strong recommendation that your effort will be worthwhile.

Conclusion: 8.5 out of 10

ANDY READ



Andromeda – Manifest Tyranny
Andromeda – Manifest Tyranny
Country of Origin:Sweden
Format:CD
Record Label:Inner Wound
Recordings
Catalogue #:N/A
Year of Release:2011
Time:63:55
Info:Andromeda
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Pre-emptive Strike (2:32), Lies 'R' Us (5:18), Stay Unaware (6:20), Survival Of The Richest (6:01), False Flag (9:37), Chosen By God (4:35), Asylum (7:03), Play Dead (7:47), Go Back To Sleep (7:40), Antidote (7:02)

It’s always a fatal error. After producing three of my favourite progressive metal albums and my all-time favourite live DVD, I decided that the last album from Sweden's Andromeda was a blind purchase for me.

The Immunity Zone has barely been out of its case since the first few plays. For some reason it just never clicked and had very little on it to suggest that it ever would. Thus I approached the release of album number six, Manifest Tyranny, with some caution. That caution was justified. After about a month of repeated plays, I'm finding this a (big) hit and (big) miss affair. When it's good, it’s very, very good but three or four songs just don't work for me at all. I think this is the sort of album that will hit different people in different ways. For some it will be a valid Album of the Year contender, for others a valid frustration.

It is stripped down. There is a rawness to a lot of the guitar work. David Fremberg’s vocals again alternative between clear, and messed-up by a variety of effects. When you’ve got one of the best voices in the genre, why mess about with it? It is certainly ‘progressive’ and definitely ‘metallic’.

Lies R Us is one of the most catchy songs the band has written. Stay Unaware is one of the most clever. In just six minutes it goes through five very different phases and back again. Pre-emptive Strike is one of the most intense songs to come from the band. Survival Of The Richest begins all folksy and whimsical, offering a great showcase for Fremberg’s vocal abilities before moving up a gear.

Things start to go astray for me with False Flag. It is heavy with a simple melody and beat, and an extended guitar and keyboard joust. A little dull, but okay. Then a very long series of edited voice extracts from President Obama’s justification for war speech. Very dull. Not okay.

Chosen By God follows with more voice-overs mixed-in with a gospel vibe. From gospel we go to electronica for Asylum and then more voice-overs and more vocal effects on Play Dead, which redeems itself with some fabulous guitar riffing and soloing.

I’m struggling to keep up with my notes by this stage. Go Back To Sleep almost did make me do just that. A very dull ballad.

The closing song just about sums the whole album up. We open with a very clever guitar/keyboard riff and a lovely hook to the chorus. The verse doesn’t work for me at all and the extended soloing takes the song well past its sell-by-date. Good and bad in equal measure.

For me this is just too disjointed an album from a band that can do much better. There is no flow to it and the constant recorded political voice extracts in the middle, annoy and distract.

Manifest Tyranny does also frequently come across as a bit too much of a political polemic - and that is from someone who is very political and would tend to agree with most of the views the band is trying to express.

It may be a grower, but by now I tend to know when it’s worth waiting for my musical crops to flower. As I said at the start, a bit like the Sun Caged album earlier in the year, this is an album that will hit different listeners in different ways. I’ll just keep the five or six songs I really like and have a fabulous EP.

Conclusion: 7 out of 10

ANDY READ



Epysode – Obsessions
Epysode – Obsessions
Country of Origin:Belgium
Format:CD
Record Label:AFM
Catalogue #:N/A
Year of Release:2011
Time:64:08
Info:Epysode
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Genesis: File 4180-1 (1:08), Silences Of Dawn (1:26), Phobia: First Blood (4:39), Obsessions (4:17), Insight: Invisible Nations (5:05), Gemini Syndrome (5:42), Fallen’s Portrait (5:16), Season Of Redemption (4:10), Redemption: The Other Side (4:08), The Shadow Lord (4:42), One Chance (6:53), Divine Whispers (5:32), Beginning: March Of The Ghosts (7:12), Last Sunset (4:38)

This is an album that seems to have slipped by a lot of the ProgMetal community, which is surprising as a) it has got a bit of a ProgMetal-all-stars-line-up and b) it is a pretty fine album.

Epysode is a project band initiated by Samuel Arkan guitarist with Belgium power metal outfit Virus IV. One look at the collaborators should tell you that the music is going to be worth a listen. Just on the vocals we have: Kelly Carpenter (Beyond Twilight), Oddleif Stensland (Communic), Rick Altzi (At Vance), Magali Luyten (Virus IV) and Liselotte Hegt (Dial). Add to that bassist Kristoffer Gildenlöw (Dial, Pain Of Salvation), drummer Leo Margarit (Pain Of Salvation), guitarist Christophe Godin (Mörglbl Trio) and on keyboards Julien Spreutels (Ethernity).

Overall the music on Obsessions is strongly rooted in progressive and power metal, much in the way that Epica, Savatage, Kamelot or Rhapsody do at times. It may be the voice of Kelly Carpenter, but I am often reminded of Beyond Twilight. In terms of the story and the use of different vocalists, a much more metallic Ayreon would be another reference point.

What strikes me as working best, are the sections where the male and female singers combine their talents in contrast. Magali Luyten is one of my favourite female metal singers, and her twin vocals with Carpenter are fantastic.

It’s no surprise that this is a concept album based on Arkan’s original story about a police officer who gets caught in paranormal things. It is split into five musical chapters. Having only a digital download to base my review on, with no cover, booklet or lyric sheet, has limited my appreciation of this element.

In terms of songs, after a couple of scene setters, the highlights come at the start with First Blood, Obsessions and Invisible Nations all offering top-notch riffage and melodies with some interesting progressive details and lovely twin, male/female vocals. Gemini Syndrome is a great twin-vocal ballad whilst Fallen’s Portrait is more broody, with a gothic vibe and a great keyboard solo.

I feel the remainder of the album then covers rather similar ground but without the same melodic hooks to keep me coming back for more. If it could have maintained the quality of the opening five songs, then this would have been a Top 10 contender. As it is, Obsessions is still one of the year’s most appealing melodic ProgPower Metal releases.

Conclusion: 7.5 out of 10

ANDY READ



Acelsia - Quietude
Acelsia - Quietude
Country of Origin:Norway
Format:CD
Record Label:Independent
Catalogue #:N/A
Year of Release:2011
Time:18:10
Info:Acelsia
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: All These Years (4:44), Happiness Prevails (5:37), Unbroken (3:26), Still Unborn (4:16)

Acelsia are a Norwegian band that comprise of Malene Markussen (vocals), Odd Henning Skyllingstad (guitars), Marius Sharsem Pedersen (guitars / growls), Nils Alexander Rama Engeness (bass) and Hakon Hellerud (drums). The band offers up here Quietude a four track EP that transcends the boundaries of rock, ethereal music that has a malevolent metal edge. Although it isn’t a straight prog metal album, I thought long and hard about what is on offer and finally came to the conclusion that a review was merited on DPRP, which initially I didn’t believe was the case. The sounds take reference from varying metal approaches that work well as a unit, solid, dynamically shifting direction, at times beautiful displaying that this approach doesn’t have to conform to rules. It does skirt the genres of Melodic Rock, Doom, Gothic and Progressive but never planting its roots in any one category something that really highlights the bands strengths. This really is a proficient and rewarding EP that just grew on me.

This window into the world of Acelsia which is just over eighteen minutes long sees the participants delve into a world that moves in-between some very interesting extremes. Initially this affair started out as a solo project for Malene which soon gathered momentum becoming the band that participates here. They are five talent individuals that compliment each other, knowing what they want to achieve.

Lyrically Malene covers personal and intimate explorations of yearnings; hope, faith and love about how they grow, learning from experiences, recognising what could be if one never gives up.

Throughout the set of songs you can definitely hear reference from the likes Shellyz Raven, Helloween, Evanescence and The Cranberries, now there’s a heady mix for you, which should have you reading on with intrigue and interest and to be honest is what makes the listen so rewarding.

As melody is highly important to their approach Skyllingstad and Pedersen really ply their dynamic approach, a soiree of rhythm and lead passages that work well, swooning and swaying their way through each number, one minute with an urgency, the next pinpointing and accentuating the mood. When the preciseness of Engeness and Hellerud is added the depth of the music is just increased. The final complementation is Malene’s inflected vocals, the piece de resistance; her vocal range is impeccable, melancholic, emotional and majestic, a voice that will move you. When you balance Pedersen’s growls that have been positioned very effectually, never dominating which are counteracted by Malene’s beautiful tones you do realise that they can coexist together without destroying the moment.

All four songs here are rather impressive all having their own uniqueness and strengths with Still Unborn being the real stand out moment for me. I don’t want to leave you with the impression that it’s all about this one track as there are other standout moments here too.

This band and EP really does get a BIG THUMBS UP from me. I am seriously looking forward to hearing their debut album.

Conclusion: 7 out of 10

JOHN O'BOYLE



Factory Of Dreams – Melotronical
Factory Of Dreams – Melotronical
Country of Origin:Portugal
Format:CD
Record Label:ProgRock Records
Catalogue #:N/A
Year of Release:2011
Time:58:39
Info:Factory Of Dreams
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Enter Nucleon (3:42), Melotronical (5:26), A Taste Of Paradise (3:39), Protonic Stream (8:04), Into Oblivion (4:39), Obsessical (4:23), Back To Sleep (3:17), Whispering Eyes (4:17), Subatomic Ears (4:32), Dimension Crusher (4:24), Echoes From Earth (4:25), Something Calling Me (3:37), Reprogramming (4:08)

Melotronical is the third full length album to be released by the duo of Hugo Flores and Jessica Lehto under the banner of Factory Of Dreams. Although the name of the album could easily suggest some hybrid electronic instrument related to the mellotron, I prefer to believe the title lets itself be explained as melodramatic music played in a Gothic electronic way - thus making Melotronical an abbreviation for this. Hugo Flores however tells us that Melotronical is:

"A conceptual CD, revolving around the evolution of an electronic Molecule into a living breathing Entity. This entity, experiences several stages of life, goes through all emotions, love, hate, fear, happiness..."

Hugo Flores is a very active musician, releasing not only under Factory Of Dreams, but solo as well, and has a couple of other projects he is working on.

Consisting of thirteen tracks, the CD features only one song of "epic length", the rest being short, concise and of pop song length. The first thing that struck me about Melotronical was the production, the mixing or mastering - I don’t really know which is directly responsible for the sound, but the results are very uneasy, making it hard to listen - for me at least. All instruments and drum programming are ably performed, as with the previous FOD albums, by Hugo Flores. And perhaps the flaw in the sound comes from the drum-programming. A real drummer would improve the overall sound significantly.

This said there is not a really any weakspot on the album and the mixture of space/goth sounds work well with the shredding progmetal guitars and wide open soundscapes created by keyboards. Jessica just sings as an angel!

The concept of Melotronical reminds me of the Ayreon projects... with a combination of heavy space rock, with metallic guitars and a leaning towards the Gothic rock genre.

Comparing Melotronical to previous Factory Of Dreams albums, I would say this is another step up the ladder. The sound becoming more defind and miss Lehto’s voice more beautiful with each new album. A consistent album, definitely a worth while listeng and certainly of interest to Epica, After Forever, Nightwish fans - although not entirely one for me...

Conclusion: 7 out of 10

GERT HULSHOF



Memento Waltz – Antithesis Of Time
Memento Waltz – Antithesis Of Time
Country of Origin:Italy
Format:CD
Record Label:Independent
Catalogue #:N/A
Year of Release:2010
Time:30:10
Info:Memento Waltz
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Through The Spiral Rise (6:40), Cosmic Illusion (8:09), Cyclonic Vision(5:14), Albert The Visitor (2:41), Antithesis Of Time (7:36)

This Italian quartet impressed many at this year’s ProgPower Europe festival and their debut mini-album will appeal to anyone who has an interest in the more technical stylings of the ProgMetal genre.

According to their bio, the band has actually been together for seven years but has taken its time in finding its own musical voice. Memento Waltz is clearly inspired by bands such as Watchtower, Psychotic Waltz, Spiral Architect, King Crimson, Canvas Solaris and early Fates Warning. The five tracks on offer, mix technical proficiency with clever songwriting and just enough melodic hooks to keep a listener engaged.

I know the chaotic complexity, mixed with the metallic muscle and the in-yer-face singers of this style of music is not to all tastes. But I’ve always been a bit of a sucker for some well-crafted TechMetal, especially those bands such as Zero Hour that also possess singers from the top drawer.

In Marco Piu, Memento Waltz certainly has a singer with remarkable ability. He can hit all the high notes but there is a power and accuracy to his mid-range that will avoid too many 'air-raid-siren' analogies. His performance at ProgPower Europe was inspiring.

The combination of his voice with the flamboyantly-influenced guitar work of Livio Poier works a treat. Poier has an innate ability to shift between intensity and delicacy. Here he showcases plenty of fast-fingered soloing yet there is a welcome warmth to his tone which avoids the coldness that many TechMetal bands are accused of. It’s all held together by bassist Giuseppe Deiana and drummer Gabriele Maciocco who both clearly know the difference between their hemiolas and their polyrhythms.

Antithesis Of Time is what in the ‘old days’ would have been called ‘a demo’. Providing you appreciate that this was all recorded in one take in the band’s own studio, then you can live with the lack of polish to the sound.

The first two and the last two songs all have much to enjoy. The opener Through The Spiral Rise is where the band brings all of its assets together to best effect. Albert The Visitor is what in the ‘old days’ would have been called ‘a filler’. Solely some guitar atmospheres laid under phone call extracts reporting UFO sightings – it’s the one that’s featured on far too many albums already!

The band is hoping to release its first full album, Division By Zero, early next year. From the music here and the new songs they aired at ProgPower (and a bit more time in the studio) it is an album which I am eagerly anticipating.

In the meantime, if you’re the sort of person who likes to collect early recordings from bands which went on to bigger and better things, then I’d strongly advise that you grab a copy of this while you still can.

Conclusion: 7 out of 10

ANDY READ



Myrath – Tales Of The Sands
Myrath – Tales Of The Sands
Country of Origin:Tunisia
Format:CD
Record Label:XIII Bis
Catalogue #:N/A
Year of Release:2011
Time:45:09
Info:Myrath
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Under Siege (4:28), Braving The Seas (4:20), Merciless Times (3:28), Tales Of Ohe Sands (5:19), Sour Sigh (4:58), Dawn Within (3:31), Wide Shut (5:25), Requiem For A Goodbye (4:23), Beyond The Stars (5:15), Time To Grow (4:02)

Album number four from these purveyors of Arabian-infused ProgPower Metal and they finally seem to have settled on a style with significant substance that they can call their own.

Hailing from Tunisia the quintet started life playing death metal covers before graduating to being a Symphony X covers band. A debut album garnered only a release in their home country. They had to wait until the follow-up, Hope, to bring some interest from further afield. I grabbed a copy of Hope as an early import. It was little more than 50 minutes of Symphony X worship, but it was done with conviction and some great riffs and melodies.

Speed forward three years to 2010 and the band’s third album saw the arrival of a dedicated front man (previously the drummer was the singer) and a distinct change of style. There was still a bit of SymphonyX and Dream Theater mimicry to be enjoyed on Desert Call but far greater effort had been made to blend Arabian moods and rhythms into their music. The band’s European live debut at ProgPower Europe impressed many.

Tales Of The Sands sees the band utilize far more of the Arabian singing, lyrics, melodies and rhythms to really bring a unique atmosphere to the genre. The use of Arabian female voices and orchestration with traditional metal doesn't sound great on paper but the band has blended a combination that is equally unique and effective.

It’s a big beast of an album. Big vocals, big guitars, big rhythm section, big melodies and big musical landscapes. The songs are more direct. The song writing is more focused on the verse/big chorus/verse/shred solo/big chorus/big chorus structure. In the first half of the album the songs are slightly better.

Under Siege, Merciless Times and the title track are my favourites. There are no really weak songs. I’d have perhaps liked one or two real curve-balls to be thrown into the dunes. Maybe one song entirely in their mother tongue? Maybe something a little more multi-faceted or epic in its ambitions? Maybe just one song with some real furious energy? Maybe just something to add a bit of risk, something to surprise, to challenge.

The progressive elements are there but their role is to add an extra dimension to the music rather than being the dominant feature. As such, Myrath probably has less appeal to fans of pure ProgMetal. However for those who seek an oasis of melodic power with an original twist, then this will more than quench your thirst.

Conclusion: 8 out of 10

ANDY READ



Innosense – Outcast
Innosense – Outcast
Country of Origin:Greece
Format:CD
Record Label:Steel Gallery
Catalogue #:N/A
Year of Release:2011
Time:45:46
Info:Innosense
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: On And On (4:46), Revolution Rise (3:51), The Cradle Of My Soul (4:25), Mystify (5:35), At The Edge Of The World (4:03), Seasons Of Oblivion (3:51), The Fall (5:02), Where Darkest Thoughts Prevailed (4:02), Utopia (4:03), Release (6:08)

This new melodic progressive metal band from Greece will have special appeal to those of us whose musical memories go back to the early days of progressive metal. The Norwegian band Conception released four superb albums that mixed inventive groove, exemplary musicianship and songs that drizzled with melodic hooks and captivating riffs. Their singer Roy Khan went on to bigger and better things as the front man for Kamelot. Innosense sound an awful lot like Conception with just enough originality to avoid any allegations of cloning. Singer Vasilis Georgiou sounds so much like Roy Khan that he could replace him in Kamelot and no-one would notice.

Innosense has an awful lot going for them. There are three absolutely cracking songs of Outcast. On And On, Mystify and The Fall are among the best of this style I’ve ever heard. The other eight songs aren’t bad either. There are some lovely guitar solos, and the rest of the band show they can add plenty of invention and twist and turn the grooves around to great effect.

Strangely, as with a lot of Greek bands Innosense has struggled to get much of a profile elsewhere in the world. Having heard some good words about this, I ordered my copy via the label’s Ebay page. It arrived within a few days. I’ve scribbled a quick review to help spread the word. This is too good an album to go unnoticed.

If you enjoy Conception, Parallels-era Fates Warning, or the lighter side of Kamelot; if you enjoy melodic, progressive metal; if you enjoy great singers, then you can buy with confidence. Trust me!

Conclusion: 9 out of 10

ANDY READ



Silent Lapse - Birthright
Silent Lapse - Birthright
Country of Origin:USA
Format:CD/MP3
Record Label:Independent
Catalogue #:N/A
Year of Release:2009
Time:53:43
Info:Silent Lapse
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: A New Melody (5:18), Beyond The Gardens (4:58), Reach (3:33), Final Error (6:20), The Wake (7:27), Solitude (7:06), Deliberation (1:54), Seed Of Hope (10:14), Birthright (6:53)

Why would anyone want to write a review of a three year old debut album? There are enough new releases out there that need attention too. Well, first of all this is a damn good album so it’s worth it. And secondly Silent Lapse is working on a successor. So you can get acquainted to the band with their debut right now while work is in progress. Beware, since it took them four years to produce their first offspring. So do not expect the new release in a few weeks time but think next year. I for sure grant them enough time to produce their next as long as the quality will be at the same level of Birthright or even higher. According to the band’s singer Scott Martin the current direction is “a little less riffy, and a lot more textured”.

The album kicks in with heavy riffs, soon fading into a short gentle piece of restrained acoustic guitar right until singer Scott Martin takes over bluntly. And draws all the attention to his solid voice, perfectly fitting to the band’s style and sound. The fine lyrics of A New Melody are rapidly working like an addictive to the mind “A madman’s cry for insufficient life”. Halfway turning into a mars pace and back again. At the song’s end the acoustic guitar returns together with a combination of soft choir against Scott’s heavy voice. A wonderful opening track.

Beyond The Gardens is a special song. A kind of slow and mellow but awfully attractive. Both tune and lyrics gets chopped down your memory at once and it keeps popping up several times a day “You’re All the Same”. The song blends into the next track called Reach. A divine song that literally reaches down to Silent Lapse’s soul musically. I imagine this fantastic song gets stretched to way over ten minutes in a live setting in order to indulge all instruments and its players. Final Error sets in with guitars jumping from left to right and back again. The simplest song of the album with quite a few recognisable and not very innovating riffs. With track five The Wake the band enters another world and atmosphere, yet still loyal to their very own sound. I tend to hear more than a little Fates Warning here. Beautiful. A video of this true progressive track is actually being shot today. Solitude continues in the same area of its predecessor and is again one of those songs that make an imprint instantly. An acoustic start with slow yet refined lyrics that feels like a boat trip over rippling water. Seven minutes of serene ecstasy with Silent Lapse’s prog metal twist and speed up at the second part of the track.

Deliberation is the to be expected short, quiet and classical tune on the album. Well performed and I must say it fits in just fine and jumps directly into the heavy concrete walls of the album’s best song: Seed Of Hope. Truly a fine example of steam driven progressive metal. Again with the sauce and taste of the guitars of the Feldpausch brothers. Play this ten minute song first if you want to get a good impression of what Silent Lapse has to offer. This is not a song that sticks in your brain but a song that has to be played over and over again without the danger of getting bored at all. The final track is the album’s title song Birthright. Although a good song in its own right, I wonder why they’ve chosen this one to end the album with. Seed Of Hope would have more suitable for that.

Birthright is an overwhelming solid album build on a dark, simple structure enhanced with lots of intelligent twitches and tempo changes. These guys took their time to create this but, man, they know how to play. Play at technically high standards and with swell compositions. With Martin’s voice motoring the machine. It works out sublime from beginning to the end and every song has this special touch that I can best describe as some kind of a medieval influence. Progressive Metal from the Dark Ages, so to speak. Recommended. I am wildly curious about what their upcoming product will sound like.

The album is available as a free download, (on the band's website), so you can easily find out for yourself.

Conclusion: 8 out of 10

ANDRÉ DE BOER



Glen Drover - Metalusion
Glen Drover - Metalusion
Country of Origin:Canada
Format:CD
Record Label:Magna Carta
Records
Catalogue #:MAX9108CD
Year of Release:2011
Time:55:53
Info:Glen Drover
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Ground Zero (7:37), Frozen Dream (5:11), Egyptian Danza (5:56), Colours of Infinity (5:14), Illusions of Starlight (4:50), Don’t Let The World Pass You By (6:26), Mirage (4:43), Ascension (4:29), The Purple Lagoon (6:02), Filthy Habits (5:04)

Two years in the making, Metalusion must surely launch former Megadeth/King Diamond/Eidolon guitarist, Glen Drover, deep into the realms of progressive metal alongside the likes of Dream Theater, Opeth and Queensrÿche. Drover is joined by a selection of top class musicians including former Megadeth co-member, Chris Poland, Vinnie Moore (UFO & Alice Cooper) and Jeff Loomis (Nevermore) to create an atmospheric collection of ten instrumental pieces, including five covers of compositions by the likes of Al Di Meola, Jean-Luc Ponty and the late, great Frank Zappa.

The album artwork, with it’s swirling tunnel (or is it an eye?), edged with gleaming scimitars, drawing our gaze to distant spires and minarets, gives us a clue to the hint of Eastern promise held within ...

The opening track, Ground Zero, gets the proceedings off to a fine start and sets out the stall for the rest of the album with the sheer velocity and technically faultless precision of the guitar riffs, courtesy of Messrs Drover, Moore and Poland. The guitars thrash out a 3-way contest, matched stride for stride by the unfaltering drumming of Chris Sutherland. A brief keyboard interlude by Jim Gilmour provides a moment to catch your breath before the next phase once again rebuilds the frenetic pace. Melodic riffs and lightening-fast drum-work reach a final flourish, bringing this excellent opener to a conclusion. And leading us to track 2, Frozen Dream, featuring the guitar skills of Steve Smyth (Forbidden). This evocative piece opens with a backdrop of synths, creating the ambience for this track. The sudden explosion of drums & guitar create an atmosphere of panic and confusion. This track cleverly overlaps the classic tones of symphonic prog and thrash metal, clearly demonstrating that both sub-genres can comfortably rub shoulders.

Egyptian Danza is the first of the covers, this track having been composed and performed in 1977 by American jazz fusion & Latin guitarist, Al Di Meola. The original version featured violins and acoustic guitar, however Drover’s arrangement suits this composition perfectly. A taste of the exotic Orient is infused with a subtle blend of jazz & metal - a potentially tricky combination... but it works... Drover certainly evokes images of incense-filled Bedoiun tents and belly dancers!

From the opening bars, the third original track, Colours Of Infinity, exudes emotion from every note. The first phase of this track features a definite jazz influence, slowing the proceedings considerably from the first three tracks. The middle phase demonstrates a clear mood swing, the momentum being picked up by intricate keyboards, drawing us to the underlying Eastern flavour running though the veins of this album. An eruption of duelling guitars eventually returns us to the slower melodic riffs of the opening phase. The deviation from the style of the previous tracks is a clear indication of the musical diversity which lies ahead...

Illusion Of Starlight is the 4th of the original tracks on the album and is, for me, the finest. When I first heard this track I detected a slight similarity to the opening bars of Dream Theater’s epic, The Count Of Tuscany, but it is by no means a rip-off. This is progressive metal at its very best. The arrangement is tight, the intricate shredding riffs are eye-wateringly fast and precise, the keyboards and drums binding the whole composition together beautifully. This track effortlessly combines the key elements of jazz, metal, symphonic & melodic prog... I’d love to hear this performed live. However the following track lets the side down somewhat. Don’t Let The World Pass You By is the second of the covers, the original composed by French jazz composer and violinist, Jean-Luc Ponty, and features the excellent skills of Opeth’s Fredrik Akesson. From the first notes, through to the last, it sounded like a take on the Rush track, La Villa Strangiato. By coincidence both the Rush track and Ponty’s composition were released in 1978...! The opening riff controls the tempo throughout and it felt like it should have been a phase of a longer, more complex piece rather than its own entity. Drover and Akesson display faultless musicianship but I feel this track never really gets going or establishes its own identity. In fact, I think it lost its way a little.

On track 7, Mirage, Drover, accompanied by Nevermore guitarist, Jeff Loomis (who, incidentally auditioned for Megadeth back in 1987 but at 16 years old was considered to be a bit too young...), plays fitting homage to the exotic Latin flavour of Jean-Luc Ponty’s original composition. The jazz fusion and rhythmic percussion capture Ponty’s arrangement perfectly and provides a quirky yet fitting contribution to the album. Be warned though - its catchy rhythm affects a mild twitching of the feet...! The track fades out much too soon - wouldn’t have minded a few more minutes of this!

Ascension, the final original track, falls somewhere between melodic and metal and is a perfect display of Glen Drover’s talent as a formidable prog musician. His blistering riffs build the drama of this track, complimented by incredible keyboards and an intricate drum beat. Short but very sweet.

The Purple Lagoon (Frank Zappa) is not an easy track to cover, by any means, but Drover & co absolutely nail it. The almost impossible time-keeping is mastered beat for beat, and Zappa’s original xylophone is replaced with the heavy metal riffs associated with Drover’s Megadeth style which will, no doubt, please his thrash metal fans. Keeping the momentum going, the final track and another Zappa composition, Filthy Habits, is an excellent cover of the original. If ever there was a perfect soundtrack to Hammer House of Horror, this must be it. Drover’s arrangement evokes a sinister mood and creepy overtones; the screeching guitars unmistakably portray absolute terror, whilst the underlying bass and percussion provide a subliminally foreboding backdrop. Wonderful stuff. I’m sure the great man himself would be suitably satisfied with this.

Metalusion is, without doubt, a triumph for Drover’s first foray into his solo career. Albeit with the assistance of some outstanding musicians, Drover has surely established himself as an eminent musician and composer. Let’s hope this album is the forerunner of many more to come.

Conclusion: 7 out of 10

SUE DOYLE



Hess & Franzen - {CLOSEDLOCKEDSEALED}
Hess & Franzen - {CLOSEDLOCKEDSEALED}
Country of Origin:UK/Brazil
Format:CD
Record Label:Independent
Catalogue #:N/A
Year of Release:2011
Time:46:30
Info:Hess & Franzen
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Quick Space Threat (5:33), Gobi Desert Search For SS Cotopaxi (7:00), Three Stripes (3:56), Mantis (5:39), China Inox (3:51), Doomsday Device (6:20), When I Get Out Of This Place (3:59), Words Mean Nothing (4:14), Magic Cat (6:02)

{CLOSEDLOCKEDSEALED} is the debut album by the musical duo Hans Hess from Bristol, UK and Renan Franzen in Porto Alegre, Brazil. The music was recorded by both artists in their homes and then presumably mixed over the internet. It is quite surprising therefore, that the album is actually very cohesive and well structured.

The first thing that strikes you when the album comes in the post is the packaging! Arriving in a giant black anti-static bag, you may be expecting a vinyl record, but in fact the album is presented as a CD mounted on a 12"×12" board displaying the artwork in great detail. The CD is held on by a piece of foam glued to the board, and the tracklisting is to be found underneath the CD. This is by far one of the most gimmicky album packages I have ever seen for a CD, but in a day when few artists are prepared to present their albums in anything other than a jewel case, I applaud this band for their ingenuity. After all, fancy packaging used to be the norm in prog, so who's to say it can't still be done?

The band's style of music is wholly instrumental, with influences of prog and metal among other things. Generally, the music will be very fast-paced with a heavy sound in some crazy time signature, all good things in my opinion. It seems that only the guitars and basses were actually recorded, with all other instruments either being sampled or played on a synthesizer. Despite this, the band still command the power of a regular metal outfit, although sometimes those drum bass pedals sound a touch ridiculous. At times, the band will sound just like Liquid Tension Experiment, a great example being on the album's longest track Gobi Desert Search For SS Cotopaxi.

This is actually a really good album. I wouldn't say that there are any brilliant tunes that keep me coming back for more, but there's no denying that this is a very well executed project. The production and mixing is superb, and each song has been meticulously crafted and as a result is highly enjoyable. I have a feeling that Hess & Franzen could work wonders if they had the chance to play with some other talented musicians in a full band.

Conclusion: 6.5 out of 10

BASIL FRANCIS



Overdrive - Angelmaker
Overdrive - Angelmaker
Country of Origin:Sweden
Format:CD
Record Label:Lion Music
Catalogue #:LMC297
Year of Release:2011
Time:58:26
Info:Overdrive
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Signs All Over (3:48), In Gut We Trust (3:49), Angelmaker (3:54), I Know There’s Something Going On (4:39), Under The Influence (3:56), On With The Action (5:55), See The Light (3:45), To Grow (5:01), Mother Earth (5:30), It’s A Thriller (4:30), Cold Blood Chaser (3:34), The Wavebreaker (10:01)

I just love the artwork for Overdrive’s latest album Angelmaker; Monowasp who has created artwork for such bands as House Of Lords and TNT, depicts the Angelmaker carrying out her deed, which is to make angels out of illegitimate babies apparently.

The band have been around since 1980 having recorded several albums, their last being 08’s Let The Metal Do The Talking which really sums up their approach. Just for reference their 1984 Swords And Axes album is a bit of a Metal classic.

The five piece band that now comprises of Per Lengstedt (vocals), Janne Stark (Guitars), Kjell Jacobsson (guitars), Kenth Ericsson (bass) and last but by no means least Kenta Svensson (drums) present these twelve songs, all originals except for the re arranged Russ Ballard number I Know There’s Something Going On which was originally recorded in 1982 by Anni-Frid Lyngstad, yes she of ABBA fame, but worry not though as Janne Stark has reworked the arrangement giving it a definite metal edge.

The sound of the band has been caught well with Pelle Saether having worked his magic. The twin guitar interaction of Stark and Jacobsson works excellently, a pairing that really compliments each other, interactions that are energetic and exciting as are the pulsating bass lines and precise drumming which is topped by some powerful vocal workouts.

The really nice thing here is that as a band they prove that you can pursue and create this music in today’s market without having to enter the darker realms of the growling vocals, confirming that you can have a heavy sound and yet retain a melodic sensibility.

It does though have some slight downsides in the form of To Grow and It’s A Thriller that take a European Power Metal approach. They aren’t poor songs, they just sound, well slightly generic, but that is only a small price to pay as the highlights far out weigh this situation.

The three standout tracks here for me though are the high energy machine gun rhythmic Under The Influence, the epic and capable Mother Earth and the Iron Maiden–esque album closer The Wavebreaker which does confirm the bands intensity.

The Lion Music label has a good reputation of working with quality bands and releasing quality albums and Overdrive's Angelmaker is another album that they can add to that roster.

If you love this approach to Heavy Metal/Power Metal then Overdrive’s Angelmaker is going to be right up your street putting a big smile on your face. It will have you playing that synomonous air guitar whilst the band work their way from the beginning to the end in what is a highly memorable journey.

Conclusion: 7 out of 10

JOHN O'BOYLE



Twinspirits - Legacy
Twinspirits - Legacy
Country of Origin:Italy
Format:CD
Record Label:Lion Music
Catalogue #:LMC 298
Year of Release:2011
Time:61:07
Info:Twinspirits
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Senseless (8:10), Pay For Their Art (4:18), Blind Soul (4:45), Slave To This World (4:41), Don’t Kill Your Dreams (4:05), Over And Over Again (5:34), The Endless Sleep/The Endless Sleep (1:52), The Endless Sleep/What Am I Supposed To Do (7:31), The Endless Sleep/Legacy (6:20), The Endless Sleep/I’m Leaving The World (6:09), The Endless Sleep/Tell Me The Truth (7:38)

Italian progressive metallers Twinspirits consist of Göran Nyström (vocals), Tommy Ermolli (guitar), Daniele Liverani (keyboards), Alberto Rigoni (bass), Dario Ciccioni (drums). Of these five musicians best known will be Tommy Ermolli and Daniele Liverani, Liverani mostly for his other musical outings with Khymera and Genius Opera. Whereas Ermolli became famous because of his guitar work. The rhythm section of Rigoni and Ciccioni do very well keeping everything tight.

Legacy is the third consecutive album for Twinspirits. Göran Nyström is present again on vocals, his distinctive voice comprable to that of Geoff Tate and James Labrie, with its strong open style - long notes and big on volume. This said he his balladry type singing works well on Don’t Kill Your Dreams, but mostly the songs lend themselves for the gigantic voluminous voice.

Legacy is an album divided into two sections. The first six songs are more or less straightforward guitar orientated heavy progressive rock songs whereas tracks seven through to eleven are more of a symphonic suite. The suite is a concept and deals with the story about a young man dying to soon and all the experiences thereafter. In thirty minutes Liverani has once again delivered a concept of the highest posture. We know from his other outings and previous Twinspirits albums that this man can write songs. He is without doubt one of the finest composers of these kind of concepts in modern day heavy progressive rock. His stories are always very consistent.

So an Italian band not in the mould of RPI, PFM or Le Orme. No the comparison we are looking at here are Dream Theater or closer to home and a band with one of the finest releases from Italy Kingcrow.

Every element of building a solid record in heavy progressive rock circles is present in the songs. Varied heavy riffing, fine solos, both on guitar and keyboards, the wide open sound needed to make the dynamics of these songs work. Great melody lines to keep the listeners listening and very importantly a driving rhythm section with an outstanding bass player and drummer.

I specifically like the suite The Endless Sleep and more specifically part 4 and 5 I’m Leaving This World and Tell Me The Truth - complete with magnificent bass playing, great keyboards and mighty fine acoustic guitar.

Concluding Legacy is a fine recording and is a solid buy - Twinspirits have just stepped up a level.

Conclusion: 8 out of 10

GERT HULSHOF



No Gravity – Worlds In Collision
No Gravity – Worlds In Collision
Country of Origin:Italy
Format:CD
Record Label:Lion Music
Catalogue #:LMC 299
Year of Release:2011
Time:61:37
Info:No Gravity
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Sailing On Sight (8:28), The Killer (7:12), Can’T Dream Anymore (7:11), Voices From The Past (6:19), Religious Beliefs (5:20), I’m Bleeding (5:55), Nowadays (7:20), Touchin My Enemy (3:01), Unexpected Gift (10:43)

After the spilt of progressive metal band Moonlight Comedy, Simone Fioretta’s had the idea of making an album with some of the finest vocalists from the progressive metal field. So Simone wrote the concept for Worlds In Collision and then asked several vocalists to come up with their own vocal lines and lyrical interpretations to the various compositions.

There’s no doubt that Simone Fioretta plays a mean guitar and from the very first notes to the last Simone shreds the guitar as if his life depends on it, ranging from high speed to the more subtle, but in the process making each song very heavy, prog metal. To complete the musical line up for Worlds In Collision he enlisted fellow musicians Davide Perruzza (guitar), Andrea De Paoli (keyboards), Andrea Casali (bass) and Marco Aiello(drums) for assistance. This formed a high standard of musicianship which was then complimented by the vocal line up of: Andy Kuntz (Vandenplas), Michele Luppi (Killing Touch), Fabio Lione (Rhapsody), Mark Basile (DGM), Roberto Tiranti (Labyrinth) and Emilio Germani (Moonlight Comedy). Six vocalist with their own sound and distinctive voices. So we have all ingredients present for a fantastic musical voyage - a musical extravaganza even.

Instrumentally speaking the album is consistent however bringing in the various vocalists, and having them do their own composing makes the album somewhat trickty to get into and gives the album and uneasy feel. I had a hard time staying with the songs.

The album comprises of nine songs and just over an hours worth of material, making the average length just under seven minutes per track. And it is the length of most of the tracks that I found to be the biggest issue with. The songs simply seemed to be spun out and extended way beyond their merit. Don't get me wrong I can truly enjoy longer songs, however this time I found myself enjoying the shorter tracks as they were more consistant and thought out. Although Touchin’ My Enemy didn't seem to be finished when it ended.

I cannot state Worlds In Collision is a masterpiece, to me it is an average heavy progressive metal album and picking highlights from the album would be the aforementioned Touchin’ My Enemy, I’m Bleeding and Religious Beliefs.

Conclusion: 6.5 out of 10

GERT HULSHOF



Minutian – Repercussions
Minutian – Repercussions
Country of Origin:Finland
Format:CD
Record Label:Independent
Catalogue #:N/A
Year of Release:2011
Time:42:53
Info:Minutian
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Hole (5:16), In Circles (7:05), Cold And Light (5:27), Gibe In (7:31), Undone (5:40), Isolation (8:41), Three By Five (4:13)

This interesting ‘progressively inclined’ rock/metal band from Helsinki originated last year when drummer Antti Ruokola produced a three-song demo and started to look for like-minded musicians. Up stepped Mikko Heino (vocals), Jouni Mikkola (bass) and the twin guitar attack of Jaakko Jernberg and Jesper Johnson.

The album is available from the band’s website and various digital providers and comes in a simple digi-book. There doesn’t appear to be a lyric sheet so I’m unable to give much of an idea as to any themes or concepts.

The overall feel of the album and the stylistic approach appeals to me. The band is seeking to find that balanced contrast between unconventional rhythmic patterns and odd time signatures, with more familiar rock and metal elements. There is a heavy leaning towards repetitive grooves, as opposed to the verse-chorus-verse-bridge-chorus approach.

The second track and opening single, In Circles, is really strong with a clever, gentle guitar lick and a melody that connects from the first listen. There are clever moments elsewhere, but overall, whilst I’ve found this a good listen, there isn’t enough that really sticks in my mind. On his lower range Mikko’s vocals are effective but he is clearly straining in the upper registers and when he needs to force some power. At times this really distracts from the music.

The guitar sound is different in each song. It works best for me when they utilise a richer tone that sits better with the more acoustic moments (Isolation and Undone). The jangly, indie guitar sound and the more heavy metal riffage (Hole) seems a little out of place where used. You can listen to all of the songs from the band's website to make up your own mind.

Minutian has only been around for a year and I’d put this band down as a work in progress. They have some good ideas but need to refine them and not be afraid to stamp a little more of their own identity onto their music. Ones to watch.

Conclusion: 6.5 out of 10

ANDY READ



Lion Music (Various Artists) - Embrace The Sun
Lion Music (Various Artists) - Embrace The Sun
Country of Origin:Finland
Format:2CD
Record Label:Lion Music
Catalogue #:LMC303
Year of Release:2011
Time:CD 1 60:18
CD 2 63:44
Info:Lion Music
Samples:Click here

Tracklist:

CD1: Mattsson Mother (4:43), Milan Polak End Of Time (4:58), Anthriel Circle Of Life (4:33), Airless Second Chance (4:51), Dreyelands Life Is Worth The Pain (4:48), Ashent Disappearance (4:13), Mastercastle Sakura (4:04), Locomotive Breath Rise Up [Perspective Of The Common Man] (3:31), Grönholm Believe (3:23), Marco Sfogli Stand Alone (4:50), Mindsplit Guardian Angel (3:54), Missing Tide Falling (4:15), Infinity Overture Do You Care? (4:45), Jennifer Batten Sakura Season (3:25)

CD2: Overdrive New Beginning [Arata Na Staato] (3:44), Emir Hot Fear Of The Storm (4:13), Venturia On The Brink (4:12), Mistheria Kibou (4:44), Section A Survive (4:47), Status Minor Drama (4:13), Mastermind Time Stands Still (4:58), Tomorrow's Eve Black Barren Lands (3:58), Iron Mask Sons Of The Sun (4:31), Astra Voice From Within (5:12), Benny Jansson Savior (3:00), Early Cross Cairn (5:38), Winterlong Failed Connection (4:56), The Lions Embrace The Sun (5:32)

In March 2011 Japan was struck by a devastating earthquake and Tsunami that caused untold damage and the loss of precious life. Lion Music has gathered together some of their most popular rostered artists and some special guests, compiling Embrace The Sun, twenty eight tracks of differing progressive metal. The rostered list is impressive and there is something here for everyone.

Most of these tracks haven't been previously released which is a real added bonus. I am not going to give a break down of each song as in all honesty that wouldn't be fair or fitting. What I will say though is that all the twenty eight songs presented here are fantastic, there is absolutely no throw away material, the album is full of musical virtuosity, stunning vocal presentations which all adds up to a quality release. If you are familiar with this label then you will know exactly what I am talking about.

In all honesty there are some absolute stunners that really make it worth your while putting your hand into your pocket. If that isn’t enough, then the fact that all the profits from this project are going to the Japanese Red Cross should be. Every little bit does make a difference.

Conclusion: Unrated

JOHN O'BOYLE


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