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2013 : VOLUME 61
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Prog Metal Special

Prog Metal Special

REVIEWS IN THIS ISSUE:



Fates Warning - Darkness In A Different Light
Fates Warning - Darkness In A Different Light
Country of Origin:U.S.A.
Format:CD
Record Label:InsideOut Music
Catalogue #:0IO01177
Year of Release:2013
Time:66:02
Info:Fates Warning
Samples:Click Here

Tracklist: One Thousand Fires (7:20), Firefly (4:57), Desire (3:58), Falling (1:34), I Am (5:06), Lighthouse (5:22), Into The Black (5:07), Kneel And Obey (5:04), O Chloroform (4:12), And Yet It Moves (14:03)

André De Boer's Review

Although I was only introduced to Fates Warning with Disconnected at the beginning of this century and got really impressed by FWX some years after that, this 'short' period of time made me connect to this band and to progressive metal in general. FWX is nine years old as we speak and, being one of my favourite all time albums, still slips into my player every now and then. To adore. The Headway Festival in 2005, with Mike Portnoy on drums, proved that with FWX the band was at its best.

Now Fates Warning releases their thirteenth album, called Darkness In A Different Light. The number of tracks depends on the album version you choose, the standard CD is discussed here.

And what can I say. The new album breathes the typical Fates Warning atmosphere with Bobby Jarzombeck on drums replacing good old Mark Zonder quite well. Darkness In A Different Light brings us a series of outstanding technical songs with the typically fantastic Ray Alder voice and filled with perfect Jim Matheos riffs. For examples, see Into The Black or One Thousand Fires. This all makes Darkness In A Different Light a really beautiful Fates Warning album; very impressive stuff and a new pearl in the jewellery box. And lots of fans will love it.

The only downside to me is that it does not have the really innovative elements that FWX did. Like I said, the album is lovely to listen to, no complaints there, but it does not give me the sense of awe and satisfaction that FWX did which made me listen to that specific album for ages. Keyboards are gone completely on the successor. Matheos is said to have gone back to the roots and I believe it; that's what makes this album as fantastic as it is. Smooth and beautiful without question, though not innovative enough to get me enchanted that long.

We will see 'em live at ProgPower Europe soon.

Andy Read's Review

I can't believe it was nine years ago almost to the day when DPRP published my review of the last album from Progressive metal founders Fates warning. It was the first of another ProgMetal Special, just like this one too!

Since then, apart from a handful of short European tours, the only activity in the Fates camp has been from the various "side projects". Singer Ray Alder has fronted the growing reputation of ProgMetallers Redemption whilst guitarist Jim Matheos has been busy developing his OSI project with keyboardist Kevin Moore.

Two years ago the guitarist also resurrected his relationship with founding Fates vocalist Jon Arch for the acclaimed Arch/Matheos album, Sympathetic Resonance, plus a short tour with a set that included material from the distant archives of Fates Warning. Darkness in a Different Light is the eleventh studio album by the band regarded by many as one of the founding fathers of Progressive Metal. It is their first studio release with Inside Out Records, ending a career-long association with Metal Blade.

It has taken two years to write and record the 10 songs, marking the longest gap between studio albums in their career. Two other firsts: Darkness... is their first studio album with guitarist Frank Aresti since 1994's Inside Out, whilst drummer Bobby Jarzombek of Riot/Halford/Sebastian Bach fame also makes his debut.

History lesson over! However the purpose in saying all that was to show why expectations for this release have been so varied amongst the Fates faithful - myself included.

Would the long time away have renewed the desire to begin a new musical chapter (maybe in the vein of the more technical, heavier and progressive style of Arch/Matheos) or more of the same (in the vein of FWX) or something completely different.

Having lived with album number eleven in darkness and in light, I can say that it is definitely a case of more of the same.

It's a slightly heavier album than FWX but with a very similar approach. The deep guitar riffage from Frank Aresti is to the fore, less of Matheos' quieter, looping guitar runs and samples. As a whole, I guess it's probably closer to Ray Alder's side project Engine than anything Fates has produced before now.

One Thousand Fires is a fabulous opener. Three musical themes circle around a central chorus, which at first appears much brighter than is should be. The opening riff is immense. This will be a live favourite as will be the anthemic I Am and the wonderfully hummable Into The Black. The first single, Firefly, has another bright melody with heavy, down-tuned guitars. Desire has a slower opening with a darker, angrier chorus.

Of the two quieter songs, Falling is simply beautiful, with Ray Alder's impassioned vocals over simple piano. It would be perfect if building into a heavier song in a similar way to Fates classics like The Eleventh Hour but at a mere 97 seconds it's just too short!! Lighthouse meanwhile is a wonderful, gentle brooding track and one of my favourites on the disc.

Sadly, the digital pre-release promo I am working from is low quality so I shall not comment on the production. Similarly, I've got no lyric sheet which is annoying as the words always add an extra dimension to any music from the pen of Jim Matheos.

Towards the end of the album, and Kneel and Obey is starting to tread too similar ground but it is a decent enough song. The "epic" closing track is really two separate songs joined together. Thus those excited by the length of the track are likely to be a bit disappointed. The first half has a better melody and riff. The appropriately titled O Chloroform is the only track that leaves me cold.

So if you're hoping for a return to the old Arch/Matheos-style Fates Warning, then this album may leave you unfulfilled. If you enjoyed FWX and Disconnected then there is very little here that you will not savour.

As part of the Fates discography, this is no classic and offers nothing new. Five great tracks, three which don't realise their full potential and two misses.

However Darkness In A Different Light does once again show that Jim Matheos, Ray Alder and Co can still deliver a top quality ProgMetal album packed with memorable riffs and melodies and compositional depth - and that, dear friends, is still better than 99% of such albums that will be released this year.

(Before placing your order, you may be interested to note that alongside the standard CD and Digital Download format, Darkness In A Different Light is also available in Europe as 2CD Mediabook edition and as Gatefold 2LP version with four bonus tracks of Firefly (Extended), Falling Further and live versions of One and Life In Still Water.)

Conclusions:

ANDRÉ DE BOER : 7.5 out of 10
ANDY READ : 8.5 out of 10


From the DPRP Archives...
Previous Fates Warning CD Reviews:-
FWX
(2004)
"Personally I'd rate this as one of their most coherent and consistent albums since Parallels - and as that disc sits as one of my all time favourites, then that is no mean achievement."
(Andy Read, 9/10)
disconnected
(2000)
"The scaled layering of structure and atmospheres serves more to achieving a great composition as a whole with Fates Warning. And in the end that is what makes this a great CD."
(Mark Sander, 8.5/10)
Other CD & DVD Reviews:-
The View From Here [DVD] (2003)Live In Athens [DVD] (2005)Perfect Symmetry (Spec. Ed.) (2008)
Disconnected / Inside Out (2006)A Pleasant Shade of Grey (2006)No Exit (25th Anniv. Edition) (2007)
Previous Fates Warning Live Reviews:-
1997:-Tilburg, The Netherlands
1998:-Tilburg, The NetherlandsBaarlo, The Netherlands
Vosselaar, Belgium
2005:-Headway Festival, Netherlands
2007:-London, U.K.
Fates Warning Interviews:-with Andy Read (2005)



Memento Waltz - Division By Zero
Memento Waltz - Division By Zero
Country of Origin:Italy
Format:CD
Record Label:Independent
Catalogue #:n/a
Year of Release:2013
Time:51:01
Info:Memento Waltz
Samples:Click Here
Track list: Omicron (5:14), Opus Alchemicum (5:33), Europa (Jupiter II) (6:02), Achilles' Paradox (5:07), Mechdreamer (8:01), A New Beginning (4:38), Emphasize (6:17)

André De Boer's Review

Who remembers ProgPower 2011? Remember some amazing Italian bands like Memento Waltz. Totally unknown to me they knocked my socks off on the spot and did so with almost the whole audience as well. The band played songs off their Antithesis of Time album back then and now, after two years of hard work, Memento Waltz presents a new self-produced album titled Division by Zero with special guest Matt Johnsen of U.S. metallers Pharaoh providing guitar solos for two songs.

We are talking tech prog metal here. When pushing the play button, an album of seven rather lengthy tracks enrols starting off with a familiar one-second Windows machine beep. And then tech prog metal of the highest level is presented instantly, a feast for the ears. No errors here. I'd like to emphasize the highly complex compositions, the outstanding ingenious playing of all instruments and the clear, wide ranging and powerful voice of Marco Piu. Not using grunts or growls is a big plus for me. Most of the songs are high paced, without being intrusive. Everything is high class on this album. No, that's not entirely true - the quality is extremely high. Even a bit of jazz is magically woven into Opus Alchemicum and Emphasize, blending it into the genre perfectly which is quite an achievement on its own. Praise to Livio Poier for his amazing guitar work and Giuseppe Deiana for his bass but especially Gabriele Maciocco for the way he uses the drum kit to miraculously stitch every time change together. Great craftsmanship.

A little bit about some of the songs and lyrics. It is nice to know that Omicron is about a computer virus that activates itself to destroy data, a personal experience of one of the band members at the age of 8. That song is a perfect sample of the whole album's atmosphere. You can have a listen to it with the sample link at the top of the review. Respect for the old sciences is the subject of Opus Alchemicum, transforming metals into gold.... Then there is Mechdreamer, in my opinion the most outstanding track of this beautiful album. Although still a complex track, and virtually divided into two different but associated parts, it is the most accessible one. Mechdreamer speaks about a robot that can dream while A New Beginning handles the transformation from real to digital life as a better condition for humanity; interesting stories, interesting songs.

With the Division by Zero album, Memento Waltz bring us a lovely set of their beautiful sound which is not complex for the sake of it. It just fits perfectly. Without the possibility to have a moment of rest, Memento Waltz keeps you intrigued and thrilled throughout this high quality display of tech metal progressiveness which is a more than worthy follow-up to Antithesis of Time. Grab your chance and hear this recommended new album, Division by Zero.

Andy Read's Review

Almost exactly two years after this Italian quintet first emerged with an impressive set at 2011’s ProgPower Europe Festival, comes their long-awaited second disc.

There is nothing on this disc to alter my view on reviewing their debut album, Antithesis of Time, that this is a band clearly influenced by the likes of Watchtower, Psychotic Waltz, Spiral Architect, King Crimson, Canvas Solaris and early Sieges Even and Fates Warning. Most of the music here would sit comfortably as a bonus track on Watchtower's classic Control & Resistance.

So-called Technical Metal has always been a small fringe of the ProgMetal genre. The high-pitched vocals and complex technical guitar-based heavy riffage is not to everyone's taste.

Thankfully (or sadly) I've always had a soft spot of this sort of thing.

In reality, over the 30-odd years since the sub-genre emerged, there have only ever been a handful of bands which have ever assembled a TechMetal album which deserves wider recognition. Thus any band like Memento Waltz, which has the basic ingredients in place to create such a disc, will always grab my attention.

The seven tracks on offer mix technical proficiency with clever songwriting and just enough melodic hooks to keep a listener engaged.

The ace in the hand of this Italian quartet is that in Marco Piu, Mememto Waltz possesses a singer from the top drawer. 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. As with Antithesis Of Time he is on inspiring form here - although I'd prefer his vocals higher in the final mix.

The guitar work of Livio Poier is again flamboyant with hard-edged riffing, furiously-fingered solos and some nice jazz and other left-field touches.

As with its predecessor, Omicron is what in the 'old days' would have been called 'a demo'. The sound, especially the drums, is pretty raw. There are quite a few loose ends in the song arrangements that could be better implanted into the sounds with a bit more studio time.

This is a band crying out for that little extra bit of support (both financially and creatively) to enable them to produce an album that could easily hold its own against the likes of Control & Resistance or A Sceptic's Universe.

However, there is a clear progression in the quality of the song writing and production from Antithesis... and Memento Waltz are not far from the finished article. As so few Tech Metal albums of this quality are released, I have no hesitation in giving Omicron a hearty recommendation to any fan of this sub-genre.

Conclusions:

ANDRÉ DE BOER : 8 out of 10
ANDY READ : 8 out of 10


From the DPRP Archives...
Previous Memento Waltz CD Reviews:-
Antithesis Of Time
(2010)
"...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."
(Andy Read, 7/10)
Previous Memento Waltz Live Reviews:-
2011:-ProgPower Europe, The Netherlands



Dead End Space - Distortion Of Senses
Dead End Space - Distortion Of Senses
Country of Origin:Sweden
Format:CD
Record Label:Melodic Revolution
Catalogue #:n/a
Year of Release:2013
Time:69:35
Info:Dead End Space
Samples:Click Here

Tracklist: Distortion Of Senses (7:33), Drama Fields (7:19), Hundred Years Of Dust (7:43), Breathe In Breathe Out (9:58), The Lightworkers (8:07), Confessions (0:51), Obsessed (3:27), Phantom Death (6:33), Last Outpost (4:20), Time Flies (6:51), Free Lost Angels (6:48)

This is the second review in this ProgMetal Special of an album I've acquired on the basis of listening to a track on the recent Progstravaganza13 sampler. Whilst the Standing Ovation album proved to be a disappointment - the sample track being the only one I can listen to - Dead End Space has not left my playlist since it arrived.

If you love Power Windows-era Rush, then I'd suggest that Distortion of Senses is an essential purchase.

Playing the guitar since the age of 12, Chicago-born guitarist, vocalist and songwriter Johnny Engstrom has been working as a musician and playing in bands for over 20 years.

At a young age he moved to Karlskoga, Sweden, where he made friends with the talented ABBA guitarist Lasse Wellander, who inspired him to develop his guitar skills.

His first band went by the name of Dead End Street. With bass player Niklas Högberg and drummer Galle Johansson they played many gigs and festivals, made records and had a few television appearances. Johnny's career went elsewhere before in early 2008 the trio got back together as the Johnny Engstrom Band and the debut album, Analyse My Dream, shortly followed. From Birth To Chaos was the band's sophomore effort, released in February 2009, followed by Magnetic Force in October 2011.

Earlier this year they (wisely) decided to change the band name for the release of their fourth album, Distortion Of Senses.

Now I'd never even heard of the Johnny Engstrom Band, so obviously can't comment on any of the previous releases (although if the band wants to send me a copy I'd happily do a retrospective!). What I can tell you is that the music of Dead End Space really hits the mark for me. The sample track, Breathe In Breathe Out, gives a perfect indication of what this album has to offer. Mid-paced mildly metallic riffing, a sprinkling of keys, melodic guitar solos, crisp rhythms and some hummable melodies. Johnny has a great voice with plenty of variety which blends with the music perfectly. The opening title track and The Lightworkers are current favourites, but this really is a consistently strong album from start to finish.

A Top 10, possibly even a Top 5 album of the year for me. A great discovery. The band is also due to record three new songs for release as a digital download only later this year, so keep an eye on their website. I could only find this album to buy direct from the Melodic Revolution Records website in Sweden. However it arrived through my door in France within a week, so no problems there.

Conclusion: 9 out of 10

ANDY READ


Tempul - All the Windows of the World
Tempul - All the Windows of the World
Country of Origin:U.S.A.
Format:CD
Record Label:Independent
Catalogue #:n/a
Year of Release:2013
Time:41:11
Info:Tempul
Samples:Click Here

Tracklist: Ikarus (7:02), Your Machines (5:58), All The Windows Of the World (1:40), Indigo (9:45), One Place In Time (2:38), When A Spider Lets You In (4:40), Resonant Slumber (2:40), As I'm Waiting (7:11)

Hailing from Seattle, Washington, Tempul was a band I discovered on a Tuesday afternoon, lost by scanning CD Baby for some undiscovered "progressive" music. I liked what I heard, contacted the band and duly scribbled a genuinely upbeat review of their self-titled debut disc.

The foundation of this musical Tempul was the pairing of vocalist/guitarist Matt Jungmann and guitarist Perry Jones from their high school days. The group truly began when they were joined by drummer J.D. Fischer in college. The quartet was completed in the autumn of 2009 when bassist Mike Stevi was recruited.

I kept in touch with Mike and last year DPRP Radio was able to give the world's first airplay of the new Tempul single, Your Machines. It appears that the band has now split.

That's a big, big shame as the album they managed to put out shortly before doing so showed masses of promise. All The Windows Of The World offers plenty of listening pleasure for fans of Karnivool, Sadhana, Porcupine Tree and Tool. As a footnote to their all-too-short existence, the band has just made the album available via Bandcamp.

What you have are the five full songs and three interludes. All are packed with emotion, with constant dynamic shifts, some inventive song structures, and an array of grooves from across the rock spectrum.

Tempul is typical of the new wave of younger bands that are taking their progressive influences and mixing it with the guitars, energies and melodies of more Indie rock bands to create something fresh, thoughtful and invigorating.

This is an album that rewards a few concentrated listens. As with the debut disc, there are moments that remind me of Fen, Absolace, Dianoya, Disperse, Cloverseeds, Gazpacho, Souljourners, Tides of Man and Abigail's Ghost.

I love Matt Jungman's emotional voice and the guitar work is exquisite as are the meandering grooves laid down by the bass and drums. In contrast to the debut the production this time around is warm and full with all the hallmarks of a professional release from a talented bunch of musicians and songwriters. A highly recommended disc and hopefully some of the band members will appear in other guises soon.

Conclusion: 9 out of 10

ANDY READ

From the DPRP Archives...
Previous Tempul CD Reviews:-
Tempul
(2011)
"A debut offering from an unsigned band. On that level this must rank as one of the most promising such releases I've had the pleasure of discovering."
(Andy Read, 7.5/10)



Subsignal - Paraíso
Subsignal - Paraíso
Country of Origin:Netherlands/Germany
Format:CD
Record Label:ZYX/Golden Core Records
Catalogue #:GCR 20078D-2
Year of Release:2013
Time:53:14
Info:Subsignal
Samples:Click Here

Tracklist: Time and Again (1:13), Paraíso (4:44), A New Reliance (5:51), A Heartbeat Away (6:26), A Long Way Since The Earth Crashed (4:31), A Giant Leap of Faith (5:17), The Stillness Beneath The Snow (6:01), The Blueprint of a Winter (feat. Marcela Bovio) (5:49), The Colossus That Bestrode The World (5:13), Swimming Home (7:58)

Line-up:-
Markus Steffen - Guitars
Arno Menses - Vocals
David Bertok - Keyboards
Ralf Schwager - Bass
Danilo Batdorf - Drums & Percussion
Marcela Bovio - Guest vocals on The Blueprint of a Winter

Subsignal have became one of my favourite bands since their first release, Touchstones in 2011. Before that I'd been listening to Sieges Even, records like The Art of Navigating by the Stars and Paramount both of which I enjoyed a lot. So, when I heard about the disbanding of Sieges Even and the birth of Subsignal with a line-up formed by Markus Steffen and Arno Menses from Sieges Even and Ralf Schwager from Dreamscape, I thought to myself "this is going to be a tremendous band". And so it proved to be.

I like the sound of the band - which is sometimes Prock Metal, sometimes more Prog Rock and sometimes AOR - as it positions them between these various genres and not actually completely part of any. But in the end and after two fantastic albums, Beautiful and Monstrous from 2009 and Touchstones, the band now sound like Subsignal.

The band has now returned with their third release, called Paraíso (which is the Spanish word for 'Paradise'), and their first line-up change as Danilo Batdorf from Dreamscape has replaced Roel Van Helden on drums. Overall the album keeps to the simple arrangement style, one of the band's trademarks, combined with some powerful passages, atmospheric sounds, the intensity of Arno's voice and featuring the keyboards and guitars in the main role throughout the album.

This is the first time that the band has utilised a melancholic intro for a record and Time and Again, with a soft string arrangement that reminds me of Sylvan, takes us into Paraíso, the title track for the album. Arno Menses said: "The song is about your own paradise. This is meant in a sense that it is the way to your own inner paradise. And your inner paradise is always for you only." This is a powerful but very melodic song and the perfect way to open the album in which the guitar chords are always upfront with very harmonic choruses combined with Arno's voice.

A New Reliance is a particular kind of song, the third to utilise the same chords in the composition as Where Angels Fear to Tread from Beautiful and Monstrous and Echoes in Eternity from Touchstones, but played in a different tempo. It has some ska and reggae- like chords but with a very Progressive/AOR feeling, a very interesting song and lighter than the other two mentioned. A Heartbeat Away sounds to me like acoustic Kansas, starting with a Violin solo and with a fretless bass marking the rhythm before changing into a more drum-oriented song that switches again to acoustic at the end. I'm feeling that this album is lighter than the previous ones with more piano arrangements instead of strong keyboard parts, more choral harmonies and with the drums playing a major role this time. These elements make A Long way Since the Earth Crashed a more evocative song.

Without any doubt A Giant Leap of Faith is my favourite song from this album, I really enjoy the intro led by piano and drums before switching into a song that can easily be considered a trademark one for the band with the changing tempo and short but precise guitar arrangements plus an acoustic section in the middle accompanied with latin percussion. A fantastic song! The Stillness Beneath the Snow is more AOR with heavier arrangements in an acoustic background with rhythm marked by drums and piano.

Marcela Bovio is a Mexican singer who actually lives in The Netherlands and is known for her work with Elfonia and Stream of Passion. She duets with Arno on The Blueprint of a Winter, a song that I consider a lighter and rhythmical way to play a ballad, a very harmonic and beautiful song. The Colossus that Bestrode the World is a heavier song, very similar to others performed on the previous albums, and the first in which I can appreciate some synthesizer arrangements but they are too weak. To close we have Swimming Home starting with a softer section with choruses, piano and acoustic guitar that switches to a lighter outro, perhaps if it were a little bit shorter it wouldn't have sounded weaker.

Overall this album is lighter and simpler than the previous ones but it preserves the power and essence of the band in a very nice album that deserves to be listened to many times and is, therefore, recommended to our readers.

Conclusion: 8.5 out of 10

GUILLERMMO PALLADINO

From the DPRP Archives...
Previous Subsignal CD Reviews:-
Touchstones
(2011)
"If sophisticated, yet accessibly melodic, modern progressive rock is your thing, then I strongly suggest you do not let this album pass you by."
(Andy Read, 9.5/10)
Previous Subsignal Live Reviews:-
2010:-Progressive Promotion Festival, Germany



Until Rain - Anthem To Creation
Until Rain - Anthem To Creation
Country of Origin:Greece
Format:CD
Record Label:Escape
Catalogue #:n/a
Year of Release:2013
Time:78:54
Info:Until Rain
Samples:Click Here

Tracklist: Brain Death (5:24), Think Again (4:19), Living Hell (5:17), My Own Blood (5:05), Empty Helmet (10:50), 13-8 (5:02), The Clang Of Shields Pt.I (6:54), The Clang Of Shields Pt.II (3:25), Anthem To Creation (18:21), Breaking Of The 7 Seals (4:47), Marionettes (9:23)

There are a few non "Progressive" record labels that I keep a regular eye on, as every so often they have a likeable habit of pulling the proverbial rabbit out of the hat.

England's Escape Music is one such label. Most of the time its release schedule consists of melodic rock and AOR, however it has an admirable habit of signing a new ProgMetal band every year or so. Almost without fail, their album will end up in my Top 10 of the year.

That will certainly be the case with this wonderfully addictive album from Greek band Until Rain. I don't know where this quintet has been hiding as they've apparently already put out two albums and an EP without me ever hearing of them before.

Anthem to Creation starts off with two of the best melodic ProgMetal tracks you will hear all year. Both remind me of the effect I had when listening to Canadian melodic ProgMetallers Borealis for the first time a couple of years ago. Some other bands on Lion Music, such as Seventh Wonder, Minds Eye and SectionA would sit equally well on a playlist with Until Rain.

Elsewhere we have a good mix of more direct songs, a couple of ballads and two epics which allow the musicians to be a little more expansive and, yes, "progressive".

Yannis Papadopoulos is a vocalist from the top drawer. He has the full high and low range, with a nice raspy edge to his voice. He is able to dish out melodic hooks that really stick in the memory.

There is the all-too-common desire to utilise almost every minute of the CD's capacity. I feel that editing 15 or so minutes out would have offered a leaner, meaner listening experience.

The production is excellent. This is a very meaty, metallic, powerful listen. Highly recommended.

Conclusion: 8.5 out of 10

ANDY READ


Tellus Requiem - Invictus (The 11th Hour)
Tellus Requiem - Invictus (The 11th Hour)
Country of Origin:Norway
Format:CD
Record Label:Nightmare Records
Catalogue #:n/a
Year of Release:2013
Time:58:16
Info:Tellus Requiem
Samples:Click Here

Tracklist: Ab Aeterno, Red Horizon, Eden Burns, Reflections Remain, Twilight Hour, Sands Of Gold, Tranquility, Redemption (Frontiers 2), Invictus, Dies Irae

An enjoyable slab of Symphony X-inspired ProgMetal from this accomplished Scandinavian quintet. Formed in 2007, Invictus follows the band's 2010 self-titled debut which caused a bit of a stir in the metal underground. So it's nice to see that this album has been signed by Lance King's American-based Nightmare Records.

Despite their short lifetime, the band appears to already be on their third vocalist. Ben Rodgers has an impressive set of pipes, able to deliver strong highs and lows. There is a heavy accent and his articulation could be clearer for those who like to make out the lyrics without having to refer to the booklet. If he can sort those two aspects out, then his is a name to watch.

This is a very powerful and heavy album. The production, mixed and mastered by the renowned Tommy Hansen, brings all the instruments to the fore. The guitar of Stig Nergård is particularly impressive.

Having made the comparison, there are actually less symphonics and more complexity here than anything Symphony X has produced. Neither does Tellus Requiem stick to a set formula, with most tracks going off into unexpected twists and turns.

The instrumental wizardry and the need to cram as many time signatures into each composition as possible does overshadow the songs for me. Not too many of the melodies have stuck, despite repeated listens. However the band will be on tour in Europe in December with Kamelot and Revamp. Well worth getting there early...

Conclusion: 7 out of 10

ANDY READ


Aeon Zen - Enigma
Aeon Zen - Enigma
Country of Origin:U.K.
Format:CD
Record Label:Nightmare Records
Catalogue #:n/a
Year of Release:2013
Time:46:39
Info:Aeon Zen
Samples:Click Here

Tracklist: Enter the Enigma (2:59), Artificial Soul (5:44), Divinity (3:55), Seven Hills (3:30), Warning (6:33), Turned to Ash (4:22), Still Human (4:53), Eternal Snow (6:05), Downfall (6:51), Survival (5:15), Time Divine 2.0 (4:44)

Enigma is the third album in four years from the prolific pen of songwriter, multi instrumentalist, singer, producer and graphic artist Rich Hinks.

Due to some highly positive reviews (and I guess sales), what commenced as pretty much a one-man studio project with guest vocalists, has now evolved into a full-blown band (with guest vocals!).

With Swede Andi Kravljaca (ex-Seventh Wonder, ex-Vindictiv, Silent Call) as the "official" singer, we also have guest vocals from Jonny Tatum (Eumeria), Atle Pettersen (Above Symmetry) and Nate Loosemore (Lost In Thought). In addition Mr Hinks also contributes vocals throughout, including some growls.

Unusually it's not a case of each singer having their own song, but each having their own sections or harmonies thereof. In a similar way to the music of Arjen Lucassen, Enigma is much more of a cast production. Thus, whether this disc works for you will largely depend on if you like such a tapestry of vocals or whether like me you prefer to settle into a groove with one singer and enjoy the ride.

Musically I'd describe Enigma as a sum of its parts; a broad mix of Eumeria, Above Symmetry, Lost In Thought and Seventh Wonder.

Whilst an enjoyable listen, personally I think there are better songs on both Minds Portrait and Face Of The Unknown.

Overall I think the move to turn Aeon Zen into a full-blown band is a good one - especially now that they include live gigs in their repertoire. I just think Rich needs to take the bull by the horns and (maintaining the animal analogies) go the full hog.

Conclusion: 7 out of 10

ANDY READ

From the DPRP Archives...
Previous Aeon Zen CD Reviews:-
The Face Of The Unknown
(2010)
"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."
(Gert Hulshof, 8/10)



Maestrick - Unpuzzle!
Maestrick - Unpuzzle!
Country of Origin:Brazil
Format:CD
Record Label:Power Prog
Catalogue #:4260115032341
Year of Release:2011/2013
Time:62:23
Info:Maestrick
Samples:Click Here

Tracklist: H.U.C. (6:08), Aquarela (6:56), Pescador (4:45), Sir Kus (1:44), Puzzler (2:06), Disturbia (6:33). Treasures of the World (5:48), Radio Active (6:19), Smilesnif (4:36), Yellown of the Ebrium (6:23), Lake of Emotions (21:03)

This debut album, Unpuzzled!, was originally released in 2011 and is now re-released by a new record label. We hadn't reviewed it the first time so now, on a second chance, we are.

Maestrick is a progressive metal band from Brazil. That is, they call themselves a progressive metal band. But are they? The first song H.U.C. immediately says 'yes'. Unmistakable progressive metal and a fine song as well, complete with a modest grunt and all. The mood is set for the rest of the album, you may inadvertently think.

But then? Then there are a number of songs that do not match the prog metal qualification. You hear everything from rock to pop to jazz to latin to eclectic to symphonic to accordion bits and pieces, some of it sung in the Portuguese language. This all together is very refreshing. What a positive energy this band Maestrick creates! The ears keep focussed and well taken care of. 'Cheerful' is the keyword; the band is not here to tell you they are the best, they are here to entertain you.

Okay, the second track, Aquarela, is still a metal song, though kind off smooth and complete with some lovely multi-vocal singing. Pescador however reflects the eclectic side. Local South American dance music mixed with an odd metal riff every now and then. Every song has its own identity, up until the lengthy (21 minute) closing track, Lake of Emotions.

All songs on this remarkable debut album make me very happy. I'm glad that the band advertises itself as progressive metal because, a) they are a progressive metal band, and b) otherwise their music would probably not have reached our ears. For those who can appreciate some skilful combinations of eclectic, experimental, innovative and progressive metal this is an album you'd like to have. This debut Maestrick album is a very good start. I hope the band will continue thinking and playing this way, so we might see Maestrick grow to the top level soon.

Conclusion: 7 out of 10

ANDRÉ DE BOER


Factory Of Dreams - Some Kind Of Poetic Destruction
Factory Of Dreams - Some Kind Of Poetic Destruction
Country of Origin:Portugal
Format:CD
Record Label:Prog Rock Records
Catalogue #:n/a
Year of Release:2013
Time:68:40
Info:Hugo Flores
Samples:Click Here

Tracklist: Prelude (2:46), Strange Sounds (4:19), Escaping The Nightmare (4:26), Angel Tears (5:16), Seashore Dreams (6:46), Dark Season (5:01), Sound War (5:45), Hope Garden (5:56), Travelling (5:14), e Neutron Star (5:57), Join Us Into Sound (5:41), Playing The Universe (7:03)

Portugal's multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Hugo Flores will be well known to many readers. Since his emergence in 2000 with his a solo effort Atlantis he has produced two albums with his band Sonic Pulsar and a further two under the Project Creation banner.

Factory of Dreams (FoD) is his other project. This one is a partnership with vocalist Jessica Lehto (who also has her own project by the name of Once There Was).

Despite only joining forces in 2008, Some Kind Of Poetic Destruction is their fourth album. Previously Poles, A Strange Utopia and Melotronical have all received positive reviews on DPRP.

Hugo seems to specialise in futuristic concept storylines and this is no exception. This time the story is about something that is closing in on the earth. We follow Kyra, the main character through a 70 minute journey searching for her purpose, faith and destiny.

Musically what we have is a full-blown, symphonic, female-fronted style of Progressive Metal with blends of Neo-Prog and some lighter acoustic, almost folksy interludes. Spoken interludes allow the story to unravel.

There is plenty on offer for fans of Within Temptation and Nightwish to make this an album worth investigating. Flores provides a rich array of heavy guitars and symphonic bombast to accompany Jessica's lush vocals. Some Kind Of Poetic Destruction follows a pretty similar style to the previous three FoD discs, albeit with more variety and progressive diversions than I recall.

Whilst having a voice in the upper reaches, I wouldn't go so far as to call Lehto's vocals operatic. The closest comparison would be Liv Kristine of Leazes Eyes with that slightly dreamy innocence with a hint of folk. For me though I just do not connect with her melodic lines in a way that makes me want to come back for more. It's a personal subjective thing I know, but my favourite track is the one sung by one of two guest vocalists. Dark Season is really brought to life by Magali Luyten (Beautiful Sin, Ayreon, Epysode) where her melody really kicks home.

Also, with so much thought gone into the multi-layered arrangements by Flores, it is a big shame that the rhythms sound like they've been imposed by a drum machine. At times the drums really do not fit the music at all. Getting in a seasoned sticksman would be a worthwhile investment next time around I feel.

Anyhow, for those who enjoyed any or all of the first three FoD albums then this to my ears is the best of the bunch. For those who enjoy symphonic female-fronted progressive metal with a full storyline then this could be a worthwhile purchase.

Conclusion: 7 out of 10

ANDY READ

From the DPRP Archives...
Previous Factory Of Dreams CD Reviews:-
Poles
(2008)
"...will appeal to fans of the Goth or black metal genre, but may be an acquired taste for more sensitive listeners."
(Jim Corcoran, 6/10)
A Strange Utopia
(2009)
"...a worthy and very progressive fusion that deserves to be heard - recommended!"
(Alex Torres, 8/10)
Melotonical
(2011)
"...this is another step up the ladder. The sound becoming more defind and miss Lehto’s voice more beautiful with each new album."
(Gert Hulshof, 8/10)

Transcend - The Mind
Transcend - The Mind
Country of Origin:Canada
Format:CD
Record Label:Melodic Revolutions
Cat.No.:0620953442728
Year of Release:2012
Time:82:59
Info:Transcend
Samples:Click Here

Tracklist:
CD 1 - Moment of Infinity (8:39), Entity Divine (12:37), The Love Song (7:38), Reign Over Me (9:35)
CD 2 - The Mind, Parts 1 - 8 (44:27)

Warning: If you are in a hurry, please leave this page.

To be honest and clear, you must be able to show the virtue of patience for this album otherwise there is no way that you can enjoy it as the artists intended.

Some guys in Montreal, Canada, had the idea to start a new progressive metal band and then spend five years of their lives creating a debut album. Not a demo, nor an EP or something like that. No, Transcend had ambition. You know, the "lets do it exactly right the first time" kind of thing.

"Hey, let's start with a double album!", one might have said.

"No wait, let's pick some theme first and make it a concept album".

"No, no, wait. Let's take 'the mind' as a theme. Makes it a bit of a challenge”, another one suggested.

"No, no, no, let's do the concept on a double album with an epic song of half an hour to end with!"

"Too short - maybe 45 minutes?"

"Yes! We'll do exactly that!" And they did...

It is a bit too much if you haven't got the patience, hence the warning at the top of this review. If you have the patience then sit back and relax. Engage carefully. Close your eyes and hear a series of beautiful melodic compositions pass by. The music fits to the theme subject perfectly. Like I said: lots of ambition here, and a lot of skills too. An amazing achievement Where others take twenty years of career first, Transcend do it as a debut - and get away with it quite nicely.

Join this daring project and enjoy.

Conclusion: 7 out of 10

ANDRÉ DE BOER


Standing Ovation - The Antikythera Mechanism
Standing Ovation - The Antikythera Mechanism
Country of Origin:Finland
Format:CD
Record Label:Independent
Cat.No.:n/a
Year of Release:2013
Time:59:44
Info:Standing Ovation
Samples:Click Here

Tracklist: Scatter (2:04), Escapade (3:11), Travesty (2:29), Black Box (6:06), Hey Ho! (3:27), Hemorrhage (6:07), I Have Superhuman Powers (5:52), Break The News (5:05), The Antikythera Mechanism Pt.1 - Xekínima (8:58), The Antikythera Mechanism Pt.2 - Eureka (5:23), The Antikythera Mechanism Pt.3 - Apoptosis (5:44)

Standing Ovation took to their feet somewhere in 2006. However it wasn't until the start of 2011 that their debut EP Scars Suit Me was self-released, being voted as the third best self-released record in the Finnish Metal Awards.

Standing Ovation seeks to mix numerous genres with an underlying heavy, metallic touch and a rugged modern alt rock style.

The band's debut full-length came my way after I heard a track called Xekínima on the recent Progstravaganza13 compilation. This is a sumptuously, darkly, energetic slice of progressive alt rock in a Riverside meets Green Carnation sort of way.

Sadly this really is a raw diamond in a field of under-ripe tomatoes. The main problem I have is with the attempts by singer Jouni Partanen to encapsulate so many out-of-kilter styles and moods across the 12 tracks on offer. Part Rocky Horror Show, part Johnny Rotten, part shoe-gaze garage band, part The Young Ones, part The Sound of Music. There may be a singer somewhere in the world who can bring this off but Jouni makes this album sound like a really bad night at the karaoke. As on Xekínima he does have a decent deadpan mid-range. Sadly, everything else just sounds so mad/comic that I:-

a) am not entirely certain he is being serious

b) could not really take in anything else

c) could never listen to this album again.

I don't know what The Antikythera Mechanism is and the rest of the 20-minute plus title track has given me no indication that I need to.

This is one of the least appealing albums I've had to review for quite some time. I've downloaded Xekínima and will leave it at that. No standing ovation, barely a respectable round of applause...

Conclusion: 5 out of 10

ANDY READ

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Published 7th October 2013

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