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2014 : VOLUME 21
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Prog Metal Special

REVIEWS IN THIS ISSUE:



The Aurora Project - Selling The Aggression
The Aurora Project - Selling The Aggression
Country of Origin:The Netherlands
Format:CD
Record Label:Freia Music
Catalogue #:n/a
Year of Release:2013
Time:44:00
Info:The Aurora Project
Samples:Click Here

Tracklist: Dualistic Consciousness (5:20), Turning Of The Tide (5:18), Selling The Aggression (6:24), The Oil Supremacy (6:55), The Sense Of Reality (6:54), Speeding Up Of Time (4:02), Newtopia (9:07)

Selling The Aggression is the third album from The Aurora Project and slowly, slowly this Dutch sextet is developing into a very good band.

Their previous albums, Unspoken Words and Shadow Border both had their moments but lacked the songwriting consistency to drag me back for repeat listens.

Album number three sees them up the quality in all departments. Easily their best work and they certainly seem to be benefiting from the understanding that often develops when a band has a steady line-up, allowing its members to develop a coherence through shared experiences of performing and writing.

I think where I've always felt a bit disappointed in The Aurora Project sound is its failure to utilise the potential strengths of having two (very capable) guitarists. As the album title maybe suggests, there is an aggressive, riff-fuelled energy to this album, which works a treat.

I'd still be reluctant to label this as "Progressive Metal". There's still a lot of NeoProg and atmospherics which tell of a Marillion, Porcupine Tree and Pink Floyd upbringing. But from the wonderful opener Dualistic Consciousness this is a much heavier album - and all the better for it.

The aggressiveness also flows through the angry lyrical theme of the disc. I wouldn't go so far as to call it a concept, more a theme around a changing society from the moment the internet arrived, to the establishment of a new world order.

The final two songs do not hold my attention quite as well, but overall this is a big step up for the band, offering an album that will hold interest for all lovers of Heavy Prog.

Conclusion: 9 out of 10

ANDY READ

From the DPRP Archives...
Previous The Aurora Project CD Reviews:-
Unspoken Words
(2005)
"They have obviously put a lot of hard work into the project, but it doesnít always show where it counts, which is in the music."
(Geoff Feakes, 7/10)
Shadow Border
(2009)
"If you like heavy progressive rock you can easily buy this album without getting disappointed."
(Edwin Roosjen, 7.5/10)



Prospekt - The Colourless Sunrise
Prospekt - The Colourless Sunrise
Country of Origin:U.K.
Format:CD
Record Label:Sensory
Catalogue #:SR3069
Year of Release:2013
Time:65:49
Info:Prospekt
Samples:Click Here
Track list: A Desolate Kingdom (6:38), Dissident Priests (6:45), Eternal Memories (1:11), Shroud (7:38), The Colourless Sunrise (13:17), Visions (3:41), The Great Awakening (9:55), Shutter Asylum (4:41), Hunting Poseidon (12:03)

When I first started reviewing 14 years ago, you really could count the number of Progressive Metal bands from the U.K. on one hand. And neither of them could get a gig anywhere in the country!

Now such bands seem to be emerging from all over the country. Prospekt hails from the famous university city of Oxford. I've been keeping an eye on them since hearing a raw, self-titled EP three years ago. It offered demo versions of some of the songs which appear here.

With The Colourless Sunrise, Prospekt has produced a debut album which easily made my list of the Top 25 Best Albums of 2013. Now I've had a bit more time to get to know the music, I think it's probably risen into my Top 10.

The band specialises in an aggressive, technical form of progressive metal. This album offers listeners a wonderful collection of songs with an epic feel but which don't forget the need for warmth and melody. If you like comparisons, then a more intense version of Darkwater or Seventh Wonder would be a good start. There are elements of Zero Hour and early Spheric Universe Experience. The closest comparison from last year would be Until Rain, a band from Greece who also produced a debut album which made my Top 10.

There is a winning combination of the smooth, passionate, high-pitched vocals from Richard Marshall and the spellbinding, intelligent guitar soloing and riff-mongering of founder member Lee Luland.

With producer Jens Bogren (Opeth/Evergrey) and Adam Getgood (Periphery) being hired to mix and master this disc, it sounds supreme. Being released on Sensory Records, the packaging is of the high standard we've come to expect from the American specialist label.

Prospekt will have an opportunity to showcase their live credentials when they appear at this year's ProgPower Europe Festival in October. I hope this album is the sunrise to a long and fruitful career.

Conclusion: 9 out of 10

ANDY READ


The Safety Fire - Mouth Of Swords
The Safety Fire - Mouth Of Swords
Country of Origin:U.K.
Format:CD
Record Label:InsideOut Music
Catalogue #:0IO01163
Year of Release:2013
Time:46:40
Info:The Safety Fire
Samples:Click Here

Tracklist: Mouth of Swords (5:12), Glass Crush (5:09), Yellowism (5:23), Beware The Leopard [Jagwar] (4:52), Red Hatchet (5:30), Wise Hands (4:08), The Ghosts That Wait For Spring (5:47), I am Time, The Destroyer (3:29), Old Souls (7:26)

Mouth of Swords is the second album by Brits The Safety Fire. The album balances on the edges of heavy progressive metal, extreme tech Metal, Math rock and the like. The very first tones of the album instantly remind me of Mars Volta mixed with, let's say, Coheed and Cambria or Ocean. Reading this probably also tells you that this isn't music to be grasped and understood on the first listen, it takes some time to get used to the fast-paced, high intensity of the music The Safety Fire makes.

All the more reason to listen to this album often, as it does something to the mind. For sure I don't like screams as such, therefore I have a problem with the vocals - why should one scream when making a great song? Musically we find some very intriguing songs. The tempos change all through the album and it is absolutely worth giving it a spin even if you are not at all into the prog metal or technical metal.

The splendid guitar work between the two guitarists of The Safety Fire is everywhere, while the rhythm section of Peri and Smith throw in a smashing steady and sturdy backline, never tiring and always blowing the roof off with their highly energetic playing. Coming to the vocals, McSweeney can sing as he proves during the "clean" parts of the various songs.

I will conclude my short review with these words; highly recommended for fans of the more extreme prog metal and experimental metal. A good album and great follow up to their 2012 debut.

Conclusion: 8.5 out of 10

GERT HULSHOF


Vultress - Distance
Vultress - Distance
Country of Origin:U.S.A.
Format:CD
Record Label:Independent
Catalogue #:n/a
Year of Release:2013
Time:76:15
Info:Vultress
Samples:Click Here

Tracklist: I - A Chord From Heaven (9:29), II - Returned To Earth (12:51), III - The Path (6:37), The Siren's Song (Interlude) (2:29), IV - Reinvocation (11:37), V - The Siren Screams (8:26), VI - At The Edge (24:46)

Vultress is an unbelievably young four-piece progressive metal band from Indiana. I say 'unbelievably' because the maturity of the seven compositions that they have created usually follows many more years of experience than the band photo suggests is possible.

The project can be traced back to their High School days. Drummer Paul Uhrina had initiated several different projects under the name Vultress before finalising a line-up featuring Anthony Capuano on vocals and keyboards, Mucho Chucho on bass and guitarist Jordan Gaboian.

A four-track EP entitled Distance saw the Vultress career take flight in 2011. It featured early versions of songs which appear on this, their debut album, which was released following a successful Kickstarter campaign to raise the necessary funds.

Despite one of the most un-ProgMetal album covers I have ever seen (not necessarily a bad thing!) the music found within has all the expected ingredients, mish-mashing various progressive influences around a core sound that isn't a million miles away from Dream Theater.

The opening track is a great example. In the five minutes it takes for the vocals to arrive, we go through an ever-changing tapestry of musical noodling. In addition to some catchy melodies, the real strength of this album is the playing of the band and the diversity of the music and atmospheres.

Whilst the Metallica-vocal and guitar stylings on Returned To Earth fit nicely, one or two of the more off-beat diversions do distract rather than build on the song. That is something the band has to learn to tame, but overall there is an impressive coherence to the album.

It took me a few listens to get used to Anthony's unique voice. It can sometimes sound a little forced and it would benefit from a warmer tone to the production. It often sounds like he's singing from the back of the room. However he certainly has a great ear for a melody and fits his lines beautifully over the ever-changing musical backdrop.

There is clearly a story being told across the seven tracks, with voice-overs and effects to help it along. Sadly the opportunity to expand on this aspect, is lost through a rather rudimentary CD package that is devoid of any booklet, lyric sheet or even a track listing!

You can however buy the CD or a 'name your price' digital download from the Vultress Bandcamp page. This is something I'd recommend as Distance is one of the most impressive debut ProgMetal albums from a young band that I've heard in the past five years.

Conclusion: 8.5 out of 10

ANDY READ


Theater Of The Absurd - The Myth Of Sisyphus
Theater Of The Absurd - The Myth Of Sisyphus
Country of Origin:U.S.A.
Format:CD
Record Label:Graviton Music Services
Catalogue #:GRAV 00015 00
Year of Release:2013
Time:52:36
Info:Theater Of The Absurd
Samples:Click Here

Tracklist: False Idols (6:11), The Lesser Gods (8:35), Trade Winds (8:15), Rising Tides In Still Water (7:41), For Nostalgia's Burden, Part I: Our Quiet Fears (7:08), For Nostalgia's Burden, Part II: In My Time Of Solace (6:43), Black Wind From Mr.Takamine - Pat's Nap (1:27), Changing Direction (6:36)

Having released their debut album in 2007, strictly limited to 500 copies and only on vinyl, Theater Of The Absurd (TATO) masterminds Michael Neumeister, who plays all guitar and bass parts, and Patrick Curley, who does the drumming and extreme vocals, decided rather soon after the release that they actually were not pleased with the album. Distribution never got to the 500 copies. The debut never got to these ears, but listening to The Myth Of Sisyphus makes one wonder just how it must have sounded. Sure, a lot of water has gone under the bridge since 2007, but the writing skills and playing of the band have a lot to say for them.

Opening track False Idols might lead us into territory not unlike Fates Warning or Redemption in the rhythmic build, the vocal lines have sort of that same feel. Well, that feeling doesn't hold on too long as Patrick Curley all of a sudden delivers one of his growls. The song builds on guitars, piano (courtesy of Tor Morten Kjosnes) and a driving drum pattern. A nice introduction to the band's sound as even the growls and grunts don't seem out of place. The second part of the song has something very reminiscent of the sound of Dead Soul Tribe, the band led by Psychotic Waltz's lead singer Devon Graves. In shaping their music to deal with lifeís inevitabilities, be that in the shape of politics, hunger, war or whatever, they may even have common ground thematically. But letís not dwell too much on that.

Mind you, it is not Patrick Curley who is responsible for the vocals that sometimes sound a bit like Devon Graves, James LaBrie, Zachary Stevens or Dennis De Young. The vocalist is Chandler Mogel who has a great range and even though the references may be obvious, he very much has his own voice. There is a drive in his voice that just sets him apart. And perhaps, just as Graves and Stevens, Chandler avoids singing too theatrically. The Lesser Gods shows that clearly; a singer might get too carried away and sing that song way too theatrically but Chandlerís voice never does that. Kjersti Kveli sings the female part in this song and does so beautifully. The song is rather up tempo and again has the rhythm of more recent Fates Warning. The rhythmic pulse gives the song a freshness which is aided by a Michael Neumeister solo that fits very well into the song.

I have listened to the album several times and I am still in doubt about the drums. Patrick Curley really knows how to play the drums and the drums are omnipresent. At first, I thought there is just so much drums that one can take; why not go for a more background sound, enhancing the music rather than being the music? Yet each time I listened I have come to hear the drums more as an instrument in its own right and not just being the backbone of the band's music. True, it may well be that I am giving this too much thought yet having another listen I could not imagine listening to Trade Winds with the drums sounding any different than they do. What an amazing track this is! Yes, the rhythm takes the lead; the song starts off with piano, guitars, drums all making their way through a rather complex intro and we get the main tune just around 1:45. From there on, the band lead us into somewhat more conventional territory but it's a great joy to hear the interplay of drums, keys and guitars. Mind you, the vocals can be considered an instrument here as well. It is the way TATO mix the diverse influences into their own sound that makes the song. Michael Neumeister does a great job on bass as well and as the band set off on a speed metal meets piano shredfest (hello Savatage!), they have our attention to the fullest. Yes, you ought not to be afraid of intense riffing but the variety in their music has the ability to pull even the faintest of heart through that.

Rising Tides In Still Water gives us the full-on TATO experience where we might get the closest to what the masterminds call Ďdrama metalí - just hold on for the ride.... Perhaps it should be mentioned that the heaviest track is For Nostalgia's Burden Part Two so, whereas it certainly belongs in the midst of all that is The Myth Of Sisyphus, if you're not into the heavy stuff don't start off with this one song. It may well be said that each track on the album takes us to a different scene. The 52 minutes ride pulls you in, finding a balance between death and black metal, classic rock, pure seventies prog, modern day emo and alt rock. Performing it with great skills, that is what Michael Neumeister and Patrick Curley have done with this album. Evoking Savatage, Fates Warning and Dead Soul Tribe and doing so by building a sound of their own. There may well be a very welcoming audience for TATO. I have enjoyed this as a very pleasant ride through drama metal country. More, please...

Conclusion: 8 out of 10

MARCEL HARTENBERG


Garden - Somewhere Else [EP]
Garden - Somewhere Else [EP]
Country of Origin:U.K.
Format:CD
Record Label:Independent
Catalogue #:n/a
Year of Release:2013
Time:40:20
Info:Garden
Samples:Click Here

Tracklist: Overture for the Divided (8:27), Leaving Home (7:33), In a Garden (6:19), Waiting for Fireworks (10:49), The View (7:14)

When DPRP collegue Bob Mulvey reviewed the debut EP by Garden last year, he already knew the second EP was coming. In fact when the review was published on 28th September 2013 the release date of Somewhere Else had already passed having appeared on 21st September. Although an EP, the length of Somewhere Else suggests a full length album.

Somewhere Else follows on where Garden left off. Bob ended his review with the words "I sincerely hope for their second release the band are able to look more closely at the production values". The band would not have been able to read these thoughts before the release of Somewhere Else but sadly this has not yet come into effect. That said, the band have evolved musically and production wise, Samuel Bradley learning much as have the rest of the band who have undergone a few changes since the debut release.

The special instrumentation has stayed. Bob thought of maybe introducing a new category for the Garden and in line with his suggestions I believe that 'avant-progressive chamber-metal' suits best. The music is not easily labelled and has its own specifics of the kind that one only finds with other "odd" bands like miRthkon, Schizofrantic, Panzerballet and the like. The instrumentation itself makes the music progressive.

I find this second outing to be a giant leap in a good direction for this amzing Scottish progressive band, compositionally and production wise things have improved enormously.

The playing is great and arrangements well thought off but the production still needs work. Hopefully the band can keep up their good work and improvements needed.

They are a band to keep an eye out for. With Bob's words in mind a better production costs more but would take them up to a whole new level. After Bob's non-rating of the debut I want to rate this second release but due to the unsatisfactory production a full recommendation would be too much, however, the idea is set and we will see where it will lead.

Conclusion: 7 out of 10

GERT HULSHOF

From the DPRP Archives...
Previous Garden CD Reviews:-
Garden
(2013)
"...here are some interesting ideas to be heard and this is certainly a band to keep an eye open for."
(Bob Mulvey, Unrated)



Chrysalis - Focus On The Center
Chrysalis - Focus On The Center
Country of Origin:U.S.A.
Format:CD
Record Label:Independent
Catalogue #:n/a
Year of Release:2013
Time:31:26
Info:Chrysalis
Samples:Click Here

Tracklist: Sounds Of The Playground (3:56), Thoughts Behind (5.26), Instant Silence (3:32), Ms. Me (4:26), Tumbula (1:56), Saturn Waits (5:12), My Forsaken (3:33)

Short and sharp this album may be, but it is definitely not to any particular point.

Chrysalis was formed in 2003, its current line-up consists of Jesse Elledge (vocals/guitar), Billy Norris (drums), Jared Sturgis (bass), Noel Castillo (keyboards) and Chris Norris (guitar). Their self-titled debut was released in 2006 followed by a determined level of self-generated touring which drew a particularly notable following in Europe, including a slot on the high profile 2009 Warped Tour.

It has taken eight years to create a follow-up disc, but Focus On The Center is all about a band pushing the boundaries of multiple musical genres at the same time. As such it is a risky album and most likely to appeal to those more demanding of a band and willing to invest time and effort to get inside the music.

Focus on the Center takes the listener in multiple directions both musically and emotionally. A bit like a five-year-old in a toy shop, the band grabs and plays with almost every heavy metal sub-genre on the shelf. There is old-school metal, screamo, nu-metal, hardcore, djent, emo and hardcore. It is a lot thrown into little over half an hour, yet on the whole it works.

When he's not screaming or growling Jesse Elledge pulls off a very melodic Coheed and Cambria impersonation. If you prefer your music on the more extreme end of metal, with stellar playing and complex, smart compositions with twists amid every turn, then this is a band to check out.

Conclusion: 7 out of 10

ANDY READ


26 - UpSessions
26 - UpSessions
Country of Origin:Germany
Format:Download
Record Label:Independent
Catalogue #:n/a
Year of Release:2013
Time:50:43
Info:Andy Kodiwein
Samples:Click Here

Tracklist: Escape to Above (6:33), Your Pequod (5:00), Fragile (4:14), Common Ground (5:53), Blue Aftertaste (4:15), Barock (4:21), Spanish Flyght (5:33), Sitting on a Park Bench (7:53), Comes a Time (7:01)

26 is chiefly a German duo and UpSessions is, I believe, the band's debut release. Andy Kodiwein (bass, guitar, vocals) and Marco Minnemann (drums) are the band's bedrock. On UpSessions, the twosome is complemented by Chris Buck of 3 Crows (bass guitar on Fragile and Blue Aftertaste), Joe Valdarno (additional vocals on Escape to Above and Common Ground) and Mario Brinkmann (synth on Comes a Time).

UpSessions is decidedly a prog-metal offering, with some interspersed song sections more reminiscent of old-school progressive rock. Overall, the album is accomplished. The music is well rehearsed and well arranged. The compositions are complex with abundant twists. The engineering is sonically balanced with a clear, consistent mix of instruments.

Specifically, I found Mr. Kodiwein's guitar work to be stellar throughout UpSessions. He has the desired hallmark and his playing echoes numerous influences (say, Blackmore, Fripp, Hackett, Holdsworth, Lifeson, Page and Satriani) but nothing sounds pillaged. I appreciated Mr. Kodiwein's ability to meld borrowed styles into a signature presentation. This is a guitar lover's album, no question.

As well, Mr. Minnemann's drumming is impeccable. His style is similar to that of Opeth's Martin Axenrot, which is high praise, since I consider Mr. Axenrot to be the Barrie Barlow of contemporary prog-metal. The opening percussion in Barock is a nice example of Mr. Minnemann's acumen but, honestly, his musicianship shines brightly on each song in its mixture of dexterity and fittingness.

Sadly, I found Mr. Kodiwein's vocals to be detrimental to UpSession's impact: limited range and an annoyingly nasal delivery with too much reliance upon effects. At times, his voice does suit the music, with its mild similarity to Peter Gabriel and Roine Stolt. However, these are not warm, engaging vocals: rather, the songs are marred by strident monotone, which harms an otherwise quite decent release.

That noted, I mostly enjoyed the instrumental passages and tracks on UpSessions. Blue Aftertaste and Barock are rewarding listens, both with impressive variety and drive. I liked the jazz shadings at the end of the former track considerably. Spanish Flyght could sit comfortably on a Joe Satriani album, as it's a blistering showcase of virtuosity and speed. Common Ground grooves with its tip of the cap to both Led Zeppelin and Rush. Although I preferred the band's non-metal sections, still, UpSessions does reveal a band fully capable of breakneck changes of mode, pace, style and timing, all sensible and proficient.

In sum, a respectable release. It's perhaps too bombastic in spots. It perhaps drags a bit toward the end (as I found Sitting on a Park Bench and Comes a Time to be lacklustre). It perhaps suffers from an absence of definition, track-to-track, and begins to sound repetitive mid-way. Nonetheless, the musicianship is so advanced and the compositional complexity so impressive that I'd have to recommend this, with the reservation: beware the vocals, as they're easily the Achilles' heel of UpSessions.

I can't laud the release for outstanding progressiveness or novelty. However, if you enjoy any of the guitarists cited above and if you enjoy prog-metal along the lines of, say, Opeth, Tiles and Under the Sun, UpSessions is probably your bag. After three listens, I'd consider this a one- or two-listen album for fans of the genre, but it's still a very solid prog-metal display.

Conclusion: 6.5 out of 10

JOHN SHANNON

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Published 10th April 2014

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