Final Gravity — Surviving Humanity
Final Gravity began their journey with the release of their debut album back in 2009, and swiftly took off, getting the chance to support Fates Warning in 2010, where singer Melissa Jane had just three days to rehearse before her debut appearance. Inspired by this, New Day, the opener for the new album was penned, and the quest to survive humanity (see what I did there?) began.
New Day opens the album with a hopeful and light sound, reminiscent of some of Dream Theater's happier songs (such as Along For The Ride) and shows why Melissa was the perfect choice for singer. However, Sincerely Satan speeds things up a notch with a fast-paced, almost thrashy riff that drives you forward and adds a dash of excitement. It also happens to be the name of the band's beer!
Then comes Hollow Days to add a nice mix of styles, starting slow and clean and very light, almost summery, before the distortion comes for the second half and some technical shredding of the solos. Hello Hello (Bleeding Sadness) take the stage at the centre of the album for the piano-driven ballad. An emotional and calm piece, it does show the skills of Melissa even further.
The second half starts with an almost 80s vibe to it with the riffs, tone and almost pop sensibilities that appear on Leaving. It isn't hard to see from this track why they have shared the stage with Iron Butterfly. This sound carries on with No Love but with a darker sound overall, especially during the subdued and muted, but still heavy and tense bridge.
Things speed up again with the more energetic My Eternity which is fun, catchy and with a chorus that makes you want to get up and dance and sing. And with that, we come to the final song, Phoenix. Like the previous track, it is a catchy and fast-paced one and closes the album with another positive sound to it, similar to the opener.
All in all, the album is a positive sounding one, with plenty of hooks and chorus moments to keep anyone looking for a classic rock/metal sound mixed with some prog elements. It is a nice mix that the band works well. I look forward to their next offering!
If you are a fan of Dream Theater, the old school fuzziness of Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin or the prog rock stylings of Rush, I think you'll enjoy these guys and gals.
Adam Loveridge — Lost And Found
UK-based guitarist Adam Loveridge released his second solo album back in February, following 2016's Renatus. Lost And Found is an instrumental album, with the guitar as the focal point. Written and produced in 2020, the album reflects Loveridge's emotional highs and lows over the last several years. As such, the music has its heavy progressive metal moments and more sedate progressive rock moments. To expand the album beyond merely himself, Loveridge has added some symphonic tracks about big-picture ideas regarding things we can't control.
When the guitars kick-in at the opening of Falling From Heaven, after the symphonic opening song, I was instantly reminded of John Petrucci, who has made great use of the combination of acoustic and electric sounds. Loveridge uses Ernie Ball guitars, as does Petrucci, so perhaps that explains some of the similarities in tone. The Dream Theater influence in the overall sound is more akin to the second half of that band's career, than it is their earlier work. This album has a heavier and more modern crunch to it. The opening riffs to Deliverance also sound like Petrucci's more upbeat riffs from recent albums.
In addition to the precise guitar-work, there is also driving and distinct bass throughout the album. Bass can often sound muddled in metal, but it is very clear here, in both the heavy metal and the more rock-oriented moments. The drums are intricate and heavy. While I've made the Dream Theater connection, Loveridge's overall sound has elements that extend beyond that. There are odd time signatures that remind me of the work from some of the post-Dream Theater prog metal bands, like Haken. There's even a bit of a Rush's Xanadu sound in both the symphonic aesthetics and the guitar on III. Aetherial Skies.
The album art is a great reflection of the music and the stories Loveridge tries to tell through it. We see both the calm, and the storm as the ship tries to navigate all of it. The battered sails show signs of past struggle, but the ship remains complete and is sailing towards calmer seas, offering hope for a better future.
With three tracks at or over nine minutes and most at least five minutes in length, the music has a chance to build and evolve. It also allows for extended guitar solos and shredding, which is primarily what a lot of people might want out of a guitar-oriented instrumental album. While the music is very good, I think the album would benefit from vocals and lyrics, especially considering the subject matter Loveridge is trying to express in the music, the song names, and the artwork. I suppose writing music with lyrics in mind would have created a very different album though.
Lost And Found is a very good guitar-focused progressive metal/rock album. These days it seems so many prog artists are abandoning the "rock" part of the music, so Loveridge's work on this record is rather refreshing to hear. He is certainly very talented, and I look forward to hearing more of his music in the future.
Throne Of Exile — Dimensions Adrift
Throne Of Exile is a fairly new band, having been formed in late 2019 in the state of New Jersey, USA. The four-piece consists of Eugene Pistilli on vocals, Rob Babcock on guitars, Ed Barranger on bass, and Justin Gogan on drums.
The band plays a very extreme style of progressive metal, a style that I've rarely seen featured throughout the pages of this website. If you like your prog at its most brutal, then read on, this is an interesting little release.
My first thoughts when I played the opening seconds of Precognition were not great, another Rings Of Saturn clone I see? Fortunately this flurry of noise lasts barely a few seconds, before the band launch into their first of many groove-metal passages. These parts feature in every song on this EP; it's almost what some refer to as 'slam'. Fans of Scottish extreme metal band Party Cannon, will feel right at home here.
Vocalist Eugene Pistilli does a fine job at the whole death metal fiasco. His vocals possess a wide degree of variation within this genre. At some points I'm reminded of Mark Hunter of fellow US metal band Chimaira, at other points, like the multi layered behemoth of a track, Extraction, he becomes even more aggressive, akin to Travis Meeks of Cattle Decapitation. Whether you are a fan of this type of vocal or not, it suits this style of music perfectly.
The rest of the band are equally impressive. The guitars have snarl and body, yet are articulate enough to cut nicely through the mix, every note is clear. The bass has some time to shine in the few sections that are at least slightly calmer, and there are some nice moments where the bass guitar briefly pulls the listener out of the brutal onslaught.
The guitar tone itself is somewhat unusual for this style. Rather than a razor sharp, old school death metal sound, Throne have opted for a more doom metal sound, similar to some of the more hardcore bands in the scene, such as Code Orange. This is a nice touch and makes the band's overall sound more recognisable.
The star of the show for me though is drummer Justin Gogan. This man has it all, blast beats, insane fills, polyrhythms, everything you could want from an extreme metal drummer; the whole EP is a masterclass in this respect.
My only gripe with this release is the guitar solos in the opening track and later on in the EP seem to be slightly, and I mean very slightly, out of tune. This could be down to difference of equipment, yet having listened on headphones, studio monitors and through my basic computer speakers, it's apparent enough to be distracting, especially during Precognition. While it may seem trivial to point out such an unlikely problem in a supposed professional release, it is an unusual yet obvious oversight.
Despite these slight flaws, this is a fine debut in a genre that is flooded with similar-sounding bands. Throne Of Exile have made an effort to stand out from the crowd and in some respects they succeed. It's also about the right length for this style of music; much more would have become overwhelming quickly. Tracks like Extraction and the superbly dark, Dimensions, show great potential, and these guys have clearly got the talent to go far. The band may need to iron out some of the rough edges and explore a little more to carve out their own sound, but I'll definitely be keeping an eye on them.
If you like the most extreme edges of progressive metal, then this is well worth checking out. If any of the band names mentioned above, or if the likes of Meshuggah, Between The Buried And Me and Car Bomb are more your thing, then you will find something here to get you grooving.
Vokonis — Odyssey
It was a dark and stormy night. Pouring rain splashed against windows and thunder was roaring high, as the author of these lines hit the play button. Hearing the first chords of Rebellion by Vokonis, he closed his eyes and within a few seconds, with trembling lips, he was muttering silent prayers to the pantheon of swamp deities: “Oh, no, for the love of God, please not another generic stoner metal album.” Luckily, his prayers were heard ...
Just as Vokonis shifts between heaviness and dreamy atmosphere, let me go straight from a lyrical passage to genre-battling topics. Although the band offers a “progressive metal” tag on their Bandcamp page, honestly, I don't think that it is the right word to describe their music. Vokonis does not owe a single speck of inspiration to Fates Warning, nor to Dream Theater, nor Symphony X. Essentially, this is a sludge / stoner / doom metal record, however, with a very solid psychedelic influence. The latter is above all embodied in the keys of Per Wiberg (Spiritual Beggars, ex-Opeth). The vocals are mostly a raspy roar with a good dose of clean ones here and there, reminding me of Mastodon's vocal arrangements, albeit more elegant. Guitars are well recorded, and shift easily from crushing riffs to proggy solos, soaring and melancholic (this versatility is rarely seen in the sludge genre).
The shorter tracks (Rebellion, Azure) would be instantly loved by fans of High on Fire, Cathedral and Mastodon, while longer compositions would find approval amongst Opeth and Elder fans, even though Vokonis does not stick to the gothic-mansions atmosphere of Akerfeldt's team. Other parallels coming to my mind are with such bands as late-career Alchemist, Solstafir and even Tusmorke.
The last couple of tracks, Hollow Waters and Through the Depth, are definitely the golden mine in the eyes of any progger. Adventurous music swirling with cosmic brilliance; esoteric, groovy and quite heavy.
In the overcrowded psych / doom metal scene, Vokonis stands firm, offering with this release some of the most harmonious efforts in the genre. Odyssey is neither as low-fi as the recent Solstafir output, nor as brutally raw as High on Fire, and way more interesting (to me) than In Cauda Venenum. If you feel yourself like a pampered prince in a prog castle, yearning to discover miserable life of stoner scum outside of your cozy walls, here's a good starting point.