To the Moon

Review: Cloudspeak – To the Moon

Over the last few years, instrumental releases within the progressive rock/metal genre have been on the rise, and like with everything else, the quality of the releases vary from hit-and-miss to some absolutely amazing gems. Cloudspeak, based in Chicago, is a project of Johnny Wright IV. To the Moon is an EP debut by Cloudspeak released on January 13.

Well composed, arranged and wonderfully performed, To the Moon is an ambitious piece of largely instrumental prog metal, with more than enough epic ideas to keep a listener engaged and attentive. Suffice to say, there is more than enough of a variety to keep the music from sounding stale or rehashed. Although Johnny’s true calling lies in melody-driven progressive metal guitar, the stylistic curveballs here are fully-realized and sound great. The EP opens with a short intro “Set Sail,” which connects with “The Great Sea.” This is an excellent example of Wright’s skill as a multi-faceted composer. And this skill just keeps on improving throughout the six-track release. Song structures seem arranged to cater to a string of individually satisfying moments, as opposed to the ideas all contributing to the overall whole of a composition. Even in the most ambitious progressive rock/metal moments, I tend to look for some of the same qualities found in conventionally good songwriting.

Obviously, much of the spotlight here is placed on Wright’s prodigious grasp of the electric guitar. Although the album’s djenty side doesn’t stand any bit above what we’ve already heard from that corner of prog metal, Wright makes himself out to be an absolutely brilliant fusion guitarist, possibly one of the most talented I’ve heard in recent years. “Storm Clouds” might be my favourite track on the EP for this very reason; Wright’s marriage of keen instrumental wandering and tight melodic passages is gorgeous.

To the Moon is a record packed with instrumental inventiveness and technical proficiency. Cloudspeak excels here both as a composer and musician.

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Interview with MERKABA

Louis Goodwin is a young songwriter behind the instrumental progressive project Merkaba. In November he released an EP titled “Merkaba,” and I talked with him about his work.

What made you go for the name Merkaba?

Back around when I was beginning to develop this project and first putting together the EP, I became very interested in the teachings of this Hindu/Buddhist, L-Ron-Hubbard type spiritualist dude, and whilst not the strongest believer, I found it all rather intriguing. In his teachings, he talked of this magical, ‘love powered’, dimension-jumping, time-travelling, force-field called a “Merkaba”. The idea of a musical project that transcends dimensions sounded pretty Djent, so the name stuck.

How do you usually describe your music?

Depending on who I’m describing it too, usually “Really Angry Music”. Too other metal-enthusiasts, however, I mostly describe Merkaba as a cross between aggressive Progressive Metal (doing my best to avoid that trigger word; Djent), a few elements of Metalcore, a splash of Jazzy Electronic stuff, and as much ambience as possible.

What is your writing process like?

A mess. It usually starts off as a singular riff recorded in Reaper, a long with the simplest of drum tracks. this is quickly followed by about 9 different variations of that riff, 4 different chorus ideas, 6 verses, 3 bridges, a middle 8, and a solo bongo drum section in 33/8 time. Eventually I will boil all the various riffage down into a song, but the journey is long and this usually is happening alongside 3 or 4 other song ideas.

Who or what is your inspiration, if you have any?

Inspiration is quite a broad term, am inspired by a huge number of people. I would mostly accredit my musical interests to people like my Dad and Grandmother, who still haven’t given up on me. Musically, however, bands such as Monuments, Periphery and Tesseract are the greatest inspiration for the music I write, and guitarists such as Tosin Abasi, Misha Mansoor, Plini and John Browne are the biggest inspiration on my guitar playing.

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What is your favourite piece on the “Merkaba” EP?

Probably Refraction/Reflection, I was rather pleased with how those two songs tied together, rather inspired by Reflections “The Color Clear”. I really enjoy writing songs with recurring themes and a possible concept album is something I envision for the future.

What makes “Merkaba” different?

I’d like to say the use of electronic and Jazz elements, but that’s something that’s been done a thousand times before. I guess it would be the large mix of ideas and influences, there’s no set genre or subgenre for Merkaba, I love the really heavy Meshuggah style stuff, super jazzy Animals as Leaders, really light and proggy Plini and later Intervals stuff and so on. I’ve never thought “I want Merkaba to just be ridiculously heavy” or “This is all just going to be atmospheric prog stuff”, I’m too bad at making decisions.

What should music lovers expect from “Merkaba”?

I suppose creativity, being as little “up-my-own-behind” as possible. I try to use as little generic riffage as I can, except the odd riff or too (looking at you, “Reflection”), so for music lovers this may be a taste of something new or exotic.

What kind of emotions would you like your audience to feel when they listen to your music?

As many as they wish, I feel it’s up to them. As with all music, your perception of what you feel when you listen to music differs from everyone else, including the artists. We all have completely different memories, different ways of expressing emotion and different perspectives on life. My audience are going to feel completely different when they listen to my music than when I do, hopefully they won’t feel too bored though.

Pick your three favourite albums that you would take on a desert island with you.

Probably David Maxim Micic’s “Eco”, because no matter how hard I try, I cannot seem to get sick of that album. Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” is another must have, never have I loved any album more and it evokes some precious memories. Lastly, it’s a toss up between either Monuments’ “The Amanuensis”, or Periphery’s “PII: This Time it’s Personal” because I adore both albums, the complexities of “PII” are amazing, and I don’t think I could live without the “Somewhere in Time” Trilogy (Muramasa, Ragnarok and Masamume), “The Amanuensis” just flows incredibly, and the combination of Chris Barretto’s vocals and John Browne’s amazing riffs are to die for.

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As A Conceit

Review: As A Conceit – Frown Upon Us

There are many ways of creating music. Following the rules, being bound of genre limitations, or letting your wheels go off road to wherever you want your sound to reach out. This change in the direction only brings rich melodies, “new” tunes, tasty sound.

As a Conceit, a hardcore band from Italy, is one of those off-roadsters. They don’t follow the rules but create their own way. Their album “Frown Upon Us” is a great example which walks around melodic death metal, with additions of nice progressive clean vocals. There is a mystic side of the album in the way of narrative and female vocals.

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“Frown Upon Us” may remind you of some In Flames works, some Korn, Slipknot and most prominently Architects. From the first moment until the last, the record is full of tasty, energetic melodies. “Frown Upon Us” stays true to hardcore with great passages through melodic death metal.

“Frown Upon Us” is one of those great records from 2016 that might be overlooked. With its rich sound it will make your ears satisfied no matter what kind of genre takes your attention.

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elarcos

Interview with ELARCOS

Elarcos is an Uruguayan progressive / fusion rock band who in October this year released their debut album “Tecnocracia.” I was very impressed with the musicianship showcased on the release; these guys are really talented. The band’s drummer, Diego Caetano, was very kind to answer my questions about the band’s work.

Alright, first thing is first. Before we dive into all the music stuff, how’s life?

Hello!!! Thanks for asking! Well, personally I’m very focused in our next live show, trying to get every song played perfectly, given that it’s the official live presentation of the album. This will be the second time we play the songs, but now the people has the album, so there is an expectation to be fulfilled.

Also I’m very happy with the awesome comments we are having from a lot of places, feedback is the most satisfactory part of making art for me, it is what keeps me going and it helps me project new stuff. It also helps taking the band to new places! So, exciting is the word to resume my life atm.

Speaking of new music, you have an album. What can people expect from “Tecnocracia”?

Yes! Our first one, we are very satisfied with the fact that it’s done. For us, Uruguayan musicians it’s very important to have this achievement, given that here there is no industry for this music, even for rock music it’s very very difficult to endure.
But besides that, we are very proud of our songs and the way that they came up. Personally I’m so proud of this wonderful musicians that surround me in this project, they have great minds for music and being near them just makes you get your pants on and improve your game.

The album comes with epic heavy prog metal, our primarily influences are Symphony X, Haken and Dream Theater and our main distinctive sound comes from our frontman who sings and plays the sax. We all enjoy every minute of the songs, given that it’s almost half instrumental and half sung.

Tecnocracia comes with seven songs, all of different lengths but all part of the same concept, wich is reinforced with the lecture of the printed booklet, which includes a prologue and a conductive narrative.

In a matter of sound, people can find themselves hearing defying lines in every instrument and also complexity in composition, time signatures and harmonies. Our main goal at the time of composing was making it friendly to the ear, so it won’t be a snobby trip, you can also nod your head and headbang to most of the album, with also nipple hardening ballads and dick hardening solos!

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What was it like working on the album?

Well, it had so many confusing phases. When I got in the band, it had another name and another songs. We had 2 live performances and then we instantly encouraged ourselves to go into the studio, so we recorded our first demo (the 12 minute piece “Microapología”), wich actually is the album’s final song.

After that, we received good feedback and people started to ask about the album… so we got into it. The guys had been working on the 27 minute epic “Tecnocracia”, which was previously named “Terminator” (because of the inspiration on the classic movie), so we worked on that one and then new songs came up from Gustavo, Ale, Mario and myself. Then in August 2014 I entered the studio for playing the drums in a 3-day marathon and then the guys started to lay their instruments over that.

The process of recording was indeed very stressfull and long, because there were a lot of things in which we failed repeatedly due to the lack of experience in recording, so we had a lot of phases of re-recording and an extensive drum editing, given that the result from the studio wasn’t the one we expected. We preferred to take the time to refine the sounds and arrangements, than rushing and having a lower level thing.

Are there any touring plans in support to “Tecnocracia”?

Yes and No at the same time. We are at the moment, independent and trying to partner with people who could give us the chance to make it, it’s our biggest dream! Our anxiety is there, our impulse is there, we just need the hook to make the jump

While we are on the subject of touring, what countries would you love to tour?

We want to tour in Europe and United States, given the amount of festivals and consumers of this type of music. Also there is the dream of having the chance to meet our musical inspirations from around the world, who are also constantly touring.

In South America it’s likely to play in Argentina, Chile and Colombia, but it’s hard to penetrate on those markets as Uruguayans. This continent has an audience that tends to accept preferently the northern bands than the locals, but we want to take the necessary shots to get in there, that’s why our message is in a clear local variation of Spanish.

Who and what inspires you the most?

Actually my drumming inspirations are Sebastian Lanser, Anika Nilles, Mike Portnoy and Bobby Jarzombek, but the ones who made me decide to go for the drums as a kid were John Dolmayan, David Silvera and John Otto.

As a composer and guitar player, Bumblefoot, Steven Wilson and Muse.

What other genres of music do you listen to? Have any of the other genres you listen to had any impact on your playing?

I grew in an enviroment of local folk and pop music, but the things changed when cable Tv arrived to the neighbourhood, bringing MTV (when they played music) in the 90’s, so the main attractions from metal were Metallica, System Of A Down, Limp Bizkit, Linkin Park, Korn, Marilyn Manson and Slipknot. I spent my whole childhood and teenage around those kind of bands, until Internet came and the gate was fully open to new things such as Yngwie Malmsteen, Dream Theater and every related artist and bands from there.

Nowadays I am more influenced with relaxed music as Steven Wilson, Bent Knee, Chon, Eruca Sativa, Mike Love, Ghost, Snarky Puppy. I prefer to feed my musical influences with new things that doesn’t sound all the same, it gives you more tools to work on your compositions.

I really appreciate you giving us your time today. Is there anything else you would like to tell us and the fans before we wrap things up?

Thanks to you, really. It feels really awesome to have this first chance to show the world what we do!

If there is any fan out there, we would love you to spread the word and get in touch with us, we did this as an expression and the final part is to have the feedback! We have a gigantic hunger of knowing the world trough music, adventure and having real conversations that are not trough electric impulses of a screen! 

Thank you so much for this opportunity, again, it means a lot to us!

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juodvarnis

Review: Juodvarnis – Mirusio Zmougas Kelione

In some ways many metal listeners have divided opinions when the topic is “black metal.” Most of them find it raw or pretentious, but there are some that adore every melody that could come out of a black metal song. Juodvarnis, a lithuanian Epic/Pagan Black Metal band is just like a problem solver at this point. This band’s versatility lies in combining epicness of the pagan take on the black metal genre and folk, heavy, doom, and stoner metal elements, wrapped with a touch of progpower.

The band from Vilnius released two albums so far. “Mirusio Žmogaus Kelionė”, their second album carries every single element that is specific to the mentioned genres. Very epic, at times softened by great high pitched clean vocals, you can also find a fair dose of doom metal. Lyrically the album has its own dark side either. The songs are written in Lithuanian, a language that sounds as a perfect fit for the music Juodvarnis creates.

There is astonishing black metal drumwork in the songs, there are great heavy metal guitar solos, accompanied with tasty folksy elements. But besides that what takes the attention at the most is high-pitched clean vocal that is combined with screams. A rare singing style, which also makes the album unique itself.

There is a similarity between with the known doom bands such as Candlemass, While Heaven Wept, maybe a little of Solitude Aeternus and there is a smell of Void of Silence in the vocals. In some parts you find similarity with Moonspell and a little bit of early Amorphis. As all these bands are far from black metal, and that is what makes Juodvarnis different. A must-listen album of the year right here.

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Dusks Embrace

Review: Dusks Embrace – ReAwakening

10 years is quite a long time for a band – definitely enough time to mature a very special blend of sound and refine a creative vision into something very special and unique. Originally conceived by Josh Brewer, the band set out to release their first album with a new consolidated line-up earlier in 2016.

ReAwakening is therefore, a perfect title for this release, because it does not only represents the band’s evolution and newfound balance, but also the eclectic nature of these songs. The band now consists of singer Aldo Arevalo, guitarist and backing vocalist Josh Brewer, as well as drummer Liam Manley and bassist Myke Daniel.

ReAwakening by Dusks Embrace (album art)

The songs on this particular album blur the lines between genres, with a great progressive attitude. Opening number, “Harbinger”, has some really great electronic / industrial influences, while the second track, “With Cleansing Flames”, has some truly beautiful melodies that make me think of early Dream Theater or Porcupine Tree.  One of my favorite track son the album is probably “Reflections”, which strikes from some of the best guitar parts on the entire album, in my opinion. I love how the guitar blurs the lines between jazz and rock so seamlessly – showcasing great artistry and compositional talent.

Listen at:

https://dusksembrace.bandcamp.com/album/reawakening

Infinity Shred

Review: Infinity Shred – Long Distance

New York City is still home to one of the most avant-garde, forward-thinking and influential music scenes of all time. Off the top of my head, I can mention more than a handful of NYC-grown bands and musicians who chellenged the musical status quo and influenced the alternative music world for years to come – from the Velvet Underground to Sonic Youth. The local metal scene is also part of the city’s diverse and intricate network of creative and innovative band, and Infinity Shred is definitely a perfect example. The sound of the band is indeed a very personal and very distinctive blend of metal and synthwave, with electronic music influences creeping in into the natural metal roots of the band’s upbringing.

Long Distance was released on October 14, 2016, and it is the band’s second full-length.

long-distance

Listening to this album is almost an enlightening experience. As the setlist progresses, the sound I hear from my speaker keeps surprising and redefining my perception of what metal could sound like when cross-contaminated with other influences. Post rock drones? Why not. 80s synth pads? You bet! No-Wave style noise burst? Oh yes. This record is a live, colorful and unpredictable beast that channels the diverse sound of NYC under the scope of its metal music scene in a truly brilliant way.

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elarcos

Review: Elarcos – Tecnocracia

Introducing Elarcos, a progressive metal group from Montevideo, Uruguay, boasting some truly unique fusion influences.

The band was brought to life in 2009, and although they have been around for quite a few years now, they recently debuted with their full-length album, Tecnocracia, released on October 1st, 2016.

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What can I say? Well, it was definitely worth the wait. Throughout the years, the band didn’t sit around rolling their thumbs. Instead, they refined their sound and came up with a truly unique concept, putting lots of thoughts into their arrangements and more importantly, creating music that transcend genre definitions, while being united by a common thread. The artwork of the sleeve and the title the band chose for the album, “Tecnocracia” is a very poignat commentary to the way the world is headed with technology, but the concept is not just about the aesthetics and the idea. The music is also affected by it, with an industrial overtone acting like a glue that brings verything together. While some of the tracks pack a lot of punch in a fairly standard song format (the first few songs are all under the 5 minute mark), songs such as the title tracks add to the truly unique spirit of this release making for a formidable sonic journey that serves as the true heart of this record.

Elarcos set out to debut with a truly masterful record, where they set out to showcase their writing skills, as well as their musical mastery in full display.

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christian-san-agustin

Review: Guamskyy – Seven Parallels

Guamskyy are a solo instrumental project with a truly unique approach, started by artist Christian San Agustin.

guamskyy-seven-parallelsThe Texas-based song-writer, performer and composer set out to explore a wide variety of genres and unleash his full creativity with this particular project, clearly stating that he is not into music to make it big, but more importantly, for his passion for creating music. One of the most striking features of their music is definitely Christian’s ability to cross different genres and platforms, incorporating elements of music from different styles: from metal to alternative and even some subtle hints of hard rock, doom and Djent in the form of really memorable arrangements.

Guamskyy will unleash “Seven Parallels” on December 20th, 2016. On this material, Christian is showing an incredible amount of versatility, as a composer, performer and musician, casting a beautifully diverse collection of songs.

Links:

https://guamskyy.bandcamp.com

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mf

Review: Mezzanine Floor – Architecture of Aeons

Hailing from Port Elizabeth, South Africa, Mezzanine Floor are a progressive metal project with hard rock influences. The band’s sophisticated arrangements and great musicianship come through in their recent work, Architecture of Aeons.

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This album is chockfull of songs that are all about building intricate layers and textures, as the instruments within the mix blend in with the rhythm section to create stunning melodic patterns and powerful walls of sound that are at the core of the project’s vision. The progressive contamination element is a big part of the meal ticket, and songs such as “Behold! The Temple of Light” or “Trading Gallows For The Sun” do a great job conveying the spirt of  the band into a new, personal musicality. There is a spark within every single song, a blend of energy that glues it all together and that could be described as an aggressive edge that is deceptively hidden by the beauty of the arrangements and their sophistication.

Find out more and let the music tell you the story:

https://mezzaninefloor.bandcamp.com/releases

 

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