Category Archives: Reviews

Kalika

Review: Kalika – Data Religion

It could be said that Maastricht’s Kalika is one of the rare bands on today’s rock scene that bring such a fruitful mixture of progressive/experimental rock and dark, psychedelic rock. They don’t limit themselves to any confines in their music. While they are very technical people who can play with precision this doesn’t mean that the band goes and tosses around excessively long instrumental sections just to keep reminding the listener of their skill. Data Religion is the sophomore EP from the band, and it is a record that needs time in order to be fully comprehended. There are styles and musical circumstance that get explored on this release only.

Kalika - Data Religion

Backing somewhat dark themes and overtones is Prannay Sastry’s emotional and sorrowful voice which provides the ideal vehicle to deliver the words. When he sings about this mentally daunting matter, you believe the man. Another one of Kalika’s strengths is their ability to have complex songs that still manage to be under five minutes long. This allows choruses to become hooks, and don’t rely on uber skilled technique to impress. Like stated earlier, the experimental aspects of the music are well above par.

“Data Religion” is a great early release from a band that is still to say a lot.

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Tales of the Bugaboo

Review: Tales of the Bugaboo – Eating Children Disorder

I’ve been listening to this album for close to two weeks now, and only now do I feel qualified to analyse and review it, such is the depth of the music on offer here. Even after countless listens, sometimes something new jumps out. At first it may seem like a very difficult listen, but if you persevere, you’ll come to realize it’s nothing short of spectacular. Big call when it’s the debut album from a relatively unknown band from a country that always has something on display.

Eating Children Disorder

What this album has that sets it apart from the majority of ‘melodic’ and ‘technical’ death metal these days is the atmosphere it conjures up. “Eating Children Disorder” is a bleak, vitriolic and ugly album, with a brilliantly dark atmosphere, something which is often missing from death metal these days. Tales of the Bugaboo may have the technique and musicianship, but it’s not the primary focus here. The brooding riffs, the hard-edged, suffocating production, acidic vocals, compelling guitar solos and crushing drum barrage combine to produce a sound that’s like no other band.

Speaking of the riffs, there is some amazing guitar work here. It’s not particularly flashy, but it will get stuck in your head. There are a lot of riffs on this album, the songs are very linear and don’t repeat passages very often. You won’t get bored in a hurry. The tend to mix up, harsh, dissonant patterns with passages of eerie dark melodies, the tranquil moments provide a good contrast to the fury that tends to be unleashed shortly after. Backing up the guitar work is a stellar drum performance. Riki’s drumming is technical, interesting, not to mention fast as fuck! He doesn’t blast a whole lot, but tends to use furious double kick and awesome cymbal work to create immense walls of sound. His cymbal work tends to complement the riffs a lot, following the same patterns, it’s a technique I’ve not heard all that often and one I’ve grown to enjoy. Naza’s vocal performance is nothing short of outstanding. His frenzied howls are the perfect compliment to the savagery of the drumming and guitar work, and convey a real sense of hatred and anger, something that ridiculous gutturals and pig squeals can never do. He does mix it up too with more typical growls and lower pitches, but in pair with cleans, his voice is a killer combo. Freaky Fred’s bass playing is lively and precise, he is audible and easy-to-notice.

If you are tired of the amount of sterile, clinical technical metal bands and are looking for something with a killer dark atmosphere, full of real passion, how prog death metal should be, then give Tales of the Bugaboo a listen. It may take a while to appreciate, but I guarantee if you stick with it you will not be disappointed.

Asymmetric Universe - Band

Review: Asymmetric Universe – When Reality Disarticulates

Like the supercollider, Asymmetric Universe seek to smash two dissimilar things together and see what the results are. Naturally, and experiment by mad scientists and composers coming from the home of La Vecchia Signora (google it!) to combine jazz fusion and metal into one would of course create some explosive outcomes. Not to mention some pretty phenomenal musical pieces.

“When Reality Disarticulates” is a debut EP by Asymmetric Universe, and it’s here now and ready to take you to unparalleled heights. Look to the skies: that is where the trio is going to take you.

For a totally instrumental release, this thing is four tracks of expansive, experimental and wholly gripping fusion music. Take EP opener “Trees Houses Hills” for a fine example: starting off so minimally, guitars and cymbals meekly registering their presence in the room before their flamboyance bounds forth from them with a burst of self-confidence.

When Reality Disarticulates

If there is one enduring thing to take away from listening to this release, it’s that experimentation is the key to success: be it “Hermeneutic Shock’s” flowing, flying musical escapology, “Off the Beaten Track” Holdsworthian chemistry, or “The Clouds Passing By’s” otherworldly, ethereal ambience leading to space explorations. Everything on show here is made to play with the musical form and to evoke a response from your mind. And Asymmetric Universe’s music is what makes you want to explore.

My pick would have to be the third piece “Off the Beaten Track,” clocking in at some six and a half minutes. It’s frantic, for one thing: everyone is really laying down some serious licks on this, striving for the very best in their playing abilities and pulling it off with aplomb. Masterful work and a treasure for any fan of the indefinable yet oddly marvelous.

To say what Asymmetric Universe have done is prog is inaccurate; to say that it is metal is too vague. Rather, they have thrown into “When Reality Disarticulates” all their passions, excitements and inspirations and cooked up something that is beyond compare. This is music without boundaries, without barricades and without limits.

The EP is available from Bandcamp. Follow Asymmetric Universe on Facebook and Instagram.

Emanuele Bodo (band)

Album Review: Emanuele Bodo – Unsafe Places

The Italian guitarist and composer Emanıuele Bodo delivers a stunning guitar performance on his instrumental debut album “Unsafe Places”—an effort that sees the musician going as the album suggest to unsafe places, exploring fay beyond the progressive fusion genre. Although Bodo is most prominent on the record, the musician has gathered a full line-up featuring Carlo Ferri on bass, Davide Cristofoli on keyboards, and Mattia Garimanno on drums, who shine nothing less than the guitarist throughout the seven track release.

Emanuele Bodo - Unsafe Places

Even when Bodo is in the lead through various guitar solos, the rest of the band definitely are not shadow lurkers, but rather a constitutional part of “Unsafe Places.” I do like the fact that Bodo is keeping the album finely balanced between all instruments.

The jazz fusion / progressive metal combo is appealing and gets the juices flowing, especially when done as effectively as this. “Unsafe Places” is a surprisingly good debut by Emanuele Bodo, who obviously has what it takes in terms of chops and creativity. Let’s hope he keeps doing what he’s been doing.

Grab a copy of “Unsafe Places” from Bandcamp here, and follow Bodo on Facebook.

Whiteside's Daughter

Album Review: Whiteside’s Daughter – The Life You Save

Whiteside’s Daughter is a new name on the worldwide progressive rock scene. The trio based in Jackson, Mississippi have just released their debut, concept album The Life You Save about “James, the gay son of an Alabama Pentecostal preacher, who in high school rebels and falls in with John, his ex-Baptist atheist classmate and guitarist for a high school death metal band called Village Witch.”

The core trio featuring Stephen Poff on vocals, Brian Hughley on drums, and Steve Deaton on guitars, bass, keyboards and vocals, collaborated with a number of guest musicians to create blends elements of melancholy, the spirit of Scandinavian metal, Southern Rock and British progressive rock. All of this is true; throughout this record there is surely an omnipresent feeling of melancholy, which is mostly carried by the vocal harmonies and a variety of keyboards-related stuff.

The Life You Save is divided into two long suites (or Acts as the band refers to them). Each of these two acts includes interludes and full-fledged pieces of music that tell the story.

The main instrument on this record is the guitar, played masterfully by Deaton. The sound of guitar is well-rounded, the riffs are melodic and heavy, guitar solos are executed flawlessly. The interplay between guitars and vocals is another highlight. The term “virtuosity” has been a synonym for progressive rock for a while, but this release is focused on melody over the technicality.

With The Life You Save Whiteside’s Daughter hint that they have the knowledge and potential to make something good. At least, this record is far from being categorized as a “hobby album,” it surely needs to be listened and is not one of those “skip-over” releases. Give this album a chance and let the music speak to your heart, rather than your brain!

In The Fire

Review: In The Fire – Volatile Beings

So-called prolific artists, at least within the scope of heavy metal, tend to fall into the dime-a-dozen category, often releasing large bodies of work but with very little actual quality to be found within. This requires a lot of legwork and listening to mediocre-to-outright boring music just to find something worth its time. As with any rule, however, there are exceptions. And Philly’s blackened death metal savants In The Fire are a shining example of such an exception. There is a certain level of quality consistent throughout the band debut full-length release Volatile Beings that makes exploring it an engaging experience and not a chore in the slightest.

In The Fire - Volatile Beings

Without warning, “Feral” flings its serrated hooks from the darkness and drags its victim deep into its twisted world of terror. Instantly noticeable on this journey through hells unknown is the almost ridiculously modern production. Rather than relying on haphazard production to add character to the music, the production is domineered with sadomasochistic control. Sterility is often a negative term, but in this case it’s the sterility of a surgical scalpel, gleaming in the florescent lights of the morgue as the first cut glides through cold flesh, opening the abyss that pulls its prey into the guts. The tremolo riffs swirl around the churning, steady pacing of the drums in a doom-laden groove before opening up into all-out death metal fury. The leads aren’t so much leads as they are controlled noise, screeching and wailing their way over the seemingly bottomless maw of low end. Ryan Moll’s (vocals, guitars, bass, keys) obsession with control is apparent here as well, as on repeat listens it becomes quite evident that there is method to the racket; the cries of feedback are crafted into subtle yet memorable hooks.

The leads aren’t always as noisy, but they do play a large part in creating the atmosphere that is so key to Volatile Beings. On “The Devil in the Mirror” there are moments of haunting, spaced out arpeggios that lie beneath the thunderous riffing like shadows in the dark. There’s an almost epic feel at play here as In The Fire do indeed feel like it’s rising above the weak, feeble masses in a display of the complete and total power of an unearthly monstrosity. The rhythm section, completed with Patrick Battaglia on drums, bulges with might, locking into the groove like the inescapable constraint of an anaconda the size of an oil pipeline.

The onslaught doesn’t relent until the opening passage on “Into Battle” that ends with an unexpected, almost melodeath riff at the end, making for a refreshing take. The instrumental title track lurks its way in, building and pulsing before dropping into a lurking bit of doom as it coils before striking out with sinister precision. In The Fire layer on plenty of effects and production tricks that drip like virulent venom over the body of the beast, continuing its merciless assault of riffing. “Techno-Sociopathic De-Evolution” fully harnesses control of the melodic riffs, this time striking straight for the kill like a cunning predator who will not make the same mistake twice.

Needless to say, In The Fire’s Volatile Beings only strengthens the confidence to be had in the band’s ability to deliver. Ryan Moll simply understands extreme metal, and has a way of adapting the core of a style and distinctly making it his own. Not only does Volatile Beings shine as an instant highlight, but among the neverending slew of death metal at large as well.

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Endworld Halos album art

Review: Endworld Halos – S/T

One of the most gratifying aspects of exploring music is to be able to see how different bands, styles, and scenes interact with each other. Like a massive, breathing network, no band is an island, and every city is its own musical melting pot. Today, my gaze shifts to the city of Kuopio in Finland, home of a progressive rock trio Endworld Halos who have recently released their self-titled debut album.

It feels that Endworld Halos took time to produce an album that is well planned, well thought and well executed. “Endworld Halos” is an epic journey that is comprised of ten songs. Hearing the band place an emphasis on this kind of tried-and-tested longform composition is impressive. The band’s natural talents with writing, matched with the encyclopaedic interest in the genre make the least involving moments on the album a joy to behold.

While they never fully swing into prog territory, keeping their sights mixed on relatively conventional songwriting, the music is significantly flashier than the sort you’d usually expect in a purely melodic act. Endworld Halos boost their hooks with exotic instrumentation and plenty of dynamic changes. Even if the album aims to hit a lot of the same marks as conventional melodic rock, I seldom feel like I have their approach “figured out.” They take a conventional palette and harness it in a way that sounds unpredictable.

Endworld Halos offer some great songwriting—by the end of the first listen, I was impressed to realize several of the tracks already stood out in my memory. The opening, “Adjusting to Life” features great riffs. “Desperado Sundown,” one of the most crucial numbers on the album features such an amazing instrumentation that will definitely have the old school proggers give the band thumbs up; the band’s performance is impressive across the board. The music is intelligently arranged, giving some extra meat to the bones of the already-good songwriting.

“Endworld Halos” is a record that challenges and provokes. If anything, it’s that quality that makes the album among the best this band has ever done, and definitely one of the best efforts to be released in 2018.

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fayne-02

Review: Fayne – Journals

Hailing from Montreal, Fayne have been around since 2004. In the period from 204 until 2008 the band put out two EP releases, “You Took It All Away” (2004) and “Delivering the Final Blow” (2016), before they went on a hiatus in 2008. Five years later Fayne regrouped and in 2014 they launched their third EP “The Queen of Kings.” Last year Fayne returned with their debut full-length album entitled “Journals.”

Fayne play a brand of djent/progressive metal, combining ambient elements and delicately played clean layers over top of the stuttering and stabbing rhythms set in place by Meshuggah and SikTh. The difference is, the music feels much more lush and organic, setting themselves apart from the very mechanical sounding contemporaries who follow a similar formula. While the melodic djent thing isn’t new, Fayne manage to sound unique and fresh, thanks to the atmospheres and singing.

The vocal work, courtesy of Justin Furtado, on “Journals” is superb. The soaring vocal melodies and lyrics will definitely embed themselves in your memory. The screaming vocals are few and far between, but when they show up, they are in the right place.

Fayne - Journals

The guitar work is split between the dry and low polyrhythmic chugs and clean and melodic layering for ambiance. These two styles fit together in perfect harmony and create some wonderful soundscapes and textures. The bass is also very present in the mix, which is an added touch of brilliance. You can hear it slapping and popping along throughout the album, even taking a few moments here and there to be the focal point of the music from time to time. Listen to numbers like the opener “Grimspeak” or “Prototype”, and you’ll catch it. Oh, and the drumming is actually real, which is a nice change of pace for a genre that likes to program everything or play it through an electronic kit. This is one of the contributing factors for the EP not sounding like an overproduced machine.

As for the musical composition, “Journals” does feel like one song and flows through tracks logically when things take a change in pace or theme. Fayne can definitely demand the attention of the listener without having to drop a solo every few minutes. These guys know what they’re doing.

With the release of “Journals”, Fayne have moved out of the periphery (no pun intended) and into focus.

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CHINE_PROMO_2018_FINAL

Review: Chine – Like Vultures

Chine is a Swedish progressive death metal band with elements borrowed from Swedish death metal and progressive metal. They are about to launch their new EP entitled “Like Vultures” on March 2nd. Both musically, and lyrically “Like Vultures” has its dark side but never forgets to be melodic from the beginning to the end.

CHINE - Like Vultures

Singer Tintin Andersen has a great voice especially when it comes to clean vocals. A thick voice, ready to sing any kind of high pitched parts in a song. Which brings the release its power. Passages between growl and clean vocals are very well designed and executed. And more importantly they sound very tasty.

There are four tracks on the EP. Another highlight here are great and imaginative guitar solos. They are carrying the songs on a closer level to progressive metal and display the band’s influences, which range from old Opeth, Between The Buried And Me and Dark Tranquility.

It is hard to say that Chine bring something new to the scene, but without hesitation it can be said they brought a tasteful release, very well composed and executed. It highly satisfies the expectations from a listener.

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Acidiun

Album Review: Acidiun – The Coalescence

I was admittedly late to the Acidiun party, and it was by my own design. I found that the band’s overall sound is right in my wheel house of technical, tight, and aggressive deathcore. Upon the first listen I was sold, and I immediately devoured “The Coalescence” again. I was greeted by a band that seemed content making their own rules, traversing the slippery slope of sub genre alphabet soup and doing it with style. At times mind-numbingly complex, and at others focused on speed and aggression, they made metal that is forward thinking and diverse, while still being unapologetically heavy.

Acidiun - The Coalescence

The more I listened to this record, the more I enjoyed the sounds coming out of it. Make no mistake, the record is a slab of crushing deathcore/metalcore. Impeccably played and impeccably produced, it comes off as another notch on the rich scene. Sonically, the record is tight, fast and heavy with crunchy guitars that have heft and an overall crispness to the sound that allows the instruments to shine. The riffs are heavy, there are odd time bridges, feel changes and tasty leads that fly by in abundance. In short all of the boxes are checked.

Although nominally not a prog band, these guys are talented enough to do whatever they want. They have seemingly found a formula that is working for them for the time being, and only time will show where and how they deviate from it. I will be very curious to hear where they go with the next record, and whether or not they will stay this course they embarked upon.

So at the end of the day, “The Coalescence” is a solid outing from Acidiun. As a fan of metal, I can appreciate what they have done here. I just hope that more of that original mentality creeps its way into their next release.

Stay tuned with Acidiun via their Facebook page.