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.
Second Horizon, a four piece from Cologne in Germany, have quite a challenge as with any new band playing this stylistically demanding music. They either need to add something exciting and original to the genre, or be so bloody good at delivering captivating instrumental rock (that visits quite a few genres) in its conventional form that they stand head and shoulders above the oceans of ordinariness that surround them. While they will not win any awards for innovation, the debut release Albdruck does in fact rise most convincingly from the latter category, and has enough variation in its six tracks to keep interest levels high.
Beginning with the short intro “Zucht,” Second Horizon expertly marry the sludgy histrionics of Panopticon era Isis to the noise rock sensibilities of Melvins. The band doesn’t fuck about with long intros, and like to get on with the business at hand, with only two tracks passing the 6-minute mark. This makes for a more urgent and also provides a much more organic feel to the band’s playing.
In addition to Isis and Melvins you can undoubtedly hear the massive influence of Cult of Luna, Mono, Mastodon, all the major names, but Second Horizon somehow manage to put a unique stamp on this rather derivative framework.
Second Horizon have risen far above the sum of their influences, and delivered a very fine instrumental rock album. Check it out!
What the second album by Althea presents the listener with is an up-and-coming Italian progressive metal band still discovering and honing their sound; a style that’s adequately complex with dark influences, is melodic, and puts the emotion-packed vocals of Alessio Accardo at the forefront. The album commences with a short instrumental Regression From Regrets, that is followed up with Paralyzed which for 3:20 minutes carries the listener through a barrage of riffs, drum fills, and high soaring vocals all on top of a grandiose atmosphere. Frankly, the song slays, and simultaneously gives the listener a taste of the orchestrated clamor that is to follow. Revenge epitomizes all that is great about metal, and I would go as far as saying the song still may be the band’s crowning achievement.
A key attribute of Althea is their ability to engage the listener with a multitude of topics, and in every sense of the word, diversity. Halfway Through is a slower thematic piece about extra terrestrial life, complete with spoken-like singing throughout the song. An echoing guitar note completes the eerie feeling the song is intended to achieve. Dream Theater fans will dig this one.
Further adding to the depth of the album is Last Overwhelming Velvet Emotion (L.O.V.E.), a well-constructed, well-executed ballad featuring touching guitar solos and grandiose singing. Accardo, now in typical fashion, wears his heart on his sleeve.
In sum, Memories Have No Name is an outstanding release worth your time and hard-earned money whether you’re a fan of melodic progressive metal or not. There are highs; there are lows; there is pain; and most of all there is passion. I’ve listened to this album a solid ten times, and I’ve yet to find anything that qualifies as true filler, although the album is full of short interludes that connect pieces together. If there is one single word to describe Memories Have No Name, it would be “genuine.” Not only are Althea outside of the one-album-wonder galaxy…. they’re in a completely different universe.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Guamskyy are a solo instrumental project with a truly unique approach, started by artist Christian San Agustin.
The 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.
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.
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:
It’s not every day that one hears a modern day metal band produce an album that truly challenges the stereotypical sound that may be expected from contemporary metal acts. Enter Unprocessed — Wiesbaden, Germany based metal heads releasing a new EP just last month. I’ve spent the last four days immersed in the experience that is Perception and I can’t seem to stop listening to this incredibly versatile and talented group of musicians and this gem they’ve produced.
No more than three years on the metal scene, Unprocessed’s sound is a uniquely balanced mixture of Progressive Metal, Ambient, Metalcore, Djent, yet the seamless integration with which the band has brought these together is a testament to their musicianship and skill.
So let’s get down to brass tax – this album is not for the faint hearted. Tracks like Praludium and Ocean of Silence, kick off with no bullshit thrash, blisteringly hard hitting drumming coupled with flawlessly executed guitar riffs and bass lines to match not to mention the quintessential growl that has mosh pits swirling in unison. It’s what comes next that makes Unprocessed’s sound theirs and theirs alone.
The album holds additional treasures such as Desert by the Sea and Perspective, both of which have a relatively greater degree of Progressive Metal evident in their composition.
Possibly the most complete embodiment of Unprocessed’s sound in 2016 are two centrepieces: Life. A Prologue of Death and Death. An Epilogue of Life. Catchy guitar riffs to kick off verses full of growls and choruses full of harmonies lull the listener into the comfort of a hard hitting songs. The ease with which the vocals jump into the growl speaks volumes of the adaptability of the vocals on the album. Truly an all-encompassing experience of the sound that Unprocessed have developed.
I can go on for hours about this release but the bottom line is that Unprocessed have absolutely nailed on Perception with their song writing, virtuosity and execution. Do yourself a favour and get the EP.