Tag Archives: progressive metal

Hyaena

Interview with HYAENA

Hyaena from Orleans in France is set to release their debut album entitled Existence on April 5th.  The 12-track record offers quite a lot for fans of progressive death metal; it was produced by renown producer Jamie King who is best known for his work with Between The Buried And Me and Scale The Summit.

Hyaena was very kind to answer my questions about their new release, but also gear, scene, and more.

Hey folks. How are you doing?

Bam: Great! Thanks of asking.

Alex: Fine too!

Chris: Pretty good!

Virgile: Cool cool!

You are about to release a full-length debut album entitled “Existence.” How do you feel about the release?

Bam: It’s a great feeling! We have worked so much on this, we hope you guys will dig it!

Alex: It’s a real achievement for all of us, a true satisfaction!

Chris: I’m so proud of it, and quite excited to see what people think.

Virgile: Excited, we’ve been working on this for a long time.

existence

How much of a challenge was to work on the album?

Bam: It was a very long process due to a change of our lineup. At the start, I was the only guitarist so most of the album was written with one guitar part. Then Alex join us in the process, so we started to add new riffs, that was lots of work!

Chris: I came from a grindcore/death metal band (Necrofist) wich worked in a very different way, we used to compose together during rehearsals. Bam and Nathan used computers and softwares but I didn’t. That was the biggest challenge for me! It was worth it though.

What other artists similar to your genre that are coming from France are you friends with?

Bam: We are not friends but I think Hypno5e is the band that sounds the most similar to us. I’d love to tour with them one day!

Alex: The Dali Thundering Concept is a great French band I like. These guys are nice!

Virgile: I have so much respect for Klone and Psykup!

What is your opinion about the current progressive metal scene?

Bam: This scene is very special, because there is so many genres in it. I personally think that it’s the best period for the progressive metal scene. Some of the best albums I’ve listened where released couples of years ago.

Virgile: I think it’s a scene that crosses the ages, it’s not the easiest music in the world, but the most colorful one!

Can you tell me something about your influences?

Bam: I grow up listening to bands like Dir En Grey (and lots of visual kei), so the Japanese sounds are really a part of my influences.

Chris: I have to say that, like most drummers, Thomas Haake influences a lot my drumming.

Virgile: The voice of Maynard James Keenan stuck in me. It’s like he can sing in every band in the world and do something different, but you’ll always know that it was him. I love the personality of his voice.

What are you listening to these days?

Bam: It depends of my mood [haha]. But these days I listen to Within The Ruins.

Alex: These days I listen to Polaris, Architects, Northlane!

Chris: Vidhjarta and AAL.

Virgile: Statea by Vanessa Wagner & Murcof, and The Night God Slept by Silent Planet.

Your 5 favourite records of all the time?

Bam: Dir En GreyUroboros & Dum Spiro Spero / Tool10,000 Days / The ContortionistLanguage.

Alex: ArchitectsLost Forever / Lost Together, Periphery II, The ContortionistExoplanet, DayseekerOrigin.

Chris: MeshuggahNothing / The dillinger escape planMiss Machine / Origin – Antithesis / Les musclésMerguez party / BotchWe are the romans.

Virgile: Tool10,000 Days / The ContortionistLanguage / NINYear Zero / DeftonesAdrenaline / Coal ChamberCoal Chamber.

Can you tell me a little bit more about the gear you use to record “Existence”?

Bam: Guitars and bass were recorded with an AxeFx II – not sure about the patch but I think it was the Das Metall amp with a TS808mod drive for the tone!

Besides the release of the album, are there any other plans for the future?

Bam: We plan to make as much as possible shows and maybe a tour for the end of the year!

Chris: And save the world. But we want to tour first.

Virgile: Haha.

Any words for the potential new fans?

Bam: Thank you! Spread the word and we hope to play close to you and share a beer!

Alex: Thank you for your support, I can’t wait to play this album live for you guys!

Chris: Sounds good.

Virgile: Music is life!

Links:

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hyaena-music.com

Synaptik

Review: SynaptiK – Justify & Reason

Get ready for a gigantic portion of thick, stinking, faux-prog metal cheese of epic stature with this outstandingly campy, exciting, and wholly enjoyable album by SynaptiK!

I have a soft-spot for iconic Heavy Metal, and “Justify & Reason” does everything it needs to to tug on my heartstrings. First, it’s energetic, with genuinelly entertaining songwriting. The opening “The Incredible Machine” sets the majestic tone beautifully, giving way to the big, busy guitar work of Ian Knight and Jack Murton and an ever surging momentum which carries through the entire album. As a whole, the band is very tight, and never burdened by the excessiveness of say… any of Dream Theatre’s recent albums. Songs feature glimmers of symphonic nuance here and there, but largely feel stripped down, simplified, rocking, and very effective.

Justify & Reason cover art

Guitars step in and out of the spotlight tastefully, and solo breaks are fantastic, with lightning dexterity and creative playing. They sometimes come with cool time signature changes as well, making them a real highlight of the album.

Of course, John Knight’s vocals are a big part of this album’s success. He is every metal singer from the 1980s condensed into a perfectly honed, screaming machine — which makes “Justify & Reason” feel very much like a relic of its days…

Prog-metal snobs will probably not be impressed by the occasional concessions the band makes for accessibility and sing-along-ability… but the enthusiasm and talent demonstrated here more than makes up for its sometimes FM-oriented melodies. “Justify & Reason” gets high marks from me because its simply so much fun to listen to! The awesome cover artwork is the icing on the cake.

Pre-order “Justify & Reason” here.

Resurgence

EP Review: Burnt City – Resurgence

One of the first releases of the year, released on January 1st, is a debut EP by Australian progressive power metal project Burnt City, led by guitarist Aydin Zahedi. Titled Resurgence, it could be said that the EP is an all-star (progressive power) metal affair. Put together by Zahedi, the band also includes bassist Mike Lepond (Symphony X), drummer George Kollias (Nile), keyboardist Bob Katsionis (Firewind, Serious Black), and singer Gus Monsanto. Based on this, I can safely say that this release is off to a good start!

The songs tend to go the route of hard hitting progressive metal, as on the riff heavy “Seven”, title track, or the melodic yet highly intricate “Wild Hunter” and “Armageddon.” Monsanto lends his unquestionable talents throughout the album; he is such a pleasant revelation on this record. “Armageddon” closes out the album in quite thunderous fashion, with sledgehammer riffing, orchestral keys, and locked in tight rhythms. Plenty of stellar lead guitar work to be found throughout the album courtesy of Zahedi, so be prepared for a progressive metal feast from start to finish.

Though we get treated to many of these types of collaborations, most of them feel unnatural. The chemistry between the members here flows smoothly. Along with some very special guests, Zahedi has created a very intriguing and enjoyable record. Looking forward to hear more.

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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.

Links:

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althea

Interview with ALTHEA

Althea is a progressive metal quintet from Milan in Italy. The band defines their mission as “developing a free-of-schemes progressive metal rock,” and fans of the genre will have an opportunity to hear that on their upcoming release titled “Memories Have No Name.” I talked with the band about the album and more, and here is what they had to say.

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

Great… we getting closer to another year end and closer and closer to the release of MHNN. We are really excited about it!

Speaking of new music, you have an album coming out in January. What can people expect from “Memories Have No Name”?

A journey into the inner self, an entertainment experience. MHNN is an album made of 1 song divided in 16 chapters, with a lot of introspective sections and a lot of different sounds.

From the musical perspective, it is of course a progressive rock/metal with dark atmosphere, tons of sonic layers but still with a lot of melody.

What was it like working on the album?

It was awesome! We had amazing times and a lot of fun. It was also a lot stressful. For this album we followed a new approach to our music and we recorded the album by ourselves in our home studio. We then moved to MoonHouse studios in Milan with Danilo Di Lorenzo for mixing and mastering phases. Given this, we had a lot of additional work to be done on our own but the result is very satisfying.

memories-have-no-name_cover

Are there any touring plans in support to “Memories Have No Name”?

We are in the middle of the organization of the promotional activities, including trying to book as many live shows as possible. You know, the album is quite complex from a sonic point of view and it’s not the easiest album to bring live – we are working on it and we would like also to bring some visual accompanying to the music. Let’s see you far we can go!

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

We would really like to bring our music as far as possible, without geographical limits. We would probably be very curious to see the reaction of fans in countries like India, China, etc, where it’s not very common to see progressive acts. But we really love playing everywhere!

Who and what inspires you the most?

Our inspiration comes from a huge variety of sources and in the past years we’ve been listening to a lot of different stuff. Currently we are exploring more experimental and industrial sounds. To say a name, we can easily go for Nine Inch Nails now, or some solo work from Richard Barbieri as well.

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

Yes, of course. As said before we’ve grown up with different influences and with different favorite artists. Each one of us have different musical taste from avant-garde metal to alternative/indie rock passing through more extreme metal acts and traditional prog rock and all of our musical background in some way influences our songwriting and style. A very big common point in all our listening is for sure melody, and you can easily hear how this is reflected in our work as well.

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?

Thank you for you time, it’s always a pleasure. We would like to take to opportunity to invite the fans to listen to MHNN as a single song, all in a raw. It’s something we really care of, and we would like the listener to have a journey experience, rather than skipping from one song to the other. Also, please always buy original music and support emerging acts!

We hope to see you soon!

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merkaba_graphic

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.

merkaba-ep-cover

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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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

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.

aoa

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

 

unprocessed

Review: Unprocessed – Perception

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.

unprocessed-perception

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.

Links:

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ReverbNation

Astral Path

Review: Astral Path – Ashes Dancer

Astral Path is an Italian melodic death metal band with elements borrowed from Swedish death metal and progressive metal. They released their debut album this past summer titled “Ashes Dancer.” As the band members are together since 2011, it is reflected on their sound that they have been working hardly on their debut effort. Both musically, and lyrically “Ashes Dancer” has its dark side but never forgets to be melodic from the beginning to the end.

Ashes Dancer

Eugene Yu, lead vocalist 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 album its power. Passages between growl and clean vocals are very well designed and executed. And more importantly they sound very tasty.

There are eight tracks on Ashes Dancer. 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 Astral Path bring something new to the scene, but without hesitation it can be said they brought a tasteful album, very well composed and executed. It highly satisfies the expectations from a listener.

Links:

https://www.facebook.com/astralpathmusic

https://astralpathmilan.bandcamp.com/releases