Tag Archives: progressive metal

Meliorist

Review: Meliorist – ii.

On “ii.” Brisbane’s Meliorist unleashes a flurry of genre-blending forms and influences to craft an enjoyable, entertaining listen. I found “ii.” much more accessible than its self-titled predecessor, even as it retains the progressive and experimental nature.

Reviewing an EP can be a little tough, what with fewer songs to talk about. In this case however, I don’t really think of this release as a series of five songs. It’s much more like five tracks that encompass several moods and styles. You could say that each track has multiple songs, but to me they sound as if the band said: “Ok, let’s lay down five tracks. We’ll throw a lot of different elements in, and just play however we feel“. For a lot of bands, this free-form approach can become a complete disaster. Luckily enough, it turned out pretty good for Meliorist.

Meliorist - ii

The EP begins with “New Chapter,” a wacky sequence before it cuts into a very aggressive section, and fluctuates between this and moments of soaring vocal melodies. Heavy riffs, crazy drum arrangements, and guttural vocals are elements that make up Meliorist’s sound. ii. is best taken in as a whole, so choosing a favorite track or moment is kind of difficult. However, if pressed I would have to say “My Reflection” is my favorite track. Beginning with a plethora of brilliant guitar work, the song catapults into a furious volcano of palm-muted crunch and relentless drumming. Awesome.

Meliorist is not for everyone. If you are not willing to take the time to sort it all out, it can be disorienting, and you will completely miss the point. For the rest of us who are wiling to take that time, this new band solidifies the fact that we are experiencing one of the most talented metal bands of our generation unfold before our eyes. This is metal at its finest, completely unapologetic, and all the while blazing a path into uncharted territory.

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Beyond the Night Sky

Review: Ring of Gyges – Beyond the Night Sky

Ah, Iceland. I have fond memories of my time in Iceland. It is a wonderful place, to be sure, but there are many facets of it that are not well-known. The wondrous beauty of music of Iceland is what I will focus on in this review – but specifically the recent album of a band called Ring of Gyges called “Beyond the Night Sky.” But I guess you could figure that out from the title.

Ring of Gyges

I’m not going to profess to be an authority on music coming from this Nordic country, and I am only aware of a few bands, but these certainly are wonderful. The bands have their differences, but the human in me has the tendency to see connections where none may exist, so I feel like these bands are tied together by some sort of Icelandic musical tradition.

Ring of Gyges has been around since 2013, released their debut EP “Ramblings of Madmen” in 2015, a ten-minute single “Witchcraft” in 2016, and their full-length debut “Beyond the Night Sky” in November 2017. They are a wonderful band and my favorite new find. They seem to have five permanent members, sharing duties on keyboards, bass, guitars, vocals, along with a few guests on different instruments — flutes, clarinet, saxophone, violin, viola, and cello. The lineup for the album clearly shows the importance of the horn and string sections, and it is used to great effect, but the keyboards and guitars dominate. This, for me, is a huge bonus.

The music of “Beyond the Night Sky” is generally smooth and subtle (don’t think Kenny G, I’m not finished) like Hatfield and the North in their more pensive moments, and less like the funkiness of Billy Cobham or the energy of Mahavishnu Orchestra. It’s more on the fluid, astral spectrum of jazz fusion, like Return to Forever. That said, they don’t sound anything like RtF – the horn section and lack of guitars make a pretty clear distinction. And then there is a metal segment, where influences from Dream Theater, Opeth, Leprous and Haken are on the display.

I guess that’s pretty great though, right? I hear aspects of Prog, old and new, but they don’t overpower or turn it derivative. I hear aspects of other Icelandic bands — Agent Fresco, most prominently — but they don’t turn the band toward regressive introspection.

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Heyoka's Mirror

Interview: HEYOKA’s MIRROR

Heyoka’s Mirror is a progressive metal trio from Canada who has just released its debut EP “Loss of Contact with Reality.” Over the course of my time writing for this and other websites, I’ve come into many interesting and unique acts. I can certainly say that Heyoka’s Mirror are creating a very interesting progressive metal, which is often mixed with other different styles such as classic Power / Heavy Metal, Modern Metal and Opera.

The three dudes in Heyoka’s Mirror — Andrew Balboa, Omar Sultan and Bayan Sharafi — answered my questionnaire about the EP, touring, and more.

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

HM: Life is good and life is cold right now. Today (Dec. 30th) is -27C but it feels -40C with the wind chill. So yeah… But life is great right now!

Speaking of new music, you have an EP. What can people expect from “Loss of Contact with Reality”?

Bayan: People can expect a musical adventure.

Andrew: We’ve had a few reviews from other magazines and everyone is getting pretty confused hahaha. People love it but they say they have never heard anything like this before. So….. expect something new.

Omar: Even if you don’t like heavy music or prog music.. try it! This will be a great introduction for you.

Heyoka's Mirror - Loss of Contact with Reality

What was it like working on the EP?

Andrew: It was fun! It took nine months to write the three songs, and recording took ten months. We all have full time jobs so, finding the time to write and record was a bit challenging. But the overall process was really fun!

Are there any touring plans in support to “Loss of Contact with Reality”?

Omar: We would like something short to start… Three or five cities, nothing big because our main focus right now is to record the full album.

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

HM: Japan, Germany, Brazil, Russia and the States of course!

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

Omar: Hard rock! I grew up listening to hard rock and that’s the reason why I started playing when I was 16. It made my playing very musical.

Bayan: Funk! A lot of 80’s and 90’s music like Tom Jones and The Bee Gees. And it has changed the way I feel groove.

Andrew: I listen to a lot of jazz, classical… everything! Even J-Pop! … Japanese pop is beautifully composed.

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?

Omar: Get the EP, listen to it with headphones. find the time to really pay attention to it, give it a chance and you’ll love it!

Andrew: I think that you have to listen to it a few times, you can’t just listen to it once; if you do, you’ll think it’s just another “wanna be prog album”. Listen to it a few times and you’ll discover really interesting things.

Bayan: Follow us on Instagram and Facebook for cool and fun updates every Saturday!

HM: Thank you very much for interviewing us!

“Loss of Contact with Reality” is available as digital download and CD directly from the band, here.

TEAI

Interview with THE EARTH AND I

Prog Metal Newyorkers, The Earth and I, dropped their debut full-length effort “The Candleman” on 3rd of November, a release that displays talent of this young five-piece.

The group is ready to put out their sophomore album titled “The Curtain” in early 2018.

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

Life is great, thanks for asking. Between the 5 of us, we have a collective age of 476 years, but we’re feeling fresher than an Andes mint after a tubful of savory Olive Garden grub.

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

That’s right. The Candleman is a bit of a smorgasbord. Progressive metal gluttons should find enough long epics and guitar noodles to satiate their hunger. But we hope that every listener can find a morsel or two that piques their fancy.

What was it like working on the album?

The Candleman was a lesson in patience and perseverance. This record features significantly higher production quality than can be found on any of our past project’s releases. In that sense, The Candleman is very much the first album any of us have put out that is able to properly communicate our artistic intent. In the four years and change that it took to make this music, we gained a ton of experience in songwriting, recording, and the production process. We truly cut our teeth on this record, and we hope listeners will appreciate the labor.

The Candleman

Are there any touring plans in support to “The Candleman”?

We can’t say just yet, though we always like to keep ourselves occupied with a consistent stream of local shows. For now, we have a ton of exciting video content planned, as well as an early 2018 release for The Candleman’s companion record, The Curtain, which we wrote and recorded at the same time.

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

Any country in Europe would be awesome, but we would particularly like to play the UK. A number of the revered titans of our genre—Tesseract, Sikth, and Monuments to name a few—hail from the UK, so we’d love to check out the scene for ourselves.

Also, definitely Japan. There seems to be a market for noodly guitar bands, but I’m not sure we’d make the cut. Right now, we’re just the instant cup ramen of prog. Gotta step up our noodle game. We’re aiming for udon, but we’ll settle for soba.

Who and what inspires you the most?

I think we continue to be inspired by music’s ability to affect us on a profoundly personal level. Though it becomes rarer as our music libraries expand, we still have those occasional ‘holy shit’ moments when we find something truly novel.

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

Jazz. Tigran Hamasyan’s music was a gateway for many of us. The world of jazz is a mile wide, and just as deep. There’s so much we can learn from its sense of modal harmony and unique chord voicings, as well as a wider dynamic range than you typically hear in metal. Also, we’ve noticed the chromaticism of video game music start to creep into new riffs. Expect LP3 to feature nothing but 8-bit jazz standards.

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?

Alright, I don’t have much time. It’s risky, but I gotta level with you. I’m not even in this band. They got me trapped in a cellar, answering their emails while they bring me mashed potatoes by the bucket. The one they call Meerkat always has this ravenous grin. I think they’re fattening me up. Man, they’re freaking cannibbbbbbbbbbbbbbnm,.;’

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The Earth And I

Review: The Earth and I – The Candleman

The Earth and I is a progressive metal band hailing from New York, and earlier this month the band put out their debut album titled “The Candleman.”

The album contains strong blasting riffs, which are otherwise inherently catchy and actually suit the vocalists incredibly well. They are bludgeoning when paired with vicious growls of Nick Petromilli (also on bass) and Daniel Siew (on guitar), and cleans by lead singer Kendyle Wolven. Wolven simply has such an intense level of passion and energy, like she pours his heart and soul into the music. The best example of this can be heard throughout the album, but as highlights I would mentioned “CGMTC (Life in the Sunset Zone),” “Little Frames” and “Sugar High.”

The Candleman The masterful use of the heavy verse/melodic chorus style of songwriting makes this album incredibly varied. “The Candleman” is all about balance of heaviness and melody. The instrumentation on the album is brought to perfection, and although the band’s technical skills are easy to notice, the band members work in favor of displaying a balance between masterful craftsmanship and performance.

“The Candleman” is one of those albums that is just as good the first time you listen to it as it is the fiftieth. It’s one of those rare cases where it never gets old, yet it doesn’t take any time to grow on you. Whether you’re a seasoned metal listener or someone who is just discovering heavy music, this album will appeal to you in some way or another. It’s incredibly technical and precise in its execution, yet it allows enough melody in to keep it from sounding like a typical instrumental wankfest.

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Soul Enema

Interview with SOUL ENEMA

Israeli prog quintet Soul Enema have recently returned with the release of their second studio album “Of Clans and Clones and Clowns” (reviewed here), which has been in the making for a number of years. The band collaborated with a few guest musicians, with the most prominent names being Ayreon’s Arjen Lucassen and ex-Orphaned Land guitarist and composer Yossi Sassi.

Soul Enema’s keyboard player and composer Constantin Glantz spoke for Progstravaganza about the band’s origins, the meaning behind the band’s name, writing, inspiration, and more.

What made you go for the name Soul Enema?

No offense to the sensitive souls, but this damn thing serves the people. It comes to you in your sleep; it has wings of an angles and eyes of the world. Then you wake up and feel like a new man. That was a little secret, maybe I already told too much. The simplest answer is the obvious one – the name reflects what we do. It’s mainly about cleansing out the negative emotional stuff, which is a major catalyst for music and lyrics writing sometimes, and putting some soul into it – that’s how the creative process goes, roughly speaking. However, I can’t say we end up exclusively with the doom and gloom package – there is a whole palette of ways to channel different emotions, so there is a place for every kind of animal. Since we also have something that I would call “a punk element” and a (self)-ironic touch, there’s no real problem with using any kind of words and metaphors if needed. Maybe it’s a greeting from the era, when Rock, and Progressive Rock in particular, was influenced by an experimental forms of counterculture and had full inner freedom to push the boundaries in any direction, for better or worse.

How do you usually describe your music?

Well, it’s an eclectic ensemble for the post-post-hipster world of the late period civilization, so usually we face some problem with describing it. I could present it as anything from Abba to Zappa, from King Crimson to King Diamond – which isn’t miles away from the truth, actually. It has many contrasting moods, from melancholic to cheerful, pastoral, manic, satirical, absurdist, etc. It has many different ethnic influences; Europe, Asia, Africa, etc. Space or Psych Rock elements as well – I’m not sure which planet they come from. There is some Metal in it, though nothing too brutal to make your grandma really scared. Some “avant-garde” elements as well, but it’s still melodic and memorable enough for my four year old kid to sing along to most of those melodic lines and tunes.

Soul Enema

What is your writing process like?

Usually I create full demos in midi, and then revisit them to add or edit something in the composition. That’s the musical part. The lyrics mainly come afterwards, and generally they have a theme behind them; it’s not a “stream of consciousness”. The lyrics definitely have to sound good with the music, but sonic and rhythmic compatibility alone is not enough. The arrangements might be revisited during the recording process due to particular features of musicians involved. In example, we added more voice-like-instrument parts, and some sitar arrangements, when Noa and Michael became involved.

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

There’s no single major inspiration, but I will provide a list of relevant connections, to make things more substantial: Devin Townsend, Ayreon, Orphaned Land, Faith No More, Genesis, Pink Floyd, Frank Zappa, Voivod, ABBA, King Crimson, Cardiacs, Eloy, Sparks, Black Sabbath, Secret Chiefs 3, Pelevin, Spengler, Machiavelli, Orwell, von Trier, Vasya Lozhkin, Ethiopian music, John Zorn, Guinea pigs, baboons, little kids, dear bollocks, Aral Sea, death, decay, techno death, death-grind with elements of hummus and paprika, life after death, and strangely enough – life before death. That’s just the beginning of the list, but I will have mercy on you!

What is your favourite piece on the upcoming album “Of Clans and Clones and Clowns”?

No way to tell, really. They all are different and essential elements of a puzzle. I can say that “In Bed With an Enemy” is a characteristic example of our serious side, and tracks like “Cannibalissimo Ltd.” represent our ultra serious side – the one you can’t even talk about, without including a serious amount of idiocy.

Of Clans and Clones and Clowns

What makes “Of Clans and Clones and Clowns” different than other similar albums/artists in your opinion?

Look, it’s a problem to find albums that are really similar. Maybe if that was easier, I wouldn’t even bother to write music and lyrics this way. It’s done because this particular combination is what I miss as a listener, so it’s a pure case of “if you want to have it your way, do it yourself”. So, yep, it has different non obvious instruments, arrangements, this and that, but the more important thing here, is that it’s placed in a way that cuts through different dimensions. That’s how I see it, at least.

What should music lovers expect from “Of Clans and Clones and Clowns”?

The things that struck me the hardest, as a listener, were those where I didn’t expect anything at all. I just happened to be there at the moment when that music was playing, asking myself: “Wow, what the hell is that?! I’ve got to figure out the name of this band!” So, expectations are not really essential – you may just come with a clean sheet, no prejudice, hit the play button and let it flow. Hopefully we have already done the rest of the necessary work.

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

“Damn, I would marry this record!” Seriously, any kind of emotions are welcomed. The only unwelcomed scenario is no emotions at all. We have many colors and moods there, so in fact, it’s perfectly understandable to experience all kinds of different things on your way through.

Which do you like most, life in the studio or on tour?

Life in the studio, of course – it’s far better suited to deal with an actual creative process, which is the main reason to engage in such a consuming activity as this kind of music-making.

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

That’s a tough limit. Well, three albums for today only. Yesterday or tomorrow they may be different:

Cardiacs – “A Little Man and a House and the Whole World Window” – this will do instead of a morning coffee. In fact, it might twist you the way no coffee would be able.

The Cure – “Pornography” – this will do for moments of sadness and desperation; after all it’s a desert island, not a five-star resort, so you are there to try and survive.

Pixies – “Bossanova” – this will do when I need some good-spirited easy going music. I thought of taking a Dillinger Escape Plan album to scare off the wild carnivore animals around, but… well, maybe tomorrow.

“Of Clans and Clones and Clowns” is out now and can be ordered here.

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!

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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.

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