Tag Archives: progressive metal

alejandro-licano

Interview with CROSSING THE RUBICON

Crossing The Rubicon returned recently with the new EP titled “Bloom” which includes three tracks. The self-title song from the release is an epic which sees the project founder, Alejandro Licano, collaborating with other guitarists. This track in short is a masterpiece.

I recently had an opportunity to ask Alejandro some questions about the new material, but we also talked about the inspiration, influences, his guitar setup, and more. Alejandro was very talkative and it was a pleasure talking with him.

Hey Alejandro. How are you doing?

The music life could not be better, thanks! Thank you for having me in on this interview, how are you?

I’m pretty good, thanks for asking. You released some new music recently. How do you feel about the “Bloom” release?

The Bloom release has been undeniably successful. There is an obvious growth in the community and I’m still getting a very positive response to the new music and finally some response all around such that I’m even making some back catalogue sales and getting more followers on social media.

crossing-the-rubicon-bloom

How much of a challenge was it to work on the EP, especially on the song “Bloom”? I am asking this questions from the obvious reasons, and these are that the song is a collaborative work. Tell me more about it.

The work on the E.P. was ellaborate. The E.P. includes three tracks, two of which were rerecordings from the previous discography and some past work and of course the new self-titled track “Bloom”. Working on the older tracks was very quick, even some what minimalist.

For instance, “And He Built A Crooked House…” was simply a matter or re-recording the guitars, and getting some of the mix to stand out more, remastering the track and allowing for Tomas Racklavsky’s solo to fit the mix better.

Bloom was the real opus of this composition as I actually spent a lot of time with music production, song writing, alligning the guest guitarists spots, finding a bass player and drafting demo after demo after demo.

The idea I originally has was to feature a few amazing guitar players and it slowly morphed into a larger volume of performances and collaborations.

You are from Quito in Ecuador, but you live in Ohio. What other artists similar to your genre that are coming from Ohio are you friends with? Also, are there any Ecuadorian bands that we should know of?

Ohio’s scene is very special to me. The music in this state is so alive and versatile. You can’t go to a local show without seeing some form of extreme talent. You can say I have a lot of connections to many musicians coming out or who have already built a career for themselves from Ohio. Miss May I and Hawthorne Heights were some of the original bands that had some impact of whom I knew some original band members. You know? You grow up jamming with some of those guys in used-guitar-stores and one day you look and say “Hey those guys finally made it.” Right now some of the more active bands I’ve seen come out of my area are Denihilist (formerly “Hail to the King”), Eternal Void, Grim State, The Paramedic, Under the Combine, Denounce Your Martyr, Zuel, From Another Planet, A Sense of Purpose, Sentients, Novallo I mean the list goes on. Some of these bands are class acts that are going on to do big things, are in talks with labels, have tours scheduled. A lot of the groups are progressive in some way, or instrumental metal, or extremely dynamic and we’re all a family in one way or another. There’s a lot of support and big-heartedness in this greater Ohio metal community. It’s a Midwest thing. This is a tradition that goes back to the early 2000′s, something that undeniably had an impact on the formation of bands such as Veil of Maya, Born of Osiris, After the Burial and more. We are a connection of bands that are lifting each other.

As far as Ecuadorian bands coming up, it’s funny you would ask. I think Ecuadorian metal has been growing steadily for years. A lot of the community there is greatly inspired by the late 90′s waves of power and speed metal that brought about bands like Angra, Helloween and Mago de Oz. Naturally the emulation is there. You can hear a lot of trash and powermetal in the likes of the top metal bands from Ecuador. The biggest name drop would have to be Basca, followed by Falc who all share in the same vein of metal. Of course studying the music you will find elements that you can’t find anywhere else in the world and that is in the folkloric and Andean elements that Ecuadorian metal brings to the table. If you look at the way that In Flames, Katatonia, Soilwork and Opeth brought their own flavors of Scandinavian metal and Goteborg style folklore music to the branch of metal they adhered themselves to you can make a correlation. Ecuadorian’s are proud of their heritage and of course these metal bands are no exception. I suggest Basca, there is nothing as ear piercing and fierce from that region. In the vein of guitar gods search for Hittar Cuesta. This guitar legend from Ecuador found himself extremely inspired by the works of Joe Satriani and you can hear it clearly in the work he’s done over the years.

alejandro-licano

What is your opinion about the current progressive metal scene?

What is there not to love about the progressive metal scene? Plainly put; it’s colorful and versatile at this point and there’s too much, in fact, to take from it. Take a look back 20 years ago to 1996. The progressive metal world was blooming in the underground. Just look at the label mates for bands like OSI, and Cynic. There is a plethora of music that has grown and acoompanied some of these bands that grew out of the early 1990s. Dream Theater, to me, has always been the spear head of the industry standard for progmetal and more than likely always will be. In fact even after making my discoveries of King Crimson and the work that Frank Zappa potentially offered Prog-Metal, there is nothing like Dream Theater. You have to think; you have the likes of Tool, Opeth, Meshuggah and Devin Townsend who all have had their respective influence and touch on a plethora of bands in the scene and how they have shaped the colors for what all consider to be Progressive Metal. At the moment what artists like David Maxim Micic, Animals As Leaders, Periphery, The Contortionist, Between The Buried and Me and the likes are doing is a demonstration of both talents and influence but also the opening of doorways to the future of metal. It’s not about gimmics in Prog-metal, it’s about the truth and the texture of sound.

Can you tell me something about your influences?

I’m influenced by bands that appeal to me for a variety of reasons and recently I’ve discovered that this is based more and more off their ability to create texture with a visual palette and present that as a package. I think I based a lot of my influence on the ability to be engage within my imagination. I love the groove oriented patterns of AAL, and the surreal ambiance of The Contortionist but it is also in some of the textural depth in works such as Ocean Machine: Biomech, or Bilo 3.0. These works elaborately demonstrate comprehension of sound as it relates to the human senses. I mean who doesn’t relate to some basic emotions though. I have found myself influenced recently by some Steely Dan, Four Play, Michael Jackson, SRV and even just classical music. I’m all over the place. My influences are vast. I think that as early as 4 years of age I was playing cassettes with The Beatles, Tchaikovsky, all the way to Bobby McFerrin and a mix tape of Metallica so: No wonder I’m kind of messed up. I think my first Progressive Metal experience was listening to New Millennium Cyanide Christ by Meshuggah for the first at age 10 and around the same time I also heard In the Court of the Crimson King by King Crimson and both scared me to death.

What are you listening to these days?

I have Fourplay, Periphery’s new album “Periphery III”, ALLSEITS, Ludivico Technique, the most recent works by Plini, Joe Satriani and Dream Theater all in my playlists. Sometimes random music hits me too though. I enjoy Arabic and Chinese traditional folk music.

alejandro-licano-bloom-photo-session

Your 5 favourite records of all the time?

“el cielo” by dredg

“Viva Emptiness” by Katatonia

“Blackwater Park” by Opeth

“Bilo 3.0″ by David Maxim Micic

Tie between “Momentary Lapse of Reason” (The Pink Floyd Sound), and “Master of Puppets” (Metallica)

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

The gear I performed on was:

Ibanez S8, 8-string guitar. I have modded it with (2) 500k volume and tone pots, along with a Bareknuckle Aftermath (bridge) pick up and a Seymour Duncan Sentient (neck) pick up.

The other eight string is my Schecter Elite 8, bolstered with two D Activator, DiMarzio pickups. I added a Kahler floating trem and some 250k volume and tone pots.

The sound on both of these guitars is phenomenal but I honestly prefer the range and feel of the S8.

For guitar processors and signal I’m using a Line 6 HD PRO, through my Flextone III with a D.I. box for in-studio sound, I rarely but sometimes used a BBE Sonic Maximizer mostly for clean and effects boost from wet/dry output signals.

In-studio my tools were all solidly Reaper Audio DAW, with Omnisphere Midi/Synth control, Superior Drummer 2.0 and Steven Slate Drum along with iZotope and Waves. The mix and master however were done at Compass Audio by the very talented producer Steve Perrino who has a massive and very elaborate VST and Plug-in collection. He is a wizard of sound. I also should mention I proudly use Sting-joy strings and Dunlop Primetone jazz IIIs

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

Right now the biggest and most ambitious effort is to take Crossing the Rubicon to the road and make it a live band. And it’s happening now!

Any words for the potential new fans?

The music is for fans of The Contortionist, Steve Vai, T.R.A.M. and is a wonderfully crafted array of styles from all around the sphere of Prog-Metal influence. Currently, I’m in the process of filming the playthrough for the single “Bloom” and really wish everyone enjoys that. And yes, I hope you truly enjoy the new E.P. and come stick with this band and follow our growth as it truly seems to be shaping up to something promising in the next year or so. Hope to see you on the road!

Links:

Bandcamp

Facebook

YouTube

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ReverbNation

SoundCloud

Dusks Embrace

Interview with DUSKS EMBRACE

Progressive metal-oriented bands from Oregon, USA has been on the rise for me lately. One of the bands that I was recently introduced to, thanks to the PR wire, is a quartet from Salem, who are about to launch their fourth studio album “ReAwakening” later this fall.

Guitarist Josh Brewer sat down to answer my question about the new music, influences, favorite records.

You will release your new album “ReAwakening” this fall. How do you feel about the release?

This release is probably the most excited I have been about releasing an album since the first record. The process of recording a record is time consuming and takes a lot of effort when you approach it DIY. I also feel that makes it considerably more exciting when you finally get to release it. When the first record was finished it was a strong sense of accomplishment and I am feeling that way again as we are finishing this record.

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

It was a considerable challenge to work on this record. It took a long time for me to find the right musicians to really bring this to life. In the past I have always worked in a pretty solitary fashion and I think that really showed with the music. For the majority of time writing and recording this record I lived very far away from the rest of the band. It made it important that we all spent time working on our own. I also got very adept at using the internet for online collaboration. We pretty much all mixed the record together using remote connections over the internet which gave this record a pretty unique experience.

ReAwakening by Dusks Embrace (album art)

Where does this new album stand comparing with your previous efforts?

I think this is by far the best work we have done yet. If you listen through the records there is a clear progression. Over time more keyboards were introduced as well as more varied styles. This is the first record that I feel does not have a genre I can attach to it. Part of that comes from being able to collaborate with strong musicians and part of it comes from my musical tastes diverging considerable in the past few years. I feel the world of metal, in all forms, has become a little stale and so I felt a need to move away from it. I think this is our “growing up” record.

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

One of my favorite bands from our area is City. They are a progressive metal band in the vein of Opeth, Devin Townsend, etc. They have been friends of mine for a long time and just released their debut record. I also really like Ireshine. The scene here in Portland doesn’t have that many people so most of these bands are made of people we used to play live with all the time. We have a pretty tight knit scene.

What is your opinion about the current progressive metal scene?

That is a question that would be far better answered by our bassist Myke haha. I am not personally a fan of progressive metal. I feel modern production techniques have really taken away from metal. The use of sample replacement and Axe FX has really brought about a homogeny to the genre. Most releases tend to have the same feel and sound to me and so I haven’t been able to find a way into it for a few years now. But I am pretty jaded so definitely take that with a grain of salt.

Dusks Embrace

Can you tell me something about your influences?

My influences have become a bit of odd bedfellows lately. I grew up on punk records. I listened to a lot of bay area punk bands as well as a lot of bands out of NYC and the DC scenes. Minor Threat had a particular influence when I was younger. I tend to like a lot music that I feel I can hear passion in. I really like well-produced and polished records but only with certain genres. I really like a great sounding Michael Buble record but if it is more aggressive music I tend to like the grittier nature of less expensive recordings. I think the DIY ethic involved with a lot of early punk bands probably has influenced me the most. It gave every artist their own unique flair.

What are you listening to these days?

These days my listening is pretty varied. Jethro Tull, Plini, Run the Jewels, Thrice, Journey (before Steve Perry), Camel, more Michael Buble than I care to admit, Goo Goo Dolls, Matchbox 20, Kendrick Lamar and The Backstreet Boys are all on pretty heavy rotation. I also love anything Motown. I listen to a lot of Marvin Gaye, The Four Tops, and pretty much any great Motown compilation I can get my hands on. As far as metal goes I may throw on an old In Flames or Opeth record from time to time. I still really like Enslaved as well.

Your 5 favorite records of all the time?

The Jester Race – In Flames

Mirage – Camel

Traced in Air – Cynic

It’s Time – Michael Buble

All Hallows/The Art of Drowning – AFI (Can’t choose between the two)

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

We did the drums with Focusrite interfaces and my UA pres. Liam had a DW kit that we recorded with. For guitars I used the Marshall head I have been using since the first record for some of the heavier stuff as well as my Egnator head for pretty much everything else. I used an old 2×12 Mitchell cab from the 70’s that weighs a ton. For bass we recorded direct with the UA pre and a Neve DI box. We used Amplitube and a few other plugins for the tone in the software. And then vocals we used an SM7B and the UA pre. I use Reaper for my DAW and then tons of software synths for all the keyboards, of which there is a lot on this record.

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

Next on the agenda is playing some shows to support this record and then beginning to write new material. I am thinking we may take a new step with the next record and try something different. I have been writing pretty dense music for a while now that has a lot of orchestration and layering. I am kind of interested in stripping things down and maybe going for something a little bit less intense. But we will see how the next year goes.

Any words for the potential new fans?

We are a band that is decided on evolution. I am not interested in any shape or form of repeating a record or even a song if at all possible. I would say that they should keep their eyes open since we will have a lot of stuff coming as a band and individually. We all have outlets where we release music, videos, art and other media and will continue to do so in addition to working on this record. Also come check out our site or various other media outlets and say hi.

Links:

Website

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Twitter

YouTube

Soulhenge

Review: Soulhenge – Anachronism

Luxembourg’s Soulhenge have crafted a well executed progressive metal release with Anachronism that is almost inhumanly spot on for genre style points. Like notes in a wine, the band cycle through atmospheric or djent-guitars, high vocal melodies that strive to fit into the progressive metalcore club rather than stray too close to clean mall emo vocals, etc. At their best they are a blend between some of Veil Of Maya’s edgier passages with potential (evident in the amount of hard work that clearly went into this) future Periphery-sized ambitions.

Anachronism EP

Much better than most djent by numbers and capable than many new wave of prog metal bands.

Over four varied tracks the band prove good work can be done in this sub genre of the family rock and metal tree. The future has yet to get out a verdict on that, but I’d be surprised if I am wrong.

The key track on this baby is “Anachronism”, in that the title summarizes that the band perhaps have too many at their disposal while also cramming in a ton of cool music within (almost) four-minutes skeleton that you’ll be amazed is as short as it was for all the places visited.

Looking forward to the music yet to come from this band, though this is a very capable early effort.

The Vision Ablaze

Interview with The Vision Ablaze

Progressive metallers from Copenhagen, The Vision Ablaze will remember 2015 for the release of their debut full-length “Youtopia” via Mighty Music. About the band’s beginnings, the album, and future plans, I talked with the band.

Where and how did The Vision Ablaze take its form?

The Vision Ablaze sprang from a black metal project – believe it or not! We had begun to write more melodic and progressive elements into the black metal, and simply ended up not fiting in with that scene. We wanted to do more of that – good melodies, clean singing, solos and progressive elements. So we changed it up and began building what became The Vision Ablaze a few years later. This was in Copenhagen somewhere around 2010 or 2011.

Let’s talk a little about your album Youtopia. How would you describe your music?

There are 10 songs on our debut album. They range from slow, clean and very melodic to gritty death-metal. Our music is not necessarily true to any particular genre, but contains several subgenres – what identifies our music is great melodies. You can expect a strong chorus and emotions ranging from anger to extreme melancholy. In more standard terms we’re most akin to melodic metal (or melo-death) with metalcore and progressive elements.

Youtopia

When you compare Youtopia with your previous works, could we say there are certain changes or progress in your sound? In which measure this album satisfies your standards currently?

Youtopia is our debut album – but we recorded two EP’s before that. The development is towards a heavier sound and feel. The time span is obvious from the technical aspect – we use more intricate structures and leads and the vocals are stronger and contains greater depth. In comparison to our previous works – Youtopia stands out as a great end result of years of work; it defines a sound and a way of writing music that we’re very satisfied with. There are many details on the album, that will keep a keen listener exploring the music on Youtopia – and we like to have both a very straight-forward soundscape, with an underlying finesse that adds richness to the songs.

And are you satisfied with where Youtopia landed?


We’re very pleased with the album. Jacob Hansen (Volbeat, Aborted, Pretty Maids etc) has made it sound both extremely heavy and fragile too – a perfect balance of clean passages that conveys deep emotion and a wall of metal guitars and drums that sounds brutal as fuck… We wrote 15 songs for the album and picked the best ones to record. We recorded them at home before entering the studio so we could go through all the songs and change what we felt was necessary to make the songs great. We definitely feel we succeeded. It’s been receiving great reviews, so it appears our fans and the critics are really stoked about it too.

What are the themes you explore in your lyrics?

The main theme on Youtopia is a critique of power and authority. But also about a population that takes so much at face value, ensuring they’ll stay trampled beneath suffocating religion, politics and power structures. It’s about allowing illusions to remain truth and about trying to dismantle the fears that keep us from reaching a better state of being. The cover is a symbol of that – that we’re taught to choose blindly with dire consequences.

Marcus Gronbech
The Vision Ablaze released lyric videos. Do The Vision Ablaze lyrics reflect any of you guys’ personalities? Or do they hide stories behind?

We’ve got two lyrics videos out, and motion video too. The lyric videos vary greatly in their design, but tie in very well with our themes. Subversion shows clips from human history – both horrendous and sweet. The video actually features the first ever recorded kiss on footage – simply to contrast the evil of dictatorship and manipulating authorities. Peter made the lyric video and it reflects well on his view on the world.

Fear is a live action lyric video – we recorded it in one take with a cell phone camera in some buildings that were marked for demolition. It’s an homage to old horror movies and this gripping fear that cripples us. It actually features Christian sitting at a poker-table facing a dead man’s hand and Lars is hidden beneath the plastic wraps about 1/3 into the video. It also features Peters girlfriend, so we packed it with small Easter eggs which we’re obviously now spoiling…

Where do you draw your inspiration from?

There are several cool bands we can relate too – but our inspiration is more in broader terms: the world and our own emotions. We think a lot of metal is really about refusing to accept everything at face value and about conveying an abundance of emotion. It’s like poetry that isn’t afraid to be hard and abrasive.

Is there any band that has a real huge impact on The Vision Ablaze’s music?

There are several bands that mean a lot to us in The Vision Ablaze – but if we were to point out one band that has had a huge impact – it would be Killswitch Engage. Great songs with strong melodies and they’ve never been afraid to just be happy about playing metal – in a live setting KsE are all smiles and, it seems, gratitude. We care a lot about musicians that love what they do – that pour their heart and soul into their songs and relish being on stage. And KsE is a great example of a band who writes music that is both inviting, very heavy, intricate and simple at the same time – and a great mix of clean singing and screaming.

Where do you see yourselves in the future?

On the road! That’s the short answer. We’re working hard to promote this album – and we want to meet new people and play shows. We’re based in Copenhagen, Denmark. It’s a small country and we want to be part of the world. We’re working on a small tour of Denmark and later in 2016 a European tour. In late 2016 or early 2017 we’ll write our follow up and continue to work to play and share our music with as many people as we can!

Kardashev

Interview with Kardashev

Progressive death metallers from Tempe in Arizona, Kardashev released their new album titled “Peripety” in 2015. The release received strong feedback from fans. I asked couple of questions about the album, scene, influences, gear, and more.

Hey guys. How are you doing?

We’re doing great! We actually got some rain in Arizona today, so we’re feeling pretty lively.

You released “Peripety” back in October. How do you feel about the release?

We feel pretty positively about the release, and the album itself. While we were writing it we were fairly certain it would be well received, and so far It has exceeded our expectations. Our fans have sent us some of the nicest messages and pieces of feedback. It’s really motivating! We’ve been shipping it out to more countries, chatting with people in places we’ve never been, and even found a few new friends to play games with online. The album release has really opened up some doors for us, as far as connecting with our fans. It’s been awesome, to say the least.

Peripety

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

It was hard. The writing process is always so wonderful, and for us it flowed really well. We all really connected in that regard. The tough parts came with all the parts of creating an album that don’t involve writing. There was so much planning for marketing the album, getting it to the right people for previews and reviews, setting a release date that wouldn’t conflict with other bands on Subliminal Groove Records, it was insane. These are all great opportunities and we’re thankful for them of course, it just gets very taxing. It’s true though, nothing worth doing is easy. We’ve really grown as a band and in our understanding of what it means to write music for an album, and so in the end it has been a positive experience.

How is the metal scene these days in Tempe, AZ?

The metal scene here is odd, to say the least. Its full of great bands and great people, but we’re a little short on venues. The venues that we have a great, don’t misunderstand us – but a lot have shut down over the years and as a result metal is a little less accessible. Our Bassist was out of the country from the time we played at UK Tech Metal Fest in July, all the way through The end of November – and so admittedly we’re a bit removed since we haven’t played a show in quite some time. We’re excited to get back into the scene because we’ve made some solid friends here. But AZ could definitely use some additional venues.

What is your opinion about the new wave of metal bands?

That’s quite a large group! The best answer is that there are some bands that we really enjoy, and others that don’t strike our fancy as much. We aren’t very good at keeping up with the newest bands just because there are so many. Music is a Beautiful thing and we’re glad that so many people want to make it. As long as most of these bands are writing honestly, and from their hearts, they have our support.

Can you tell me something about your influences?

We take a lot of influence from very simple things, such as landscapes and art that is done in a more minimalist style. Peripety is all about the ideas of letting go, accepting the beauty around you, and the idea that all of this is temporary. Those concepts took us back to nature, in that it is such a simple pleasure which is completely free. We tried to convey landscapes in the album art, the music videos, and even in the composition. Songs like Sopor and Lucido were written with the idea of clouds and large, empty spaces in mind.

Kardashev

What are you listening to these days?

There has been a lot of Atmospheric Black Metal playing. Bands like Mesarthim, Enisum, Selvans, and Lantlos all get a lot of playtime with us. There are the classics, which for us are The Contortionist, Aegaeon, and some Fallujah. We also listen to a lot of movie soundtracks, such as Interstellar and The Fountain. The score for Phantom of the Opera is breathtaking, and there are some very heart-wrenching songs in Les Miserables that we love. We really enjoy the more meditative side of electronic music, such as Shpongle, Emancipator, and Bvdub. We throw some Alt-J on from time to time, along with S. Carey and Jose Gonzalez.

Your five favourite records of all time?

Only five? There are three of us! we’ll have to do a few extra. In no particular order,

1. Melting Sun – Lantlos
2. Brother, Sister – mewithoutYou
3. Exoplanet – The Contortionist
4. Retold – Nest
5. Opus at the end of everything – The Flashbulb
6. Lateralus – Tool
7. L.D. 50 – Mudvayne

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

We’ve been recording our own music since we started. Lots of musicians do these days, and it has always worked out well for us. All of the guitars are recorded using the Axe FX Ultra for guitar tones. We made the most use of it this time around after updating the tones for more bark or “djenty” sounds when needed. All of the songs were recorded using custom RC pickups, which helped us get the overall feel we were going for. Bass guitar was tracked on a Warwick Thumb BO 5 as line signal and then re-amped at Sound Lair with an Ampeg SVT-3 Pro and Ampeg 4×10 HLF cabinet. We try to record the best quality we can, incur as little cost as possible, and aim for simplicity. Here’s an overall gear list for the nerds among us.

Recording/Composition:
Reaper DAW
Reason DAW
EZ Drummer
Interface:
M-Audio Fast Track Pro
Guitars:
Fractal Axe Fx Ultra
Ibanez RG7321 with RC Intruder Pickups
Dunlop Jazz III Picks
Elixir Nanoweb strings
Monster Cables
Bass:
Warwick Thumb BO 5
Monster cables
Ampeg SVT-3 Pro and Ampeg 4×10 HLF cabinet
Vocals:
Shure SM7b for vocal tracking

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

We are already writing new material that build on the single we released before “Peripety”, called “IOTA”. We want to put out a couple of music videos, and maybe re-release our demo, “Progession”. We haven’t decided on that last idea, yet.

Any words for the potential new fans?

If you like our music, show it to your friends! We’re very honored to have your support!

“Peripety” by Kardashev is out now and you can get it from Bandcamp.  For more news from Kardashev follow the band on Facebook and Twitter.

Jeff Carter

Interview: Jeff Carter of Darkening

I have previously wrote about Darkening‘s debut album “Augür” here, and I felt that it was necessary to conduct an interview with the band’s mastermind Jeff Carter and find out what lies behind the music he brought into life through this release.

Jeff was kind enough to answer my questions in the interview below.

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

Life is going pretty well, actually. With the release of the album, I seem to finally have free time here and there to do other hobbies besides music.

Speaking of new music, you recently released an album. Are you satisfied with the reception you received for “Augür” so far?

Yes, so far, the reception has been quite great. There are a few music entities interested in hearing where I take things next, being as this was kind of a surprise album for older fans of mine – they are excited as well. Kind of a different musical approach than people are used to hearing from my earlier compositions, which incorporated input from other musicians (Deus Invictus, The Chariot, were some earlier work of mine).

Darkening - Augür

What is “Augür” about?

On a personal level, Augur is about many things…some of which I will not get into…but to basically graze the surface – nightmares, omens, and how they correspond to real life situations and events. I sought to capture the essence of what it is like or might be like right before something tragic happens directly to oneself, predominantly the feeling that you know deep down, via sickening feeling, that you or someone else has a cursed existence for the next few minutes. There are many stories that sort of link together a tragedy, or string of tragedies. Some subjects include a religious person seeking death after being misled by a wolf in sheep’s clothing, a girl who grows up in a government facility who finds out she has special telekinesis after the tests and unleashes the power on all humanity, and finally a person who is possessed with a spirit which makes him a werewolf, among other subjects. All stories are partially inspired by my love for horror movies, but interlaced with the fact that some things aren’t explained, and some things that happen in life can be quite creepy and unsettling. Darkening is the band that specializes on bringing that fear to music. The term “Augur” itself means “interpreter of omens”.

Jeff Carter
Are there any touring plans?

Not in the immediate future, being as we are a studio band. Of course as coverage, exposure, and fan base increases…so would our desire to support it with a live show.

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

I would really love to get out to the UK, Germany, Sweden….to name a few…

Who and what inspires you the most?

Mysticism, nature, heavy metal bands of the 70′s. Myself and the studio players on this album included, do not really like very many “newer” metal bands….we grew up on the 90′s death metal scene and kind of skipped back to old Black Sabbath. Of course music inspires us, inspires me…so I really won’t go into too much without sounding like just another musician in an interview…haha. Obviously my family goes a long way towards my inspirations. Lastly, Darkening is mostly inspired by pioneers in art and music…and by the fans.

What other genres of music do you listen to?

Lots of electronica (progressive house….I guess because it’s “prog”). Um….anything from jazz to reggae to 80′s pop. Anything can be entertaining if played with precision and done well. I am a huge fan of The Police, in fact, that is where a lot of my drumming influence comes from. And of course: Motorhead.

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

Huge Stewart Copeland (The Police) fan. I grew up listening to his drumming in the weird reggae time signatures, which kind of opened up the door for me as a kid to listen to bands like Rush, Yes, and Blue Oyster Cult. I learned to play “blast beats” when I was 12 years old after getting pretty hyped up hearing a Cannibal Corpse album I bought at the record store. Took a while, but after jamming with high school friends and acquaintances for years, I tried to step up my game on drums to a “professional” level – trying to make as few mistakes as possible. After all, if it wouldn’t sound good on an album…why bother playing? Perfection was key. With guitars, bass, and singing on albums…mainly got the practice in on other peoples’ guitars…and singing in my car when I was younger. It took years before I tried to test my vocals out in front of people. Also a pretty big fan of Opeth and some of the other Scandinavian bands out there.

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

Just would like to say thank you to the fans for their support, thank you to Annie and all at Prog Sphere for what they do, and thanks to Progstravaganza for the superb interview. You all are great! Happy Holidays from the Darkening camp!

You can buy “Augür” from Bandcamp here, and follow Darkening on Facebook.

Shepherds of Cassini

Review: Shepherds of Cassini – Helios Forsaken

Generally our ears are accustomed to hear music that mostly originates from European countries or North America, especially when it comes to artists that play progressive rock/metal. Shepherds of Cassini are breaking that “rule” and reach out from very far New Zealand. The quartet is making music that could be described as post-progressive rock/metal with addition of space rock. The biggest trademark of this young group is usage of violin in their music. Although they certainly are not the first band with this instrument in the mix, Shepherds’ violin player Felix Lun makes the band’s sound incredibly rich and delicious.

 

The band released two albums so far. Their self-tiled album was released in 2013, and the other one is actually this year’s release titled “Helios Forsaken.” This recording is a must-hear album of 2015, as it comes with a strong structure and plenty of untried elements. Their songs are pretty lengthy, but no matter of that the band is capable of taking you into their world by spellbounding sound which doesn’t make you feel bored in any moment.

 

Shepherds of Cassini - Helios Forsaken
With “Helios Forsake” Shepherds of Cassini show that they pay a lot of attention to instrumentation. However, they also succeed in creating outstanding great vocal segments, courtesy of Brendan Zwan, wrapping up the predominant instrumental soundscapes. Usage of unconventional instruments is a big plus, and helps “Helios Forsaken” to stand out.

 

As an absolute favourite of this six-track release, I would single out the title track. It deserves to be named after the album (or the opposite). This piece is a bit darker than the other songs on the album, and it features a good unison of clean and growl vocals that I mentioned earlier.

 

Something fresh and innovative comes together with something we already love. And its name is Shepherds of Cassini.

 

 

Links:

https://shepherdsofcassini.bandcamp.com

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Jeff Carter

Review: Darkening – Augür

Atlanta based death/black metal band, Darkening is a project of composer, producer and drummer Jeff Carter. Darkening is one of those bands who know very well how to merge “soft” elements with dark music without killing its meaning with melodic death metal influences and ambient guitars accompanied with growls.

Darkening recently released their debut album titled “Augür.” The record feels like a medium that hides the feeling of loneliness in its forsaken sound. Not only the music, but also lyrics and artwork help to feel the darkness. Simply it can be told that the name of the band feels right.

Augür

There are nine tracks in total on “Augür.” It kicks off with a nice instrumental intro. In some parts of the album vocals are done in a death metal way, but drumming is more characteristic for the black metal genre.

“Augur” is not just a raw album. It also has its emotional side. This album perhaps summarises a part of one’s life. That is why I found it different and gave this album a spin. Check out this record if you are looking for a release that is aggressive, dark but also emotional.

Buy “Augür” from Bandcamp here. Follow Darkening on Facebook.

Turbulence

Review: Turbulence – Disequilibrium

Turbulence are a Lebanese progressive metal band and “Disequilibrium” is their debut album. This is progressive metal that sounds not too far removed from a modern version of 90’s progressive metal with a bit more of distorted guitar and melody. The music has a similar feeling and immersive quality, only updated for the present day. The songs are easily assimilated, with honey-dipped melodies and top quality prog metal riffing seemingly on demand.

Disequilibrium

Although this is the band’s debut, the performance is exquisite and their songwriting skills are highly developed and advanced. This is an album that is put together extremely well. The interplay between vocals, guitars and keyboards is well-judged and everything fits together flawlessly.

“Modern” progressive metal doesn’t always sound this professional, slick and polished, but there is still an edge here and a depth to the songs. Turbulence know what they are doing, and this is shown throughout the music.

Disequilibrium” is truly an enjoyable album.

“Disequilibrium” is available now from iTunes. You can follow Turbulence on Facebook here.

Drumm

Review: Drummond – Getting Comfortable EP

Drummond is a guitarist from New York who just released his debut EP titled “Getting Comfortable.” His music is largely based on progressive rock/metal and jazz fusion. For a debut release, “Getting Comfortable” sounds very professional and imaginative, it’s is a release that has a lot to offer.

Getting Comfortable

“Getting Comfortable” is almost completely an instrumental recording. It includes four songs that are centered around the mixture of jazz fusion and progressive rock, but there are also some other influences that add up to the overall taste. The EP seems to be balanced very well between the progressive and fusion parts, but the transitions between the two feel rather smooth than forced.

“Getting Comfortable” is mainly guitar-focused release, and Drummond does his job flawlessly. The closing song “Ecotone” also features Sithu Aye on guitar, who brings refreshment to the EP’s sound. The same song features Sara Donnellan on vocals who brings depth and breaks the “monotony” of an otherwise fully instrumental track.

Fans of jazz fusion and instrumental progressive rock will enjoy this record, and it’s one of 2015’s best newcoming releases. Give it a try without hesitation.

You can get “Getting Comfortable” from Bandcamp.