Muse Release New Track: “Won’t Stand Down”

Just when we need them most – when the world is going to absolute hell with totalitarian lockdowns and mandates under the guise of “public health” – when we least expected it, Muse has returned with their uniquely bombastic stick-it-to-the-man hard rock. Sure, Matt Bellamy says “Won’t Stand Down” is about standing up to bullies, but he isn’t talking about a schoolyard buster stealing your lunch money (although it could certainly apply to that). This is the band that wrote “Uprising,” “Knights of Cydonia,” and a host of other anti-government songs. They even wrote a whole dystopian concept album about this same subject. Drones may have been released in 2015, but it’s more relevant than ever.

“Won’t Stand Down” is a welcome return to the hard rock Muse I much prefer. Simulation Theory is too 80s synth pop for my taste. Yes there’s a little of that influence at the beginning of this track, but it’s full blown head banging heavy metal by the end. I hope the rest of the album (assuming they have one in the works) is this good.

Won’t stand down
I’m growing stronger
Won’t stand down
I’m owned no longer
Won’t stand down
You’ve used me for too long, now die alone

Muse – Won’t Stand Down – YouTube

Kruekutt’s 2021 Favorites!

I thought I didn’t have a big list of favorites from this year’s listening — until I revisited my six-month survey from back in June and added in the good stuff I’ve heard since then! The listing below incorporates links to full or capsule reviews, or other relevant pieces on Progarchy and elsewhere; albums I haven’t written about yet get brief comments, along with my Top Favorites of the year. Most of these are available to check out online in some form; if you find yourself especially enjoying something, use that Christmas cash and support your choice with a purchase! And the winners are . . .

Continue reading “Kruekutt’s 2021 Favorites!”

Bryan’s Best of 2021

We’ve come to the end of another year, and what a horrible year it has been. Really the only positive thing I can think of from this year is the music. In addition to all the non-music nonsense that has gone on this year, we lost from legends in the prog world, none hurting more than the tragic and completely unexpected death of David Longdon. That one will hurt for a long time.

I usually write my best of lists in no particular order, with my top pick(s) at the end. So without further ado…

Robby Steinhard Not in Kansas AnymoreRobby Steinhardt – Not In Kansas Anymore

Robby Steinhardt was another prog legend we lost unexpectedly earlier this year. He hadn’t been active in music for quite some time, but that was about to change as he was finishing up his first solo album and had plans for a tour. Sadly the latter was not to be, but we did end up getting his solo album in the fall. It’s a great record, and it shows what a key player he was in Kansas. His vocals are stellar, and his violin playing is second to none. This record has a bit of the magic that I think Kansas lacks without Steinhardt. There are more musical influences at work than just Kansas on this record. It’s not a solid 10/10 throughout, but it is a very good record. Check out my review and my tribute to Robby.

Devin Townsend Galactic QuarantineDevin Townsend – Devolution Series #2 – Galactic Quarantine

Devin Townsend has been a busy bee this year. In addition to working on three new records this year, he released two minor releases of live material. The first is an acoustic album (see my glowing review) from a show he did in Leeds in 2019. It’s a raw and emotional take on his music. The Galactic Quarantine album is one of his live-streamed albums from 2020 with the musicians playing live on green screens across the world. The music is blisteringly great, with a surprising amount of Strapping Young Lad material played. Devin humorously engages with his virtual audience, which makes the music come to life a bit more. This has been one I’ve returned to quite a bit this year. Perhaps an unorthodox release, but it would make a really good entrance point for the uninitiated to the heavier side of Devin’s music. Check out my review.

8250379_e4a1fc34c7Soen – Imperial

It turns out we never reviewed Soen’s latest album, which was released in January. The Swedish prog-metal supergroup can do no wrong. Their songs are catchy, memorable, and thoughtful. They can be both heavy and contemplative, and in my book they rank in the upper echelon of progressive metal. This record has been on repeat all year.

Atravan - The Grey LineAtravan – The Grey Line

Sticking with the progressive metal theme, Atravan was a pleasant surprise at the beginning of the year. This is the first Iranian band we’ve ever reviewed here at Progarchy, and they’re fantastic. I’m so glad the band reached out to us. They make metal in the vein of Riverside – heavy, spacey, wall of sound. Definitely a band that deserves recognition, although I worry what too much recognition could do for them with the repressive Iranian regime. Check out my review.

Continue reading “Bryan’s Best of 2021”

Sleigher – Haken’s Charlie Griffiths Creates Christmas Version of Slayer Classic

Here’s a fun one no one was expecting. Haken guitarist Charlie Griffiths teamed up with members of Dream Theater, Protest the Hero, Cradle of Filth and Inhuman Condition to create a special Christmas version of Slayer’s “Seasons In The Abyss.” And of course they named their “band” Sleigher. Ha.

Charlie Griffiths and Dan Goldsworthy play guitars, with the latter also writing alternate lyrics. Rody Walker of Protest the Hero sings vocals, Daniel Firth (Cradle of Filth) plays bass, Jeramie Kling (Inhuman Condition) plays drums, Haken’s Ray Hearne plays tuba, and the incomparable Jordan Rudess of Dream Theater provides a stellar keyboard solo – that he played on the first take! What a legend. Check it out:

Sleigher – Seasons Greetings In The Abyss – YouTube

A View from the Top of the World

It’s Dream Theater, so by default it has to be rich in melody and progressions. But, A View from the Top of the World is riveting too. Mike Mangini-John Myung duo crafts a razor sharp bass-drum framework – more than adequate to accommodate their typical musical complexity. And often tailored to precisely slice and frame this perpetual train of John Petrucci-Jordan Rudess orchestra. This balance in musicianship is striking — omnipresent melody, James LaBrie’s signature wails, and complementing bass-lines all live in systematic harmony. Resulting compositions are meticulously high grade.

Album revives and reinforces quintessential Dream Theater qualities, sometimes illustrating them in seemingly novel ways. For better or for worse Mike Portnoy was a captive of Neil Peart school of drumming. But Mike Mangini’s style allows them to evolve, beyond those ornate confines of Rush-metal blueprint. Clearly enabling that exhibition of seemingly novel influences from symphonic prog, and atypical passages often seen in their own side projects. Or at least we can now prominently hear those influences, which were merely latent in earlier works.

Image Attribution : Darko Boehringer https://dreamtheater.net/photos/images-words-beyond-tour-2017/

Mastodon, Hushed and Grim

To my astonishment, this appears to be the first Mastodon album reviewed on this website. How can this be? After all, this is a band that not only seasons their exceptionally math-y thrash metal with delectable flavors of sludge, stoner rock, prog and even hints of country. This is a band who came to my attention on David Letterman with the lead track from 2009’s Crack the Skye, an album-long narrative arguing the case for astral projection’s secret influence on the Russian Revolution. (And it wasn’t their first concept album, either — that was 2004’s Leviathan, based on — what else? — Herman Melville’s Moby Dick.)

After this — plus no-holds-barred follow-ups like 2011’s The Hunter and 2014’s Cthulvian Once More Round the Sun — I can’t help but ask again, where’s the love for Mastodon from Progarchy been all this time?

It’s not too late to hop on the bandwagon, though; Mastodon’s smoking new double disc effort, Hushed and Grim, is here to melt our minds and set our heads banging. Every single one of the fifteen tunes offer has at least two (and sometimes three) killer riffs pounded out by Brent Hinds and Bill Kelliher on guitar and Troy Sanders on bass, with Brann Dailor adding multiple layers of mayhem on drums. Sounds like a potentially stagnant formula on the surface, but given that the Atlanta-based quartet can spin on a dime through multiple textures, tempos, and time signatures in the course of a single song, the approach never fails.

And you never know what ear candy may show up in the midst of the prevailing heaviness — there’s the finger-pickin’ Americana intro to “The Beast,” the impeccable synthesizer solo on “Skeletons of Splendor,” the dream pop verses of the otherwise grunged-up “Had It All.” Hinds digs deep for his full-tilt solos, with a Southern-fried touch of Duane Allman peaking through every so often; Dailor’s playing calls to mind an alternate-universe Keith Moon playing with Jimmy Page instead of Pete Townsend. And the combined vocals (Sanders, Hinds and Dallor split the leads, with Kelliher as a harmony voice) provide kaleidoscopic colors to match the range of the music, from heavenly harmonies complementing 12-string textures to raucous, full-throated bellows over odd-time gallops. Producer David Bottrill (whose other credits include King Crimson and Tool) pulls all the elements of this sonic maelstrom together; the end product is marvelously stylish, delightful to listen to even as it knocks you flat.

But the music, as cool as it is, isn’t hanging out there on its own; the lyrics have a pungent bite as well. Mastodon are on a mission here, paying tribute to long time friend and manager Nick John, who died in 2018. Is the narrative here, kicking off with the vicious opener “Pain With An Anchor” and concluding with the epic “Gigantum,” a journey through the stages of grief? A depiction of dying from the inside out? Or yet another meditation on existence and mortality (for which I’ve proved a sucker time and again in the age of COVID-19)? Your mileage may vary with your interpretation — but boy, do Sanders, Hinds, Dallor and Kelliher bring the goods. The rage of “Sickle and Peace,” the devastated sorrow of “Teardrinker,” the desperate struggle of “Pushing the Tides” — all of it hits home. If you’re not cathartically drained after a listen to Hushed and Grim, you haven’t been paying attention.

As I think I’ve mentioned before, I’m not a big prog-metal head — but when it’s prog-metal as good as Mastodon, I surrender willingly. Check out Hushed and Grim for yourself below — and definitely catch them live if they come to your town! (I did back in 2015, and my ears might still be ringing.)

— Rick Krueger

Devin Townsend Provides Video Update About Upcoming Albums

Devin Townsend released a video on his YouTube channel today updating us all on his upcoming albums – Puzzle, Snuggles, and Lightwork. Sadly due to supply issues for plastic, the release date is being pushed back to December 3, 2021. Townsend continues to work on the new Lightwork album as well, with the finished record due to the label right before the new release date for the two other projects. More from the man himself:

https://youtu.be/L9t17ldEb44

Lucid Planet to Issue Their Second Album on Vinyl

Lucid Planet - IIYou may remember way back in January when we reviewed Australian band Lucid Planet’s sophomore album. It’s a great album, and now it will be coming to vinyl on November 5. Pre-orders are open now. With beautifully detailed album artwork, the large record sleeve will look great. A real eye-catcher. 

The band also has some promotions going as part of the pre-order campaign. Check those out at their newsletter: https://mailchi.mp/097491d28ead/october-2021-update-lucid-planet-ii-is-coming-to-vinyl?e=aaaffa1bc4. You can sign up for their newsletter at the bottom of the home page on their website: https://lucidplanet.net

You can order the vinyl from their store: https://lucidplanet.net/shop/itemdisplay/41.

Prog-Metal Duo Athemon Set to Release Debut Album Tomorrow

AethemonOne of our media contacts sent us the debut album from prog metal duo Athemon, featuring Adriano Ribeiro (guitars and vocals) and former Haken bassist Tom MacLean (bass, production), as well as guest Gledson Gonçalves on drums. Initial thoughts – quite good. Heavy and dark. Vocals run the metal spectrum with cleans and distortion. Their overall sound is a lot larger than the number of musicians might suggest. Definitely check them out.

Here’s the press release and a Bandcamp link at the end:


Progressive metal duo Athemon debut self-titled full length will release on October 11th, 2021 and will be available on Flyathemon.bandcamp.com and Spotify.

Crossing paths online during the beginning of the Covid global lockdown, musicians Tom MacLean (bassist/producer, To-Mera, ex-Haken) based in the UK and Adriano Ribeiro (vocalist and guitarist) based in Brazil, used the digital world to their advantage to give rise to their new band Athemon. “Adriano sent me his demo and it gave me goosebumps, so I was keen to get involved,” says MacLean.

From a significant evolution between demos to their final introductory recordings, MacLean and Ribeiro created a bonding friendship over musical interests that created the perfect environment to allow them to evolve and conceive their debut album. Formed as a gateway to express their art using progressive metal music, Athemon’s first release is a concept record that is meant to be heard as one long 50-minute track divided into nine parts.

“Full of dark and enigmatic atmospheres, this is a 50-minute concept album divided into nine songs, which tells a story about self-awareness. This is a creative release that seeks to forge the perfect alloy of darkness and beauty,” adds the band.

For the album’s recording, the duo invited a special guest drummer from Brazil, Gledson Gonçalves who added his percussionist touch to compliment each one of the nine tracks.

“As nobody goes alone in this world (even being totally alone inside one’s own mind), the songwriting process had a lonely beginning, but a very collaborative end. The beginning of this project was driven by Adriano, but nothing would fit so well if it wasn’t for the amazing connection the three of us have (Adriano, Tom, and our special guest on drums, Gledson),” says MacLean.

The lyrics for the album were written by vocalist/guitarist Adrian Ribeiro and were inspired by thoughts of how confusing reality can be if you are not taking care of your emotional side. “The thin line between what’s real and what’s not is an endless world,” adds Ribeiro.

New fans of Athemon, can expect much more to come from the pair as they already have plans to launch their second album by the end of 2022, which they are currently composing with promising results. As for the live spectacle of Athemon, for now, the band will let the music flow until the duo can connect from across the Atlantic for their first in-person jam session. Recommended for fans of Nevermore, Pain of Salvation, Opeth, Gojira, and Mastodon, Athemon’s self-titled debut is available on all digital platforms.

https://www.facebook.com/fly.athemon
https://flyathemon.bandcamp.com/releases

The Big Prog (Plus) Preview for Fall 2021!

What new music and archival finds are heading our way in the next couple of months? Check out the representative sampling of promised progressive goodies — along with a few other personal priorities — below. (Box sets based on reissues will follow in a separate article!) Pre-order links are embedded in the artist/title listings below.

Out now:

Amanda Lehmann, Innocence and Illusion: “a fusion of prog, rock, ballads, and elements of jazz-blues” from the British guitarist/vocalist best known as Steve Hackett’s recurring sidekick. Available direct from Lehmann’s webstore as CD or digital download.

Terence Blanchard featuring the E-Collective and the Turtle Island Quartet, Absence: trumpeter/film composer Blanchard dives into music both written and inspired by jazz legend Wayne Shorter. His E-Collective supplies cutting edge fusion grooves, and the Turtle Island String Quartet adds orchestral depth to the heady sonic concoctions. Available from Blue Note Records as CD or digital download.

The Neal Morse Band, Innocence and Danger: another double album from Neal, Mike Portnoy, Randy George, Bill Hubauer and Eric Gillette. No overarching concept this time — just everything and the kitchen sink, ranging from a cover of Simon and Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water” to brand-new half-hour epics. Available from Inside Out as 2CD, 2CD/DVD or 3 LPs/2 CDs

Trifecta, Fragments: what happens when Steven Wilson’s rhythm section turns his pre-show sound checks into “jazz club”? Short, sharp tracks that mix the undeniable chops and musicality of Adam Holzman on keys, Nick Beggs on Stick and Craig Blundell on drums with droll unpredictability and loopy titles like “Clean Up on Aisle Five” and “Pavlov’s Dog Killed Schrodinger’s Cat”. Available from Burning Shed as CD or LP (black or neon orange).

Upcoming releases after the jump!

Continue reading “The Big Prog (Plus) Preview for Fall 2021!”