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:
Discipline, Unfolded Like Staircase: a stone cold classic of late 1990s prog, freshly remixed by Rush producer Terry Brown. True, this Detroit quartet wore their influences (Gabriel-era Genesis, 1980s King Crimson, Peter Hammill and Van der Graaf Generator) on their sleeves here, but they also gave them a fresh, arresting spin. As Jon Preston Bouda’s guitar, Matthew Kennedy’s bass and Paul Dzendel’s drums weave grim, mesmeric webs of sound, Matthew Parmenter’s flamboyant vocals and literate scenarios drill deep into existential desperation. Lush, dramatic and riveting, the four twilit epics included here, kicking off with the Dante-influenced “Canto IV (Limbo)”, will get under your skin in a breathtaking way. In short, I believe you need this music; get it on CD or LP from The BandWagon USA or download it at Bandcamp. (Here’s hoping Discipline’s studio follow-up To Shatter All Accord and the live This One’s for England get similar treatment in the near future.)
Ross Jennings, A Shadow of My Future Self: a superbly accomplished, immensely appealing solo debut from Haken frontman Jennings. Recorded during (what else?) COVID lockdown, he spans and mixes genres with ease, diving headlong into folk (“Better Times”), funk with lashings of metal (“Violet”), power pop (“Rocket Science”), cinematic ballads (the moving elegy “Catcher in the Rye”) — oh, and even extended-song-form-verging-on-prog workouts (“Phoenix” and “Grounded”). Jennings is at the top of his game on vocals and guitar, backed by stellar players. And the songwriting is outright wonderful; on every single track, the riffs demand air guitar, the verses demand your attention, and the choruses demand a cathartic singalong. Yes, all of this raises my hopes for Jennings’ upcoming collaboration with Nick D’Virgilio and Neal Morse, but that can wait; this thrilling, eclectic album is a genuine treat in itself. Unquestionably my pick of the month. Get it on CD or LP (merch and bundles also available) at OMerch.
The Pineapple Thief, Nothing but the Truth: whatever the substantial virtues of their studio efforts, The Pineapple Thief’s recent live albums have been where they’ve shone the brightest. Their latest is no exception; filmed for streaming in lieu of their cancelled tour for Versions of the Truth, this 90-minute set finds TPT as brooding, stylish and kickass as ever. Bruce Soord nurses his songs of disillusionment and division through the gathering angst, then opens fire on one blazing chorus after another; Gavin Harrison does the unexpected on drums with astonishing regularity — and yes, I bought the BluRay for the drumcam option! Steve Kitch’s atmospheric keys and Jon Sykes’ throbbing bass are essential ingredients here, not anonymous backing. The new songs gain heightened guts and strength; the dives into the back catalog aren’t just well-calculated, but passionately played, and essential to the set. This one makes me more eager than ever to see The Pineapple Thief when they return to North America next spring. Get it on CD, LP, Blu-Ray video and deluxe artbook box (CD/DVD/BluRay) at Burning Shed.
Radiohead, Kid A Mnesia: a band hard at work tearing down the sound that made them world famous, then rebuilding from scratch. Which somehow made them more famous, given that their first Number One album in America was the result. I’ve always found Kid A gripping stuff; with their wholesale shift to glitchy electronica beats, found-sound patchworks, soupy orchestral backing and sharp-edged noise, Thom Yorke, Jonny Greenwood and company achieved a genuine paradox — alienation embodied in music, that immediately connected with a mass audience. And when Radiohead walked backward into rock on Amnesiac, the success of their breakaway strategy made both guitar-based grooves like “I Might Be Wrong” and off-kilter art-pop like “Pyramid Song” even more effective. This triple-disc reissue pulls the era together with a bonus set of ear-tickling odds and sods: Yorke, the most deliberately unbeautiful of singers, reaches for actual purity of tone on the unreleased songs, while Greenwood scratches his avant-garde compositional itches, courtesy of a full string section. Get it on CD, LP, cassette or download from Radiohead’s webstore.
The War on Drugs, I Don’t Live Here Anymore: a recent immersion course in Adam Granduciel’s ongoing project — regrafting 1980s tropes like tick-tock rhythms and thick ambient textures onto the stock of classic rock — has proved enticing, though not consistently galvanizing. The War on Drugs’ latest slab of Big Rock Redux is their most organic album to date, integrating the blips and blobs with the rootsy muscle of a tight sextet. Whether a given track goes minimal or maximal, each musical backdrop is built in loving, precise detail, and the simple hooks become earworms before you know it. Granduciel’s vocals — his most individual to date — insistently ride the rhythms, his songs meditating on scenes of a dissatisfied youth (“Change”, “Victim”), then finding unanticipated serenity in the quiet victories and encroaching vulnerabilities of middle age (“Living Proof”, the widescreen title track, “Occasional Rain”). This one snuck up on me via multiple evening listens, and now it’s not letting go; see if it grabs you! Get it on LP, CD or cassette from TWoD’s webstore.
One 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.
Looking back at 2020, it’s hard to believe that we lost Neil Peart at the beginning of the year. That loss hit me pretty hard, since Rush’s music has been central to my life from an early age. I talk more about that in my tribute to Peart: https://progarchy.com/2020/01/12/neil-peart-a-misfits-hero/. I start off my year-end review list with a reminder of the loss of Neil because it seems like a fitting way to remember 2020. Peart’s loss represents what so many people have lost this year, whether it be family members and friends due to the virus or jobs lost due to draconian forced business closures that haven’t actually accomplished anything in slowing the viral spread. Not to mention the emotional distress that physical separation is causing many people.
Another thing we lost this year was live music from our favorite bands. Big Big Train had their first North American tour planned for late spring this year. Canceled. Devin Townsend was in the middle of a glorious North American tour with Haken when everything blew up. Canceled. Obviously this list could be expanded to every band that tours. Losing live music makes it even more difficult for bands in a niche genre to spread their music to more people.
But enough lamenting. We still got a lot of great music this year. The following list is in no particular order apart from my number one album at the end. I include both new albums and live records.
Haken – Virus I was a little surprised that I was the only person over at the Dutch Progressive Rock Page to include this one in my top ten list for their annual list. Maybe people were really sensitive about the name of the album, but it was clear that the album was written and completed before the novel coronavirus was a known entity. The music is fantastic. It’s probably their heaviest album to date, but it still has some of their calmer moments. It’s Haken through-and-through, and it makes a wonderful companion to 2018’s Vector. We also get to hear some more about our old nemesis, the cockroach king. It’s pretty cool how they worked in some of those themes. Fantastic album that should’ve received more attention than it did. Check out my review: https://progarchy.com/2020/07/23/haken-goes-viral-virus-album-review-haken_official/
Haken, Virus, Inside Out Music, 2020 Tracks: 1. Prosthetic (05:58) 2. Invasion (06:40) 3. Carousel (10:30) 4. The Strain (05:35) 5. Canary Yellow (04:10) 6. Messiah Complex i: Ivory Tower (03:59) 7. Messiah Complex ii: A Glutton for Punishment (03:38) 8. Messiah Complex iii: Marigold (02:25) 9. Messiah Complex iv: The Sect (02:02) 10. Messiah Complex v: Ectobius Rex (04:51) 11. Only Stars (02:05)
I originally planned on writing about Haken’s new album, Virus, months ago, but then the release date was delayed by the actual virus. It kept getting pushed further and further back, and then real life got in the way and here we are a day before official release. Excuses excuses.
I’ll admit this one took a few listens to sink in for me, but looking back I think I can say that about all of Haken’s albums. There is so much depth to their music and lyrics that it always takes a few listens just to scratch the surface. I’ve found it also takes multiple kinds of listens to help it sink in. There’s the cursory playing over the stereo, there’s the blasting it in the car with the windows down, and (most importantly) the headphones. An album has to be good with the third method to be worthy of the second. Virus is worthy.
Hardly breaking stride, Inside Out Music ramps up their summer schedule with a fistful of new releases (some of which had to be rescheduled due to manufacturing delays). Unless otherwise noted, links go to CD versions of these upcoming albums available at Burning Shed; LP and download editions will also be available.
Pain of Salvation, Panther (August 28). Two years in the making, the latest installment of prog metal plus from Daniel Gildenlow and company.
The Tangent, Auto Reconaissance (August 21) From the ever-fertile mind and fingers of Andy Tillison and his cohorts: jazz, humor, narrative, modern R&B, pop, funk/soul, and a 28-minute epic about England.
There is a lot of great prog and prog metal currently in the pipeline – either that has already been released or that will be in the coming months. Plenty of new singles and whole albums out.
Caligula’s Horse – Rise Radiant
Australian prog metal band Caligula’s Horse released their brand new record, Rise Radiant, today. For some reason their music never really connected with me before, but this album has. It is insanely good. It has the technicality mixed with the quirkiness that this generation of prog metal has become known for. Outstanding vocals as well. I’ve got some homework to do on their back catalog. If all goes well, they’ll be coming to North America next January-February for the very first time. https://caligulashorse.com
Haken – Virus
I’ve been able to listen to an advance copy of Haken’s new album for a few weeks now, and it is quite good. It has been a slow burn for me, but that could have something to do with absorbing it in the background while I work from home. It has the heaviness and the technicality we are used to, and melodies abound. There’s a gentleness in Ross Jennings’ voice that strikes me as something new, but I could be wrong. There are also musical nods to their last album as well as “The Cockroach King.” The title is bound to upset some people, but it’s not like Haken could have possibly known what was going to befall the world when they wrote and finalized the album. The release date has been pushed back a few weeks to June 19. I expect this is due to production issues with supply chains in the western world having been shut down for over two months. The band released another single today. https://hakenmusic.com
Nick D’Virgilio – Invisible
Big Big Train drummer Nick D’Virgilio has a new solo album coming out. Based on the single, it has a bit of a Big Big Train vibe in the song structure and general progression, but there’s also a Broadway theatricalness to it. The latter, according to D’Virgilio, comes from his time working with Cirque de Soleil. The album title comes from being an invisible member in the orchestra pit. Nick obviously plays the drums on this album, but he also sings. Anyone who knows his work from Spock’s Beard knows what a great voice he has. Jonas Reingold plays bass, Randy McStine plays guitars, and Jordan Rudess plays piano and sythns. Brass and string sections are courtesy of the Abbey Road Studios orchestra. Yeah this is some next level stuff. I’m looking forward to hearing the whole thing. Out June 26. https://www.nickdvirgilio.com
Progressive rockers Haken are excited to reveal their new studio album ‘Virus’, the follow-up to 2018’s acclaimed album ‘Vector’, will be released June 5th, 2020. By way of introduction, the band have recorded a special video message to give some background to the record: https://youtu.be/_XMWVUQ93io
Today also sees the launch of the album’s first single and opening track ‘Prosthetic’, with a video directed by Vicente Cordero. Watch & listen to this punchy opening salvo here: https://youtu.be/4EmbYo65Pbs
The band comments: “Prosthetic was the first song we completed during the ‘Virus’ writing sessions and we always felt it would be the perfect opener for the album. It’s a very guitar heavy track with its roots in 80s thrash riffing, but with the unconventional rhythmic twists and turns we often like to explore in Haken. We sadly never had a Jeff Hanneman and Robert Fripp collaboration, but this song at least draws on inspiration from them both!
Lyrically the song is a bridge between our two albums Vector and Virus. The message was brilliantly brought to life by video director Vicente Cordero, who also beautifully captured the live energy of the band in a way that both enhances the song, and perfectly sets the scene for what’s to come.”
Since releasing ‘Vector’ in October 2018, Haken have completed headline tours the world over, played sold-out shows across Europe and North America as support for Devin Townsend and picked up a Prog award for their efforts too! All the while, they have been quietly, secretly working on the follow-up album, entitled ‘Virus’.
Drummer Ray Hearne reveals, “since releasing ‘The Mountain’ in 2013, one question has been asked of us time and time again, ‘who is the Cockroach King?’. This is something we were interested in exploring more deeply too, so we essentially did that through our music; elaborating and expanding upon the intervallic, harmonic, rhythmic and lyrical themes of that song. The end result is in an arc which spans across two albums: ‘Vector’ and ‘Virus’”.
Once again, Adam ‘Nolly’ Getgood has mixed what is perhaps the most eclectic Haken album to date, with the 7 tracks revealing hints of influences from multiple genres, all intertwined with Haken’s own recognisable sound. Guitarist Richard Henshall had this to say about the production, “Using Nolly again was a no-brainer, as we wanted the two albums to be sonically connected. But having just spent a day mixing with him in his studio, it’s obvious that this album will be an evolution of the ‘Vector’ sound. These songs seem to allow a lot more freedom of creativity with the production, so we’re excited to see where it leads”.
Longtime Haken collaborators, Blacklake, have designed the visuals and artwork and the album will be available as a Limited 2CD, Standard CD, Gatefold 2LP + CD & as Digital Album. Pre-order now here: https://haken.lnk.to/Virus
The track-listing is as follows:
4. The Strain
5. Canary Yellow
6. Messiah Complex i: Ivory Tower
7. Messiah Complex ii: A Glutton for Punishment
8. Messiah Complex iii: Marigold
9. Messiah Complex iv: The Sect
10. Messiah Complex v: Ectobius Rex
11. Only Stars
‘Virus’ is the culmination of a musical thought experiment which started with the ‘Vector’ writing sessions in 2017 and holds intriguing potential for the band’s future, as vocalist Ross Jennings explains, “whilst ‘Virus’ can absolutely be enjoyed as a stand-alone work, it is thematically and conceptually linked with ‘Vector’, so our intention is to perform both albums back to back for a special performance someday”.
Originality is tough in music, and especially so in progressive metal. So many genres have cross-pollinated over the years that trying to put a unique spin on music usually ends up with going so far off the reservation that coherency can be lost. It’s a shame that “progressive” has become a kind of cliche-ridden sound of its own, hence my temptation is to call Eidolon — the second album by Sacramento’s Lunar — a progressive death metal album. Not in the sense that it uses “prog” tropes, but because it genuinely sounds like a forward step in terms of what can be done with death metal.
I’m not often a fan of likening bands to other bands, because I think unless it’s an intentional throwback or copycat it does a disservice, but the first thing that comes to mind is Opeth by way of Fates Warning and I do not say this lightly. Eidolon has an intensity to it that is organically broken up with occasional clean or melodic sections that never sound out of place; the group — brainchild of drummer and songwriter Alex Bosson — never comes across as hokey or gimmicky.
All right, let’s dig in a bit. The musicianship is as tight as any metal release you’re likely to hear this year or any other year. Every member is on top of their game.And speaking of members, the core of the group is comprised of singer Chandler Mogel, bassist Ryan Price, and guitarist Balmore Lemus, along with already mentioned Bosson on drums. Eidolon also features guest contributions from members of Haken, Leprous, Thank You Scientist, Fallujah, and more.
The guitars layer beautifully, with chunky riffs both alternating and occasionally layering beneath more melodic lines. The rhythm section pounds along, with a bass guitar that fleshes out instead of simply sitting at the root notes, even getting plenty of room to shine on its own (which I appreciate) and a drummer that can handle blistering double bass and blast beats right alongside jazzier sections. All the while we have a vocalist who manages to be perfectly understandable when he growls, by death metal standards anyway, without ever losing that sense of intensity and roughness.
One of the best things about (progressive) metal is that feeling of not knowing what to expect next. Sometimes it’s less enjoyable if it feels like the band doesn’t have a grip on what they’re doing and keep taking left turns to the mood, but once again Lunar succeeds by having each song feel like a distinct entity while never losing the tone of the album as a whole. After the two three “proper” songs (after the instrumental intro “Orbit”), the appropriately named “Comfort” comes in with a melodic and prog-rock/jazz inspired beginning, blossoming into a behemoth of a track that puts acoustic guitar and jazz drumming front and center forming a foundation and building to an explosion of a soothing guitar solo courtesy of Haken axeman Richard Henshall.
At this point you might think you’ve heard all of Lunar‘s arsenal, and you would be all wrong and a bag of chips. The very next track, “Potion,” is way more into the prog rock territory, with underlying acoustic guitar melody and jazz bassline carrying it.
The closing 12-minute epic “Your Long Awaited Void” is like a revue of all the best bits of the rest of the album: heavy riffs, clean vocals mixed with growls, acoustic bits, guitar soloing, in addition to cello-laden atmospherics,…
The word “classic” gets tossed around a lot, but I honestly can’t think of a better word for Eidolon. From front to back and top to bottom, this album is both firmly rooted in death metal with a progressive bend while standing alone atop the mountain. It’s equally headbang heavy and enthralling, music to get in the mosh pit and simply sit in awe of. This is required listening, because there’s nothing else quite like it.
Earlier this year, I questioned whether or not 2018 was going to be a poor year for prog. It seemed like the the progressive rock community took a few months to stop and take a collective breath… but that was only the breath before the plunge. The second half of the year saw many excellent new releases. The following are some of my favorites from 2018, in no particular order (my top two at the bottom of this list are tied for first place).