Immolation’s impact is beyond dispute, but over three decades of high quality records could use some reflection. Soaring leads, complex drum patterns and increasingly sophisticated arrangements. Needless to say, this melancholic train exhibits all the sublime deathly qualities, that subtle convulsive precision and more, in short everything which separates death from the rest is illustrated. Even more than that, these rather tortuous harmonies are also memorable, and often tend to get stuck in our head. Riffs and drums playing in a loop, even hours after the album ended.
Acts of God does not deviate from their typical signature. Just like their earlier works, it’s an ongoing duet of contradictions. It’s like a discord of wistful guitars with bludgeoning drums, of aggressive tremolo picking with mournful growls, and of sorrowful depth with grunt tech death precision. Eventually crafting a texture so intricate, tangled, and yet comfortingly atmospheric. Just like that famous duality of man, Immolation is on a perpetual sonic duel, a tussle of contradictions which seems to never concede. Thankfully the consequence is all immersive death metal, and a career trajectory so rich and consistent, that it defies all known universal laws.
The Silent Wedding has covered this song called “Diamonds and Rust”, for almost everyone that means Joan Baez, but for ageing metalheads it simply channels mighty Judas Priest. We all have our own aesthetic preferences, and The Silent Wedding successfully appeals to those very classic metal predilections. That essentially means, Ego Path is rife with melody, neo-classical shredding, NWOBHM riffs, and all the other essential signatures reminding us of that classic lineage.
It’s that time-honored sonic tradition running from UFO and Judas Priest, to 80s British heavy metal, eventually mutating into that melodic power metal path via the great Ronnie James Dio. Obviously, all these influences are not complete without those omnipresent progressive tendencies. Add those clean vocals with adequate range, meandering melodic ballads, and passages tailored for arena rock — The Silent Wedding becomes that exquisite expedition every classic metal fan and prospective classic metal fan seek!
Barry Kuzay, The Movers of the World, 2021 Tracks: Overture 2021 (2:43), The Movers of the World (6:20), Alone in the Mountains (8:28), The Virtues of Greed (9:09), The Pirate (7:26), The Twentieth Century Motor Company (12:33), Who is John Galt? (2:45), Enigmatic Engine (4:21), Wyatt’s Torch (5:27), Superspreader [bonus track] (2:57)
Barry Kuzay may be an unknown name in the music world, but that doesn’t mean he’s without talent. A civil engineer from northern Wisconsin by day, Kuzay rocks out by night. His 2021 album, The Movers of the World, is a concept album based upon Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged. The record has a classic heavy metal sound with elements of thrash and power metal.
Kuzay wrote the album, sings the vocals, and plays guitar, and his brother Ben plays bass. Drums are played by Matt Thompson of King Diamond, and there are a few other guest vocalists playing particular parts on the album. Kuzay has two styles of singing on the album. His quieter vocals are not as strong as his full on heavy metal vocals. When he sings his heart out, he sounds like Dee Snider. That grit works perfectly for this music and makes for an enjoyable listening experience.
Tim “Ripper” Owens (lead singer for Judas Priest in the late 90s and early 2000s) provides guest vocals on “Wyatt’s Torch,” and he has some epic metal shrieks that provide a classic thrash sound. This may be the best track on the album. Since this is the final track in the story, the album goes out on a high note.
Musically the album rocks. There are symphonic elements that layer on top of the pounding drums and shredding guitars. This gives the album a bit of a European power metal flair. There are quieter tracks that help move the story along, but the album is at its best in its heavy metal moments. There are some clever musical moments, as well. The opening of “Enigmatic Engine” has a really cool guitar, bass, and drum riff that sounds like a steam engine. It’s a fun instrumental track that manages to move the story along, even without lyrics.
I haven’t read Ayn Rand, but I’m at least vaguely familiar with her views and her works, which have influenced other progressive rock albums, most notably Rush’s career-saving masterpiece 2112. There arguably hasn’t been a more fitting time than now to adapt Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged since 2112 and the economic malaise of the late 1970s. Things are far worse now. In fact they’re worse now than they were when Kuzay wrote and recorded this album in 2020 and early 2021. [I’ll spare you the long rant I wrote about how and why America is on the verge of total collapse.]
All this to say that many elements of Kuzay’s musical adaptation of Rand’s novel directly apply to contemporary society. Sometimes you forget that this is actually telling a story and not commenting on modern events, although I suspect this is intentional on Kuzay’s part. The lyrics are well-written, and thus the story he tells is compelling and rewards on repeated listens.
The bonus track might tick some people off, but I love it. Kuzay pulls no punches, and he says what’s on his mind. I agree with him completely, and it’s nice to finally hear someone in the music world go against the narrative. The song has a great drum intro too, reminiscent of classic thrash metal.
I also want to mention that the album artwork is great throughout the CD booklet. The art is science fiction and steampunk-themed, which fits the story. I’m guessing Kuzay spent quite a bit to have the artwork done, because it looks like something from a big-budget album. Definitely pick up the CD, if you’re so inclined.
Give The Movers of the World a spin. The production quality punches far above its weight as an independent release, and the album is enjoyable on repeated listens.
Often reminding us of 70s prog or jazz rock, and at times of their Motörhead roots, Voivod sound pretty much their usual self. Live recording adds some rough textures, but not enough to eclipse the classical symphony, or those intricate transformations, or even those strange lyrical plots. It’s also easy to notice that interesting contrast — two songs on the EP occupying slightly different ends of their musical spectrum. ‘The End of Dormancy’ reflecting their proggy sophistication, while ‘The Unknown Known’ rooted in their more dissonant past. Giving us all a glimpse into that unique set of influences only Voivod dares to blend.
Post-Watershed, Martin Lopez and Peter Lindgren were conspicuously missing, but so was that musical coherence! It was complex progressive rock, but reflected very little of Opeth’s signature aesthetics. Even though all those vibrant influences were still present, a certain noticeable imbalance, especially in how they were composed! This is easily audible relative to In Cauda Venenum, here they bring back that all-immersive-experience of Blackwater Park and Still Life.
Their signature is exactly that ability to harmonize divergent strands. Funk to folk, jazz fusion to goth, all peacefully coexisting, a splendid harmony across discordant influences. It’s that harmony in discord when proggy riffs flawlessly transitions to strange ramblings in “Charlatan”, or when that further moves on to gothic blues of “Universal Truth”. That rich consistency in musicianship is also complemented by vocals– Åkerfeldt evokes a spectrum of emotions, almost reminiscent of Damnation.
Seems like Opeth was testing the waters with their first three prog rock records, and In Cauda Venenum is the consequence. Quite like an evolving organism, they are adding layers to their prog skeleton, bringing higher levels of coherence and texture. So, those underlying influences remain the same, but now they are gently cloaked beneath few exquisite layers of artistic splendor.
Beyond Creation illustrates the same old genre influences, but in a remarkably novel way. With jazz fusion and layered signature progressions, these Canadians craft an atmosphere often too poignant for tech death. Channeling that proficient lineage running from Mahavishnu Orchestra to Atheist, Algorythm is tech death at its refined best. Demanding bass lines, odd drum patterns, and deathly grows — the band simply marvels in their unquestionable extreme metal territory.
With a structured ease and sophistication, songs bridge jazz rock segments with sheer death. Whether it’s “Surfaces Echoes” or the title track, these transformations are frequent, and happens with an Opeth like finesse. So it’s quite possible, when that atmospheric jazz fusion harmony fades into a passage as brutal as Suffocation’s, the listener might be too captivated to even realize the subtle, vital and stunningly exquisite nature of this symphony.
“I live my life a quarter mile at a time. Nothing else matters: not the mortgage, not the store, not my team and all their bullshit. For those ten seconds or less, I’m free.” – said that guy from ‘The Fast and the Furious’. But it applies to all sorts of fanatics, whether it’s music or cars. Try living a concert at a time – and for those ten seconds of fast and furious deathly riffs, you are free. For some, a year can be simply about those collective 10 second memories.
Few months ago on my way to a Neurosis concert, I actually ran into their bassist Dave Edwardson. For a second it was difficult to believe. Fifteen feet away from crossing each other, I just stopped and looked at him. He noticed that puzzled look on the guy wearing Vader T-shirt, and simply acknowledged with a nod and a friendly smile. If this was a fortunate accident, running into Thomas Gabriel Fischer at an L.A. Koreatown Denny’s is what some might call a windfall. And this was the morning after we saw him perform a full Celtic Frost setlist. “Circle of the Tyrants” played live – as good a metal moment as it can get.
But it’s not always just about epic moments, sometimes it can be epic with a touch of weird. After all metal sub-culture resides right at the fringes of civic society. For instance, Krisiun opening for Suffocation was an absolute high, but watching these death metal greats at a Salsa bar was a tad unusual. Outside the venue it was a richter scale 5.5 earthquake — walls vibrating and shutters rumbling with every dissonant note. The venue was simply not built for death metal. Well, if this was just whimsy, Dying Fetus show was positively bizarre. Midway into their setlist, Sean Beasley said — “Everyone’s welcome on stage, let’s f*** this sh*t up”. Of course, after that announcement, stage diving was off-the-charts! It was like watching an extreme metal video, people swarming on to the podium, but only this time it is unscripted. Madness went on till the event organizer came on stage and pleaded.
Unexpected moments can also sometimes leave a deeper mental imprint, and they need not be Dying Fetus level audacious. It can be just about drinking À Tout le Monde beer (Megadeth beer) and crashing a Red Fang show, even though you have tickets for Armored Saint. Or headbanging to Mastodon in an open air arena, while enduring some pacific northwest drizzle. Or all those moments when you are reminded, metalheads are fortunate for affordable tickets, and thoroughly spoiled for getting to experience legends like Paradise Lost and Morbid Angel up-close at small venues.
But there are rare disappointments too, like the new Amorphis record, and how deeply detached it is from their Black Sabbath roots. Or that moment when you read about the next leg of Slayer’s “final” tour once again passing through town – but this time only with a slightly different set of opening bands. But, highs outweigh the lows, thanks to engaging conversations and stunning riffs.
Prog/Heavy metallers from Belgium, 23 Acez, have been around since 2010, and they have recently returned with their third album “Embracing the Madness.” Why the hell didn’t I know about them earlier? Now, thanks to the PR wire, I got a promo copy of the mentioned release, which is a real t(h)reat.
The style that 23 Acez plays is pretty standard, comparing somewhat with more traditionalist ‘80s metal throwbacks, yet they manage to sound different and fresh when compared with a lot of the other bands that attempt to play in this particular style.
Benny Willaert’s vocals are gravely and rough, standing at the very center of the counter-tenor wails of Rob Halford and the husky baritone of Blaze Bailey. During the choruses of such catchy anthems as “Cellbound” and “Embracing the Madness” the vocal work almost punches past the rest of the arrangement. While he doesn’t soar into the higher stratosphere in the manner that most in the genre do, he more than compensates with sheer power.
Although the voice alone gives this album a heavy yet melodic edge, the entire arrangement pounds the sonic threshold of the listener into submission. Whether its faster songs like or down tempo stomping machines, there is a consistent picture of a mighty fist slamming itself down on a stone table and commanding your undivided attention.
“Embracing the Madness” is a powerful statement from a band that is hungry to show what their abilities are, and according to this they have much more to offer. Grab this record, you’ll not regret.
Fresh from the warm South Florida, comes a prog rock veteran Barry Weinberg, with his debut album “Samsarana” dropping January 25th.
The fifteen-piece musical beast of a debut appears very much ready to stand next to plethora of amazing albums that the genre gave birth to over the years.
After short and atmospheric intro titled “Conception,” forward comes “Creation” leading off with a very Floydian feel and with a full sized chorus following all verses, it seems there may be an easy ride ahead for more cautious listeners. “Welcome to my World” is a laid-back stripped down acoustic piece with Weinberg’s voice over leading to “This Vicious Circle,” which sees Weinberg’s circling melody wash over the pebbles and steal away the shoreline behind, whereas “Come Out and Play” is a groovy and funny little piece.
“Beyond the Astral Sky” kicks in through a silent verse, attacking with a slightly alternative-flavoured chorus, and some sharp instrumentation, before the leviathan-sized hook belonging to “Taking it All” take things to a further level, with occasional hard rock sprinkle. We hear the same good work kept up through “Endless Sea” and “A Passage of Time,” the latter ringing the Genesis influence.
After another instrumental interlude “Perception,” “You Cannot Burn the Fire” comes as, arguably, the heaviest piece, incorporating heavy metal riffing and evil-flavoured singing. “Come My Way” brings in the folk element, while the following “The Way” comes with a steady pace, making for one of the highlights.
“Samsarana” is an absolutely accomplished piece of playing, writing and performance that should see the genre pushed out of its confines.
“Samsarana” is out on January 25th; pre-order it from Barry Weinberg’s official website.
Impera from Lisbon prefer to mix their metal with some groove and prog, albeit with the strong emphasis on the ‘metal’ part. The other bands of similar genre orientation place a premium on virtuoso musicianship and highly technical song structures, and while that also figures prominently into Impera’s music, these boys slather it all up in a special sauce that I like to refer to as ‘classic sauce.’ The group’s debut album “Weightless” sounds deliberately rustic and antiqued, like that milk-stained fake money you’d buy at the museum.
But production is not what prods Impera. What stimulates this band’s formidable corpus are five very talented musicians. It’s Daniel Chen, though, who takes home the MVP award on “Weightless”; if drummers are action figures, Chen carries both a rapid-fire uzi (the toms) and an erase-all, double-barreled bazooka (dual-bass drums). I guarantee, he will brutalize you.
Like their metal peers, Impera sport some mathematics. But where Meshuggah get deep into calculus and Dillinger Escape Plan prefer(red) trigonometry, these guys enjoy the more accessible stuff — we’re talking pre-algebra here. They drop in just enough to keep the arrangements flavourful, but not so much as to overload the vintage guitar riffs with Dream Theater-like complexity. And then they counterbalance it with some nice, old-fashioned, Sabbath-style metal attitude: guitars crunch, wail, and burn. The complete package sounds timeless, but in that unbelievable way that you’ve never heard before.
A great band whose raging, sodden hellfire now beckons you to warm yourself at its side throughout the impending winter months. A band whose crushing, odiferous, sodomizing blade dices like a Popeil cuisinart and runs you through with gruesome exactness. This band is Impera.