What new music, live albums, reissues (regular, deluxe or super-deluxe) and tours are heading our way between now and All Hallows Eve? Check out the exhaustive (and potentially exhausting) sampling of promised progressive goodies — along with other personal priorities — below. Click on the titles for pre-order links — whenever possible, you’ll wind up at the online store that gets as much money as possible directly to the musicians.
Tool, Fear Inoculum: Tool’s first album in 13 years. Available via digital download, as well as “a deluxe, limited-edition CD version (which) features a 4” HD rechargeable screen with exclusive video footage, charging cable, 2 watt speaker, a 36-page booklet and a digital download card.” Really.
In case you hadn’t noticed, the last quarter of 2018 has put paid to any perceived drought of new releases & reissues. Capsule reviews of what I’ve been listening to since the first of this month follow the jump; albums are reviewed in descending order on my Personal Proggyness Perception (PPP) scale, scored from 0 to 10.
What new music, live albums, and reissues (deluxe and otherwise) are heading our way between now and Black Friday? Check out the exhaustive (and possibly exhausting) sampling of promised progressive goodies — along with a few other personal priorities — below. Pre-order links are for CDs or combo packages; vinyl editions are frequently available from the same website.
Marillion, Happiness is Cologne and Popular Music. Limited edition live reissues from Racket Records and earMusic. Pre-order at Amazon or other online retailers.
Blackfield, Open Mind (The Best of Blackfield). Pre-order from Burning Shed.
Dave Stewart and Barbara Gaskin, Star Clocks. Pre-order from Burning Shed.
Steve Hackett, Broken Skies – Outspread Wings (1984-2006). Esoteric Recordings reissue box set (6 CDs + 2 DVDs). Pre-order autographed copies from Hackettsongs.
King Crimson, Meltdown: Live in Mexico. 3 CDs + 1 BluRay. Pre-order from Burning Shed.
Glass Hammer, Chronomonaut. Pre-order autographed copies or the deluxe bundle from Glass Hammer’s webstore. Pre-order deadline: October 11.
Sanguine Hum, Now We Have Power. Pre-order from Bandcamp.
Greta Van Fleet, Anthem of the Peaceful Army. The first full-length album from Frankenmuth, Michigan’s young Zepheads. Pre-order at GvF’s webstore.
iamthemorning, Ocean Sounds. Live in the studio; audio/video bundle. Pre-order at Burning Shed.
In Continuum, Acceleration Theory. With Dave Kerzner and an all-star line-up. Pre-order bundles from Bandcamp.Pre-order deadline for special bundles: September 30.
Frank Sinatra, Only the Lonely: 60th Anniversary Edition. Yes, really. The greatest concept album of the pre-rock era, with Sinatra and arranger Nelson Riddle at their most gorgeous and devastating. “Make it one for my baby … and one more for the road.” More info at Super Deluxe Edition.
Anathema, Internal Landscapes. The best of the band’s Kscope albums. Pre-order from Burning Shed.
Recently a fellow metal-head shared Opeths’s Blackwater Park; it’s been ages since I heard this album. Music has this uncanny ability to bring back memories. In this case, decade old vivid images from heavy metal pubs, long distance motorcycling and even longer days dedicated to embedded engineering.
Had once motorcycled six hours straight to see Opeth live, to this college town in a little known part of the world. Crowd simply exploded to the opening riffs of “Bleak”, ferocity matched only by Åkerfeldt’s own growls.
Blackwater Park is that one album which conveniently illustrates Opeth’s early years. Everything from gothic atmosphere to death metal riffs, all packed into one funereal epic! Wide range of actual genres fit into that melancholic sound, but still weaved into one cohesive symphony. Album seamlessly illustrates meandering proggy passages resembling Camel, to Tom Warrior like curt grunts. With blankets of blues, prog and folksy lament built straight into that vital progressive death framework, Opeth eclipses all genre boundaries.
After all these years, listening to them again made me realize, these Swedes sort of orchestrate all those vibrant influences more elegantly than most genre specialists themselves do.
Turns out the best Swedish death metal band of the 90s and early oughts was listening to those Bert Jansch and Popol Vuh records all along. And such grooves are not as unrelated to Opeth’s charge as first glance might suggest. Having spent the better part of a decade determinedly NOT (no, never) dancing around the DADGAD maypole in the relatively quiet interludes of scorching song suites lasting upwards of 20 minutes, Opeth bookended their 2002 LP Deliverance with 2003’s Damnation, and the acoustic drone floodgates opened. Prog polymath Steven Wilson, who’d helmed the band’s production since 2001’s Blackwater Park, found in Opeth’s singer/guitarist Mikael Akerfeldt a like-minded soul who, after a blistering half-dozen LPs replete with growls, blast beats, and super doom — though never rote, and always smart — needed some wind in the sails. Unplug, let the mikes breathe a bit, leave the distortion pedals at home, I can imagine part of the conversation going, and so it sounds anyway on the recorded evidence. Damnation is a masterpiece, a quiet, spacious death metal record, a grim yet lithe prog album, and with that said and with that description, no, it sounds nothing like the Cure, but it may appeal if Disintegration is your cup of tea. It’s Wilson’s and Akerfeldt’s best and most dramatically pioneering record (although Opeth’s Wilson-less Ghost Reveries, from 2005, is maybe most representative of their work until the band’s real act two began with 2008’s Watershed).
Soon after Damnation‘s release the band took their show to Shepherd’s Bush in London, and there recorded 2004’s live Lamentations DVD, long since a YouTube staple. Just as “Closure” anchors Damnation, its live cousin fills the same role on Lamentations. The show is worthwhile to watch in its entirety, as Opeth takes some giant steps, with jazz-touched atmospherics and restrained but potent jams. The band acknowledges its debts while shrugging off the diehard metal kids who came out for blood (they’d be given their due anyhow in the harder part of the show, and even in the Damnation section it ain’t exactly MTV unplugged). If there’s a point where Akerfeldt became who he is, it’s on full display here, an artist who, as he appeals to his audience, is confident in his direction. Just glorious.
soundstreamsunday presents one song or live set by an artist each week, and in theory wants to be an infinite linear mix tape where the songs relate and progress as a whole. For the complete playlist, go here:soundstreamsunday archive and playlist, or check related articles by clicking on”soundstreamsunday” in the tags section.
Opeth’s debut is a rare blend, it’s good old British metal melody, but decked with prog, folk, black and death metal textures. It’s the most accessible elements of metal combined with the least. Songs effortlessly transition from murky black metal to deathly blast beats, and then frequently into melodic folk passages — and they are also interestingly devoid of that punk dissonance integral to extreme metal. In short, it’s a unique cross-over. Guttural riffs, acoustic melody, and Akerfeldt growls with clean vocals – all stitched together into 10 minute epics.
Not surprising that Dan Swanö is the producer, Edge of Sanity is reflected all over the long and meandering eclectic passages. That infamous ‘Thomas Gabriel Fischer’ like curt grunts is also frequent and numerous. Opeth weaves that Celtic Frost like textures into the more accessible 70s and 80s metal progressions. Orchid is composed of those two divergent heavy metal strands, but spun seamlessly into one prog symphony. Examine long enough and we can discover Black Sabbath to Bathory to jazz elements – even for early 90s metal this is avant-garde. With drawn out extreme metal sound, but still illustrating that melodic classic metal roots, Opeth comfortably slingshots a casual metal listener — straight into the abyss of 90s Scandinavian scene.
To say 2016 was a turbulent year would be an understatement. For good and bad, the events of 2016 are going to ripple for years, if not decades to come.
Fortunately, one area in which 2016 was not a turning point was in the trend of excellent prog releases, which kept coming without any letup from 2015 … or 2014 … or 2013 … you get the picture. Like those years, 2016 saw a bumper crop of excellent releases, and in a few cases, saw bands hitting new highs. Truly, this was one area where we can be unequivocally thankful for what 2016 brought.
Opeth will be releasing their twelfth studio album named Sorceress at the end of this month. I’m very curious about the album, and I will probably write a review about it soon! In the meantime I made a top five of my most favourite Opeth albums so far…
Artist: Spiritual Beggars Album Title: Sunrise To Sundown Label: Inside Out Records Date of Release: 18 March 2016 If you’re looking for a musical experience to surprise you and offer something completely different from what has gone before, I wouldn’t recommend Spiritual Beggars to you. Theirs is not a blueprint that seeks to challenge listeners […]
I have, to the best of my knowledge, all of the less than two hours of music produced by the Australian group, Caligula’s Horse (website)—an hour and 44 minutes, to be exact, the sum total of their studio output so far. But whatever is lacking in quantity is more than made up for in outstanding quality. The group’s first, full-length album, Moments From Ephemeral City (2011), was attention-grabbing and quite memorable, featuring the virtuosity of guitarist (and band founder, producer, songwriter, etc.) Sam Vallen, and the powerful, soulful Jeff Buckley-ish vocals of Jim Grey, who apparently hails from the U.S. The two combine to create alternative prog that brilliantly marries technical prowess with emotional potency, compelling melodies, and lyrical mystery—always a winning combination in my book.
While Moments was, again, exceptional—check out the song, “Alone in the World”, for example—the band’s new offering, The Tide, The Thief & River’s End, goes beyond exceptional. It is, as the reviewer at Murder the Dance rightly concludes, an “11/10” album: “Caligula’s Horse’s sophomore record is an exhilarating listen; the band in its entirely channel the emotions of their instruments throughout, and the structural dynamics here are constructed intelligently. However, it’s Grey and Vallen that truly shine on ‘The Tide, the Thief and the River’s End’. Their collective arsenal alone is enough to earn the band a perfect score.” I cannot improve on what another reviewer, over on the ProgArchives.com site, says about TTTTRE:
I put it to you that it does indeed compete and then some with this album and is sure to make my top albums of 2013 with Steven Wilson’s ‘The Raven that Refused to Sing (And Other Stories)’, Tesseract’s ‘Altered State’, and Haken’s ‘The Mountain’. But to those who haven’t heard the band before, what can you expect to hear? Caligula’s Horse possess the juggernaut riffing of Periphery, the delicate emotional sensibility of Pain of Salvation, the perfectly tasteful and never over or understated rhythm section of Porcupine Tree, all cast to the harmonic ingenuity of Steely Dan. Some of you may be reading this and getting a little excited, it is exciting – it’s downright awesome and executed flawlessly by a cohort of young yet seasoned masters.
The album is a concept album, but is not obvious or direct lyrically; an apparent theme is the oppression of women by religions, yet specifics are difficult to apprehend. All the better, in my opinion, as I prefer ambiguous, expressionist lyrics when it comes to rock music in general. That said, there is undoubtedly a deep sense of tension, urgency, and conflict within the lyrics, intermixed at times with glimpses of hope and a deepening resolve, as evidenced in the final lines of the concluding song, “All Is Quiet By the Wall”:
Hand in hand with our own
This is our home. This is our home
Let our sign say: “Let them come and meet their end”
Now the world is quiet, this is where we make our stand
My favorite cut is probably the second song, “Water’s Edge,” which has a bit of everything:
The band’s site states that Caligula’s Horse are influenced by “such artists as Devin Townsend, Opeth, Steely Dan, Jeff Buckley, Frost, Muse, Karnivool, Meshuggah, Rage Against the Machine, Pain of Salvation, Steeleye Span, the Beatles, Foo Fighters, Frank Zappa, the Dear Hunter, Steve Vai, Fair to Midland, Tori Amos, Lunatic Soul, Katatonia, Tracey Chapman, A Perfect Circle and many others…” I’m familiar, to one degree or another, with all of those groups/artists, and I can hear bits of most of them in the music. (Beatles’ fans can check out Vallen and Grey performing “Across the Universe”.)
Certainly Opeth, Karnivool, Pain of Salvation, Dear Hunter, Katatonia, and A Perfect Circle are readily evident, and any fan of those artists should check out Caligula’s Horse. Vocally, Buckley’s ghost is right in the ear, as this acoustic version of “Silence” (from Moments…) aptly demonstrates: “I want to be ignorant to the frailty of my life/Days are grains of sand in a disciple’s hand/Looking out my window/Through the grey and lifeless sky/I know what I am…”: