Weekend Roundup – Three Album Reviews – Prog Metal, Blues, and Alt Rock

Happy Friday! Today we’ve got a special review edition of three prog metal, blues, and alt rock albums: What Lies Ahead of Us by Brazil’s Pentral; Loss & Love by El Salvador’s Steady Rollin; and the self-titled debut album by Glasgow, Scotland, duo der Mist. All reviews written by Chloe Mogg.

Pentral – What Lies Ahead of Us – Out May 7, 2021

Pentral are the explosive trio you need in your life. Having released their first single ‘Silent Trees’ from their forthcoming album, the band have gained support from New Noise Magazine, Prog Magazine and many other outlets across the web. “What Lies Ahead of Us” is an exhilarating album that’s best served with a clear mind and your full engagement. Known for creating music without boundaries, this hard rock outfit are heavily influenced by the metal industry too.

“What Lies Ahead of Us” features lyrical content that should never be pushed into the shadows. Speaking about their views on environmental protection, equality and the fight against racism, the important topics that Pentral cover within the album need to be heard. Exploring different relationships between people from mixed background and cultures, ‘What Lies Ahead of Us’ is reality and details what it’s like to be a human in today’s modern world.

From lead single ‘Silent Trees’ and it’s hindu like mantro introduction, to fierce anthem ‘Aiming for the Sun’ – this album is best described as iconic and refusing to sit down. As for stand out tracks, ‘The Shell I’m Living In’ is easily up there with the best on the album. Using an addictive guitar melody to enter the full band arrangement, ‘The Shell I’m Living In’ is fuelled with attitude and hard-hitting drums.

Twelve tracks that could easily cement this outfit with a legendary status, ‘What Lies Ahead of Us’ steals your attention with it’s rebellious aura, yet comforts you in times of darkness. A stand out moment in Pentral’s career so far.

Continue reading “Weekend Roundup – Three Album Reviews – Prog Metal, Blues, and Alt Rock”

Metal Mondays: Vultress’ “Hypnopompia”

Vultress, Hypnopompia, 2020
Tracks:
1. Hypnopompia (0:35), 2. Cmdr Hall and wherewithal (4:56), 3. Tether (5:57), 4. Fall Into Then (4:13), 5. L’appel Du Vide (5:07), 6. New Sun (9:51)

It isn’t everyday that I get to feature a band from America’s great Midwest – much less a prog metal band from the Midwest. They hail from Valparaiso, Indiana, a mid-sized town on the far southeastern edge of what could be considered the greater Chicagoland area. The band is comprised of Jordan Gaboian (guitar), Paul Uhrina (drums) and Anthony Capuano (vocals/keys). Hypnopompia is their second album, following 2014’s Distance.

At just over a half-hour long, perhaps Hypnopompia would have been better billed as an EP rather than an album, especially since the album is rather inconsistent. “Tether” and “L’appel Du Vide” are from completely different genres, and “Tether” alone has multiple genres intermingling – some of which work and some which don’t. I also noticed a strong Dream Theater influence on their first album that I don’t notice in their new album.

Someone commented on Bandcamp that Capuano’s voice is reminiscent of both Claudio Sanchez (Coheed and Cambria) and Serj Tankian (System of a Down). This is a pretty fair assessment. Sanchez’s influence is most prevalent on “L’appel du Vide,” while the latter influence can be heard on “Tether.” There is a moment on their first album where it’s clear that he is channeling James Labrie circa 1994 – specifically the distortion Labrie used on “6:00.” Capuano doesn’t do that at all on this album, preferring instead more of a death metal growl in the brief moments when he does decide to use distortion. Most of his singing is clean, and it is pretty good, although it might take a few listens to adjust to it. However I think the music would be best served if he added the warmth from “L’appel du Vide” to their metal moments, like Claudio Sanchez does, and he should go with the mid-90s Labrie-style distortion rather than the growling, since it matches the music better.

I really wanted “Tether” to be my favorite track because it had a unique playfulness and heaviness that fits well with today’s prog-metal scene. It opens with heavy acoustic strumming before pounding into a deep metal riff. All good so far. Capuano mixes up the vocal styling a bit, which works when it’s the Tankian-style high-pitched notes, but it doesn’t work as well with the growls. The middle of the song does a hard shift into a traditional jazz section with saxophone, which the band performs extremely well. This brief section was one of my favorite parts on the album, in fact. However after that they go back into a really heavy drop-tuned section that includes saxophone playing in a less-orderly way than it was during the jazz section. To my ear this doesn’t work as well.

The fifth track, “L’appel du Vide,” is a bit of a surprise. It’s a ballad, which feels out of place on the album. However, Capuano’s voice shines. It has a warmth that could help on the metal tracks. Perhaps if the song morphed into a heavier chorus it wouldn’t feel so out of place, but it’s really a pop ballad without the rock that Dream Theater usually infuse into their ballads. The chorus could shine with electric guitar and drums, kind of like Dream Theater’s “Wither” or Coheed and Cambria’s “Here To Mars.” The song even builds up to that kind of moment, so it is a bit of a letdown when the calm acoustic guitar remains. About 2:45 in we get an electric guitar playing clean highs in the background, but the drums and bass are still playing as if it is a quiet ballad. Yes what I’m proposing is formulaic, but it is a formula that works for prog-metal ballads (see the aforementioned DT and C&C tracks). With a build up to a heavier wall of sound the song would fit a lot better in the album.

“Fall Into Then” is the most consistent song on the album musically and vocally. The style stays the same, and it keeps a heavy tone throughout.  It has a really strong driving guitar groove, with some Hammond-style organ highlights thrown in for good measure. Turn this one up – you won’t be disappointed. There is some really good bass drum pedaling along with a thundering bassline.

“New Sun” follows along a similar track, but it includes some weird electronic vocal distortions in the middle that don’t really work. The heavy synth section in the middle works well, even though it slows the pace, but the electronic vocals are really jarring. Apart from that it is an excellent longer-form prog metal song with some nice guitar moments. The keyboard work on this one is a nice touch as well.

Overall I’d have to say I enjoyed the track “A Chord From Heaven” off their first album a lot more than anything off Hypnopompia. Looking at both albums it is abundantly clear that all the pieces are here for something truly special. I think this album detoured a bit from the trajectory the band created with their first album. They could take elements from Hypnopompia and apply it to new music made more in the vein of their first album, and they’d be in great shape. With that said I still recommend you give this a listen.

https://www.facebook.com/vultress
https://vultress.bandcamp.com/

Check out their first album, as well:

Haken

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.

Continue reading “Haken Goes Viral – “Virus” Album Review – @Haken_Official”

Dream Theater Announce “Distance Over Time” Album, 2019 North American Tour

dtdot

I’m interrupting a summer (now gone) of digging deep into the recently-released Dave Matthews Band album, the two excellent Southern Empire albums (do pick them up), and my autumnal tradition of listening to all that is Big Big Train to report what’s been making the rounds on this midterm Election Day in America: Prog metal kings Dream Theater have announced a new album, “Distance Over Time,” which will be released 22 February, 2019.

The band will then hit the road for a North American tour starting in March, and while concertgoers will no doubt be treated to newly-released material from “DoT” (or, as a nod to Rush, should it be “d/t?”), the highlight of the tour will no doubt be the news of the band celebrating 20 years of their landmark album, “Metropolis Part 2: Scenes From A Memory.”

A short teaser from the forthcoming album, which was produced by guitarist John Petrucci and with sweet artwork by Hugh Syme, can be heard here:

Here are the “Distance Over Time” tour dates for America and Canada. The band also plans to follow the U.S. dates with a show in Mexico City in early May.

March 2019
20 – San Diego, CA
21 – Los Angeles, CA
22 – Los Angeles, CA
24 – San Francisco, CA
26 – Denver, CO
28 – St. Paul, MN
29 – Chicago, IL
31 – Milwaukee, WI

April 2019
2 – Detroit, MI
4 – Toronto, Ont.
5 – Montreal, Que.
6 – Quebec City, Que.
8 – Boston, MA
9 – Oakdale, CT
10 – Red Bank, NJ
12 – New York, NY
13 – Upper Darby, PA
15 – Washington, D.C.
17 – Nashville, TN
22 – Charlotte, NC
23 – Atlanta, GA
24 – Orlando, FL
26 – St. Petersburg, FL
27 – Jacksonville, FL
29 – Dallas, TX
30 – Houston, TX

May 2019
1 – Austin, TX

While I initially gave a solid review of their previous release, “The Astonishing,” I’ve since given it few listens when compared to the albums that came before it, especially the song-oriented releases (rather than concept albums). I don’t know that any information about the tracks on “Distance Over Time” has been made public, but I’m fairly certain that given the scope of “The Astonishing,” DT would likely return to a song-oriented effort on the next one, so I’m very much looking forward to hearing what’s next from the gang.

Track Review: Death of an Astronomer – Digital Conversation

Digital Conversation

Sometimes, metal guys want to play jazz fusion, and that is something that Los Angeles based keyboardist, guitarist and composer Jairo Estrada does with his project Death is an Astronomer on the recently released single “Digital Conversation.” 

https://bandcamp.com/EmbeddedPlayer/track=198860162/size=small/bgcol=ffffff/linkcol=0687f5/transparent=true/

Estrada offers up striking, highly progressive metallic fusion music that never bores or ventures too far off into aimless territory. Highly complex yet flowing, “Digital Conversation” sees weaving guitar and bass melodies twisting and turning around each other, the drums, following along every step of the way but keeping it all grounded. Arrangements just grab hold of you and take you on a mind altering journey. Nothing here is overly heavy, but there is just enough crunch in the guitar to keep this in the metal camp, yet when Estrada goes for some soaring, thought provoking chops, it’s classic jazz fusion/prog rock all the way. 

Jairo Estrada (Death of an Astronomer)

If you like adventurous, classy instrumental metal fusion, Death of an Astronomer’s debut single is a something you need to seek out immediately. But to make it easy, here is where you can get it.

Review: The Blue Prison – Alchemist

The Blue Prison - Alchemist

Alchemist is a new EP release from a Japanese guitarist and composer Keigo Yoshida (The Blue Prison), residing in Los Angeles, CA.

Right from the start, the title song kicks off the EP incredibly strong with its toe-tappingly catchy rhythms and roaring guitars, followed by an equally solid djenty “Zenith,” presented with immaculate detail with ricocheting metalcoresque drums. “Kingdom” is far more edgy, with guitar solos tripping over the song’s plodding rhythm. “Red Sun” introduces a symphonic pattern forming a backbone for Yoshida’s immaculate soloing. Short closing piece “River” is an atmospheric piece that brings Alchemist to a solid closure.

Curiosity begs the question: what does The Blue Prison sound like outside the comfort of his niche he’s carved? Perhaps necessity will force him outside his signature sound before stagnation takes hold in future releases, but for now,  Yoshida has done his best: no-nonsense, tightly produced melodic prog.

Alchemist is out today; order it from Bandcamp.

Review: Perihelion Ship – To Paint a Bird of Fire

Perihelion Ship

I find “To Paint a Bird of Fire” to be a very special album. There is a sort of checklist you can go down when preparing to listen to this kind of modern extreme progressive metal, and Perihelion Ship basically hit everything on it… But they go a bit further than that.

What are some of the things on that checklist? You’ve got your combination of growled vocals and lighter ones, which we’ve seen the likes of Opeth and many others successfully employ. There are frantic passages driven by thundering double bass and softer, more atmospheric moments. Slick melodies abound in the guitar work, and there are hugely ambitious and lengthy tracks. It’s all there.

To Paint a Bird of Fire

The thing about “To Paint a Bird of Fire” is that it isn’t just all there, it’s all there for a reason. This is songwriting taken to the next level. Every time there needs to be a softer moment it comes, and every time there needs to be a burst of aggression to release a building of tension, it comes too. In addition (and this is important), despite the obvious massive amounts of instrumental talent of the musicians, there is no shying away from using simpler riffs and chord progressions as building blocks to move a song forward.

I try and find some criticism of any album when reviewing. It’s tough for this one. “To Paint a Bird of Fire” is an album I really didn’t find boring at all. Song for song, it’s put together masterfully and is a great example of how it’s often better to create a shorter, focused, and wholly structured album than have 15 songs for the sake of having lots of songs where only 3 or 4 are really good. And importantly, as mentioned above, it’s got all the items on the progressive checklist not just for the sake of being called progressive, but because when you do those things right, you can make some great music.

“To Paint a Bird of Fire” is out now and is available from Bandcamp.

Review: Art Against Agony – Russian Tales

Russian Tales

We’ve been following this Germany-based collective for quite some time now, and their brand new release — an EP titled “Russian Tales” — was conceived during the group’s tour across Russia in Winter 2016. It may be because of it that the five songs here feel a bit cold in its nature, but hey — you spend 12000km experiencing winter in Siberia, and then let’s talk. All digression aside, Art Against Agony have once again produced a mind-twisting release, something they are already known in the experimental, avant-garde and prog metal underground.

The group’s can-do attitude of mixing odd experimentation techniques into a metal state has earned them success since their 2014 debut “Three Short Stories.” The particular experiment AAA undertake is the fusion of contrasting genres, principally the extreme side of metal and fancy jazz.

For “Russian Tales” it could be said that it’s a transitional release, as it was conceived between the release of “The Difference Between a Duck and a Lobster” in February 2016 and “The Forgotten Story” EP from February this year. The production here is perfect. “Nothing to Declare” and “Tea for the Dragon” both have infectious grooves that are more riff focused rather than uncontrollable experimentation. The latter could be considered as a centrepiece of the EP. “Coffee for the Queen,” for which the band recently released a music video is another highlight here; it’s more prog metal oriented than other pieces. Throughout the album the guitars constantly build up, what gives the band, in general, both vintage and modern sound that increases the uniqueness of their soundscapes.

The closing “Saratov Incident” feels personal, and it’s by far the djentiest moment on “Russian Tales.” The band unleashes a cannonade of riffs, accompanied with lush atmospheric motif and pounding drum work.

Although a release that was written while on road and in constant motion, “Russian Tales” is very consistent in terms of its structure and material offered here. You can possibly sense how it took its form out in the wild wilderness, and for this young band it certainly stands as a huge statement. At the time when this review is posted Art Against Agony are on another tour across Russia, so who knows, maybe they will come up with “Russian Tales 2.” Highly recommended!

“Russian Tales” is available from Bandcamp and Bigcartel.

Joe Hill’s Prog-Metal Shoutout

the-fireman-joe-hill
THE FIREMAN.

As someone who loves fantasy, sci-fi, and horror fiction, I was pretty thrilled to discover a new (new to me, that is) author this week, Joe Hill.

I started his novel, THE FIREMAN, on Friday, and I was rather excited to find that one of the characters had been the bassist in a prog-metal band, Unbreakable.

Granted, it’s one reference thus far, but outside of the work of Kevin J. Anderson and Ernest Cline, I can think of almost no author who embraces prog at any level.

So, a huge thank you to Mr. Hill.  And, by the way, he’s an excellent story teller.

To order THE FIREMAN, click here.

Album Of The Year 2015 – Number 29

Welcome to day two of my ‘Album Of The Year 2015’ countdown. If you missed the opening instalment of what is a series that will either make or break me, you can check it out right here: Album of the Year 2015 – Number 30. Additionally, if you missed my similar countdowns from the past […]

https://manofmuchmetal.wordpress.com/2015/12/04/album-of-the-year-2015-number-29/