Review: Project Sapiens – Here We Are

Project Sapiens - Here We Are album art

“Here We Are” is a debut EP release from a Copenhagen-based alternative/progressive metal act Project Sapiens, comprised of five songs.

Kicking off with the title track, “Here We Are” hints its diversity. Elements ranging from hard rock, heavy metal to Opeth-influenced Prog Metal and alternative motifs are included. 

There is definitely potential here, and “Uprising” and “My Prison Cell” prove that. The transition between different parts is rather smooth. “Anger” starts with a very nice melody provided by a clean guitar of Poul Jakobsen and clean vocals by Mads Rahbaek. The guitar riffs that can be heard on this one, and throughout the record, are another highlight and an element that makes difference. Closing “Keepers of the Realm” starts very atmospherically, but it doesn’t take too long to become a hybrid child of Alice in Chains, Soundgarden and Porcupine Tree.

What is important here is that Project Sapiens made a brave step to produce a release that is stylistically very different, and with the experience called “Here We Are” I’m sure that they will take the best out of it and use that knowledge on their next release.

“Here We Are” is available here.

Album Review: Devcord – Dysthymia

Devcord - Dysthymia

Dysthymia, the debut studio album from Spillern, Austria’s one-man band Devcord, is a roller coaster of aural delight, distress, and progressive imagery that is bound to be a career defining moment.

The nuanced atmospheres and melodic sensibilities that composer Peter Royburger brings to each of the nine songs on Dysthymia are nothing short of brilliant. As the lines blur between romantic-classical period music, progressive metal, and almost ‘70s style prog rock it becomes apparent that Dysthymia is one of the most progressively challenging albums to be released in 2018, so far.

Songs like the opening “The Mortician,” which has a dark, eerie intro and powerful guitar riffs that evolve into orchestral stabs of Royburger’s vocals, demonstrate the ease at which Devcord slips in and out of catchy hooks and technically sound orchestral song writing.

The discourse between the dueling guitars — acoustic and electric — places the listener into perfect attunement with the melodies and growl vocals. Dysthymia sounds like chaos tamed and controlled. This works to the project’s advantage on album highlights — the title track and especially “Reaper’s Helpers,” where Royburger is structurally coherent enough to be catchy yet throw enough curve balls to keep you invested for the full 10+ minutes. “Fade” and “Jerk Pitch Rape” that close the record are impressive on all fronts, but the instrumentation on these two pieces is splendid.

It is not only technically challenging and perfectly executed as a piece of musical literature, but it is also an album that demands the listener’s attention and ability to think on a multitude of spectrums they may not be used to. Overall, Dysthymia is an album that takes the listener on a cerebral journey through many mysterious and technically awe-inspiring landscapes that not so many groups are able to achieve.

Dysthymia is available from Bandcamp here

https://bandcamp.com/EmbeddedPlayer/album=2235363591/size=large/bgcol=ffffff/linkcol=0687f5/tracklist=false/transparent=true/

Review: Dystopia – Building Bridges

Dystopia

Hungarian quartet Dystopia are here to assault your senses with their unique mixture of heavy, modern and groove metal. With some obvious influences from Pantera, Lamb of God, and Gojira, Dystopia was formed in 2004. With two full-length albums under their belt, Dystopia is back once again and excited to launch their third full-length album, Building Bridges which was released on July 12, 2018.

It’s the snarling groove that first gains the attention on Dystopia’s beast. “Free-Fall” has some meaty riffs and a deceptive level of groove running through it. It’s an opener that makes a hell of a statement.

Dystopia - Building Bridges

Breathing fire and brimstone, Dystopia smash their way through track after track slipping effortlessly through ferocious modern metal, alternative and classic flourishes of traditional heavy metal. An album that surprises as much as it delights. 

For most of the album’s run it does a great job of keeping your attention. Anytime the mind does begin to wander, Dystopa stamp hard on feet to get all attention back on them. Those who are willing to allow their musical perceptions be challenged will be heavily rewarded, and will most certainly regard Building Bridges as a truly special album.

Hear it on Bandcamp. Connect with Dystopia on Facebook.

Interview with Graham Bacher of Protean Collective

Protean Collective

Prog metal act Protean Collective is one of those bands for me whose name I’ve been seeing around the web but never gave them a proper listen, until few weeks ago. I was contacted by the group’s publicist, who was very ambitious about the four-piece’s most recent, third studio album “Collapse,” and who insisted that I should check the Boston-based group out.

And so I listened… With four releases under their belt (one of them being an EP) since 2010, it’s quite easy to notice that these three guys and a girl know their craft. It can be said that each of the ten songs on “Collapse” is a gem per se; the album was released last year but the group is still promoting it, with the release of a playthrough video which was launched a few weeks ago.

I talked with guitarist and singer Graham Bacher about this new album — which, by the way, was mixed and mastered at Fascination Street Studios by André Alvinzi and Jens Bogren, respectively.

Let’s start from your early music beginnings. How did your musical career begin? When did you start playing? Which groups have been your favorites as a young man? Please tell us something more about your early life.

Well, I first started playing violin when I was about 6, and played acoustic and electric violin through my teens, but as time went on, I got much more into the sounds and textures of the guitar. It felt like an instrument that I was more free to experiment with and really be creative.

I’d say the first bands that really got me excited about playing music were the 90’s bands like Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, the Smashing Pumpkins — and then in high school I started discovering bands like Porcupine Tree, King Crimson, Rush, and Pain of Salvation who really turned music from a hobby to a kind of obsession. Those are all bands that have been huge influences on me as a musician. Of course, while we do have a lot of common musical interests, I think everyone in the band has a pretty wide array of influences.

Graham Bacher

How did you go about forming Protean Collective? Who was the most influential when the band started its musical journey?

Matt [Zappa, drums], Steph [Goyer, guitars], and I all became good friends in our first year of college but never really played together. Sometime late in our first year there, we all got in a room together to jam, and I think it was a kind of amazing moment, where we all realized that we had some really special musical chemistry together. I’m not really sure who was the most influential — I think it was just something we were all really excited about and we really worked together on it.

In the beginning, did you have some “fixed” tempo in composing songs or everything was a product of jamming, improvising?

We always have been this way, and probably always will be to some degree, but everything was very fluid in the beginning. Someone might come in with a riff or a beat or a melody and we’d just play off it until we were all excited about it. I think later on, on the last two albums, there are a few songs that we’ve gone into thinking that we were going to go for a particular feel or effect on the listener, but writing for us has always been a very collaborative process. In the beginning, I think the improvisational nature was very apparent, with more meandering song structures; over time, I think we’ve gotten more direct and concise with our writing, but the collaboration is always an integral part of what we do.

How would you describe Protean Collective’s music on your own?

First I would grimace because I’m absolutely terrible at answering that question. I don’t feel like I’m emotionally separated enough from the music to really have perspective on it, so I’d LOVE to hear how you’d describe it.

But ultimately, what we try to do is create powerful music that meshes the aggressive energy of metal with powerful melodies and a great deal of dynamic depth. When we use progressive elements in our music, it’s to create a certain effect on the listener. I hope that each song it’s it’s own journey.

Protean Collective - Collapse

Your most recent full-length album, “Collapse” (2017), is a follow-up to 2010’s debut full-length “Divided” and 2014’s “The Red and the Grey.” Have you felt any pressure while working on “Collapse” because of that in terms of coming up with something that’s sort of expected to be better than the first two efforts?

It absolutely was for me, because “The Red and the Grey” is an album I was very proud of. We put a lot of time, energy, and love into making that record be the best album we could put out, and I think it was the first musical project for me that, after the lengthy process of writing, tracking, mixing, and mastering, I was still excited to listen to. For me personally, it was written during a very challenging time mentally, so I think it felt especially meaningful.

At the same time, since we were self producing, that took some of the pressure off, just because we were free to make sure that we had something we were really proud of and happy with before releasing it into the world — and in the end, I have to say I absolutely couldn’t be happier with how “Collapse” turned out.

What has changed for Protean Collective when it comes to writing new music — “Collapse” in particular?

Well, as I alluded to earlier, the general process has really stayed the same, but I think with Collapse in particular, we were really leaning towards creating more focused, powerful songs than ever before. So I’m not sure the process itself has changed so much as I just think we’ve grown a lot as writers and maybe what we’re trying to accomplish with each song has changed. I think and hope that our writing will always continue to evolve as we continue to write.

What would you say is the most important segment for the structures of your songs?

To me, it’s got to be the choruses. There are a lot of structures and moving pieces that go through our songs, but the choruses are where I feel like it all comes together into a unified message that connects all the pieces together into a coherent construct.

How do you see the modern progressive metal scene?

I think this is an absolutely amazing time to be a musician. I think now, with the ability nearly anyone can have to record professional sounding music, there are an unprecedented number of people who are free to create music in a way that wouldn’t have been possible 15 years ago. There are so many amazing musicians out there creating so much amazing music that it’s absolutely inspiring to see. There’s so much variety of music out there that really, I’m not sure if there’s any one real sound I could even nail down as defining a modern progressive metal sound, but I think there’s a tremendous amount of people out there who are trying to do something new and make music that is their own, and I love it.

Do you guys consider yourselves a part of any specific cultural movement, however peripheral?

I don’t think so in particular. We’re about making music we feel strongly about, and that’s the focus.

Are you also involved in any other projects or bands beside Protean Collective?

I’m not, personally. Matt also plays in an amazing band called Walter Sickert & the Army of Broken Toys.

What comes next for Protean Collective?

More shows! We’re hoping to get out there and share what we have with as much of the world as possible. Right now we’re very much in the mode of getting “Collapse” out there to as many listeners as we can. This is an album that I’m really passionate about, and I really just want to get to share it with as many people as we possibly can.

Thank you for the time and for listening!

 

Visit Protean Collective on Bandcamp, and follow them on Facebook and Instagram.

Protean Collective is:

Graham Bacher – vocals, guitars
Dan Ehramjian – bass
Steph Goyer – guitars
Matt Zappa – drums, percussion

Review: Deus Omega – In Absentia of Light

Deus Omega - In Absentia of Light

The Sydney-based Progressive Death/Black Metal project Deus Omega — managed by singer, multi-instrumentalist and producer Alex Moore — released its new album titled “In Absentia of Light” on March 20th. It includes, wait for it, whooping 23 songs in total, and remains true to the project’s genre description which borders on experimental in every kind of meaning. Sudden rhythm changes, crushing guitar riffs, combination of growl, scream and clean vocals, and blast beats are some of the parts that make up this release. 

Whole album has a cinematic, dark vibe what is easily derived from the title. That also adds a bit of avantgarde to the mix. Moore’s vocals are outstanding, and they certainly deepen the atmosphere making everything more meaningful. The only remark here is the album’s length; not that I’m complaining but there is enough material here for three separate releases what just speaks about the talent of this Australian musician.

It is a good thing to see that Deus Omega is keen on exploring different elements in their music. “In Absentia of Light” is a success, and is truly one of the 2018 albums that surprised me the most so far. Hear it on Spotify.

Review: 23 Acez – Embracing the Madness

23 Acez - Embracing the Madness

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.