Posts Tagged ‘progressive metal’

Dawnwalker - Crestfallen

Review by Geary of War

Londoners Dawnwalker deliver to us an album in ‘Crestfallen’ which casts up a very Nordic, pagan vibe with their quite beautiful album cover, which I also encourage you to visit on the artist’s Facebook page, its a gif and the movement is most calming. It is out now through the band’s Bandcamp.

As with all album covers you create a idea about what this band will sound like. I assumed it would be something progressive and they did not disappoint. In fact the class themselves as post/progressive metal.  Opener ‘Crestfallen’ has a bass line which could put doors in, or at least result in a chap from the neighbours if played at sufficient volume. The vocals by Mark Norgate fit the music really well, it is clean, well delivered and something which could absolutely make an evening walk that little bit better. ‘Pollen Cloud’ continues the measured and delicate tone set up by the sweeping ‘Crestfallen’. The very subtle flute played by Sian Alex really gives this track a very ethereal feel. Around the two min mark things change and there is more of a purpose delivered, I am reminded for reasons I cannot quite put my finger on, of ‘Antenna’ era Cave In. Wonderful stuff.

My favourite track off the album is next and it is ‘Towpath’. Having said it is my favourite it is also the most jarring on the album as here we hear a harsh black metal vocal. It fits the feel of the track which you conjure images of a frozen windy environment with some poor soul trudging ever onward into the night. Thereafter we have a smashing cover of ‘Lost Wisdom’ by Mount Eerie which ends with the last harsh vocal we hear.  We close out the album with the marvellous acoustic track, ‘Pagan Plains’. This deserves a place in every garden playlist right now and would be my other pick from this album depending on who I was airing it too.

Overall this is a gem of an album made in the heat of lockdown. In a way, even with the jarring moment of ‘Towpath’ this album encapsulates all the various moments and emotions of the lockdown. Take the time, dig this out, play it a few times and let it unfold before you.

Behold the Arctopus - Hapeleptic Overtrove

I first came across Behold…the Arctopus years ago on ‘Skullgrid’, and frankly I’ve never been quite able to wrap my head around their particular brand of mind bending technical progressive metal. I’ve diving back in though with their new record ‘Hapeleptic Overtrove’ which is out now through Willowtip Records.

The press release for ‘Hapeleptic Overtrove’ tells tales of English free jazz inspirations and the evolution of drumming into a more chamber music form using chimes, glockenspiel and metal pipes. It leads to a mesmerisingly weird experience, when the concept of a ‘song’ is stretched to its limits. ‘Telepathy Apathy’ tinkles and bends along non-Euclidean angles, while momentarily heavy bursts in ‘Blessing in Disgust’ brings us a little closer to metal I suppose. There’s lurching doom moments in ‘Forgotten Explanations’, ‘Other Realms’ feels like two interludes on djent records played at the same time, and actually the sanity testing ‘Hapeleptic Perspective Respect’ is probably my favourite track here, a jagged atonal splinter that worms its way beneath the skin.

‘Hapeleptic Overtrove’ is incredibly interesting, but I’m not entirely sure I can recommend it unless you have a very free musical mind. Not all of us do in this world of metal. It is challenging almost to a fault, but if you immerse in it completely, there are plenty of moments to grab hold of. Just watch them though, they may vanish again into that other dimension where this all makes sense and Behold… the Arctopus are Kiss.

Monsterworks - Scale and Probability

Monsterworks are a group of incredibly proficient New Zealanders, dropping no less than 15 full length records since their debut record in 2000, and ‘Scale and Probability’ is yet another thrashy progressive metal journey. It was released independently in May.

Opener ‘The Great Silence’ contains many different elements throughout its 8 minute run time. There’s some latter-period Tool-esque polyrhythms underpinning some cool soulful leads, while a dose of heavy, deaththrash moments keeps your head nodding. ‘Weight of Emptiness’ rumbles onward with a little bit of sludge heaviness in amongst the proggy bits. ‘Scale and Probability’ is a conceptually challenging record, exploring the mysteries of finding extraterrestrial life and how it’ll probably never happen, but despite this complex narrative, the music keeps you entertained. ‘The Reveal’ is an earworm, before the meandering ‘Ockham’s Razor’ leads us to our finish. That’s the thing about ‘Scale and Probability’; it’s a really good record, it’s just not a great one.

Having no previous experience with the band, I don’t know how their sound has progressed over the myriad releases but their judicious use of death/thrash elements within a progressive framework is interesting, and the labyrinthine song structures never leave you feeling cold and lost. ‘Scale and Probability’ may have a lofty concept, but Monsterworks keep it grounded in a record you’ll enjoy but maybe not rush back to.

Greek prog metallers Mask of Prospero have just released their debut full length, ‘The Observatory’, through Symmetric Records and it is an assured slab of huge djent riffs and ghostly melodies. Equally atmospheric and headbanging, Mask of Prospero look to become the new powerhouse in European prog metal.

The soulful melancholy of ‘Dust in the Sky’ builds into a dense, chugging monster of a track, where delicate piano lurks behind massive riffs and choral voices. The progressive, almost djenty rhythms pervades the melodic powerhouse of ‘Drown in Grey’, and there is plenty of atmosphere lurking within the Nevermore-esque riffing of ‘Portrait’. Mask of Prospero balance huge heavy riffs with a real sense of melody and the grandiose, and while their songs aren’t overly long, they contain a huge amount of variety.

Be it in the glorious, soaring ‘The Way Back Home’, or the rumbling fragility of ‘Ignorance’, Mask of Prospero have created something rather special in ‘The Observatory’. Vast, heavy and thoroughly absorbing, this is atmospheric prog metal for the modern age, and it is a sound foundation for a bright future.

A collaborative effort between elite members of the Indian metal scene, ‘supergroup’ The Minerva Conduct are breaking genre boundaries across the sub continent. Featuring alumni of Demonic Resurrection, Albatross, Gutslit and a former Animals as Leaders drummer, ‘The Minerva Conduct’ is a record that is scintillating, brave and mind bogglingly technical in parts. It is out 15th September.

Instantly precocious, proggy and thunderous, opener ‘Vile’ snaps into juddering Meshuggah-esque territory with some dazzling fretwork. Open spaces begin to appear within the chugging riffs, and this is where the Minerva Conduct begin to realise the potential of their collaboration. Soaring atmospheres meet heavy djent riffing; propulsive drumming coalesces with twanging bass riffs into a driving engine under stabbing guitar riffs. And this is only the first track! This is an album that effortlessly jumps from electronic, almost ambient soundscapes into brutal death/djent riffing without losing a step. I was six tracks in before I realised there were no vocals, a fact that does no harm to the evocative nature of the music.

‘The Minerva Conduct’ is a shape shifting beast; with progressive metal a vague catch-all genre title that never does the music enough credit, the band manage to construct an organic piece where songs are constantly evolving. The ethereal moments of calm in ‘Desertion’, the Gojira-esque closing to ‘Metanoia’, the electronic highlighting in ‘Appetence’: these are all high spots in a record that never fails to surprise, invigorate or impress. Hopefully The Minerva Conduct are just getting started, because I could listen to this stuff all day.

Inverse Records saw the release of this little hidden gem at the end of last year, and Bloodlash’s EP ‘Rain’ is progressive metal meets the glacial world of post metal. It’s available digitally from Inverse Records.

Opener ‘Godsbreath’ rumbles from the gate with a chugging riff, with some cool spiralling melodies. You can feel the influence of some of the New Wave of American Heavy Metal, especially the likes of Lamb of God. ‘Spring Devoured’ has some quirky melody lines and virtuoso drumming that is reminscient of early Mastodon, but not as complex. Bloodlash could do with dropping the clean vocals, as I feel they don’t quite work as well as the growls do. It’s a minor quibble though.

‘Rain’ mixes death metal severity with chugging prog metal riffs. Like a heavier and less technical Children of Bodom, Bloodlash could be a band that would excel in the future, and instrumentally they have the chops. They need to work on their songwriting though, as there isn’t anything that leaps to attention as being awesome. Definitely potential to be fulfilled here though.


Album Cover - Adrenechrome - Tales From Adrenechrome - 2015

Billed as Canada’s answer to Baroness and Mastodon, Adrenechrome have some mighty shoes to fill. Their new record, ‘Tales from Adrenechrome’ has a cool comic book style cover, and is half an hour of pure Savannah sludge prog with a northern touch to it. It’s out next week.

Opening track ‘A Familiar Face’ has some stunning, Kylesa-esque riffing and spiralling melodies. ‘Lockstep’ is more urgent, like if ‘Remission’ era Mastodon had spent a little more time mellowing out with John Baizley and co. It’s got this great, self assured swagger to it that I really dig, especially when it breaks out this killer blues boogie near the end. An almost stoner doom groove is prevalent, with Clutch-esque croons mixing with a more barked vocal in the rocking ‘Black Brubeck’.

It’s strange to find this kind of sludgecore groove coming from a place like Canada, when the genre is so well identified with Georgia. But Adrenechrome add some interesting twists to the formula to set them aside. The almost black metal section of ‘God Sized Shadow’, that stoner rock vibe on ‘The Heart and the Feather’ that feels so uplifting and the groaning stomp of the excellent ‘Hideous Appetites’.

Closing with the shimmering Mastodon worship of ‘The Led Elephant’, Adrenechrome complete what is a very satisfying listen. Yeah, they ape Kylesa, Mastodon and particularly Baroness, but they do it in such an honest and enthusiastic way it is hard not to enjoy the ride. The musicianship is stellar, the grooves are huge and the riffs are heavy as fuck. This is a great record, despite its unoriginality. Who needs something new when you can make music this good!?

Steve at SixSixSix Music is a good guy. So good in fact, that he’s agreed to help me out with reviewing here at The Killchain. Which is nice because I’m so laden down with promos for awesome music I can barely keep up. You’ll know his contributions, as I’ve now tagged him as SixSixSteve. He’s been in this game for a long time, so he knows what he’s talking about. Thanks Steve, you’re a blog saver!

I’ve been very impressed by the releases that have come my way recently from Italian label Avantgarde. And the one thing they’ve all had in common, has been a superior level of musicianship. And Norway’s Dystopia Nå are very close to the top of the pile, in that respect.

Dweller on the Threshold is a beautiful album. Mixing gentle Doomy passages, with minimalistic ambience and the occasional foray into Shoegazing Black Metal territory, it’s all tied together with maddening screams, cries of despair and any other downbeat form of expression you care to think of. The beauty of the music and the anguish of the vocals are perfect bedfellows.

And it’s an album that relies heavily on moods. From uplifting, through anger to total despair, it’s an ever-changing journey, with a never-ending palette of textures. Basically, if Steven Wilson replaced Dave Gilmour in Pink Floyd and then took the whole of Syd Barrett’s drug stash in one sitting and decided to throw some Black Metal into the Progressive melting pot, then you’re just about there with this album.

Symphony X used to be, for me, a bit of a Dream Theater wannabe band. I saw them support Dream Theater years ago in Glasgow, and I wasn’t overwhelmed by them. Not that there was anything particularly wrong per se, it just seemed like they were Dream Theater lite. On reflection, and on the back of excellent new record ‘Underworld’, I may have been a bit harsh…

‘Underworld’ is a vastly more focused prog metal record than anything Dream Theater has made in years, and it renders Symphony X a much more palatable offering straight away. From the grandeur of ‘Overture’ to the stomping ‘Nevermore’, ‘Underworld’ starts strongly and doesn’t dip over the following hour. ‘Nevermore’ is a great example of what the band do best; anthemic heavy metal with some serious musical chops underneath. It is progressive, but it doesn’t meander. It takes you into this incredible zone of soaring vocal melodies and galloping riffs that tick every box for me. ‘Underworld’ feels natural; nothing is said with more notes than required.

The highlights of this record by far are the stunning lead guitar work of Michael Romeo and the powerful vocals of Russell Allen. The former can switch between thrashing riffs, tapping solos or uber fluid melodic leads without breaking a sweat, and the latter’s voice accentuates the heavier and softer parts of each song. The almost balladry of ‘Without You’ is a good example of both, while the raging ‘Kiss of Fire’ is a true belter. ‘Underworld’ is going to be the album that makes me re-examine older Symphony X records, as it’s a seamless blend of prog, power metal and unabashed thrash in places and I don’t understand why my old self didn’t love this.

It’s difficult to imagine an album coming out this year that challenges ‘Underworld’ for sheer traditional metal power. Yeah they’ve got one of metal’s finest guitarists, and I’m sure the guitar tabs would cause many a music fan to have palpitations, but few bands can create that elusive vibe that essential, electrifying heavy metal has. ‘Underworld’ has it in spades. Be it in the spiralling progressive epic of ‘To Hell and Back’, or the Middle Eastern flourishes of ‘Charon’, Symphony X have crafted one of prog metal’s finest hours. I’m not ashamed to admit it, I love this fucking record, and you should too!

Richmond, Virginia’s own Bearstorm (cracking name) have given us their first record on Grimoire Records entitled ‘Americanus’. A rollercoaster of prog and blackened death metal fury, ‘Americanus’ is looking like being one of 2015’s most challenging albums.

Opener and longest track, ‘Glacial Relic\Riparian Forest’ flows from the speakers like the bastard child of Mastodon and Enslaved. The musicianship is top notch, each convuluted segment meshing perfectly with the next into a joyous orgasm of dissonant melodies. This channels the spirit of progressive music beautifully, almost like if Enslaved had grown up in the Deep South rather than the frozen North. There’s a sense of freedom here, a flowing crash of thunder here and there when a death metal crush arrives amid spiralling guitar lines, and a rasping vocal adds that hint of blackness. Your first eleven minutes are spent wondering how Bearstorm will top THAT.

‘De Soto’ is more death metal than the previous track, a lot heavier with a more defined style. But that doesn’t stop it aping the crush prog doom of Mastodon’s ‘Leviathan’ in parts, particularly the octopus-like drumming. Ending with a ghostly, mountain acoustic moment belies a definite country backbone lurking with this beast somewhere. ‘Little Portals to the Greater Sadness’ opens with one of the best Clutch jams that they never wrote before barrelling off into a lost Southern sludgey b-side. ‘Why We Can’t Have Nice Things’ is a choppy, blackened death romp with an insanely catchy main riff. Bearstorm suck me in with every track, each Mastodonism is perfectly meshed with more extreme moments to create something rather special.

Bearstorm’s ‘Americanus’ is like a glacial relic. It is like a young black/death metal band came across Mastodon’s uber riff/jagged melodies formula in 2004 and said, ‘this is what we want to do’. ‘Americanus’ is glorious in its adventurous spirit, raw in its delivery and full of great music. This is a band that are gonna be huge