Archive for progressive metal

Prog Promulgation 3 – Dark Prog

Posted in Devil Doll, prog promulgation, progressive rock with tags , , , , , , , , , on June 20, 2010 by GRAMPS Pantheon

Note: Prog is often called ‘pretentious.’ Thus, so are our personas. Although on the surface this may seem overtly insulting towards most musical genres, we only wish to immerse the reader in the pretentious lifestyle of prog. The music is still fantastic and necessary, and the pretention is (usually) meant with good humor.

On this issue’s journey into the depths of prog rock, the Red Barron presents to you a few darker, more macabre gems from the genre.  Be warned: as with all prog rock, these albums take patience to truly appreciate, but are well worth the effort.  Dark and moody soundscapes do not always please the ears of the general public.  However, you, fellow prog addicts, are not part of the plebian masses.  Dedicated listening will unveil the true beauty of these somber listening experiences.

Virgin Black is perhaps best known in the doom metal scene, but the progressiveness of the band’s music cannot be denied.  Currently finishing up the third part of their three album Requiem, the group has blatantly displayed its penchant for the Romantic era of classical music.  It is perhaps on their first album, Sombre Romantic, where the group’s progressivism and dark beauty can be most appreciated.  The album is survey of depression; while each track experiments with different genres, they all retain a sinister and dark mood, largely due to Rowan London’s fantastic operatic vocals.  While the experimentations with darkwave (‘Walk Without Limbs’), black metal (‘I Sleep with the Emperor’), and goth (‘Of Your Beauty’) are all spectacular, the eight minute epic ‘Museum of Iscariot’ is without doubt the highlight of the album.  London is so emotive that listeners can truly feel his gut-wrenching agony, and Samantha Escarbe’s guitar solo is one of the best in doom.   If you aren’t crying too much at the end of the album, be sure to check out the rest of their catalogue as well; while not as progressive, it is required listening for fans of symphonic metal or doom.

On a much more underappreciated note, we present Devil Doll.  Devil Doll is lead by the enigmatic Mr. Doctor, whose identity remains unknown.  The ‘Man of 1000 Voices’ presents an eerie and frightening atmosphere in The Sacrilege of Fatal Arms, one of his several magnum opuses.  If you, prog acolyte, have the intellect and will to listen through its 79 minute length, you will certainly be rewarded with one of the most intense and dark journeys in all of prog.   Truly, the masterpiece as whole is not comparable to anything else in music.  Orchestral marches, drowned out by frenzied shouting and political speeches, are interspersed between flat-out rock sections, complete with the howls and operatic singing of Mr. Doctor.  Still other portions of the track resemble German symphonies, where mournful violins, delicate keys and haunting whispers swirl around the listener like mist.  Each minute drags the listener down further into Mr. Doctor’s psychotic and warped mind, leaving one breathless and emotionally drained by the album’s end.  Although it is difficult to predict or comprehend at first, Devil Doll’s music is quite listenable, and holds up extremely well after repeated listening experiences.  Much like Virgin Black, the whole of the group’s discography is full of dark surprises and sublime tracks, so continue to listen on after you have become addicted.

Don’t be too scared, fellow listeners.  While Brother B and the Red Barron can stand it, we realize that this stuff can be difficult for the petite ears of others.  Persevere, and you too will become entranced with the darker side of prog.

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Sigh – ‘Scenes From Hell’ Review

Posted in album review, avant-garde, black metal with tags , , , , , , , , , , on June 4, 2010 by GRAMPS Pantheon

With each album, Sigh has consistently shown their listeners that they will never be pigeonholed into a specific genre.  While the origins of their music are rooted in black metal, orchestral, jazz, and avant-garde influences are also present.  Imaginary Sonicscape was a bizarre trip through a psychedelic atmosphere.  Gallows Gallery, the band’s foray into melodic metal, proved that they could retain a high level of musicianship and varied influences while creating songs that were instantly catchy and accessible.  With 2007’s Hangman’s Hymn, Sigh incorporated a large amount of orchestral influences, resulting in a highly symphonic and intriguing listen.  However, for the first time, Sigh overdid it.  The tracks themselves were fantastic, but long orchestral breaks made the album a chore to listen to.

Enter Scenes from Hell.  For the first time, Sigh does not completely reinvent themselves.  Rather, they have taken the winning formula from Hangman’s Hymn and stripped the filler from it, resulting in a cohesive and wildly enjoyable album.  The orchestral influences are back and more prevalent than ever, but the band has truly perfected their incorporation into the song structure.  Unlike other symphonic bands, who simply write metal songs and layer violins and trumpets over the riffs, Sigh make the orchestral atmosphere an integral part of the music.  Saxophone solos follow guitar solos, loud trumpets punctuate heavy passages, and violins and keys mingle with distorted riffs and blast beats.  Never have classical instruments sounded so normal in metal.

Don’t worry, Sigh have not lost their avant-garde side.  ‘Normal’ does not mean that you have heard this before.  ‘Prelude to the Oracle’ opens the album with a thrash riff, quickly bombarding the listener with a chorus of trumpets.  Songs run the gamut from intense blackened thrash to slow, doomy dirges, such as the exceptional ‘Funeral’ songs in the center of the album.  Of course, Mirai’s trademark howls and keys are backed up by Shinichi’s furious guitar shredding, but Scenes from Hell also boasts the addition of saxophonist and vocalist Dr. Mikannibal.  Her deep growls and solos, especially on ‘Musica in Tempora Belli’ add a new dimension to Sigh’s music.

Despite excellent song structures, insanely catchy melodies, and a new level of orchestration and experimentation, Scenes from Hell is not Sigh’s best album.  It remains a blast to listen to after repeated listens, unlike its predecessor, Hangman’s Hymn.  However, the production is strangely muddy – the bass is inaudible, more or less, and the guitars occasionally sound as if they were recorded underwater.  Considering Sigh’s popularity and the quality of the production on previous albums (Gallows Gallery notwithstanding), this is bizarre.  And, while it’s great to hear the band perfect the style that they dabbled in on the previous album, it is somewhat disappointing.  In today’s metal scene, with two-bit metalcore acts and ‘bedroom black metal’, it is always refreshing to find bands like Ulver and Sigh who constantly reinvent themselves and progress.

Even with poor production and a lack of progression, this is certainly one of the best albums of 2010 thus far.   Sigh’s brilliant combination of blackened metal with symphonic elements is one of the best that has been recorded, and is not to be missed.  While no one can predict what Mirai and crew will come up with next, it is fair to say that, considering their track record thus far, it will certainly be another monumental landmark in the evolution of black metal.

Adam

Nachtmystium Album Teaser – “No Funeral”

Posted in Nachtmystium, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on April 22, 2010 by GRAMPS Pantheon

For the last few albums, Nachtmystium has somehow managed to embrace their influences of psychedelic and post-rock without totally abandoning their black metal roots. Enter “No Funeral,” their newly released track. With a synthesizer lick that is literally endless, grizzly black metal vocals, and industrial metal tendencies, “No Funeral” is one hell of a track. If this is any indicator of how fantastic Nachtmystium’s new album “Addicts: Black Meddle II” is going to be, then this June will be a fine time to be a Nachtmystium fan. – Cameron Davis

Click Here to Listen to “No Funeral”

Interview with Cynic

Posted in Cynic, interview, metal interview with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 6, 2010 by GRAMPS Pantheon

Paul Masvidal is the founding member and vocalist/guitarist of the progressive metal band Cynic.  Since the inception of Cynic in 1987, Paul has been fusing the influence of his eclectic taste in music with his obvious musical talents to push the boundaries of metal music.  Max performed an interview with him to gain more insight into Cynic’s sound.

Courtesy of Gibson.com

I’m here with Paul from Cynic.  We’re at the Chicago leg of Cynic’s tour with Devin Townsend, Between the Buried and Me, and Scale the Summit.  On both of your albums, Traced in Air and Focus, you make use of that vocoder, pseudo-alien voice.  Is there a certain feel you’re going for when you use that voice?

Yeah.  I think originally the decision to do that back in the day was that I was insecure as a singer.  It was a combination of feeling that I didn’t really like how my natural voice sounded and could hide behind this alien voice.  But also, it ended up making a lot of sense once we got into it.  It added this sci-fi, kinda modern quality to the music and the whole vibe that worked.  I didn’t want a traditional melodic voice.  I was thinking of something just…different, but I didn’t know what that was.  And then over the years, since Focus and [moving] into Traced in Air and through numerous other projects, I think I learned how to essentially sing and found my voice.  So, the Traced in Air voice became like a 50% human, 50% android thing.  And it seems like it’s going more and more human.  We just did an EP and I did it all clean vocals.  So, it’s just kinda morphing.  But I think there is a trademark-y quality to that voice that’s part of Cynic’s sound.  It’ll always kinda be integrated, it’s just a question of how much.  Because on the first record there’s no human, it’s just completely android.  Which at times is cool, but it’s limiting if you really want to sing.  Because the technology isn’t there yet where, if you really kinda get into it, it doesn’t track great, y’know.  Especially in a live context.  So, I’m kinda trying to find that middle ground where I can still touch on that color and have that vibe going but also be able to free it up and have a more organic voice too.


-You mentioned that your new EP is all clean vocals.  Are you finding then that you’ll eventual move towards purely human vocals on all of your future recordings?

Yeah, who knows?  I mean, it’s funny that although there’s this human voice happening on the new stuff [the EP], it’s like…sci-fi/prog/folk.  It still sounds really modern and interesting.  But I think it has to do with the melodies and harmonies.  You start realizing that it’s the vibe vs. just an effect.  It’s almost like you don’t want to rely on the effect for anything.  The music has got to feel that way first.  But I dont know, we’ll see.  I’m sure there’ll still be some of it, it’s just that it’s one of those things that keeps evolving.  I find that I’m refining it constantly.  But it is kinda part of Cynic’s thing, it’s just figuring out how it works in the context of new material.


So, with both of Cynic’s albums you guys used Robert Venosa for the artwork.  Does his artwork mirror the subject matter of the lyrics and/or the music itself?

Well, since I was an adolescent, I’ve kinda been obsessed with Venosa.  I used to buy postcards and posters of his work from a little esoteric bookstore where I grew up on Miami.  And, it was one of those things where it just resonated with me.  It made a lot of sense what he’s doing.  It’s like one of those artists that you see their work and you just connect with it immediately; it just speaks to you.  I’d had that feeling with him since I was really young.  So, when we finally got signed to Roadrunner in the early 90s, we basically had an option to get artwork.  So, I contacted his publisher and they said to just call him directly, which I was shocked about because I thought he was some dude that like lived 100 years ago or something.  I didn’t even know he was a human, it was just really trippy.  It turned out that he was this really sweet guy who turned into this mentor, kinda friend for me.  To this day, we talk regularly and have a good friendship.  I almost feel like I’ve been trying to capture what he’s doing in his paintings sonically from day one.  How do I get it to sound like this? What this looks like, what this feels like. Y’know? (laughs) To me, it’s all the same thing really.  It’s just a different form.  The expression is the same.  Yeah, there is just some innate connection that’s really deep with Venosa that feels really pure.  And that’s why we go to it, it just kinda resonates.

Are you spiritual in any way?  On the newer album you include mantras and “om”s. Does this reflect your personal beliefs and convictions?

Since the Focus days, I’ve been actively meditating.  Just kinda, doing the work.  Trying to unearth all of the monsters and look at them and befriend them.  And at the same time, kind of just understand who I am and who we are in the greater sense…as a planet, as a species and then getting beyond that, just as a collective really.  I’ve been on the path a long time.  I would say Buddhism has definitely been the route for about 10 years now.  Yeah, it’s really kinda one of those things where as an artist your lyrics are an extension of your life and what you do.  It seems like if Traced in Air is more an earth-human struggle concept vs the first album when I was really new to all the stuff and I was really young and more innocent.  It seems like it’s gotten more intense and real in terms of what I’m getting at.  I’m getting closer to the core of something.  But, it never ends.  We’re on this journey forever or at least as long as we’re alive here.  It’s not about getting anywhere, it’s just about showing up for what’s happening.  So, that’s kinda the trick I think.  Just being present, being here.

-A somewhat less intense question now.  What have you been listening to as of late?  And what are some of your overall favorite artists?

God, I’m all over the place.  I’m a huge Radiohead fan.  I like this kinda slowcore group that I discovered recently from Iceland called múm.  They’re really great.  I also like Mew, another cool group.  Sigur Rós.  I like a lot of experimental stuff, in terms of poppier styles.  Fusion and Jazz, like the guitar player Ben Monder of New York, Pat Metheny, Allan Holdsworth, a lot of fusion guys.  I guess I haven’t been too keen on a lot of metal lately.  It just seems like it’s been more experimental rock.  We’ve been there for a long time.  It’s funny how we listen to a bunch of different stuff, but somehow the music comes out pretty heavy.  But I think it makes for more original and interesting music because you’re pulling from many different reference points.


-I was here last year when you guys played with Meshuggah.  The Cynic fans were of course very receptive, but there were a few Meshuggah fans heckling you.  Being that you guys are so different and diverse, does that happen a lot?  What goes through your head when something like that occurs?

Well, it’s funny because the little bit that may happen these days is nothing compared to what we experienced when we first started.  When you’re touring with a group like Cannibal Corpse in the early 90s, that was rough man.  Especially with this music, it was like no one got it.  It’s like what’re you guys doing, man?  This is not cool.  Clean parts?  Melodic vocals?  I mean, we even had a chick growling and playing keyboards.  And there were just no women in the scene, you know (laughs).  So, the whole thing was breaking all the rules in a sense.  I think in these extreme genres, you’re gonna get people that are fixed and don’t want to see things differently.  They just want to see things the way they imagine them to be.  I think the last time that happened, when I even heard them, because I usually don’t even hear them since there’s so much going on, I think I just said: someone give that person a hug.  You know?  They just want to be heard.  It’s like the class clown saying “pay attention to me!!!”  It’s kind of one of those things that I don’t take personally, it has nothing to do with us really.  It’s their stuff you know? (laughs)  I pretty much ignore it most of the time.

-It seems like people just don’t like to see music progress sometimes.

Yeah, I think it’s hard for people to be challenged a lot of times.  When you see an artist that’s maybe leaving the boundaries of what you’re familiar with.  It’s just not comfortable for some people.  Like, “Wait, that’s not cool.  You can’t act this way.  This genre should be this way!”  Which is really everything that we’re against.  We’ve always been about pushing the envelope and leaving the safety zones.  I think that’s the duty of any artist.  We’re here to bring something new to the table, it’s too easy to rip people off.    But, I think it’s one of those things where everyone has their own journey and process and we’re just trying to be on ours, regardless.


Two Mini-Reviews – Ihsahn “After” and Fear Factory “Mechanize”

Posted in album review, avant-garde, black metal, Fear Factory, Ihsahn, Industrial Metal, metal reviews, progressive black metal, progressive metal with tags , , , , , , , , on March 22, 2010 by GRAMPS Pantheon

Ihsahn – After

Ihsahn, Emperor (R.I.P.) frontman and guitarist extraordinary, completes his magnificent solo album trilogy with his finest opus, After. His previous solo efforts, The Adversary and angL, feel relatively standard. After, with a little help from an eight-string guitar and saxophonist Jørgen Munkeby, feels like a tour de force in comparison. The black metal torrent that is “A Grave Inversed” not only shows Ihsahn’s ability to bend eight-string guitars to his will, but also showcases the fantastic free-form jazz saxophone present through out the album. In “Austere,”  Ihsahn presents some truly refreshing Deep Purple-sounding organ synth that is so deserving of his name. Finally, the vocal chorus in “Heavens Black Sea” brings to mind stoic, tormented angel chanting that literally sends a shiver down my spine. If you’re into all things “Kvlt” or “Tr00,” this album is definitely not for you. If you like bands that break the rules and make their own in the process, I highly recommend you add this masterpiece to your collection. – Cameron Davis


Fear Factory – Mechanize

If you are one of the Fear Factory fans who, like me, was left feeling betrayed by the band’s most recent breakup and reformation; get over it.  It becomes obvious before you even finish the first track on this album that everything has worked out for the best.  On this album, Fear Factory manages to recapture the sheer intensity and brutality of their older works without sacrificing the musicality found on the more recent “Transgression” and “Archetype”.  And, while not particularly innovative, “Mechanize” is easily the closest that Fear Factory has ever come to perfecting their unique brand of Industrial Metal.  -Matt Neri

Between the Buried and Me – “The Great Misdirect” review

Posted in album review, avant-garde, between the buried and me, metal reviews, metalcore, prog reviews, progressive metal, progressive rock with tags , , , , , , , on March 18, 2010 by GRAMPS Pantheon

With their magnum opus, Colors, Between the Buried and Me stretched the already distorted limits of progressive music. This included the insertion of many conflicting musical genres into one continuous album. The Great Misdirect picks up where Colors left off, but takes the sporadic passages and streamlines them into a transcending record. The band’s eclectic style makes the transitions seem very cohesive. The Great Misdirect is a transcendent experience, the majority of the album examining the mind and our own human perception.

Although not extremely technical, “Mirrors” opens the album by creating a preparatory listening experience. The listener is able to relate to their own existence through the calming mood created.  “Obfuscation” relays the overall theme of the album with these lyrics; “As humans we could never be content with knowing all, yet we can’t be content with the fact that our brains will never know.” Throughout the entire album, the band exhibits a knack for creating haunting vibes of mind control (“Disease, Injury, Madness”), questions of existence, and even UFOs (“Fossil Genera- A Feed from Cloud Mountain”).

Musically, the greatest evolution can be heard through Blake Richardson, the drummer. Prior to recording, Blake had been collaborating and working with Dream Theater virtuoso Mike Portnoy. That being said, Blake stays true to the heavy side of BTBAM by pounding out barrages of brutal drumming. Picking up from where he left off in Colors, bassist Dan Briggs plays with an enormous amount of talent and emotion, and should be considered one of the premier young bassists on today’s scene. Tommy Rogers is not the exclusive vocalist on the album. Guitarist Paul Waggoner’s takes the lead on vocals for “Desert of Song,” which is the low point of the album in my opinion. The 18-minute closing epic, “Swim to the Moon,” features Chuck Johnson, light tech and merch coordinator for the band.

Overall, Between the Buried and Me continue to exemplify the progressive label by adapting with each album and constantly reworking their personal goals as musicians. The Great Misdirect is a chilling, magnificent representation of what the band is capable of doing musically and lyrically. Though everyone may not approve of the eclectic shifts present in the latest albums from the band, BTBAM brings something new to the table with each release. One can only hope they continue down the road paved by Colors and The Great Misdirect.Matt Karow