Argos are one of the most British sounding bands you will ever hear. The only issue is that they are German! But they have a sound that reminds me of bands like Van der Graaf Generator and Nektar. At least that’s from a musically perspective. Vocally singer Robert Gozon has more in common with the “proper” stylings of XTC’s Colin Moulding. While I do like his voice, it can be a little to “up scale” sounding to me.
I think many people won’t might it at all since it’s a rather common delivery in prog, especially Britprog. Musically, the band are rooted in 70s prog rather than the 80s neo prog scene. There are more big sweeping moments than technical moments. This is not to say Argos aren’t quite technical. Rather they are more inclined to play something to suit the song rather than themselves.
“The Hunter’s Last Stand” makes for a very strong start, that showcases the band’s playing and their ability to arrange their music as well. It has a bit of funk to it, you know the kind that often found its way into classic prog. Then it slowly opens up into a majestic track. “Parade of Unpainted Dreams” is a boppy track which reminds me even more of old XTC, beyond that of the vocals.
“Beneath The Valley Of Sleep” is not a favorite, mostly due to the repetitive lyrics and rather iffy vocals. Gozon doesn’t quite have the range to pull this off well. Bassist and band leader Thomas Klarmann steps to the mic for “Shock Headed Peter” and has a voice very similar in delivery to Bozon. Not sure why he is on vocals because his voice is even weaker. The track is a tad boring as well and sounds too much like “Parade of Unpainted Dreams.”
“Elsewhere” has the melodic start that works well before yielding to some VERY nice solos. It proves that you can accomplish a lot in less than 5 minutes. And what prog album would be complete without a 19 minute epic closing track? “When The Tide Comes In” is that epic. Again, the problem is the over politeness of the vocals and the seemingly tentative playing by the band. Thilo Brauss gives a great performance on keys however.
Overall, “Unidentified Dying Objects” is just an okay album that falls well short of impressing me. Granted my standards for prog rock might be a little bit high at times. Still, bands such as Argos are aplenty and there are better options to be found. If you do live and die with ALL prog, perhaps this album will have enough to satisfy you.
On paper, the self titled debut by Galasphere 347 should be amazing. The band features members of White Willow, Henry Fool, Änglagård, The Tim Bowness band, Weserbandland and Necromonkey. But none of that matters, does it? The question is how good is the music?
Well there are only three tracks so the album has the blueprint of classic 70s prog. The keys are all old school plus there’s some flute. But the performances around all that are lacking. Vocally, Stephen James Bennett just isn’t strong enough. Music like this deserves power and he just doesn’t have it. Lyrically, it’s not terribly interesting either. He reminds me a bit of Tim Bowness and to be fair, I think Bowness wouldn’t fit this band either.
Drummer Mattias Olsson of Änglagård can certainly PLAY and yet on the opener “The Voice of Beauty Drowned” in particular, he sounds out of sync with the music around him. This sounds more like 4 different musicians than an actual band. The saving grace on every track is keyboardist Ketil Vestrum Einarsen who seems to have plenty of solos and sounds at his disposal. Plus his flute is stellar as well.
But none of the three tracks are compelling. It’s fairly generic symphonic prog with the occasional fireworks display in the middle. I’ve heard it before and I’ve heard it better too. Even the mix by Andy Jackson does little to impress. This is very safe and dull; two words that I do not like in my prog rock.
1. The Voice of Beauty Drowned
2. The Fallen Angel
3. Barbarella’s lover
So, this is a release that came out last December in Japan but is just now getting a wide release to the rest of the world. Not sure why, given the fairly strong following the show it is based on has in other parts of the world. I guess that is an assumption. But seeing as how it is based on an anime, I guess it does make sense. I’m sure most Epica fans have already heard this or bought it, but for those that haven’t, here we go:
What you have here is an EP of four songs based off of the anime Attack on Titan. I, personally, haven’t gotten around to watching it yet so can’t speak to that part. But I did listen to the tracks I could find of the originals online to see how these covers stack up. A little surprised to find that the originals sound like they were written with Epica in mind. So it really makes sense that the band would cover these if they were going to cover anything. I watched the videos on the background for this EP and found it a little humorous when the band talked about reworking the songs for the Epica sound as the songs already sounded like Epica wrote them. Guess it made the job that much easier.
We start off with Crimson Bow and Arrow, which is already released as a single. Check it out below. This is pure Epica but doesn’t really do anything different from what they have done in the past. I could do without the Inception style “Woooommmmpppp!” at the beginning. At this point it has been so overused in movie trailers and a lot of trailer music releases in general. Thought it was cool the first time I heard it, but now it just tires me. The growls add a little something extra here over the original.
Next up, Wings of Freedom, is another rocking Epica track. I love Simone’s voice and she does a fantastic job as usual, but the growls help this one get to that next level here. But man… there is a voiceover that has a pound of melted Velveeta poured over it. Makes me cringe a little bit.
I’m not sure what to do with If Inside These Walls Was A House. It has a god awful Full-on Disney/Broadway show tune start that makes me cringe, again, every time I hear it. The full band kicks in half way through and that helps some. The chorus at this point is really good. Thankfully, there is an instrumental version of this song on this release as well, which I much prefer. Never thought I would say that about a song sung by Simone. But this isn’t her fault. Some out there may like it, but it’s not for me. And this coming from someone who loves the Phantasma release, The Deviant Hearts.
Finally, we have a fast paced rocker in Dedicate Your Heart!. Another great Epica tune with a fantastic use of the choir. This one edges out the others as my favorite on this EP.
The same four songs are delivered again in instrumental versions (with choir) to close things out. Enjoyed listening to these. But sadly, the cheddar voiceover appears again in the instrumental version of Wings of Freedom. Oh well.
If you are an Epica fan, as I am (I loved The Holographic Principle as well as their back catalogue), this is one you should have in your collection. As well as for anyone who is a fan of the show for which it is based. For others, if you haven’t listened to Epica before… maybe start with The Holographic Principle or Design Your Universe.
If this EP were just the four main tracks, I would probably rate it about a 7-7.5. But as it stands, I think it is a solid 8.
1. “Crimson Bow and Arrow” 5:42
2. “Wings of Freedom” 5:34
3. “If Inside These Walls Was a House” 3:43
4. “Dedicate Your Heart!” 5:40
5. “Crimson Bow and Arrow” (instrumental version) 5:42
6. “Wings of Freedom” (instrumental version) 5:33
7. “If Inside These Walls Was a House” (instrumental version) 3:43
8. “Dedicate Your Heart!” (instrumental version) 5:40
It’s another Sue Review of an instrumental album, with yet another approach, this one being one of classical sort, with a touch of modern minimalism. But it is not a stuffy affair by any means.
Many of the keyboard players in progressive rock are rooted in the classical style, so, to me, albums like “Suite For Piano And Electronics” seem to be a natural extension as a listening option for a prog rock fan.
Matt Baber is the keyboardist in the band Sanguine Hum, and Suite For Piano And Electronics is his first official solo release. The works contained in the album sometimes use loops and electronic elements, other tracks contain solo piano.
The electronic components bring with them moments of surprise, which, in my case, helped me stay engaged with the music. Part 5 is an upbeat piece, where layers of piano weave together. This is my favorite track on the album. Part 1 puts those electronic elements into play with the piano, add an interesting texture to the overall sound of the piece.
Overall the album is relaxing and peaceful but still an engaging listen. As the album plays I am aware of the care put towards both the music and the production. There’s clear sound and the placement of the instrumentation is balanced.
“Suite For Piano And Electronics” is wonderful choice if you are looking to expand your musical universe.
1. Part 1
2. Part 2
3. Part 3
4. Part 4
5. Part 5
6. Part 6
7. Part 7
8. Part 8
9. Part 9
10. Part 10
Matt Baber – Piano, synthesisers, sequencers, sound processing.
I wrote a review for “Automata I” when it was released so I won’t go into any of the details of the songs from that review. With the release of “Automata II,” we now have the full album as it was intended to be released by the band. To be clear, this botched release is thanks to the shitheads at Sumerian Records. They split “Automata” into 2 EPs in an effort to cash in on their newly signed band, Between the Buried and Me.
When I got the promo (yesterday), the first thing I noticed was that the file names had numbers to start them: 7 thru 10. So yes this was initially one album and when you listen to this half, it’s obvious to any BTBAM fan. “The Proverbial Bellow” starts things off and while it’s fucking incredible, it’s clearly not meant to be an opening track. When you listen to it after the track “Blot” (from part I), it’s all the more powerful. Insanely powerful.
“Voice of Trespass” kicks things up another notch. The horns and the overall arrangement effectively marry “Colors” with “Coma Ecliptic.” THIS is a song that sums up just how talented BTBAM are and is a song you can play for anyone who claims the band isn’t prog. The closer to “Automata” is “The Grid” which has a riff that reminds me of Rush for whatever reason. KILLER riff! And the song works perfectly as the closing track, something “Blot” was not supposed to be.
Now that “Automata” is fully released, we can appreciate it as BTBAM wrote and recorded it to be. And it is as good as ANYTHING they have done. Quite honestly, “Automata” is staggeringly great. Of course it’s greatness just makes me all the more angry at Sumerian for fucking up the release just to line their pockets. BTBAM and “Automata” deserve better than that crap label. But I’ll get over that because it’s all about the music and dammit if it isn’t a perfect album.
Rating: Automata II incomplete
Full Album Rating: 10/10
1. Condemned to the Gallows
2. House Organ
3. Yellow Eyes
5. Gold Distance
7. The Proverbial Bellow
9. Voice of Trespass
10. The Grid
There are certain bands that I know I can count on to deliver a quality album every time out. Obscura is one of those bands. Over the years, they have gotten better at what they do and it’s been a gradual process. What do Obscura do? It’s some of the most technical, progressive death metal ever. And over those years, members have come and gone but throughout it all leader Steffen Kummerer has kept the band always on course.
Their last album “Akróasis” was arguably their finest to date. Following the release of that album guitarist Tom Geldschläger was fired and Rafael Trujillo was hired. So now with this lineup in place, the band return with “Diluvium.” And like previous albums, this new one is full of tightly arranged, well played MEMORABLE prog death metal. Kummerer knows what he is doing and he never disappoints.
A major key to this album is the incredible fretless bass work of Linus Klausenitzer, who is also in the band Alkaloid with former Obscura members, Christian Muenzner and Hannes Grossmann. I’ve mentioned consistency and really the only fault I have with “Diluvium” is that it’s not BETTER than “Akróasis.” Having said that, with music as complex as this, it’s hard to commit to something like that after hearing this album far less than the previous one.
Panzerballet drummer Sebastian Lanser returns once again and as I’ve said many times, a band is only as good as their drummer and he is amazing. With his jazz metal background and Klausenitzer’s style, Obscura have a slight jazz lean to what they do. “Diluvium” takes full advantage of that.
One thing is clear however, Obscura fans will not be disappointed. The album starts off with “Clandestine Stars” which is 3 and a half minutes of classic Obscura. It’s punch in the face. From there, the next two tracks are along the same lines: heavy and technical. While those are certainly key components of the band’s style, it’s when they incorporate the element of dynamics that things get really interesting. “Mortification of the Vulgar Sun” and “Convergence” are two great examples of the band using all of their weapons and because of that, they are two of my favorite tracks.
“Ekpyrosis” is another one to look out for. It proves that Obscura are indeed progressive. While the album ends VERY strongly with “An Epilogue to Infinity” and the ethereal “A Last Farewell,” it does lack the longer epic that “Akróasis” had. This is by no means a big deal but if you are going to show me that you CAN do a longer track like that, well I am just going to want that again! “Diluvium” is yet another great album by a truly groundbreaking band in Obscura. Subtlety be damned, this one is designed to destroy you.
1. Clandestine Stars
2. Emergent Evolution
4. Mortification of the Vulgar Sun
5. Ethereal Skies
8. The Seventh Aeon
9. The Conjuration
10. An Epilogue to Infinity
11. A Last Farewell
Well… here we are. The band whose debut album was my top release of 2016 has returned! Southern Empire introduce their sophomore effort and they definitely ramped up the epicness this go around. It clocks in at 4 tracks and just a tad over 68 minutes. Yep… So we can check off the “track length” box of the prog criteria right there. But before we go digging into the rest of what makes up this great album, let’s dig into the band just a bit in case you aren’t familiar with them.
Sean Timms (Keyboards, Vocals, Sax, and Lap Steel Guitar) formed the band sometime around 2013 or so and paired up with lead Vocalist/Guitarist Danny Lopresto, present and accounted for on this second album as well! Also returning are Cam Blokland (guitars/vocals), Jez Martin (bass/vocals), and Brody Green (drums/vocals). That’s a lot of vocals! And they use them! And joining the band on this new album is Steve Unruh from Samurai of Prog, playing violin and some flute in various places.
Starting us off, Danny is really trying to find a diamond… or maybe Cam is (as he primarily wrote this one). Goliath’s Moon documents that loss. Back are the catchy hooks and harmonies that defined the first album as well as some rocking prog to boot. Not really sure why the first verse is repeated right off the bat. Found that a little odd but no biggie. This is the shortest song on the album and a great rocking tune. We are treated to some of those cool, syncopated (I think that is what they are called. Layered anyway) vocals that Spock’s Beard and, I’m told, Gentle Giant, made famous. Famous to me, at least.
Up next is one of the epics on the album (really though… 4 tracks in just under 70 minutes… aren’t they all epics in some form?), hovering around the 20 minute mark, Cries for the Lonely. Steve Unruh shows up here to lay down some Kansas like violin solos with some flute. Along with a breakdown reminscent of Short Skirt/Long Jacket by Cake (Theme from the Chuck tv show) and some meaty, soulful guitar solos to see us through to the end.
Has time been rewritten?
Or is time running out?
The end of the ages
Weighs heavy with doubt
Do we bring upon ourselves?
And then we hit THE epic. An almost 30 minute beast. Travel is a big theme on The Crossroads and we go through many musical styles over the course of this track. It is a beast of a song, indeed. And worth every minute of your time. After my 6th pass on this and it still hasn’t gotten old.
We close things up with Innocence & Fortune. These guys know how to do a chorus: full of harmony and melody. Another fantastic guitar solo followed by some classical keys, ala Rick Wakeman. I heard from Sean that this song has its roots in two Doctor Who episodes from Season 9: Heaven Sent and Hell Bent. Very cool. Haven’t seen them yet, but definitely plan on doing so to get a better feel for the song’s meaning.
Overall, this is a fantastic album. I feel the Epic would have been better suited at the end as a closer (just going on the way each song ends) but that doesn’t detract from the quality of the music here.
Another great, epic album from down under! Definitely listen with the headphones on first go around if you can. There is a lot going on here and it deserves your attention. And if you haven’t picked up their first one yet, you need to do yourself a favor and do so!
Recommended if you like: Transatlantic.
Did I mention epic?
Note: The release date is July 20th, though it seems some retailers already have it and are shipping them now.
Note Note: The band is touring the UK this November.
There’s just something special about bands from Iceland. Could be cooincidence but I love bands like Agent Fresco, Sólstafir, Árstíðir and Sigur Rós. Another band that’s been on that list is Kontinuum. I first found them when I reviewed their last album, “Kyrr.” That one was right up my alley. It’s that dark, moody prog in the vein of Katatonia, The Chant and Sólstafir.
So it’s been a little over three years since “Kyrr” and Kontinuum return with their third album, “No Need for Reason.” One change on the new album is that instead of splitting the lyrics of the songs between English and Icelandic, “No Need for Reason” is their first all English album. While I never minded the bilingual nature of their music, this will allow them to potentially reach a larger audience. That’s a good thing.
The band have switched labels as well, going from Candlelight Records to Season of Mist. Musically, “No Need for Reason” is still very much a mix of post rock and dark prog with some Gothic undertones. So what if Katatonia had a thing for The Mission rather than The Cure. “Shivers” kicks off the album perfectly. A haunting guitar line leads to a drive rock riff. Kontinuum have a knack for melody and atmosphere which is one reason why I love them.
“Lifelust” has a nice, fuzzy bass line over a floating melody and an insistent chorus. The album has great song after great song. “Warm Blood” has a Mission vibe to it while Neuron is like ambient rock for lack of a better term. The title track is as close to a ballad as Kontinuum can muster, another solid track.
“Erotica” is another favorite as it shows that Kontinuum can rock out a bit, but they never lose their heads in the process. “Two Moons” is another one that fans of Katatonia should enjoy. Kontinuum might not be as depressed as Jonas and company are/were, but they certainly understand melancholy and its power. “No Need for Reason” is another beautifully dark, somber piece of work from Kontinuum. Hopefully it puts them in the same breath as all of the other great Icelandic bands I’ve mentioned. Based on this album, they have certainly earned it.
3. Warm Blood
5. No Need to Reason
6. Low Road
9. Two Moons
10. Black Feather
Celebrating their 35th anniversary this year, Canadian progressive sci-fi metal innovators VOIVOD are pleased to announce a release date of September 21st, 2018 for their upcoming new studio album “The Wake” via Century Media Records worldwide.
“The Wake”, the highly anticipated successor to 2013’s “Target Earth” album as well as the 2016 mini-album “Post Society”, was recorded and mixed by Francis Perron at RadicArt Recording Studio in Canada. The album‘s artwork was once again created by VOIVOD drummer Michel “Away” Langevin and can be seen above.
VOIVOD guitarist Daniel “Chewy“ Mongrain” checked in with the following comment: “It is with great enthusiasm and pride that we will soon share with you the fruit of 2 years of labor in the form of an intricate, intense and colorful journey with our new album ‘The Wake’, expanding the boundaries of VOIVOD’s multiverse!”
The album’s track-listing reads as follows:
VOIVOD – “The Wake”:
1. Obsolete Beings
2. The End Of Dormancy
3. Orb Confusion
5. Spherical Perspective
6. Event Horizon
7. Always Moving
8. Sonic Mycelium
The first single off “The Wake” is expected for release on July 20th.
VOIVOD’s first European touring run in support of “The Wake” will feature the following rotating support acts: Maggot Heart (from 7th until 16th Sept), Nightrage (from 18th until 26th Sept) and Bio-Cancer (from 28th Sept until 20th Oct). Here is a list of all dates:
VOIVOD – European Tour 2018:
07.09.2018 Prague (Czech Republic) – Futurum *
08.09.2018 Poznan (Poland) – U Bazyla *
09.09.2018 Warsaw (Poland) – Hydrozagadka *
10.09.2018 Krakow (Poland) – Kwadrat *
11.09.2018 Bratislava (Slovakia) – Randal Club *
13.09.2018 Cluj-Napoca (Romania) – Flying Circus Pub *
14.09.2018 Belgrade (Serbia) – Elektropionir *
15.09.2018 Budapest (Hungary) – Durer Kert *
16.09.2018 Vienna (Austria) – Szene *
18.09.2018 Bologna (Italy) – Locomotiv **
19.09.2018 Rome (Italy) – Largo **
20.09.2018 Milan (Italy) – Santeria **
21.09.2018 Winterthur (Switzerland) – Gaswerk **
22.09.2018 Seyssinet Pariset (France) – Ilyade **
24.09.2018 Barcelona (Spain) – Boveda **
25.09.2018 Madrid (Spain) – Nazca **
26.09.2018 Porto (Portugal) – Hard Club **
28.09.2018 Marseille (France) – Jas’ Rod ***
29.09.2018 Paris (France) – Petit Bain ***
30.09.2018 Nantes (France) – Ferrailleur ***
02.10.2018 Southampton (UK) – The Joiners ***
03.10.2018 Cardiff (UK) – The Globe ***
04.10.2018 Leeds (UK) – Temple Of Boom ***
05.10.2018 Glasgow (UK) – Cathouse ***
06.10.2018 Manchester (UK) – Rebellion ***
07.10.2018 London (UK) – Underworld ***
09.10.2018 Brussels (Belgium) – Magasin 4 ***
10.10.2018 Amstelveen (The Netherlands) – P60 ***
11.10.2018 Eindhoven (The Netherlands) – Dynamo ***
12.10.2018 Cologne (Germany) – Luxor ***
13.10.2018 Hamburg (Germany) – Logo ***
14.10.2018 Copenhagen (Denmark) – Pumpehuset ***
15.10.2018 Stockholm (Sweden) – Klubb Nalen ***
17.10.2018 Helsinki (Finland) – Tavastia ***
18.10.2018 Tampere (Finland) – Klubi ***
20.10.2018 Oslo (Norway) – John Dee ***
* Maggot Heart (from 7th until 16th Sept)
** Nightrage (from 18th until 26th Sept)
*** Bio-Cancer (from 28th Sept until 20th Oct)
VOIVOD drummer Michel “Away” Langevin commented on the upcoming European tour as follows: “We are thrilled to visit our friends in Europe once again in September and October, and it will be a great occasion for us to test songs from our upcoming album,“The Wake“.“
Previously, VOIVOD will also appear at selected festivals in North America as follows:
Israel’s Distorted Harmony started out as a more straight up prog metal outfit with very obvious Dream Theater influences. They released their debut album “Utopia” for free and garnered much attention. When it came time for the second album, the band shifted their style away from the longer epic tracks and distilled their sound to a more “modern” prog sound. “Chain Reaction” was more song focused and definitely a bold move.
Now, Distorted Harmony is back with “A Way Out” and they’ve added two new guitarists as well. Guy Landau is out and both Amit Plaschkes and Yoel Genin are in. So once again, the band shifts their sound which is bound to happen when you change guitarist. “A Way Out” fully embraces djent while keeping a trace of their old school prog metal roots. Unfortunately for me, it doesn’t work.
For starters, the overuse of electronics and stuttering guitars has gotten to be cliche. Too many bands are doing the same damn thing. Now you can add Distorted Harmony to that list. The electronics are of the ticking, beeping kind that drive me nuts. They are fucking everywhere too. And the riffs are all over the place. They will take a standard thick djent riff and then shift to a standard riff and back again. The problem is that it just doesn’t quite transition well and sounds awkward.
Vocalist Michael Rose sounds good for the most part but decides to mix in a harsh vocal line here and there. I don’t mind harsh vocals but these seem so random that they sound forced. It sounds like they are trying to be more modern metal versus do what they do best. By the time the breakdown (metalcore) happens in “We are Free,” I am rather disappointed.
Bands definitely should evolve and progress. The problem is that Distorted Harmony are forcing it. They are attempting to mix Haken, Vola and even some DT into their music and in the process lose whatever originality and cohesiveness they had. The album does have some good moments though. “Downfall” is a solid opening track and “Time and Time Again” sounds like they used to sound.
Overall, “A Way Out” is a very sterile, synthetic sounding album that could use more tracks like the aforementioned “Time and Time Again,” “For Ester” or moments like the end of “Puppet on Strings.” Instead, the album feels like a band trying to fit into the current djent, modern metal scene rather than blaze their own unique path. Still, because of that many people will still find it quite enjoyable.
2. Room 11
5. Puppet on Strings
6. For Ester
8. A Way Out of Here
9. Time and Time Again
10. We Are Free