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Saturday, July 31, 2010

Dopamine - Dying Away In The Deep Fall


The End Of A Bleak Life.

Dopamine is the Chinese post-black metal trio from China. This was Dopamine's only full-length release before splitting up. This full-length does continue in the path previous releases have as well.
Beginning this album are the subtle echoes of a clean guitar being strummed, opening this five track journey. These tracks do carry along within the same vein of the other material Dopamine released, a mix of black metal, post-rock, and shoegaze, the album seems to be the accumulation of everything the trio has ever released into a solid, full-bodied album. This full-length embodies that uniqueness that Dopamine had in their short period of existence.
The melodies on here are seem to be made much more catchy and accessible, even to people that aren't into the occasional black metal parts. The melodies themselves, while seemingly all shoegaze, still manage to draw upon some of the more intense moments of black metal during their duration, or having a clean melody played over an intense black metal section. This is something Dopamine has always been great at, having melodies that will stick in your head over time, this can be found at the beginning of almost every track on here, but especially on the centerpiece III.
Songs on here also build and fall a lot more often than on previous songs. Most do follow a format of starting clean and open and rise to an epic finally, while others do go along detours instead of straight ahead paths, hear IV. Tracks on here also are all fairly lengthy, so you do get a steady rise and not an instantaneous one.
Zhao, the vocalist and lyricist, is a member of the band that is noticeably absent from most of this album, only coming on tracks like III and V. His screams are very harsh and aggressive, and never really break into the cleaner moments of the band, only coming in the black metal sections. Despite the fact that Dopamine has never been a depressive band, his vocals do bring that sound to them a little bit.
Overall, this album is just the final drops of life that this project was able to release before dying away. Fortunately, both this full-length and everything else they released was of a high quality and did provide some of the best post-black metal/black gaze out there. If you like the depressive side of metal or the other terms of it, this should be the next thing you hear.
Overall Score: 8
Highlights: III, V

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Canvas Solaris - Irradiance


Interdimenational Shredders.

Canvas Solaris are an instrumental progressive metal group from Georgia. They formed in 2000 and since 2003, have released four successful and highly acclaimed albums. This new album continues the trend with their own brand of prog metal.
Canvas Solaris were always, in my mind, considered to be the bridge between the prog metal of Dream Theater and the instrumental fusion of Gordian Knot, mixing the heaviness of metal with the playing of jazz. This style has consistently made them a bit more accessible for the metal side of fans, who need that familiar sound to latch onto before they can really enter the jazz and fusion world. In turn, this style has become their trademark sound.
This album doesn't really offer a whole lot that hasn't been on the band's previous releases. The band manage to pull of enough shredding to appease anyone that is a guitar player, but holds down a solid songwriting ability so that it never goes into complete wankery, hear Conveyance of Flux. The foundation of both have been expanded upon with every release, and that is really where the evolution lies within the group, how much of each to really put into a song while making it somewhat listenable to someone that doesn't want lead after lead.
The above hopefully does not make you believe that this is a guitar oriented album. There's no denying that guitars will indeed by at the top of the sound, but the bass and drums are used fantastically as well. The drumming on here is fantastic, creating some very complex rhythms, not being a drummer I'm not one to say how complex a track is compared to another, but Threads of Dead Space is really tight sounding while moving around a lot. The bass playing on here is just as good, played in more of a jazz fusion manner with very audible sections throughout that are quite impressive.
The band have also tried to made albums that are able to keep your attention from start to finish by making releases diverse and having each track sound just different enough from the others to make them entertaining. Having such a different sound, the gap from metal, Glacier, to more of a fusion track, Soliton (Emergence From Dispersion), is fairly easy to see on here, tracks either staying within one, or moving from one to the other fluidly throughout their course. There are plenty of moments on here that are full-on metal, while other times the music pulls back into a drum and bass rhythm.
Overall, this is a very successful instrumental album full of diversity and excellent playing. This album shows that Canvas Solaris is still one of the most cutting edge instrumental groups out there right now. If you like instrumental progressive music, you probably already know about this band, but if you aren't aware of them, check them out.
Overall Score: 8
Highlights: The Horizon Feast On Stars, Glacier, Vapor Chasm

Friday, July 30, 2010

On The Edge of The NetherRealm - Different Realms



Slowly Walking Into Ethereal.

On The Edge of The NetherRealm is a progressive doom metal project from Russia. Created and founded by Vladimir Andreev (all instruments), this album is pretty much just him and Sethaye (vocals). This is the debut release from this project as well.
The real genre that OTETONR is gothic/doom/death metal, and that also works as well. The duo site bands like Novembre, Ecstatic Fear, Inborn Suffering, and Saturnus all as influences which can lead to either taking the duo's music as progressive doom/death or gothic tinged funeral doom. This does lead to a sound that, while still is young and still developing, is fresh and trying to do something a bit different within the doom genre.
Musically, due to the influences sited by the duo, you get a mix of extremely heavy doom riffs that do lean a bit more to the funeral doom side of the genre more than a few times, but also enough use of clean guitars, piano, and guitar harmonies to maybe make this a bit less musically dense and easier to actually listen to. The tracks on here are also fairly short, most being under 7 minutes, only one is longer than that. The songs on here actually manage to keep a decent amount of melody as well, demonstrating some proggy and intricate guitar work throughout most of the album.
The overall instrumentation of the instruments is well done. The album is decently varied, having a faster track that is almost like a melo-death song, Get The Fuck Out From Others, to more classic sounding death/doom, opener Day and Night, to even a bit of the funeral doom in the latter stages of On The Verge. Besides the excellent guitar work, the piano is also well played, adding that darker and gothic kind of morose nature to the album.
The vocals on here definitely have a funeral doom vibe to them. Most of the album's vocal delivery is performed in extremely low, guttural growls, there are some moments that do contain more baritone singing, like in , but those aren't used in most songs. If you're not a fan of those vocal styles, the vocals are low enough in the mix that you could for the most part ignore them if you wanted.
Overall, this is a solid doom album that should appease any fan of the genre. It has to be said that nothing on here is too new, not that a lot of doom ever does nowadays, but at least these guys are trying to do something with it. If you like doom, check these guys out, you'll find something on here.
Overall Score: 7
Highlights: Solitude, Rebirth, Past

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Secrets of The Third Planet - Day/Night


Earth Is But A State Of Mind.

Secrets of The Third Planet are a electronic outfit from Russia. The band started out as a solo project for Eugene Frankevich, but evolved into a full band. This is the band's debut release, and is considered a double-album with two sides, Day and Night.
While above, I did say this is an electronic band, that is not entirely the correct genre. On here, this is most definitely electronic, but it's electronic in the same way that Ulver was electronic in their "Perdition City" years. This album combines dub, ambient, post-rock, electronic, and a little bit of dance music together into odd sounding sonic scapes that range from being danceable and fun to more open and trippy.
The two sides, as weird as the fact that this album could have actually been put onto one CD is anyway, do differ sonically. The first half, Day, which contain the first six songs, are much more accessible and poppy sounding. It's not to say that these are pop songs though, because of the songs on this side are much more based instrumentally than focusing on vocals, but these songs like Blow It Down and For A Naughty Little Girl are much more danceable and upbeat. Tracks on this first half are still very textural and atmospheric at times, but are a bit less adventurous in comparison to the second half of the album.
The second half of the album, Night, is much more atmospheric, ambient, and almost post-rock at times. The tracks on this half are much shorter, but accomplish more of a soundscape oriented style instead of poppy, upbeat songs. This half is where the Ulver comparison comes in, when Ulver were in their electronic phase, the band focused on a mixture of ambient backgrounds, trip-hop beats, and elements of glitch and dub music, with the occasional guitar for extra, this is kind of what happens on here. Tracks like Look Around and 04/04(Vera) contain the more head-scratching ambient stuff that is very dream-like, yet contain enough going on, even up front, to keep your attention.
Depending on the person listening, you could like one half more than the other, for me personally though, I found the second half to be much more enjoyable. Just the open nature of the second side of the album really captures the imagination, having so much space to just let waves of sound pour through you, hear Sister Night Sea. The first half is definitely more of a thing you might hear with other people, possibly a party of something, the second is much more of a personal experience.
Overall, this is a fairly successful album for what it is, while it does have it's pit-falls, I can safely say that the majority of this album is solid. This is by no means an extreme album, but contains plenty of expansive soundscapes to keep you listening several times and finding new things. Definitely fans of Ulver should check this out, as well as if you like electronic, ambient, experimental pop, etc, this will probably be up your alley as well.
Overall Score: 8
Highlights: About, Last Dream of Munchhasen, Moon In You

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Thursday, July 29, 2010

Haken - Aquarius


Modern Prog Epic.

Haken is a progressive metal band from England. The band has become known for their guitarists being members progressive metal bands To-Mera and Linear Sphere. This is the groups full-length debut album as well.
The sound of Haken is anything but a conventional prog metal sound, sure you have elements of Dream Theater and Fates Warning in there, but also so much more. The band originally started as more of a traditional sounding progressive rock band but have evolved into more of a metal sound that still manages to hold true to the rock side as well. There are definitely some moments on here that scream bands like Genesis and Yes, but besides that, there are moments that feel like some of the quirky things you'd hear from Pain of Salvation or one of Mike Patton's projects. But like a good number of prog bands, there is plenty of each player showing off.
Each player is very varied on here as well, not just the vocals. Instrumentally, the playing can go from traditional prog noodling to Meshuggah groovy stuff to odd Mr. Bungle-esque carnival kind of melodies within the same minute. The transitions from one style to another do have to be mentioned because these guys can pull it off so well, hear the Spock's Beard gone Sonata Arctica on Aquarium. The vocals have a solid grasp of what they can do as well, going from an almost Neal Morse singing stuff to death growls, though those aren't used a whole lot on here, to more Daniel Gildenlöw (Pain of Salvation) emotive kind of vocalizations. Pretty much, if you want it, chances are it's on here somewhere.
Four of the seven tracks on this album are over ten minutes long, that should give you an idea of how much goes on within a given track. The fact that there is so much going on within just one track, and the band actually pull them all off well, makes you look at all the bands copying Dream Theater and wonder how why they all don't sound as original as these guys do. When you can have an almost power-ballad-ish type of song, Eternal Rain, followed up by possibly the heaviest track on the album, Drowning In The Flood, and make them both sound good and original, you know you've got a band that's doing something right. Even the album closer, the 17 minute Celestial Elixir, pulls together everything from spacey Pink Floyd tinged parts to heavy Dream Theater moments fantastically while never really sounding like one band in particular.
Overall, this is a fantastic debut album that has a lot for everyone to enjoy. There will be at least one thing on here that will make you want to listen to it once. If you like progressive music, check this out.
Overall Score: 9
Highlights: Streams, Sun, Celestial Elixir

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Blaze of Perdition - Towards The Blaze of Perdition



Orthodox Is Making A Comeback.

Blaze of Perdition is a black metal band from Poland. The band was used to be known simply as Perdition but changed the name in 2007. This is one of the first black metal bands, I know about, that use two vocalists.
First off here, you'll notice right off the bat that this album will not try and dazzle you or catchy your attention with outlandish melodies or other influences, this is straight black metal. The music is aggressive, atmospheric, and blaspheming; all the check marks for the early Norwegian sound. The tone on here is also very cold and disparaging, not in the way that the depressive or atmospheric sub-genres do, but the vibe throughout is very crushing.
The overall performance from the instrumental side of the band is quite standard for traditional black metal standards. When listening to this album, it can be guaranteed that you will never think to yourself, "this is pretty slow," this thing blazes forward, fortunately, despite it's aggressive nature, it never reaches the point of being too monotonous like Dark Funeral. They do what they do well enough to write some great moments, the slower parts of Alchemy of Flesh and the melodic section in the middle of Son of Dawn, but nothing really sticks out like a memorable highlight. Tracks like Kénôme and later, The Great Work, really do manage to create some good atmosphere behind the fast blast-beats and tremolo picking though, setting them apart from other songs, but not making them better.
The dual vocalists do perform well together, if you had any doubts. The two of them have styles that aren't that dissimilar from each other, with one being a bit lower than the other, but being able to perform well together. The style they both adhere to though is a tried and true blackened rasp that works well enough for what this album goes for, there are also a lot of yelling on here as well. There are some points on here where the band get into a groove and the vocals start screaming a certain way, the group just seem to bring to mind Shining, from Sweden.
It would seem like the band build up this traditional sounding style with every track leading up to the final title-track, Towards The Blaze of Perdition. This track pretty much goes against the rest of the album, being very melodic, containing a few guitar solos, and using some great vocals. Surprisingly this track managed to be the one that set itself apart from everything else on here, not being the best song, but by just being different.
Overall, this is a decent black metal record, a good listen with some good songs, but unfortunately none that are that memorable. This is something that will not blow you away with their performances, but will give you a good and solid debut album. If you like black metal, the old-school way from the early-90s, this is for you.
Overall Score: 7
Highlights: The Scarlet Woman, Son of Dawn, Towards The Blaze of Perdition

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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Kawir - To Uranus EP



A Compilation And A Half.

Kawir is a Greek pagan metal band. The band formed in 1993 and began playing a style not so dissimilar from what other black metal bands were doing back then. Like many other bands, the original line-up has not lasted throughout the many years the band has been together, leading to only guitarist Thertonax remaining from the band's beginning.
First off, this EP can really be looked at as a kind of compilation of sorts. The first three songs on here are all new while the last three come from a previous EP and a split with Sigh. It's fairly obvious when listening to the different tracks that they were done at different times as well.
Essentially, what you'll find on this release, stylistically, is a mix of pagan melodic melodies with moments of sombre acoustic and folk as well, and straightforward black metal aggressive attack.
Musically, the melodies on here play a very important role of keeping the track entertaining while the vocals are usually shrieked over the top of it, occasionally breaking into some chanting. This is pretty much the basis for the whole EP, it keeps a pretty much standard approach towards pagan metal, though coming out as one of the earliest Greek black metal bands does give it a bit more credit for keeping a less refined sound. The third track, Kourites, does esque that for a while in favor of more fluid, and audible, bass lines that make the track stand out a bit more from the opening two.
Now for the second half of this EP. The first track, really fourth, Sinn (The Blazing Queen) was taken from a split EP done with Sigh back in 1994. This track has a much darker sound with very raw production, keyboards that are mixed way too high, and vocals that sound more like the vocalist is vomiting on the mic, in some ways, this track is better than the three newer tracks. The final two tracks, Eumenides and Adored Cry of Olympus, both come from the 1994 "Eumenides" EP. Like the track that came before them, these songs too feature weaker production, but feature better song-writing, using more complex arrangements in both tracks.
Overall, this is a decent release when taken for what it is. There isn't too much that I, personally, found appealing about this EP, but others most likely will. If you're a fan of early black and pagan metal, this is something you'll probably going to want to check out.
Overall Score: 5
Highlights: Kourites, Adored Cry of Olympus

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Blut Aus Nord - What Once Was... Liber I


What Once Was The Work Which Transformed God.

Blut Aus Nord are an experimental black metal trio from France. Since their debut in 1995, the trio have consistently challenged both listeners and the genre of black metal by making some of the most uniquely dense and atmospheric music to come out in recent years. This is the first record to be released in collaboration with Debemur Morti Records, a series of records that will act as a parallel to their main body of work.
This release has been limited to vinyl and thus is meant to be something for true fans of the band. But onto more pressing things about this album, this is essentially one track spanned across both sides of the disc. The track itself does hark back towards the band's more raw and aggressive side while maintaining their trademark sense of atmosphere and weirdness.
Unlike the past few releases from the trio, this track is much more guitar and vocal oriented. The riffs hold a bigger place on this album than on releases like last years "Memoria Vetusta II: Dialogue With The Stars" or it's predecessor, though the riffs are still quite angular sounding, but no where near as avant-garde as in the band's past. The vocals are also some of the fiercest Vindsval has ever delivered, raging from pure black metal screams to what can seem like grindcore gurgles. The atmosphere and darkness is still on here though, while it's not as clearly disturbing or dense as on 2006's "MoRT," it's still quite heavy in comparison to most bands.
This album, despite it's long length, the entire thing is just over 40 minutes, could easily be divided into at least a few sub-tracks. There are a few breaks from where one section ends before it picks up again that could have been cut for separate tracks. Thinking of the album in this way might make it a bit easier to listen from start to finish. There are also several different speeds to the album which range from blast-beating black metal to sludge-like doom to also make this pretty varied.
Overall, this is another successful release from one of the most experimental bands in extreme metal today. Definitely more of a black metal release than some of their work in the previous decade, but still a great release none the less. If you like experimental black metal, you should already know about this band, check them out if you haven't already.
Overall Score: 9
Highlights: It's Only One Song

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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Black Sin - Light of Despair


Are You Are True Depressive Band If One Of Your Members Is Depressed?

Black Sin is a depressive black metal band from France. The band originally formed in 2006 as a solo project for now vocalist, then vocalist/guitarist, Berith. Since then, the project has evolved into a full band, releasing two demos before this full-length.
This band, much like a lot of bands now emerging from France's black metal scene, tries to carve out a sound for themselves that does blur the lines. Taking the recent surge of depressive/suicidal black metal and not really altering anything with it, as much as making the sound much more primal is what these guys do with their sound. Taking the raw production, winy screams and talking, and slower playing style and just giving it a bit more of a natural feel that feels a bit more rock'n'roll than other projects/bands of the same nature. It has to be said that this band is still firmly on the depressive side of the black metal realm, not really crossing into atmospheric black metal on this album yet.
Another thing that did stick out on here, more than a lot of other bands in the genre, were the vocals. The above screams and talking is still here and are persistently used, but they do feel a bit more in your face do to the more raw sounding production, and just to clear this up for any misconceptions, this is a raw sound, not a purposefully bad sound. The vocals do sound tortured and a bit more real than a lot of bands and projects similar to it where the vocals just come off as a terrible after thought.
Unfortunately, the biggest problem with this record is that most of these tracks tend to sound too similar to each other. The isn't really a huge difference in one track to another, opener Journey of Perdition ends up sounding a bit too similar to album closer Your Dark Suicide. While there are a few tracks that manage to present a different sort of vibe, K.A.H.R., most of this album seems to just have a lot of songs on repeat, luckily there are only six songs on here.
Overall, this album doesn't really present anything that is too new or worth looking into if you know about the genre already. This album is perhaps a bit more enjoyable than others, but still doesn't manage to hold much attention towards writing decent songs. If you're a fan of the genre, you might want to check this out, but otherwise, this isn't worth really listening to over and over.
Overall Score: 4.5
Highlights: Suicidal True Black Metal, K.A.H.R.

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MLP - Reclaiming Glory



Shredder Unknown.

MLP, or Mike Leslie Project, is the solo project of California based musician of the same name. This is his first solo release and includes a unique take on progressive music in modern day metal. Desite being a fairly older musician, his style of creating and releasing music is up to modern day standards of downloading.
Like many newer artists coming out these days, this is an instrumental guitar based album. The sound is very unlike many newer bands, this album could best be described as progressive shred folk metal. Influences for Leslie's playing style include greats like Steve Vai and Joe Satriani as well as groups like Led Zeppelin and Dream Theater. Thus the style of this album can be determined as a shredding record with plenty of progressive twists and turns.
The metal side of the band is obvious with almost every track on here showing an heavy, distorted guitar in it. The sound of songs though are quite different, Reclaiming Glory, the title-track, is based upon a thrash riff and A Conflict of Interest is pretty much a prog song from beginning to end. The variation of metal styles does manage to come through a lot easier, unfortunately, than the folk side of the project.
The folk element of this album comes mainly in the melodies. Tracks like Release and the title-track contain folk undertones underneath guitar solos for the most part, a track like Walking In Aberdeen retains more of the acoustic natured styles of folk. The more acoustic side of the project's sound really does bring a different element towards what would otherwise be a regular shredder releasing an album that is too self-indulgent.
Overall, this is a decent release that has some great playing on it, if a little self-indulgent at times. The heavier side of the project are probably what most people will be drawn to, but the folk side, when fully embraced, is much more satisfying. If you like progressive or folk music, check this out.
Overall Score: 7
Highlights: In The Wings, A Conflict of Interest, Mary & Genevieve

Here Is Where You Can Download His Album:
http://mlpsymphony.bandcamp.com/album/reclaiming-glory

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Monday, July 26, 2010

Avenged Sevenfold - Nightmare


Modern Rock Radio Goes Prog.

Avenged Sevenfold is a hard rock/heavy metal band from California. The band garnered mainstream success after their 2005 album, "City of Evil," was released. The band has remained a steady line-up since 2002, but this is the first album after the tragic death of their drummer late last year.
After 2007's self-titled record, "Avenged Sevenfold," which had some critics believing that the sound on that album was a bit too eclectic and not focused enough, the band began work on what would become a then-concept album. The band themselves had stated that it would be both their darkest and most epic album yet. Until the death of their drummer, The Rev, the band had been recording the album with little to no problems. After a few months of recuperating, the band recruited legendary Dream Theater drummer, Mike Portnoy, to record the drums and tour with them for a while to support the album.
Despite whatever opinions over the choice of the drummer, performance, or whatever, this album shows the band at what could be their peak of songwriting. On this album, the band pull off both their heaviest and their softest songs easily as well as retaining the sound they've created on the last two records. Every member on here isn't pulling any punches, with guitar solos being even more varied than before, using both shredding but also very melodic and soulful ones as well. M. Shadow's vocals have evolved at lot from how they started a definite improvement is immediate, a shift from the winy clean singing he did on "City of Evil" has now transformed into a great croon. Even the bass on here is fully heard and stands out from time to time. The Rev even comes in during the track Fiction on vocals, giving the track a very otherworldly feeling to it, which already has a more theatrical vibe to it, almost 70s during it's bridge.
Tracks like Welcome to The Family and Victim show both stellar musicianship, but also great hooks in the choruses that are sticky bubblegum pop worthy. The heaviness of God Hates Us shows the band at their heaviest yet, bringing more of a death metal style performance as well the the return of growling into the band. Tracks like So Far Away show more of a ballad side of the band using more melancholic and mournful acoustics in favor of electric.
The band also take the eclectic nature of their last album and refocus that almost scatter-brain genre hopping nature into more progressive songs. Buried Alive has been said to be the band's Fade to Black, and it can be agreed upon that it does indeed share a similar nature of building from softer electric guitar lines into a heavy thrash ending. The full-blown ballad Tonight The World Dies is done acoustically but still shows a great amount of variety using both a lap-steel guitar and some more atmospheric chanting in the background, almost giving it a Pink Floyd vibe at certain points.
The album climax comes during the final track, Save Me, an eleven minute epic. This track obviously shows the band at their most progressive and diverse, moving through their signature sound through bits of black metal, prog rock, and thrash. This can said easily that this is the band's most epic song that is sure to turn heads from those that have even chosen to disregard the band.
Overall, this is a fantastic album that has ups and downs and can proudly be proclaimed is a progressive album. This can be an album that the band should know is a fitting tribute to their fallen drummer that does stand tall. If you like progressive, catchy, and somewhat more classic take on metal, this is something you should check out.
Overall Score: 9.5
Highlights: Every Song Is A Highlight

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Gravdal - Torturmantra



Experience Your Own Pain.

Gravdal is a black metal band from Norway. The band originally began in 2005 as a studio project, the then trio decided to make the band more of a full-time experience. Once a five-piece line-up was formed, the band released their 2008 debut "Sadist" to glowing reviews.
First off, I have not heard this band's debut record, so I can't really make a lot of comparisons to it before listening to this one. From the opening onward, this album delivers some strikingly powerful black metal, one that manages to dip it's feet into more than a few sub-genres along the way. The main sound is certainly black metal, blasphemous and anti-Christian from start to finish, but having enough diversity to keep it both interesting and uniquely different from bands that play the genre straight.
Throughout this nine track affair, the bands sound, as stated above is black metal, but with a lot of other forms of the genre coming into the mix as well. The blend of the very straight and aggressive core of the band with both melody, Slave, progressive, Mishandlet, and atmospheric, Pulsen Vakler, elements does make this entire album a bit more interesting to hear entirely. That's not to say that there aren't moments of pure aggressive black metal, the title-track, Torturmantra, is a track full of hateful and agonizing straight black metal.
Mishandlet in particular is a stand-out on this album. The track features Niklas Kvarforth (Shining) on lead vocals, delivering his uniquely twisted style of vocals as always. While that in itself might mike the track stand out on it's own, the music on that track is a bit different, moving from sombre and melancholic clean tones into heavy riffing throughout it's course several times. The track features an excellent guitar solo as well as some very dynamic twin guitar harmonies near the end of the track.
Overall, this is an album that was very enjoyable and had a lot of great guitar playing. While this is nothing that's breaking new ground for black metal, the performances are great. If you're a fan of black or extreme metal, this is a must for this year.
Overall Score: 8
Highlights: Hydrestund I Helvete, Mishandlet, Klastrert Pa Ambolt

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Sunday, July 25, 2010

Conqueror - Madame Zelle



Neo Italy Or Neo Italia.

Conqueror is a progressive rock group from Italy. Though the band formed back in the early 90s, they were not able to release their debut until 2003 due to line-up changes. This is ultimately their fourth album and is their first full-on concept record.
Though being very proggy, the real style of Conqueror's sound is more jazz fusion of the late 60s and 70s. There is a heavy use of keyboard and synthesizer throughout the album, bringing in a lot of that retro vibe. The use of both a mellotron and more modern synthe sounds does provide a bit more variety for those that tire of the mellotron. The few times that a piano does come into a song, it is usually the highlight of where it is, such as in the climax of the album closer, Ad Occhi Alti.
The guitars are not as up front as a lot of other bands, remaining farther back with the bass. Despite the more synthe heavy sound, the guitar playing is executed very well, not really overplaying or underplaying, but allowing the bass, vocals, and keys to have a more up front role in the sound. There are more than a few times when the guitar does come up for a breath of air, so to speak, and has it's moment of maybe stretching it's musical muscles beyond a more simplistic backing sort of role, hear tracks like Indonesia or heavy riffs that come up in Fascino Proibito.
Besides the guitars, synthe, bass, and drums, the use of both flutes and saxophones are used as well. Within ever building instrumental sections they will emerge from a haze and illuminate and capture everything else behind it and take center stage. The flute in particular manages to create lead melodies for several tracks. Though the sax is beautifully played, both on here and on other albums, it unfortunately does not hold the same sort of melodic sense that the flute holds.
What really made this album such an interesting listen is that more often than not within almost every song on here, the band get about half way or so into a somewhat structured piece of music, then just go off onto a musical tangent. I know what most people reading this are probably thinking right now, isn't that what progressive rock, metal, whatever does anyway, the answer is yes, I do realize that, but the way the band can go from an almost ballad type of song into a pure and almost jam band vibe is still entertaining, H 21. The movements from more simplistic sythe melodies and rhythmic patterns into more jazzy and psychedelic passages are just fantastic, really adding meat to simple beans and potatoes, if you catch my drift.
Overall, this is a really great jazz rock album that contains almost everything a fan of the genre could want in an album. Full of melodic vocals, that never stay around too long, they weren't really anything worth mentioning, and fantastic playing on all ends. If you're a fan of 70's rock, jazz, fusion, the like, or are into it of any era really, this is definitely where you want your ears to be.
Overall Score: 8.5
Highlights: Margaretha, Fascino Proibito, Da Sola

Prins Thomas - Prins Thomas



Thought Provoking Instrumental Pop (Is That A Real Tag?).

Prins Thomas is a Norwegian producer. He is best known for his collaboration work with Hans-Peter Lindstrøm, which included two full-length and a record of remixes and unreleased tracks. His influences include 70s krautrock, psychedelic, and progressive rock and mix together with his love for disco to create what is described as "space disco."
Being Thomas' first solo release, this album contains a bit of everything one would assume is in his musical taste. Tracks include various styles being accumulated together including the progressive and psyche rock along with dance and electronic music like techno, disco, and ambient, there are also inclusions of bits of R&B and funk on here as well. The diverse musical combinations really do make this a very eclectic album that is both heady and fun to dance along with. There are also many throwback moments on here as well, Wendy Not Walter is probably one of the biggest, retaining a major use of disco music.
There will be a lot of people that won't say this is an album that has a lot of hooks due to the eclectic nature of the music, but there are plenty of catchy melodies that float around, hear Uggebugg. Melodies that come from the tradition of R&B and dance music make this plenty melodic and danceable to people that would otherwise call this a bit too heady, and that's a part of this as well. Every track on here could be heard inside of a dance club, whether it's during the build up or the cool down, there are songs for both.
Just because this thing is plenty danceable and hooks doesn't mean it wouldn't be a good listen for fans of IDM, due to the ambient and 70's rock influence, this record does get a bit spacey and open at times, Slangemusikk, this track in particular has an almost Hawkwind vibe. Most tracks on here are longer than most dance tracks probably should be, most ranging in the 8 to 10 minute range. There are, despite being danceable, more than a few moments on here that wouldn't feel out of place in a jazz club.
Overall, this is one of the best electronic based records I've heard all year. Full of upbeat soundscapes that are both entertaining to the body and the mind. If you like electronic music, this is a must for this year.
Overall Score: 8.5
Highlights: Slangemusikk, Sauerkraut, Nattonsket

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Saturday, July 24, 2010

Halo of The Sun/The Arm and Sword of A Bastard God/Gnaw Their Tongues/The Slaughtered Lamb - In Hoc Signo Vinces

Modern Doom Is A Four Way Split.

Halo of The Sun is an ambient black metal project from the UK. Formed by Brooke Johnson (Ein), vocalist/guitarist of UK futuristic black metallers The Axis of Perdition, this is his first release since 2007's "Ghosts" EP. Halo of The Sun only contributed one track to this split.
The track contributed, Fenriz, is a blistering storm of ambient black metal. The song is almost 9 minutes long and moves through phases of intense aggression as well as more restrained tension. While progressing through it's course, a use more melody keeps certain riffs returning while also allowing the song to build to an ultimate climax by using riffs that are slower, distorted clean vocals, and different atmospheres that shift throughout the entirety of the track. When the track finally moves into it's final minutes, an almost blissful state emerges within the track, bringing in a more tranquil sort of atmosphere that opens the track up.
The Arm and Sword of A Bastard God is a doom metal band from California. Formed in 2003, the band have since release a demo and a previous split with the Japanese doom trio Coffins. This split comes with an unreleased track from that split session.
The song in question is titled GutterMotherCreator. This track retains a much more raw and primal sound to it that the other tracks don't really have. The instrumental portion of the band keep things extremely slowed down playing a hypnotizing groove that just puts you into a state of trance when listening to it. Despite being as raw as they are, every instrument is heard very clearly throughout, from the low bass grooves to the dirge-like riffs from the guitar to the pounding drums. The vocals are extremely low growls that just hammer you in over and over with intense aggression only brought out further by the slow music backing them.
Gnaw Their Tongues is an experimental noise/black metal project from the Netherlands. Formed by a man that goes by the name of Mories, who creates, performs, and records everything himself, as well as the artwork. His releases date back to 2006 and have kept a consistent amount of releases each year that come into the dozens thanks to full-lengths, EPs, splits, demos, and singles.
GTT contributed two tracks to this split. The first track is titled Crawl. This track opens with an extremely cavernous sound with heavily distorted vocals that just blast you in the face. Throughout the track, repetitious drones slither and only add to the overall dark mood that this track sets, and really any track Mories has put out. The second track, Paleness, contains the same cavernous sound but has a more horror cinematic vibe to it thanks in part to the use of a more symphonic approach. This track is certainly not as aggressive as the previous one was, but is much darker.
The Slaughtered Lamb is a blackened doom project from California. This release is actually their second, following up a 2008 EP titled "Path of Ashen Bone." They contribute the longest track on this split as well as the shortest.
The first, and shortest, track contributed from this duo is called The Blood Guild, the song is really more drone, trudging along with no percussion, simply noise, guitar or bass drones, and distorted vocals. The second track is really where these guys shine, in a 26 minute drone titled Hands and Head Not Found. This track is much quieter and builds a lot more into it's final conclusion. The drone is fairly consistent, not breaking into a really loud part, but having noises play over it.
Overall, this is a good split that really demonstrates some bands and projects that are pushing doom further. Using drones, noises, ambiance, or whatever to push the genre forward is what can be expected from these artists. If you're into interesting doom and black metal, this is worth checking out.
Overall Score: 8
Highlights: Fenriz, The Blood Guild

Nightpray - Dreamocracy

Currently Listening To A Dream Theater.

Nightpray is an avant-garde/symphonic black metal band from Romania. The project band was originally formed back in 2002 as the project Subway Night Orchestra. After several releases from that project and a short EP under the title of Nightpay in 2006, a real band was formed and released a debut full-length early in 2008.
After a short intro track, Lights Out, the band proceed to move into an equally dark and ominous sounding track, Stars On The Run. This track doesn't sum up the entire album, but serves as an almost precursor to what is to come. Since the band began as a project that did produce soundtracks for graphic exhibitions, the sound of this record is obviously going to have a much different sort of vibe to it than if it was a metal band coming to a more ambient sound. The songs on here most certainly contain a black metal sound, but it flirts so much with symphonic, real orchestral music, not the background or epic sounding style, shoegaze, and post-rock.
The sound, from a metal stand point, on this record is very different from a typical black metal sound. Riffs on here do carry that same sort of atmosphere that the genre intended, but besides the occasional tremolo riff and harmony, the riffs are much more angular and progressive sounding. The melodies are also a bit more left of center, not being the clearest to put together but are quite catchy, hear the one in the track Falling, which is strangely melodic but extremely odd sounding.
Songs on here range from pure strange, mainly the interlude, Intermission. Learning to Feel Less, and the intro to melodically pleasing and unique, Shadow's Apartment, and everything in between. The dissonance within some tracks counterpoints the ones that are much more harmonious and melodic and that, ultimately, is what makes this album so different from others within it's genre. Within every odd instrumental, there must also be an equally odd voice to accompany it, and in this case, the odd voice is just that odd, ranging from the sound commonly associated with the depressive scene to almost nonsensical ramblings, Eulogy In Croak Flat.
Overall, this is an obscure, avant-garde, post-progressive, black metal album that is just weird. Comparisons could be made to the avant-garde side of symphonic black metal like Pensées Nocturnes or Dødkvlt, but there is plenty of Solefald and Fluerty in here as well. Totally left of center, if you're into that kind of bizarreness, check this album out.
Overall Score: 8
Highlights: September Highways, The Long Distance Passenger's Anthem, How Many Days, How Many Fairytales

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Friday, July 23, 2010

Tenebrae In Perpetuum/Krohm - Split


One of These Two Is Done With Their Projects, Can You Guess?

Tenebrae In Perpetuum is a black metal trio/project from Italy. Formed back in 2001 by Atratus (aka. Frozen Glare Smara), who also formed blackened doom project Beatrìk 3 years prior. The sound achieved on the 3 full-lengths that were released before this split followed in the vein of what is considered by some as Burzum worship.
The three songs that are put on here by PIN are definitely in that Burzum style that he has come to use throughout his recordings. The sound is raw, melancholic, and atmospheric all at once, using harsh distorted to create a wall of sound around what is, for the most part, either doom riffs or tremolo black metal picking. The atmospherics, it has to be said, have been something that TIP has always excelled at, while on the surface there isn't all that much different to those on here as any other band trying to do this style, the first wave of depressive black metal, but below that is a sense of true bleakness and despair.
The creation of this project was originally to create the feeling and vibes of the early 90's black metal bands, and while Burzum is the one that comes up the most, for good reason, there has been plenty of early Emperor, Mayhem, and Gorgoroth in there as well. The fury and aggression that once pervaded their sound gave way to melancholic and depressing melodies that slowed everything down to standstill. Atmospheres always kept the same darkness present, no matter how fast of slow a track progressed, and managed to set in a tension while listening, something a lot of bands really aren't capable of, almost as if you, the listener, were struggling to fight something deep inside you from coming to the surface. This is ultimately what made this band so special among the first wave of depressive black metal.


Krohm is a blackened doom metal band from (originally) Connecticut. Formed by Numinas to create the bleakest and most depressing music he possibly could. Before this split, the last thing to be released by this project was 2007's "The Haunting Presence" album.
The three songs from Krohm on this split trace a similar line of intense atmospheric black metal that trudges along slowly building. The different being that Krohm is much more atmospheric than TIP, having heavy ambiances on top of crushing distortion, on both the guitars and spoken words. Having said that, the guitar melodies on here build up on top of each other, like in The Black Bridge, where over simple guitar riffs, a lead riff is played in one speaker and a different riff is played in the other below it creating a very unique sound.
Being another band from the first wave of depressive black metal, Krohm have a sound like no other, being so atmospherically dense sounding while still retaining an aggressive edge has made them a band that has influenced many in the genre. Whether the song in question is slow, fast, melodic, or ambient, the overall vibe of the song is always the same. Emotion is also something that comes through within all of Krohm's music, sounding just raw enough to maintain a personal element within a song, but never spiraling into oblivion and emotional breakdowns.
Overall, this split does accomplish showcasing some of the best bands/projects within the genre, and show that they still have the same talent for crafting depressing music. Even though one of these two groups is splitting up, the music left behind still has a lasting mark. This is definitely a fine release, if you're a fan of the first wave of dbm, this is something that should be high on your list to check out.
Overall Score: 7.5
Highlights: III, The Black Bridge

Tenebrae In Perpetuum

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Krohm

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The Black Stymphalian - Digression EP



Jeff Loomis Didn't Lie About This Guy.

The Black Stymphalian is a solo project of guitarist/producer Jaymz Stephenson. The idea with this project was to explore his diverse taste in music that ranged from extreme metal to industrial and electronic music. On this album, Jaymz recruited 5 different singer from all over the world to sing on top of his songs.
The guitars on here, obviously being a guitar player, are really the focus of this record. The easiest comparison for one to compare this project to would have to be Nevermore, the guitar playing is technical but also melodic enough for the vocals to have their place. The guitar playing is on par with that of Jeff Loomis' and is no wonder that Jaymz won the Shred Like Jeff Loomis contest. There are also enough solos for any guitar player to freak out over as well, because if you can shred, why not showcase it, just listen to the one in Where Strong Become Weak for a prime example.
But besides being a great guitarist, the songs on here demonstrate an ability for writing in multiple styles, while all of them feature a somewhat technical thrash vibe akin to that of Nevermore, while tracks like Deadlock (The Fall of Angels) show a bit more leaning towards death metal, the epic, Falling Into Darkness, has far more in common with Dream Theater than extreme metal. The final track, The Watcher, even goes into the mellower territory for it's first half, something that should definitely be explored further in the future with this project.
Overall, this is yet another very promising start to what should become a long career. This album features everything that a metal guitar player loves and enough vocal variety to also entertain those not drawn to it by just instrumental prowess. If you like progressive extreme metal, this is something that you should definitely check out.
Overall Score: 8
Highlights: Falling Into Darkness, The Watcher

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Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Dreaming Tree - Progress Has No Patience


Sing-Song-Sing-Along Rock.

The Dreaming Tree are a progressive pop/rock from the UK. The band formed back in 2003 with influences from both Spock's Beard to Bob Dylan with the goal to create dynamic, quirky music. This is the band's second full-length album following up their more unknown first release.
As soon as the opening track, Silence Won't Steal, you realize these guys have come up with a win for a sound selection. The band carefully weave proggy and well-played instrumental music around vocals that aren't the greatest out there, but know how to sing a tune and craft excellent melodies. There is an even balance between good musicianship and good songwriting on here that really makes the song on this album succeed.
The band manage to keep a good, solid sound that keeps a pop sensibility throughout the entire album, but do flirt, obviously being a prog group, with some other genres as well. The shortest song on here, Arcadia, takes a bit of a heavy 70s rock kind of vibe, being one of the most direct songs on the album. Love & The Heart on the other hand definitely has a bit of a Steely Dan vibe on it, containing just enough jazz touches to make it interesting, but ultimately very danceable and funky sounding. Slender Versions of The Truth goes a bit more avant-prog compared to the rest of the album's almost AOR version of prog, but also pulls off one of the best vocal melodies on the album.
The musicianship, as stated above, is great at keeping things diverse as well as melodic and proggy. Touches within genres like jazz, funk, hard rock, and 70's psyche rock make this album interesting as well as different. A lot of this album isn't heavy in the modern sense of the word, no song on here really gets into a metal guitar sound, but is a lot better than some bands coming out recently in metal, or any other genre for that matter, one of the heaviest tracks on here is You The One, containing a heavier guitar sound and some nice mellotron.
Overall, this record contains some very catchy songs that have great musicianship as well. This isn't anything that long time fans of the prog genre will likely be surprised by, but this is one of the catchiest prog records I've heard in a long time. If you like prog in any way, this is worth checking out.
Overall Score: 8.5
Highlights: Love & The Heart, Mount, Whisper Song

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