Tag Archives: progressive

The Ciem Show – Lifelike Scenes [Review]

When thinking of what the term “progressive” means in the metal world in 2011, it doesn’t really mean that the music it is attached to is really progressive, but rather that it fits into a certain sound or style loaded with technical proficiency. Bands like Dream Theater and Symphony X could be considered part of the reason for this. Some bands, however, are looking to atone for this watered-down meaning of the “progressive” label in metal.

Enter The Ciem Show and their 2010 release Lifelike Scenes. Sonically, the album might be able to find its home right alongside Dream Theater and Symphony X, but I’d be lying if I said that was the whole story. This album floats around through all sorts of metal styles; from the djent intro of “Scene II: Evolution Sickness: i. Existing Without Being / ii. Being Without Existing” to the melodically difficult “Scene V: Effects of Somnambulism” The Ciem Show aren’t afraid of mixing in whatever inspires them to their music.

Doom metal, power metal, heavy metal, djent: it’s all here in Lifelike Scenes. You even get a really good taste of the virtuosic playing that many prog-heads have come to love from their genre. The solo towards the end of “Scene VI: Theme for Lost Children” is fantastic, floating between jazz melodies and the heart-wrenching melodies found in some of the more somber heavy metal ballads.

There are really only two faults of Lifelike Scenes. First, the mixing makes it a bit difficult to hear and appreciate the intricacy of each of the instrumental layers on many of the songs. There are multiple instances on the album where the bass just becomes lost in the mix. The second is that the album just feels a bit short for a prog album, clocking in at only 36 minutes (seven songs).

Even considering the albums couple shortcomings, it’s still a great listen and worth checking out if you’re looking for some solid prog metal. You can pick the album up for free from The Ciem Show’s Bandcamp page. Let’s be serious, since you can get it for free, there’s no reason not to listen to it.

For fans of: Ayreon, Dream Theater, Symphony X

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Mastodon – Crack the Skye [Review]

Crack the Skye is the fifth full-length release from Georgian Heavy/Progressive metallers Mastodon. This being their fourth release with Relapse Records. Crack the Skye was released globally on March 24.

Mastodon crack the skye album cover

It’s hard to find words that haven’t already been said about a Mastodon album this far, but Crack the Skye has presented listeners with an even more broad and lofty soundscape to enjoy and talk about that simply commands something new to be said. Having given many listens to each of Mastodon’s previous albums, Crack the Skye is not very surprising in terms of the direction, or the sound really, but the presentation and quality are simply beyond measure. Even the most simple and minute sounds on this album act like monoliths of sound.

Seemingly borrowing a bits of post-rock and post-metal styles, there is a lot of atmospheric textures on this album, “The Czar” showing the more prominent examples of this. They maintain this style without forgoing the Mastodon sound so familiar from Blood Mountain and Leviathan. The more coarse vocal approach has taken a bit of a back seat this time however. Mastodon also have many more angular, “twangy” guitar riffs, like those found in excess on Blood Mountain.

As always, Mastodon are technically brilliant with their instruments, most impressively – Brann Dailor on the skins. Using a veritable cornucopia of rhythms, time signatures, fills, etc. he really shows what it means to be a great metal (and even jazz) drummer. If there was ever a doubt in someone’s mind of the skill level of the members of Mastodon, this album should quite adequately quell the negative comments.

There is no doubt in my mind that this album (and band) will go down to be one of the most important metal acts in this decade. With remarkably well written, played, produced, etc. music Mastodon are bringing back a much needed prestige to the American metal scene. Where Americans were frowned upon for breeding the cancer that was Nu Metal, we have started to now be looked upon in a different light, and this album will only solidify the fact that Americans can indeed make great and pure metal.

Track picks: “The Last Baron” and “Oblivion”

Overall Score: 10/10 devil horns

The Heaviest Matter of the Universe Awards 2008

So, I thought it might be cool if I came up with a bunch of superlatives for metal albums in ’08 to showcase more than just my top ten. So, for those who don’t know what a superlative is, you most likely had nothing to do with a high school yearbook. They’re like awards that you give to people in your class, like “class clown” or “best smile”, etc. These will be music/band related ones. I hope you enjoy!

Bests:
Vocals: Iconoclast – Heaven Shall Burn
Drumming: Planetary Duality – The Faceless
Shredding: Awaken the Dreamers – All Shall Perish
Newcomer: Relentless – Brother Von Doom
Production: Awaken the Dreamers – All Shall Perish
Lyrics: The Way of All Flesh – Gojira
Comeback: Traced in Air – Cynic
Style Change: Scream Aim Fire – Bullet for my Valentine
Name (album): Lost in the Sound of Separation – Underoath
Name (band): This is Exile – Whitechapel
Album Art: Twilight of the Thunder God – Amon Amarth
Album opener: “My Will Be Done” from The March – Unearth

Worsts
Production: Death Magnetic – Metallica
Style change: Midheaven – The Human Abstract
Lyrics: Scream Aim Fire – Bullet for my Valentine
Name (album): Love and Other Disasters – Sonic Syndicate
Name (band): Scream Aim Fire – Bullet for my Valentine
Album Art: The Incurable Tragedy – Into Eternity

Mosts
Overachieving (bad): Midheaven – The Human Abstract
Overachieving (good): We Are The Nightmare – Arsis
Controversial: All Hope is Gone – Slipknot
Brutal: This is Exile – Whitechapel
Shredding: Zero Order Phase – Jeff Loomis
Overrated: The Incurable Tragedy – Into Eternity
Disappointing: Overcome – All That Remains
Erratic: We Are The Nightmare – Arsis
Technical: obZen – Meshuggah
Surprising (bad): Overcome – All That Remains
Surprising (good): Dreamer – Haste the Day
Progressive: Traced in Air – Cyinc
Complete: Holographic Universe – Scar Symmetry

Leasts
Surprising (bad): A Sense of Purpose – In Flames
Surprising (good): Motörizer – Motörhead
Technical: Torn – Evergrey
Shredding: This is Exile – Whitechapel
Controversial: Watershed – Opeth
Progressive: Motörizer – Motörhead
Complete: Torn – Evergrey

Miscellaneous
Album of the year: Traced in Air – Cyinc
Single of the year: “Vacuity” from The Way of All Flesh – Gojira
Riff of the year: at about 1:10 of “Servants to the Night” from We Are the Nightmare – Arsis
Guitar solo of the year: at about 1:23 of “Awaken the Dreamers” from Awaken the Dreamers – All Shall Perish
Interlude of the year: “Memories of a Glass Sanctuary” from Awaken the Dreamers – All Shall Perish
Fastest: Ultra Beatdown – DragonForce
Biggest wannabe: Shogun – Trivium

So, yeah, that’s what I have come up with. Let me know how you feel! Got some you think I should add or change? I’d love to hear the criticism.

Gojira – The Way of All Flesh [Review]

The Way of All Flesh is the fourth full-length album from French band Gojira. Set to release October 13th in Europe, and October 14 in the United States. This is their second release on world-wide label Prosthetic Records, the third with French label Listenable.

Gojira the Way of All Flesh

First of all, I just want to say that this is a band that does not get the recognition it deserves. I really hope that this album will serve to change that.

The Way of All Flesh seems to have picked up right where From Mars to Sirius left off, almost literally (specifically note the guitar in the opening part of “Oroborus” and the end of “Global Warming”. This is most definitely a good thing, because From Mars to Sirius was one serious progressive death metal album. From their first album on, this band has gotten noticeably better. With From Mars to Sirius being one of my favorite albums as of late, I was very excited to put this one on.

In terms of the album’s structure, there are no problems. I would not say it is a strength either. Interestingly enough, the album’s first single does not appear in the first 3/4 of the album. It is in fact the third to last track, which is something I have not personally encountered very often. The single is an interesting choice, in my mind, however. It is very much unlike most of their music, whereas a lot of their other stuff was very quick-paced, and involved a lot of speed, half of “Vacuity” is slow, and pulsing – then moves to some familiar stuff – then changes to unfamiliar territory once again. A great track all in all, but a surprising choice and placement on the album.

The two main strengths of this album are it’s consistency and strength of the individual songs. Excluding “The Way of All Flesh”, “A Sight to Behold”, and “The Silver Cord” any of the tracks on this album would have made a solid single. The non-single-worthy tracks, however, are almost essential to the album itself. Each provides a fair change of pace, and a break of the monotony that Gojira can become.

The fact that each song on the album is quite distinct is what separates it from From Mars to Sirius, which could really be the only real difference (aside from the obvious fact that the songs are not exactly the same). On From Mars to Sirius all of the songs sort of blended together after a few listens, whereas this is not the case on The Way of All Flesh.

On a more technical note, the production quality of this album is absolutely perfect. The mixes range quite differently at times, sometimes being guitar heavy such as the track “The Art of Dying” but are also very balance at times, such as the track “Esoteric Surgery”. The one thing I noticed that I really like, though some others may dislike, is the volume of the snare drum and toms. I liked the fact that they were fairly loud in the mix for almost the entire album. They have such a bright, crisp sound that adds a lot to the songs that have such a dark sound. The best example I noticed of this is in the track “Yama’s Messengers” where each snare hit is very clear and obvious in the mix, bringing attention from the constant grind of the guitar and bass drum parts.

With a fresh batch of brutal songs, Gojira has put together a very strong fourth release, and in my opinion their best to date (inches out From Mars to Sirius by a nose). While staying in-character and using slow triplets and grinding guitar sections, they have added a few small dimensions to the mix that only help make the listener appreciate the things that make up what Gojira are known for. Where the band goes from here in unknown to me, but I can almost say for certain that it will be good.

Overall score: 9/10 devil horns

Midheaven – The Human Abstract [Review]

Midheaven is the second full album from L.A. Based band The Human Abstract. The band released the album August 19 on Hopeless Records.

The Human Abstract Midheaven

To be quite honest, I had never really heard of this band until a friend suggested I review the album after I asked for suggestion.

I got the album, and feel entirely indifferent about it. The Human Abstract simply try to do too much with this album. The line between too much and not enough is a very fine one, and these guys simply disregarded that there was a line to being with. They decided when writing this that it would be a concept album, and when founding member and guitarist A.J. Minette left, things changed entirely.

Now to get down to business. The vocals on this album are absolutely incredible at times, but utter rubbish at others. The opening track of the album (“A Violent Strike”), being by far the best track in my opinion, most clearly shows the great capabilities of Nathan Ells. Sadly, however, this is the only track where he lets loose on the vocals. “Procession of the Fates” is similar in it’s vocal soundscape, but is quite clear that he pulls the reigns in from what he is capable of.

The guitar work. Oh, where to begin with this. I’ll say this first: never have I heard a more stereotypically erratic and mediocre sound. I could swear that I have heard everything on this album a million times before, and most times in a better way. Sure, they’re fast, who isn’t these days? Oh, sweeps? Everyone can do it, and most people do. If you want to become truly progressive, stop picking bits and pieces from stuff you have heard in rock and metal before, and find influence elsewhere. Now, normally I will not criticize a band for doing something that is not “new and exciting” but I will not hesitate to criticize a progressive band for not being “new and exciting”. The whole idea of being progressive is to push the boundaries, and really have your own unique style, this normally including something entirely new/different. All this album does is smash every different style they have been influenced end-to-end, and in a choppy way at that.

The real strength of this album is it’s ability to appear to a wide range of emotions and people with different tastes. As a person who enjoys a wide range of musical styles, I could appreciate the small things that work well in this album, such as the keyboard parts in “Metanoia”. The soundscape of this album really is impressive, and a bit too much at times. As with many avant-garde, progressive, and mathcore albums the skill of the musicians feels forced all too often. With the mathcore nature of the guitar parts that are used throughout the album this is almost inevitable, with mathcore being the fickle beast that it is.

All in all, I enjoyed the album because of the fronts it was able to deliver on, but it simply is not that good. Mediocre at best.

Track picks: “A Violent Strike” and “This World A Tomb”

Overall Score: 5/10 Devil horns

Into Eternity – The Incurable Tragedy [Review]

The Incurable Tragedy is the fifth studio release from Canadian Progressive/Power/Melodic death metal band Into Eternity. The release dates are: August 20 in Europe and September 2 in the US/Canada.

Into Eternity the Incurable Tragedy

At 38 minutes and 52 seconds, being 12 songs long, one could not call this a long album by any stretch of the imagination (granted, it still beats punk and grindcore albums in length). The thing is, this album doesn’t need to feel longer. It has so much going on within it, 39 minutes is plenty.

First off, I want to discuss that this is another one of those “theme albums” that you have heard so much about. I must admit, I have a soft spot for theme albums, but I am always quite skeptical. Most theme albums turn out to be boing, cheesy, cliche, etc. There are but few theme albums that turn out great [Leviathan by Mastodon is a shining example of this, themed after Moby Dick]. Into Eternity’s newest album really is none of these. It is tough to think of a metal album as a theme album if it’s theme is death, disease, etc. as this album’s theme is supposed to be. Quoting an interview with blabbermouth.net, “The incurable Tragedy was inspired by the deaths of [Tim] Roth’s two best friends, brothers who succumbed to cancer within two months of one another.” While I am not trying to take away anything from the fact that this indeed is a theme album, it would really not be too far-fetched to say that this deals with pretty normal subject matter for the genre they are in.

The second thing to address, and easily the most noticeable, is the incredible musicianship on this album. As always, Into Eternity delivers on all fronts as far as performance goes. All those long years (about 11 years now) of constant touring has really paid off in this department for the band. Each performance only gets better. Roth’s guitar work is above and beyond, and the vocals, as always, are enormous. Arguably the best vocals in the business are found in Into Eternity’s music (check out Stu Block’s wail, and tell me it doesn’t blow you away – you won’t, unless you’re lying of course). The new addition to the overwhelming musicianship are the interludes found on this album that were in very short supply on previous efforts, these interludes being the “Incurable Tragedy” series. THese are very ballad-like songs that follow the same general melody, then the weepy guitar chimes in, followed by the big vocals. These interludes are the emotion that this album needs to keep the “theme” in tact. Overall, the instrumentation is over the top and out of control in most cases. They tug on the reigns here and there just a little to keep the whole thing from just plain running away from them.

The biggest weakness of this album is quite easily it’s lack of originality. As I have discussed in previous reviews, this can be a double-edged sword. It helps some bands while it hurts others [sellout v. classic, losing fame v. evolving/improving]. In this case, it hurts the album a little bit, because the sound that Into Eternity has always had is not very cohesive, and changed pace quite often, with the pieces of each song jutting out. Trying to put together anything with this band is like having only square blocks to put into only round holes. Because they have so many influences, and play in so many styles, it gets to be a little much at times, and the dramatic and fast switch of styles and sound certainly adds to the fact. I happen to enjoy what it is they do, but it is a point in which deserves heavy criticism and notice. It is very much a love/hate point of discussion.

Because of this style, it is really tough to create a very cohesive album with your less-than-cohesive songs. Think of it in the way that grindcore is. Grindcore is typically all songs built section by section, with no real chorus or repeated sections, just stacking riffs and breakdowns end to end until it is a series of stuff that the band thinks sounds good. In a less extreme way, that is what Into Eternity’s sound is like. Because of this, the first couple of listens are sort of tough until you get used to what is going on, but then it quickly grows on you. The first instance in which I heard Into Eternity, I simply had no words to describe what I had just experience, none good nor bad – I was utterly speechless and confounded, sonically and aurally assaulted. THe more I listened, though, the more I love it.

All in all, the album is great at what it is good at, and awful at what it is not good at – typical over-the-top album style.

Track picks: “Diagnosis Terminal” and “Prelude to Woe”

Overall Score: 5/10 devil horns

I suggest you give it a listen just to experience the pure sonic power and diversity that this album brings to the table. Overall, it’s nothing spectacular, but does provide moments of excellence. It’s worth a listen for the absolutely bonkers melodic vocals, but little else.