Evergrey – Interview 2016 – “We’re getting stronger and stronger, every day”

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Read my review here: Evergrey – The Storm Within

When you have a job and a young family, it can be tough to get out of the house sometimes, even if it is to just nip to the shops briefly. So you can imagine that it is almost impossible to get an entire evening off. However, when you are summoned to London by your favourite band to undertake an interview, you have to try. And you have to succeed. And so, late in the afternoon, I found myself heading towards the capital, in direct contrast to the 4th birthday party that I’d attended earlier as part of my ‘Daddy Daycare’ responsibilities. It’s the way I roll.

Knowing that I was running late, I abandoned the car, got on the tube and headed to Russell Square eventually arriving in a sweaty mess. The unmistakable shapes of Tom Englund and Jonas Ekdahl could be seen through the windows, enjoying a quiet chat on the hotel patio. The greeting is warm from Jonas, but I’m gathered in a bear hug from Tom who, since our last meeting even, has somewhat unbelievably become a closer friend. You ask why I do this writing for no monetary reward? This. This is why.

After the usual pleasantries have been exchanged and beers have been delivered to the table, we get down to business. I begin by asking the guys whether their present outlook is as positive as it was around the release of the highly-lauded ‘Hymns For The Broken’. Tom is first to reply and his response is emphatic.

“Yeah, for sure”, he nods. “Better. Now that we have had the amount of time that we have had in between those albums, our confidence as individual players and as a band has increased. We feel strong, we feel confident and we feel respected too which is an important part of feeling great.”

“Fuck no”, Tom fires back with brutal honesty when I enquire as to whether this confidence has always been present within the Evergrey camp. “I would say that it has been 20 years of self-doubt up until the last album. Even then we doubted if we were good enough to come back to do another album. You second guess yourself so much in this business, it wears you down. But it also makes you stronger. When things are going great, then you are the strongest person on Earth. But when things start to fall, then it’s just shit.”

The softly spoken and articulate Jonas adds his first thoughts of the conversation at this point.

“Especially nowadays”, he offers, whilst I silently admit to being jealous of the guy’s hair. “Because it is so easy to get a hold of your stuff on line, with all this social media stuff and people writing about you or your music. It’s like heaven or hell, highs and lows. So you have to be careful what you take in from that. You have to know yourself and that you are good at something, no matter what people say. Even if they think you are the best in the world or the worst in the world.”

“You can read 400 comments”, Tom agrees with his percussionist colleague, “where people say that you are genius, a God , gifted or the best band in the world. But then you get this one comment that says you are shit. For me, it is a matter of me being bullied when I was a kid. These comments stick to me immediately, so I don’t look. When we put the video online the other day, I didn’t look at the comments. I just saw how many views we had. It’s not good for me.”

This is a response that resonates deeply with me. I too suffer with self-confidence and mental fragility, often lacking the self-belief that what I’m doing is either the right thing or any good. Therefore, when I receive any kind of negativity, I tend to take it to heart. To know that I’m not alone in this is more than a little comforting.

“I’m trying to be better at it”, Tom continues. “I don’t care if people say that they don’t like it. That’s fine. But when people are stupid, unintelligent and say things because they want to hurt people, then it makes me want to tear them to pieces in text…but I don’t.”

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I remember speaking with Tom and Johan Niemann around the release of ‘Hymns For The Broken’ and the return of Jonas Ekdahl and Henrik Danhage about the effect the feedback had on them. Tom admitted that the positivity almost moved him to tears. It is surprising therefore to note that this time around, a decision was made to consciously not look at the social media feedback. I ask Tom for his reasoning.

“I don’t know”, he shrugs, looking around for inspiration. “I just took the decision that I felt I didn’t want to look. Maybe it’s because I’m super tired right now from doing all this work for such a long time. I didn’t want to know if somebody hated it because we have done exactly the album that we wanted to do in every aspect; everything from the production to the final imagery of the videos. All of it. For us it might be one of…”, Tom pauses, “maybe it is the album. I don’t know.”

“That’s how I look at it”, Jonas agrees with a big smile. “I’m super confident. Usually I am über sensitive about the comments and things. I take in very easily all the bad comments. But here, I felt so confident when we released the video, almost like I didn’t recognise myself…”

“I didn’t” Tom interjects with a broad grin and a good-natured chuckle, emphasising the friendship between the two. Jonas responds with light-hearted laughter of his own before continuing.

“I almost felt arrogant”, he states with wide-eyed disbelief writ large across his face. “The comments don’t matter, because I know what the five of us did and what Patric (Ullaeus – rEvolver) and the five of us did. If you don’t like it, it’s your problem and maybe you should just listen to something else.”

“That’s just it”, Tom responds, bringing this particular topic to something approaching a natural conclusion. “It is weird if you make an effort to tell everyone as much and as loud as you can that you don’t like it. But we have to think about it differently. We have to think that people are caring about us. They care so much that they are pissed off that we don’t sound like we did before, based on their love for the band. If they can’t handle their emotions now that we sound different or can’t follow the evolution of the band, it’s up to them. But it’s not like those albums are gone. You don’t have to miss them, they are there.”

“Yes, they are”, I quip. “They are all in my car.”

“That’s what I’ll say next time”, Tom laughs, “they’re all in Matt’s car”

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One of the most noticeable things to a long-term fanboy like me, is that ‘The Storm Within’ offers a number of subtle and not-so-subtle references to the now extensive back catalogue. Hints of ‘Solitude, Dominance, Tragedy’ can be heard as well as a vibe of ‘In Search Of Truth’ here or an echo of ‘Recreation Day’ there. ‘The Storm Within’ is definitely the next stage in the gradual Evergrey evolution but to hear these flashes is strangely comforting and entirely welcome as far as I’m concerned. What I’m keen to identify is if this was a deliberate move from the quintet.

“Some lyric lines were deliberate”, Tom counters referring to the line ‘…in search of truth’ within the song ‘Astray’. “But no, it wasn’t deliberate, we never thought about it like that.”

“We just went with the flow”, Jonas interjects before struggling to elaborate further. “It is hard to explain.”

“But it might be”, considers Tom, helping his friend out, “that we said ‘wouldn’t it be great if we had a ‘Touch of Blessing’ melody run here’ for example, but I don’t really remember that we did on this album. The guitar line melodies were done by Henrik just like that”, he clicks his fingers. “But it is good if we have influences from our old albums.”

And yet, from some of the comments on social media, some people have, after hearing only ‘Distance’, dismissed the new album as ‘Hymns For The Broken’ part two or worse. Having been lucky enough to hear the entirety of ‘The Storm Within’, I disagree vehemently with this point of view and am very keen to know what Tom and Jonas think about these comments as well.

“It’s like judging a four-course meal after the salad”, Tom quips with more than a hint of acidity to his words. “‘I know that the steak will suck because I hate this tomato’. We cook for ourselves. It’s not like we cook, think it tastes like shit and then eat it. We cook and then we’re happy. And if the rest of the customers don’t like it…”

“…Then go to a different restaurant”, finishes Jonas with impeccable timing. “We can’t help it. This is how it sounds and how it is supposed to sound.”

“And we are the ones who decide how it should sound”, adds Tom, now in bullish mood. “This is the right that we have. And this is what I mean by unintelligent comments. It’s like judging a TV show based on the first episode. ‘That sucked’. Yeah, maybe you didn’t get into it with that song, but we are not Britney Spears or Justin Bieber. We’re not writing hit singles. This is not a single; it is the first song to represent the album. A single? What the fuck is that? It is a video, the first video to set the tone for the album.”

“In general”, offers Jonas when I ask for the reasoning behind choosing ‘Distance’ as the first song, “it represents the album better, in the sense of the vibe and the atmosphere.”

“We wanted to make it dark”, nods Tom in agreement whilst taking a large glug of his beer. “We wanted to have the slower paced thing and it is one of the first songs that we wrote.”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah”, continues Jonas eagerly, clearly engaged with this particular subject. “And it was the song where we realised the vibe for the album. This is it! The video goes well with the story and the concept of the record, so many different factors. It was the most obvious thing to do and we wouldn’t have been true to ourselves to release any other song. We need to follow our hearts with what we do.”

“Everybody said that we should have released ‘Passing Through’ as the first song”, Tom admits candidly, “but we’re not even making a video for that one.”

This isn’t the first time that the ‘vibe’ has been mentioned during this conversation. I ask the gents to elaborate and they duly deliver, in the process offering a brief insight into the songwriting for ‘The Storm Within’. Jonas kicks things off.

“We were sitting in the rehearsal room when me and Tom discovered this vibe”, he explains, smiling at his colleague and friend across the table. “We were thinking that it felt like Iceland where you’re so deserted and lonely. We got so inspired and had visions in our heads and we knew that this is what we had to aim at.”

“We had written stuff for a month or three weeks already before that”, Tom reveals. “All of a sudden, a lot of this stuff didn’t fit into that vibe at all.”

“It still exists for the future”, Jonas clarifies, “but that was hard because there was some really beautiful stuff. One evening we realised that we had to decide what we were doing. There were some songs that didn’t fit into this vibe; they would just clash if we put them on the album.”

Will we see these ideas on a future album?

“They are good enough for sure”, affirms Tom, “but it depends if they’ll fit into a vibe for another album. The thing is, we usually write and write and write and then we find the vibe. We take parts from ideas that didn’t fit previous albums to work on to see if they fit into the new vibe. All of a sudden, you have 30-35 song ideas to work from.”

The words used by Evergrey themselves to describe ‘The Storm Within’ are ‘eerie, desolate and cinematic’. These are powerful words, emotive words and entirely fitting with an album from the kings of dark melodic progressive metal.

“The first image that I had in my head”, reveals Tom fascinatingly, “was a guy standing on top of a planet on his own with his loved one orbiting around him, but orbiting in circles that were so far stretched that it would take light years to reach them. I have all these lines in the album, like in ‘Paradox of the Flame’ where Carina (Englund) sings exactly that, ‘even though there are light years between us’. That’s how we tried to create the vibe, using these interstellar terms as well. It is something that I am very happy with.”

One of the biggest strengths with ‘Hymns For The Broken’ was the intensely personal subject matter, reflecting Tom’s own health problems over the preceding years. Evergrey are at their best when dealing with such things so naturally, I want to find out if the bold and emotive concept on ‘The Storm Within’ has a basis in reality for the band. Tom thinks for a moment before responding in considered fashion.

“I think this album is still personal”, he says, “but it is more based on experiences of close friends over the past years. Of course, being an empathetic person as I think I am, I think I have the know-how of putting myself in a person’s shoes and understanding…well, not understanding them”, he qualifies carefully, “but understanding how I would feel being in the same position. And then writing about that makes it feel sincere and honest. Everybody has been heartbroken sometime, been left by someone or left someone. You can even draw influences from people who have died.”

Jonas and Tom both agree that the concept applies to any relationship with a loved one, not necessarily just a partner. It leads me to make a ridiculous comment that it could therefore even apply to the death of a pet goldfish. I’m rightly ridiculed but I’m glad I said it, as it prompts Tom to offer a humorous aside, one that leads to plenty of laughter around the table.

“I’ve not told you this”, Tom giggles to Jonas before composing himself. “When we were recording the video for ‘The Impossible’, I sing ‘I’ll cross the dark side of the moon’. We find this place in Iceland that we think looks like the moon. Patric and me were like ‘Let’s film!’ We come back after 4 hours of filming and we were so excited. We’re describing the landscape, saying it looks just like the moon, with this cool waterfall over there and…and then Patric’s wife says quietly ‘water? On the moon? Really?’ We were like ‘…oh fuck’. She ruined it all in one sentence.”

One story leads to another as both Jonas and Tom cut relaxed and happy figures in the last remnants of the late evening sunshine. It transpires, to more loud laughing that Tom managed to get a speeding ticket in Iceland from the police at around 2am. Apparently, the police car was the only other vehicle Tom had encountered in around two hours!

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It genuinely feels by this point less like an interview and more like an evening out with good friends. However, the Dictaphone on the table reminds me otherwise and I pull the conversation round to hone in on one of the descriptive words in particular, namely ‘cinematic’. I want to understand exactly what is meant by this.

“For me, when listening to Evergrey, I get visions”, Tom offers more seriously than anything uttered in the last ten minutes. “Somebody wrote in the very early days that ‘Evergrey is music for the inner eye’. I thought was very well put because when we write, we get all these images.”

“It’s like this”, Tom then offers after a pause for reflection, apparently not satisfied with his previous explanation. “I listen to a band called M83, a French electronic band. I also listen to a girl called Susanne Sundfør from Norway. I listen to them a lot. All of a sudden, I watched this movie called ‘Oblivion’. I loved the music in the movie and I realised that M83 did the whole soundtrack. ‘Fucking great!’, I thought. And then the ending song comes and it’s Susanne Sundfør and M83 together. The coincidences were amazing and it felt like they did that just for me.

‘Ah, the smell of grass in the morning!’, mutters Tom in his best posh English accent, as the unmistakeable waft of cannabis floats in off the breeze, momentarily tearing Tom’s attention from the topic at hand.

“Anyway”, he continues after the brief pause, “I presented M83 to Jonas who started listening to it. When we started writing, he came in with some song ideas and I guess it had that M83 vibe with the synthesizer sounds. So then we started vibing on that. I started watching movies like ‘Oblivion’ again, ‘Interstellar’ and ‘Prometheus’. ‘Fuck, let’s do this, this is the world, let’s do that’, I said. Carlos (Fides – Artside) did the booklet artwork quite early and we were like ‘woah, he’s got it, he understands us exactly’. And then we discover that all of these movies were shot in Iceland. We didn’t know that. So we were like ‘we have to go to Iceland’. Luckily we had the means and the record label pushed us actually to finance it. So that whole build-up thing is great.”

“I remember sitting there with an acoustic guitar and a keyboard”, offers Jonas, taking up the story. “It was just me and you”, he says pointing to Tom, “and we were talking, saying things like ‘imagine this in Iceland’. We thought about shooting a video there, so we got back to work and were so creative.”

“And I can assure you, at that time”, Tom grins wickedly, “the music did not sound that good.” Cue the playing of an air banjo complete with dodgy sound effects.

As the guys are talking, I begin to wonder whether the song ‘Disconnect’ has been influenced by M83 a little, a band with which I have a passing familiarity. After brief internal wrangling, I decide to voice my query.

“That’s the first one we wrote”, cries Jonas animatedly, leading me to throw my arms in the air and couple it with a suitably smug face.

“They are very good at finding the sound or the vibe for the song”, explains Tom. “And that’s what Jonas did with he created that synth sound.”

“And the working title for ‘Disconnect’ was actually ‘M83’, smiles Jonas, allowing my annoying smug face to immediately return.

Changing tack slightly, I move onto the contributions of the female vocalists on ‘The Storm Within’. I’m delighted to hear Tom’s wife Carina involved again on the song ‘The Paradox Of The Flame’ and I’m intrigued by the guest appearance from Nightwish’s Floor Jansen on the song ‘In Orbit’. Both do great jobs but I must be honest. I therefore suggest, perhaps controversially, that I prefer Carina’s voice. Naturally the guys are too polite to either agree or disagree.

“I think you’re painting with a different brush when you use Floor for sure”, Tom suggests. “And Floor definitely does add something.”

Raw power?

“Fuck Me, yes”, agrees Tom vehemently and without pause, before Jonas takes over.

“Floor adds the perfect spice to the song and the lyrics, to where the story goes. When Floor comes in, it’s perfect and when Carina comes in, it makes sense too.”

With “The Paradox Of the Flame”, Tom reveals, “we wrote the vocal lines in half a day for that. Carina is just a tremendously talented singer, end of story. It’s not technical; it’s just raw talent and a quality voice.”

“She growled on Hymns”, Tom replies when I ask whether his daughter Salina makes an appearance having made such an impact on ‘Drowning Alone’ on ‘The Glorious Collision’. “And yes, she’s on this album too. She is part of the girl choir on ‘Distance’, with her class.”

One of the reasons why Evergrey are so special to me is because they connect with me on an emotional level like very few other bands out there. And I’m not alone. Based on the comments via social media and to the band directly, there are many fans who quote Evergrey as a big source of comfort, support and strength. I’m keen to find out how the band responds to this very positive by-product of their labours.

“It’s overwhelming”, admits Jonas with brutal honesty. “What do I say to this, how do I answer? We just do this for us. It is so weird that we do what we love but we can help other people in their lives too. I can’t get it into my head somehow.”

“We make music and if that aspect at all helps people then”, Tom offers before tailing off, apparently unsure of how to continue. “I get a lot of emails too and I can’t take it all in.”

“Somehow”, Jonas continues, “you need to draw a line because if you take too much of that stuff in and make it personal, when it comes to the next album, it might not be about us anymore.”

“We’re super happy of course”, Tom is eager to clarify, “but I don’t know how to respond when I hear the words. I don’t know how to describe it. It is such a big feeling, it has to be the music for us. If people find comfort in it and it helps them, then that’s an additional thing we’re grateful for.”

The sense of camaraderie and positivity that emanated from the Evergrey camp upon the return of Ekdahl and Danhage was like a breath of fresh air, welcomed by fans the world over. It is now a couple of years on but as the duo explain, the relationships within the band show no signs of diminishing like they did in the past.

“I think it’s even better now”, responds Jonas. “We’re getting stronger and stronger, every day and every week. Where we are now, it’s fantastic.”

“Also”, adds Tom, “we’ve been able to approach the music in the way that we want to. We know how to talk to each other now, which we didn’t before. It is just as easy as that.”

And how do you approach things?

“Everything is on our terms”, is the succinct and immediate answer from Tom. “We don’t have to do gigs just for the sake of it anymore. It needs to be on our terms and we need to look, sound and feel the way it should be to be a proper Evergrey show. Then it doesn’t matter if we play the Underworld or at a festival in front of 60,000 people, as long as we feel confident when we go up there. We play music because we love to play music and we don’t want to do that half-assed.

Tom and Jonas touched briefly on the songwriting of ‘The Storm Within’ earlier. However, I want to explore this a little more and the guys oblige, beginning with Tom.

“We found the format on ‘Hymns…’ where me and Jonas wrote most of it and produced it.”

“The other guys came in”, Jonas states, “with their parts and pitched in with their objective views.”

“They weighed in more than us sometimes”, Tom adds with an agreeing nod. “For example, the piano ending at the end of ‘Distance’ was initially removed but Henrik was really stubborn to keep it. There was no democracy there”, he chuckles. “But when someone thinks so strongly about something, they are usually right. But even though we do a lot of demos, when they come in and put their paint on the canvas, that’s what makes it what it is.”

At this point, I’m advised that Tom and Jonas have a table reserved at their favourite curry house in Camden. What I wasn’t expecting was the invitation to join them and to continue the interview in different surroundings. How could I refuse?

Read my review here: Evergrey – The Storm Within

Evergrey – The Storm Within – Album Review

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Artist: Evergrey

Album Title: The Storm Within

Label: AFM Records

Date Of Release: 9 September 2016

Frequent readers will already know all-too-well about my love for Evergrey. I have no hesitation to say that this band is my favourite band of all-time. Their music has been with me for over 16 years and has been a rock to me through many periods of my life, both good and bad.

Evergrey’s early albums, right up to ‘Recreation Day’ accompanied me to my first ‘career’ job, helping to take away the nerves on the journey to work in those early weeks when I could no longer hide within the security of the education system.

My increasing admiration for the band took me to my first festival, Bloodstock in 2004. That was back when it was an indoor festival and when maybe three others in the unenlightened UK crowd had even heard of Evergrey. It also led me inexorably to Gothenburg to witness first-hand the appropriately-named and unforgettable ‘A Night To Remember’.

And, when my younger brother passed away a few years ago, Evergrey was the first metal band that I listened to after a significant degree of inner turmoil that pushed me away from heavy music for some time.

I’ve witnessed Evergrey play to around 50 people in London and in front of thousands in Germany at the 2007 Bang Your Head Festival. And I’ve even shared their tour bus for a night or two during a brief UK tour.

Quite simply, Evergrey connect with me on both a musical and an emotional level, continuing to be an important friend to me whilst I still battle day to day with personal demons and insecurities. I love the combination of melody, subtle progressive tendencies and the heaviness of the music, not to mention one of the very best voices in heavy metal in Tom Englund. I also understand the sentiment in much of the lyrical content and it gives me strength to know that I’m not alone. It might sound trite, but it’s true.

For all this, I am the first to admit that my fanboy status wavered for a few years, beginning with the release of 2006’s ‘Monday Morning Apocalypse’. It wasn’t a bad album per se; far from it really. It was just that it felt too ordinary, not progressive enough and a little too modern. The follow-up, ‘Torn’ was also good but not up to the normal stratospheric levels of their masterpieces, namely ‘Recreation Day’, ‘Solitude, Dominance, Tragedy’ and ‘In Search Of Truth’. In fact, the latter remains my favourite album of all time.

My point is therefore that, whilst I am an unashamed fanboy, I am honest and will admit when I think that the band fall below the standards I expect.

Following the release of ‘Monday Morning Apocalypse’ Evergrey seemed to suffer from a bad case of ‘revolving door syndrome’ as members came and went more frequently than they would have liked. So, when in 2014, it was confirmed that two long-term members of the band, guitarist Henrik Danhage and drummer Jonas Ekdahl, were returning to the fold, fans rejoiced. I rejoiced. This newfound sense of optimism and confidence was palpable and it resulted in Evergrey’s strongest release for many years in the form of ‘Hymns For The Broken’. For many it is the best, and for me, it certainly rivals the magnificence of ‘In Search Of Truth’ and ‘Recreation Day’.

So, what of the follow-up, Evergrey’s tenth studio album to coincide with the band’s 20th anniversary? With arguably the strongest Evergrey line-up, consisting of the aforementioned as well as guitarist/vocalist Tom Englund, keyboardist Rikard Zander and bassist Johan Niemann, could they build on a new-found sense of unity, hunger, confidence and desire to produce something as good as before? Could they maybe even better it? Or would the euphoria of 2014 dissipate, thus causing a drop in creativity? The answer, I am overjoyed to report, is very much the former.

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‘The Storm Within’ is the glorious sound that is created when five musicians come together at the very top of their game. Rikard’s keys permeate the entire album with an abundance of sounds and textures, both familiar and new. Tom and Henrik’s guitar playing is out of the top drawer, both in lead and rhythm guises. Johan’s bass is clear within the muscular mix, allowing his understated dexterity and sense of melody to provide an audible pulse to the music. And Jonas’ drumming is the heartbeat, offering a solid foundation that’s also deceptively complex and ambitious, arguably his most accomplished performance to date.

From the first notes of opener ‘Distance’, to the final moments of the closing title track, ‘The Storm Within’ is just about the perfect album for me in the here and now. It is exactly the kind of music that I want to listen to and, more so, that I crave. I have listened to this record more times than I care to admit, probably close to twice a day on average if not more. And the great thing is that it keeps getting better.

For those looking for a carbon copy to any of Evergrey’s previous releases, prepare to be disappointed. ‘The Storm Within’ is the sound of Evergrey 2016 and it is another step in their gradual evolution towards what they personally perceive to be the Holy Grail. The closest reference is clearly the predecessor ‘Hymns For The Broken’ but crucially, it is a lot more than that. If you give this record the care and attention it deserves, you will begin to notice many more subtle aspects emerge within Evergrey’s current brand of music. The band themselves refer to the output on this album as ‘cinematic, eerie and desolate’, and that’s not far from the mark at all.

Beginning with the lyrical content, in keeping with most other Evergrey albums, the subject matter is based on intensely personal and human emotions. ‘The Storm Within’ is a concept album that deals with a subject that all of us, to a greater or lesser extent can identify with: loving someone, losing them and then dealing with the often tumultuous aftermath. The words act as a compelling partner to the music that surrounds them.

Onto the music itself and deliberate or not, there are more than a few nods to previous releases on this album. Be it a riff that calls to mind ‘Monday Morning Apocalypse’, a string embellishment that conjures up nostalgic memories of ‘Solitude…’ or a keyboard sound that recalls the ‘In Search Of Truth’ era, these little gems do exist and they are truly wonderful.

‘Distance’ sets things off perfectly, book-ended by simple, lonely piano notes from Rikard Zander that certainly sound eerie, almost forlorn. In between is a crushing riff that kicks in to set the song moving at a modest, bulldozing mid-tempo. The melancholy atmosphere in which this song enshrouds the listener is sensational, topped off by a huge hook-laden chorus, duelling solos and a breath-taking, goose bump-inducing choir-led outro, featuring Englund’s talented daughter Salina amongst the ranks.

By contrast, ‘Passing Through’ ups the pace noticeably and with immediate effect, thanks to an explosive opening, an energetic rhythm section and blazing solos that push all my buttons. But again, memorable riffs and a monster chorus all combine to create a stunning opening one-two on the album, one that leaves you gasping for breath but demanding more.

‘Someday’ was a bit of a grower if I’m honest, not hitting me hard out of the blocks initially. However, it isn’t long before the relatively simple chorus works its almost insidious magic, surrounded by crushing riffs that are slower in pace, thus allowing the notes to resonate more deeply thus creating a different aural impact to the faster material elsewhere. The bass rumble is irresistible, as is the sudden freefall into a brief yet inspired vocal and keyboard section that breaks the song up brilliantly.

Next up is the utterly sublime ‘Astray’, a song that brings Evergrey’s progressive sensibilities much more to the fore. I love the way that this song sounds so simple on a first listen but with time, gently and elegantly blossoms to reveal its true identity. The transitions between the different elements are so smooth, they can almost get missed. Heavy riffs nestle against minimalist moments of introspective atmosphere, the tempo frequently shifts and savagery blends seamlessly with melody. The icing on the cake is the guitar solo from Danhage that screams ‘The Inner Circle’ beautifully.

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‘The Impossible’ is a stripped down song that features just Englund’s vocals and Zander’s synths throughout, only joined by a rich and powerful string section in the very latter stages. And yet, rather than give listeners a breather from the dark oppressive content, it simply adds to it. There is a palpable urgency and despair that is classic Evergrey and it allows Tom Englund to unleash his powerfully soulful and melodic voice to devastating effect, communicating an almost heart-breaking anguish in the process.

If fans are looking for speed from an Evergrey composition, then ‘My Allied Ocean’ delivers in spades. It is aggressive and intense but also has the feel of a power metal song insofar as the whole thing is totally infectious and decidedly up-tempo, dominated by fast, measured drumming from Ekdahl that’s utterly relentless, barely dropping below a quasi-blastbeat gallop at any point.

The first of two duets on the record, ‘In Orbit’ is one to get the hardcore fans debating feverishly thanks to a guest vocal appearance from Nightwish’s current femme fatale Floor Jansen. It goes without saying that Floor delivers her role in the track expertly and with power and passion. However, to fixate or obsess positively or negatively about Jansen’s inclusion would be to miss the power of the song itself. Expertly crafted, it once again features an enormous chorus that borders on mainstream territory initially. However, I love the bass work from Johan Niemann in the opening verses, whilst the second half of the track cleverly and surreptitiously reverts more to a ‘Recreation Day’ Evergrey vibe, complete with bruising riffs and arguably one of the most evocative and poignant guitar solos on the entire record.

As much as I love the first half of ‘The Storm Within’, it is the final four tracks where I personally believe that these five sickeningly talented Swedes really excel themselves. ‘The Lonely Monarch’ begins this impressive quadruple and is initially striking thanks to Rikard Zander’s more modern choice of keyboard sounds. As previously mentioned, Zander’s eloquent stamp is all over this album but here he comes even more to the fore. Another huge chorus never fails to raise a smile on this wizened visage, neither does the duelling solos from Danhage and Englund that are simply killer and hark back to earlier times.

Led in by more beautiful piano work from Zander, ‘The Paradox Of The Flame’ is a ballad to end all ballads. The combination of the piano, the string section and Tom’s captivating voice is stunning. And then Evergrey release their secret weapon: Carina Englund. How this beautiful vocalist is not a successful artist in her own right baffles me because she has one of the richest and emotional voices I’ve heard. And the combination of husband and wife, when accented by some simple and effective rhythm instrumentation as well as wailing, melodic solos brings a tear to my eye. So when the lone violin enters the fray, to create echoes to the days of ‘Solitude, Dominance, Tragedy’, I’m struggling to put the beauty of this composition into words.

It would be easy for Evergrey to lift the foot off the pedal at this point but unbelievably, the quality remains as high as ever for the final two tracks on the album. ‘Disconnect’ is one of those songs that came from nowhere to completely floor me. It begins in heavy, confrontational fashion before offering one of the most diverse listening experiences on the album. It is progressive in structure, delivers yet another fantastic chorus and underlines beyond doubt the ‘cinematic’ tag that has been applied to this record. Zander’s keys are huge on this song, creating depth, atmosphere and a truly epic quality that I love.

It is then up to the title track to close out ‘The Storm Within’ and it does so in majestic fashion. Those cinematic credentials are pushed to the limit one last time as I’m vaguely reminded of ‘Visions’ from ‘Recreation Day’ through the overall vibe and feel of the song. Quietly considered one of his favourite compositions to date, it isn’t hard to see why as the album ends on a note of vague positivity amongst the pervasive gloom and melancholy that precedes it.

You might dismiss the preceding 2000 or so words as the inane ramblings of an obsessed Evergrey fanboy. To an extent, you might be right. And I can live with that if that’s your conclusion. However, whatever you do, don’t dismiss ‘The Storm Within’ in the same way. Give it your full, undivided attention and maybe you too will consider this album to be Evergrey’s finest hour. Will it even replace ‘In Search Of Truth’ as my all-time favourite album? Watch this space. What is certain however is that Evergrey’s majestic blend of heaviness, melody and emotion means that ‘The Storm Within’ is nothing short of a bona fide masterpiece. All hail Evergrey.

The Score Of Much Metal: 10

If you’ve enjoyed this review, check out my others via my reviews pages or by clicking the links right here:

Dream The Electric Sleep – Beneath The Dark Wide Sky
Periphery – ‘Periphery III: Select Difficulty’
Karmakanic – Dot
Novena – Secondary Genesis
Witherscape – The Northern Sanctuary
Eric Gillette – The Great Unknown
Tilt – Hinterland
Cosmograf – The Unreasonable Silence
Fates Warning – Theories Of Flight
Wolverine – Machina Viva
Be’lakor – Vessels
Lacuna Coil – Delirium
Big Big Train – Folklore
Airbag – Disconnected
Katatonia – The Fall Of Hearts
Frost* – Falling Satellites
Glorior Belli – Sundown (The Flock That Welcomes)
Habu – Infinite
Grand Magus ‘Sword Songs’
Messenger – Threnodies
Svoid – Storming Voices Of Inner Devotion
Fallujah – Dreamless
In Mourning – Afterglow
Haken – Affinity
Long Distance Calling – Trips
October Tide – Winged Waltz
Odd Logic – Penny For Your Thoughts
Iron Mountain – Unum
Knifeworld – Bottled Out Of Eden
Novembre – Ursa
Beholder – Reflections
Neverworld – Dreamsnatcher
Universal Mind Project – The Jaguar Priest
Thunderstone – Apocalypse Again
InnerWish – Innerwish
Mob Rules – Tales From Beyond
Ghost Bath – Moonlover
Spiritual Beggars – Sunrise To Sundown
Oceans Of Slumber – Winter
Rikard Zander – I Can Do Without Love
Redemption – The Art Of Loss
Headspace – All That You Fear Is Gone
Chris Quirarte – Mending Broken Bridges
Sunburst – Fragments Of Creation
Inglorious – Inglorious
Omnium Gatherum – Grey Heavens
Structural Disorder – Distance
Votum – Ktonik
Fleshgod Apocalypse – King
Rikard Sjoblom – The Unbendable Sleep
Textures – Phenotype
Serenity – Codex Atlanticus
Borknagar – Winter Thrice
The Mute Gods – Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me
Brainstorm – Scary Creatures
Arcade Messiah – II
Phantasma – The Deviant Hearts
Rendezvous Point – Solar Storm
Vanden Plas – Chronicles Of The Immortals: Netherworld II
Antimatter – The Judas Table
Bauda – Sporelights
Waken Eyes – Exodus
Earthside – A Dream In Static
Caligula’s Horse – Bloom
Teramaze – Her Halo
Amorphis – Under The Red Cloud
Spock’s Beard – The Oblivion Particle
Agent Fresco – Destrier
Cattle Decapitation – The Anthropocene Extinction
Between The Buried And Me – Coma Ecliptic
Cradle Of Filth – Hammer Of The Witches
Disarmonia Mundi – Cold Inferno
District 97 – In Vaults
Progoctopus – Transcendence
Big Big Train – Wassail
NightMare World – In The Fullness Of Time
Helloween – My God-Given Right
Triaxis – Zero Hour
Isurus – Logocharya
Arcturus – Arcturian
Kamelot – Haven
Native Construct – Quiet World
Sigh – Graveward
Pantommind – Searching For Eternity
Subterranean Masquerade – The Great Bazaar
Klone – Here Comes The Sun
The Gentle Storm – The Diary
Melechesh – Enki
Enslaved – In Times
Keep Of Kalessin – Epistemology
Lonely Robot – Please Come Home
The Neal Morse Band – The Grand Experiment
Zero Stroke – As The Colours Seep
AudioPlastik – In The Head Of A Maniac
Revolution Saints – Revolution Saints
Mors Principium Est – Dawn of The 5th Era
Arcade Messiah – Arcade Messiah
Triosphere – The Heart Of The Matter
Neonfly – Strangers In Paradise
Knight Area – Hyperdrive
Haken – Restoration
James LaBrie – Impermanent Resonance
Mercenary – Through Our Darkest Days
A.C.T. – Circus Pandemonium
Xerath – III
Big Big Train – English Electric (Part 1)
Thought Chamber – Psykerion
Marcus Jidell – Pictures From A Time Traveller
H.E.A.T – Tearing Down The Walls
Vanden Plas – Chronicles Of The Immortals: Netherworld

Dream The Electric Sleep – Beneath The Dark Wide Sky – Album Review

hi res_Final BTDWS Cover

Artist: Dream The Electric Sleep

Album Title: Beneath The Dark Wide Sky

Label: Mutiny Records

Date Of Release: 22 July 2016

Dream The Electric Sleep are a difficult band to review for numerous reasons. Firstly there’s the headache of trying to adequately pinpoint and understand the music. Secondly, once sufficient enlightenment has been reached, the challenge is to adequately describe the Dream The Electric Sleep output. And then finally, once the aforementioned has been achieved, there’s the conundrum of what I actually think about the music.

‘Beneath The Dark Wide Sky’ is the third album from Dream The Electric Sleep (henceforth referred to as ‘DTES’), the Kentucky USA based trio comprised of guitarist, vocalist and keyboardist Matt Page, drummer and vocalist Joey Waters and bassist Chris Tackett.

It is fair to say that the DTES musical formula has shifted and evolved over the course of their history. Beginning life as a band that was willing to try just about everything and who fully deserved the ‘prog’ tag, ‘Beneath The Dark Wide Sky’ is markedly different to these ears. In the past, the complaints aimed at DTES, including from me, were that their recordings were too long and were lacking in cohesion. Flashes of brilliance could be heard within the previous two discs, namely 2011’s ‘Lost And Gone Forever’ and 2014’s ‘Heretics’ but overall, I personally found them lacking enough magic to elevate them into the prog elite.

For album number three, it feels like DTES have figured that less is more and have therefore brought us an album that dials down the overt complexity and cleared out the clutter in favour of a much more homogenous record. Some might immediately argue that DTES have lost their ‘prog’ tag but if you listen to this record with an open mind, ‘Beneath The Dark Wide Sky’ certainly remains progressive in the wider sense of the term insofar as the trio have yet again tried new things and brought new elements to the table. But it does take a while to reach this epiphany admittedly.

On ‘Beneath The Dark Wide Sky’, DTES blend elements of post rock minimalism with the subtle beauty of shoegaze, a vague hint of electronic music, a honed and refined soupcon of progressive rock and even, dare I say it, indie music. Gulp.

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The positive thing about this album is that, however much I loathe and despise most indie music, the song writing on ‘Beneath The dark Wide Sky’ is strong enough to justify the presence of these more mainstream elements. It is very hard to deny the strength of the melodic choruses that crop up within the likes of ‘Flight’ and ‘Hanging Time’ for example. Plus there’s plenty of excellent musicianship to be heard throughout from all corners including several nice guitar solos that catch my ear. The former is actually a personal favourite despite the acoustic guitar opening which has more than a faint hint of the dreaded and interminably dull Coldplay within it. Credit therefore must be given to DTES for creating something so strong that it forces me to confront these deep-seated prejudices and reach a positive outcome in the process.

The final ingredient that I’ve yet to mention in this review thus far is the impressive amount of atmosphere that is present throughout the near hour-long album. The keys are used subtly and cleverly so as not to dominate the music but at the same time, there’s a welcome depth and richness that is created by the layers of synths, as well as sufficient light and shade to avoid monotony. The perfect example is the sensationally ominous and broody instrumental piece ‘We Who Blackout The Sun’. My absolute favourite on the album, I love the metallic guitar tones as the track explodes with full menacing force but with a killer vibe, great solo and a hook to snare me immediately.

Elsewhere, ‘Black Wind’ is a forceful stomping composition that demonstrates the rhythm prowess of both Waters and Tackett equally whilst ‘Headlights’ offers a more up-beat, almost happy four minutes that breezes past nicely.

As with the previous two albums, there remain a few moments within the eleven tracks that I don’t like quite as much, but overall, ‘Beneath The Dark Wide Sky’ is finally the album from Dream The Electric Sleep that I know for sure that I will return to for thoroughly enjoyable repeated listens in the future. Check out ‘Beneath The Dark Wide Sky’ post haste if modern progressive music is your weapon of choice.

The Score Of Much Metal: 8.0

If you’ve enjoyed this review, check out my others via my reviews pages or by clicking the links right here:

Periphery – ‘Periphery III: Select Difficulty’
Karmakanic – Dot
Novena – Secondary Genesis
Witherscape – The Northern Sanctuary
Eric Gillette – The Great Unknown
Tilt – Hinterland
Cosmograf – The Unreasonable Silence
Fates Warning – Theories Of Flight
Wolverine – Machina Viva
Be’lakor – Vessels
Lacuna Coil – Delirium
Big Big Train – Folklore
Airbag – Disconnected
Katatonia – The Fall Of Hearts
Frost* – Falling Satellites
Glorior Belli – Sundown (The Flock That Welcomes)
Habu – Infinite
Grand Magus ‘Sword Songs’
Messenger – Threnodies
Svoid – Storming Voices Of Inner Devotion
Fallujah – Dreamless
In Mourning – Afterglow
Haken – Affinity
Long Distance Calling – Trips
October Tide – Winged Waltz
Odd Logic – Penny For Your Thoughts
Iron Mountain – Unum
Knifeworld – Bottled Out Of Eden
Novembre – Ursa
Beholder – Reflections
Neverworld – Dreamsnatcher
Universal Mind Project – The Jaguar Priest
Thunderstone – Apocalypse Again
InnerWish – Innerwish
Mob Rules – Tales From Beyond
Ghost Bath – Moonlover
Spiritual Beggars – Sunrise To Sundown
Oceans Of Slumber – Winter
Rikard Zander – I Can Do Without Love
Redemption – The Art Of Loss
Headspace – All That You Fear Is Gone
Chris Quirarte – Mending Broken Bridges
Sunburst – Fragments Of Creation
Inglorious – Inglorious
Omnium Gatherum – Grey Heavens
Structural Disorder – Distance
Votum – Ktonik
Fleshgod Apocalypse – King
Rikard Sjoblom – The Unbendable Sleep
Textures – Phenotype
Serenity – Codex Atlanticus
Borknagar – Winter Thrice
The Mute Gods – Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me
Brainstorm – Scary Creatures
Arcade Messiah – II
Phantasma – The Deviant Hearts
Rendezvous Point – Solar Storm
Vanden Plas – Chronicles Of The Immortals: Netherworld II
Antimatter – The Judas Table
Bauda – Sporelights
Waken Eyes – Exodus
Earthside – A Dream In Static
Caligula’s Horse – Bloom
Teramaze – Her Halo
Amorphis – Under The Red Cloud
Spock’s Beard – The Oblivion Particle
Agent Fresco – Destrier
Cattle Decapitation – The Anthropocene Extinction
Between The Buried And Me – Coma Ecliptic
Cradle Of Filth – Hammer Of The Witches
Disarmonia Mundi – Cold Inferno
District 97 – In Vaults
Progoctopus – Transcendence
Big Big Train – Wassail
NightMare World – In The Fullness Of Time
Helloween – My God-Given Right
Triaxis – Zero Hour
Isurus – Logocharya
Arcturus – Arcturian
Kamelot – Haven
Native Construct – Quiet World
Sigh – Graveward
Pantommind – Searching For Eternity
Subterranean Masquerade – The Great Bazaar
Klone – Here Comes The Sun
The Gentle Storm – The Diary
Melechesh – Enki
Enslaved – In Times
Keep Of Kalessin – Epistemology
Lonely Robot – Please Come Home
The Neal Morse Band – The Grand Experiment
Zero Stroke – As The Colours Seep
AudioPlastik – In The Head Of A Maniac
Revolution Saints – Revolution Saints
Mors Principium Est – Dawn of The 5th Era
Arcade Messiah – Arcade Messiah
Triosphere – The Heart Of The Matter
Neonfly – Strangers In Paradise
Knight Area – Hyperdrive
Haken – Restoration
James LaBrie – Impermanent Resonance
Mercenary – Through Our Darkest Days
A.C.T. – Circus Pandemonium
Xerath – III
Big Big Train – English Electric (Part 1)
Thought Chamber – Psykerion
Marcus Jidell – Pictures From A Time Traveller
H.E.A.T – Tearing Down The Walls
Vanden Plas – Chronicles Of The Immortals: Netherworld

Periphery – Periphery III: Select Difficulty – Album Review

 

Periphery_III_2016_Cover

Artist: Periphery

Album Title: Periphery III: Select Difficulty

Label: century Media Records

Date Of Release: 22 July 2016

The wonderful curse of ‘too much music, too little time’ is the main reason for the delay in offering a review of this record. If I’m honest, there was also an element of ‘hmm, not sure if I’m that interested in this release’ too.

Generally, as a rule, I’m not the biggest fan of the modern djent genre. And neither am I a huge aficionado of heavy music that flirts with more overt pop sensibilities, the kind of stuff that many of the new mainstream rock/metal acts seem to indulge in to get themselves on the cover of Kerrang! and on the walls of teenagers’ bedrooms. And yet, despite both of these aspects appearing within the music of Periphery on this record, I don’t hate it.

Entitled ‘III: Select Difficulty’, this is actually Periphery’s fifth full length release if the double release ‘Juggernaut: Alpha/Omega’ is taken into account. Confusing isn’t it? Well not as confusing as my complex feelings towards this record if I’m honest.

I think that, on balance, the reason why I don’t hate this record is because it is largely very well written and executed. Indeed there is a lot of material on this new album that I absolutely love and come back to like an addict to get my fix time after time, principally because it has an air of quality about it, rather than being contrived and a cynical attempt at popularity. There’s also a certain honesty that shines through the material, which I really admire, not to mention a level of creativity that is akin to a breath of fresh air.

That said, the album opens up in a less than auspicious manner thanks to the opening one-two of ‘The Price Is Wrong’ and ‘Motormouth’ The former is the lead single from the album and it simply fails to grab me in the same way as other tracks. It is sharp, concise and very heavy but I don’t warm to the vocal delivery which strikes me as a little unremarkable if undeniably confrontational. The instrumentation is undeniably impressive with complex riffs aplenty and the rhythm section is insanely tight but the breakdown in the latter stages with almost spoken-word lyrics is not something that I can get on board with. Despite its prowess therefore, for me the whole song lacks a certain ‘je ne sais quoi’. In fact, it takes until the latter stages of ‘Motormouth’, a similarly blood and thunder composition, for my interest to be piqued thanks to a Textures-like hint of melody and something other than snarled vocals.

Picture credit: Josefa Torres

Picture credit: Josefa Torres

But then, as I’m contemplating moving on to the next album, in marches ‘Marigold’ and with it, the whole feel of ‘III: Select Difficulty’ changes. Ushered in by an urgent orchestrated melody, the track begins in slower, more measured fashion and introduces Spencer Sotelo’s clean vocal delivery for the first time. But, at the centre of the composition is a highly infectious, hook laden chorus of which I can’t get enough. The fact that the song then glides to a close on the crest of a post rock wave is the surprising but delightfully serene icing on the cake.

‘The Way The News Goes…’ follows up in excellent fashion dominated by a tremendous vocal performance as well as some really exquisite guitar and piano melodies, not to mention some truly frenetic drumming to starkly and cleverly juxtapose the otherwise more laid-back aspects of the song.

As much as I like the heavier, more extreme elements of the Periphery sound as experienced within the likes of the expertly crafted ‘Prayer Position’, it is when they blend this with the more subtle and introspective elements that I believe they really fly. The orchestration appears at moments throughout the rest of the album and personally, I’d like to hear a lot more of this on the next record. It creates an air of majesty and sophistication that I really welcome and needs to be explored more. The best exponent of this excellent new addition to the Periphery arsenal is ‘Absolomb’ which ends with an extended orchestral outro that calls to mind the cinematic vibe of compositions by Craig Armstrong before deconstructing to a simple piano melody to close.

It leads into arguably the most immediate and mainstream-sounding track on the record in ‘Catch Fire’. The chorus is such that once it gets its claws in you, it refuses to let go. There’s even a vaguely funky vibe to the verses accentuated by some prominent bass work that I find myself liking more than I thought I would.

Firm nods need to be made in the direction of the infectious ‘Flatline’ which blends the heavier aspects of the Periphery sound with another hook-laden chorus and ‘Habitual Line Stepper’, a track that begins in explosive fashion complete with blast beats and a progressive edge before settling down and ultimately delivering a more elegant piece of music than first thought, brought to a close with a sublime vocal-dominated melody.

The final killer moment though as far as I’m concerned is the album closer, the near eight minute long ‘Lune’. It starts off slowly channelling a vague Tool vibe but within moments, the melodies poke through and as the song builds, they come to the fore more. Sotelo’s vocals are epic-sounding and full of power, working in tandem with crushing guitars and magnificent orchestration to create a climactic crescendo of epic proportions, almost uplifting in tone and delivery. It certainly ends the album with a bang and a desire on my part to press play and listen all over again.

So there you have it. I started off being completely underwhelmed by ‘III: Select Difficulty’ but have grown to really like it and, in places, absolutely love it. It will be an album that will feature in many end-of-year lists and reaffirms Periphery’s place at the top table of technical and progressive djent metal.

The Score Of Much Metal: 8.5

If you’ve enjoyed this review, check out my others via my reviews pages or by clicking the links right here:

Karmakanic – Dot
Novena – Secondary Genesis
Witherscape – The Northern Sanctuary
Eric Gillette – The Great Unknown
Tilt – Hinterland
Cosmograf – The Unreasonable Silence
Fates Warning – Theories Of Flight
Wolverine – Machina Viva
Be’lakor – Vessels
Lacuna Coil – Delirium
Big Big Train – Folklore
Airbag – Disconnected
Katatonia – The Fall Of Hearts
Frost* – Falling Satellites
Glorior Belli – Sundown (The Flock That Welcomes)
Habu – Infinite
Grand Magus ‘Sword Songs’
Messenger – Threnodies
Svoid – Storming Voices Of Inner Devotion
Fallujah – Dreamless
In Mourning – Afterglow
Haken – Affinity
Long Distance Calling – Trips
October Tide – Winged Waltz
Odd Logic – Penny For Your Thoughts
Iron Mountain – Unum
Knifeworld – Bottled Out Of Eden
Novembre – Ursa
Beholder – Reflections
Neverworld – Dreamsnatcher
Universal Mind Project – The Jaguar Priest
Thunderstone – Apocalypse Again
InnerWish – Innerwish
Mob Rules – Tales From Beyond
Ghost Bath – Moonlover
Spiritual Beggars – Sunrise To Sundown
Oceans Of Slumber – Winter
Rikard Zander – I Can Do Without Love
Redemption – The Art Of Loss
Headspace – All That You Fear Is Gone
Chris Quirarte – Mending Broken Bridges
Sunburst – Fragments Of Creation
Inglorious – Inglorious
Omnium Gatherum – Grey Heavens
Structural Disorder – Distance
Votum – Ktonik
Fleshgod Apocalypse – King
Rikard Sjoblom – The Unbendable Sleep
Textures – Phenotype
Serenity – Codex Atlanticus
Borknagar – Winter Thrice
The Mute Gods – Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me
Brainstorm – Scary Creatures
Arcade Messiah – II
Phantasma – The Deviant Hearts
Rendezvous Point – Solar Storm
Vanden Plas – Chronicles Of The Immortals: Netherworld II
Antimatter – The Judas Table
Bauda – Sporelights
Waken Eyes – Exodus
Earthside – A Dream In Static
Caligula’s Horse – Bloom
Teramaze – Her Halo
Amorphis – Under The Red Cloud
Spock’s Beard – The Oblivion Particle
Agent Fresco – Destrier
Cattle Decapitation – The Anthropocene Extinction
Between The Buried And Me – Coma Ecliptic
Cradle Of Filth – Hammer Of The Witches
Disarmonia Mundi – Cold Inferno
District 97 – In Vaults
Progoctopus – Transcendence
Big Big Train – Wassail
NightMare World – In The Fullness Of Time
Helloween – My God-Given Right
Triaxis – Zero Hour
Isurus – Logocharya
Arcturus – Arcturian
Kamelot – Haven
Native Construct – Quiet World
Sigh – Graveward
Pantommind – Searching For Eternity
Subterranean Masquerade – The Great Bazaar
Klone – Here Comes The Sun
The Gentle Storm – The Diary
Melechesh – Enki
Enslaved – In Times
Keep Of Kalessin – Epistemology
Lonely Robot – Please Come Home
The Neal Morse Band – The Grand Experiment
Zero Stroke – As The Colours Seep
AudioPlastik – In The Head Of A Maniac
Revolution Saints – Revolution Saints
Mors Principium Est – Dawn of The 5th Era
Arcade Messiah – Arcade Messiah
Triosphere – The Heart Of The Matter
Neonfly – Strangers In Paradise
Knight Area – Hyperdrive
Haken – Restoration
James LaBrie – Impermanent Resonance
Mercenary – Through Our Darkest Days
A.C.T. – Circus Pandemonium
Xerath – III
Big Big Train – English Electric (Part 1)
Thought Chamber – Psykerion
Marcus Jidell – Pictures From A Time Traveller
H.E.A.T – Tearing Down The Walls
Vanden Plas – Chronicles Of The Immortals: Netherworld

Karmakanic – Dot – Album Review

Karmakanic_Dot_Cover_2016

Artist: Karmakanic

Album Title: Dot

Label: InsideOut Music

Date Of Release: 22 July 2016

Karmakanic have been around for a good few years now, formed in 2002 by Jonas Reingold, the bassist for the arguably more familiar band The Flower Kings. Also involved with Kaipa and The Tangent, Karmakanic was conceived to be the vehicle by which Reingold, also an accomplished keyboardist, could stretch his own personal musical wings. I am familiar with some of the material that makes up the four disc Karmakanic discography to date but I’d have never really referred to myself as a fan of the band. There are some excellent moments that boast the name Karmakanic, especially on my personal favourite, the band’s debut, ‘Entering The Spectra’. However, for some reason, I never warmed to them to the same level as other bands within the progressive rock genre and have subsequently lost touch a little with them and their more recent output.

Nevertheless, I somehow felt compelled to give ‘Dot’, the Swede’s fifth studio release, a listen when I heard that it was imminent. When Karmakanic circa 2016 can boast such an impressively strong cast of musicians, my first thought was that I must have dropped a bit of a clanger by losing touch with them over the years. And do you know what? I think I have. Thanks to ‘Dot’, I do now refer to myself as a fan.

On ‘Dot’ Reingold handles the bass duties as well as the guitars and some of the keys and vocals. However, Reingold is joined by a veritable smorgasbord of talent for this release including vocalists Göran Edman (ex-Yngwie Malmsteen, Eclipse), Nils Erikson, Kristine Lenk and further members of the Reingold family, Alex and Norah. In addition, the record features keyboardist Lalle Larsson (Agents Of Mercy, Jon Anderson, Lalle Larsson’s Weaveworld), drummer Morgan Ågren (Frank Zappa, Tony Iommi, Kaipa), guitarists Krister Jonsson and Andy Bartosh , Hammond Organist Andy Tillison (The Tangent) and saxophonist and flautist Ray Aichinger.

Equally as interesting as the line-up is the concept that weaves its way between the six tracks and which binds the album together. ‘Dot’ was apparently inspired by a text written by Carl Sagan, an American writer and astronomer. He wrote, quite beautifully, commenting on a photograph of the Earth taken by Voyager 1 in 1990:

“Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every ‘superstar,’ every ‘supreme leader,’ every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there–on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.”

Some might argue that this is a somewhat clichéd concept, one that has been explored many times before by musicians. However, as the last notes fade on the closing track to ‘Dot’ entitled ‘God The Universe and Everything Else No One Really Cares About Part II’, I find myself reading this text and I’m moved tremendously, to the point of tears. Some bands I expect to have this effect on me. But Karmakanic? Nope, I wasn’t expecting to be typing through blurred eyes.

Karmakanic photo

The reason, aside from my own occasionally fragile psyche, is the irresistible and forceful combination of powerful lyrics and beautifully constructed music.

As you’d expect, these professional musicians all bring something to the table to enjoy throughout the album but crucially, also do it in a way to ensure that the listener returns for repeated listens. There’s no clutter, no mess, nothing is here on ‘Dot’ that shouldn’t be. Of course, this being prog rock, there are plenty of extended instrumental passages and musicianship that demonstrates the prowess of the individuals. However, it all serves a purpose and allows the listener to be taken on a rich, multi-layered and multi-faceted journey, full of interesting twists and turns, drama and bold textures.

At the heart of ‘Dot’, sits the two part epic concept piece entitled ‘God The Universe and Everything Else No One Really Cares About Part I’ and ‘Part II’. Touching 30 minutes in total, they come together to book-end the album brilliantly. The last notes that I referred to earlier also usher in ‘Part I’, the larger of the two sections that on its own weighs in at over 24 minutes in length. The melody is magnificent and truly beautiful, more than strong enough to open and close the compositions, not to mention touch me emotionally.

In between, it is almost impossible to describe everything that goes on. Undeniably taking their lead from the major 70s prog protagonists as well as more recent exponents of the genre, Karmakanic deliver memorable vocals, elegant sweeping vistas and more modern-sounding segments that verge on metal territory thanks to heavy, menacing guitar tones. These elements are then expertly juxtaposed by soothing flute melodies, layers of both subtle and bombastic synths, solo flourishes and almost enough tempo changes and intriguing dynamics to fill the universe, including a show-stopping crescendo at the end of ‘Part I’. ‘Part II’ then builds on those sublime melodies in the manner of a reprise of sorts that builds before slowing things down to a quiet and poignant close, thereby offers a fitting and moving finale to the concept piece and the album as a whole.

Standalone epic ‘Higher Ground’ is almost as ambitious in its scope but again, thanks to stellar musicianship and smooth transitions from idea to idea, it works wonderfully well, creating a ten-minute tour-de-force of prog rock. It’s a bit of a theme with songs on this record but the closing moments in particular are exquisitely memorable.

At this point, Karmakanic take a step back from the full-on symphonic and epic prog trappings and instead deliver an up-tempo and highly catchy song in the form of ‘Steer By The Stars’. Co-written by The Tangent’s Andy Tillison, it is, in my opinion, exactly what the album needed to break things up a little and offer a dose of hook-laden light relief.

‘Travelling Minds’ is ushered in on some brilliant bass work and gorgeous lead guitar strains. Personally, I love the laid back vibe and its depth of emotion not to mention the huge synth-led orchestration that gives everything such a lovely glow. As with the entire record, the production sparkles and the whole thing has a really nice, warm and organic feel to it, like the embrace of an old friend.

There’s not much more to say about ‘Dot’ really; if you’re a fan of progressive rock that takes its cue from the best within the genre both old and new, you’re going to love this. If you like technical and challenging music that remains digestible and rewarding, you’re going to love this. If you like sophisticated melodies, you’re going to love this. If you simply like excellently crafted and carefully executed music, you’re going to love this. Trust me, you’re just going to love ‘Dot’, full stop.

The Score Of Much Metal: 9.0

If you’ve enjoyed this review, check out my others via my reviews pages or by clicking the links right here:

Novena – Secondary Genesis
Witherscape – The Northern Sanctuary
Eric Gillette – The Great Unknown
Tilt – Hinterland
Cosmograf – The Unreasonable Silence
Fates Warning – Theories Of Flight
Wolverine – Machina Viva
Be’lakor – Vessels
Lacuna Coil – Delirium
Big Big Train – Folklore
Airbag – Disconnected
Katatonia – The Fall Of Hearts
Frost* – Falling Satellites
Glorior Belli – Sundown (The Flock That Welcomes)
Habu – Infinite
Grand Magus ‘Sword Songs’
Messenger – Threnodies
Svoid – Storming Voices Of Inner Devotion
Fallujah – Dreamless
In Mourning – Afterglow
Haken – Affinity
Long Distance Calling – Trips
October Tide – Winged Waltz
Odd Logic – Penny For Your Thoughts
Iron Mountain – Unum
Knifeworld – Bottled Out Of Eden
Novembre – Ursa
Beholder – Reflections
Neverworld – Dreamsnatcher
Universal Mind Project – The Jaguar Priest
Thunderstone – Apocalypse Again
InnerWish – Innerwish
Mob Rules – Tales From Beyond
Ghost Bath – Moonlover
Spiritual Beggars – Sunrise To Sundown
Oceans Of Slumber – Winter
Rikard Zander – I Can Do Without Love
Redemption – The Art Of Loss
Headspace – All That You Fear Is Gone
Chris Quirarte – Mending Broken Bridges
Sunburst – Fragments Of Creation
Inglorious – Inglorious
Omnium Gatherum – Grey Heavens
Structural Disorder – Distance
Votum – Ktonik
Fleshgod Apocalypse – King
Rikard Sjoblom – The Unbendable Sleep
Textures – Phenotype
Serenity – Codex Atlanticus
Borknagar – Winter Thrice
The Mute Gods – Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me
Brainstorm – Scary Creatures
Arcade Messiah – II
Phantasma – The Deviant Hearts
Rendezvous Point – Solar Storm
Vanden Plas – Chronicles Of The Immortals: Netherworld II
Antimatter – The Judas Table
Bauda – Sporelights
Waken Eyes – Exodus
Earthside – A Dream In Static
Caligula’s Horse – Bloom
Teramaze – Her Halo
Amorphis – Under The Red Cloud
Spock’s Beard – The Oblivion Particle
Agent Fresco – Destrier
Cattle Decapitation – The Anthropocene Extinction
Between The Buried And Me – Coma Ecliptic
Cradle Of Filth – Hammer Of The Witches
Disarmonia Mundi – Cold Inferno
District 97 – In Vaults
Progoctopus – Transcendence
Big Big Train – Wassail
NightMare World – In The Fullness Of Time
Helloween – My God-Given Right
Triaxis – Zero Hour
Isurus – Logocharya
Arcturus – Arcturian
Kamelot – Haven
Native Construct – Quiet World
Sigh – Graveward
Pantommind – Searching For Eternity
Subterranean Masquerade – The Great Bazaar
Klone – Here Comes The Sun
The Gentle Storm – The Diary
Melechesh – Enki
Enslaved – In Times
Keep Of Kalessin – Epistemology
Lonely Robot – Please Come Home
The Neal Morse Band – The Grand Experiment
Zero Stroke – As The Colours Seep
AudioPlastik – In The Head Of A Maniac
Revolution Saints – Revolution Saints
Mors Principium Est – Dawn of The 5th Era
Arcade Messiah – Arcade Messiah
Triosphere – The Heart Of The Matter
Neonfly – Strangers In Paradise
Knight Area – Hyperdrive
Haken – Restoration
James LaBrie – Impermanent Resonance
Mercenary – Through Our Darkest Days
A.C.T. – Circus Pandemonium
Xerath – III
Big Big Train – English Electric (Part 1)
Thought Chamber – Psykerion
Marcus Jidell – Pictures From A Time Traveller
H.E.A.T – Tearing Down The Walls
Vanden Plas – Chronicles Of The Immortals: Netherworld

Novena – Secondary Genesis – EP Review

Novena cover

Artist: Novena

Album Title: Secondary Genesis

Label: Independent Release

Date Of Release: 22 July 2016

Novena is the name of another band that you will want to have firmly on your radar if your musical weapon of choice is prog and progressive metal to be more accurate.

Novena, are a five piece that formed back in 2013 and is based in the south of England. Within their number, they boast one of the hottest properties in prog circles behind the mic, namely Ross Jennings of Haken. Completing the line-up is guitarist, keyboardist and principle songwriter Harrison White (ex-Bleeding Oath, ex-Tradjectory), guitarist
Dan Thornton (No Sin Evades His Gaze), bassist Matt “Moat” Lowe (No Sin Evades His Gaze, ex-Bleeding Oath) and drummer Cameron Spence (ex-A Deeper Dreed)

The word ‘novena’ apparently means an act of religious pious devotion originating in ancient Christianity, often consisting of private or public prayers repeated for nine successive days in belief of obtaining special intercessory graces. Based on the content of this debut EP ‘Secondary Genesis’, I certainly wish that the amount of tracks reflected their moniker because three just doesn’t feel like it‘s enough. Admittedly the running time of the EP extends beyond the half-hour mark but when faced with quality, I always want more. And that’s definitely the case here.

With the instantly recognisable voice of Jennings leading Novena, it is hard not to hear those Haken influences and similarities at points throughout the EP. I also hear nods towards the output of Devin Townsend which is never a bad thing either. However, this is in no way a copycat band as Novena certainly have their own identity.

Theirs is a modern progressive metal that flirts with all manner of different influences, from extreme metal complete with confrontational growled vocals, right through to serene acoustic guitar-led passages that are soothing, melodic and maintain a sophisticated air. Djent is never far away and neither is a touch of metalcore or a descent into more quirky territory, like the almost maniacal laugh or the jazzy lounge music breakdown that both figure within the 14-minute title track.

novena band

However, ‘Secondary Genesis’ also has the sound of a band very much a band in its infancy, finding its feet and its way in the world. So understandably there are a few rough edges here and there that will, no doubt, get ironed out as the band grows.

The only real bone of contention I have is entirely subjective but it is the way in which the songs occasionally feel like they are trying to cram everything in, in an effort to demonstrate their musical prowess. It sounds bizarre that I’d criticise a prog band for being overly ambitious but it’s the manner in which the ambition is presented that’s very important. Whilst I really enjoy the vast majority of this EP, there are a few moments that come across as being cluttered, unnecessary or that don’t fit the overall vibe of the song.

But enough of being critical, let’s focus on the numerous positives.

Firstly, as previously intimated, Novena are a talented bunch. The execution is very slick as is the surprisingly strong production. I do enjoy the feeling of exuberance that permeates the output, as if the five musicians are thoroughly enjoying the freedom that this afforded them with this band and style of music. Jennings is joined by guest vocalist Gareth Mason (Slice The Cake) who is allowed to release his growl with regularity as the heavier and more aggressive djent-like sections demand. I like growling vocals but it is Jennings’ commanding clean delivery that I like best and which can’t help but raise a smile with me.

The keys are subtle, never threatening to overpower the music. And yet, they really accentuate the compositions, offering a certain warmth at times and dramatic flair at others.

Melody plays an equally important part, particularly in the first half of the excellent ballad-like ‘Breathe’. And, when the music is so chock full of different ideas, it is the glue that holds everything together. More so, the relatively understated melodies that are not overly prominent on a first listen gradually begin to work their insidious magic and draw the listener in for repeated spins.

On the basis of ‘Secondary Genesis’, Novena do have a bright future ahead of them. With a little more focus, a little more in the way of exacting quality control and a little less unnecessary extravagance and we may have the very next big thing in progressive music. As it is, ‘Secondary Genesis’ is still a debut release that should turn heads and get people talking, not to mention creating impatience for a debut full-length.

The Score Of Much Metal: 8.0

If you’ve enjoyed this review, check out my others right here:

Witherscape – The Northern Sanctuary
Eric Gillette – The Great Unknown
Tilt – Hinterland
Cosmograf – The Unreasonable Silence
Fates Warning – Theories Of Flight
Wolverine – Machina Viva
Be’lakor – Vessels
Lacuna Coil – Delirium
Big Big Train – Folklore
Airbag – Disconnected
Katatonia – The Fall Of Hearts
Frost* – Falling Satellites
Glorior Belli – Sundown (The Flock That Welcomes)
Habu – Infinite
Grand Magus ‘Sword Songs’
Messenger – Threnodies
Svoid – Storming Voices Of Inner Devotion
Fallujah – Dreamless
In Mourning – Afterglow
Haken – Affinity
Long Distance Calling – Trips
October Tide – Winged Waltz
Odd Logic – Penny For Your Thoughts
Iron Mountain – Unum
Knifeworld – Bottled Out Of Eden
Novembre – Ursa
Beholder – Reflections
Neverworld – Dreamsnatcher
Universal Mind Project – The Jaguar Priest
Thunderstone – Apocalypse Again
InnerWish – Innerwish
Mob Rules – Tales From Beyond
Ghost Bath – Moonlover
Spiritual Beggars – Sunrise To Sundown
Oceans Of Slumber – Winter
Rikard Zander – I Can Do Without Love
Redemption – The Art Of Loss
Headspace – All That You Fear Is Gone
Chris Quirarte – Mending Broken Bridges
Sunburst – Fragments Of Creation
Inglorious – Inglorious
Omnium Gatherum – Grey Heavens
Structural Disorder – Distance
Votum – Ktonik
Fleshgod Apocalypse – King
Rikard Sjoblom – The Unbendable Sleep
Textures – Phenotype
Serenity – Codex Atlanticus
Borknagar – Winter Thrice
The Mute Gods – Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me
Brainstorm – Scary Creatures
Arcade Messiah – II
Phantasma – The Deviant Hearts
Rendezvous Point – Solar Storm
Vanden Plas – Chronicles Of The Immortals: Netherworld II
Antimatter – The Judas Table
Bauda – Sporelights
Waken Eyes – Exodus
Earthside – A Dream In Static
Caligula’s Horse – Bloom
Teramaze – Her Halo
Amorphis – Under The Red Cloud
Spock’s Beard – The Oblivion Particle
Agent Fresco – Destrier
Cattle Decapitation – The Anthropocene Extinction
Between The Buried And Me – Coma Ecliptic
Cradle Of Filth – Hammer Of The Witches
Disarmonia Mundi – Cold Inferno
District 97 – In Vaults
Progoctopus – Transcendence
Big Big Train – Wassail
NightMare World – In The Fullness Of Time
Helloween – My God-Given Right
Triaxis – Zero Hour
Isurus – Logocharya
Arcturus – Arcturian
Kamelot – Haven
Native Construct – Quiet World
Sigh – Graveward
Pantommind – Searching For Eternity
Subterranean Masquerade – The Great Bazaar
Klone – Here Comes The Sun
The Gentle Storm – The Diary
Melechesh – Enki
Enslaved – In Times
Keep Of Kalessin – Epistemology
Lonely Robot – Please Come Home
The Neal Morse Band – The Grand Experiment
Zero Stroke – As The Colours Seep
AudioPlastik – In The Head Of A Maniac
Revolution Saints – Revolution Saints
Mors Principium Est – Dawn of The 5th Era
Arcade Messiah – Arcade Messiah
Triosphere – The Heart Of The Matter
Neonfly – Strangers In Paradise
Knight Area – Hyperdrive
Haken – Restoration
James LaBrie – Impermanent Resonance
Mercenary – Through Our Darkest Days
A.C.T. – Circus Pandemonium
Xerath – III
Big Big Train – English Electric (Part 1)
Thought Chamber – Psykerion
Marcus Jidell – Pictures From A Time Traveller
H.E.A.T – Tearing Down The Walls
Vanden Plas – Chronicles Of The Immortals: Netherworld

Witherscape – The Northern Sanctuary – Album Review

Witherscape_-_The_Northern_Sanctuary_-_Cover

Artist: Witherscape

Album Title: The Northern Sanctuary

Label: Century Media Records

Date Of Release: 22 July 2016

Despite loving melodic death metal, I have to admit that there are very few bands within the genre that write music that stays lodged in my head for hours and hours after the music has stopped spinning. Early In Flames, mid-era Dark Tranquillity and recent Omnium Gatherum are a few of these artists but, to that list, you can now add the name Witherscape. Sophomore release ‘The Northern Sanctuary’ is one of those records that I find myself humming and whistling with great gusto long after I have reluctantly pressed the ‘stop’ button. Mind you, that’s hardly surprising, not when I offer a bit of context around this particular band.

You see, Witherscape is the latest band that the hugely talented multi-instrumentalist Dan Swanö has put his name to. The chances are that if you are a fan of extreme or underground metal, this name will already be familiar to you. The drummer, keyboardist and vocalist has been around the scene for a while now, involved in the likes of Edge Of Sanity, Bloodbath and Nightingale .On top of this, Swanö has also assisted in some form or another with a frighteningly impressive list of artists, including Katatonia, Ghost and Incision. And that’s without mentioning the amazing solo album ‘Moontower’ or his impressive resume as a producer (Unisound). The guy’s talents literally know no bounds.

With Witherscape, Swanö has teamed up with fellow multi-instrumentalist Ragnar Widerberg (Shadowquest) who offers his skills with the guitar and bass on this record. And, rather unsurprisingly, the results are nothing short of marvellous.

However, to refer to Witherscape as purely a melodic death metal is a little misleading and slightly disingenuous as well. Theirs is a hybrid of styles that borrows from 90s death metal, melodic rock, AOR, progressive rock as well as classic metal and even an occasional touch of thrash for good measure. Blend into the mix a fair amount of atmospherics courtesy of Swano’s bold keyboard style and it’s fair to say that my mouth begins to water at the prospect.

After a short, eerie intro that segues into a slow and menacing section, ‘Wake Of Infinity’ suddenly burst into life in furious fashion. Led by some great riffs a pleasing tempo and some gruff vocals to die for, this is extreme metal nectar with an unashamed feel of yesteryear. Swanö really is blessed with a fabulously gritty and rumbling gruff delivery, the kind of sound that all of us wannabe growlers wish we could create. But then, as the track develops, out of nowhere comes a melody to raise the hairs on your neck dominated by a commanding and melodious clean croon. That’s not all because there’s time for an atmospheric and contemplative section that borders on ambient minimalism before the heaviness is reintroduced. The class of both Swanö and Widerberg is stamped all over this track and it sets the album in motion in superb fashion.

Press_Photo_07

‘In The Eyes Of Idols’ follows and it’s a no-nonsense, adrenaline-fuelled romp of a track with strong extreme metal-meets-hard rock overtones to it. Once again, Swanö blends his growls with his rich cleaner delivery whilst Widerberg offers more super riffing to get my head nodding forcefully, as well as injecting some tasty and soulful lead guitar work. The chorus has more hooks than a fishing trawler and the synths come to the fore much more.

This high quality continues throughout the remaining seven tracks with no filler material whatsoever. ‘Rapture Ballet’ for example, reminds me a little of the early material from the much-loved and much-missed Sentenced in terms of the melodies, the guitar tones and the vocal delivery.

That said, what follows is arguably even better. ‘The Examiner’ is an absolute beast of a track that sees Swanö utilise his clean vocals almost exclusively to devastating effect. This track is a ballad of sorts that enters on a delicate piano melody and is soon joined by Swanö’s passionate voice that sends shivers down my spine. The introduction of Widerberg’s acoustic guitars is a lovely touch that adds an added layer of textured sophistication whereas later in the song, the riff is fantastic and highly memorable. There’s even a demonstrable progressive feel to the piece as it gathers together an interesting collection of ideas, delivering it in a smooth and unfussy manner. But again, the high point of the composition comes courtesy of the chorus which I simply can’t get out of my head as much as I try.

‘Marionette’ follows and is perhaps my favourite track on the album currently. Again it begins in quiet fashion accompanied by some delightfully soft and sensitive vocals. And then the chorus hits. I love the juxtaposition within it between some of Swanö’s most brutal vocals and an insanely catchy melody, which borders on AOR and that’s drenched in almost romantic-sounding synths. The entire song is utterly magnificent and completely addictive.

The other big highlight on ‘The Northern Sanctuary’ is the near 14-minute title track. It is here where Widerberg and Swanö really unfurl their songwriting wings. A direct response to none-too-kind social media comments and apparently inspired by some of the epic tracks from Helloween and Queensryche, it is frightening how quickly the track runs its course. Incorporating more strong melodies with a more adventurous all-round structure, it is the most progressive that Witherscape have ever sounded. And yet, once again, it sounds homogenous and smooth.

Ushered in via sounds akin to a baby’s lullaby and then followed by some creepy synth sounds, the song flirts with a myriad of different styles and textures in very clever fashion. Passages of quiet introspection are bulldozed out of the way by frenetic and savage-sounding guitar riffs whilst flamboyant lead guitar and keyboard work segues into powerful melodic sections complete with more soothing clean vocals. Drama drips from every pore whilst there’s an almost childlike joy that permeates the composition as if the duo are revelling in the removal of the shackles and the subsequent controlled excess that surrounds them. 14 minutes long it may be, but blink and you miss it. Or so it feels anyway.

The album closes via a short but satisfying piano instrumental by the name of ‘Vil I Frid’. And, although I’d have loved more, this feels like the perfect ending to a fantastic record. ‘The Northern Sactuary’ contains a little bit of everything that I like in my metal these days. Yes it’s heavy but if you take the time to take a close listen to the music of Witherscape, you’ll hear so much more. ‘The Northern Sanctuary’ is a beautiful album that blends the extremity of death metal with so many wonderfully engaging sounds and textures. Oh and I guarantee you’ll be humming several of these tracks for weeks on end. You have been warned.

The Score Of Much Metal: 9.2

If you’ve enjoyed this review, check out my others right here:

Eric Gillette – The Great Unknown
Tilt – Hinterland
Cosmograf – The Unreasonable Silence
Fates Warning – Theories Of Flight
Wolverine – Machina Viva
Be’lakor – Vessels
Lacuna Coil – Delirium
Big Big Train – Folklore
Airbag – Disconnected
Katatonia – The Fall Of Hearts
Frost* – Falling Satellites
Glorior Belli – Sundown (The Flock That Welcomes)
Habu – Infinite
Grand Magus ‘Sword Songs’
Messenger – Threnodies
Svoid – Storming Voices Of Inner Devotion
Fallujah – Dreamless
In Mourning – Afterglow
Haken – Affinity
Long Distance Calling – Trips
October Tide – Winged Waltz
Odd Logic – Penny For Your Thoughts
Iron Mountain – Unum
Knifeworld – Bottled Out Of Eden
Novembre – Ursa
Beholder – Reflections
Neverworld – Dreamsnatcher
Universal Mind Project – The Jaguar Priest
Thunderstone – Apocalypse Again
InnerWish – Innerwish
Mob Rules – Tales From Beyond
Ghost Bath – Moonlover
Spiritual Beggars – Sunrise To Sundown
Oceans Of Slumber – Winter
Rikard Zander – I Can Do Without Love
Redemption – The Art Of Loss
Headspace – All That You Fear Is Gone
Chris Quirarte – Mending Broken Bridges
Sunburst – Fragments Of Creation
Inglorious – Inglorious
Omnium Gatherum – Grey Heavens
Structural Disorder – Distance
Votum – Ktonik
Fleshgod Apocalypse – King
Rikard Sjoblom – The Unbendable Sleep
Textures – Phenotype
Serenity – Codex Atlanticus
Borknagar – Winter Thrice
The Mute Gods – Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me
Brainstorm – Scary Creatures
Arcade Messiah – II
Phantasma – The Deviant Hearts
Rendezvous Point – Solar Storm
Vanden Plas – Chronicles Of The Immortals: Netherworld II
Antimatter – The Judas Table
Bauda – Sporelights
Waken Eyes – Exodus
Earthside – A Dream In Static
Caligula’s Horse – Bloom
Teramaze – Her Halo
Amorphis – Under The Red Cloud
Spock’s Beard – The Oblivion Particle
Agent Fresco – Destrier
Cattle Decapitation – The Anthropocene Extinction
Between The Buried And Me – Coma Ecliptic
Cradle Of Filth – Hammer Of The Witches
Disarmonia Mundi – Cold Inferno
District 97 – In Vaults
Progoctopus – Transcendence
Big Big Train – Wassail
NightMare World – In The Fullness Of Time
Helloween – My God-Given Right
Triaxis – Zero Hour
Isurus – Logocharya
Arcturus – Arcturian
Kamelot – Haven
Native Construct – Quiet World
Sigh – Graveward
Pantommind – Searching For Eternity
Subterranean Masquerade – The Great Bazaar
Klone – Here Comes The Sun
The Gentle Storm – The Diary
Melechesh – Enki
Enslaved – In Times
Keep Of Kalessin – Epistemology
Lonely Robot – Please Come Home
The Neal Morse Band – The Grand Experiment
Zero Stroke – As The Colours Seep
AudioPlastik – In The Head Of A Maniac
Revolution Saints – Revolution Saints
Mors Principium Est – Dawn of The 5th Era
Arcade Messiah – Arcade Messiah
Triosphere – The Heart Of The Matter
Neonfly – Strangers In Paradise
Knight Area – Hyperdrive
Haken – Restoration
James LaBrie – Impermanent Resonance
Mercenary – Through Our Darkest Days
A.C.T. – Circus Pandemonium
Xerath – III
Big Big Train – English Electric (Part 1)
Thought Chamber – Psykerion
Marcus Jidell – Pictures From A Time Traveller
H.E.A.T – Tearing Down The Walls
Vanden Plas – Chronicles Of The Immortals: Netherworld