Category Archives: electronic

Anathema – The Optimist – Album Review

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Artist: Anathema

Album Title: The Optimist

Label: Kscope

Date of Release: 9 June 2017

Anathema is one of my top 5 bands of all time. As such, their new full-length release, ‘The Optimist’ is easily my most highly anticipated album release of 2017.

Put simply, Anathema are a band that speaks to me. They are a band that seem to know instinctively how to press my buttons and touch me whatever my mood. From euphoric and uplifting, to fragile and poignant, they cover the gamut of emotions, leaving me exhilarated one minute and sombre the next, frequently with tears as my constant and ubiquitous silent companion.

I have always liked Anathema, discovering the Liverpudlians via the magnificent ‘Eternity’, back in 1996 as a teenager. However, it was with 2010’s ‘We’re Here Because We’re Here’ and 2012’s ‘Weather Systems’ that my admiration grew into a full-blown love affair, further cemented by ‘Distant Satellites’ in 2014.

To some extent, timing was everything. ‘We’re Here Because We’re Here’ was born less than two years after the heartbreaking passing of my younger brother. And so, when the song ‘Presence’ delivers the spoken word lines of ‘Life is not the opposite of death. Death is the opposite of birth. Life is eternal’ atop a gorgeously ethereal soundscape, I was floored. I know it sounds nonsensical but I felt like Anathema knew me and had put this into the album just for me to help ease my own inner turmoil.

‘Weather Systems’ was released just two years later. Stronger human beings might have moved on from personal tragedy better than I but truth be told, I was still struggling. As such, when I heard ‘Internal Landscapes’ with another powerful spoken word intro delivered by a man who had suffered a near-death experience, I was hit once again. Was this written for me? Of course not, but the conflicting emotions that it stirred in me made me think so. From despair at my loss to the comfort of gaining a little insight into what my brother might have felt as he slipped from us, this masterpiece within Anathema’s undeniable tour-de-force continues to have a huge and lasting impact.

And then, if that wasn’t enough, along came ‘Distant Satellites’ in 2014. I had the pleasure of meeting and interviewing Daniel and Vincent prior to its release. The guys graciously listened to my babblings as I tried to ineloquently describe the importance of their music to me. To my eternal gratitude, the brothers then gave me the gift of a whole new perspective on ‘The Lost Song, Part 2’. Already an achingly gorgeous song, their words made this composition even more important, further cementing the bond between Anathema, my brother and me.

Given all this history, it is very difficult for me to remain entirely objective where Anathema is concerned. And naturally my expectations will be massive ahead of the release of any new material.

And, to begin with, I struggled with ‘The Optimist’, the eleventh album of the Liverpudlian’s career. Never ones to shy away from experimentation, ‘The Optimist’ is yet another shift in Anathema’s own personal evolution. Whilst the core ingredients of atmosphere, emotional depth and lyrical eloquence are present and correct here, the output framed loosely by alternative/prog rock, has a much darker feel to it in general. There is also a more pronounced use of loops, electronic sounds and percussion that were hinted at within the title track on ‘Distant Satellites’. If I’m honest, whilst I love that specific track, I had my doubts and concerns should Anathema venture further down this musical avenue.

The fact that they have done just that perhaps explains why my initial thoughts on ‘The Optimist’ were not overly favourable. The selfish side of me wanted ten more close variations of ‘The Lost Song Part 2’ or ‘Internal Landscapes’ and I felt disappointed that together, Vincent Cavanagh (vocals, guitars, keys), Daniel Cavanagh (guitars, keys, vocals), John Douglas (acoustic/electronic percussion), Lee Douglas (vocals), Jamie Cavanagh (bass) and Daniel Cardoso (drums/keyboards) hadn’t indulged me.

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Credit: Caroline Traitler – http://www.carolinetraitler.net

With the benefit of time and perseverance though, I can now admit that it is not the music on ‘The Optimist’ that was at fault, but my own issues, my own limitations and my selfishness. ‘The Optimist’ is not an instant fix, an immediate score of your favourite musical drug. What it is instead, is a multi-layered, multi-faceted record that demands time and effort on behalf of the listener to unlock its true potential. And when it unlocks…wow!

Interestingly the band have married this latest step forward sonically with a thematic step backwards. In 2001, Anathema released an album called ‘A Fine Day To Exit’ which told the story of a man who wanted to escape his life and the modern world. ‘The Optimist’ reprises this story and in so doing, provides closure to a story that was left unfinished. In typical Anathema style however, the conclusion remains deliberately ambiguous, inviting personal interpretation by the listener.

This thematic decision explains the somewhat strange title of the opening track on ‘The Optimist’, namely ’32.63N 117.14W’. These are in fact the co-ordinates for the beach in San Diego where ‘A Fine Day to Exit’ concludes and which, I assume, adorns the cover of that album, a cover that becomes quite emotional with closer scrutiny. I’ll admit that this is in no way my favourite album in the Anathema back catalogue but I had often thought about that cover and the family photo that sits on the dashboard of the empty car wondering how this story ultimately played out. And now I can.

This opener very much has the feel of a concept album introduction. The sound of waves lapping on the shore, footsteps crunching on the beach, a car engine starting and then station-hopping on the car radio. It is more a scene-setter than a piece of music per se but it then segues rather seamlessly into ‘Leaving It Behind’ and we’re off. And we’re off at some pace, because this is a massively up-tempo, loud and abrasive piece of rock music. The electronic aspect is present from the beginning but with a bit of listening, it really enhances the track, adding an interesting slant to the composition, particularly in the brief atmospheric mid-song break down. As the song develops, the intensity increases as guitars begin to build up into walls of jangly sound whilst the drumming from Cardoso is relentless, ably assisted by bassist Jamie Cavanagh. To my mind, it is the perfect way to introduce an album that has deliberately and consciously been recorded ‘live’ in the studio, because the resulting energy is palpable and thoroughly infectious, pulling the listener along for the heady ride immediately.

As ‘Endless Ways’ begins quietly with just a lone piano and plaintive melody, I’m still catching my breath a little. But as Lee Douglas enters the fray for the first time, accented by some lush orchestration, my attention is well and truly undivided. The melodies and angelic vocals are more reminiscent of the last couple of albums, even if Douglas has parked the vibrato which characterised previous performances. Here, as the song majestically builds from humble beginnings into a powerful and heartfelt outpouring of emotions, Lee demonstrates that she is one of the shining lights in rock music today, whilst Anathema demonstrate that they haven’t lost their mercurial spark, whatever I might have first thought. And yes, you guessed it, the tears flow as I find myself being emotionally nourished by the incredibly important rock in my life that is Anathema.

“Hold on, hold on for dear life
And run, and run all night
For you are loved in endless ways
Stay with me, please believe
I can be your memory

My world will never be the same
And my heart is never going to regret
For you are loved in endless ways
Are loved in endless ways”

This wasn’t written for me, just as previous lyrics weren’t. But they could have been. These words resound with me, they touch me and they comfort me.

More piano introduces the title track, but it is Vincent that initially joins in vocally, joined by Lee at times but only fleetingly. Delicate melodies that are pure Anathema begin to work their charm after a few listens and further orchestration embellishments help to propel the song to a new level of sophistication. The track ebbs and flows, toying with the listener’s moods, but as with its predecessor, there is a subtle build-up towards a crescendo where there’s a hint of a wailing guitar in the vein of songs like ‘Anathema’.

‘San Francisco’ is a bit of an odd one. It is an instrumental that is dominated by a rather repetitive yet strangely beguiling melody, a reprise of sorts of ‘Endless Ways’ if I’m not mistaken. It is then accented by atmospheric synths and electronic sounds which help to set a completely different tone, one that I warm to more and more as time goes by.

In keeping with the concept vibe, the sounds of a train in full flight acts as a pause before ‘Springfield’ is introduced, almost shyly and reluctantly via a quiet and delicate guitar melody which is quickly taken up by the piano. Electronic sounds make a subtle return but it is the insistent rhythmic beat that makes the biggest impression in the early stages, driving the song towards what ultimately becomes an imposing wall of post rock-inspired sound led by urgent guitars and topped off by Lee’s serene voice almost pleading to the heavens. The track then falls away to conclude in a minimalist manner accompanied by the sounds of waves, distant sirens and the whispers of a male voice.

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Credit: Caroline Traitler – http://www.carolinetraitler.net

‘Ghosts’ then offers one of the most poignant and immediate melodies on the album which is enhanced by a beautiful string arrangement and a beat that together suggests something reminiscent of a film soundtrack. By contrast, ‘Can’t Let Go’ ups the pace and features arguably Vincent’s strongest performance on the entire record. Once again, drummer Cardoso provides the drive to a track that begins in bold fashion but which builds sublimely through a clever injection of rich and vibrant aural textures.

We return to another snippet of action from the central character before we delve into the murky world of ‘Close Your Eyes’, which evokes images in my mind of a dark and smoky backstreet jazz club. I can appreciate the composition and I don’t dislike it but it is by far and away my least favourite track on the album. The fact that a trumpet plays a significant role no doubt feeds my apathy as I continue to fail to warm to brass of any kind in my music.

Any lingering misgivings are short-lived however as ‘The Optimist’ ends in genuinely commanding fashion courtesy of ‘Wildfires’ and the fittingly-titled epic closer, ‘Back To The Start’.

The former has a dark, eerie tone created by the haunting, echoed vocals of Vincent atop the ubiquitous piano which for large portions of the track delivers something monotone, incessant and deliberately uncomfortable. But it works, as does the controlled explosion of sound before another swift descent into a minimalist, thought-provoking abyss.

The album is then brought to a close by the near 12-minute ‘Back To The Start’ and it is nothing short of magical, the perfect way to round out this impressive body of work. The sound of waves gently lapping onto the beach ushers in an aching and gorgeous melody that, when coupled by some devastatingly honest lyrics, threatens to reduce this grown man to tears yet again. I’m not normally someone who likes choral vocals, especially when they have a vague gospel ‘happy’ feel to them, but here, it just sounds right. Perfect in fact. The combination of voices, orchestration and lyrics as the song builds and ultimately reaches its climax is truly epic and a feeling of barely contained euphoria washes over me, bathing me in a warm glow. It’s all too much, so when the final act of the central character follows, I get tingles, chills and all manner of conflicting emotions.

Once again, Anathema have delivered an album that is more to me than just a collection of beautifully and lovingly-crafted songs. It is an album that lives and breathes. It has a vibrancy, an intense raw honesty and a human depth that many strive to deliver but that very few succeed in achieving. Whether or not it ultimately surpasses the last couple of records in terms of my overall enjoyment, only time will tell. For now though, I am content to lose myself in ‘The Optimist’ via its aural magnificence and the emotional succour that it provides to this fragile and damaged soul.

The Score of Much Metal: 9.5

If you’ve enjoyed this review, you can check out my others from previous years and for 2017 right here:

2015 reviews
2016 reviews

Solstafir – Berdreyminn
Dream Evil – Six
Avatarium – Hurricanes And Halos
Ayreon – The Source
Until Rain – Inure
MindMaze – Resolve
God Dethroned – The World Ablaze
Bjorn Riis – Forever Comes To An End
Voyager – Ghost Mile
Big Big Train – Grimspound
Lonely Robot – The Big Dream
Firespawn – The Reprobate
Ancient Ascendant
Pyramaze – Contingent
Shores Of Null – Black Drapes For Tomorrow
Asira – Efference
Hologram Earth – Black Cell Program
Damnations Day – A World Awakens
Memoriam – For The Fallen
Pallbearer – Heartless
Sleepmakeswaves – Made of Breath Only
Ghost Ship Octavius – Ghost Ship Octavius
Vangough – Warpaint
Telepathy – Tempest
Obituary – Obituary
Fen – Winter
Havok – Conformicide
Wolfheart – Tyhjyys
Svart Crown – Abreaction
Nova Collective – The Further Side
Immolation – Atonement
The Mute Gods – Tardigrades Will Inherit The Earth
Ex Deo – The Immortal Wars
Pyogenesis – A Kingdom To Disappear
My Soliloquy – Engines of Gravity
Nailed To Obscurity – King Delusion
Helion Prime – Helion Prime
Battle Beast – Bringer Of Pain
Persefone – Aathma
Soen – Lykaia
Exquirla – Para Quienes Aun Viven
Odd Logic – Effigy
Mors Principium Est – Embers Of A Dying World
Firewind – Immortals
Slyde – Back Again EP
Sepultura – Machine Messiah
Deserted Fear – Dead Shores Rising
Kreator – Gods Of Violence
Borealis – World of Silence MMXVII
Pain of Salvation – In The Passing Light of Day

Battle Beast -Bringer of Pain – Album Review

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Artist: Battle Beast

Album Title: Bringer of Pain

Label: Nuclear Blast

Date Of Release: 17 February 2017

I come to this review as a relative Battle Beast novice. I was never offered the opportunity to review any of their previous albums whilst working with Powerplay and so, with my time limited, my only exposure to the Finnish metal band was through a personal inquisitiveness. My subsequent exploration was never strong enough to check out an entire album all the way through though; something just held me back from full unreserved enjoyment.

However, having noticed that the band’s third album, ‘Unholy Savior’ topped the Finnish metal charts, I began to think that I’d missed something. So what better time to fully acquaint myself with Battle Beast and their own musical world than via their fourth album, ‘Bringer of Pain’?

Apparently since the last full-length outing, the band lost their guitarist and principle songwriter, Anton Kabanen to that age old nutshell of irreconcilable musical differences. This makes it, in my mind at least, even more ideal to offer my thoughts on this album, fairly unhindered by the baggage of previous releases and therefore with the benefit of fresh ears.

And my thoughts are that ‘Bringer of Pain’ is a bit of a strange record. A lot of kudos has to go to the remaining members of vocalist Noora Louhimo, guitarist Juuso Soinio, bassist Eero Sipilä, keyboardist Janne Björkroth, drummer Pyry Vikky and new guitarist Joona Björkroth. It can’t be easy to take up the mantle of song writing when you’ve only played a supporting role in this area previously but the Battle Beast guys and gal have not turned up their toes and died; they’ve given it a go.

The problem is then, that there are moments of brilliance and then there are moments of what I can only describe kindly as mediocre at best. In this respect, ‘Bringer of Pain’, with its Doro-esque cover art, is something of a Jekyll and Hyde album which demonstrates that more work is needed for future releases if they are to maintain their rising status in heavy metal circles.

And on that point, there is an argument to say that Battle Beast have more in common this time around with the melodic hard rock genre than heavy metal. There are plenty of heavy riffs, solos and aggressive attitude to be heard within ‘Bringer of Pain’ but equally, thanks to the abundant use of the keytar and elements of 80’s inspired pop nostalgia, the harder edges have been eroded to a greater or lesser extent.

My first exposure of this record was via the second ‘single’, ‘Familiar Hell’. It is an up-tempo hard-rocking number that contains arguably the strongest and boldest chorus on the album. It is infectious and a lot of fun, despite offering a certain amount of dark social commentary along the way. There’s an awfully cheesy spoken word part late on from Noora but this does not derail what is a great song overall and a contender for Eurovision glory in the process.

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Equally good is the opening track, ‘Straight To The Heart’, that explodes in a flurry of hard-hitting riffs, lead guitars squeals, and an imposing roar from frontwoman Noora Louhimo. The entirety of the song is driven by a strong rhythm section where the drums and bass pound and there’s the ubiquitous lead guitar solo as well. But dominating proceedings is a huge chorus that is hook-filled and which affords the opportunity for Noora to demonstrate just exactly who the star of the show is within Battle Beast.

And then there’s the title track which is most definitely a full-on bruising heavy metal assault, full of intensity and controlled aggression. The chorus is a little disappointing but the overall feel of the song is positive. ‘Bastard Son Of Odin’ meanwhile features a rather lovely galloping rhythm to recall the halcyon days of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal movement.

A mention must also be made of the lead ‘single’, ‘King For A Day’. It makes for interesting listening given that it is a bizarre amalgamation of melodic hard rock, metal and 80s pop. The synth sounds are massively retro in tone and the melodies remind me quite a bit of Abba of all things. And yet, strangely, by and large it works, creating an infectious earworm-filled track from start to finish.

But, for all the positive elements of ‘Bringer of Pain’, there are some negatives. ‘Lost In Wars’, for example, underlines a slightly underwhelming middle section of the record as it has a central riff and vaguely Goth/industrial tone that is reminiscent of Rammstein but is ultimately a bit of a numb, paint-by-numbers track.

Even worse in my humble opinion is the electronic pop rock styling of ‘Dancing With the Beast’. Now I’m fairly broadminded when it comes to external elements featuring within heavy metal but aside from a few guitars that make an appearance for appearances sake, this is pure electro-pop, bordering on 80s dance music. I’ll admit that it is quite catchy but nope, this is not for me at all I’m afraid.

And to finish, we have ‘Far From Heaven’, a full-on unashamed power ballad. Again, I’m not averse to a good ballad but this isn’t the best and, when coupled with its predecessor, it threatens to completely undermine the vibe created within much of the remainder of the album.

I can understand what Battle Beast were perhaps trying to do, namely show the world that they still have the ability to write a wide range of music with the new line-up and are not constrained by genre boundaries. Unfortunately, it has backfired as far as I’m concerned. I would have much preferred the Finns to stick more closely to what they are best at and what they deliver over the course of the opening two or three tracks.

As it is, I can’t shake the feeling that ‘Bringer of Pain’ is a bit too messy. It delivers some quality cuts of up-tempo hard rock and heavy metal that I’m sure long term fans will welcome to the Battle Beast armoury. But there are also a few songs that are either ‘meh’ or eyebrow-raising for the wrong reasons. Mind you, I’ll still check out their next album though, because if they get that right, it could be a pretty decent album.

The Score Of Much Metal: 7

If you’ve enjoyed this review, check out my others from previous years and for 2017 right here:

2015 reviews
2016 reviews

Persefone – Aathma
Soen – Lykaia
Exquirla – Para Quienes Aun Viven
Odd Logic – Effigy
Mors Principium Est – Embers Of A Dying World
Firewind – Immortals
Slyde – Back Again EP
Sepultura – Machine Messiah
Deserted Fear – Dead Shores Rising
Kreator – Gods Of Violence
Borealis – World of Silence MMXVII
Pain of Salvation – In The Passing Light of Day

Pain Of Salvation – In The Passing Light Of Day – Album Review

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Artist: Pain Of Salvation

Album Title: In The Passing Light Of Day

Label: InsideOut Music

Release date: 13 January 2017

I suspect I’m not in a minority who include Pain of Salvation as one of their most important musical discoveries. Here is a band that have released easily some of the best progressive metal music ever written and any time they bring out new material, there is a buzz of excitement, an intake of breath and fevered anticipation.

If truth be told however, the Swedish quintet led by the irrepressible Daniel Gildenlöw, have given me much to deliberate over the years. I hold ‘The Perfect Element: Part 1’ and ‘Remedy Lane’ in the highest regard, with both of them featuring high up in my all-time albums list. But I am less enamoured with some of the output since. ‘Scarsick’ was interesting shall we say. But in particular, there’s the ‘Road Salt’ double which is very well written and passionately performed but which ultimately left me quite cold due to its overall approach and complete abandonment of anything even remotely heavy. I admire the band for trying something that their heart desired but it simply wasn’t for me.

And so, when I heard a rumour that Pain of Salvation might just return to their heavier roots with album number ten, I wasn’t sure I could believe it. Well, I should never have doubted the word of Daniel Gildenlöw, even if he did tell me directly during the press rounds for ‘Road Salt 1’ that he couldn’t see himself ever returning to metal. The result is ‘In The Passing Light of Day’ and it is rather magnificent.

Before tackling the music, I feel that the subject matter and lyrical content of ‘In The Passing Light Of Day’ needs to be fully explored. Pain of Salvation and founder Daniel Gildenlöw in particular have never shied away from confrontational issues be they inspired by personal experiences or otherwise. This record is no different as the catalyst has been Daniel’s own medical problems of late. And when I say ‘problems’, I am understating things drastically as he nearly died. As such, it is hardly a shock to note that ‘In The Passing Light Of Day’ is a dark and claustrophobic, gritty and raw record.

Under normal circumstances, this would be sufficient to make the album a challenge for listeners, even the absolute die-hards. However, for me, it has been even tougher as my last remaining grandmother sadly passed away mid-review. As you might imagine, this has added another dimension to an already powerful listening experience.

Two days ago, I sat by her bedside for the last time, holding her hand and chatting nonsense whilst life became ever more of a chore for her. It brought back painful memories as I did exactly the same with my only brother at a hospice bedside eight years ago as he left us to an aggressive form of cancer.

So when Daniel sings, ‘…you’re watching me slowly slip away, like the passing light of day…’ within the epic, closing title track, it resonates with me more than you could ever imagine. OK, he isn’t singing about an elderly lady coming to the end of her life or a brother being cruelly taken from his family in the prime of life, but the parallels are there and I take great meaning from his words. I even toyed with not reviewing this album for a short period as it became so difficult to listen to without breaking down. I wasn’t focusing on the album from a reviewers standpoint, I was feeling it, living it and using it selfishly to help me with my own grief.

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Photo credit: Lars Ardarve

I make no apologies for the sombre tone of the review thus far because I think that in many ways it reflects the oppressive darkness that cloaks much of the record. It isn’t a carefree, easy listen and it is more powerful and memorable because of it. I love the fact that Daniel feels able to open up through his music, just like I feel I can bare all when I write.

That being true, there is also a sense of positivity that runs through this album, like a delicate gossamer thread of hope, of light, of better things on the horizon. In many ways, this added ingredient just makes the album even more of an emotional rollercoaster for all concerned.

The previous quote then eventually leads to ‘…and although I wish that I could stay, it somehow strangely feels ok…it is what it is and I’ll find my way through the passing light…’ and the ultimate bittersweet line of ‘…I’m in too much pain to feel afraid…’ Not exactly cheerful, but with a touch of positivity and maybe even a oddly comforting insight into what both of my family members and indeed Daniel, must have felt in the midst of their ordeals.

The most powerful and emotive of lyrics will fall flat however, if the music that sits beside it, underneath it and within it is deficient. On that score, Pain of Salvation have no worries. In progressive music terms, I am still in the early days of digesting the music having only listened to it for three weeks but in that time I have listened to little else it has to be said. Is it their best work to date? That would be a big call to make at this stage but it certainly ranks highly in my estimations.

Given the subject matter, the return to heavier climes is a perfect fit, accenting the anger, despair, and frustration of the central themes very well. However, this isn’t a one-dimensional heavy album. It flows from all out bombast to sections of intelligent complexity to quieter more minimalist landscapes and back again as the mood of the tracks dictate. And what I really find intriguing and enjoy more than I thought is the fact that the band have not completely ditched the sounds and textures that were explored on the ‘Road Salt’ albums. As a result, there is a tangibly organic feel to much of the output; acoustic guitars and occasional nods to bluegrass can be heard amongst other things whilst the whole thing is wrapped up in a production courtesy of Daniel Bergstrand (Dugout Studio) that is far from over-polished, thus retaining a certain purity, honesty and rawness to proceedings. It works brilliantly, quite frankly.

What also works well is the way in which the music sounds fresh and vital but also isn’t afraid to borrow from the band’s past either. As well as the ‘Road Salt’ echoes, there are passages where I also hear elements of the ‘One Hour By The Concrete Lake’, ‘Remedy Lane’ and ‘Be’, the latter mainly through the way in which the songs are accompanied by sound samples to depict the hospital setting of the album, introducing songs, closing songs and indeed dissecting them, adding a sense of theatre in the process.

In fact, listen carefully enough and there are influences to be heard from all corners of the band’s rich history. It is a clever trick when the band itself is markedly different in 2017. ‘In The Passing Light of Day’ sees mainstay vocalist and guitarist Daniel Gildenlöw joined by drummer Léo Margarit, bassist/vocalist Gustaf Hielm, keyboardist/vocalist Daniel Karlsson and guitarist/vocalist Ragnar Zolberg in a line-up that has now been stable for the past four years. Regardless of their relatively new relationship under the Pain of Salvation banner, there’s no denying that together, they are a highly talented bunch of musicians.

The album begins with ‘On A Tuesday’ which wastes no time in laying down the heavier credentials of the album thanks to a thundering groovy riff backed up by an expressive bass line from Gustaf Hielm and dominant drumming courtesy of Léo Margarit. The heaviness gives way to Daniel’s narration that is a recurring theme throughout the album, adding that important personal dimension. The chorus of sorts that explodes is a thing of real quality, which then returns at various points within the 10-minute track.

Ragnar’s higher-pitched, almost feminine sounding vocals make their first appearance atop a gorgeous piano melody from Daniel Karlsson accented by orchestral embellishments. Much has been made of Zolberg’s voice but I have to say that I really like them and find that they add something very valuable to the overall sound of the music.

The track ebbs and flows tremendously, returning to an all-out tumultuous metal attack full of urgency before falling away to allow a lone piano before the striking melody is built on with sampled, electronic effects that introduce a sinister edge. It builds and builds to a heady, oppressive crescendo from which there is no escape.

‘Tongue of God’ follows, starting quietly in stark contrast to what went before. The bass of Hielm is again a focal point for my ears before the heaviness is reintroduced via a commanding riff. The echoes of the early days are writ large across this composition thanks to the overt power and sense of anger that pervades.

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Photo credit: Lars Ardarve

By now, anyone worth their salt will have heard the lead single ‘Meaningless’ and seen the dark and provocative video to accompany it. I adore this track to the point where I’m borderline obsessed by it. From the intriguing, odd-sounding opening melody to the quirky, slightly tribal-sounding bass and drum-led verses to the all-out power and melody of the insanely catchy chorus, not to mention the emotive lyrics, this has class written all over it. The word ‘anthemic’ is over-used at times, but by hell it’s deserved here.

By contrast, ‘Silent Gold’ is a stripped down, organic piece of music where the piano and vocals of Daniel take centre stage almost exclusively at least for the first half. This is where the ‘Road Salt’ influences reveal themselves most clearly but in the context of what surrounds it, it’s a really delicate and lovely composition with real character. There’s a similar vibe to ‘If This Is The End’, complete with more slide guitar, albeit it is blended with starkly juxtaposing segments of heavy material to create a real Jekyll and Hyde piece in many ways.

‘Full Throttle Tribe’ opens with those hospital-derived sampled sounds before a typical, almost ubiquitous Pain of Salvation syncopated beat and riff enters the fray. There are more electronic sounds to be heard before the chorus hits, making a real impact as it does. The minimalist mid-section is gorgeous, accented by what sounds like a heart monitor, before the track concludes with a reprise of the striking chorus and then a monstrous down-tuned, swirling and churning djent-esque breakdown.

The second ‘single’ off the album comes in the form of ‘Reasons’ which displays many of the hallmarks of older Pain Of Salvation including more syncopated riffing and unique vocals of Daniel Gildenlöw which descend into more venomous spoken-word diatribe territory as the song develops.

‘Angels of Broken Things’ is one of my personal favourites. It builds from humble beginnings, via a really insidious and simple melody and dark atmospheres to eventually erupt into one of the best extended guitar solos that I have heard in a long time. It is technically very adept but what is more impressive is the expressive nature of it and its eloquence. It more than adeptly conveys a feeling of pent up frustration and a full-on release of it, along with relief, misery, hope, and a million other strong human emotions, all of which Daniel must have felt during his ordeal. It’s a real head back, air-guitar moment of giant proportions.

There is then more heavy, groovy and intense listening courtesy of ‘The Taming of A Beast’ which contains within it some of the most crunching riffs on the album as well as being a bona-fide slow burner that has burrowed its way into my affections after a sticky start.

If all this wasn’t enough, arguably the very best is saved for last in the shape of the title track of sorts, ‘The Passing Light Of Day’. For all of the aforementioned reasons and more besides, this is the point at which the tears really start to flow and I’m taking deep breaths. It is the culmination of a superb album, a 15-minute smorgasbord of fragile emotion, musical peaks and troughs, poignancy and utterly magical beauty. The song moves from quiet and introspective, to heavy and complex and back again whilst always maintaining the intensely personal feeling, as if we’re voyeurs infringing on the privacy of two souls going through hell.

And I swear blind that I hear a subtle reprise of ‘Ending Theme’ from ‘Remedy Lane’ buried within the composition. But regardless, the final moments are the icing on the cake in that they reintroduce the early melodies sumptuously embellished by some rich and spine-tingling orchestral additions. Quite often I find myself listening to this track in the open air at night and so, on more than one occasion I have ended up staring at the stars, with tears rolling down my cheeks, covered in goose bumps. It seems the appropriate thing to do, a response entirely fitting with the tone and messages conveyed by this remarkable album.

I’m not sure there’s much else to add at this stage. 2017 may have only just begun but Pain of Salvation have laid down the marker for all others to reach. After a few releases that didn’t move me, ‘In The Passing Light of Day’ has redressed the balance and then some. If this is what intelligent and emotional progressive metal sounds like in 2017, I don’t want the year to ever end.

The Score of Much Metal: 9.75

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

Delain – Moonbathers
Arcade Messiah – III
A Sense Of Gravity – Atrament
Devilment – Devilment II: The Mephisto Waltzes
Maschine – Naturalis
Brutai – Born
False Coda – Secrets and Sins
Pretty Maids – Kingmaker
In Flames – Battles
The Neal Morse Band – The Similitude Of A Dream
Memoreve – Insignia
Enbound – The Blackened Heart
Blind Ego – Liquid
Dark Tranquillity – Atoma
Hammerfall – Built To Last
Testament – Brotherhood Of The Snake
Crippled Black Phoenix – Bronze
Riverside – Eye Of The Soundscape
Hanging Garden – Hereafter
Theocracy – Ghost Ship
Arkona – Lunaris
Oddland – Origin
Sonata Arctica – The Ninth Hour
Edensong – Years In The Garden of Years
Meshuggah – The Violent Sleep Of Reason
Alcest – Kodama
Opeth – Sorceress
Negura Bunget – ZI
Epica – The Holographic Principle
Amaranthe – Maximalism
Eye Of Solitude – Cenotaph
Seven Impale – Contrapasso
DGM – The Passage
Pressure Points – False Lights
In The Woods – Pure
Devin Townsend – Transcendence
The Pineapple Thief – Your Wilderness
Evergrey – The Storm Within
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

Album of the Year 2016 – number 20

It’s getting a little more serious now as I enter the Top 20 of my ‘Albums of the Year 2016’ top 30 countdown. Can you feel the tension start to increase? Your nerves jangling? Biting your nails?…

What do you mean ‘no’? You heathens!

Anyway, here we are over a third of the way through this annual undertaking of mine. I’ve started to get a few heckles from the masses over my placement and inclusion of certain albums in this list, but hey, that’s fine. This is just my opinion, nothing more. Who is to say that any of us are right or wrong? And anyway, I hardly hold as much sway as the big boys do I?

This list just pulls together my favourite 30 albums of the year, those 30 that have stood out above all others during what has been a very strong year. This is the first full year that I have gone solo with this blog, so the support from you all has been amazing – it also means that I can provide links to the full album review of each and every one of these picks in my top 30. So if you’ve not read them, now’s your chance.

So, keep the comments coming people, I’m loving hearing what you all think of my lone voice in the wind.

On that note, onwards into the top 30…

Number 20

Frost cover

 

Frost*
Falling Satellites
InsideOut Music

 

“It is such a varied and unusual album in many ways that I wasn’t really sure what to make of it…It is no surprise that the music on this album is imbued with a genuine pop sheen and, on occasions dare I say it, a commercial edge…one thing I wasn’t expecting from ‘Falling Satellites’ was the sheer amount of poignant and sensitive material that it delivers.

For my money, I’d have to say that ‘Falling Satellites’ could just be Frost*’s best album to date. It has a little of just about everything that I want in my progressive rock; it’s well-written, excellently performed and is just a little bit odd and quirky too. In a year that has delivered plenty of quality already and threatens to continue the trend to the year end, ‘Falling Satellites’ has really caught my attention and thoroughly deserves to be in contention for a spot in my end of year ‘best of’ list.”

Read the full review here

Credit: unknown

Credit: unknown

I have to be honest and remark at how surprised I have been with this album. Pleasantly surprised too. Never having been the biggest fan of Frost*, I was interested in hearing their first full length album in around 8 years. But nothing more than merely interested. I never expected in a million years that I’d be including it in my ‘album of the year’ list.

For one, there’s a lot of more commercial, pop and electronic content on the album than I am normally comfortable with, thanks to the input of Jem Godfrey. But it just gets under my skin and, when blended so effortlessly and smoothly with the prog rock core of the band as well as John Mitchell’s sublime lead guitar work, it creates a scintillating final package. Not to mention that tangible layer of emotion and rawness that comes through the compositions, another impressive string to the Frost* bow.

Even after so many months, it still pushes my buttons in the right way and, when I press play, I may as well forget doing anything else for the next hour or so, because I’ll be hooked. And the 90 second opener ‘First Day’ remains one of my favourite compositions to date, it’s stunning.

In case you’ve missed any of the other posts in the 2016 series, here they are for you to explore and enjoy:

Album of the Year 2016 – number 21
Album of the Year 2016 – number 22
Album of the Year 2016 – number 23
Album of the Year 2016 – number 24
Album of the Year 2016 – number 25
Album of the Year 2016 – number 26
Album of the Year 2016 – number 27
Album of the Year 2016 – number 28
Album of the Year 2016 – Number 29
Album of the Year 2016 – Number 30

And from previous years:

Album of the Year 2015
Album of the Year 2014
Album of the Year 2013
Album of the Year 2012

Maschine – Naturalis – Album Review

press_cover

Artist: Maschine

Album Title: Naturalis

Label: Inside Out Music

Date Of Release: 18 November 2016

Regular readers of the Blog of Much Metal wil be familiar with my posts where I look into my crystal ball and comment on the albums that I most look forward to in the coming year. Regular readers will also be acutely aware that Maschine have featured within these posts for the past couple of years but, until now, have not delivered. I need to get the crystal ball booked in for a service, I reckon.

Maschine first came to my attention back in 2013 when I was still writing for Powerplay. I was asked if, at the 11th hour, I could fit in one more review and turn it around in a little under 48 hours. The album in question was the debut from a previously unknown band called Maschine, a young UK-based prog rock band with a penchant for jazz and fusion amongst other influences.

I never like reviewing albums under such a tight timescale because I like to allow records the chance to get under my skin. This wasn’t an option but in the short space of time I had, I listened to ‘Rubidium’ almost non-stop. Not just because I had to, but because I wanted to. Frankly, it blew me away and I still play it regularly. It had a few rough edges and areas of improvement naturally. However, as debuts go, it was highly impressive to say the least.

Since then, I’ve been patiently waiting for the follow-up. In the intervening years, there were long periods of silence and apparent inactivity from the Brighton-based quintet, at least from my outsider perspective. There was also an important line-up change. Original female vocalist and keyboardist Georgia Lewis left the band, to be replaced by Marie-Eve de Gaultier.

Now in 2016, consisting of guitarist/vocalist Luke Machin, bassist/vocalist Daniel Mashal, vocalist/keyboardist Marie-Eve de Gaultier, guitarist Elliott Fuller and drummer James Stewart, Maschine are back with their eagerly anticipated sophomore release, ‘Naturalis’. This time, I made sure I gave myself a lot longer to listen and to absorb the music on this record, so that I could make the most of the experience.

After a few weeks, I have several adjectives running through my mind, many of which have become stronger and more defined the more familiar I get with the album. Words like ‘smooth’, ‘sophisticated’ and ‘refined’ sit comfortably alongside ‘adept’, ‘confident’ and ‘assured’.

You can probably tell therefore, that I like ‘Naturalis’. But that’s not entirely accurate. I love this album. There is so much within it to enjoy and discover; it will take more than a cursory listen to fully appreciate it and that’s one of the beauties of this record.

‘Naturalis’ is comprised of a mere six tracks but together they amount to around 52 minutes of music that touches just about every genre and subgenre of music possible. From prog rock to metal, from jazz to funk, from ambient to pop, it is all pretty much catered for. It is an album book-ended by two eleven-plus-minute epics between which sit four that average around seven minutes. This is another master stroke that Maschine play – this is not an album that outstays its welcome in any shape or form but which contains plenty of room for the music to take the listener on an engrossing journey, full of technicality, complexity and beauty.

I’m feeling all conventional, so let’s begin a deeper look at this record with the opening track, ‘Resistance’.

It begins with moody, futuristic electronic sounds and textures from de Gaultier that are carefully built on, first by a simple yet bold drum beat, then further layers of synths to deepen the atmosphere. Finally, in come the guitars with a deceptively simple riff, further layered until the song opens up into a truly epic and majestic soundscape where the keys soar and the senses are assaulted from all directions within the band.

press_photo1

This most grandiose of beginnings then drops away starkly to reveal some gorgeous bass work from Mashal as well as subtle vocals, both from Luke Machin and de Gaultier. The song rebuilds towards a reintroduction of that powerful and seductive melody, only to give way this time to something more spiky, led by a guitar riff that has one toe in the realm of black metal of all things.

This is only a momentary flourish as the composition ebbs and flows, moving back and forth between moody atmospherics and all-out abandon via some funky interludes and jazzy flourishes to create palpable tension and an intelligent sense of storytelling through music.

If the first half of the track is full of darker atmosphere, the second half is very different. Like the parting of the clouds, a brighter and breezier melody replaces the aural gloom to glorious effect. The vocals from Machin and de Gaultier are much more pronounced and the introduction of acoustic guitars adds to the more positive vibes and creates a slightly more pastoral feel. There’s still a moody undercurrent but it only reveals itself at certain points as the narrative demands.

‘Resistance’ is an extremely bold and ambitious opener but it is delivered with consummate skill. And, despite the shifts in tempo, atmosphere, textures and mood, all of which culminate in a final act that throws instrumental caution to the wind in an abrasive and dramatic conclusion, it is held together by some superb musicianship. Somehow, it ends up sounding very smooth and sophisticated when by all accounts, it had no right to do so.

The following track is very aptly named. ‘Night And Day’ is indeed the ‘day’ to the ‘night’ of ‘Resistance’. There’s no protracted intro for a start. Instead, a guitar riff from Machin and his equally talented six string partner Elliott Fuller introduces what happens to be the shortest, punchiest track on ‘Naturalis’. However, it is the utterly addictive and ludicrously catchy lead melody that grabs my attention from the off. Vaguely reminiscent to the song ‘Visions’ by Haken and injecting electronic and pop hints into the whole, it is another example of the quality that exudes from every pore of this young band.

I heard mutterings around the release of the debut that some didn’t like Machin’s vocals. He has a distinct style for sure but I really like his delivery. It is quite unique and crucially it acts as a superb partner to the utterly beguiling voice of de Gaultier. If her superb keyboard playing wasn’t enough on its own, this young lady has the voice of an angel; so refined, so full of emotion and almost seductive in tone.

There’s no better example of her beautiful voice than on the equally stunning ‘Make Believe’, a contender for my song of the year. The track opens with a simple piano and de Gaultier’s breathy, almost ethereal voice. It sends shivers down my spine every time I listen.

In some ways, this is the most simple song on ‘Naturalis’ in terms of the construction but so strong are the melodies and the collective performance of the band that, to me, it packs the biggest punch of all. The ‘chorus’ melody is a work of genius and the effect that it has on me when some beefier guitars join to act as a muscular counterpoint to the angelic vocals is pure magic. To cap things off, Machin indulges in a scintillating lead guitar solo and then communicates such poignancy and feel as the song draws to a conclusion with some wonderfully subtle guitar notes, executed with a sympathy and deftness that is remarkable.

In my opinion, the first three songs are so undeniably great that it would take a gargantuan effort, something approaching an all-time masterpiece for the remaining three to match the same level. To Maschine’s credit, they pretty much achieve the feat as nothing on ‘Naturalis’ is anything other than magnificent. If I’m being 100% honest, my preferences veer more towards the opening half but it is my a miniscule margin.

‘Hidden In Plain Sight’ is a breath of fresh air in terms of its more upbeat and laid-back vibe. There’s a demonstrably greater jazz and fusion vibe to the song which I have really grown to appreciate initially and then more latterly, to embrace and enjoy. It helps that there are some hugely likeable melodies to underpin everything, turning it into a song as opposed to anything else. Again, the individual performances are spot on and impressive in their assuredness whilst a doff of the cap has to go to the rhythmic team of drummer James Stewart and bassist Daniel Mashal, as they drive forward an extended instrumental section with the kind of touch, feel and ability that most of us can only dream of.

By contrast, ‘A New Reality’ has a much more whimsical feel to it, not to mention the sophisticated and compelling feel of a romantic movie score thanks to the rich strings, warm textures and layers of dreamy synths that dominate large parts of the composition.

‘Naturalis’ then closes with ‘Megacyma’, which begins with darker, dystopian overtones complete with ominous sampled sounds of sirens and fires. The track builds, aided by another gloriously emotive lead guitar segment. The song then explodes into some of the heaviest material on the album, led by the bruising drumming of Stewart. In fact, ‘Megacyma’ is arguably the angriest sounding composition of Maschine’s career to date, bounding along in places at a fair lick.

However, in true Maschine style, the heavy riffs, pounding rhythms and the moments of individual instrumental prowess are kept in check within an overall framework that has been finely honed and wonderfully crafted. Just when you think Maschine might jump off the metaphorical cliff, the track is pulled from the brink with a well-placed moment of calm or elegance. For a song that clocks in at over eleven minutes and for all its ambitious endeavours, it is frightening just how quickly it seems to reach its impressive conclusion.

I return to one of the opening paragraphs by reiterating the fact that on ‘Naturalis’, Maschine just have a knack of making the most complex and challenging music sound so gorgeous, effortless and smooth. Add to the mix a strong production and lyrics that don’t shy away from the big topics of the day and ‘Naturalis’ begins to add up to a very commanding release indeed. I’m thoroughly smitten and can only conclude that if you’re a fan of intelligent and ambitious progressive music, Maschine are an essential addition to your collection.

The Score Of Much Metal: 9.5

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

Brutai – Born
False Coda – Secrets and Sins
Pretty Maids – Kingmaker
In Flames – Battles
The Neal Morse Band – The Similitude Of A Dream
Memoreve – Insignia
Enbound – The Blackened Heart
Blind Ego – Liquid
Dark Tranquillity – Atoma
Hammerfall – Built To Last
Testament – Brotherhood Of The Snake
Crippled Black Phoenix – Bronze
Riverside – Eye Of The Soundscape
Hanging Garden – Hereafter
Theocracy – Ghost Ship
Arkona – Lunaris
Oddland – Origin
Sonata Arctica – The Ninth Hour
Edensong – Years In The Garden of Years
Meshuggah – The Violent Sleep Of Reason
Alcest – Kodama
Opeth – Sorceress
Negura Bunget – ZI
Epica – The Holographic Principle
Amaranthe – Maximalism
Eye Of Solitude – Cenotaph
Seven Impale – Contrapasso
DGM – The Passage
Pressure Points – False Lights
In The Woods – Pure
Devin Townsend – Transcendence
The Pineapple Thief – Your Wilderness
Evergrey – The Storm Within
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