Tag Archives: ambient

Hologram Earth – Black Cell Program – Album Review

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Artist: Hologram Earth

Album Title: Black Cell Program

Label: Independent Release

Date Of Release: 7 April 2017

It never ceases to amaze me how many excellent bands and artists there are swirling around the metal underground. The more I explore, the more I discover and the subject of this review is yet another example to prove this point most eloquently.

Hologram Earth are a Dutch quintet, formed in 2011, comprised of vocalist Michiel Meurs, guitarists Bram Heijs and Steven Hulshof, drummer Luuk van der Velden and bassist Thomas Cochrane who is also responsible for the brass elements found on this debut record entitled ‘Black Cell Program’.

The album opens up with ‘Immaculate Conception’ which features bruising and technically adept djent riffs that immediately call to mind the likes of Meshuggah, particularly in terms of their heaviness and intensity. However, as the track and indeed the album progresses, it is evident that Hologram Earth are not mere Meshuggah clones. The similarities are inescapable but so too are the differences that become apparent the more you listen to this record.

For a start, there’s the introduction to the opening song which is grand, almost cinematic in tone, delivering some powerful, aggressive drumming and a touch of early groove. Now, I must admit to having a strong dislike in general to any brass whatsoever in rock or metal music. Call me narrow-minded and dismissive if you like but I have to be honest. As such, whilst I have got used to the use of brass on this album, I still haven’t got to the point where I really like it. Nevertheless, for those without such prejudices, the fact that the brass of Cochrane cleverly blends in and out of the track will come as a positive aspect of the music, I’m sure.

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‘Outnumbered’ begins in a manner that’s more Textures than Meshuggah, although those technical and swirling djent riffs are never far away. What this track also introduces is a more pronounced injection of light and shade, where the foot is frequently taken off the pedal to allow more ambient and atmospheric textures to come to the fore. The brass is more prominent for better or worse but it creates an intriguing juxtaposition nevertheless. And I really like the choral vocal effects as the song draws to a close alongside some really excellent bass work.

Whilst there is melody within the opening compositions, it really comes to the fore within ‘Circadian’, a personal favourite of mine. The song begins in a relaxed ambient manner that is quite beautiful, particularly as it is built up in a fashion not dissimilar to the likes of Long Distance Calling. The way in which the guitars enter the fray is very nice, as you almost don’t notice them at first. The bass work is out of the top draw here too.

Vocally, Michiel Meurs gives a great performance, moving between deep growls and a more soaring clean approach. Then there’s his forceful delivery somewhere in the middle, more heavy-rock like. The versatility is a very nice touch, accentuating the equally versatile music beneath it.

‘Moment of Despair’ then descends into discordant avant-garde territory complete with a guest saxophonist which is, with respect, probably my least favourite section on the album. There is melodic intent within the song and it is undeniably ambitious and well-executed but despite my best efforts, I’m not a fan.

In stark contrast, ‘Rebirth’ delivers the better part of four minutes of serene ambient soundscapes which are slightly dark in places. The song then builds gently and deliberately before exploding into a crescendo that is rather epic and thoroughly engrossing, complete with some really nice lead guitar work from Hulshof.

‘In Ashes We Sleep’ returns us to the world of djent riffing and measured aggression, albeit tempered by more grand cinematics, a soupcon of melody and a touch of the avant-garde again. It is then left to the title track to close out this seven-track debut album and it does so in typically ambitious fashion, entirely in keeping with the intent shown throughout the record. Only this time, I detect a vaguely loose, punk attitude in places that infiltrates the intensely precise and technical output elsewhere.

It takes a while to fully appreciate what Hologram Earth have produced here. This is their debut album and as such, there is plenty of room for growth and maturation. However, ‘Black Cell Program’ is a very well thought out album, bursting with ideas and with an evident talent to match the ambition. Put it high on your ‘to listen’ list if you’re a fan of modern progressive metal in any shape or form.

The Score Of Much Metal: 8

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

2015 reviews
2016 reviews

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

BlogOfMuchMetal – Metal News – 23 March 2017

As you can see from the title of this post, I’ve gone through a bit of a re-branding with these regular news reports. They will still focus on news about albums in the pipeline, so keep expecting updates on new releases, big album announcements, new tracks, studio reports etc.

However, I wanted something a bit more snappy as a title and also something that wasn’t so restrictive as there may be times when I need to write about something that doesn’t involve a new album.

If you’ve not checked out any of the previous posts in this series, entitled ‘Anticipated music in 2017 – an update…’, they can be found via the links at the bottom of this page.

Lonely Robot – The Big Dream
Release date: 28 April 2017

16729381_10155037235405439_4788700761726639376_nI brought you news a week or two back about a new album from Lonely Robot, the brainchild of John Mitchell of It Bites, Arena and Frost* fame. Well, I can now bring you a new track from the forthcoming sophomore release ‘The Big Dream’.

As you might expect, Mitchell’s recognisable guitar playing and vocals are all over this energetic and dynamic progressive rock track that features plenty of melodic hooks to get you coming back for repeated listens. From what can be gleaned from ‘Everglow’, there is unlikely to be a massive sea-change from the debut but that’s a good thing in my opinion. This sounds big, bold and continues with those grand cinematic overtones.

This is just the kind of song to get me extremely excited for the upcoming album.

Lost In Thought – TBC
Release date: TBC

This has got to be one of my most highly anticipated albums of 2017 right here, the sophomore release from the re-formed and rejuvenated UK progressive metal band, Lost In thought. Their debut, ‘Opus Arise’ was a cracking body of progressive metal and is a more than solid foundation upon which to build.

Over the past few weeks and months, the band have been releasing snippets of the recording process and everything I have heard from these suggests that the anticipation for a long-overdue follow-up has not been misplaced. It remains to be seen exactly how the all-new line-up will fare and how new vocalist Deane Lazenby fits in having recently replaced Nate Loosemore behind the mic but that’s all part of the excitement for me.

And whilst we wait for more, here is a selection of recent updates to get you salivating at the prospect of what threatens to be another quality progressive metal album during 2017.

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CyHra – TBC
Release date: TBC

Now this is some news that came out of nowhere and was broken to the world by my old mate and died-in-the-wool metalhead Carl Begai of BWBK. I have been a fan of Amaranthe since the very beginning and I’ve enjoyed each album they have released, even when the music has veered dangerously close to cheesy pop territory. Vocalist Jake E. is one of the reasons for my enjoyment as he has a great voice. So when he left the band, I was very disappointed.

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Similarly, I have also been a fan of In Flames for nearly 20 years. Admitedly, I much prefer their earlier output to the more latter-day incarnation, with guitarist Jesper Stromblad playing an integral part in that with his distinctive playing and input into the song writing.

Therefore, news of these two artists coming together in a brand new project get me very intrigued and a little bit excited. The new band, CyHra, which also features Peter Iwers (ex-In Flames) and Alex Landerburg (Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody), will have fans of old In Flames salivating for obvious reasons, although the band have distanced themselves from being an old In Flames clone right at the outset. Regardless though of what they actually sound like, the debut album will attract a great deal of attention and I’m very excited to hear the finished article.

Ghost Bath – Starmourner
Release date: 21 April 2017

1000x1000Ghost Bath were a new find for me last year. Until that point, I’d never checked out the American quintet. To be honest, I’d barely even heard their name before. But then the band suddenly found themselves on the books of Nuclear Blast and the whole world seemingly took more notice, including me.

In my review of ‘Moonlover’, I described Ghost Bath as appealing to those ‘with a penchant for music that juxtaposes dark and depressing black metal with elegant and soaring shoegaze-like melodies. Call it ‘blackgaze’ if you will’, later concluding that the album delivered ‘a sophisticated blend of aggression, beauty and raw emotion.’

And now, here we have a brand new track from the forthcoming studio album, ‘Ambrosial’ to tide us over until the record is released. Early impressions from me are mixed, but I’ll give it time and judge the material in the context of the entire album. Here’s the track – see what you think…

Novembers Doom – Hamartia
Release date: 14 April 2017

16194898_10154785044620926_4893612019868184461_nNovembers Doom are one of those bands that I think I should really like but end up passing by. I always try to like the American dark/doomsters and I have a couple of their albums in my collection. But I’ve never been much of a fan.

Album number ten is on the horizon and once again, I’m dutifully checking out their new material in the hope that it will finally click with me. And you know what? I really like this track entitled ‘Zephyr’; it is dark and depressive, but it has a really rich tone and an understated melodic chorus that gets under the skin quite quickly. If the new album offers this standard throughout, it might finally be the album that I’ve been waiting for from Novembers Doom.

Previous updates:

11 March 2017
5th March 2017
26th February 2017
13th February 2017
3rd February 2017
30th January 2017
21st January 2017

Fen – Winter – Album Review

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Artist: Fen

Album Title: Winter

Label: Code666

Date Of Release: 10 March 2017

If ever there was an album title that fitted the music of the band perfectly, it is this. ‘Winter’ is the name of the latest album from UK progressively-laced black metal band Fen and, as someone very wise pointed out to me on social media recently, Fen are the ideal band to listen to when you find yourself in the cold and dark.

The trio of Fen that’s comprised of drummer Havenless, bassist/vocalist Grungyn and guitarist/vocalist The Watcher, have been around for a surprisingly long time. And, in their eleven-year year existence, they have released no fewer than three full-length albums of high quality dark, atmospheric and organic-sounding black metal. From this vantage point, they have always skirted with the possibility of ascending into the extreme metal mainstream if such a thing exists, without ever fully breaking through. That said, theirs is a brand of heavy metal that has garnered something of a cult following, where the hardcore believers await new music with feverish anticipation. I’d not have previously placed myself squarely within this relatively small but perfectly-formed core. However, I have more than admired Fen for a number of years and am familiar with all of their output to date.

However, ‘Winter’, the band’s fourth studio recording might change my position because it sees Fen further honing and refining their impressive sound with first class results. Whilst raw and harsh-sounding black metal sits at the heart of the band’s sound, the dark, cloying atmospheric elements remain ever-present, as do the progressive leanings and the quieter, more introspective ambient sections. Melody also plays an increasingly important part in the overall Fen approach, adding yet another important ingredient in the already refined multi-layered and richly-textured music.

And whilst ‘Winter’ is most definitely another important step forward in the evolution of Fen, it also hints at the earlier days of the band. As such, there feels to me like there’s a re-invigoration of those extreme metal roots; the harsh vocals make quite an impact, as do the sections that feature cold and sharp staccato-style riffing atop savage blast beats. These aspects of the Fen soundscape have never gone away but here, it all suggests a renewed vigour, an apparent hunger and a desire to re-state the core principles of the band.

The Watcher has gone on record to state that ‘Winter’ is ‘lengthy and self-indulgent for which we make no apology’ and that’s as true a statement as you’re likely to hear all year. ‘Winter’ is certainly both self-indulgent and lengthy, clocking in as it does at over 70 minutes in length, divided into six tracks where all bar one extend into double figures. I have absolutely no problem with this in principle so long as the compositions have something worthwhile to say and are well-executed. And that’s where Fen have succeeded by and large, because when I listen to ‘Winter’, I don’t get the sense that it drags or outstays its welcome. Yes there are parts that might benefit from a little editing here and there, but to do so might jeopardise the overall flow and feel of the record.

‘Winter’ kicks off with ‘Winter I (Pathway)’ the longest track on the album. And, throughout its 17-minute length, it creates a significant and grandiose soundscape that takes in plenty of intelligent highs and lows and peaks and troughs, leaving the listener with much to think about and digest. The first three minutes are quiet, contemplative and atmospheric before something altogether more extreme jumps out of the murky shadows to ramp up the aggression and intensity. Harsh and raspy growls replace the early clean delivery but what remains is the sense of melody and brittleness despite the more extreme sheen. Frequent and marked shifts in tempo add to the drama whilst sections of all-out ambience are juxtaposed with hard-hitting riffs. Add to this some beautifully cold and icy guitar melodies that create something approximating a crescendo towards the end as well as an extended atmospheric outro, and ‘I’ becomes a hugely impactful and intelligent opening to the album.

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In contrast, the mere ten-minute-long ‘Winter II (Penance)’ is slightly more direct and generally more of an up-tempo highly charged affair, littered more heavily with blast beats, fast riffing and urgent ear-catching bass work rumbling just below the surface. I also really like the more muscular, almost groovy guitar work that segues into something much more atmospheric towards the end.

The theme continues with the cunningly titled ‘Winter III (Fear)’ which starts off in sublime fashion, oozing atmospheric beauty and elegance. The minimalist post-rock, shoegaze vista slowly and gently increases in intensity before bursting at the seams, exploding into something both savage and beautiful at the same time as gorgeous melodies are interwoven into the black metal tapestry masterfully.

If anything, ‘Winter IV (Interment)’ is even more gorgeous. The quiet beginning contains some lovely understated acoustic guitars and arguably the most memorable melodies. The bold, heavier riffs that replace the atmosphere-drenched intro are equally as compelling as the track shifts almost surreptitiously into a much darker, angrier-sounding place before ultimately unravelling into something altogether slower and doomier as it progresses to a conclusion.

‘Winter V (Death)’ begins with savage intent, replacing melody and subtlety for something altogether harsher, at least at the outset. As the song develops, there’s a greater injection of what I can only describe as ‘moments of clarity’ within the more extreme framework. I’ve not mentioned the progressive elements of Fen very much in this review up to this point, but whilst they are to be found within the entire album, they make a real mark within ‘V’. Grandiose, euphoric-sounding moments are quickly replaced with a more discordant section or a challenging shift in the dynamics of the song. And yet, whilst the markedly different and competing ideas should interrupt the flow of the track, there’s an impressive smoothness that is beyond my limited comprehension.

Fen’s last hurrah on ‘Winter’ is delivered by ‘Winter VI (Sight)’. It is the shortest composition on the record but. The minimalist, atmospheric opening is heartbreakingly serene and beautiful, allowing the listener the time and space to think and look back at the entire album in retrospect. It isn’t until the half-way mark that things change with the reintroduction of Fen’s raw black metal approach, albeit overlaid initially with whimsical clean vocals. Somewhat fittingly, the final moments of the album are given over to a challenging, almost cacophonic crescendo of extremity, the perfect counterpoint to the laid back vibes both at the outset of the song and the album itself.

‘Winter’ is an album that perfectly demonstrates the not inconsiderable talents of this trio of musicians who go by the name of Fen. This is black metal of the highest order that displays sophistication, beauty and progressive intent, delivered in a package that just gets better with every listen. If you are a fan of intelligent extreme metal, there is literally no excuse good enough to explain why you don’t have Fen and ‘Winter’ in your life.

The Score Of Much Metal: 9.0

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

2015 reviews
2016 reviews

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