Tag Archives: prog rock

Leprous – Malina – Album Review

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Artist: Leprous

Album Title: Malina

Label: InsideOut Music

Date of Release: 25 August 2017

One of the very biggest compliments that I can bestow upon a band is to say that they sound unique. In a day-and-age where originality is harder to come by than a public sector pay rise, it is quite an accolade to be able to declare to the world ‘we sound like no-one else’. And that is exactly what Leprous can boast. Good on them too, I say.

Ever since their debut, ‘Tall Poppy Syndrome’ (2009), the Norwegian outfit has delivered superb music. In the early days, there was a touch more of the generic about them as they cut their teeth in the tough world of music whilst proudly wearing a few of their inspirations on their sleeves. The album was still brilliant, with a vibrancy and confidence thoroughly belying the incredibly young age of the individuals concerned. However, as they have become older, wiser, and ever-more proficient, the output has become more unique and, as a result, ever more intriguing.

I confess here and now my love for Leprous. However, that being said, my love is not the easy kind where I metaphorically fall into their arms, swooning at the immediate saccharine beauty of their music. Instead, it is a more reserved love, born out of respect, admiration and often astonishment at what I am hearing. That’s not to say that Leprous’ music is not beautiful, because it is, but they never seem to make it easy. And why should they? This is prog after all.

Whatever album you listen to within the back catalogue, you must make the effort, listen hard and work at it. If you do, ultimately the rewards will come. The same is true of ‘Malina’, the quintet’s fifth release to date.

At this point, I will admit to a certain amount of sympathy for Leprous, although the reason for the sympathy has been somewhat self-induced by the Norwegians. You see, their debut placed the bar very high. And remarkably, every release since then has nudged that bar higher and higher. Not one of their four previous albums has been less than brilliant. Always pushing themselves, always honing their output and tweaking their sound, they have consistently released brilliance without ever standing still. That’s all very well and good, but how can Leprous possibly continue to improve when each previous release is so strong?

Whatever the answer and whatever their strategy, something must be working though because, with ‘Malina’, they’ve done it again. You can hear the influences of previous albums, ‘The Congregation’ (2015) specifically. But importantly, the output and musical direction has been tweaked yet again; some might even baulk at the word ‘tweaked’. Nevertheless the Leprous of 2017 via ‘Malina’ sounds fresh, interesting, compelling whilst remaining totally, unequivocally unique.

True to form, my first spin through did not result in love at first listen, far from it. Instead it resulted in shrugged shoulders and apathy. My second brought consternation; would I ever like what I am hearing? The answer is ‘yes’, but not until at least the fifth pass through. Suddenly, chinks of light began to emerge, my mind opened and I now hear music full of variety, full of drama, full of melody, and full of emotion.

The rumours circulating on the internet are true, in that ‘Malina’ is definitely a less heavy beast, but to these ears, that’s only if you consider heavy guitars and pounding rhythms to be sonically heavy. ‘Malina’ has these elements and they use them wisely. But they are used less. And, as with each and every Leprous release before this, the music remains intricate, full of atmosphere and crushingly intense. It is also a multi-layered and multi-faceted affair too, with plenty going on in each composition, even if that’s not how it immediately appears.

Much of the intensity is down to the vocals of Einar Solberg, the guy that only got into music because he was coerced into it by his family. Solberg has a tone and delivery quite unlike all others. He can be melodious, he can be angry and he can be sombre, fragile, and deeply emotional. Like a chameleon, he can bring exactly what is needed to each and every composition. And he does it effortlessly. On ‘Malina’, Solberg has clearly worked a lot on his clean singing and in fact, has all but ditched the more abrasive delivery that featured so strongly on earlier albums.

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Credit: Bjørn Tore Moen

The aforementioned intensity is also created, in part, by the song writing and the absolute attention to detail. Each of the eleven tracks has been beautifully crafted and executed with a loving care. There is an ebb and flow to the material too, from atmospheric minimalism to the bang and crash that you’d expect from a band consistently labelled in some quarters as ‘progressive metal’, despite more of a rock sheen of late. Whether or not ‘Malina’ is a concept album, the music itself undeniably tells a story. Dip in and out of the record if you wish, for each track stands on its own. For maximum enjoyment however, ‘Malina’ should be listened to in its entirety.

‘Bonneville’ is the perfect introduction to the record and a firm insight into the overall stylistic direction of ‘Malina’. With its stark, minimal soundscapes at the outset, it gently builds as it develops, ultimately becoming heavier and more robust as it nears its conclusion. The melodies become more pronounced with repeated listens and those familiar guitar tones of Tor Oddmund Suhrke and newbie Robin Ognedal offer some reserved muscularity.

Unfortunately for ‘Bonneville’, it is then followed by ‘Stuck’ which is an absolute monster, arguably my favourite track on the album currently. I could spend hours dissecting it but suffice to say that there is a lot going on within the composition. Again, with perseverance, the melodic intent becomes more obvious and addictive, culminating in a very strong chorus, almost pop-like in many ways. However, I love the way the song frequently undulates and transitions from quiet introspection to something altogether more powerful. And then there’s the wonderful juxtaposition in the latter stages between the modern and the traditional, when the utterly gorgeous cello/strings of guest musician Raphael Weinroth-Browne join the electronic sounds created by Solberg’s synths. It makes for a truly epic finale.

Thereafter, we’re treated to a run of songs that are very nearly as excellent in their own way. ‘From The Flame’ offers one of the most openly catchy choruses as it ploughs a slightly more straight-forward construction, relative to the usual Leprous output of course. The properly progressive ‘Captive’ by contrast is all about the rhythms, with drummer Baard Kolstad and bassist Simen Børven working overtime to act as the foundation for this lurching number, enhanced by layers of vocals and more genuinely interesting synth sounds and effects. ‘Illuminate’ reintroduces strong melodies and manages to be the perfect contradiction by simultaneously being both upbeat and densely introspective, the latter achieved in part by the swathes of gentle keys that nestle just beneath the surface.

‘Leashes’ is smothered in emotion, quiet and unobtrusive for large parts but then dominated by some of the best, most impassioned vocals from Solberg when things take a turn for the heavier and more intense. The ebb and flow continues courtesy of ‘Mirage’ which enters the fray with some seriously heavy-sounding instrumentation from what I assume emanates from the four and six-strings respectively. But the chorus, when it hits, is bright, breezy and distinctly pop-ish in tone albeit underpinned by a clever, complex beat that seems second nature to Leprous. The djent-esque outro is a clever touch too, with props going to Børven again for some flamboyant bass work.

The title track, with the reintroduction of those lush strings is a dark, sombre composition that occasionally bubbles up via some well-placed percussion from Kolstad, but generally remains an intense, claustrophobic experience due to its fragility and emotional minimalism. It’s not an easy listen, but the pay-off is well worth the effort.

‘Coma’ reintroduces a faster pace, interesting because of the impressive drumming and incessant nature, whilst ‘The Weight of Disaster’ is a lumbering, loping hector but in the best way possible. The hint of groove finds much favour with me, particularly with the way I which it is not overplayed. In fact, this is another track of huge contrasts, where extended passages of quiet contemplation are butted up against moments of forceful intent. And it works thanks to the adeptness and sophistication of the song writing.

It is left to ‘The Last Milestone’ to close out ‘Malina’ and it does so in fabulous style. It is a crushingly beautiful, poignant and sad hymn, led by the strings of Raphael Weinroth-Browne and the sorrowful, almost operatic delivery of Solberg. It is a very different approach for Leprous but not for a single second do I believe that it doesn’t belong on this record. It is a bold way to end, but just like the opening track, it is perfectly placed, providing maximum impact in the process.

To conclude, ‘Malina’ is ultimately a stunning record. In so many ways it remains faithful to the core Leprous sound but it is bound to raise the eyebrows of many existing fans at the same time. The more rhythmic, staccato guitar work remains, as does the flair for the deceptively complex compositional and instrumental work. That said, ‘Malina’ feels smoother, even more assured and, dare I say it, more mature. Put simply, it is the sound of progressive music par excellence. Just don’t dismiss it after the first listen because if you do, you’ll be making a big mistake.

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

The Lurking Fear – Out of the Voiceless Grave
Prospekt – The Illuminated Sky
Wintersun – The Forest Seasons
Witherfall – Nocturnes And Requiems
Tuesday The Sky – Drift
Anthriel – Transcendence
Decapitated – Anticult
Cosmograf – The Hay-Man Dreams
Orden Ogan – Gunmen
Iced Earth – Incorruptible
Anathema – The Optimist
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

BlogOfMuchMetal – Metal News – 31 July 2017

Buckle up because this round-up feature some big and exciting news if you share music taste that is in any way similar to me. With that in mind, I’m not going to waste time. Instead, allow me to dive right in.

(Previous update posts can be accessed via links at the bottom of this page.)

Ne Obliviscaris – new album and new song….

20294172_10155509955749898_2381867514676896945_nNe Obliviscaris – Urn
Date of release: 27 October 2017
Label: Season Of Mist

Many column inches have been filled with commentary about Ne Obliviscaris in recent months after the Australians announced a ‘patreon crowd funding campaign’ to essentially fund them to be full-time musicians. The initiative was designed to raise enough money to pay the technical progressive death metal band a wage to allow them the time to write a new record and continue touring. The idea polarised opinion but despite the naysayers, the sextet have seemed to succeed with the venture because a new album has finally been announced.

If you like bombast and over-the-top cinematic sounds blended with intelligent extreme metal, then news of a new Ne Obliviscaris will be very welcome indeed. It certainly is as far as I’m concerned. It has been three years since the immense ‘Citadel’ was released, so I’m chomping at the bit to hear new material. Well, here you go – here’s ‘Intra Venus’ from the forthcoming album and yes, it is a monster.

Caligula’s Horse bring us the track-listing for their new album…

19146029_10154398261857105_6108765129743949462_nCaligula’s Horse – In Contact
Date of release: 15 September 2017
Label: InsideOut Music

Any new information from the Caligula’s Horse camp is worthy of sharing in my opinion, however small. And so, I bring you news that the track listing for the highly anticipated ‘In Contact’ has been released. Check it out below, in all its glory. However, to summarise, we are soon to be treated to ten new compositions, the titles of which can be seen below. ‘Bloom’ remains on frequent rotation at the Mansion Of Much Metal** so all I can say is that if these new compositions come even close to the quality heard on the majestic predecessor, they will be very exciting to hear indeed.

**I don’t really live in a mansion, I might have made that up just because it makes me sound more windswept and interesting.

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Redemption are working on a new album…

dsc_5905Redemption – TBC
Date of release: TBC
Label: Metal Blade Records

It seems too good to be true doesn’t it? For fans of quality progressive metal, the name Redemption is a very important one. Fronted by Fates Warning vocalist Ray Alder, masterminded by the extraordinarily talented guitarist/songwriter Nick Van Dyk, and boasting talent in every position, Redemption is without doubt one of the best prog metal bands out there at the moment.

And so, when you consider that the band released the excellent ‘The Art of Loss’ just last year (review here), I can hardly believe I’m reporting that there is plenty of activity afoot in the Redemption camp. Chris Quirarte has posted updates of drum recording ‘for our upcoming new record’, whilst within the last few days, bassist Sean Andrews has confirmed that the tracking of his instrument is complete.

No release date or further information has been released, but the fact that a new album is so far advanced is more than I could have hoped for. In the meantime, in case you need the nudge, allow me to remind you just how good ‘The Art of Loss’ is:

Some more hints are given about one of the most exciting new bands around…

17218771_387176474982109_6918641734903355632_oCyHra – TBC
Date Of Release: October 2017?
Label: Spinefarm Records

The name CyHra has been doing the rounds for a fair while now, and it’s a name that has got me very excited. And I’m sure I’m not the only one because how can certain sections of the heavy metal community not get excited about a band that features none other than Jake E (ex-Amaranthe), the ex-In Flames pairing of bassist Peter Iwers and guitarist Jesper Strömblad, as well as drummer Alexander Landenburg from Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody? Come on, this is one very capable quartet, the stuff of dreams.

We are yet to hear any clips of completed songs, so we can only dream about what CyHra sound like. And, whilst I don’t hate the new direction that In Flames are going in, I am secretly hoping that a little of the early In flames melodeath magic creeps into the compositions. What I can tell you is that the guys have been in front of the cameras with Patric Ullaeus, working on their first video. Rumours abound that the debut album will see the light in or around October 2017, so I’m expecting the video to be released relatively soon. And then we’ll know. For now, all I can bring you is this slightly awkward video where the band introduces itself to an expectant metal community.

My Soliloquy finally edge closer to releasing their new record…

16558419_710300499129700_1372606098_nMy Soliloquy – Engines Of Gravity
Date of release: 14 September 2017
Label: Rare Artist Records

It feels like an age ago that I reviewed ‘Engines Of Gravity’, the new album from Pete Morten who, until recently and amongst many other things, was the rhythm guitarist for Threshold. In every way, ‘Engines Of Gravity’ is a step up for Pete from his debut ‘The Interpreter’. And when you consider how much of the writing, playing and producing is dealt with by Pete alone, this is an impressive feat. Want to read the review again? Click here.

Unusually, the review was written before any confirmed release date had been set. But now, finally, Pete has confirmed that pre-orders will begin from 14th August and the release date is 14th September. So it won’t be too long before one of the stand-out prog metal albums of 2017 will be let loose and then the superlatives can begin to flow from progressive music fans the world over. And with no music released from the new album yet, here’s something from the debut to tide you over for now.

Previous updates:

24 July 2017
22 July 2017
28 March 2017
23 March 2017
11 March 2017
5th March 2017
26th February 2017
13th February 2017
3rd February 2017
30th January 2017
21st January 2017

BlogOfMuchMetal – Metal News – 24 July 2017

Well, while I’m on a roll, I may as well continue. And while so many bands are also on a roll of late it seems, I owe it to them to keep the news flowing.

If you’ve missed any of my other posts in this series, links to all of them can be found at the bottom of this post.

Jag Panzer release their first song off their new album.

c09ce1fccd75b68f298157c7f5ffc169Jag Panzer – The Deviant Chord
Release date: 29 September 2017
Label: SPV

Jag Panzer and I have never had the smoothest of relationships. I bought ‘Thane To the Throne’ many years ago when it was released but didn’t warm to it, so sold it soon after. Having gone back and listened to it again a few years later, I realise that I made a rather big mistake. They are obviously a band that requires time in order to acquire the taste.

This must still be true to this day because, on a first listen, I was not blown away by ‘Far Beyond All Fear’, the first song to be released off ‘The Deviant Chord’, the tenth album from the US power metal stalwarts. Subsequent spins have been increasingly positive to a point where I’m really rather liking it. The melodies are subtle, the riffing is satisfyingly chunky and there are plenty of solos. In fact, that galloping rhythm is very reminiscent of Iron Maiden. So what’s not to like, then? It bodes well for the entire album when it is released at the end of September.

The Haunted release another song of their highly-anticipated new album…

19399139_10154703997157503_7451569900000520260_nThe Haunted – Strength In Numbers
Release date: 25 August 2017
Label: Century Media Records

The more I hear of this new album from The Haunted, the more excited I get. After the uncompromising and brutal blitz of the well-named ‘Brute Force’, the Swedes have released their second track ‘Spark’ which is a different beast altogether. You still get the harsh vocals and the big, bruising thrash-like riffs. But this time, the song contains more variety, more subtlety and arguably a more sophisticated vibe all-round.

And you know what? I dig this song a lot. It shows that The Haunted are growing and maturing all the time, with the confidence and ability to experiment just a little bit. I love the bass intro andthat quiet mid-song interlude – it is brief but the melody is continued for a time once things get heavier which is a nice touch, as is the more soulful lead guitar solo. There are hints within it to previous work but it still sounds fresh, interesting and has me very intrigued as to the overall sound of ‘Strength In Numbers’.

Confirmed release date and a non-finalised tracklist for ‘1755’ by Moonspell.

19943052_1371175159604409_8323465143835788802_oMoonspell – 1755
Release date: 3 November 2017
Label: Napalm Records

I seem to have been aware of a new album from Portuguese metallers Moonspell for ages. In fact, as early as March, I was gearing up for it.  As I confirmed back then, the record will be entitled ‘1755’ it will centre on the Great Lisbon Earthquake of that year. And, according to the press release, “the band has developed a lyrical concept that looks into the death and rebirth of Lisbon and how the disaster changed Religion, Politics and Philosophy in the whole of Europe.”

We were also told that it would be heavier than ‘Extinct’ and will be sung entirely in Portuguese. It might not be 100% confirmed yet but the track list would bear this out. And that is possibly the most intriguing thing about ‘1755’ – I generally love albums where the lyrics are not in English because there’s a greater authenticity with them and what they are singing about.

Momentum increases on the new Vanishing Point album, coming in early 2018…

Vanishing Point – TBC
Release date: 2018
Label: AFM Records

I have it from the horse’s mouth that the new Vanishing Point album will see the light of day in 2018. During a chat with guitarist and songwriter Chris Porcianko, he confirmed that whilst a date isn’t cast in stone yet, the new record was progressing well. However, it had to be delayed until early 2018 for various reasons. As soon as I hear news of a definite date, I will bring it to you.

Despite the 2018 date, I couldn’t help but bring you an update right now. Why? Because not only are Vanishing Point one of my favourite bands ever, updates from the melodic prog metal masters themselves suggest that the new music could be more in the vein of their 2000 magnum opus, ‘Tangled In Dream’. A top 5 all-time album, this is news that threatens a grown man’s bladder control.

To quote Porcianko directly, he actually said of the new record: So far the new Vanishing Point album is a mix of Prog, metal , melodic metal , hard rock and AOR…There’s a little bit of something in it for everyone…Fans of Distant is The Sun and Tangled In Dream will like it I think.’ No wonder I’m bursting with excitement! So here’s some solo action for us all to enjoy.

https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fchris.porcianko%2Fvideos%2F1653026798044753%2F&show_text=0&width=222

Orphaned Land confirm new album in early 2018…

Orphaned Land – Unsung Prophets and Dead Messiahs
Release date: 26 January 2018
Label: Century Media Records

In a similar vein to Vanishing Point above, I felt compelled to comment about this confirmed release, even if it is destined to see the light of day in 2018. Israeli band Orphaned Land are a special outfit; not only do they create superb melodic progressive metal, but they have managed the seemingly impossible: brought fans of all faiths and backgrounds together in a collective love of music.

It has been quite a while since the quintet last gave their fan base some new music; five years in fact. And given how superb their last record, ‘All Is One’, I am climbing the walls waiting for this new album.

With no new snippets of music to bring you, instead, allow me to remind you just how good their last album was.

Previous updates:

22 July 2017
28 March 2017
23 March 2017
11 March 2017
5th March 2017
26th February 2017
13th February 2017
3rd February 2017
30th January 2017
21st January 2017

BlogOfMuchMetal – metal news – 22 July 2017

Hello and welcome to the latest post in this series after a bit of a hiatus, where I bring you the latest confirmed news within the world of rock and heavy metal. This series does not require the use of a crystal ball, which can sometimes malfunction with embarrassing results. No, this is a series that works on facts, on the news that I know to be true and which I bring you because I found it exciting and I’m therefore sure that you will find it exciting too.

Today’s post focuses on some of the new songs that have been revealed ahead of the full album release later in the year.

And if you’ve missed any of my previous posts in this series, links can be found at the bottom of this post.

legendsoftheshiresThreshold – Legends of the Shires
Release date: 8 September 2017
Label: Nuclear Blast

Well, if you’re going to release a new song and an accompanying video, it might as well be a ten-minute monster mightn’t it? Especially if you are prog as all hell eh? So that’s what Threshold have done. Not content to compose a double album for the very first time, the UK progressive metal band have also announced a change of singer, ditching Damian Wilson in favour of a return to Glynn Morgan. And now they have released the first track off ‘Legends of the Shires’, the monumental ‘Lost In Translation’. If, like me, you are a massive Threshold fan, it’s a great time to be alive.

I’ve only listened to this song about 17 times, so I’m in no way able to dissect it quite yet. For that, you’ll have to wait until my full review later in the year. However, for now, all I can say is ‘wow’. Morgan sounds really good on this track, giving the music a whole new dimension. The prog elements are really pronounced which I like, particularly in terms of the changes in tempo, tone and with the bold keyboard sounds in places. But that chorus. Those melodies. Boy, oh boy is this one hell of an anthem. Just take a listen and tell me that you disagree. On the strength of this track, I have such massively high hopes for the full album, it’s ridiculous.

19990364_1676025859077305_924654058634164650_nSubterranean Masquerade – Vagabond
Release date: 1 September 2017
Label: ViciSolum Productions

In typical Man of Much Metal style, about five minutes after I publish a blog post, one of the bands featured releases the first track off their new album. The culprits this time are Subterranean Masquerade, with ‘Nomad’, taken from their upcoming release, ‘Vagabond’.

In keeping with their last record that I thoroughly enjoyed, it will take some time to get fully to grips with the music that this band creates. However, a couple of listens in and the signs are extremely positive. I hear echoes of Amorphis in parts of this track but despite this, the final result is definitely unique. Complex and ambitious yet catchy and unexpectedly immediate with a smooth and rich sheen, Subterranean Masquerade may just have hit upon a winning formula, one that may pull me deeper under their spell. I can’t wait to hear more and bring you my considered thoughts nearer to the release of ‘Vagabond’.

18892998_10154663048738806_2247176504358416942_nParadise Lost – Medusa
Release date: 1 September 2017
Label: Nuclear Blast

UK veterans Paradise Lost have to be one of my all-time favourite bands. Beginning my love affair nearly two decades ago with ‘Draconian Times’, I have never looked back…well, except for delving back into the Yorkshire gloomsters back catalogue of course. In so doing, I discovered the monumenatal ‘Shades of God’, a huge game-changer for me. I may not have liked the more ‘Goth’ or ‘pop-infused’ era, but of late, their albums have been tremendous, really harking back to their earlier halcyon days.

Cue ‘Medusa’, which is apparently inspired by another foray into the historic vaults. And, if this new track, ‘The Longest Winter’ is representative of the vibe and direction of the new record, we’re in for one heck of a heavy and doomy affair. Activate sarcasm mode: Oh no, how horrible.

19420708_1698781136823429_4102190633439104941_nArch Enemy – Will To Power
Release date: 8 September 2017
Label: Century Media Records

Long term followers of my blog will be sick of hearing my thoughts on Arch Emeny. Whilst their stock has risen over the past decade or so, my liking for the band has nose-dived and I make no bones about the fact that ‘xxx’ is their last chance as far as I’m concerned. I’m sure Michael Amott is quaking in his boots at the thought of losing a slightly overweight and balding Englishman from his ever-expanding fanbase but I’ll be genuinely disappointed if I have to call it a day with a band that was so important to me at the time they released the majestic ‘Stigmata’.

So now we have ‘The World Is Yours’, the first track to be aired from the new album ‘Will To Power’…and it feels like Arch Enemy might have returned from the brink. There are still things that I don’t like so much, but in general, this feels like a proper song, something more akin to the music that the band can write when they put their mind to it. It goes without saying that the drumming and the guitar work is utterly insane and of the very highest order – the inclusion of Jeff Loomis is a BIG deal as far as I’m concerned. But more importantly, there is more to this song than just instrumental noodling and histrionics just for the sake of it. On the strength of this song, I’m feeling more hopeful than I was fearing…

Previous updates:

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

Half-way through 2017 – the best so far – Part 3

Welcome to the third and final part of my round-up, looking at the best albums to have been released during the first half of 2017. It is an eclectic list overall, where there’s room for extreme metal and progressive rock alike. But for someone who has wide-ranging tastes with a rock and metal framework, this is exactly what I expected and it is great to see that 2017 has, so far, delivered the goods across a decent breadth of genres.

If you have missed the previous two installments of this series, click the following links:

Half-way through 2017 – the best so far – Part 1
Half-way through 2017 – the best so far – Part 2

deserted_fear_-_dead_shores_rising_cover_2016Deserted Fear
Dead Shores Rising

Just thinking about this album puts a smile on my face. It is pure, unadulterated and undiluted old-school death metal and it seriously kicks ass. But, whilst the compositions themselves reek of days gone by, the production is bang up-to-date. This might put off some purists but for me, it just makes the entire listening experience all the more impactful and powerful. If you listen to this but fail to bang your head or grin like a loon, the chances are that you are either not a metal fan, or you’re dead.

“I remember the days when I heard Entombed for the first time or Obituary, Dismember or even At The Gates. To a greater or lesser extent, these are all good reference points for the output of Deserted Fear and I get the same kind of overall feelings listening to ‘Dead Shores Rising’ as I did when I first listened to the aforementioned. The power, the brutality, the malevolence, the clandestine melodies, and the more overt hooks – it is all there and it is thoroughly absorbing. This is the kind of no-frills, headbanging, groove-laden death metal with a hint or two of melodeath that I really enjoy listening to.”

“I have absolutely fallen for the immense charms of Deserted Fear and this, their third full-length studio album. ‘Dead Shores Rising’ is a totally compelling album that has completely renewed and reinvigorated my love for death metal. It is bold, it is savage and it kicks some serious butt. What more could you possibly want?”

Read the full review here.

SOM412-Solstafir-1500X1500px-300dpi-RGBSólstafir
Berdreyminn

Having been blown away by their previous album, ‘Otta’, I was desperate for Sólstafir to repeat the trick with their latest record, ‘Berdreyminn’. It was always going to be tough given the strong connection that I have with ‘Otta’, but I have to say that Sólstafir have not disappointed. I can say that with even more conviction now that I have had a chance to hear the material in the live setting where it came alive more strongly and made even more sense. Packed with atmosphere and emotion, it beautifully conveys the bleaker recesses of human feeling, whilst painting glorious vistas in the mind of their striking homeland, Iceland.

“And what Sólstafir have succeeded in doing so eloquently with ‘Otta’ and now this new record, ‘Berdreyminn’, is give voice to the natural splendour of their native land, as depicted in the evocative cover art work courtesy of Adam Burke. Fragile and brittle melodies alongside quiet and calm soundscapes give rise to introspective thought and an appreciation of the beauty of their homeland. But juxtaposed with this are sections of grittier, heavier and more powerful swells and eddies of sound that serve as a timely reminder that the beauty can be deceptive, ready to ensnare those unprepared for the harsher, more unforgiving realities of the oft bleak and barren land.”

“…how can one fault music that has such heart, such life and such majesty? More importantly for me though, ‘Berdreyminn’ serves to merely strengthen my deep love and affinity with Sólstafir’s homeland. And for that I am forever thankful.”

Read the full review here.

Final ArtworkAsira
Efference

Over the years, I have become a big fan of the movement known as ‘blackgaze’, the genre that seeks to blend the extremity of black metal with the melodic intensity and beauty of shoegaze. When I thought of blackgaze in the past, I’d immediately call to mind the likes of Alcest or Amesoeurs. But now, in 2017, I can confidently add the name Asira to the list. For a debut outing, ‘Efference’ is a stunning body of work that delights at every glorious twist and turn.

“…the skill of Asira has meant that the final product sounds so effortless and so simple. The warm ambient and atmospheric sections sooth and embrace you, whilst the melodies catch your ear almost immediately. And then, even when these passages are replaced by the naked aggression of cold and icy black metal, sometime abruptly, the juxtaposition doesn’t feel forced or clunky in any way. The compositions are ambitious and grand in scope, but they also feel homogenous and eloquent.”

“On the basis of ‘Efference’, I can only predict big things for Asira. If their debut album can be so ambitious, cohesive and assured, what on earth will their second, third and fourth albums sound like. We can only wait and see. However, for now, content yourself with the fact that there’s a new band in existence that has so much potential and simply immerse yourself in ‘Efference’. As blackgaze goes, this is one of the best I’ve heard in a long, long time.”

Read the full review here.

16729381_10155037235405439_4788700761726639376_nLonely Robot
The Big Dream

In my eyes, John Mitchell can do no wrong. Whatever band he is involved with, be it Arena, It Bites of Frost*, the results are always fantastic. And then, when he stretches his musical wings and goes it alone, the results are equally as compelling. ‘The Big Dream’ is John Mitchell’s sophomore outing under the moniker of Lonely Robot, where he is responsible for everything aside from the drums. In keeping with the debut, it is an album of lush and hugely cinematically-tinged progressive rock full of depth and musical eloquence.

“…ultimately, I am blown away by this album, regardless of the meaningful threads that clearly run through it.”

“I am a big fan of the Lonely Robot debut, ‘Please Come Home’. But if anything, I think ‘The Big Dream’ is even better…I just feel that the music itself is just that little bit stronger. It is definitely more consistent, simply because there isn’t a wasted moment, a weaker track or a let-up in the quality on offer. It takes its time to work its magic though, so if you feel uneasy or underwhelmed after a first spin, listen again. And then again, several times more. The payoff is well worth it.”

Read the full review here.

nova-collective-the-further-sideNova Collective
The Further Side

Normally, I vehemently dislike instrumental music, particularly when the music is technical fusion. However, like all rules, there is an exception and the exception to this self-imposed rule goes by the name of Nova Collective. Featuring an all-star cast, spearheaded by Haken’s Richard Henshall and Dan Briggs from Between The Buried And Me, there was no way that the output would be poor. But what I wasn’t expecting was to actually become engaged with the music and absorbed by it. Unlike many other records in this loose genre, the music is more than background noise; instead the compositions are well crafted and intelligent whilst also remaining memorable.

“I like this album. I really like this album. Naturally as you might expect from a quartet who fuse prog with jazz, classical and other world music, the complexity is very high across the board as is the technical prowess and the individual dexterity of each member, demonstrating beyond doubt that they are in complete control of every note.”

“For the first time in ages, possibly forever, I am listening to an instrumental progressive jazz fusion album and I am not bored to the very core of my soul. Instead, I want to press play and listen to it all over again. Maybe I am maturing and with that, so are my musical tastes? Quite possibly. However, I think it has more to do with the fact that Nova Collective have actually written music that is intelligent and challenging but that is also vibrant, melodic and engaging. Bravo, Nova Collective, bravo.”

Read the full review here.

Half-way through 2017 – the best so far – Part 1

The Blog of Much Metal is nothing if not predictable. But, what it lacks in spontaneity, it makes up for with quality writing, brilliant wit, incisive articles and a bucket load of irony and modesty.

As a result, I return with my usual mid-year round-up of the best music that has been released between January and June 2017. As with last year, I remain a one-man show and so I have not listened to everything that has been released in this period. I have a family and a career to fit in as well. However, I have listened to more albums than ever before (or at least that’s how it feels), so I am content that very little of any note has slipped the net. And if it has slipped the net, I still have six months to put things right. Of course, if I have missed anything out, I shall leave it to you, my dear, loyal reader, to tell me.

Everything in this round-up has consequently been reviewed on this blog already, so I don’t intend on going in to great depth with each pick here. Instead, I’ll provide a few up-to-date thoughts, a quote from the full review and then a link to that review should you wish to check it out. Wherever possible, I will also provide a link to a different track to the one posted with the review. Well, I have to try to give you some value for money, don’t I?

And so, in no particular order, I give you:

VOYAGER-GHOST_MILE-coverHIVoyager
Ghost Mile

If you were to tell me that there is a band out there creating a bigger buzz in the metal world right now, then I might consider calling you a liar. For a band that had been toiling away for a number of years, gathering a small but select band of cult followers, things have now taken off massively. But then it’s hardly surprising given the quality of the music that they are now creating. Unique, assured and intense, Voyager are the whole package and ‘Ghost Mile’ demonstrates this 100%, no question.

“Voyager today is an even more tightly honed entity. More focused and more self-assured than ever before. That rising stock I mentioned a moment ago? Expect it to go through the roof upon the release of this record, mark my words.”

“In my opinion, Voyager sound like no-one else. They have worked hard over the years to craft their sound and perfect their own vision, to the point where comparisons are impossible and, in any case, are utterly pointless. Their output blends progressive metal, prog and pop-like melodies with a quirky and often atmospheric sheen. Put simply, the music sounds like…Voyager.”

“The only problem with ‘Ghost Mile’ is that it is a stealer of time, a thief of moments. I listen to this record and immediately feel compelled to listen again. Before I know it, huge chunks of my life have disappeared. However, at this precise moment, I don’t care. All I know is that ‘Ghost Mile’ is a very special record from an equally special band and…damn it, I need to listen to it again.”

Read the full review here.

pain_of_salvation_-_2017_coverPain Of Salvation
In The Passing Light of Day

Do you know that feeling when a band you’ve almost given up on delivers a killer album? Well, that’s the feeling I got from Pain of Salvation with ‘In The Passing Light of Day’ way back at the beginning of the year. It seems like forever since I first heard it and given the amount of music around at the moment, it is testament to its quality that I still find myself gravitating towards it. More than that, it still has the ability to send chills down my spine and bring a tear to my eye at times.

“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’…”

“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.”

Read the full review here.

coverPersefone
Aathma

I’m still wondering just where this album came from – it is definitely the surprise of the year for me so far. I was never the biggest fan of Persefone but the Andorrans well and truly did a number on me with their latest effort, the incredible ‘Aathma’. It is progressive, technical death metal, the likes of which I have rarely heard, especially to this level. It is like the sextet took everything to a whole new level, from the collective songwriting to the individual performances. And it all sounds so rich and cohesive, with enough accessibility to keep me coming back for more.

“I absolutely love music when it offers a challenge and isn’t afraid to go in directions that it wants, rather than what convention dictates it should do. I don’t mind saying that Persefone have produced an absolute masterpiece with ‘Aathma’ – it is the work of six supremely talented musicians at the top of their game. Short of a miracle, I cannot see any other extreme progressive metal albums topping this during 2017 or beyond. Spectacular.”

Read the full review here.

KSCOPE351-COVER-20cm-1024x1024Anathema
The Optimist

If ever there was an album release that raised my expectation levels to completely new heights, it was this one. The last two, ‘Distant Satellites’ and ‘Weather Systems’ are musical perfection, so I hoped upon hope for a third killer record. After a difficult start, where disappointment initially reigned supreme, I have grown to love ‘The Optimist’. In keeping with previous Anathema albums, it is a deep and emotional rollercoaster of a ride through some dark landscapes that only reveal their beauty with time, effort and an open mind.

“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.”

“‘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’.”

“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.”

Read the full review here.

15826722_1705409859485158_999859890853457012_nPallbearer
Heartless

It takes a lot for doom metal to feature in any top lists with me because in general, doom is not one of my natural, favourite genres. However, I had not reckoned on the new album from Pallbearer. This is doom metal but it is so much more besides. ‘Heartless’ is a near-perfect blend of styles and sounds, making it transcend genres to a certain extent. Instead, when I listen to ‘Heartless’, I find myself being thoroughly absorbed in some of the most exciting, engaging and mature music I have heard for some time.

“…having since had the opportunity to listen to this album at length, I am going to stick my neck out and say that right here, right now, ‘Heartless’ is the best doom metal record that I have ever heard. Yes it incorporates a number of different influences to create a rich tapestry of sounds, textures and moods. However, at its core, ‘Heartless’ is pure doom metal, born and bred.”

“The injection of more overt progressive tendencies alongside some sumptuous melodies and assured, ambitious song writing means that with ‘Heartless’, Pallbearer have created what I think might very well be my favourite doom metal album ever. Meaningless hyperbole this is not, because ‘Heartless’ delivers in every facet. This is a doom metal masterpiece and my life is richer for hearing it.”

Read the full review here.