Subterranean Masquerade – “Vagabond”

a1959484840_16“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” That’s a phrase that comes to mind when it comes to the new album by Subterranean Masquerade called “Vagabond.” Also I would say it’s “more of the same” from them which in this case is most definitely a complement. The band’s last album, 2015’s “The Great Bazaar” was a stellar release and for me it was a sound defining moment for the band.

Up til that album, the band hadn’t released an album for 10 years. There were EPs but “The Great Bazaar” was a chance for the band to full meld all of their influences into a focused statement. Much like their last album, the new album “Vagabond” mixes prog rock with prog metal with jazz with culturally based sounds. Rather than having these moments sound more separate from each other, the band have now stirred up this mixture into a sound that is THEIR sound.

“Vagabond” marks a change for the band with harsh vocalist Paul Kuhr of Novembers Doom being replaced by Eliran Weitzman. Kuhr has a very distinctive growl so it might take a bit to get used to Weitzman but he does a fine job. Green Carnation’s Kjetil Nordhus returns on clean vocals and his voice really fits the overall sound of the band. “Vagabond” has a very positive vibe to it (even more than the last album) with the lead track, “Place for Fairytales” being a bit of a slice of prog pop. Excellent choice for an opener.

Band leader Tomer Pink can still write a great hook and melody; that has not changed on “Vagabond.” Both “Nomad” and “Ways” are both catchy and rock out. I love the way each track kicks in. Subterranean Masquerade also use “unusual” instrumentation so well and “Vagabond” continues that. Whether it’s a trumpet doing the main riff of a song, the return of a clarinet (like on “The Great Bazaar”), the traditional vocals and percussion used, it’s such a great balance between instruments and sounds you expect and ones that you might not.

“Hymn of the Vagabond” is probably my favorite track because it combines everything the band is about into a powerful mini-epic. The album closes with a cover of the David Bowie classic “Space Oddity” which is almost doom like in it’s pace. It’s slower and more methodical sounding but I really like that. It winds up really capturing the sober tone of the lyrics and is a great arrangement for a song we have all heard many times. It’s a bold decision that pays off, proving that Subterranean Masquerade may have defined their sound on “Vagabond” but they are willing to push to new and unexplored places.

Rating: 9/10

Tracklist:

1. Place for Fairytales
2. Nomad
3. Ways
4. Carousal
5. Kippur
6. Daled Bavos
7. As You Are
8. Hymn of the Vagabond
9. Space Oddity

Bandcamp: submasq.bandcamp.com/album/vagabond-2
Website: www.submasq.net
Facebook: www.facebook.com/Submasq

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Circu5 – “Circu5”

CIRCUS-300x300Circu5 is the project of British mult-instrumentalist and vocalist Steve Tilling. Initially, the album didn’t seem like a fit for me but after giving it a fair shot, there’s a lot to enjoy. First off, the music of Circu5 is a mix of prog rock and radio ready alt rock. In a parallel universe, Tilling is a well known artist. He can write a good tune, play many instruments and sing quite well too!

In many ways, Circu5 sounds like a guitar driven version of Frost*. Like Frost*, Circu5 is all about the song first and foremost. The album starts out with the more “friendly” tracks. Assuming songs about how someone becomes a serial killer is friendly! “My Degenerate Mind” and “Stars” have sing along choruses and crunchy guitar lines that are very enjoyable to be sure. My personal preference might be to be a little heavier but this isn’t prog metal after all.

Things get moodier with the interlude “Days Erased” which really works well with the album’s theme. Normally, I am not a fan of these shorter tracks but Tilling sells it well and gets the mood right. “Strings” is a very Frost* like track, so much that Tilling really reminds me of Jem Godfrey. And since I love Jem and Frost*, this works well. “Blame It On Me” kicks things back into the alt rock lane a bit. Kudos to drummer Alan van Kleef who does a great job of keeping the songs rocking as hard as they should. (And I am not even mentioning the guests on the album!)

Now to this point, the prog level wasn’t quite as high as I might like personally. But the five part epic “The Chosen One” is where Tilling pushes the album to a different level. This is the part of the album that people need to check out if they have any doubts about Circu5. This is where I was won over. It has the strong melodies of everything to this point but there’s more detail and just an overall epic vibe to this part. It’s cinematic, as it should be.

The parts flow really well: acoustic guitars to throbbing basslines to blistering guitar solos. Of the five parts, I really like the playing on “Transfiguation.” It reminds me a little of Crack the Sky for some reason. The bass on this track and really the whole album is amazing. The harmonies on “Crucifixion” are amazing. I could do without the sound effects that start “Resurrection” because they really break the momentum of the epic. But it’s only a minute so it’s not bad really.

So what did I learn? Well I learned that you can merge prog with really any other genre and come out with a winning formula IF you have the right person doing it. Circu5 is the work of a man who knows who he is as an artist and does what he likes doing. Circu5 is a really strong effort that might not be for everyone but it certainly should be given a chance by everyone.

Rating: 8/10

Tracklist:

1. Coming Home
2. My Degenerate Mind
3. Stars
4. Days Erased
5. Strings
6. Blame It On Me
7. The Amazing Monstrous Grady
8. The Chosen One:
Baptism
Transfiguration
Crucifixion
Resurrection
Ascension

To purchase, Circu5: burningshed.com/circu5_circu5_cd

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Perihelion Ship – “To Paint a Bird of Fire”

20768045_698479563682760_7132374810553922420_nFollowing up a debut album as amazing as the first Perihelion Ship album, “A Rare Thunderstorm in Spring,” is no easy task. The Finnish band really came out of nowhere and blew me away with that album last year. Yeah it was only last year and the band is back with a follow up. I’m not sure if that’s brave or crazy but it certainly makes sense to keep up whatever momentum that album started.

So about a year and 9 months later, the band present “To Paint a Bird of Fire” and there’s no mistaking that this is a band that had their sound clearly defined on that first album. It’s still fully intact on this album, but it sounds more like their OWN sound versus “obvious influences” (i.e. Opeth, Anekdoten, etc).  It has all the things I love about them: mellotrons, powerful Squiresque bass lines, powerful drumming and kick ass vocals. The album is book ended with epics “New Sun” and “New Sun?” with the latter being one of my favorite tracks on the album. The song is a crazy ass epic, musically and vocally that finishes things off perfectly.

Let’s back up though. The song also features the first single “Bird of Fire” which is quite short by their standards at only two and a half minutes. It’s direct and it rocks but I do wish there was more to the track. Another shorter track is the acoustic guitar piece “River’s Three” which reminds me of Steve Hackett tone wise but with a more flamenco style more reminiscent of Steve Howe.

My two favorites are the mini epics “The Sad Mountain” and “Wind of No Echoes.” The main mellotron “riff” on “The Sad Mountain” is possibly the best hook the band has written. While “Wind of No Echoes” is mostly instrumental, which gives the band plenty of room to showcase their style and yes their heaviness too. The vocals on the track aren’t until the end which is really cool because it makes for a nice surprise.

So the question many will ask is if “To Paint a Bird of Fire” is as great as “A Rare Thunderstorm in Spring”? I think it’s a different animal really. At the moment, I’d say that it SEEMS like it’s not as perfect BUT I’ve also noticed that I’ve liked the album more and more each time I’ve heard it. The debut album peaked on the first listen and it never changed. There’s a bit more going on on “To Paint a Bird of Fire” which is what prog is all about and hopefully this album will get Perihelion Ship the attention they absolutely deserve!

Rating: 9/10

Tracklist:

1. New Sun
2. Bird of Fire
3. The Sad Mountain
4. River’s Three
5. Wind of No Echoes
6. New Sun?

Release Date: October 1, 2017
Bandcamp: perihelionship.bandcamp.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/perihelionship

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Vulture Industries – “Stranger Times”

SOM427“Stranger Times” by Vulture Industries is less stranger than their last album “The Tower.” And that’s actually great! What I mean is that, they still sound weird at times (which is awesome) but on “Stranger Times,” the band don’t let their eccentricities dictate the direction of the songs. They are there but the songs decide when things become odd or when vocalist Bjørnar E. Nilsen goes more toward what I call his “carnival barker” vocal versus something that showcases his natural ability.

Musically, the band remind me of California-era Mr Bungle mixed with Arcturus and even a dash of Devin Townsend. Since I love all of those acts, I’ve loved Vulture Industries from the start. Yes they are strange but strange is interesting and there are too many bands out there that are either boring or following the latest trend. That’s not what Vulture Industries is about. “Stranger Times” finds the band striking a perfect balance of great songs and the patented Vulture Industries approach to music.

The album starts with an awesome one two punch of “Tales of Woe” and “As the World Burns.” The former is about as straight forward as Vulture Industries can manage and is catchy as hell. “As the World Burns” is a slow building track that, when it takes flight, it’s the perfect example of how dynamics can work in a song when done this well. “Strangers” was the first track released with a music video. The key to this track for me is the trumpet (yes trumpet) throughout the song and the killer guitar solo. There’s a great guitar solo at the end of “As the World Burns” as well.

This is going to get redundant but too bad! “The Beacon” is another great song with a great riff, great harmonies and I love the keys on this one. “Something Vile” is ironically titled since the song is anything but vile. This was the second track released from the album. The riff is slow and deliberate, and yes one of the best riffs on the album. A fitting quirky vocal from Nilsen during the verses is met with a great combo vocal on the chorus.

“My Body, My Blood” is a pulsating intro track to “Gentle Touch of a Killer” which reprises the melodies and some lyrics from the first track. It makes for a cool two part suite that slinks and slithers along. I’ll forgive the spoke intro to “Screaming Reflection” since it doesn’t last long and gives way to a thunderous track. The final track “Midnight Draws Near” finds Nilsen really going full on “looney” with his vocals and it REALLY works because of his overall “restraint” (well, restraint for him anyway) to this point. I still think there will be listeners who might find his vocals challenging but I’ve always loved his voice and over the top delivery.

“Stranger Times” is the album I was hoping Vulture Industries would make. It maintains the sound they have cultivated over their first three albums while upping their songwriting to a whole new level. Catchy avante garde prog metal is possible and “Stranger Times” is the proof.

Rating: 9.5/10

Tracklist:

  1. Tales of Woe
  2. As the World Burns
  3. Strangers
  4. The Beacon
  5. Something Vile
  6. My Body, My Blood
  7. Gentle Touch of a Killer
  8. Screaming Reflection
  9. Midnight Draws Near

Label: Season of Mist
Facebook: www.facebook.com/vultureindustries
Website: vulture-industries.net

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The Prophecy – “Origins”

The_Prophecy_-_Origins_-_Album_CoverIt’s been a while since the last album by The Prophecy. “Salvation” was one of my favorite albums of 2013. It was the perfect combination of prog and doom. The Prophecy don’t play doom in the sense of darkness and bleakness. Their approach, while being slow and deliberate, is more akin to a sunny day than a moonless night. They are more like a prog rock band playing doom metal. It makes for a compelling combination.

At long last, the band are releasing new music in the form of “Origins” which is a five part album that finds The Prophecy mining all of those elements that make them unique and a favorite of mine. The first track has plenty of piano and a great clean vocal by Matt Lawson. It’s one track that is mostly a clean vocal. Lawson also possesses one hell of a death growl too and there’s a nice short moment in which he features it.

Much of the album features Lawson “harmonizing” the clean and the death vocals together which is very cool. He starts off “Origins II” with that combination. The music is more mellow than “Salvation” which is fascinating when used as a backdrop for his vocals. The melodies are quite strong so it works. There’s a wordless female vocal on the track which is different but really sounds out of place to me. “Origins III” has a thicker, heavier chorus coupled with mellow verses. It works well because the chorus stands out because of it.

“Origins IV” has more of a groove to it which for The Prophecy is unusual. They tend to have one gear which is slow! But this one almost bounces along which makes it my favorite track on the album. Great bass work on the track from Gavin Parkinson! The band are great at memorable choruses too which was one reason that I loved the last two albums. This is another song with a great, memorable chorus. “You take the life from me.”

The album finishes with my second favorite track “Origins V” which has a LOT of atmosphere. Another song with a kick ass chorus and great vocal by Dawson (clean and harsh). Also, wait for the ghost track too! If I had to compare the Prophecy other bands, I think the closest would Pallbearer and perhaps Novembers Doom and even While Heaven Wept. But The Prophecy really combine prog with doom better than all of these. “Origins” is a welcome return from The Prophecy and if you like progressive doom or doomy prog, you need this album in your ears.

Rating: 8.5/10

Tracklist:
1. Origins I
2. Origins II
3. Origins III
4. Origins IV
5. Origins V

Label: Ascension Music (AMG)
Release Date: September 16, 2017
Facebook: www.facebook.com/THEPROPHECY.UK
Website: www.the-prophecy.net

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Terria – “Horizons” EP

TerriaTerria is the project of bassist extraordinaire Rashaan Lacey. Lacey recruited some top notch guitarists in Alek Darson, Alden Marchand and Dave Zuckerman along with drummer Hadrien Pierson for his debut 5 track EP “Horizons.” Terria are definitely prog metal and thankfully not djent. It seems too many instrumental prog metal acts have to incorporate some djent.

Instead, Lacey gives PLENTY of room for these guitarists to roam. And while that’s admirable and modest, the EP is even more interesting when Lacey steps to the fore and there’s a bit more room in the mix for all players. The title track leads off and this is probably the weakest track, and not because it’s a bad track. Not at all! But it’s more about Darson’s shredding and a thick layer of rhythm guitar work. Plus there’s too many voice samples which (as everyone who reads my reviews knows) is not something I enjoy.

However, from that point on things get really, really good. “Water’s Edge” has an oft-kilter riff that I love and finally we get to hear some top notch bass playing from Lacey. It has some very tasty bass lines all through the track. “Nova” is my favorite track though because it has some supple bass licks that lead to a more aggressive rattle later on. I LOVE a good bass rattle. Too many bassists forget just how bad ass that sounds. The key here is that there’s more space for each player.

As for epics, “Mangrove” is even more aggressive than any track previous with great drumming from Pierson. I also like the keys that are used more as an accent through out the EP but especially on this track. The song has a great main riff and it also builds nicely before receding back to the main riff. Plus the atmospheric section on the track is a nice change of pace. “Core” is an 8 minute plus track which gives Lacey a chance to start the riffing.

I will admit that I’ve love Lacey’s bass to be even further up in the mix, ala Alberto Rigoni. But credit to him for making sure this was more of a band sound than a bassist just showing off his skills. Regardless, this is some very tight and technical playing. The riffs are strong and memorable overall. The “Horizons” EP is a nice calling card from Terria for what hopefully will be a love letter on a full length album.

Rating: 8.5/10

Tracklist:
1. Terria
2. Water’s Edge
3. Nova
4. Mangrove
5. Core

Bandcamp: projectterria.bandcamp.com

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Redemption announces Tom S. Englund of Evergrey as new vocalist

Evergrey’s Tom S. Englund has replaced Fates Warning’s Ray Alder as lead vocalist for Redemption. While I think Englund is a good singer, he just isn’t on the same level as Ray. Still, it will be interesting to hear new material. Below is the press release.


 

Confirmed to headline ProgPower USA 2018; new album, ‘Long Night’s Journey into Day’, due out 2018.

redemption
Photo credit: Stephanie Cabral

As just announced at ProgPower USA 2017 this past weekend (September 8th), Redemption is confirmed to headline next year’s edition of the festival, with new vocalist Tom Englund (Evergrey)! This new line-up including Englund, Nick van Dyk (guitars and keyboards), Sean Andrews (bass) and Chris Quirarte (drums) has finished recording Redemption‘s seventh full-length album, Long Night’s Journey into Day – the first to be produced with Jacob Hansen (Volbeat, Primal Fear, Amaranthe, Doro, etc.). Guitarists Chris Poland (Megadeth, OHM) and Simone Mularoni (DGM) return as guest musicians. Fans can anticipate this upcoming album in early 2018.

“We are delighted to welcome Tom as the voice of Redemption, said van Dyk. “He has an incredibly powerful, soulful and emotional voice that our music really demands and we are quite confident that people will be blown away by what we have created together.”

Stay tuned for more Redemption news coming soon!

Redemption‘s most recent release, The Art of Loss, contains over 70 minutes of the band’s unique blend of passion, melody, aggression and complexity, with an array of songs ranging from hard-hitting melodic metal to the 23-minute epic “At Day’s End”– plus, special guest appearances from Chris Broderick, John Bush, Marty Friedman, Simone Mularoni and Chris Poland. To preview and purchase The Art of Loss, please visit: metalblade.com/redemption

Redemption online:
http://redemptionweb.com
https://www.facebook.com/RedemptionBand
https://twitter.com/redemptionmetal

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