Soen – “Lykaia Revisited”

lykaiaWe’ve already reviewed “Lykaia” by Soen so this isn’t about the music. In fact,  I like this album even more musically than when it came out! This is to take a look at “Lykaia Revisited” which is a remastered version of the album with some live bonus tracks and new cover artwork. Live tracks do nothing for me so the real meat of this for me is the remaster.

The one major problem with “Lykaia” was the mix and master. It’s a LOUD album, brickwalled. This is something far too common in today’s music world with “Death Magnetic” being the “poster child” for brickwalled gone REALLY wrong. When you listen to these albums, they sound loud when the volume is down and you can hear static and distortion even during what should be quiet moments. That was the case here too.

When I heard that Soen were already remastering “Lykaia,” I was so happy. The songs deserved it. And while I think it’s SLIGHTLY better, “Lykaia Revisited” is still too fucking loud. I think this needed a full remix beyond the remastering. Since the mix of this album was clearly maxed out, there’s only so much that a remaster could do. It’s better but this is really a missed opportunity.

The loudness isn’t obvious to me until the first quieter number “Lucidity” which is a great song. The distortion is more concealed but you still catch it. As the album goes on, you notice the bass is still way too loud and songs like “Stray” and “Paragon” have pretty much the same issues as on the first master. Even Joel Ekelöf’s vocals are too loud but they don’t cause the same distortion as on the original master.

Is “Lykaia Revisited” worth getting? Assuming that this is indeed the last release of this album, it might be. If you didn’t mind the brickwalling on the original, you probably don’t need this version. I suppose if you are a die hard Soen fan, you will want the live tracks but they are split between the CD release and the digital copy. That’s bullshit! I will say that this will replace the original version for me and I still love the music on the album. It’s just a shame that the problem wasn’t fixed completely

Tracklist:

1. Sectarian
2. Orison
3. Lucidity
4. Opal
5. Jinn
6. Sister
7. Stray
8. Paragon
9. Vitriol
10. God’s Acre
11. Sectarian (Live in Lisbon)
12. Jinn (Live in Lisbon) *only available on digital formats
13. Lucidity (Live in Rome)

Release date: September 14th 2018
Website: www.soenmusic.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/SoenMusic

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Progressive Music Planet Radio Show: Prophets, Soothsayers & Faith Healers

This Sunday, I am back on Metal World Radio LIVE at 10am EDT, 3pm UK with two hours of Prog. The theme is “Prophets, Soothsayers & Faith Healers” which is the typical mystic shit that prog bands love. It was a fun show to put together so please tune in. If you can’t make it on Sunday, the show is rebroadcast on Tuesday at 8pm EDT on Delicious Agony!

 

prophets

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Arch/Matheos re-signs with Metal Blade Records; begins work on new album

Here’s some very exciting news from Metal Blade Records:

 

am

Photo credit: Mark Cubbedge

 

Metal Blade Records has proudly re-signed Arch/Matheos for a worldwide deal!

Arch/Matheos began as a reunion between founding Fates Warning members John Arch (vocals) and Jim Matheos (guitar), who hadn’t collaborated since John Arch’s solo EP, A Twist Of Fate (2003) – and hadn’t fully collaborated for a whole album since Fates Warning‘s Awaken the Guardian (1986). In 2010, the duo began working on a record together and brought along three Fates Warning members to the fold. The five members would in turn release their debut album Sympathetic Resonance in 2011, under the name Arch/Matheos.

Since then, John Arch and Jim Matheos have kept busy with their other projects – but now the time has come for them to join forces once again, for a new Arch/Matheos release, due out 2019 via Metal Blade Records.

John Arch comments: “The desire and commitment from both of us is first and foremost, but the impetus to move forward with another A/M project fell in good part on how well ‘Sympathetic Resonance‘ was received, and how the fans have continued to show their support through a variety of mediums, stating they would like a follow-up effort. The timing for Jim and I seems to be right and things are coming along nicely. We look forward to sharing the results with you soon!”

Jim Matheos adds: “It’s great to be working with my old friend John Arch again. We push each other creatively in ways that brings out the best in both of us, I think. We’ve come up with what I hope is a worthy successor to ‘Sympathetic Resonance‘, and a great lineup of musicians to help us bring it to fruition.”

Already featuring special guests Thomas Lang, Bobby Jarzombek, Baard Kolstad, Mark Zonder, Matt Lynch, Steve Di Giorgio, Joey Vera, Sean Malone, Joe DiBiase, and Frank Aresti – with more to come! – this upcoming Arch/Matheos album is currently being tracked, with Jens Bogren (Fates Warning, Opeth, Devin Townsend, etc.) handling mixing duties in November. Stay tuned for more news coming soon!

To purchase Sympathetic Resonance, please visit: https://www.indiemerch.com/metalbladerecords/band/arch-matheos. To watch the video for the album track “Midnight Serenade” (directed by David Brodsky / www.davidsbrodsky.com), head over to: https://youtu.be/IwcL04CYews

Arch/Matheos online:
https://www.facebook.com/archmatheos/
https://twitter.com/archmatheos

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A Dying Planet – “Facing The Incurable”

cover_1530113151320143Discussing the release “Facing The Incurable” by A Dying Planet is a challenge. The progressive metal community has come to expect high-level music from musicians Jasun and Troy Tipton (Zero Hour, Cynthesis, Abnormal Thought Patterns). I was eager to review this new CD because of their previous works. I found out there were multiple vocalists enlisted, including former Sun Caged singer Paul Villarreal. The rhythm section is filled out with bassist Brian Hart and drummer Marco Bicca.

The opening track, “Resist,” is the longest on the CD and placing that at the front of the album is a tricky move which works for me. It works because Villarreal’s vocals are strong and smooth and the composition of the harmonies are stellar. The track begins with a chugging mid-tempo rhythm that slides into a mid-section that is dreamy yet engaging and features a Jim Matheos-esque guitar solo. The end of the track brings us back to the start and Villarreal’s powerful vocals create a satisfying bookend to a strong opening track.

The title track features vocals by Luda Amo who delivers emotional lyrics. The rhythm section is especially tight, lifting up the multiple layers of clean guitars. There is a spoken-word section which opens up a heavier section with female vocals, a repeating phrase, then some welcome odd-tempo metal chugging; it’s a nice development. “Human Obsolescence” is essentially a ballad with another vocalist whom I assume is Troy Tipton. It’s slow and is similar to the previous track except with no heavy parts.

Fourth track, fourth vocalist. Erik Rosvold (Zero Hour/Cynthesis) is back with former bandmate Jasun Tipton. The track is rhythmic prog metal but I have to admit; I’m more curious about why so many vocalists were asked to perform on this CD! I really can’t pay attention to the music any longer. “Poisoning The Well” is a good song but after track one, everything else pales. “Missing” opens with acoustic guitar and and Luda Amo reappaers on vocals. This could be described as neo-prog because prog metal it is not.

I’m left with more questions than answers by the time closing instrumental “Separation Anxiety” brings this CD to an end. I know the Tipton brothers are exceptionally talented. The rhythm section of Hart and Bicca are very tight. Track one was definitely the highlight of “Facing The Incurable.” I do have to give props for the production. The distorted guitars have bite and the clean guitars cut through; the drums are high in the mix and the bass pops through it all. The synth found under many calm portions of music is pronounced yet not over-powering. The schizophrenia of vocalists is too much for me since this isn’t Ayreon. If this group of musicians continues to write music, a single vocalist should be used (Villarreal would be my choice) otherwise it sounds too much like a haphazard gathering of songs than an album.

Rating: track one 9/10, all other tracks 6/10

Tracklist:

1. Resist
2. Facing The Incurable
3. Human Obsolescence
4. Poisoning The Well
5. Missing
6. Separation Anxiety

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/A-Dying-Planet-811051948999466/
Bandcamp: https://adyingplanet.bandcamp.com

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3.2 – “The Rules Have Changed”

3.2Before you read this review, stop right here and go read my interview with Robert Berry first. You need proper context before you go any further. I’ll wait here. CLICK HERE: https://progressivemusicplanet.wordpress.com/2018/07/04/interview-with-robert-berry-about-3-3-2-and-his-dear-friend-keith-emerson/

Go read it…

OK, did you finish? I’ll know if you didn’t. Now you have an idea of how important this album is to the artist AND to me. In 1988, I wore out my copy of “To the Power of Three” by 3. And while I understood why the band split, I still wanted more. I was thrilled to have some proposed 3 tracks on Robert Berry’s album “Pilgrimage to a Point” but now I finally have a new 3…er 3.2 album. It’s just so incredibly sad that Keith Emerson isn’t alive to be a part of it.

While “To the Power of Three” was more pop with prog flourishes, “The Rules Have Changed” is the flip of that. This is without a doubt a strong prog album with Berry’s pop sensibilities keeping the songs on track. And yes Berry does channel Emerson many times throughout the album. It’s down right scary sometimes too. “One By One” is an over-the-top killer lead off track that serves notice that this is NOT going to be a walk in the park.

“Powerful Man” sounds more like the first album than perhaps any of the songs on the album. Yes there’s a nod to 80s pop but that’s a key ingredient to the music and was from the start of the band. Lyrically, Berry pays tribute to Emerson more than once on the album. “Our Bond” is the gut punch and “Your Mark on the World” is the hopeful optimistic closer.

My favorite track is probably “The Letter” because it starts out acoustic and stripped down before it just takes OFF! But each track on here is great because they are all so unique and that for me is the mark of a great album. It’s not an easy album either for the same reasons. You need to pay attention and listen more than once. Remember, this is prog.

It’s a shame that Keith Emerson took his life. “The Rules Have Changed” is a wonderful tribute to him by his dear friend. It’s nice to hear music that he was working on before he left the world too. “The Rules Have Changed” is a testament to not just the talent of Emerson but even moreso the underrated brillance of Robert Berry. I’ll take a 3.3 album if he ever wants to make it.

Rating: 10/10

Tracklist:
1.One By One
2.Powerful Man
3.The Rules Have Changed
4.Our Bond
5.What You’re Dreaming Now
6.Somebody’s Watching
7.This Letter
8.Your Mark On The World

Label: Frontiers Music
Facebook: www.facebook.com/Robertberrymusic

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The Eternal – “Waiting for the Endless Dawn”

The-Eternal_Waiting-for-the-Endless-Dawn“Waiting for the Endless Dawn” is the sixth album by The Eternal and the first one that I’ve heard by the Aussies. They play a heavily prog influenced brand of doom metal. I’d compare them with bands like Katatonia, While Heaven Wept, Pallbearer, My Dying Bride (for obvious reasons) and even Swallow the Sun. Vocally, Mark Kelson reminds me a bit of countryman Tim Charles of Ne Obliviscaris.

A big part of the sound is the keyboards of Martin Powell who has been in many bands including My Dying Bride and Cradle of Filth in addition to touring with Anathema years ago. He adds both melody and texture to the songs, a brightness and darkness at the same time. The album kicks off with the massive “The Wound,” which is nothing short of awesome. Whether it’s the main riff or the incredible soloing toward the end of the 20 minute track, this one has everything. Literally. Did I mention the strings?

“Rise from Agony” is a mere 11 minutes and if you slowed it down even more, you’d have a My Dying Bride track. You’re asking what makes them prog? It’s the approach and technicality. Much as I just said, if you slowed them down more they would be pure doom. If you sped them up, they would be total prog metal. “Rise from Agony” walks that line, it should be depressing yet it has a glowing power to it.

“A Cold Day to Face My Failure” is one that misses the mark for me a bit. The vocals sound a bit weak for some reason and even the main riff is missing the punch that is present on the first two tracks. “I Lie in Wait” has a better riff but the distorted vocals are a bit off putting for me. I really like the atmosphere on “Don’t Believe Anymore.” It’s like a doom ballad. Is that possible? Apparently so.

“In The Lilac Dusk” features Mikko Kotamäki of Swallow The Sun on vocals so it’s hard not to compare the song to that band. I have no problem with that since Swallow the Sun are a favorite of mine. The song is easily one of my favorites on the album too. The title track closes the album and is the shortest track on it! It’s an interesting way to close out the album. Rather than close with an epic, the album STARTS with it. I might have flipped the two.

“Waiting for the Endless Dawn” is worth it for “The Wound” alone. That track is absolutely incredible. At 20 minutes, it does add up to a large portion of the album. For the most part, the album is really good and if you like any of the bands I mentioned, I think you’ll enjoy this. I guess I need to check the back catalog for The Eternal since I do enjoy all of those bands.

Rating: 8/10

Tracklist:
1. The Wound
2. Rise From Agony
3. A Cold Day To Face My Failure
4. I Lie In Wait
5. Don’t Believe Anymore
6. In The Lilac Dusk
7. Waiting For The Endless Dawn

Release date: 17 August 2018
Label: Inverse Records
Facebook: www.facebook.com/TheEternal

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Royal Hunt – “Cast in Stone”

royal-hunt-cast-in-stone-album-cover-artwork-minDenmark’s Royal Hunt have been around quite a few years now. So have I for that matter. I first found them back when Magna Carta Records signed them and released “Paradox.” The label then reissued the previous album “Moving Target.” Both featured American singer DC Cooper and both albums walked the line between power metal and prog metal extremely well.

Right after that, Cooper left Royal Hunt and was replaced by John West. The albums were good but not great. Then West left and was replaced by Mark Boals, and at that point I had lost interest. Cooper returned in 2011 for the strong “Show Me How To Live” album and has been in the band since. The two releases after that felt like the band had found their style once again.

They are back with “Cast in Stone” and the easiest way to put it is, if you liked what you’ve heard before, you will like this one. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” Part of me though wishes for something even bigger. “Cast in Stone” has the big choruses and kick ass rhythms that I’ve come to expect from Royal Hunt but what about a massive epic?

The band has flirted with the ten minute epic in the past but seem more comfortable keeping things between 5-7 minutes. Sure length isn’t everything but maybe it would allow the band to expand their sound more. Cooper can still sing and yes Andre Andersen can write a catchy melody but what about something bigger and even DARKER? “Fistful of Misery” really doesn’t have enough MISERY and “A Million Ways to Die” is more cliche than anything else.

The production still is more mid-range heavy which is something they have always had. Personally, thickening up the bottom end would be another area that I’d find interesting. Lyrically, things are still a tad cheesy. “Save Me II” is the standard male/female duet number that turns me off. Up to that point even if the lyrics aren’t great, Cooper is such a great vocalist that he can save almost any lyric.

So yes, “Cast in Stone” is a mixed bag for me. Royal Hunt fans will enjoy the album. Is it as amazing as “Paradox”? I don’t think so. Heck, I even loved “The Mission” and it’s not on par with that. But it does fit well with the last few albums that the band have released. Again, it ain’t broke…

Rating: 7/10

Website: royalhunt.com/cast-in-stone
Label: Northpoint Productions

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