Pyramaze – “Contingent”

pyramaze_artwork_1500.jpgWhen it comes to music reviews, I believe that the following disclaimer is a double-edge sword: “I don’t normally listen to this genre.” Why would that matter? Maybe that would let me off the hook if I gave Pyramaze’s new CD “Contingent” a foul review; perhaps I just don’t get it. Conversely, if I’m blown away by it, I can humble myself and honestly say I have become enlightened, thank goodness. I jumped at the chance to review this to see what the result would be.

The top-shelf production is immediate as is the melodic metal which initially hit me as “power metal” but that first impression has changed over dozens of listens. This is an extremely solid melodic metal CD and should not be missed. Vocalist Terje Harøy has written earworm-quality melodies which do burrow into the mind. His tone brings to mind Russell Allen of Symphony X. After the first few repeated listens, I find myself thinking “Oh good, this song! Oh good, now this song!” which as a listener is a treat – I’m not just skipping forward to a few tracks and forgetting the rest.

Another benefit of “Contingent” is the sequencing and pacing of the CD. Different tempo and dynamics are used to craft a journey, not just “some recording.” Keyboards of Jonah W. support the riffs and trade solos without overpowering the proceedings. Tracks one and two provide a great introduction then “Star Men” presents us with churning rock and a huge, memorable chorus. Between songs there are segues that are important in the overall flow of this concept – this is more of a 60 minute presentation than it is a collection of 13 songs and the synth symphony and atmospheric sound effects keep that front and center.

Jacob Hansen and Toke Skjønnemand adeptly handle guitars (Jacob recorded bass as well) and while these riffs are heavy and somewhat-memorable, there still is room to write even better riffs next time.
My opinion is that, as good as the first half of Contingent is, the second half kicks ass. Track 8, “Obsession” has the best harmony-note selection in the chorus and drummer Morten Gade Sørensen’s cymbals shine in syncopated style. “Heir Apparent” kicks off with a thick, chugging rhythm then enters into a heavy, pulsating verse and then opens up into a gigantic arena-ready chorus with great harmonies; quite possibly the best track of them all.

The icing on this cake hits me on the final track “Symphony of Tears.” Contender for song of the year I’m telling you. It’s the masterful confluence of rhythmic, churning verses / pristine pre-choruses / tight, syncopated drumming / double-time, earworm-quality chorus melodies / and the magic is that when the song ends, I’m tempted to press play again, right away. What happens then? “Oh good, this song! Oh good, now this song!”

When it is all said and done, the MVPs are Terje’s vocal melodies and Morten’s uber-solid drumming. I have left out the conceptual nature of Contingent as I don’t have access to the lyrics, but I believe this is a situation where repeated listens and peeling-away the layers of the concept will just make this CD even better over time.

Rating: 8.5/10

Tracklist:
1. Land Of Information
2. Kingdom Of Solace
3. Star Men
4. A World Divided
5. Nemesis
6. Contingent – Part I: The Campaign
7. 20 Second Century
8. Obsession
9. Heir Apparent
10. Contingent – Part II: The Hammer of Remnant
11. Under Restraint
12. The Tides That Won’t Change
13. Symphony of Tears

Label: Inner Wound Recordings
Wesbite: www.pyramaze.com

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Cydemind – “Erosion”

cydemindThe violin has a firm place in prog over the years whether it’s Kansas within the prog rock realm or of late with Ne Obliviscaris. While Montreal’s Cydemind use a violin prominently in their music, they don’t really sound like either of those bands. In fact, they sound more like if Tim Charles of Ne Obliviscaris joined Dream Theater…if they were an instrumental band.

While the band are all virtuosos, they don’t overplay necessarily. Yes the music is tight and quite technical at times, the band also understand the importance of the almightly riff and build their songs off of riffs rather than just soloing all over the place.

The first two tracks are great examples. “What Remains” works because of a great riff. “Tree of Tales” is also a groove oriented riff laden track, though not as good as its predecessor. Like any self respecting prog metal band, Cydemind have 2 epics on the album. One is the excellent “Derecho” which starts off with a beautiful acoustic oriented part, before getting really moody and then yes a bit apeshit. Great track.

The title track, however, is the true epic of the album, clocking in at over 27 minutes and yes it does cover a LOT of ground. But again, the band are great musicians and understand that they need to hold your attention for 27 minutes. The song reminds me a bit more of Haken (think “Visions”) which isn’t a bad thing necessarily.

While the whole band are great at what they do, there’s no denying that without violinist Olivier Allard, they might not sound as unique as they do. The only real downside is that over the course of this album, you might feel a sameness to it all. Without vocals, it is very challenging to make sure the listener stays engaged. But overall, Cydemind have an excellent album on their hands with “Erosion.”

Rating: 8/10

Tracklist:
1. What Remains
2. Tree of Tales
3. Derecho
4. Red Tides
5. Stream Capture
6. Erosion

Website: www.cydemind.com

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ARCADEA (MASTODON, ZRUDA, WITHERED) SIGN WITH RELAPSE RECORDS; NEW ALBUM OUT JUNE 16TH

This should be interesting for sure. It’s Brann’s turn for a side project. Check out the press release below:

arcadea

April 19, 2017 – Los Angeles, CA – Hailing from the fringes of the cosmos, Arcadea, will make their arrival known in 2017 with a debut, self-titled album due out on June 16th. Today, the synth/psych band has announced they have inked a deal with Relapse Records to release the record. Pre-orders and new music will be announced in the coming weeks.

Stream Arcadea’s previously released song “Gas Giant” now at https://youtu.be/Y36PqRQ3Jc0

Arcadea was born when drummer-vocalist Brann Dailor (Mastodon) teamed up with upside-down guitarist & keyboardist Core Atoms (Zruda) to create a synth-laden progressive, heavy psych band. Adding guitarist Raheem Amlani (Withered) on synth, the three recorded their visionary,10 song synth odyssey at Orange Peel Studios in Atlanta, GA. The self-titled debut record will see its release via Relapse Records this June.

Unlike their other bands, Arcadea uses only keyboards in a unique blend of crushing, organic drums and psychedelic synthesizers. The music is at once electronic but not electronica, synthetic but not processed, heavy but not metal.

The album envisions a future 5 billion years from now, where the impending collision of galaxies creates a new order of planets. Where cold, distant moons pledge alliance to new suns and expanding gas giants implode into black holes. Ancient drones, forever adrift, record toxic tales of love between dying stars. Where lifeforms in suspended animation, dream among the ice rings of Saturn and cosmic war wages among gods and planets. It is in this universe that Arcadea reign supreme as the last surviving space wizards since the final extinction.

For More Information:
https://www.facebook.com/arcadearocks/
http://www.arcadearocks.com/
http://store.relapse.com/

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ENSLAVED Enter the studio!

enslaved1

It’s been over two years since the release of critically acclaimed album ‘In Times’, and now Norway’s progressive metal legends ENSLAVED have entered the studio again to record their 14th, yet untitled full-length release. Aiming for both wilder and yet more progressive and melodic horizons, the band who celebrated its 25th anniversary last year, never ceases to surprise and challenge their fans; they will once again step up to the plate. The recordings are taking place at Duper & Solslottet Studios in Bergen throughout April, and will be mixed and mastered by Jens Bogren at Fascination Street Studios. With its epic touch, the album promises to be original and refreshing – and to contain some surprising new elements.

“It is absolutely fantastic to be in the studio with these new songs”, states mastermind Ivar Bjørnson. “So many doors were opened with ‘In Times’ and the times (sic) that followed; for us as a band, for me as a composer and I guess for us all on a personal level. I have never worked this hard to put together music for an album before, and that intensity continues into the studio where everybody is giving their everything, every hour of every day. We are a tighter unit than ever before, which is obvious sonically. The concept conjured by myself and old war-brother Grutle is the strongest we have worked with. Finally, I am proud that we have taken more risks than ever before, and one in particular – and it is yielding awesome results. What does that mean? Stay tuned to find out!”

The eye-catching cover and artwork is once again being currently created by renowned designer and painter Truls Espedal. More info will be revealed soon!

en23

www.enslaved.no | www.facebook.com/enslaved | www.nuclearblast.de/enslaved

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Uneven Structure – “La Partition”

Uneven_Structure_La_Partition_printFrance’s Uneven Structure released a great debut album in 2011 called “Februus.” It was a great balance of djent-infused prog metal and ethereal atmosphere. Since then the band re-issued their experimental EP “8” but that’s been it. The band has retooled their lineup and now finally are releasing their second full length album “La Partition.”

I was really interested to see what direction the band would be going. While “La Partition” has some of the same elements as their first release, they are leaning more toward atmosphere. “La Partition” does have each track segueing into the next which is very cool and something the band has already done. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Granted, pieces like “Groomed And Resting” are more transitional filler than song. But I do understand why the band does it.

The polyrhythms are still there as well. But at times new drummer Arnaud Verrier is a bit too hyper-kinetic. Some of the songs just need a nice groove rather than over playing. He can actually get lost in the mist of all that’s going on. There are a lot of layers of sound and sadly the mix isn’t strong enough. It’s actually not bottom heavy enough. Many of the sounds seem to bleed into each other which makes it very hard to separate the guitars from the synths. Bassist Benoit Friedrich is all but lost in the mix.

Vocalist Matthieu Romarin still uses his harsh vocal a lot better than his clean vocal, but I did expect that. His melodies are good but not really memorable. Musically, the band have SOME really good moments like “Incube” and “Succube” but again, the mix really sounds like mud. This music is supposed to be really dynamic and it deserves to sound it.

I have to say that after such a promising debut album like “Februus,” it’s a shame that this album is more about what could have been and what the band is TRYING to do than the actual results. I suppose if you view “La Partition” as the direction or path the band are taking, I am hopeful for their future. Until then, can someone remix this album?

Rating: 5.5/10

Tracklist:

1. Alkaline Throat
2. Brazen Tongue
3. Crystal Teeth
4. Groomed And Resting
5. Incube
6. Succube
7. Funambule
8. Greeted And Dining
9. The Bait
10. Our Embrace
11. Your Scent

Label: Long Branch Records
Facebook: www.facebook.com/unevenstructure

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The Fierce And The Dead – “Field Recordings”

TFATDLIVEAs a rule, I don’t normally review live albums. Why? It just seems weird to review a show that I wasn’t at, for one thing. Also, they tend to be live versions of songs you’ve heard so it’s rare to hear anything new. Did the band play well or not? That is usually all I can manage.

But with The Fierce And The Dead’s live EP” Field Recordings,” there are 2 brand new songs that were part of the set which was recorded at the oddly titled Ramblin’ Man Festival. Both “Dancing Robots” and “Verbose” are great tracks that BETTER be on the next TFATD album! “Verbose” might be the best track on this EP.

But the entire performance was a great one. The band have a very raw, live sound on their albums plus all four of them are extremely talented musicians so the results are great as I was expecting. The known tracks that were chosen were all smart choices with the short “Magnet In Your Face” being a great opening punch…in your face.

So for those who love TFATD, this makes a nice live “souvenir.” For the uninitiated, “Field Recordings” works really well as a sampler of the band at their best. They are a very adventurous, quirky band to be sure that bridge the chasm between prog technicality and a raw almost punk mentality. Now, bring on a new STUDIO album already!!

Rating: 8.5/10

Tracklist:

  1. Magnet In Your Face
  2. Ark
  3. Dancing Robots
  4. Verbose
  5. Palm Trees
  6. 666…6

Label: Bad Elephant Music
Bandcamp: tfatd.bandcamp.com/album/field-recordings-live

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Lonely Robot – “The Big Dream”

636227448894315112John Mitchell is THE most underrated prog musician on the planet. There, I said it. The man is not only a great guitarist but also a talented songwriter, mixer, producer, arranger and I LOVE his husky and distinct vocal style. Consider all of the bands and projects that John has been a part of: Arena, It Bites, Kino and now his own project Lonely Robot. I am not even going to try to recall all the guest spots and contributions he has made over the years!

“The Big Dream” is the second Lonely Robot album and like the first it is conceptual but not a formal concept album. Unlike the stories that played out on “Please Come Home,” this album deals with various topics and concepts with a focus on the color green. What? “In Floral Green” is obvious anyway.

Beyond that the album SOUNDS like it’s a concept album even if it isn’t. How? Consistency. It is more consistent all the way through than it’s predecessor. The songs are all VERY strong without a lull to be found. Not a weak track and yes I do like the intro and outro, including the sampled spoken parts. I suppose this proves that John can do no wrong.

“Sigma” has one of the best choruses you will hear, catchy as hell. On the other end, the title track is an epic instrumental which on its own makes the album worth buying! But again, every song on the album is really strong. The vibe on “THe Big Dream” feels more 70s than 80s. Since John has really done the whole 80s vibe with both It Bites and even on “Please Come Home,” the 70s vibe on this album is a nice change and gives it a more organic feel.

To no one’s surprise, I love this album and yes perhaps I am biased since I enjoy everything John Mitchell is involved with. Special mention to drummer extraordinaire Craig Blundell who once again puts on a high light reel performance through out this album. If you like John’s previous work, “The Big Dream” is a must. If for some weird reason you’ve never encountered John’s talent, “The Big Dream” is the perfect place to start!

Rating: 9/10

Tracklist:
1.Prologue (Deep Sleep)
2.Awakenings
3.Sigma
4.In Floral Green
5.Everglow
6.False Lights
7.Symbolic
8.The Divine Art Of Being
9.The Big Dream
10.Hello World Goodbye
11.Epilogue (Sea Beams)

Label: Inside Out Music
Facebook: www.facebook.com/johnchristianmitchell

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