Rob’s FINAL Recommendation Roundup

This is my last “review” because, as I know I’ve said, I’ve never enjoyed writing them. To me, music is about exploring for yourself and not letting people tell you what is good and what is shit. Additionally, bands,labels and reps don’t actually share my reviews anyway so I am never going to get any sort of reach on reviews. So this is not a review at all. These are 4 releases that are coming out that I have heard and that I think are worth your money.

Dutch legends Kayak has been around since the mid 70s and became more of a pop prog band as time went on. They have gone through a lot of members with only band leader Ton Scherpenzeel still remaining. The new album “Out Of This World” is basically the same lineup as the last album “Seventeen” and because of that it’s even stronger. I have a lot of Kayak albums in my collection and “Out Of This World” ranks among their best. Well balanced with quirky pop, ballads and songs that go pretty much anywhere. Kayak is a band with a rich history that more people need to be aware of.

Most people are familiar with Frost*. Jem Godfrey has kept the band together this time instead of his usual breakup/reunions of the past. “Day And Age” is the album I’ve been wanting since “Milliontown.” That’s not to say that “Falling Satellites” wasn’t great; it was. But this album is as close to the perfection achieved on that debut album. It’s melodic, it’s epic and of course the production is pristine. If you’ve liked anything by Frost*, this one is a must own. If you aren’t familiar with them, they take the whole modern prog thing to a new level, mixing classic prog ideals with a modern heavy edge. It’s fucking awesome.

VOLA are a band that caught my attention after their debut full length album “Inmazes” took off on Bandcamp. They take that Meshuggah djent thing and mash it with melody and harmonies for something that actually sounds very fresh. It also helps that these Danes write good songs. Their last album “Applause from a Distant Crowd” was good but I felt like it was a bit too soft overall. The band seemed to lose their edge. Thankfully it’s back in full force on “Witness” which other than one miscue is a great album. “These Black Claws” features a rap section that sounds completely out of place. While it sounds fine by itself, it sounds stupid within the context of the song and the album. It also sounds like they are trying way too hard to be “current.” Other than that, “Witness” is the album I wanted from VOLA.

Germany’s Sylvan should be much more well known. They remind me a lot of IQ. They are part neo-prog but have some chunk to their sound. They’ve had a long career so far with some amazing albums. It’s been a few years since their last album “Home” but finally we get “One to Zero” which sounds very familiar. That’s not a band thing. Sylvan has a sound and stick to it. Singer Marco Glühmann has one of my favorite voices and he sounds as great on “One to Zero” as ever. He’s lost nothing over the years. It’s catchy, it’s dramatic and it’s powerful. It’s Sylvan and you need to check them out in general. “One to Zero” is another great album by a great band.

Here is all the release info for these:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kayak – “Out Of This World”
Label: InsideOut Music
Release date: 7 May 2021

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Frost* – “Day And Age”
Label: InsideOut Music
Release date: 14 May 2021

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

VOLA – “Witness”
Label: Mascot Records
Release date: 21 May 2021

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sylvan – “One To Zero”
Label: Gentle Art Of Music
Release Date: 28 May 2021

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Subterranean Masquerade – “Mountain Fever”

Israel’s Subterranean Masquerade have had a string of very good albums over the years. Their consistency made me question why band leader Tomer Pink would dump world class vocalists Kjetil Nordhus and Paul Kuhr. Partially it was that each have priorities in other bands. Still, shake ups like this can have dire consequences.

While I think new vocalist Davidavi Dolev can sing fine, I don’t necessarily like many of the things he does with his voice. This includes the quieter parts in the opener “Snake Charmer” where it exposes some weaknesses in his voice and the death vocal on “Diaspora, My Love” which just doesn’t sound half as good as his his predecessor Kuhr. The upside is the music is very good and has all of the usual Middle Eastern elements mixed with prog metal.

The horn section on the title track is a nice addition. Dolev sounds better in his mid-range (most people do). I am not keen on the backing vocals however so even this track isn’t quite right. That seems to be my overall impression. There are many really good moments on these songs that unfortunately lose something along the way. “Inwards” has some great riffs all through it…but they try to mix in softer breaks and death vocals, and the song loses it’s momentum.

“Ascend” is the first single and I wasn’t into the main riff. The driving part of the track does get things going. The vocals are overly dramatic and annoying.  The song itself is good but it’s not overly memorable. The long track “For The Leader, With Strings Music” goes full on death metal to start with which sounded really forced. It also sounds really out of place. After a while, the song decides to go a completely different direction aaaaaaand it’s suddenly an acoustic number. While I like songs with different parts, the parts need to make sense when pieced together. But they sound glued together and not meant to be in one track.

I think a lot of prog metal fans will still enjoy “Mountain Fever” because it has all the elements most look for plus a great mix. Unfortunately, it sounds like Subterranean Masquerade are trying to prove they belong versus just being themselves. But with a newer lineup, they might not know that yet. Their consistency has waned as has my interest. I might revisit “Mountain Fever” at some point but I doubt it.

Rating: 5/10

Label: Sensory Records

Release Date: May 14th 2021

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Nad Sylvan – “Spiritus Mundi”

It is difficult enough to write lyrics for a song. Sometimes you have to alter a word here or there to fit the music or the mood you are trying to convey.

But what if you couldn’t alter the lyrics because they were part of a national heritage?

Nad Sylvan has taken up the task of creating songs from the work of Irish poet W.B.Yeats.

(With one song, You’ve Got To Find A Way, included as a bonus track, the lyrics are Nad’s own.)

The poet’s work that I am familiar with relates to human experience and curiosity. These are great subjects to set to music. Symbolism can be discovered in the lines. There is also a bridge between the human world and the mystical. Song lyrics after all are a style of poetry.

The title of Mr. Sylvan’s album, Spiritus Mundi, is also drawn from Yeats, and poet’s concept regarding the collective soul of the universe that contains the memories of all humankind..

Mr. Sylvan is known to many as the voice of Steve Hackett’s Genesis Revisited project, but Nad has his own solo career, with this release being his sixth.

This work contains touches of acoustic, symphonic, folk, prog and spoken word. The sounds of the natural world can be heard at one point. The music is brought forth in a modern way, with hints of past traditions contained within the threads. Nad’s voice, to my ears, has always harkened back to another time, and it fits in wonderfully with the poetry and the music.

Fans of folk and prog rock should enjoy Spiritus Mundi. Fans of W.B. Yeats should also give a listen to this album, and make a musical discovery in the process.

A daunting task has yielded a wonderful, joyous listening experience.

Watch the video for The Hawk, posted here at the end of the review.

 

Rating: 9/10

Tracklisting:

  1. The Second Coming
  2. Sailing to Byzantium
  3. Cap and Bells
  4. The Realists
  5. The Stolen Child
  6. To An Isle In The Water
  7. The Hawk
  8. The Witch and The Mermaid
  9. The Fisherman
    Bonus Tracks
  10. You’ve Got To Find A Way (lyrics by Nad)
  11. To A Child Dancing In The Wind

Available as: Special Edition CD Digipak (with the 2 bonus tracks), 180g Gatefold LP Vinyl Edition (with CD) and as Digital Download

Release date April 9, 2021

Artist website: https://www.nadsylvan.com/

Label website: https://www.insideoutmusic.com/artist.aspx?IdArtist=850

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/nad.sylvan

Twitter: https://twitter.com/SylvanOfficial

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/nadsylvan/

 

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The Aristocrats announce new live album ‘FREEZE! Live in Europe 2020’ to be released on May 7th

Here is the press release regarding the upcoming live album by the Aristocrats!


The rowdy and rollicking instrumental rock/fusion power trio The Aristocrats (guitarist Guthrie Govan, bassist Bryan Beller and drummer Marco Minnemann) loudly and proudly showcase their renowned electric onstage chemistry on FREEZE! Live In Europe 2020, which will drop on May 7, 2021. Pre-orders are available now at various outlets listed below.

Featuring performances from across Spain in February 2020, just weeks before live music went on extended hiatus, the album leans heavily on debut live-recorded renditions of material from their most recent album, the critically acclaimed You Know What…? [BOING, 2019] which debuted at #2 on the Billboard Jazz Charts (U.S.)

“FREEZE! documents a particularly memorable period for the band so I think it’s really fortunate that we were able to capture this musical ‘snapshot’”, says Govan. “After months of relentless gigging, the material from our latest studio recording had started to feel really natural for us and yet… somehow, there was still an unmistakable element of excitement and musical risk-taking on stage every night when we played those songs.”

It also contains an epic version of the band’s classic “Get It Like That”, with a drum solo by Minnemann specially dedicated to Rush’s Neil Peart, who passed while the band was on tour.

Growing together as a band also means knowing, focusing and perfecting the details of our musical presentations” explains Minnemann. “On tour, we sometimes become our worst critics and maybe one out of ten gigs fully pleases the band as a collective. But I believe that sort of ‘quality control’ is necessary and trying to give 110% every night is the least we can do for us and especially our fans. I have to admit that I at first was reluctant listening to the recordings, almost fearful about how many mistakes I would find. However, with a little bit of distance and fresh ears, I was actually more than pleased finding out that this ‘hand-picked’ selection of Aristocratic tunes I believe showcases the band as a very well-toured, oiled and locked machine, with not only love and attention to detail, but also playfulness and fun. Furthermore, Neil Peart sadly passed away during our European leg …. I played my heart out for him every single night.”

Bassist Beller summarizes the vibe thusly: “Like Guthrie and Marco said, by February 2020 we were deep into the ‘You Know What…?’ touring cycle, almost up to 100 shows. We were greased up and ready to go, every night. But we had no way of knowing as we plowed through Spain that these would be some of the last shows we’d play for a while. So it’s special on several levels for us to be able to share this frozen moment in time, which is what a live album truly is. It’s a statement of what we were bringing to stages every night in the heat of a world tour; it’s something for our fans who may not have caught this tour to experience and hopefully enjoy at home; and, ideally, it’s also something to keep the flame burning for when we can get back out there and let loose onstage once again. Because that’s what we do best.”

Track Listing

  1. D Grade Fuck Movie Jam
  2. Spanish Eddie
  3. When We All Come Together
  4. The Ballad Of Bonnie And Clyde
  5. Get It Like That (Dedicated To Neil Peart)
  6. Last Orders

FREEZE! Live In Europe 2020 is available for pre-order now in all purchase formats and will be available starting May 7 on CD and digital download, with streaming services to follow in subsequent weeks. Hi-res digital downloads of FREEZE! are available exclusively at the band’s brand new Bandcamp store, along with CD-or-better quality digital downloads of the band’s entire back catalog for the very first time. Also, a limited-run double-vinyl version of FREEZE! will be available through Diggers Factory.

 

All pre-orders of FREEZE! will include an instant download of the song “Spanish Eddie”.

 

All studio and live releases by The Aristocrats can be purchased at:

 

https://linktr.ee/AristocratsBand

 

and wherever music is sold.

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Liquid Tension Experiment – “LTE3”

The long awaited third album by supergroup, Liquid Tension Experiment is finally here. “LTE3” comes 22 years after their second and seemingly final album. Obviously a lot has transpired since then.Keyboard wiz Jordan Rudess joined Dream Theater after the second album and in 2010, drummer Mike Portnoy quit Dream Theater. With a fair amount of animosity, it seemed doubt that the band would regroup but no one counted on a global pandemic.

The COVID outbreak canceled touring plans and allowed all 4 members (also including bassist Tony Levin and guitarist John Petrucci) to have a good chunk of free time. It was that which allowed Portnoy to guest on Petrucci’s solo album and for LTE to reform once again.

“LTE3” is going to sound very familiar to fans. The album picks up as if 22 years had not passed. Go for what you know. The only somewhat iffy number for me is the opener “Hypersonic” which basically jams in as many notes as humanly possible. Most of the song itself is good but some of it is a bit much.
The album continues the traditions of the first two albums with duets by Levin and Portnoy on “Chris & Kevin’s Amazing Odyssey” which is their best thus far. “Shades Of Hope” continues the Rudess/Petrucci tradition. Though it doesn’t close the album like previous songs did.

The closing track is the very melodic epic “Key to the Imagination” which has a lot of great moments and transitions. Definitely one of the best songs LTE has done. One of the more intriguing songs is the second single “Beating the Odds,” which is almost catchy if it weren’t for the very strange time signature. Great song though. The track “Liquid Evolution” is reminds me a little of “Liquid Dreams” in that it is more jazzy and has more space between the notes.

One of the more interesting songs is their cover of the Gershwin classic “Rhapsody In Blue” which had been part of the LTE live shows back in 2008. Now the song gets the full studio treatment and like anything LTE, you can tell it’s the cover (bluesy and classy) but it goes many places the original never quite did. It really showcases the overall musicality of the members of LTE.

“LTE3” is not going to disappoint fans of this supergroup. It’s a logical follow up regardless of how long it took. Tony Levin is still a genius and the other 3 still have great chemistry. But the Portnoy sycophants should just pump the breaks and enjoy this reunion. DT has their new album underway with the master Mike Mangini behind the kit. Things have worked out in many ways. A new Liquid Tension Experiment album is one of those ways!

Rating: 9/10

Label: InsideOut Music

Release Date: April 15, 2021

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Iotunn – “Access All Worlds”

Are the days long gone when a person buys a CD or album without first hearing something from it? And I mean zero radio air-play. I bought Enchant’s Blueprint of the World in 1993 because it looked interesting plus the song lengths were promising; same with Morningrise by Opeth. A double-whammy via Columbia House of which I’m very proud, I discovered Voivod’s Nothingface (1989) and, signed to Metal Blade, Thought Industry’s Songs for Insects (1992). Taking the plunge into sounds unheard is an underrated exercise. (to be fair, I did spend hours at Cheapo in Minneapolis listening to used CDs to be sure what I purchased was worth my money but these rare finds are special).

I felt like that person again taking the plunge into a mysterious new discovery when I listened to the full-length debut “Access All Worlds” by Iotunn. I found an Instagram repost by Metal Blade CEO Brian Slagel of someone claiming this CD is “most refreshing thing heard in decades.” I felt it was time to “buy” the CD without listening to it and see if almost 30 years later Metal Blade still slays.


Based in Copenhagen, Denmark, Iotunn consists of brothers Jesper & Jens Nicolai Gras on guitar, Jón Aldará on all vocals, Eskil Rask on bass, and Bjørn Wind Andersen on drums. A debut CD that is this polished, consist of numerous epics, and catches the attention of one of the biggest names in the metal industry, it starts to make sense how a one social media post made its way to my consciousness. The vocals of Jón Aldará are going to be impactful regardless of one’s opinion: he has growls, shouts, powerful tenor and all else in between (he is also vocalist for Barren Earth from 2014 to present). I’m reminded of Katatonia and Solitude Aeternus as far as the clean vocals go.


The music is a potent mix of many genres of metal. The traditional features are given a contemporary update and the different ratios of metal make listening to this not only enjoyable on a visceral level but I am having a great time picking out what influences are showing up where. The recipe is Death/Extreme Metal (guitars, rhythm section, guttural vocals), Power Metal (clean vocals, euphoric energy), Doom Metal (tempo, deliberation), Progressive Metal (arrangements, concept, total package) but that is subject to change depending on where one might be in a song.


I’m intrigued as to who does the writing and arranging for the band and how two brothers on guitar impacts the whole (i.e. twin brothers Robby and Joey Baca play guitar & drums respectively for The Contortionist).
Bottom line #1: Iotunn is the real deal!
Bottom line #2: Metal Blade still slays!

Full disclosure: I did receive this music as a free download to review it. I then sent $7.77 to purchase the download via Bandcamp because supporting musicians: that is the way.

Rating: 8.5/10

Bandcamp: https://iotunn.bandcamp.com/album/access-all-worlds
Label: Metal Blade
Release Date: February 26, 2021

Tracklist:
Voyage of the Garganey I
Access All Worlds
Laihem’s Golden Pits
Waves Below
The Tower of Cosimc Nihility
The Weaver System
Safe Across The Endless Night

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Transatlantic – “The Absolute Universe”

This is one of the trickier reviews I have had to do. I am reviewing two versions of the same album. As you probably know, Transatlantic recorded “The Absolute Universe” as a single album and then decided hey let’s make it a double BUT let’s change parts of it so that the releases are different from each other.

So we have ” The Absolute Universe: The Breath Of Life (Abridged Version)” and “The Absolute Universe: The Breath Of Life (Abridged Version).” Also there’s yet another version called “The Absolute Universe – The Ultimate Edition” which collects both and adds more to it. Look, this is definitely a cash grab. I have no issues with that but let’s be honest. There is no reason that they couldn’t have made one 3 disc set with both versions.

Sadly you need to buy the “Ultimate Edition” which has vinyl and blu ray and all sorts of shit and yes it’s expensive as hell. But I digress. What about the two versions? How different are they? They are both very similar with many songs having different lyrics or melodies or slight additions to them. Honestly, it’s hard to remember which is which when you keep listening to them together. They blend.

And to be clear, “The Absolute Universe” is a great album at either length. Even listening to “The Breathe of Life,” I don’t feel like I’ve missed anything really. You just get to the destination a little faster. “The Breathe of Life” has 14 tracks and is 65 minutes long while “Forevermore” has 18 tracks and is 91 minutes long. If I am going to pick between them, I’d take “Forevermore” because you get more music. And it doesn’t have filler either.

You’d assume that maybe stretching an album out after the fact might cause bloating but it’s not the case. This is one of their better albums and honestly, it might be my favorite Transatlantic album. So it’s a shame that it’s a damn cash grab too! But honestly, fans should buy whatever they can afford. Is it worth having both, I think so. But I love alternate versions of all kinds. If you can only get one, get the longer one and you are good to go.

The songs segue into each other, themes return, and the flow is perfect. In short this is classic Transatlantic. If you love the band, you will love the album. If only there was an absolute version of “The Absolute Universe” that didn’t break the bank!

Rating: 9/10

Label: InsideOut Music

Release Date: February 5, 2021

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Jason Bieler & The Baron Von Bielski Orchestra – “Songs For The Apocalypse”

Jason Bieler & The Baron Von Bielski Orchestra is the new project from Saigon Kick mainman, Jason Bieler. While I am familiar with his well known band, I don’t know a lot of his solo material. I do own a CD by Super Transatlantic, a one off he did in 2000 with Extreme bassist Pat Badger.

Jason Bieler & The Baron Von Bielski Orchestra is basically Bieler with a few of his friends, including Badger, assisting him. Stylewise, it’s a bit like Devin Townsend but think more like Devy’s more melodic stuff. Oh and Devin does a guitar solo on the track “Bring Out Your Dead.” So there’s that as well!

The sound is big, plenty of hooks and a lot of vocal harmonies. As I always say, it’s about the songs. Are the songs there? Yes they are. Whether it’s the quirky pop infused metal of “Apology” or the straight forward acoustic rock of “Very Fine People,” the album has the hooks and the melodies. Tracks like “Annalise” are deceptively complex and layered. It’s just one of many fascinating tracks on this album.

The jazzy instrumental “Horror Wobbles The Hippo” is another favorite. There’s a lot of genres jammed into the album and yet somehow, Bieler makes it all work. One thing is clear to me, I need to go back and find more of Jason Bieler’s solo material. Given all of shit we are dealing with, “Songs For The Apocalypse” is a perfect title and the album makes for great listening on top of it!

Rating: 8.5/10

Label: Frontiers Music s.r.l.

Release Date: 22 January 2021

 

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Restless Amoeba’s Top Albums of 2020 (albums 1-25)

And here is my part 2 of my top 50 for 2020. My absolute favorite first. These aren’t all prog but i have labeled each one as to “prog or not” so those of you looking for the strictly prog entries, that should make them easier to find.

Again, this disclaimer: There seems to be a consensus around these parts that numbered lists are detrimental. I know bands like being able to say “We were number 1” but just because a band on my list is in the 18th slot, or even the 40th, doesn’t necessarily mean I love it more or less than the ones on either side. So… no numbers for you! ;-p Just know that the ones toward the top of this list are probably the ones that I played more and got just a tad bit more enjoyment out of than the ones further down. But I do love all the ones on this list.

I am including a link to one song each on youtube and the album’s bandcamp page if they have one.

Thomas Bergersen – Humanity – Chapter 1 (Symphonic/Cinematic)

One of the main driving forces behind Two Steps From Hell has been hard at work on, what I can only describe as, a solo project. He released two parts of what will be a 7 part series based on the subject of Humanity. This just popped out of nowhere this year but was easily the most emotionally moving thing I heard all year. This thing is perfection from start to finish. He plans on releasing the series on CD as a boxed set once all parts are released.



Thomas Bergersen – Humanity – Chapter 2 (Symphonic/Cinematic)

Totally wasn’t expecting the 2nd part to be released this year (but was hoping). But he released it. And it is glorious, if only slightly less so than the 1st part. But my favorite track from this series (so far) is on this one: We are Legends. Which I am now finding is blocked in the US on youtube for some reason. So, another track is below.



Scardust – Strangers (Symphonic Prog Metal)

I have a feeling I was aware of this bands last release but wasn’t fully sure… but it really didn’t matter as this one just blew me away this year. Its a crazy one but rocks and has some beautiful moments as well.

https://scardust.bandcamp.com/album/strangers



Brother Firetribe – Feel the Burn (Melodic Rock)

Once again, Brother Firetribe has knocked it out of the park. Also once again, it is an album that didn’t grab me much on first listen but grew to become one of my favorites of the year. The same thing happened with the last one. Which is odd since they are immediately catchy and make you just sing along with them. One of my absolute favorite songs of the year is Bring on the Rain.



One Desire – Midnight Empire (Melodic Rock)

I remember really liking their last album, but man, this one came out swinging this year and grabbed me right out of the gate. Absolutely drenched in beautiful melodies and harmonies.



Eric Clayton – A Thousand Scars (Rock)

This one is intensely special to me and I know the singing style isn’t for everyone as Eric can get very operatic. But his is a voice that just clicked with me back when I first heard Saviour Machine and he has been responsible for some of the most beautiful songs I have ever heard. And that continues on this release. It is an extremely emotional album and very intense in nature at times. This year has brought a lot of crap, but it also brought some great things. One of which was hearing Eric like he hasn’t missed a beat. Brought back so many memories but also forging new ones. Now I await the new Saviour Machine. Below is the epic final track from this release:

https://ericclaytonandthenine.bandcamp.com/album/a-thousand-scars



Ani Lo Projekt – A Time Called Forever (Symphonic Prog Metal)

Yet another band I wasn’t aware of until this year and checked all the boxes for me. The sound is like part Trans-Siberian Orchestra, part Sanctuary, and all melody and metal.



Waltari – Global Rock (Everything)

Keeping with the theme of my “favorite albums this year are from bands I didn’t know existed prior to hearing them”, comes this band from Finland that incorporates almost every style in existence into their music (Country, rap, death metal… you name it, it is probably on here). This is the very definition of all over the place. But it is excitingly so. And up beat! Below is a track that reminds me a lot of Faith No More.



Chaos Magic – Desert Rose (Symphonic Metal/Rock)

An EP of 4 cover songs, that I personally think are fantastic. I know some might not be able to get over the style differences from the originals but I appreciate what they did hear and would love to hear more like it. That said, the original Ordinary World by Duran Duran will always be the one definitive version to me and therefore the best, but I do love to hear this version too!



Royal Hunt – Dystopia (Prog Metal)

Late comer to the year but immediately grabbed me right off the bat. And it is an unusual one as DC Cooper doesn’t sing on all that many songs here. But he sounds fantastic on the ones he is on and so do the guests. Some fantastic symphonic moments here and some definite sing along choruses.



Different Light – Binary Suns Part 1 (Prog Rock)

Umm… what do you get if REO Speedwagon was prog? This. You get this. Fantastically awesome album.

https://progressivegears.bandcamp.com/album/binary-suns-part-1



Enzo and the Glory Ensemble – in the Name of the World Spirit (Prog Metal)

Very theatrical, which is right up my alley. Lots of different genre influences here too. One of their best releases for me so far.



Dead End Finland – Inter Vivos (Melodic Death Metal)

Fantastic melodic metal with some great use of growls. Very much reminds me of Scar Symmetry. But they are their own thing too. This is scratching that Scar Symmetry itch very nicely. Has loads of harmony and melody.

https://deadendfinland.bandcamp.com/album/inter-vivos

 

Orbit Culture – Nija (Melodic Death Metal)

Never heard of this band before this year, but holy crap, what an introduction. Melodic Death Metal with hints of Metallica. Catchy and brutal. Love it!

https://orbitculture.bandcamp.com/album/nija



Kansas – The Absence of Presence (Prog Rock)

Wow. Who knew Kansas could still keep coming out with fantastic music and still sound like Kansas! And mostly written by the new guy! This album just keeps getting better.

https://kansasband.bandcamp.com/album/the-absence-of-presence



Nightwish – Human Nature (Symphonic Metal)

I was highly anticipating this release because, full disclosure, Nightwish is my favorite band. They just tick all the boxes for me in what I look for in music. That said, while I love this album, it isn’t my favorite of theirs. There is some great stuff on it, but there are a few missteps. I think they “overcorrected” in the “doesn’t use Floor properly” department. It just feels like there are a lot of forced melodies in the vocal lines at times. And the last track on the 1st disc just doesn’t feel like an album closer… which it isn’t because there is a second disc. But the second disc seems more like a Tuomas solo project rather than Nigthwish. So, I love it, but not my favorite of the year. My favorite song on it is this one:



Pyramaze – Epitaph (Melodic Metal)

Pyramaze released another great slice of melodic metal. Though this one is more focused on the melody this time around.



Burden of Life – The Makeshift Conquerer (Melodic Death Prog Metal)

This album is fantastically all over the place too but never losing sight of the song. Yep, there are growls. But also a lot of melody.

https://burdenoflife.bandcamp.com/album/the-makeshift-conqueror

 

Ghost Toast – Shape Without Form (Instrumental Prog Rock/Metal)

Progressive, (mostly)Instrumental prog rock/metal that just… well… rocks. This is some catchy, hook laden stuff right here. And the samples work really well with the songs too. Very moody. Full album length below. Why not?

https://ghosttoastband.bandcamp.com/album/shape-without-form-2020



Zio – Flower Toriana (Prog Rock)

I bought this one without knowing what it was going to sound like. Something I RARELY do nowadays. But it had the great Halley Griffiths (Ex-Karnataka) so I had to. And it did NOT disappoint. This is one of the more lively and upbeat albums this year and knows how to let the prog out.



Silent Skies – Satellites (Cinematic/Orchestral)

Ever wanted to hear Tom Englund (Evergrey/Redemption) in a more stripped back, orchestral/cinematic context? Well, here is your chance. He has teamed up with Vikram Shankar (multi-instrumentalist/songwriter from Lux Terminus and most recently, keys for Redemption) and came up with an excellent album of songs to take you through a gamut of emotions. Included here is a cover of Evergrey’s Distance with a completely different feel as well as an excellent cover of Here Comes the Rain Again by Eurythmics. I can listen to Tom sing the phonebook and Vikram’s keys are always glorious.



Dynazty – The Dark Delight (Power Metal)

Not so sure it is exactly power metal, but it is metal and there is a lot of power. So there is that! These songs are drenched in melody and harmony and hooks for miles. What is not to love.

 



Caligula’s Horse – Rise Radiant (Prog Metal)

Rise Radiant is another logical step in the band’s evolution. While the core of what make them them is still present, you can hear along the way through their discography that they seem to ever inch their way heavier and heavier and this album is no exception. There are some fantastically heavier moments on this one but still some of their signature softer ones.



Moon Halo – Chroma (Prog Rock)

A very synth heavy, 80’s style pop/rock album with prog tendencies. I love these albums that come out of nowhere for me and just get their hooks in. The melodies, harmonies, and lush orchestrations really shot this one to the top of my favorites for the year. 

https://moonhalomusic.bandcamp.com/releases



Lunatic Soul (Prog Rock/Folk)

Lunatic Soul albums have never really grabbed me much like Riverside has, though I have liked some songs. But this album, with its more folk direction and acoustic/percussive elements had me hooked from the start. Think I’ll go back and revisit the LS discography soon an see if I still feel like I did before.

Well… there ya go. If you made it this far, I thank you for giving this list some time and and let me know your thoughts too! What were some of YOUR favorite albums this year?

Posted in melodic rock, metal, progressive metal, progressive rock | Tagged | Leave a comment

Restless Amoeba’s Top Albums of 2020 (albums 26-50)

I don’t even know where to begin here. I just checked back and saw the last album I reviewed was in May. MAY! I swear it seems like one month has passed since then. But also feels like an eternity. With everything going on, I just couldn’t muster up the words to put down for my feelings on albums after that point this year.

But I DID keep listening to music. And a LOT of music. Mostly new. There are so many releases each week that it usually takes me over a week to get through all the new stuff. All total, it seems I listened to 1800 artists this year, plus or minus whatever. The vast majority of it didn’t click with me at all. So, just know… I am somewhat picky, but picky by my own tastes.

So with that, be forewarned, I don’t ONLY listen to prog. So my list has a bit of everything in it. For those that are prog purists (and there is nothing wrong with that) I have placed a label once again next to each artist’s name to show what genre they basically fit in. So if it doesn’t say “prog” in some form, it probably isn’t.

Also, a disclaimer. There seems to be a consensus around these parts that numbered lists are detrimental. I know bands like being able to say “We were number 1” but just because a band on my list is in the 18th slot, doesn’t necessarily mean I love it more or less than the ones on either side. So… no numbers for you! ;-p Just know that the ones toward the top of this list are probably the ones that I played more and got just a tad bit more enjoyment out of than the ones further down. But I do love all the ones on this list.

Also… I was going to cull this list down but decided… screw it! Here it is… my top 50!

 

Part one! So, 25 in this first round…

Lol. Also, also… I am including a link to one song each on youtube and the album’s bandcamp page if they have one.



Lionville – Magic Is Alive (Melodic Rock)

Cheesy? Yep. Gloriously melodic? Also yep. Had this one looping for days after it came out. Definitely satisfies that “80s cheesy rock” itch to a T.



Lost Symphony – Chapter 1 (Instrumental Classical Metal)

Hey! Look! Another band I haven’t heard of before this year! They released Chapters 1 and 2 this year. But Chapter 1 just grabbed me from the start. This thing rocks completely the F out. So freaking good. Lots of guests on here: Bumblefoot, Jeff Loomis, David Ellefson, Angel Vivaldi, among others…



Amahiru – Amahiru (Prog Metal)

A friend introduced me to this band this year and it immediately grabbed me with it strong power metal mixed with Shinedown vibe (yeah, I like Shinedown too… primarily early Shinedown). And Elize Ryd from Amaranthe guesting on one track doesn’t hurt either.



Katatonia – City Burials (Prog Metal)

More in the prog rock vein, the band deliver another fantastic and somber album. Some beautiful stuff in here.

https://peaceville.bandcamp.com/album/city-burials



Archon Angel – Fallen (Power/Prog Metal)

Another that grew on me over the year, but became a favorite. No, they aren’t Savatage, but man, the spirit of Savatage is there. And with Zak out front, its the closest we are going to get to Savatage for a while… maybe? There is a lot going on here to take in, so if it doesn’t grab you at first, give it time. Some great songs here.



Genus Ordinis Dei – Glare of Deliverance (Symphonic Death Metal)

I went into this one not know what to expect… well, expecting to not dig it actually as it takes something special for me to get on board with a mostly growl affair, but get on board I did with this. The Symphonic part is fantastic, the growls are the type that I can dig, and music overall is very beautiful when not brutal. Their videos that go with this are a bit weird though. Closet thing I can compare this to is MaYaN but without the glorious female vocals.



Mindtech – Omnipresence (Prog/Power Metal)

Another one that is kind of scratching that Scar Symmetry itch. The main vox can get a little iffy for me, but not to the point to keep me from listening to it. The melody and harmony win out.



Oceans of Slumber (Metal)

While the last album has one of my favorite songs ever in The Banished Heart, I overall love this album as a whole, more. The songs are more solid and Cammie just gets better and better.



Paralydium – Worlds Beyond (Prog Metal)

Hard to stand out in this particular genre anymore. But these guys did just that, while also showing their influences well. Shades of Dream Theater but also Teramaze.



Brothers of Metal – Emblas Saga (Symphonic Metal)

Symphonic power metal with lots of harmony and anthemic choruses really hit all the right notes for me. Loved the Celtic stylings and fist pumping rockers. 



Tony Mitchell – Church of a Restless Soul (Melodic Rock)

Ok. There are just too many great releases this year. Another one drenched in melodies and hooks for miles. This one was a great step up from his last release and reminds me of what Bon Jovi could sound like if Bon Jovi could still release good music.



Karfagen – Birds of Passage (Prog Rock)

A terrifically performed, old school, prog rock album. Evoking memories of 70’s Yes, among others from that era. Two big epics are present, but are really just two parts of the same song. This is a very enjoyable album.


https://antonykalugin.bandcamp.com/album/birds-of-passage-high-res-24bit-48



Delain – Apocalypse and Chill (Symphonic Metal)

Delain ramped it up a bit with this release. I liked the last couple of albums well enough, but didn’t love them. This one is so catchy just about all the way through. Taking all their strongest points and emphasizing them. 


https://delain.bandcamp.com/



Thematic – Skyrunner ( Alt Prog Rock)

The band has an airy sound which I really dig. And has a bit of a throw back to the better parts of the 90’s rock sound, but updated… with some djentiness.



Chronus – Idols (Rock/Metal)

More melodic stuff from Sweden. The singer here has strong resemblance to Ozzy, which i like and really works here.

https://listenable-records.bandcamp.com/album/idols



Black Stone Cherry – The Human Condition (Rock)

Now, this is a band that I have been aware of for a long time but never gave a chance as I always thought they were like a bar rock kind of band. But that clearly isn’t the case and it wound up being a very catchy album with relatable themes. I found myself getting more drawn in the more I listened. And the cover of Don’t Bring Me Down by ELO was a nice surprise that sold it too. These guys are some excellent musicians to boot!

https://blackstonecherry.bandcamp.com/album/the-human-condition



Nuclear Power Trio – A Clear and Present Rager (Instrumental Metal)

Regardless of political affiliations, this EP is an excellent slice of metal. And the song titles are hilarious. But the songs are catchy as hell.

https://nuclearpowertrio.bandcamp.com/album/a-clear-and-present-rager



Allen/Olzon – Worlds Apart (Metal)

I’ve gotten to where I approach Frontiers releases with a bit of trepidation. There is just so much released and of varying quality that it is a bit difficult to get excited about it all. But hey, the more the merrier I guess. If I don’t like it, I’m sure someone will! But we aren’t here to talk about what I DIDN’T like. Another album that didn’t quite grab me upon first listen but grew with repeated spins until I loved it. Lots of power and emotion on this one and Annette does a fantastic job.



Nicumo – Inertia (Gothic Metal)

A recurrent theme with me: another band (from Finland no less) that I wasn’t aware of but grabbed me out of the gate. Love their Katatonia/Disillusion vibe. Definitely a gothic vibe. Full album below.


https://nicumo.bandcamp.com/album/inertia



Jorn – Heavy Rock Radio 2 – Executing the Classics (Ummm… heavy rock? lol)


Can’t go wrong with Jorn. And he nails it here with some fantastic cover choices.

 



Haken – Virus (Prog Metal)

A great album overall that I enjoyed more than a few times this year. But the highlight of the album is definitely that Messiah suite.



Tarja – Extra Raw (Symphonic Metal)

One of the best things Tarja has released in a while. And it is sort of a leftovers album. The whole things is just so darn catchy!



Long Distance Calling – How Do We Want to Live? (Prog/Post Rock)

Loved all the grooves on this one. They encompass all the things I love about post rock.



Osyron – Foundations (Symphonic Metal)

Another one that came out of nowhere for me this year. Sort of old school metal but they know how to make the big choruses and the huge symphonic sound. Only complaint I have is it is too short.



Acute Mind – Under the Empty Sky (Prog Metal)

And another surprise for me this year. A friend introduced me to these guys and I thank him for it. A great variety on here with an bit of a 90s metal feel at times. And one of the best guitar solos I heard this year in the song It’s Not Me.

 

Stay tuned for Part two!

Posted in hard rock, progressive metal, progressive rock | Tagged | 2 Comments