Hostile Media Sign The Vicious Head Society & Reissue “Abject Tomorrow”

One of my favorite new prog metal bands as you all know is The Vicious Head Society from Ireland. I reviewed “Abject Tomorrow” a few months back and I really think more people need to hear this great album. Now the band, led by Graham Keane, will have a better opportunity for that to happen. Hostile Media have signed the band and are reissuing the album in December. Here’s the full press release.


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Earlier this year The Vicious Head Society, the brainchild of Irish guitar virtuoso Graham Keane released his debut album Abject Tomorrow, which gained applause the world over. Featuring guests such as keyboardist Derek Sherinan of Alice Cooper, Billy Idol, Yngwie Malmsteen, Kiss, Steve Vai, and Joe Bonamassa fame, fellow Irishman and bass player Pat Byrne, and drum machine Kevin Talley Abject Tomorrow tickled the ears of progressive metal fans and those with a taste for all things guitar.

Today Keane can reveal he has teamed up with Hostile Media to reissue his acclaimed debut which will also include a bonus track, ‘Xylematic Disembowelment’. Keane comments, “When Hostile Media offered me a contract which guarantees huge amounts of cash, fame and at least two limousine rides in exchange for my earthly soul, it was a no brainer! In seriousness, I’m delighted to sign with HM, it presents me with a chance to reach more people with my music. To celebrate, I recorded an out take from the Abject sessions and we just about managed to squeeze it on to the CD. ‘Xylematic Disembowelment’ is a zappa inspired instrumental combined with death metal. I don’t think I need to say any more than that!”

Watch The Lyric Video For ‘Agenda’:
https://youtu.be/s8ugVp9kO98

Tracklist
1. The Sycophants
2. Abject Tomorrow
3. Downfall
4. Agenda
5. The 11th Hour
6. Psychedelic Torture Trip
7. Gods Of The New Age
8. Analogue Spectre
9. Xylematic Disembowelment

Abject Tomorrow will be re-released 15th December 2017.

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Naeramarth – “The Innumerable Stars”

a2508432442_10One man bands can be a double edged sword. On one hand, artists with a singular vision and the talent and drive to make that vision a reality can produce some stirring and powerful music. Within progressive music alone there are many singular voices that steer their proverbial ships, with Ihsahn, Devin Townsend, and Steven Wilson immediately coming to mind as some of the biggest and most accomplished in our modern context. While this dedication to craft and sheer ability is admirable, the flipside to being a lone musical architect places the onus upon the shoulders of one, with creative mileage varying depending on the individual. The peaks are their own to scale, the successes their own to enjoy, and the journey and canvas completely free and open to their vision, if they can pull it off.

To this end, Naeramarth, the brainchild of Utah based musician Gage Love, pulls the one man band act off with a style few I have heard can match. Love pulls it off so well in fact, that I didn’t realize I was listening to the product of one musician’s labors until reading the included album description well after my first listen. I assumed that, minus the drums (we’ll get to that soon), the project was the result of at least a handful of musicians going after a blend of progressive rock and atmospheric black-ish metal, among other stylistic forays off the beaten path. I was surprised and impressed upon the realization that Love was filling every role on display here with skillful flourish, not merely content with being “adequate”. The performances are uniformly exceptional throughout.

The first thing that stuck out were the vocals. One thing that I hear alot in bands that aim to utilize a mix of guttural and clean sung vocals, as Naeramarth do, is a failure of balance. Usually the gutturals are great, and the clean singing fails to live up to this standard. Love avoids this completely, and his clean voice is powerful and clear, in addition to being dynamic. While not a Russel Allen type vocalist, Love’s vocals are honest, and he really sells the nuance and emotion present in the lyrics. I really appreciated the fact that Love seems to know his limits, and also his strengths and weaknesses as a vocalist. This is one of the greatest assets a project like this can have, as records have been ruined for me by vocalist overreach in the past. The gutturals are throaty, with an inherent raspiness that echoes Enslaved’s Grutle, whose music I am sure is a huge influence on Love.

Musically, the record veers from epic and bombastic proto-symphonic themes, opener “Through the Cosmos I: Event Horizon” seems conjured from the same musical aether that early Haken tapped into on “Aquarius” and “Visions”, while later tracks bring more extreme metallic elements into play, treading the line between Ihsahn, Enslaved, and other reformed Scandinavian explorers. Vintage mellotron and synth float over huge melodic guitars, and the riffs remain pointed and purposeful, technical when the music demands it, and always tasty.

One thing remains consistent though: a strong sense of prevailing melody and an overarching devotion to balancing the heavier and harder side of the music with more gentle passages. Nothing is done in an overbearing way, the music really breathes, and Love never gets “too” heavy. This is to the record’s benefit, and he really seems to grasp the type of record he wanted to make. Mid album track “Luminous Beings” sees a great use of guest and Ihsahn and Shining alum Jorgen Munkeby on melodic saxophone, and I thought the added element was really well done overall, and actually added alot to the song.

Sixteen minute closer “Through the Cosmos II: The Arrival” serves as a truly epic culmination to the record, with grand peaks and valleys that exemplify the painstaking melodic-ism that came before. Alternating sections of calm and heavy really drive this point home. By the time the track ends, and the absolutely HUGE outro fades, I was satisfied with how Naeramarth were able to pull off a track like this. Not many bands can truth be told. It ends the record leaving the listener wanting more, and that is a great place to put your listeners in this genre of music.

If I have to gripe about one thing on “The Innumerable Stars”, it would have to be the aforementioned drums. While the necessity to use programmed and synthesized drums is an omnipresent reality, especially in regards to self-produced music, the end result can often be somewhat flat and lacking in dynamics. While the reality of programmed drums on the record isn’t a deal breaker for me, the absence of a real performer is notable, only for how much it sticks out in comparison with the rest of Love’s performance on the record. The music Naeramarth is producing needs that added element, and I think the extra layer of nuance and dynamic interplay would be enough to take the compositions over the top, and to the next level that seems very attainable after such a strong showing with “The Innumerable Stars”. I look forward to developments on this front of the band, as this was really the only point of contention I had with the record. Otherwise the mix is huge and punchy, well balanced and defined where it needs to be.

An impressive and dynamic showing overall, and one to add to the radar of impressive 2017 releases.

Score: 8.5/10

Tracklist:

1. Through the Cosmos I: Event Horizon
2. Asterisms
3. Condescension
4. Cabed Naeramarth
5. Luminous Beings
6. Subterranean
7. Lunar Sea
8. Through the Cosmos II: The Arrival

Bandcamp: cabednaeramarth.bandcamp.com

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC07mu38iv51tu1YoyPpuUog

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/naeramarthband/

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Agusa – “Agusa”

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There is a warm breeze in the air. You have a prime spot on the grass for this music festival.

The music starts to flow from the stage, as one of the bands on the bill begins to play. The sound of guitars, drums, organ and flute blend together in harmony and wash over you in a wave. It’s that progressive sound, that left of center rock sound of the 1970s.

You wake up. It was a dream! Dang! It’s not the 1970s anymore. But there is a band keeping that sonic feeling alive.

Agusa are from Sweden, and they have been around as a group since 2013. Their songs, at least on this release, are all instrumental. Their musical aim, from what I read on their Facebook page and can hear affirmed in their songs, to is to keep the classic sound of prog rock alive.

I hear hints of Jethro Tull in their work – probably because of the flute! – but other elements that make up what would be consider “prog” reside in the songs as well.

The guitar on Sorgenfri is quite beautiful to me. I would have thought I was listening to a “lost classic” if I didn’t know better! As a fan of progressive rock bands of 1970s, I feel that Agusa fits right in with Gentle Giant, Renaissance, Strawbs and their peers. If you love that time in music, then you will love Agusa.

Rating: 9/10

Release date: 13 October 2017

Tracklisting
1. Landet Längesen 10:29
2. Sorgenfri 05:00
3. Den förtrollade skogen 08:33
4. Sagor från Saaris 09:20
5. Bortom hemom 10:19

Band Members
Tobias Petterson – Bass
Mikael Ödesjö – Guitar
Tim Wallander – Drums
Jeppe Juul – Organ
Jenny Puertas – Flute

Label: The Laser’s Edge Group
Facebook: www.facebook.com/agusaband
Bandcamp: agusaband.bandcamp.com

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Godsticks – “Hard To Face”

godsticksGodsticks are a band that I never give up on. I have the last 2 albums and just when I thought I hadn’t figured them out…the light bulb went on. I keep listening to “Emergence” over and over. And while I kept thinking “I should really like this,” something wasn’t clicking. Godsticks don’t do the “obvious” chord progression nor does Darran Charles sing the standard melody. Your brain expects what it expects and Godsticks does not conform to that. Once you allow the music to do as it will, that lightbulb goes on. In some ways, they remind me of King’s X but not the massive harmonies.

So after unlocking my own truth with Godsticks, I was curious to hear if it would carry on with the new album “Hard to Face.” Let’s just come out and say that this is the best album Godsticks has done to date. The riffs are heavy, the melodies are tricky but more memorable and Charles can still REALLY play guitar. The album kicks off really strong with “Guilt” and the title track. These songs walk the line of being direct yet slightly obtuse which is what this band does well.

“Open Your Eyes” (or “Open Your Goddamn Eyes”) is as insistent as you might expect while “We are Leaving” is more trippy. The latter switches things up at the right point of the album. I love the rumble of “Angry Concern” which not only has a solid groove but a smooth chorus. It makes for a nice contrast. “Avenge” adds a little funk to the groove while “Revere” is more tranquil and even jazzy. I really love “Everdrive” which is plenty prog with it’s oft kilter riffs and overall epic vibe. Check the guitar solo six minutes in!!

Kscope made a wise choice signing Godsticks because they were due to make their best album next. “Hard to Face” feels like a band realizing all of its potential and channeling into the music. If you love dark heavy prog rock that stops just short of what you might call “metal,” you should give “Hard to Face” a listen.

Rating: 9/10

Tracklist:
1. Guilt
2. Hard to Face
3. Open Your Eyes
4. We are Leaving
5. Angry Concern
6. Avenge
7. Revere
8. Unforgivable
9. Everdrive
10. Fame and Silence

Label: Kscope
Wesbite: www.godsticks.co.uk

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White Moth Black Butterfly – Atone

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Atone tells a musical tale of a relationship, in three parts.

Part One pulls the listener in with the piano and string driven Incarnate. Two people have discovered each other, and with the male and female vocal back and forth in Rising Sun, the story is established.

The music is gentle, chill, with just a hint of tension.

An Ocean Away is lively, yet not jarring, brought along by the bass line.

Part Two opens with the track Penitence – is one of the lovers asking for forgiveness? Is one of the partners being indecisive? There is a stringed instrument featured here, perhaps a koto, that adds a bit of variety to the sonics of the album, but it does not sound out of place.

Part Three opens with Deep Earth, setting a haunting and baleful tone with sonic rumbles, a mournful female vocal and a male voice stating “Surrender to Earth”.

By the closing track, Evelyn, which features an operatic female vocal, the listener is left to decide for themselves the fate of these lovers.

This album comes across as lyrical and grand without being over the top.

There are hints of “prog”, but I feel the music has a more cinematic and symphonic feel to it.

While I think the album is one to play when I want to relax, the music is never “sleepy”. These tones drew me in from the beginning and kept my ears engaged even during my first listen. Repeated listens uncovered other layers in the story and sounds. Everything “fits”, there is no musical waste. At around 38 minutes, it is a concise listen and never boring.

Rating: 8/10

Tracklist:

1. I: Incarnate
2. Rising Sun
3. Tempest
4. An Ocean Away
5. Symmetry
6. II: Penitence
7. The Sage
8. The Serpent
9. Atone
10. III: Deep Earth
11. Evelyn

Band Members
Daniel Tompkins – Vocals and Arrangements
Jordan Turner – Vocals
Keshav Dhar – Guitars and Programming
Randy Slaugh – Keyboard and Programming
Mac Christensen – Drums

Label: Kscope

Release date: 1 September 2017

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/whitemothblackbutterfly/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/whitemothblackbutterfly/

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Hallatar – “No Stars Upon The Bridge”

hallatar_coverOn paper, this album seemed like a perfect situation for me. Amorphis vocalist Tomi Joutsen is one of my favorite vocalists ever. Also, Swallow the Sun guitarist Juha Raivio wrote all the music and he can write some really epic songs. On the Hallatar project they are joined by former HIM drummer Gas Lipstick, and not being familiar with HIM, I couldn’t tell you how good he was. He does fit the music on this album however.

All of the lyrics were written by Juha’s late partner, Aleah Starbridge. Her death was obviously a devastating blow for Juha. They had just completed getting their side band Trees of Eternity’s debut album “Hour of the Nightingale” released. So this project served as a tribute to her. It’s very dark and doomy. Honestly, it’s a difficult listen for me because of the background and also because it’s more funeral doom at times than the more progressive doom I’d hoped for.

Another challenge for me was that Tomi doesn’t always sound like himself! On the opener “Mirrors,” he uses an extreme black metal vocal which he does quite well. It’s just that it literally doesn’t even sound like him! This is more about my own expectations versus the quality of the vocal. The man can really do just about anything with his voice and Hallatar provides him with another outlet for other facets of his vocal prowess.

One major downside is the abundance of shorter poetic tracks. I fully understand why they are there, but they just do nothing for me musically and just break the flow of the album. So while I do appreciate what this album represents, I don’t think it’s an album that I can listen to on a whim. It’s music that you have to be ready for. “No Stars Upon The Bridge” is doom as an artform rather than a music genre. It’s not progressive yet it does take you on a dark journey into the dark place that Juha Raivio has lived in since April of 2016.

Rating: 8/10

Tracklist:

1. Mirrors
2. Raven’s Song
3. Melt
4. My Mistake (feat. Heike Langhans)
5. Pieces
6. Severed Eyes
7. The Maze
8. Spiral Gate
9. Dreams Burn Down (feat. Aleah Starbridge)

Label: Svart Records
Release date: 13 October 2017
Bandcamp: hallatar.bandcamp.com/album/no-stars-upon-the-bridge

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Daniel Cavanagh – “Monochrome”

DanCav_Monochrome_smlWhen I found out that Daniel Cavanagh of Anathema was releasing his first solo album not long after Anathema released their last album “The Optimist,” I found it to be a bit curious for sure. Cavanagh is Anathema’s primary songwriter and that last Anathema album was an absolute snooze for me PLUS the album before that “Distant Satellites” was incredibly annoying to me. So if these songs on his solo album “Monochrome” were not good enough for those albums, it was a cause for concern.

It turns out the material on “Monochrome,” while all DEFINITELY sounding like Anathema is FAR superior to anything on those last 2 albums and for me, it harkens back to “Weather Systems” and the 3 albums prior as far as song quality. The interesting thing is that the overall vibe is similar to “The Optimist” in that it’s mostly laid back and sounds good for listening in a dimly lit room. Honestly, “Monochrome” is the album that I wish “The Optimist” was.

I think removing the other forces within Anathema from the equation and letting Danny make all of the decisions proved to me that I am less a fan of the band and more a fan of this man’s songwriting talent. Plus, with all due respect to his brother Vincent, Danny has an awesome and powerful voice. He can do all of the mellow, introspective material AND hit the big notes when needed.

He also has Anneke Van Giersbergen guesting on vocals on three tracks. For me, she is a massive up grade on Anathema’s Lee Douglas whose bleating vibrato often drives me fucking nuts. Anneke has more power, sounds better when singing quietly and has more overall control of her vibrato. So when you listen to a track like “Soho,” it sounds like Anathema in exile or something. “This Music” sounds like it should have been on “Weather Systems.” These are all top line songs!

One track that really gripped me is “The Silent Flight Of The Raven Winged Hours” which is longer and has a mid section that Anathema hasn’t tried (very instrumental and also atmospheric) but they should! The only track that doesn’t quite hit me is the closer “Some Dreams Come True” which sounds more like 3 separate pieces for a movie soundtrack. To be clear, it’s still very good but not as good as the rest of this album.

Anathema fans need this album. It’s that simple. If you are like me (probably not!) and feel that Anathema hasn’t delivered a great album since “Weather Systems,” then you NEED to check out “Monochrome.” This is the album that should have followed that one. “Monochrome” is a showcase of Daniel Cavanagh’s song writing talent and a chance for him to be firmly in the spotlight as he should be. This is one of 2017’s best albums and makes up for “The Optimist” putting me to sleep!

Rating: 9.5/10

Tracklist:
1. The Exorcist
2. This Music
3. Soho
4. The Silent Flight Of The Raven Winged Hours
5. Dawn
6. Oceans Of Time
7. Some Dreams Come True

Label: Kscope
Release Date: 13 October 2017

Facebook: facebook.com/anathemamusic
Website: www.anathema.ws

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