Antimatter – “Black Market Enlightenment”

Black Market EnlightenmentTime to start with another one of my disclaimers. I love Antimatter so a new album by Mick Moss would have to be dreadful for me not to like it. That said, I do tend to have higher expectations for bands that I love. Fortunately, not only is “Black Market Enlightenment” a good album, it’s the best Antimatter album to date. Yes I said it.

First off, Mick is a great songwriter. So the songs are bound to be good and these are just an amazing batch of songs. Strong melodies and powerful lyrics through out. What makes THIS album special to me is the music. There’s plenty of tension and dynamics but also these songs are heavier. There’s no doubt songs like “The Third Arm” and “Wish I Was Here” would translate when done acoustically but DAMN, they have an added punch in the face when they kick in. I love that.

Even the synths are heavy. Jumping ahead to the moody closing track “Liquid Light,” it’s synth heavy…with heavy synths. It works perfectly and makes a great closer. Backing up one track, “Between the Atoms” is one of my favorite songs not only on the album but by Antimatter in general. The evil section toward the end of it just makes the song for me. Additionally, there are some AMAZING performances by the backing band on “Black Market Enlightenment,” especially the sax work by Paul Thomas and the drumming of Fab Regmann.

And yes the songs are still catchy. As soon as I think of “This is Not Utopia,” I am singing the chorus in my head. It doesn’t hurt that I can relate to the song lyrically. Mick is one of those writers who has never been afraid to bare his soul and many of us have been through the same things. Life is NOT easy for most of us. So it makes the music so much more personal when you can relate to it on another level.

“Black Market Enlightenment” is easily a candidate for my album of the year. Certainly it’s one of the finest releases of 2018. Musically adventurous, sonicly appealing and intensely rewarding, “Black Market Enlightenment” is the definitive Antimatter album. So stop what you are doing and go buy it now!!

Rating: 10/10

Tracklist:
1. The Third Arm
2. Wish I Was Here
3. This Is Not Utopia
4. Partners In Crime
5. Sanctification
6. Existential
7. What Do You Want Me To Do?
08. Between The Atoms
9. Liquid Light

Label: Self-released
Release Date: November 9, 2018
Website: www.antimatteronline.com

Posted in modern prog, progressive metal, progressive rock | Tagged | 1 Comment

Anneke van Giersbergen – Symphonized

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I was first introduced to Anneke via The Gentle Storm and have loved her voice ever since. Loved her work with Devin too (ok, so I heard her first on Epicloud, but really took note on TGS), and got to see her perform with Devin at ProgPower in 2016, along with The Gentle Storm, and I can say it was absolutely amazing. I started looking into her past work and have liked what I have heard for the most part.
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We start off with an upbeat track from her solo work in Feel Alive and then hit a run of slower songs, with some faster elements sprinkled around, namely in Glorious. Now, there is nothing wrong with slow, but too much in a row tends to make my mind wander. And even though there are a lot of slow songs, it is still Anneke! I could listen to her sing the phone book. Remember those? If there had been a couple of faster tracks sprinkled in the first half here and there, it could have made all the difference to me. Out of these, The Gathering tracks, Two Souls and Travel, stand out and really shine.
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There really isn’t anything wrong with these slower songs, it is primarily the grouping and order. Though, with Your Glorious Light Will Shine – Helsinki (hear it below), where almost every syllable gets its own note… it still rubs me the wrong way. I usually just skip this track. But don’t get me wrong! That’s just me. I know a lot of people that love it.
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But the album ends strong. Once You Will Never Change kicks in, its all gold from there on. With Freedom – Rio (VUUR) next followed by Forgotten (The Gathering) and culminating with the gorgeous Shores of India (The Gentle Storm). These last four tracks are worth the price of admission alone.
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In addition to the great Anneke’s performance, there are a lot of great moments where the Orchestra (Residentie Orkest The Hague) really shows their stuff! I want to give this release a 10/10 but due to the things I mentioned, I feel, for me, it’s more of an 8/10. But for anyone that loves everything she has ever done, this will be a 10/10 for you for sure. That is, if you like purely orchestral music. If that’s the case, dive in!
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Tracklist:
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1. Feel Alive (03:34)
2. Amity (originally released by Lorrainville) (06:48)
3. Your Glorious Light Will Shine – Helsinki (originally released by VUUR) (05:22)
4. Two Souls (originally released by The Gathering) (03:01)
5. When I Am laid In Earth (aria by Henry Purcell) (03:47)
6. Travel (originally released by The Gathering) (10:46)
7. Zo Lief (unreleased song in Dutch) (04:05)
8. You Will Never Change (04:18)
9. Freedom – Rio (originally released by VUUR) (06:13)
10. Forgotten (originally released by The Gathering)
11. Shores Of India (originally released by The Gentle Storm) (07:20)
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Label: Inside Out Music
Release Date: November, 16th 2018
Website: http://www.annekevangiersbergen.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/annekevangiersbergenofficial/
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Album trailer
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Your Glorious Light Will Shine – Helsinki
Posted in modern prog, progressive metal, progressive rock, symphonic metal | Tagged | 3 Comments

Horrendous – “Idol”

IdolI’ve seen a lot of press regarding Horrendous’ new CD Idol (released September 28, 2018). They certainly earn a cool point for the wicked cover art – it’s HR Giger plus Dalvador Dali for me.

The opening track is a bass-filled tone poem with atmospheric synths and sound effects, reminiscent of the opening of a film. “Soothsayer” shows us dual, panned guitars, death metal riffs, and vocals of which Chuch Schuldiner would be proud.

Remember the first time you tried some exotic cuisine and you weren’t quite sure whether you liked it or not but kept eating it in hopes you’d eventually get to liking it? That’s how I feel about these vocals. I’m not a huge fan of the shrieked death metal option. But in this case, perseverance pays off because this is not a one-trick pony as far as vocals go. Matt Knox (guitars) and Danian Herring (guitars, keys) both offer various ways of delivering the lyrics, throwing in clean singing and harmonies now and again.

The rhythm section of Alex Kulick on bass (fretless, perhaps?) and Jamie Knox (drums) is super tight on track 4 “Golgothan Tongues” and the bass is mixed up front so we are able to enjoy Kulick’s excellent performance. The balance between staccato riffs and ringing chords is effective in keeping the ears awake and attentive. There is space for melodies to breathe which is appreciated.

The drum sound is live and fresh. After an interesting off-kilter melodic opening, “Divine Anhedonia” breaks out the blast beats and since that trope is sparingly used on this CD, it is welcome. There is an out of left field coda to this track and my brain keeps telling me “go listen to Watchtower, old Cynic and Death.”

And then I listen to “Devotion (Blood for Ink) and the Cynic influence intensifies with clean guitar and vocals but the death metal riffage (adds “riffage” to Word dictionary) is not gone for long.

Unaccompanied clean guitars cleanse the palate on “Threnody” which leads into the longest track on Idol called “Obolus.” I didn’t think I’d be thinking about early Katatonia at this point but the clean vocals behind the shrieks have done just that. There are riffs constructed in a way that remind me of early Fates Warning.

Most metal fans who listens to Idol will be able to both identify multiple influences and appreciate how Horrendous is more than just a band mimicking their heroes. This can be classified as progressive death metal because there is more than just blast beats and guttural vocals. All the cheesy review “greater than the sum of its parts” clichés aside, I’m impressed and my expectations were exceeded by Horrendous.

Rating: 7.5/10

Tracklist:

  1. …Prescience
  2. Soothsayer
  3. The Idolater
  4. Golgothan Tongues
  5. Divine Anhedonia
  6. Devotion (Blood for Ink)
  7. Threnody
  8. Obolus

Label: Season of Mist
Facebook: www.facebook.com/HorrendousDeathMetal/

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Gösta Berlings Saga – “ET EX”

ET EXSweden’s Gösta Berlings Saga are one of the newer signings by InsideOut Music but they are far from a new band. They have been together about 18 years now and their first album for the label “ET EX” is their fifth album overall. At first, I wasn’t sure that I even liked the album. But I decided to keep trying it.

Sometimes persistence pays off. This was one of those times. But before writing anything about Gösta Berlings Saga, I needed to hear the previous albums. “ET EX” didn’t really sound overly prog to me. Granted it’s more prog than new label mates Bent Knee, who are just pseudo hipster prog wannabes. It would seem that Gösta Berlings Saga were more “typical” prog on past releases while tweaking their sound as they’ve aged.

“ET EX” has as more to do with post rock than prog which is fine. At times, I do wish the drums did more than just loop thru the same patterns. The hooks are strong though which helps. The band gets more fiery on “The Shortcomings of Efficiency” which is one of my favorite tracks…were it not for the unnecessary screaming toward the end. Gösta Berlings Saga are an instrumental band so perhaps they should stick to that!

The album finishes with another one of my favorites “Fundament” which is all about vibe and mood and less about the notes or number of notes. It’s hard to categorize the music on “ET EX” which I think is the point. Gösta Berlings Saga have done the standard prog album and now they fit more closely with bands like Goblin, maybe not as creepy but certainly dark and cinematic.

That might be what “ET EX” is, a soundtrack to a non-existent movie! Regardless, this is NOT an album that will hit you on the first listen. It might take many listens and even then you might still question why you are still listening. Yet you are still listening and that’s why Gösta Berlings Saga are good at what they do. It’s also why “ET EX” is hard to pin down.

Rating: 8.5/10

Tracklist:

1. Veras tema
2. The Shortcomings of Efficiency
3. Square 5
4. Over and Out
5. Artefacts
6. Capercaillie Lammergeyer Cassowary & Repeat
7. Brus från stan
8. Fundament

Label: InsideOut Music
Facebook: www.facebook.com/gostaberlingssaga
Website: www.gostaberlingssaga.com

Posted in art rock, atmospheric metal, cinematic metal, experimental rock, post rock, progressive rock | Tagged | Leave a comment

Ayreon – “Into The Electric Castle: The 20th Anniversary Edition”

AITECimageFirst of all… 20 freaking years since this came out. Is it classic rock yet? Time, please stop… or just slow down a little. Get your foot off the gas, at least!

Let’s just get down to it. Same album, remixed and remastered. Is it worth it? Indeed!

I went back and listened to the original before listening to this new version and there was a lot of care put into this. Yes, it’s a little louder than the original, but not at the sacrifice of the signal. Most everything is allowed to peak properly. And the mix! There is a heck of a lot more spaciousness here. The opening track alone (is that Squidward from Infinity War narrating? ) sounds more… I don’t know… more! Much more effective.

This version has multiple editions, though I think the ultimate is the earbook with the 4 CDs (two for the main story and two for the instrumental versions, both remixed and remastered versions) and a DVD with the 5.1 mix and documentaries. Love these 5.1 mixes.

So if you love Ayreon (you’ve probably already pre-ordered) or you are new to their work, you probably want to check this out.

For those not familiar with this album, a synopsis of the story (from the wiki):

“There are eight main characters (each one sung/played by a different vocalist, as is standard in every Ayreon album) from different times and locations. They find themselves in a strange place; guided by a mysterious voice which tells them that they must reach “the Electric Castle” if they want to survive.”

Guests on this one were, among others:
Fish of Marillion
Damian Wilson formerly of Threshold
Anneke Van Giersbergen of VUUR
Sharon Den Adel and Robert Westerholt of Within Temptation
Edward Reekers of Kayak
Arjen Lucassen of course

That is one heck of a cast.

Tracklist:

Disc 1
1. Welcome to the New Dimension 03:06
2. Isis and Osiris 11:11
(Let the Journey Begin – The Hall of Isis & Osiris – Strange Constellations – Reprise)
3. Amazing Flight 10:15
(Amazing Flight in Space – Stardance – Flying Colours)
4. Time Beyond Time 06:05
5. The Decision Tree (We’re Alive) 06:24
6. Tunnel of Light 04:05
7. Across The Rainbow Bridge 06:19

Disc 2
1. The Garden of Emotions 09:41
(In the Garden of Emotions – Voices in the Sky – The Aggression Factor)
2. Valley of the Queens 02:25
3. The Castle Hall 05:49
4. Tower of Hope 04:54
5. Cosmic Fusion 07:27
(Soar on the Breeze – Death’s Grunt – The Passing of an Eagle)
6. The Mirror Maze 06:34
(Inside the Mirror Maze – Through the Mirror)
7. Evil Devolution 06:31
8. The Two Gates 06:28
9. “Forever” of the Stars 02:03
10. Another Time, Another Space 05:20

Label: Music Theories Recordings/Mascot Label Group
Release Date: October 26, 2018
Website: https://www.arjenlucassen.com/content/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ArjenLucassenOfficial/

Posted in cinematic metal, power metal, progressive metal | Tagged | Leave a comment

Sutej Singh – “The Emerging”

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Sutej, hailing from Solan, Himachal Pradesh (INDIA), is very new to me and I can only say… what an introduction! The whole thing is a very cinematic experience, layered in melody with a lot of emotion. 
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Some fantastic players joining Sutej on this release, that you may recognize, is Kylan Amos from Arena on bass, Scott Higham (who had been with Pendragon for a time) on drums for all but the title-track, which features Raymond Hearne of Haken.
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We start things off with an Overture and then jump straight into The Comeback Trail, which greets you with, what I can best describe as, a cross between Dream Theater’s Eve, in style, with a Trans-Siberian Orchestra instrumental flavor. Just listen and tell me if I am wrong. This sets the mood for what is to come.
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Then there are ambient like cinematic pieces, rocking cinematic pieces, and then some flat out rocking moments, and then some mixed together, like the aforementioned title-track and Oceans Apart. That last one being one of my favorites here. Very melancholy and very beautiful.
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Recommended if you like prog, rock, and orchestral/cinematic music.
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I can’t think of anything to give this BUT 10/10.
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Tracklisting:
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1. Overture 01:40
2. The Comeback Trail 06:42
3. Timeless 09:07
4. Come Into Existence 05:50
5. The Emerging 11:29
6. Oceans Apart 07:39
7. Walk My Path 05:34
8. Revelations 06:11
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Label: Pinecone Records, India
Release Date: Already out!
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/sutejsinghmusic/
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