Heterochrome – “Melancholia”

heterochromeHeterochrome are a rarity. They are a prog metal band from Iran. This means they could be jailed for their album “Melancholia.” The good news is that they haven’t been caught yet. Their influences range from older Opeth to doom metal. Musically, Heterochrome are VERY tight and the production on “Melancholia” rivals anything on any major label.

My favorite track is the BLISTERING instrumental “Regret” which isn’t some crazy shedfest but rather it’s about the riffs and how the guitar solo interweaves with them. Vocally, I like the interaction of the male death vocal and female clean vocals on most of the other tracks. Forgive me but I have no idea who is in the band and that anonymity is probably best since they are Iranian!

At times the female vocals get a little out of tune and operatic on songs like “Hang,” which doesn’t work for me. She is at her best when she is belting out the melodies rather than trying to be ethereal. The falsetto breaks just sound a tad off. The guitar solos are always tasty and the track “Paradise” has a really good one. “Inferno” is the closer and showcases the full arsenal of the band. They switch between loud riffs and mellower ones with ease.

While I am not always keen on the vocals, there’s a lot to enjoy here. Whether we will hear more from Heterochrome is a mystery, like the band themselves. One thing is for sure. Music is definitely a universal language and “Melancholia” is something the world should check out.

Rating: 8/10

Tracklist:
1. Cage
2. Hang
3. Regret
4. Purgatory
5. Paradise
6. Inferno

Bandcamp: heterochrome.bandcamp.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/heterochromeband

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Wintersun – “The Forest Seasons”

wintersunforestseasonscover_638Wintersun are a band that you could write a book about. They’ve had an interesting career to this point which includes a brilliant debut album, an 8 year span between albums, a second album “Time” that was split into two albums but only the first part (“Time I”) has been released. Their drummer Kai Hahto joined Swallow the Sun during the 8 years between those albums and has since left Swallow the Sun to join Nightwish.

Add to this that band leader Jari Mäenpää has battled writer’s block, studio problems, disagreements with their label over album advances. This all has led them to this point. “Time II” is shelved for the time being and instead the band is releasing “The Forest Seasons.” I won’t get into the crowd funding that’s not only supporting this album but future albums as well.

I loved “Time I” and like many people, I really wanted to hear “Time II.” But I am also someone who believes that artists should do whatever they believe in at the time. So if they want to do the metal equivalent of Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons,” I am up for it. “The Forest Seasons” has four long songs with each being named for one season. Each track is an epic so this album is not for the faint of heart and many people might not be ready for it.

“Awaken from the Dark Slumber (Spring)” kicks off the album with power and aggression but like anything Wintersun does, there’s SOOOO much going on in over 14 minutes of music including layers upon layers of instrumentation. Mäenpää uses mostly his blackened death vocal but there’s a chant section that harkens back to his days with Ensiferum. The song goes by a lot faster than 14 minutes which is always a good sign for long epics.

“The Forest That Weeps (Summer)” is next up. And like “Spring,” it starts with a new age like intro before the whole band kicks in. While the first track had more blast beats from Hahto, this one is more groove oriented. Once again, the arrangement is flat out incredible, I mean a sitar solo?? The choir vocals on the chorus are a nice touch as well. At a mere 12:18, it’s the shortest track on “The Forest Seasons.”

Things get decidedly more intense (not that it hasn’t been to this point) on the third epic, “Eternal Darkness (Autumn).” It’s interesting that Autumn does seem to represent death while the final track “Loneliness (Winter)” has a peace to it. “Eternal Darkness (Autumn)” is a powerhouse and the strings make it sound like you’re descending into hell. The final song is also the grand slower track on the album, which reminds me a bit of “Time” from the last album.

There is so much going on on “The Forest Seasons” that it’s actually hard to feel satisfied writing a review. I have heard more each time that I’ve listened to this album which is always what I hope will be the case with something this fucking epic. I can’t even effectively describe the massive sound that the album has as a whole. I thought “Time I” sounded big but this album is a beast. If you are willing to invest your time and FULL attention to “The Forest Seasons,” you will reap the rewards of an absolute masterpiece. “Time II” can wait.

Rating: 9.5/10

Tracklist:
1. “Awaken from the Dark Slumber (Spring)”
2. “The Forest That Weeps (Summer)”
3. “Eternal Darkness (Autumn)”
4. “Loneliness (Winter)”

Label: Nuclear Blast
Facebook: www.facebook.com/wintersun

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The Pineapple Thief featuring Gavin Harrison announce European tour dates

The Pineapple Thief have announced the second leg of their European tour in support of the critically-acclaimed album Your Wilderness. The new dates will see the band venture into Poland and Switzerland along with shows in Germany, Czech Republic, The Netherlands and UK. See a full list below.

The band will again be joined by virtuoso Gavin Harrison (Porcupine Tree, King Crimson) on drums and Darran Charles (Godsticks) on guitar. As anyone who witnessed the shows earlier this year will attest, the new five-piece line-up has allowed Bruce, Steve and Jon to expand upon their signature sound, enabling the band to truly shine on stage.

For a glimpse of what to expect, check out this clip of the band’s sparkling performance at London’s Islington Assembly Hall.

 

tpt-sept17-tour-poster-dates.jpg

 

Wednesday, 6 September 2017 – Dresden, Scheune
Thursday, 7 September 2017 – Warsaw, Progesja Music Zone
Friday, 8 September 2017 – Krakow, Kwadrat Music Club
Saturday, 9 September 2017 – Brno, Melodka
Sunday, 10 September 2017 – Munich, Backstage Halle
Monday, 11 September 2017 – Zurich, Dynamo
Tuesday, 12 September 2017 – Stuttgart, Universum
Wednesday, 13 September 2017 – Cologne, Luxor
Thursday, 14 September 2017 – Zoetermeer, De Boerderij
Saturday, 16 September 2017 – London, ULU
Sunday, 17 September 2017 – Bristol, Bierkeller

For more information and ticket details – http://pineapplethief.com/tour 

Following a triumphant first leg, with several sold out shows, The Pineapple Thief has emerged as one of the most exciting live progressive rock acts on the circuit and a force to be reckoned with. Prog Magazine described the show as “a dynamic, dramatic experience” while Manchester Rocks commented that it’s “The Pineapple Thief, like you’ve never heard them before”.

“We can’t wait to get back on the road again!” explains band leader Bruce Soord. “Personally, I am really excited that people will have another opportunity to see and hear this fantastic line-up. Darran and Gavin have brought a whole new dimension to this band.”

The band will be performing Your Wilderness plus a string of re-imagined favourites from their back catalogue. These will be the last tour dates this year, and the final opportunity for fans to witness this line-up performing Your Wilderness in its entirety. Special guest support is from Kscope label mates Godsticks, who will be performing brand new material from their upcoming fourth album.

Your Wilderness is the 11th studio album from The Pineapple Thief. For the first time, the band brought in several special guest performers: Gavin Harrison (Porcupine Tree) contributed drums throughout the album, John Helliwell (Supertramp) some beautiful clarinet parts, and Geoffrey Richardson (Caravan) provided a string quartet. They were also joined by a 4-piece choir and to cap it all off, Darran Charles (Godsticks) added some jaw dropping guitar playing.

One of the most exciting bands to come out of the UK progressive rock scene in recent times, The Pineapple Thief was formed in 1999 by founder and chief songwriter Bruce Soord. The band has steadily evolved and refined its sound with the bass playing of Jon Sykes and the production and keyboards of Steve Kitch vital ingredients of the unmistakable TPT sound.

The Pineapple Thief online:

Website: www.thepineapplethief.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/thepineapplethief
Twitter: www.twitter.com/pineapplethief
Instagram: www.instagram.com/thepineapplethief
Spotify: https://play.spotify.com/artist/4lrBMUSk8PiNnCEZfsmPAk
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLE6401DB011BD837E
Apple Music: https://itunes.apple.com/gb/artist/the-pineapple-thief/id278648772

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Edguy – “Monuments”

MonumentsCompilations are a tricky situation. A band wants to release something that not only might attract new fans but also be something that existing fans will want to buy as well. Edguy has been around quite a while now and in the process, they’ve released 10 studio albums in the span of 25 years or so. To honor that, the band are releasing “Monuments” which does have not only most of their more well known tracks (for the new fans) but also five brand new songs PLUS an unreleased song which should interest long time fans.

Edguy have performed a style of metal that incorporates power metal, straight up metal and yes progressive metal. They also have a (somewhat) good sense of humor which shows up in the lyrics of frontman, Tobias Sammet. The order of the songs are not chronological which is usually the case for anthologies. Instead, the new tracks are first and then the songs are in what seems a random order, though I think it’s a good flow. The final song is the unreleased “Reborn in the Waste” which dates back to their “Savage Poetry” sessions of 1995.

The song selection is good overall. I like that some of my favorites like “Superheroes,” “King of Fools,” “The Piper Never Dies,” and “Rock of Cashel” are on here but I’d like to have had a few more epics included like “Theater of Salvation” or “Pharaoh” but I understand the idea was “the best of the best.” Plus the band are going to be playing these tracks live on the next tour.

As for the new songs, they fit in well to the existing catalog. “Ravenblack” is a good opener and “The Mountaineer” ranks with any of their hook laden tracks. Sure there are no surprises but at this point of their career, Edguy know what they do and do it well. So if you are a fan of the band, between the new material and the live DVD and live CDs that come with this package, you have a good reason to be excited. If you are curious about what Edguy is all about, “Monuments” is a great place to start.

Label: Nuclear Blast

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Necromandus – “Necromandus”

Necromandus sleeveNecromandus could have been a massive force in prog metal. They could have even been the band cited as creating the sub genre. Unfortunately, they never got to prove any of that. Back in 1972, the band had the great Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath ready to produce their debut album. He was a major supporter of the band which got them signed to Vertigo Records. However, the wheels came off right away.

Guitarist Barry Dunnery (former It Bites guitarist Francis Dunnery’s older brother) left the band right before their first tour. Iommi felt this was a fatal blow to the band and so did Vertigo Records who dropped the band before the album (which was produced by Iommi) could be released. At the time the band were called a mix of Sabbath and Yes which is about as prog metal as one could be at the time. That album didn’t get issued til 20 years after the fact.

Sadly, three quarters of Necromandus (including Dunnery) are no longer alive and did not see the release of that album. Now the lone member of that band, drummer Frank Hall, put together a new lineup. One key member is former singer Bill Branch’s son, John who yes sounds a lot like his father. This self titled album is definitely a case of what might’ve been. It sounds like a mix of bands like Yes, Sabbath, Wishbone Ash, Captain Beyond and even modern bands like The Sword which shows you the impact that Necromandus could have had had they not evaporated back then.

The album kicks off with the progressive boogie of “Don’t Look Down Frank” which shows that Necromandus mean business. The song is a true ass kicker and is both retro and fresh at the same time. “Alauna” has the vibe of a lost Sword track. One of my favorite track is “Limpert Man” because the vibe is so fucking FM radio from the 70s which is what I grew up on. And yes it rocks but it also has a cool groove to it.

The beautiful “Hymn to Her” shows another side of the band with vintage synths and an off kilter guitar riff. The instrumental “Gargoyles Awake” is another favorite of mine. It’s quite jazzy and has a bit of Dixie Dregs in it. The one track that I find perhaps a little cheesy is “The Warriors” because both the lyrics and main riff are a tad predictable. The problem is, the song is so damn catchy that I actually LIKE IT! The album ends on another high note with the gorgeous and powerful “And She Smiles” which highlights the great things that Necromandus can do. I love it!

This is one of those albums that legitimately makes me smile. It’s a fun album with LOTS of great riffs, enough twists and turns to keep you guessing and, most importantly, a back story which makes it all hit home. I am so glad that Frank put together a new lineup. Even if they don’t record another note, this Necromandus has completed the story for the original band. What might have been is now what has HAPPENED and that is so awesome.

Rating: 9/10

Tracklist:
1. Don’t Look Down Frank
2. Aluana
3. Limpet Man
4. Hymn to Her
5. I’ve Been Evil
6. Gargoyles Awake
7. Scream
8. Borderlands
9. The Warriors
10. Hardknott
11. And She Smiles

Bandcamp: necromandus.bandcamp.com

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In the Presence of Wolves – “Of Two Minds, Stages 1-2: The Ape and The Cage” EP

ITPOWI have used this line before but if I had a record label, I would sign this band. I’ve been a supporter of In the Presence of Wolves since prior to their debut album, “Thalassas” came out in 2014. It’s hard to believe it’s been three years since then. A lot can happen to a young band in that time and ITPOW is no exception.

One change has been that guitarist Justin Alexander left and was eventually replaced by Jim Ellis. The band has kept their core intact (including Vini Stamato, Chris Capitanio, and Mason Ingling) and thus their new EP “Of Two Minds, Stages 1-2: The Ape and The Cage” does sound enough like their debut album that there’s no mistaking that it’s still ITPOW. However, the band has tightened their sound up even more and bassist/lead vocalist Stamato is singing better than ever.

Stamato has a high voice that reminds me a bit of Claudio Sanchez of Coheed and Salvatore Marrano of Thank You Scientist. It is suspicious that both Stamato and Marrano are Italians with epic beards. Has anyone seen them in the same place? Get back to me. But the main difference in his vocals on the EP is that there’s less of the urgent screaming he did on the album. Sure the title track has some as does the closer, MUA. But Stamato picks his spots which works to his advantage. It’s more about the strong melodies of the songs and then when the big emotional moment hits, he can scream a bit.

The other difference that I hear is that the band is stretching out more. Whether it’s the intriguing two halves of the opener “As We Speak (Part 1)” or the aforementioned epic title track, the band allow the song to be a song but also showcase the fact that they are awesome musicians too. ITPOW care about the songs first and foremost. And these are great songs! “White Noise” should be played on rock radio, dammit!

Musically there’s a dose of the melodic side of Between the Buried and Me, the adventure of TYS and the occasional bombast of Protest the Hero. But you’d be hard pressed to say that the band really sound too much like any of those bands. That’s another point in the favor of ITPOW. They have influences but never mimic them. It’s something that veteran bands don’t always master.

“Of Two Minds, Stages 1-2: The Ape and The Cage” has NO filler at all. It’s a solid 33 minutes of melodic prog that walks the line between prog rock and prog metal with the best of them (see Haken). The EP will certainly be a candidate for my favorite one from 2017. Hopefully there are additional stages because I love stage 1 and 2!

Rating: 9.5/10

Tracklist:
1. As We Speak (Part 1)
2. The One Who Fell To Earth
3. White Noise
4. The Ape And The Cage
5. M.U.A. (Manipulation Under Anesthesia)

Bandcamp: inthepresenceofwolves.bandcamp.com

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