Vanden Plas – The Ghost Xperiment: AwakenIng

505596One of the mainstays of prog metal are back with part one of another two part concept album ( part two planned for next fall). This album is both short (6 tracks) and long (about 50 minutes). So, yeah, most of the tracks are on the longish side. And the write up from the band says this one is more progressive. I hear that in parts. But one thing I can definitely say is this one is very in your face. So if the last couple weren’t much your thing, with their more orchestral feel, this one might be.

The story, to lightly paraphrase, is about a guy named Gideon, who loses his significant other and starts digging into the paranormal to help his war with his demons. But it only causes more trouble. Trouble being opening a hole to hell. I can hear that in parts but honestly, with the mix, I can only make out some of what is being sung. A lyric sheet would be awesome. So I’ll just trust them on the story.

Starting things off is Cold December Night, with some nice heavy riffage and into some single chord chugging for the verse before hitting a nicely melodic chorus that’s already got me singing along. Ok. Mostly along. Don’t know some of the words. Interestingly, I think I hear a keyboard/piano in there, but man, is it buried under the guitars. Still dig it though.

The Phantoms Of Prends-Toi-Garde is another great rocker with a nice piano interlude that trades off with some nice riffage once again. I’m starting to feel like I’m not able to detect the bass much either. I’m sure it’s there, blending in, but I’m not really picking it up.

We then get a more laid back song with Three Ghosts, and it’s almost a progmetal ballad, if you will. Now I’m hearing piano, bass… everything. The piano is prominent in the verses. We are treated to a great guitar solo in the first instrumental section that I found myself getting a bit lost in and that is a good thing! Flowed perfectly.

Devils’ Poetry, the longest track on the album at almost 10 minutes, starts off with some solo keys that quickly get kind of buried in the mix with the guitars again but not so much you can’t hear them at all. The keys then shift to a more symphonic sound that stands out a bit more. This is definitely a guitar focused album and that isn’t a bad thing for prog metal. 😁 This is definitely more on the prog side of things in the instrumental sections with some nice solos on keys too. And hell…. let’s throw in some oboes? At least I think it’s oboes. Someone correct me here. Love the orchestral break in this track.

Fall From The Skies, only slightly shorter than Devil, starts of as a slow orchestral/piano piece and then kicks in full band once again. We get some keys that are very reminiscent of Dream Theater to me. Actually this whole song is.

The last song, and almost the shortest, The Ghost Xperiment, is a standard rocker for them. And doesn’t feel like an album closer. either. I guess it kind of makes sense given this is the middle of the story, but I still feel it should have had a somewhat of a “finale” feel.

Argh. I love long songs (and I cannot lie (I’m sure I have made that joke before)) but with so few tracks it feels over too soon! I feel this would have worked better as a whole, rather than a two parter. But hell, can’t really say that either without hearing part two.

So… is it their best work? Nope! Is it good? Yep! True, they don’t really break any new ground here and nothing really blew me away. But it’s a solid enough album. Give it a go and let me know what you think!

PS- for some reason the singles released so far are the first and last songs on the album. I always find it odd when the last track of an album is released prior to an album release, especially on a concept album. Kind of gives things away. Kind of. Anyway. Check them out below.

Rating: 8/10

Tracklist:
1. Cold December Night
2. The Phantoms Of Prends-Toi-Garde
3. Three Ghosts
4. Devils´ Poetry
5. Fall From The Skies

6. The Ghost Xperiment

Label: Frontiers
Release Date: 10/11/2019

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Leprous – “Pitfalls”

unnamed(1)Leprous are back with their sixth album, “Pitfalls.” The title is quite appropriate too. The band is not afraid to take some risks and push their sound forward, you know…progress. “Coal” was the last time the band really make a large step. At the time, I thought that “Coal” was a misstep. It took me until earlier this year before I realized that I really like “Coal” a lot. “Pitfalls” is probably going to be similar.

The difference with “Pitfalls” isn’t the songs themselves but rather the arrangement of the songs. Songs like “I Lose Hope” or “Observe the Train” are well written songs. However, the arrangement on them has a bit of an electronic/dance vibe. Much of this is because drummer Baard Kolstad is either playing less like a “typical” metal drummer (like he is drumming for Seal) or the percussion sounds (ack!) programmed. It’s an interesting situation because I do like the songs. I guess it’s similar to how Muse or Seal approaches some of their music. I love them both so I guess I love this too?

Vocalist Einar Solberg is incredible on all of “Pitfalls” and it’s his vocal performance on tracks like “Alleviate” that blows my mind. There’s that one note during the chorus of the song that gives me chills. On “Coal” he was a bit reserved so that’s one big difference in comparing these two albums (since that seems to be what I am doing). He knows how to deliver a catchy chorus as well, as is the case with “At the Bottom.” The guy is incredible.

The song that is worth buying “Pitfalls” alone for is the epic closer “The Sky is Red.” This is as close to a definitive Leprous song as there is. It takes the approach that they have on this album and mixes it with the slow burn of “Coal” (get it?) and the power of “The Congregation.” The song not only sums up the band but sums up their career to this point.

I will say that I like “Pitfalls” better right now than when I first heard “Coal.” I also think that the songs are as good a set as the band have written. So yes, “Pitfalls” is a challenging step forward for one of prog metal’s best bands. The album could piss off a few people but all great music should force a reaction if it is indeed great music.

UPDATE: After repeated listenings, the arrangements make perfect sense now. In fact, I don’t know how else Leprous should have approached this album. Songs like “I Lose Hope” are catchy and damn funky. I find myself singing along and grooving to these songs like I haven’t done before. “By My Throne” is another grower. Well the whole thing is a grower. It is one of 2019’s best albums.

Original Rating: 8.5/10
Updated Rating: 10/10

Tracklist:

1. Below
2. I Lose Hope
3. Observe The Train
4. By My Throne
5. Alleviate
6. At The Bottom
7. Distant Bells
8. Foreigner
9. The Sky Is Red

Label: InsideOut Music
Release Date: 25 October 2019
Website: www.leprous.net

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Sabaton w/ Hammerfall – Live 2019

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Sunday, 6th October, 2019 – Center Stage, Atlanta, Georgia

It’s been a hot minute since I last reviewed a concert, but here we are. Let’s just say, I had words I needed to say about the Sabaton show in Atlanta, Georgia. Beyond screaming “It was EPIC” in everyone’s faces. Mind you, this wasn’t my first Sabaton show. That was back on The Last Stand tour when they had Battle Beast with them. This time around, they have longstanding Swedish giants Hammerfall with them as the opening act.

The venue itself is one I am so familiar with by now, I only need GPS for reference and if I miss an exit (thank you Atlanta and your traffic). Center Stage is a three in one venue settled in the Midtown part of Atlanta. The Vinyl is the smallest, then The Loft, and Center Stage, which sits about 1000+ people. Maybe more if there’s no chairs on the floor. It was a sold out show, the first of many for Sabaton on this tour in America, and on a Sunday? Colour me impressed that it filled out. I’m not sure how many people were in the pit, but it wasn’t packed. Even sitting in the seats, there isn’t a bad place in the house. This venue is the home of ProgPower, after all. Where was I? On the rail, of course. Because that is where I live if it isn’t a seated show.

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Joacim Cans of Hammerfall

Had I heard of Hammerfall before? Sure. Had I listened to them? Not consciously. I recognized one song out of their set, but otherwise it was all new to me. Hammerfall was a great opener for the night! They got the energy up and have a chemistry with the crowd, whether you knew them or not (which most of the venue didn’t when he asked who had never seen them before). Joacim’s vocals are just as clear as they are on record, and the band has some chops. Crowd favourites were played, as well as some songs from their latest album. I’m still learning about them, so don’t quote me on what song is from what album. What I do know is that Joacim’s tenor is amazing, and the band is right on his level.

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L-R: Tommy Johansson, Joakim Brodén, and Pär Sundström of Sabaton

Now… Sabaton? Oh goodness. This is the first time I’ve seen them when they had a tank on stage. Yes, a tank. Not the big fancy ones from their European shows, but you know what? There’s a little reference to a famous soldier painted on the side of the tank drum riser, which happens to be one of their more popular songs as well. The show started out with a video covering the story of World War I, the subject of their latest album “The Great War”. Chilling, honestly, but it set the crowd in the right mindset. A concert plus history lesson. As always, they opened with a bomb of energy. I’m pretty sure a pit started right off with it, but I didn’t see. Too busy having fun.

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L-R: Tommy Johansson, Pär Sundström, and Chris Rörland of Sabaton

The set list is a great mix of old favourites and songs from the new album. Interjected with frontman Joakim giving small tidbits of history and talking to the crowd. Or getting picked on by fellow band mates Tommy or Chris. Compared to the last time I saw them live, they have a screen behind them now with brilliant visuals that sometimes have the words for the people in the crowd who might not know all the words. All for fun and call backs. Nothing like a venue doing the chant from “Swedish Pagans” between each song to get the blood going. Nor jumping to two of their more popular songs at the end.

I came out of there high on life and whistling. I’d been long overdue for a good metal show, and Sabaton never fails to fill that void. If you ever get the chance, or if there isn’t a sold out show near you, I implore you to go and experience it yourself. I tried to not mention songs on the setlist in this review just in case anyone reading might be going. Let’s just say, you will not be disappointed by either band’s setlist. Their energy is infectious, and if you’re a fan of their albums? Live takes that and knocks it out of the park. It’s a must see at least once in your life. Nothing like a history lesson wrapped up in a powerful metal package.

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Kadavar – “For The Dead Travel Fast”

kadavar-for-the-dead-travel-fast With Halloween coming up, it’s that time of year that I delve deeper into my love of horror than the rest of the year (more R’lyeh than Mariana Trench level deep). So when I heard Kadavar was coming out with a new album in October, I was excited. Their brand of stoner/psych rock (often called occult rock) has been a staple in my ears since discovering them on, of all things, a special disk of cover songs from the last Powerwolf release “The Sacrament of Sin”. “For The Dead Travel Fast” does not disappoint in the spooky department, or the psychedelic either.

While their previous albums are more stoner oriented, this album comes off as an homage to the 70s psychedelia. Out with the peace, love, and drugs. In with the corpses, ancient gods, and sacrifices on an altar before a bonfire. New for the scene they’re associated with? No, but this album tickles the memory of listening to vinyls at night with my friend. No lights but a few lava lamps, and a bottle of wine being passed between us. It’s heavy, but upbeat at times. With swinging guitar riffs and a thrumming bass line. Love it or hate it, Christoph Lindermann’s high tenor lends well to their sound. Especially now.

“Children of the Night” sounds like a Black Sabbath collided with the Moody Blues during their Core Seven era. “Dancing With the Dead” has almost a Ghost-ish vibe to it, which I’m a fan of their Scooby Doo music so fight me. “Saturnales” sounds like the perfect background music for a Samhain ritual or to walk a graveyard at night with, and the final song “Long Forgotten Song” has a surprise in the middle I am not mad at.

Altogether, it is a nice shift in their sound, and an homage to that psychedelia near and dear to my heart. The timing of the release is perfect, and I highly suggest spinning this through this spooky time of year and beyond.

Rating: 9.5/10

Tracklist:
1. The End
2. The Devil’s Master
3. Evil Forces
4. Children Of The Night
5. Dancing With The Dead
6. Poison
7. Demons In My Mind
8. Saturnales
9. Long Forgotten Song

Released on: 11 October 2019
Label: Nuclear Blast

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In Mourning – “Garden of Storms”

211991I’ve been into In Mourning for a few years now, since 2012’s “The Weight of Oceans.” That album was awesome, so much do that I went back and got their first 2 albums. The band had a very solid Opethian vibe to them without feeling like a ripoff. I guess I should say a “pre-Heritage” Opethian vibe. Tobias Netzell has a great death growl and a very strong clean vocal.

Then came their masterpiece “Afterglow” in 2016 which saw the band add former Katatonia drummer Daniel Liljekvist. The album was perfect. How could they possibly top it? To make matters all that much harder, Liljekvist quit the band last year. But the band pressed on adding Joakim Strandberg-Nilsson on drums and completing the follow up to “Afterglow” called “Garden of Storms.”

I was definitely worried given the bar being set so high and the lineup change. But In Mourning has done it again! “Garden of Storms” is another fantastic album that COULD be better than “Afterglow.” The big difference to me is the more balanced sound and balance of harsh and clean vocals by Netzell. The album kicks off with the onslaught of “Black Storm.” The power that the band has always had is definitely intact.

Things get better still with “Yields of Sand” which showcases that balanced sound that I mentioned. The presence of all that melody just makes the harsher moments have even more bite. The jagged riffage on the chorus is just killer! “Magenta Ritual” shows off the atmospheric side that In Mourning has toyed with over the years. Again, it makes the chorus even punchier. The track reminds me a bit of Amorphis for some reason and I love them.

“Huntress Moon” wouldn’t sound out of place on an Insomnium album while the majestic closer “The Lost Outpost” is a pounding epic that proves In Mourning are in the same league as all of the bands that I’ve mentioned. If you love classic progressive death metal with a bucketload of melody, you need “Garden of Storms” in your life. In a perfect world, In Mourning would step into the void left by Opeth now that they are a prog rock band. I really hope this is the album that pushes them to that goal.

Rating: 9.5/10

Tracklist:
1. Black Storm
2. Yields Of Sand
3. Hierophant
4. Magenta Ritual
5. Huntress Moon
6. Tribunal Of Suns
7. The Lost Outpost

Label: Agonia Records
Release Date: 4 October 2019
Bandcamp: agoniarecords.bandcamp.com/album/garden-of-storms

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The Fierce And The Dead – “Live USA 17”

BEM077 - The Fierce And The Dead - Live USA 17 - album cover

The Fierce And The Dead traveled far from their home in the UK to play at the RoS Fest in my part of the world, the US.

Journeying such a distance to play a gig, you would think the band would be inclined to give it their all, yes?

Oh, yeah! They sure did! What a fun listen this show is.

Lead track 1991 has a driving energy and is a great set opener. It’s the soundtrack to a car chase scene and sets the tone for the rest of the set. Hearing this band’s music has always invoked video game and film soundtracks in my mind. TFATD are an instrumental band, so you can attach whatever story to their songs you would like.

Even the spacey, psychedelic track Andy Fox has a propulsion behind it. A nice mid-set showcase of the band’s range of musical styles. The Wait is a track that features harmonics and has the band catching their breath a bit before launching into the spirited tune Truck.

Check out the video link below to see the band play the last track in this set, Parts 7 and 8.

If you live in the UK, you can catch the band live and feel the energy in person.. Follow the Bandcamp link below to see the dates.

This lively set of tunes is a great introduction to the group. The Fierce And The Dead are a band who are deserving of wider recognition. Give the music a listen and be social with it!

Rating: 9/10

Tracklist:
1. 1991
2. Let’s Start A Cult
3. Flint
4. Spooky Action
5. Andy Fox
6. I Like It, I’m Into It
7. The Wait
8. Truck
9. Parts 7 and 8

Recorded live at RoSFest, 7th May 2017, at the Majestic Theater, Gettysburg, PA.

The band:
Matt Stevens – guitar and noises
Steve Cleaton – guitar and other noises
Kev Feazey – bass
Stuart Marshall – drums

Release Date: October 4, 2019
Label: Bad Elephant Music

Band Website: fierceandthedead.com
Bandcamp: tfatd.bandcamp.com/album/live-usa-17
Facebook: www.facebook.com/fierceandthedead
Instagram: www.instagram.com/tfatd
Twitter: twitter.com/tfatd

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PMP on Patreon, video music reviews

logopmpI’ll admit that I’ve never been a fan of Patreon but circumstances have dictated that I rethink that. Recently. my “real” job went through “restructuring.” So I thought I should perhaps take PMP further and see where that leads. So what does this mean?

I am leaning toward doing video music reviews. So that means new music and revisiting older albums as well. I considered doing reaction videos but I can’t really take that seriously. I do need to consider a decent webcam and I guess if I want the videos to not look like complete ass, I need some video editing software. Is this a worthwhile venture?

Okay that was not rhetorical. Why do you like Progressive Music Planet? What would you find interesting? I am open to ideas!

Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/progressivemusicplanet

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/ProgressiveMusicTube

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