Posts Tagged ‘Progressive’

Pale Communion was released August 25th, 2014 via Roadrunner Records.  Genre: Progressive Rock

Pale Communion was released August 25th, 2014 via Roadrunner Records.
Genre: Progressive Rock

It has been 3 years since Opeth’s departure from the death metal landscape broke the hearts of thousands of fans, but the preeminent prog professionals are back with their 11th ‘observation’, Pale Communion. The band’s 2011 effort Heritage signaled a “new” direction in the band’s musical focus and send shockwaves throughout their seemingly loyal fan base. Pale Communion is in no way their mea culpa; rather it is an expansion on the sound that has arguably been at the base of every Opeth album since the days of Orchid albeit masked by death metal chaos.

Almost by design, the band introduces newcomer Joakim Svalberg (keyboardist) accompanied by drummer Martin Axenrot in the groove-drenched intro of album opener ‘Eternal Rains Will Come’. This band knows how to create a rollercoaster of dynamics throughout the course of a song and, in large, an album. Eternal Rains, as does the album itself, possesses a short but effective build-drop-lull-build-sustain-evolved-drop formula that has been an integral part of tracks since Watershed. Most tracks on this album follow suite with the exception of the track number two, ‘Cusp of Eternity’. A foot stomping riff immediately establishes a groove and holds serve as Mikael Akerfeldt croons effortlessly above the rhythm guitars.

The album is a sonic treat for the ears. Mix engineer and Porcupine Tree main-man Steven Wilson has refined and improved on his aural vision from Heritage. The drums across the album bite and punch through the mix with pristine quality but retain a level of intimacy that helps bolster space creating effects such as reverb and delay. Wilson’s flashy use of those effects introduce an insane amount of dimension to the listening experience that came up flatter in this album’s predecessor. The heart of the album, led by the 10-minute mammoth ‘Moon Above, Sun Below’, bounces from quite and serene to spacious but melodically dense and culminates in an infectious band-jam instrumental, ‘Goblin’.

Before turn of the corner to the homestretch of the album, ‘River’ seemingly provides the furthest departure from the trademark Opeth song to date. Up until the halfway point, the song is by far the least complex of the bunch and seems to be tailor made for that “lighter in the air” moment at the venue. It is only at around the 4-minute mark that Opeth’s ear twisting returns and reminds listeners of just how talented this group is. The refrain of Voice of Treason boasts one of the best vocal performances only to be outdone by the tracks climax and close which leads directly to album closer Faith In Others.

From start to finish the album is a testament front man Mikael Akerfeldt’s growth and maturation as a songwriter as well as a straightforward hat tip to his influences. Beyond the singular contributions from Akerfeldt, Opeth as a whole steps their game up. Bassist Martin Mendez is active throughout the album while simultaneously remaining glued to the pocket created and maintained by the spot on drum patterns of Martin Axenrot. Every track clocks in at 8 minutes or less with the exception of one or two, making each of them a manageable listening experience lengthwise. One of the very few minuses of this album are some of the busy vocal lines and crowded rhythms in Akerfeldts vocal cadence from time to time, but that’s just nit picking at this point isn’t it?

Album Picks: Cusp of Eternity, Moon above Sun Below, Voice of Treason

Album Skips: None

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Surprise, a list! Who doesn’t love to list things they love and present them to the public? I’m sure the good people on Facebook land and beyond have seen the “10 Best Stuffs to Stuff” list, the “Top 5 Best Stuffs” and so on. So allow me introduce you to my pretentious little exhibition. Below are 4 albums I enjoy listening to from jump to splat. Yes you read that right, only 4…because fuck lists in which the total number of items are divisible by 5 and/or 10. Also, don’t try to look for a pattern here. This list is in no particular order, and has very little rhyme or reason attached to it.

Ihsahn's 'After' was released January 26th, 2010 via Candlelight Records Genre: Progressive Black Metal

Ihsahn’s ‘After” was released January 26th, 2010 via Candlelight Records
Genre: Progressive Black Metal

First off is After by Ihsahn. If you’re a Black Metal enthusiast, you know this name and the gr1m fr0stbitten cache of epicness that accompanies it and you can skip the next sentence. Ihsahn, as the front man for Black Metal band Emperor, helped pioneer the genre and shape it throughout its satanic birth and infancy. This album was the thematic end to a conceptual trilogy that began with ‘Adversary’ and ‘angL’. After is big sonically, and what I mean by that is that there is a lot of space that you can just feel at times. Sure, Jens Bogren (Mix/Mastering Engineer) added weight where previous album ‘angl’ lacked it, but combined with Ihsahn’s superb riffing and “guitar orchestration”, combined with his knack for always writing the quintessential ‘complete song’, no track on this album is a skipper. As far as I’m concerned it can go down as one as the best metal albums of all time, and can easily top multiple albums across a multitude of extreme metal sub-genres.

Enya's 'A Day Without Rain' was released November 21st, 2000 via Reprise. Genre: New Age

Enya’s ‘A Day Without Rain’ was released November 21st, 2000 via Reprise.
Genre: New Age

Next up is A Day Without Rain by Enya. No, let me stop you here, Sail Away, Sail Away is not on this album, and it isn’t even the actual name of the song. This album is magnificent as that song was. If you are not into New Age music, you may not know what I’m babbling on about…pfft, there aren’t even any guitars on this record, or breakdowns for that matter. Good point, believe me, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that Enya had put together an almost flawless body of work again. In the United States along ADWR went 7x platinum, that’s 7,000,000 copies! It helps that ‘Only Time’ was played repeatedly in the wake of the September 11th attacks. Enya effortlessly navigates chord progressions that were arranged seemingly with a patented technique that dates back to the 1980’s. Enya’s works have garnered international praise and accolades, to which I say…no shit.

Daylight Dies' 'Dismantling Devotion' was released March 7th, 2006 via Candlelight Records Genre: Doom Metal

Daylight Dies’ ‘Dismantling Devotion’ was released March 7th, 2006 via Candlelight Records
Genre: Doom Metal

Replace the stringed instruments with guitars, 80% of the singing with guttural death growls, make the lyrical themes darker and you get Daylight Dies’ 2006 effort ‘Dismantling Devotion. No, I did not mean Killswitch Engage, I mean the North Carolina Doom Metal group Daylight Dies. From top to bottom, there is enough meat here to feed every starving organism on the planet. Hyperbole aside, for a sophomore effort DD took no prisoners with these songs. There is emotion, intensity, and aggression within each song. The melodic content from song to song is rich and ripe with purpose behind the brutal death metal vocals of front man Nathan Ellis. I first ran into this band listening to a My Dying Bride station on Last FM. This band’s strength lays in their composition. Once you get past the slower pace inherent in the Doom Metal genre, you will be able to appreciate this record.

Doomtree independently  released this self titled album July 29th, 2008 Genre: Hip Hop

Doomtree independently released this self titled album July 29th, 2008
Genre: Hip Hop

Last, but surely not least, Doomtree’s self titled effort from 2008, Doomtree. I know what you were thinking, but this is not a metal band…sorry. Doomtree is a hip-hop group from Minneapolis, Minnesota. Before you go and dismiss these guys, give this album a listen…and I mean really listen. From top to bottom this album, features thought provoking, and introspective lyrics that come across as genuine as all hell. The instrumentals are raw, and gritty but create a 90’s feel that suites Doomtree’s aura. The rappers that make up this group pride themselves on their individuality, and this group of songs captures that thought process completely.

'The Eight Deaths of Delphinium Gardener' was released independently September 10th, 2013.

‘The Eight Deaths of Delphinium Gardener’ was released independently September 10th, 2013.

Elitists would probably agree that they just don’t make music like they used to, especially in the Progressive Rock arena. Some would say that today’s prog elite is more in to showing off their skill as opposed to using their skill to make good music. Long gone are the days when music possessed the intimacy, the humility, and the raw genuine passion for making music inspired by something else. Fret not; Sigmund Blue is here to fill in the void, no DeLorean required.

Sigmund began as a project between two members but took to full band status with the addition of another member in 1999. Each member recorded their parts separately as the three live in different regions of the United States. Un-phased by such unfortunate circumstances, the trio presented The Eight Deaths of Delphinium Gardener (Eight Deaths) in September of 2013. Eight Deaths is a 1970’s inspired concept album that chronicles the many trials and tribulations encountered by protagonist Delphinium Gardener.

The album opens in spectacular fashion with ‘Overture’, a piano friendly introduction with remarkably familiar melodic trappings. Immediately the goal of the album becomes clear with this “curtains up” instrumental. It is as much of a proclamation of arrival as it is a solid introduction. The melodies that dance throughout the latter stages of the track serve as a perfect lead-in to the track that succeeds it, Charcuterie of Babylon. From then on, Eight Deaths stays the course with a chill-out easy going vibe that serves to put the listener in a state where focusing on the story becomes a natural reflex.

Eight Deaths shakes things up with ‘Can’t Stay’, presenting the first deviation from what the album had previously established as a norm. This is by no means a bad mark on the report card, as the band does well transitioning be a more rock based feel to a song that contains more bounce and pop. After that diversion, the album returns to business as usual until ‘Go Now’. This track is by far the emotional powerhouse of the album. The vocals carry the weight of the songs part in the story with incredible ease and packs enough power to move the listener to tears.

From that point out the journey is much more rocky but the sonic cohesiveness heard earlier in the album remains consistent. The exiting tracks at this point of the album serve as a build up to a climax that sees a rather calm and soothing end melodically. ‘Pod’s Lament’ serves as evidence of this with gusto as there is a stark ramp up in energy. This track sees the band shed the prog rock element for an all out balls to the wall sprint to the finish. It makes the transition to the aptly named album closer ‘Epilogue’ all the more interesting.

The members of SIgmund Blue recorded their parts separately, relying 100% on technology to complete their projects.

The members of SIgmund Blue recorded their parts separately, relying 100% on technology to complete their projects.

The biggest hurdle for this album to overcome, aside from some slightly creepy dialogue in ‘The Meeting’, is the time investment. At 18 tracks and just over an hour and five minutes, there may not be enough meat for the average listener to chew on. Big moments tend to fall flat due to the context of the era that influences the production, but if appreciated properly within said context, it makes for an even bigger set of musical events. Eight Deaths is far out in a good way and all in all, the entire album achieved what it set out to do. Fans of Queen and the Beatles may have something to latch on to here.

Album Picks: Here It Is, Can’t Stay, Go Now, Carbon Copy
Album Skips: The Meeting

Rating: 4 out of 5

And the traveler bandIn a world of mediocrity and trite songwriting three men take it upon themselves to peel back the paradigms of rock and spit on the corpses… Okay. Enough of the dramatics.

It’s time to get serious. And, And The Traveler is seriously good.

Max Johl – Guitar / Lead Vocals
Donald Perdomo – Drums / vocals
Josh Goldberg – Chapman / vocals
These lovely locals hold their main base in Yonkers, NY. See? I keep telling people there is good music in Westchester County…

Upon first listen you’re likely to assume they’re the usual 4-5 piece band doing some awesome rock tunes. Well this is where it gets interesting. They are a in fact a three piece; but instead of a boring ol’ guitar or bass dynamic they mix it up with Josh Goldberg playing the artfully obscure chapman stick. Made famous by the great Tony Levin of King Crimson. The chapman generally appears to be one of those instruments that is usually isolated as the “solo-performance” instrument rather than having use in a full band. Even in Crimson tunes, where Levin can be heard on the stick, it seems that the rest of the band is accompanying him rather than in support of. And The Traveler’s use of the stick in their music is leaps ahead of many modern rock bands and adds an entirely unique quality to their arrangements.

Josh was just recently featured on the Chapman Stick website as a featured artist. He also records and posts videos on his own personal page entitled Stick Science in which he gives playing tips, solo performances, playthroughs, and answers frequently asked questions.

They are inherently a “rock” band with many songs you could easily hear on a radio station. That doesn’t make them bland to me. It only fascinates as I delve into and peel back the layers. Which for a three piece, is quite expansive. The first track on their album The Road, The Reason is Steps. It’s an upbeat tune that starts big and enters some ethereal expanses. It’s very much similar to Dear Hunter, minus some hokey dramatics.

You can stream the entire album on Spotify,

..as well as on their bandcamp

The guys were nice enough to send me the full double disc album complete with an artwork book illustrated to stories that their songs unfold when I bought it off of their bandcamp page.

Pulling influence not just from many genres but from many decades. You can easily hear classical influence round up with modern rock and jazz.

They’ve got the technicality of King Crimson and Dream theater, the dynamics of the Dear Hunter and the Mars Volta, and the diversity and unique song-writing like the Rx Bandits and Primus.

I could go on for hours about the diversity of this band. The diversity of those they emulate is drastic enough. But they aren’t some simply copy/paste group of artists. Their music is totally unique and stands on their own among any progressive band out right now.

Their album is mixed so well for the band that they are. It’s sparse enough to hear all of the intricacies but big enough to fool you into thinking this is a full sized rock band. Chapman sticks have the issue of “blending” but the guys at Schroendinger’s Box Studios performed wonders and made it work.

Many cases with two disc albums, I find myself picking a favorite side. With this… I cannot. Part II is far from a B side, and is diverse enough to hold it’s own as a distinct album. My favorite track being the first one on this side, called Spiderclass. Such a raw sounding that builds up, sounding similar to Primus, a tightrope love affair between rock, jazz, and avant garde.

The band documented much of the recording process in little video shorts hosted on youtube featured on their website’s media page.

Be sure to pick this bad boy up and give it a strong listen. That’s an order.

cover

and the traveler 1

and the traveler 2

Thank you scientist cover

No. Thank you, Thank You Scientist. Thank you for doing what no other rock band seems to be doing right now. Be still, my beating heart… They have horns and strings. Lots of it. And they’re damn good at it.

For fans of The Mars Volta, Coheed and Cambria, Closure in Moscow, and Trioscapes.

Ellis Jasenovic on Saxophones
Andrew Digrius on Trumpet, Flugelhorn, and trombone
Russell Lynch on Violin, Viola, and Mandolin
Tom Monda on Guitars, Shamisen, and Cello
Greg Colacino on Bass
Odin Alvarez on drums, percussion, and fathering gods
Salvatore Marrano on vocals

Out of Rochelle Park, New Jersey, Thank You Scientist is incredibly interesting for many, many reasons. Their sound is entirely their own but takes on influences and sounds that are familiar to even the most sheltered of music listeners.

I have fallen in love with their second album “Maps of Non-Existent Places” which was recorded by Jesse Cannon at Cannon Found Soundation in Union City, New Jersey. Many great bands have recorded there like Mastodon, Dillinger Escape Plan, Botch, Everytime I Die…
Mastered at West West Side Music and Released in April 2012. The album is very well done on all ends.

The Prelude to the album opens as an a cappella ‘tip of the hat’ to John Denver’s 1966 tune Leaving on a Jet Plane but these guys are a little more retro and decide to take the train, pfft… hipsters… It’s airy and a nice introduction to the first track A Salesman’s Guide to Nonexistence.

This track makes several seamless changes that is all just a part of their ultimate design as a band. The riff sounds remnant of early pop-punk but when the horns come in you’re suddenly listening to a Ska band, or so you think. The song continues as a really epic rock tune that hits several big sections. Odin Alvarez stays in the punk rock realm on drums most of the time but really only for this song.

The use of their instruments is far from overdone and they have tasteful lines to really emphasize the song structure. The dynamics of their songwriting allows for a lot of space which is really hard to come by for bands with such a large lineup.

Their most popular track is Feed the Horses (based on Spotify and Last.fm plays). It’s a sexually charged progressive rock rant, instantly getting goosebumps from that first run of 30 seconds. Rhythmically complex and has a sound similar to that of Trioscapes, the mind-blowing jazz-metal side project of Between the Buried and Me’s Dan Briggs.

At 10 seconds it goes into a headbang worthy breakdown with horns blaring with dramatic flare. The song then transitions into a funky section almost unexpectedly from how the song begins. I’m especially impressed with the Salvatore Marrano’s distinction on this track.

It seems Marrano was channeling the late Michael Jackson when recording Feed the Horses. His voice goes really well with their funk parts and it suits their diverse sound. Overall he works well for the group but he tends to remind me of Claudio Sanchez of Coheed and Cambria – who I’m not particularly a fan of. At least he doesn’t have that damned beaver dam on his head… He really shines in their less “rock” sounding sections and actually has a great timbre when he’s not reminding me of a pop-rock singer. I try not to let a single instrument disrupt my enjoyment of music so it shouldn’t affect yours! I know for a fact many people will fall in love with the band because of the sound of his voice.

My favorite track on the album has to be the instrumental Suspicious Waveforms (love the name too). Not for the fact that there isn’t singing on it either, mind you. It’s a really fun jazz fusion song with many lines that make you want to get out your chair and shake dat ass.

The main line gets in your head so fast you’ll think you’ve heard it a thousand times but still want to hear it a thousand more. Every one of them has moments where they really stand up but they use periods of quiet transitions to prepare you for the brilliant solos. Russell Lynch’s violin solo in particular is astounding. The song goes through modern jazz, soul, funk, even a few brief moments of eastern folk. I can’t help but listen to it everytime I put on their album.



Support local music while getting full quality!
Buy from the band via their store on www.thankyouscientist.netBandcamp, Amazon, or iTunes!
But they are infact available for streaming on Spotify as well as on Bandcamp.

Why not check out their first release “The Perils of Time Travel”. A great album and shows some fantastic growth between the two records.

Catch these guys on tour right now with the Tea Club, another proggy outfit sounding more along the lines of a darker Dredg or Muse.

The shows are all listed on Thank you Scientist’s website on their tour page.

Here’s a clip of them playing their song My Famed Disappearing Act live at Mexicali in Teaneck NJ. The songs starts in classic Prog fashion with a nice technical guitar tapping riff. Enjoy and be sure to get this album!!!