BACK TO NORMAL EDITION Greetings, devoted readers! Despite the scheduling problems, shortage of material and last-minute changes that plagued me last week, I greatly enjoyed putting the two specials together and I hope you enjoyed the results (and the songs) as much as I did. Which reminds me I am always looking for your suggestions and I will include just about anything that I'm impressed with! This week, I'm going to catch up with all the material left over on my playlists and present the column in its basic format. With a wide range of artists as always. Normally I don't post reader comments I've received here, but I don't normally hear from a featured artist: "Please continue to post Songs To Watch. It is a valuable resource for me " - Mark Briody of Jag Panzer - The Silent, The Scarlet Letter: Let me start by naming Mechanized Warfare album of the month! This album retains some of the advances made on Thane To The Throne while embracing the more metallic aspects of previous releases, as on the former track. I'm sure you will be able to recognize some of the smart Maiden homages on the latter Gamma Ray - Heaven Or Hell, Damn The Machine: By now you probably have seen the cover of No World Order and learned that promo copies have begun to circulate. The former song, already released as a Japanese single, has a great chorus and keyboards, while the heavier latter track has a SOIS-like atmosphere balancing out its crunching lead riff. I heard a rough mix, but it sounds great. Jacob's Dream - Theater Of War, The Bleeding Tree: Progressive metal act of the Queensryche persuasion I had initially written off until hearing their awesome Sanctuary. The title track from their latest album almost reaches those heights with a killer lead riff, while the former track, available at www.metalgospel.com, captures the feel of QR at their best. Amorphis - My Kantele (acoustic version), The Brother Slayer: A pair of nonalbum tracks from the band that has polarized death metal fans for years. I find the former track from the EP of the same name to be better than the album version, being highly emotional and having great instrumentation. The latter track is also one of their best songs IMO. Sigh - Requiem Nostalgia, A Summer Song: Despite having close ties to the black metal movement, this Japanese act's latest album Imaginary Sonicscape knows no stylistic boundaries. The former track is an excellent dark journey into nightmarish terrain with great layered keyboards, while the latter, available at www.bestofmetal.net, incorporates a psychedelic feel and has an addictive chorus. Overkill - Left Hand Man, Under The Blade: A quick nod to one of my favorite thrash bands, one who has continued to make great albums for years. Their most recent release Bloodletting is one of their heaviest and best, and the former song positively rips. The latter is a great version of a Twisted Sister song how the hell did they get a fucking tribute album? This plague of unworthy tributes has got to stop. Antithesis - Soul Of Ice, The Curse: A heavy progressive metal act who reminds me of early Iced Earth, discovered through the great radio network at www.progradio.net. These songs feature great, near thrash heavy riffs while incorporating technical aspects. Should appeal to fans of most types of metal Nightingale - Sleep, Scarred For Life: One of the many projects initiated by multi-instrumentalist Dan Swano, whose excellent solo album (a misnomer, seeing he plays all instruments on The Breathing Shadow as well) is also featured this week. The former track features a great hypnotic chorus and melody, while the latter from last year's I is available at www.progpower.com Anathema - Lost Control, Suicide Veil: It has been a busy year for this most renowned of British doom acts, having released a compilation and recorded A Fine Day To Exit, which comes out next month. The former track from Alternative 4 is one of their best, while the latter from Eternity showcases their transition from a heavy doom act into a more atmospheric sound. Agalloch - Hallways Of Enchanted Ebony, Dead Winter Days: One of my most pleasant drecent discoveries, this band is often described as folk metal, which while accurate only hints at their sound, which is layered with the same incorporation of melody and progressive song structures into extreme metal that characterizes Opeth. Former song available at www.mp3.com, latter at www.bestofmetal.net Mullmuzzler - Tell Me, Falling: One of countless Dream Theater related side projects, this one is a vehicle initiated by James Labrie and featuring assists from many accomplished musicians. The latter track is an excellent lush ballad (albeit more active than DT's often sappy ones) and the former is a more aggressive track.<br> <br> Tribus - Innocent Blood, Take It By Force: Instrumental prog act I've heard through Progged Radio and I'm quite impressed with. Both of these songs alternate between very heavy sections and more free ranging, improvisational sounding progressive rock. I think this band may be unsigned, but I'm not sure Aghora - Immortal Bliss, Jivatma: Fans of technical metal legends Cynic should definitely take note of this act, which features Sean Malone and Sean Reinert as guest musicians, and whose use of a female vocalist creates a strange yet captivating atmosphere. As expected, superb musicianship abounds, especially in the latter eleven-minute instrumental. Both songs available at official site. Majestic - Curtain Of Fire, Approaching The Storm: I became interested in this band after learning that their keyboardist appeared on Adagio's excellent Sanctus Ignis album. Both of these songs are very good, although they do sound dangerously close to Symphony X (which can be both a good and bad thing ), especially those keyboard solos Maudlin Of The Well - Gleam In Ranks, Birth Pains Of Astral Projection: A truly eccentric act, boasting nine members, exotic instrumentation, and two albums (Leaving Your Body Map and Bath) released simultaneously. The former track has an insane arrangement, while the latter I was completely blown away by, sounding like an alien version of Opeth, featuring great clean and growling sections, a Floyd-like pacesetting intro, and a stunning guitar solo near the end of its 10:36. Voivod - Cosmic Conspiracy, Project X: A quick nod to one of the first bands to incorporate progressive elements into heavier genres of metal, one whose interest in was renewed after I purchased a used copy of Negatron last week. Both of these songs uphold their reputation as the thrash version of Rush. Vocalist Eric Forrest has recently left the band. Angel Dust - Follow Me, Temple Of The King: I know this band is quite well known, but I still feel they are highly underrated and are one of metal's most innovative forces. The former two part song is incredible, beginning as a relaxed ballad before transforming itself into a superb heavy excursion, ending with a variation on the first part's theme. The latter song, available on the reissue of Bleed, performs a similar effect on the Rainbow song resulting in more of a reinterpretation than a cover. Dan Swano - Sun Of The Night, Patchworks - More from the visionary who has gained respect from both extreme metal and prog fans, his 1998 solo album Moontower began as a melodic death album but became an excellent fusion of death vocals and 70s prog influences great keyboards throughout. Former song available at www.bestofmetal.net So ends this chapter. I hoped to have even more artists given I had two weeks worth of material, but with only a few new releases and the continued efforts not to repeat myself, I have my limitations. I look forward to hearing your responses. Next week I'll include a special for my European readers based on the upcoming Progpower festival.