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Issue 12 - August 22, 2001

Discussion in 'Songs To Watch' started by Mark, Sep 21, 2001.

  1. Mark

    Mark Not blessed, or merciful

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    SUMMER OF PROG EDITION

    Greetings, devoted readers! I don’t really have that much to say in my opening remarks this week, so I’ll begin by offering my opinions on a few relevant issues:
    The Iced Earth tour – I think it is great that they have been added to a major national tour, and with Anthrax in a state of decline and Judas Priest having just released one of the most poorly received albums of 2001, the time is right for them to seize the momentum.

    Censorship – Great, not this again! With Slayer being named in lawsuits and the revelation that those responsible for it were considering targeting Iron Maiden, both misinformation and rightwing propaganda are infecting this country’s attitudes. Defend yourself against attacks on artistic expression.

    Genre exclusivity – Closed minded people make me sick. Whether it is elitist black metal fans who insist that their music be overtly Satanic and devoid of melody or power metal fans throwing nonsensical epithets like “true metal” around, separatism is an inherently evil thing. Keep your mind open. And now, the songs…

    Antithesis – Dying For Life (Limbo pt. 2), Mad Poet: Heavy progressive metal act whose interest is largely owed to a great review on this site. They sound at times like a cross between Iced Earth and early Fates Warning. The latter track has a great chorus, while the former keeps up its intensity for nine minutes.

    Arena – Chosen, Friday’s Dream: Progressive rock that has attracted many favorable reviews, and features a great keyboardist in Clive Nolan, who has guested on many albums such as Ayreon’s Universal Migrator. The former track is highly memorable and has an excellent chorus, while the latter is a more acoustic-based song.

    Balance Of Power – Tales Of Grand Illusion, Higher Than The Sun: Reader-suggested British band that works in the area between melodic metal and progressive rock. New album Perfect Balance out now, and the latter song can be found at www.progpower.com

    Cynic – Sentiment, I’m But A Wave To… - The by-now legendary Florida unit, born out of Death, who was among the first to incorporate progressive influences into extreme metal, featuring a killer rhythm section in Sean Malone and Sean Reinert. Lone album Focus is definitely not to be missed. The latter song is a great indication of their innovation and originality.

    Emperor – Decrystalizing Reason, With Strength I Burn: The news concerning this band’s imminent retirement following the release of this fall’s Prometheus has been one of this summer’s most talked about revelations. Going against popular opinion, I feel songs like this, which fall more on the ambitious side with heavy keyboard use, more complicated song structures, and even some clean vocals, best represent the band’s talents.

    Fantomas – The Godfather: Strangeness from the always unpredictable Mike Patton, formerly of Faith No More and currently of Mr. Bungle. This is listed as a cover of the theme from the film, but soon dissolves into death metallish intensity and psychotic vocals. Normally I wouldn’t review this, but the idea seems creative and it is available on this site.

    Ion Vein – The Bridge Of Dawn, Killers: Progressive metal act from the Chicago area (I think) that has some similarities with Queensryche and some very effective guitar work. The former song has a great progression and memorable chorus, while the latter song is a faithful cover of the Maiden classic, available on the second Call To Irons.

    Kamelot – Rise Again, Crossing Two Rivers: One of the best bands in the borderline area between power and progressive metal, as Karma has received generally positive reviews. These songs from the earlier album Dominion show the band realizing their strengths as musicians, particularly the great keyboards in the former and the memorable hook in the latter.

    Katatonia – Had To Leave, A Darkness Coming: One of several bands who has gone beyond their extreme metal origins to create a more atmospheric and evocative sound while still possessing an aura of doom around them. These are two of their best songs (both from Tonight’s Decision), the former being a heavy track with an eerie midsection, and the latter developing from acoustics into a stirring and passionate track.

    Leonardo – Inventions, Apprentice: Progressive rock opera project featuring many musicians on Magna Carta’s roster, and a great performance by James Labrie as the title character, particularly on the latter where he confronts his enemies. The latter song has great keyboards and focuses on Da Vinci’s development of weaponry. Excerpts available at www.magnacarta.net

    Nordream – Forcefed Memories, Memories Of A Hope: Russian progressive metal act whose extremely promising debut album Memories Progression (note a pattern here?) features thought-provoking lyrics and heavy riffs coupled with keyboard accompaniment that reminds me of Symphony X.

    Porcupine Tree – Buying New Soul, Waiting: One of the most creative acts in the progressive rock scene, and one whose association with Opeth has greatly increased awareness. The former song is a great ten-minute epic, available on the rarities compilation Recordings. The latter is a captivating two-part composition from Signify, featuring some hypnotic guitar and keyboard work.

    Secret Sphere – On The Wings Of The Sun, Secret Sphere: Highly underrated Italian power metal act who combines Blind Guardian-like bombast with progressive touches. The former track is an energetic power metal composition, while the latter ten-minute namesake song features many great instrumental sections.

    Sieges Even – These Empty Places, Scratches In The Rind: Another reader suggestion, this being a German tech-metal act. The former song from A Sense Of Change is a work of art, featuring great instrumentation and emotionally staggering performances. The former song from their last album Uneven is less complex, but is still worthy of much attention, and features great vocals from Jogi Kaiser. Bassist Oliver Holzwarth now plays with Blind Guardian.

    Stratovarius – Twilight Time, Dreamspace: A trip back to the times when this power metal act was more progressive, and had not yet lapsed into formula. These two efforts prior to Kotipelto’s arrival are consistently underrated and more creative than any subsequent album except for Episode, especially the latter 1994 release.

    The Black League – Ecce Homo, Part II: Finnish act led by Taneli Jarva, leader of Sentenced during their highly regarded melodic death period. The former track succeeds in keeping the spirit of Amok and North From Here alive, while the latter goes in a more doom-oriented direction, featuring some mournful piano accompaniment.

    Threshold – Sanity’s End, Light and Space: British progressive metal act who has received much outstanding press for their latest album Hypothetical, which opens with the latter track, alternately heavy and warmly melodic and featuring a great instrumental break. The former song from the soon to be reissued debut Wounded Land, is a highly impressive ten-minute epic with Damian Wilson providing great vocals.

    Ulver – Porn Piece Or The Scars Of Cold Kisses, The Future Sound of Music: Perhaps the most unpredictable band in metal, Garm’s project has changed direction with every album. Their latest Perdition City goes in a captivating electronic direction, and the aptly named latter instrumental exemplifies this. The former song has great atmosphere.

    PROGPOWER EUROPE SPECIAL: For my overseas readers. A festival scheduled for October 5 & 6 in the Netherlands. Complete roster follows below, with a recommended album, or nothing in the case that I am unfamiliar with them.

    Anathema – Judgement (or any of their last three)
    Andromeda – Extension Of The Wish (would like to know what they sound like with new singer David Fremberg as soon as possible.)
    Anomaly
    Into Eternity
    Pain Of Salvation
    – One Hour By The Concrete Lake or The Perfect Element
    Poverty’s No Crime – Slave To The Mind
    Silent Edge
    Superior
    Vanden Plas
    – Far Off Grace or The God Thing
    Wolverine – Fervent Dream
    Zero Hour – The Towers Of Avarice
     

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