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Issue 61 - June 4, 2003

Discussion in 'Songs To Watch' started by Demonspell, Jun 4, 2003.

  1. Demonspell

    Demonspell cheating the polygraph

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    DEMONSPELL’S SONGS TO WATCH
    “Chasing something that cannot be, fade into eternity…”
    Issue 61 – June 4, 2001
    www.mp3.com/stations/songstowatch - recent additions: none

    Greetings, devoted readers. Note: This is my last column, as I am going to quit writing about metal to seek a position in the defense industry.

    Alarum – Reconditioned, Receiver: Highly impressive technical metal from Australia, with some apparent Cynic influences, even including a brief snatch of robotic vocals on the latter tracks. Fans of the genre will be sure to marvel at this band’s abilities. Both songs available at www.mp3.com

    Amorphis – Day Of Your Beliefs, Planetary Misfortune: Despite some rumors that this band was set to revisit its heavier period, the new album Far From The Sun bears more resemblance to the often middling Am Universum (the latter track moves along at a slow pace with little impact, and throws in a middle eastern passage for no apparent reason) than Elegy. The former single does have an addictive melody and chorus to recommend, and can be found on the official site.

    …And Oceans - Room Of Thousand Arts, September: A pair of tracks from the Finnish metallers’ recently reissued debut Dynamic Gallery of Thoughts, which find the band balancing their black metal origins with progressive touches, and the arrangements are more involved than on their synth-heavy later albums.

    John Arch – Relentless, Cheyenne: Absent since being fired from Fates Warning a decade and a half ago, their original vocalist continues to command enormous respect from the metal scene. His comeback EP consists of two epic-length compositions on which his trademark voice has been preserved intact, and the band he has assembled (Matheos, Vera, Portnoy) is in top form, both songs having tons of tempo changes, although the latter does drag too much.

    Astral Doors – Of Sons And Fathers, In Prison For Life: A recent signing to the Intromental management roster, this Swedish band’s sound is firmly planted in the seventies, with loads of swirling organs and commanding Dio-esque vocals. Not exactly the most original approach, but they play with great conviction, and fans of classic metal should eat this up.

    Avidost – Claws Of Unrest, A Silent Masquerade: Some hints of Opeth in this unsigned band I learned about on their forum. The latter track, available on http://www.mp3.com, has some devastating riffs in it and this band shows potential on both tracks.

    Bubblemath - Be Together, Your Disease Is Nicer: A startlingly original progressive rock act, many of their songs feature unconventional meters played at fast tempos, like on the latter track, and often display a manic sense of humor. The former track is more reserved and features a memorable melody, and some highly intricate vocal harmonies towards its conclusion.

    Carptree – Into The Never To Speak Of, Calm Sea Of Their Pupils: What is it with prog bands having the word tree in their name. Besides the best prog band to come out of England in the nineties, I’ve also mentioned Tired Tree a few times, and now these guys. Both of these songs feature some thoughtful arrangements and muted but impressive instrumental interplay.

    Citizen Cain – Wandering In Darkness, Sleeping In Penumbra: British progressive rock band that has released numerous albums, the latest being this year’s Playing Dead. The band has been referred to as a Genesis clone on occasion, and both these songs channel the darker moments of that band’s masterful 71-74 period, but the arrangements and vocals are menacing enough to ensure that these lengthy compositions are not mere imitation.

    Daylight Dies – Hidden Hands, In The Silence: This band is currently on tour with Lacuna Coil, a show I was planning on catching until Into Eternity was forced to drop out. No Reply was one of the best debuts of last year, consisting of doom metal with lots of guitar harmonies more typical of melodic death. The latter track is a great expression of despair, also the only one on the album with clean vocals.

    Djam Karet – Chimera Moon, The Falafel King: One of my favorite instrumental acts, a band that has carved a signature sound combining ambient expansiveness with instrumental intensity, and one that always seems willing to experiment, and their latest A Night For Baku ranks among their best. The former track contains some superbly utilized electronics, while the latter has a great Eastern guitar figure as its base.

    Dungeon – Time To Die, Lost In The Light: Australian band who has established a presence on this site through their forum and other promotions. Both of these songs contain lots of Maidenesque guitar runs, including a great extended instrumental section on the latter track. The vocals aren’t to my liking though…

    Dysrhythmia – Bastard, Running Shoe Of Justice: Following two self-released albums, among them the awesome No Interference, this instrumental tech-metal act has moved to the larger labels, namely Relapse. Both of these songs possess an unbelievable intensity, the band retains their heaviness even as they pursue many different angles. Both songs available at http://www.mp3.com

    Ephel Duath – Ironical Communion, The Other’s Touch: One of the most adventurous albums of 2003, I’ve seen comparatives from genres as black metal, metalcore, and jazz used to describe their music, and while they draw on all these sources none is particularly accurate, as this is a highly original release. The awe-inspiring former track features insanely technical sections, nightmarish atmosphere, flourishes of trumpets, and pulsating electronics all meshing together, and the latter is similarly constructed chaos.

    Forest Stream – Whole, Legend: This Russian band was one of the first signed to the Elitist label, which has developed a roster of non-conventional metal. Tears Of Mortal Solitude is a great debut. The former track is bleak and morose with minimal instrumentation, while the latter heads in an epic doom direction, and the use of keyboards on this track is stunning.

    For My Pain – Bed Of Dead Leaves, Autumn Harmony: A side project of former members of the defunct Eternal Tears Of Sorrow and Nightwish keyboardist & main songwriter Tuomas Holopainen, this heads in the pseudo-melancholic direction of their countrymen Sentenced (notice the nod to that band in the former’s title…intentional or not?). The latter track does contain a memorable chorus, but most of what I’ve heard from it doesn’t excite me.

    The Gathering – We Just Stopped Breathing, Monsters: More from Souvenirs, which for the most part has received glowing reviews, including one on this site, and is arguably their best since Mandylion. The former goes headlong into the trip-rock genre, the minimal instrumentation and use of saxophones help project a film noir atmosphere. The latter track has a great reverberating keyboard backdrop and Anneke is in top form.

    Green Carnation – Crushed To Dust, Myron And Cole: After Light Of Day, what does Tchort do for an encore? Amazingly, the new album A Blessing In Disguise, while deviating from that album’s massively orchestral approach, accomplishes the task of progressing from that peak. The album heads in a progressive rock direction with a large dose of melancholy thrown in, arriving at something akin to a cross between Nightingale and Anathema. The former is the album’s insistent opener (with an unorthodox vocal arrangement that reminds me of Solefald a bit), while the latter is the final version of the instrumental demo that surfaced earlier this year.

    Ion Vein – Twilight Garden, From Inside The Mirror: This progressive metal act appeared at the first Progpower festival two years ago and has built a favorable reputation among followers of the genre. These tracks from their new one Reigning Memories are impressive, the latter containing a great instrumental section reminiscent of Queensryche (the drummer is awesome), while the former is a heartfelt acoustic track enhanced by saxophone.

    Labyrinth – The Prophet, Slave To The Night: After the poor reception given to Sons Of Thunder and persistent breakup rumors, the Italian power/prog metallers return with a self-titled album and a label switch to Century Media. The rejuvenated band shows off their talents in the latter track, which has an instantly memorable chorus and a great instrumental section, and the former opening track, available at www.centurymedia.de, begins with a Maidenesque intro and proceeds at a deadly pace.

    Larval – When Bullet Meets Flesh, Something Terrible Is About To Happen: Minimalist instrumental fare on the avant-prog label Cuneiform (former track available on the label’s site), this is silently threatening and carefully orchestrated music that builds very gradually into a dark conclusion, as on the lengthy and disturbing latter composition.

    Metaconciencia - Antarctica, Bestiario: Lots of instrumental prog in this installment as it were…and this Mexican act is one of the best I have heard in a while, specializing in Crimson-inspired song structures, often wandering but never losing focus and always impressive musically, with a strong presence of acoustic guitars on most tracks. The latter title track departs from this description a bit as it is dominated by organ. Cover art by Mattias Noren.

    Naglfar – Abysmal Descent, Black God Aftermath: More tracks from the punishing Sheol, one of this year’s best releases from the darker side of metal (I’m finding it harder to distinguish between BM and DM these days!). Most of the tracks are fast hard-hitting pieces like the frenzied latter track, but the longer former track exhibits more depth, especially in its midsection.

    Erik Norlander – The Fire Of Change, Tour Of The Sprawl: Best known for his work in Ayreon, this keyboard prodigy tries his own hand at an Electric Castle-style space opera on his latest release…frequent Ayreon contributor Robert Soeterbrook does the vocals on the latter track. Other guests include Virgil Donati and BOC legend Donald Roeser.

    Novembre – Onirica East, Worn Carillion: A favorite among certain members of the UM community, this Italian act balances progressive metal and melodic death as well as anyone. Their drummer Guiseppe Orlando is incredibly skilled, check out his fills on the awesome former track. The latter track from the out of print Arte Novecento contains clean vocals only and some great melodies.

    The Old Dead Tree – We Cry As One, Won’t Follow Him: What do you know, another Tree band has crept into these pages…only difference is that they aren’t prog, at least not explicitly. This is more heavy melancholic stuff that avoids obvious comparisons, although the vaguely nu-metal riffing here prevents me from safely recommending this, although the vocal arrangements are interesting enough and this band definitely shows potential.

    Omnium Gatherum – Death White, Amor Tonight: This Finnish band’s debut Spirits And August Light has been getting some enthusiastic reviews, including one from Digital Metal. The basic sound here is melodic death with some progressive touches, the former track relying on some emotive riffs and good keyboard placement, while the latter is a more immediate track. Both songs available at www.mp3.com

    Pathos – Inject Reject, Suicidal Saviour Lies: Swedish band that has built a strong following with their latest release Katharsis, merging elements of prog, doom, and especially thrash metal. I was a bit critical of this release a few issues back, but the songs therein have grown on me. Both of these tracks have energetic riffs and memorable choruses.

    Persephone’s Dream – Alien Embassy, Aphrodite: Self-described as a “highly visual art rock band”, this Pennsylvania act has produced two albums of highly evocative and atmospheric prog. These two songs from the upcoming release Synesthesia are highly impressive, both being highly ethereal in sound and possessing soaring female vocals, and the latter adds some heaviness into the picture.

    Poisonblack – Illusion/Delusion, The State: More Finnish pseudogoth, featuring members of Sentenced and Charon. Fans of this style should find much to enjoy here, and the emotions expressed here come across as being more authentic than Sentenced’s increasingly self-parodic efforts, but still a bit middling overall. Good use of piano on the latter track.

    Proloud – Last Inhabited Planet, Leave It To Nature: Italian progressive rock that sometimes crosses the line into Dream Theater-inspired prog metal, as on the former track. As evidenced by the song titles, there is a naturalist theme here (maybe not, as I can’t understand the lyrics). The nine-minute latter track contains some impressive instrumental sections, including some Spanish-styled guitar runs.

    Ritual – Breathing, Think Like A Mountain: Highly accomplished Swedish prog rock, their first album for Inside Out goes through a variety of different stylings. The former track is an excellent symphonic ballad whose pace matches the sailing themes in its lyrics, while the harder rocking title track contains some great instrumental interplay and partially distorted vocals.

    Satellite – A Street Between Sunrise And Sunset, Not Afraid: Polish progressive rock band whose debut expresses as a penchant for spacious epics, the title track being one of four on the album, and containing moments reminiscent of Marillion at their most stirring. Unfortunately, the album suffers from the same flaw that brought about that band’s decline: blandness.

    Secret Sphere – Life, Scent Of A Woman: Opinion has been sharply divided on this band’s latest album. Whatever the case, it is simultaneously more diverse and far less focused than the highly regarded A Time Never Come. The two-part former track tries just about every trick in the book, expanding the band’s range and containing some accomplished playing, but also some parts that just sound goofy, like the horns towards the end. And the latter track is a wretched ballad with terrible vocals and no particular redeeming value, at least to this listener.

    Septic Flesh – Red Code Cult, Virtues Of The Beast: This death metal act has been unpredictable over numerous releases, often incorporating psychedelic and orchestral touches…the latter track from their latest Sumerian Demons has a great choral arrangement. The former track contains some crushing riffs and shows this band can be effective without the experiments.

    Spyral – Dried Flowers, The Cleaner: Another intriguing signing on the Progrock Records label, which has been signing bands with a slightly skewed perspective. This German act qualifies, given the mixture of progressive metal with a bass-heavy breakdown and acoustic guitars on the former track, and the latter has hilarious lyrics.

    Sun Caged – Hollow, Closing In: A lucrative deal in the all-important Japanese market has postponed the much-anticipated debut of this Dutch prog metal band, for which Marcel Coenen has assembled a killer lineup. Having heard the album, I can assure you it will be worth the wait. The former track has a great chorus, while the latter is a much-improved reworking of a song from their Dominion EP.
     
  2. Demonspell

    Demonspell cheating the polygraph

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    Tuatha De Danaan – The Last Pendragon, Dance Of The Little Ones: This band is further proof of how music can transcend cultural origins. How’s this for a foreign exchange: a Brazilian band playing metal with heavy Irish folk overtones? Sounds like a bad joke, but this band’s understanding of their chosen influences is apparent in both of these tracks.

    Vanishing Point – Dream Maker, Sunlit Window: This melodic metal act has built a strong following in their native Australia and has gained much positive press everywhere else as well. These two tracks are from their debut In Thought, an album I hold to be more consistent and stronger overall than their accomplished but often thin-sounding Tangled In Dream….new album coming soon.

    Woodenhead – Chef Of The Future, Drop Dead: Jazz-fusion veterans recently signed to one of the Laser’s Edge labels, the loose, wide-ranging sounds on this album should appeal to fans of the genre. The former track has some great rhythm work and uses a horn section effectively, while the latter heads toward prog territory. Be sure to check out the press section on their website, which amusingly mixes the usual kind words from critics and musicians with less kind audience responses.
     

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