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Issue 62 - June 25, 2003

Discussion in 'Songs To Watch' started by Demonspell, Jun 25, 2003.

  1. Demonspell

    Demonspell cheating the polygraph

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    DEMONSPELL’S SONGS TO WATCH
    “Close your eyes and let the thought pass…”
    Issue 62 – June 25, 2003. Brought to you by the letter de.
    www.mp3.com/stations/songstowatch - recent additions:

    Bubblemath – Miscreant Citizen
    R. Sean Faust – Circles
    The Gathering – Liberty Bell
    Lengsel – Opaque
    Mechanical Poet – Frozen Nile
    Nevermore – Enemies Of Reality (In honor of the new album, the next issue will be devoted to the music of Nevermore, featuring a track by track summary of their entire catalogue, including an in-depth report on the new album.)

    Greetings, devoted readers…and for those reading this for the first time (all seven of you), I assure you there will be no slagging of St. Anger. At the risk of forever forsaking what minuscule credibility I have, I think the album is revolutionary…

    …it redefines exactly how gigantic a pile of suck can be. And now, the songs you may have missed while sharpening your cracks at Lars’ drum sound.

    Adagio – From My Sleep To Someone Else, The Mirror Stage: Two tracks from the upcoming album Underworld, from the multinational band that caused a splash among neoclassical/shred fans with their debut. These songs show a noticeable increase in maturity, and are less confined to typical shred procedures, and their new keyboardist kicks ass.

    Alchemist – Older Than The Ancients, Alpha Capella Nova Vega: Described on my listening station as “acid-drenched post-thrash from down under”, and their origins are emphasized on their upcoming Austral Alien (say it fast), which is being touted by Digital Metal as one of the most creative releases of the year. The latter track is indicative of the band’s progressive leanings, and builds towards a powerful conclusion.

    Altura – Alone, One By One: The curse of Magna Carta, who has seemed to be content with making a mockery of progressive rock through an endless series of bloated side projects and tribute albums, strikes again, as this another band that released a promising debut album only to disappear without a trace. Nothing particularly groundbreaking here, though the lengthy former track does contain some excellent musicianship.

    Amaran – Atropine, Primal Nature: Last year’s A World Depraved was my choice for the best debut of 2002 in my year end special, and this band’s followup Pristine In Bondage will be a superior album according to the band, and if these tracks, both of which are loaded with devastating riffs and excellent vocal performances from Johanna, are any indication, they’re right. Former track available at official site.

    Amorphis – Higher Ground, Smithereens: Far From The Sun is far from the return to their earlier heaviness that was predicted by some sources, instead languishing in the same drift that characterized their last two albums. The former track begins with an Eastern-flavored intro that fades into an unremarkable midtempo track. The latter album closer has a great extended outro and is one of the more successful on the album, and their Floyd influences are explicitly stated here (I hear a chord progression lifted from Echoes towards the end.)

    Antimatter – In Stone, Dream: After completing The End’s first package tour, Mick Moss and Duncan Patterson are back with Lights Out. Despite the title, not all is dark on this album, the latter track is an ethereal orchestral track with female vocals. The longer former track is more indicative of their direction, minimal yet expansive and highly melancholic, and features a distorted voice reading poetry towards the end, giving it an unsettling feeling.

    Callenish Circle – Soul Messiah, Your Pain: Melodic death band that has received some comparisons to early Soilwork and At The Gates (the same thing according to some people), their latest My Passion Your Pain should satisfy fans of the genre. The former track contains some great riffs and is available at www.metalbite.com

    Carptree – Host Vs. Graft, Superhero: Another great progressive rock act from Sweden, the country with the world’s largest kickass music per capita ratio. This band has cited Opeth as being among their favorites, and those who enjoyed Damnation would find much to enjoy here, especially the acoustic layering in the latter and the soaring chorus and keyboard coda in the former.

    Cobweb Strange – Sometimes The Shine Just Fades Away, Solitude And The Hollow Promise: Intriguing progressive rock act from the home of progressive metal’s most prestigious festival…Atlanta. The ten-minute latter track is built around a great bassline and alternates between heavy and subdued sections in a manner similar to Crimson, and is available at www.mp3.com

    Dark Suns – Infiltration, The Sun Beyond Your Eden: Yet another release that finds itself in the region between melodic death and doom, and one that displays considerable Opeth influence, but the band has avoided ripoff accusations due to the talent involved and moods evoked, especially on the mournful latter track.

    Death & Taxes – Questions In Question, Frenetic Genetic Overdrive: California based progressive metal band who has put out two self-released albums. The former track is an enegetic instrumental available at www.mp3.com, while the latter displays the band’s considerable skill and features an addictive groove.

    DGM – Hidden Places, Invisible Rain: Italian power/prog act (I have no idea what the initials stand for) who has attracted comparisons to Symphony X with a series of releases. Their latest finds them in less neoclassical territory, the latter track is a capable ballad with some great instrumental sections, and the former title track has a commanding chorus.

    Dreadnaught – Welding, Ballbuster: This eclectic band has received numerous rave reviews for their album The American Standard for their combination of progressive rock with Southern rock, which sounds like a potentially disastrous idea, and it doesn’t always work. But on these two tracks, both instrumental, the band’s manic energy and undeniable talent make for an enjoyable listen.

    Dysrhythmia – Heat Sink, Annihilation I & II: Speaking of instrumental mayhem, this band has built a strong buzz for their debut on Relapse. Pretest is less overtly technical than the earlier No Interference, but the forcefulness of this album (aided by improvements in production) makes up for it, particularly on the two-part track, in which an unbelievable amount of tension is created, and then all hell breaks loose.

    Emocean – The Souls Of Atlantis, Dolphin’s Wake: An ambitious project led by Hubi Meisel, formerly of the underrated prog metal act Dreamscape, and featuring numerous guests, among them Marcel Coenen, who has made the album available for previewing. Both of these tracks have an aquatic atmosphere befitting the concept and some highly detailed arrangements, especially on the former epic, which goes through numerous tempo changes.

    Envy – Endure, Snow: This Denver based act’s debut Sweet Painful Reality is an accomplished one, blending progressive metal with a melancholic and dark feel more typical of bands like recent Katatonia. Both of these tracks are highly emotional in nature, and the former, available at http://www.mp3.com, is distinguished by effective instrumentation and passionate vocals.

    Ephel Duath – The Unpoetic Circle, Praha: The second and third tracks from what is arguably the year’s most progressive release to date, the genre-defying The Painter’s Palette. Each track is subtitled by a different color, but the songs here have so many textures and elements that the descriptions are somewhat misleading. The latter track sees this eclectic ensemble diving headfirst into jazz, the slowly escalating pace and wandering trumpet runs make this instrumental a standout. The former track’s drumming must be heard to be believed…

    Epica – Cry For The Moon, Façade Of Reality: Formerly known as Sahara Dust, this project is Mark Jansen’s first work since departing from After Forever. He doesn’t seem too determined to establish an identity separate from his sister’s band, as the sound here is very similar and he even continues the trilogy began on Prison Of Desire. Luckily, the quality of the music hasn’t diminished, and the latter track contains some unexpected elements. Both songs available at the official site.

    Extol – Blood Red Cover, Scrape The Surface: Tech-death act whose music is often wrongly overshadowed by their fervent religious beliefs, although that didn’t prevent Undeceived from receiving tons of good press and the band receiving a deal with Century Media. Both of these tracks from Synergy contain considerable amounts of aggression and intelligent arrangements, and the latter contains some excellent instrumental passages.

    Heaven’s Cry – The Horde, The Alchemist: With their offbeat arrangements, vocal harmonies, and politically charged lyrics (although rhyming democracy with hypocrisy repeatedly isn’t exactly insightful), comparisons between this Canadian act and Pain Of Salvation come naturally. However, these songs from the soon to be reissued Food For Thought Substitute predate POS’ debut. One of the great neglected prog metal albums of the 90s.

    In Flames – Watch Them Feed, Land Of Confusion: The latest chapter in the decline and fall of the Gothenburg band most likely to succeed (which they have, just not artistically.) is a single (listed as an EP to avoid the commercial connotation) for Trigger with two unreleased tracks. The former isn’t as abominable as the worst songs on RTR, but it still isn’t a set up. As for the latter, like most novelty covers, it’s only worth hearing once.

    Kalmah – Heroes To Us, My Nation: Melodic death act that often receives comparisons with Children Of Bodom, although they are similar in many aspects, I personally think they leave Alexi and company in the dust. The former track from their new release Swampsong (continuing their peculiar obsession) contains some devastating guitar runs and is available on www.centurymedia.de

    Katagory V – Turn To Grey, Chronologic: This band has built a strong following in progressive metal circles, and based on these tracks (both available at the newly launched www.metalagesrecords.com) from the upcoming New Breed Of Rebellion, their standing should increase greatly. The latter track betrays a growing tech-metal approach, featuring some incredibly sharp and aggressive riffing, and the former has a great chorus.

    Krakatoa – Snoopy With Mohawk, Albatross To Betatron: A recent signing on the always adventurous Cuneiform label, longtime specialists in avant-prog and warped jazz. Many of the tracks on their albums are brief snippets of freeform instrumental (the former track does have spoken vocals) but still loaded with detail, coming across as excerpts from an unfinished absurdist symphony.

    Labyrinth – Neverending Rest, Synthetic Paradise: The “comeback” album from the Italian power-prog specialists introduces some changes (the pseudonyms are gone, and it features un-power metal artwork from Travis Smith), but the music here is reminiscent of their earlier breakthrough. The former track is an intricately arranged slower track, while the latter balances power and prog tendencies with great success (after the ridiculous drum machine antics in the intro), and the melody that follows each chorus is gorgeous.

    Man On Fire – Seven Thunders Wide, Two Views: Progrock Records (former song available on their site) signing that has received some rave reviews for their new album The Undefined Design. This is a two man-band, with one member doing vocals and keyboards (the latter track contains some intricate electronic backing) and the other taking care of guitars and fretless bass, which gives much of these songs a loose feel. Definitely a band to look out for, and one that avoids obvious comparisons.

    McGill-Manring-Stevens – Cryptology, Montana Realty Company: This highly accomplished fusion trio’s double album Controlled By Radar, divided into acoustic and electric halves, comes highly recommended. Michael Manring’s astonishing fretless playing dominates, especially on the former track. The slippery acoustic patterns on the latter are great to hear as well.

    Melechesh – Secrets Of Sumerian Sphynxology, Of Mercury And Mercury: Either the second title refers to both the element and the messenger of the gods, or it is meant to poke fun at the “Of blank and blank” cliché. Joking aside, this is a band that is looking to follow in Nile’s footsteps of all-encompassing obsession with Egyptian and Mesopotamian folklore. And they do it surprisingly well.

    Metaconciencia – Paradigma, 1899: Excellent instrumental prog from south of the border. Many of the tracks are built around expert interplay between acoustic and electric guitar (especially prominent on the former) and feature varying degrees of Latin influences. The latter track manages to be heavy and delicate at the same time.

    Morgion – Canticle, Nightfall Infernal: Highly rated among doom fans, this is overwhelmingly depressive material that slowly penetrates your soul and can bring a tear to your eye. The latter track is among the most disarmingly beautiful songs the genre has produced. Both tracks are available at www.mp3.com

    James Murphy – Touching The Earth, Epoch: The great news here is that one of the preeminent figures of thrash is currently in good health and working on new music, including a second Disincarnate album. If you only know him from Testament and Death, these tracks from his solo albums will be revelatory, as both bring out new dimensions in his playing, both are full of soaring leads and the latter has a beautiful melody.

    New Machine – In The Wake, New Horizon: Two-man progressive rock act whose self-titled independent release is a highly accomplished and mature debut. The latter track, available for download at their website, contains an anthemic chorus and skillful use of keyboards, while the more prog-metal leaning latter track contains an excellent instrumental section.

    Novembers Doom – Aura Blue, In Memories Past: Two tracks from The Knowing, the third release from this excellent Dark Symphonies act (the best on the roster now that the band formerly known as Maudlin Of The Well has left.). Paul Kuhr is a great screamer, but on these tracks he tries clean and spoken vocals which work with much success, and the former track is a great MDB-styled extended dirge.

    Passenger – In Reverse, Circus: Anders Friden continues his trajectory into gothpop and modern rock with this badly timed (considering the poor reception given to In Flames’ latest) side project, which apparently serves little purpose other than to further prove that Anders is a poor songwriter and worse vocalist. At least there are little nu-metal elements here. Former track available at www.centurymedia.com, if you care.

    Psychotic Waltz – Out Of Mind, Need: Pioneering tech-metal act whose albums are set to be reissued by Metal Blade Europe later this year. The former track could be the missing link between Fates Warning and Spiral Architect, but with a darker edge all its own. The latter track from their final release Bleeding previews the direction vocalist Devon Graves would take with his Dead Soul Tribe project…their new one A Murder Of Crows is due out next month.
     
  2. Demonspell

    Demonspell cheating the polygraph

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    Queensryche – Open, Rhythm Of Hope: The new album from attracted a surprisingly positive buzz (owing largely to DeGarmo’s contributions, nevermind that he wrote the majority of New Frontier), many calling it their best since Promised Land, which is an empty compliment considering how utterly lifeless the two in between were. While Tribe does show minor improvements and some increase in determination, the results are largely the same watery and middling fare, almost entirely lacking in energy and ambition, making this another disappointment.

    Royal Hunt – Can’t Let Go, Wicked Lounge: I’ve never been a huge fan of these guys who are highly respected in the prog metal community (and they’ve had a number one in Japan), but they definitely have their share of talent. These tracks from the new album Eyewitness are worthy of inclusion IMO. The former finds them ditching the neoclassical approach for a heavier and more immediate sound (although Andre Andersen can’t resist shredding in the intro), and the latter is an amusing diversion, a jazzy tune with satirical lyrics.


    Silent Edge – Through Different Eyes, Lost Conscience: Danish progressive metal act who recently released their debut The Eyes Of The Shadow. The former track (not a Fates Warning cover, available on the official site) is an energetic track that works in a power/prog area, while the latter is an accomplished midtempo track with powerful vocals.

    Singularity – Drive, Flight/Inferno: These songs from this inventive progressive rock band are part of an album-length composition called Between Sunlight and Shadow, which is divided into separate tracks. The former “opener” sounds like David Gilmour collaborating with Kevin Moore, while the latter pair consists of an awesome keyboard solo leading into a heavier, almost prog-metal passage…Arjen Lucassen would be envious of this.

    Spock’s Beard – Onomatopoeia, East Of Eden West Of Memphis: With Nick assuming vocal duties, the scaled back Beard want us to Feel Euphoria on their new one. Feel Nothing is more like it. Why this band is even labeled as progressive rock baffles me, as this album and much of their older releases is comprised almost exclusively of powerless pop and dull and irritating modern rock (both of the tracks mentioned above fall in the latter category) with slight prog tendencies, and they have consistently shown an inability to write coherent songs. Never thought I’d say this, but I actually miss Neal Morse. (At least Transatlantic was moderately interesting!)

    Vital Remains – Infidel, At War With God: Tony Lazaro’s death metal project has roped in the much-despised Glen Benton for their latest release, but it has still received enthusiastic press from many. His tuneless screaming (but what did you expect from metal of this nature?) is secondary to the epic death metal on this release, in which the lethal riffs and constant blastbeats (which dominate the former track) are taken as far as they can go.

    Windir – Dance Of Mortal Lust, 1184: Norwegian Viking metal that could only be the product of intense immersion with the Scandinavian winter and reading native mythology from cover to cover…fans of Finntroll will be impressed with the breakdown in the latter track, although this has a more epic feel to it. Former track available on official site.
     

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