DEMONSPELLS SONGS TO WATCH Singing tomorrow, the unholy verse of this threnody Issue 67 - Written October 8-10, 2003 www.mp3.com/stations/songstowatch - recent additions: none. Rumours of mp3.coms demise have been greatly exaggerated I hope. Akacia Hold Me, An Other Life: Canadian progressive rock act whose debut consists of four songs, two of which are multipart compositions. The former track has some stirring sections and a great organ solo, and the parts of the latter title epic flow seamlessly. Samples available at www.mp3.com Akercocke Becoming The Adversary, Leviathan: These British black metallers have gained attention for their overt Satanism and deliberately raw sound. Both the imagery and the sound of their debut are still present on Choronzon judging by its cover and the former track, but the latter, available at www.digitalmetal.com, is a definite advancement and heads into more adventurous territory, and uses mostly clean vocals over its eight minutes. Always Almost Airs And Envy, Aspirations: A project formed by members of Echolyn during the acclaimed proggers sabbatical. The former track is a delicate ballad with similar vocal harmonies, and credit must be given to any band daring enough to cover Gentle Giant, legendary for creating obscenely complicated arrangements, which they do on the latter. The delicate melody of the original is preserved, and an instrumental variation on its main theme is added. Arena The Hour Glass, Contagious: In a clever move, these British prog stalwarts have planned two EPs (the second isnt out yet) to complement their concept album Contagion, complete with notes that indicate where the nonalbum tracks fit into the concept. Musically, the latter track is an atmospheric instrumental and the former is as good as anything on the album proper, especially its highly emotional coda. Both songs available at official site. Atmosfear Feardrops, Thinking Progressive: A recent signing to the Progrock Records label, this German band plays progressive metal with all the expected influences, but the songs are strong enough to avoid being dismissed easily, even if the latters refrain does come across as being somewhat insincere. The former track successfully adds a darker element and has a powerful chorus. Cloudscape Under Fire, As The Light Leads The Way: Another unsigned as of this writing progressive metal band whose demo has been receiving some positive attention. The keyboard sound on this is a bit annoying, but otherwise solid if lacking in originality. Both tracks feature the expected anthemic choruses and accomplished musicianship. Latter track available at official site. Condition Red Your Freedom, Why Wont You Hear Me: Second album for this project led by Swedish shredder Lars Eric Mattsson, who wisely elects not to focus on his chops on these tracks (although the latter features a solo guitar piece as its prelude), instead letting the arrangements and female vocals take priority. The former tracks mideastern-tinged melody works nicely, and the latter showcases Ella Grussners vocal prowess. Discipline Circuitry, Homegrown: A well-regarded prog act with two independently released albums to its name and a penchant for writing epic tracks. Neither of these are too long however, and the latter is especially thoughtful and has a great piano-led melody and hopeful chorus. The former shows the bands instrumental muscle. Divertigo Fall Together, Meeting In The Valley: One of several unsigned acts to get much-needed exposure through the Progpower sampler, which this year is full of promising talent. Both of these tracks are impressive, the former being a mostly acoustic piece that slowly builds in tension and has an excellent heavy break in the middle. Both songs available at official site. Divina Enema The Darkest Hour, Impyre Concord: Avant garde metal that is sure to cause reactions of either disbelief or disgust, the Arcturus-like vocals being a definite acquired taste and featuring bewildering (some would say uncomposed) arrangements. The former track does have a strong dramatic build and some eerie moments. Both tracks available at www.mp3.com Einherjer The Eternally Damned, Ironbound: These Viking metal veterans are set to plunder again after an extended layoff with the newly released Blot. The former track, one of three previewed on the official site prior to release, features a savage lead riff. The latter track, for which a video is in production, is an excellent track with a martial tempo sure to please fans of the genre. Electric Wizard The Outsider; I, The Witchfinder: Doom metal of the directly descended from Sabbath variety, taken to an almost unbearable if logical extreme. These songs are lengthy monoliths of incredibly thick and sludgy riffing, and the shouted vocals are occasionally so far down in the recording they sound like the screams of one buried alive. Ensiferum Goblins Dance, Windrider: This self-titled debut represents the more accessible end of Viking metal without sacrificing artistry or native identity, as the insanely catchy chant and heavy folk underpinnings on the former proves. The latter leans more towards energetic melodic death, with acoustic sections being deftly incorporated. Evoken Embrace The Emptiness, Withering Indignation: More pummeling doom to inspire self-immolation in listeners everywhere. The latter track, available at www.mp3.com, is a bleak and suicidal dirge that will appeal to fans of the genre, and the former title track from their debut is another brutal offering that holds its intensity for eleven minutes. Farquhar Mummy Wheat, With Her Hounds Blazing: In a word, eclectic the list of possible influences given in this bands entry on www.proggnosis.com says more than I possibly could. The former track begins with robotic vocals and gets more insane, while the latter is even more twisted musically, ending with a menacing voice reciting poetry over frightening instrumentation. Foe Triangulator, Pick On God For A Good Laugh: Ill open my entry on this British act by proclaiming that the latter track has the best song title Ive ever heard. J Of course, it also has to make an impression musically to get mentioned here, and this qualifies, being an aggressive nine-minute Crimsonesque instrumental piece. Both songs available at official site. Grimfist No Compromise, Ghouls Of Grandeur: The ferocious former track introduces this bands mission with unyielding force: purely aggressive black metal, and in terms of being deliberately regressive beat Bloodbath at their own game. Immortals Horgh gets ample opportunity to beat the shit out of his drumset throughout. Hidria Spacefolk Terra Hidria, I-Mantra: This Finnish space prog act is sure to gain additional exposure by securing an opening slot at next years Nearfest (and you thought Glenn booked bands far in advance!) The former track opens their debut Symbiosis, and incorporates middle eastern elements in a similar fashion to Ozric Tentacles, and the latter track features some blazing instrumental sections. Himinbjorg Lonely, The Great Time With The Grass: The title of the latter track inevitably leads to stoner imagery, but the song is actually black metal all the way, even if its refrain sounds unintentionally hilarious to these ears. The former track from these French black metallers heads in a different direction, making heavy and effective use of acoustic guitar. Into Eternity Splintered Visions, Beginning Of The End: Based on these tracks, Buried In Oblivion is going to be a significant evolution from last years stunning Dead Or Dreaming album. The former track, offered on the latest CM compilation, opens with a killer dual lead and proceeds to develop into an awesome display of technical yet visceral metal, while the latter finds balance between the bands death influences and melodic instincts in a highly original manner. The vocal arrangements have also become more versatile. Mercury Tide Souls Of The Ocean, Why?: This gathering of journeymen, led by former Angel Dust frontman Dirk Thurisch, has been getting mostly negative reviews, and from what Ive heard theres not much metal to be found here. However, the former track did surprise me by being an emotive and delicate ballad, but still far from a necessity. Moonspell Crystal Gazing, In And Above Man: Portugals most prominent goth act has been a frequent target for ridicule over the past few years, and much of it has been deserved Fernando in particular has one of the worst voices in metal. While hardly a breakthrough, these songs from The Antidote are at least not as inept as earlier offerings, and the former actually has a decent atmosphere to it. Mythologic Battled Beliefs, In Solitude: Another band who gained much-needed attention through a spot on the Progpower sampler, the distinguishing factor in this band is its use of female vocals, which are especially powerful on the chorus of the latter. The musicianship is also impressive here, avoiding the flashy nature of many progressive metal acts. Necrodeath Churchs Black Book, Bloodstain Pattern: Italian death metal act whose music isnt as redundant as its name suggests. The latter track, from the ridiculously titled new album Ton(e)s of Hate, is a dynamic offering with tons of great riffs, available at www.metalexpress.no The former track also features its share of tenacious riffing, and ends with a laundry list of inquisitorial actions. Pandemonium Descending Shadows, Traces Of A Midwinter Drama: This bands debut Insomnia has received frequent promotion through its startup label on this site, and I believe they deserve the exposure. Both of these songs successfully bridge the gap between melodic death and progressive metal, with excellent use of countering vocal styles and keyboards. The arrangements also sound fresh to these ears, especially on the lengthy latter track. Parallel Or 90 Degrees Space Junk, Unforgiving Skies: Now going by the shortened name PO90, I discovered these British proggers indirectly through leader Andy Tillisons participation in The Tangent (see last issue). Both of these tracks are of a decidedly bleak nature, the former track making heavy use of electronic textures while the latter develops from a quite intro in a stirring reflective piece. Both songs available at official site. Pineapple Thief Doppler, Vapour Trails: More from this enigmatic British act who could be described as an alternative act with heavy prog tendencies, or vice versa either way leader Bruce Soord is an excellent songwriter, and both of these tracks are intelligently constructed, and the lengthy instrumental sections help build a disarming atmosphere. This band also excels at writing memorable choruses, the former track being a great example. Second Sufis Space Ghost, The Seven Rays: This duo creates atmospheric space rock of a very high caliber, characterized by lengthy improvisations, polyrhythmic percussion, and a guitar tone that sounds submerged in water. Very intriguing music, samples available at official site. Symmetry Journey Into The Unknown, Dark Horizons: Dutch progressive metal band who recently performed at Progpower Europe and has released a demo of new material that greatly improves on previous efforts. The former track is an excellent tech-metal offering with a jazz influence present in the extended instrumental sections, and the latter has great use of backing vocals in its memorable chorus. Syzygy The Allegory Of Light, Industryopolis: Formerly known as Witsend, this bands mostly instrumental second release has been gaining some enthusiastic reviews. The former title track, a three-part suite lasting for over twenty minutes, contains many moments of impeccable musicianship drawing from a variety of influences, and the latter instrumental is further proof of the bands skill. Theocracy The Healing Hand, Theocracy: By now youre tired of looking at the banner promoting their debut, and the combination of power metal and Christian themes on an equally grand scale is sure to turn off many. But this is an extremely ambitious debut (leader Matt Smith performs everything on the album), and the former track succeeds in being an elaborately constructed epic. Thieves Kitchen De Profundis, Spiral Bound: On their third release Shibboleth, these British proggers retain the epic atmospheres of their previous albums but make a major change by drafting female vocalist Amy Darby, who complements the material nicely. The former track is an epic composition with some great organ work, while the latter is a mournful ballad. Thyrane Dance In The Air, Human Weed: Described as industrial metal, but what this really amounts to is heavy synth layering (most effective on the former track) over fairly standard song structures. Nonetheless, this is enjoyable on the simplest of levels, but questionable compositionally. Tiamat Wings Of Heaven, Light In Extinction: Hoping to rebound from the negative reception given to last years Judas Christ, Johan Edlund and company return with Prey next month. Both of these tracks capture the atmosphere of their previous releases, and Johans signature voice is in fine form. Latter track available at www.metalexpress.no Tomorrows Eve Live Your Dream, If Eyes Turn Blind: German power/prog act who has released several albums, their most recent one is starting to get some attention. The latter track has a memorable lead riff and chorus, and the legthy former track goes through a variety of sections. Tripod Incident, Dance Of The Kabuki: The introduction on this bands website says it all: a trio with no guitars or keyboards. But the band makes for their absence with expert interplay between the lead bass (especially powerful on the latter), drums, and saxophones, which in turn adds to the originality of the proceedings here. Tub Ring Invalid, Numbers: This is one of those bands that is impossible to describe in the limited space this columns format allows, and draws from an eclectic array of influences. The latter song is marked by a tricky arrangement and some Mike Patton-ish vocal stylings, while the former is surprisingly pop friendly well, almost. Both songs available at www.mp3.com Ulver excerpts from Svidd Neger: Garm continues to work in mysterious ways. His latest EP is a soundtrack to a Norwegian film. The music on these sixteen short pieces touches on both electronica and modern classical, and conveys a wide variety of stark moods. Standouts include the wall of sound on Rock Massif, Waltz Of King Karl, which starts at the tempo suggested by its title but quickly takes on new forms, and the jazz-noirish Surface. Vital Remains At War With God, Entwined By Vengeance: Dismiss Dechristianize because of Glen Bentons participation (admittedly he is the weak link here and I wish there were less vocals) and youll miss out on the years best death metal albums. Both tracks are nonstop spectacles of savage riffing and equally insane blasting that garb the listener by the throat for their lengthy durations. Wolverine Tied With Sin, New Best Friends: After reluctantly electing to rerecord Cold Light Of Monday, their first release on the Elitist label, the album is set for release in November. Based on these tracks, the album heads in a less technical and more emotive direction than on The Window Purpose, both led by outstanding vocals by Stefan Zell and minimal but powerful arrangements. Latter track available at the Elitist site.