DEMONSPELLS SONGS TO WATCH Scratching the surface to find the best new music Forever mans sins shall survive his earthly demise Issue 73 April 2004 Coming very soon: in-depth reviews of the new Evergrey, Ayreon, Winds, Morgion, and possibly more, plus a concert review of Evergrey. Before I begin, recent incidents on this area of the site have forced me to leave a reminder of what should be obvious: 1. Threads promoting bands, websites, etc. are not allowed on this forum, regardless of content, and will be immediately moved into the appropriate forum (the self-promotion area). 2. Trolling and harassment are strongly discouraged here as they are throughout the UM forums (with a few exceptions that speak for themselves), and posts made for that sole purpose may end up being deleted. This is not to say that negative replies, especially ones about music featured therein, are not permitted, but if you need to express disagreement with the opinions presented here, do it intelligently. And now, the songs: After Forever Blind Pain, Two Sides: Invisible Circles, a concept album with intensely personal themes, is the third for this leading beauty and the beast act and first without primary songwriter Mark Jansen. While the bands trademark orchestral arrangements have not suffered too much and Floors vocals are as stunning as they were on the first two, the songs here are not quite as memorable. Autumnblaze Nature Of Music, I Shiver: This is a melancholic rock act along the lines of Anathema, though not nearly as accomplished songwriters. But this material is still very engaging at times, especially the former track, available at www.prophecy.cd, whose lyrics discuss how one relates to music in a thoughtful manner. Big Big Train High Tide Last Stand, The Road Much Further On: Gathering Speed, the latest album for this British prog act, is a concept album about a doomed pilot in the Battle of Britain. While the songs fall short of the drama needed to service the story, they do have their strengths, especially melodically, and capture the aura of early Genesis, particularly in their more pastoral mode. Blaze Alive, Life And Death: The much-maligned former Maiden vocalist has been very productive since being forced out five years ago, this is his third album with his eponymous band. While this will not win any points for originality, there is little to dispute the fact that Blaze sounds more comfortable here than he does in Maiden, and the former track is suitably energetic. Broken Social Scene Almost Crimes, Shampoo Suicide: This Toronto-based collective has received much critical attention for their latest release. Musically, this blends elements of melancholic shoegazer rock and post-rock with mixed results, the latter tracks escalating harmonies and the instantly likable melody of the former are highlights. Cerberus Shoal Asphodel, Cool Change: This avant-garde act, known for heavily improvised live shows (the jazzy latter track is one of several glimpses into their performances available on their website), has received some good press and is currently on a mini-tour with Kayo Dot. Not all is complex, the former track is largely acoustic but still a few miles from straightforward. Divertigo Inconceivable, Of Logic: progressive rock act who has put out several independent releases, these songs are from an EP called Human Chemicals. Both of these are rather inventive in their arrangements, the latter begins with heavy keyboard ambiance before developing into a more melodic but still mysterious sounding composition, while the former has both heavy and acoustic parts with no clear relation to each other. Both songs available at official site. Emancer Invisible, Dead End: Reader recommended progressive extreme metal act with two albums to their name so far. The former title track from their latest is modern black metal with heavy electronic elements, evoking bands like Borknagar to an extent. The latter is a heavier offering, both tracks available at the official site. Eyes Of Fire Empty, Last Goodbye: This bands Ashes To Embers has been one of the surprise releases of 2004 for me, it is clearly rooted in hardcore but carries a heavy emotional weight to it and the arrangements are almost progressive in nature, especially on the extended latter closing track, an appropriate catharsis to the album. The formers buildup and repeated coda is an emotional highpoint. Finntroll Trollhammaren, Ursvamp: Having survived the accidental death of their guitarist last year, everyones favorite beer-swilling Finns return with their third full-length (a relative term as their first album was less than a half hour.) While the songs are undeniably catchy and the former track, available at www.centurymedia.de, shows a slight amount of progression, this band will probably always be little more than a frivolous diversion for me. The Gak Omek Black Holes Colliding, Here Comes The Aluminum Man: Dont ask, I have no idea what the seemingly nonsensical name means. This independent release consists mostly of instrumental space rock, the opening former track having some great keyboards and appropriate atmosphere. Latter track available at official site. Gojira Deliverance, Inward Movement: This French band has received some rave reviews for their latest release, The Link. Musically, it merges elements of black metal and hardcore, with particular success on the latter track, which also features some impressively hyperactive drumming. The former track is also very powerful. Latter track and others available at the official site, in an embedded player. The Great Deceiver Today, Worm Of Truth: The latest in a line of virtually endless projects featuring Tomas Lindberg, although this is a pronounced departure as it bears no resemblance to anything Gothenburg and his voice is barely recognizable at points, especially on the latter track. Musically, this goes for a more modern and adventurous sound. Hearse Cambodia, Armageddon Mon Amour: Again this has a connection to the melodeath scene, as this features ex-Arch Enemy vocalist Johan Liiva, whose formerly monotonous growls have improved a bit here. This should satisfy fans disappointed with his former bands current direction, the former has a driving pace to it and the latters closing guitar solos are impressive. Hypocrisy The Departure, Slave To The Parasites: Might as well have three consecutive melodeath entries, there wont be too many after this. The Arrival has been marked as a return to the form for these veterans, and the band certainly sounds at the top of their game, particularly on the latter track (available at www.nuclearblastusa.com), which has a commanding chorus from Peter Tagtgren, who will be replacing Mikael on the next Bloodbath album. Ice Age A Fine Line, Little Bird: New York based-band recently freed from the creatively restrictive Magna Carta label, and of the bombastic but soulful progressive rock of their previous releases. While these tracks arent entirely devoid of prog influences (the former sounds a bit like Kings X, who they have opened for), the melodic structures and lyrical content are clearly owed to more mainstream fare, particularly on the formers annoying chorus. Insomnium Daughter Of The Moon, Closing Words: OK, this is starting to look like a last wave of melodic death special, so Ill stop now wait, these guys actually do have something worthwhile to offer on their newest one. Naturally, this does sound derivative at times, and the acoustic passages sound like an Opeth rehearsal, but the musicianship here is far ahead of the legions of At The Gates clones out there. Katagory V: One Last Time, A Peaceful Act Of Terrorism: Youve probably seen the ads for their new one A New Breed Of Rebellion on this site, and this is definitely worthy of your attention, especially if your interests lean towards progressive metal. The provocatively titled latter track reminds of Queensryche in their prime, anchored by some impressive bass playing. The former track is a ballad that uses symphonic elements to great effect. Kinski Fell Asleep On My Lawn, Semaphore: Another interesting discovery in my excursion into post-rock, this largely instrumental act is highly adept at creating lengthy instrumental tracks that sustain attention despite minimal variation. The former track (from a collaborative release) contains some heavy sections, while the latter has a riff that demands instant recognition, a rarity in this genre. Liquid Scarlet Hesitating In The Foyer, Comes Near Lingers Far: Swedish progressive rock act whose self-titled debut evokes both their countrymen Anekdoten and common influence King Crimson. Much like the former, the vocals are largely secondary, but the music hardly suffers, as it is full of the expected dissonant riffs and vintage keyboards, and is often highly emotional. Lux Nova Umbra Est Laughing Babylon, Wo Ist Das Licht: This is a side project of the highly inventive instrumental prog act Djam Karet. Their debut EP consists of three extended compositions joined by brief interludes. The former track is reminiscent of their main bands elastic soundscapes, and includes some well-placed samples, while the latter is heavier, bordering on progressive metal. Necrophagist To Breathe In A Casket, Culinary Hyperversity: Ive seen this name show up in death metal related conversation quite often, and what this band presents is not the nonstop gore splattering youd expect from the name and song titles. While it is certainly harsh, theres a strong sense of dynamics at work here, particularly the guitar harmonies that dominate the latter track. Ozric Tentacles Slinky, Toka Tola: After a long hiatus, the prolific masters of space rock are back with Spirals In Hyperspace. Like nearly all of their post-1995 releases, theres not much tweaking of their familiarly tweaked formula, but the trademark hypnotic atmosphere is there, and the electronic textures are still alternately soothing and trippy. I would say its worth buying, but since its on Magna Carta, dont give them any more money. Peccatum Desolate Ever After, In The Bodiless Heart: Dubiously immortalized in the 101 rules of black metal, this side project of Ihsahn and wife has long carried a poor reputation, which Lost In Reverie aims to change. The former track, available at www.theendrecords.com, consists of abstract symphonics, which sound ominous at times, but never really develop into anything cohesive. The second track fares much better, sounding akin to The Gathering at times, still highly pretentious but not without charm. Proto-Kaw Axolotl (for lack of a better name), Theophany: Not your typical reunion album, the condensed story is as follows: early, more musically adventurous incarnation of Kansas records new compositions after over thirty years apart. While a certain amount of pomp is unavoidable, it is musically impressive and full of prog tendencies (especially on the nearly 12-minute latter track), and the former has a highly memorable chorus. Pyramaze Sleepy Hollow, The Journey: Power/prog metal act featuring former Balance Of Power vocalist Lance King, who doesnt sound quite as shrill as he occasionally did in that band. These tracks are definitely competent, the former having its share of powerful riffs, but theres a more of the same feeling here, even if it avoids being obviously formulaic. Former track available at www.intromental.com Seldons Inquisitor Why Not?, Conflict: Independent progressive rock act from the Boston area with several self-released albums. The former title track balances heavy and quirky sections in an interesting manner, adding some deft counterpoint vocals at times. The lengthy latter track begins as a slow paced duet, which leads into a more anthemic sounding middle before going back into symphonic prog mode for the conclusion. Spastic Ink Aquanet, Words For Nerds: Many years in the making, delayed endlessly, featuring tons of guests, Ron Jarzombeks long waited Ink Compatible extravaganza is here. While the first one was completely instrumental, the former, available at the official site, adds vocals from Watchtower mate Jason McMaster that makes the song sound like a cross between tech-metal and Among The Living-era Anthrax. Theres also a heavy dose of humor here, the former having amusing lyrics about the Internet and the latter an amusing spoken part about the same subject. Sylvan So Easy, Fearless: X-Rayed is the fourth album from this German progressive rock act. This band has a penchant for basing their songs in neo-prog arrangements and adding unexpected elements to them, including some heavier leanings, evident on the latter track, and both tracks register emotionally very well. The Thought Industry The Measure Of Our Miles, Interstellar Fix 2056: Ive only heard the most recent album (2001s Short Wave On a Cold Day) from this highly regarded and idiosyncratic progressive metal-turned-rock act, I intend to change that soon. What said album consists of is highly engaging alternative rock with strong prog tendencies with no clear parallels (the latter heads into space rock territory) and bizarre stream of consciousness lyrics. Tiamat Divided, Carry Your Cross : Prey is their latest release, and I find it to be more satisfying than their recent missteps, though at times the band seems to be stumbling for inspiration. The former track does create a good atmosphere while its playing, but doesnt stand up to repeated listens. The latters chorus is assisted by a well-placed female vocal. Tiles Window Dressing, Capture The Flag: Another long period between albums, another defection from Magna Carta, both business as usual in the progressive rock world. Long accused of being Rush imitators, the influence is still there right down to a Hugh Syme visual pun for the cover art, but neither of these lengthy, musically complex tracks bear too much outward resemblance, and both use acoustic guitar to a great extent. TOC The Window, Acid Highway: Formerly known as Throne Of Chaos, these Finnish oddballs have went in what Inside Out calls psychedelic progressive metal for their dreadfully titled Loss Angeles. The former track does live up to that description, though more conventional than truly weird. The latter track combines hard rock with the experimental elements to good effect, and the chorus is highly infectious. Vehemence By Your Bedside, What Could Go Wrong?: Heavily promoted on this site and elsewhere around the net, this band has quickly become a leading force in death metal, their debut received lots of rave reviews and the new one Helping The World To See looks like an improvement over it. The former track is full of devastating riffs, and the chorus is suitably crushing, only the vocals prevent me from giving this highest recommendations. Former track available at www.metalblade.com Warhorse Doomsbride, Total Eclipse: Recently disbanded doom metal act on the Southern Lord label. The former track, available on the label site, is typical of SLs output: slow and monolithic in its power. The latter track is one of those Maiden covers that will polarize fans, as the song is slowed to a crawl and the lyrics are delivered in a manner entirely unlike the original. Yume Bitsu I Wait For You, Frigid Frigid Body: Another recent post-rock discovery with several albums to their name. The former track is a sleepy composition with a delicate melody and a dreamlike atmosphere, while the latter (not the complete title) heads into the never-ending land with the detached instrumental excursion typical of the genre, the full track lasts for nearly twenty minutes.