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Issue 77 - September 13, 2004

Discussion in 'Songs To Watch' started by Demonspell, Sep 13, 2004.

  1. Demonspell

    Demonspell cheating the polygraph

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    DEMONSPELL’S SONGS TO WATCH

    Scratching the surface to find the best new music.

    “Is it a passion, or just an obsession?”

    Issue 77 – September 13, 2004



    Dead Soul Tribe – The January Tree overview



    It took five years after Psychotic Waltz’s last album for the former Buddy Lackey (by now I shouldn’t have to explain the name change, but I think both are pseudonyms) to emerge with a new identity, but he has made up for the inactivity by releasing three albums in rapid succession, plus a major role on Ayreon’s The Human Equation. 2002’s Dead Soul Tribe was an impressive and wide-ranging debut, and last year’s A Murder Of Crows refined the approach on that disc and resulted in one of 2003’s most consistent albums. The January Tree seeks to combine the impact of that album with the former one’s diversity, and succeeds in that regard as all ten songs sound different and highly inspired. Spiders And Flies opens things with a massive bass line and keeps up the intensity of the previous album while sounding just as tight instrumentally, and the next two tracks (Sirens & The Love Of Hate) follow suit, the latter possessing a memorable chorus: “Hate can only create more hate”. Which is the truth. Then we get arguably the album’s best song in Why? There are tons of great riffs here, excellent use of counterpoint by the keyboards, provocative antiwar lyrics, and most importantly a chorus that demands instant recognition. The Coldest Days Of Winter is less than four minutes, but builds like an epic and has a top-notch vocal melody. Wings Of Faith is one of the more experimental tracks here, it is anchored by an insistent techno beat, features tribal percussion, and the vocals are mixed back, which gives the track a distant feel. Speaking of the drumming, Abel Moustafa’s work here is outstanding. He adds a polyrhythmic aspect to the second of the two heavier tracks that follow, Waiting For An Answer, which also has a great midsection and an addictive chorus. Toy Rockets is another fine track, and the intro with Devon playing flute over the song’s explosive lead riff is a definite highlight. Two slower tracks close the disc. The first is Just Like a Timepiece, originally featured on Buddy’s 1993 solo album. His admiration for Jethro Tull is easily apparent on this expertly arranged track which also includes some fascinating lyrical imagery. The last track Lady Of Rain features piano as the lead instrument, and ends the disc in contrast to the way it began.



    Abydos – Silence, Wild Flower Sky: Solo conceptual project from Vanden Plas frontman Andy Kuntz, originally envisioned as a theatrical production. Both of these tracks suffer from overdramatics at times (though not as badly as the ballads which bring painful memories of Savatage to mind), but also have more drive than his main band’s last lackluster album.



    Acid Mothers Temple – Diamond Doggy Peggy, Virginal Plane: These guys are a incredibly prolific (over a dozen releases in various formations over the past five years if I recall correctly) Japanese space rock collective. They specialize in lengthy, trippy compositions that are equal parts cosmic meandering and psychedelic rituals, and the otherworldly chanting on the former adds to the meditative feel.



    After Forever – Through Square Eyes, Sins Of Idealism: Invisible Circles is the third act from one of the best known beauty and the beast acts, and deals with the subject of abortion in its lyrics. While this release is a disappointment following their first two, it does have its share of decent tracks, and the former has some of their best vocal arrangements to date.



    Angra – Temple Of Hate, Angels And Demons: Three years after their successful comeback with Rebirth, Angra returns with Temple Of Shadows, their first narrative concept album. Unfortunately, their uniqueness is largely sacrificed for the generic power metal they had usually avoided in the past, the former being so close to the Helloween/Gamma Ray blueprint that you expect Kai Hansen to make an incongruous cameo…holy shit, he actually does. The latter is slightly better and the chorus is sort of engaging, but it is nowhere close to their best work.



    Asmegin – Valgalder, Blodhevn: Viking metal act whose debut release Him Vordende Sod & So has gained a strong reception from followers of the genre. Most of the band’s compositions lean towards the folk-oriented side of their genre, evident on the former track which closes the album.



    Asrai – Touch In The Dark, Restless: Yet another female-fronted psuedo-gothic band from (where else?) the Netherlands, this one seems to be chasing the same market that Lacuna Coil has won over in the past year, only without an annoying male singer. The former track aims fro a huge cathartic chorus and almost succeeds, while the latter adds some electronic elements, and almost succeeds.



    Behold The Arctopus – You Will Be Reincarnated…, Sensory Amusia: Like virtually any truly progressive act covered in these pages, this band is better heard than described, in this case the instrumental tech-metal created by these demented professors makes Spiral Architect sound almost sane in comparison, both tracks will leave your head spinning for hours afterward and are energetic beyond words. Only two very short EPs to date, sign these guys. Both tracks available at official site.



    Beyond Dawn – Cigarette, Certain Qualities: This band began life as a doom metal band but quickly moved on towards a more diverse and experimental sound. On these tracks from their curiously titled Electric Sulking Machine, the band’s eclectic tastes are on display, the latter matching swirling guitars to an unusual vocal arrangement and the former relying on electronic elements and featuring horns during the chorus. Both songs available at official site.



    Bloodbath – Outnumbering The Day, Eaten: Along with many others, I’m convinced that Resurrection Through Carnage would have been totally ignored if it had been made by nobodies instead of luminaries. On its followup, Mikael Akerfeldt is replaced by another Swedish metal icon, Peter Tagtgren. The chorus of the latter is very reminiscent of Hypocrisy, while the Anders-penned former track, available at www.centurymedia.com, also doesn’t get far beyond homage, but still sounds a bit fresher than the last album did.



    California Guitar Trio – Relative Illusion, Ghost Riders On The Storm: Whitewater is the fifth album (not counting numerous live releases) from these apprentices of Sir Robert Fripp. The former instrumental combines acoustics with ambient extures, and makes for nice background music. The latter track is a highly entertaining medley of a Western theme you probably know by sound if not by name and a Doors classic I’ve always loved.



    Chain – Cities, Eama Hut: Second project from Henning Pauly under this name, whose tendencies towards writing multilayered compositions reaches a new extreme with the massive production that is the former track, lasting 38 minutes and containing over 150 tracks. The end result is probably what would happen if Arjen Lucassen wrote an album-length track, while it could have easily been separated there are enough themes here to keep the listener interested.



    Communic – Conspiracy In Mind, Ocean Bed: Yet another recent signing to Nuclear Blast, but this Norwegian one is actually good if not revolutionary. This band plays the type of aggressive, slightly progressive metal in the mold of Nevermore or Sanctuary, the vocals on the latter sound very close to Warrel at points and the slashing riffs are also reminiscent of those eternally linked bands.



    Demonoid – Wargods, Firestorms: Therion mastermind Christoffer Johnson is the latest person to use a side project to recapture his death metal origins, and this does fall into the category of being technically strong (both of these tracks have some great riffs and true to form, a few symphonic tendencies show up) but emotionally uninvolving. Samples available at www.nuclearblast.de



    Elend – A Wounded Sailor, Laceration: This band has been around for about a decade, but these tracks are my only exposure to them so far. On these tracks from their most recent release Winds Devouring Men, they break almost completely with metal for a highly depressing symphonic sound. The latter track from their upcoming Sunwar The Dead, billed by Prophecy as being a darker contrast to Winds, uses orchestral elements in similar fashion, but has the atmosphere is indeed different. Judge for yourself at www.prophecyproductions.com



    Falkenbach – Galdralag, Into The Ardent Awaited Land…: Two from the first of three albums by this one-man Viking metal project. Both of these tracks head in the epic direction pioneered by Quorthon and practiced by bands like Moonsorrow, sounding huge and heroic, and the droning clean vocals contrast well with the atmosphere of the music. The former is one of their more aggressive and directly BM-influenced compositions.



    Fates Warning – Simple Human, Left Here: The imaginatively titled X is their first album in four years, and will be the last for the drummer influential in transforming their sound, Mark Zonder. The former track will sound familiar to anyone who owns Disconnected as it picks up where that album’s modern hard rockers left off. The latter track is a more progressive but still concise piece, featuring heavy use of electronic rhythms (very similar to OSI), soaring vocals from Ray Alder, and an acoustic solo to fade things out. Former track available at www.metalblade.com (why are they still on that label?)



    Gazpacho – 117, Beach House: Norwegian prog-pop band with two albums to their name, these being from this year’s Where Earth Lets Go. They share their name with a mid-period Marillion song, and while that influence is evident here, the songs here head in a more modern direction, especially the atmospheric electronic-heavy former track. The latter track is a more upbeat composition with some memorable guitar harmonies. Entire album available at www.weedstash.com (further details about ten bands down).



    Harlots – Famine, The Mother Of Harlots: This band has the distinction of being the first signing to a label I can’t recall at this moment, who has made their entire release available to download. Musically, the former track falls firmly into the –core category I’m always skeptical about, particularly the more technical variety that I come the closest to identifying with. The latter tries something different, a spacey instrumental track with voice samples.



    Hidria Spacefolk – Astroban, Tarapita: Balansia is the third release from these Finnish space rockers who were a surprise hit occupying an opening slot at this year’s Nearfest. Musically, this is much in the same vein as their previous albums, lengthy prog instrumentals with cosmic guitar work and ethnic instrumentation. The latter closing track goes through quite a few moods over its 14 minutes.



    Hourglass – Altered State, The Hammer Strikes: Subconscious is the second release from this Utah-based progressive metal act who have received their share of enthusiastic press. The latter track shows off both their melodic sense and their instrumental ability over a lengthy solo section that takes up the majority of the track, while the former is a heavier and more compact offering.



    Lamb Of God – Laid To Rest, What I’ve Become: Along with Mastodon (see below) and Dillinger Escape Plan, this one of the most anticipated modern metal releases of the year, though advance buzz wasn’t as fierce for this one, partly due to its major label affiliation (the back cover sports an anti-piracy warning). On these tracks from Ashes Of The Wake, available at their Sony webpage, their debt to thrash is apparent (Chris Poland and Alex Skolnick make guest appearances on the album) and the bruising riffs that dominate their albums are as lethal as ever.



    Lyranthe – Paraphilia, Pharaoh’s Call: This band is one of the first signings to the newly formed prog label Lone Wolf Music, which has done some promotion on this site. Both of these songs are lengthy tracks that avoid sounding derivative and are musically accomplished and the latter track contains a memorable chorus, though the vocals may be an acquired taste. Entire album available at www.weedstash.com, an artist community that allows sampling of Windows Media files on a trail basis).



    Mastodon – Seabeast, Hearts Alive: Stupid pun alert: The riffs on this album are as heavy as a whale…if you’ve been harpooned by the massive buzz surrounding Leviathan, you’ll know why I’m using these dumb analogies. Judging by the force of the former track, the hype is justified. What keeps this band from becoming another metalcore act is their rhythmic strengths (the drumming here is all over the place) and their dynamics, evident on the Sabbath-infused latter track, their attempt at an epic.



    Megadeth – The Scorpion, Tears In A Vial: Although it would take a masterpiece comparable to Rust to fully atone for the last two worthless albums, The System Has Failed should at least ensure that Dave Mustaine doesn’t follow Metallica in becoming the laughing stock of metal. The former track, available at www.metalexpress.no, has already divided some fans, but aside from the lame outro, it’s a solid track that finds Dave reclaiming the identity he desperately needs. The latter track is similarly strong and the riffs are the sharpest they’ve been in a long time.



    Mercenary – 11 Dreams, Sharpen The Edges: This Danish progressive death metal act was brought out of relative obscurity by a well received set at last year’s Progpower, and earlier this year they signed with Century Media. 11 Dreams finds them building on the prog/melodic death/thrash hybrid they pursued on Everblack. The latter title track is full of insistent riffing, raspy but addictive vocals on the choruses, and subtle keyboard use. It also succeeds in utilizing these ideas in longer compositions (half the songs on the album are in the 7-8 minute range). The latter track adds some doom elements to their sound, and its atmosphere is similar to that on Dreaming Neon Black, which coming from me is a gigantic compliment.



    Meshuggah – I: Determined to silence critics who accused Nothing of losing the edge of their previous groundbreaking albums, Fredrik’s next move was to release an EP consisting of a single 21-minute track, to be followed by a 33-minute track. Normally I would accuse a band of cheating their fans by releasing material that can fit on one album separately, but since this is Meshuggah after all it’s almost understandable. As for I itself, it is predictable in that it is built upon of their trademark monolithic riffs, hyper-technical drumming, and atmospheric breaks and takes the elements to logical extremes, but all three work better here than on most of Nothing.



    Moss – Beyond Despair, Crawling Through Broken Children: One of countless bands that I first learned about while browsing through the indispensable resource that is www.doom-metal.com. The site has been very successful at promoting funeral doom, and these songs are among the most crushing I’ve heard from that side of the genre, both songs sound like they were recorded underneath the wreckage from an earthquake. Latter track available at the previously mentioned site.



    Nazca – Antiseptic, Ambition: These guys are on Eibon Records, which has built a reputation for releasing some fascinating dark ambient, funeral doom, and melancholic rock releases…they fall into the last category. Both of these songs feature simplistic but affecting melodies and vocals that sound like they were recorded after downing Valium, and evoke a feeling of detachment throughout. Their entire album Non Grata, from which both songs are taken, can be heard at www.rivalskeleton.com



    Necrophagist – Diminished To Be, Only Ash Remains: In the years since their debut Onset Of Putrefaction was released, this band has gained widespread respect among fans of technical death. This year’s followup Epitaph has gained lukewarm reviews, but for me its only real problem besides the songs following the same basic formula is that the album is under 40 minutes. Otherwise these songs are very difficult to fault on a musical level, and the guitar work is among the best you’ll hear on a present day death metal album, especially those jaw-dropping solos…



    Neurosis – Bridges, Left To Wander: The oppressive heaviness that gained this band legendary status among its massive following is largely de-emphasized on their latest release The Eye Of Every Storm, but is still present in small amounts and used for contrast to great effect on many of its songs, particularly the latter, whose resigned verses erupt into a powerful chorus. The former track is the longest and most experimental on the album as its use of electronics and percussion to lead the arrangement are unconventional even compared to their own prior work.



    Paatos – Won’t Be Coming Back, Look At Us: Containing members of acclaimed Swedish proggers Landbrek, their latest album Kallocain takes its name for a science fiction novel, but that’s about as close to traditional prog as this gets. The languid atmospheres and muted dynamics typical of trip-hop abound on this release, and many of the tracks have more than a tinge of sadness, especially the former. The latter track finds the band at their most accessible, and could conceivably be a left-field hit in a less corporate musical climate.



    Pain Of Salvation – Diffidentia, Imago (Homines Partus): This is only a brief entry, a full summary and analysis of the already controversial BE will be included either in the next issue or whenever I feel comfortable reviewing it. The album has been described by everyone who has heard it as a radical departure, which I and most other fans have come to expect, but neither of these tracks are completely at odds with their catalogue: the former alternates between a heavier section underscored by an insistent piano note and a beautiful slower section, while the latter is a folky acoustic tune that would have sounded at home on 12:5, though the melody isn’t as strong as it should be.



    Quo Vadis – Silence Calls The Storm, Break The Cycle: Two new tracks from this Canadian tech-death band that have established themselves as a leader in the genre despite having few official releases at this point. Both of these tracks, available at their official site, contain the expert lead work that followers of this genre have come to demand, and the participation of Steve DiGiorgio naturally adds to the dynamics here, the instrumental breaks in the latter recall Death in their prime.



    The Red Masque – House Of Ash, Yellow Are His Opening Eyes: This Pennsylvania-based avant prog ensemble has built a strong reputation through a pair of releases and incendiary live performances. The former opening track from Feathers For Flesh ranges from dark classical musings to heavier moments worthy of any progressively inclined metal band, while the latter is built around a haunting recitation by vocalist Lynette Shelley. Samples available on official website.



    Sigh – At My Funeral, Taste Defeat: The greatest metal band ever to emerge from Japan, not much has been heard from them in the past few years but rumors persist that the long awaited follow-up to 2001’s excellent Imaginary Sonicscape is in the works. These tracks are from their first full-length Scorn Defeat. While much closer to second wave black metal than later experiments, they were adventurous from the onset and both tracks here preview later releases: the former has an especially catchy chorus and prominent keyboard work, while the latter predicts the horror theme that would become their calling card.



    Zebulon Pike – Pillars Of Hercules, The Iommi Variations: This band I don’t know much about, but they play the type of instrumental stoner-rock style being explored by bands like Pelican and SunnO, but not nearly as extreme as the two bands mentioned. The latter track is of course a homage to the original riff god, while the latter consists of a string of pounding riffs that lasts for nine minutes.
     
  2. ProgMetalFan

    ProgMetalFan In the attic

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    I agree that "Why?" is the best track on the new DST. Great review of that album.
     
  3. The Navigator

    The Navigator Go screw yourself

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    Hi Demonspell and ProgMetalFan
     
  4. JayKeeley

    JayKeeley Be still, O wand'rer!

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    Great read as always, Demonspell.

    Really sad to read all that about the new Angra album. I mean, I liked Rebirth and I accept that it dropped *some* of the 'proggy' elements from Holy Land, but this new one sounds like a complete step away from what they should be doing altogether.
     
  5. BenMech

    BenMech student of the d'eh

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    Good column again, Bryan.
     
  6. warmwetos

    warmwetos Member? Yes, I got one =)

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    Awesome reviews! I love the new DST but I think AMOC still would rank as one of my all time favorites. Some great tracks on there, I also like how Devon switches things up from something like Wings of Faith to something like Just like a timepiece!
     
  7. sameero

    sameero New Metal Member

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    hi how r u?hope u r good..this is sam..i spent alot of my time searching for a song by pentagram (mezarkabul)called for those who die alone...hope u can help me to find it and download it or u can send it as attachment to my email plz...my email:sam_hood10@yahoo.com
     
  8. JayKeeley

    JayKeeley Be still, O wand'rer!

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    So here I am eating humble pie over the early dismissal of Angra's latest...after hearing thw WHOLE thing, it just turned into a top 10 contender.
     

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