Mastodon—’Emperor of Sand’ released on Friday 31 March 2017

The new album Emperor of Sand (2017) from Atlanta, Georgia progressive metallers Mastodon is scheduled for release later this week (Friday 31 March).

So far they have released two tracks on Mastodon’s YouTube channel: “Andromeda” (above) and “Sultan’s Curse” (below).

So far, there hasn’t been a Mastodon album that I haven’t loved. So my hopes are up for this being another classic.

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Bonus: Virvum—Illuminance (2016)

Virvum—Illuminance (2016)

Virvum—Illuminance (2016)

Details

Mixed and mastered by C. Brandes at Iguana Studios. Drums recorded at S. Egli and Hardbeat Studios. Vocals recorded at R. Beier and Ashburn Productions. Released on 16 September 2016 as an independent release on Bandcamp.

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Band

  • Vocals—Bryan Berger
  • Guitars—Nic Gruhn
  • Guitars—Toby Koelman
  • Bass—Arran McSporran (session musician)
  • Drums—Diego Morenzoni

Tracks

  1. The cypher supreme
  2. Earthwork
  3. Illuminance
  4. Ad rigorem
  5. Tentacles of the sun
  6. Elemental shift
  7. I: A new journey awaits
  8. II: A final warming shine: ascension and trespassing

Review

Illuminance is the debut album from Swiss progressive death metal band Virvum, who hail from Zurich and it’s really rather good.

The album opens with instrumental The cypher supreme (track 1) which initially doesn’t seem to promise anything new. It begins with an intricate, chopping riff but then opens up into a harmonised passage that reminded me of something from early 90s Steve Vai or latter-day Devin Townsend. The instruments dance around one another, they swoop and vie for attention. The track ends with a chugging, proper old school death metal riff that wouldn’t seem out of place on an Obituary album.

Earthwork (track 2) introduces us to Berger’s vocals, which are – as you might expect – deep, and gruff, so-called ‘Cookie Monster’ vocals. But in places they are double-tracked with a more metalcore, shouty vocal. The song showcases their progressive leanings with avant garde solos, and a song structure that twists and turns. Curiously, it stops suddenly around four minutes in and plays out as an ambient introduction to the title track Illuminance (track 3).

Tentacles of the sun (track 5) is one of my favourite tracks on the album. It beings at breakneck speed and promises to be a fairly standard death metal track, with an interesting preces and response-style vocal. But around a minute in to the 4:54 song, things slow down. A fabulous bass run weaves around clean arpeggios, until even that slows to a trickle, before exploding to a luscious chord sequence. It sounds like how dawn should sound every morning.

The album closes with a pair of songs, I: A new journey awaits (track 7) and II: A final warming shine: ascension and trespassing (track 8). The new journey begins instrumentally. It is peaceful and regal, it is grand and pompous.

(Oddly, MusicBee reports that the song is 3:10 but it ends at 1:42 then leaps to 3:10 before moving to the next song.)

The final track is more of the same but draws on elements from track 7. Around three minutes in things slow down again, for what is quite a recognisable pattern. And then the build… Around 7 minutes in the song takes another meandering twist which plays itself out, but for a brief thematic return to the death metal vocals and thrashing of earlier.

Conclusion

I’ve listened to this album quite a bit over the last few months. So I’ve come to appreciate it rather well. While it’s not my favourite album of the year, it is rather good. It has a few really beautiful moments suspended in an opus of fairly stock progressive death metal. But it’s those beautiful moments that transform this album from being just another death metal album.

It’s hard when listening to the album that this is just Virvum’s debut offering. This is a band, I suspect, who are still finding their voice. I’m excited to see where they go next, because as a start this is a fabulous place from which to begin.

Review score: 85%

Turrigenous—A Slight Amplification EP (2008)

Turrigenous—A Slight Amplification EP (2008)

Turrigenous—A Slight Amplification EP (2008)

Details

Produced by Chris Fasulo and Greg Giordano. Mastered by Will Quinnell at Sterling Sound.

Encyclopedia Metallum | WebsiteBandcamp | Twitter

Band

  • Greg Giordano—Vocals and guitars
  • John Vullo—Guitars
  • Mike Murray—Bass
  • Mark “The Sorcerer” Dara—Drums

Other musicians

  • (Ch)arles Midwinter—Spoken word on “A slight amplification” (track 1)

Tracks

  1. A slight amplification
  2. Emptiness, darkness, acceptance
  3. War inside

Review

Turrigenous are a progressive thrash band from Long Island, New York: think Annihilator meets Dream Theater. A Slight Amplification is their fourth release, their first EP (18 minutes long) following three full-length albums.

The song writing and arrangements are good, the playing is flawless, and the production is clear.

The title track “A slight amplification” (track 1) opens with a bit of widdliness but soon develops into mature thrash song, with more than a few nods of the hat to Megadeth, not least the spoken part about four minutes in.

“Emptiness, darkness, acceptance” (track 2), the longest of the three tracks on the disc, begins quietly and ponderously. It bubbles and bounces before bursting into life. It stops and starts, it soars and dips. In the words of my son Joshua (7) it is “good”.

The EP closes with “War inside” (track 3) which opens with a very spacious and uncharacteristic ‘chug-chug’ riff. It is the only song of the three that introduces any growling death vocals; this track in particular could have benefited from more of them. The solo about halfway through breaks up the song nicely and takes the listener on a bit of a progressive jaunt, even if it is a bit too formulaic.

Conclusion

All in all, this is decent release. I didn’t end with a burning desire to listen to the rest of their back catalogue, but I would probably listen to this again, and may grow to like it more. It didn’t set my ears on fire, but it didn’t offend them, either.

Review score: 70%

Spheric Universe Experience—Anima (2007)

Spheric Universe Experience—Anima (2007)

Spheric Universe Experience—Anima (2007)

Details

Recorded and mixed by Charles Massabo. Mastered by Tommy Hansen at Jailhouse Studios, Denmark. Drums and bass recorded at Coxinhell Studio, St-Aygulf, France (June to July 2006). Guitars, keyboards and vocals recorded at Kallaghan Studio, Vence, France (July to August 2006). Produced by Spheric Universe Experience.

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Band

  • Franck Garcia—Vocals
  • Vince Benaim—Guitars
  • John Drai—Bass
  • Fred Colombo—Keyboards and English voice on “Being” (track 2) and “The inner quest” (track 3)
  • Ranko Muller—Drums

Additional musicians

  • Ludovic Phiriet-Arcaleni—Italian voice on “Neptune’s revenge” (track 4)
  • Carmen López—Spanish voice on “World of madness” (track 6)
  • Yo Ishikawa—Japanese male voice on “Heal my pain” (track 8)
  • Aurélia Borg—Japanese female voice on “Heal my pain” (track 8)

Tracks

  1. Sceptic
  2. Being
  3. The inner quest
  4. Neptune’s revenge
  5. Stormy dome (instrumental)
  6. World of madness
  7. End of trauma
  8. Heal my pain
  9. Questions
  10. The key
  11. Black materia

Review

Anima is the second (of currently four) full-length album from French prog metallers Spheric Universe Experience (SUE).

Theirs is a very Dream Theater-influenced flavour of progressive metal, complete with soaring vocals, complex time signatures, retro keyboard flourishes, and John Petrucci-style guitar chops. Other than Franck Garcia’s vocals which are quite noticably not those of James LaBrie, on first listen you could easily be mistaken that you are listening to DT.

Curiously, this is one of the few French bands that I’ve heard who sing in English rather than French.

I’ve listened to this album a number of times now and I can’t really fault it: the songwriting is great, the songs are complex and beautifully performed, the production if first class. But… it just sounds so derivative. To my ear, there is little that makes Spheric Universe Experience stand out as much more than French Dream Theater Experience.

Conclusion

If you are a Dream Theater fan then there is a very good chance you will enjoy this album. I can’t help think that this could be something more. But as it is, it is still something rather good.

Review score: 80%

Sinocence—Scar Obscura (2009)

Sinocence—Scar Obscura (2009)

Sinocence—Scar Obscura (2009)

Details

Produced by Frankie McClay at Einstein. Released on Rising Records, May 2009.

“This album is dedicated to our mothers for showing us the true meaning of strength and bravery.” — Anto and Moro

Band

  • Moro—Vocals and guitars
  • AntoGuitars
  • Jim—Bass
  • Davy—Drums

Tracks

  1. Perfect denial
  2. Metalbox
  3. God complex
  4. Ultraviolent
  5. Art of separation
  6. Evicerate
  7. Rule as one
  8. All new revenge
  9. Scar obscura
  10. Terminus

Review

On my first listen through of this album I wasn’t overly impressed. Which is exactly why I always try to give each album at least three spins. Like walking into a darkened room and waiting for your eyes to adjust to the subtlties of light, so it can take the ears a few plays to tune in to what is really going on.

I like this album. From the off it reminded me a lot of Trivium with a large chunk of Iron Maiden-influence, which is perhaps why I didn’t take to it straight away as I’m not a huge Trivium fan.

The music is melodic, with largely clean vocals, over galloping guitar lines. There is almost a progressive element too as the songs twist and turn, build and crash.

“Perfect denial”, the album opener, starts with a few clean chords; pounding drums lead the guitars; and…. riff! “God complex” (track 3) also opens with a delicate guitar passage, that reminded me very much of God Forbid. “Art of separation” (track 5) is another slow opener. The title track “Scar obscura” (track 9) is a short, acoustic song. The remaining songs kick off as they mean to procede: hard and heavy.

The album ends with “Terminus”, an epic, nine minute track that follows a now-familiar path: start quietly, start clean and build and build.

Conclusion

Over the last three or four listenings I’ve developed a lot of respect for this album from Belfast metallers Sinocence.

Review score: 85%

Resurrecturis—Non Voglio Morrire (2009)

Resurrecturis—Non Voglio Morrire (2009)

Resurrecturis—Non Voglio Morrire (2009)

Details

Recorded at Acme recording studio and slept upon for months by Davide Rosati (a real professionist!). Mixed and salvaged at Potemkin Studio by Paolo Ojetti and Alessandro Vagnoni (mixing assistant).

Band

  • Janos Murri—Vocals and guitar
  • Carlo Strappa—Guitar
  • Manuel Coccia—Bass
  • Alessandro Vagnoni—Drums

Tracks

  1. The origin
  2. Prologue
  3. Fuck face
  4. Corpses forever
  5. The artist
  6. Save my anger
  7. Calling our names
  8. After the show
  9. The fracture
  10. Away from the flock
  11. Where shall I go from here?
  12. Walk through fire
  13. In retrospective

Review

Straight off the bat, with “The origin” (track 1) this album has a rough and ready old school thrash feel to it. They call themselves death metal, but this definitely sounds more like thrash.

And that’s perhaps what I like most about this album: just as soon as you’ve settled on one definite genre and neatly pigeonholed them Rusurrecturis wriggles and squirms and they morph into something else. Which makes for one interesting album.

“Prologue” (track 2) is heavy song, but it’s melodic with a guitar solo played through a phaser pedal which gives it a bit of a space age feel. And beneath it is a delicate, tinkling piano. The song morphs into “Fuck face” (track 3) which is back to an in-your-face thrashing metal stab in the faccccccce.

“Corpses forever” (track 4) is a very straightforward death metal song featuring a gutteral Cookie Monster vocal. “The artist” (track 5) has a latter-days Celtic Frost feel. It is slow and brooding, it is heavy and avant-garde with melodic female vocals. Then it’s back to largely generic death metal with “Save my anger” (track 6) apart from the almost nu-metal style shouty-melodic chorus.

Track 7 introduces us to another face of Resurrecturis. “Calling our names” is a ballad, in the style of a Pantera ballad. It is fragile and melodic but heavy as.

“After the show” (track 8) initially feels like ‘proper’ death metal, in the tradition of Chuck Schuldiner and Death, but in typical Resurrecturis style they throw in a few other influences, and a melodic chorus gets barked down in a very call-and-answer way. Good stuff.

“The fracture” (track 9) is a solid metal song with mostly clean vocals, a cracking melody, and a enough kickdrums to keep most metalheads happy. “Away from the flock” (track 10) has quite an ‘acidic’ guitar intro, and it’s back to the growling vocals. This is probably the darkest-sounding song on the album.

“Where shall I go from here?” (track 11) has quite a nu-metal feel but does feature a fantastic interweaving dual-guitar duel halfway through that segues into a passionate solo.

“Walk through fire” (track 12) follows in the vein of track 9, with clean and growling vocals trading lines. This has a more traditional melodic death metal vibe to it.

“In retrospective” (track 13) opens with an ambient soundscape, like a restaurant or drinks evening. Cue acoustic guitar and heartfelt vocals. It’s not at all what I expected.

Conclusion

Never judge an album by the cover. I wasn’t overly enthusiastic about putting this album on but boy! I’m glad I did.

Review score: 70%

DVD

It was only while I was adding the CD details, having already written the review, that I remembered there was a DVD with this release.  “The Fracture (videoclip)” is a bare-chested display of testosterone-fuelled metal. “Making of” is… shows a few behind-the-scenes clips of the making of “The Fracture”; I didn’t find it particularly interesting, to be honest.

There follows a photogallery and video credits, and then the DVD finishes with 17 minutes of Resurrecturis live at Luckau, Germany from 26 May 2006. More bare chests and the drummer for some reason has an elastoplast on his forehead! The playing is good enough, the sound isn’t great, and the stagemanship is a little dull but it’s certainly nice to see the band playing live.

DVD score: 30%

 

The Human Abstract—Midheaven (2008)

The Human Abstract—Midheaven (2008)

The Human Abstract—Midheaven (2008)

Details

Recorded at Red Bull Studios, Santa Monica, California, USA, and Johnny Yuma Recording at Henson Studios, Hollywood, California, USA. Recorded by Jesse E String and Nicolas Essig. Produced by Leonard Simone and Jesse E String. Mixed by Jesse E String. Mastered by Michael Verdick.

Wikipedia

Band

  • Nathan Ells—Vocals
  • Dean Herrera—Guitars
  • Andrew Tapley—Guitars
  • Brett Powell—Drums and percussion
  • Sean Leonard—Piano, B3, Mellatron and Prophet 5

All bass by Sean Hurley except “Breathing life into devices” by Dean Herrera and Sean Hurley; “Metanoia” by Dean Herrera.

Tracks

  1. A violent strike
  2. Procession of the fates
  3. Breathing life into devices
  4. The world is a tomb
  5. Metanoia
  6. The path
  7. Echoes of the spirit
  8. Calm in the chaos
  9. Counting down the days
  10. A dead world at sunrise (additional vocals by Shenkar)

Review

The Human Abstract are yet another band that I’d never heard of. Formed in Los Angeles, California in 2004 they disbanded in 2011 having released three albums and an EP; “Midheaven” was their second release.

The band seemingly took their name from the title of a William Blake poem published in 1794 in Songs of Experience.

I threw the album on one evening while I was cracking on with some other work and gave it a half listen. It was more melodic and progressive than I was expecting.

Listening to it again in the car a day or two later I found myself caught between two opinions of the album. On one hand I liked the progressive nature of the songs as they wandered where they willed, but there is a lot of post-nu-metal shouty-style rawk that I really don’t connect with.

But fear not, I discovered that if I just keep listening then the progressive element of each song comes to the rescue and quickly whisks the song in another direction.

“A violent strike”, the opening song is a case in point. There must be two or three moments that I really don’t like and just as I’m reaching for the fast-forward button the song morphs and heads in another direction.

Curiously, “Breathing life into devices” (track 3) has an almost pop feel, verging towards gospel and pseudo rap about two thirds of the way through. Not exactly my cup of tea (although I don’t drink tea) but I can appreciate what they did.

There are a few, I guess power ballads might be the best term on this album. “This world is a tomb” is the first. It’s a beautiful song with plenty of piano. “Calm in the chaos” is the second, which rides along an acoustic guitar chord progression for the most part before twisting into an almost mathcore riff. The last is the final track, “A dead world at sunrise” which quietly brings the album to a close.

Conclusion

There are plenty of things for me to like on this album. But then there are enough elements that jar with me to not fully embrace this album as a classic. But it’s not them, it’s me. Definitely a keeper, though. Next…!

Review score: 80%