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.

Advertisements

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.

Encyclopedia Metallum | Facebook | Website

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%

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%

Gwynbleidd—Nostalgia (2009)

Gwynbleidd—Nostalgia (2009)

Gwynbleidd—Nostalgia (2009)

Details

Recorded by Michal Kacunel and Tomasz Gajewski at Sia Accoustics, New York City. Mixed by Pawel Marciniak at Manximum Studio, Lodz, Poland. Mastered by Alan Silverman at Arf! Digital, New York City. Released on Black Current Music, 2009.

Band

  • Maciej Kupiszewski—Vocals and rhythm guitars
  • Michal Kacunel—Clean vocals and lead guitar
  • Jakub Kupiszewski—Bass
  • Adam Romanowski—Drums

Tracks

  1. Nostalgia
  2. Egress
  3. New setting
  4. Stormcalling
  5. Adrift
  6. Thawing innocence
  7. Stare into the sun
  8. Canvas for departure

Review

My second (and final) Gwynbleidd recording to review in as many weeks.

First off: the artwork and packaging is brilliant. Travis Smith at Seem Pieces has done an amazing job. It’s earthy and dark, reminding me of some of the early Opeth artwork. The booklet continues in the same vein, with grainy photographs with lyrics printed over the top of them in white, typeset in a scratchy handwriting font.

This album follows the path of the first two tracks on Amaranthine (2006), which took a more death/black metal path (compared with the folk-metal offerings that made up the rest of that EP).

And it’s good: the songs twist and turn in a suitably progressive way, without becoming predictable or clichéd. The album opens with a re-recording of “Nostalgia” from the Amaranthine EP. The following track on that EP, “New settings”, also appears in a re-recorded form at track three. The rest of the album contains, as far as I can tell, new material.

The production on this album is great, which makes such a difference to an album. The guitars are powerful and meaty, with a fine crunch. The bass cuts through the mix, between guitars and drums.

In my opinion this is a much, much better recording than Amaranthine, but then by 2009 the band had about three years more experience, and the songs have had time to breathe and develop.

Track five, “Adrift” is the shortest on the album, at 2′ 45″. It’s mostly acoustic guitar, with a twiddly guitar solo over the top of it.

But it’s back to distortion and growling vocals for “Thawing innocence” and beyond. Though each song (in a true prog death metal way) transitions between dark and light, distorted and clean.

The final track “Canvas for departure” gradually grinds to an irregular, and mildly chaotic standstill to close the album.

Conclusion

I really like this album. It’s well written, well played, and the songs seem to discover themselves, naturally cutting a path that uncovers beautiful clean arpeggios alongside full-out death metal riffs.

I guess if you’re really upset that Opeth have taken a left turn into 70s-inspired prog rock, and you’re in need of a fix of good old fashioned progressive death/black metal then turn your sights on Gwynbleidd. Though, to be honest, you currently only have this album and the Amaranthine EP to chose from, and this album far outclasses the latter.

Review score: 95%

Gwynbleidd—Amaranthine EP (2006)

Gwynbleidd—Amaranthine EP (2006)

Gwynbleidd—Amaranthine EP (2006)

Details

Recorded with Ka on Luna Sun at DMD Studios, Brooklyn, NY. Mixed by Michael Kacunel and Maciek Miernok at Galicja Studios, Brooklyn, NY. Mastered by Alan Silverman at Arf! Digital, New York, NY. Released on 6 June 2006 as an independent release.

Facebook | MySpace | Encyclopaedia Metallum

Band

  • Maciej Kupiszewski—Vocals and guitars
  • Michal Kacunel—Vocals and guitars
  • Jakub Kupiszewski—Bass
  • Adam Romanowski—Drums

Tracks

  1. Nostalgia (10′ 54″)
  2. New setting (9′ 45″)
  3. The awakening (9′ 51″)
  4. Lure of the land (9′ 12″)

Review

The EP opener “Nostalgia” beings with a clean guitar, quite pretty, almost folk-y sounding riff, that gradually sounds more and more sour before it transitions into a distorted riff and the growling vocals begin.

And this being progressive death metal, the song then grumbles on for another nine minutes, twisting and turning, starting and stopping, delighting and surprising.

About seven and a half minutes in, the guitars are clean again for another folk-y, almost Gregorian chant-style passage. And a minute later we’re back on the train, and treated to a slightly uncomfortable sounding (in a good way!) guitar solo.

“New setting”, track 2, opens with a slow, doom-like riff, that reminds me a little of Paradise Lost. This song seems to have a little less variation than its predecessor, or perhaps it’s that they wait until about a minute before the end before the clean passage.

By now, on my first listen, I was already comparing Gwynbleidd (Welsh for ‘wolf blood’) to Opeth with their mixture of heavy and clean riffs. But these guys have a decidedly folk metal slant. This is even more evident on the next track.

“The awakening”, track 3, starts with a strong, driving riff. The vocals surface quite unexpectedly about 90 seconds in. A proper folk-y riff played on what sounds like a nylon-string acoustic guitar, with accompanying bodhran-style drums and a flute.

And at nine minutes and 51 seconds, the song just cuts off.

The final track, “Lure of the land” follows a similar path. It opens with an acoustic, strummed chord sequence before it’s overtaken by the same riff on electric guitars. Vocals growl into view around 1′ 45″.

Throughout the song, amidst the distorted riffs, like clearings in a dark forest, there are clean passages. In places folk metal, in places mediaeval-sounding—like Opeth once were when they imagined they were lute-playing minstrels.

Around 7′ 20″ the song slows to a dirge. Out of which is reclaimed the original riff for a minute or two. Until fade to black…

Conclusion

For an EP it’s pretty long, with none of the four songs dipping below nine minutes, firmly placing it in the progressive camp. While this EP didn’t exactly set me on fire, I did enjoy it. Parallels can be made in places to Opeth, but that’s perhaps inevitable given its genre.

I have another Gwynbleidd album coming up this week, that actually includes the first two tracks from this EP. So it will be interesting to hear how that compares.

In the meantime, I think this is definitely a keeper.

Review score: 68%