Lonely Robot – The Big Dream

Lonely Robot’s 2nd album is definitely a progressive work of art. John Mitchell  whom you may know from Arena and Frost*, proves that he is one hell of a composer and song writer.

Prologue (Deep Sleep) opens the albums with kind of that sci-fi film score type feel to it creating a really cool mood to set the tone for the album.

“Awakenings” starts out pretty powerful and full sounding. The verses are just awesome. Really nice groove. The Chorus is Huge sounding. The bridge is nice and atmospheric with a super emotional guitar solo. Talk about hitting all the right notes.

“Sigma” starts out with great layering of heavy guitars and clean guitars, creating a nice atmospheric sound. The verses are super pretty, followed by quite the epic chorus. This guy knows how to write a good song. The drummer rips it up in the mid section, if you pay attention.

“Everglow” kind of reminds me of another great prog band by the name of Threshold. I hear a very similar song writing approach. Very proggy, yet extremely song oriented and focused on hooks. Great dynamics in this song and another very emotional guitar solo.

“False Lights” The mid section gets many thumbs up. Great song in general, but I had to mention that mid section.

I won’t give anymore away. If you like good song writing with lots of subtle progressive concepts, this album is for you. This album was pretty refreshing to be quite honest. It’s worth your time, trust me…

 

Highland – Loyal To The Nightsky

“Loyal to the Night Sky” right off the bat reminds me of the 2nd wave of black metal. The nice thing about this is that the musicians are all actually really tight, even though the style is raw.

“Towards The Absolute” gets to the point where I’m even reminded of the first wave of black metal in some of the riffing. Something to mention here is that the vocalist has a pretty badass voice. Very traditional, which when it comes to harsh vocals, I’ll admit that’s my preference, as opposed to the Core influenced harsh vocals.

“Burning in Forgotten Times” opens up with some cool sounding dissonance followed by a verse that reminds me of Mayhem’s Freezing Moon a bit. The song drones on in a good way. It almost has a Black Sabbath feel, just clearly black metal. Halfway through it picks up and changes feel a bit. Definitely a punchy tune.

“Abu Sindi” The drummer has some interesting ideas that keep things interesting. There’s a lot of subtle things that he does that are really cool if you pay attention. You can really notice it on this monster track. You kind of get a little bit of everything here. This was one of my favorites on the album.

 

If you like old school raw black metal, this album is for you. The thing that makes this different is that it’s a bit more polished, so you can hear the separation in the instruments more. But trust me, it doesn’t lose the eerie atmosphere.

Felix Martin – Mechanical Nations

Felix Martin isn’t your typical guitarist. In fact, He plays a special guitar made just for him, with 16 strings. Wonder how it would sound if someone wrote an album utilizing that? Well here it is.

“Flashback” starts the album pretty intense, and is followed by some interesting chord changes. It has a full sound overall. All the sections sound very thick for only having 3 members to the band.

“Carnatt,” Probably one of my personal favorites. This track just gets you moving and grooves. It has a little bit of everything happening here with some really noticeably cool tapping parts.

“Nomadic Tree” has a unique feel to it and gets pretty damn heavy. Heavy and Groovey is always good. It’s combined with some very nice melodic sections that almost remind me of the early Gothenburg movement of melodic death metal.

“Bom” is a track that is filled with a bit of an aggressive feel, in the sense that the energy is high, even on light parts. Some cool drum work on this track as well.

“Santos” is another track I really enjoy. It also happens to feature a really nice solo from the awesome Angel Vivaldi, who is a guitarist that I would recommend checking out. The song overall moves quite well with some nice dynamics. The solo gives it a new life, in my opinion.

“Bridge Clock Disparity,” Is a great closer for the album. It has some very relaxing progressions that end the album with a good vibe. It’s not too frantic, but still interesting enough.

This is definitely a cool album, and worth checking out. It’s quite impressive that someone can write that much material by playing guitar, only using tapping techniques. The rhythm section on this album are top notch and add a lot to the composition.

Haken – Visions

A Re-release of the second album from the Prog Metal band Haken. Easily one of the leading bands in the prog world at this time, for good reason.

“Premonition” Opens the album as almost an overture kind of keeping it simple, heavy, and orchestral, while hinting at major themes that will end up reoccurring throughout the album.  It sets the tone for the album and leads right into the next track almost seamlessly.

“Nocturnal Conspiracy” Starting off slow and eerie, this song builds up little by little following a somewhat predictable song sequence, with minor variations on the same parts to get you hooked and paying attention, but then bursts into a heavy orchestral break with lots of rhythmic chunk and drone on top. Following this you get lots of interesting prog parts with solos thrown into the mix as well. It resolves into familiar territory. settles down and becomes completely symphonic, and gradually builds up to a new vocal sections which could almost be a separate song. The track picks back up with heavy chugging, soaring vocals, and heavy orchestration. Overall the track is extremely dynamic with a great blend of melody and technical prowess, giving you an idea of the trend that will follow throughout the entire album.

“Insomnia” Very syncopated, yet catchy. Utilizing the idea of building on a harmonic and rhythmic theme little by little, this track in my opinion is one of the standout moments of the album. There is a very quirky break in the middle of the song that almost hints at super Mario bros, while continuing into a guitar/keyboard solo tradeoff with a bit of a neo classical feel leading back into the main theme to wrap things up.

“The Mind’s Eye” Pretty standard song structure here. Very nice melodies happening here, and lots of space for the vocalist to shine. There are a lot of subtle layers overlapping that keep the song from being just “simple” and add a lot of great overall texture.

“Portals” Starting with a cool synth melody that continues for some time, this track allows the band play around with some cool dissonant and melodic sections, with a lot of tension and release. Almost the opposite of the previous track. Some pretty ripping keyboard solos here, followed by really noodley guitar solo’s that still manage to maintain a good sense of melody pulling you directly into the next track.

“Shapeshifter” Somewhat reminiscent of Nocturnal Conspiracy from a structural standpoint, This track utilizes reoccurring themes and parts, that continue to have different variations on them. Always maintaining the feeling of a flowing song while utilizing heavy chunking. A very melodic solo comes in followed by a very haunting bridge where the vocals almost put you into a trance, followed by chunk, more soloing, a chorus, and the some big orchestrations with a beefy droning rhythm behind it, and drifts off into a dream like part that sets the tone for the next track.

“Deathless” A very light track. Very dynamic and emotional. The vocalist really shines on this track. Halfway through the song goes into a proggy break with tons of great overlapping textures and layers that truly manage to create a relaxing feel while being intricate at the same time. Another standout moment of the album, that showcases the versatility of this band.

“Visions” Well, let’s put it this way… This closing track is 22 mins. Everything that you’ve heard on the album, leads up to this moment. A true epic composition here. This track ties tons of themes together from the whole album. All the dynamics are here. Great song writing, mixed with Technicality. You’ll hear tons of prog sections. I won’t give it all away, but let’s just say every trick in the book gets thrown at you in this track. A very good way to finish the album, and pulls everything together.

Haken – Aquarius

The Re-release of Haken’s first album “Aquarius,” is quite an epic album and a hell of a debut. There’s a lot of interesting arrangements going on throughout the album. I got to see this band premier most of this material years back at a festival called Prog Power USA. They were great back then, and they continue to get better. I’m going to give you what I find to be highlight for me, personally.

“The Point Of No Return” opens up the album pretty heavy and dark, yet quite quirky at the same time. With a very overture type feel, with tons of heavy orchestration, a mysterious tone sets up for a calm vocal intro with just piano. This slowly builds up in a very nice way, with nice variation on the same ideas. There’s a nice solo, which soon is followed up by some pretty proggy parts and some solo trade offs that basically tells you “this band means business.” The sections have some cool jazz elements, along with the quirkiness of Zappa and some hints of Dream Theater’s Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence. They’re pretty well mixed. After a few minutes prog sections, the song refrains back to themes from earlier, bringing it back to a smooth close.

“Streams” is in my opinion, the track of the album. Great changes of mood in the song. Beautiful compositions a whole. This track emphasizes what this band is good at. Heaviness, melody, dynamics, and cool variations. Starting off with more of a prog rock feel. The track slowly gets a bit more aggressive with some of that quirkiness, but always moving forward. S Some cool orchestration that leads back into main themes with vocals. There’s a heavy section, with orchestration, and some pretty evil sounding vocals that really sets a nice dark tone.  This leads into a very haunting more spacey section that fits perfectly and really showcases the extreme dynamics that this band is capable of. It closes off with the main theme and a beautifully phrased guitar solo.

“Eternal rain” has a really cool multi finger tapping intro, for you guitar nerds, like myself. Over that there’s a reoccurring theme from the album in the background. This track has a nice build up with embellishments and variations on the same sections. This is a very well written track. It then breaks into almost an 80’s styled mid sections that has some cool film score type chord progressions happening using “planing” (harmonic Parallelism) leading into a solo section, maintaining that kind of 80’s hard rock feel. To follow you get, well, you guessed it… some of that quirkiness. Definitely part of the charm to Haken. This leads back into some orchestral moments that pulls you into a familiar vocal theme closing the song.

“Drowning in the Flood” Opens with some really heavy 8 string riffing, and as a huge Meshuggah fan, it really hits the right spot for me. Their singer showcases a bit more of a gritty vocal style that works very well. Halfway through the song the feel takes a bit of a turn and calms down and shows some great dynamics once again with the singer being more angelic and melodic. Leading into a nice groove with a keyboard solo to finish things off.

All in all the album is extremely solid, and makes for quite the debut. I won’t spoil all of the tracks for you. My recommendation would be to not only give this album a spin, but each of their albums. It’s worth your time.