The Faceless – In Becoming A Ghost

After quite a bit of lineup changes and delays, The Faceless finally return with their 4th album. This showcases a very different side of the band, and even has some writing from Justin McKinney, which adds a nice element to this new music.

Digging The Grave: opens with very dissonant and abrasive instrumentation, combined with very “black metal,” styled vocals. At a certain point, there’s a change of pace, where there are some clean vocals, combined with their signature “7-7-2 groove,” that they love to use. Definitely a tribute to Autotheism here. There’s also a Planetary Duality tribute that happens during the rhythm part behind one of the solos. It reminds me of the beginning of “Ancient Covenant.” This will tickle the pickle of old school The Faceless fans, for sure!

Black Star: opens with some pretty proggy riffing. It’s followed up by some cool interchanging vocals, bouncing from clean to harsh. The middle section has that Autotheism thing going on again with the clean vocals, and a 7/8 feel. There are cool new elements sprinkled in the track too.

Cup Of Mephistopheles: opens with a bit of a more old school 80’s electronic vibe. This track stands out a lot to me. There’s a lot of cool variations. It has The Faceless experimenting with new ideas. It has a nice eerie feel to it, in general.

The Spiraling Void is about the closest they get to the Planetary Duality sound on the album. With the instrumentation, and vocals being lower growls, as opposed to black metal styled vocals… you’ll see what I mean. This track has some more traditional Prog Metal elements as well.

The Terminal Breath opens with a cool lick that gets used a few times, that is very familiar in Michael Keene’s playing. This track is a cool way for them to close the album, with some Cynic vibes going on throughout the song. Great soloing in here. There’s some atmospheric black metal vibes showing up, that kind of drive the point home that they are changing direction.

There’s a lot of new ideas on this album, combine with signature elements that a long time fan of The Faceless will identify with.

 

 

Marty Friedman – Wall of Sound

Marty Friedman has been making a bit of a comeback as of late with some new solo material that “keeps up with the times,” so to speak and maintains his signature sound and phrasing. This album is packed with dynamics, melody, and aggression. I had the pleasure of seeing him on tour for this album in Chicago, and I can honestly say, for instrumental prog/shred, He has to have one of the tightest, high energy bands I’ve seen. They play as if they were playing a packed arena. Now let’s get to the album shall we?

Self Pollution: opens the album with some pretty cool riffing. Something that stands out about this album is that although it is a “Guitar Virtuoso” album, it has riffs for days. It’s very focused on composition. This track kind of throws a little bit of everything at you to give you a taste of what’s to come.

Sorrow and Madness: is easily one of my personal favorites. This track is loaded with melody and dynamics. The composition is very moving. And Marty’s signature sound is very apparent here, all those beautiful bends from out of the key that go into the key. Lots of emotion here.

Streetlight: Also packed with incredible dynamics, really shows that in a short period of time tons of versatility and ground is, has, and will be covered on this album.

Whiteworm: is an absolute rocking track, loaded with some flashy playing. It also has some very cool Latin vibes at certain points with the melody and rhythm. It has a very pretty chorus theme with a bit of an 80’s neo classical feel. Definitely a fun track.

Pussy Ghost: kind of changes things up with almost a black metal/death metal set of progressions. It’s a bit darker and atmospheric, but really interesting. It’s harmonically a bit reminiscent of some of the Cacophony material that was released way back.

I won’t give anymore away here, but I will say this. Go listen to this and buy it. It will be worth your time. I also recommend seeing him live, if you get the opportunity because it will be an enjoyable experience.

The Tangent – The Slow Rust Of Forgotten Machinery

With a pretty extensive catalogue for the period of time that they’ve been around, The Tangent release quite a lengthy album.

Two Rope Swings: is a little more straightforward, if you can even say that. This track sort of gives you a little bit of everything, setting a nice tone for the rest of the album, to prepare you for what’s to come.

Doctor Livingstone (I Presume): opens with a cool lead synth melody that has a great tone, followed by some tasty lead guitar playing. Lots of tasteful playing going on here that’s very “well thought out.” There’s a big jazz influence that sneaks in all over the place with the chord voicing and phrases. You get hit with tons of dynamics. There’s solo, after solo, after solo, with the parts constantly changing. What more could you ask for?

The Sad Story Of Lead and Astatine: has a very melancholic opening. It sort of pulls everything down. Then it picks up with a bit of quirkiness that leads into more of a smooth jazz type of verse. But… That verse is loaded with some pretty crazy playing. The dual vocals add a really nice feel to this. It fills in some really nice space in the overall mix. I really like that these guys aren’t afraid to show off. There’s no need to hold back and, they know it. There’s a bass solo in here that is absolutely awesome, we’ll just put it that way. These guys all have a lot of clarity in their playing. And again, solo, after solo. There’s even a drum solo. Yes you heard right, a drum solo. And it works very well with the song. Trust me. I won’t give anymore away. You’ll just have to find out the rest for yourself. But if this intrigues you, then you will not be disappointed.

Rikard Sjoblom’s Gungfly – On Her Journey to the Sun

A solo album from the frontman of the band Beardfish, takes the listener on quite a journey. This album is loaded with tons of great, memorable vocal melodies and very 70’s prog influenced sections.

Of the Orb: opens the album with over 10 minutes of music. What would a prog album be without that? Lots of cool vocal melodies happening here with some very nice chord progressions. There’s a pretty cool long solo section towards the end that’s very entertaining.

On Her Journey to the Sun: starts off with a bit of a Latin chord progression, followed by some very full and interesting sounding vocal melodies. The vibe I get is that the vocals play a very important role in this music. Everything fits together very nicely. The bridge is very pretty!

He Held an Axe: kind of brings things down a notch, but in a very good way. The story telling vibe really comes through here. Again there’s no shortage of very nice chord progressions here. Very well done, with some nice dynamics

My Hero: If you enjoy 70’s Genesis, well you’ll love this track. I know I sure do. There’s definitely a modern feel thrown in as well. This track really stood out to me.

Polymixia: This is prog done right. We’re just going to leave it at that…

Over My Eyes: is very dynamic, and haunting. The song almost pulls you into it, to the point that you forget where you are and become fixated with feeling. I guess that’s what music is supposed to do. This song adds some nice variety to the feel of the album.

Suffocation – Of The Dark Light

The New York giants are at it again with another crushing release. Staying true to their brutal, yet technical sound. From front, to back… This album does not let up. Clarity Through Deprivation Starts off in normal Suffocation form keeping fans happy. Polished yet heavy and raw at the same time. Then it gets heavy and groovy through the halfway mark, and ends with a atmospheric whammy bar solo.

Your Last Breaths has a really fast pedal point main riff that just screams tech metal. There’s some slight middle eastern influenced riffing that helps transition into some chunky dissonant riffing. It gets followed by a pretty chaotic solo that fits in perfectly. Definitely a wicked track.

The Violation has a ton of wicked solos. Some of the best on the album. The song has choppy feel that manages to keep a continuous flow.

Of The Dark Light.  I imagine this tune absolutely crushing the audience in a live setting. Listen to it, and you’ll see what I mean.

Some Things Should Be Left Alone really should not be left alone. This track is packed with mean riffing. It has some cool haunting progressions that remind me of the late 90s era of death metal. A Nile meets Morbid Angel feel. It honestly sound like what you would expect from a death metal giant such as Suffocation. These guys really stick to their roots.

Caught Between Two Worlds is my favorite track on here, I’ll leave it at that.

Replacire – Do Not Deviate

Technical Death Metal from Boston, Massachusetts, but seems to lean more towards the Progressive Death Metal thing. With their second album Replacire have proven to have a nice sound to offer. The album is pretty short, but is loaded with tons of riffs and parts, so you’ll be more than satisfied. Their sound reminds me of the mid-late 90’s period of progressive death metal, but with a cool modern twist.

“Horsestance” is a pretty in your face opener with a lot of really cool riff changes. It also incorporates some really cool clean vocals that have a really cool haunting sound. And as far as the death metal vocals go, well if you like the more of the traditional style then you’ll be in heaven. I’ll admit that it’s my preference!

“Act, Re-enact” opens with an absolutely crushing riff. This band really does the whole Progressive death metal thing quite well. There’s a pretty cool arpeggio lead break in the middle of the song, which kind of gives a little more of a melodic feel to a mostly dissonant and chaotic track. It’s short, sweet ,and to the point.

“Built Upon The Grave Of He Who bands” Really Showcases the bands Technical abilities and their versatility. It cycles through a lot of changes. Probably one of my favorite tracks. There’s a pretty cool solo with some nice phrasing in the middle of the song.

“Spider Song” has some pretty nice groove going on, and again implements some cool clean vocals into the mix. The vocals almost remind me of how Christian Alvestam sounded on the very first Scar Symmetry album.

If you like heavy complex death metal, well…. It’s a no brainer decision. Go check out this album.

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.