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.

Bathsheba – Servus

Fronted by charismatic vocalist Michelle Nocon, Belgian band Bathsheba is ready to release the blackened doom oriented debut album “Servus” which will inevitably attract those who are eternally drawn to obscure music.

“Conjuration Of Fire” features the heavy despair of beloved doom influences as thick guitar riffs support tormented rhythmic blasts. Michelle conquers and dominates with unrivaled mesmerizing vocals that effortlessly convey grim harmonies.

“Ain Soph” has a violently aggressive approach with black metal style punishing drumming and tight guitar riffing. As the enraged tempo slows down leaving behind an asphyxiating mood, Michelle leads the listeners through an uneasy and probably unsafe trance. The powerful presence of a jazzy saxophone might sound unexpected and odd but it turns out to be a flamboyant experimental touch that successfully delivers additional musical depth.

On “Demon 13” monolithic heavy doom guitar riffs deliver ominous sludge grooves and sharply cut through a moody arcane atmosphere while Michelle’s vocals skillfully shift from lascivious chants to witchy/devilish growls.

“I At The End Of Everything” delivers an spellbinding blend of heavy relentless doom guitar riffs and melodic atmospheric vibes that create a savage groove in the midst of a palpable gloomy decadence. Michelle proves to be a dark enchantress par excellence as her melodic chants will hypnotize the listeners while her fierce growls evoke an understated fury.

With “Servus” Bathsheba invites the listeners to join a perilously distorted musical journey and deliver a crushing nightmarish collection of songs that belong to an enchanted realm of darkness.

Helén – Helén

Finnish multi-instrumentalist Kimmo Helén returns in the music scene with the self titled solo album “Helén” which features an interesting musical blend that ranges from folk to shoegaze.

“Uusi Olento” offers an understated energetic bass driven rhythm with scattered shoegaze elements that channel soulful atmospheres while the catchy rock chorus is followed by a contrasting melancholic cello.

“Muinainen Muoto” features a fascinating dreamy atmosphere that gracefully surrounds folk style chants and catchy electric guitars melodies.

“Lyijypeto” channels ancient folk roots within a mystical atmosphere where delightful acoustic passages that belong to a forgotten dreamland call for attentive introspection.

“Kaikki isä” is filled with immense melancholy fully expressed in the soothing vocals, the smooth acoustic layers and the harmonious jazzy saxophone solo.

Helén’s solo project might be categorized as an artsy niche effort that successfully crosses the standard music genre boundaries delivering impressive musicianship and genuinely emotive songwriting.

PH – Eternal Hayden

Finnish meta rockers PH, originally known as Mr. Peter Hayden, return with the new fourth full-length “Eternal Hayden” that celebrates the band’s musical freedom with an enigmatic mixture of post rock and ambient.

“Looking Back At Mr. Peter Hayden” is a super lengthy track that definitely sets the mood bending traditional music genres with hypnotic drone/ambient elements and offers a comprehensive summary of PH’s visionary musical pathway. Surrounded by a perennial somber mood, psychedelic guitar riffing with doom accents and dizzy ambient influenced synths generate a surreal atmosphere that will inevitably make you space out.

“We Fly High” is another trippy musical voyage meant to break any given boundaries and to lead the listeners through a cosmic hole with loads of post rock guitars drifting freely over noisy ambient layers.

“Rock And Roll Future” incorporates more dominant traditional melodic features as dreamy guitar driven melodies in post rock fashion hold the spotlight with plenty of spacey psychedelic arrangements.

“Eternal Hayden” is not exactly music for the masses as it relies on an uneasy trance style music that will engage a selected audience.

Witherfall – Nocturnes And Requiems

Witherfall might be a new name in the music scene but many will be familiar with the musicians that created this project: guitarist Jake Dreyer, vocalist Joseph Michael and drummer Adam Sagan who sadly passed away before the release of the debut album “Nocturnes And Requiems”. Witherfall certainly worked hard on the genesis of “Nocturnes And Requiems” which features a rather stylish combo of progressive metal and darkened melodies.

“Portrait” stands out immediately for the exquisitely sophisticated guitar work heavily prog influenced with an overdose of classy shredding and neoclassical accents. There is a good amount of crunchy guitar riffs to keep a heavy groove alive but the highlights tend to be found in the melodic melancholy that lingers throughout the song and is particularly expressed in the soothing vocals.

“What We Are Dying For” features a sharp guitar driven rhythm that is always embellished by killer guitar leads and again loads of elegant shredding. A darkened aura holds a dominant role particularly when the tempo slows down with somber arpeggios and memorable Spanish style acoustic passages.

“End Of Time” shines for the charismatic neoclassical inspired guitars that create a luminous musical palette enhanced by complex tempo variations. Joseph Michael delivers eclectic inspired vocals with a remarkable classic metal approach as well as a more mellow style when passionate acoustic guitars channel intense sadness.

“Nobody Sleeps Here” is filled with moody melancholy while a solid virtuosic guitar style continues to surpass any expectation with enthralling licks and neoclassical melodies that are simply unforgettable. Again, Michael’s vocals effortlessly showcase great versatility shifting from soft melodic to a heavier powerful delivery.

With impressive musicianship and emotionally charged songwriting “Nocturnes And Requiems” proves to be a genuine musical effort that will righteously put Witherfall in the spotlight.

Zombie Motors Wrecking Yard – Supersonic Rock ‘n’ Roll

Australian outfit Zombie Motors Wrecking Yard are ready to release the debut album “Supersonic Rock ‘n’ Roll”  which promises to entertain the audience with wild rock tunes ready for all night long parties.

The opener “Grind The Grinder” shows immediately that the band needs to release loads of energy and the best way to do it must be to pack it all in super gritty guitar riffs. While guitars certainly hold the center stage, the solid hammering rhythmic section and the vicious vocals manage to keep up with the whole wild ride.

“Galactic Motherfucker” has an aggressive fun attitude with crunchy guitars that build a particularly groovy rhythm that calls for jumping and/or stomping and a retro sci-fi mood spices up the enjoyable raw rock theme.

“Love For Speed” delivers some vintage rocker approach that relies mainly on a traditional rock groove full of dirty guitar riffs that lead to an inflamed solo while incredibly raucous vocals deliver a catchy crazy chorus.

The title track packs another blast of genuine energy that feels like riding a motorcycle on dusty roads. Loads of groovy guitar riffs certainly carry a palpable stoner rock influence that would keep the crowd moving at a live show.

“Judas” channels an overdose of classic stoner rock in proper desert mood with plenty of crunchy guitar riffs and raspy screams to keep the dusty groove alive while another compelling guitar solo adds the classic dirty rock sound.

“Supersonic Rock ‘n’ Roll” literally burns with energy and Zombie Motors Wrecking Yard proves to know some old school rock tricks that can always fuel an explosive collection of fun rocking songs.

The Mute Gods – Tardigrades Will Inherit The Earth

Renowned composer and multi-instrumentalist Nick Beggs founder of the progressive rock band The Mute Gods returns with a fascinating full length entitled “Tardigrades Will Inherit The Earth”. Lyrically this album is full of existential queries as it focuses on a grim exploration and rational analysis of the current precarious state of mankind’s existence due to numerous ill decisions and self-destructive tendencies.

“Animal Army” is surrounded by sober atmospheric arrangements but easily stands out for the enthralling guitar work with the right dose of prog style prowess and the pop influenced catchy chorus.

“We Can’t Carry On” acquires a darker mood as a sense of impending doom that pervades the lyrics is finely embedded in the guitar riffing, the highly inspired melodic breakdown and the super catchy chorus.

“The Dumbing Of The Stupid” has a more crunchy rock approach as the guitars showcase a more metal oriented style and sound. The melodic side of the song still follows similar pop rock themes nevertheless a deeper darkness takes over the guitar work adding an angry punch while elegant prog style solos create luminous polished harmonies.

The title track features a borderline mellow/happy pop rock rhythm that tends to keep a dominant role with retro keyboards and funky arrangements while the guitars try to maintain a crispy prog sound.

“Stranger Than Fiction” is a slower song focused on well crafted poetic harmonies, soothing vocals and warm piano melodies that evoke bright hopefulness for a better future.

With the sophomore release “Tardigrades Will Inherit The Earth” The Mute Gods deliver powerful stimulating lyrics and a compelling work of music where complex prog elements naturally embrace a radio friendly rock mood that will allow the band to reach a wider audience.

DOOL – Here Now, There Then

Dutch dark rock band DOOL is ready to debut in the music scene with the highly anticipated album “Here Now, There Then”. Featuring bassist Job van de Zande and drummer Micha Haring from renowned band Devil’s Blood and singer Ryanne van Dorst, DOOL presents a unique catchy collection of darkened songs surrounded by a fascinating hypnotic aura that deserves to be fully embraced.

“Vantablack” opens the album with a decadent mystical atmosphere featuring majestic slow guitar passages and an intriguing solo with remarkable doom/gothic accents. Ryanne van Dorst unleashes true rocker style vocals that immediately claim the spotlight as dreamy or nightmarish melodies continue to naturally unfold.

“Golden Serpents” stands out for the exquisite vintage attitude and compelling psychedelic elements. The guitars have a dominant role creating plenty of catchy melodies infused with arcane vibes that eventually lead to a simply addictive chorus.

“In Her Darkest Hour” feels like a creepy fairytale where ghastly nameless creatures lurk in the dark. Again, guitars have a major presence concocting elegant gothic rock melodies and Ryanne’s emotive vocal performance channels additional darkened mysterious vibes.

“Oweynagat” feels like a mantra burning in your mind with a rocking catchy chorus that ignites the gloomy atmosphere while every guitar riff and every melody are deeply soaked in a lascivious darkness. Ryanne’s voice cuts sharply through the dense melodic core and stylish melancholic violins enhance the moody darkened themes.

“She-Goat” delivers exquisitely sinister obsessive cycles of melodies that will inevitably get stuck in your mind. Ryanne’s vocals evoke a decadent rock style while a guitar driven rhythmic crescendo adds dynamic intensity.

DOOL proves to be a charismatic new band and “Here Now, There Then”, featuring  spellbinding songwriting that fearlessly and fiercely crosses all standard musical boundaries, will certainly conquer those attracted to all things dark and, obviously, all those who wander.

Wolfheart – Tyhjyys

Finnish band Wolfheart are best known as the originators of Winter Metal and the brand new effort “Tyhjyys” stays true to such epitome with a grandiose collection of cold somber melodies and crushing guitar driven rhythms.

“Sores Of The Lake Simple” is an instrumental intro where ecnhanting acoustic guitar passages channel a melancholic mood while melodic electric guitars come to life triumphantly to celebrate the cold beauty of nature.

“Boneyard” might be filled with melodic Nordic sadness but also loads of tight fast guitar riffing well supported by a solid rhythmic section in proper melo-death fashion. Solemn choirs and ferocious growls lead a primordial sonic assault while atmospheric arrangements effortlessly embrace an elegantly melodic guitar solo followed by an ethereal breakdown.

“The Flood” stands out for its melodic wintry mix fully expressed in the emotional gloom of the acoustic guitars and graceful atmospheric layers. An unforgettable inspired melodic guitar solo evokes another nuance of bitterly cold wilderness and the whole instrumental work sinuously embodies this particularly profound sense of desolation.

“Call Of The Winter” shines for the dense emotional melodic core embellished by subtle symphonic arrangements and emphasized by mid paced gloomy guitar riffs that effortlessly give way to delicate piano melodies.

The title track depicts a bleak cinematic soundscape with sorrowful doom influenced guitar melodies and the whole instrumentation is constantly filled with an elegant forlorn beauty that reaches a natural emotive acme with a mesmerizing melodic guitar solo.

With “Tyhjyys” Wolfheart fiercely delivers a captivating soundtrack for your cold winter nights bringing together the icy fury of extreme metal and the beloved Scandinavian melancholy that will inevitably warm your hearts.

Vipassi – Sunyata

Featuring members of critically acclaimed Australian band Ne Obliviscaris, technical band Vipassi has released a compelling debut album entitled “Sunyata” which focuses on a rich instrumental progressive metal influenced work of music.

“Gaia” is surrounded by a subtle mysterious atmosphere that effortlessly embraces a series of complex guitar tremolo riffs and melodic leads. There is a solid rhythmic backbone but the lead guitar work tends to become the center of attention with wild borderline aggressive riffs as well as more mellow jazzy melodies.

“Benzaiten” follows a similar scenario as heavy guitar riffing evokes extreme metal roots rendered more enthralling by meticulous tempo variations in proper prog fashion and highly ethereal introspective moments.

“Elpis” channels arcane beauty and poetic atmospheric depth while the impressive guitar work creates various intricate, yet surprisingly fluid, sonic textures. Ghastly growls in the background add a blackened mood among crushing tight guitar riffing and prog oriented melodic leads.

“Samsara” delivers decadent atmospheric accents embraced by precise staccato rhythms, powerful bass lines and incredibly rich guitar riffs that offer an abstract blend of extreme technical metal and prog signature elements.

Music connoisseurs will certainly appreciate the fancy compositions of “Sunyata” which tends to rely on similar complex patterns but easily stands out for the excellent musicianship and thorough attention for stylish details.