Pain Of Salvation – Panther

Guided by mastermind Daniel Gildenlöw progressive metal masters Pain Of Salvation return with the new long awaited full length “Panther” which constantly showcases a meticulous songwriting approach that naturally unfolds a unique and charismatic sonic vision. 

“Accelerator” ensures an impactful beginning focusing on a wild blend of eclectic keyboards arrangements delivering futuristic textures and insanely intricate guitar progressions which portray an inner conflict certainly emphasized by the passionate vocal performance.

“Unfuture” begins with slow burning phrases that quickly evolve into a somber proggy ensemble where guitars can craft slower cathartic moments and easily generate unexpected rhythmic twists with a heavier approach that depicts a tormented soul. 

“Keen To A Fault” definitely goes beyond any expected prog metal blueprint as Daniel carefully chooses diverse rhythmic dynamics and tonalities to create a striking sonic realm that offers an impressive guitar work, rich atmospheric tapestries and peculiar tempo variations. 

On “Species” the mellow guitar passages accompanied by soulful vocals can take you far away yet the mood will ultimately grow darker as guitars embrace crestfallen tones as well as heavier moody progressions creating a series of captivating crescendos that effortlessly match the intensity and anguish within Daniel’s vocal performance.

“Icon” brings a magnificent closure relying on an elaborate instrumental ensemble featuring exquisite darkened nuances, especially vibrant within the exceptional guitar work, and a spellbinding mix of enigmatic electronic arrangements and glowing piano harmonies which never fails to emphasize the song’s fascinating introspective nature. As always, Daniel pours his heart out through a poignant vocal delivery which expresses a multitude of contrasting emotions flourishing through the convoluted passages.  

Pain Of Salvation continue to follow a fearless music pathway which today leads to “Panther”, a dazzling opus that has in store many surprises driven by a distinct creative spark which often highlights the band’s technical prowess and a genuine emotional turmoil destined to move and inspire the listeners. 

Sons Of Apollo – MMXX

Back in 2017 Sons Of Apollo impressed the metal scene with the charismatic debut album “Psychotic Waltz” and now Mike Portnoy, Derek Sherinian, Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal , Billy Sheehan and Jeff Scott Soto return with a stronger chemistry and brilliant ideas to release the sophomore full length “MMXX”.

The album opener “Goodbye Divinity” manifest diverse nuances & styles starting with enigmatic synths that introduce a series of extra crunchy guitar riffs and consequent heavy rhythmic dynamics with an evident prog metal flair leading to complex variations and such dazzling instrumental ensemble is enriched by Soto’s charismatic rocker delivery. 

With a darker mood “Asphyxiation” focuses on massive rounds of heavy rhythmic grooves while maintaining a catchy essence enhanced by the passionate vocals and the eclectic technical nature of the song comes alive with the flamboyant keyboards and the vibrant guitar soloing. 

The atmospheric grandeur and the poignant piano melodies of “King Of Delusion” evoke gloomy emotions and will continue to hold an essential role throughout the song but soon the impeccable rhythmic section will take over delivering bold guitar riffs and precise drumming while the vocals naturally add an edgy rock vibe that will shift to a soothing emotive delivery during the slower introspective moments. 

“Resurrection Day” demands your attention with the elaborate prog approach of the guitar work and the remarkable rhythmic variations that generate massive entertaining grooves rendered even more interesting by the mind-blowing bass solo and the stellar keyboards. 

The inspiring epic opus “New World Today” marks a grand finale constantly reminding you of the band’s brilliant musicianship in fact every instrument is crucial in the creation of so many intricate patterns that generate a major sonic diversity ranging from fierce rhythmic blasts and insane odd time signatures to magnificent guitar leads and luminous melodic crescendos. 

It would be impossible to overlook the extraordinary talent that fuels “MMXX” yet Sons Of Apollo are not just trying to showcase their evident abilities as they work together to create a memorable collection of songs that is destined to attract more fans worldwide. 

Bent Knee – You Know What They Mean

Boston based band Bent Knee is an incredible creative collective in fact it’s not surprising to see that the new album “You Know What They Mean” is ready to deliver all kinds of mind bending soundscapes with a particularly versatile songwriting approach. 

“Bone Rage” will hit you in the face with a turbulent instrumental ensemble revolving around acidic guitar riffs and unusual rhythmic progressions but vocalist Courtney Swain is certainly the star of the show demonstrating a striking vocal range. 

“Give Us The Gold” is rather entertaining with a groovy upbeat rhythm that channels positive energy and makes you want to jump but the moody guitar melodies can also create introspective moments emphasized by emotive vocals. 

Just listening to Courtney’s otherworldly vocals “Hold Me In” will quickly become a favorite as the whole instrumentation effortlessly shifts from catchy rock elements to spellbinding melodic passages through futuristic atmospheric waves. 

“Cradle Of Rocks” is full of cool bouncy rock dynamics and the guitar work offers additional diversity mixing crispy tonalities with dirty rock accents while vocals tend to amplify the melodic depth with a luminous delivery. 

“Lovemenot” is full of surprises with borderline dissonant guitar riffs that can sound heavier and darker while Courtney’s vocal performance adds playful vibes or becomes utterly dramatic balancing the melodic spirit and the chaotic moments. 

With an artsy rock spirit “Catch Light” certainly shines for the great diversity offering danceable groovy rhythmic segments enhanced by impeccable vocals but there are also enigmatic vibes due to the introvert cinematic themes that convey contrasting feelings. 

You might try to analyze the experimental approach of Bent Knee but it would be a waste of time as they deliberately push boundaries with a rare artistic freedom that renders “You Know What They Mean” a truly unique opus. 

 

Anneke van Giersbergen Live in Joliet

After many years Anneke van Giersbergen returns to North America on an extensive stellar tour with Amorphis and Delain. We all know Anneke’s prolific work as vocalist of The Gathering and as a solo artist she also collaborated with several amazing bands and musicians, but this time she brings a very intimate live experience with an acoustic set that simply delighted the crowd at The Forge in Joliet. It was a pleasure to see that Anneke’s passionate performance included the famous The Gathering song “Saturnine”, “Ih-Ah!” from her collaboration with Devin Townsend Project, the melancholic “Circles” from her solo album “Everything Is Changing” and to end the show Anneke delivered a stunning cover of the classic Iron Maiden song “Wasted Years”. It was a truly unique acoustic concert and we hope to see Anneke back on the road in North America in the near future!

Soto – Origami

Recently we’ve seen the talented Jeff Scott Soto handling vocals in the stellar supergroup Sons Of Apollo, alongside Mike Portnoy, Derek Sherinian, Billy Sheehan and Bumblefoot and now he’s back with the band SOTO to deliver the third studio effort “Origami”. 

The album begins with the positive energy of “HyperMania” which combines catchy guitar driven grooves and 80’s influenced keyboards leading to a widely accessible melodic ensemble with electro beats and subtle heavier rhythmic segments obviously embellished by Jeff’s powerful vocals. 

On the title track the mood and the vocal harmonies get a bit somber so the classic heavy metal approach is still palpable but the modern prog elements become increasingly prominent leading to extra sharp guitar riffs and an absolutely stunning guitar solo featuring smooth shredding and intriguing technical accents. 

The rhythm slows down on “BeLie” to emphasize the luminous melodic guitar phrases and the intense vocal delivery in the midst of understated atmospheric waves while the rhythmic section channels thrilling prog dynamics. 

“Torn” is all about melancholy as Jeff’s sorrowful vocals are able to evoke an emotional tumult flowing through delicate atmospheric layers and graceful guitar melodies further enhanced by the stylish energetic soloing. 

“Dance With The Devil” focuses on heavier chunky guitar riffs and an increasing raw energy to build cohesive grooves amplified by Jeff’s charismatic rocker vocal style while the lead guitars engage the listeners with flamboyant prog oriented solos. 

“Afterglow” has an uplifting melodic rock approach with loads of smooth keyboards arrangements and bouncy guitar riffs while the brass section adds playful funky rhythmic variations. 

As expected all the songs on “Origami” are written around Jeff’s remarkable vocal abilities and consequently his charming voice is destined to steal the spotlight yet it must be noted that he is accompanied by excellent musicians and together they are able to create an entertaining sonic experience. 

Haken – Vector

British progressive metal darlings Haken return with “Vector” the 5th studio album and follow up to the acclaimed “Affinity.” Massively heavy and decidedly darker In tone, this release sees the chaps changing things up a tad, but fret not, it’s just the right amount.

After a rather short yet unsettling introduction track “Clear”, that perfectly sets up the darker tone of Vector with a baroque tinged keyboard performance, we are treated to the most Haken-esque track on the album, “The Good Doctor.” This song has all the usual twists and turns we’ve come to expect from the sextet. 8 string guitar riffs a plenty, quirky-jagged keyboard accents, soaring and hooky vocal parts, with downright funky bass work.

Veil is perhaps the most progressive song and also the longest on the record, which falls in line with their discography. Every Haken album Must have a song over ten minutes apparently! Around the seven minute mark this song take on a Steven Wilson/Porcupine Tree personality replete with a slide guitar harmony.

The more 70’s Genesis and Gentle Giant influences seem to have evaporated this time around in favor of a harder edge. Organ sounds are still used throughout the album as in Veil but that is about the only remaining facet of that sound.  Also of note is that there are no fun/silly type of songs reminiscent of “Cockroach King” or “1985.” It makes sense considering the subject matter and most likely wouldn’t fit the overarching concept, but this further hammers home that Haken is changing their album makeup and sound.

“Nil By Mouth” is easily the heaviest song Haken has written thus far. Starting off with a Devin Townsend/Meshuggah groove cascading into more familiar Waters …it’s a bit confounding as to why this is an instrumental track however. There is plenty of room for vocal parts and   A vocalist as talented as Ross Jennings would certainly find no difficulties in finding the right spots to place them. Aside from the one grievance, the track acts as a good transitional point in the record acting as a climax of sorts.

“Host” is the antithesis to the preceding track. With a touching and lyrical flugelhorn solo courtesy of guest musician Miguel Gorodi and lush vocals, this is perhaps the most touching song Haken has written since “Earthlings.” Especially considering the lyrical content, the ending of this song is one the most powerful moments on the record, emotionally and musically. If there is a Haken song that could bring the listener to tears, this is the one.

Of particular note is how far drummer Ray Herne has elevated his perfomances. While his parts were by no means inferior on previous effort, Affinity, this time around every part is just a bit Extra. Extra complicated groves, beats, and fills. “Nil by Mouth” is essentially a drum solo, where Herne is allowed to flex’s his drum chops to their max. The superb recording quality from Adam “Nolly” Getgood is breathtaking not just from a beautiful drum sound but overall band mix. It feels and sounds “real”, for lack of a better description, In a world of overly polished and replaced/sampled instrumentation.

For studio album number five, Haken could have easily just rested on their laurels and they would please their fans regardless. This album sees them crafting their most accessible record yet, which is not a bad thing. With this accessibility the album feels decidedly more succinct than previous efforts, but the overall effect is much more potent this time around. There is absolutely zero filler material to be found. The decision to be heavier and darker definitely reflects  our current global cultural climate and casts a wider net into the vast progressive metal fanbase, all the while not varying the core principals in Haken’s sound. Highly recommended!

Spock’s Beard – Noise Floor

The mighty Spock’s Beard return with a new release. Continuing with Ted Leonard on vocals, you know you can expect greatness.

“To Breathe Another Day”… The vocal harmonies are so good.

“What Becomes Of Me” has sort of a spacey intro that pick up into a Rush styled groove, but much more detailed. Ted’s vocals kick in and they’re so clear and understandable. I can’t stress enough how well he fits into this band. The bridge section is pretty cool. You get lead, vocals, solo. Just very well written.

“Somebody’s Home” has a nice acoustic intro, then it picks up a bit. You get a folk oriented guitar lead. The verse is loaded with a lot of emotion. The chorus is super memorable. I’m telling you, Ted brought new life into this band.

“Have We All Gone Crazy Yet” has such a genesis styled intro, The distorted guitars kind of break that up though. The acoustic guitar kicks in and well, Spock’s Beard does what they do best. They just keep building up the song with a ton of energy that comes through in the recordings. This is the longest track on the album, but it really doesn’t feel that way. I won’t spoil it for you.

“Box Of Spiders” has sort of an 80’s retro synth opening, but then throws in quite the proggy curveball. Trust me you’ll see. This track get pretty aggressive. I absolutely love it. There’s a ton of groove and spacey feeling stuff happening. It’s probably one of my favorite tracks. It’s what every Prog fan wants to hear.

Overall this is an extremely well put together album, Spock’s Beard has proven that they’re here to stay. Listen for yourself and be the judge.

Kino – Radio Voltaire

The new album from Kino. A band I was never familiar with, but had heard the name. Definitely glad I gave them a chance.

“Radio Voltaire” I would normally say sets the overall tone for the album, but I don’t really think it does. It’s a standout track and also the longest. It feels very triumphant. The lead playing is very nice throughout it. Very “80’s” styled phrasing.

“The Dead Club” is a bit more rocking, with a big use of synthesizers. I kind of get a Porcupine Tree vibe in this track. The structure is “straight forward” yet packed with a lot of subtle details and changes.

“Idlewild” is another one of the longer tracks. It starts with a really nice piano intro that gets followed by the vocals. After a full run through, it picks up with all the other instruments, becoming even more memorable that the first time around. There’s a really tasteful solo that comes in. It’s arranged quite well.

“I Won’t Break So Easily Anymore” has a very calm intro with some cool audio samples. When the keys and vocals kick in, I get some Marillion vibes. This is probably my favorite track. The instruments display a lot of variety while the song maintains a catchy feel. There’s a really cool synth solo that reminds me of early Genesis. That alone wins me over.

“Out Of Time” manages to mix a 90’s rock with a British Invasion feel. There’s a very cool break that comes in and changes the feel utilizing… Lydian of course. Typical prog fashion. They continue to build on this theme, until a nice bass solo kicks in. You heard right. And it goes on for quite awhile. I really dig this track

I recommend this album. It’s simple enough to enjoy on the surface, but intricate enough to dig in deep.

Gösta Berlings Saga – Et Ex

The polychromatic instrumental adventure of Gösta Berlings Saga begins in 2000 in the Stockholm suburb of Vällingby and now the band has the chance to reach a wider audience worldwide with the brand new effort “Et Ex”.

With a somber mood “The Shortcomings of Efficiency” offers haunting multilayered atmospheres that steadily surround crispy and utterly eclectic guitar melodies with an intriguing prog rock approach and retro tonalities but the song often tends to change pace and style in order to build cinematic soundscapes.

With a melancholic nature immediately expressed by ethereal piano harmonies “Artefacts” follows softer rhythmic dynamics where guitars and synths embrace to craft intense atmospheres, bizarre electro layers and dreamy melodies.

“Capercaillie Lammergeyer Cassowary & Repeat” is another strange track where variegated synths constantly provide mysterious atmospheric sections with increasing dramatic intensity.

On “Fundament” there is a multitude of moody lead guitar melodies confidently channeling classic prog rock elements in the midst of opulent atmospheric arrangements that naturally shift from hazy tones to darker nuances.

There are evident prog roots behind “Et Ex” which often feels more like a movie soundtrack relying heavily on synths and unusual sonic textures and in the end you might notice that Gösta Berlings Saga is not a typical prog band.