Posts Tagged ‘Prog Metal’

emperor_of_sand_coverAtlanta Prog Metal legends Mastodon return in 2017 with their seventh proper full-length studio album, Emperor Of Sand. Speaking of returns; frequent collaborator Scott Kelly returns for yet another guest vocal performance and producer Brendan O’Brian returns as well, having last done their fourth album, the 2009 masterpiece, Crack The Skye. Also returning is the concept-album format. Leviathan, Blood Mountain and Crack The Skye had all been story-driven concept albums that also served as a metaphor for the band’s lives and Emperor Of Sand continues that tradition after a break into more traditional territories with The Hunter and Once More Round The Sun.

The concept on this record is of a man being handed down a curse/death sentence and wandering the sands of the desert to his ultimate death and or salvation. The band haven’t been shy in interviews of describing the fact that story serves as a metaphor for cancer and especially guitarist Bill Kelliher’s mother’s death from brain cancer. There’s even a dedication to her cleverly hidden in the artwork on one of the creature’s shields.

When you get told that information before hand, you immediately analyze the lyrics for clues. Is this about a biopsy? Is this about a scan? Does this represent the prognosis? Is this about the stages of grief? Does this represent the loss of cognitive function associated with illnesses of the brain? Is this line about a donation? Is this one about a family dispute? Does this character represent the doctor? Does this one represent cancer itself? …We do know for sure from the documentary that sand represents time. Sometimes it isn’t even so hidden at all; the album ends with the line ‘Its right in front of me, your malignancy.’ It all gives the album such a layer of depth, not unlike Crack The Skye had with Brann’s family tragedy. It feels a bit distasteful going into it so much, but then again if they didn’t want us to it wouldn’t have been released and promoted in such a way as to make it so possible.

Background aside, the main thing that sticks out about this album is the lead guitar. Now, Mastadon have always been musical virtuosos, innovators and masters of distilling broad and extreme influences into a cohesive singular whole, but still, even when we get used to excellence from the musicians, the guitars here are especially strong. There are some really stand up and take notice leads, some very crack a smile solos and some screw up your face and nod riffs on here.

It really is a guitar-centric record. Even with the story, Brann’s superhero drumming, all the bonus keyboards and studio touches, and the team approach to vocals… man those guitarists sure are on damn fine form here.

In terms of direction; this one seems to be an attempt to merge the Crack The Skye formula into the most mainstream moments of the most recent two albums. The first half of the album is all more sing-along, catchy, easily accessible stuff, and the second half drops down the prog. Tracks like ‘Show Yourself’ and ‘Precious Stones’ have radio appeal, then tracks like the magnificent album closer ‘Jaguar God’ are a trippy journey through a dozen speeds, tones and moods with bonkers Robert Fripp-esque guitar noodling meeting metal meeting acoustic meeting big beautiful wailing solos. The middle of ‘Clandestiny’ sounds like it could be on a Yes or Genesis record, something they’ve always talked about but I’ve never heard so litterally before.

With Emperor Of Sand it feels like they’ve taken all the lessons they’ve learned with big vocal melodys, hit appeal and targeting a wider audience, and applied it to the slow-burn, grower, hear something new on every listen nature of Crack The Skye. It doesn’t sound anything like that record, but the second half has the same spirit, ethos or vibe as it did. Its all about the repeat listens, the new discoveries, the changing attitudes. I mean, it doesn’t sound like my favourite album, Leviathan, and that is always an adjustment, but when you get over it, like you do every new release you realize that the band can still be amazing even when they are doing a different style.

On first listen, I wasn’t keen on this album, the next time I wasn’t sure, I felt a bit negatively about this but I was sure one more listen would prove whether there was something good going on here and then from there it built and built for me until I was a bit positive to satisfied and now I’m very impressed. Its got big ideas, its got big ambitions, and its undeniably Mastodon. Some of these songs feel one way, then they hit the halfway mark and morph into something else. There’s all these neat subtle touches in the background (listen in depth to ‘Steam Breather’). There’s such badass little drum parts (hey there, Ancient Kingdom’s midsection!). There’s such sticky vocal parts. From all the singers. They’re working together even better than before, blending better. Its a team approach to vocals and it works really well. Then you get all the different takes on the album. Sit there with the lyric book in an empty room and the album feels one way, listen to it on a sunny walk and its very different again. Listen concentrating on one instrument and it feels like a different record than concentrating on another, or the vocals.

For me; my favourite tracks would have to be ‘Roots Remain,’ especially towards its end which has a Cysquatch feel to it, as well as aforementioned album highlight ‘Jaguar God’ and the most Remission-like track ‘Andromeda’ with its jagged caustic riffs and awesome guest vocals from Brutal Truth’s Kevin Sharp… but hey, if the weather improves I can see it being the singles ‘Show Yourself’ and ‘Sultans Curse.’ Pretty great for an album I initially had a negative impression of, ey?

A grower. An exceeder of expectations. A Mastodon album.

Angra – Holy Land Review

Posted: July 26, 2015 by kingcrimsonprog in Metal, Metal - Studio, Music Reviews, Prog Studio
Tags: , ,

Angra - Holy Land

Angra – Holy Land

The Brazilian Heavy Metal band Angra’s debut album Angels Cry had sounded somewhere in the area of like a mixture between early Helloween and Queensryche. Three years later the band diversified their sound, with a sort of Dream Theater flair in places, a lot less Power Metal, and the introduction of what would come to define the band in the eyes of many… lots of Brazilian indigenous folk music influences, additional percussion and classical influences in there too for good measure.

Where the first album had a lot more speed, this album mixes it up. It’s a lot more rhythmic, based on interesting patterns. They upped the amount of keyboards, orchestral arrangements and percussion for sure, and there’s some sound effects here and there (boat and water sounds to fit with the theme), but the biggest difference is in how the songs flow and are structured.

Its also a concept album about their Brazilian homeland and its early history. Not your typical character-driven concept (usually about a fictional rockstar). It makes for interesting listening and adds an extra layer of intrigue to the proceedings.

The style has changed a little since the debut, but what hasn’t changed is the band’s talent. The vocals and lead guitar alone are phenomenal and then you have the really powerful rhythm section who shower this album full of impressive bass runs and tricky fills and manage all the tempo and time sig changes effortlessly making the complexity feel smooth and natural.

The superb production job by Power Metal producer-extraordinaire Charlie Bauerfeind (Hammerfall, Helloween, Gamma Ray, Primal Fear, Blind Guardian, Freedom Call etc.) is the icing on the cake that pulls together the spectacular songwriting and performances and makes you appreciate everything all the more.

Highlights include ‘Nothing To Say’ which is beyond catchy, ‘Carolina IV’ and perhaps my favourite of all, ‘Z.I.T.O’ which starts off in an Angel’s Cry mould and then goes off on one.

Overall, this is a really good album from a talented band. If you like your Prog Metal or your Power Metal then you need to check out Angra, and if you like Angra then Holy Land is pretty essential listening.

Hello and welcome once again my friends to the show that never ends this fourth round of my “Get (Into) What You Paid For” challenge, in which I attempt to not buy anything for a month, and reevaluate my opinion of records I bought previously but never really became a true fan of, taking this purchase-abstinence as a chance to finally “get my money’s worth” out’ve the more undervalued albums in my collection. That; and present thoughts and musings that don’t fit elsewhere on the blog.

Its now eight days into the challenge and yup…didn’t cave last night and buy anything. I don’t think I’m all that tempted at the minute. Maybe I am though. Who knows, maybe I’d sneak in during the middle of the night and buy Girls Girls Girls on eBay? I listened to Accept’s Balls To The Wall yesterday, that made me pretty tempted to pick up Restless & Wild actually. Ok…so maybe there are temptations. Get off my back!

A lot of my blog viewing this week has featured Savatage…maybe I’ll just quickly get the albums of theirs I’m missing?

No. Stay strong!… Ok. So. You’ll be glad to read (unless you’re an Amazon employee) that I didn’t do any of that. I’ve still been listening to that Motely Crue album I mentioned yesterday. Also a lot of Pantera. Boy do I enjoy Pantera. Sometimes you take them for granted and ignore them, and then all of a sudden you are refreshed and hear them again and its all like “Wow…how good are Pantera guys? Seriously!” as if it’s the very first time again. Excellent, timeless, brilliant band.

In non-music realms, I’ve been reading Batman Cacophony, a title (written by Kevin Smith) that I picked up and read over half a year ago but haven’t blogged about yet, but I’ve kept that in a separate post, in the Amateur Batfan series. Temptations-wise? Maybe I might buy Kevin Smith’s work on Green Arrow or Daredevil? I am curious… but, no, not now. Its still just Batman time for me.

So, what else is new then?

I’ve been reading a lot online today about the best selling Metal albums of all time. I would like to see how Avenged Sevenfold and Slipknot compare to Dokken and Quiet Riot…how Dream Theater did, if Anthrax or Exodus ever went platinum over time… things like that.

A few of the places to check out are: here and here, and also here. Furthermore, there’s here and here and here.

What I found out however is that there are massive, massive, massive differences in opinion/supposed facts/plain old lies about how well certain albums sold. Here are some examples of such disputed sales figures:

AC/DC – Back In Black: 49 x platinum (or 25/40 as reported elsewhere)
Pink Floyd – The Dark Side Of The Moon: 45 x platinum (or 22 as reported elsewhere)
Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin IV: 37 x platinum (or 29 as reported elsewhere)
Nirvana – Nevermind: 30 x platinum (or 26 as reported elsewhere)
Bon Jovi – Slippery When Wet: 28 x platinum (or 12 as reported elsewhere)
Guns N’ Roses – Appetite For Destruction: 28 x platinum (or 18/21/30 as reported elsewhere)
Linkin Park – Hybrid Theory: 24 x platinum (or 10 as reported elsewhere)
Metallica – Metallica: 19 x platinum (or 16/30 as reported elsewhere)
Pink Floyd – The Wall: 17 x platinum (or 30 as reported elsewhere)

How can there be such discrepancies? Some of these are nearly double the amount! That’s not something you can mistake in your bank account, or shipping company traffic.

Here are other some surprises however:

Kid Rock – Devil Without A Cause: 11 x platinum
Limp Bizkit – Significant Other: 7 x platinum
Limp Bizkit – Chocolate Starfish and the Hotdog Flavored Water: 6 x platinum
Quiet Riot – Metal Health: 6 x platinum
Guns N’ Roses – Greatest Hits: 5 x platinum
Guns N’ Roses – GN’R Lies: 5 x platinum
Alice in Chains – Dirt: 4 x platinum
Black Sabbath – Paranoid: 4 x platinum
Nine Inch Nails – The Downward Spiral: 4 x platinum
Linkin Park – Meteora: 4 x platinum
Disturbed – The Sickness: 4 x platinum
Godsmack – Godsmack: 4 x platinum
Metallica – Kill ‘Em All: 3 x platinum
System of a Down – Toxicity: 3 x platinum
Queensryche – Empire: 3 x platinum
Tool – Aenima 3 x platinum
Rage Against the Machine – Rage Against the Machine: 3 x platinum
Rage Against the Machine – Evil Empire: 3 x platinum
Cinderella – Night Songs: 3 x platinum
Cinderella – Long Cold Winter: 3 x platinum
Papa Roach – Infest: 3 x platinum
P.O.D. – Satellite: 3 x platinum
Audioslave – Audioslave 3 x platinum
Ozzy Osbourne – Diary of a Madman: 3 x platinum
Ozzy Osbourne – Bark at the Moon: 3 x platinum

P.O.D, Cinadrella, Papa Roach and Disturbed stand out to me as odd. These guys all sold more than Slipknot? My perspective is way off. They all sold equal to System Of A Down…really? Also, I never, ever thought Godsmack would be that successful… You just do not hear of those guys over here in the UK (Godsmack’s record here is MORE Successful than Black Sabbath, RATM and Ozzy Osbourne? Really?).

Tool sold so many despite being so proggy and weird? Good on them!

RATM sold so few relative to this list despite the enormous crossover appeal?

What’s with the large gap between Metallica albums? If you like Metallica enough to buy Ride The Lightning, why not buy Kill ‘Em All too?

Significant Other sold more than Chocolate Starfish? – It really didn’t feel that way at the time.

Audioslave?

Queensryche did that well? Why were they so unheard of two years ago?

An unwanted, cover-song-filled GNR compilation so, so late in their career outsold Toxicity and Meteora? They seemed sooooo famous at the time to me, while that compilation seems so throw-away.

But anyway, enough about sales.

DT – A

Here’s something to reevaluate. Dream Theater’s 1994 album, Awake. It’s their third album, it’s the third of theirs that I heard if memory serves. I heard Metropolis’ and didn’t like it (this has since changed), then I heard Images & Words and liked that, then I bought a boxset and listened to the other albums in that; which included Awake, Falling Into Infinity and Train Of Thought.

The album opens up with drums on their own, and kind of reminds me of Jethro Tull’s ‘No Lullabye’ in a very vague way. Opener “6.00” comes in and samples say “Six O Clock On A Christmas Morning” in a way that is sort of cool because they made it rhythmic and part of the song like Ministry might do, but also slightly annoying. Sometimes this part is offputting and sometimes I love it, depending on my mood. They pulled the whole samples and randomness thing off way better on the previous album during “Take The Time.”

I like the keys, this actually feels like there is a lot of 70s Prog in it. The drums are nice and flashy and awkward. Its kind of, with the exception of the pre-chorus though, its kind of cooler to appreciate than to actually enjoy. You sit with your minds eye, casting it over the different things going on, focusing for a second on each, like watching Slipknot on stage with your real eyes, and that process is fun. The song isn’t as good on the ears as that process is on the brain however.

I like it during the middle during the “Inside coming outside” bit where it goes a bit Misplaced Childhood. After this point the song is pretty bad-ass actually. The solo and the parts underneath are all excellent.

Much like Theater Of Pain I kind of think this album-opener is a bad choice. Its doesn’t set up a good first impression. I think you have to know you like the song before you hear it to trust it, otherwise its just gimmicky and overly bouncy without being memorable. Its not. But it seems that way until the half-way point if you are unfamiliar. It should be buried later in the album, where it would be the exact same song, but better, because you’re already warmed up. Do you follow?

Next up comes “Caught In A Web.” I didn’t know that at the time, because as a rule I think I hate “Caught In A Web.” I hear some Dream Theater song though… The first minute…awesome. (Well; awesome except the synth… a weird seering synth over the top that feels like its mocking me. I had problems with Camel’s fifth album in the past, when the toplines mocked me even when the bottom was cool. The bottom of this song during the first minute or two is awesome, but boy-o-boy do I dislike that top-part.)

Anyway, the first minute is more or less great. Nice, the same excellent sound from their previous record Images & Words, but maybe a little tiny bit slower and with a tiny bit more Pantera creeping into things. Then a really ugly, ugly, sheen-y chorus which just doesn’t fit. Oh, I guess its “Caught In A Web.” Damn, I don’t like it anymore…I think?

It then bounces into a cool Alternative Metal/Groove Metal riff that really reminds me of Pantera and Pissing Razors a lot. Then there’s bits when they prog out on that riff and it sounds like Death and Opeth because of the long winding, ever-shifting guitar lines aspects. The whole mid section is fabulous. The drum build-up is cool, the Eastern-tinged keys are cool, the guitars are rhythmic and interesting.

I often think I dislike this song, but this song is fabulous, its just got the wrong chorus for my tastes. I’d love to edit the chorus out of it, and then it would be one of my favourite Dream Theater tracks.

Next up comes “Innocence Faded,” which opens like some sort of Tennis Match montage music. Its clean and commercial and not unpleasant. It then goes down into a quiet, diamondy sort of sound like Donkey Kong Country levels in an Ice Cave. The next bit is cool, kind of Genesis-reminiscent. The chorus is a bit “nothing” …a sort of swing-and-a-miss, but there are many other cool parts. LaBrie is awesome around the 2.05 mark. The drums are nice and flashy between there and the chorus too. Very nice. After that there’s some very 80s Rush sounds. Rush albums later than Moving Pictures. I like it. Its not very Metal in any way, but in and of itself, its nice. It kind of reminds me of Van Halen’s “Jump” and Genesis’ “Turn It On Again” combined in some sort of The Fly situation.

The instrumental “Erotomania” is next. A lot of Van Der Graaf and King Crimson influence here. It opens sounding like a warning siren on a train track. Its quite nice to sit and concentrate on, but not really background music. Queensryche and Tool, and even Mastodon can make Prog that you can not even notice is all that complex if you don’t pay attention. This is more like The Mars Volta in that…no one’s mistaking that for simplistic. It gets really cool from 2 minute mark onwards, all these parts are way cooler than the start part. Its interesting the mix of 70s Prog, with 80s sounds and then also even a bit that sounds like its trying to be Zeppelin’s “The Rain Song” hidden in there in the background. Its also cool when it goes Neoclassical a minute later. This is the sort of thing you listen to a hundred times and never truly hear the same thing twice. I think two fans can hear it and their brains will tell them two completely different things depending on how closely each guy is paying attention.

The brief Metal bit towards the end, but before the repetition of the bits from the start, is cool. Also, the actual end-end really, really reminds me of both “The Trees” by Rush, and the bit in “2112” by Rush where it transitions from the heavy bit to the soft bit where the character discovers the guitar.

The lengthy “Voices” follows up. It is thunderous and reminds me quite a lot of “Suite Sister Mary” by Queensryche during the opening, but its a lot more technical and multi-faceted. It builds up quite slowly over almost the first three minutes, there’s sort of a “Don’t Leave Me Now” by Pink Floyd vibe to that build.

The those same bright ugly keys from the “Caught In A Web” chorus come in. The Metal bit which follows is really rather neat. I hear bits that would influence Protest The Hero in there. The ugly chorus is ugly to me. There’s a touch of the “Caught In A Web” problem, where this one part is causing a false impression of a good song and lowering my overall impression of it accidentally. Even though the rest of it is deadly, like the following part with double-kicks. I like the talk-boxy solo a little while afterwards. That whole section is excellent. The only problem I have is that this song really feels like an album-closer. But its track 5 of 11. Well it makes me want to stop listening because the record is obviously finished, only it isn’t, is it?

This album has a problem of being in the wrong order. That’s my diagnosis.

Anyway, next comes the brief, perfect ballad, “The Silent Man.” It is excellent; succinct, tasteful, memorable and interesting. Its just right, not too cheesy. A few more tiny hints of Zeppelin’s “The Rain Song” hidden in the mid-section. Deceptively varied and creative vocals. A neat little guitar lead. All good stuff.

“The Mirror.” Opens up in a huge and obvious Pantera tribute. Parts seems practically lifted whole-sale from “Domination” and “Walk.” Then it speeds up and some Phantom of the Opera chase keys come it, its all very intriguing. Then a fun guitar line that I’m sure inspired Avenged Sevenfold follows, the drums are fast and Metal. Back to Pantera.

I think this is my favourite song from the album. Maybe that’s just because I like Pantera so much? Interestingly though, its all the bits that don’t sound like Pantera which really make it cool though. I think I’ll change my iTunes tracklist of this album so that this and “6.00” switch places. This would be a much better opener.

It seamlessly transitions into “Lie.” That means “Lie” and “Caught In A Web” will have to switch places too, oh well.

“Lie” is really strong. Apparently it was a single. Its catchy enough. I love the Mary/Contrary/Promise/Doubting Thomas bit. That was always the one bit of the record that stuck out in my mind. I’ll have to remember that this song is the one with that in it.

Hey! A bit that sounds like Tool! That riff underneath the bit about leashes is reminiscent of Undertow-era Adam Jones. This is a nice song. Also the groove at 3.30 and the subsequent complex bit with the solo are possibly the most enjoyable Dream Theater moments that I’ve heard which aren’t on Images And Words. Skip to the 5-minute mark and yeah! That’s what I want to hear. This song is top notch! Yes, these two songs would make a much better album opener, get the blood pumped, the enthusiasm up, and then I’m ready to accept “6.00” because I’m in the mood now.

“Lifting Shadows Off A Dream” comes next, all broody, and seems as if its going to be Queensryche’s “I Don’t Believe In Love” for a few seconds, until it reveals its true intentions. Its almost a ballad, its almost a big build up. Its almost Hogarth-era Marillion. Its none of these things, its its’ own tasteful pop song with a lot on small toms and splash cymbals. Its kind of sprawling…its like King Crimson’s “Starless” in structure, but much, much, much, much more clean and bright and commercial. It sounds like a basket ball team in a movie winning its first victory whilst the dad shows up to see his son for the first time because he’s finally learned what’s important in life.

“Scarred” follows that. Also sprawling. Slightly jazzy flavoured but without any actual jazz. Full of mischief. Threateningly full of potential. Which way will it go? – Lots of ways it would seem. Groove parts. Staccato Metal parts (various ones in fact). Clean syrupy pop parts. Numerous time-sig changes. It’s a real “Hey, we can do a lot of stuff and we’re good at our instruments” piece. The clean chorus is a lot less lame than in either “Caught In A Web” or “Voices” though.

Then there’s another kind of chorus which feels like its got a sort of grunge influence. A touch of the “Evenflow”s about it, ey?

Do you know when bands say that their heavier stuff is heavier and their lighter stuff is lighter…this actually is. There’s not much on Images And Words that’s overly syrupy. Anyway… There’s also nothing as heavy as the part between the guitar solo in the 7-8 minute bracket.

Also, why does nothing Dream Theater ever play sound like Yes? I was promise Metallica meets Yes. Whoever promised me that (Classic Rock Presents Prog Magazine) doesn’t listen to much Yes… or Metallica for that matter.

This song could benefit from lots and lots of repeat listens, because there’s tons of cool parts to enjoy, but its lack of purpose or structure make first-impressions a bit confused.

Finally comes depressing album closer “Space Dye Vest” which I already know that I enjoy, but will listen to here anyway. Its moody, its tasteful, its got samples that are mechanical sounding instead of dialogue. Ok, actually it does have diagloue samples too… something Anathema do a lot actually… this reminds me of the whole Anathema rant about “Death is not the opposite of life, death is the opposite of birth, life is eternal.” I guess a woman is not a possession then, sample guy. Anyway, the end of the song is fantastic.

Ok. That was the album.

What do I think? Four awesome songs in “The Mirror,” “Lie,” “The Silent Man” and “Space Dye Vest.” The rest… good bits, but not good songs, or maybe good songs with bits that aren’t to my taste. Except maybe “Erotomania” which is good but just has an intro that makes me think I won’t like it.

Meh… Its worth owning. I think a lot more listens are required before it hits me properly. Or maybe, its just a case of I should listen to half of it a lot and ignore the other half because I could listen to better music instead? Who knows…

Hope that was entertaining. Now, continuing the theme established yesterday, and based on this article’s inclusion of the Prog Metal band Dream Theater… here are some Top 5s from some Progressive Metal bands in my collection:

Coheed & Cambria :
1. Apollo I: The Writing Writer
2. Far
3. No World For Tomorrow
4. Key Entity Extraction I: Domino The Destitute
5. Key Entity Extraction V: Sentry The Defiant

Dream Theater:
1. Take The Time
2. Metropolis Prt 1 The Miracle And The Sleeper
3. Strange Deja Vu
4. Honour Thy Father
5. The Silent Man

The Mars Volta :
1. Cotapaxi
2. Cygnus….Vismund Cygnus
3. Vedamalady
4. Goliath
5. Day Of The Baphomets

Mastodon :
1. Blood And Thunder
2. The Czar
3. This Mortal Soil
4. I Am Ahab
5. Crusher Destroyer

Porcupine Tree :
1. Anesthetize
2. Drawing The Line
3. Normal
4. The Sound Of Musak
5. Deadwing

Protest The Hero :
1. Turn Soonest To The Sea
2. Sex Tapes
3. Skies
4. Mist
5. Dunsel

Queensryche :
1. Revolution Calling
2. Roads To Madness
3. Where Dreams Go To Die
4. Murder?
5. My Global Mind

Rishloo :
1. Downhill
2. Weevil Bride
3. Alchemy Alice
4. Scissorlips
5. El Empe

Riverside :
1. Hyperactive
2. Celebrity Touch
3. Second Life Syndrome
4. Rainbow Box
5. Egotist Hedonist

Savatage :
1. Hall Of The Mountain King
2. Castles Burning
3. Believe
4. Edge Of Thorns
5. Of Rage And War

Tool :
1. 10,000 Days
2. Jambi
3. Eulogy
4. Ticks And Leeches
5. Vicarious

There’s dozens of others in my library, but for one reason or another I don’t feel comfortable choosing a Top 5 for them.

Here’s a quick list, and series of thoughts, on all the blog-related purchases I’ve made in the last while. I haven’t had time to give them all their own articles yet, so I’m going to give them all a short round-up here:

(more…)

Periphery - Clear EP Review

Periphery – Clear EP Review

Clear is a 2014 EP by the American Progressive Metal band Periphery, released between their second and third full-length albums.

The twenty-nine minute EP features seven individual compositions, each creatively directed by a separate person, each of which contain themes presented within the opening track, ‘Overture.’

If you sit there and pick it apart you can appreciate all the nice progressive touches and experimentation, equally if you like you can just take it all at face value, as another set of top-quality Periphery songs. For only containing seven tracks, there’s quite a bit of variety to be found on Clear; there’s a piano driven intro, there are two instrumentals, some catchy-single sounding material, some heavy Djenty rhythms, some nice effects-laiden guitars and some electronic ambient stuff all in there. That being said, it isn’t a sloppy mish mash of different styles and it isn’t so experimental that it looses listenability, this is a very solid collection of great sounding tracks that all sound like Periphery.

Highlights include the catchy ‘Parade Of Ashes,’ as well as ‘Feed The Ground’ and the instrumental ‘Zero.’

Overall; Clear is a fine addition to any Periphery fan’s collection. I’d also recommend anyone who listens to Protest The Hero, Tesseract, The Safety Fire, Animals As Leaders, Monuments, Circles, Coheed & Cambria and Karnivool give it a shot too. This is a nice introduction to the band, covering sounds found from both their debut and sophomore albums, and with enough variety and personality to really sell what the band are about.

**Oh, and if you found this review by search engine, when you discover it again on Amazon it is me posting it. It hasn’t been copied and pasted off here by a stranger, I post my reviews on Amazon as ‘Gentlegiantprog “Kingcrimsonprog.”’ So please don’t unhelpful-vote it because you thought it was stolen from me.**

Its day 34 of my third Get (Into) What You Paid For challenge. I’ve been adhering to the challenge and haven’t broken the challenge yet. To be honest it hasn’t been too challenging. Challenge, Challenge, Challenge. So; Christmas has came and went, and the kind people in my life have provided me with a brilliant collection of very-well-thought-out gifts, which has definitely taken the urge to buy myself stuff away for a while.

I’ve been given numerous biographies on bands I like (including Sabbath, Megadeth, Slipknot, Jethro Tull); Power Metal albums from Iced Earth and Gamma Ray; Prog Metal albums from Porcupine Tree, Pain Of Salvation and Tesseract; Thrash from Testament. Even a bit of Grunge in the form of the new Pearl Jam album. My listening habits from the last year are all very well served by this.

I’ve been given a massive load of comics from my friend Magnum, and I’ve been given the new Batman videogame. My gaming and reading habits from last year are all pretty well served by this too.

Pretty much, I’ve just had a massive influx of things I like and so that quells the urge to buy more things I like.

Another reason I’ve been doing OK with not buying things is that I’m completely and drastically broke. Its easier to exert some restraint when there’s more reason to do so. Maybe I’m fianlly an adult, now that I can confidently say I’d rather be able to pay my rent than buy myself something entertaining. I’ve got so bloody much stuff already anyway that its becoming easier to shrug off the itch to get more, I’m beginning to learn some perspective and tone down my overspending.

Taking this financial situation into account, and the fact that I didn’t blog as frequently on the subject this December as I had in the previous two GIWYPF challenge months, I’ve decided to extend this one into a two-month epic. That’s right. I’ll try not to buy any books, comic books, DVDs, Blu Rays, Band T–Shirts, Books, Music or Videogames for another month, making it a stretch from December 1st to February 1st. I don’t think I’ve ever went that long without buying something of this nature since turning 18.

But if I was going to break the challenge, what would I break it on?

Riverside’s debut, Haken’s whole discography, the two Psychotic Waltz reissues, some of the more famous Fates Warning albums, and DreamTheater’s Awake all spring to mind. As does Mudhoney’s Superfuzz Bigmuff and Angra’s Angel’s Cry.

I’d also like to get the two most recent Batman collections, the Death Of The Family main story and side-stories books. Everything I’ve read from Snyder so far has been good and I’d like to be a bit more “In The Loop” with things, if it wasn’t so costly.

Oh. And there’s one new Arctic Monkeys B-side that’s came out during the challenge. I like to always buy those B-Sides pretty much as soon as they are released, this is the longest I’ve gone without getting an Arctic Monkey’s B-Side since the release of their second album.

To be honest though, I don’t think there’s much risk of me breaking the challenge. Having a massive exam schedule that requires serious, dedicated revision for, having no money, and having been given those excellent Christmas gifts should keep me busy and thinking straight.

So; today, having done my revision for the day, I’ll take a little break and do a quick little series of mini-reviews/thoughts of what I’ve been listening to lately. As you might imagine, most of it will be the gifts I got for Christmas that I’ve described above. Here goes:

I got a copy of Tesseract’s new album Altered State for Christmas. I went and saw them live about a month ago and was completely blown away by them. They were supporting Karnivool who I’d imagine were less big than them, but who weren’t. They had an annoying loud fan who wouldn’t stop screaming for songs they didn’t play (“Dead Man”) and making a clown’s horn noise. I wish that fan had kept their big mouth shut, but the concert was awesome. Tesseract’s guitarist is very tall… Anyway; This album completely lives up to my expectations. Its absolutely fantastic. Such incredible musicianship and utterly spellbinding vocals. I can foresee this band becoming huge, if there’s any justice. Also, there’s a Saxaphone solo. Always a plus for a Floyd/Tull/Crimson fan!

I think I’m going to be dedicating a heck of a lot of listening time to this record in the near future.

Keeping with the Prog theme, Porcupine Tree’s Deadwing. I’ve been craving Deadwing for quite a while now. Ever since I got into the band, Deadwing has been my number one, most-wanted album of theirs, although I’ve managed to get everything around it first.

Interestingly, on just one listen, I was able to tell instantly that is their best record. I’ve had about five or six listens now and am still firmly of that opinion. The title track and ‘Arriving Somewhere But Not Here’ are absolute gold, and ‘Lazerus’ is a haunting, magical ghost-ballad. If this had the three best songs of Fear Of A Blank Planet on it too, it would be one of the best albums of all time.

I think I might make some sort of Porcupine Tree best-of, with ‘Sound Of Musack’ ‘Drawing The Line’ ‘Normal’ and then the majority of Blank Planet and Deadwing on it.

What else have I listened to? I recently talked extensively about listening to Pain Of Salvation’s The Perfect Element album so I won’t go into too much detail about it again here. Anyway, I listened to it again while I was weightlifting and although I had understandably reduced-concentration on it, I really am impressed by this album. If you like any sort of Prog Metal you should really pick up a copy. Its only about £3 on Amazon.

Tesseract, Porcupine Tree and Pain Of Salvation are three very different bands, and they all scratch very different parts of my brain, but any way you look at it, Prog Metal is pretty well served by that trio of absolutely phenomenal records. What about Power Metal then?

I also got given Horror Show and The Glorious Burden by Iced Earth for Christmas. I’ve listened to them both quite a few times now. I like Iced Earth, they play 40% Judas Priest, 40% Testament and 10% Warning era Queensryche. Pretty well suited to me then. Both albums are great, as was Something Wicked, which I got given for my previous Birthday. The three of them together feel like one big album. There’s sort of a continum between the three of them. Its hard to explain.

On The Glorious Burden, there’s a nifty bit where the lead guitars play the rhythm of “Johnny We Hardly Knew You.”

Interestingly as well; The Glorious Burden has Tim Paper Owens on it instead of Matt Barlow, who at the time had left the band to join the US Police force in the wake of 9/11. He’s a perfect replacement for Barlow. Both are brilliant at high screams, both sing with manly authority and both do a fine impression of Forbidden’s Russ Anderson. I don’t know if its actually the guitarist doing those bits. Could be. They’re so similar across the two records. I’ve also got given their live Blu-Ray for Christmas, so I’ll have a look when I get a chance to watch it, and see if I can crack this mystery. Is Schaeffer the phantom Russ Anderson impersonator? Or do both Barlow and Ripper both have that one particular style really well honed?

This record makes me want to try out the two Ripper-Era Priest albums that I avoided. Tim is certainly an incredibly talented guy. Replacing Halford can’t have been easy. Just look Blaze Bailey. The fans really didn’t go for him even though he’s very talented. Also – Maaaaaaaan hunt. Maaaan, Hunt. Manhuntmanhuntmanhuntmanhunt.

In addition to the serious, Thrashy, USPM… I’ve been listening to the fun, bright, melodic German Power Metal of Gama Ray. I’ve been hammering their 2007 album Land Of The Free II recently; its met with mixed reviews, but I really like it. Its such a fun, energetic, and pleasant record. The guitar solos are magnificent. Kai is one of my favourite guitarists of all time. I read a lot of people complaining about stealing that bass-bit from Maiden’s Rhime Of The Ancient Mariner. Gama Ray frequently steal bits from Priest. They’ve even stole bits from Deep Purple. Its just something you have to deal with. Its still a good song. I don’t know, maybe I should be harsher, but, I just can’t help but love everything Gamma Ray do. Its difficult to listen to Gamma Ray and not just be put into a good mood. I’d absolutely love to see them live. I wish I’d been a fan when they did that tour with Helloween recently. That must’ve been brilliant to behold.

Also, after having listened to Tesseract, I had another listen to Periphery. Periphery’s album is such a shapeshifter. Every time I’ve heard it I’ve listened to it in a completely different way. Sometimes I hear it as a radio-friendly Metalcore record, sometimes I hear it as a crushing desne Messugah-influenced affair, and sometimes I hear it as a rapid-fire, all-over-the-place, highly technical, Protest The Hero style modern prog mish mash.

That’s happened to me before, with Machine Head’s Burn My Eyes. I’ve heard it in completely different ways at different times. Makes you wonder what your ears and brain are up to.

Its also interesting just how different it is to Tesseract’s album. Its like the difference between Anthrax’s Spreading The Disease and Megadeth’s Peace Sells But Who’s Buying. Both are defining albums of Thrash, but both sound vastly different. Same goes here. Animals As Leaders’ Weightless album is as vastly different as those two are from eachother yet again. Perhaps that’s throwing Slayer’s Hell Awaits into the second albums by Thrash bands analogy. If all those Djent bands are Thrash, then what does that make Messugah? Judas Priest?

Oh. Y’know what. I can add three more things onto the “to-do-list” / risk-of-me-buying-these pile. Skyharbour, Monuments and Circle’s new albums.

Anyway, there are some seriously brilliant songs on this record. I particularly love ‘Erised’ and the single, ‘Scarlet.’ The whole album is fantastic though; the musicianship and vocals are incredible. There are parts that are so heavy, parts that are floaty electronic dreams and a lot of memorable clean choruses. Periphery – Love that shit.

I forgot just how good Tool’s Undertow album is. I usually think of the subsequent three albums when I think of Tool. There are some seriously fun, memorable, enjoyable riffs on this album. Some damn catchy vocal parts, some interesting lyrics, and it’s a lot more succinct and serious than I remember. I guess having gotten into all the Tool-influenced bands recently also helped. And the grunge; there’s a slight bit of grunge about Undertow that I may previously have been put-off by.

Speaking of being put-off; I think the thing about the carrots made me forget about all the completely awesome songs on the record. Tool usually have one or two little comedy moments or unusual additions, so I don’t know why that particular one took over. Well, at least I know better now. Songs like ‘Intolerance’ and ‘Bottom’ are absolute gems. I can see this working its way into a much more regular rotation from now on.

Ok; that’s enough for one installment. I’m going to have to keep it up all the way through January. Let’s hope I stick with the whole financial-discipline thing a while longer, ey?

FIRST IMPRESSIONS Volume 68: Pain Of Salvation – The Perfect Element, Part 1

FIRST IMPRESSIONS Volume 68: Pain Of Salvation – The Perfect Element, Part 1 ”

Hello, and welcome to my Blog. Why is it called KingcrimsonBlog, the official Blog of Kingcrimsonprog?. Good question; It is called that, because I am called Kingcrimsonprog (or Gentlegiantprog) on most websites and forums. (You know, in the way you have to chose a name or “net-handle” when you register?). Back when this Blog was first devised, it was sort of a hub “digest” of all my various internet output, under one easy “roof.” So people could then tell that my things were not stolen from elsewhere on the internet, I kept my net-handle in the title. The name of my net-handle was simply chosen because I enjoy the Prog band King Crimson (and Gentle Giant) and is not in fact my real name.

I’ve been obsessing about music since about the year 2000. Over this time I’ve bought what must now be nearly 1,000 albums, and heard hundreds more through friends, relatives, streaming services and whatever else. I’ve also watched over a decade’s worth of music videos and heard countless individual songs on the radio, free covermounted CDs, websites and whatever else. All that, as well as read years and years worth of music magazines and websites.

I’m a nerd. Basically. Only, instead of Hentai or Manga, its Music that I obsess about. Lots of people are nerds and don’t even realize it. Sometimes its obvious; trainspotting, stamp collecting etc. Sometimes its less obvious due to presentation. Some (make that many) football fans’ depth of knowledge about players and transfer costs and club histories would make many tram-enthusiasts seem normal by comparison. The amount of information that some people know about Reality-TV celebrities and their sex-lives would easily overpower my knowledge of bands, or the most dedicated Gundamwing fan’s knowledge of Mechs.

But I don’t like Football or Reality TV or Trams or Warcraft. I like Heavy Metal music. That’s what this Blog is all about.

Welcome to my First Impressions series of articles too, incidentally. In this series I (or sometimes my friends, or readers) pick an album for each entry that I will listen to for the first time. I then write in depth about what I know about that album or the artist that created it and the genre and subgenre to which they belong, before describing the experience of listening to it in real time, in a sort of semi-stream-of-consciousness way intended for entertainment purposes. I also enjoy writing reviews of albums, but when I write reviews my goal is to be helpful and provide you with information with which to aide your decision about whether to try out an album or not. When I write a First Impressions article however my goal is purely to entertain the reader, explore how much I know about music and be my own psychiatrist in the process.

I may go into some very specific detail and assume you have heard everything I’ve ever heard and perceived everything in the manner I’ve perceived it, and call out very specific sections of music and draw comparisons between things that the casual listener may find completely unrelated. Don’t worry, most of these songs are on Youtube and most of the terminology is on Wikipedia and Urban Dictionary anyway, so if there’s anything that goes over your head, you can always get clarification in a second web-browser-tab (or ask about it in the comments).

According to the aim of the series, the albums are considered by the public and music critics knowledgeable about the subject to be Classic albums within Rock and Metal, or at least within their own Subgenres. Classic albums that I’ve somehow missed out on, despite my nerdly need to hear and understand almost every piece of recorded Metal music ever.

If you have an album that you’d like to read a KingcrimsonBlog First Impressions article about, please suggest it in the comments, I’m game, I’ll give anything a try.

So that’s the preamble out of the way, on to the article:

This is the sixty eighth-entry in the series. This time around I’ll be listening to the third full-length studio album, The Perfect Element Part 1, by the critically acclaimed Swedish Prog Metal band, Pain Of Salvation.

So. What’s my history with Prog-Metal then?

Well, you can pretty much piece that together by checking out my previous FI articles on the subject of Dream Theater , Queensryche , Savatage , Opeth , Anathema , Dream Theater again, and also things like my reviews of Riverside, as well as the reviews of modern Prog-slash-alternative bands (I’d like to start a new subgenre called Prolternative) such as Rishloo, Jurojin, Coheed & Cambria, Cog, Amplifier, Dead Letter Circus etc. Or the reviews of Queensryche once I’d gotten to know them.

[Side note: Looking back, I can’t believe I missed the opportunity to do a First Impressions article on Second Life Syndrome…what a waste.]

If you can’t be bothered to look through all of that stuff right now; I’ll try and condense it down a bit:

Since about 2005/2006 I’ve been a big fan of 1970s Prog (With a name like Kingcrimsonprog what do you expect?)

– For as long as that’s been going on, I’ve been told to check out Dream Theater.

– I got into a few Progressively-inclined modern bands around that same time (Mastodon, Tool and Coheed & Cambria being the main offenders, with others including The Mars Volta popping in and out of favour depending on my mood) and came to appreciate the progressive moments in the music I already liked, such as Iron Maiden and Metallica’s more inventive material.

– It started a trend in me of liking to figure out and discuss where each individual bit of a band’s sound comes from that situation endures to this day. I blog about it quite a lot.

– I tried out a band called Rishloo and became madly and fanatically in love with them. I like them almost too much.

– I tried out Dream Theater and it took a while for them to grow on me. Initially I wasn’t impressed and then slowly became won over.

– I tried out Queensryche and the same thing that happened with Rishloo, happened with them. I listen to and talk about them all the time.

– I tried out Opeth and it took a long while for them to grow on me, I still don’t own any of their music myself but am positively disposed towards them now. Not a giant fan, but nolonger in the dislike-them frame of mind.

– I tried out Porcupine Tree, Anathema and Riverside and liked them all, and am in the process of getting even more into each of them. Riverside are the favorite out of all the artists discussed so far.

– I find it interesting filing the bands in my brain differently. The ones from the 80s who started off as more traditional Heavy Metal or USPM such as Savatage and Queensryche, the ones who came out of a more Sludge basis such as Baroness and Mastodon, the Prolternative ones who don’t have a lot of Metal in their sound and share little in common with Maiden or Priest, the ones like Anathema and Porcupine Tree who take it even further in a mixture of Floydisms and Radiohead similarity that really step away from the Dream Theater template, the modern ones like Protest The Hero who are a bit of everything, and Djent bands that I haven’t listened to enough of yet. There’s also the ones who have their beginnings in Death such as Opeth and Death (and do Death “count” or are they more like Metallica, where they are Progressively-inclined but still part of their original genre?).

I love finding out how they all relate to one another. Hearing the parts on Queensryche’s album that make you understand the connection to Savatage and the other parts that make you understand the connection to Dream Theater. Hearing the bits of Dream Theater that go much closer to 70s prog like ELP and Pink Floyd and sound nothing like Savatage or Queensryche. Hearing a bit of Floyd-worship in Riverside and Porcupine Tree. Hearing Porcupine Tree’s Steve Wilson and Opeth’s Michael Akerfelt working on eachother’s records. Hearing parts of Protest The Hero that sound a bit like Coheed and other bits that sound a bit Djent. Hearing how much Tesseract’s singer reminds me of Rishloo. Hearing the similarities between Tesseract and Periphery. Hearing Dream Theater’s guitarist playing on the Periphery album.

Its interesting to compare something like Anathema’s “Wings Of God” to something like Coheed & Cambria’s “The Willing Well IV: The Final Cut.”

I then love hearing the bits in Helloween and Iced Earth that channel that early Queensryche sound with a completely different emphasis. I love hearing Stratovarius go really prog but never once sound like Queensryche for a second.

I like hearing when Queensryche went alternative-influenced, and then hearing the Prog bands who’s sound is originally based in alternative such as Tool and Cog.

I like seeing alternative bands like Soundgarden do things like difficult time-sigs, long song lengths and use additional instruments yet not be called prog. Tool are an alternative band with difficult time-sigs and long song lengths who do get called prog. Fun to ask yourself why? Are ‘Intolerance’ and ‘Rusty Cage’ really a billion, billion miles apart? Part of it is to do with marketing, part of it is to do with the band’s own perspective and what they say in interviews, and part of it is the consensus of the audience.

Is a band prog or not based on their own intentions, or on what we the listener think?

I like seeing alternative bands like Radiohead and Muse do things that are in turns subtly and obviously progressive and then seeing all the confusion and disagreement over whether or not you can call it prog and which of the different types of prog fans accept them, ignore them or outright boycott them.

I mean you look online and you can find prog fans who absolutely hate anything modern, love modern stuff but hate metal, love Prog Metal but hate anything old, and people from all of those groups that hate anything alternative.

Its just so damn interesting how it all connects and interacts and seeing where the lines are drawn and why.

– I’ve still got a lot more to learn. I’ve had a brief look at bands like Crimson Glory, Fates Warning and Blind Guardian and all are on my figurative “to-do-list.”

– Today, I’m crossing one more such band off of my to-do list, in the form of Pain Of Salvation. A highly acclaimed Swedish Prog Metal band, who always get mentioned in reviews about Riverside, and who have been described as some sort of less-cheesy Swedish Dream Theater. Seeing as I’ve been absolutely loving the Images And Words album this month and excitedly planning to get tickets to see Riverside in concert soon, they seem like a good band to investigate further. I got this album of theirs as a Christmas Present, hooray.

Apparently it’s a concept album (always a plus in my book. Even non-Prog bands can benefit from a concept album, such as the absolutely excellent Deep Blue by Parkway Drive) about two broken and dysfunctional individuals with a history of abuse and tragedy. Sounds interesting.

[Play]

The album opens up straight into some dramatic B-Movie sounding keyboards and rolling drums. It reminds me a lot of Mushroomhead. Wow. Wasn’t expecting that.

It then goes into a slow, dark, funk part that is incredibly similar to Faith No More. There’s a scream that reminds me of Roddy from Protest The Hero and then when the vocals kick in properly its slow creepy rapping again in the style of Mushroomhead, or Faith No More at their darkest. This wasn’t what I thought this band would sound like.

Then there’s a cool little staccato part where they repeat the phrase “Getting used to pain” over and over, with a cool syncopated double-kick and chug part that reminds me of this one part on Images And Words that I called out in that FI.

Then, after a very short run-through of that, this huge, hooky clean vocal interrupts and drags the song from the darkness into this shiny sort of Panic At The Disco/Fall Out Boy/Head Automatica sort of affair, with much more shimmery keys and I’m equally confused.

The dark funk comes back. The little squeaks that signal the end of each bar remind me of Mate Feed Kill Repeat, Korn’s debut and Angel Dust era Faith No More. Little guitar squeaks are an oft-overlooked calling card of Nu Metal. There were plenty on The Burning Red too. I wonder if there are lots on Roots? I haven’t listened to Roots in ages so I can’t remember.

Then they start mixing the chug stuff with the dark funk. Ok. I’m on board. Then “Getting Used To Pain” is re-delivered with a more pounding beat. Then that chorus comes back. Then as a post-chorus, the cool rolling part that was also the intro. Nice to have you back, sir.

Then out of nowhere. A glorious Riverside-sounding prog bit, with a very Camel-influenced guitar solo. Opeth fans would like this bit. Then it gets a bit more lift and a few Dream Theater style rays of sunshine get in there now and again. Oddly, some Geoff Tate influenced vocals come in over the top. Its like its trying to impress me. The Geoff vocals get left to hang at one point and turn into Mike Patton. The, the band introduce the “getting used to pain” line once more but in the form of backing vocals, lower in the mix and low pitched, but over the top of this glorious, soaring Riverside-style music and high pitched Patton-esque singing that’s getting really impressive at this point. It works really well. It transitions back to that opening Mushroomhead part with the rolling toms. Nice structuring. Do I detect a quick DJ-scratch?

Then some beautiful, clean, happy Keys that reminds me of Marillion’s “Kayleigh” come in as it starts to transition between this song and the next. You can’t sound like Marillion too, guys – that’s just cheating… leave some awesome for the other bands, you’re hogging it all.

“Used” turns into “In The Flesh” which is not, as you may expect on a prog album, a Pink Floyd cover, its actually an original. It starts off calmly; The drummer lets off a few little twiddles on the ride, building up slowly as a little guitar arpeggio keeps going off. Its very Marillion sounding. It then has this gorgeous little guitar part that sounds like its plucked with the thumb go off over the top of that and change the mood, that bit really reminds me of Camel or Yes. The bass follows the pattern. It sounds incredible.

When the vocals come in they really remind me of Marillion or Genesis. It starts building up tension. The way the building of tension works really reminds me of Second Life Syndrome by Riverside. There’s also something of Pink Floyd’s “Goodbye Blue Sky” to the tension-disrputing ‘So Fly Away Bit’ vocal line (but, then again, that also reminds me of Queensryche’s ‘Spool’ and ‘Chasing Blue Sky’ as well as Pearl Jam’s ‘Given To Fly’). This song sounds very different to the last one, except for the backing vocals, which remind me of Mike Patton and thus fit in with the previous track.

When it kicks off at last, its into this bouncy, piano driven part that really sounds like the halfway point between Camel and Riverside. That cool thumb thing plays in the background. The sweetness and colour in the keys reminds me of Distorted Harmony a lot.

Then it turns into this really, really gorgeous part. It is difficult to describe. It keeps accentuating particular bits with these brilliant notes and the whole shape of the section just makes my brain sing. It’s the bit where the lyrics are:

‘Sometimes the hands that feed
Must feed a mind with a sick need
And the hands that clutch can be
The same hands that touch too much
Eyes that hungrily stare
Read in an access that’s not there
While eyes close to hide tears
Or look away in fear
Run away!’

That whole bit is just magical. It then goes into that RiverCamel bit with more energy and extra guitar parts. The next time the lyrics come in, there’s this really cool key part underneath worth mentioning, and then it goes heavier, starting to really sound like Distorted Harmony and oddly I get a tiny hint of David Draimen in the vocals alongside the Patton sound.

Then it starts building up an atmosphere, with an increasingly tense part. The guitars are panned interestingly. The lead guy goes from Pantera style bends to Black Label Society style pinches to Dream Theater style running and then the music cuts off and this really emotional solo-vocal that reminds me of Marillion rings out. Dude’s got an incredible voice. Then a keyboard line in the shape of that bit I highlighted earlier, but with a gorgeous clean acoustic guitar lead over the top so the mood is completely different. The keys fade out and end.

Then to segue between that track and the next, there is a cool deep bassy part that sounds like a mixture of that bit of Marillion’s Misplaced Childhood where he sings about a spider and an obscure Scottish poet, with Mars Volta’s ‘Son Et Lumier’ intro.

‘Ashes’ starts. Its got a creepy baby’s mobile sound, (or the sound of a kid’s music-box), mimicked by the actual music, and then some Geoff Tate low vocals come in, with Camel-reminiscant bassy drones underneath. It reminds me a bit of both ‘Lady Fantasy’ and ‘Mystic Queen’ being mashed up with ‘The Lady Wore Black’ and then some electro drums come in and I’d also throw in some Mushroomhead in that mix too. There’s also something of a Pete Steel about it, in a way. When he starts a vocal accompaniment of husky whispers you think of Mike Patton too. Then it kicks off into its true form, and it has a fat wavy alternative rock guitar part. It reminds me of Porcupine Tree when that happens. When the song goes between the two a few time and ends, the guitar continues on in a broken little solo, that shambles along jazzily in a way that really reminds me of The Mars Volta. Rishloo also do it infrequently; most noticeably on ‘Downhill.’

Singer Daniel Gildenlow is something of a vocal chameleon. He has so many different styles. The band are similarly eclectic. Quiet an interesting band, really. I wasn’t expecting the Faith No More similarities. When people say to me ‘Check out “The Swedish Dream Theater” because they influenced Riverside so much,’ no part of that suggest to me that it will sound like Faith No More or Mushroomhead. Not that that’s a bad thing. Not a bad thing at all. Just a surprise.

‘Morning On Earth’ comes next. It opens up with that shape (or rhythm as its actually known) that I called out for attention from ‘In The Flesh’ delivered in that Marillion-esque way from the outro/seque into the next track. Cool. I like concept albums that actually have recurring themes and cleverly rework or reintroduce parts for artistic effect. “Theme And Variation” I believe its called.

I also caught the faintest hint of the opening guitar part from Roger Water’s ‘5.02am: The Pros and Cons Of Hitch-hiking’ hidden in there. Teased at. You guys know I love that part. Come on now guys, seriously.

Then it kicks off into this hazy, dreamy clean section that sounds like film score, mixed with ‘Fat Old Sun.’ The bit where he says ‘I’m Just A Child’ is really evocative.

Then he starts talk-singing and it really reminds me of Queensryche’s ‘Roads To Madness’ mixed with Misplaced Childhood era Marillion. The music underneath reminds me of Judgement era Anathema. Then that dreamy wafty part comes in, the strings that augment this bit remind me of floating on clouds. It’s a bit of a juxtaposition with the dark opener to have this really saccharine part here. It’s a cool song. There’s backing vocals that remind me of ‘Silent Lucidity.’ There’s lead guitar lines that remind me of ‘The Hound Of Blood And Rank.’ Good mix of things I like.

‘Idioglossia’ follows it up. It really makes me smile. Its got a squirming, shifty, part that reminds me of ADHD era Riverside with the bouncy, heavy, bombastic nature and impressive energetic drumming. This is what I thought they might sound like. I love it.

That part gets interrupted by a crazy bass line, which evolves into a fun gallop, a nice memorable double-kick part. Then this really interesting, driving and exciting part, that is like what would happen if you mixed Mushroomhead with Dimmu Borgir’s ‘Progenies Of The Great Apocalypse.’ When that bit ends, it turns into a Protest The Hero style ‘here’s a big bunch of notes’ bridge. This is a very good song.

Then its into a piano driven part with The Mars Volta’s shuffly drums and Anathema’s Cure-influenced attitude. Then Faith No More show up to the party. Then that dark gallop with the cool bass comes back. Then that driving bit. I love this song. Aaaah. That bit where he sings ‘Aaaanyone’ sounds so much like David Draimen its scary.

Then that shuffle-meets-Cure part comes back for longer, with a Camel influenced bass lead and a sweet whispy guitar solo. The vocals are incredible. It starts building tension along Riverside mechanics. Then a bouncy System Of A Down style drumbeat speeds it up, but the heavy thick keys stop it sounding out of place. Then thundering double-kicks and a guitar solo come in, speeding the whole thing up and driving out the bloody window. This is fucking incredible!

How better to end that, than by randomly jumping back to the two other two best bits from the song; that ADHD intro and the driving-bit only with extra fun drums and more intensity in the performance. They then manage to meld that bit together with the drums from the cool bass beat, it all starts layering over and over eachother, there’s different types of vocals panned all throughout your head, keys in every different part of your brain. It builds and builds until you barely know whats going on. It ends, just before your head explodes.

Damn! What a song!

‘Her Voices’ comes in next. The intro sounds like a mixture of 90s Anathema with ’99 Red Balloons Go By.’ Then it shifts into a sweeter part that reminds me of the more ballady tracks on the first two Genesis albums once Collins took over, like ‘Madman Moon,’ ‘Ripples’ or ‘Blood On The Rooftops.’ Its very emotional sounding. Their bassist is a damn genius. There are certain touches on the drums and keys that remind me of the better Dream Theater ballads.

Then these giant stabs come in, followed by cool slow drum fills.

Then back to the sweet part, only with bouncier drums. Ok. So we’re playing this game are we? The little guitar leads are incredible. So are the little key lines. There’s so much to listen to its hard to keep track. It’s the audio equivalent of watching Slipknot on stage. You don’t know where to look.

Then the big stabs. But transformed by slow doomy drums. And the inclusion of vocals. Then it kicks off into this cool build up with eastern influences and very skillful drumming. It reminds me a bit of early Soulfly because of that drum sound, but the music isn’t similar. It then goes through all sorts of cool ideas. Mars Volta and Riverside are the two bands it reminds me most of. Also King Crimson. Then a Flute comes in for the craic over the top and makes the Tull receptors in my brain light up. There are also guitar parts that really work along Melechesh lines. Then there’s like, a violin solo, with backing vocals that sound like Dave Gilmour.

This whole thing is just a massive tour of everything I like. Its hard to even point out all the things I like because the band seem to just tear through so many of them, and on each instrument, and its all panned around your brain so you’re getting different things pumped into your head at all angles, and you find yourself struggling to really absorb it all or even keep up, your mind being constantly delighted with new awesome parts, each of which are that both cool in-and-of themselves and that also reminds you of bands you already like. It delights the awesome-receptors and the recognition-receptors.

It ends by going back to the start, but playing it in this sad, acoustic style that sounds like dying cowboys. It has morphed into the next song, ‘Dedication’ which mixes that ‘Madman Moon’ stuff up, keeping the spirit the same, but delivering it in different ways. The vocals go through so many different styles. I absolutely love their drummer. The person who mixed the album deserves a lot of credit too, it dances around your skull magically. Definitely a “headphone” album.

You get these really beautiful little key parts that remind me of Camel and also the King Crimson ‘Peace’ trio, beside vocals that sound like the times where Matt Barlow of Iced Earth channels Geoff Tate, with drums that remind me of Anathema when they get lively, and then the themes from previous tracks coming in and out. Its masterful, masterful stuff. Actually captivating.

‘King Of Loss’ comes in next. Its getting difficult to come up with new ways of saying, the keys, guitars, bass, drums and vocals are all superb individually and each and every part they play is brilliant, reminds me of something cool and is cool anyway, sounds great when you concentrate on it, and works as part of a dense whole when you just concentrate on the song overall.

This album is a straight-up fucking masterpiece. No messing about, this thing is incredible. Every member is talented, tasteful and interesting. The band mix up so much of my favourite music and present it in combinations I haven’t heard it before.

This may seem contradictory, considering all the comparisons to other bands I’ve made so far, but these guys are really unique.

King Of Loss is a pretty incredible track. The guitar solos are absolutely incredible. The structure is great. The switching between light and shade is well done. The introduction of new parts, and then the return to the two main themes are really great. It’s a real “journey.” I can’t believe where it is on the record either come to think of it. On any normal record this would be the album closer.

‘Reconciliation’ blasts off. Its one of the best parts from one of the songs that have already played. But then it breaks down into this sort of mixture of ‘Jet City Woman’ and ‘Walk In The Shadows’ for quiet parts. It then throws in some Matt-Barlow-does-Tate vocals and even a hint of Draimen in a deep thwompy part. Then it does the softer Camel version of that awesome part. Then this powerful, exciting build-up part with this really great lead guitar. Then it kicks off again with loads of energy, great drumming and some cool emotional screaming and fades out as the drummer really starts laying into it.

If you want to know whether or not you’d like the album, listen to this song.

‘Song For The Innocent’ starts off like a pretty cheesy, saccharine ballad. It sort of reminds me of the cringy bit in Yes’ ‘Circus Of Heaven’ where the children starts talking, only good. Then it bursts into a cool, Comfortably Numb’s solo style bit with lots of passion and totally saves itself. Their guitarist really does his best to make me burst with happiness at this solo. I could see people saying it’s a bit too similar to Comfortably Numb’s if they were being dicks, but that’s a pretty awesome thing to be similar too.

The brief ‘Falling’ is next. Its also very Pink Floyd sounding. The song is more or less just a guitar solo with a lot of emotion over a key part that sounds like death and heaven in films.

The album closer, and title-track, the ten-minute ‘The Perfect Album’ crashes in next. It sounds absolutely huge already, I feel almost blown away. I’m sat on the edge of my seat, utterly taken in by this band.

It starts reworking parts you’ve heard before into it, into cool build-ups. All the different vocal styles from the whole album come back. There are great big, chuggy heavy grooves, there’s some very Tate vocals, there’s a Camel sounding lead. It all builds and builds, then at the three minute mark, it kicks into a fat alternative groove that reminds me of Tool, only with so much Neoprog synth and keys on the top that you wouldn’t recognize it as such, then that’s followed by a part that reminds me of Queensryche’s ‘The Hostage’ yet again touring everything I love. They drop that Tool groove in, but throw a guitar line over the top of it that reminds me of Floyd’s ‘Run Like Hell’ then an interesting acoustic guitar part runs off with your attention and the song morphs into this violin driven, emotional ‘Roads To Madness’ at-a-wedding affair. The vocals are beyond superb.

Then they start throwing in these big stabs with cheeky prog key runs as tails. That morphs into a few forms including one with fucking huuuuge chugs. Then things go bright and shimmeriy, you start to get an enormous feeling of well-being as this triumphant music builds-up all around you, swirling around your head in circles, it sounds like you are floating up out of your chair as the song carrys you away. When the tom based “dumdumdum pehhhsh, dumdumdum pehhhsh,” thing comes in I have a gigantic smile on my face.

Then they start channeling Mushroomhead again, but with the build-up still going, then all the extra drumming. Its like the non-death version of Opeth’s ‘Deliverance’ as the china cymbal keeps going off, then all the music but the massive reverby drums cuts right out, and those big drumbeats all circle around you, sounding like a tribal ceremony or world-cup theme tune. You want to scream at the top of your lungs but suddenly the drums are gone and then some pulsing industrial noises that must’ve been underneath it quickly fade out. Its over.

Fuuuuuuuck me. That was incredible.

So ummm,….yeah. If you like Riverside or Dream Theater or Opeth, Run out right now and get this album.

If you like Camel or Pink Floyd, or Marillion, run out and get this album.

If you’ve already got this album, go and listen to it again.

I’ve said it already; Straight-up, no messing-about MASTERPIECE.

Ok. I’ve got to go and calm down. I’ve got the shakes from listening to that. G’bye for now folks!