It is always a very curious anticipation when a band releases a second album. The term ‘Sophomoric Jinx’always enters the conventional discourse. This is so especially true when the band puts out a very ambitious and colossal debut album. This is exactly what Gentle Knife did in 2015 with their debut. The typical cliched comparisons always come into the conversation along with a much higher expectation. The band has safely avoided all these cliches and stereotypes with their second album Gentle Knife – Gentle Knife II – Clock Unwound.
Gentle Knife are now made up of 11 very different yet interesting members that make up the beauty of the sound of the band. Veronika Hørven Jensen – Vocals has replaced Mina Oz for this run of Gentle Knife. However that takes nothing away from the vocal quality within the female narrative. If anything it adds more depth to the band. Although it may have a hint of being a conceptual piece, this album this time around has more of a common theme to it instrumentally. The band also returns with a greater maturity to the songwriting process, the production and growth as individual musicians. The six tracks that make up the album are a true testament of a band growing and maturing. Now for a track by track analysis into this ‘Orchestral Labyrinth’ known as Gentle Knife – Gentle Knife II – Clock Unwound.
Prelude: Incipit (Instrumental) opens up the album with a beautiful piano that works in harmony with the trumpet. This combination brings about almost a very ‘Baroque’style about it displaying influences from Handel, Bach or even Vivaldi style registers within this opening composition. This track also allows the listener to get settled in for the remainder of the album.
The Clock Unwound transitions very seamlessly and smoothly from Prelude: Incipit (Instrumental) with a elegant opening guitar solo. Immediately the saxophone and other woodwinds, along with the a heavy prog guitar, begin to establish a very unique and signature sound for the band. Soon a thunderous drum/bass rhythm section enters in with more a tuned down chord progression. The male vocal comes into the narrative and seems filtered through a megaphone. The keyboards are of a more modern style, however playing perfectly on time with both the stringed section and rhythm sections. The woodwind instruments add total depth and layers to the composition as well. The band certainly knows how to hook a listener and keep their attention for the duration of the track. The female vocal narrative gives the track a very heavy hint of RIO or (Rock In Opposition) / Avant Prog vibe with the way it appears diminished in the composition and structure. The band even plays well with off rhythm section time signature beats on this track as well. Towards the end of the song their is a beautiful eclectic mix of jazz fusion with the alto saxophone and progressive chord patterns.
Fade Away starts off with a semi electric guitar in a atmospheric isolation before the flute comes in and adds a beauty and depth to the song. This opening instrumental works on perfect time to the isolation of both the male and female vocal narrative. The horned woodwind sections remind much of Gentle Knife’s peers Thank You Scientist where there is a huge and beautiful cacophony of various stringed. rhythm and horned sections all in perfect harmony making the track a trek into the spirit of the listener.
Smother comes in with a very up tempo rhythm section that is soon met with a overlaying atmosphere created by both keyboards and other woodwind instruments. The female vocal narrative comes in in perfect time with the drums and the male vocal follows in suit shortly after adding more vocal depth to the song. This song is lyrically about somebody’s best intentions and trying may not be the best for them. From here there is a beautiful jazz style chord progressed passage with the female vocal carrying much of the middle of the song. This is all rounded out with a neo progressive keyboard enabling such a atmosphere.
Plans Askew opens up with a vast pastoral acoustical folk styled guitar that sets the tone for the composition. The vocal sounds both isolated yet in harmony to the instrumental. The woodwind instruments alongside with the rhythm section opens up and sets the heavier more up tempo portions as the song progresses. Throughout the track the bands steadily builds layers upon layers towards a plateau before transitioning onto different chord progressions that would lead to a beautiful duet between the male and female vocals.
Resignation has much of the same instrumental narrative to it. This instrumental narrative starts out with a big rhythm section that increasingly builds as the track moves forward. The track adds layer upon layer with the various instruments that the individual musician brings to the table as a collective. This track also is arranged perfectly as the final song on the album. Although the song seems steeped in melancholy, it still has a smooth instrumental backdrop. It is that backdrop that allows the lyrical content done through spoken word.
For a sophomoric effort this is a masterpiece. Gentle Knife have now firmly set themselves up to be a major progressive rock unit going forward for the next 10 to 15 years. Clock Unwound will be looked at as one of those pivotal albums that will be talked about in the evolution of progressive rock 15 to 20 years from now. Due to the band’s continuous maturity I am giving Gentle Knife II Clock Unwound a 5/5.
Label: InsideOut Music Release Year: 2017 Country: Sweden Genre: Progressive Rock
Nad Sylvan – Lead Vocals/Electric & Acoustic (5) Guitars/Keyboards/Piano (5) Orchestrations (4,5,8) Pogramming (7) Poducer & Mxing
Tania Doko – Lead (8) & Backing (2) Vocals Jade Ell – Lead (1,2,5,8) & Backing (4,5,7,8) Vocals Sheona Urquhart – Lead (1,2) & Backing (4,5,7,8) Vocals/Saxophone (7) Steve Hackett – Guitars (5-8) Guthrie Govan – Guitar (5) Roine Stolt – Guitar (6) Anders Wollbeck – Keyboards & Programming (3)/ Orchestration (6)/Sound Design (1,2,4,8), co-producer (1,3,6) Tony Levin – Chapman Stick (3,7)/ Upright bass (5)/ Electric Bass (7)
Jonas Reingold – Bass (2,4,6,8)/ Guitar Riff (4) Nick D’Virgilio – Drums (2,4,6,8)/ Percussion (2) Doane Perry – Drums (3,5,7) Alfons Karabuda – Waterphone (3)
1. Bridesmaids (1:17) 2. The Quartermaster (5:38) 3. When The Music Dies (7:00) 4. The White Crown (6:15) 5. What Have You Done (8:29) 6. Crime Of Passion (5:59) 7. A French Kiss In An Italian Cafe (5:58) 8. The Bride Said No (12:26) – silence (2:00) 9. Black Sheep – hidden track
Eccentric A person of unconventional and slightly strange views or behavior.
Exceptional intellectual or creative power or other natural ability.
During his tenure with Genesis in the later 1960’s to early 1970’s Peter Gabriel was looked at the world over as being a bit odd, strange, different, theatrical, weird and even eccentric. With his choice of outfits on stage, to his public persona, Peter Gabriel could not escape the stereotypes that are mentioned above. Another thing Peter Gabriel was notorious for was his absolute genius with the creative side of the progressive rock and entertainment business.
After his departure from Genesis, Peter Gabriel began to really change into something else. This held totally true with the invention of MTV where Peter Gabriel had an era full of many field days with his video presentations. Some of MTV’s most notorious and strange videos came from Peter Gabriel with the likes of Games Without Frontiers, Shock The Monkey, Solsbury Hill and his juggernaut Sledgehammer. The fact that the world got to see this Eccentric Genius at work was a privilege to the world over. Over the years Peter Gabriel would tone down such presentations and focus more on the musical aspect. This left a void in progressive rock/ art rock until Nad Sylvan came along, thus the Eccentric Genius has come in a different individual. This also would shape his image and sound going into another great progressive rock band Nad Sylvan fronted and that being Agents Of Mercy.
Nad Sylvan is a bit of a Eccentric Enigmatic Geniusin the fact he really marches to his own distinctive vision and beat. Nad Sylvan is like the ‘Second Coming’ to Peter Gabriel. This is probably why Steve Hackett has invited Nad Sylvan on stage on many occasions to perform early Genesis material with The Steve Hackett Band. However as much as he is a reminder of Peter Gabriel, Nad Sylvan also has his own thing going for him and it certainly shines through with his latest offering The Bride Said No.
The Bride Said No is a continuation of his last album Courting The Widow in 2015. The story picks up where the female character is at in her relationship with her potential suitor/husband. This time with The Bride Said No, Nad Sylvan certainly explores much darker subject manner with both the instrumental part and the lyrical vocal part. The Bride Said No is also a little shorter and to the point than Courting The Widow was. Throughout the album there are many things going on and I will point these highlights out going forward.
Bridesmaids is a opening instrumental with special effects to simulate the ocean crashing on to the shore. We already see the female character second guessing or getting cold feet perhaps. The effects and instrumental are done wonderfully here.
The Quarter Master transitions seamlessly with perfect timing from Bridesmaids. This song also displays a very dark side on the album and of Nad Sylvan’s creative prowess. The heavy Hammond style organ already gives this song a deep layer of sheer darkness and conflict within the narrative of the lyrical content. The dark portion from the Hammond Organ also adds a deep layer inside the bass/drum rhythm section. The guitars work on both the stringed section and the rhythm section equally throughout the song. There are effects of people chanting here as well. On the vocal and lyrical narrative the song talks about the adventures into the night of a drunk in the masculine form. The instrumental displays the drunken sailor and his emotions and point of view perfectly. Soon a female vocal comes in as a female character explaining to the narrator specific warnings on the drunken man.
When The Music Dies is a bit of a departure within the concept. It has the appearance of a brief intermission. This incredibly soulful track is a dedication to all the great progressive rock giants we lost over the last few years. The song is written in such a way that it could become a possible single. This is also written, recorded and mastered in such a way as to have some appeal for those who are not really into this brand of progressive rock. The instrumental sections alongside the lyrical sections present a warm inviting atmosphere of reflection to the listener.
The White Crown begins with a beautiful eclectic intro that comes in the tradition of early Genesis, especially the Foxtrot and Trespass eras. This track also ventures into the ‘Heavy Prog’territory with a much heavier and darker chord progression that is met with a deep Hammond style organ and heavy 1970’s style progressive rhythm sections. By this point on The Bride Said No the listener starts to see that this epic story explores the darker emotions and the instrumental and vocal certainly adds much towards those darker emotions. There is a part where the synth’s go out into a more psychedelic area. The irony is that in all the dark instrumental sections, Nad Sylvan’s voice always remains as a positive optimism about it. This part of the story lyrically is one of heartbreak and introspection.
What Have You Done starts out with a beautiful piano and keyboard in perfect melody within their respective isolation on the engineered intro. Soon another layer of isolation appears in form of Nad Sylvans eccentric angelic vocal. This song can constitute as a ballad easily. The slower and lighter aesthetic allows the album to breathe and the listener more time to soak in and digest the album. The listener is able to look backward on the story and anticipate that latter half of the album. There is some beautiful guitar work on this one from Steve Hackett and Guthrie Govan. The special effect of a choir on here adds another layer of beauty to the composition.
Crime Of Passion opens up with a angelic atmosphere of a choir once again. Soon the track starts to rock on all cylinders with the deep rhythm sections and guitars. This track brings together elements of 1970’s original progressive rock with 1980’s neo progressive rock with very current and modern elements. With all those elements happening this song would hold up in any decade of progressive rock. This song lyrically has the male character in the story start to really question himself in relation to his potential bride. The instrumental half of this perfectly supports this introspective emotion.
A French Kiss In A Italian Cafe starts out with Tony Levin leading with a beautiful stand up bass with the drums. Soon the isolated vocal of Nad Sylvan shines through where the story can so eloquently be told. This track is very heavy in the rhythm section. It is this rhythm section that adds layers of beauty and layers of atmosphere to maintain the attention of the objective listener. The drum plays heavily off the snare on this one moving it forward with great continuity and grace. Sheona Urquhart lends a very beautiful Saxophone in the closing moments of the track.
The Bride Said No starts with a intro that is slowly faded in through world class engineering. One again the opening is very heavy on the on rhythm with a beautiful bass and snare lead drums. This is the first time in the story on the narrative we experience actual dialogue between the female and male characters. Sheona Urquhart & Jade Li has such a Kate Bush style of beauty in her vocal that perfectly compliments Nad Sylvan’s male narrative. Although they really love one another the male and female characters they come to the realization it may be better to depart and go their separate ways for their own personal reasons. The instrumental side to this has beautiful Hammond style organs and guitar solo’s that give the song the epic countenance it truly is. Instrumentally the track ends on a very positive and uplifting note.
After Courting The Widow and now its companion The Bride Said No I truly believe that Nad Sylvan has some very pivotal here. Please go back and listen to Courting The Widow first and then The Bride Said No will make better sense. These projects have great potential to be live classics. I certainly hope Nad Sylvan does perform both of these in their entirety live someday with some CD/DVD Bluray treatment. Through emotion and top notch musicianship The Bride Said No is on its way to becoming a ‘Prog Classic’. With The Bride So No, Nad Sylvan has established himself as a force to be reckoned with. I give Nad Sylvan’s The Bride Said No a 5/5.
This particular review is in dedication of the lives lost and property damaged in South and South-East Texas USA due Hurricane Harvey. This album has many encouraging and uplifting messages. Trust me I went through Hurricane Harvey as well.
Power Metal has allowed and afforded many bands the true liberty of writing about just anything from a lyrical perspective. On top of its sheer majestic aesthetic instrumentally it allows the band a direct storyboard to its intended audience. This is why many power metal bands are booked during the European Metal Festivals, such as Wacken Open Air, High Voltage or Keep It True, in summer. The bands write such anthems that the audience does not only digest but actually sings those anthems back to the bands delivering them. This holds more truth and conviction when the songs have a deeper meaning of faith, political issues or just issues about life. This has held true for about a decade for Slovakian power metal powerhouse band Signum Regis.
In a area that has seen much upheaval and tribulation since the birth of The Roman Empire and Christianity over 2000 years ago through imperial conquest and barbaric bloodshed to being utterly dictated by modern Nazism and later Communism, comes a band that has been a light and beacon of some of the most uplifting and encouraging power metal for a decade plus. This being Signum Regis. Instead of swelling on their dark past they choose to use Jesus Christ and Christianity to bring hope to a otherwise turbulent world. Their brand new independently released Decennium Primum, which is Latin for The First Decade, brings this type of positive emotion to a world that seems to be fracturing before our very eyes.
Decennium Primum is one of those albums that grow on a person the more they listen to it. Even power metal fans that subscribe to more of the Dungeons & Dragons fantasy subjects or the horror and science fiction subjects that dominate the genre. Decennium Primum articulately explores subjects of the Old Testament and 1st Century AD Christian church. Although not a ‘Concept Album’, there is still a common thread or theme throughout the album. Decennium Primum is also the band’s fifth official studio album. Signum Regis come in the same vein of other Christian based power metal bands like Narnia, Golden Resurrection, Theocracy and Teremaze. However Signum Regis still have their own unique distinctive sound that keeps them from being clones of those bands I just mentioned. Decennium Primum is a total brilliant example of that. Now a inside look and highlights from every track on Signum Regis Decennium Primum .
Decennium Primum is basically a opening instrumental that serves as a very smooth and seamless transitional track to the following track Unfold The Mystery.
Unfold The Mystery is a straight away speed power metal track. It has very fast straight away traditional power metal riffs that are celebrated in the genre. The double blast beats and deep bass also set the tone for a fast yet coherent chord progression. The band start to establish high harmonies in the vocal. The lead vocal alongside the power metal atmosphere allow the lyrical content to breathe and shine through. The rhythm guitar and lead guitar interchange with very cunning timing. The guitar solo’s are also blended with beautiful atmospheric endorsements.
Damnatio Ad Bestias explodes with monstrous and blistering chord progressions both on the stringed sections and the rhythm sections. Mayo Petranin – Vocals reminds me of a cross between Jorn Lande and Russell Allen. His vocal certainly has a bite about that fits the instrumental quite well. The rhythm guitar and the lead guitar certainly develop a melodic relationship in regards of the composition. This track demonstrates the bands ability to make their point and move forward without the typical grandstanding that is often associated with progressive/power metal.
Screaming For Justice opens up with a little bit darker instrumental that shows the band’s heaviness. The band continues the beautiful display of harmony and how it perfectly compliments the melody within the instrumental. The band is starting to really establish the vocal harmonies as a major factor on the album with this track. They continue to remain spot on with their objective. The lyrical content is very uplifting giving light within the dark instrumental aesthetic. Filip Koluš – Guitars is becoming a one man twin attack on the guitar.
Kingdom Of Light opens up with a brief powerful guitar solo. That is followed by a break where the vocal is allowed to be spot-lighted where they can start to pull the listener into the story of the lyrical content. The break has a beautiful acoustic guitar creating a atmosphere that serves as a anchor for the track. This is all accompanied by deep rhythm section chord progressions. This track is also well written enough to be a single. It pops out like that. Plus the solo’s keep changing as to not bore the listener. All the instruments are allowed to breathe so the listener can hear every one distinctively.
The Future King explodes out of the first note with a deep groove laden rhythm guitar chord progression. Then the equally deep rhythm section melody comes in beautiful harmony with the stringed section. All of this blends very well to uplift the beautiful harmony vocally. The band continues with their very positive lyrical content. This is another track that would work as a single along with the previous song Kingdom Of Light.
Well Deserved opens up with another thunderous instrumental passage. The guitars are well tracked along with the rhythm section. The bands message continues on point with a spiritual message. The chord progressions are very brooding. The band displays its progressive side very heavily on this song. It does have a beautiful bass/drum rhythm section done so eloquently by Jaro Jančula: – Drums and Ronnie König – Bass/Backing Vocals.
Thunder And Rain opens up with a beautiful A-capella choir with the chorus first. This continues to display to the listener that the band will not be pigeonholed into the typically fast power metal opening. This track also opens up with a very anthemic consistency that is very celebrated in the progressive/power metal genre. The opener comes into the tradition of a band like Blind Guardian. Soon the song takes on familiar characteristics power metal territory. Fast blast beats and bass anchor the song while the stringed sections and vocals can provide the hook to reel in the listener. Once again even with only one guitarist in the band, Signum Regis overdubs the track deceptively allowing for there to be a appearance of a twin lead guitar arsenal.
Train To Neverland opens up with a very proper train sounding effect. From there it blisters the listener with high vocal harmonies that are carried by both the stringed section and deep bass/drum rhythm sections. This track has a very traditional quality in as much as there is the verse/bridge/chorus, that is sometimes lacking in the progressive power metal communities. The guitar solo’s and bass/rhythm sections keep the album grounded and on point. This also applies with the lyrical content.
A Psalm Of Life is the final song on the album. It opens up like a guitar players delight with the anthemic opening chord progression passage. This is a fast thought straight away power metal track. This song brings in all the personality that has been demonstrated with this album. There are some Iced Earth style rhythm guitars working on this one. The harmonies remain on point showing the bands ability to keep the attention of the listener. This is also properly the final arranged song on Decennium Primum.
I have admired Signum Regis from afar for the last 7 to 8 years. They are certainly a band that will continue to uphold the this type of progressive/power metal. They are also one of the many pillars of this brand of music. The band also knows how to keep the attention in a way where the listener has no acceptable reason to become bored or not interested in the product itself. On all those points above I am giving Signum Regis Decennium Primum a 4.5/5.
Cormorant seem to be a MelodicThree-Headed Beast with three very distinctive personalities in the progressive black metal community. First personality of this Three-Headed Beastis doom metal. Cormorant has certainly honoured the true essence of heavy metal with its doom metal element. They have incorporated the sound of early Black Sabbath with other doom metal pioneers such as Trouble, Candlemass, Witchfinder General, Kyuss, Solitude Aternus, TYR and Electric Wizard.
The second personality and head of this beast is that of Black Metal. The Black Metal personality reflected on here is a balance between the First Wave Of Black Metal or FWOBM. and Modern or Norwegian Black Metal. The bands reflected within the Black Metal personality are Venom, Bathory, Hellhammer with the more modern Black Metal of bands like Satyricon, Enslaved, Darkthrone, Emperor, Ihshan and Agalloch.
The third and final headed personality lies within both progressive rock and progressive metal. Within the personality of progressive rock it is more 1970’s based with some influences of King Crimson, Emerson Lake & Palmer, Frank Zappa,Mahavishnu Orchestra and Uriah Heep. The progressive metal influences that complete the Progressive head and personality are bands like Rush, Opeth, Gojira, Savatage, Voi Vod, and Tool. Therefore the band has a very deep well into which to draw from.
The deep well of all those influences I just mentioned above certainly do come through on Cormorant’s Diaspora. First of all as many who follow this particular brand genre of progressive deathy black metal know that when Opeth discontinued using growls and Agalloch finally called it quits it left a void in the community. A band like Cormorant is a band that totally redeems that quality of progressive metal with the their own perspective on it. Second Cormrorant understand the demand of that genre brand of progressive metal and absolutely have a endless supply of various elements that make up that brand of extreme progressive black metal and I will point that out throughout this review. Cormorant’s Disapora also demonstrates progressive rock/metal’s continuous vast growth into many areas of hard rock, post rock and heavy metal. Now a look into the four tracks of Cormorant’s Disapora.
Preserved In Ash begins with a blistering bombardment of serious double blast beat drums and deep bass rhythmic tones. Soon a brutal low fi guitar chord progression enters in alongside the brutal blackened death growls. The lead blackened vocals are executed pitch perfect by Marcus Luscombe – Bass/Lead Vocals and are met in perfect harmony with the death growls executed perfectly by Brennan Kunkel – Drums/Vocals and Matt Solis – Guitars/Vocals. There is also a dual guitar dynamic where there is the low fi black metal style of guitar that is met in melody and harmony with the 1970’s style lead progressive doom chord progression. This demonstrates the bands ability to execute various guitar styles at once allowing for various melody and elements into the music without overwhelming or boring the listener with something that sounds like the same thing over and over. The rhythm section anchors the dual guitar dynamic into a tight cohesive chord progression that serves as a steering element to the track. Around the 4:00 mark the track tunes down a bit. There is certainly a method to the bands sheer madness on the opening track that starts to set up the duration of the album. Around the 7:30 mark the band really takes the track into a very abyssic tuned down chord progression exchange with solo’s trading back and forth. When the death growls finally come back in they are more of a deathy doom metal style.
Sentinel continues to bruise and blister the senses of the listener. This track opens up with a slant towards My Dying Bride, Novembers Doom and early-Anathema meets a Morningrise and Blackwater Park era’s Opeth. The guitars and rhythm sections are really tuned down with sheer brutality alongside the deep pounding death growl that plays perfectly off of the rhythm section that anchors the track. This is another epic clocking in at 15:51. Their is a harmonious exchange of both death growls and black metal screams before the track takes a Trouble doom metal style chord progression instrumentally with a Emperor style of black metal scream. The track takes on some progressive groove metal laden rhythm progressions that move it along seamlessly. The fact that the band have a dual guitar brings a lot of rhythmic depth to the track. There are also some clean vocal harmonies in and out as the song progresses.
The deep bass/drum section is seriously in the tradition of Trouble, Candlemass and Paradise Lost with a later-Enslaved and later-Carcass style vocal. There are parts where the twin guitar sound a DEATH Leprosy and Symbolicera’s with how they exchange various chords and riffs. Once again you have both a black metal vocal and a death metal style of vocal interchanging off and on of one another. About the 7:00 mark the track takes on some heavily semi electric semi acoustical guitar chord progressions that remind me a lot of Agalloch’s 2002 classic The Mantle. These guitar sections are engineered so smoothly with layers upon layers of various harmonious progressions that create tightly knit passages. These guitar progressions are rooted heavily into 1970’s progressive rock as well. The clean vocals remind me a lot of Opeth’sFace Of Melinda off of Still Life.
The Devourer is a blistering track that reminds me a lot of Opeth’s My Arms Your Hearse era progressive death metal. This has a heavy respect in the tradition of Demon Of The Fall. The death metal style growls remind me a lot of ex-Morbid Angel vocalist/bassist David Vincent. This track is the shortest track on the album at only 7:50. It is still full of killer quality progressive up tempo riffs and deep bass/drum backbone in the rhythm section. The blackened metal vocals has a heavy Darkthrone influence. The clean vocal sections are serious Candlemass meets Cathedral influence.
Migration is a 26:00+ epic that completely comes in the tradition of a Agalloch’s Faustian Echoes meets Opeth’s Black Rose Immortal with a twist of Averse Aubes Cendrées. It opens up with heavy guitar atmospheric and percussive effects. It is not very long before the track goes into a more progressive and blistering direction. The deep doom style chord progressions plus the death metal growls really give you the appearance of a true brooding track that assaults the listener’s senses evey which way. The way the band stretches out the first minutes of the track certainly is a commentary on what the band’s main objective is on this track. Migration works in three major stages that carries the listener into a brutal epic journey of various doom, progressive, black and death metal elements. The exchanges between the death metal growls and the black metal screams seem to be a signature sound for the band. They certainly give the band a distinct and unique sound in a genre of music that most people continue to misunderstand. It is in that misunderstanding that Cormorant bring a sense of sheer clarity even to the outsider to this music.
The band has a point in the track where they really create a bleak and dark atmosphere with just some heavy acoustic guitars and percussion portions. The acoustical portions remind me a lot of Agalloch’s The Mantle meets Opeth’s Damnation with a 1970’s Alan Holdsworth/Robert Fripp twist. The 1970’s elements have been really heavily induced throughout the duration of the album and shows the band’s utter respect for the progressive side of the album. From here the band builds layer upon layers with various blistering chord progressions and brutal passages. The band continue the groove laden and low fi based guitar riffs blended with more traditional death metal and doom metal riffs.
Cormorant are certainly a band that will keep progressive doom laden black metal alive on some level.It also helps their cause to be independent without utter bondage to a prejudice of a record label. Disapora is a true testament that quality progressive black metal has a lengthy shelf life. After going back and listening to every album before this, Disapora is a album that is the next step in the natural evolution of the band and the genre. For the sheer open maturity of Cormorant’s Disapora I am giving this a 5/5and it is a strong contender for Album Of Year 2017
Season Of Tears is a entity that is a total ‘Melodic Freak Of Nature’. Haling form Rennes France, the band is a well balanced blend of Septicflesh, Fleshgod Apocalypse, Epica and Delain. Formed in late 2013 every member of the band has a deep rich heritage of all being multi instrumentalists individually. The band’s melodic intensity is met perfectly with its brooding dark themes lyrically in a harmoniously dark beautiful cacophony of progressive melodic symphonic death metal.
Now in 2017 Season Of Tears unleash one of the strongest debut albums I have heard in the last 20 years with Homines Novi. The album Homines Novi (literally “New Men”, the term “men” referring here to the whole human kind) is based on reflections and stories about the evolution and the future, how what people do now will affect all our lives and how what happened to people will affect their own future. It has a strong connection with transhumanism and technological evolution’s, but also with nature, ecology and life experiences.
Homines Novi has a lite dystopian-horror theme running through it that paints a grim picture of a dystopian society. There are 11 songs on the album plus the main song called ‘The Protocole Of Evolution’ TPOE that spans a entire 17:19 of the album and is multi tracked over five songs. It is this song that is the full anchor of Homines Novi. ‘The Protocole Of Evolution’ comes in the tradition of multi tracked songs like After Forever’s and Epica’sThe Embrace That Smothers that happened over After Forever’s Prison Of Desire album and was finished on Epica’s Design Your Universe due to Mark Jansen’s (ex After Forever, Epica) departure from After Forever to form Epica. Homines Novi also has a very strong avant-garde element that it has some very unorthodox and unusual surprises on it that I will highlight as this review goes forward.
Desynchronization starts out with a very wicked science fiction like spoken word as if it were part of a dystopian utopia. It is met by sound effects of machinery before the deep thunder tuned down bass comes in and it takes off with a more symphonic death metal chord progression. There is a dynamic exchange of vocals throughout the initial frenzy of melodic brutality. There is also a great backing vocal passage going on much in the vein of a cyber-choir. These exchanges going in and out between the lead clean female vocal and the fullness within the masculine death growls. It gives this track a particular duet quality. This entire track sounds like a machine scene directly out of a Terminator film. This song transitions smoothly into the following song Desecrated.
Desecrated starts out with a deep hellish bass/drum rhythm section. The rhythm section has some heavy industrial elements. The chord progressions form a passage that practically stalks the mind and senses of the listener. This song is definitely for those who favor rhythm sections over stringed sections. The keyboards come in a create a balancing atmosphere that allow the listener to settle in for the melodic assault that awaits them. Once again the female clean vocal comes in to carry the track until it is met with a clean male vocal and male death growl. The level of brutality certainly caters to the more death metal minded audience. This track is relentless from the first note to final note. The death growls play very well off the double blast beats in the rhythm section. There is a break where there is a violin section along side a beautiful acoustic guitar melody.
The Second Cemetery explodes out of the gate with heavy double blast beats, a bass that is more of a percussive instrument and some over the top symphonic vocal harmonies that all tie together in one beautiful harmonious balance. The assault finally gives way to more symphonic passages that are compounded with almost thrash metal style riffs. The grit and crunchy chord progressions are in perfect harmony with the death growls. There seems to be a pattern forming thematically on the album in that the band meets the instrumental intensity in perfect time to the vocal and lyrical intensity. There is also a rare clean male vocal that carries the track briefly. There are also various breaks where the clean female vocals are really a anchor along with the various guitar solo’s that seem to be a dark horse element on the album. This is a very melodic track overall.
‘The Protocole Of Evolution Suite’ is a multi tracked 17:19 epic that gives Homines Novi a conceptual album appearance. It spans the next five tracks on the album. This is the more progressive portion of the album. There are various elements of anything between Epica to Frank Zappa in their diverse nature.
TPOE Part I – Firewind starts off with a heavy drumline section that is met with a vicious tuned down rhythm section that breaks and soon gets atmospheric. During the atmospheric section that is brief it sets up for the opening verse that will be reprises at the end of the epic on TPOE Part V – A New Dawn. This has some heavy harmony parts to it that allow the listener to get settled in for the melodic adventure over the next five tracks. There are some very wicked rhythm chord progressions and time signatures in this as well.
TPOE Part II – Far From Home transitions seamlessly off of TPOE Part I – Firewind into a almost blackened death metal low fi guitar riff. The riffs continue in a all out melodic assault. The death growls and clean vocals play perfectly in time with the viciousness of the bass/drum rhythm section. This is a straight away all out assault overall. The vocals are increasingly sung with a stronger conviction and this track demonstrates that. The guitar solo’s get stronger as the album progresses and this track also demonstrates that.
TPOE Part III – Homines Novi takes a turn towards more special sound effects. It sounds like machinery at work developing something in a lab somewhere. Soon it takes on a soundtrack score style giving it a very suspenseful sound and appearance. This is met with symphonic keyboard atmospheres. Maintaining the seamlessly continuity of the TPOE Suite, this track seamlessly transitions into the next track, TPOE Part IV – Wanderland.
TPOE Part IV – Wanderland smoothly picks up where TPOE Part III – Homines Novi. This time the seamless transition comes in form of a classical theater style male operatic voice met with a unorthodox accordion. This is where the TPOE Suitegets a more Frank Zappa style avant-garde experimental element about it. This element is not traditionally found nor native to the Progressive Symphonic Death Metal genre. It demonstrates the bands ability to think outside the box and not be pigeonholed into cliches. This protion also takes on a very heavy stage play 1920’s to 1940’s Broadway Musical element. The metal elements are gradually worked into this track. The accordion really adds another level of unorthodox atmospheres to the album. This track seamlessly transitions smoothly into the final track of the TPOE Suite, TPOE Part V – A New Dawn.
TPOE Part V – A New Dawn picks up smoothly where TPOE Part IV – Wanderland however with sheer metal brutality. The opening chord progressions are straight up progressive death metal. The riffs come right after the senses of the listener. This is one melodic assault right after another melodic assault. The dual vocals come in and out between the clean beauty of the female vocals and the beastly male death growls. The clean male vocals are a further hook by which the band keep the attention of the listener. Towards the end there is a reprisal of the first track in the TPOE Suite from the first track TPOE Part I – Firewind . Such reprisal gives the TPOE Suite a proper closure.
Damaged Process starts off with a very dark bleak opening with a strong thunderous rhythm section in perfect harmony with the beauty & beast elements of clean vocals and death growls. The instrumental half of the song is heavily avant-garde in nature. There is some notes that play off a abstract narrative in the instrumental that give the entire song a level of exquisite experimentation. The track even takes on some symphonic black metal style low fi guitar riffs.
Exalt starts out with a heavy symphonic metal element with keyboard atmospheres blended perfectly into the background of the stringed sections. The rhythm section comes in and adds depth and layers into the instrumental compositions. This also takes on some very heavy progressive metal elements ie .. various chord progressions and time signatures that play off one another. The Beauty & Beast metal element remains here. There are some theatrical elements and breaks that add another layer into the track. The theatrical elements remind me of some of the earlier 20th Century circus elements.
Restrained starts off with a sick relentless thunderous rhythm section. The bass is used again as a percussive instrument that runs perfectly alongside the double blast beats. Soon symphonic atmospheres of various keyboards and guitars add layers into the composition. Both stringed and rhythm sections are met with a clean male vocal with warmth and grace. The female vocal comes in and the death growls underneath all create a form of controlled chaos throughout the track. This is the final song on the album and the band uses the duration perfectly to tie all the elements used into one smooth finale.
Season Of Tears Homines Novi is certainly not for everybody. However if you are into Symphonic Death Metal with industrial and progressive elements this album could be for you. It may take a few spins to really get into it. Season Of Tears as a band come into their debut sounding like a band that has been in the business at least 10 to 15 years. Homines Novi is certainly one of the strongest debut albums of this style of music I have heard in 20 years. The album is well written and produced. Season Of Tears have a album they can certainly put on the stage live as well. A band like Season Of Tears guarantees that this style of metal will never go extinct. I am giving Season Of Tears Homines Novi a 5/5.
Schooltree | Heterotopia A Metaphysical/Paranormal Rock Opera – Album Review August 2017
Label: Independent/Unsigned Release Year: 2017 Country: USA Genre: Paranormal/Progressive Rock
Band Members – Current
Lainey Schooltree – Lead Vocals/Keyboards/Creator Tom Collins – Drums Peter Danilchuk – Synth’s/Organ Ryan Schartzel – Bass Sam Crawford – Lead & Rhythm Guitar’s
Band Members – Album Recording Personnel
Lainey Schootree – Vocals/Pianos/Synths Brendan Burns – Guitar’s Derek Van Wormer – Bass Tom/Tod/Tad Collins – Drums Peter Danilchuk – Organs/Synths Peter Moore – Nylon Guitar/Additional Vocals/Keyboards/Programming
CD 1 Overture Rocksinger The Big Slide Cat Centipede The Abyss Radio Walk You Through Edge of a Dream The Leitmaiden The Legend of Enantiodromia Specter Lyfe
CD 2 Dead Girl Turning into the Strange The Edge Annihilate Power of the Ghost You and I Into Tomorrow The River Bottom of the River Enantiodromia Awakens Zombie Connection Keep Your Head Day of the Rogue Utopia
* Writers Note* I want to apologize to Lainey Schooltree for this review taking so very long. It was not intentional. Hopefully the review below will validate me.
Ever since the middle 1990’s the Urban Fantasygenre has taken the literary world by storm. Novels such as The Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare,Twilight Trilogy by Stephanie Myer, Nightworld/Vampire Diaries by L. J. Smith, Vampire Academy/Frostbite by Rachel Meade, etc .. Most of the very successful Urban Fantasynovels go on to become either ‘Television Series’ or ‘Hollywood Blockbusters’. Now the Urban Fantasy genre has grown tentacles into the world of the traditional progressive rock opera.
Lainey Schooltree becomes one of the very many successful women to shatter the typical ‘male stereotype’ and create her own ‘Urban Fantasy’, however this is set to the traditional progressive rock opera. Her new project Schooltree Heterotopia is a melodic adventure of absolute paranormal and metaphysical proportions. Most progressive rock or metal opera’s have dealt with subjects as science fiction, world history, comatose people, or people with disabilities, end of the world scenario’s , etc .. Schooltree’s Heterotopia deals with the classic cliche or subject “Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it.”
Schooltree’s Heterotopia comes in the tradition of The Who’s Tommy & Quadrophenia,Meatloaf’s Bat Out Of Hell Trilogy on the Rock Opera end. On the conceptual end it comes in the tradition of Yes’ Tales From Topographic Oceans, Pain Of Salvation’s BE & In The Passing Light Of Day with some psychedelic structures reminiscent of The Doors and Jefferson Airplane.
There are six distinct and very different characters involved in the story and visual Lainey Schooltree has painted on this exquisite tapestry. There is the Greek Chorus – Narrator, Suzi – Our Hero, Zombuzi – Zombie Suzi, Metanoia, Shadows and Enantiodromia. Much like the ‘Urban Fantasy’ novels and films, these characters also have their own significance within Schooltree’s Heterotopia. The landscape of the project is well over 100 minutes and two CD’s worth of music that totally and completely seamlessly transition beautifully from track to track.
CD 1 – ACT 1
Overture opens up the album almost in the way a soundtrack or score would open a movie and/or film. It leaves a lot to the imagination and increases the anticipation opening up the epic opera. This is also a track loaded with various symphonic and progressive rock elements. The keyboard and guitar stringed section also adds a layer of distinct orchestration that gives the project a very unique sound.
Rocksinger & The Big Slide displays a very dark side of the main character Suzi. Lainey Schooltree really does a great job both lyrically and instrumentally showing the listener the true desperation Suzi has reached as to how far she will go to obtain her dream. Lainey Schooltree being the only vocalist on the album also allows for depths of various emotions to come forward in the narrative of the story.
Much like Alice In Wonderland,Lainey Schooltree incorporates a centipede like creature in this modern day urban fantasy, paranormal rock opera, however it is a Cat Centipede. The instrumental half of this track certainly lends a great picture on the screen of the theater of the mind. The band does a great job here building towards a climax, a transition. They do this through the incorporation of various progressive and psychedelic elements. Suzi the main character follows this abnormal creature into The Abyss.
With The Abyss the band utilize very heavy psychedelic elements in the intro leading in. The blend of vocals and psychedelic elements certainly create a otherworldly and strange journey into the progressive psychedelic harmonies. The drums also lend a firm melodic and rhythmic melody as well.
Radio starts off exactly like the title suggests. There is a heavy effect of a actual radio tuning in and out. When the vocals kick in the story narrative holds fast to the objective of storytelling. Lainey Schooltree’s vocals and the instrumental in radio are almost within the alternative rock parameters. The vocal harmonies and instrumental harmonies together remind me a lot of Dolores O’Riordan of The Cranberries meets Christina Booth of Magenta. Radio is one of two very well written transitional tracks the next being Walk You Through.
Walk You Through is more of a straight up rock song. The vocal harmonies certainly allow the rhythm section to be front and center playing off of one another. This track is very guitar driven and bass/drum rhythm section driven. Both of those elements allow for the psychedelic style vocals to serve as a beacon of light in Walk You Through.
Edge of a Dream starts out with a deep piano stringed section that serves as a melancholic melody. It is this melancholic approach that conveys the correct emotion of Suzi now Zombie Suzi to have a heavy dose of the blues since she is now exiled out on the streets from her home. The alternative to our main character Suzi, now as Zombie-Suzi faces her first real conundrum when she encounters Metanoia ‘The Leitmaiden’. Metanoia informs her that the longer she stays in ‘TheGarden of The Architype’ the more at risk she is in returning home and securing her human earthly form again. Lainey Schooltree depicts this perfectly with layers upon layers of psychedelic elements. This is met with various keyboard progressions blended beautifully with psychedelic vocal passages.
These atmospheres would continue through the rest of Act 1 or CD 1. The Legend Of Enantiodromia & Spectre Lyfe continue the psychedelia vibe. The psychedelic elements are that of more of a 1960’s style blended beautifully with 1990’s alternative rock elements. This is very rare in progressive rock and allows the entire story to really rest in the metaphysical and paranormal word Lainey Schooltree is conveying both melodically and harmoniously. Think Grace Slick Jefferson Airplane meets Delores O’Riordan meets Yes & Genesis. The vocals are warm and the instrumental portion allows the vocals and story to breathe through eloquently. The guitar solo’s shine through as well.
CD 2 – Act 2
The second half of this double conceptual metaphysical/paranormal rock opera starts off with a epiphany or transition if you will. This is where Zombie-Suzi has her first confrontation with three ghosts who taunt the hell out of her for her ‘ghostly’ condition. Ghosts who speak a curse over her to be dead thus the title of Dead Girl becomes appropriate here. Dead Girl opens up with a deep smooth rhythm section that is closely accompanied by the vocals that lyrically come out of the narrative of the three ghosts who taunt Zombie-Suzy.
Metanoia once again reaches out to Suzy- Spectre and lets her know that there is a way to adapt to her new condition. She teaches Suzy that she can bend her new condition and shape it by her will. She teaches Suzy that she can use all this strange to her advantage thus the title of the next track, Turning Into The Strange.Lainey Schooletree once again uses heavy psychedelic elements vocally and lyrically that are met with some very fluent hard rock elements in and out of the chord progressions. The band does very good work lyrically and instrumentally to articulate the story in such a matter.
Perplexed by her ‘Ghostly‘ self, Suzi begins to really take inventory on her path and progress in life both in her physical human form and her supernatural ‘Ghostly’ form. Initially unsure where she is going and even how to get there, Suzi once again is visited by what seems to be her only friend now Metanoia. After Metanoia weighs both the pros and cons of her ‘Ghostly’ form, Suzi finally gets a moment of clarity as to what path and how she must progress forward. This is all covered over the period duration of the songs The Edge Annihilate and Power Of The Ghost. It is during these two songs Suzi has some real introspection of her life. The instrumental and lyrical approach nails this down very well.
You & I sees Suzi in a confrontation with her Zombie body over taking a trip down by the river. This is only further irritated by the returning ‘Cat Centipede’ from the beginning of the journey who Suzi barely recognizes anymore. Against her better judgement Suzi follows the ‘Cat Centipede’ down to the river where trouble awaits Into Tomorrow. The instrumental portion remains on point with all the heavy psychedelic effects to portray Suzi into a otherworldly situation. The psychedelic element is now met with a thick and heavy neo progressive element as well.
The River & Bottom Of The River sees Suzi seduced by a sirens song to the river’s edge. Suzi knows full well to keep her resolve intact to be reunited with her physical earthly form she must jump all the way into the river. It has to be deliberate or else Suzi will fall into the river’s abyss and drown. These tracks are once again very heavy on the atmospheric effects of keyboards. Those effects serve as a heavy paranormal aesthetic throughout both of the tracks. The vocals are very heavy on the psychedelic elements as well. This allows a paranormal vibe to breathe here.
Beyond the “wall,” Suzi finds and awakens Enantiodromia, and asks her to take her fair hand and make her whole again. But awakened Enantiodromia is changed from her former self; looking around at the darkness arisen during her slumber, she is the black-handed reaper now, bringing balance to the land once more, now by using her black hand to annihilate that which does not belong in this world, and attempts to begin with Suzi. Suzi pleads with her to stop, explaining she is only half of what she’s supposed to be, telling Enantiodromia of her quest though endless night outside of time to wake her. “I am not a shadow, just a girl; an exiled soul in the wrong world.” Enantiodromia tells her that she’s been in this world too long and is no longer just a girl; she cannot return her home. But as repayment for awakening Enantiodromia, she allows Suzi the chance to go back to take control of her zombie body, and return as one to her, at which point she’ll take them both together to the next place. (Enantiodromia Awakens). That is achieved instrumentally through the staple psychedelic atmospheres both instrumentally and vocally.
Zombie Connection, Keep Your Head, Day Of The Rogue all see Suzi able to control her earthly body, zombie body all with her mind there is a reconciliation of sorts going on here even if it is not what Suzi imagined. The piano classically driven instrumental section really allow the lyrical side to breathe through so the listener can easily learn Suzi’s fate as she goes out in a ‘Blaze Of Glory’.
Utopia sees Suzi having achieved mastery in both worlds, Suzi is able to use her mind to grow her body from her head like a seed in the air downward to the ground. NeoSuzi glimpses what utopia could be for the first time, as something that can never be possessed, but experienced. The instrumental section beautifully wraps this story all up in a very coherent matter for the listener.
I did enjoy this journey. In a world of another dimension we can all find ourselves yearning and craving acceptance willing to do everything including mortgaging our own soul to obtain our ultimate goal. Suzi is a reminder of the absolute lengths we will go through to attempt our own Utopia. Lainey Schooltree certainly articulated this story beautifully on both lyrical and instrumental fronts.
Where some people usually enlist multiple vocalists to play parts of various characters and even multiple musicians, Lainey Schooltree enlisted a specific core both in studio and with a active band situation, thus to two different lineups in the rider of this review. Lainey Schooltree created a product that can be easily adapted to the live stage within reason. When listening to Schooltree’s Heterotopia think more The Who’s Tommy or Meatloaf’s Bat Out Of Hell trilogy as far as Rock Opera’s are concerned. I can not wait for Lainey Schooltree’s next adventure for us. After much deliberation I have given Schooltree’s Heterotopia a strong 5/5.