Throughout my adventures into writing reviews of albums here at Power Of Prog, it is no secret that I do reviews on bands that are fronted by women. I believe that women have just as much a equal contribution into progressive rock, progressive metal and just music in general. Therefore when I met Insatia’s Zoe Marie Federoff on Facebook I was highly interested in their new release for 2017 Phoenix Aflame on Pitch Black Records. Insatia are a North American powerhouse with members from both the USA and Canada. Although they are from North America they provide the listener with a more European flavour of progressive power metal.
Insatia are like a Second GenerationNightwish meets Lacuna Coil with heavier power metal elements found in Blind Guardian, Avantasia and Gamma Ray. This is a type of band that could easily play a Female Metal Voices Festivaland turn around and play at Wacken Open Airwith the right circumstances. Now a little track by track analysis of Insatia’s Phoenix Aflame.
IntroLand Of The Living opens up almost in a traditional world music vocal. Zoe Federoff certainly channels the inner Enya with chat style vocals. Soon the rest of the band joins her and the vocals along with the instrumental half serve a heavily pastoral purpose.
Act Of Mercy transitions quite seamlessly and smoothly with a spoken word section before the instruments kick in again. With a mid range in speed the band utilizes various chord changes to craft together a balance of both progressive and power metal passages. The vocal echoes also are allowed to breathe where the listener can hear them come through. The chord progressions rest more in progressive metal than power metal in the latter parts of this track.
Memory Of A Sapphire explodes with a fury of strings between the really heavy rhythm guitar riffs and the beautiful crystallize keyboards of Ivan Moni Bidin. At times it sounds like a blend of Blind Guardian on the power metal end meets Vanden Plas on the progressive metal end. This is loaded with various guitar solos, rhythm guitar portions that are all anchored by the bass/drum rhythm section. Zoe Marie Federoff does a wonderful job here singing on perfect time to both the stringed sections and rhythm sections. Kaelen Sarakinis – Guitars really channels his inner Emppu Vuorinen (Nightwish) on the rhythmic side to the guitar.
Sacred opens up with a violin induced classical metal chord progression. This is soon accompanied by the crunchy raw rhythm guitar section. Soon the entire instrumental half kicks in and makes this a more neo classical delight. The rhythm section is very heavy handed while the keyboard lends a beautiful atmosphere perfect for a power metal style track. There are some progressive metal elements with various time signatures and frequent changes in the rhythmic section. The violin section adds a symphonic flare to the song a well.
We Are The Gray opens up with a nasty tuned down drum based rhythm section that is accented perfectly with a classical keyboard atmosphere to accompany it. The rhythmic portion of this one is very clean and easy to follow. The keyboard and other stringed atmospheres allow for actual emotion to come through and be shown. The band uses overdubbed backing tracks to really make the vocals feel warmer. The guitar solo is also allowed to breathe in its various stages.
Phoenix Aflame is obviously the namesake track to the entire album. It starts out with a furious fury of really heavy guitar chord progressions. The entire opening passage is seriously blistering. There is a beautiful Hammond Organ style keyboard running parallel to the blistering guitar and rhythm led passages. This is one of the heavier songs on the album. It is also very progressive in nature with various time changes and chord progressions much in the vein of Kamelot or SymphonyX . The bass really bleeds through as well.
Not My God starts off with a heavy classically based piano section. The opening really leads the listener into a very beautiful power ballad full of emotion. I stress ‘Power Ballad’ because it is both really heavy with the various progressions and very much a ballad at the same time. This is a more modern ‘Power Ballad’ instead of one you would find in 1980’s to early 1990’s AOR/Hard Rock. It rests more in a song like Kamelot’s The Haunting.
Captor And The Captive is another song that opens up with a lush classical piano melody much like a ‘Power Ballad’. Soon it opens up much like a heavy progressive metal chord progression. I hear a lot of influence from a Dream Theater’s Another Day at the start. Soon this levels out into more of a power metal melody that is met with a light pop sensibility. This is a ‘Gateway’ song for a newer listener or fan to power metal or progressive metal. This is a song that is excellent for live sets to draw more newer fans as well is retaining the current fan base.
Velvet Road opens up with a beautiful acoustic passage that is met with very angelic vocal inspired opening passage. This song reminds me a lot of what you would hear out of the singer-songwriter community. This has a beauty about it due to its unplugged nature. This also allows the lyrical story to be front and center due to its unplugged nature and emotion. This even has a 16th Century Renaissance style about it.
Healer Of Hatred starts off with a very blistering opening chord progression. This is also the final track on the album. The band does a great job with this finale to Phoenix Aflame. This is blistering straight away neo classical power metal in its very essence. With heavy charging rhythm guitars that follow beautiful drum blast beats this is a true headbanging tour de force on all levels. The rhythm section in harmony to the guitar solos add to the beautiful atmosphere to this song.
There is obviously no doubt that Insatia have all the tools and talent for a steadfast career in this style of heavy progressive power metal. With the right promotional mechanism and time they will be major players on the world scene. They are also proof that this kind of metal will be around for at least another generation to come. Another thing that I like about this album was that the band made it short and sweet and to the point. That is something they will benefit from due to this being a sophomoric effort. Considering all this I give Insatia’s Phoenix Aflame a very strong 4.75/5 .
When you hear the word ‘Symphonic’ tied to anything in the progressive metal or rock communities your automatic preconceived notion is something over the top. Other general notions are it is heavy laden with choirs and backed by a orchestra of sorts. While most of those qualities do exist for the majority of ‘Symphonic’ music it is not really the situtaion with Canada’s Evereal. It would appear that the members of Evereal have taken a more basic and modest simplicity in their approach with their self titled debut album. You could say ‘Less is much more’ with their self titled debut.
Since this is a new band on the global music scene here is a brief biography courtesy of the bands official website, Facebook and ArtistEcard profile.
Evereal started as a studio project born of the writing process. Evereal was created by Guitarist Stephen Roberts in 2011. The concept was to recruit musicians to write and record music with emphasis on groove and melodic content utilizing symphonic qualities, The band went through several roster changes over those first couple years, then along came keyboardist David Bevis and singer Stephanie Neufeld. It was now the Evereal project began to take shape. They quickly recruited Drummer Rob Queen and Bassist Gord Esau to solidify the lineup. The group now finds themselves working towards the end goal of creating music of complexity, while retaining groove within the layers of symphonic sound. The end result is Evereal. The band launched a successful kickstarter campaign that saw the band raise $10,000 towards completion of their debut album. This was followed by a worldwide distribution and promotion deal with 7Hard records Germany (part of the 7US media group). The CD is scheduled for release in January 2017.
I believe it was this ‘Grass Roots’ spirit of self financing and fan financing the album that led the band to the appropriate mindset to keep the album in its most modest, simple and humble for. This also allowed the band to have some product by which they could perform on stage in a live setting and perhaps be invited to tour or participate in the global progressive rock/metal or other festivals. Now let me get to some highlights off every track on Evereal’s self titled debut.
Psycho opens up with a very strange spoken word section that is working in tandem with a very abstract guitar chord progression. Then there is some thunderous rhythm section until the vocal comes in. The vocal on the main verse and chorus is very ethereal in nature. This is a straight away modern progressive metal track otherwise. It definitely sets the rest of the album up for a listening journey.
Frost Sign begins with a very beautiful piano before being accompanied by the lead guitar and a full chord progression passage. The vocals remain on point both crystal clear and on perfect pitch. This track is a very rhythm section based track where everything from the vocal to stringed section follow the lead of the rhythm narrative. It even does so when the guitar solo comes in. Stephanie Neufeld – Vocals, sounds like a beautiful hybrid of Liv Kristine meets Sharon Den Adel of Within Temptation.
Caution starts out with a spoken word section. Lyrically this song is loaded with a great deal of social and political commentary. The instrument narrative goes in and out from a down tempo with symphonic atmosphere’s. The harder portions are very rhythm section based driving th track. Both the atmospheric and heavier instrument portions run in a good tight harmony with one another. The guitar solo’s are heavily atmospheric laden as well.
Sinful opens up with a lush isolated piano passage almost ballad like. The track progressively builds towards the heavier elements of the song. There are some nice breaks between heavy and symphonic atmospheres that allow the track to breath for the listener. The bass serves both as a melodic and percussive instrument as well. This track is well executed in the album arrangement as a collective and in the perfect spot.
Veil starts out with some nasty verbal manipulation effects before exploding into a thunderous rhythm section. The down tuned bass and guitar give the track a lot of attitude that sometimes lacks in progressive metal. It is down right crunchy, whereas some modern progressive metal relies more on tales of fantasy and escape. This track does not do that and the attitude is a welcomed change. This reminds me a lot of a progressive version of Lacuna Coil.
Wish opens up with a nice isolated guitar that is met in harmony with the vocal. For a band only relying on five members, this track sounds like it was done with both a heavy orchestra and symphonic choir. David Bevis – Keyboards & Orchestration, really knows the true meaning of minimal effort, maximum distribution. This track gives me the audio appearance that I am sitting in a concert theater listening to its acoustics flow in and out of that hall.
Darkness begins with a keyboard passage in harmony with the lead guitar. The chord progressions develop a passage where the band can begin to build from. This track continues the bands simple symphonic spirit. By time you get to this track you begin to notice that objective. The symphonic orchestration and effects really do give this song a depth of darkness. The addition of the male death growls lend a heavy handed attitude as well.
Anger opens up with a very beautiful Arabic/Middle Eastern Oriental scale. This is met with a thunderous rhythm section. It is almost like listening to a Myrath with a female vocalist. That Arabic scale really carries the backbone of the song. This also goes towards the band executing well with what they have to work with. The band even experiments with various vocal echoes on top that symphonic and Arabic elements.
Scars starts out with a wide open guitar shred. This track is very up tempo almost taking on chord progressions heard in neo-classical power metal. The track drops for a break and lays the vocals over a beautiful keyboard atmosphere. It is simplicity the band really creates a very complex arrangement on this song. Even some light thrash metal elements come into play on this one.
For a band that crowdfunded this album and had very little to work with in way of equipment and production costs, Evereal certainly made a very powerful first statement as a band. This is a band that really knows how to execute quite well with very little. Evereal is a more Euro flavoured metal with a North American sensibility. All its members did a great job for a debut album. This will certainly be a tool to help them get their feet further in the door of the Symphonic Progressive Metal community. I will give this a 4.5/5.
Celebrate the release of Land of the Blind: a new Half Past Four album!
Date: September 17th 2016
Where: Hard Luck Bar
Location: 772a Dundas St W. Toronto, ON M6J 1V1 Cover: $1008:30PM – Doors
09:00PM – Chromatica
10:15PM – Half Past Four Set 1
11:30PM – Half Past Four Set 2
Progressive Hard Rock band Chromatica will open the night at 9PM, followed by two 50-minute sets from Half Past Four! This is a rare occasion to see Half Past Four deliver almost two hours of energetic, fiery prog that would please even the most snobbish prog connoisseur in the city!Half Past Four is one of the best progressive rock bands to have emerged from Canada. Over nearly two decades, they have developed a unique sound, employing traditional prog-rock music laiden with folk, country, jazz, heavy metal and classical genres, among others.
Half Past Four has been compared to early-80s King Crimson. Yet any comparisons can only truly function on a per-track basis. While one piece might sound reminiscent of late-70s Yes, listeners might feel the influence of early Pink Floyd in the next piece, followed by a piece that harkens Primus in the 1990s. Or Kate Bush in the mid-80s. Like the best of progressive rock music, the listener cannot predict where the band will take them next.
It is this shifting flow of sound and feeling that distinguishes Half Past Four. They are an aural tapestry, weaving 50+ years of musical influences into mellifluous melodies and rhythmic resonances that take their listeners on a journey to states that are both fresh and familiar.
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