Top 10 Albums of 2017 | Progressive Metal | 2 of 3
Welcome back. This is the second of three lists of Top 10 Albums of 2017 here at Power of Prog. This time we count down the Top 10 Albums of 2017 . We are also at a point in history where there is as much progressive metal as there is it’s paternal genre progressive rock.
As many know who follow this music, progressive rock now has its branches in many other genres or sub-genres of heavy metal music. This list below is compiled from traditional progressive metal, extreme progressive black metal, progressive power metal, cinematic progressive metal, progressive death metal and a progressive rock/metal opera. Without further delay here are my Top 10 Albums Of Year, Progressive Metal.
Arjen Anthony Lucassen – Electric and Acoustic Guitars/Bass Guitar/Mandolin/Synthesizers, Hammond/Solina Strings/All Other Instruments Ed Wabry – Drums
Original Cast Members/Vocalists
James Labrie – Dream Theater- As ‘The Historian’ Tommy Giles Rogers – Between The Buried And Me – As ‘The Chemist’ Simone Simons – Epica -As ‘The Counselor’ Mike Mills – Toehider – As ‘T-H1’ Floor Jansen – Nightwish – As ‘The Biologist’ Hansi Kursch – Blind Guardian – As ‘The Astronomer’ Tobis Sammet – Avantasia/Edguy – As ‘The Captain’ Michael Eriksen – Circus Maximus – As ‘The Diplomat’ Nils K Rue – Pagans Mind – As ‘The Prophet’ Zaher Zorgati – Myrath – As ‘The Preacher’ Tommy Karevik – Kamelot – As ‘The Opposition Leader’ Russel Allen – SymphonyX – As ‘The President’ Will Shaw – Heir Apparent’ Wilmer Waarbroek, Jan Willem Ketelaars, and Lisette van den Berg – Scarlet Stories as ‘The Ship’s Crew’ You … Insert Name Here … as ‘The Audience’
Production Lori Linstruth – Photo Stills/Ajren Lucassen & Ayreon Cast Wayne Joyner – Lyric Videos for Everybody Dies and Star Of Sirrah
Matthew Cerami – Vocals/Guitars/Bass Jordan Navarro – Guitars/Drum Programming/Keyboards/Additional Sounds Jordan Navarro And Nick Shann – Drum Programming/Arrangements
Additional Musicians Nick Shann – Guitar Solo & Stringed Arrangememnts on ‘The Long Road Home’ Violin on ‘My Father, My God Benjamin Ian Meyerson (Fin Amor) & Justin Barone (Consonance) – Additional Lyrics & Vocal Arrangements Samantha Marie Rae (Nectar) – Guest Vocals Charles Buonsera – Bass Solo on ‘Evisecrate Divine’
Pennsylvania’s Progressive/Power Metallers MindMaze are set to launch a brand new Kickstarter on August 18th. The quartet has been working on a lot of new original music and plan to give fans a taste of their new, somewhat stylistically different material via a new EP that will be released in 2018. This EP will featured 3 new original songs, 2 of which will be exclusive to this release. It will also feature a few covers, including Iron Maiden’s “Déjà vu” and Queensryche’s “Roads to Madness” that were chose via the last Kickstarter project by fans. Vocalist Sarah Teets says,
“We really just want to make sure we do something awesome for all our fans who have continued to support us over the years. The band has been able to do so much of what we’ve done purely because of our fans. We wouldn’t be here without them.”
This new release will feature keyboard work from Jonah Weingarten of Pyramaze, who toured live with MindMaze in May when they toured the US and Canada with Arkona and Sirenia.
MindMaze also just relaunched their official website with the help of graphic designer Mallory Jacobson.
Here is a video for “Slave to the Cycle”was a new studio track off of MindMaze’s limited edition Dreamwalker EP, released July 27th, 2015. Their first Kickstarter campaign !!
Pennsylvania has been rich in history with strong working class values and ethics. It was certainly the birthplace of the first Continental Congress that declared America’s Independence from Britian, American Industrial Revolution, the Battle Of Gettysburg, and even football’s first real dynasty with the Pittsburgh Steelers. There has always seemed that there is a very relentless hard working independent spirit about that area in America. This has even trickled down to American Heavy Metal/Hard Rock. It certainly trickled down to the sister and brother duo and founders of MindMaze Sarah Teets and Jeff Teets.
In a time when female-fronted metal is at an all-time high in popularity but also at an all-time high for copycats and imitators, MindMaze has striven hard to forge their own sound and identity. Hailing from Allentown, Pennsylvania (United States) the band are young but have already released two successful full-length albums since formation at the beginning of 2012. In September 2015 the band was selected to go on tour as a direct support band for metal legends Saxon and Armored Saint on the heels of an independently booked and promoted tour with the Virginia-based progressive metal band Iris Divine. The band has traveled thousands of miles and performed all over the United States over the course of the past several years.
The band’s debut album Mask of Lies has been hailed by fans and critics all over the world as an outstanding piece of independent metal that is refreshing while being firmly rooted in many classic metal mainstays. With no label support, management, or outside hired promotion, the band managed to sell copies of Mask of Lies to fans in 34 of 50 United States and a total of 17 countries worldwide, selling 100% of the album’s first pressing in the first 12 months of its release.
On the heels of Mask of Lies’ success, the band released their sophomore effort Back from the Edge (2014), on October 24th, 2014 in Europe and October 28th, 2014 in USA/Canada via Inner Wound Recordings, featuring artwork by MONOWASP (Seventh Wonder, Harem Scarem, Brazen Abbot, Crash Diet, many more), Symphony X bassist Mike LePond on all tracks, and guest appearances by members of Stratovarius, Pharaoh, LORD, and Draekon. 2015 saw the band release a fan-funded EP in support of their single “Dreamwalker” which featured a selection of cover songs, acoustic versions, alternate versions, and a new original track entitled “Slave to the Cycle”. The EP is on the verge of going out of print after only 6 months on the market.
I first discovered this prog/powerhouse back in 2013 around the time their debut Mask Of Lies was to be released. I wrote a review for it during my brief tenure over at Lady Obscure Magazine. Due to respect and good faith I have never reissued that review anywhere else. However you are free to read that review by clicking insert link >> Mask Of Lies Review at Lady Obscure Magazine. I was totally floored to hear a female fronted band come more in the vein of a Savatage meets Dream Theater meets Crimson Glory and Iron Maiden. The last review I wrote for MindMaze seen the band wearing their influences on their sleeves. In 2017 with their third album Resolve I have seen a band mature into one of the most under rated powerhouse’s in the progressive and power metal communities.
With Resolve MindMaze have taken all their influences placed them into a melodic furnace and now have forged their own mature sound. With ResolveSarah Teets has really come into her own and established her a vocal force to be reckoned with. With Resolve being just their third album the band has really come together like a bad that has been in the industry for 15 to 20 years and have a further developed sense of confidence on this.
The fact that such a powerful album like Resolveis a third album is not a band thing whatsoever. Many many bands have set the table and strides for a long lasting career off the third album. I call it ‘The Third Album Stride’. I will elaborate on that later in this review. Now I would like to point a out a few highlights from every track on MindMaze’s Resolve.
Reverie opens up the album with a very melodic acoustic guitar section. Soon the track explodes and the band delivers a powerful wall of sound. The rhythm section with the piano and lead guitar take the listener on a ride and immediately hook their interest. The time signatures are very intricate and mature.This track is written and arranged quite well and also bleeds seamlessly into the following track Fight The Future. This is the first of three instrumentals on Resolve.
Fight the Future begins seamlessly off Reverie. It makes Reverie appear to be the opening credits to a film story or short film before any vocal dialogue is handled by Sarah Teets – Vocals. The opening instrumental section takes on many twists and turns in and out of various chord progressions and time signatures and thunderous rhythmic sections. This contains both power metal and progressive metal elements. The vocals come in very clear, aggressive and with some serious conviction behind them. Sarah has really established herself as one of the more unique and distinctive voices in the progressive/power metal community. The solo’s have a very Iron Maiden vibe about them meaning heavy galloping guitars with highly distinctive bass work that is evident.
In This Void is the second of three instrumentals on the album. Once again the band very eloquently and seamlessly enters into this very effectively off Fight the Future. Although it is only 1:12 do not mistake this for just a filler on the album. There is a purpose served with it. This track moves beautifully with ease into the following track Drown Me.
Drown Me starts off with some really heavy neo progressive elements on the keyboards. The guitar is even tuned to match the neo progressive element. Soon after the band take the more conventional pure progressive/power metal chord progressions. This is a very very guitar oriented track. While taking a European flavor with the power metal half of the track the progressive metal element is much more American. The band have managed to bring both styles in a well balanced harmony along with the wicked time signatures of the rhythm section. This is a track that will appeal to both a North American and European audience thus opening more opportunities for the band on live bills. The track takes a bit of a break for a more ethereal element around the 5:30 mark. The guitar solos seem to be getting stronger and more complex the further into the album the listener gets. This track has a thunderous outro to finish it where it bleeds seamlessly into the next track Sign of Life.
Sign of Life is the first single off the album. It begins as a very traditional melodic progressive metal track much in the vein of Crimson Glory’s Lonley,Queensryche’s Eyes Of A Stranger or even Dream Theater’s Another Day. This opens up with a harmony of a well executed guitar solo in harmony with the rhythm section. The track drops and takes a break where some acoustic guitar is present along with a beautiful vocal harmony. This track is one of the heavier tuned down tracks on the album. The use of a double vocal with back vocals adds a depth not heard on previous albums. There is not only a conceptual theme developing here but a very vocally oriented and mature album. The guitar solo’s are very insane but remain on point with the main objective of both song and album.
Abandon opens up and continues the guitar oriented assault. The drums are more present in the scheme of things with the rhythm sections. This track is where the band starts to display that European flavor of power metal with more up tempo guitar riffs and aggressive vocals. The vocals are a bit more aggressive on this one and rightfully so. This is a total rhythm and vocal assault from opening to close with more aggressive guitar solo’s as well. There is a very Iron Maiden influence presence on the portions of the guitar solo’s.
Sanity’s Collapse is the third and final instrumental on Resolve. It seamlessly picks up where Abandon left with a slower more rhythmic chord progression throughout the track. The tuned down atmosphere allows for the band to set up the last half of the album and the listener to digest the listening experience.
One More Moment opens up with a ballad like piano passage in harmony with a deep bass tone for depth that adds to the vocal harmony quite well. The band have slowed this one down much more than some of the other tracks on the album. If there is a power ballad on the album this track is it. This is album also takes a very appropriate conceptual element making references of previous song titles like Fight the Future. This is also a very introspective track and it certainly stands out that way.
Twisted Dream has this wicked fade in in the introduction that is absolutely a brutal assault with both the guitar stringed section and the beast of a rhythm section. The band has certainly added a level of heaviness and layered it upon a melodic chord progression. The vocals once again are high priority and upfront. There is some nice vocal effects layered over some spoken word portions serving as a backing vocal. There is some serious depth with a seven string guitar present on the track that is becoming more and more common in progressive and power metal circles. This track just builds layers upon layers of heaviness and depth. Lyrically there is some serious internal issues at work here.
True Reflection opens up much in the vein of a Awaken The Guardian era Fates Warning track. There is some serious guitar work both on the electric heavy and the acoustic atmospheric sides. The rhythm section allows the string section to really stand out without being lost itself. The vocals are some of the most appropriately emotional vocals perfectly complimenting the intricate lyrical issues going on here. The guys perfectly compliment the lead vocal with the back harmonies. This is another track where the band utilizes building layers upon layers with great execution.
Shattered Self opens up with a thrash metal style power metal element. A style more heard on a Iced Earth style power metal. The rhythm section and rhythm guitar are relentless. The vocals are very melodic and ethereal over the instrumental portion. That is something very rarely heard in a thrash power metal atmosphere as this song is. There is even the use of a small choir in the backing vocal.
Release begins with a almost classical chamber music style piano passage before the acoustic guitar and vocals come into play here. On the surface Release appears as a ballad. I kind of see this as more of a slower paced song to allow the listener to digest the album thus far and for the band to set the tone to close the concept out on the final track The Path to Perseverance. The guitar solo is very atmospheric in nature.
The Path to Perseverance once again with ease and simplicity seamlessly comes over from the previous track Release. These seamless transitions make the album stand out as the concept album it is allowing the listener to remain immersed in the album and story. The Path to Perseverance is the epic on the album. It has a powerful atmospheric opening set of intricate chord progressions adding both electric guitar and acoustic guitar passages. The lyrical content really is a melodic summary of the overall totality of the conceptual element of the album. With this being well over 11:00 minutes expect longer instrumentals. The ethereal vocal effects add yet another layer upon which this album has been known for throughout. This is also a great closing track in the arrangement if the band ever decides to or has opportunity to play this concept in its entirety live.
Bands whose careers have exploded off the third album are as follows, Dream Theater – Awake 1994 ,Iron Maiden – The Number Of The Beast 1982, RUSH – 2112 – 1976, Fates Warning – Awaken The Guardian – 1986, Savatage – Hall Of The Mountain King – 1987, Nightwish – Wishmaster – 2000 , Blind Guardian – Tales From The Twilight World – 1990 , Ayreon’s – Into The Electric Castle – 1998 , Shadowside – Inner Monster Out – 2011, Evergrey’s – In Search of Truth – 2001 ,Pain Of Salvation’s – Perfect Element Part 1 -2000. I see MindMaze’s Resolve in 2017 being in the conversation 10 to 15 years from now. Resolve is also a perfect title for this album as well. It shows the bands grit and determination that they are going nowhere anytime soon. I give MindMaze’s Resolve a strong 5/5for maturity and growth.
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