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’
When Opeth returned in 2011 with the release of Heritage many believed that the death of true extreme progressive death metal had come to a end due to the lack of growls to balance out the cleaner vocals. Many people did not know where a suitable replacement or a new hero band would come from or if it was going to return at all. Little did people know that one of the answers to this very question would come from Opeths neighbouring country of Sweden, Finland. The band out of Finland would be Perihelion Ship.
Last year I discovered these guys and was totally mindblown by their strong independent debut titled A Rare Thunderstorm In Spring. With haunting Hammond Organ and Mellotron style keyboards over a traditional progressive death metal sound, Perihelion Ship would be one of those very bands that kept the progressive death metal sub genre alive and well. Not only are Perihelion Ship one of the answers to that void left by Opeth, they are very serious contenders to take the throne as the kings of that brand of progressive death metal which Opeth left vacant. This could not be more true with the bands second album and sophomoric effort To Paint A Bird Of Fire.
To Paint A Bird Of Fire sees Perihelion Ship mature quite quickly within under the year since they debuted with A Rare Thunderstorm In Spring. To Paint A Bird Of Fire builds upon the rock solid foundation laid with A Rare Thunderstorm In Spring. In some areas To Paint A Bird Of Fire is quite a bit more abrasive and aggressive than A Rare Thunderstorm In Spring, especially with the guttural growls. The growls are more a blackened death vocal this time around. This will be pointed out and highlighted as this review moves forward. To Paint A Bird Of Fire has 6 very unique tracks yet they all remain in a tightly and sometimes very unpredictable objective. It is book ended by New Sun and New Sun? leaving the listener either the illusion or appearance that this could be a two part epic broke up deliberately to conveying a unspoken point. Now a few highlights from the album with a track by track analysis.
New Sun starts out as a post modern extreme progressive doom style chord progression. This is met with haunting Hammond style organs creating a very dark atmosphere that allows the deep bass chord progression to explode. The song starts to assault the senses of the listener in a beautiful brutal passage. The band always has a very cunning ability to weave in 1970’s pure progressive concepts with the mellotron and Hammond styled organs with the various modern time signatures both in the rhythm section and the guitars. This song quickly demonstrates the bands uncompromising approach to pure progressive rock and to transcribe it through the filter of today’s modern progressive metal elements. The band certainly storms out of the gate with a very tight cohesive vision and execution of sound.
Bird Of Fire begins with a very eerie dark Hammond Organ chord progression that forms a very dark atmosphere. Soon that recedes and a full all out assault of all instruments forms a deep thunderous melodic rhythm section with the clean vocal first. Thereafter the band takes the listener through a roller coaster of various time signatures and chord progressions before the death growls come in and change the complexion of the track.
The Sad Mountain opens up with thunderous blast beats that are soon met with the melancholic atmosphere created by the synths. The rhythm section goes to further and darker areas of melody in harmony with the clean yet somber vocals. The band have a uncanny ability to use the bass both as a melodic and percussive instrument. Jouko Lehtonen – Bass Guitaris gradually establishing himself as one of modern progressive metal’s best bass players. This also sees the growth and maturation of Andreas Hammer – Guitar, Vocals starting to come into his own as a powerhouse progressive metal frontman. He is also a firm reminder of a younger Mikael Akerfeldt of Opeth or Jonas Renske of Katatonia. Perihelion Ship definitely remain on point and objective this far into the album.
River’s Three opens up with a beautifully played acoustical guitar that creates a dark and once again yet somber atmosphere. Jani Konttinen’s – Hammond Organ, Mellotron orchestration of simulated wind instruments is a delightful brainstorm that yields a beautiful melody alongside the beautiful acoustic guitar. This track is a great track that it allows the listener to breathe and begin to digest the album.
Wind Of No Echoes continues to demonstrate the bands atmospheric side. Once again semi acoustic guitars alongside the beautiful keyboards give the album a particular sound signature where it is starting to become part and parcel to the brand of the band. That melancholic vibe before a wall of extreme bliss seems to be how the band likes to approach things at times. This is also accompanied with heavy rhythm section provided by the bass and drum. Then without notice the band changes up the atmosphere briefly yet with taste as not to disturb the listening experience. Through all the heavy passages there is a spoken word section that is met with some of the most venomous and sinister blackened death vocals I have heard in quite sometime. The sheer anger in the vocals is perfectly matched with the instrumental half of the track.
New Sun? This track goes well into the world of extreme progressive metal with some equally as heavy psychedelic elements to it. This is also the longest track on the album. It really explodes out of the gate with a heavy progressive and melodic unity within all the instruments. The deep rhythm sections are still in play as well as the intricate guitar chord progressions. The clean vocals are very strong on this one and are articulated quite well. If this is a continuation of the first song New Sun there are not any reprisal areas that lead the listener that way. The death growls certainly kick in perfect harmony with the deep double blast beats of the drums. The psychedelic portion comes with a wicked and sinister laugh that reminds me a lot of Porcupines Tree’s Voyage 34 when the main character Brian goes on that bad LSD trip. The mellotron style keyboards lend a heavy psychedelic vibe to those laughing spots. With this being the final track on the album it finishes very tight, professional and strong.
Last year I went on record and called Perihelion Ship’s A Rare Thunderstorm In Spring the best extreme progressive metal’s strongest debut album of all time. I also remember giving such praise to the pioneering independent spirit to that album. For a band to return just little under a year like Perihelion Ship has now done with To Paint A Bird Of Fire is another lofty feat in of itself. To Paint A Bird Of Fire is yet another full length album and it demonstrates the band’s ability to mature a lot in such little time since their debut A Rare Thunderstorm In Spring. Due to the band’s quick maturity and non inhibition of exploration I am giving Perihelion Ship’s To Pain A Bird Of Fire a strong 5/5. This could possibly be my progressive metal album of the year.
To be completely honest with you, Perihelion Ship is perhaps one of 2016’s and progressive metal’s best kept secrets. Perihelion Ship has only been together since 2014 and has released A Rare Thunderstorm In Spring independently. This band that hails out of Finland must of had a progressive rock and progressive metal time capsule they dug up in Helsinki. I mean this band here embody all of the hallmarks of early progressive pioneers such as Yes, Genesis, Can and Amon Duii II with the modern metal elements of DEATH, Katatonia, Dream Theater and Opeth, also drawing inspirations from dark progressive bands such as Anekdoten and Änglagård.
Perihelion Ship have totally stripped out glossy keyboard elements that seem to over saturate the progressive metal market in exchange for the vintage Hammond organ and Mellotron giving them a very unique and dark sound not heard of since Opeth’s towering opus Ghost Reveries was released in 2005. Jani Konttinen – Hammond Organ, Mellotron seems to be channeling a inner spiritual voice of Jon Lord meets Rick Wakeman with a slight avant-garde twist of Irmin Schmidt of Can.
Perihelion Ship’s extreme element comes in with the ferocious and beautifully done vocals of Andreas Hammer. Andreas’ vocals are like a wonderful cocktail of Chuck Schuldiner DEATH meets early Katatonia Jonas Renske and Pre- WatershedMikael Akerfeldt of Opeth. He perfectly balances the ‘death growls’ with the cleaner vocals throughout A Rare Thunderstorm In Spring. This is also done with the blistering bass/drum rhythm sections of Jouko Lehtonen – Bass Guitar and Jari-Markus Kohijoki – Drums as well as a blistering down tuned rhythm guitar. Do not let the 50:02 , five track modest length of A Rare Thunderstorm In Spring deceive you. It is more loaded than most of the lighter more ambitious progressive music out there. Now let’s look at some highlights of Perihelion Ship’s A Rare Thunderstorm In Spring.
Misplaced Rainfall begins with a very eerie and dark Hammond style passage. Soon this is joined in with a very dark and brooding acoustical guitar followed by an all out metal assault. The galloping passage with all its twists and time signatures really straps in the listener for the journey to come. After the 2:50 mark the dark clean vocal sets up for another dark acoustical passage before exploding into a full on extreme death growl that is used both as a vocal and instrument. The Hammond organ gives this a very brooding yet dark sound. Misplaced Rainfall is arranged perfectly on the album due to the fact it shows many dimensions to the band’s sound and delivery.
The Emperor Idea opens up with a straight on progressive death metal passage that reminds me a lot of Opeth’s Demon Of The Fall. It is one relentless pounding of time signatures and passages combined with a brutal deathy vocal quality that could rival any band on the planet. The Emperor Idea fluctuates in and out between brutal complex time signatures backed by the growls with highly harmonic and melodic clean vocal principals. The Hammond is just as present as well as any other instrument on the album. This one has a heavy Deep Purple vibe about it.
Fool of White Antlers begins with a beautiful soothing guitar and rhythm section with a warm clean vocal allowing for the listener to really settle in for the other half of A Rare Thunderstorm in Spring. This calm and lucid passage has the appeal to a older more traditional progressive audio pallet while appealing to the modern progressive scrutiny. It has many twists and turns like a progressive roller coaster in the rhythm section building towards a heavier sound and passages. This ends with a elegant ‘death growl’ as both instrument and a vocal.
The Poet From The Mad Moon begins with a smooth guitar intro with a synth produced vocal chant almost like a mini choir before setting up the clean vocal passage around the 1:00 mark. The Hammond organ commands the full attention of the listener giving the track a very vintage and haunting atmosphere. This track is a perfect bridge towards the fifth and final self titled track A Rare Thunderstorm In Spring.
A Rare Thunderstorm In Spring incorporates all the hallmarks of a vintage progressive rock epic clocking in at 21:07. A Rare Thunderstorm In Spring wastes absolutely no time getting into the very heavy progressive time signatures and very metal elements. This one is blistering from the beginning note to the last and final note. The first 2:00 minutes are blistering before lowering down with a lush acoustical guitar passage with a tastefully done spoken word carrying over it. With grace and poise the band starts to sound like 25+ year veterans with forming only two years ago in 2014. A Rare Thunderstorm In Spring sounds like the beautiful union between Dream Theater’s A Change Of Seasons meets Opeth’s Black Rose Immortal. It has many sections and various bridges that join those sections like the perfect progressive puzzle. The band does this in such a way to allow the listener to breath and absorb every note and passage written recorded and produced. It balances both the death growl’s and clean vocals perfectly. A Rare Thunderstorm In Spring as the self titled track also paints a motion picture inside the theater of the mind of the listener the more the listener is involved with the track itself.
For a band just together only two short years, Perihelion Ship has definitely made one of the biggest statements for a debut album in extreme progressive metal and progressive rock history. A Rare Thunderstorm In Spring is the strongest debut ever in the history of the extreme progressive death metal genre. It is stronger than even Opeth’s Orchid and Katatonia’s A Dance Of December Souls. The fact this was all we written, recorded, produced and financed without the help of a record label is reason I give this a 5/5 for sheer excellence and independent quality.
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