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’
Throughout the history of most human existence we have striven for a peaceful world a utopia, a paradise. To achieve this goal some have turned to organised religion, others have turned to education and higher learning while others just have no belief at all and turn to vice’s or various other activities. Let’s say for a moment that the human experience believes it has already reached its maximum Utopian society where you did not have to worry about offending other people, there were no wars, plagues, famines, etc . What if we were not even allowed to feel emotion, love, anger, forgiveness, rage under this utopia. One would assume all world issues were solved.
Now what would happen if one day a young man suddenly had a raging headache or felt something snap inside his body that would begin a downward spiral? The Utopian filter he used to see a paradise is now collapsing into a nightmare Dystonia society. Buildings decay, economies fall all around the world, lust enters the heart and suffocates and confuses true love. This entire downward spiral all began when a implanted micro chip malfunctioned within this young man. This is the world that Irish guitar genius Graham Keane has created with his monumental debut The Vicious Head Society Abject Tomorrow.
After a personal struggle and turmoil in his own life Graham Keane began to question everything much like the character in the story after the implant failed. It also served as a motivator to start work on Abject Tomorrow. Graham was not by himself and enlisted some of the very best musicians in the world to meet his goal with the album. Musicians enlisted are Derek Sherinian – Alice Cooper/Yngwie Malmsteen/Dream Theater, Kevin Talley – Dying Fetus/ Misery Index/Chimaira/Six Feet Under, Wilmer Waarbroek – Ayreon and Pat Byrne – Hedfuzy. With all that talent and Graham Keane’s vision The Vicious Head Society’s Abject Tomorrow has a lot of depth and substance that most debut concept albums lack. There is a little bit of everything on Abject Tomorrow from traditional high range progressive metal, to the more modern elements with the use of death growls and djent elements. I will point that out along the way with some highlights from every track with a track by track analysis.
The Sycophants begins with a very beautiful Hammond organ style synth passage that serves both as a melodic and percussive instrument. This creates for a haunting eerie atmosphere before the guitars come in with intricate chord progressions and various time signatures. This works very well as part of the overall introduction of the album. The vocals and rhythm sections come in and really anchor the listener into the composition and album rather quickly. There is a lot going on in the first 2:50 minutes to apprehend the listener’s attention. The instrumental portion compliments the emotion of the lyrical content and story quite well. About the 4:50 mark the bass takes a wicked percussive chord progression that is magnified by the keyboard atmospheres and time signature changes that are much like Haken and Dream Theater. The rest of the track is a roller coaster in and out with time signature changes.
Abject Tomorrow transitions with ease off the previous track The Sycophants. This track opens up with a very blistering, yet thunderous display of profound rhythm sections both in the areas of the bass and drum and even the guitar. The opening is straight up textbook progressive metal at its finest. The keyboard provides a very eerie atmosphere in the back by which the thunderous rhythmic time signatures and interchanges. The vocals come in very dark brooding matter. The vocals are partially a very wicked spoken word section that is soon met with a cleaner high end vocal to match match the instrumental narrative before the track gets out right brutal.
The track takes a very tuned down instrumental approach with a tuned down guitar and the bass working both as a melodic and instrumental tool. This bleak heaviness is met much like earlier Opeth and Katatonia with the death growls at the 3:00 mark. The heavier more progressive death metal element within the song really conveys anger and rage both on a lyrical and instrument front. The death growl’s help to convey the fear and anger the character is now waking up to. It is much like a scathing indictment on the Dystopian society with the death growls carrying some of the lyrical narrative. The rest of the track takes a very heavy melodic directive. The death growls even become more of a instrument towards the close of this track.
Downfall (Voice In The Sky) opens up with lush ethereal keyboard layers that continue to build along with the electric guitar solo at the onset. Soon the rhythm section of drums and bass come in to help anchor the track and eventually set the song and story narrative up. The heavy rhythm sections really work well in harmony with the stringed and keyboard progressions before the track drops and all we here is a bass and isolated vocal take the story into another passage. The track takes on a very unusual dynamic with a more neo progressive keyboard synth with some very brutal death metal vocals. It makes this portion of the track a more progressive melodic death metal passage for the time of the verse. The double tracked vocals add a very odd time signature and depth to this track as well. The song takes a break and the beautiful harmony of piano, bass and guitar and violin coming together helps bring the entire track to its climatic conclusion.
Agenda (I) Cryptograms (II) A Digital Self opens up with certain sound effects that transport the listener to a proverbial wasteland in the theater of the mind. Soon the track takes off with some serious deep tuned down rhythm chord progressions to give the track a level of brutality. The guitar is way tuned down. It is a six string guitar tuned down to sound like a seven string. The 5 string bass really gives the instrumental portion a really brutal depth that works in perfect harmony with the death metal growls. Then the track takes on a very odd yet appropriate unusual power metal melody. The melodic death metal elements run along in the vein of a Amon Amarth or even later Carcass. This track is a monstrous roller coaster of emotion between the cleaner more melodic parts in balanced harmony with the deep tuned down melodic death metal portions. The spoken word section continues to elaborate deeper into the conceptual plot of the story on this one. The guitar wide open guitar solo really allows the listener of track and the album to begin to absorb the album.
The 11th Hour starts out with a open keyboard chord progression along with a dark and bleak spoken word section. Then the track takes on a ultra melodic approach with high ranged harmonies. This is briefly interrupted in spots by further melodic death growls and dark spoken word elements. All of those elements allow for the illusion of multiple characters or perhaps personalities within the mind of the main character. It is as if the music is reflecting these multiple emotions within the character , characters or personalities.
Psychedelic Torture Trip is a very intelligent instrumental track. It allows for the listener who is really following the concept to absorb the story even further. It also allows for the listener that just likes innovative musical time signatures and chord progressions to devour the album from a melodic perspective. The keyboards are obviously the signature of the one and only Derek Sherinian with his fusion style blended in harmony with Graham Keanes guitar passages.
God’s Of The New Age opens up with a wall of fury between the thunderous drum and bass rhythm section. The rhythm guitar also comes into play to add a very deep tuned down rhythm chord progression. This also allows for the cleaner vocals to pop and really stand out on the track to carry all sums of the parts in perfect harmony. Soon the melodic death metal growls come in. The death metal portions are very easily understood for those with a objective mind and ear. The chord progressions off the guitar are really modern progressive metal much like a Haken meets Leprous meets Zero Hour.
Analogue Spectre: (I) Reflection (II) Thought Data Stream (III) The Passing (IV) Amaranthine (V) Ghost in the Machine (VI)is the 18+ minute epic and final track to close out this epic conceptual story. It begins with some heavy keyboard effects with a spoken word section that seems like artificial intelligence speaking to the listener. The keyboards are a more vintage 1970’s keyboards that are more Pink Floyd. The drums slowly come in and soon the guitar and the grand introduction begins. Yes this track is for those listeners with longer attention spans. The track soon drops into a smooth guitar and bass rhythm section with the vocal briefly isolated before the track really picks up and we hear multiple vocals all in harmony with the stringed passages.
There are multiple parts to this epic that all begin to tie both the track and the entire album together. To those that listen for the story and music you will be able to understand this more and more with every listen. Throughout the epic the time signatures and chord progressions go from traditional progressive metal to modern more recent djent style chord progressions. This is truly a very guitar driven track due to the length of the composition. About half way through there is a break where there are some beautiful keyboard passages in harmony with percussion cymbals. The guitar once again takes the track to another depth and dimension.
In music or any form of artistic expression we are only limited by our imagination. The human imagination can be used to transport others imaginations to areas unknown if we allow it. The Vicious Head Society’s Abject Tomorrow is a dynamic example of the true power the human imagination really has. The Vicious Head Society’s Abject Tomorrow is a science fiction show set to music. The Vicious Head Society’s Abject Tomorrow is also the best independent/unsigned progressive metal concept album and artistic expression I have heard in the last 10 years. If this is the debut I will enjoy the journey to follow this new franchise. I am giving The Vicious Head Society’s Abject Tomorrow a very strong 5/5.
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