Melodic Metal

"Wolfpakk is an ambitious project idealized by Mark Sweeney (ex-Crystal Ball) and Michael Voss (Mad Max, ex-Michael Schenker’s Temple of Rock), and ‘Wolves Reign’ is their fourth studio album in a span of 7 years.

$14.00
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"Rare is the day that an artist like Axel Rudi Pell can release his fifth ballad-oriented album to go down so well with his long-term fan base.

$15.00
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"Alright, bear with me as we untangle the knot of Fabio Lione's new band Eternal Idol. A few years back the current Angra and Rhapsody Of Fire vocalist did a spot with fellow Italians and power metal band Hollow Haze.

$15.00
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"To think I've been reviewing music as long a Eden's Curse has been making music. I reviewed every album from this multinational band from their self-titled debut in 2007 to their latest and fifth album, Cardinal.

$16.00
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Remastered with 4 live bonus tracks from 2010.

$9.00
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Remastered with one studio bonus track + 5 live tracks from 2010.

$9.00
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"Beginning as a cover band, Switzerland's Crystal Ball has been chugging along for better than 20 years. A brief six year hiatus couldn't stop them as they rebounded in 2013 with a new album. Since then they've remained consistent.

$13.00
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Digipak edition features 7 bonus tracks!

$16.00
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"From a backstage meeting of heavy metal friends came the collaboration known as Serious Black. The result was 2015's As Daylight Breaks, followed by some touring and festival appearances. Now, the band returns with their second effort, Mirrorworld, and some line up changes.

$15.00
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"ou can probably count on both hands the number of countries in the world where classic melodic hard rock remains vital. Finland is one of them.

$15.00
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  • Prospekt are a British Progressive Metal band influenced by bands such as Dream Theater, Symphony X, Opeth and Circus Maximus, as well as film scores and fusion. Prospekt combine the fierce technicality of progressive metal with the symphonic elements of contemporary prog.From brutal riffs coupled with odd time-signatures, to majestic melodies, the principle of Prospekt’s music is to create an intelligent and atmospheric mix of melodic, modern progressive metal. Incorporating passionate higher ranged vocals, frenetic guitar work, haunting orchestration and solid grooves, every composition remains both interesting and original.The Colourless Sunrise was mixed by  Adam "Nolly" Getgood of Periphery and mastered by Jens Bogren at Fascination Street.
    $13.00
  • "John Mitchell is a man with a rich musical heritage and history - from musician and vocalist, to songwriter and producer. So it’s no great surprise to find him as the mastermind behind a new project called Lonely Robot. The eponymous forthcoming album is the first time he has done something of this nature, and he's loved every minute of making it.“I can honestly say it's the most fun I've ever had in the studio. That's not to belittle anything I've done before but with this, I can wake up in the morning with a song idea in my head, write it and have it recorded by the evening.”Mitchell had long thought about embarking on a project like this, and when he found a break in his schedule due to plans for the next It Bites album being delayed, he finally took the opportunity.“People had suggested I do an album like this for a long time, but I procrastinated so much that in the end, it took Thomas Waber from InsideOut to push me into doing this.“With Lonely Robot, I have a clean slate and that's very exciting, because nobody expects anything in particular. It reminds me a lot of how things were when the Kino album [2005's ‘Picture’] was done, in that no-one knew what would come out of it. Musically, the Lonely Robot album is very proggy, but more about atmosphere than technical expertise. It reminds me in places of Kino and Frost*, but stands apart from both.”There are 11 songs in total, with the versatile Mitchell handling much of the instrumental performance and vocals himself. But he also lined up some intriguing musical talents to guest on it.“Craig Blundell does all the drums. I mapped out all the parts for him in advance, but he brought a lot of his personality to the songs.”Marillion vocalist Steve 'H' Hogarth performs on two songs, but not in his accustomed role. “He does backing vocals, yes. But his main contribution is playing the piano, which he does with such a delicate feel.“Throughout, what I wanted to do was to take the guests outside of what they're usually known for. For example, Kim Seviour from Touchstone sings on one track called ‘Oubliette’, and I got her to do it at the lower end of her vocal register, which she doesn’t normally get to use.”There are two other acclaimed singers featured on the album, the first being Heather Findlay.“We duet on a song entitled ‘Why Do We Stay’, which was actually the first one I wrote for the album. Heather is usually known for her folk style of singing but for this song, I gave her the brief of taking a more Kate Bush approach - breathy and emotive.”Perhaps a surprise inclusion on the album is Go West lead singer Peter Cox.“When you think of Peter, you immediately think of Eighties pop, don't you? But I felt his dusty baritone would suit my track ‘The Boy in the Radio’ perfectly.”Still on the 1980s pop trail, John also asked Nik Kershaw to contribute a guitar solo for the track ‘Humans Being’, as he’s long been a fan of his style. John also couldn’t resist asking good friend and keyboard player Jem Godfrey of Frost* fame to add his unique musical treatment to two tracks, including the title ’Lonely Robot’, with Nick Beggs playing bass and his signature Chapman Stick on a few other songs.There's one more significant contribution to the album. And that comes from the narration provided by renowned English actor Lee Ingleby.“He's one of Britain’s finest character actors right now. He was in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, and Master And Commander, as well as having the lead role in the recent BBC TV series ‘Our Zoo’. What I asked him to do was to provide motifs at certain key points in the album, to help to link everything together to the overall album theme.“The concept is about the way in which some ancient civilisations – for instance, the Mayans, the Egyptians and the Chinese – had technology way beyond what they should have had at the time. And I'm talking about the millennium up to 1000AD. It’s as if some people had been transplanted onto the planet from another world and time.”Mitchell also put a lot of thought into the overall project name. Lonely Robot isn't just the juxtaposition of two disparate words.“It represents the human condition. I'm not suggesting that human beings behave like robots, but so many people lead regimented lives and it’s easy to get stuck in a rut and not realise or know how to get out of it.”Lonely Robot is certainly the soundtrack of John Mitchell's prolific imagination coming to life.“What's the album like? Like nothing I've ever done before!”"
    $13.00
  • Second album from this California based prog metal band with ties to Redemption. The Tragedy Of Innocence is a far more mature and developed release than their debut. It's a conceptual work dealing with a very heavy subject - Valerie Quirarte (wife of drummer Chris) and her experience with child abuse. The music is a reflection of the story - its darker and more intense. All in all Prymary are a progmetal band. You can expect some serious complex arrangements and stand out playing. Kudos to the band for tackling a difficult subject and also jumping up to the next level musically. Recommended.
    $2.00
  • To say this album is monumental would be an understatement.  Jon Anderson has finally made the Yes album that we've all been waiting for the band to record for the past 40 years and never seemed to get around to it.My understanding is that the germ of the collaboration between Roine Stolt and Jon Anderson began when they met on one of the mega-concert cruises.  Anderson and Stolt have been bouncing material back and forth since then and Roine pulled it together into something amazingly cohesive.  Ex-Yes keyboardist Tom Brislin is on board, as are many of the members of Flower Kings and Karmakanic: Jonas Reingold, Michael Stolt, Lalle Larsson, Felix Lehrmann.  Daniel Gildenlow and Nad Sylvan contribute backing vocals.The album consists of 4 epic length tracks.  The vibe, the feel, the soul feels like Yes.  Some people say this sounds like The Flower Kings with Jon Anderson singing.  I don't hear it that way.  To me this has the DNA of Going For The One and Tales From Topographic Oceans.  Is there some Flower Kings feel here?  Sure - after all if there was no Yes there probably wouldn't be a Flower Kings.Roine is a fabulous guitarist.  While he doesn't try to mimic Steve Howe's tone or style he does use a parallel array of guitars.Plain and simple...this is the Yes album you've been craving for decades.  Easily the prog rock album of the year.  I'm simply blown away.  BUY OR DIE!
    $12.00
  • "You have to give it to them… Vanden Plas certainly have a sense for the dramatic, grandiose, the literary, the overblown, the theatrical… and then some!As its title suggests, ‘Chronicles Of The Immortals - Netherworld II’ is the second part of a symbiosis the Teutonic progsters have formed with collaboration with the multi-million selling German author Wolfgang Hohlbein, whose duotych of novels of the same name Vanden Plas frontman Andy Kuntz helped to bring to musical life in a series of sold-out theatrical performances during the 2012 and 2013 seasons. Subsequently, Kuntz led his band on the ambitious journey of bringing the novels to a wider musical audience with two thematic CDs.Now, I’m going to be brutally honest here and admit that I’m familiar with neither the novels in question, or the first part of their musical accompaniment… from what I can gather, however both left the hero of the story - the immortal Andrej Delãny – facing up to the perfidious plans of the dark “Godmaker”, while the second half of the story sees its hero delivered into a further darkness from which his own sense of self-awareness sees him eventually emerge into the light of his own salvation… or something like that!Unfamiliarity with the literary and lyrical background to this album (as well its musical predecessor) initially made this a difficult listen, as I struggled to comprehend the underlying thematic in each regard. However, as it progresses, it possesses a dark and dreamy entrancement, which grabs you in its poetic embrace and caresses you with its strange, extremely enigmatic charm, leading you deep into an opus of truly epic proportions.Kuntz’ vocal is outstanding. His depth and warmth possesses a dark soulfulness which enchants and hypnotizes, drawing the listener into the layers of the musical interpretations of his lyrics. Günter Werno’s keyboards soar and swell, while at the same time dropping diplomatically into the background to make way for Stephan Lill’s sublime guitar work, which crunches and grinds on the album’s denser moments as much as it seers its layered harmonics, which build the layers of each song to their logical conclusion.‘Chronicles…’ drives its story forward with the quality and zest of a good novel. A knowledge of the latter work on which it is based perhaps would aid a better understanding of its inherent message and motive, but the lack of same does not denigrate from the quality of the listening experience, which is an ultimately rewarding and satisfying one." - Uber Rock
    $15.00
  • Excellent US neoprog that will appeal to fans of Marillion and Iluvatar.
    $3.00
  • "Even though it has been a good forty years since the Swedish sextet Kaipa first appeared on the music scene, it was only back in 2012 and through exposure to their then latest studio album “Vittjar” that I was first introduced to their unique blend of melody-driven Progressive/Folk Rock.With that album having created such an impression, listening and reviewing the band’s latest material was something that I was more than keen on doing – perhaps in an attempt to discover whether founding keyboardist Hand Lundin & Co had managed to take full advantage of the positive press generated by the above-mentioned release.Soon the possibility to review “Sattyg” was presented to me and jumped at the opportunity. So, let’s see what Kaipa’s twelfth studio album has to offer.Similarly to its predecessor, “Sattyg” contains an interesting collection of thematically varied but pleasantly deceptive compositions, and, as you will soon find out, the word “deceptive” is complimentary.As I mentioned before, melody is an integral element in the band’s music, so what’s bound to initially and immediately attract your attention are various emotive vocal themes provided by the duet Patrik Lundström/Aleena Gibson, Per Nilsson’s flamboyant performances on the six string and/or Hand Lundin’s intelligently-crafted 70s themes keyboard parts.There is, however, a wealth of beautiful and cleverly hidden themes, mainly offered by the band’s dead-tight rhythm section, that only those of you willing to spend time on really listening to “Sattyg” will really profit from; these themes gradually reveal themselves to you every time you choose to revisit this beautiful album.Never the ones to shy away from a challenge, the members of Kaipa introduce their latest album with the epic-sounding “A Map Of Your Secret World” – what can only be described as fifteen minutes of pure musical joy!Opening with a stunning vocal melody by Aleena Gibson, the song works through a thematically challenging section that will make most Progressive Rock fans happy before evolving into a Folk tune whose memorable vocal lines are bound to stay with you for a while.Since joining Kaipa back in 2000, Aleena has helped shape the character of band’s second incarnation and no song demonstrates that better than “World Of The Void” – a composition filled with her strong and passionate performances.Dark vocal themes and jazzy rhythmical parts and clever bass lines characterise the appropriately-named “Screwd-upness” while the same-titled “Sattyr” find the band bring strong Kansas-influences to the surface in their attempt to indulge in their much-loved Folk Rock melodies.It should come as no surprise to anyone that the second most important composition of the album is also fairly long. Featuring stunning violin melodies, clever choral themes and a beautiful melody which is carrier by all instruments in clear succession, “A Sky Full Of Painters” is another impressive exercise in technical dexterity, while “Unique When We Fall” a great vocal duet by Lundström/ Gibson.Ever-changing rhythmical themes and a healthy parade of impressive melodies also characterise the nine and a half minute “Without Time – Beyond Time” – a song that offers a fitting, as well as a rewarding conclusion to this absolutely delightful album.It takes a very talented and pretty harmonious group of musicians in order to create an album as thematically challenging and approachable as “Sattyg”.There have been countless occasions, while listening to the seven compositions on offer, when I found myself lost in Jonas Reingold’s soulful bass themes, stunned by the flamboyant nature of Nilsson and Lundin’s melodies and/or captivated by the vocal contribution of both Lundström and Gibson, all of which convinced me that the album, the CD version of which I soon plan to add to my collection, is one that deserves every praise possible.Another great quality release by a band that’s clearly at the top of its game." - Get Ready To Rock
    $15.00
  • Big Big Train have ascended to the top echelon of progressive rock bands currently active.  They are easily the best band coming out of the UK - the fountainhead of all prog rock."Is there a nicer feeling than when you discover that one of your favourite bands is to return with new material much sooner than predicted and somewhat unexpectedly? There aren’t many better moments that’s for sure and Big Big Train are the architects of this great piece of news, offering us their tenth album ‘Grimspound’ less than 12 months on from the release of the utterly sensational ‘Folklore’.Long term readers will perhaps be familiar with that review, where I was quoted as saying that “‘Folklore’ is another amazing addition to the Big Big Train discography and is something all lovers of quality progressive rock should cherish and take to their hearts. I know that I have.”However, the feelings of levity and excitement about such a speedy a follow-up are, for me, tempered ever so slightly by a few more cautious thoughts. ‘Is it too early for more material?’, ‘has this album been hurried?’, ‘will the quality take a hit?’ You can see where I’m going with this. I worry that speed doesn’t always yield positive results and therefore, whilst I’m like a child at Christmas following this news, I have a few nerves as well. ‘Folklore’ remains on heavy rotation at the Mansion of Much Metal (and Progressive Rock), providing the same levels of magic as it did at the time of its release. The bar has been set and I desperately want ‘Grimspound’ to follow suit.So, does it?The answer, after a slightly slow start is ‘yes, very much so’. At the outset though, I wasn’t convinced if I’m honest. I was looking for similar heart-stopping moments to those that featured within the likes of ‘Brooklands’ or ‘Winkie’ and I couldn’t find them initially. But that says more about my levels of patience than it does about the music on offer within ‘Grimspound’ because, with time, those moments of genius are there to be found and to be heard. In fact, this entire record borders on genius as far as I’m concerned now. How else can you explain the fact that these eight musicians have returned so quickly and effortlessly with another eight superb, intricate and captivating progressive rock compositions?I understand that the band came up with an awful lot of material during the ‘Folklore’ writing sessions and some of what we hear on ‘Grimspound’ was given birth back then. But regardless, the achievement here beggars belief, it really does. Take a bow, Messrs Spawton (bass), Poole (guitars/keyboards), Longdon (vocals/flute), D’Virgilio (drums), Gregory (guitars), Manners (keyboards), Hall (violin) and Sjöblom (guitars/keyboards). You deserve it.Big Big Train have always followed a path of progressive rock that veers down the pastoral route and they probably always will – it’s in their blood. But this is not a group of musicians to stagnate either. So, whilst the music here is recognisable as Big Big Train, there are some differences to be heard between ‘Grimspound’ and previous albums.Some of this is down to the fact that newer members, Rikard and Rachel along with Danny have become more active in the song writing process, bringing their own unique view points to the table. And it is testament to the open-mindedness of the other members that this has been allowed to happen. Mind you, I think ‘welcomed with open arms’ would be a more appropriate description.One of the first things that I notice is that ‘Grimspound’ features very little brass. As someone who genuinely intensely dislikes brass within rock or metal music, I must confess that I am ever so slightly torn by this turn of events. For some reason, I never had a problem with the brass element of Big Big Train and so, once you realise how little of it is evident, it does give the music a slightly different flavour overall.As the band readily admits in the accompanying press release, ‘Grimspound’ also sees Big Big Train experimenting with longer passages of instrumental expression. So it comes as no surprise to learn that ‘On The racing Line’ for example is a five-minute instrumental piece, whilst other compositions have plenty of space for some indulgent instrumental flamboyance. Normally, I would baulk at the notion but where Big Big Train are concerned, they pull it off with style and elegance. Their music has always had the ability to tell a story and this is true whether or not there are lyrics being sung over the music; the dynamics and ideas at play here within the instrumental passages are such that the stories are able to continue very eloquently.Another interesting addition this time around is with the inclusion of a guest vocalist on the song ‘The Ivy Gate’. Judy Dyble offers her voice within this quite a dark and powerful composition that concerns “the reported sightings of a ghostly apparition beside the cemetery gates in a quiet English village.” It is an intriguing composition that begins with a folky, bluegrass banjo-led melody that initially I railed against. In the context of the song however, it makes a lot of sense and is a wonderful addition to the band’s armoury. Moreover, it is an ingredient that I have grown to rather like and enjoy.The violin playing of Rachel Hall is beautiful and I embrace the sadness and atmosphere that is conjured within this track. But even more, I love the way in which the song builds and opens up at the 4:30 mark to deliver a sumptuous melody that is made even more powerful by the duet of Longdon and Dyble that joins it, before the track deconstructs to end with some impressive and emotional vocals and the soothing sound of rain falling.It seems like I am uncontrollably waxing lyrical about this album, but that can’t be helped I’m afraid, with every positive word being well earned and justified. And it must continue I’m afraid.The opening few moments of ‘Brave Captain’ and indeed the album as a whole, create a very subtle, ambient soundscape, very introspective and thought-provoking at the same time. After a minute or so, the entire band enters the fray in what becomes a rousing and dynamic piece of music. This is arguably the most immediate track on the album but in true Big Big Train fashion, it ebbs and flows throughout its substantial 12 minute life creating a sense of drama upon which they tell the powerful story of a World War One pilot named Captain Albert Ball who gave his life for his country.Naturally, given the subject matter, there are moments that convey the sobriety of the story, like the almost Dire Straits-esque piano and bluesy guitar section. But equally, there are also times where the musicians open up their wings and take flight, just like the central character in the song. When they do so, it is quite a heady experience and it is easy to get caught up in the music that swells all around you.Another favourite is the quite stunning ‘Experimental Gentlemen’, a tale of Captain Cook on his first journey of discovery. Incorporating a vast array of intricate ideas within a remarkably cohesive whole, it moves from gentle, dreamy and wistful to up-beat and bouncy. You can feel an increase in intensity as the song slowly and inexorably moves through the gears to eventually deliver a dramatic sequence complete with an emotional and delicate lead guitar solo. That’s not the end though as there’s time for an extended atmospheric outro that has a subtle yet moving feel to it.Arguably the biggest exponent of those aforementioned extended instrumental passages is the longest track on the album, the hugely impressive ‘A Mead Hall In Winter’. The melodies are just so strong that they draw me in for repeated listens in spite of its length, rivalling anything that appeared on ‘Folklore’. But it is the experimentation and the ambition that is the most impressive aspect, including a plethora of bold and striking keyboard sounds as well as plenty of lead flamboyance all round. It all helps to create genuinely rich and engaging textures not to mention a multi-faceted, multi-layered soundscape. This sort of music only works when it is handled with care and attention to detail. And Big Big Train are fast becoming the safest pair of hands that I know, turning everything to gold with their unique Midas touch. My mind never wanders, my attention is never diverted away and as this epic composition draws to a close via a reprise of the early sumptuous melodies, I am filled with nothing but admiration for what has been achieved here.By contrast, ‘Meadowland’ is a much shorter proposition that benefits from a truly gorgeous lead violin and acoustic guitar intro, full of sensitivity and elegance. The wistful vocal delivery of Longdon adds a compelling embellishment to a piece of music that straddles the divide between folk and progressive rock, that I wish was twice as long.The title track begins in strange fashion with an oddly creepy and discordant introduction, quickly replaced by more acoustic guitars. Another serious grower, I’m currently of the opinion that it contains my very favourite melody on the entire album, accompanied by the words:“Out on the Heathland,Look up to the night sky.See the second brightest star?Adjust to the dark light.”The vocals and music together combine in magical fashion to stop me dead in my tracks. But I also enjoy the way in which the track subtly moves away from its starting point, to finish with more instrumental prowess in a much different and more up-tempo vein. The closing vocal passage is inspired too.Seeing as I’ve mentioned all the others, it seems churlish to overlook the closing composition, ‘As The Crow Flies’. It ends ‘Grimspound’ in fine fashion, fittingly oozing warmth and richness. It begins in delicate fashion, featuring more female vocals and some really welcome flute from Longdon. At the mid-point, the composition explodes in typically controlled but epic fashion, delivering a briefly rousing and heartfelt melody, led by hungry guitar notes that retreat all-too-quickly, allowing the song to ease to a gentle and introspective conclusion.Just when you thought that Big Big Train couldn’t possibly get any better, they do. ‘Grimspound’ is without doubt the best progressive rock album I’ve heard since…well, since ‘Folklore’ to be exact. Big Big Train have become an integral part of my musical life, to the point where I cannot imagine what my life was like before I discovered them. Right now, I can’t think of any bigger compliment that I can pay or one that is more justified and thoroughly deserved. Without question, Big Big Train are my favourite progressive rock band on this planet, bar none." - Man Of Metal blog
    $12.00
  • "Beware! This is the first time that I have been able to review a full Haken album without any word limits or other punitive restrictions placed upon me. You have been warned…I’m going to lay my cards on the table right at the outset: Haken are one of my all-time favourite bands. Despite only being in existence for a relatively short period of time, right from their debut ‘Aquarius’ I have held them in high regard. It is a situation that has only strengthened over the years with each passing album and having had the chance to meet the band on several occasions, from interviewing the whole motley crew on their tour van at Progpower Europe in 2010 to friendly chats with various members at numerous gigs subsequently.Regardless of this however, Haken are the real deal. Yes, they are a cracking bunch of guys but crucially, they back it up with a superlative end product. Each member of Haken is a supremely talented individual with their chosen instrument(s) but together there is a real magic; an unquantifiable ‘x’ factor that leads to the creation of music that is almost peerless and jaw-droppingly good.And, on that note, let us delve into the world of ‘Affinity’.It took me quite a while to get into and appreciate ‘The Mountain’. It sounded different from what went before it; more grown-up and, ‘Cockroach King’ aside, more serious and introspective. However, in stark contrast to ‘The Mountain’, ‘Affinity’ captured my imagination right off the bat and has not failed to let go in the month or so that I’ve been listening to it. If anything, the more I listen, the better it gets.Weirdly enough, a small voice in my brain kept suggesting that it might be a good thing if ‘Affinity’ wasn’t as good an album. That way, I’d be able to tackle this review without the inevitable comments from readers about me being a fanboy and moaning that ‘you were always going to give it a high score’. But then I came to my senses.‘Affinity’ won’t be for everyone, that’s for sure. If you’re a fan of the first two albums and wanted a return to more of that sound and approach, you might be left slightly disappointed. If however, you’re open to listening to a band that refuses to tread the same path twice, a band that champions the true meaning of ‘progressive’ by trying new things whilst remaining loyal to their core principles, then ‘Affinity’ will probably have the same impact upon you as it has had on me.And what exactly is that impact? It is almost impossible to describe if I’m honest. ‘Affinity’ is an album that transcends the normal debates around whether it is good or not. Of course it is good, that almost goes without saying. I’m not a musician, so I am unable to dissect all of the technical intricacies that are present on this record. That’s not my style. Instead it’s the feelings that Haken evoke in their music that I feel the need to focus on as this is arguably the most powerful and intoxicating aspect of their incredible music.We all have them – bands that, as you listen, make you feel happy to be alive. Well, for me, Haken are one of the four or five bands on Earth that do just that.The album opens with the sampled sounds made by early computers atop a dark, cinematic soundscape that grows in intensity, building the sense of anticipation brilliantly and setting the foundations to the musical avenues to be explored within ‘Affinity’. Whilst ‘The Mountain’ was heavily influenced by the 1970s with the likes of Gentle Giant looming large within certain compositions, ‘Affinity’ takes its cue from the following decade. To be fair, this was fairly obvious after one look at the retro cover artwork and the most excellent teaser trailers released a few weeks ago. Again, the imagery might not appeal to everyone, but I really like the boldness and simplicity of the artwork that deliberately and unashamedly harks back to the analogue days of cassette tapes and vinyl.The opening instrumental segues seamlessly into ‘Initiate’, the first ‘proper’ track on the album and a barnstormer at that, a deceptively complex piece of music that acts as a real showcase for everything great about Haken in 2016. And as I listen, almost immediately, several things become clear. Firstly, ‘Affinity’ is blessed by a production and a mix courtesy of Jens Bogren (Fascination Street Studios) that is right out of the top drawer. The music sounds powerful yet with a clarity that allows every instrument to shine. Nothing is lost or overlooked and the results are simply stunning.Secondly, Ross Jennings’ vocals have taken another huge leap in the right direction. I was always one of those that took a lot of convincing over his delivery on the debut record particularly. However, he has pushed himself to the point that he is, without doubt a highly talented and accomplished vocalist with a unique, passionate delivery.Thirdly, the increase in atmospherics, of electronic sounds and textures courtesy of Diego Tejeida is also very pronounced from the outset. Not only does he create a very interesting sonic palette that weaves in and out of each composition, he injects a surprising amount of warmth to the music that could so easily have sounded cold and inaccessible.This in turn links to my final observation, that ‘Affinity’ manages to deftly and expertly merge the sounds of the past with the sounds of the future. In spite of the 1980s sheen, all nine compositions on ‘Affinity’ come across to me as fresh and exciting, with accents of djent, post-rock, ambient and all manner of other sounds bursting forth at whim.Having said all that, ‘1985’ is almost entirely immersed in the 80s. In the same way as ‘Cockroach King’ was Haken’s ‘all-out’ track on ‘The Mountain’, ‘1985’ is the song on ‘Affinity’ that throws a little caution to the wind and shows Haken at their most audacious in many respects. Synth drums, overt retro sounds and an occasional dive headlong into 80s movie soundtrack territory all take place within this ambitious composition. However, it works, retaining a homogenous feel throughout. It is made all the more special thanks to a really rousing, hooky chorus that is nothing short of addictive.The elegant ‘Lapse’ features some of Jennings’ most accomplished vocal work on this record, and indeed throughout the entire back catalogue. The vocal chords are stretched in directions that must have been really challenging but the result is gripping, full of sincerity and emotion in places.‘The Architect’ is Haken’s monster epic. At 15 minutes long, it allows the band the time to explore a number of ideas without ever feeling cluttered or disjointed. The track starts off in grand, cinematic style before exploding in a barely-controlled prog metal assault. It is here that Haken most clearly reference their earlier output as the music flits between the over-the-top excesses of the debut and the grandiose tones of ‘Visions’.I’m then reminded vaguely of Tool in the more refrained guitar work and rhythms that follow, before another memorable chorus of sorts grabs the attention. And then, the song plunges into a music abyss where everything falls away to eventually and gradually rebuild over time. The foreboding yet ambient synth sounds lay the early groundwork as the bass guitar of relative newbie Conner Green joins the fray with some exceptionally expressive, deft and highly musical work. Ray Hearne’s drumming is subtle but inspired, and the resulting guitar interplay between Richard Henshall and Charlie Griffiths is inventive, melodious and ear-catching.If that wasn’t enough, as the song ascends from the depths, the band are joined by Leprous’ Einar Solberg who adds his unique gruff vocals atop some heavy djent-like riffing before a return to the chorus and an epic lead guitar solo that rivals that of ‘Aquarium’ for spine tingling majesty.‘Earthrise’ is possibly my favourite track on the album right now. I adore the quiet and melodic opening because it fills me with a warm glow and the feeling that the world can’t be an entirely awful place if such beautiful music can be written. It develops into a composition that is bright and breezy, complimented by lyrics that have a distinctly positive vibe to them.By contrast, ‘Red Giant’ explores entirely different terrain. It is the most modern and post-rock that Haken have ever sounded and is also one of their most brooding and quietly intense compositions. The keys and rhythm section take the lead on this track, which is arguably the biggest and most consistent grower on the entire record.‘The Endless Knot’ features some delicious drum fills from Mr Hearne and more killer melodies. It also affords Diego the opportunity to go a little crazy with more zany and out-there sounds. It also allows some six-string indulgence in the shape of one of the most intricate and dextrous guitar leads at around the mid-point. The song constantly shifts direction throughout its relatively modest life, but is held together by those strong melodies which return time and again to my great delight.‘Bound By Gravity’ then closes out the album in an impossibly perfect manner. It is arguably one of the softest songs that Haken have ever penned but it is also one of the most beautiful. Acoustic guitars and more warm and inviting keys, vaguely reminiscent of Sigur Ros envelop the listener in a soothing, comforting embrace. Jennings’ soft and gentle delivery adds an almost ethereal quality to the track as it floats along on a warm current of magical melody that is both uplifting and almost heart breaking. Such is its understated and subtle beauty, I find myself smiling broadly and wiping tears from my eyes almost simultaneously.How do I sum up an album like this? I could have mentioned a million bands throughout this review, from Textures to King Crimson and beyond as indeed there are reference points all over the place if you’re of a mind to count them. However, Haken are Haken and the bottom line is that they have developed into a modern prog band that is truly unique. ‘Affinity’ is one of the best progressive albums I have ever had the pleasure to listen to but more than that, it truly moves me and I connect to it on an emotional level; it makes me smile, it makes me cry and it makes me feel alive." - The Blog Of Much Metal
    $14.00
  • Fourth studio album from Leprous reinforces the fact that they are one of the most innovative and cutting edge bands working in the prog metal idiom.  The music of Coal has already kicked up a bit of controversy from the early listeners.  The music isn't quite as angular and frenetic as Bilateral.  Atmospheric passages similar to Tall Poppy Syndrome are perhaps a bit more prevalant as well.  All in all it's clearly identifiable as Leprous.  Ihsahn guests on one of the tracks - don't forget Leprous is his backing band.  Nice guys - great band.  Highly recommended."Considering Leprous‘s previous album Bilateral is considered by many to be a masterpiece of progressive metal; Norway’s Leprous had a tall order in front of themselves. Coming up with a followup to such a critically acclaimed and beloved album is no doubt a daunting task. Despite that, after two long years of waiting, Leprous have conjured the successor to Bilateral, and it’s called Coal. Usually, when bands release an album after their magnum opus, the result is either a “version 2.0″ of the previous album, or it’s a return back to the normal style of the band. Leprous have taken a bold turn instead, and they have reinvented themselves. Coal is clearly a Leprous album, carrying all their trademark touches, but it’s also very fresh and unique.With Bilateral, the band were clearly rooted in a sound that has been defined by the big names of progressive metal. By applying their characteristic syncopation, moody riffs and singer Einar Solberg’s haunting and powerful vocals, they were able to perfect an already existing sound. With Coal, the band have taken a different direction. The album is very dense, emotional, and quite avant-garde at times. While there are some more traditional songs similar to Bilateral, there’s also an air of neo-80s on some songs, while others carry some characteristics of modern Scandinavian indie bands. Longtime fans of Leprous will definitely see the direction that has been present since the band’s inception, but listeners who know of them only via Bilateral might be slightly confused. In the end, Leprous have always been about mood, and Coal is oozing with it.In terms of structure, Coal is more similar to Tall Poppy Syndrome than Bilateral (but not too similar to either in the end). The songs are slow burners, setting up a mood, then deliberately building on it until overwhelming the listener with the climax. Everything is very subtle, the production making every hit of every instrument matter. Each song is an exercise in building an atmosphere by slowly adding layers to form a very powerful sound. Einar Solberg is at his best here, he has taken his voice to the next level. He was already an amazing vocalist, but Coal sees him becoming a master of expression. There are many progressive metal bands nowadays with clean singers who can hit insanely high notes and execute amazing melodies. But what is often lost is the soft touch, the control over timbre that makes one’s voice special. Einar is a master of timbre, and he uses his abilities to their full extent in Coal. While this is an album about the big picture and constructing an ambiance with the convergence of all instruments, his unparalleled vocal skills definitely deserve a special mention, because he is what hammers down the emotions and makes this album so special.As mentioned before, Coal is a deliberate album, where attention is paid to every instrument. And the production, by Ihsahn (who also has a stellar guest appearance on the closing track), is perfect for this. Especially of note are the drums, they sound very real and quaint. The intimate feeling of some of the songs can directly be attributed to the unconventional drum sound. The drumming has also taken a turn for the more subtle, with small flourishes and cymbal runs building tension in the more atmospheric sections of some songs. The bass is also clearly audible and adds to the sound. The guitar work isn’t as flashy as Bilateral for the most part, but it also has more character because of that. It should come as no surprise to longtime followers of the band, but Leprous are masters of doing more with less, and all of the instruments reflect this. Another production detail worth noting is the presence of keyboards. The keyboard work is more prominent now. In Bilateral it was used mostly to add some extra layers to parts driven by the guitars, but here the keyboards form the building blocks of the sound. This is perhaps what sets the album apart from Leprous’s previous work, the heavier focus on atmosphere and a dense aural landscape. This might be disappointing to some who preferred the more direct approach of Bilateral, as Coal is less “metal”, but the more developed sound suits the band.In terms of songs, Coal is a very diverse album. The first three songs and the closer can be interpreted as a direct evolution of the band’s sound from their previous work, then there is the extremely moody and emotional masterpiece “The Cloak”. This is where the album takes a turn for the introspective, as the rest of the songs are quite experimental and ethereal. Overall, the album has a very clear journey with a defined start and end, and it works quite well. Some of the later songs can feel like they last half a minute too long, but the deliberate pacing of the album makes more sense as is.In the end, it’s hard to deny that Coal is yet another masterpiece by Leprous. The songs ooze character and deliberation. Coal is expressive, emotional and brave. It might not be what everyone expected after Bilateral, but Leprous have defied expectations and raised the bar again." - Heavy Blog Is Heavy
    $9.00
  • THIS NORTHERN VIRGINIA BASED BAND is a three-piece at heart, musically rooted in the raw energy and rhythmic interplay of RUSH and KING’S X. Fans of dark, guitar-driven rock bands from ALICE IN CHAINS, DEFTONES to the contemporary metal riffing of LAMB OF GOD and PANTERA, will connect to the heavy core of IRIS DIVINE’s sound. Add to that progressive complexity and moody synths inspired by DREAM THEATER and PORCUPINE TREE, and a liberal dose of memorable hooks and melodies, to understand some elements of IRIS DIVINE’s sound. And yet, the band has a distinct identity, not quite sounding like any of the aforementioned bands, and with an emotional urgency that pulls subtly from alternative and other influences.KARMA SOWN IS A TRIUMPH OF A DEBUT ALBUM, immediate and memorable but revealing layers and depth upon repeated listens."Progressive metal is in a rough period right now. The old guard are either releasing sub-standard albums that only make it more obvious how far they have fallen, or they are drastically uncool with anyone who didn't become a fan when progressive metal was first being created. Progressive today tends to mean djent, a style that has sapped all the life and humanity out of music, turning metal into a math equation of time signatures, and not songs that anyone can actually remember. There was a time when progressive metal remembered the ultimate goal of music; to have listeners enjoy the songs so much they would return to them again and again. Today, progressive metal is mostly the sort of music that could pass for muzak, if you don't turn the volume up too loud.Iris Divine wants to change that. They set out with the mission of writing progressive metal that is intricate and challenging, but still produces the kind of songs that listeners who don't have an advanced degree can love and sing along to. It's a challenge, and it goes against the tide, but it's a desperately needed revolution if progressive metal is going to flourish anytime in the near future.I knew from hearing the pre-release track “A Suicide Aware” that Iris Divide was special, and the full album reinforces the point. “The Everlasting Sea” comes out of the gates with plenty of tricky riffing and unusual rhythms, but they lead into big melodies with strong hooks and vocals. Their progressive playing isn't meant for show, it's a tool used to set a tone that juxtaposes with the more melodic moments. Finding the proper balance between these elements is not easy, and many a band have failed miserably trying to do so, but Iris Divine doesn't. On their debut record, they show a skill some bands have spent their entire careers failing to learn.What I love most about the record is that it can be seen in many different lights. If you like straight-ahead metal, there is plenty of heavy riffing and pounding drumming here to keep you satisfied. If you like progressive music, these songs have twists and turns, and Rush-like keyboards, in enough quantity to match the djent crowd. And if you're a fan of old-school radio rock, the choruses in these songs will be music to your ears. Keeping all three of these in mind at the same time can be tricky, but it's worth the effort.For being a trio, “Karma Sown” is a massive sounding record. The production is flawless, big and clear, without ever sounding too polished. The heavy parts are heavy, the vocals are up front, and you would never believe this was a self-produced record that was crowd-funded. I can put it up against many, many of the big label releases, and it would win the fight.In fact, I can think of a dozen so-called progressive metal bands that should immediately hand over their label contracts to Iris Divine, because it's a crime that a band that is advancing progressive metal in the right direction doesn't have the backing of one of the labels. Not to name names, but this album would be bigger than half of the progressive metal released this year if it had the media push behind it.In case you haven't noticed, what I'm saying is that “Karma Sown” is a fantastic debut, and the future of progressive metal. Iris Divine isn't a Dream Theater clone, and they're not djent. What they have done is integrate all the strains of progressive metal into a singular sound, one that could set the standard moving forward. If every band sounded this good, progressive metal wouldn't need to be underground. “Karma Sown” is the best progressive metal album of the year, bar none." - Bloody Good Horror
    $13.00
  • They don't come as often as we'd like but a new Vanden Plas album is almost a guaranteed success.  Chronicles Of The Immortals may well be their best effort yet.  It sounds like Vanden Plas that we know and love but scaled up.  The band collaborated with noted German author Wolfgang Holbein to create a rock opera.  After a series of live performances the band hit the studio and shaped it into the first half of a duology.  Highly recommended."Four years after the release of The Seraphic Clockwork, German progressive metallers Vanden Plas are back with their seventh full-length Chronicles of the Immortals – Netherworld. Known for creating highly detailed conceptual albums, in 2012 the band teamed up with Germany’s one of the biggest selling authors Wolfgang Hohlbein to create a rock opera for the stage based on his The Chronicle of the Immortals series of novels. The resulting rock musical named Bloodnight ended up having 25 sold-our performances during the 2012 and 2013 seasons.The next challenge for Andy Kuntz and Vanden Plas was to adapt the theatre musical to the Vanden Plas standards and produce an album comprised of the first act of Bloodnight. Chronicles of the Immortals – Netherworld – Path 1 is a full title of the record that includes ten songs. The release of Path 2, the final part of the story will be released early in 2015.Musically speaking, since the release of their debut Colour Temple Vanden Plas continued to mature and improve – eventually hitting the top with 2006′s Christ 0. However, Netherworld proves to be the band’s most demanding release. In most cases, the problem with conceptual albums is that the music suffers the lack of quality on behalf of the actual story or opposite, but Vanden Plas relying on experience forged a record that possibly may serve as a light of hope for progressive metal in 2014.One of the biggest differences between this one and the previous Vanden Plas efforts lies exactly in the theatrical atmosphere Netherworld brings. Although it can be said that the visual factor is on par with music on almost every Vanden Plas album, it’s Netherworld that stands out for the balance between the two. Heavily rooted in the progressive metal genre with plenty of melodic lines on top of it, the whole story is dependant to Kuntz‘s interpretation and singing.The album flows as a single song, although it’s divided into ten songs (visions) what ultimately brings to mind that these ten titles are there just to separate the distinctive parts or moods of the whole story. These parts are pretty well balanced, the story dynamic follows the music. And what is perhaps most important for a progressive metal album today – it incorporates a number of different elements.Three crucial segments for a Vanden Plas album are strong melodic side, progressive metal and conceptual story. And these three segments are present on Chronicles of the Immortals – Netherworld. In which measure, time will be the best judge." - Prog-sphere.com
    $13.00
  • I guess miracles do happen. Incredible to think that its been 18 years since Epilog was released. The long promised third album is finally here and it does not disappoint. The boys and girl are back in town and they sound exactly the way they did on Hybris and Epilog. Essentially Anglagard infuse their music with the best elements of 70s prog from Sweden, Germany, and England and do it at the same high standard as the original bands that influenced them. Viljans Oga consists of 4 epic tracks of Mellotron laded symphonic rock bliss.After the band's triumphant return to the stage at Nearfest Apocalypse, the band generously divided up their remaining stock of the new album among the various vendors. For the moment we have a limited stock that we expect to sell out very quickly. More will be on the way shortly. For the moment - if you are reading this grab it because it won't be here the next time you look.BUY OR DIE!
    $22.00
  • While Ayreon’s ‘Forever/Planet Y’ saga seemed to have reached its conclusion with the album 01011001, it’s clear that Arjen Lucassen’s creative muses had other plans. The new Ayreon album The Source revisits the Forever saga, adding a whole new chapter to Lucassen’s impressive body of work. With its top-flight cast of singers and musicians, compelling songs, overwhelming sound, and intriguing story, The Source offers everything that has gained Lucassen dedicated fans worldwide since he laid the foundations of Ayreon back in the mid 90’s.“Whenever I start something new, I usually have a solo album in mind”, Arjen Lucassen explains. “It gives me the freedom to go any direction I want. All options are still open, with regards to sound and style. This time around I initially felt that a new Star One album was appearing on the horizon because the guitars were so dominant. But after the first flutes and violins showed up, I realized I had a new Ayreon album in the making.”This album, to be released on April 28, saw Lucassen’s creative process take an unusual twist. Normally, finding and assembling the album artwork comes very late in the process, long after the music is finished. But to gain inspiration he began looking for artwork very early on, after writing just the first few songs.“While Googling I found the website of the French artist Yann Souetre. Right from the start I was fascinated by his imagery. It was industrial and futuristic at the same time. I was particularly captivated and inspired by a portrait of a woman under water, hooked up to various tubes. Not long after that I had an overall theme, a story line, and a visual aesthetic for the album. I contacted Yann, and after we agreed that his artwork would be available for the album, I continued composing songs with confidence and a clear vision.”The Story of The Source is set six billion years in the past relative to Earth. It begins on Planet Alpha, a world in the Andromeda system where computer intelligence has far surpassed that of humanity.  Alpha is facing a massive global crisis, with ecological and political catastrophes threatening all human life. The Alphans (our human ancestors) try to save their planet by entrusting the global computer mainframe—The ‘Frame—to find a solution. Given total control of the planet, the ‘Frame reaches the logical conclusion that its creators are the cause of all the trouble. The only way to solve Alpha’s problems is to exterminate humanity. This leaves the Alphans no other option than to try and escape their horrific fate. But their escape comes at a terrible price.“The most dramatic segment on the album is the song Condemned To Live. There is just one ship that is capable of making the journey to a new planet, and it can only carry a handful of people. So only those who have essential skills or other useful qualities are allowed to join. All the others have to stay behind. Those who are allowed to leave are, as the title goes, “Condemned To Live”, as they must wrestle with the unimaginable anguish of leaving their families—and the entire Alphan civilization—behind to certain doom.”It’s the beginning of a story that contains everything that has made the Ayreon epics so endlessly fascinating all these years. First there are the musical riches, then there is the layered story line. It can all be interpreted as strict science fiction, but Arjen Lucassen doesn’t shy away from making references to actual events.“I usually get inspired by scientific documentaries and facts. Just recently I heard that by around the year 2050, artificial intelligence will have surpassed human intellectual capacities, the ‘Technical Singularity’. What will the consequences be for humanity? I spend a lot of time thinking and philosophizing about this fascinating subject, and sooner or later some of these musings usually find their way onto my albums. Of course, everything is a product of my imagination, but at the same time I’d like to think that my stories could actually happen, at least theoretically!”Arjen Lucassen strives to make every Ayreon album a contrast to the one before. “If The Theory of Everything was my prog album, then The Source is my rock album. It’s more guitar oriented, which makes it heavier than previous Ayreon releases.  The Source is also more ‘accessible’ than The Theory of Everything: the songs are structured more conventionally, and the melodies are catchier.”The title of The Source invites various interpretations. It’s a reference to water—the source of life—and the water planet where the escaping Alphans find a safe new home after their long, arduous journey. The Source also points to the origins of humanity and the question of where we come from. The title also hints at the role that the album itself plays in the whole Ayreon catalogue. Given that it is a prequel, it can be thought of as the source of the entire Ayreon epic.The international status of Ayreon enables Arjen Lucassen to write his characters with some of the most respected singers in rock in mind: James LaBrie (Dream Theater), Tommy Giles Rogers (Between the Buried and Me), Simone Simons (Epica), Mike Mills (Toehider), Floor Jansen (Nightwish), Hansi Kürsch (Blind Guardian), Michael Eriksen (Circus Maximus), Tobias Sammet (Edguy, Avantasia), Nils K. Rue (Pagan's Mind), Zaher Zorgati (Myrath), Tommy Karevik (Kamelot) and Russell Allen (Symphony X). Special contributions were offered by guitarists Paul Gilbert (Mr. Big), Guthrie Govan (The Aristocrats, Asia, Steven Wilson), Marcel Coenen and keyboard player Mark Kelly (Marillion).Just as on his previous albums, The Source has Arjen Lucassen playing a wide variety of instruments, while the inimitable Ed Warby (o.a. Elegy, Gorefest, Hail Of Bullets) once again masterfully handles the drums.“For quite a while it was a self-imposed rule to avoid inviting a singer more than once for an Ayreon. I have a very close relationship with my audience, and frequently found them wishing that this vocalist or the other could have been present on my previous album. I then realized that my self-imposed limitation was doing the fans a disservice. That’s why The Source features many vocalists who have already sung on an Ayreon album before. In fact, about half of the singers made their debut on an Ayreon album.”The Source adds a compelling new chapter to a career that began in the mid-nineties in a cloud of doubt and uncertainty. After years of gigging and making records with Dutch hard rock bands Bodine and Vengeance, guitarist Arjen Lucassen set out to create his own rock opera—including all the bells and whistles—inspired by the works that he cherished in his younger years: The Who’s Tommy, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Jesus Christ Superstar and Jeff Wayne’s The War of The Worlds. In the post-grunge era, the audacious ambitions of the tall Dutchman were met with stony indifference by most record labels. But Lucassen persevered and eventually his debut Ayreon offering, The Final Experiment, was released and managed to reach a huge international audience. The rock opera was back!Following the success of The Final Experiment, new Ayreon albums arrived every few years. Their musical impact was such that they all became successful in their own right, even though Lucassen—a self-proclaimed recluse—chose not to promote the albums with live shows. Instead he opted to remain safely within the walls of his private studio The Electric Castle to work long days on his musical projects. Most of his albums have appeared under his Ayreon-moniker, but he also allows himself the occasional lyrical and musical sidestep with other projects such as Ambeon, Stream of Passion, Guilt Machine, The Gentle Storm, and Star One. Whatever he’s done and whatever name he’s used, it’s all been embraced by a loyal community of international fans.2017 will be a particularly exciting year for Ayreon fans thanks to a unique chance to actually see Ayreon live. Limited to three exclusive performances, “The Ayreon Universe” will take place in September in the prestigious 013 venue in Tilburg, Holland. This unprecedented live event features the best of twenty years of Ayreon music, brought to life by a top cast of musicians such as Floor Jansen (Nightwish), Russell Allen (Symphony X), Damian Wilson (Threshold), Hansi Kürsch (Blind Guardian), Tommy Karevik (Kamelot), Jonas Renkse (Katatonia), Anneke van Giersbergen and various others. The reclusive Arjen Lucassen himself is also expected to make a rare appearance on stage. The tickets for all concerts – 9000 in total – sold out within a day, proving once again that the Ayreon magic is still very much alive and kicking.The Source is the first Ayreon album to be released by the renowned Dutch record company Mascot Label Group/Music Theories Recordings, which could be considered a new beginning for all things Ayreon. “Let me start by saying that I always make every effort to create the best Ayreon album possible. This time was no exception. I really wanted to deliver the goods, and I hope I did! I’ve got a very good feeling about it, mainly because of the way everything seemed to fall easily into place with this album. I’ve only experienced that twice before, with Into The Electric Castle and The Human Equation. The music, the story, the artwork and most of all the fantastic guest musicians just came together very naturally.”
    $16.00