Aberrations

Aberrations

BY Qwaarn

(Customer Reviews)
$15.00
$ 9.00
SKU: UNCR5048
Label:
Unicorn Digital
Category:
Progressive Rock
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"Here's an unusual progressive-rock project. Spearheaded by drummer François Bernatchez, Qwaarn isn't just the name of a band with members rotating in and out as needed; it's also the main character in the sci-fi-meets-real-world story spanning Aberrations and its predecessor, 2004's The Word of Qwaarn. While some of the Canadian band's influences from that debut album remain on Aberrations (including Genesis and Yes), the new disc is being billed as a "pop-gressive" record by its label, Unicorn Digital, with echoes of The Beatles, Pink Floyd, David Bowie, Led Zeppelin, Tears for Fears and The Cure. Didier Berthuit often sings with a heavy accent, and his lengthy carnival-esque soliloquy on "The High Muckity-Mucks" grates after only a few seconds (even though it's meant to be satirical). Guitarists Antoine Bernatchez and Martin Bleau, however, evoke David Gilmour on tracks like "Privilege" and "Dream in Am," and their warm, acoustic material also helps set Aberrations apart from some of the other artists on Unicorn's roster. While the Middle-Eastern flavor of the murky alt-rocker "Mr. Lotto" unveils another side of Qwaarn, the epic "Did You Say Salmon?" proves this collective is first and foremost a progressive-rock band. A bit of an odd progressive-rock band, but a progressive-rock band nonetheless." - sea of tranquility.com

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  • "Esteemed international metal label Season of Mist began pursuing the two-guitar, three-singer Vancouver quartet Anciients after hearing a series of early mixes for what would become the band’s debut album. It’s easy to imagine what initially lured the diverse label to the band: The tracks on Anciients' nine-song entrance, Heart of Oak, are hyperkinetic but heavily anchored. They surround the hooks you might expect from a Baroness anthem with tangential and technical playing that trends toward prog rock but stops short of Opeth or Enslaved’s maze of redirections. Anciients excel at muscular and agile guitar solos, while the guitarists, Kenny Cook and Chris Dyck, also volley the vocal duties, jumping from death metal bellow to pop-metal lift. It’s exciting stuff, really-- often complicated without seeming excessive, skillful but soulful, approachable but not pedestrian. At its best, Heart of Oak is immediate and electrifying, an album that suggests Anciients’ half-prog, half-pop metal is bound for big stages.By this point, though, you’ve probably wondered what’s up with the band’s name: Why, after all, add an extraneous vowel to a perfectly good handle? That excess is emblematic of Anciients' chief musical foible-- time and again, they add unnecessary sidecars to songs that would have been more effective left alone. Of these nine tracks, only one doesn’t break the six-minute mark. The exception is a tender but predictable instrumental, a mid-album interlude meant as a tribute to some late friends and family members. But the rest of these things are hyperbolic monsters that speak to a rookie act attempting to get through all of their influences at once, even though three of the members have been playing together in other groups for a decade. They are trying to make a very big point all the time, and the weight collapses in on itself. “The Longest River”, a nine-minute cut with a woefully apropos handle, swivels from acoustic foreboding to contract-and-expand thrash, from distended solos to dense stomp, from sweet-singing verses to growled impasses. None of it’s bad, but none of it is astounding enough to pardon the way it obviates an excellent refrain.That’s a consistent problem for Heart of Oak, a record that adulterates many incredibly exciting moments with consistent excess. “Flood and Fire”, a late-album highlight, seems more like a string of song pieces than a proper song, with a righteous solo swiping momentum from a great chorus that, in turn, stymies several great and grim hardcore shout-alongs. As Cook told Metal Underground, album opener “Raise the Sun” initially keys on Fleet Foxes before leaping into a verse so sticky and warm that ASG or Torche might like to have it back. Elsewhere, the song convincingly invokes metalcore and psychedelic rock, hangman riffs and fleeting blast beats. The parts are exhilarating, but strung together with more enthusiasm than wisdom so they’re mostly exhausting. Taken a track or two at a time, Heart of Oak is manageable; make it from end to end, though, and it’s difficult not to feel frustrated by the fatigue.These complaints aren’t meant as some preclusive warning against Heart of Oak; rather, they’re only an honest assessment of a band that, in years to come, is probably going to be great. If Anciients choose to venture further deeper into labyrinthine prog, they’ve got the riffs and rhythms to make it compelling over the long haul. They seem as steeped in the suffocation of black metal from Scandinavia as they do in the sweetness of Allman licks from Georgia, as capable of thrash sprints as they are stoner lulls. And as the pealing organ and rumbling field recordings of the gorgeous (but, again, incredibly excessive) closer “For Lisa” suggest, they bring a wide-eyed approach to their music. Heart of Oak doesn’t have a compelling, cohesive narrative thrust, but there’s always time to buy a book of folklore, right?Alternately, Anciients could choose the route of bands such as Baroness or even Mastodon, embedding that sharp technicality within songs that make their points with concision that doesn’t forsake intricacy. The kernels of these songs are strong enough to suggest that they’re not very far off-- that is, their biggest problem as a band isn’t a dearth of ideas but, rather, discretion with those ideas. Anciients are exciting new prospects, with or without that cumbersome vowel chaiin." - Pitchfork
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  • "And straight out of left field…One thing you really don’t expect to hear these days is proper gothic/symphonic metal in the classic late 90’s-mid 00’s tradition.While a few bands have recently begun making overtures towards a return to form if not revitalization of a genre that’s been effectively moribund since 2008, many of them are veterans going back to the sound that made them famous in the first place.  Leaves Eyes come immediately to mind, as does a recent surprising move to the operatic frontlines from longstanding (if previously somewhat boring) second stringers Xandria, who proved that sometimes losing a few founding members can be the best thing that ever happened to a band*.*for another glaring example of this principle, see also Theatres des Vampires, who only became a truly notable venture under the ostensible leadership of the lovely Sonya Scarlet…But what happens when we’re not talking classic acts undergoing some measure of renewal?  Moreover, when we’re not only talking a brand spanking new outfit, but one that (get this) doesn’t even hail from European climes.  Say what the hell?But here you go, a self-released gem right out of that busy musical hotspot of Minnesota (of all places…and we’re not even talking a Prince related project here!).  While not as bombastic as, say, Phantom Agony/Consign to Oblivion era Epica, Leaves Eyes or Mother Earth/Silent Force era Within Temptation, keyboardist/guitarist Damien Villarreal and vocalist Chelsea Knaack have come together to make what may be the first actual gothic/symphonic metal offering to come out of the United States.Sure, we’ve had a gothic/death metal crossover act (Echoes of Eternity, though they’re at least part Canadian) and a few lower rung gothic cum pop radio acts (remember that lone album where anyone cared about Evanescence?  Good move breaking up with Ben Moody, there, Amy…), but actual symphonic metal with operatic vocals?  This is total bizarro world stuff over here, in a nation still (sadly) dominated by aggro acts, hip hop and tuneless, emotionless math metal and prog wannabes.So once you manage to get over the shock factor engendered by their domestic origin, how does the music rate?  Well, for one thing, Knaack taps into similar vocal range and dynamics to earlier Simone Simons, albeit with a bit more stiffness that calls Carmen Schaeffer of Coronatus to mind (though I’m betting she was aiming more for earlier Floor Janssen if not Tarja Turunen stylistically).The guitars are somewhere in the middle, managing to keep Villarreal’s fingers a whole hell of a lot busier than the standard chunka-chunka single note stutter rhythms that tend to be a genre standby.  This is a good thing, as is his ability to hold down a reasonably melodic solo or harmony lead fill on occasion; 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  • "Death.Taxes.Ozric Tentacles.Since 1984 this loose collective have been releasing reliably great music from the mind of leader Ed Wynne. Their margin of error is enviably tiny – there is no such thing as a bad Ozrics album. Sure, some are better than others, but the body of work is as inescapably consistent as mortality and societal contributions. Technicians of the Sacred is their fifteenth studio album, second double album and the first release in this format since Erpland in 1990. It is also one of the best they have ever recorded.The blend of electronica and inner-space rock is instantly recognisable with ‘The High Pass’. World music and gently undulating synths take their time to ease us back into the required frame of cosmic consciousness. It takes almost 6 minutes for the secret weapon, Wynne’s signature lysergic lead guitar, to be deployed and that is the modus operandi of the whole album – nothing is rushed, each track unfolds lotus-like.‘Changa Masala’ distils all the band’s ingredients into a spicy side-dish. Sequencers, vocal samples and a reggae skank provide the base while acoustic guitar rips like a John McLaughlin solo, interjecting a nod to their past, a musical in-joke for the fans, which I won’t spoil for those who haven’t yet heard it.The Steve Hillage (Gong, System 7 and sometime Ozrics collaborator) influence is foregrounded in the first disc’s closer, ‘Switchback’. Tap-delay guitar slithers over a web of ambient keyboard washes. Portamento bass notes slide and glide their way through the patchouli-scented psychedelic haze.f the first disc was an aromatic treat, then the second is manna. ‘Epiphlioy’ recalls the classic ‘Saucers’. Its serpentine twelve-string acoustic riffs employ Eastern modes to evoke a scene that is paradoxically earthy and otherworldly. Staccato strings conjure Kashmir while a celestial orchestra of whooshing keyboard pads threatens to levitate us into the stratosphere and beyond. We are back in the bizarre bazaar, folks. Brandi Wynne pins down the ethereal mix with a heavy dub bassline. The track changes constantly. This is the most compositionally complex music the band has ever produced.While there are references to Ozric history and a more organic feel similar to early classics with the occasional use of non-electric instruments and ethnic voices, the album as a whole is a step forward. The painstakingly crafted symbiosis of synthesised sounds and rock instrumentation, coupled with a slick production, lend Technicians of the Sacred a holistic integrity not heard since Jurassic Shift (which incidentally entered the UK charts at a very respectable number 11 in 1993). The whole gels together and flows with the multi-layered sophistication of a symphony while retaining some of the jam-band aesthetic of the free festival days.‘Smiling Potion’ features interlocking sequences even Tangerine Dream would be proud of and a tribal metronome-sense beat straight out of Peter Gabriel’s soundtrack for The Last Temptation of Christ.As ‘Rubbing Shoulders With The Absolute’ throbs along on a blissed-out dub rhythm artificially generated voices ensure the weirdness meter is kept firmly in the red.Hungarian drummer Balázs Szende makes his first studio appearance and throughout the album he proves to be a superb addition to the group, whether approximating the tight programmed style of The Hidden Step era or, as on the closing track, ‘Zenlike Creature’, tackling elusive prog time signatures with ease and finesse. As Ed Wynne winds up a solo worthy of fusion maestros Mahavishnu Orchestra he introduces a shimmering Hillage-esque repeating motif that stays in the mind long after the music has stopped.Technicians of the Sacred, for all its dynamic shifts and intricacies, is a very chilled-out release, one for relaxing to and for transportation to the other, wherever that may be. There are no jarring wig-out rock guitar hero sections or all-out sonic attacks like ‘The Throbbe’. Rather this is Ozric Tentacles’ most cohesive and accomplished effort in almost 20 years and a highlight of a long and peerless career." - Echoes And Dust
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  • "Chapter 1, the debut album from Level 10 is the first collaboration between vocal powerhouse Russell Allen (Symphony X, Adrenaline Mob) and bassist/producer/writer Mat Sinner (Primal Fear, Voodoo Circle) Frontiers President, Serafino Perugino initiated the duo to team up for the creation of a new Metal project which could melt the more contemporary sound of Adrenaline Mob with the more traditional European Power Metal melody and aggression.Sinner enlisted his Primal Fear/Voodoo Circle bandmates Randy Black (on drums) and Alex Beyrodt (on guitar) and Roland Grapow (ex Helloween, MasterPlan, Serious Black) and Alessandro Del Vecchio (Hardline, Voodoo Circle) to complete the lineup on lead guitar and keyboards respectively. On the songwriting side – besides the band members – the album features the songwriting talents of Magnus Karlsson, Carsten Schulz, Ralf Scheepers, Johann Fiegl, Sander Gommans and Amanda Somerville.For those fans of Russell Allen who were expecting Symphony X, you will be slightly disappointed, aside from Allen’s trademark pipes, there is not much here resemble Symphony X’s brand of neo-classical prog metal. By the same token, those fans of Allen who fear the agro-vocals and Godsmack-esque brand of “modern heavy rock”, can breathe easy, as the music on Chapter One leans closer to Euro power metal than mainstream hard rock.The album opener, Cry No More kicks off with a vengeance, with a guitar riff that would sound at home on one of Voodoo Circle albums. Allen’s vocals are powerful during the verses and soar on the multi-harmony chorus. Del Vecchio adds a 70’s moog synth sound on the keys and Black pounds the drums mercilessly. There is a crunchy, heavy groove on the mid-tempo Soul of the Warrior, featuring stellar vocal work on the chorus and a catchy as hell chorus. The tempo picks up with an 80’s sounding rocker with a driving beat, heavy chugging guitar rhythms, and Allen sounding aggressive while still maintaining his trademark melodic voice. The chorus features another killer multi-harmony vocal and Beyrodt and Grapow get to flex their muscles during the harmony guitar solo.The album takes a more AOR tone on the heavy rock anthem One Way Street, which has a 70’s Bad Company meets Motley Crue’s Dr. Feelgood feel to it. Randy Black’s percussion skills are on center stage, showing why Black is one of the most versatile drummers in power metal today. The albums first single titled Blasphemy has the symphonic bombast of European power metal and Allen’s voice is at it’s most evil sounding during the vocals and shows off his upper register during the chorus.Last Man On Earth is another hard rock song with a great hook and sing-a-long chorus, which does get a little repetitive after a few listens but I guess that’s what why they call it a hook! Scream And Shout is another old school power mental anthem straight out of the 80’s with it’s, for lack of a better word, *shout* a-long chorus. The guitar harmonies and shredding solo section blend in perfectly and Black’s double bass drumming drives the song once again.Allen flexes his vocal muscles on the mid-tempo rock of Into The Wilderness, using his upper register as only he can. The song itself isn’t as memorable as some of the other material on the album save for the chorus, which has some fine harmony vocal work. The requisite piano power ballad All Is Gone is a fitting showcase for Russell Allen’s amazing vocal prowess, even though the song itself sounds like a combination of Symphony X’s When All Hope Is Lost and something off of one of the Allen/Lande albums, which is not surprising since Magnus Karlsson is one of the credited songwriters here.The crushing riff of Demonized brings the heavy power metal with Russell at his most sinister sounding. For those fans wanting to hear something heavy, this one is for you. Chugging guitar rhythms, aggressive vocals, pounding drums, and shredding solos, this one has it all, a headbangers delight! The groove-heavy Soul Is Enternal has a mid-tempo fist pumping rhythm with Allen using a more soulful vocal approach during the verses and letting loose during the chorus.The album closer Forevermore is a power metal classic filled with melody, a HUGE multi-vocal harmony chorus and superb vocals from Allen and guest Ralf Scheepers vocals are quite noticeable in the mix. This song is probably the closest to the sound of Primal Fear and tied with Cry No More for my favorite song on the album. In an age where so-called supergroups are becoming more prevalent, Level 10’s debut album finds itself in the upper echelon, even if its destiny is to be a one off studio project, only time will tell." - Lady Obscure
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  • Third album from this New Jersey symphonic rock band.  All of the band's albums are conceptual pieces based around literary works.  In fact the band's name is derived from a Ray Bradbury story.  On A Dark And Stormy Night is based on Madeleine L'Engle's fantasy novel of the same name.  The album is a wet dream for any fan of symphonic prog.  As I make my way through the album I'm frequently reminded of some similarities to Glass Hammer.  This is very keyboard driven music with a healthy amount of guitar leads.  There are even some nice Mellotron sounds popping up now and then.  These guys dream big and hit the mark.  Highly recommended.
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