Tardigrades Will Inherit The Earth (Deluxe Digipak)

Nick Beggs (Steven Wilson, Steve Hackett), Roger King (Steve Hackett) and Marco Minnemann (Joe Satriani, Aristocrats) deliver adventurous rock effort infused with timely perspectives on the state of religion, politics, media, and the environment.

Any rational observer of the current trajectory of the world is bound to ask similar, critical questions. Is humanity about to slam into a brick wall? Do we understand the fragility of our existence? Are we driven to distraction by media and politics at the expense of solving problems of enormous magnitude? Does democracy truly exist anymore? What’s the one thing we can focus on that can shift our direction?

The Mute Gods examine these and other major queries facing our planet on its second album for InsideOut Music. It’s a darker, deeply thought-provoking follow-up to its acclaimed 2016 debut recording Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me. It picks up from where the first album left off, with its examination of societal control mechanisms, and looks at the inevitable outcomes should we continue down dark, dogmatic pathways. Musically, the album is an expansive rock effort with a heavier, more metal-oriented focus than its predecessor, yet steeped in melodicism and addictive hooks.

“I know I’m not the only person who feels the way I do,” says Beggs. “Other people understand the state of the world and what’s at stake as we make one terrifyingly bad decision after an other. This album asks people to take off their rose-tinted spectacles and consider the reality facing us. At this point in my career, I feel strongly that it’s important to use music as a vehicle for truth, not just feel-good entertainment.”
The Mute Gods was founded in 2015 by Beggs, a celebrated bassist, Stick player, songwriter and vocalist who has sold more than three million records with his own groups. His contributions also grace the work of myriad artists and genres, including progressive rock, pop, Celtic, funk, and soul.

Beggs records and tours with Steven Wilson, one of the best-selling alternative rock artists of this generation, as well as Steve Hackett, formerly of Genesis. In addition, Beggs has worked with legends across the pop and rock worlds, including Belinda Carlisle, John Paul Jones, Gary Numan, Kim Wilde, Englebert Humperdink and Seal. In the progressive rock realm, he’s also performed with Steve Howe, Iona, Lifesigns, and Rick Wakeman.

Unlike the debut Mute Gods album, which included many special guests, Beggs chose to keep this release to the core trio ensuring a laser focus and consistency throughout. Roger King, the album’s keyboardist and producer, also works with Beggs on Hackett’s sold-out world tours. King has long been Hackett’s right-hand man, serving in production, arrangement and writing capacities for the guitarist. Marco Minnemann, considered one of the most important, explosive drummers of our time, has worked with Beggs extensively on many Wilson tours and recordings.

Nick Beggs on ...tardigrades will inherit the earth, track by track:

Saltatio Mortis
“The album starts with a Roger King-penned 21st Century funeral march for humanity. It sets the tone for the record.”

Animal Army
“It’s a rallying cry for the biosphere itself, which will inevitably rise up and take back everything humanity has tried to take away from it. It’s about the world progressing towards a state of entropy.”

We Can’t Carry On
“Time’s up. We can’t continue down the path humanity is traversing. Either we start creating meaningful change and reassessing our ways or it’s all going to be over before we know it.”

The Dumbing of the Stupid
“This reflects on how the media seduces and sedates an already atrophied populace into complacency and malleability. We’re a species focused on bright, shiny distractions and this escapism is contributing to our undoing.”

Early Warning
“This track offers three vignettes. The first is of a woman discovering a cancerous lump in her side. The second is a sister discovering her brother is self-mutilating. The third is about a war-torn town that awakens to the fact it’s about to be bombed out of existence. They’re three scenarios involving early warnings of worse to come.”

Tardigrades Will Inherit the Earth
“It refers to a water-dwelling, eight-legged micro-animal capable of living in extreme conditions. They’ve been found living on the outside of the international space station and inside nuclear reactors. If humanity continues down the path of extinction, they may well be the next dominant species.”

Window onto the Sun
“Science and technology are exponentially expanding their footprint on society beyond our ability to control or understand their implications. Will technology liberate or destroy us? This song explores the question.”

Lament
“This is a Chapman Stick instrumental accompanied by orchestra designed to signify the grief and sorrow of those who understand the difficulty of the state we’re in.”

The Singing Fish of Batticaloa
“A true story of a place in Sri Lanka that has experienced the phenomenon of singing fish. It includes BBC recordings of the organisms. I wrote the song from the perspective that perhaps the fish are trying to tell us about our future and warn us of our impending demise.”

Hallelujah (Deluxe Edition only)
“It’s too late for religion. The song looks at how people continue in blind faith, even as we are hitting failure states across the planet.”

The Andromeda Strain
“This instrumental was inspired by Michael Crichton’s science fiction novel of the same name. It’s about how NASA discovers highly-toxic bacteria in space, yet brings it back to Earth, without understanding the consequences of doing so.”

Stranger than Fiction
“This song offers a ray of hope. I wrote it for my wife. If we can find love, it can provide meaning and understanding in all of this madness. It can change the lens through which we see everything, hopefully for the better. It’s really the only hope we have left.”

...tardigrades will inherit the earth is available as a standard-edition CD, deluxe edition with bonus tracks and vinyl.

Track Listing
1 SaltatioMortis
2 AnimalArmy
3 WeCan'tCarryOn
4 TheDumbingOfTheStupid
5 EarlyWarning
6 TardigradesWillInheritTheEarth
7 WindowOntoTheSun
8 Lament
9 TheSinging Fish Of Batticaloa
10 The Andromeda Strain
11 StrangerThanFiction
 

 

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  • This was formerly known as the Full Power release.At the moment Big Big Train are one of the best prog bands going.  This English crew take some of the best elements of old school Genesis and their ilk and marry it with something very contemporary and relevant.  The band was started years ago by Greg Spawton and Andy Poole.  There were a variety of iterations of the band and as the years went on they got better and better.  If you don't know, their vocalist Dave Longdon was a finalist to replaced Phil Collins in Genesis.  Rutherford and Banks obviously made the wrong choice, going with Ray Wilson instead.  Longdon's vocals remind very much of Gabriela and Collins making the Genesis connection quite easy.  Further on the band added Nick D'Virgilio on drums.  These guys totally grok prog.The band's most recent work was epic in nature.  English Electric was released about six months apart as two separate releases.  Further to this, there were 4 additional tracks which were left off and just released as the Make Some Noise EP."Originally released as two separate albums in 2012 and 2013, the English Electric CD's were subsequently brought together as a limited edition (and now out of print) double album called English Electric Full Power, a release which included four additional songs and a revised track listing from the separate album versions.This new double album version of the English Electric CD's retains the extended track listing of the Full Power release and has been remastered by Rob Aubrey to ensure the songs benefit from even greater dynamic range. It is presented in a softpack with a 40 page booklet."
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  • 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. 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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
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  • Hyperdrive marks a new era for Knight Area.  The long running Dutch progressive rock band had previously released four studio albums and toured Europe and USA extensively, performing at all major prog rock festivals.  1n 2012 the band welcomed guitarist Mark Bogert as well as legendary bassist Peter Vink (Q65, Finch, Ayreon) into the fold. With these newcomers onboard, Knight Area introduced a heavier element and fuller sound to their repertoire.  All the classic symphonic rock traits of their previous albums are still clearly evident but the songs on Hyperdrive are more immediate and concise.The band invited noted prog guitarist Arjen Lucassen (Ayreon, Star One) to participate as a special guest on one track.  Joost van den Broek, who is known for his production work with Epica, Mayan, and After Forever, mixed the album.   Rounding out the package is startling artwork by Gustavo Sazes.
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  • "Progressive rock and boy-band pop seem like natural enemies at first. The former's fascination with ornate, elongated passages of finger-exhausting musicianship is in almost every way the opposite of the latter's emphasis on catchiness first; it's hard to imagine turn-of-the-millennium hits like "Bye Bye Bye" with extended guitar and keyboard solos. Yet ever since A Doorway to Summer, their 2005 debut, Moon Safari has put to rest the notion that progressive-minded songwriters can't make pop that's as hook-driven as it is ostentatious. Grandiloquent epics like "Other Half of the Sky," from the 2008 double album Blomljud, weave together widescreen arrangements with the band's signature five-part vocal harmony, a feature unmatched by few groups in any genre, anywhere. It's easy to isolate the audience with solipsistic soloing and obtuse orchestrations, but from day one Moon Safari has made prog that—assuming the layperson were more amenable to songs that run upwards of thirty minutes—could lead them to something like a pop crossover hit.But while the union of hook-heavy vocal interplay and '70's prog stylistics gives Moon Safari an unmistakable, unique sound, it also handicapped them in a significant way for their first two LPs. The group's accessibility on A Doorway to Summer and Blomljud, along with its technical prowess, is unassailable, but the high-fructose sweetness of its style leads to a diabetic rush when stretched out onto songs that span ten to thirty minutes. For example, "Other Half of the Sky," the titanic thirty minute showstopper off of Blomljud, has so many memorable hooks that by the time it's run its time out, it's hard to remember all of them. The classic problem of "too many voices leads to a noisy room" was the defining problem of Moon Safari's otherwise enjoyable sound for some time. All that changed, however, in 2010 with the release of Lover's End.It is no exaggeration—even as the decade remains young—to say that Lover's End is one of the finest progressive rock records of the '00's. Hell, it's not even crazy to say that it's one of the finest pop albums of the '00s; anyone, even those turned off by prog's eccentricities, can find something to love on this mellifluous collection of songs. From the a cappella charm of "Southern Belle" to the hook-loaded "New York City Summergirl," Lover's End is chock full of goodness from beginning to end. What explains its genius is that in contrast to A Doorway to Summer and Blomljud, the songs are given exactly the amount of space they need, and not a second more. 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Something you will play over again…many times.Well, when you open with excerpts of a speech from Richard Nixon, you know "White Tuxedos" is going to be full of political angst. "I respect your ideals. I want peace. Bring the boys home". Nice that they decided to go with images of Vietnam, for all of us old enough to remember the ravages of that war. No war or person personifies the evil politician more than Nixon and the unfortunate war he escalated only magnified that feeling globally for many. Modulated vocal delivery helps add swag to the powerful message. The music supports the power of this piece well. Dark and full of some excellent solo electric guitar, accompanied by solid bass, punching drums, and deep keys."The Resurrected Judas" is full of wonderful acoustic guitar and elegant keys after the opening explosion of drums and lead electric guitar. The softer transition welcomes you to this tale full of soft synth keys and great vocals. The lead electric guitar soloing adds dramatic flair. The dark tone keys and dripping bass help create a jam session full of piano and melody which at times take you back to Collins era Genesis with its Tony Banks keyboard romps. At over 8 minutes this track is full of imagery and cinematic music that will definitely entertain. I kept hearing echoes of the imagery in the lyrics and music from the song "Squonk", which is not a bad thing at all."Silent Masses" opens with bold keys and organ and what sounds like Jonas Reingold singing about factories again, "So you think you can rule all the fools. Staying cool when the walls coming down. Got the world on a string, but your bird cannot sing. All these men in the factory lines. And all the angels who fell from the skies. You tried to say hello, but they say goodbye", while some Beatles "And Your Bird Can Sing" chords fall like rain. "We are just the silent masses" becomes the refrain. The solid drums, bass, lead electric guitar and keyboards build as the drama continues on the second half of the track. Another solid song to add to the discography."Last Carnivore" opens with some dramatic flair from drums, bass, and lead electric guitar. The momentum continues to build excitement and mystery. "The nightmare becomes real. You have fallen from your tower". "Seven matches seven". The lead electric guitar solos accompanied by drums are powerful. The keys slide in to garnish the sound perfectly. The rhythm and melody of this track make it one of the best.With a title like "Dark Fascist Skies", you know it can't be good. The opening reminds me of Jethro Tull's A album classic "Black Sunday"; with its heavy keyboard and lead electric guitar assault. The ominous start forebodes multiple mellotron tones and a full on launch of power keyboards, bass, lead guitar and drums to the ears. This track is full of drama and ominous lyrics and sounds."Blood of Eden" is my second favorite track on the album. "We're the third from the sun. We're a beacon and a seventh wonder. We are green and we are growing. We are the one and eternal Mother". Its lyrics like that which will endear you immediately to this song. This is no way as powerful as Peter Gabriel's "Blood of Eden". And at times you can even here a bit of Jon Anderson in the high notes reached vocally. But still it is a solid track for this album."In "Silent Graveyards" we look for saviors" is repeated several times as launching guitars, and keys rocket this short song high.This is a keeper. If you are new to the Flower Kings, welcome to the party. You picked a good time to find them. If you are a fan this is a must buy." - Sea Of Tranquility
    $11.00
  • Excellent US neoprog that will appeal to fans of Marillion and Iluvatar.
    $3.00
  • 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
  • Fourth album from this Norwegian band is a near perfect blend of power and progressive metal. Each successive album has been better than the previous one - this one tops 'em all. Killer vox, crunch that is off the charts, blasts of synth and stellar production is the best way to sum of this monster. This is the 2 CD limited edition. It comes with 6 bonus tracks, mpeg video, wallpaper and other stuff. Grab it while it's available at a great price.
    $11.00
  • 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
    $14.00
  • Michael Romeo doesn't work quickly.  The man takes his time and a new Symphony X album is ready when its been honed to perfection.  Underworld is the first new album in four years.  To get to the point its ridiculously great.  Up through V, the band were the modern agents of neoclassical/symphonic metal.  With The Odyssey the band took a left turn with Russell Allen's vocals being more agressive and a pervasive overall crunchiness, heaviness to the sound.  Perhaps a bit less symphonic sounding.  With Underworld fans of the "old style" will smile once again.  The band has found a way to balance both sides of their sound.  Its heavy but extremely melodic.  Russell's vocals are spot on and Mr. Romeo's solos have an organic flow that will sweep you through the tune.  Its a beautiful marriage of styles - not too much of either direction that the band has exhibited in the past.  Toss in a theme built around Dante's Inferno and you've totally sucked me back in to the fold.  BUY OR DIE!"A lot has happened with New Jersey-based progressive metal band SYMPHONY X since the Iconoclast album was released four years ago. Singer ‘Sir’ Russell Allen recorded and toured behind several releases with ADRENALINE MOB, toured with TRANS-SIBERIAN ORCHESTRA and recorded the album The Great Divide with ALLEN-LANDE. Bassist Mike Lepond toured with HELSTAR and released his excellent solo album under the name SILENT ASSASSINS. Keyboardist Michael Pinnella released a solo album and guitarist Michael Romeo made guest appearances on some albums. Drummer Jason Rullo battled and successfully recovered from heart failure in 2013.Four years later, SYMPHONY X delivers another fantastic album, the band sounding just as powerful as Iconoclast, and amazingly never missing a beat. Titled Underworld, it is sort of a concept album, loosely based on Dante’s epic poem Inferno. Dante’s Inferno is not a totally original topic in the metal world; ICED EARTH featured an epic song based on it on their 1995 album Burnt Offerings and SEPULTURA wrote a concept album based on it with 2006’s Dante XXI, while SYMPHONY X themselves included references to it on their 1997 album The Divine Wings Of Tragedy. Several other metal bands have also been influenced by the poem.SYMPHONY X do not follow the tale word for word, but use it more as an inspiration. Michael Romeo is quoted as saying that the album has a theme of “going to hell and back for something or someone you care about.” He also said that this album is more about “the song” instead of the album as a whole, allowing it to flow better from song to song. This doesn’t mean every song is an attempt at a single. Romeo’s intent when writing songs for Underworld was for people to be able to take in the whole album in one listening. (The total album length is just over an hour, compared to Iconoclast’s two discs that were around 83 minutes).To be honest, the last two SYMPHONY X albums, 2007’s Paradise Lost and 2011’s Iconoclast were my favorite albums released by the band so far. I refer to them as the “angry” SYMPHONY X, mainly due to Russell Allen’s vocal delivery and the aggressive music on those particular albums. So, I waited to see if we would get a third album in this same vein from SYMPHONY X. The songs on Underworld seem to alternate between prog and aggression, but for the most part, the album is not as “angry” as Iconoclast. The album strikes a perfect balance between prog and power. Some songs are aggressive without being “angry”. There are definitely more classic SYMPHONY X elements here than on recent releases.The album is much more accessible than previous albums. The songs overall are shorter (most clocking in at around the 5-6 minute mark), and more to the point than on previous albums. For example, “Kiss Of Fire” is one of the best tracks I’ve ever heard by SYMPHONY X. It immediately became a favorite of mine on this album, with the verse, “Bring down the hammer, with serious anger – It’s me against the world!” section and the chorus becoming some of my favorite moments. This song probably represents the album to me more than any other, but the album is filled with classics, such as opener “Nevermore”, a ferocious track that is aggressive in the verses, while the chorus is more melody-driven. The title track follows, with many twists, turns and speed sections. “Without You” is a standout track. With its guarded delivery by Allen and acoustic guitar flowing in the background, it is probably the mellowest moment on Underworld, but that’s not a bad thing. The chorus is the focus of the track, with Allen performing some of his best work. The song probably has the most potential as a single. Another solid track, “Charon”, named for the ferry boatman of the underworld, follows. This track has a middle-eastern flavor to it.The longest track on the album (9:24 in length) follows, the excellent “To Hell And Back”. This song has so many great parts, it’s hard to pick a particular favorite, possibly Allen’s soaring vocal on the chorus or the “on and on and on / no quarter asked, no quarter given” section. “In My Darkest Hour” follows and is another favorite of mine, featuring speed riffing parts, mixed with a melodic chorus. Allen really shines on this song. “Run With The Devil” is even more up-tempo and another one of the more accessible songs due to the chorus. “Swan Song” finds keyboardist Pinnella taking the bulk of the spotlight with his piano flourishes. The album closes with the excellent “Legend”. Allen’s aggressive pre-chorus vocals and melodic chorus vocals make this an instant classic.I believe the playing on Underworld is at another level for the band. Lepond’s bass work is spectacular throughout and Jason Rullo makes a real statement with his drum performance. Fantastic work from keyboardist Michael Pinnella and of course guitarist Michael Romeo’s amazing riffs and solos are worth the price alone. But you get more, don’t you? You get one of the best singers in metal, Sir Russell Allen, making yet another classic album even better with his voice.The album’s exquisite cover artwork (once again by illustrator Warren Flanagan) features the return of the SYMPHONY X masks, around which are eight symbols that represent the circles of hell: limbo, lust, gluttony, greed, anger, heresy, violence, and fraud. The symbol for treachery, the ninth circle, is underneath the masks, and hopefully will be revealed in full inside the album packaging.Underworld is a great album, which grew on me the more I listened to it. SYMPHONY X are masters of American prog metal, and have been for quite some time. Underworld further cements that reputation, and will undoubtedly please fans of all eras of the band." - KNAC.com 
    $14.00
  • Cynthesis is a new band that reunites three of the original members of Zero Hour (Jasun and Troy Tipton, and Erik Rosvold) along with Enchant drummer Sean Flanagan.ReEvolution is the middle part of a dystopian trilogy begun with 2011’s DeEvolution. The central character, a shaman, is sent out to gather more slaves. He comes across a tribe and senses a light within them that triggers a distant memory of his past.  He realizes this is the original tribe he was taken from.  He brings them back to the city and encounters what was done to the population and sets them free.While Cynthesis maintains much of the Zero Hour tech metal influence, it also demonstrates the more melodic and atmospheric side of Jasun Tipton’s songwriting.  ReEvolution will appeal to fans of both progressive rock and metal.
    $13.00
  • "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