Folk Metal

"I’m going to wager that if you give a flying fuck about Celtic mythology, Celtic gods and all things Celtic (including Celtic Frost), then you’ve probably already heard through the Celtic grapevine about this ambitious project from these Swiss leaders of the folk/melodic death metal pack.

$12.00
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"Debut albums are exciting to review as you go in with unexpectations rather than expectations. There is no backlog of albums to sample prior to listening. There are no “best of” CDs to pop in to see if our cast of players ‘still got it’. Nothing!

$15.00
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"Consistency and creativity are usually the strengths that motivate most any band. That, and the dogged determination to stick to your guns, play the music you like. With their fourth album, Beyond The Veil, England's Dark Forest goes from strength to strength.

$14.00
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This is the heavy cardboard digipak collector's edition with two bonus tracks.  We've been alerted that it is already about to go out of print.

$15.00
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"After 8 studio albums, Italian folk/power metallers ELVENKING finally fulfill the wish of their dedicated, worldwide fanbase and release a Live DVD now. Recordings for 'The Night Of Nights - Live' took place in Pordenone, Italy. The magic of this very special night was captured perfectly.

$19.00
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"A Canadian-bred combination of progressive, power, death and black metal (with a touch of folk music for organic purposes), Progressive Darkness is one bold debut, with a title that best sums up its sound.

$5.00
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Lots of gothic metal bands are fortunate to be fronted by an attractive female. Midnattsol has two knock outs! Nordlys (Northern Lights) is the second album from this Norwegian gothic metal band led by Carmen Elise Espenaes (the younger sister of Liv Kristine).

$4.00
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"Artaius is back with an album ‘Torn Banners’, the sequel of their debut-album ‘The Fifth Season’. And in this seventh season of their existence, the band takes off, where they left us two years ago with their debut.

$12.00
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Reissue of the first album from this Italian folk metal band.  Vocals are sung in Italian and English.  Death and clean vocals abound.

$15.00
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"I’ve always found a certain charm in the strange lovechild of a genre that is folk metal.

$14.00
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  • Of all the Yes albums that needed a remix this is the one that needed it the most!"Relayer (1974) is the third in a series of remixed and expanded Yes albums.Presented in a mini vinyl replica gatefold card sleeve (with protective inner sleeves) with booklet featuring new sleeve notes by Sid Smith, along with rare photos and archive material, the album has been remixed into stereo and 5.1 Surround Sound from the original studio masters by Steven Wilson and is fully approved by Yes.The blu-ray also contains the original album mix in high-resolution, a complete alternate album running order drawn from demos and studio run-throughs. Additional exclusive Blu-Ray features include extra demo/studio run-throughs, full album instrumental mixes, a full album needle-drop of an original UK A1/B1 vinyl pressing, single edits, live tracks, and needle-drops of the banded tracks from the original US vinyl promo album.Restored artwork approved by Roger Dean, the release of which coincides with the 40th anniversary of the album’s original late 1974 appearance."
    $25.00
  • Sound Of Contact is a new band put together by Simon Collins and session keyboardist Dave Kerzner.  Yeah - Simon is Phil's son.  The apple doesn't fall far from the tree - Simon plays drums and he also sings.  His voice is eerily like his dad.  At times virtually indistinguishable.  The music follows a similar path to Phil's work with Genesis and solo.  Parts of the album are pure prog - in fact the album closes with a killer 19 minute epic called "Mobius Slip".  Other parts of the album exhibit a poppier more commercial side.  I don't think of the album as a pop album - its a prog rock album.  Kerzner provides some very interesting keyboard work - lots of intricacies through out the album.  There is that commercial element that reminds me of Genesis in the 80s.  With his voice sounding so much like his father, Simon will always be cursed with being compared to Phil.  That's a fact.  Overall I think he's come up with an interesting album that fans of more contemporary progressive rock will enjoy.
    $12.00
  • MY BROTHER THE WIND is an improvisational cosmic rock collective consisting of members of widely known Swedish acts Makajodama, Magnolia, Animal Daydream and most notably Anekdoten, one of the more widely recognized names in the 1990s prog rock revival.Recorded live in the studio with no overdubs during a single day in January 2013, Once There Was A Time When Time And Space Were One captures the collective's progressive soundscape qualities with incredible analogue studio production. The band utilized 6 and 12 string acoustic and electric guitars, Mellotron, flute, bass, drums, congas and more to complete the task. Expect 45 minutes of the band's most succinct material to date, recorded deep in the snowy, forested, Swedish wilderness.In 2013, MBTW expanded into an even wider fanbase, having been invited to play the mighty Roadburn Festival in Tilburg, Holland, as well as at Duna Jam in Sardinia.  At the invitation of Opeth’s Mikael Okerfeldt, guitarist Nicklas Barker returned to Roadburn to perform an improv set with Dungen guitarist Reine Fiske.Those who frequent the works of Popol Vuh, Amon Duul, Sun Ra, Träd, Gräs Och Stenar, Albert Ayler, Ash Ra Tempel, Gong, Pink Floyd and other visionary, psychedelic rock artists are advised to investigate this act. "Lush and instrumental for its duration, My Brother the Wind‘s third full-length, Once There was a Time When Time and Space were One (released by Free Electric Sound/Laser’s Edge), rolls out of the speakers much easier than its title rolls off the tongue, though both title and the work itself satisfy rhythmically. The Swedish four-piece — they now seem to be a bass-less trio with Nicklas Barker (Anekdoten) and Mathias Danielsson (Makajodama) on electric/acoustic 12-strong guitar and Daniel Fridlund Brandt on drums, but Ronny Eriksson plays bass on the album — reportedly recorded live to two-inch tape on a vintage machine, and the passion they put in bleeds readily into the nine-song/45-minute outing, fleshed with liberal splashes of Mellotron courtesy of Barker to play up a ’70s prog feel in a piece like the 12-minute “Garden of Delights.” That’s hardly the only point at which those sensibilities emerge, but even more than that, the primary vibe here is one of gorgeous heavy psych exploration, the band adventuring and feeling their way through the material as they go.On peaceful moments like the title-track, which arrives as the penultimate movement before “Epilogue” leads the way back to reality — accordingly, “Prologue” brings us in at the start — that exploration is positively serene, the 12-string complemented by spacious electric tones spreading out across vast reaches, but Once There was a Time When Time and Space were One offers more than drone and psychedelic experiments. Subtly pushed forward by Brandt‘s drums, pieces like “Into the Cosmic Halo” and even “Epilogue” enact classic space rock thrust, and even “Song of Innocence Part 1,” the first part of the journey after the backward atmospherics of “Prologue” introduce, has some cosmic feel amid its echoing solos. Its subsequent complement, “Song of Innocence Part 2,” swells to life on an even more active roll, waves of amp noise up front while drums and bass groove out behind, waiting for the guitars to catch up, which they do in a suitably glorious payoff, relatively brief but masterfully engaging, setting a momentum that continues well into “Garden of Delights,” a focal point for more than its length.Because the songs flow so well one to the next, some directly bleeding, others giving a brief pause, and because later cuts like “Thomas Mera Gartz” — named in honor of the drummer for ’70s Swedish proggers Träd, Gräs och Stenar — and the title-track have a quieter take, it’s tempting to read some narrative into the shifts of Once There was a Time When Time and Space were One, but with the material not being premeditated, I’m not sure that’s the intention so much as a signal it’s well arranged. In any case, the album offers an immersive, resonant listen, with tonal richness to spare and the presence of mind to keep a sense of motion even in its stillest parts and a balance of organic elements — Danielsson‘s recorder and Brandt‘s percussion on “Misty Mountainside,” the 12-string, etc. — amid a wash of effects and swirling psychedelia. This attention to sonic detail makes Once There was a Time When Time and Space were One more than just a collection of jams, and adds further purpose to the already worthy cause of My Brother the Wind‘s thoughtful musings, wandering and not at all lost." - The Obelisk
    $13.00
  • Virtuoso keyboardist Vivien Lalu has created a new progressive metal epic featuring an all star cast:Band [A-Z]---Martin LeMar (Mekong Delta) - VocalsMike LePond (SymphonyX) - BassSimone Mularoni (DGM) - GuitarsVirgil Donati (PlanetX)- DrumsVivien Lalu (Shadrane) - KeyboardsGuests [A-Z]---Jens Johansson (Stratovarius)Joop Wolters (Shadrane)Jordan Rudess (Dream Theater)Marco Sfogli (James LaBrie)Mike Andersson (Cloudscape, Fullforce)Peter Wildoer (Darkane, James LaBrie)Born of Noelle and Michel Lalu, musicians from the ‘70s French progressive act Polene, Vivien Lalu has released a surplus of recordings through an array of different bands and projects since 1997, as the keyboard player for underground black/doom band Time For A Change. At the turn of the millennium Lalu played keys for two underground progressive metal bands from Paris, Sad Warden and then Mind’s Orchard, and in 2002 was hired by Hubi Meisel (ex-Dreamscape vocalist) to compose and record the keys for his solo album EmOcean, the following year doing the same for Meisel’s sophomore album Kailash, both of which were released by Lion Music.It was at this time Vivien Lalu begins recruiting his own associates from major prog and metal bands — some of which he shares time composing music alongside in progressive metal act Shadrane — and forms his own solo project, LALU. The first full-length Oniric Metal was released on Lion Music in 2005 and began an entirely new chapter for this composer and his insatiable need to create mind-expanding, cinematic music.These accomplishments helped Lalu to begin securing score and soundtrack work for film and television; over the last few years he’s written many cues for the orchestral soundtrack for the Warner Bros movie Seuls Two, for the show Science X made in association with Lucasfilm Ltd. Additionally he joined the production team behind Laszlo Jones in order to assist the recordings and production of Banana Nation (Universal Music Group). He’s composed many soundtracks for French television, music and sound effects for Neko Entertainment, worked as a sound designer for Ubisoft Entertainment and much more.After collaborating with Shadow Gallery for a song on their Digital Ghosts album, and working with Canadian drummer Chris Nalbandian for his Paralysis of Analysis solo album — recording all keys and sharing solos with Derek Sherinian and Alex Argento — Vivien finally settled in and began work on the second LALU opus. Handling all composition and songwriting duties, as well as all keyboards on the massive production, Vivien weaved the cloth of the new album with vocalist Martin LeMar (Mekong Delta), bassist Mike LePond (SymphonyX), guitarist Simone Mularoni (DGM), drummer Virgil Donati (PlanetX), the album’s parts recorded in several countries including the United States (Los Angeles and New York), Germany and Italy, produced by Lalu in his own studio, and mixed at Boumbox Studio in Paris by Yan Memmi (Dio’s Lock Up The Wolves, Marcus Miller’s The Sun Don’t Lie, etc.). Additional contributions from Jens Johansson (Stratovarius), Joop Wolters (Shadrane), Jordan Rudess (Dream Theater), Marco Sfogli (James LaBrie), Mike Andersson (Cloudscape) and Peter Wildoer (James LaBrie) were also carefully built into the album, the final product boasting over fifty minutes of exceptional, massive  cinematic, atmospheric metal Lalu has dubbed, Atomic Ark. 
    $13.00
  • "Despite what the name might lead you to think, progressive metal is among the most static and boring of all heavy music genres. Half the bands that fall under the moniker exist merely as a vehicle to show off the skills of the players involved, which is fine in small doses, but rarely sustains a creative career. The other half of the bands stick rigidly to the blueprint of one of the fore-bearers of the genre, giving us music that sounds exactly like something we've already heard. Very little of progressive metal is actually interesting, because it is a genre that lacks people dedicated to the art of songwriting. Songs are what makes any band successful, no matter how much sheer musical skill they possess. Dream Theater didn't get to where they are just because they are amazing musicians, they also wrote a slew of great songs and albums. The number of progressive metal bands who have impressed me with their songwriting in recent years is miniscule, but I mention all of this because Ascendia is one of them.As “At The End Of It All” swells into focus with a tribal drum beat and chanted vocals, it's already obvious that this is not going to be prog-by-numbers. The song kicks into gear with a syncopated guitar riff, before the vocals soar over the top of everything, slapping a thick coat of melody atop the sound. There's a quiet section in the middle of the song that feels like a cousin of Killswitch Engage, which is a fresh sound to hear in this kind of music. When it opens back up into the chorus, the song is massive, and it's hard to believe all of that music was contained in five and a half minutes.The songs on the album are more bite-sized than typical progressive metal, but that plays into the band's strengths as songwriters. By keeping the songs lean and tight, they hit harder than if the instrumental sections had been extended by a minute here and there. There is interesting playing going on, but it's all done within the framework of the songs, and never put out front to dominate the spotlight. It's an approach that is smart not just because of how easy it is to get bogged down in instrumental pyrotechnics, but because an album of that sort would never be able to survive the Herculean vocal presence of singer Nick Sakal.With more than a little bit of similarity to the former singer of the aforementioned Killswitch Engage, Howard Jones, Sakal's vocals dominate the album, making you wonder where a voice like that could have come from. His baritone is warm, rich, and not at all what you would expect to hear in a band that isn't playing down-tuned hardcore.But what is most important are the songs, and that's where Ascendia proves themselves as standouts. Whether tackling more modern fare like “Remember Me”, or more traditionally melodic songs like “Moonchild”, there's a phenomenal blend of heavy riffing and soaring melody. I can't tell you how rare it is to hear a progressive metal band that is so in tune with melody, and can write songs that could stand up if they were stripped down to the chord structure and the vocals. We get an example of that with the duet ballad, “The Song That You Deserved”, a largely piano and voice song that is as beautiful as it is heart-breaking. Ascendia's ear for songs is excellent, and that is what makes “The Lion And The Jester” such an engaging listen. Song after song, there's a warm and inviting chorus waiting to wrap its arms around you after you've heard the heavy and intricate moments.This year has been off to a ridiculously great start, with at least half a dozen legitimately great records having already come my way. Add “The Lion And The Jester” to that list, because Ascendia is making progressive metal the way it was always supposed to be. Both challenging and gratifying, intense and cathartic, “The Lion And The Jester” is a phenomenal piece of work that reminds me of the very best progressive metal I've ever heard. This is an album you need to hear.Oh, and how awesome is that cover art? That is one album that will look as good as it sounds in a collection." - Bloody Good Horror
    $10.00
  • Superb return to form from these German masters of melodic progressive metal. Beyond Daylight exhibits many similarities to The God Thing and may well prove out to be their best effort yet.
    $15.00
  • The release of 2012's critically acclaimed Trouble With Machines ushered in an exciting era for Chicago-based Progressive Rock band District 97. In 2013, the band toured both Europe and the US with legendary bassist and vocalist John Wetton (King Crimson/UK/Asia), which was documented on 2014's live release, One More Red Night: Live in Chicago. 2013 also saw the band nominated for a Limelight Award by Prog Magazine. Rather than rest on their laurels, District 97 took to the studio in 2014 to record the new material they'd been honing at home and on the road. The resulting album, In Vaults, continues and accelerates the upward trajectory of great songwriting and incredible musicianship that's been evident since the band's 2010 debut, Hybrid Child. One listen perfectly illustrates why John Wetton says, “I've said it before, and I maintain that D97 is the best young progressive band around right now. Gifted players, great material, and a brilliant, charismatic singer in Leslie Hunt."In addition to its evocative and powerful songwriting and performances, In Vaults features the immaculate mixing of Rich Mouser (Spock's Beard, Transatlantic), mastering by Grammy winning engineer Bob Katz and the stunning imagery of Björn Gooßes of Killustraitions. 
    $13.00
  • Now here is a band that singlehandedly may be turning prog metal on its head and giving it a good kick in the ass at the same time.Need is a Greek prog metal band that has been around for a bit but like most bands from that country they don't get much attention outside of their homeland.  Orvam is their third album and it finds them stepping up their game quite a bit.Orvam: A Song For Home blends a variety of influences and dishes up something completely mesmerizing.  The band's musical DNA includes Fates Warning, Tool, Nevermore, and lots of prog rock.  All of these influences will crop up but tossed together in a unique way.  Its heavy but complex - ethereal and hypnotic.  Hell the band even weaves in some Mediterranean themes revealing their real roots.  Vocalist Jon V. is the anchor to the musical and he does a phenomenal job, sounding like vintage Ray Alder.  I love how amid all the grinding guitar riffs the band mixes a splash of old school Hammond organ.  Cap this monster off with the 18 minute title piece and you've got an instant classic.  The whole production was expertly mixed by Neil Kernon and masterfully mastered by Alan Douches.  BUY OR DIE!
    $12.00
  • Hardbound mediabook edition with one bonus track."I haven't had anything similar on my musical plate for a while, so Gazpacho's eighth album Demon was an interesting, beautifully surprising and absolutely brilliant variation. Again Gazpacho mixes progressive sounds with electronic elements and folk instrumentation with the addition of dynamic riffing and amazing vocals. The outcome is a unique sound that is quite inimitable and rare to find. How much you enjoy the new record will mainly depend on how you respond to this incredible mix and the singing style used by the vocalist. Anyway Gazpacho rules, especially at night.I'm a great fan of these guys and for those of you that still don't know who they are, Gazpacho is a band formed in Oslo, Norway in 1996 by childhood friends, Jon-Arne Vilbo and Thomas Andersen, along with Jan-Henrik Ohme - later joined by Mikael Krømer, Lars Erik Asp and Kristian Torp; they released their debut album Bravo in 2003.Demon, the upcoming record, is a concept album based on the true story of a manuscript found in an apartment in Prague where the writer, a previous resident, had detailed his chase of an evil, “The Demon”. Demon is for sure full of emotion and humanity and the way the Norwegian band reproduces in music the diabolical story and the psychosis of the protagonist is wonderful.The story is told in four parts and it starts with 'I've been walking – part 1' and it couldn't start in a better low-key fashion way. There’s something disarmingly powerful about loud vocals from Jahn Henrik Ohme that add incredible depth to a song. The intermittent piano notes are just perfect and the delicate violin sound is like a nice shade of color you don't notice on painting but that painting wouldn't be the same without it. A great bonus.The second part of 'I've been walking' – that is the third track of the album – starts exactly where the first movement of the piece ends but adding a dark shadow to the overall atmosphere. There are still vocals but now are slower and they mix perfectly with the other instruments. The bass is gorgeous and the way the song turns into a more ambient and atmospherical dimension is great. It's such a damn good track and together, 'I've been walking' parts I and II, might be the best tunes that Gazpacho has ever written.The mix of sounds of the opening track changes completely in 'The Wizard of Altai Mountain' becoming electronic in the first part of the track and turning into a sort of gipsy or Yiddish sound in the second half. We are all crossing lands pursuing the demon.The story ends with 'Death Room' and the motifs of the 'The Wizard of Altai Mountain' come back like creating a circle with that song. Oriental sound, progressive rock and folk are all mixed together and the resulting fusion sound is incredible. I rarely make direct comparison among artists but this time I cannot avoid to think of Radiohead's music mixed with folk elements to create an intricate yet beautifully original tone. Other times they make me think of the Scandinavian prog-rock band Airbag but again Gazpacho find their way to be definitely unique.The story ends here and Demon too, a captivating and intriguing album that is absolutely brilliant. I like the way it flows song by song and the variety of sounds blended in it. Such experimentalism is the proof that the Norwegian guys are really talented and they deserve to be considered one of the best progressive rock bands on the scene today.Demon is an album that requires time and patience to be understood and to gain the listener's estimation and it will reward open minded audience. Play it in the dark to fully experience its great music." - Echoes And Dust
    $13.00
  • 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
  • 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
  • "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
  • 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
  • "Unwritten Pages’ Noah is an album born out of a passion for progressive, driving music, concept albums and 80’s science-fiction film. It combines the broad musical taste of its creator Frederic Epe and the stylistic and unique musical backgrounds of each project member, reaching from rock and metal to Latin influences and more classical/score-oriented arrangements.The album features soaring guitars, fat organs and bone-breaking drums, as well as a healthy dose of retro. But most of all, it never loses its focus on unique and melody-driven song-writing. And it comes in the form of an ambitious story, told through the eyes of the vocalists and musicians.Noah tells the story of a boy born in the ruins of the futuristic Utopia City, and Maria, the daughter of a ruthless politician who has – literally – split Utopia City in half and driven the poor to a district known as LS01X. As the political climate escalates, a few hundred people from both sides of the city are forced to leave their home world and start a new life on Mars. Here, both Maria and the boy grow up in the middle of a rising conflict between two factions that are unwilling to ignore their grudge-ridden past. Noah features the talents of Damian Wilson (Threshold, Ayreon, Les Misérables), Karl Groom (Threshold, Shadowland), Davy Mickers (Stream of Passion, Ayreon), Alejandro Millán (Hello Madness, Stream of Passion) and many others."
    $3.00