Thursday, June 01, 2006
Wednesday, May 31, 2006
Tuesday, April 18, 2006
The Deadsoul Tribe is another band that I would know nothing about if not for the impeccable album “The Human Equation” my Ayreon. Devon Graves (or Buddy Lackey, if you prefer) sang the part of Agony, his soothing voice belying the power therein.
But upon hearing his work with his current band, I was blown away by the (in many cases) simplicity of his music, but the raw power it held. These are albums full of crunchy guitar riffs, soothingly sung yet biting lyrics, effective use of soaring, gorgeous flute (in progressive metal, even!) and the omnipresent bass lines that would make my car shake.
Make no mistake about it: this is some powerful stuff. Graves is extremely talented, doing absolutely everything (including all guitar parts, keyboards, singing, bass, and yes, that flute) except for the drums, which are handily presented by Adel Mustafa. The whole album has an amazing sense of loss and retribution, with powerful ballads and roaring solos all over the top of Graves' soothing, ethereal, creepy voice. This is good stuff – I think “The Dead Word” is Deadsoul Tribe's best album, blending all the wonderful elements of their music into one great album.
Tracks to catch: A Flight On an Angel's Wing: The first song on the album (following the atmospheric prelude), we finally see Graves' angry chops – he sings hard and rough near the end of this track, putting aside his usually calm voice in lieu of something with a bit more force. Don't You Ever Hurt: Great solo at the beginning, starting off a rocking tune in a seven-beat meter – and that's not kid's stuff. Waiting In Line: This track is a powerhouse, one of my favorites, blending flute with scratchy guitars in a great duet. A Fistful of Bended Nails: Thumpy bass abounds in this piece, shaking my little Accent as I cruise down the road, and I do so love that feeling.
Friday, April 14, 2006
Wednesday, April 05, 2006
Friday, March 17, 2006
Every once in a while, and album just comes out of nowhere and blows the listener away. The unexpected nature of these musical surprises makes them that much more exciting. Redemption wasn't completely unknown to me. I recognized the name, and knew that the inimitable Ray Alder was the new voice of the band. But I wasn't familiar with the music and didn't have any elevated expectations going into the first listen of the band's 2005 release, The Fullness of Time. Sure, I expected good vocal melodies, but that was about it. Little did I know just how much I was missing.
Redemption is the result of one man's drive and brilliance: Nick van Dyk. I know, you probably haven't heard of him either. Well, let me say it now. Remember that name. It will continue to gain prominence with each new Redemption release. The Fullness of Time is the second Redemption release, following the eponymous 2002 release. There have been some lineup changes, particularly in the rhythm section. But the most prominent, and important, change was the inclusion of Ray Alder (of Fates Warning fame) as the permanent vocalist. It is hard to overstate just how much this adds to the band's sophomore release. Ray is, in this writer's opinion, one of metal's brightest and most versatile vocalists. His ability to be soothing, menacing, growling, and soaring all in the same song is impressive.
The Fullness of Time is the progressive metal album I was hungering for all last year. This is metal, no mistake. The songs are full of gritty, powerful guitars, pummeling double bass drums and driving, rich, dynamic bass work. But it is also progressive. Layered, elegant keyboards accompany the more gentle, calm passages. Songs change character multiple times throughout, never boring the listener. Lyrically, the album is thought provoking and insightful. Dealing with such themes as current politics, the pain of crumbling relationships, and the capacity of the human soul to be its own worst enemy. The final four tracks comprise the work titled "The Fullness of Time", chronicling the travels of one man through pain, loss, rage and finally coming to grips with his own demons. It is a progressive masterpiece.
Tracks to catch: This is one album where I can recommend every single track without hesitation. "Threads" kicks the album off, dropping the listener immediately into fifth gear. "Parker's Eyes" is a mournful work, father to newborn son, discussing innocence and the future loss thereof. "Scarred" grabs you by the throat and never lets go, throttling you for nearly 8 minutes. I have already mentioned "The Fullness of Time", but of particular note is the first part, "The Fullness of Time: I. Rage". If the beginning of this song doesn't give you chills and have you looking over your shoulder, well, you probably belong in prison. Most of all, though, I have to mention "Sapphire", the album's 15+ minute prog epic. Most bands would forsake their own mothers to write a song half as great as "Sapphire". It is one of the greatest prog epics I have ever heard. Moving, driving, powerful and hauntingly beautiful, it embodies all that is great about progressive metal. I get chills when it starts.
Monday, March 13, 2006
I am very, very cautious with my use of the word "genius" to describe musicians. I think it is overused almost to the point of rendering it a cliché. As such, if I call someone a musical genius, I really mean it. In that case, let me say up front that Devin Townsend is a musical genius. He is almost overflowing with musical ideas, and has the multiple different outlets for that musical energy. He first became known to me as the vocalist on Steve Vai's album "Sex and Religion". And while I do believe he is one of the most versatile vocalists out there, I think we should all be grateful he didn't get pigeonholed into that gig. His solo work covers the spectrum of progressive music from the atmospheric grooves of "Ocean Machine", to the speed-metal pop of "Physicist", and the earthy, emotional "Terria". If that wasn't enough, through in his other band Strapping Young Lad and their extremely aggressive brand of metal (too aggressive for this listener even!). Finally, recently we have had The Devin Townsend Band, a more balanced approach that provides an outlet for Devin when he needs a break from the pummeling, punishing power of SYL. And "Synchestra" is the most recent release from this band.
"Synchestra" really runs the gamut of styles. From the opening, acoustic, folksy song "Let It Roll" to the almost 80's-ish pop-metal of "Sunshine and Happiness", the album challenges the listener. Never content to just write a catchy riff and play it over and over again, most of the songs on the album are free to explore their own musical ideas, roaming from one passage to the next. If you are looking for an accessible album, Devin never was writing for you. Certainly not as aggressive as his SYL work, nevertheless, there is no shortage of electric guitar and metal riffs on the disc. In contrast with the previous Devin Townsend Band release, "Accelerated Evolution", "Synchestra" seems to capture more of the earthy, organic feeling that predominated on previous masterpieces such as "Terria". In fact, I feel that this album captures the best of those two albums and manages to use those parts to create something fabulous. Imminently more listenable than "Terria", however it also has much more depth than "Accelerated Evolution".
What else is there to say about "Synchestra"? If you aren't familiar with Devin Townsend, well, this is as good of an album as any to get familiar. Just be prepared to explore music that has sprung from the mind of one of the most energetic, brilliant, bizarre and crazy artists out there. Don't try to make the music "make sense", just let the massive wall of sound pour over you, batter you a bit, then gently recede and see where it has taken you. You just might be pleasantly surprised with what you discover.
Tracks to catch:"Let It Roll" is a wonderful tune that both reveals and deceives the listener. You'll just have to hear it to know what I mean. "Hypergeek" is astounding in its sudden transition from calm, quiet acoustic song to a stunning, brutal attack of speed metal. This song is the reason sub-woofers exist. "Vampolka" and "Vampira" are pure music magic. The first, a polka with accordion, tuba and the whole works, the second a powerful metal romp. "Pixellate", "Judgment", and "A Simple Lullaby" are a terrific prog-metal trifecta. You just have to hear them. In fact, there isn't a single song on the disc that isn't worthy of some sort of effusive praise.
Saturday, March 04, 2006
Top 10 albums of 2005 10. Demons and Wizards: Touched by the Crimson King
BlueDev: This first spot was a tough one. There were three candidates vying for the position, and I narrowly picked Demons and Wizards over Meshuggah's "Catch 33" and Nevermore's "This Godless Endeavor". This is straight forward metal, with lighting fast riffs, over the top lyrics inspired by Stephen King's work, and wailing vocals from Hansi Kursch. However, it also has a nice blend of very fast and slow, expressive ballads, allowing both Jon Schaffer and Hansi to flesh the album out a bit. It has a lot going for it and is a great album.
San Chonino: This is really metallic (is that how I would say it? Maybe . . .) but really good stuff. Once again, I'm not a huge fan of songs that tell silly stories, but the lyrics of this album interested me, being a huge Stephen King fan (and currently wrapping up book six of the Dark Tower series . . . curse that stupid Crimson King!!!). This is good metal, for those intimidated by great prog metal. A nice way to start off the top ten. 9. Ayreon: Actual Fantasy Revisited
BlueDev: This one may seem a bit odd, as it was actually released in 1996. However, the Revisited version surely deserves some recognition, as the drums, bass and guitars were all re-recorded for this release. I love just about everything Arjen Lucassen touches, and this is no exception. While likely my least favorite Ayreon disc, it is still just so powerful and so much better than most of the music out there. And listen to the first chord Arjen hits in "The Abbey of Synn". Priceless.
San Chonino: Also my least favorite Ayreon disc, but the re-release is so superior to the sound of the original in every way. This is great tunes. "Abbey of Synn"? 'Nuff said. 8. dredg: Catch Without Arms
San Chonino: Dredg's latest disc is less progressive in many ways than their first two efforts, but that makes the album all the more accessible. Songs like "Ode to the Sun" and "Planting Seeds" make this disc unreal, and I love to introduce people to the world of Dredg with this album. A strong effort from a great newer band. I have high hopes for whatever it is they do next.
BlueDev: San Chonino introduced me to these guys and I have been enjoying them ever since. I agree that "Catch Without Arms" is their least progressive disc, but it is still fantastic. Even songs that I didn't think I would like at first I love to listen to. This is really a brilliantly crafted disc. 7. Dream Theater: Octavarium
San Chonino: I grew up listening to Dream Theater, thanks to BlueDev. I've always liked their earlier albums, most especially "Awake", but I felt as though "Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence" and "Train of Thought" were lacking in comparison – they didn't feel as full, as rewarding. But that's all behind me now, thanks to "Octavarium". I think this is DT's best disc to date – fully functional as a progressive metal album, but not overly metal, losing the style and musical sense that had defined this band for me growing up. A great effort from a great band.
BlueDev: I have been a Dream Theater fan since the release of their stellar sophomore effort "Images and Words". I followed them through the years and have watched them progress from album to album. While I agree that "SDoIT" and "ToT" are not their strongest albums, I still really love them. But "Octavarium" is a true return to form for the band. I scratch my head in wonder at those who say DT sound like they are running out of ideas. This is the freshest, best sounding album they have released since "Awake", and that is really saying something. 6. Fiona Apple: Extraordinary Machine
San Chonino: As many of you know, I'm a Fiona fan. Love her music like nobody's business. And this, I believe is her strongest disc yet. The happy balance between morose lyrics and peppy music is enough to get my toes tapping and my mouth singing along. Simply put, I identify with Fiona's music – and a top-ten list of this year's best albums would be incomplete without a spot for Alternative music's leading lady.
BlueDev: Sadly, I cannot opine here, as I have not yet heard this album. I am simply going to have to defer to my brother's opinion and his musical acumen (which far exceeds my own). If he says it should be #6 on the list, I will trust him. 5. Stream of Passion: Embrace the Storm
San Chonino: This album shows why it's okay to have female vocalists in metal. Too often it comes off feeling campy and clichéd, another Evanescence rip-off. But Evanescence couldn't touch Stream of Passion with a forty-foot pole if they wanted – this is what "chick metal" was meant to be. And the musical skills of Arjen Lucassen are, as always, amazing. More than just another gothic-chick-metal disc, this album fills the ears with musicality, emotion, and grace.
BlueDev: It sends me through the roof when people talk like Evanescence really started the whole female fronted "goth rock" trend. They were derivative followers. Nothing more. And so, any comparisons between Stream of Passion and Evanescence deserve, at best, complete and utter ignoring, and at worst a boot to the head. This album is amazing, with stellar vocals, stunning musicianship, and very tight, focused writing. It will leave you wanting more. 4. Kamelot: The Black Halo
BlueDev: Discovering good, new music is always exciting. I had heard the name of the band mentioned, but until I heard "The Black Halo", Kamelot was nothing more than a name. It didn't take long for that to change. This album is a superb example of just how good power metal can be when it wants to. Progressive thoughts and patterns flow throughout, elevating what could have simply been a melodramatic rock album to the level of rock opera epic. It is hard to find fault with this album, and it easily sits high in the countdown.
San Chonino: One word: wow. I'm not a huge fan of albums with storylines (I will forever maintain that Rush and Ayreon are the only bands that can really tell a cohesive story in song) but this one got me anyway. Its lyrics tell a tale without getting silly, but it's in the music that Kamelot shines. This is great metal – and it's taken me a long time to find great metal bands like this. 3. Porcupine Tree: Deadwing
San Chonino: As I have mentioned on this site before, I am a huge Steven Wilson fan, most especially his work with Porcupine Tree. While Redemption and Opeth claim the top spots this year, I still maintain that "Deadwing" is the most important progressive rock album to be released in 2005. Who else but Steve Wilson can effectively pull off writing in the time signature of seventeen-eight not once but twice on an album and still make it sound decent (and not like over-the-top annoying prog)? This is an amazing album by an amazing band.
BlueDev: This album ties my all up in knots. Porcupine Tree's previous album "In Absentia", is one of my favorite albums. Ever. Period. I couldn't help but feel let down at "Deadwing", but the oddest thing is I couldn't really tell you why! It is just more of my general gestalt. Nevertheless, I recognize what a powerful album it really is, and it has some superb songs. So, I can 100% agree with it being high on the list, but just don't find myself listening to it nearly as much as some of the others found here. 2. Opeth: Ghost Reveries
BlueDev: I couldn't have an annual countdown without Opeth being on it, granted they released an album that year. Heck, there have been some years when Opeth would still have been on my countdown, they are so amazing. "Ghost Reveries" could have claimed the top spot this year, but it had some tough competition. That should tell you just how good the album above it is. "Ghost Reveries" is a great next step on the evolutionary path of Opeth. Some complain they are loosing their death metal edge, others think they are stagnating. I simply feel they are expanding and exploring their own style. "Ghost Reveries" has it all, from disturbingly beautiful acoustic moments, to bone crushing metal riffs. I love this disc.
San Chonino: I have vacillated about where to put this disc ever since BlueDev recommended it for this list. I had tried Opeth before, with the disc "Deliverance" (a bad place to start, it was too metal for me) and I was hesitant to try again. But this album exceeded my expectations in ways I can't describe. If you are in the mood for teeth-rattling metal, Opeth can capture that sense, but many songs are so morose and melancholy that I can't help but love them – especially the tune "Isolation Years". A rock-solid lovely effort. 1. Redemption: The Fullness of Time
BlueDev: This is the progressive metal album I was hungering for all year. Some of the other albums on the list teased me with their potential, but nothing really captured everything I wanted in a progressive metal album. Until Redemption came along and released their second disc. First, it has Ray Alder. I don't think there is any doubt in my mind that he is my favorite vocalist. He is just so versatile and powerful. Second, the music is fabulous. Heavy, melodic, moving, all at the right time. And, well, it has the song Sapphire. This is one of those rare prog epics that gets everything right. It never feels too long, but keeps you interested throughout, while still feeling cohesive, like a single song. Just about everything with this album is perfect, and I have no problem making this my top album of the year.
San Chonino: This album is simply put: amazing. Everything about it is wonderful – it easily earns the top spot. If it were only for the song Sapphire as BlueDev mentioned, it would be more than enough, but the other tunes on the album are stunning as well. This is a well-crafted effort by an amazing group of musicians. Well, there you have it, our top ten albums from last year. A decent mix of pop, rock and metal. It was tough getting the list finalized, but we both feel this represents our favorites of the year. Check them out!
Thursday, March 02, 2006
As anyone who frequents this site (or, in all honesty, converses with me about music for any period of time) will know, I am a huge Steven Wilson fan. I have loved his work with Porcupine Tree, and was curious to see what else this amazing musician had done. In the reissues of all the old Porcupine Tree discs there was a little flyer for a project Wilson had done with Aviv Geffen, a popular Israeli musician.
Finally, after much searching, I was able to find this disc at Media Play (right before it went out of business, no less . . .) and was thoroughly surprised yet delighted with this album. I wondered if it would have the same drive as a PT disc, seeing as how Wilson would be sharing the pen with someone else whose music I had never heard, but I was pleased with this album.
Keep in mind – this record has nowhere near the immersive quality of any PT disc, but for what it lacks in ambience it makes up for in sincerity. All of the songs on this album are short – the thirteen track CD is less than forty five minutes, after all – but are catchy, pop-ish, slightly progressive tunes. I still enjoy this album as a gateway for normal music listeners into the wonderful world of progressive rock.
Tracks to catch: Open Mind: the opening track, it starts so subtlety but builds with exceeding force to an impressive climax – a great tune. Glow: a creepy, atmospheric tune that also builds to a splendid explosion of sound. Lullaby: a song that sounds like it should be a sappy love song, but with biting, seething lyrics and creepy melodies. Where is My Love?: a bonus track only available on the special edition of the disc, but very rewarding and melancholy song.
Tuesday, February 07, 2006
The late 80's saw a flourishing of glam and hair metal. For better or worse, a number of sissy acts who pretended to use electric guitars came into prominence and forever dirtied the world of metal. Acts like Poison, Motley Crue, and Slaughter capitalized on songs of hedonism and lasciviousness. And they did it all with pretty boy hair, and sometimes even pretty girl makeup. But while glam or hair metal was certainly very popular in its time (before grunge really took over), too often bands were mistakenly dumped in the glam metal category. Skid Row was one such band.
Sure, their first release had some sappy metal ballads, and the lead singer had a flowing blonde locks and almost feminine good looks. But looking past the surface, one can see that Skid Row was much more metal and very little glam. Their final release with Sebastian Bach as front man, "Subhuman Race" epitomizes this. A gritty, gutsy album from the very beginning, this is metal. No glam allowed.
This is the kind of album that we needed in the mid 90's. Sadly, too many overlooked it, still thinking of them as a hair band. Thick, heavy guitars fill the album. Even the ballads are dark and brooding. Borrowing the best aspects of grunge, and melding them with great guitar solos, some thrash aspects, and good, old fashioned American metal, Skid Row created one of the best heavy metal albums of the past decade. No pretenses, no posturing. Sebastian has never sounded better. Growling when he needs to, wailing at the right times, and holding notes like few other metal vocalists ever could, he just does a great job on this album. The rest of the band pulls through as well. The rhythm section backs up the meaty guitars, providing a thick, chugging backdrop to the songs.
Tracks to catch:"Eileen" is a great ballad that ends with a nut-busting twist. Not your mom's ballad. "Beat Yourself Blind" is full of guttural growls and a grooving guitar line. "Bonehead" and "Subhuman Race" both crank things up a notch, borrowing from the speed and aggression of good old thrash metal. "Iron Will" wraps the album up kicking and screaming, not content to end quietly. But the truth is, there isn't a single bad track on this sucker.
I’ve been an avid Fiona Apple fan since the early days, when Tidal first came out, and I heard the song “Shadowboxer” for the first time. I’ve just always been moved by her sultry, deep alto voice, creepy piano melodies, and disjointed but catchy lyrics. But I was even more a fan of her second album, When the Pawn . . . which showed so much growth as an artist and composer.
But I waited and waited for a third album. And then I waited some more. Finally, four-plus years since the release of her second album, Fiona finally blessed us with an album, and a great one it is. I think it’s probably her best; I’m absolutely enamored with it.
This album is everything that I’ve come to expect from a Fiona album. Its lyrics are disjointed, but eerily coherent. Her piano is more enjoyable than before, and the production is top-rate. In some songs, she uses an entire orchestra to get the effect she’s looking for. While this album has shown up on lots of critic’s lists of “Best Albums of 2005,” it’s the only one that I heartily agree with. This really is a wonderful album.
Tracks to catch: “Extraordinary Machine”: A solid opener, with great orchestration and weird rhyming schemes. “Get Him Back”: possibly my favorite some on the album, it bursts with energy and heart. “Tymps (the Sick in the Head Song)”: My other favorite, featuring another weird rhyme and a rhythm that gets trapped in the head.
Sunday, February 05, 2006
Sometimes a band releases a debut album that simply blows you away. Other times a debut is more of a hint of what is to come. In the case of Fates Warning's first record "Night on Brocken", the case is certainly the latter. A respectable record in its own right, "Night on Brocken" gives us a glimpse of what was to come, without giving away the end of the story.
At first glance, there is little to distinguish Fates Warning from other metal bands of the time. High pitched, wailing vocals? Check. Mystical, semi-occult lyrics? Check. Dual guitars? Check. There just isn't much that instantly sets these guys apart. But a closer inspection of this album starts to tear down these assumptions. Of course, knowing what Fates will become helps as well, but I will endeavor to set that bias aside for the majority of this article.
"Night on Brocken" is a true metal album, with very little of the progressive elements that would go on to characterize so much of the band's later work. The songs are straightforward, shorter and relatively direct. Distorted guitars abound, often trading solos mid-song. The dueling guitars also seamlessly compete for the melody, creating great guitar harmonies. Perhaps most distinctive are the vocals. While not the best showcase, I cannot say enough about John Arch's vocals. Wailing and high pitched, but possessed of an unmistakable quality, he is one of my all-time favorite vocalists. And his vocal melodies are some of the most unique in the world of metal. Rarely heading the direction you expect, the melodies on "Night on Brocken" continue to leave the listener guessing.
Note: The remastered version contains some demos and earlier versions of some songs found on the final album. The sound quality isn't great, but it is fun to hear the evolution of some of the songs.
Tracks to catch:"S.E.K" is a great acoustic piece. "Misfit" does an excellent job of highlighting the distinct vocal melodies. "Damnation" hints at some of the band's more progressive songs to come. "Shadowfax" is a fun instrumental that conjures up images of Gandalf racing across the plains of Gondor.
Friday, January 27, 2006
Monday, January 09, 2006
One of the aspects of prog that attracts me is the technicality of the music. While that certainly isn't everything I like, it is a huge contributing factor. Listening to much of the music reviewed here, one will find precision playing, unusual time signatures with rapid shifts from one to the next, and multilayered writing that really gives each instrument something interesting to contribute. But today's album takes that technicality to an entirely new level. This is no longer prog metal, this can be called nothing less than technical metal.
Spiral Architect is something of a dream group, though few will recognize any of the members. An effort to combine the considerable talents of many players, the band was brewing for a number of years before the actual release of their debut (and so far only) album "A Sceptic's Universe". For those who prefer their music to be something that rests in the background, this album is not for you. Just skip it and move on to something more mundane. For those who want an intense listening experience that demands repeated, concerted listens to even begin to fully appreciate all that is going on, this is the album for you.
The musicianship is stunning. Incredibly complex playing from each member fills the album from start to finish. Truly, in attempting to describe the music, words fail me. The bass is all over the place, doing things that most bass players would find obscene. Polyrhythms abound, leaving the careless listener lost in the wake. The lyrics, while certainly playing second fiddle to the amazing music, are surprisingly introspective and intelligent. Guitars and keyboards often merge to create excellent harmonies. Vocals are also great, sounding amazingly similar to Buddy Lackey (aka Devon Graves) of Psychotic Waltz fame.
Tracks to catch:"Insect" has one of the most jaw-dropping bass lines I have ever heard. "Cloud Constructor" is a whirling, mind spinning trip. "Conjuring Collapse" has moments of surprising accessibility. Finally, if you are lucky enough to find the Japanese version you get an amazing version of the stellar Fates Warning song "Prelude to Ruin".
Saturday, January 07, 2006
If there is one incontrovertible thing you can say about Arjen Lucassen's Ayreon project, it is this: he does not hold back. He gives every Ayreon album everything he has, and often seems to have to take a break and indulge his musical mastermind in other ways to help clear it out a bit. After the 2004 masterpiece "The Human Equation", Arjen decided to take that Ayreon break in yet another musical direction. This time he would form his first band in 10 years, centered on the vocal talents of Marcela Bovio (who sang the part of 'Wife' on "The Human Equation"). The result is "Embrace the Storm", the first CD from yet another female fronted rock/metal band. With the current glut of such female fronted metal bands (eg. Nightwish, After Forever, Tristania, Lacuna Coil, Flowing Tears), how does this newest project from Arjen stand up?
In one word: brilliantly. But a one word review would be boring, so I will go on. Stream of Passion is a band that took full advantage of the internet. Buzz and advertising was created quite simply by internet word of mouth. Many of the members submitted their work via the internet, and electronic communication led to the discovery of many of the members of the band. Yet, while technology played such a large part in the creation of the record, and even the band, the music is surprisingly down to earth. No sci-fi stories, other than guitars, no electronic instrumentation (in fact the book states there are no synthesizers whatsoever on the album). The writing is very evenly split, demonstrating the balance of the members. Arjen wrote the bulk of the music, Marcela the lyrics and vocal melodies. Yet each player also contributed their part, Lori writing her lead guitar lines, Johan contributing to the bass work, Davy with the drums and Alejandro with the piano. This balance of the writing helps to lend the music a distinctively fresh sound, and sets it apart from Ayreon.
All the members work wonderfully together. Marcela's voice is one of the best in pop, rock or metal. Period. Clear, with just a hint of her accent leaking through, soaring and haunting all in turns. The rhythm section is solid, with a rich, full base sound and great, driving, crisp drums. Alejandro's piano blends in perfectly, bold when it should be, subtle at the right times. Lori's lead guitar work is fantastic. She was quite the find. While she can certainly 'shred' with the best of them, what really sets her apart is the crystal clear, soaring and almost vocal quality to many of her solos. Finally, Arjen Lucassen has, in this writer's opinion, the single best electric guitar sound in rock or metal. It is powerful, full, thunderous. His chords simply rock.
Note: The special edition comes with a region free DVD that has a 30 minute 'making of', the video for "Passion", a trailer for the album, as well as the rough, acoustic demo tracks for each song. Also included is a video of the one take in with drummer Davy Mickers recorded the final track "Calliopeia". It is fun to watch him record the entire song in one take. The DVD is certainly worth looking for, and I highly recommend it to anyone with more than just a casual interest in the band.
Tracks to catch:The opener "Spellbound" begins with distorted, muffled tribal drumming. Piano and strings enter, followed by Marcela's amazing vocals. But the real kicker is the explosion of guitars about 1:30 into the song. Wow. I was speechless, and this was the first track. "Passion" is the most powerful, focused rocker on the album, with carefully balanced moments of calm. "Haunted" is a chilling track, living up to its title. "Embrace the Storm" encapsulates so well all that the band is about. And the final track "Calliopeia" is yet another example of musical brilliance. Honestly though, there is not a single bad track on the album.
Wednesday, January 04, 2006
Author's note:One of the biggest perils of reviewing albums that you own is that you likely aren't buying it in the first place if you don't like it. This has lead to a lot of highly rated reviews here. In an effort to demonstrate that we can, in fact, give low reviews I am taking this opportunity to review an album I purchased in a moment of weakness.
Linkin Park hit and hit big. "Hybird Theory" was the top selling album of the year when it was released, and you couldn't turn on popular radio stations without hearing a song from them come on the radio. But there was a problem. Were we ever hearing more than one song? I mean, really, almost every song sounded the same.
Capitalizing on the rap/rock fad, Linkin Park combined traditional nu-metal vox from Chester, with rapping from Mike and a DJ to boot. Short, catchy songs, with easily remembered melodies and choruses coupled with lyrics full of teen angst and despair that so seems to fascinate teens. Wrap it in an industrial looking case, and you had a winner.
But the music simply cannot stand up to anything more than a cursory, half-eared listen. Listening to "Hybrid Theory" all they way through and you get some 30 minutes and change of a pretty continuous drone. Throw in "Meteora", the follow-up, and you have two discs full of one single, repetitive track, beat into your head time after time after time. It is not even worth considering them as two separate albums. It takes but a moment to be grateful that the songs are so short, just so you finish sooner.
Tracks to catch: How can you recommend the same song more than once? Sorry, nothing to add here. Once you have heard a track, there just aren't any surprises left.