Progressive metal

Xenoverse – The Fall: Part I

a1427198727_10Progressive rock/metal “newcomer” Xenoverse seems to have been in the cusp of releasing their debut album since 2015. After a lot of polishing, a few gigs and apparently nearly finishing a 2nd full-length too, their debut The Fall: Part I has finally been released. Xenoverse is full of seasoned musicians but it’s clearly the brainchild of the vocalist/keyboardist Arttu Juntunen.

The music tiptoes on the edge of progressive rock and progressive metal, there’s plenty of virtuosity in instrumentation but also catchiness in choruses. The keyboards play a major role in the compositions, but guitars and drums are both well mixed too. Refreshingly bass also peeks out from behind the guitar riffs and is used as a driving instrument. Behind Enemy Lines is a good example of a track where the bass is constantly present.

There’s not much heavy guitar walls to be found but dynamic interplay between the instruments. The album sounds to be done with live performances in mind, for example the guitar solo of Behind Enemy Lines has no backing guitar, just the bass beating about. This reflects their live setup with just one guitarist. It actually works very well and doesn’t sound gutless, but groovy.

The Torturer is nearly death metal with industrial in keyboards, very far from the other tracks. The “hit” track that is also arguably the best, One Can Rule The Sky, is from the other edge of the pallette; a rocker and a melodic extravaganza! It does not feel like a 7 minute track at all. Disintegration is among the heaviest tracks with lovely hypnotic repetition and space rock whirrs and buzzes after a solid progressive rock beginning.

The album could probably do without The Torturer even though I enjoy the Scorngrain-like industrial keyboards. The mellow finisher Aria’s Premonition is quite boring especially as the album has a lot of mellowness. Perhaps the concept of the album cannot do without it. There’s no denying that the mellow tracks Solitary Confinement and Is This The End are solid, and when the distortion guitars kick in after 4 minutes of Solitary Confinement it sounds frigging fresh. How about the majestic symphonic elements then? Violins, Trombone, Cello, French horn, Viola, Majestic keyboard pad sounds; I admit, I’m a sucker for most things epic.

All in all The Fall: Part I is a complete solid progressive rock/metal album with fine attention to detail. A very impressive debut.

8/10

I also did a live review of their gig a few years ago.

Buy & listen to the album in bandcamp:
https://xenoverse.bandcamp.com/

 

Best albums and tracks of 2017

The best albums of 2017 contains 60 albums that I listened enough to warrant them a place in this list. Scroll further down for the best tracks as a Spotify playlist and a few pickups that I missed in 2016. Hyperlinks lead to reviews.


Best albums of 2017

Near perfect (9+)

cover-sm

Loss — Horizonless – funeral doom / deathdoom – Horizonless by Loss is a giant of a funeral doom album. It portrays a wide dispersal of moods, shifting between beautiful, crushing and ominous. The instrumentation and sounds are all top level, even the bass guitar comes to the fore time to time.
     Horizonless seeped among the best albums of 2017 slowly. I dare to say this is my favourite doom release from the US since Morgion’s criminally underknown Cloaked by Ages, Crowned in Earth (2004).


Excellent (9)

R-10928436-1506685605-4925.jpeg

Nyss — Princesse Terre (Three Studies of Silence and Death) – atmospheric black metal – Fantastic atmosphere, riffs and use of effective repetition. Climaxes, build-ups, some melodies, backing ambience. Absolute top tier atmospheric and hypnotic black metal.


Very good (9-)

Grave Pleasures — Motherblood – death rock / post-punk – Everything that Beastmilk, who later renamed themselves to Grave Pleasures did right in the first album Climax (2013) also comes in place on Motherblood. The blasphemous lyrics, deathrock and catchy pop hooks groove together elegantly again.
     The album retains a strong base level through it’s length. Tracks like Joy Through Death dance between two worlds masterfully. It could be an eulogy or as well just a piece of dark humorous obscenity!

Hebosagil — Fortuna / Auta – noise rock / post-metal / hardcore punk – Bursting with melodies and aggression. I don’t think they’ve ever before had this many pop hooks. On the other hand, the 2nd track Auta still flirts with drone and noise rock with violently paranoid lyrics…


Good+ (8½)

Septicflesh — Codex Omega – symphonic death metal

Woe — Hope Attrition – atmospheric black metal – biggest grower of the year.

Oranssi Pazuzu — Kevät / Värimyrsky Psychedelic black metal / stoner doom – Pazuzu re-released their split with Candy Cane with the name Farmakologinen, it’s a 9+/10 album but also released a brand new great single. Värimyrsky is a welcome nod back to their old days.

Slægt — Domus Mysterium – black metal / heavy metal – I really liked the 2015 EP Beautiful and Damned so it’s really welcome to see they are as good a full-length band!

Wintersun  — The Forest Seasons – symphonic metal /progressive metal / melodic metal – Wintersun’s The Forest Seasons might be the album that has split most opinions in 2017. It currently stands at 56 % in Metal Archives which cannot be based on music alone. For the musics in this music album are mostly solid as heck.
     First three tracks (clocking over 40 minutes) are packed with memorable melodies, good songwriting and fine sounding symphonics. Wintersun is not a one trick pony solely based on power metal and melodeath. The album has a few aces up its sleeve. For example, most melodeath bands might not try their skills in black metal or melancholic doom.

Heptaedium — How Long Shall I Suffer Here? – electronic metal / breakcore / nintendocore / progressive metal

Glanko — OsmosiSci-fi IDM – Dark toned themes with sci-fi elements. Glanko has matured and found great melody lines to accompany beats more diverse than ever. Perfect music for reading sci-fi like Dan Simmonds Hyperion quartet! You can add / remove half a point depending if you are reading sci-fi or not!

Sun of The Sleepless — To The Elements – atmospheric black metal


Good+ (8+)

Vallenfyre — Fear Those Who Fear Him – oldschool death metal with connections to Paradise Lost, My Dying Bride and Abhorrence. Not surprisingly, the best moments on Fear Those Who Fear Him are the slower doomier bits. The sound of the album is quite perfect for this kind of music altogether. Really powerful, far from crystal clear, yet not muddy at all. Piercing, rumbling and ferocious.

The Moth Gatherer — The Comfortable Low – post-metal / post-rock

Wear Your Wounds — WYW – slowcore / post-rock / shoegaze – side-project of Converge’s Jacob Bannon. The highs are really high if you’ve always digged the slower tracks of Converge. WYW strips down almost all heavy guitars and is quite a melancholic slowcore / post-rock / shoegaze album. Unsurprisingly the heaviest moments rank among the best.
There’s over 20 minutes of boring material in the midst of 63 minutes so I’m ranking it more for the good points than for the bad. Just skipping the last two tracks already makes it great. Still difficult to get into. 

Ayreon — The Source (album 1) – progressive rock / musical

AlNamrood — Enkar – Middle Eastern blackened deaththrash – one of the biggest growers of the year, initially I did not even like Enkar it as it does not repeat the mystic and even majestic atmospheric tricks of their 2015 album Diaji Al Joor. Enkar is quite a punk album compared to Diaji but after over 10 listens the Middle Eastern instrumentation, nuances and straightforward fierce song-writing started to really feel like a tight package.


Good (8ish)

Over the Voids… — Over The Voids – black metal

James Elkington — Wintres Womasinger-songwriter / acoustic / folk – At best Elkington channels Nick Drake’s gentle guitar virtuosity. Fortunately he is not a one-trick pony but I admit I’m a sucker for the more complicated pickings.

Ulver — The Assassination of Julius Caesar – avant-garde synthpop / experimental

Converge — The Dusk In Us – metalcore / hardcore / post-hardcore

WÖYH! — KRTKRTK – progressive rock / children’s music for adults

Janne Westerlund — There’s a Passage singer-songwriter / folk / acoustic / experimental

Au-Dessus — End of Chapter – atmospheric black metal / post-metal

The Faceless — In Becoming a Ghost – progressive death metal – Half really good (Digging The Grave, The Spiraling Void, Shake The Disease, I Am, half of Black Star), the rest is filler. Extra points from how the melodramatic intro sets up Digging the Grave. The jumpiest album start since Ghost of Perdition by Opeth!

Pryapisme — Diabolicus Felinae Pandemonium – Avant-garde metal / experimental metal


8-

Ochre — Beyond The Outer Loop – idm / downtempo / ambient

Troldhaugen — Idio+syncrasies – avant-garde metal / humour metal – Half funny, half annoying, half great. This is a true love it or hate it album, yet I am inbetween because the compositions are mostly great but vocals oft times annoyingly over freaky. The metalcore / crabcore influences aren’t that much of my liking either, some of the avant-garde elements are outrageously good and only a few outrageously annoying (the rap part of It’s Morphine Time, yet the chorus is a hilarious stadium rock sing-a-long). The album has hints of Crotchduster-like greatness. Bullseye track has the best track title of the year: I Ordered A Taxi Driver Not A Taxidermy.

Riitaoja — Täytettyjä lintuja – experimental indie rock / art rock / folk

Wvrm — Can You Hear The Wind Howl – grindcore / death metal – 10 minutes is just the right length for this kind of furious album. 6 tracks with a 3 minute doomy headbanger in the midst. Epic track length in their standards.

King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard — Flying Microtonal Banana – garage rock / psychedelic rock

King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard — Gumboot Soup – garage rock / psychedelic rock – The rest of the 5 (!!!!!) albums they released this year I did not check properly yet. Quick check on Polygondwanaland sounds like another real quality effort. It’s concept would also be worth a mention. Here’s a great Youtube video sumup of their 5 album plan. King Gizzard is probably the most innovative rock band at the moment. Maybe one of the albums will match their 2016 album Nonagon Infinity.

Hanging Garden — I Am Become – atmospheric rock / doom metal – Blackout Whiteout was one of the biggest surprises of 2015, the first tastes of I am Become were great, yet it did not have the growth of the last album. The best bits Kouta and Our Dark Design are top class and the album does not really have bad sections either.

Lantern — II: Morphosis – new wave of Finnish oldschool dark death metal in the vein of Demigod and Convulse


Kardinaalit — Primus Culpa experimental / rock / humour – Primus Culpa demo should be annoying but mostly it is actually funny. These guys also have some high class material in their soundcloud (also a lot of junk), eagerly awaiting if they piece their shit together out of humour terrains and develop their stronger tracks. At least 3-4 are already fully ready and would be a backbone of a very strong release

Enslaved — E – progressive metal / viking metal / black metal – possible grower

Eneferens — In The Hours Beneath – atmospheric rock / atmospheric black metal

Wolves in the Throne Room — Thrice Woven – atmospheric black metal

Fen — Winter – atmospheric black metal – possible grower

Vulture Industries — Stranger Times – progressive metal / avant-garde metal – The first three tracks of the album are really fucking good which is why it’s such a shame that the rest of the album is strangely mediocre to almost useless. Three other tracks do stand out a bit. Something Vile’s last half is driven by good lead guitars and heavy drum pounding, matching the beginning. Midnight Draws Near and Screaming Reflections do have great vocals and good dynamic going on but constantly slow paced pretty good compositions fail to resonate much after the beginning of the album does everything a few notches better.

Pillorian Obsidian Arc – atmospheric black metal


7+

Ne Obliviscaris — Urn – progressive metal

KANASHIMI — INORI depressive black metal / funeral doom / japanese pop influences – yes you read right, Scar of the heart is a bullseye of a track, a nicely unique dsbm sound. Then the one man project repeats it nearly all album long… Classic one man band problem really.

Havukruunu — Kelle surut soi – pagan black metal – hello Moonsorrow, these guys are pretty good in their own right too. Bullseye track: Kelle Surut Soi.

Inferno Requiem — Nüwa 女媧 – oldschool black metal / atmospheric black metal

Igorrr — Savage Sinusoid – avant-garde metal / breakcore / electronic

Skyclad — Forward Into The Past – folk metal / heavy metal – metal-observer’s review seemed to sum most of my thoughts. I just have to add the best track “Change Is Coming” is at part with almost any of their tracks and “State of The Union Now” a fresh reminder of their thrash past. Judging by the 2015 album Atom by Atom, Steve Ramsay might just leave his best tracks for his other project, Satan.

Myrkur — Maredit – black metal / indie rock / dream pop – fantastic beginning then the mediocre but well sung indie / dream pop elements come to the surface. Most of the metallish tracks are slow, doomy and boring. The blastbeating chaotic atmosphere appears too scarcely. Luckily there’s Gladiatrix.


Okay (7ish)

Falls of Rauros — Vigilance Perennial – atmospheric black metal

Planeetta 9 — Koivut – Finnish metal / rock / doom

Falaise — My Endless Immensityblackgaze

Akercocke — Renaissance In Extremis – avant-garde metal / black metal – Possible grower, ~8 listens doesn’t seem to be enough

Alfahanne — Det Nya Svarta – post-punk / death rock – One track miracle Satans Verser, probably the best rock track of the year, there’s a good mellow post-punk atmosphere but Avgrundsgravitation and Det Nya Svarta are the only tracks that completely succeed in tension. Mitt mörkär är mörkäre än ditt is weirdly catchy, I can’t quite put my hand on it, if i like it or don’t. Same catchiness goes for Även an Hund Har Sin Dag. For a while I thought the album is great until it crashed down to mediocre. I admit I might like it more if I bothered to understand more of the lyrics.

Ayreon — The Source (album 2) – progressive rock / musical

Paradise Lost — Medusa – doom metal / death doom


Okay- (6½) aka class c black metal

Fleurety — The White Death – One track miracle The Ballad of The Copernicus, few ok tracks besides it (White Death, Future Day). Special credit to the worst riff of the year in the peculiarly, chosen single track Lament of the Optimist.

Ajattara — Lupaus – black metal – One track miracle Saatanan Sinetti, few good tracks besides it (Sinä, last half of Lupaus). Most lyrics a bit stupid: Pimeä, pimeä, kuolema, kuolema blah blah blah.. Special credit to stupidest choruses of the year in Ristinkirot and Machete. Too bad as Machete is musically quite a great headbanger.

Charnel Winds — Verschränkung – Avant-garde metal / black metal

Asagraum — Potestas Magicum Diaboli – black metal


Best tracks of 2017

Best tracks arranged to a playlist in quite random order. Playlist in text-pdf format + a few tracks that aren’t in Spotify: Best_tracks_of_2017


Bubbling under

Brilliant tracks just below the first category. Except on a good day…


2016 reprise

Bunch of interesting 2016 releases found too late

9ish

Downfall of Gaia — Atrophy – atmospheric black metal / post black metal

W. Iivarinen — Melankolia – Finnish metal / rock

8ish

Blood Incantation — Starspawn – Progressive atmospheric death metal
Jpefmafia — Black Ben Carson
– underground hiphop / experimental rap / trap
Cantique Lepreaux — Cendres Célestes
 – atmospheric black metal
Ultha — Converging Sins – atmospheric black metal / post-black metal
明日の叙景(Asunojokei) — 過誤の鳥 (A Bird in the Fault) – post-black metal/post-hardcore

7 to 8-

Khid — Ohi – experimental rap / trap
Baptism
— V: The Devil’s Fire – black metal
Jpefmafia — The 2nd Amendment
– underground hiphop / experimental rap / trap
Saor — Guardians
– atmospheric folk / black metal
Radiopuhelimet — Saastan Kaipuu
– melurock / finnish rock
Giraffe Tongue Orchestra — Broken Lines
– alternative metal / alternative rock

Monumental Folkish & Folk metal playlist

1. Fleurety – Fragmenter av en Fortid disappeared from Spotify just a while ago, it will be added back when it comes back around. Full-length Min tid skal komme from 1995 is the real jewel of their discography. One of many “lost” metal releases that many consider a classic but most people have never heard about. It’s definitely a must checkup for fans of folkish metal.

1. Fleurety’s place was taken by Pillorian, the newly formed line-up of ex-Agalloch John Haughm. After Agalloch split into two pieces in 2016, the remaining three members went to form Khôrada that is due to release their first album. Pillorian‘s 2017 release Obsidian Arc starts with it’s brightest spots, By the Light of a Black Sun (+ Archaen Divinity) should sate most Agalloch fans.

2. Fen is not a band that I’ve tracked, even though it’s similarities to Agalloch have been known to me since their first full-length Malediction Fields in 2009. It is only lately that I gave a true chance to their unpolished first album and it unveiled a real jewel in Lashed by Storm. The weak clean vocals in the very end are it’s only grey spot. Fen’s 2017 release Winter materialized on my listening cycle; it does have some very atmospheric sections but its also really-frigging-long (75 minutes!). I would deem it very possible that a track from it appears to my playlists later on.

3.-4. As a humble praise, Wilderun‘s Sleep at the Edge of Earth might be my favourite metal release of past 5 years. It has a glorious quaternity Ash Memory (trinity has 3, quaternity 4, yeah i just looked it up from google…), from which 2 well fitting tracks were chosen. Hope and Shadow (II), and the The Faintest Echo (IV). The traces in the beginning of Hope and Shadow that clip in this collection are from the 1st track of the quaternity. Wilderun really took care to make it a logical entity which I then disturbed!

The Faintest Echo’s 3.20 monumental symphonic centerpiece and outro of the quaternity is a prime example why Wilderun’s output doesn’t pale in comparison with any symphonic and folk metal bands of today.

5. Tore Hund is by Ivar Bjørnson & Einar Selvik’s Skuggsjá. It is a project by Enslaved and Wardruna veterans, which may run below radar cause of it’s eccentric name that sounds like artsy folk music. Well um, it is kind of that actually, in a lot of ways Skuggsja sounds more like folk with metal elements than the other way around. Though even the folkier tracks often have a heavy backbone that owes to metal and makes these two elements come together naturally.

6. In Zuriaake‘s Afterimage of Autumn‘s most stunning moment, the chorus of 歸兮 / Return Journey Zuriaake seamlessly adds a traditional sounding Chinese tremolo melody to a slow doomy basis. Unfortunately I could not pick the name of this guitar like string instrument as the booklet is all in Chinese (except track titles). Zuriaake’s black metal focuses on entwining natural atmospherics, ambience with very overdriven guitars and depressive black metal vibe. I also reviewed them in the past (https://likemusictoyourears.com/2016/01/26/zuriaake-afterimage-of-autumn).

7. October Falls is an interesting beast for their first promo was metal but three of the first four official releases were acoustic guitar driven material with a lot of natural ambience. Since then they’ve mostly strolled on the metallic grounds, always with quality but rarely with something that really catches my ears. A Collapse of Faith Part III, from 2010 A Collapse of Faith must be their best track to date. I must admit however that I have spent way too little time in adjusting to 2013, The Plague of a Coming Age. That ought to be my next listen.

8. The noise / drone wall of Sol InvictusEnglish Murder‘s intro make it a significantly difficult piece. But I am not making these collections for layman listeners quick fix. The controversy and paradox of a folk track being actually heavier and darker than the following metal track make it a juicy addon.

9. Logically following Sol Invictus is Agalloch, who have listed Sol Invictus as one of their big influences. Agalloch is one of the very first metal bands that I got into and surely the first folkish metal band. Yet in their sound progressive elements, post-rock and melancholia are also ever present. Limbs 10 minute brilliance is started by deliciously annoyingly long 10 second note after which it goes all post-rock. Climbing to mountains, descending into valleys and drifting among the transparent mist.

I do appreciate a well timed and set up grunt, John Haughm’s 6.35 effort is one of the prime examples! “These boughs were said to be lost! Torn, unearthed and broken –  IYRRRRRRRRRRRR”. What the fuck is he even singing about? There must be something to it as it inspires genuine sing-along grunting from yours truly. When it comes to grunting, Haughm is right up there with Thomas Gabriel Fischer.

10. Skyclad‘s past two albums haven’t been nearly as notable as most of their 12 full-lengths before them (many of them are masterpieces after all). I would only rate A Burnt Offering for the Bone Idol and No Daylights Not Heeltaps on level with the new albums. However, on In The… All Together from 2009 Skyclad formed possibly the best track of their career, The Well-Travelled Man. The vocalist Kevin Ridley is on fire, shouting half of the track. Lyrics and composition communicate perfectly into a folky, dramatic, upbeat, yet melancholic tune with a heart-wrenching ending. Wow.

Lykathea Aflame – Elvenefris

coverQuoting my thoughts some years ago while inspecting a random recommendation from Metal-archives. “What the hell, I’ve never heard of Lykathea Aflame and their album (Elvenefris) has a 96/100 rating with almost 20 reviews :O! This must be some fine progressive death metal”.

Nope. Instead Lykathea Aflame must be the most overrated band no one’s ever heard of. Did that make sense? No? Good, neither does most of the Elvenefris. Don’t get me wrong, it has plenty of great musicianship and heavy-duty barrage, I can understand why some people like it. But mainly, it’s a huge mishmash.

Many riffs on Elvenefris sound to be played at random, halting another riff, spiritual melody, section, or whatnot suddenly. These halts are almost always paired with brutally fast drumming. After that there’s four different random riffs and two melodies until they return to the main theme. Many of these placeholder riffs are sure nimble, but sound uninspired and, well, dumb. Some might point out: “isn’t that what proper progressive music sounds at first?” Yes, yes it does sound like that at first, but not after ~10 listens and a couple of years.

Actually, forget my musings and the rest of the review. Go rather read the 2nd and 3rd paragraphs of Lord_genghis review from Metal-archives, after finishing the review I found out he put everything I meant to say down a lot better than I could: http://www.metal-archives.com/reviews/Lykathea_Aflame/Elvenefris/7208/lord_ghengis/89436.

2884_logoIt does not help that growled vocals are just ok. They are supposed to remind of Lord Worm of Cryptopsy but to me Lord Worm has variety, craziness and ability to really engage into it when Ptoe of Lykathea Aflame just grunts away. Clean vocals are at best tolerable, spoken word sounds about as good as recording them yourself.

The beginning of the first track, Land Where Sympathy Is Air is a good example of what’s wrong. Technical riffing with quite typical but rather strong western “ethnic” melody, sudden riff change, continuation. At about 50 seconds it turns to a cut and paste mishmash constantly visited by the same annoyingly jumpy riff that first appeared at 22 seconds. These kind of technical short riff bursts that scale to higher notes, and on highest peak repeat from the start are present on Elvenefris all the time. Judging by the good ratings Elvenefris has gotten,  it seems it appeals certain people. But the appalling 1.38 casio bagpipe melodies cannot be excused, and it’s not the only occurence.

Sadness and Strength has the strongest individual moment, with the best melody of the album leading to a fine, albeit a bit comical, outro. The leading melody resembles some ethnic pipe instrument(?) and sounds a tad like something children’s music band like the Finnish Fröbelin Palikat might write for their more serious tracks. Before that there’s some tight playing and a really, really bad starting riff. A Step Closer has nearly none of the annoying elements and An Old Man and a Child has more memorable than frustrating bits. But there’s nothing that really makes me want to tune them in again.

The crown jewel of the album is the 11 minute b-movie cinematic outro Walking in the Garden of Ma’at with fucking birds chirping all over the place ALL-THE-TIME. It would be atmospheric if the sounds didn’t remind me too much of Intel four-eighty-six processors.

4/10

Music Quickies – Paradox, Deathspell Omega, Wilderun, Barren Earth

Paradox – Pangea (2016)

573798These old thrash raptors are on the chase (2nd track Raptor, Jurassic Park)! In their manhunt (5th track Manhunt, Rambo) for the second best thrash album of 2016 with Blaakyum’s Line of Fear. Which one comes 2nd then?  I really cannot say but both are really positive surprises.

However, 6th track Cheat & Pretend is an offshot, and by 9th and 10th tracks, Alien Godz (Prometheus) and El Muerte, the biggest joy is gone. 59 minutes is too much for a thrash album, these three tracks could have easily been left out. The younger cosmic-rogues, Vektor still hold the cataclysm force (1st track Apophis, Stargate).

Solid album nevertheless, I had no idea speed metal heritage could still sound fresh!


Deathspell Omega – The Synarchy of Molten Bones (2016)
deathspellomegaarvosteludeathspell-omega-the-synarchy-of-molten-bones-e1475279012978Quote is from their last.fm wall. Free form jazz is a pretty good explanation why I have a hard time appreciating some of Deathspell Omega’s latest efforts. I feel they do hit right notes but I much prefer when they actually try to compose a song instead of section1->section2->section3->section4->section5->section6->section7->section8->section9->section10->section11->section12->section13…

Over random sections there’s vocals that do not really correlate with the music except in a sense that they are quite crazy too. On the other hand, how could you vocalize over this? I guess it’s as good an effort as any.

On Paracletus there were songs that had a more approachable structure and hooks. Quite a few of those hooks were memorable and the album is a solid entity. But Drought and Synarcy are just a mess.

Deathspell Omega is definitely experimental which is why I’d hope that they would realize not to run the damn clean guitar sound above everything on all of these three records. Perhaps Synarchy needs more time to fruition. 4 listens within a month merely crosses my irritation threshold.


Wilderun – Sleep at the Edge of The Earth (2015)

492322Simply the best album to come out in 2015, I have yet to find it’s equal from 2016 either.

Try it if you do not hate any of the following:
metal
symphonic
folk (dibbly-dabbly beerfolk excluded)
clean vocals
guitars
cinematic music



Barren Earth – On Lonely Towers (2015)
onlonelytowersp19com8m781mjt11t431p1i4to4m4The title track On Lonely Towers is the centerpiece of Barren Earth’s 2015 album and welcomes them back into form after the disappointingly tame The Devil’s Resolve (2012).

On Lonely Towers is somewhere between their first album Curse of the Red River (2010) and The Devil’s Resolve on heaviness scale. It’s not a deathdoom-donkey or blastbeat-beaver but occasionally uses both of these tricks to its advantage. Unlike some sections of The Devil’s Resolve it does not sound like Opeth’s Heritage. Unlike some sections of the Curse of the Red not a Swallow The Sun copy either.

Especially welcoming is the great vocal performance by the Faroe Island native Jón Aldará (Hamfero). That is not to say the previous vocalist Mikko Kotamäki (Swallow The Sun) didn’t do a good job on previous albums, but the more powerful voice of Aldará is a really welcome change.

On Lonely Towers, is a true gem of a track and none other ecplises it. The crooked and deliciously sung Shapeless Derelict and Chaos, The Songs Within, are also A class progressive metal. Frozen Processions and Howl are good examples of melodies and progressive twists that make some people deem Barren Earth “Amopeth”.

Persefone – Spiritual Migration – Andorra

366353As proficient as the guys in Persefone are with their instruments, Spiritual Migration, released in 2013, suffers from swelling. It has an incredible amount of content which can only be described as “stuff”. Ranging from 6(!) instrumentals to about 1 000 000 extra notes. I enjoy extra notes as much as anyone and there’s a lot to like in the details, but compositions should have more to say.

Persefone are from Andorra, they’ve released four albums since 2001, which all seem to have a massive theme around them. A new album Aathma is due to come out 2017, Spiritual Migration is the latest released record.

You can hardly blame people who have been fooled about the quality of the record (88 %, in Metal Archives). Well, first of all it is a quality record (duh). The production is top notch, instruments are very clear in the mix and still have so much power. Flying Sea Dragons is a great intro,  the beginning of the first real track Mind as Universe promises an unforgettable ride for progressive metal fanatics with some pretty full thrash riffing before sudden breaks and keyboards getting in the mix.

It is only with further listens that one notices that Mind as Universe, albeit a good track, does not really have much when it comes to song-writing. Lots of fine details; but the only thing one is bound to remember is the thrash riff that’s most visible in the first seconds and the twisted outro riff that’s arguably the best of the album. This is the whole album in a nutshell.

The growling / grunted vocals do they job with some emotion. The clean vocals may be a bit amateurish but the singer Moe Espinosa does have a rather unique sound, and the slight Spanish accent (is it insulting to call an Andorran accent Spanish?) actually sounds really pleasant. In the beginning I felt clean vocals was one of the weakest links of Persefone, but pervertedly on further listens they turned to one of the features I most enjoy.

What do I remember from the album then? Very impressive instrumentation, you gotta give credit for the ambitious approach. The Majestic of Gaia works great as an individual piece, most notably its last 2.5 minutes of epic song-writing with just the right amount of extra dibbling. Inner Fullness has a brilliant solo and emotive rhythmic chorus with some dual work from the vocalists and really fitting massive instrumentation. Outro is a memorable instrumental that sounds like a more somber part of a Japanese Anime-film. Returning to the Source has some of the most interesting bits with a solo that could almost be classified crazy, the rhythmics are wickedly unexpected. Unfortunately the end track turns really repetitive.

As apparent from the instrumentals and these high points Persefone handles epic melodies and movielike atmospheres very well. I seem to have pointed a lot of negatives. On my defense that is because Spiritual Migration has A LOT of high points that make it an enjoyable ride. When Persefone focuses into song writing without mixing too much stuff in it, they sound pretty damn good. Not many 7/10 albums have me expecting a new album so eagerly.

7/10