Is this a good single or what! Haken’s last three releases Affinity (2016), Restoration (2014) and The Mountain (2013) are among the very best progressive metal/rock releases of the 2000s. Haken is about to release a new album Vector October 26th. First single The Good Doctor really ups the expectations.
Riff driven, memorable melodies, funky bass groove… Haken is a multifaceted band but I’m glad they are embracing their riff driven metal side. The musical theatrics of Crystallised and Cockroach King, occasional worship of Dream Theater or 80s prog rock of Affinity is not on the forefront. Rhythmic mid-part reminds quite a lot of one of their killer tracks In Memoriam from The Mountain. It’s still pretty damn neat. The way it flows seamlessly back to now heavier double-kicking bridge that leads to chorus really makes sparks fly inside my mind.
Two of the best progressive metal bands at the moment are Haken and Vektor. Therefore I do not think it is coincidence that Hakens new album will be named Vector. The title of Vektor’s next album is still unannounced, but I bet it will be called Hacen!
Progressive 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.
Best music just now, Aether Realm (melodic death metal), Iglooghost (some crazy wonky electronic artist), Carpenter Brut (synthwave/retrowave), Radien (sludge metal) & Saimaa (Finnish progressive poprock for sportsmen).
Æther Realm – Tarot (2017)
My face when I was listening to a random rather praised American metal band that turns out sounding a lot like a mixture of Wintersun, Insomnium, Ensiferum and Kalmah. And they do this Finnish melodeath thing supremely fucking well. Every other year I lose my hope on ever finding really good melodeath anymore, then I am proven wrong…
If you don’t like bright complex electronic music, you might still dig this crazy Irish guy. Must be a love it or hate it artist. As a very raw definition one could say Iglooghost combines IDM, trip-hop / wonky, breakcore, dubstep and bright and fucked up vocal sounds. It has also been called a maximalist album which fits really well as there’s a shit ton of stuff happening.
Once more I didn’t know music like this could exist and be so goddamn logical and mind-boggling at the same time.
I am almost ashmed on how much I dig Neo Wax Bloom, the album does not wear out with tens of listens. Bug Thief is the best electronic track of 2017, hands down. The background story is also worth a mention: “It’s a story about a void named “Mamu” and its destruction by two falling eyeballs. “… OK OK.
Radien – Maa (2016)
Finnish sludgepulverizing. Very hypnotic, mostly based on gigantic riffs, but Radien also flourishes in good spareful use of melodies. Even if you don’t speak Finnish, this is a supreme release. Also free to download from bandcamp!
Carpenter Brut – Leather Teeth (2018)
I am not as taken aback with Leather Teeth, as I’d like to. I expected it to be a full time heavy as shit electronic retrowave joyblast like Trilogy but… It is good but the ridiculously strong melodic themes are not as apparent as on Trilogy. On some tracks like the title track everything sticks together like it should. Bringing in two great vocalists in Ulver’s Kristoffer Rygg and Beastmilk/Grave Pleasures Mat McNerney also helps the case.
Saimaa – Urheilu-Suomi (2018)
Finnish progressive poprock with full-on sports theme. A lot of 70s/80s resembling instrumental material infused with nostalgic clips from the past, and spoken word sections that somehow remind of electronic occult band Tähtiportti. The totality sums as a really competitive album. It is really not just a classic rock album, but nearly a big-band album too. There’s an array of wind and bowed string instruments and synths. I don’t think a mixture like this has ever been made.
There’s a lot of humour like the over of the top hero story Kuningas (footballer Jari Litmanen). 99 % of the album is really far from normal depressive Aki Kaurismäki like Finnish music tones. Yet out of the blue Saimaa crafts a supremely touching track in Suo Porkka ja Suksi. It tells the tragic story of cross-country skier Mika Myllylä like a Kalevala poem. If you want just instrumental goodness, I recommend the crazy bass leads of Pikataipale.
Even the first part of the double album is too long (77 minutes), hence I made a better 41 minute version of it to a Spotify playlist under this paragraph. You are welcome Saimaa, next time maybe hire me ;)?
Finnish oddball instrumental progressive folk group The Solar Apparatus released their first full-length album in 2016. While the basis has a lot of stuff happening and a lot to like, the entity is still hard to distinguish from elevator music. It would actually work well in elevators or in an art gallery yet it lacks memorability, even though it seems different melodies and instruments are continuously introduced from the “rainbow rollercoaster” (like they describe themselves, not at all unwell). The traditional rock instruments are paired with for example violin, pleasant harmonica and harmless soaring from a feel good family movie, with oh so much major key. It works well as a background music to daily activities fading away to background.
Before The Solar Apparatus arrange themselves a vocalist or evolve and tighten their compositions, I’m afraid they fail to captivate me. There’s lot of effort to reach for the stars but the melodies fail to reach the galactic level, often drifting somewhere between the celestial bodies. But as they are, they really could find people in the world music terrain that are captivated. They would fit right in to a young, urban hipster, hippie or underground festival kind of bright celebration where young yuppies, hippies, vegans and junkies dance their worries away stoned or high on craft beer (Wicker Man, World Village Festival, Flow, Sideways etc.).
I hate to negate small releases and obscure bands that do a lot of things right, but when it comes to my subjective opinions about music that should be straight from my alleyway, “pretty nice” is just not good enough.
But there’s merit even I can fathom. The playfulness of the track names is amusing. Golis Zefin’s sinister piano interlude is refreshing alteration. Remembrance and Ametisti have nice 70s prog touches in riffing, but are too long a compositions. Actually the same goes to pretty much every other track too. Elffin’s is another two-sided beast, the first half is extremely unforgettable neo-prog that does not seem to go anywhere until it is forcefully transformed into a post-rocky bright outro reminding of trance uplifts. The melodies are strong and would surely appeal in a live setting.
But the best pieces are served already in the beginning duality. A tranquilly progressive piano piece Seed and crunchy riffing Everleaf hit close to the mark. Uncoincidentally they are also the shortest pieces without idling. Man, these guys must have listened to another Finnish oddball group Taipuva Luotisuora. Their influences definitely sprout from the same tree though Taipuva Luotisuora has more progressive elements and a lot more Kingston Wall present.
To end on a positive note, The Solar Apparatus is certainly a band with plenty of potential. They could unveil something classic in the future, they have the elements and the abilities. But that time is not on their 2016 release. Keep your eyes open.
As 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.
When I was a kid in the middle of the 1990s, the kids who were serious about rock and metal listened bands like Metallica, Iron Maiden, Kingston Wall and Guns n’ Roses. I always thought Kingston Wall was one of those big-selling ass-kicking rock bands. And backwards thinking I should have been more right.
Kingston Wall should have been there, but there are errors in the world. Kingston Wall has all the qualities of the household major rock bands, except the major thing, and that isn’t the quality of music. They were never properly advertised and their music was not spread by a huge corporation. Their albums were first released by their front man Petri Walli’s own company Trinity. Afterwards they’ve been released by multiple different companies, the first rerun being years after the band had broken up, 1998. Also, they were very 60s in the forwards thinking 90s, and hard to copy.
Still they became “the” progressive rock group in Finland after Wigwam. Almost all Finnish persons who are interested in rock and metal have had their Kingston Wall phase. They’ve been a massive influence to Finnish musicians, one of the most notable being Amorphis (and pretty much every progressive rock or progressive metal group since the 2000s).
Kingston Wall was masterminded by a charismatic and extremely talented vocalist and guitarist Petri Walli. The other two core members were Jukka Jylli (bass) and Sami Kuoppamäki (drums). In fact Sami Kuoppamäki was their 3rd drummer who joined the band when they had already played over 60 gigs (with Petteri Ståhl 1987-1989 and Timo “Tinde” Joutsimäki 89-90).
They released three albums from 1992 to 1994. They broke up in 94 and Petri Walli went on to finalize their career by killing himself in 1995. He was a very interesting, almost manic depressive figure. In the spring of 2014 a book about him and the career of Kingston Wall was released by Like (http://like.fi/kirjat/kingston-wall/). I cannot recommend it enough, though so far it is only in Finnish (Feb 2016).
I (1992), II (1993) and III Tri-Logy (1994)
II, is generally considered the best album. I is a classic first album in a sense that it has a bunch of tracks from various time periods of the band. III incorporates elements of electronic music being clearly the weirdest and hardest to approach. At the time Walli was heavily influenced by his trips to India and Ior Bock’s Saga which pretty much based Finland as the centre of the world, spoke for the virtue of “save and not spill ones semen or female ejacula”, and based a lot for word alterations which were made to find the basis of the word (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ior_Bock#Outline_of_the_Bock_Saga + see the last song Alt – land – is on the bottom which explains the basics of this belief).
All 3 are solid albums but II is the Master of Puppets, Appetite for Destruction or Number of the beast of Kingston Wall.
Apparently Kingston Wall was a very tight live band. Biggest strength was to have a lot of variety, strong themes and a freedom to improvise combined with a lot of musicianship. They for example hosted their own “FreakOut” clubs were they did everything but stick to previously decided song lists.
Big part on why they are so good in the albums is that they played live for years before their first official recording. The bassist Jukka Jylli said that the tracks in their first album are just one versions of the songs. He did not even listen the album after its creation because he didn’t want to learn to play the tracks some certain way, there had to be freedom to improvise. They played only one gig outside of Finland (Tallinn).
Kingston Wall is not a classy, but ultimately hard to reach progressive rock band. They have a lot of psychedelia but also supremely catchy melodies and songs with easier structures. Their tracks are filled with hooks and catchiness. Never still losing the progressive edge and packing a lot of elements from Asian music. The way a hinterland Finnish band incorporates mysticism from Asia with hooks and instrumental proficiency is ludicrous really. But the tracks stay superbly interesting and the sounds are top notch for its time.
For me, Kingston Wall is easily better than any of the bands mentioned in the first paragraph. Strangely their biggest hits are also among their best. Here are few recommendations.
Jimi Hendrix cover – Fire (I, listen the drummer Sami Kuoppamäki go berserk, Petri Walli once said that “if Sami realized how good he is, his head would explode”).
We cannot move (II), one of their best and catchiest tunes with lots of Middle-Eastern influence.
A ballad Shine On Me (II):
If you want to start from a more difficult bit. Here is the The Real Thing (III), an 18 minute long opus:
Alt – land – is (III) – explains the basics of the odd mythlogy Bock’s Saga, which Walli used as the backbone of their album III Tri-Logy
The first MonuMental Progressive Collection playlist starts with suitably uncommercial Finnish Progressive rock, advances to black metal and finally ends with modern breakcore classics. It’s idea is to progress naturally from genre to genre and also ramp up the quality track-after-track. It is a challenging ride, but when you are in contact with masterpieces, that’s what you bound to get.
1. For someone whose mother tongue is not Finnish the first track Kuha. – Tohtori Krabolan Telekineettinen testilaboratorio (From Telekineettinen Testilaboratorio, 2005) might seem like an odd bit. To be honest it was a slow starter for me as well. But from that Kuha. emerged as the best pure progressive rock band in Finland since Kingston Wall.
2. Dillinger Escape Plan‘s best instrumental, always surprising When Acting as a Wave (From Ire Works, 2007) serves as a small bridge to Chapter I: Introverting Dimensions by The Fall of Troy (From Phantom On The Horizon, 2008).
3. I know what you are thinking here, what is that half-emo band doing on a metal playlist. But that’s the thing, they are only half-emo, the other half is firmly rooted in Progressive rock, and most so on their EP Phantom On The Horizon. Give it a listen and you will see. Thomas Erak’s guitar playing is truly mesmerizing. At some point you may get mixed up and think you are listening to bastard cousin of The Mars Volta instead of an emo band.
4. A Prophet For a Pound of Flesh by Forest of Stars (From A Shadowplay for Yesterdays, 2012) is the first step to metal. On of the many bands who builds their flavour from black metal but has grown a vast amount of tentacles since their first efforts.
5. The Fecal Rebellionis by Mirrorthrone (From Gangrene, 2008) which is one of many Vladimir Cochet’s project. This one man powerhouse has such an amount of talent it is ridiculous. All his projects have only a few albums which I must take as the main reason of the fact that he has only advanced to cult classic status so far. If you mix modern classic music with complex black metal this is something you may get. Plus there’s harpsichord!
Waters of Ain by Watain (From Lawless Darkness, 2010) is a track that leaves me speechless every time. For me, this is the ultimate black metal track, mixing elements of black metal, progressive rock, Celtic frost and heavy metal perfectly. It is everything.
6. The only way to top Waters of Ain is to abandon metal completely with Venetian Snares – Integraation (From My Downfall (Original Soundtrack), 2007). Integraation is from Aaron Funk’s neoclassical releases where he mixes complex electronic beats with classical music elements. Also at best Integraation is actually as heavy as any metal track.
7. Venetian Snares – Miss Balaton (Bonus track) (From Detrimentalist, 2008). I know you aren’t supposed to put two songs of the same artist into a compilation. Whateva I do what I want. In truth I could not exclude Miss Balaton as it is even better than Integraation and fits perfectly after it. I won’t even start describing the goosebumps.
P.S. The playlist originally had Kuha.’s 25 minute Kalifi Myy Mustaa Valoa as a starter but it is not in Spotify.
Iranon, a one man project of Luc Messina is a promising psychedelic electronic outlet with spacerock influences. The main man not only does the music but also the stunning artworks. Just look it, it’s beautiful.
So far Iranon has released 1 album, Painting The Sound in 2011 (+ individual tracks on compilations). The album starts with its title track, ambience and a very Ozric Tentacles like bass riff. Cannot start a record with much more promise than this.
It is followed by some amazing Vangelis-vibe ambience and pretty piano melody and soon classy guitar leads. The guitar sound has a bit of a demo-feel but the structure and melodies are near top-class. In the end-track the guitar turns into some classy bass groove. Very nicely constructed.
After the first cut, it is painstakingly clear why the album got its title from Painting The Sound. While rest of the tracks fail to utterly disappoint, they just cannot reach to the standard set by Painting The Sound. Hell, I really thought i’d have a masterwork on my hands. For example, while I’m still mood peaking from the awesomeness of first track, Arctic Oasis is classy and Civilized Insects sympathetic but they’re more based on repetition than growth. It may have its fans but I feel the main themes fail to stay interesting enough.
It is also about the dynamics and setting a standard. When an album fills your ears with an enlightening 9/10 track, the next 6/10-7/10 tracks fail to satiate.
By the end of the record the spacerock vibes are fewer and the main element is painted electronic soundscapes and atmospheres. Tracks take a notable time to start and require patience and right mindset. Sound balancing also has more problems in the end album, sometimes tracks have quiet ambience that suddenly elevates into loudness. Thus the last three tracks require more volume or headphones to really open up. Especially the last track, Polar Tribes. The quiet ambients become that much more entertaining.
Painting the Sound is a pretty good effort but the album fails to live to the expectations set by the great first track. But boy, is the first track promising. If psychedelic electronic or spacerock are your things, I’ll definitely suggest you to give it a spin. Iranon should have more than just 1 great track per album to offer in the future.
Avant-garde progressive rock with doom metal influences
Being a big fan of obscure rock music, but not having many glimpses to prog bands, let alone avant-garde prog, Blueprint Human Being’s Heaven is all -ep made a huge impression on me some years ago. The band is best known as a sideproject of only a bit better known Finnish doom trio, Garden of Worm, which is exactly the way this quartet came to my attention.
Heaven is all consists of 5 tracks, one being a noise outro track and one a short instrumental passage. But the three main tracks make this a fine entity. Especially Vojaganto and Hotelli Kognitio: b. Carrots in the Garden of Worm have an incredible groove. The singing in the record ranges from mediocre to weak and plain odd, but luckily the album largely consists of instrumental sections. When you can overcome the singing and concentrate on the obscure guitar lines, melodies and wicked rhythms, this is an almost throughoutly enjoyable release.
After all these years, the record is still available for purchase on a label Paradigms-recordings. So if you are into progressive rock music and can stand some oddities – this could be something for you. At least download and listen to the sample 11 minute track Vojaganto.