As one of the most awaited releases of 2020, today we have Norwegian Vikings Enslaved and their latest musical opus: “Utgard”. Continuing their musical evolution into more textured and proggy territories, this release delivers over 45 minutes of captivating music that perfectly blends their signature heavier onslaughts with their more delicate and intricate experimental constructs. If you have enjoyed everything the band has put out since “Axioma Ethica Odini”, this release continues this awesome transformation.
With a very mystical opening, “Fires In The Dark” delivers the band’s signature interplay of guitars alongside a combination of multiple vocal styles, creating a very lush and expansive melodic sound. Grutle’s signature snarl, nicely blends with the clean counter parts of Håkon Vinje and Iver Sandøy, particularly on tracks like “Jettegryta” where the heavier passages lead way to crafty and elegant melodic and proggy interludes. Other songs deliver the band’s traditional catchiness like the melancholic “Sequence”, which combines some funktastic bass lines alongside generous atmospheric elements.
Unraveling part two of their cinematic masterpiece “Phanerozoic”, today we have Germany’s The Ocean (Collective) with 50-plus minutes of captivating music. Split in eight gargantuan tracks, this release keeps the same dramatic and larger-than-life vibe from the previous release while introducing a few new elements into the fold. If you like the band’s previous releases, you will instantly enjoy this blistering release.
Opening with “Triassic”, we are immediately immersed into the band’s subtle instrumentation with calming guitars and a very mellow and hypnotic pace. The first thing that stands out is Loïc Rossetti’s use of different vocal styles, in this track using some effects to add versatility to his already signature style. This is actually one of the biggest differences in this release as there is a lot more use of clean vocals (“Jurassic | Cretaceous” and “Eocene”) and
When bands and musicians say the experiment in their music only to please themselves, there is always that lingering concern that holds them back to truly revolutionize their sound to avoid upsetting their fans. Ihsahn is one of those that keeps true to his vision and always pushes the boundaries of his sound to please his creative endeavors, and “Pharos” is the latest example of this. Featuring three original songs and two covers, this release explores Progressive Rock/Metal territories while still delivering some of his signature staples.
The release opens with “Losing Altitude”, a track that reminds us of “After” but with a more definite Proggy vibe and no harsh vocals. The vocal and atmospheric arrangements are brilliant and quite neat, perfectly paired with Ihsahn signature guitar riffs and crispy distortion. Delivering serious Haken vibes, “Spectre at the Feast” is another exploratory piece with lush atmospheric arrangements, a pulsating bass guitar line and soaring vocals.
After receiving what seems to be hundreds of Black Metal albums every week, it is quite refreshing we get some solid Progressive Metal from Germany with Assignment. As the band’s fifth full-length release, “Reflections” delivers nearly one hour of polished music filled with soaring vocal melodies and crafty instrumentation. Flying under the radar in North America, this band has some serious musical chops and they should get more exposure with this excellent release.
Following a dramatic instrumental opener, “Merciful Angel” showcases the band firing on all cylinders right off the gate. Pairing intricate drum patterns, powerful guitar riffs and the signature vocals of Diego Valdez, this track crafts a high-octane pace that never slows down as the band pummels through “Obsession” and “Corporate Men”. On the album title track we get a very powerful ballad-esque piece with a superb vocal duet and lush atmospheric enhancements, changing the pace of the album and providing a window into the band’s musical depth.
For some reason a band like Opeth and their newest Progressive/Psychedelic antics, while great sounding, they usually put us to sleep. Contrastingly, Greece’s Hail Spirit Noir and their latest newfound Psychedelic/Progressive endeavors incite a great level of curiosity and engagements from us. Unleashing “Eden in Reverse”, the band delivers a mixture of their weird avant-gardeness of their earlier days and trippy Proggy/Psych brilliance, perfectly delivered in seven tracks and nearly 45 minutes of captivating music.
The album opens up with the more traditional old-school Prog/Space rock of bands like Hawkwind and Magnum on pieces like “Darwining Beasts” and “Incense Swirls”. While catchy, we didn’t really get turned fully into the release until “Alien Lip Reading” comes in with a certain weird Solefald sounding angle, creating captivating guitar melodies and hypnotic vocal arrangements. This track nicely turns the release into a very interesting and completely trippy experience as it sounds like your old prog/space rock, but with a fresher and more dynamic edge.
After taking a brief hiatus a few years ago, Katatonia has returned with their signature melancholic Progressive/Alternative Rock and Metal mix with “City Burials”. As one of their most accessible and darker releases in recent years, this album delivers eleven tracks and nearly 50 minutes of highly emotional music with the band’s signature sound. If you are into the mellower side of things, this release is the perfect backdrop for a quiet evening of quarantine.
The release opens with the moody vibes of “Heart Set to Divide” and “Behind the Blood”, both tracks nicely frame Jonas Renkse emotive vocals with nice atmospherics and heavy guitars. More experimental elements are used on songs like “Lacque” and “Vanishers”, which show an interesting electronic undertone, similar to what Anathema tried on their last release. Other tracks just deliver the oozing melancholy achieved by lush vocal melodies and weeping guitars like “Rein”.
With Roy Khan reviving Conception back in 2018, the band took a while to deliver their return full-length “State of Deception”. Delivering around 40 minutes of music, this release has that old Kamelot vibe with a few sprinkles of Evergrey and Queensrÿche. The nine tracks here are catchy and engaging and will surely be loved by Roy Khan fans, as his vocals take front and center to solid songwriting skills and crafty arrangements.
After the mood setting intro, the album kicks off with the hard rocking “Of Raven and Pigs”, a track that starts a bit slow and it takes a while to settle with its lush vocal melodies and crafty guitars. With “Waywardly Broken”, the band goes into that Power/Progressive Metal vibe that we were expecting, thanks to the lively vocal leads and lush atmospheric keyboards. Thankfully, “No Rewind” continues this mood with dynamic guitars and crafty tempo changes, making it one of our favorite songs in this release.
Unleashing a very unique musical concoction of Progressive elements mixed in with Death/Black Metal, today we have Bay Area’s newcomers Dawn of Ouroboros and their full-length release “The Art of Morphology”. With over 40 minutes of crafty music, this release showcases plenty of musical talent and creativity paired with a high-octane delivery and intensity. If you are a fan of creative music that blends genres together and delivers high-replay value, this is the album for you.
Opening with the dreamy intro to “Revivified Spirits”, the band quickly shifts into 5th gear with brutal onslaughts of harsh vocals, violent drumming and intense riffing, showing off their versatility from the start. With a certain jazzy and proggy vibe, “Pinnacle Induced Vertigo” is one of those playful tracks that nicely transitions into the mood setting instrumental “Gateway to Tenebrosity”. Fronted by Chelsea Murphy, the band’s sound is perfectly suited for her mixed use of demonic harsh screams and angelic clean vocals as the ethereal “Lunar Cathexis” contrasts.
With most bands happy to just crank out full-length after full-length releases, Black Metal pioneer Ihsahn decided to challenge himself and do the opposite: break up a full-length release and deliver it as two EP’s. In “Telemark” we can hear some of his most rawest and direct compositions in quite a while, showing that this experiment has allowed Ihsahn to focus on the duality of his sound in compartmentalized approaches.
The incisive opener “Stridig” perfectly balances raw and punishing BM onslaughts with trippy Saxophone elements and a very dreamy and yet aggressive stance. With all the lyrics in Norwegian, this track has a brilliant pace and feels like yet another exploratory dimension to Ihsahn’s unique musical vision. With a bluesy aggression to it, “Nord” perfectly combines heavy riffs with crafty tempo changes and a sultry hypnotic pace thanks to a piercing bass guitar line and sinister drum patterns.
If you can imagine what Kayo Dot, Maudlin of the Well, Ephel Duath and Subterranean Masquerade would sound all blended together, then you would get close to just how expansive In Human Form sounds. Unleashing their three-songs, 49 minute opus “III”, this band pushes all boundaries into completely new dimensions and creates some of the most unique sounding Metal we have ever heard.
The release opens with the 18-minute tour de force “Apocrypha Carrion”, where the band starts off with furious guitar riffs and a very intense pace. The screamed vocals are quite hectic and very fitting for such chaotic music, but what really draws the listener is the funky subtle tempo changes mixed in with some more drastic near full-stop switches. We particularly enjoy the jazzy elements that transition the song’s multiple movements from chaos, to lush beauty and down the rabbit hole again.