Just when you think a band that you really like will be heading downhill after replacing their vocalist, the band comes back with one epic release easing all concerns. Luckily for us, this is the case for In the Woods… and their latest opus “Diversum”. Blowing people's minds back in the mid to late 90’s with the evolution of their Black Metal roots to Avant-garde Metal territories, the band came back to life in 2014 with three of the band’s original members and a new vocalist which was quickly replaced by the super talented James Fogarty of Ewigkeit/Old Forest fame.
The band’s clean vocals have always been one of their staple elements and luckily on the band’s return ‘Mr Fog’ was able to hold his own and added to the band’s sound with his own unique style. Replacing him was a tall order however, with Bernt Fjellestad the band’s sound is even more epic than before. From the opener “The Coward’s Way” to the majestic “Moment”, we are quickly impressed with the soaring clean vocals and their transition to harsh screams. The music greatly adds to the overall feeling of elation thanks to its crafty proggy and yet heavy nature, with some piercing Black Metal-ish riffs that weirdly fit perfectly.
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.
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.
Fully embracing and developing their Progressive Metal/Rock sound, Opeth as embarked on a journey in their last few releases to discover and create an own cohesive sound. With “In Cauda Venenum”, the band seems to be nicely settled and delivers ten lush tracks that showcase their impressive progress in this genre. Released in both Swedish and English, this album is quite a treat to enjoy if you are a fan of the genre and bands like Leprous and Haken but with a funky Psychedelic punch to them.
After setting a trippy mood with the opener “Garden of Earthly Delights”, the band starts their proggy journey with the funky “Dignity”. Featuring an intricate bass guitar line and psychedelic synths and eerie vocal arrangements, this track nicely showcases the band’s craftiness. Mikael Åkerfeldt’s clean vocals are a very nice complement to the music’s craftsmanship on tracks like “Heart In Hand” and “Next of Kin”. We particularly enjoy how the band shifts tempos and hooks the listener with subtle details between transitions.
We just had to wait 11 year for a new full length release, from personal favorite band Noekk. On the bright side, I guess “Waltzing in Obscurity” did take one year less to be released than the time between Empyrium albums. Led by Markus Stock and Thomas Helm, this band is the proggier/psychedelic outlet from Empyrium, as you can hear some minimal influences in this and their previous release. However, this band is a very different outfit with a heavier and trippier edge to its music.
Opening with the album title track, we have a folky opening that evolves into lush vocal arrangements and a retro vibe with its intricate synths. We particularly love that dramatic sound created by the powerful distorted guitars and the clean vocals around the 5 minute mark, which reminds us of Empyrium very quickly. That being the last comparison with their partner band, the album progresses with the psychedelic brilliance of “Perseus” and its superb instrumentation. The drum crash cymbals are just amazingly produced, and are perfectly contrasted with the funky retro synths, making for one hell of a song.
After their brilliant and lively debut “This is the Sound” back in 2017, Cellar Darling quickly established themselves as one of the most promising up-and-coming Folk Metal/Rock bands in the scene. With “The Spell”, the band builds up on their earlier sound and turns into more Progressive territories with 13 superbly crafted tracks. Featuring a wide variety of folk elements , the super talents of Anna Murphy on vocals, and proven song-writing capabilities, the band delivers one of the best releases of their genre in 2019.
Opening with “Pain”, we notice and instant shift into darker and more progressive territories. The band continues to deliver their signature lush vocal arrangements, but in a more conservative and yet engaging manner. As “Death” and “Love” roll in, the band’s sound feels like a combination of Kari Rueslåtten’s folkier works with Anneke van Giersbergen’s charisma and sense of melody. This is quite a killer combination we have to say, however, of course Cellar Darling imprints their own ideas and style in the mix.
It is rare for us to find a release that is just so catchy that we drop everything else we have to review and focus 100% on it. Luckily for us, The Moor’s latest album “Jupiter’s Immigrants” falls in this very elusive category. Delivering nine brilliant and super melodic tracks, this Italian band managed to capture our undivided attention for hours on end. Mixing Progressive Metal and Rock elements, this album will captivate you since the first few seconds until the last note.
Opening with the highly melodic riffing of “Lead the Difference”, the band’s vocal melodies are what hooks you right in. Reminding us a bit of Edu Falaschi’s Almah, this band does a super job in oozing melody and catchines as we can hear in the album’s titled track. Packed with hefty dose of heavy riffs, subtle atmospheric keyboards and the guest appearance of Mikael Stanne, this title track is hands down one of the best songs of 2018.
Unleashing a very lively proggy release with “Aeon Chaser”, Norway’s Oberon self-labels their music a Gnostic Rock and they are not very far from the truth. Exploring a wide palette of sounds in their 11 songs, the band perfectly pairs acoustic passages with tons of atmospheric elements alongside a Progressive/Folk Rock core. In a similar vein than bands like Anathema, this release contains very well crafted songs that have a high replay value.
Opening with the dreamy “Omega”, we are instantly taken on a very trippy journey with songs that remind us of outfits like Yes and Marillion. The band’s progressive core allows them to craft intricate songs like “Walk in Twilight”, “The Secret Fire” and “Surrender” filled with memorable guitar melodies and soaring vocal arrangements. For those that like dreamier songs, “To Live to Die” crafts a very delicate atmosphere that nicely progresses as layers of additional elements like subtle piano arrangements are introduced.