If you’re wanting something progressive metal wise that has some atmospheric punch about its ways, then you might want to get your head around Sacramento based band Sages who are looking to show of their experimentation as well as their technical prowess with their latest record ‘Sleepwalker’.
Opening up with the poignant track ‘What The Hell’, it gives you an immediate insight into what to expect from the band. The tremolo picking of the guitars during the choruses behind the open chord elements mixed with the vocal harmonies make this such a pleasant album opener for the group. It can get a bit hypnotising at some points with the softer elements of the track that help accentuate the vocal key when he really forces his tone out. As it moves into the next few tracks, the lead guitar gets a bit more time to shine with the opening guitar licks provided by ‘With You’ which invokes a bit more spacial element in the sound of its lead guitar. The choruses of this band are where they excel as they sound so full of life and flavour, but they also use a bit of electronic/programming in some of the tracks to make it feel that much more special such as in the song ‘Come With Me’ that uses some orchestral section in the intro and what sounds like a toy box sound during parts of the verses which gives it their own characteristic.
As well as this, the band are definitely living up to their progressive metal nature. With the djent punches of the title track amongst a cleaner and more reverb centric guitar lead, the band show how they can fit into parts of the genre that seem to be very ‘paint by numbers’ with that guitar technique. What really makes this band shine is their much more anthem-like production within the longer tracks like ‘Save Yourself’ and ‘Wasting Away’ that are able to help hold your attention for longer, as well as their abilities to switch up the tracks slightly as to not get stale over time and give you another chance to be mesmerised by what they have been able to achieve. It puts this release up their with bands such as TesseracT and Periphery with their more awareness on how to take in many encompassing sounds and make the album as a whole work superbly. A highlight of the record is the ever so groovy ‘Up To The Sky’ that showcases more of the vocalists screams and, whilst it can feel quite minimalist in its approach, separates the record quite nicely.
This record is a surefire way to show you what the upcoming progressive rock and metal scene is doing and a very good showcase of when a band does it to a superb scale. If you haven’t heard of Sages before, now is the time to start listening!
The band have been described as mixing Prog Rock, Alternative and Dark Rock to create their individual style which is conveyed through the course of the album. This album was self-produced and mixed by Forrester Savell(Dead Letter Circus, Karnivool, Twelve Foot Ninja).
Singer Nikki Layne and guitarist Doug Mecca said on the press release:
“Finishing Building Castles In Air is by far the biggest thing that we’ve ever pulled off as a band. Our goal was to create an full-length album, even though it seems like a trend to release singles and EPs. To us, a full album is that thing that defines a band, that complete package with the artwork and around 10 songs of music that were all created and released as a unit, and belong together and represent a moment in a band’s creative path.
“In a way, we’ve been building up to this moment since we started playing music together. It’s like we’re meeting the world for the first time and can’t wait to introduce ourselves.”
The band was first thought of when Nikki and Doug met in Florida 18 years ago. Following three successful EPs it is this debut release that will hopefully give the group global exposure. This is no small prospect though as after Lucid Fly made their successful crowdfunding campaign of reaching $18,000 the band were invited by Mike Portnoy to play Progression Nation At Sea’s 2014 event (New Millennium Stage) alongside established acts Periphery, Haken, Riverside and more.
When you think of the Seattle music scene, your mind immediately goes towards the grunge scene with bands like Nirvana and the like. Very rarely do you think of the prog and technical rock side of the group, but this band aim to change your mind on such things. A Sense Of Gravity are here to give you sixty two minutes of something heavy, something gripping and almost something on the theatrical side of things!
You can already feel the more anthem side of the band immediately with the first track ‘Drowning In The Ink’ which, whilst it brings something fresh and really exciting, for an album opener it has a misleading quality to it. It sounds like something out of a Broadway musical with the orchestral and piano parts with C.J. Jenkins providing very touching melodies with his voice during the softer parts, making it a more stand out element of the track. Don’t worry for those who like their guitars, the next track brings that in spades with their latest single ‘Reclusive Peace’ which breaks out the technicality from the get go and shows off what the rest of the band can bring to the table. Ferocious drums, a whole array of guitar tones and a lethal low scream that makes the record sound more extreme metal than anything. It feels like the band is coming more into their own as it progresses further and further.
Like with a lot of progressive and technical showing of these style of bands, they give themselves a lot of minutes in each song to flow through many intricacies. The longest track on the record does that, with ‘Manic Void’ kicking off like it was the start of a boss fight in a Final Fantasy game. As the track progresses you feel you can pan out what magic attacks you’d use to attack the creatures with the synth taking control of the lead parts. The longer tracks tend to go on a more heavier route with this track incorporating some elements of deathcore into it. Other tracks such as ‘Guise Of Complacency’ do follow a more tech metal route with once again the cleans making a nice touch to the ever flowing guitars. All three guitarists know what they are making themselves capable of with each member either heightening each other or working with each other to create a beautiful set of harmonies amongst one another.
The drums provide a nice and sharp punch from start to finish with songs like ‘The Divide’ going one way with a more softer approach to what you might be used to hearing on the record up to tracks such as ‘The Projectionist’ which goes fuller into faster drum patterns reminiscent of thrash metal. The production and mix throughout the record has a great well-rounded sound to it all with nothing sounding drowned out or overwhelming which always amounts to a great album. The only think that seems to be lacking is that the album tends to cater to two different audiences and with that you will get a few tracks that people might not enjoy. For the casual listener of all things metal, a song like ‘I, Recreant’ will be a great listen for you. For the more advanced technological person who has a knack for the genre this song might not please all of the senses, but there will be tracks that will get their earbuds salivating, such is that of ‘Promised None’ which goes on that Animals As Leaders vibe in terms of keeping in time and being more show off with its skill and technical detail.
Overall, this record definitely brings it in many attributes and leaves very few blemishes for people to pick at. Whilst it might not be gripping for everyone from front to back, there will always be those hidden gems they wont be able to stop listening to.
Ever since the release of their first ever self titled record, Animals As Leaders have been doing their best to progress and push the genre to create something completely unique and utterly mind boggling for the listener. The same can be said for this fourth offering which is undoubtedly one of their craziest and most intricate offerings they aim to bring to the table in the world of progressive metal.
Flying out the gate with the ever head-crunching ‘Arithmophobia’, you can tell the band aren’t here to mess about or slow down any time soon. As with some of the sections keeping in time with the 4/4 structure you feel set out in some parts, following along to many parts of the song does feel like you’re having to sit there with a calculator trying to map every single change out and tempo structure. Moving onwards to ‘Ectogenesis’, the rhythm sound punches through so crisp cut that you wouldn’t believe that there isn’t any bass guitar on the record from a newcomer listening in. The skill and tone that both Tosin Abasi and Javier Reyes produce on the record is ungodly and such an orgasmic touch to the senses.
Another great part of this record is the simplistic, yet technical programming touches added to this record giving it a new lease on life. The amount of different flowing sounds that are produced off the next track ‘Cognitive Contortions’ are simply awe-inspiring and once again reach to the insane djent heights that this band are always great at reaching with their musical skill. Even ‘Inner Assassins’ with the spacey ending in the background feeling like something out of a video game staring at the night sky, whilst the rest of the track incorporates the more action packed side of the band to a new degree.
Going into the guitar tone, it varies what you will get throughout the record. From the low growling tones that seem to pierce through on ‘Backpfeifengesicht’ before you get to the sections where it sounds like someone hitting a wooden xylophone in triplets. The leads always bounce through during the solo sections whilst the rhythm boisterously keeps the record sounding all inclusive. With a different sound from the record, breaking into ‘The Brain Dance’ with a more acoustic guitar orientated piece, the sweet high plucks of the guitar strings ring through so methodically and add such a great resonance to that track.
Moving finally to the drums to which without the expertise of Matt Garstka fuelling the backing track of the entire record, there wouldn’t be much to credit for such flawless patterns and crushing time signature heavy sections mushed into one. Whilst the record isn’t necessarily about the drum playing and the whole construction that the record is about, the specific way that he plays to help accentuate different parts of the guitar play, such as in ‘Private Visions of The World’, it helps kick the sound up that little bit more to make everything sound that more dignified and perfect.
For fans of technical rock, technical metal and djent, this record is what will be talked out in many years to come as the meaning of the word ‘progressive’. If you look all the way back through their older material up to this point now, you feel a positive breath escape you because of the amount of perfection being crafted into this. It’s simply eye bulging.
A breath of fresh air today with alternative/progressive/dark rock band Lucid Fly and their debut album Building Castles In Air, due for release 11th November. They are not your typical prog rock act – the frontwoman Nikki has a beautifully dark voice, similar to Kelsey of Kelsey & The Chaos. The band, amongst other things, played Progressive Nation at Sea 2014 (alongside Periphery, Haken, Riverside, etc) – they were one of 17 hand-picked by Mike Portnoy for the New Millennium Stage.
Building Castles In Air is one of those albums that would not be out of place either in an alternative nightclub in the middle of the night, or on someone’s iPod when they can’t sleep. The guitar riffs are both heavy and yet otherworldly and chilling at the same time. The vocals are soft and powerful simultaneously. The drums are cymbal heavy yet not too harsh or too “metal”. Whatever it is that Lucid Fly are doing with their songwriting process, they’ve nailed it perfectly.
Mascot introduces harmonies in the chorus for the first time on the album, obviously all performed in the recording studio by vocalist Nikki, but it works really well in that setting and in the song. It would be great to see how she pulls it off live.
The first two tracks of the album (Billowy and Broken and Circles Into Squares) are heavier before mellowing out at Mascot and completely chilling out at No I In Voice. Lucid Fly are incredible at exploring different tempos and styles within the same genre. Their unique sound is what pulls the entire album together.
Things pick up the pace again at Ribbons, which is well placed in the middle of the album. Visions Of Grandeur follows, the lyric video for which has been released on Lucid Fly‘s YouTube and is the first official single to be released from Building Castles In The Air.
The album ebbs and flows like the tide and the listener just bobs along with it, absorbing and enjoying every moment. The end of the album isn’t quite as good as the beginning, however that’s not to say that it’s not great too. All the instruments blend together really well, creating that unique sound that once heard, cannot be forgotten.
The final track of the album is the title track, Building Castles In Air is one of the best tracks on the album. It rounds everything off nicely, following in the same vein as the rest of the album but somehow sitting apart. Perhaps it’s the lyrical content that sets it above the rest of the album, perhaps it’s the guitar riff, perhaps it’s a combination of the two. The only criticism is that some of the songs sounds too similar, however as the listener visits the album over and over again, the differences between tracks will become clearer.
Bringing something more flavourful and progressive within its metalcore web, Exist Immortal have touched down with their newest album ‘Breathe’ which showcases so much that this London quintet have up their sleeves. For five years this band have being going from strength to strength, releasing singles here and a mini album there to keep you salivating and wanting more. Now we reach 2016 and you get to hear the culmination of everything they’ve worked hard for put into something that will give even the bands that are able to sell out academy-sized venues a run for their money.
Right out of the gate, you’re treated to something majestic mixed with something that absolutely breaks down walls with ‘Saviour’. The immediate bounce from the rhythm gives you something bass heavy right into the foreground with the track to progressing into a completely different riff structure and gives Meyrick de la Fuente that more treble-edged side to bring something ear-catching with his cleans. With the album progressing showing off more and more experiments and instrumentation magnificence, tracks like ’In Hindsight’ give this sense of everlasting beauty in its lead guitar whilst the rhythm underlining bass tone elevates this tenfold. The choruses as well bring out the best in Meyrick’s cleans, giving the tracks that extra positive brightness.
Each song gives its own individuality whether it be with thrash guitars punching you from all sides to just sounding like a huge prog metal track, with each tracks structure you get a feeling that one by one, the album takes you to a separate island for each song and gives you a lovely guided tour of what is beautiful within its world. ‘Erode’ especially is a highlight on the record just because of the fact that its not trying hard to be outlandish and feel like the members hands are moving faster than their eyes can catch up with. The track has a certain ‘mainstream’ quality within its walls with the fairly upbeat chord progressions heavily thanked by the guitar lead accentuating each transition.
A weird side note, that is just a mere coincidence, is that near enough half of the songs start and finish in around the same time. Not that it’s a major criticism, but quite a few of these songs felt like they could have been drastically altered in time. The song ‘Release’ for example has one of the most graceful clean lead sections out of the entire record and with the whole song gets laid out, you feel like you want to experience it just a few minutes more and bathe in its glory. On the other spectrum, ‘Breathe’ has its moments where you feel it kinda goes out of its way to be a bit of a longer song. The Chon-esque guitar at the beginning adding to the more technicality of the band is such a nice touch, but the breakdown at the end feels somewhat forced and kinda takes away from what the song seems to get across.
From start to finish, Exist Immortal bring an amazing sound and likability to them with a veritable smorgasbord of songs and sections to make even the most stubborn of prog/djent fans shed a small tear of joy. Whilst it may not be the ‘perfect’ progressive record, these five gentlemen have set a high standard for people to reach, even for the more veteran acts.
Released: October 28th 2016 For Fans Of: Tesseract / Periphery / After The Burial Label: Primordial Records
All good things must come to an end, and that does unfortunately include Download festival. Kicking off the festival season with an almighty bang, Download often saves the best till last, and as a result the Sunday line up is stacked with amazing bands. It’s pretty even across the board as every stage has some amazing bands playing throughout the day.
It’s been 4 years since Nightwish last brought their gigantic operatic prowess to Donnington Park, and it was on that occasion that there was someone different to Floor Jansen fronting the band. Having released their critically acclaimed LP Endless Forms Most Beautiful, Nightwish have been relentless in touring all over the globe, and have only just begun headlining arena’s here in the UK, following their spectacular Wembley Arena show. Many did not anticipate that they would open for the mighty Iron Maiden, but you cannot doubt that given the chance, Nightwish can and will deliver.
If you can’t headline a festival, opening for Iron Maiden is probably the next best thing. Disturbed are the penultimate band on the main stage at Download 2016, and they’re going to be ready to tear the stage apart. Disturbed’s career has spanned many years and many albums, and their 2015 album Immortalized stands among the best of them. You can expect to hear a set spanning their discography, from their earliest hits to the biggest new tracks like The Vengeful One. It’s likely that they will also pull out their awe-inspiring rendition of The Sound of Silence. At the end of the day though, this is Disturbed, and who doesn’t want to throw down to Down With The Sickness? PIT.
They may only be on their 3rd album Into The Wild Life, but Halestorm offer so much more than a simple 45-minute stage. The energetic powerhouse that is Lzzy Hale, along with skillful eccentric brother and drummer Arejay Hale, have helped establish Halestorm into festival favourites and hard rock heavyweights. Playing right before the likes of Iron Maiden, Nightwish, Disturbed and Shinedown, it won’t be hard to miss them, even when slotted in amongst some of those big names.
Billy Talent are a band that need no introduction, but here’s one anyway. A four-piece punk rock band that have earned their place in the rock hall of fame after over a decade of music releases. At the beginning of May this year the band released the new single Afraid of Heights and also announced that this was the title track of their upcoming album, which will be released at the end of July. With the potential for them to play some new songs from Afraid of Heights as well as the old favourites, Billy Talent are not to be missed on The Encore Stage this year.
Don Broco were probably the last band you were expecting to find on the Download Bill but the four piece will be bringing their catchy pop-rock anthems to the Zippo Encore stage this year. After huge success with their debut album Priorities and their latest installment Automatic, it is safe to say these guys won’t be short of songs to get the whole crowd moving.
Breaking Benjamin are a band who are by no means without controversy. After going on hiatus in 2009, the band released greatest hits compilation Shallow Bay, and ended up all getting into rights arguments after two band members had left earlier. The tensions continued until remaining member Chad Szeliga left too, leaving frontman Ben Burnley on his own. Proceeding to pull the group out of their hiatus with four brand new members to form a new look, Breaking Benjamin put out the stunning 2015 record Dark Before Dawn to rise from the ashes of what had come crashing down. See them as they start to prove themselves once more because you won’t forget it.
Djent/prog-metallers Periphery are back to Download for the first time since the 2012 conquest with nearly half of the band being debutants of the festival. With a 5th LP coming out mid-July titled Periphery III: Select Difficulty, the band are playing their first run of UK shows without bassist Adam “Nolly” Getgood after he departed the touring line-up earlier this year due to lack of ability to commit to the tours. The band will carry on with a touring bassist who is yet to be named, however given their track record of line-up swaps and touring with the very best, it’s pretty safe to say they will have a fill-in that more than carries their weight. They always put on a fantastic live show that demonstrates their technical abilities immaculately and are not to be missed.
Gojira are no less than amazing, and that’s generally all that can be said about them. The third stage will be taken for themselves as they prepare to simply slay the entire festival season. Their new album Magma has already received mass critical acclaim and sees the band complete re-invigorated to take on the world and probably win.
Ghost recently won a Grammy award for Best Metal Performance. If there was ever a better reason to see a band live, we’ve yet to hear of it. For such an obscure, non-conformist band to win such a prestigious award is a huge accolade for the band – Ghost are the real deal. At Download festival you’ll be catching Papa Emeritus III and his Nameless Ghouls in all their hooded, costumed glory for what promises to be one of the most atmospheric and entrancing sets the weekend has to offer
Electric Wizard are considered the pioneers of doom metal and for good reason. Tracks that make Black Sabbath shit themselves has made the band experts in slow tempo, bass heavy aural assaults. Whether you want to call it stoner metal, doom metal, down tempo etc., Electric Wizard are the best there is at making a transcendent racket that will be liable to steal the weekend.
The Dirty Youth
The Dirty Youth are a female fronted band from South Wales that incorporate Rock/Pop/Alternative/Dance/Drop Beat, basically name a genre and it’s influenced their music. Singer for the band, Danni Monroe, has one of the best female vocals around in the current music scene. It is rich in soul, tone and range and reminiscent of the nuances of Bonnie Tyler. The Dirty Youth are like musical chameleons that alter from song to song to suit the tone of each piece while still managing to maintain a strong rock undercurrent. They are the perfect band to go see if you want something a bit different in the day.
If headliners were chosen on criteria of how influential a band had been throughout their career, Napalm Death would headline everywhere. The British grindcore legends have seen their seed sown throughout many generations, as they pioneered an aggression never before seen in music, and along with fellow countrymen Carcass, basically influenced entire genres. Napalm Death are brilliant is what we’re trying to say, and if the power harmonics of Maiden don’t do it for you, these guys will.
London punks Kenneths are really making a name for themselves around the community at the moment and, although relatively unknown, have been noticed by Anti-Flag and recognised as good enough for a tour support slot at ANTIfest in Paris in June. The band first announced themselves to a large audience at Warped UK in October, which is where they met Anti-Flag and met all the new fans waiting for them at their merchandise table after their hugely successful set. The band released two EPs last year on their own label with a subsequent Warped Tour run and are looking at releasing a full-length in the near future. They are a definite must for any punk fans as they hit the Dogtooth stage on Sunday.
The King Is Blind
Sometime you forget that Download is actually a metal festival what with all the pop punk and electronics turning up nowadays. If at any point you need reminding over the weekend, go see newcomers The King Is Blind. Seething hatred, blast beats and massive, cleaving riffs is what you’ll be met with as these death metal bastards go for the kill. Proceed with caution.
Washington prog metal/djent band Periphery have just announced their fifth studio album, entitled Periphery III: Select Difficulty.
The record comes as a follow-up to 2015 double release Juggernaut: Alpha and Juggernaut: Omega and will mark the end of the relatively short album production cycle, having started in the dying days of 2015. It has been produced by Adam “Nolly” Getwood, the band’s bassist, despite his departure from the touring lineup.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the album artwork looks like this:
Periphery III: Select Difficulty will be released worldwide on July 22nd
The band also play this year’s Download festival on 12th June at Donington