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Transcendence (Adelaide,South Australia)

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Seraphic Clockwork
Seraphic Clockwork

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb prog metal of the higest order, 24 April 2011
This review is from: Seraphic Clockwork (Audio CD)
From many quarters, Vanden Plas can be placed into the higher echelons of progressive metal alongside Dream Theater, Fates Warning, Redemption and Kamelot to name just a few. The band have been on a richly deserved hiatus over the past four years, busying themselves with musical theatre (producing their own musicals) in their native Germany, playing musical festivals around Europe and finding the time to put thoughts and ideas down for this album. `The Seraphic Clockwork' is a welcome return from the thought provoking and inspirational `Christ O' opus, which graced us in 2006. From listening to the `The Seraphic Clockwork' half a dozen times, I have concluded in years to come this will be heralded as a progressive metal masterpiece. Being an ardent fan of Vanden Plas' music, as well as having a sound knowledge of all their work, this is by far their most muture work to date.

From the complexity of the arrangements, lyrical content that wraps itself around an incredible concept story, lush keyboards and stunning guitar work that a prog metal connoisseur will lap this up in a heartbeat. Like a vast majority of Vanden Plas' work, the album is a concept story which revolves around their fascination for classical history. There aren't too many bands in this ilk able to pull a concept off with ease like Vander Plas, but over time, they have truly perfected the art of concept writing mainly to the wordsmith skills of vocalist, Andy Kuntz. The story is fictional, chronicling a journey in place and time from 16th century Rome to 33 Anno Domini. A rather elaborate concept as the subject matter does make for some fascinating reading if you open your mind and imagination to it.

I will not elaborate any further as one can see how comprehensive it is. What strikes me straight away with this album are Andy Kuntz's vocals. Kuntz possess one of the best voices in the progressive metal world with his vocals taking on a completely new meaning by singing with such heartfelt passion and emotion. This is the best I have ever heard Kuntz in many a year - just check out tracks like `Rush of Silence `The final Murder' comfirming his vocal prowess. As for the music, this is where things have also stepped up a few notches from previous albums. The complexity of the music is astounding and Stephan Lill's guitar work is mesmerising with an abundance of guitar solos interspersed on each track. Worth mentioning too, are the keyboards that have taken on more of role yet remaining in support of the rest of the instrumentation. I do admire Gunter Werno's playing style (similar to Dream Theater's, Jordan Rudess in many respects), as he incorporates many subtle nuances into the songs without overpowering the music. I am left with the feeling that each note played has a meaningful role to the music and there are absolutely no fillers on the album.

The interplay between Stephan Lill and Werno is totally spellbinding, especially on some of the longer passages. The rhythm section of Andreas Lill and Torsten Reichert (drums and bass respectively) have both done a sterling job, right up in the mix by offering plenty of variety to their playing. Since listening to `The Seraphic Clockwork' I have re-visited `Christ O' to compare the two albums. What is apparent is that `Christ O' is a straightforward prog album, which has a meaningful place in Vanden Plas' expansive discography. However, `The Seraphic Clockwork' has many introspective and reflective moments as the music seems to be able to move around more freely in the structure of each song by creating a rich atmosphere. This has certainly been well worth the four year wait - just hope the follow-up is not too long as Vanden Plas has made a career-defining album. This is one of the best progressive metal albums I have heard in a long time and if you are a fan of this genre, then you will be doing yourself a musical injustice by not purchasing a copy.
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The Never Ending Way Of Orwarrior
The Never Ending Way Of Orwarrior
Price: £12.73

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A masterpiece from Israel, 22 April 2011
Having an expansive taste in music, from the classical to countless sub genres of heavy metal, I am constantly trying to broaden my musical horizon by discovering new and exciting influences in music. One such band that thinks totally outside the box is Israel's Orphaned Land, who blends an intoxicating amalgam of musical textures and influences to their music. Certainly not a country commonly associated with progressive metal, but in recent years, there has been a positive surge forward with many noteworthy bands coming from this far and distant land. Adding proof to this statement, one does not have to look far to appreciate the collective talents of, Amaseffer, Salem, Egend and Ephrat for that matter. Orphaned Land is Israel's best kept musical secret, as they have been plying their craft longer than many of their closest adversaries. Riding off the success of their hugely popular `Mabool' album which saw the light of day some years back, they have returned in 2010 with the strangely titled `The never ending way of ORwarriOR'. Orphaned Land play straight into the hands of progressive metal, but this is where things get a tad interesting.

Due to their cultural background, they have incorporated Middle Eastern instrumentation and Hebrew chanting by successfully crossing over musical boundaries into progressive, folk, death and mainstream metal. Pigeonholing their brand of eclectic music is near impossible, as they are not a straightforward band to listen to, due to the many different influences to their sound. Their technical prowess is awe inspiring, incorporating light and dark segments with tempo changes aplenty to keep the attentive listener transfixed, acoustic passages, bow and electric instrumentation and as already mentioned, traditional instruments commonly found in Yiddish or Hebrew music. This said the music flows seamlessly from one passage to the next with unreserved perfection. Intrinsically, they are progressive metal band with a few death metal influences, mainly with the vocals. Kobi Farhi does have a very good voice, strong clear and precise when singing clean vocal lines, but a few of the tracks do have a throaty growl (a simple vocal analogy would be a cross between Carcass', Billy Steer and Opeth's Michael Åkerfelt), making his voice audible nonetheless.

If this vocal style is not to your liking then fear not, as the harsher side to Farhi's vocals have been kept to a bare minimum. In fact, I rather like the harsher side of his vocal delivery as it certainly adds plenty of contrast and quality to the music. Musically, Orphaned Land is a more stripped back and calmer version of Opeth, mainly from an instrumentation perspective. Whilst on all things Opeth, Porcupine Tree's Steve Wilson who has previously worked with the likes of Opeth was drafted in to work on this project. Having garnered a steady reputation for himself as a musician and more recently as a producer/mixer with his own band, Porcupine Tree, Wilson certainly did take on a rather difficult task of mixing this album. With his fine ear and clear musical insight, he has done a commendable job, as there are so many subtle nuances to be found in the music. My only two criticisms are, firstly the production is a bit thin and in my mind should have been better off with a far denser vibe. Secondly, there are no lyrics provided with the inner sleeve, which I find annoying especially with an album of this quality. Two small gripes in my view, but do not be put off by the splendour found within this great album.

From listening to the album along with piecing together the song titles, I am of the belief this is a concept album. It has been divided into three different sections, with some of the songs having spoken (English and Hebrew) interludes at the beginning. After listening to the music half a dozen times, the music is multifaceted and very challenging, requiring your attention, as there are many subtle segments from the onset. A band is only as good as their song writing skills and this is where Orphaned Land's strength can be found. Each note played has a precise place in the music with the lyrics having a biblical approach, very similar to 2009's epic album `Slaves for Life' from fellow Israeli's, Amaseffer. A point in reference here is Orphaned Land does draw some close similarities to Amaseffer's music, especially during some of the progressive pieces. Due to the complexity of the music, doing a song-by-song analysis will be a futile exercise because I will not be able to convey into words how each track sounds. Those who enjoy challenging progressive metal will find this album very rewarding and should check these guys out as they are a sure winner in my book.

Snowfall on Judgement Day
Snowfall on Judgement Day
Price: £24.43

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The new Dream Theater has arrived!, 17 Jan. 2010
Having followed the career of Redemption since the release of 2005's `Fullness of Time', I have been duly impressed with their meteoric rise of this Los Angeles band into the main league, and so deserving they are. Having a steadfast curiosity with all things progressive metal, there have been countless bands from this genre that have left an indelible mark on the minds of so many that aspire to this type of music. Bands such as Dream Theater, Fates Warning and Queensrÿche were the torchbearers that defined the genre and moulded it to what it is today, influencing second and third generation bands like Symphony X, Shadow Gallery, Circus Maximus, Dominci, Amaseffer and Threshold to name just a few. Redemption are one such band that has been treading the musical floorboards since 2000 and `Snowfall on Judgement Day' is their forth release in their growing repertoire of incomparable albums. Redemption comprises of founding member/guitarist/ principal songwriter/ lyricist, Nick Van Dyk, second guitarist, Bernie Versailles (Agent Steel/Engine), bassist, Sean Andrews, drummer, Chris Quirarte (Prymary), Keyboardist, Greg Hosharian and vocalist extraordinaire, Ray Alder from the much-admired Fates Warning.

If Redemption has eluded your attention in the past for whatever reason, or you are a fan that has not quite gotten around to seizing a copy, then you will be hard pressed to find a better progressive metal album that came from the last decade. For those that have not heard of Redemption before, you will probably be left wondering what all the fuss is about? As what one might expect from Redemption, `Snowfall on Judgement Day', is a dazzling display of technical progressive metal, superbly written lyrics touching on a plethora of adverse subjects, superb musicianship of the highest order, strong and decisive song writing that comprises of well balanced structures and emotive vocals that are spine chilling to the core. If this is your style of progressive metal - then read on - if not then it is time to abandon ship and look elsewhere for your progressive metal fix! A point of mention is Redemption's sound is nothing like Dream Theater as their style is wholly identifiable as their own. I am of the opinion that too many progressive metal bands mould their music with Dream Theater in mind. Is this a good thing? Who knows, but originality is the key to success and keeping the pot of creativity flowing is important for any band as the audiences will grow bored and tired.

In fact, I cannot hear any other influences to their music than perhaps a smidgen of Fates Warning with Ray Alder's smooth vocal tones, which are reminiscent of Fates Warning as he was their vocalist for many years. I have appreciated every piece of music Redemption has ever written in any shape or form, and in my humble opinion, they have not placed a foot wrong. To my ears, `Snowfall on Judgement Day' is the best album thus far in their illustrious career, with the overall feel a tad heavier than previous albums, but the heaviness hasn't been compromised as the subtle nuances can still be found in the music. I am a firm believer that a band can have some of the finest musicians money can buy, but if the song writing prowess is mediocre or below par, then the music will have no substance or bearing whatsoever. One of the great strengths of Redemption is their ability to pen a memorable song, which are packed full of emotion, yet still keeping abreast with many of their fiercest compatriots. Their music has a very controlled edge, allowing it to flow seamlessly from one unique structure to the next, yet still adding a strong emphasis on complex and mesmerizing tempo changes.

Saying this, they do not go overboard with the guitar wizardry so commonly associated with the likes of say Dream Theater or even Dragonforce. Instead, they focus their guitar sound more towards a melodious style, but one gets the sense that plenty of thought has gone into the guitar structures and solos as each note has an important role in the overall structure of the song. The guitar work of Nick Van Dyk and Bernie Versailles is nothing short of stunning and they have to be two of the hottest progressive metal guitarists around. New keyboardist, Greg Hosharian adds his own magic and personal sparkle by playing subtlety in the background, yet still showing dominance occasionally by coming to the forefront when needed. His keyboard sound is more in a supportive role to the other instrumentation, yet he has come up with some very interesting keyboard sounds never heard before with Redemption's music. As mentioned, the voice of Ray Alder will be familiar to many, spending many years with seminal progressive merchants, Fates Warning. An exceptional vocalist he is, with his clear and precise vocal tones as he renders plenty of heartfelt emotion into the songs.

There is an element of sadness to his voice, but his vocals are just intoxicating and though provoking as the rest of the instrumentation. Chris Quirarte is a solid and passionate drummer who probably does more than most drummers by adding some rather unusual drum patterns to the mix, making it a riveting listen. Check out some of his exhilarating drum rolls! The bass of Sean Andrews, like the rest of the instrumentation, is superb and in support of his fellow band members. As mentioned, I think highly of Nick Van Dyk's style of lyric writing in which he writes from the heart about life experiences along with deep-seated issues that have touched him on a more personal level. The semi ballad, `Keep Breathing' is a tribute to the courageous battle his daughter, Parker, is fighting against and incurable disease called Cone Dystrophy, which will eventually diminish her eye-sight resulting in total blindness. Such a heartfelt track, as Van Dyk really writes from the heart by pouring his emotions and feelings into the song, as he is at a loss due to no cure available to help his daughter. This song is a continuation of a song from the `Fullness of Time' album titled `Parker's Eyes'.

Where would an album like this be without the highlights? A welcome addition is Dream Theater's, James LaBrie who has been brought in to add his lead vocal talents on one track, `Another day Dies' alongside Alder. This makes an interesting track, as the opening riff is just awesome backed up by the keyboards and LeBrie gives it his all. The semi -ballad `What will you Say' is a beautiful song that starts with piano and Alder's voice and slowly the music crescendos to a much heavier level. Alder's vocals are very emotive on this track, which I found very intoxicating - just adore the guitar work from Van Dyk and Versailles - note perfect with an echo behind the guitars. `Fistful of Sand' is an unusual song in that it sounds something from the last Metallica album (Death Magnetic) mainly due to the opening and recurring riff, but things really shine in the chorus as the guitar work is sublime. `Walls' starts with some unusual drumming and bass before building up and is a typical Redemption song that has a sad vocal undertone, but has a strong chorus will be ingrained into your subconscious for some time. In concluding; I have enjoyed every aspect of this album and as a band, they have evolved extremely well by not being stuck in the rut that so many other bands get themselves into. Certainly, they are riding the crest of creativity and as they have shown us in the past, we are going to be in for a real treat with album number five.

House Of Insanity
House Of Insanity
Price: £15.90

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A nice return from Savatage's shredder!, 14 Nov. 2009
This review is from: House Of Insanity (Audio CD)
Chris Caffery is an interesting individual, having served his musical apprenticeship with some of the great luminaries like Savatage, Trans Siberian Orchestra, Metalium and Doctor Butcher and occasionally making a guest appearance with Zak Stevens' (ex-Savatage vocalist) band, Circle II Circle. In between all this, Caffery forged a noteworthy career as a solo artist by releasing a handful of albums over the last five years. Caffery first caught my attention upon joining the ranks of the mighty Savatage way back in 1989 for the groundbreaking `Gutter Ballet' album. I was duly impressed with his fluid and emotive playing style, remembering that he was an exceedingly talented guitarist that would make a name for himself in the future. Well, the future has truly arrived and after twenty years, I still utter the same sentiment, appreciating every single note that Caffery plays.

Seeing Caffery playing before a live audience on Savatage's `Poets and Madmen' tour in 2001, (which coincidently was their last before their untimely demise) was a personal highlight for me as I enjoy relishing in the soundscapes of a good guitarist. In 2004, Caffery released his eponymous solo album titled `Faces' and this was a superb album as he vented his proverbial spleen by writing some very thought provoking music and lyrics. Since the release of the `Faces', I have not been too enamoured with some of Caffery's work, including 2007's `Pins and Needles' in which I could make no connection to. Well in 2009, we have an whole new album firmly in our grasp and I am pleased to declare that Caffery's latest maniacal offering titled, `House of Insanity' is a step in the right direction with some favourable rumblings towards `Faces' album per se.

Does this album mimic the success of `Faces'? Probably not, but to be fair to Caffery and his eclectic brand of music it has to be judged wholly on its own merits. `House of Insanity' is a straightforward heavy metal album from start to finish and as expected, there are a few subtle hints in the direction of the once mighty Savatage. This is not a bad thing as Caffery reaped some of the successes of Savatage at the pinnacle of their career, as they were one of the pioneering progressive metal acts for close to three decades. I do like Caffery's voice immensely, which pitches somewhere between the likes of Jon Olivia (ex Savatage vocalist and founding member) and Zak Stevens, bearing in mind that prior to `Faces' he had little vocal experience, so this is a great testament to his ability as a vocalist - and a rather good one at that I might add.

Musically, `House of Insanity' does have some very entrancing tunes as each track takes on its own unique personality by offering no element of replication whatsoever. The proceedings kick off with `Season's Change', which is a fast-paced number that has a typical Caffery guitar sound with a recurring hook that remains burned into your subconscious well after it has finished. To put it simply, Caffery's guitar work is stunning as he runs the gamut of different ideas along with injecting plenty of raw energy and emotion into his playing. A good powerful chorus is to be found on this track, which could easily have been lifted from the `Faces' album. `House of Insanity' is another blinding track, a mid-paced affair and one can clearly hear the different aspects of Caffery's voice - again some good guitar work from Caffery's part.

`I won't Go' starts promising, but largely is not a bad track until the chorus arrives which has more cheese than a Dutch Gouda factory and this destroys potentially what might have been a very good track. `Solitaire' is a Savatage orientated track that has no surprises as Caffery has called in the services of Savatage's ex-vocalist Zak Stevens. The track works well with Caffery and Stevens singing together and adds another dimension to the music. My favourite track, `No matter what' is a very quirky number that has a strong blues feel to the guitar sound in the beginning. The track then changes direction into more metal territory, whereby there is some great chorus harmonising with the bass and drums right up in the mix - again Caffery's soloing work is awe-inspiring. `Winter in Hamburg' is a captivating track and as the title and lyrics suggest there must be some spiritual significance to this song for Caffery.

Again, the song explores various tempos, moods and emotions and starts as if it were a Jon Olivia inspired track, with gentle strumming of an acoustic guitar before the tempo increases and the chorus has a distinctive Beatlesesque sound in places. The chorus is what makes this track special with a multi-layered chorus that adds great dynamics. The strangest and probably the most uncharacteristic track is a cover version of Peter Tosh's classic, `Stand up, get Up'. Although this track is at odds with the rest of the album, I commend Caffery for taking the unprecedented step of releasing such a track as he leapfrogs over many different genres by delivering a rather different adaptation to this song. For obvious reasons, Caffery has adapted the track to have a more metal vibe and in doing so has given it a welcomed boost of his own personality, yet still abiding to the staccato rhythm guitar sound that is customary to reggae music.

Regardless of what people think, I feel this track works well as it is so different to the rest of the album by showing that Caffery is undaunted in taking chances, no matter what. On the surface, I found the music on `House of Insanity' a tad difficult to absorb initially, but once I was able to unravel the enormity of the album it was an enthralling listen from beginning to end. The sound and production is excellent, the playing as tight as you like and the delivery is full of conviction, so I would recommend this to fans of either Savatage or Trans Siberian Orchestra, as there is something for everyone here. If you are not a fan of these two bands or have never heard of Chris Caffery before, then just getting the album to relish in the exceptional sound scapes of Caffery's stunning guitar work is valid reason to do so and a perfect one in my book.

Fragile Art of Existence
Fragile Art of Existence
Price: £14.45

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars May the spirit of Chuck Schuldiner live on., 3 Oct. 2009
The legacy of Chuck Schuldiner will live on forever in the music Control Denied and `The Fragile Art of Existence' was their first and last recording before Schuldiner's premature death from cancer in 2001. I am fascinated with the title of this album - `The Fragile Art of Existence', which in my mind has a very real and spiritual significance to what was going on in Schuldiner's life at the time. I was wondering if Schuldiner had written the music and the lyrics around the time that he was struggling with an incurable brain tumour as well as coming to terms with his impending mortality. Even some of the song titles suggest this like, `Breaking the Broken', `Expect the Unexpected' `What If?', `Cut Down' and `When the link becomes Missing'. A strange coincidence either way.

Away from his other band Death, Schuldiner's vision was to expand his creativity by playing an amalgam of progressivey tinged power metal and the vehicle to transport this style would be in the form of Control Denied. Schuldiner was a remarkable musician and those familiar with his style will know firsthand that he was totally dedicated to his craft of creating meaningful music. `The Fragile Art of Existence' first saw the light of day in 1999, and upon its release, was met with mixed views from many quarters. In comparison to Death, Control Denied played a more experimental style of metal that was a detraction from Schuldiner's more technical death metal roots, which so many fans had become accustomed to over the years.

I am a firm believer that the music Schuldiner created was that of a genius and during his career, he was always able to draw upon the talents of some of the finest musicians in the business. We do not have to look too far to find Shannon Hamm, Schuldiner's guitar partner and long-time colleague from Death. Hamm is the perfect accompaniment to Schuldiner's style of playing, both having worked extensively together which has solidified their partnership in Control Denied. Completing the rhythm section is Richard Christy on drums and Steve Di Giorgio on bass, who were two of the hottest players in America at the time. Finishing off this quintet was vocalist Tim Aymar, who Schuldiner plucked from obscurity and clearly saw the raw talent this man possessed.

In essence, the sound that Control Denied has created is deeply entrenched in power metal, but they do incorporate many technical aspects that sway favourably into progressive metal territory. I am always open minded towards new styles and ideas, but both genres have been fused impeccably with an element of freshness that keeps the listener riveted for ages. Aymar has a clear, powerful voice that is precise as he explores the different ranges to his vocal register, which is a compliment to the multifaceted instrumentation. Offering a comparison to Aymar's vocals, I would be inclined to say that he sounds remarkably close to the likes of Helstar's, James Rivera in many ways, but also there is uniqueness about his voice. All the musicians bring their respective talent and personality to this album, but the Schuldiner/Hamm guitar partnership is pivotal to what this band is all about.

They weave a fine tapestry of guitar riffing, but more importantly, the listener must absorb the complicated guitar patterns to appreciate the subtle intricacies on offer here. As mentioned, the guitar work is sublime as it chops and changes from one extreme to another with seamless perfection. Style wise, Steve DiGiorgio is one of the most creative bassists from the last two decades and there are not many that can match his playing ability, but with Control Denied he delivers nothing short of a solid performance. His technical fills are breathtaking as he incorporates many jazz interludes into his playing style. Having seen Richard Christie playing live with Iced Earth many years ago, I am well impressed with the technical proficiency and in my opinion, he is one of America's most underrated drummers.

Like DiGiorgio, he keeps the intensity well and truly up with some innovative drum patterns. Due to the complex nature of the music as it swirls from one vortex to another, I am not even going to attempt to do a track listing, as it would be a futile exercise. The entire album from the opener, `Consumed' to the closing track `The Fragile Art of Existence' is one epic journey of unrelenting music that is euphoric as each note played has a meaningful role to the music. This album is on the technical side of progressive/power metal and if bands in this style are to your liking, then Control Denied might well be a band to check out as they are well worthy of your attention.

Price: £5.02

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Thrash Metal titans are back., 27 Sept. 2009
This review is from: ENDGAME (Audio CD)
Unquestionably, Dave Mustaine is one of Heavy Metal's most prolific songwriters/musicians of our time and has left an indelible mark on Thrash Metal, as we know it. Upon listening to a recent radio interview, Mustaine mentioned that `Endgame' was by far their finest album to date and the band had placed a stronger emphasis on their song writing skills by spending more time in the studio getting the subtle intricacies right. An audacious statement indeed, as Megadeth have produced some exceptional albums during their illustrious career and `Endgame' does have an alluring charm that will enchant you beyond your wildest dreams! This is undeniably one of Megadeth's finest albums this side of the decade and listening to the music in its entirety, I can't help but wonder if they have revisited the successes of the `Rust in Peace' era, as the similarities are close between both albums. With `Endgame' however, there are some interesting points that need to be considered.

What is apparent to me, is how the song writing has matured by becoming more focussed as it shifts up several gears into heavier territory. Megadeth can never be caught on the back foot with their guitar work, and from this perspective this is what makes them one of the most exciting bands to listen to. Both the playing of Mustaine and Broderick is simply stunning and there has been plenty of creative thought placed into the lead and rhythm patterns as well as the solos too. Interestingly enough, there is a stronger emphasis towards incorporating different tempo changes and time signatures than before. As previously mentioned, this can be attributed to the better song writing. Drummer, Shawn Drover again provides evidence why he secured the position behind the Megadeth drum stool in 2005, and like his band mates, has added a much heavier style to his playing especially on some of the faster numbers like, `This day we Fight'. Mustaine has many interesting sides to his personality, but what I appreciate about him mostly is his genuineness and honesty when writing lyrics and again he has touched on social and political issues, which in the past has landed him in some hot water.

With Megadeth, the music is only one facet of the journey with the second part being the lyrics. There is always a message contained in the lyrical writings of Mustaine, who adequately conveys his thoughts to the perspective listener by opening their mind to broader issues that impinge on us all. The production is what one would expect from a modern day recording, crystal clear and perfect and this was left in the capable hands of Andy Sneap, who like always has done nothing short of a sterling job. There has been one major change since the last album, with guitarist Glen Drover parting ways by leaving the door open for a second guitarist, Chris Broderick to enter. There is no denying that Drover was a sophisticated and enthralling guitarist to listen to and I personally enjoyed his style (check out his own band, Eidolon). Broderick's inclusion into the band was an astute business decision on behalf of Mustaine and hopefully this partnership will solidify into something meaningful for Megadeth. Being an ardent follower of Broderick's career since his pivotal days with Jag Panzer and more recently as Nevermore's touring guitarist, I cannot think of a more noteworthy replacement than him.

His inclusion incorporates a new juncture in Megadeth's musical progression. With `Endgame', the album follows closely on the heels of `United Abominations', albeit slightly heavier, with superior musicianship, strong song writing proficiency, Mustaine's vocal snarl, inspirational melody's, sublime riffing all wrapped up in a blanket of meaningful lyrics. Let us get to the business end of things and mention some of the highlights of this album. The album begins with an instrumental titled `Dialectic Chaos', but frankly I do have my reservations when a band places an instrumental at the beginning of the disc as this is not always a logical progression to the music. In other words, Iam of the mindset that instrumentals should be placed further in the track listing to create a sense of diversity. However, there is a method to Mustaine's madness here as it is an uninhabited move to introduce the skilful playing of Broderick to the Megadeth audience. There is no mistake the influence Broderick's playing has had on this track, let alone the rest of the album. So welcome to Megadeth, Chris!

The album really starts packing a sonic punch on the second track, `This day we Fight' and is a rather menacing number, as the intensity does not abate until the closer `The right to go Insane'. `44 Minutes' is a true story of a bungled bank robbery and the lyrics are an interesting read, but the music travels at a mid tempo pace for much of the song. `1,320' is another powerful song, with the typical Mustaine vocal snarl which we have become accustomed to with a plethora of fast and slow tempo changes. `The hardest part of letting go...sealed with a Kiss' is a rather clichéd title and despite the tackiness of the title, is a superb tune that incorporates the wide diversity to Megadeth's song writing armour. Divided into two parts, it starts with an acoustic guitar with Mustaine's vocals singing over the top, before it breaks away and gathers momentum by exploring different emotions. There is some very expressive lead work on this track. Title track, `Endgame' is probably the best song on the album and could have been lifted from one of the earlier albums. The solo guitar work is magical and there is some very good guitar parrying between Mustaine and Broderick.

The first single off the album, `Head Crusher' is an intense number that has a very solid rhythm section. Some of the best guitar work is found on this track, especially towards the end where Mustaine and Broderick trade off some manic riffs and rhythms never heard before from Megadeth. `The right to go Crazy' has a recurring hood that is central to the song, which pulls you in a sucks you up. Mustaine's vocal harmonising on this track is fantastic and his voice sounds as good as when he started the band all those years ago. In concluding, there are no filler or below par tracks to be found on `Endgame' as each song has a meaningful role on the album. This is certainly a welcome return from one of Thrash Metal's purveyors and I found this release refreshingly entrancing. I believe this is the album that Megadeth has been wanting to make for years and now they have finally done it, so in the future, all eyes will be on them to see how they are going to surpass this brilliant effort.

The Conductor'S Departure
The Conductor'S Departure

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This should be the blueprint to melodic death metal., 8 Aug. 2009
Over the years, Scandinavia has brought many revered metal acts to the world like the mighty, Nightwish, In Flames, Dark Tranquillity, Opeth, and Amorphis to name just a few. Adding to this new-found glory and on a much lesser scale are Sweden's Anata, who for the most part during their career have forged ahead with their craft by releasing four full length albums to their credit. Being somewhat unfamiliar with Anata's music, I purchased `The Conductors Departure' on the recommendation of a friend, who offered a straightforward analogy that they were the death metal equivalent of Dream Theater and this was merely from a technical standpoint as well as the odd time-signatures. Anata do play an amalgam of technically intricate, yet melodic death metal that is focussed more on melody than speed. Upon the first few listens to `The Conductors Departure', I was closely reminded of the style of two of America's finest death metal exponents, Cynic and Atheist.

Anata does have many close similarities to both Cynic and Atheist, as all three bands do employ counterpoints to their music. A counterpoint is when the two guitars or bass are rarely playing along the same lines as one another, but still sound harmonious when played simultaneously. Adding to this, all three bands incorporate subtle jazz influences, which as an avid metal listener, I fully appreciate when song writers leapfrog across different genres by adding plenty of diversity to their music. Let us cut to the chase and state from the onset that the guitar work of Fredrik Schälin and Andreas Allenmark is stunning. Two inspirational guitarists that have captured my imagination wholly, as they build heavily upon one monstrous riff after another by incorporating plenty of melody and passion to the music. Besides the riffing that is paramount to the vibe of `The Conductors Departure', there are some attention grabbing solos from Schälin and Allenmark on almost all of the tracks.

Schälin also doubles up on vocals and his voice is what one would expect from a band of this calibre, nothing too exceptional, as he closely remains in gruff/throaty territory for the entirety of the album. Despite the hugely talented guitar duo of Schälin and Allenmark, the player that steals the show for me has to be drummer Conny Pettersson. Pettersson is right up there delivering one magical blast beat after another and his timekeeping is truly remarkable. The control between his feet and hands is balanced precisely without one part of his playing becoming too over bearing, which can be the case in question with many death metal drummers - being a tad foot heavy when it comes to the double bass drum! I am not too sure of Pettersson's credentials, but what is amazing is the fact he hasn't taken the leap into the major league by hooking up with an accomplished and well-marketed band - this just eludes me as his talent is immeasurable. After listening closely to his style of playing he does remind me of one of my favourite death metal drummers that is, Daniel Erlandsson, from Arch Enemy.

Pettersson's partner in rhythm is bassist Henrik Drake, who adds the sonic back line and gives Pettersson plenty of room to manoeuvre around in with his complex tempo changes and different rhythm patterns. Drake's bass in very audible in the mix as he chops, changes and ducks in and out of drum and guitar passages as he challenges them all the time. What would an album be like without any standout tracks? The standout tracks would have to be the clichéd, `Cold heart forged in Hell', which starts relatively slow and builds up after a couple of seconds then into a great sounding lead break. The song travels through different landscapes with Pettersson's drumming showing his dexterity as the beat chops and changes in and out of different tempos. `I Would Dream of Blood' starts slow with all the instruments coming to the forefront, before the song picks up with some very melodic and rather haunting guitar work - nice track nonetheless.

`The Conductors Departure' is my favourite and highlights the strong song writing ability of Anata as they visit different emotions, feelings and tempos. It starts off with a complicated intro, with the main riff having an ominous Tony Iommi (Black Sabbath) style stamped all over it. The track allows each musician to stretch their legs musically and displays how individually talented each player really is. `The Great Juggler' has a great recurring hook that will pull you deep into your subconscious and this is a great representation of Anata's bizarre time signatures and counterpoints. What I have enjoyed mostly with the music of Anata is that you don't have to be ultra heavy and brutal to get the message across. The music of Anata, like most death metal, is not an easy listening experience and the best way forward with `The Conductors Departure' is to give this album multiple listens to fully appreciate the complexities of the music. This comes highly recommended if you like your death metal brutal, yet refined, as Anata are one classy Swedish act.
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Evocation I: The Arcane Dominion
Evocation I: The Arcane Dominion

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not overly convinced with this album., 1 Aug. 2009
The oddly named Eluveitie are a band unfamiliar to me, so by expanding my listening horizon into folk music with a difference, I took the unprecedented step of purchasing `Evocation I - The Arcane Dominion'. On paper, this album ticks all the acceptable boxes with the alluring folk atmospheres, an assortment of different acoustic instruments and emotive female vocals. This is the third album from these Swiss masters, who have recorded two previous albums with the sound firmly entrenched in an amalgam of Celtic folk metal and melodic death metal. On this album, the band deliberately took a step backwards by replacing their electrified instruments in favour of more traditional folk instrumentation.

Eluveitie have taken a huge gamble with this, the third album in their repertoire, by breaking away from the music the fans have become accustomed to and recorded a Celtic inspired folk album. Other bands that have followed this trend (not from a Celtic folk perspective) and have succeeded are the hugely popular, Anathema, Paradise Lost and Katatonia, who broke their death metal moorings by opting for a more recognisable sound. Regardless of what the intentions were for Eluveitie, they must be commended for venturing so audaciously into uncharted waters. I will be quite candid here and say that upon the first few listens to this album, I was unimpressed with what I was hearing as I battled to make a connection to the music. I do take pleasure in Celtic folk music, with my taste varying from the likes of Clannad to the thrash laced stylings of Skyclad and everything else in between.

I began writing this review with an acerbic attitude and an element of biasness towards this album, as I just did not like it. What a difference a few days can make and thankfully, with few more successive listens under by belt, I began to appreciate what I was hearing and the message Eluveitie were trying to convey to the listening public. As mentioned, this album is acoustic folk music with female vocals courtesy of Anna Murphy, who has a decent voice, but her style and delivery is nothing too exceptional. Occasionally, there are sprinklings of male vocals that have been used more from an atmospheric perspective to add some diversity to the music. The album plays out at just over 50 minutes and comprises of seventeen tracks, one of which is a remix from last year's album, Slania.

There are eight members in the band, who play an assortment of different instruments from bagpipes, hurdy gurdy, whistles, mandolin and dulcimer - so one soon gets the picture how this album is portrayed to be. An interesting point is the album is sung totally in Gaulish, which was a language spoken in parts of Western Europe (mainly in Switzerland, Belgium and Western Germany) up until the 4th Century A.D. The language soon disappeared around this time and replaced by other dialects that are still spoken to this day. A bold statement for the album to be sung in Gaulish, but this is where I believe the album trips up slightly and would have sounded better and more dynamic sung in English.

When sung, Gaulish is a strange sounding language, but the tone is not as guttural as other Germanic based languages. As for the music, it does have a tendency to drag along in places and there is a large emphasis on the hurdy gurdy, which is an awful sounding instrument that has a monotone drone that penetrates deep into your subconscious. When the music does step out of the mould, it's very upbeat and thrilling with a real Celtic folk vibe that can rival some of the big names from this genre. However, several of the tracks can be rather gloomy and quite down spirited, but with this said the vocal melodies of Murphy are quite beautiful and very impressive indeed.

Several of the songs have a spoken voice intro prior to the commencement of the track - just a pity I botched my final Gaulish language exam at school, as I have no idea what is being said here, but obviously there is some deep-rooted message in the lyrics! Furthermore, the sepia tinged artwork is just as gloomy and is a perfect contrast to the music. All the musicians on this album are exceedingly talented in their own right; however, the production is not as sharp and has a tendency to become bogged down in the mass of instrumentation. Things really begin to pick up towards the second half of the album and this is where a number of of the better songs can be found with tasty acoustic guitar playing, bagpipes and whistles, which all incorporate a stunning backdrop to the music.

Along with this release comes a D.V.D. that was recorded live in Germany at the Summer Breeze Festival in 2008. The music is from the first two albums and they return using electric guitars, basses drums etc, along with all the strange looking folk-styled instruments. The picture and sound quality on this D.V.D. is superb with multiple camera angles of the band and the fervent crowd are all equally represented. Overall, this was an album that did grow on me at a slow rate, but I still have a few reservations as mentioned - otherwise a solid and likeable album. I am not too sure this will be to the liking of everyone as they do have a different stance towards Celtic folk music, but if you are an adventurous type or a connoisseur to the folk vibe, then this album might just surprise you too.

Gods Of Vermin
Gods Of Vermin
Price: £14.39

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Solo release from Kamelot's keyboardist, Oliver Palotai, 20 July 2009
This review is from: Gods Of Vermin (Audio CD)
The name Oliver Palotai might be unfamiliar to many, but he is better known as the keyboard player with American progressive metal outfit Kamelot. Palotai is the mastermind and creative force behind Sons of Seasons and he formed the band as an expression of his song-writing prowess, as well as bringing his own style of music into the public domain. Palotai set about the arduous task of recruiting musicians that had the same musical vision and commitment as him. With Palotai taking over duties on keyboards and guitar, he recruited drummer Daniel Schild (ex Blaze) along with his rhythm partner Jürgen Steinmetz from Silent Force. The last piece of the puzzle was finding a suitable vocalist that was able to sing the complex and challenging passages, and by chance, Palotai met up with Metallium vocalist, Henning Basse, whilst touring Japan with Kamelot. Basse was introduced to Palotai's vision as to where he wanted to go with the band and shortly afterwards he decided to join as he was able to commit his time and energy to the project - so the puzzle was complete and Sons of Seasons came to fruition in 2007.

Mezzo-soprano singer, Simone Simons, who is part of Dutch symphonic band, Epica was also recruited as a guest vocalist to add some vocal diversity on this, the debut album. Palotai has an interesting musical pedigree - a classically trained pianist and music teacher, so in essence his roots are far removed from the music he is creating and playing nowadays. To describe the music of Sons of Seasons - they are a technical progressive metal band that has seamlessly blended progressive and symphonic metal with sprinklings of jazz and classical influences, which all just meld together as one cohesive piece. All the progressive elements are there like the odd signature changes, classical choirs, atmospheric keyboards, different sound effects, double bass drumming and the soaring vocals. All too often bands that play this genre generally have the black cloud (pun unintended!) of Dream Theater ingrained into their music. Thankfully, Sons of Seasons has remained steadfast in staying away from the generic blueprint and sound nothing like the mighty Dream Theater.

Henning Basse is an exceptional vocalist with Metallium and I own many of their albums, but I was a bit sceptical when I discovered he was the vocalist for Sons of Seasons. My main concern was his voice would be too unsuitable and could never imagine him singing for a progressive metal band, as usually the music dictates that the vocalist has many facets to their singing style. I bow my head in embarrassment as I have totally discredited this man's amazing ability - shame on me! I just did not realise there was such diversity to Basse' voice, which previously has never been showcased with his band Metallium as they are more of a straightforward power metal act. The one moment he sings with unreserved power, the next his voice is a couple of octaves lower, singing in a silky tone but what has won me over are his harmony's that are sublime. Now that I have heard the album in its entirety on several occasions, Palotai's choice of Basse was the right judgment as he has brought an element of exceptionality to the music.

I am a tad confused as to who the guitarist is as the liner notes are unclear, however I am lead to believe it might just be Palotai. If this is the case, then he needs to be placed on a pedestal, as his playing style is exemplary. The guitar work is a mixture of clean and distorted runs that continually parry with the keyboards creating a dynamic backdrop to the songs. I have to admit that the rhythm section of Schild and Steinmetz do an outstanding job as they feed off one another's talent quite admirably. Palotai's keyboard arrangements are well structured which are scattered across every song and are seen as another instrument, rather than just supporting the other instrumentation. Every track is epic in proportion and each note played has a meaningful place within the structure of the song. There are absolutely no filler tracks to this album, which spans over a vigorous 60 minutes and to appreciate the music, repeat listens must be undertaken due to the complicated nature of the music.

From a production standpoint, the music is of the highest order and parallel to what some of the top bands are recording with their massive recording budgets and the tapings of quality studio equipment. As mentioned, all tracks are very epic and some of my favourites are, `Gods of Vermin', which starts with a nice gentle guitar sound and keyboards, but what steals the show are the vocals as they crescendo backwards and forwards and have a striking resemblance to Roy Khan (Kamelot) and Andy Kuntz (Vanden Plas). `Belial's Tower' is the heaviest track touching into power metal territory here, but an interesting one at that. It starts with a classical interlude that could have come from one of the classic operas, before heavy guitars kick in and the music creates so many different moods and wonderful atmospheres leaving the listener amazed at the ingenuity of the track. The harmonies are so hypnotic with all the progressive trademarks and there is plenty of double bass drumming that adds to the fury.

The beautifully titled `Wintersmith' is a duet between Simone Simons and Basse and is a soft gracious song that travels along like a meandering river. Almost a love song in parts, but I am sure Palotai wrote this song with Simone Simons in mind, bearing in mind they are engaged to one another. Both Simons and Basse put in an emotive performance on this track and is a good ice breaker as it changes the direction somewhat which is always needed I believe. The opening notes of `Santorium Song' sound similar to Kamelot as the song travels at a midtempo pace, allowing each member plenty of manoeuvrability to showcase their respective talent. Some inspiring keyboard and guitar work on display here, with a strong recurring hook. `Third Moon Rising' is my favourite track, yet again some amazing instrumentation throughout the song. The central riff has a staccato feel and the bass and drums are right up there in support. This is the most epic track of them all and probably the longest, however midpoint there is a flamenco guitar along with the jazzy bass work of Steinmetz makes it an interesting track.

In concluding, I thought I had struck a sure winner when I recently received a copy of Pathosray's album `Sunless Skies', but this album definitely stands taller and has all the hallmarks of a great progressive metal album. If you think Kamelot are a class act, then think again as `Sons of Seasons' have truly eclipsed some of the big guns, including Kamelot, and sadly for some they have stolen the progressive metal crown for the meantime. This album is a true masterpiece and should be mandatory in the collection of any progressive metal fan - superb. `Gods of Vermin' would appeal to fans of Dream Theater, Vanden Plas, Redemption, Threshold, Fates Warning and Dominici.

Sunless Skies
Sunless Skies
Offered by Hardliner-music
Price: £6.39

5.0 out of 5 stars Untapped talent from Italy., 11 July 2009
This review is from: Sunless Skies (Audio CD)
Upon the release of Pathosray's self-titled debut a few years back, I recall reading a number of articles that cited them as having massive potential and were a band to watch out for in the future. Well, nothing has changed since then and in 2009 this statement remains, as Pathosray's latest opus `Sunless Skies' reaches the listening audiences. Already this album is stacked up to be a firm favourite of mine for the year as it has all the alluring charm and qualities that I admire with progressive metal. Unfortunately, I did not get a chance to hear the debut album so I purchased this release on the back of the favourable comments from the debut. In the music business, the second album is the hardest for any band as the music has to surpass the debut and the expectations are far greater from the fans and media alike - and by all accounts, Pathosray has succeeded with 'Sunless Skies'.

This quintet formed in Italy in 2000 and during this time, refined their skills by releasing two full length albums, `Pathosray' (2007) and `Sunless Skies' (2009). As an ardent progressive metal fan, all bands that aspire to playing this genre live under the shadow of Dream Theater and Pathosray are no exception to this notion. Pathosray do play a technical form of progressive metal and musically (not vocally) they do have similar qualities to Dream Theater, like the lightening fast tempo changes and the guitar tone. Upon saying this, there are other subtle influences like Fates Warning, Circus Maximus, Mindflow, Vanishing Point and Kamelot that crop up occasionally in the music. Guitarist Alessio Velliscig creates a deep, lowdown sludgy sound along with his clean guitar lines that are reminiscent to John Petrucci's (Dream Theater's guitarist) style of playing.

His playing also reminds me in parts to Digital Ruin, who were an obscure American band that had a two-album tenure before calling it quits in the 1990's. Pathosray have taken the finest elements from the abovementioned bands and moulded them to their own style. Nothing wrong with this approach as long as it is well done and from this perspective, I cannot fault Pathosray here. Despite the obvious influences, Pathosray are an exceedingly talent group of musicians and have enough originality to give them the upper hand over some of their fiercest rivals. What has impressed me immensely is the maturity in their song writing and their ability to create intelligent and meaningful music, which has plenty of room to manoeuvre by creating plenty of atmospheres.

I do believe that the vocalist in any band is pivotal to their success and with Pathosray, they have a real diamond in the form of Marco Sandron. Sandron sings in a clear powerful voice and with each track, the different components to his vocal range become clear. Moreover, there is not a hint of an accent, but he does not have a typical progressive metal voice like the peaches and cream vocal styling's of Dream Theater's, James LaBrie. He has an interesting midrange voice that is more aligned to the power metal genre as he can hit some of the higher notes with ease. To draw a comparison to other vocalists is very difficult due to the complexity of his voice. Strangely, his vocals are eerily similar to Carl Albert (R.I.P.) from American seminal thrashers, Vicious Rumors.

Other vocal influences are Ray Alder (Fates Warning), Roy Khan (Kamelot), Silvio Massaro (Vanishing Point) and Danilo Herbet (Mindflow). A potpourri of different styles, but his voice adapts very well to Pathosray's style of music. I must make mention of the very talented 24 year old guitarist, Alessio Velliscig, that has impressed me with his fluid playing and has a style well ahead of his tender years. It is great to hear such exceptional talent nowadays. The rest of the band are all exceedingly talented players and play like one cohesive unit, which helps with a production job that is sublime. They do however use keyboards more in a supportive role to the other instrumentation, with plenty of interesting key flurries that add to the progressive and ever moving atmosphere of the music.

Each song is a standout track and all sound so uniquely different from one another. My favourites are the opener `Crown of Thorns' which is probably the heaviest song on the album and gets off to a cracking start with riffing galore, thunderous bass lines and Sandron sounding like a possessed Carl Albert. The second track `Behind the Shadows' is similarly paced as the first track, but has a recurring hook that comes back to bite you each time! Again, Sandron reminds me in the first verse of Fates Warning's, Ray Alder. `Aurora' is where things get interesting and we see the difference in Sandrons vocals. Plenty of atmosphere to the track as it travels through different tempos with stellar musicianship, especially the guitar solo that is rather interesting.

From a music and vocal perspective, `Poltergeist' sounds a dead ringer to some of the work done by Brazilian band, Mindflow and happens to be my favourite track. Halfway through the song, the music takes a turn and the Kamelot influences become apparent for a short while. Some great tempo changes that make the song very interesting and the replay button undoubtedly will be hit for repeat plays - guaranteed. In concluding, I have not been this excited about a progressive metal band since discovering the likes of Amaseffer, Circus Maximus, Mindflow and now Pathosray can be proudly added to this list. I would suggest that fans of progressive metal who like to listen to creative and captivating bands in this genre, should explore the soundscapes of Pathosray as they won't be disappointed.

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