Fractal Cypher – The Human Paradox (Review)

Fractal CypherThis is the debut album by Canadian progressive metal band Fractal Cypher.

I confess, I was drawn to this album by the cover artwork, which is the reason I decided to listen to it. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but in today’s digital age it’s worth noting that album artwork is still important, at least in my eyes.

So what of the music? Well, Fractal Cypher play modern progressive metal with ample keyboard enhancements and a Continue reading

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Nergard – A Bit Closer to Heaven (Review)

NergardThis is the second album from Nergard, a solo project from Norway that features a multitude of guest singers and musicians from bands such as Aeon Zen, Amaranthe, Pagan’s Mind, Primal Fear, Withem and others.

The songs are Melodic/Power Metal with a side of quality Rock.

The combined experience and talent of the various singers means that there’s no issue in the vocal department. The myriad styles of the different vocalists all add something to each track and no guest is wasted or under-used. It’s not a complete testosterone-fest either, as we are also treated to a few female singers whose presence raises the bar.

The multiple singers give the album a diverse feel while the music and production gives it a cohesiveness that is necessary to avoid it sounding like a compilation. The singer of Aeon Zen appears on many of the tracks, either doing main or backing vocals, so he remains a familiar thread throughout, too, helping to keep things stitched together.

The songs are well-written and are chock full of hooks, catchy melodies and harmonies. Each song has its own character and personality, and this is further enhanced by the vocal variety.

The brain behind the outfit plays drums, bass and keyboards, with everything else being handled by one of the many guests. The musicianship is first-rate and there are enough solos included for the guest musicians to get their teeth into.

At 45 minutes in length it doesn’t outstay its welcome and overall A Bit Closer to Heaven is a really enjoyable listen. The songs grow on you even more upon repeated listens and I know I’ll be spinning this again and again in the future.

Recommended.

Greensleeves – Inertial Frames (Review)

GreensleevesGreensleeves are a Brazilian Progressive Metal band and this is their second album.

This is quality Progressive Metal with a proper Metal edge. The band aren’t afraid of being a bit heavier than the norm and the songs make the most of this, mixing the forthright nature of Metal with the wandering, exploratory Progressive edge of the style.

If you like bands such as Dream Theater, Threshold, Pagan’s Mind and Nevermore then Greensleeves should be your thing too.

The singer has a really, really good voice; coming off somewhere between the singers of Pagan’s Mind and Nevermore his voice rises to the challenge again and again. Frequently the weakest link in bands such as this is the singer and I’m very pleased to say that isn’t the case here.

The songs are very well played, as you would expect for a band in this genre, and there are plenty of leads and solos to satisfy. I should compliment the chunky rhythms also; as mentioned previously they’re heavier for the norm and certainly bring out the Metal aspect of their sound.

Decent melodies and layered harmonies combine with thick guitars and melodic know-how to create exemplars of the style.

There are 12 tracks in total and they’re all composed so that the album as a whole is a very good listen. At over 72 minutes in length it’s a long listen but one that’s very rewarding.

I’ve really enjoyed listening to this and will continue to do so again and again in the future.

Definitely one to check out for your next Progressive Metal fix.

Withem – The Point Of You (Review)

WithemWithem come from Norway. This is their début album of Progressive/Power Metal.

It’s orchestrated, complex and obviously talented. This is melodic and colourful with frequent keyboard ostentation that recalls Pagan’s Mind at their sparkly best.

The songs make an impression with their enthusiasm and passionate Metal delivery. They’re well composed with lots to hold attention and frequent changes/alterations in the musicianship to keep things interesting. They do manage to keep this coherent enough to fashion into songs that have a direction though rather than just sounding like a mishmash of conflicting instruments.

The musicianship cannot be faulted and all instruments have the opportunity to shine. The leads and solos are represented well, as is to be expected with this style; the guitar riffs and rhythms are interesting and changeable; the drums are not just a backbone to the band as they seem to have a life of their own on occasion; the bass isn’t just going through the motions and is an audible enhancement to the tracks; and the keyboards…well they’re simply everywhere but manage to not get in the way at all. None of this would be possible of course if it wasn’t for the strong songwriting.

But what of the vocals? Well, the singer has the kind of voice that soars effortlessly and has no problem at all reaching the higher notes. It’s very fluid and sounds a treat.

This is a remarkable achievement from a band that are still relatively new. With this being their first release it’s an impressive one.

Junkyard Lipstick – The Butcher’s Delight (Review)

Junkyard LipstickJunkyard Lipstick are from South Africa and play Thrash Metal.

The band have some quality Old-School Thrash riffs in their repertoire and know how to use them.

The vocals are similarly Old-School, with good melodies and lots of character. Her voice reminds me of a female version of the Agent Steel and Pagan’s Mind singers somehow mixed together. Add to this the odd raspier L7 moment and you have a voice laden with personality. Vocal experimentation rears its head on occasion though, especially on House of the Holy and when it does it’s just wonderful; she can do more than just rasp for sure.

The songs are short and the band wear their their Metallica/Anthrax influences on their denim sleeves.

The combination of youthfully exuberant vocals and passionate Thrash hero-worship means this short EP is very infectious. As I listen to it I can’t help but feel my heart filling with Metal and the urge to mosh along rising.

Check them out and give them your support.

Favourite Track: House of the Holy.