Threshold – Legends of the Shires (Review)

ThresholdThis is the eleventh album from UK progressive metallers Threshold.

Well, Threshold have certainly been busy. Their latest album is quite the progressive monster – a double album lasting 82 minutes; you certainly get your value for money with this one. Continue reading

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Esotherisst – Voyage (Review)

EsotherisstEsotherisst are a Progressive Metal band from Poland. This is their début release.

Esotherisst’s Progressive Metal is polished and has a modern sound and production.

You Have Never is the first song. It’s the shortest of the three and it has a kind of Threshold-style, although this is mainly in the music rather than the vocals. The guitars are rhythmic and solid, with the leads and melodies used to add colour to this strong base. The singer has a good voice; it’s relatively low in the mix and used in an understated way throughout.

The second song is How to Fly and this is the longest track here at 6 minutes in length. This has more of an epic feel than the first one, with stronger keyboard backing and reminds me of Kamelot in some ways, although a more restrained, Progressive version and still tinged with a Threshold feel. Frenetic guitars and hyperactive keyboards are the centrepieces of this track and really drive home the Progressive tendencies of the band, like the 70s have been dragged into the modern day. This is bookended by lighter, more relaxed sections where the singer really comes into his own.

The final song is In Winter’s Arms. This continues the feel of the second track with an epic introduction and then a lighter verse, (although without the extended Progressive workout in the middle that the second song boasted). This is a theme developed throughout the 5 minutes playing time, ending on a softer note to finish.

The weakest link for me in this is the singer, although that sounds worse than it is. It’s not that he has a bad voice, quite the contrary in fact; I just feel he is slightly lacking in confidence and needs to develop a little more presence and force in his delivery. This is not insurmountable though and he has the necessary attributes for success, they just need to be brought to the fore a bit more. This is only a minor quibble though, and might actually be less about the singer himself and more due to the recording – the music has such a strong production that he can sometimes sound overshadowed.

Overall, Esotherisst have impressed me with this release. With a few tweaks to the songwriting and vocal delivery their début album should be an extremely strong release if this is any indicator.

Give them a listen.

Winter Calling – As Darkness Falls (Review)

Winter CallingWinter Calling are a Progressive Rock band from the US. This is their début album.

Winter Calling play polished and professional Progressive Rock that sounds perfectly modern in many ways but realistically has probably missed its era; I can easily imagine this band selling out huge arenas in the past.

Stylistically, the closest reference point is probably Threshold meets Evergrey.

The songs are well-written with plenty of hooks, catchiness and memorable choruses. The singer has an excellent voice that sometimes has a slight grainy quality to it on occasion, lending it an earthy quality that feels natural and unforced; other  times it’s as soft as silk.

There’s a confidence and assurance to these songs. It stops just short of cockiness, but the band certainly know what they’re doing and are not shy of showing it off. Not that they should be, of course. Progressive Rock is not a style known for its shyness, and Winter Calling have enough talent and skill to be justified in their obvious self-belief.

The songs that span this hour of music, (including an Iron Maiden cover, or rather a reinterpretation), are all expertly played and benefit from not just the normal core instruments but also keyboards that add a plethora of little touches and extra levels to the already full music.

The album feels like it’s taking you on a journey, although you never get to quite find out where as the journey is what’s important, not the destination. I find that the best albums feel like this and I’m looking forward to exploring this release even more over the next few years.

Mature and emotive, this is an album that’s worth spending some time with.

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.

Malpractice – Turning Tides (Review)

MalpracticeMalpractice are from Finland and play Progressive Metal. This is their fourth album.

On first listen you think, “Wow, this is really good!”, and on subsequent listens you realise that it just keeps getting better and better.

The singer has a voice that drips off the songs like liquid silk. His voice is effortlessly melodic and flawlessly delivered. Power and emotion seem to come easily to him and his voice acts as a real focal point to these energetic and emotive songs.

Malpractice have a clean, minimalistic sound that captures all of the nuances and power of the songs. The tracks are all skilfully crafted and revolve around the clear voice of the singer and the masterful rhythm guitar work.

These guitars really do provide a lot of energetic feeling to the tracks and it’s really easy to get carried along with their obvious fervour and passion. They don’t slouch in the solo/lead department either, with plenty of dazzling fretwork to capture the attention.

Reference points? Think somewhere between Threshold and Queensrÿche.

This is a very impressive album from a band who have clearly refined their art over the years. There are no missteps here and every song has something to offer. If you like catchy, well-performed Progressive Metal then you could do a lot worse than checking out this album.

This really is a stunner. Top marks.

Lalu – Atomic Ark (Review)

LaluThis is French Progressive Metal group Lalu with their second album Atomic Ark. Helmed by just one man, the album boasts a plethora of well known names from the Progressive/Power Metal genres as both band members and guests.

Big sound, big songs. It’s like Threshold and Kamelot have collaborated together with the express purpose of making an album to please just me.

It’s also heavier than you might expect. The drums are solid and the guitars are thick. When they’re not being used for lightning molten-Metal solos of course.

A huge amount of talented people are involved in this album, and it would be a disappointment, (to say the least), if it was all for nothing. I’m pleased to say that all the hard work, years of development and obvious enthusiasm and ability of the contributing musicians has paid off handsomely and this is as fine a slab of Progressive/Power Metal as you’re likely to hear.

With the exception of the final track, (the hugely epic 19 minute extravagance that is Revelations), the songs are all relatively short. The vast majority barely worry at the 4 minute mark, but not a single second is wasted. Efficient and concise; the songs are instant hits yet retain enough meat to the bones to satiate for some time.

The vocals are highly accomplished, as you would expect, and the melodies and harmonies of the songs are very pleasing.

The keyboard-work on this album merits special mention and is more than just an atmospheric addition; certainly they fulfil this purpose admirably but they are also integral to the songs themselves.

One interesting thing about this release is that for all of the calibre of the musicians who contributed to it, the technicality is never too overt or flashy. It’s there of course, just beneath the surface, enhancing the songs and playing its role. Rather than attempting to play centre stage and steal all of the limelight; the playing never attempts to upstage the actual songs.

Achieving the rarest thing of being both catchy and full of depth, this is an exemplary example of just how brilliant and life-affirming Progressive Metal can be when done right.