Once upon a time, there was a decade called the 90’s. During it, or so the legend goes, culture was preoccupied with the breaking down of things, with stark realization that the world which past generations had been promised would not come to be. In the east, the hazy dream of Sovietism, always tinged with the darkness of reality, had just collapsed. In the west, war and economic distress was the rule of the day. In music, all of this was expressed in song. Grunge, nu metal, death metal, harsh noise, dark rap and more were all birthed in the cultural fires which made the 90’s go.
Progressive metal, often deemed a “brighter” genre by forgetful generations comparing it to today’s heavier arrangements, was also informed by these trends. It dealt mostly with mental breakdown and disease, social disaffection or escapism, preferring the technicality and promise of musical alchemy to the realities of current music. Thus, we have Falling Into Infinity. What was to be Dream Theater’s break-away moment, their capitalization on the name they had made themselves with previous releases, ended up as a failure, commercially and critically. While the band’s opinion has always been unclear, with some voices lauding it while others claimed malicious influence and pressure from the label, it is certain that the fans reacted badly to some of the more approachable tracks.
Welcome to a new feature where we give a quick snapshot of one main band, in this case Caligula’s Horse, and some other projects which share past and present members, or with whom there is some easy point of reference to be drawn. So without further ado, let’s get stuck…
Calling the past back into the present is a tricky endeavor. In music, it can often lead to the opposite of what a band intended, leaving their music derivative rather than innovative. However, for those bands who manage to skillfully reach back to bring some part of what made past…
I’ve been on a power metal kick lately. Oh, you’ve noticed have you? What with writing about Blind Guardian recently (and Iron Maiden, the power metal precursors), I’ve been dusting off old CD’s. These pieces of plastic were the adornments of my teenage years, confused and lost in the same generic haze that envelops most people at that age. It was a good time, I must say. I had just discovered so many great bands: Dream Theater, Pantera, Metallica, Opeth, Children of Bodom. And Edguy. I was at the perfect age for their antics, particularly those of their earlier albums, then fresh off the press. Before they had turned up their personas to eleven, before they had signed to Nuclear Blast and released their massive Hellfire Club, Edguy was a brave band, doing many different things within their power metal classification. Mandrake is the perfect example of that, featuring a dark perspective on what power metal should be doing along with plenty of 80’s pop influences. From the first track, I was hooked, my Blind Guardian saturated ears opening up completely to this new-yet-familiar sound.
Record Store Day is less than a month away, and vinyl fanatics like myself have been stoking our anticipation with the massive list of special releases being featured this year. Of course, it truly is a massive list, and since lines at record stores will almost certainly be even bigger, it’ll behoove all of us to have a game plan prior to fluffing our sleeping bags to camp out at the door. That’s why I decided to sit down – with input from Eden – and list what we believe to be the essential release from this year’s RSD; records that truly capture the essence of that “special release” vibe that the pseudo-holiday has built its reputation upon. This won’t be a comprehensive list by any means, and I encourage everyone to comment with the releases that you’re most looking forward to snagging next month. That being said, head past the jump to see the vinyl nerd in me gush about what RSD 2016 has to offer.
When Scott and I started up The Jazz Club the better part of a year ago, we had intended to make this a monthly feature that would give us and other Heavy Blog staff members a forum to discuss music from all over the jazz spectrum, both new and old. Given the fact that we only got through two articles and the last one was from July 2015, clearly we have fallen well short of that goal. But now we’re back, and we’re more determined than ever to make this a regular monthly column. For our comeback piece, we’ve chosen another recent release that’s attracted a surprising amount of crossover and mainstream appeal, acoustic piano trio GoGo Penguin’s Man Made Object. Along the way we also discuss a couple of other groups who have been blending groove-heavy jazz with electronic elements and influences, Portico Quartet and Skalpel. Scott and I were joined by fellow editor Eden for this one, and our conversation definitely ran a bit on the long side, but we’ve decided to keep it largely intact as we really enjoyed where it went. We hope you enjoy it, too!
Death comes for us all; this is a lesson that 2016 seems intent on teaching us. The latest to fall victim to this brutal curriculum is Riverside‘s Piotr Grudziński, a truly gifted guitarist who had his own unique timbre and voice within one of the most important progressive metal/rock bands of the 2000’s. In his memory, and because Riverside is such an important band, we’ve decided to do something different: instead of writing a post focusing on the band’s career but, perhaps, missing out on the depth and power of their earlier releases, we’ll be releasing three Heavy Rewind posts, each one dedicated to one of those albums. We’ll work our way up chronologically, beginning with the first, Out of Myself and ending with the last, Rapid Eye Movement. While these posts won’t focus on the lyrics, there’s no denying the strong conceptual nature of these albums and so, perforce, we shall delay a bit on their concepts. On a more personal note, these albums were essential for me when growing up and when expanding my tastes beyond the original bands that had started me on music. Rest well, Piotr. Your voice will not be forgotten.
My fingers itch to start this article with yet another semi-apologetic defense of the use of sub-genres but I’ll resist that urge. By now, I’m sure most of you are aware of the way I approach such things and why I find them useful. If you’re not, head on over to my Taxonomy of Progressive Metal piece to get a good idea. Funnily enough (or not) we start here as well from Progressive Metal; in this case, we’re going to take a look at a vanishing category, a branch in the extensive history of the genre that, somehow, disappeared. That category is progressive death, a style which first flourished in the mid 90’s but was then swept away in favor of both revisionism and the laziness that permeates most human interactions. Instead of retaining its clearly distinct and unique attributes and standing out as another pillar within metal, it was somehow sublimated, swallowed into a category with which it had a few conjoining points, consumed like in a weird osmosis.
Some albums fracture: their own fame is somehow forgotten among listeners and even experts but their legacy can be found in countless acts that come after them. Whether it’s their approach to their specific genre, actual sounds and moments from the album or a method of production, the basis elements of what made up the album get recycled, reused, resurrected. This can create an interesting disparity between how important the album is and how much people know it or even still play it, so long after it came out. Entropia is one of those albums. Not only did it launch one of the longest careers in progressive metal, namely that of Pain of Salvation, it also broke numerous limits and forged a vision of what progressive metal could be, way back when in 1997.
Textures have once again reminded us why they are revered and respected by many as trailblazers of the modern progressive metal scene. Though Phenotype retraces elements of their back catalogue, it was a necessary step in order to set them back on the path to doing what they do best while still managing to expand their sound, take new risks, and bring the more subtle elements of their sound to the forefront.