The purpose of this post is not to give you a play by play description of the festival; this isn’t a show review first and foremost. The idea instead is to give you a feeling for what attending the festival is like, whether by describing the location, some of the shows, the overall air or even the food on offer. The purpose of this post is to see as many of you as possible at the next year’s festival. This institution is well needed in the metal scene and it’s a pleasure to be able to support it in my own way. There’s only one condition: you have to say hello next year if you do come. I’ll buy you a beer, promise. Let’s get to it, shall we?
Djent had an explosive entrance into the world of heavy music, around the start of the decade. It was a truly exciting occurrence, with first-wave acts like Periphery, Animals As Leaders and Cloudkicker filtering the technically-driven progressive sound of acts like Meshuggah, Sikth, and those of the budding “Sumeriancore” movement, into something altogether more accessible, while still retaining much of their forebears’ technical and progressive edge. Yet, like most new sub-genres, djent quickly devolved into pastiche and gave way to over saturation—perhaps a little bit quicker than most. Djent, it seems, has had a propperly ballistic trajectory, and—in 2017—as its momentum trails off, it’s hard to get excited about this once-promising phenomenon.
No, there hasn’t been a glitch somewhere in the Heavy Blog matrix. This is a review of a Rings of Saturn album in the year of our egg, 2017. The sci-fi loving deathcore darlings (ahem) release another blast of widdly diddly death metal full of sweeps, synths and other worldly references too obscure for this writer to care about looking up. Look, if they are going to be lazy enough to record each note at a time then you won’t catch me doing the hard work either. In the few short years since Lugal Ki En was released, the world of technically leaning death metal has spawned some outrageously talented acts; Archspire and Inanimate Existence are the golden boys of tech-death, leaving breakdowns and breeing behind. Do Rings of Saturn still belong in a world that belongs to bands like this? Can they save the world from the alien invasion of tech-death newcomvers?
Those of you who like controversial topics, we’ve got them this week! Jay-Z gaming the RIAA with Sprint to make his latest album go platinum, Spotify creating “fake music” to game their own algorithms for profit (read this article!), Soundcloud laying off 40% of their staff, and the all-female music festival in Sweden. These take up a good bit of our time. We also discuss metal though! The new Archspire song (we manage to make this controversial too), new music from Stargazer, Contaminated, and Blind Guardian’s new live album. Speaking of live, Eden went to Be Prog! My Friend and somehow thinks we care about his adventures there, so let’s listen to him talk about Leprous, Mike Portnoy playing Dream Theater songs with Haken, Anathema, Jethro Tull (lol), Devin Townsend, Animals as Leaders, etc. We then reflect on how well Vildhjarta’s Masstaden has aged. Finally we discuss something actually fun, a.k.a. Spider-Man: Homecoming! Also Ratchet & Clank, I guess. Enjoy!
It’s been awhile since I knocked out a Best of British feature for you, the dedicated Heavy Blog reader. This isn’t because there has been a lack of quality content coming outta the island, actually far from it. Being “British” doesn’t really mean anything anymore though. You’ve got yer English bands and then there’s everything else. Because I feel like our two nations have been poorly under represented elsewhere, I now give you The Celtic Connection. I’m gonna rant and rave about the best music coming out of Scotland and Ireland, leaving England and Wales (sorry Wales) to the side, because they get plenty of coverage as is. This isn’t me being a nationalist or picking a fight, I’m just keeping it in the family. And who else is closer to us Scots than the proud, fighting Irish. Pour yourself a beverage of whatever variety you fancy and strap in for some hearty dispatches of ginger, pale skinned sounds.
I’m not sure if this disclaimer is even necessary anymore, but just in case: NYN, an excellent death metal project all on its own is also the brain child of Noyan Tokgözoğlu, one of our chief editors and a good friend of mine. Regardless, as with previous releases, I am recommending new music from NYN based on its merit; I truly believe that the project upcoming album, Entropy: Of Chaos and Salt, is huge step up in the project’s history and is an amazing album of technical music. Don’t believe me? What about if I told that none other than Tom Geldschläger (ex-Obscura, Fountainhead) not as an album contributor but as a full fledged member of the project? And what if I added Jimmy Pitts (Scholomance, Pitts Minnemann Project) on keyboards, lending the entire album a veneer of elegance and pomposity? I bet you’re interested now. Head on down below for even more details.
Back in March, I spent the better part of an hour speaking with Between the Buried and Me bassist Dan Briggs to discuss his myriad of projects and his development as a musician and evolution as a bass player. The first half of our talk was published last week, wherein we discussed collecting vinyl, the prog aesthetic, and the records that inspired him to first pick up a guitar — and eventually, bass and keyboards. In this second half of our interview, we discuss his new project Nova Collective and its place in the genre of jazz fusion. We also discuss the process of revisiting their modern classic Colors, and where the band goes from here.
Over the years, we’ve watched North Carolina’s Between the Buried and Me climb the ranks from metalcore weirdos struggling to find a place in the metal scene to prog metal masters with a legion of rabid fans and achieving worldwide headliner status. Through a series of critically-acclaimed opuses, a scene had formed itself around Between the Buried and Me as trailblazers of a new branch of modern progressive music, and one might argue that the biggest splash from the group came from their 2007 opus Colors, which turns 10 this year(!!!).
A small, personal preface before we begin: if you’re wondering about the slew of Ayreon related content on the blog lately, this album is the reason. Ayreon has always been of my favorite artists but I’ve had a rough time connecting with his latest releases. Spoiler: The Source changes all that and has allowed me to reconnect with one of my all time favorite musicians. There aren’t a lot of things as great as that out there, the rush of familiarity, nostalgia and enjoyment that breaks down the barriers of suspicion and anxiety that come before a beloved artist releases new work. Fortunately, in this case, my worries were completely misplaced.
Sometimes, I get to do really cool things as a music journalist. Sometimes, I get to do amazing things and this is one of them. Arjen Lucassen, AKA Ayreon, has been a musical hero of mine every since the first notes of The Human Equation played in my ears, right after I had purchased the album in Paris (I was there seeing Iron Maiden and Dream Theater. Good trip). It was a split earphone cable arrangement and I was listening to it with one of my best friends, who had insisted I get it. Sure enough, I wasn’t disappointed; vocal lines by some of the my favorite singers (James LaBrie, Devin Townsend, Mikael Akerfeldt, Devon Graves, to mention just a few) echoed in my ears, set to amazing, progressive instrumentation. An obsession was born; over the next few years, I bought every single Ayreon album I could get hold of and start following him fervently.