For those who missed our last installment, We post biweekly updates covering what the staff at Heavy Blog have been spinning. Given the amount of time we spend on the site telling you about music that does not fall neatly into the confines of conventional “metal,” it should come as no surprise that many of us on staff have pretty eclectic tastes that range far outside of metal and heavy things. We can’t post about all of them at length here, but we can at least let you know what we’re actually listening to.
As is typical of these updates, there are numerous inclusions that have received the Heavy Blog seal of approval via a positive review. Leprous‘ The Congregation (review here), Sirens‘ Surge (review here), Lamb of God‘s VII: Sturm Und Drang (review here), Northlane‘s Node (review here), Hope Drone‘s Cloak of Ash (review here), We Lost the Sea‘s Departure Songs (review here), Between the Buried and Me‘s Coma Ecliptic (review here), Cattle Decapitation‘s Anthropocene Extinction (review here), August Burns Red‘s Found in Far Away Places (review here), Dreadnought‘s Bridging Realms (review here) and Khemmis‘ Absolution (review here) are all excellent albums from this year that are definitely worth your time. Due to Dr. Dre releasing his first album in sixteen years, it is no surprise that the album – Compton – appears among our hip-hop head heavy staff. Dre’s other two albums – The Chronic and 2001 – also appear this week, as well as two projects featuring MF DOOM (Bl_ck B_st_rds and Madvillainy) and Madlib (Madvillainy and Piñata), Kendrick Lamar‘s spectacular To Pimp a Butterfly and eminent producre Flying Lotus‘s excellent Cosmogramma and You’re Dead, all demonstrating our staff’s solid taste in the genre.
For those that would like to participate as well (and please do) can drop a 3X3 in the comments, which can be made with tapmusic.net through your last.fm account, or create it manually with topsters.net. Also, consider these posts open threads to talk about pretty much anything music-related. We love hearing all of your thoughts on this stuff and love being able to nerd out along with all of you.
Head past the jump to see which receiving regular rotation on our headphones, stereos and turntables:
Even in just the past five years, the meaning and idea behind what it means to be a progressive metal band has completely shifted. A genre once firmly rooted in neoclassical fretboard acrobatics and Halford-fueled vocal performances has now turned towards the more extreme, the more unpredictable, and the much more rhythmic. The desire to pay tribute to the godfathers of the genre seemed to slowly disappear, and maybe that’s only because of the generational gap and context of the genre on its forever-youthful fanbase. Whatever the reason may be, fans out there simply aren’t exactly seeing a lot of bands that remind us why bands like Fates Warning and Queensrhyche were so flippin’ sweet in the first place. It may already be four years since Iconoclast dropped, but Jersey’s Symphony X is back with Underworld, their most consistent record in over a decade.
It’s very well known that every band you enjoy has songs that define them. These songs may not necessarily be their best, but they are the most essential when trying to understand where they came from, and how they got to where they are now. This is the idea of our new feature series, “8-Track”. Here’s the basic premise, in a nutshell: We choose a band that we know has a storied history, and identify the eight songs that define their strengths as a band, musically, lyrically, and conceptually. This is not merely a “Favorite Songs of (Insert Band Here)” list, though for some writers, there will be overlap with the two. This list is meant to show anyone discovering the band songs that really speak volumes of how they are as a band, and songs that are essential to their development and evolution as a band. With that being said, our first band is Dream Theater!
It was only last month that we reported Yes’ bassist and founding member Chris Squire was diagnosed with leukemia, and it gives us great pain to report that Squire died this past Saturday. He was 67 years old.
“An individualist in an age when it was possible to establish individuality, Chris fearlessly staked out a whole protectorate of bass playing in which he was lord and master,” said Bill Bruford on Sunday, who played drums in Yes with Squire on some of the band’s most well-respected albums like Close to the Edge and Fragile. “I suspect he knew not only that he gave millions of people pleasure with his music, but also that he was fortunate to be able to do so. I offer sincere condolences to his family.”
The concept of a Dream Theater-esque prog metal band consisting of 15/16 year-olds is pretty enticing. Everyone is impressed by videos of child prodigies playing ridiculous solos on YouTube, and given the particular virtuosity requirements of the type of music the genre label implies, it’s easy to think that kids who make it would be great at their instruments. Next to None are such a band, in fact their drummer is Mike Portnoy’s son, so they have a direct connection to Dream Theater! All the pieces are in place for a masterpiece from the young, fresh upcoming generation, hailing the future of metal. Except, sometimes things don’t turn out as expected. The band’s debut album, A Light In The Dark, produced by Portnoy, is unfortunately more of a shot in the dark, full of lacking musicianship and uninspired songwriting.
There is a man out there: that man is a once-regular contributor to this blog and one of the nicest people I know. His name is Geoff Smith and he’s one rad dude. He also lives in Australia, that hazy land filled with things that seek to kill you and some of the most killer metal produced in recent years. That bountiful scene didn’t spring from nowhere however, in spite of what it might seem to us ignorant folks over in the West (you see how I quietly included my Middle Eastern ass in the West?). It’s been growing for years and one of its roots is The Butterfly Effect.
Somewhere in 2008, when Karnivool were getting their act together and preparing to unleash their masterpiece, The Butterfly Effect were making this alt progressive, pop tinged music that would later inform acts like Chaos Divine, Arcane and the old ‘Vool themselves. Just for that, you owe yourself to listen to their great album, The Final Conversation of Kings. But not just for that: it’s also a fantastic album in its own right, blending a concept into varied forms and sounds. Head on over the jump to get started.
For those who missed our last installment, we post biweekly updates covering what the staff at Heavy Blog have been spinning. Given the amount of time we spend on the site telling you about music that does not fall neatly into the confines of conventional “metal,” it should come as no surprise that many of us on staff have pretty eclectic tastes that range far outside of metal and heavy things. We can’t post about all of them at length here, but we can at least let you know what we’re actually listening to.
As is typical of these updates, there are a number of inclusions of new releases that have received the HBIH stamp of approval via positive reviews. And So I Watch You From Afar‘s Heirs, Eidola‘s Degeneraterra, Faith No More‘s Sol Invictus, Arcturus‘ Arcturian, Leprous‘ The Congregation and Veil of Maya‘s Matriarch are all albums considered to be some of the strongest releases from 2015 thus far. Additionally, editors Nick and Eden have been spinning the forthcoming Jaga Jazzist album Starfire, and have been in sonic euphoria because of over the course of this past week. Expect a review in the next few weeks from Nick explaining the genius of both JJ and Starfire. Finally, there are a couple inclusions of the classic Refused album The Shape of Punk to Come, which should serve as a reminder that the Swedish post-hardcore giants are preparing to release Freedom, their first album in almost two decades. Read about the album’s details and preview the lead single “Elektra” here.
For those that would like to participate as well (and please do) can drop a 3X3 in the comments, which can be made with tapmusic.net through your last.fm account, or create it manually with topsters.net. Also, consider these posts open threads to talk about pretty much anything music-related. We love hearing all of your thoughts on this stuff and love being able to nerd out along with all of you!
Head past the jump to see which records have been receiving regular rotation on our headphones, stereos and turntables:
More and more European progressive bands are making their way overseas to North America and we couldn’t be happier. Last year, Heavy Blog is Heavy had the privilege of sponsoring the first ever US tour for Norwegian progressive giants Leprous [photos, video]. This time, we were proud to welcome the UK’s Haken on their very own run in a good handful of cities. Alongside, the New York youths in Next to None were there to delight crowds with their carefree and boyish charms. Not only are they extremely talented for being 16 to 17 years old, former Dream Theater drummer Mike Portnoy can proudly say his son, Max Portnoy, drums for the band.
Grab a recap of both shows below, as well as two sets of lovely photos from photographers Kyle Gaddo and Nick Budosh.
While concept albums are almost a staple of progressive metal, most bands only commit to that idea lyrically and not musically. It used to be more common in the older days of the genre with bands like Dream Theater and Pain of Salvation, but it’s admittedly difficult to write music that can be developed over the course of an entire album as a single piece. Enter Native Construct, a group of students from the Berklee College of music (just like Dream Theater). Spearheaded by guitarist Myles Yang, Quiet World is their debut, and it manages to not only have great individual tracks, but those tracks also come together and flow with each other with masterful ease. Spanning many genres, boasting a style of composition both classical and metal, Quiet World is an instant prog metal classic.
I’ve been waiting for this album for 3 years. When they posted their playthrough video of a demo version of “Chromatic Aberration” 3 years ago, I was immediately hooked on this band consisting of Berklee students called Native Construct. Now, lo and behold, the album is done and they’ve posted a playthrough video of a full track titled “The Spark of The Archon”, and my, it’s some delicious prog goodness.