While they may have made a name for themselves being Ihsahn’s backing band for a number of years, Norway’s Leprous are quickly becoming one of the most important groups in progressive rock/metal in recent memory. Their upcoming release, The Congregation, is going to be released on May 25th and is both a masterful amalgamation of their previous work and a step in an almost simpler direction. The album may not be out quite yet, but you can check out a sample of The Congregation at the bottom of the interview with the band’s new music video for “The Price.” I had a chance to speak with Leprous’ frontman, Einar Solberg, about the stresses and inspirations for the new record, balancing the band and a full-time job, keeping this simpler in the music, and much more!
Even though the Emperor reunion gigs have been the highlight of 2014 for legendary black metal musician Ihsahn, that hasn’t stopped him from hammering away at the follow-up to 2013’s Das Seelenbrechen, the latest in a series of critically successful progressive metal solo albums. Not only that, but in shaping the new material and lining up gigs for 2015, Ihsahn has formed a new live band from scratch, effectively relieving Leprous of their duties.
Welcome to the fifth part in our ongoing series of Heavy Blog Is Heavy’s “Best Of” selections where we explore a genre of music and each of our dedicated authors picks a favorite album to share a personal experience with. After mixing things up a bit with the previous list, we’ve decided to return to a genre limitation. Remember, we’re interesting in limiting ourselves as much as possible by picking a narrow genre because we believe limitations breed creativity. This time, we’ve chosen to focus on another genre who’s definition is a bit hazy: progressive black metal.
Black metal is one of the most misrepresented and ill-understood sub-genres within the metal community and outside of it. These specific albums add even more chaos to the mix by taking the basic black metal sound and either adding new influences to it or mixing up the basic formula completely: from folk-infused conceptual albums to fearlessly brutal descents into madness, this sub-genre is both abrasive and unique, musically complex and furious. Hold on tight as we spiral into the frost-bitten embrace of these albums.
There’s already been some speculation brewing that Devin Townsend and SHINING‘s Jorgen Munkeby could be working together directly in the near future. This weekend, we got a little curious and not-so-subtly addressed the situation with them on Twitter. Both being very active users, we were quick to not only get a response, but a confirmation that the collaboration has already been completed.
So, here’s an interesting scenario. Blood Music are a Helsinki based group of metalheads “dedicated to the anthropological and cultural preservation of extreme metal music”, mostly through the reissuing of metal classics in vinyl form — they’ve done some brilliant work as well, working with some big metal names including Ihsahn and Sigh and even putting together a stunning seven LP package spanning the Strapping Young Lad back catalogue.
The internet is a powerful tool, for better or worse it gives everyone a voice that, to a certain extent, can be heard. For instance, remember that time Alkahest hooked up Greg Puciato of The Dillinger Escape Plan and Devin Townsend? Well, history is cyclical and it appears the way to get musicians to collaborate is to shout at them on Twitter!
We showed you ours, now we want to see yours.
Due to work circumstances, I haven’t really been able to write a lot for HBIH in the second half of the year, but music is what kept me going through the long, tiring days at work the entire year. Without further ado, I present you the 15 albums, 3 EPs and 1 video that really became a part of my daily routine and made my life much more colorful. I really enjoyed listening to these over and over and I feel like they’ve become a part of me. That’s what matters with music, right? Also, I put a link/embed to listen to my favorite track from each album, so you can enjoy them like I did!
Without further ado, bring on my arbitrarily ordered list of enjoyable albums from this year that you should take seriously!
Man, what an INSANE year this has been. I’ve undergone some major life overhauls and taken some huge risks, both personally and with my band The Omega Experiment. So many dreams have been fulfilled this year. The Omega Experiment re-released our debut on Listenable Records in February, appeared in the likes of Metal Hammer, Terrorizer, and PROG magazines, and toured Europe with Fates Warning and played ProgPower and Euroblast. Touring Europe was my first ever time out of the country besides Canada (does that even count?), and it was also my first time ever flying. I switched majors from mathematics to writing (yay), finally moved out on my own again after spending a few years with my dad trying to recover from a haggard ten year drug addiction, moved back in with him for a month between places, moved back out, almost had a nervous breakdown trying to recuperate financially from tour… I’m sure there’s more but that’s the gist of it.
I can’t begin to think how next year will top this year as far as taking risks, change, and accomplishments. So far I’m looking forward to continuing writing our second album, maybe playing a few shows, seeing where I’ll live when my lease is up, and forging ahead with my writing career. But before I venture too far into the future, I’ll reminisce on this past year in music for me. I spent the better part of it listening to and adding to my usual Spotify playlists (80s, black metal, etc.), and sifting through tons of stuff people told me to check out or that I kept seeing in my Facebook feed. I sometimes feel like Facebook is a real killer of music, because if you keep getting fed the same shit everyday and people are raving about something, if you’re anywhere near as rebellious as I am, you’ll run like hell. I adore Deafheaven. I really do. I preordered Sunbather and listened to it all the way through maybe once; one reason being that I was pretty swamped with school/recovery/band/work/etc, but also because people just kept talking about it and talking about it. I still have no desire to put it on and give it the fair shot it deserves. I suppose the same could be said for other albums on my list, but this one in particular was just overwhelming. So it’s not here. Sorry.
The most memorable part of the year musically for me was over the spring and summer, when from out of nowhere Letlive’s album Fake History knocked me on my ass for the first time and instigated a rekindling of the hardcore flame that burns inside me. So I took suggestions from friends and scoured their picks, coming out of it with a new favorite band in Counterparts. This also just in time for their latest album, The Difference Between Hell and Home. This was the best album of the year for me. It spoke to me on a level I haven’t felt from a band like that in a long time, and at a crucial point in my life when I needed it most. The rest of my picks have no particular order. So, without further ado, here are the albums that made this year bearable for me:
In many ways, 2014 cannot come soon enough for me; its promise of new beginnings and bright horizons a stark contrast to some of the dilemmas I have confronted over the past twelve months. However, while 2013 has had its challenges, it has also seen the release of a near unmatched quantity of quality albums, and thus from a musical point of view, it has been nothing short of triumphant.
For me, further highlights from the year were my interviews with Periphery, and also attending some mind blowing live performances by Deftones and Karnivool, as well as the continued expansion and recognition of the Australian music scene, evidenced by the fact that four Australian bands have seen their way into my Top 20, and that an Australian release occupies my top spot for the second year in a row.
Unfortunately, circumstances have conspired against me writing out my blurbs for the list below, but many of these albums have been subject to reviews by the site, and most of the others are making appearances in the lists by my esteemed fellow writers. By and large, I endorse those comments, and will otherwise let the music speak for itself.
Thanks for reading this year, and all the best for 2014.