Sentient Ignition – Enthroned In Gray

There’s a particular appeal to progressive death metal. Combining the ferocity of death metal with the more introspective and calculated approach of prog is inherently intriguing. Not a lot of bands attempt this, and many who do end up on the wrong side of boring. Repetition of elements and motifs, extended passages and slowing down death metal don’t necessarily make it progressive. That’s why when a band is able to find a good formula and distinguish their sound, they deserve recognition. Enter Sentient Ignition. This young Californian band has made a very compelling statement with their debut release Enthroned In Gray, and demonstrated that they understand exactly what mixture of ingredients will lead them to success.

Ninjaspy – Spüken

How does one incorporate elements of poppier, more upbeat music into metal’s mix and perhaps even its external themes like album art, lyrics and delivery?

While many bands have taken a pass at this question, none of have solved it quite as well as Ninjaspy. In 2013, the Canadian band released their short (and excellent) debut EP, coupling it with a home-brewed, Ninja themed comics that elaborated on and worked together with the album (NOTE: we’ll not be referencing the obvious similarities between Ninjaspy and a certain Australian band who shan’t be named. A simple look at a timeline will give you all the facts you need). Their music incorporated elements of reggae and surf right into heavier influences from hardcore and modern metal. The result drew comparisons to System of a Down, SikTh, Limp Bizkit and others.

Arjen Lucassen of Ayreon – The Heavy Blog Interview

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.

Iapetus – The Long Road Home

Long Island based Iapetus provide us with a left of field lesson in what ambition bridled by talent can create. Their 2017 self-release (which is, and always will be, completely free) The Long Road Home is an ambitious album which spans progressive death metal, neo-folk and progressive metal. It insists, even unto the brink of failure, to go where the vision of the two artists takes it rather than where convention would dictate it should go. As mentioned, during this process it comes dangerously close to overreaching its boundaries and even faintly grazes the markings of overwrought artistry. But for those willing to brave those extremes of wild, self indulgent and un-tethered self expression lies an album full of great musical moments.

Pallbearer’s Live Show Is Everything But Heartless

It’s finally not as cold here in New York. I’ve been here for almost a month now and the weather hasn’t been to kind. Last time I left a Brooklyn based show, it was Clipping., the wind was blowing cold off the Atlantic and snow was in the air. This Saturday, it was thankfully less punishing and there was a sense of elation in the air post show. Or maybe it was just me, my heart so full of the sets I had just seen. Pallbearer, Marissa Nadler and Kayo Dot all reminded me, in their own way, why I love seeing music played live and why I love, even with the amount of genres I listen to, the darker sides of music. All three sets were more than just proficient; they had a musician’s touch, an earnest and powerful conviction in self expression and its strength.

Hey! Listen to Julian Lage!

Full disclosure: by a certain metric, this recommendation post is coming in just over a year late. But virtuosic jazz guitarist Julian Lage is one prolific fellow, and has put out not one, not even two, but three releases in the time span between then and now. It’s not hard to see why; the man’s improvisation skills are stunning to behold, tossing out fully realized lead moments left and right with comfortable ease.

Without Waves – Lunar

One of the most enjoyable trends we as a community have seen over the past few years is the gradual increase in bands and artists that are unafraid to diversify their sound from the outset. There are certainly arguments to be made for sonic consistency, but a band implementing a variety of influences and sounds over a metal skeleton is generally seen as a noble endeavor; a band challenging themselves musically and consequently elevating their sound is, at least on paper, a clear win-win situation for them. But for that to translate into music that is just as entertaining and enjoyable from the average listener’s perspective? That requires a bit more; a narrow balance needs to be struck between monotonous consistency and wildly unfocused eclecticism.