Coheed and Cambria – The Unheavenly Creatures

When Coheed and Cambria dropped their eighth album The Color Before The Sun in 2015, they made some pretty shocking waves among their incredibly rabid fanbase by giving their conceptual Amory Wars universe a hiatus. Frontman and primary songwriter Claudio Sanchez instead brought to the table some deeply personal tracks about love, his family, and his take on being at the helm of such a longstanding rock establishment without the pretense of hiding his thoughts and feelings behind characters and plot beats. This experiment went well enough; the record had some of the band’s most heartfelt material and provided more than a few Coheed classics, but the desire for more science fiction lore and progressive rock cheese was felt by basically everyone. 

Between the Buried and Me – Automata I

As they approach 20 years of activity, Between the Buried and Me have surely attained the status of legacy act in the realm of progressive metal with a weight to their name comparable to that of Opeth and Dream Theater; they’re world-class headliners and have crafted some of the greatest records to ever come out of the genre, and they arguably had a hand of influence in the influx of progressive metalcore acts that emerged in the mid-to-late 2000’s. With that prolific status comes its drawbacks, however; much like Opeth and Dream Theater, later-era works are the topic of much debate and are subject to higher scrutiny, and being guilty of creating an album that is just okay is damning.

Ayreon – The Source

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.

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.