One of the biggest trends of 2016’s seemingly-ubiquitous djent scene has to be the fact that most bands have tried to stray as far away from their metal roots as possible, all while still trying to maintain a semblance of grit. What fans have been left with is a mostly watered-down clone of any number of bands’ earlier material. Too many musicians out there have decided that their heavier past simply isn’t cool and have instead opted to make what can only be described as progressive metal’s take on elevator music. Thankfully for Canada’s Auras, they’re out for blood on Heliospectrum. This record may be just as uber-clean and electronica-influenced as they come, but it’s one of the only times in recent memory that something out of this subgenre has sounded this pissed.
Oddland are a bit of an oddball (heh) in the gamut of progressive metal. Rising from the fertile grounds (for metal, at least) of Finland, they garnered quite a bit of hype with scene insiders. Their The Treachery of Senses (2012) was an interesting take on the darker, Tool influences that have been running strong through the scene for more than a decade now. However, with only one album and then a prolonged silence, fans and critics were unable to fully flesh out a firm idea of what the band was about; the album certainly sounded great, but what was the approach behind it all? Luckily, Origin marks 2016 as the year where the gaps in the Oddland tale are finally filled in. The album builds firmly on the strata of dark progressive but also gives us further insight into what Oddland want to bring to table, what they want to modulate and very within the scene.
Last year, we had a narrative. Following on the footsteps of the late, great Brian Shields, we had declared this, our time, The Golden Age™ of Metal. Releases were coming in in flurries and the quality was just as good. We got several of the best albums in recent memory…
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. 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.
A month or so ago, I wrote a post titled “The Occult in Modern Day Metal”. In it, underneath countless of apologies for the simplifications I was about to present the readers, I took a brief look at how the occult has lent words, images, ideas and themes to the metal genre. Charting three main movements, I attempted to offer an initial direction for asking questions, a jumping point for something much more extensive. Perhaps where I’d left the most gaps was with the last part; the post was getting long, the hours were getting late and the subject matter was growing more complex. This should come as no surprise to those versed in the source material itself (and my writing/sleeping habits, if we’re being honest). You see, that final part dealt with the New Age and its ties to progressive metal. The thing is, however, that New Age is one of the most loosely defined, scholarly debated and impossible to understand spiritual movements to have ever existed. It’s right up there with Zen Buddhism, Sufism, Swedenborg-ism (I swear that’s a real thing, you can Google it) and other obscure, esoteric belief systems.
Making melodic progressive metal is hard. Progressive metal is already steeped deeply in melodic influences, which should be an easy starting point. However, dipping too much into these roots can lead your creation to move away from metal, losing its rough edge and sounding forced. So too with the other end: if you increase the heaviness and aggression, you often lose the progressive sense which was supposed to make your album interesting. Textures are the masters of this fine balancing act and one of the first bands to achieve it. No one has quite reached the same level of melodic dedication spliced with a progressive wildness that can erupt at any time. Well, no one except Binary Code.
The brainchild of Jesse Zuretti caught the community’s ear in 2009, with their debut Suspension of Disbelief, a refreshing take on what it means to record progressive metal today. That album was chock full of interesting ideas and compositions. However, in the seven years of (relative) silence, the scene has done quite a lot with itself: multiple Textures releases came and went in the interim and bands like A Sense of Gravity and Gods of Eden changed what we think and feel about the music and what it means. So, with Moonsblood coming out tomorrow, does Binary Code still have things to say or has the community outpaced their melodic, rich sound?
It’s been a long, hard road for New Jersey progressive death metal group Binary Code. They released their first LP, Suspension of Disbelief, back in 2009 to warm reception and built on that momentum almost immediately with their 2010 Priest EP. Every indication seemed to be that they would follow that up with a sophomore LP a few years later. For a variety of reasons though things did not work out according to plan. I actually sat down with Binary Code guitarist and founder Jesse Zuretti recently to talk extensively about the obstacles and challenges the band have faced during that time, which will be coming out in the form of a neat little interview video sometime soon. In the meantime though, the band have gone ahead and finally announced their long-awaited second album, Moonsblood, and with it first single “Immersion.”
Welcome to our monthly post, Editors’ Picks! In the recent two years, our editorial body has grown quite a bit: from basically two guys running everything, we now have around seven people managing the blog in an editorial capacity, including two (count ’em, two!) Editors in Chief. We thought we’d harness that unique body of editors and use their over-reaching perspective to shed light on specific releases each month. These might be releases we’ve already covered, stuff we haven’t even mentioned once or somewhere in between; the idea is to accentuate great metal each month, helping you to sift out the truly great from the immense body of work that is released each month.
The way it works is simple: each editor gets to pick one album released in January. We write short pieces about them and link you to the album, allowing you to check it out yourselves. There’s no genre restrictions: expect to see some gnarly stuff on here as most of our editors have a very wide range of musical appreciation. Without further ado, let’s dig in into this month’s offering!
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…
My fingers itch to start this article with yet another semi-apologetic defense of the use of sub-genres but I’ll resist that urge. By now, I’m sure most of you are aware of the way I approach such things and why I find them useful. If you’re not, head on over to my Taxonomy of Progressive Metal piece to get a good idea. Funnily enough (or not) we start here as well from Progressive Metal; in this case, we’re going to take a look at a vanishing category, a branch in the extensive history of the genre that, somehow, disappeared. That category is progressive death, a style which first flourished in the mid 90’s but was then swept away in favor of both revisionism and the laziness that permeates most human interactions. Instead of retaining its clearly distinct and unique attributes and standing out as another pillar within metal, it was somehow sublimated, swallowed into a category with which it had a few conjoining points, consumed like in a weird osmosis.