Sometimes, your wait is worth it. Too often, however, it can spoil the event itself, hype reaching out of the past and grabbing the present by the throat, shaking it roughly and demanding “why are you so disappointing?” Which is why the present actually being worth it is such a joyous occasion. In music, this is doubly so since it is a form of art so directly influenced by our mood and state of mind. Listen to an album at the wrong time or place and what could otherwise be a pleasant experience turns into a frustrating waste of time. When that is avoided, when mood, place and time converge, there’s nothing quite like it; the feeling of elation, of relief at having such a long wait rewarded, is one of the best natural highs out there.
This is exactly what a fair chunk of Heavy Blog staff are experiencing with Warforged much anticipated follow up to their last release, five years in the making. Two tracks have already been released from it but the full thing is a beast quite on its own, standing above the sum of its parts. And there are many parts, let me tell you that; on I: Voice, Warforged exercise an impressive degree of agility, hopping from deathcore to progressive metal (and rock), to technical death and then back again to more ambient spaces. A sleek edge of their own personality is maintained throughout, making this a very challenging but also intensely rewarding album to listen to, both for long term fans of the band (hello) and newcomers alike.
This also presented us with a unique opportunity to run one of the most fascinating Anatomy Of segments yet. The selections below feature famous names (like Nine Inch Nails) but also lesser known, and incredibly underrated ones, like Big Big Train (please listen to this band). It also, even more interestingly, feature famous acts but singles out lesser known/appreciated releases, like the enigmatic Storm Corrosion, Steven Wilson and Mikael Akerfeldt’s project side by side with Opeth and Wilson’s own releases. King Crimson‘s inclusion should come as no surprise either, especially Lizard, which probably features the most bewildering drum parts of their career.
Wherever the selections below may meet you, they’re all excellent picks, little shards of the influences that make Warforged beat its complicated beat. In addition, the band have put some extra work in, creating a Spotify playlist comprised of their picks. You can scroll to the end of this post to check it out. Once you’re done, don’t forget to do all the good stuff like pre-ordering the album, following Warforged, and maybe take a look at some of the sick merch bundles they have. Enjoy!
Adrian Perez – Vocals/Piano
The importance of these records and the reason for which I grouped them lies in their cultural context and similarities. These records fuel & elevate each others’ listening experiences.
Nine Inch Nails – With Teeth / Year Zero
From what I recall: a greatest hits disco album, a handful of NOW editions, 103.5 Kiss FM, and B96 took up all the speaker time in my home and parents’ car up until around 7th grade. I was just out of my obligatory Chicagoan rap / hip hop phase during the stretch of time that these two records came out and my teenage rebelliousness hooked right on to all the provocation – not counting the (upon over 10 years of continued dissection), mastery of powerful, dynamic, and emotive songwriting & production. I still find myself noticing subtleties in the music – real subconscious sort of stuff – and it’s the shit.
As a whole, With Teeth serves as more of an internal struggle of loneliness & narcissism turned existential – Year Zero an external struggle of aggression fueled rebelliousness turned existential. All The Love In The World slowly and subtly guides you from their industrial roots to a more polished alt-rock sound. HYPERPOWER! goes right back the other way, starting with fat-statium-rock’n’roll anthem banging of the (real) drums, flowing into a wall of static dissonance. Both start with elegant introductions to the style and end in existential crisis – from moments of perhaps delusional self esteem to utter collapse and failure – with plenty of pissed, depressing, alienating bangers in between. And to be clear, I’m talking about the music, lyrics, visual aesthetic, and production all-together.
These records were some of the first CDs that I bought and really heralded. They stood among the first to really demonstrate the difference between an artist that can write good songs and an artist that can effectively curate an entire emotional journey: an album. Both similar journeys from different chapters in life. I won’t go on forever – because I definitely could – just go listen to these two. It’s all about the textures.
Storm Corrosion – Storm Corrosion // Opeth – Watershed // Steven Wilson – The Raven That Refused To Sing (And Other Stories)
This is the trio. A collection of songs all too inappropriate & challenging for group listens (less so TRTRTSAOS), but perfect for a windows-up drive through the forest at dusk. Trees with faces, the color brown, the feeling of blue and green after the sun has just set, the sound of wood, quiet violence, a big black house with a granite staircase, stormy weather outside the window, letters and memories of dead lovers, intense shame, a gentle cool breeze, a friend who lives under the house, loss & abandonment, mischief & trickery, mental illness. Spooky and sad – my favorite emotions in music, paired with anger. Again, like the NIN records listed above, my attraction lies in the textures – in these records most often led by the warmth of acoustic / clean guitars, rhodes, the nostalgia of the mellotron, and the iconic tones of Mikael Akerfeldt & Steven Wilson.
The Lotus Eater, one of my first introductions to “progressive” music, further demonstrated the possibilities in storytelling through songwriting. Drag Ropes & The Raven That Refused To Sing did the same, but in their own unique & cinematic ways. The three records stand as examples of songwriting where story is an absolute priority. Top of the list. The story defines the mood, and the mood dictates the chord choices, instruments, and production, respectively. At least that’s what I imagine, what I’ve taken out of my many listens, and what I try to implement in Warforged songwriting.
Big Big Train – The Underfall Yard / English Electric Part One / English Electric Part Two
The kings. Jason posted, among many many others, Victorian Brickwork to my Facebook wall years ago and I neglected to listen to them for quite a while. For those unfamiliar, Big Big Train is a progressive rock band from England. They don’t hide any scaries – so don’t expect any scaries given my above entries. This is straight-in-your-face-beautiful prog filled to the brim with mellotron, charming dad solos, stacked vocal harmony, odd grooves, graceful horns, boyhood wonder, good manners, and – y’know – songs about big trains. You’ll feel fancy listening to these three records for, what I unapologetically consider to be, their objective greatness.
I find myself struggling often to define my overwhelming enjoyment for this band and the other nerdy prog music that attracts my attention. Beyond the obviously high level of musicianship & songwriting skill you will find a constant sense of nostalgia. Bare with me as I get a big heady: but there’s something to say about a band that you’ve never listened to that makes you remember things. The spastic nature and genre changes of prog music – abrupt & graceful – all seem to feel so natural. The same sensation came about in my first listen to BTBAM’s Colors, Steve Hackett’s Voyage Of The Acolyte, Gentle Giant’s Acquiring The Taste, The Mars Volta’s Frances The Mute… among others. As if the song or riff or idea already existed – in nature or a shared consciousness or whatever you want to call it – and the band yanked it away, filtered it through their genre & band’s musical uniqueness, and slapped it on the record. The songs are great because the ideas that made them up already existed, somewhere in the ether, before the band brought them into fruition, and the bands are great for using their knowledge, skill, and resources effectively to do so. That’s how you reach folks’ hearts and minds through music.
Jason Nitts – Drums
King Crimson – Lizard
I would say from our sound, it’s obvious we take on a lot of “progressive” influences, and this band really needs no introduction. King Crimson has a way of re-inventing themselves over and over again throughout their extensive catalog of music, but this album specifically always struck a chord with me. While the record consists of only five songs, you have a ton of variety here, aside from the massive opener “Cirkus” and closer “Lizard”. The main melody played on the mellotron at the beginning of Cirkus may be one of the most iconic moments in my memory of this band, the fact that it creates such a dark but almost curious feeling to see where the song will go. I always loved how forward thinking some of these ideas are, take a listen to the last track Lizard and think to yourself, this was written in 1970, and also you’ll probably notice the guest vocals contributed by Jon Anderson from Yes. This was definitely the first time I ever consciously realised how fun and interesting the concept of having guest musicians on your record can be, and if you’re reading this I’m sure you’re aware of the vast list of people we had contribute to our record from some of the press releases alone. Overall I think Warforged has a similar approach to try and create something a little different than what you might expect from a modern metal band, and the variety of the songs on Lizard is a good representation of how progressive music can really translate to many different genres.
Ulver – Wars of the Roses
With Ulver it’s even harder to narrow it down to one album, but Wars of the Roses always stood out to me. Ulver was one of the first bands I listened to that really introduced me to the idea of playing around with different ideas in song structures. Take the song “September IV” for example, which almost has the entire song front-loaded onto the first half, with the second half being almost a psychedelic 60’s rock jam. The way this band plays on dark melodies and the interesting, almost non-expected paths they go down has definitely been an inspiration to some of the ideas we’ve had. Our track Phantoms In the Mist was heavily inspired by a song structure idea of having the song begin with a climax and taper off from there, which was heavily influenced from listening to bands like Ulver and other artists who play more with the ideas of structure. In general I just love how this band wasn’t afraid to take risks either, even if it may be the most textbook example of “metal band turned non-metal”, and Kristoffer Rygg’s voice is unmistakable. I would absolutely love to have his voice on a song of ours in the future.
Portal – Vexovoid
Scary music is obviously a big staple in the Warforged sound, I think we’ve always gravitated towards not only music on the heavier side of the spectrum, but music that also can also provoke you to feel a specific way. Portal has always been a polarizing band from what I’ve gathered, but I think it’s undeniable to say that this band is capable of turning a lot of heads. Whether you’re on the side of saying “this sounds just like noise and it’s unlistenable”, or “this sounds absolutely terrifying”, I think it’s safe to say that this band has the capability of making people uncomfortable, which I think is the coolest shit. And think about this too, even most people who are into death metal regularly have a hard time getting into Portal or even understanding them. Vexovoid shows Portal creating a record that is almost on the verge of clarity, however they still keep a vibe going that’s not only dark, but almost sounds like you’re going insane. I think there’s certain parts of our album Voice that definitely show an influence of pushing the emotion of fear and uncertainty to add almost a feeling of anxiety during certain songs or certain sections. Bands like Portal who take the conceptual idea of death metal and push it even further, always stick out to me, and I think that’s something I always want to reflect in our own music.