Today my friends I have that rarest of treats for you: a full album premiere from an otherwise almost completely unknown band. You see, tB Project came to me via recommendation by one of our newest staff members, Jonah. Alongside that recommendation, he also shared a detail about the album which piqued my interest: it featured vocals by none other than friend of the blog Christopher Sampson, the vocalist for Azure. If you know anything about me it's that I absolutely adore Sampson's vocals and so, I was very excited to listen. But let me tell you, I was still not prepared for what Hourglass of Exile ended up being, which is an incredibly ambitious, cleverly composed, and meticulously produced progressive metal album that immediately had me in its hook. Scroll on down below to stream it in full and join me in falling in love with one of the best albums I've heard this year.
I'm being serious by the way; I listened to Hourglass of Exile three or four times that day and have since come back to it over and over again. The progressive metal at play here is of the "classic" variety which I grew up on; shades of Dream Theater (think Falling Into Infinity or Awake), Devin Townsend (think Terria or Accelerated Evolution), and even earlier influences like Genesis and Yes. Songs are long, including an almost twelve minutes long epic to close the album, and wildly complex, varied, and technical. In keeping with this style of progressive metal, the timbre of the instruments is big, expansive, and lush. Guitar riffs are chunky and backed up by sweeping leads, massive synths, and a fully fleshed out groove section to boot. Everything sings with the joy, wonder, and power of progressive metal's more flamboyant side, articulated by complex time signatures and multiple instruments. There's also a massive variety of "themes", with quieter passages ("Seven Stars") living alongside more fanciful works ("Swindle"), heavy tracks ("Shadowboxer"), and other emotions and styles besides.
This also means, naturally, that the album is a concept album, telling an epic tale of magic, strife, freedom, loss, and triumph. Sampson is utilized to perfection, his more present and thunderous mode used to convey cathartic moments or conflicts in the album's story and his more intimate, storyteller like tone for the more delicate passages of the tale. It also makes expert use of his screaming vocals, which are literally one of my favorite sounds on the planet, all haggard edges working extremely well with the sweeter timbre of his voice. Everything was clearly written for him, making use of his complete range and boy does that range rule. I mean, I'm not going to go into another tirade extolling the virtues of Sampson's voice; I'll do that the next time Azure. release an album. But know that his vocals really bind this album into a complete work, turning its story into a compelling work of character fiction rather than just disparate quotes.
I could go on. This album also features its own horn quartet, a guest guitar solo from Zach Kamins (The Flower Kings) and a lot more. The ambition at play here is only overshadowed by how expertly everything has been tied together by Taylor Batory, the eponymous mastermind behind the project. It sounds perfect, with both loud instruments coming through sharply and quieter instruments lovingly placed into the mix exactly where they fit. Seriously, it has been a long time since an album of this sort by an independent musician has impressed me as deeply as this; Hourglass of Exile is sure to feature high on my end of year list and that's in a year that's shaping up to be one of the best we've had in a decade. It is that impressive and all the more so for arriving out of nowhere.
This is what Heavy Blog is for; if you're a fan of progressive metal to any capacity, please listen to and support this album. It drops on July 14th and you can pre-order it via the Bandcamp page above. I'm literally begging you to do so because I love it so much.