Best Of: Live Albums

There’s nothing quite like a metal show. The palpitating thrum of bass, explosive blasts of percussion, the crackling sea of people united by music -- it’s beautiful, life-affirming, and brutal. Although live r... Read More...

Hey! Listen To VIRTA!

Though I dislike making sweeping musical generalizations here, I'm going to start off this post with a couple of them. If it can be said that many of the breakout acts in American jazz in recent years can be described as being heavily-indebted to hip-hop, r&b, and adjacent genres (think BADBADNOTGOOD, Kamasi Washington, Thundercat, and more), then a lot of the more impactful jazz exports from Europe, particularly northern Europe, have seemingly been more indebted to influences from the electronic/IDM sphere, post-rock, and more. You have the likes of GoGo Penguin in England, who have certainly been pushing the definition of what jazz really is with their blend of acoustic jazz instrumentation and influences with more classical-style playing and heavy electronic influences. Norway's Jaga Jazzist is, of course, the current reigning champion of blending jazz with electronic music (from IDM to synthwave and more), post-rock, krautrock, and far more. And to that list of great European bands finding new and interesting ways to explore the world of jazz fusion you can now add Finland's VIRTA, whose sophomore album Hurmos is one of the more unexpected and brilliant albums I've heard this year.

Thank You Scientist – Stranger Heads Prevail

New Jersey progressive brainiacs Thank You Scientist have been a name spoken of in the highest esteem around these parts since the release of their debut, full length album Maps of Non-Existent Places in 2012. That album was the sonic equivalent of the snakes in a can gag for the unsuspecting listener. Upon opening it up, you find yourself assaulted with an overwhelming abundance of sunny Coheed and Cambria-indebted melodies, cacophonous swirls of guitar riffs and horn hits, and maze-like song structures that cycle through every kind of danceable jazzy rock imaginable. It represented many of the best aspects and possibilities of prog rock as challenging and complex music that could still be catchy, accessible, and fun as hell to listen to. Since then, the band have been hard at work building upon the successes of that album, touring with the aforementioned Coheed and Cambria and eventually being signed to Coheed vocalist Claudio Sanchez's nascent record label Evil Ink Records (who quickly put out a remixed and remastered version of Maps). It's been 4 years since their last original release though, and anticipation had reached fever pitch for fans looking for more. Would their follow-up sound too similar or too different from Maps? Would the band push themselves and their sound to new places or seek to plant their flag firmly in the soil already tilled? Thankfully, and rather gleefully, we're happy to report that that follow-up, entitled Stranger Heads Prevail, completely smashes through any fear of a sophomore slump by simply doing what they've always done, just better.

Love Of Cartography: A Taxonomy Of Post Rock

The goal of these taxonomy posts is not to provide an exhaustive and accurate list or definition of a certain genre or genres. Quite the opposite in fact: attempting to make such a complete list would only replace one stagnated image-object with another, creating an equally irrelevant definition, whether it can be considered currently accurate or not. Therefore, we want to keep some of that fuzz, to leave ends untied and room for further articles and discussion among our readers. We're not saying that this is going to be a series; these posts take far too much time and energy to commit to something like that. We are saying however that there's plenty more to discuss, within and without the progressive metal genre and we'll try and do that when we can. So, post rock. Post rock is a perfect candidate for such an examination. On the one hand, there's a very strong and often negative image of what post rock is. Seminal bands like Godspeed You! Black Emperor, God Is An Astronaut and Explosions In The Sky have enjoyed widespread, cultural popularity, solidifying the image of post rock in the eyes of the public. Pretentious, long-winded, dreamy, beautiful, cinematic, instrumental and rarified are all adjectives which were born from this image. Post rock was, and still is, perceived as a genre for the few, starry eyed and sentimental. Perhaps owing to just how good the afore-mentioned bands really are, their music also overpowered the conceptual space for the genre, leading people to expect certain things from the music that fell under the moniker.

The Jazz Club Vol. 3 – GoGo Penguin, Portico Quartet, and Other Man Made Objects

When Scott and I started up The Jazz Club the better part of a year ago, we had intended to make this a monthly feature that would give us and other Heavy Blog staff members a forum to discuss music from all over the jazz spectrum, both new and old. Given the fact that we only got through two articles and the last one was from July 2015, clearly we have fallen well short of that goal. But now we're back, and we're more determined than ever to make this a regular monthly column. For our comeback piece, we've chosen another recent release that's attracted a surprising amount of crossover and mainstream appeal, acoustic piano trio GoGo Penguin's Man Made Object. Along the way we also discuss a couple of other groups who have been blending groove-heavy jazz with electronic elements and influences, Portico Quartet and Skalpel. Scott and I were joined by fellow editor Eden for this one, and our conversation definitely ran a bit on the long side, but we've decided to keep it largely intact as we really enjoyed where it went. We hope you enjoy it, too!

Pil & Bue – Forget the Past, Let’s Worry About the Future

Pil & Bue’s sound lies within the vast expanse between progressive rock and metal, and, is, paradoxically, both extremely singular yet influenced very obviously by acts such as Sigur Rós and Karnivool, and basic garage and stoner rock bands; it’s as if Pil & Bue are a gumbo of sorts—they are more than the sum of their influences.

Hey! Listen To Resurrecting Id!

Resurrecting Id is the brainchild of Chris Herald, a talented sax player/composer and fellow metal nerd. The premise of Resurrecting Id appears to be answering the question of, "Hey, what would happen if there was progressive, djenty metal with sax playing the usual guitar lead and guitar playing support?" He answered that question in the form a self-titled 5-song EP last year, and I gotta say, it's definitely worth the time of anyone who read my article last week, as well as any fans of interesting, technically-demanding jazzy prog metal.