Astral Path – Ashes Dancer

First off, Ashes Dancer would’ve made a much more interesting band name, and Astral Path would’ve been a cooler album name, for what it’s worth (especially considering another metal band named Astral Path already released an album this year). Other than that, this is just pretty good prog death. The melodies are good, but not amazing, following very predictable patterns and chord progressions, but being relatively pleasing nonetheless. The band can craft some mean solos though, especially on Drag Me Down, which is easily my favorite track on the album.

What really gets me though, is the deathcore-lite breakdowns and chugging that infects that whole album for no reason at all. I feel like there’s supposed to be a sort of spiritual element to this record (at least with indications in the band name, opening track, and prelude), going through sort of new agey/faux-indian classical elements that are brought up on certain tracks and then dropped completely. However everything about this is so god damn produced, clean, and corporate that it makes them feel like a gimmick rather than giving the album any serious conceptual weight.

Again, this album is good, but I wouldn’t quite give it the recommended tag. There are plenty of other prog death albums that are this level of quality, and plenty more than have the same level of high value production, but also offer something more than what you would typically expect.


6.75/10

Thy Catafalque – Meta

I think this album demonstrates a difference between quirky and colorful. Colorful in my eyes is something that elicits imagination, creativity, and certain kind of lushness to the music. It feels like the band put their heart and soul into the record, and as a result creates an album filled with every color of the rainbow, in a truly unique and satisfying experience. Meta is just quirky. Sure it has some weirdness to it, with various electronic and orchestral oddness, but it the melodies are so ridiculously uninspiring that I can’t help but feel both bored and disappointed the whole way through. There are brief moments where I think the album hits (Mezolit for instance), but for the most part it feels like Thy Catafalque through a bunch of related shit together, strung it over the same few melodies, and hoped for the best. Not to mention the album is over an hour long, with a 21 minute track that feels exactly the same as the majority of the album.

Sure Meta has a lot of parts to it, but I would rather have an album with a few well crafted parts that go together, than an album that throws a bunch of different things together that come off as a bit random, and end up sounding the same anyway.


5/10

Evergrey – The Storm Within

I don’t know how these dudes managed to make an album this insipid and boring, but they should feel proud that they achieved it. This is like if Third Law era Muse made a metal album, but without anything theatrical/hilariously bad. This is ridiculously overproduced to the point of my disgust, added along to an unreasonable run time, with abso-fucking-lutely nothing happening the whole way. These kind of albums are why the term progressive metal has no real meaning anymore. It’s not a terrible album, but it’s insultingly boring and poppy.


3.25/10

Throes of Dawn – Our Voices Shall Remain

Absolutely gorgeous. Immensely melancholy, sad, soothing, and smooth. It’s like hearing your hands run through silk. I love all the little bit and pieces they put into each track to make them interesting, like the saxophone on One of Us Is Missing, or the piano throughout the album. It runs a bit long, and I feel like it has a little bit too much of a “putting you to sleep” vibe, but it’s lovely none the less. Very relaxing if anything else.


8.5/10

Eritherium – If You Feel It’s Presence

This is absolutely a masterpiece that never was. The album itself is just fantastic early Opeth worship, done better than Opeth themselves. It’s not a riff cereal, every song is constructed beautifully, the length isn’t overbearing because of how enjoyable every song is, the math rocky guitars are a superb add on, everything about this is absolutely wonderful and in most circumstances would be an AOTY contender. The problem is the production is an absolutely disaster that is hard to overlook. It’s just a simple matter of the equipment used to record this was utter trash, so everything is muddled and the music has 1/3rd of the impact it should have. Prog death like this NEEDS to be clean in order to work, and these guys simply weren’t able to deliver on that front. This could be a fucking amazing band if they just get good equipment, because that is actually all they need to be one of the top notch prog death bands around. They have all the tools to be great, except the ones needed to record the music.


7.75/10

https://eritherium.bandcamp.com/track/if-you-feel-its-presence

Witherscape – The Northern Sanctuary

Inoffensive, over-hyped, completely generic. The melo death feels like it’s only there to get a tiny bit of an extreme metal audience, because otherwise the death growls do jack shit for this record. If you have heard any progressive metal album ever, you’ll know what to expect. It sounds like the cover and I don’t mean that in a good way.


4.25/10

Denominate – Those who Beheld the End

Some surprisingly really awesome techy Death Metal. The one thing I think it lacks is that extra bit of catchiness to the riffs. Nothing really tops Torments of Silence, and I feel like while the rest of the album is composed of some very decent material, it’s more like stuff that you listen to and acknowledge is decent, but nothing really sends any shivers down your spine. The tracks just don’t match that progressive edge that Torments has, leading the rest of the album to feel more like a strange kind of filler in the sense that the tracks sound similar and are just space holders for the main course. Very good, but not quite top tier.


7.75/10

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h6ZE3o1dluE&feature=youtu.be

https://denominate.bandcamp.com/album/those-who-beheld-the-end

Winterhorde – Maestro

I feel like this is just on the cusp of being great, but not quite there. It’s incredibly consistent, but rarely does any track absolutely wow me (with the exception of They Came with Eyes of Fire and maybe the title track). The main melodies are pretty samey, but there’s just enough variation that I don’t mind it too much. I love the heavy progressive tinge to the record, really separates itself from other sympho black album. This isn’t just campy symphonics, there’s actual compositional skill involved. Overall this is good, but I don’t think it justifies the length at all, and consistently only gets your far if it’s consistently amazing, rather than consistently decent.


7.5/10

Sunburst – Fragments of Creation

Perfect, that’s how I wanted to end my evening, chug prog that desperately tries to disguise that fact with soulless technicality. Fantastic, this’ll be a short one. Fragments of Creation is another drop in a sea of unmemorable power prog that’ll be released this year, and the only reason I’m even being arsed to write a review about it is because I happened to be dumb enough to give it a shot. Not a single memorable song lies on this album, essentially being a 56 minute waste of your time. If you like solos that have been played endlessly, if you like prog metal that’s “totally not djent guys, really honestly it’s just a slight influence, we’re our own thing I promise”, and if you like dry reflections of power metal that do nothing but add insincere “cheese” to the album, be my guest. Go ahead, like it, I can’t stop you. I’ll admit, once in a while there’s a riff that kinda cocks my head a bit. Beyond that, there’s nothing worth saving here. Move along folks, nothing to see, just joining the endless crowd of other albums like it released on a yearly basis.


5/10

Wolverine – Machina Viva

So I’m actually going to do a first for this review. Until now, I have never given a progressive metal album that didn’t have any other genre attached to it (such as folk metal, death metal, etc.) an 8 or higher. I’ve often bagged on about “oh man,  if only get to like generic prog, I really want to like this but I’m retarded and don’t have the capacity to enjoy simple things” etc. Well fear not jaded prog fans that view my site for some reason, hope as arrived. Wolverine just made me a believer with their new album Machina Viva, a depressing and soulful look journey that made me self discover what I really want from progressive metal.

And it started when I came to the realization that I loved this and they weren’t doing anything super weird. I know, I’ve said both that prog needs to push boundaries, and that there’s nothing wrong with being generic. I feel like both are true in certain situations, but to be honest I don’t give a shit about hypocrisy, whatever helps me make my point at the time is fine. If I said something contradictory to that earlier, then well, oops I guess, things change. For my argument that being generic is fine, I’ve often stipulated that bands still need to add something for me to latch onto. I can’t just hear wanky alt/power metal for 50 minutes and be impressed. Wolverine passes this with flying colors. There is a distinct depressive atmosphere to this album that remains consistent throughout the entire work, and one I don’t remember experiencing on any other album I’ve listened to. Prog is generally a happy genre, filled with wannabe goofballs that think wacky chugs are the way to go for experimental music. There is nothing wacky or chug reliant on Machina Viva. The whole record is not necessarily immersed in any riffs or particular melodies (though they aren’t too shabby on the melody department either, the main melody to Nemesis in unf worthy), but a direct focus on providing a calm and introspective atmosphere.

There is this unique melancholy to this album that you just don’t experience often in metal, outside of maybe depressive black metal. Though to be fair, this is barely metal. I would’ve reviewed it anyway, but this is maybe 15-20% metal, and the rest prog rock and electronic. Which fuck, I HAVE to talk about the electronic synths here.

One of the reasons the whole feel of the album is consistently mellow is how subtle the synths are. They add this ethereal, alien-like aspect to the music, that contrasts so well with the extremely human sound of the guitars. It’s hard to explain, but it’s like there’s this slight impersonal tone that in an abstract way further cements the feeling of isolation and loneliness that I get from this record. You know how they say depression is a warm blanket? That’s kind of how I feel here. The guitars and vocals are the depression, the synths are the blanket. There’s this warm sadness throughout the whole album that actually made it quite difficult for me to review until multiple listens (which is tough on time, this is over an hour long). I love how sometimes I even mistake the synths for other instruments, like horns or saxophones. I say that if the synths are good enough to make me think they’re using french horns, it’s a job well done.

I do want to touch briefly on some faults however. I can’t really pick a favorite track on this album, partially because they’re all so spectacular, but also because the album is very monotone in it’s flavor. It delivers melancholy, and ONLY melancholy. There needed to be more tracks like Shed, which put a different, even somewhat happier spin on the established canon of the record. Pile of Ash kind of does this, but I see that as more the generic acoustic guitar track that I guess is mandatory in prog albums. I don’t like how that track and Nemesis just end with no conclusion. Like they just stop, there’s some silence, then they move on to the next track. Takes me out of the album for a bit, it’s jarring. Also there’s the issue of Machina just being too quiet, not as a dynimc, but just from a production perspective. The studio should’ve turned the volume up slightly, that’s all. I would’ve liked a bit more oomph in the production, I feel like no matter how good your music is, if you can’t physically feel the music at all, it can only do so much. I’ve recently bagged on bands for being too noisy in their production, but I feel like there’s a difference between not being able to hear the instrumentals, and just not feeling the music in your gut at all. You need that little love tap to make the emotional punches really count.

I think if maybe one of the tracks would’ve been replaced with something a bit more diverse in nature this would’ve been a 9 easily. Machina feels a bit weak that doesn’t have the impact the run of tracks from Our Last Goodbye to Nemesis does. It’s weird, because Machina does try to be a bit more experimental with the electronics, but it isn’t experimental enough to justify it’s place on the album, and doesn’t have some of the tension building that Wolverine does so well on this record. Before I end I do have to speak about that, because this is important as fuck. I really am impressed by the fact that these guys were able to create meaningful buildup and climax without anything feeling like a forced crescendo. Everything feels like a natural evolution of the song, rather than trying to just pile on layers of noise until it breaks upon itself. That’s a mark of top notch composition skill, well done.

Other than that, there’s not much more to say. Color me very impressed, this is prog AOTY so far and I expect that to stay the same unless something drastic happens. Just goes to show you what a bit of care and subtlety can do to turn a record from pretty good to spectacular.


8.75/10