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.


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.


Fates Warning – Theories of Flight

I don’t think I’ve ever so desperately wanted to like an album in my whole life than this one. I don’t even know why, it’s not like it’s a genre of music I love. Generic prog is something I have a hateboner for in all forms, so this would seem to be the exact thing I would want to hate. Maybe it’s because I didn’t really appreciate Fates Warning’s 80s stuff, so I want to make up for that by giving them credit for what they’re doing now. Maybe it’s just the acclaim Theories of Flight has gotten so far. Regardless, the result is I couldn’t get myself to like this. The album feels like a disingenuous attempt at prog that ends up having more in common with pop rock than any form of progressive metal.

You know, maybe I wanted to like this so bad because From the Rooftops is actually really good. The intro is as stellar a beginning to an album as you can have, the rest of the track being charged with emotion, and a great lead into the album. But then on the 3rd track you have the chorus to SOS. Just what in the name of Jesus Christ’s hairy asshole is that fucking chorus? That sounds like a pop rock song. I would hear that shit on the radio in the mid 2000s as my mom drives me to middle school, what the fuck. And there’s shit like that on the album all the time. Various sections of songs that I can’t tell if the band is trying too hard or absolutely not trying at all. The Light and Shade of Things is fucking great, but White Flag again sounds like they’re pandering to moms and their 14 year old sons from 2007. I don’t understand, sometimes this is an awesome, technical, and wickedly catchy progressive metal album, and the other times it’s like the band sold the fuck out but didn’t want people to catch on to that fact.

Let me be clear, nothing on this album is astonishing. You’ve heard this shit before if you’ve heard 10 prog metal albums from after 2005. But when it’s clicking, it can convey some pretty intense emotions. As mentioned before, The Light sounds like a real diverse prog opus, albeit in a modern sense, and watered down on the pretension. It’s the shorter tracks that sound like complete fucking filler. Theories of Flight is the most filler track you could possibly put on your album, and it’s the closer. I just, I don’t know what possible purpose it serves on the album. It’s not even really a song, it’s just staticy noise and samples with guitar noodling. Why the fuck even put this on here? What does it add to the album that The Ghosts of Home (a 10 minute prog journey that is almost on part with The Light and Shade of Things) doesn’t?

I really feel like this deserves a rating in the 5 range, I really do. But I can’t give it that. Because even though it’s lows are definitely low, when it’s good, it rests somewhere in the high 7 range consistently. And I don’t know, sometimes you just enjoy records even though all analysis points it towards not being great. This record is like that one awkward kid you should absolutely dislike on every level, but for some reason you can’t help feel a mixture of sympathy and shame for. You feel guilty that you don’t like it, so you give it better treatment. Music is weird man.


Katatonia – The Falls of Hearts

This album is like finding out your second favorite baseball team lost an early regularly season game.

This album is like stubbing your toe on a beanbag chair.

This album is like having a breakfast sandwhich from Burger King.

This album is like getting a B- as a final grade for a class and your parents going “well that’s not too bad I guess, try harder next term honey!”.

This album is like waking up 20 minutes before your alarm is supposed to go off.

This album is listed on the WWF’s endangered species list, but doesn’t have any danger signification next to it because it’s not quite there yet.

This album is like gathering your whole family to go to Olive Garden, then realizing Olive Garden isn’t actually that good, but you get unlimited salad and breadsticks so it’s w/e.

This album is that B student kid at your middle school who really liked dinosuars but never spoke in class and became a gas station attendant at Arco.

When you buy this album it comes with one free, unscented, plain red sticker.

If this album were a country it would be Latvia.

This album is like if pudding tasted like tapioca.

This album is like finding out the co-creator of the Simpsons died last year.

This album is like buying adderall off the street, using it 3 times, then pitching it because it’s “not your thing” and you don’t want to get in trouble.

This album was certainly an album I listened to and can’t really comment on any further other than making up mediocre roasts that sound like they came from a 19 year old’s twitter page. Could be worse.


Haken – Affinity

Very rarely do I listen to an album more than twice when reviewing it. This is almost entirely due to the fact that I’m massively stubborn, and very rarely does my opinion of an album change after first listen. I can count on one hand the number of times it’s changed drastically (three). Affinity is an exception, however not quite to the point of me being able to say I loved my listening experience. Initially I was bored by the generic chord changes, cheesy atmosphere, and the overall sound of a dime a dozen prog album. I gave it a 3/10 and moved on. A month later however, here I am, giving it over double the score I would’ve given it at the time of initial review. Have I changed? Not really. I got a bit of an appreciation for “generic” chord progressions, but other than that I’ve mostly stayed the same. The one thing that has changed is that I didn’t go into it desperately wanting to hate it. Any album that is labeled a generic prog metal/rock is almost always an instant dislike for me, and considering Haken has been a poster boy for generic, over the top, and cheesy modern prog, I went into the album wanting to hate it, and that’s what I got. On second chance however, I have come to appreciate it for what it is, while still maintaining that it has some serious flaws.

The two biggest elements that have been added to Haken’s repertoire are heavy djent and electronic influences, though RateYourMusic apparently disagrees, because prog fanboys are retarded. While on the surface those aspects seem like not only typical sellout tropes for prog bands, but also should be a massive annoyance on the listener. And to a degree that’s right. On The Architect these elements are combined into an extremely long opus that’s full of variety, but none of it enjoyable or even remotely worth making a track that long for. I very much actually enjoyed tracks like 1985 and Earthrise, despite their over the top and corny as all fuck faux 80s aesthetic (hence the faux retro cover). And the djenty, off rhythmic aspects of The Endless Knot actually makes for a killer track to bob your head to. Hell, generally speaking I actually enjoyed most of the fake aesthetic and djent aspects of this album. Sans the weird brostep like drop on Endless Knot (which actually prevented it from being the best track on the album), even the electronic aspects were handled with some appropriate restraint. But The Architect just takes all of what Haken was doing right, dressed it up in a clown suite, strapped to a gigantic Garfield balloon, and sent it off in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade with a sign attached reading “kill me”.

However overall, while I still can’t really recommend this as something I really like, I can see why people like it, and if anything present a precedent for me not to automatically shit on any modern prog that doesn’t reinvent the wheel. Because just because you didn’t change the shape of music, doesn’t mean you didn’t release an acceptable album, even if that’s the supposed purpose of your genre.


Artificial Tide – 40:37 ALBUM REVIEW

This is a question I pose to everyone who has never taken any kind of drug before; have you ever wondered what it’s like? To trip balls really hard and just be lost in time and space? To have that feeling that you’re outside of your own mind? Well good news, now you don’t have to take any kind of narcotic or illegal substance to feel that, you just have to listen to this album! And I know, pretty much any psychedelic band tries to go for that feeling, and it’s an overused comment on those kind of bands that it makes you feel like you’re on a drug trip. But this band takes it a step further by essentially eliminating basic song structure.

Typically when you have a song, there’s a melody, a consistent sense of rhythm, a beginning, middle, end, that kind of stuff. This doesn’t really have that at all. It’s not a runthrough album where all the tracks just kinda merge into one, but none of the tracks are really what I would call songs and more what I would call experiences. It’s sort of like each track is just creating a feeling rather than trying to do anything specific musically. I would call it very similar to what the impressionists did, the tracks just kinda sit there, going along for the ride, changing when they feel like it instead of when the song demands they do. That’s really the biggest part of this album, everything just seems to be done because the artist felt like it. Typically I mean that as an insult because it shows that the artist has no idea what they’re doing, but in this case the artist perfectly knows what they’re doing, they’re just so good that they’re able to do what they feel like and have it sound good.

If there’s one flaw with this album, it’s that it wanders too much at times. It’s easy to get lost in the soniscapes of crazy ambient guitar noises, and vocals that are instrument than actual vocals. So easy that that’s precisely what happens, you. Without any kind of obvious structure, it’s harder to pay attention to the album as slowly your mind wanders more and more, so that you’re listen to the first track one moment, and the next it’s already midway through the third track and it seems like it’s been 3 minutes, but it’s really been about 15. I can definitely understand that that’s probably at least part of the point of the album, but at the same time it’s still a bit of a problem. I want to make it clear, it’s not as if there’s no tonality or any kind of musical melody in this whatsoever, it’s just not nearly a prominent as the pure psychedelic insanity that happens.

One minor detail I like is the title, which in an apparent tribute to John Cage, is just how long the album is (well, technically it’s 40:25, but shhhhh). It really leaves a lot of room for interpretation on what you want this album to be about, and goes well with the free nature of the album. Even the cover is basically just distorted nonsense. This band is just going to play whatever it feels like. The music is a canvas. However you want to interpret it, is up to you.


The Vintage Caravan – Arrival ALBUM REVIEW

With a name like The Vintage Caravan, one would expect something that sounds, well, vintage. And to a point, they would be correct. This album very much has a lot of vintage influences in it. However, like I said, it’s to a point. Caravan does a great job of taking some vintage sounds and putting a modern twist on them. It’s a bit hard to explain, but listening to Arrival makes you think that this isn’t something that you would ever hear in the 70s. It feels distinctly like it comes from 2015. And that’s pretty damn refreshing if I do say so myself. Caravan doesn’t feel like they’re trying to copy anyone, which is the typical MO of pretty much any hard/stoner/and many progressive rock bands. I want to especially mention the closing track Winter Queen. The vocal delivery is very much vintage, however the music is heavy and large in scope, rather than mimicking the very smallish and down to earth feel of most 60s and 70s rock. It feels like a climax, and is a very fitting end to the album. The downside is while the sound is unique and well done, nothing about Arrival really feels like it belongs in the elite category of albums. It’s very solid, but nothing above that. Still, I’d very much recommend this to someone who wants to get something new out of the hard/progressive rock genre.

As a note, there are very little actual metal influences in this album, but I figured I’d add it anyway, since I already have just pure stoner rock albums here, and I already rated it anyway.


Subterranean Masquerade – The Great Bazaar ALBUM REVIEW

This album seems so manufactured it’s ridiculous. I was really excited when I saw it labeled “arabic folk music” (i’m an aspiring ethno-musicologist, so this shit is my game). Little did I know how cartoonish and silly it would be executed it. It’s cartoonish and almost offensive in how they portray arabic folk music, the melodies are way more pop rock than progressive anything, and just for kicks, they’re completely random death vocals, because why the fuck not right? And when I say random, I MEAN random. They’ll just switch back and forth without any warning or reason. And they’re often, no, ALWAYS completely out of place. Now, I have a thing for switching back between harsh and clean vocals, if done right. I love that stuff. This is not that. At all. The sad part is, I can’t really rate this lower because the instrumentals, although they contain really forced ethnic influences, aren’t actually bad and have some good moments. It’s jut the everything else in this album that makes you feel like you just watched a bad disney movie.