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 The Sky Moves Sideways by PORCUPINE TREE album cover Studio Album, 1995
4.07 | 1302 ratings

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The Sky Moves Sideways
Porcupine Tree Heavy Prog

Review by TCat
Collaborator Eclectic Team

5 stars 'The Sky Moves Sideways' is Porcupine Tree's 3rd official full length studio album, even though Steven Wilson and (later) his band had released several EPs and such during this time. After some success with his past PT albums, Wilson decided it was time to take the band on the road, but to do this, he would have to put together a full-time band. So, he recruited Richard Barbieri, Colin Edwin and Chris Maitland to be part of this band that was originally put together as a joke.

Before working on their next album, they tested the waters by releasing a single of a non-album song called 'Stars Die' with the b-side being 'Moonloop', which was taken from an over 40 minute long improvisation edited down to just over 18 minutes. (In December of 2001, the full 40-minute unedited version 'Moonloop' would be made available on CD and vinyl.) They also releasing a limited vinyl 'Spiral Circus' which was a live album of the first performances of the newly formed band. Right after this, 'The Sky Moves Sideways' was released.

Originally, TSMS was supposed to be a single track, a 50 minute epic work of the title track. This version of that track was never finished, but instead, was broken up into 2 parts that started and ended the album (in the same mode as Pink Floyd's 'Wish You Were Here' album) with shorter tracks separating the two parts. This was to be the first full album to be released in the US. Because of issues with timing on vinyl, there are some major differences on the two original releases of this album.

The CD would have 6 tracks in this order: 'The Sky Moves Sideways (Phase One)', 'Dislocated Day', 'The Moon Touches Your Shoulder', 'Prepare Yourself', 'Moonloop' with a timing of 17:04, and 'The Sky Moves Sideways (Phase Two)'.

The vinyl on the other hand, began and ended the same way as the CD, but the track listing named out sections of both Phase One and Two of the title track. Phase One was tracked as 'The Colour of Air', 'I Find That I'm Not There', 'Wire the Drum', and 'Spiral Circus'. This first phase was followed by 'Stars Die', 'Moonloop' with an further-edited timing of 8:10, 'Dislocated Day', The Moon Touches Your Shoulder', and then Phase Two of the title track broken up into two sections named 'Is'Not' and 'Off the Map'.

It wasn't until November of 2003. after interest in PT really exploded, that this album was released in an expanded 2CD edition, which has the track listing shown here in the Archives. The track sequence on the 1st CD is the same as the original CD except for 'Moonloop' which has been moved to the 2nd CD. Both 'Dislocated Day' and 'The Moon Touches Your Shoulder' have been remixed to include overdubs done by Gavin Harrison, who replaced Maitland. The 2nd CD contains an alternative mix of 'The Sky Moves Sideways', this time in on full track, not divided into two phases. This mix is more of a 'work-in-progress' mix that was recorded when the track was meant to last over 50 minutes, but since that long version was never finished, it is only 35 minutes and has some material that was cut from the original album version. After this is the track 'Stars Die' (left off of the original CD). Moonloop is then divided up into two tracks, 'Moonloop (Improvisation)' which has a duration of over 16 minutes and 'Moonloop (Coda)' which is almost 5 minutes, and which also contains what most people consider the best part of the 'Moonloop' track.

To make things even more confusing, in 2004, a remastered 3 disc vinyl edition was released, which has a slightly different track line-up from the 2CD set. The Alternate version of the title track is divided between sides 5 and 6. There is also a bonus 7' single included which contains two versions of the non-album track 'Men of Wood', one side is a 1994 mix and the other side is a 2000 mix. This song was originally recorded during the original album sessions.

Looking at the structure of the 2 CD track listing, the album opens up, as it should, with the first phase of 'The Sky Moves Sideways', which, whether it is divided up into two phases or complete, is the absolute best long-form, space rock style track the band did in their early years. The lead parts on this track are improvised, but the sections and moods it travels through are all structured, and that keeps the entire thing much more engaging and dynamic. It is absolutely beautiful, being the most similar to the atmospheric sounds of Pink Floyd than anything else they did as a whole. It begins with the lovely layers of keys and guitars, slowly floating along with lush and full textures that will capture you right away. It's not until far into the 4th minute before the vocals begin, and this lushness continues through the verses. When the vocal section ends at nine minutes, the music switches gears and moves faster and heavier, even approaching the heaviness of later albums at times, but then later taking on the Arabic vibe as the rhythm ticks along, then explodes back into life again. This track is much more than just a meandering and aimless improvisation, it has an almost structured feel to it where the background is dynamic and often changing while the guitar, synth , flutes and other instruments are driving the changes, and all the way through there are excellent and memorable riffs that will stay with you long after it is over. At 16 minutes, the music turns more pensive and atmospheric with some lovely acoustic guitar moving along with the shimmering keys and echoing electric guitar.

It wasn't my plan to describe the tracks in so much detail for this review, but I can't help it as I listen to this masterpiece, and the first phase just engages you all the way through. Absolutely beautiful! We now move into the next three, shorter format tracks that divide the two phases of the title track. First there is 'Dislocated Day' which begins with a dial tone and the band suddenly comes in while Wilson sings with a manipulated vocal. This one is a nice heavy and dark track with an exciting extended guitar riff which hits with a solid punch. 'The Moon Touches Your Shoulder' on the other hand, is more of a pensive ballad style with nice acoustic guitar chords surrounded by lush keys and Wilson's airy vocals. Things get more intense in the 2nd half of the track as layers of sound usher in a rousing guitar pattern that suddenly quiets down and leads into 'Prepare Yourself' which is a short instrumental that features the wailing guitar and a soft background. It builds up for the next track.

The first CD ends with Phase 2 of the title track, a continuation of the masterful journey. The build up takes its sweet time this time around as atmospheric synths and effects are influenced by short dramatic drum rolls. A screeching synth brings in a soft guitar to help calm it down. After 4 minutes, the bass starts a thumping beat and then suddenly the band comes to life again with a solid progressive motif that once again will get your blood boiling as it generates excitement and a bit of dread, but things calm as female wordless vocals sing and then an amazing guitar solo brings things up to another level just when you think it couldn't get any better. I'm telling you, Wilson knows how to make a guitar emote. At 8 minutes, the motif returns, things smooth out, and then tension builds and builds as a miasma of sounds whirl around, finally breaking down and resolving after 10 minutes. Shimmering and mysterious effects continue for several minutes before a sudden move into more guitar soloing, improvising off of the original vocal melody from the first phase. At fifteen minutes, the track ends on water effects, a sinister bass against atmospheric wails and sounds. The sky has moved, yet there is the feeling that things are not quite right. This masterpiece just attests to the brilliance of Porcupine Tree, and shows them at their creative best. How could anyone not love this?

The second CD begins with the alternate version of the title track, this time in its entirety at 34 minutes. It is pretty close to the same version as the finished version, but also adds some parts that were taken out of the original. With a track this gorgeous, I don't think anyone will argue with having a different version, and there really is no need to break it down as far as the differences. Just listen. After that, is what was previously the non-album track 'Stars Die' which is one of PT's most sensitive and emotional ballads. It fits in well with the album. The b-side to that single, the edited improvisation 'Moonloop' comes next at over 16 minutes. This long track is much less structured than the title track, so don't expect it to pack the emotional wallop and dynamic that the title track does. It's more like a long space rock jam, with very subtle changes during its long play time, though it is still a great track especially of interest to PT fans that haven't heard it. The interesting thing is that the 'Coda' section of this track is listed as a separate track, and that is for a good reason. For those listeners that want to skip the long meandering improvisational section of the track can easily do so, and move right to the best part, which is the strong and powerful guitar ending. Somehow, though, I feel listening to the entire 'Moonloop' edit makes the ending even more powerful. But you can easily decide how to listen to it, the entire album is still a masterpiece.

This is one of the best ways to experience the earlier works of the band, especially as they are presenting themselves as a full band for the first time in a full album. I highly recommend this album to those that have already had an introduction to the band through either 'In Absentia' or 'Deadwing' as it shows a completely different side of the band at their best. The sound is a lot different from those albums, but when you listen closely, it really isn't that much different, just more exploratory. 'The Sky Moves Sideways' is their best epic work in their early discography and is fully deserving of 5 stars.

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 Trance Archeology by ROACH, STEVE album cover Studio Album, 2019
4.00 | 4 ratings

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Trance Archeology
Steve Roach Progressive Electronic

Review by admireArt
Prog Reviewer

3 stars Steve Roach has acquired through the years a personal way of electronic music expression, which somehow more than once is relegated for the more known and far more popular Berlin School related electronic music language as in his Bloom Ascension (2019).

As for me I do prefer the evolution of his own idiom.

Trance Archeology (2019) moves around those last lines. Setting up here & there for some contemporary electronic music structures to support his well established own findings which dwell between modern primitive & dreamy or nightmarish soundscapes blended into one.

Experimentation does happens, but discreet & mature, not to impress but to add some new twists to once told tales.

Yet, somehow, he stops digging in his personal findings, and repeats himself more than once, maybe unconsciously. So, there will be this kind of eerie atmospheres, which as first time impressions are formidable, but on a third or fourth ocassion (in other previous works), they kind of lose their unique significance.

As for me, it let me wondering....... if his personal language has touched rock bottom?, or as before mentioned, needs to be reshaped and shakened?

Tuff to rate, cause original it is, but due to his own already set standards, it hardly raises above his many other previous masterpieces.

***/*

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 Kozmik Koon by ZONE SIX album cover Studio Album, 2019
4.00 | 1 ratings

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Kozmik Koon
Zone Six Psychedelic/Space Rock

Review by TCat
Collaborator Eclectic Team

— First review of this album —
4 stars Zone Six, founded in Germany in 1997, has been made up of a variation of lineups through the years. They have also played and collaborated with members of Hawkwind. Their music is considered Space Rock, which it is, but it also borrows quite extensively from Krautrock styles, which produces a nice, trippy music which is mostly improvised. In December 2019, the band released their 6th album made up of music recorded between 2015 ? 2018 and named it "Kozmik Koon", the name being a combination of being named after Kozmik Ken who is the head of Kozfest and the amount of raccoons that inhabit the area where the band calls home.

Kozmik Koon features 5 tracks, 3 of those tracks exceeding 10 minutes. The line up consists of band founder Dave Schmidt (known as Sula Bassana) playing most of the instruments which include drums, synths, organ, mellotron, acoustic guitar and so on. Also joining him on this album is Lulu "Komet" Neudeck on bass, synths, tapes, fx and vocals; and Rainer Neeff on guitar and effects.

The music is definitely a nice mix of space psychedelia and krautrock jams. However, don't expect it all to be the typical space rock. "Maschinenseele" (12:52) actually is quite ambient at the beginning and moves along slowly, building a layer here and an effect there, following the Berlin rules of Krautrock but without a heavy or driving rhythm or sound. It is more of a wandering style as it floats along with mellotron and guitars and it stays interesting all the way through, capturing your soul and imagination as it takes your mind on a mostly relaxing journey. However, continuing on to the title track "Kozmik Koon" (10:58), the music suddenly gets more intense and full with a much faster beat and invigorating bass riff. The guitar effects improvise around this base, echoing and wailing as the background stays on one chord. The music boils along quickly and it is easy to get lost in it, even at the heavier and faster pace, it becomes quite hypnotizing, but the guitar remains front and center. Around 7 minutes, everything calms down as the music gets soft, but the effects make some interesting sounds as the bass keeps it moving forward quietly. Then layers of textured and manipulated guitars and keys take us into a psychedelic mood as the beat stays slow, yet steady to the end.

The two shorter tracks follow beginning with "Raum" (3:28). This one gives us layers of guitar and synth effects with no rhythm, just layers of sound ebbing and flowing, guitars moaning and synths whirling atmospherically. "Still" (3:37) takes the pulsating sound from the previous track and brings it to the fore before it is taken over by nice melodic layers of keys, mellotron and soft effects. It has a nice psych-pastoral feel thanks to the mellotron and electric piano, and is the most melodious of all of the tracks even though it still has the improvised feel to it. There is also some early Pink Floyd sounding guitar work throughout, and you actually wish this one went on longer as it could easily be something that PF would have recorded.

The last track is "Song for Richie" (13:52) which is dedicated to Richard Van Ess. This one has a moderate rhythm and follows a more psychedelic and meandering path that wavers from dark and intense to soft and pensive. The music intensifies as the beat moves along steadily while the guitar howls and builds thick layers of sustained sounds behind each note. Around 8 minutes, the tempo starts to speed up, sweeping up all of the guitar sound and enticing the guitar to play heavier and faster until it gets into a whirlwind of sound with the drone trailing off behind the sudden cascades of notes and riffs emitting from the guitar, the drums going along wildly until they gather everything together and slow it all down suddenly, reigning in the chaotic guitar and giving the drone to the keys to remain in the background as the guitar gets to have its final say.

The album is quite intriguing and in my opinion, one of the best psych/space albums I've heard in 2019. I found that I really enjoy the music on the album and if the last track had been a bit more engaging in the first half, this would have been a 5 star album. Even then, it is so close, but not quite there. The music is surprisingly variable even if it is inspired by krautrock tendencies. In all of the tracks except for "Song for Richie", there is an excellent mix of instruments that make this album unique among the many Psych/Space Rock albums released this year, and all of them get to build the soundscapes on this album. Even the shorter tracks are interesting and engaging, though I would have liked to hear more of the sound they developed on "Still" and less of "Son for Richie", then this could have been a strong 5 star album. Yet, don't pass this one by even as a 4 star album, because it's still excellent and some may even enjoy the droning and heavy guitar sound of the last track, I just found it too similar to what's already been done out there. Everything else is quite amazing.

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 Terraformer by THANK YOU SCIENTIST album cover Studio Album, 2019
4.06 | 165 ratings

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Terraformer
Thank You Scientist Crossover Prog

Review by guiservidoni

5 stars

I've been listening to Terraformer for a couple of months religiously every week, trying to come up with a consistent reason why my inner snob tells me this is a five-star album. This is my attempt of explaining it.

This album has been received by critics as a great album, albeit overly technical and lacking some of the emotion present on Maps of Non-Existent Places and, especially, Stranger Heads Prevail. However, here's the thing: Thank You Scientist, at least from my point of view, is by itself an overly technical band from the beginning, seeing the amount of things happening at the same time on any song of theirs (even on interludes), given the amount of members of the band. However, on this album, the duration amplifies that effect.

While listening to any Thank You Scientist album, my brain very easily fades their music into the background because I believe it gets tired of trying to understand all of the things happening at once. If this happens to me while trying effectively to focus, I imagine how easily most people tap out on a casual listening, and that can give the impression of technical wankery. For that, it's a good thing that I persisted on listening to it for quite some time before reviewing it, because this is an album that starts with a bombastic impression (aka Wrinkle), becomes an average album after 2-3 listens, and then starts growing back on you, to the point where you feel like putting it on repeat without feeling the need to pull your hair off anymore. Much like Yes' Tales From Topographic Oceans or any Ayreon's cheesy Opera.

I believe the band knows that this is a hard listen, and therefore interludes and breather songs are more in place than on the two previous records, such as the beginning of Birdwatching and New Moon. As it's noticeable, these breathers become longer as the album advances, as you're probably becoming mentally more tired as it progresses.

If you don't lose faith too quickly on Terraformer, moments like Anchor's bridge, or Terraformer (the song) victory-like character really begin shining through, and the impression of over-technicality begins to fade. This is not easy, and definitely does not take less than 10 listens, I'd say. But, once you're able to really appreciate the work that is done here, you might as well believe this is a five-star masterpiece, topping all previous records.

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 Quatermass by QUATERMASS album cover Studio Album, 1970
3.76 | 165 ratings

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Quatermass
Quatermass Heavy Prog

Review by Psychedelic Paul

5 stars QUATERMASS were a British Hammond organ-driven power trio, specialising in the kind of reckless keyboard abandon heard from such prominent bands as Emerson, Lake & Palmer and The Nice - bands who were just as well-known for their frantic stage antics as their music. The line-up consisted of bass player and vocalist John Gustafson, keyboard player Peter Robinson and drummer Mick Underwood. The original "Quatermass" (1970) album on the Prog-Rock Chrysalis label, was followed 27 years later by the second "Quatermass II: Long Road" (1997) album, when drummer Mick underwood put together a new line- up of the band. The original Quatermass album was reissued on CD in 1990 with two bonus tracks included. Let's dive into the Quatermass pit now and take a trip back in time to that magical proggy year of 1970 when Progressive Rock was just emerging like a phoenix from the ashes of the psychedelic sixties.

It's a very sedate 1-minute opening to the album with "Entropy". It sounds like we're attending a solemn religious occasion in church with the delicate sound of a solo organist introducing us to the album. Don't be fooled though, because this is just a prelude to "Black Sheep of the Family", a rip-roaring, organ-driven rocker. This is a solid-as-a-rock, heavy rocking song with a good pedigree: it was originally recorded by Chris Farlowe in 1970, turned down for Deep Purple's "Stormbringer" album in 1974, and later covered by Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow on their first album in 1975. Forget about piano fortes, this is a full- force organ forte, played loudly, played proudly, and played powerfully. This raucous rocker is as rock solid as reinforced concrete! And now we come to the first of the long epic numbers on the album, "Post War Saturday Echo". At nearly 10 minutes in duration, it's a multi-part suite, opening with a moody and magnificent organ piece. There's no peace for the wicked (or the good) though, because this song really explodes into life like a stick of dynamite before we're even halfway through the song. Make no mistake, this is powerful all-guns-blazing rock & roll with a take-no-prisoners attitude. Prepare to be blown away, because this music will make your day! Let's take a look at the impassioned lyrics:- The city is a ravin' neon nightmare, Freudian symbols lay my soul bare, And every way I turn, Electric hoardings burn, And words that mean nothing, Are endlessly rushing, Telling me nothing I really wanna learn." ..... This is invigorating and reverberant music with powerful lyrics to match. "Good Lord Knows" we're onto Song No. 4 now, an altogether mellower number, so you can take it easy, make a cup of tea and put your feet up to this laid-back 3-minute ballad. It's back to some good old-fashioned hard rockin' again for the next song though, the 7-minute barnstormer "Up on the Ground". This powerful organ-driven number has Deep Purple written all over it. It's a riveting, rollicking, rock & rolling number with all of the surging power of a steam locomotive!

Well, after the sonic attack of Side One, what does Side Two have in store for us. Let's find out. Fasten your seat belts and hold on tight because there's no let-up. We're going supersonic up into the stratosphere for "Gemini", a romping, stomping, branstorming song that's positively pulsating with energy. There's enough radiant power here to light up a lighthouse. It's time to "Make Up Your Mind" now for Song No. 7, another multi-part epic, running at nearly 9 minutes long. Well, I've made up MY mind that this song and the album as a whole is very reminiscent of the powerful keyboard-heavy sound of Deep Purple and Uriah Heep, which has to be a good thing. This grand-sounding piece of music has all the power and resonance of the Big Ben bell. Next comes the longest song on the album so get your "Laughing Tackle" around this. It's a 10-minute long instrumental number, giving the power trio a chance to flex their musical muscles with some very impressive and superlative soloing. This epic number features the requisite long pounding drum solo, an energetic and pulsating bass guitar riff, and of course, some frantic antics from the omnipresent keyboard player, who could give Keith Emerson, Rick Wakeman, Jon Lord or Ken Hensley a good keyboard run for their money any time of the day. And so, we end this high-flown, hard as a rhinestone Quatermass album the same way as we began, with a brief gentle reprise of "Entropy". You can stop headbanging and stomping those feet now.

This grandiose and spectacular album of relentless, pile-driving British Rock is sure to appeal to fans of the sonorous keyboard-heavy sound of bands such as Deep Purple, Emerson, Lake & Palmer and Uriah Heep. This stupendous 50-year-old album has all the power and hard driving energy of a pneumatic drill. Quatermass are a supersonic blast from the past!

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 Zodiac by GLORIOUS WOLF album cover Studio Album, 2019
3.26 | 6 ratings

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Zodiac
Glorious Wolf Crossover Prog

Review by Matti
Prog Reviewer

4 stars The first album Aquarius (2017) by Glorious Wolf -- the moniker of the Dutch multi-instrumentalist (primarily guitarist) Ruud Dielen -- was all instrumental, but this second release features vocals and lyrics of Oscar Anema on most of the nine tracks. I haven't listened to Aquarius. For those of you who have, the crucial question may be: do the vocals improve or ruin the music? Well, mr. Anema is a fairly good, slightly ballsy singer, and I always appreciate a mixture of instrumental and vocal-oriented prog, so I tend to believe it wasn't a bad move at all. Although if I had to pick my favourites from this album, the instrumental ones would probably be stronger in the competition.

The album's overall theme, or source of inspiration, is astrology. I guess most of the "Zodiac" titled albums (e.g. the one by Leif Strand) have the tracks named after the twelve signs of the zodiac. Gracefully that's not the case here, not another musical interpretation of the twelve personalities which is such a cliche. Anema's lyrics are at times pretty esoteric with planets and all, but also dealing with ordinary people and their everyday lives and struggles. The 11-minute opener 'Constellations' is a perfect example of the guitar-centred psychedelic flavour comparable to artists like Steve Hillage and his KHAN, or Jimi Hendrix. The second song has some mindblowing moments and very cool synth work; an excellent rocker with a strong progressive and psychedelic approach.

I don't like all of the vocal expressions on 'Zodiac' (at times Anema clearly imitates Jim Morrison), which would surely function well as an instrumental. There's a cover song included, 'Poets' by David Sylvian. I haven't heard the original and couldn't quickly find its origins, but this acoustically oriented version is great, and the spirit of Sylvian certainly is there. 'Feelin' Blue' is a slow bluesy song and resembles Pink Floyd, especially 'Shine on You Crazy Diamond'. Dielen's guitar style is notably influenced by David Gilmour. The three instrumentals are placed in the end -- tracks No. 6, 8 an 9. Perhaps one coming somewhere in the middle would have done good for the balance, but I do prefer the instrumental orientation in the end instead of coming earlier on the album. On 'For You and I' the powerful guitar soloing is very Santana-like.

Being bravely 64+ min. long, this album carries its length pretty well. There are no weak tracks, although the ultimate highlights aren't very numerous either. All in all, an enjoyable album with not necessarily a great deal of originality. My rating is 3½ stars and I'm rounding it up, partly due to fine artwork of Ed Unitsky.

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 Dead Winter Dead by SAVATAGE album cover Studio Album, 1995
3.83 | 149 ratings

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Dead Winter Dead
Savatage Progressive Metal

Review by UMUR
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

3 stars "Dead Winter Dead" is the 9th full-length studio album by US power/heavy/progressive metal act Savatage. The album was released through Atlantic Records in October 1995. It´s the successor to "Handful Of Rain" from 1994 and features a couple of lineup changes since the predecessor as guitarist Alex Skolnick has jumped ship, and has been replaced by a returning Chris Caffery (who performed with Savatage in the late 80s and also collaborated with Jon Oliva on the Doctor Butcher project) and former Alice Cooper guitarist Al Pitrelli. Drummer Steve Wacholz had in reality already left Savatage before the recording of "Handful Of Rain (1994)" although he is credited for playing on the album. On the tour supporting "Handful Of Rain (1994)", Jeff Plate was hired as the band´s drummer, and he makes his first studio album appearance on "Dead Winter Dead".

"Dead Winter Dead" is a concept release (their second concept release after "Streets" from 1991), taking place in the Bosnian capital of Sarajevo during the Bosnian war in the period 1990 to 1994. The main characters of the story are a young Serbian man and a young muslim Bosnian girl, who during the story realise the terrors of war and that fighting each other won´t help them have the future they both dream of. The story also features other twists like the old man playing Mozart and Beethoven compositions on his cello in the town square while mortar shells rain down from the sky around him (ultimately killing him). A symbol of beauty destroyed by the ugliness of war.

Stylistically "Dead Winter Dead" is a dynamic and varied release. Everything from mellow ballad type passages, to power ballads, orchestral arrangements and musical style melodies and build-ups, choirs and counterpoint vocal parts, to the occasional harder edged US power/heavy metal track, are featured on the album. All arranged on the tracklist to accompany the storyline. The band are as always professional and well playing, and the two new guitarists do a great job throughout the album. Zachary Stevens sings most lead vocal parts, but Jon Oliva makes a return singing lead vocals on "I Am" and "Doesn´t Matter Anyway" as well as singing backing vocals on "Starlight". While Stevens is a powerful and skilled vocalist, it´s hard not to notice how much stronger the vocal part of the music becomes when Oliva sings. Stevens is a class act, but Oliva is in the world elite of metal singers, and that´s just hard to compete with.

"Dead Winter Dead" is a well produced album and features a mix where all details are clearly audible. So upon conclusion "Dead Winter Dead" is another high quality release by Savatage. It´s one of their most progressive releases in terms of diversity and compositional sophistication, but it´s also one of their least "metal" releases in terms of sheer heavy metal power, and the listener should brace themselves for a more musical style listening experience. A 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.

(Originally posted on Metal Music Archives)

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 Thorns In Existence by SULPHUR album cover Studio Album, 2009
4.00 | 2 ratings

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Thorns In Existence
Sulphur Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by UMUR
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars "Thorns in Existence" is the 2nd full-length studio album by Norwegian black/death metal act Sulphur. The album was released through Dark Essence Records in November 2009. Sulphur was formed in 1999 out of the ashes of the Bergen based black metal act Taakeriket. An act which existed from 1996 to 1999. Sulphur released the "A Relic for the Damned" demo in 2000, but then disappeared for a while before returning in 2005 with the "Outburst of Desecration" demo, which earned them a label deal with Osmose Productions for the release of the debut full- legth studio album "Cursed Madness (2007)".

Stylistically the material on "Thorns in Existence" continues in a similar technically well played progressive black/death metal style as the one Sulphur introduced on "Cursed Madness (2007)". The difference lies mostly in the quality of the material and especially in the consistency of the material and how well the album flows. I'm still reminded of an act like Enslaved, although Sulphur aren't clones by any means. The vocals are predominantly in the high pitched raspy black metal camp, but there are also more death metal oriented growling vocals featured on the album, as well as the rare use of clean vocals.

The material on the 10 track, minutes long album are well written and relatively varied (the band successfully combine epic atmospheres, brutality, and chaotic darkness within intriguing song structures), and as a result "Thorns in Existence" is an entertaining release throughout the playing time. The album features a powerful and detailed sound production too, and upon conclusion it's a high quality sophomore release by Sulphur. They may not have the most original style nor the most distinct sounding playing/singing style (which is about the only thing keeping me from rating "Thorns in Existence" higher than I do), but there is still something about the album which reeks high class in all departments and a 3.5 - 4 star (75%) rating is deserved.

(Originally posted on Metal Music Archives)

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 Silhouettes by TEXTURES album cover Studio Album, 2008
3.61 | 50 ratings

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Silhouettes
Textures Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by UMUR
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

3 stars "Silhouettes" is the 3rd full-length studio album by Dutch metal act Textures. The album was released through Listenable Records in April 2008. It's the successor to "Drawing Circles" from 2006 and features one lineup change since the predecessor as bassist Dennis Aarts has been replaced by Remko Tielemans.

Stylistically the material on "Silhouettes" continues the technical/progressive metal style of "Drawing Circles (2006)". Hard edged angular riffs and rhythms, often delivered in unconventional time signatures, shouting aggresive "core" tinged vocals, and the occasional clean vocal part, and some melodic and atmospheric moments, which are often enhanced by the use of keyboards. Artists like Meshuggah and Gojira come to mind at various points of the playing time, but Textures ultimately don't sound like those acts, although there definitely are some similarities.

"Silhouettes" features high level musicianship and a powerful, clear, and detailed sound production, which suits the material perfectly. The material is well written, effective, and catchy (even quite melodic at times). It's also reasonably varied and "Silhouettes" is overall an album with a good tracklist flow. So upon conclusion "Silhouettes" is a high quality release by Textures. There are a few issues which prevent it from reaching higher levels of excellence, and that is predominantly issues with the vocals. Both the raw shouting vocals and the clean vocals are as such well performed, but none of the vocal styles are particularly unique sounding. The raw vocals sound like a thousand other "core" tinged vocals, and the clean vocals are pretty unremarkable too.

So while the material are both well written and powerful, Textures still haven't found a sound which make them stand out from the crowd of similar sounding artists (like for example the two above mentioned artists have), and that does have an impact on my overall impression of "Silhouettes". Had the vocals stood out more and enhanced the uniqueness of the music and had the music overall had a more original sound, the sheer quality of the product would have warranted a sure 4 star (80%) rating, but as that unique sound is lacking I feel like I'm stretching, when I a rate the album with a 3.5 star (70%) star rating.

(Originally posted on Metal Music Archives)

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 Resistance by IQ album cover Studio Album, 2019
4.36 | 220 ratings

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Resistance
IQ Neo-Prog

Review by maani
Special Collaborator Founding Moderator

4 stars IQ and Marillion arguably "started" neo-prog (with their near-simultaneous 1983 releases, Script for a Jester's Tear and Tales from the Lush Attic, respectively). And they continue to be its standard-bearers, and most consistently creative, innovative and virtuoso bands. And although I don't agree with many of my colleagues here that Resistance is BETTER than Road of Bones, it is certainly equal (or almost so) in its relentless brilliance of lyrics, musicianship, and sound. Few bands can provide the stunning beauty of If Anything, the progressive fireworks of A Missile and Stay Down, the extended progressive magnificence of for Another Lifetime and The Great Spirit Way, and the sonic intensity of Alampandria all on one album? Peter Nicholls continues to write some of the most wonderful, if often esoteric, lyrics, and he has been and continues to be my favorite current vocalist in prog. And the band, with keyboardist Neil Durant now comfortably ensconced, continues to write and play some of the most compelling music in the genre. As others have pointed out, IQ is most heavily influenced by Genesis (as were so many early neo-prog bands), but as I have noted ad nauseam on these pages, for me the success of a neo-prog band is in the way in which they channel those influences through their own individual filters. IQ (and Marillion) does this better than anyone: I have always felt that they essentially continue to re-write Genesis' long-form songs (everything from Watcher and Friday, to Can Utility and Supper's Ready, from Firth of Fifth and Cinema Show, to Lilywhite Lilith and One For the Vine), particularly with Holmes' sound (the reverb and echo-heavy sound that Hackett made his own) and playing (Hackett's style is quite evident). This is not a criticism, it is the highest of compliments. I don't think there is a band whose new albums I anticipate more than IQ. They are simply a wonder. The consistency of their writing and performance, and the technical virtuosity of their playing, as well as Nicholls' expressive vocals, make them among the best of the best of prog. Bravo.

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