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PROGRESSIVE METAL

A Progressive Rock Sub-genre


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Progressive Metal definition

This category represents the core movement of what is called "Progressive Metal" in the literal sense. It is a subgenre of progressive rock as much as it is a subgenre of heavy metal, and this is how its sound is defined: a blend of heavy, guitar-oriented metal music enriched with compositional innovation and complex arrangements, usually expressed through diverse instrumentation and often (but not always) with odd-time signatures. Common, but not essential to define the movement, are the frequent use of keyboards, high-pitched vocals, concept lyrical themes and tracks of longer duration. Similar to progressive rock, progressive metal draws influences from other genres, such as jazz/fusion, ethnic, classical and symphonic music.

The Origins:
The heavy sound of some of the progressive rock bands of the 70's has been one of the building blocks on which progressive metal was raised. Progressive rock pioneers such as KING CRIMSON and RUSH have often been acclaimed as the main influences of progressive metal bands. The other major influence has been the NWOBHM (New Wave of British Heavy Metal) movement, and especially the twin-guitar arrangements of IRON MAIDEN, which have left their stamp on the early stages of the genre's development.

The Pioneers:
Often (and not unjustifiably) referred to as the "Big Three" of progressive metal, QUEENSRYCHE, FATES WARNING and DREAM THEATER have set the scene of what was to follow in the movement. The defining era for the genre was the second half of the 80's, among QUEENSRYCHE's "The Warning" (1984) and (most explicitly) "Rage for Order" (1986) along with FATES WARNING's "Awaken the Guardian" (1986) and "No Exit" (1988) releases. The former evolved on their pure American power metal beginnings, while the latter refined their technical/NWOBHM-influenced metal into more progressive forms. Although producing demos since the mid-80's as MAJESTY, DREAM THEATER's first release came in 1989 with "A Dream and Day Unite". The innovative use of keyboards along with influences from American heavy/power metal and progressive rock produced an original blend which was to be further refined in 1992's "Images and Words", which until this day remains next to "Progressive Metal" definition in any musical dictionary.

Among the pioneers of the genre, but enjoying less success and popularity, were PSYCHOTIC WALTZ and SIEGES EVEN. The former were essentially playing progressive metal as ASLAN in the mid-80's and developed a highly eclectic sound in the 90's. The latter's debut classifies them among the European prog-thrash pioneers but their music evolved to more melodic patterns and heavily influenced by RUSH in the early 90's.


Progressive metal is difficult to further divide in sub-genres but a number of tendencies or movements have been critical to the evolvement of its sound.

Traditional Progressive Metal
The style developed by the pioneers was fully established in the 1990s and includes a range of bands from the two sides of the Atlantic. Good examples in this movement are SAVATAGE, who expanded their heavy metal beginnings with operatic and progressive elements in late 80's/early 90's, while SHADOW GALLERY and SYMPHONY X emerged with a unique sound, each embodying a strong theatrical, symphonic and melodic approach. In Europe, SOUL CAGES continued the legacy of SIEGES EVEN in a more artistic path.

Power-Progressive Metal (American style)
The legacy of RIOT (the counterpart of NWOBHM sound in USA) and the early releases of QUEENSRYCHE and FATES WARNING heavily influenced a number of bands that were to develop a common sound towards the late 80's. Among the well-known representatives of what is called American Power Metal (e.g. VICIOUS RUMORS, HELSTAR), a small number of bands enriched their sound with progressive and epic elements. Probably, the most obvious examples of this movement are CRIMSON GLORY and HEIR APPARENT.

Power-Progressive Metal (European style)
This category includes a broad range of bands that could sound fairly dissimilar to each other but their music is significantly influenced by the European Power Metal (primarily German) bands of the 80's (e.g. HELLOWEEN, RAGE, RUNNING WILD). The earliest examples are probably BLIND GUARDIAN, ANGRA (although Brazilian, their sound is mainly European) and CONCEPTION. Slightly later, VANDEN PLAS, ROYAL HUNT, ELDRITCH and LABYRINTH gave rise to the popularity of the genre in Germany, Denmark and Italy respectively. The symphonic and neo-classical elements (made popular by YNGWIE MALMSTEEN) also found their way through power metal with bands like RHAPSODY OF FIRE and NIGHTWISH, whose style does not qualify as being progressive for many people. Nevertheless their music is quite demanding to play and contains many elements of serious classical composition and form.

Modern Progressive Metal
The second half of the 90's and the early 00's also saw newly formed bands expanding the boundaries of Traditional Progressive Metal via a number of ways: introducing electronic/spacey elements, investing heavily in lyricality and/or syncopation and further rhythmical experimentation. Also the idea of thematically conceptual albums has returned in accord with the practices of the Progressive Metal pioneers. Well-known examples in this category are AYREON, PAIN OF SALVATION and RIVERSIDE.


--- Definition by Thanos and the Progressive Metal Team, January 2012 ---

The Progressive Metal Team
Karl (bonnek)
Kevin (Necroncommander)
Alex (Rune2000)
Thanos (aapatsos)
Dave (Prog Sothoth)


Progressive Metal Top Albums


Showing only studios | Based on members ratings & PA algorithm* | Show Top 100 Progressive Metal | More Top Prog lists and filters

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THE PERFECT ELEMENT PART 1
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4.21 | 839 ratings
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4.20 | 814 ratings
OUT OF MYSELF
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4.19 | 897 ratings
THE HUMAN EQUATION
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4.13 | 1442 ratings
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V: THE NEW MYTHOLOGY SUITE
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4.21 | 221 ratings
THE FULLNESS OF TIME
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THE ART OF NAVIGATING BY THE STARS
Sieges Even
4.11 | 1519 ratings
AWAKE
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4.11 | 682 ratings
BE
Pain Of Salvation
4.12 | 546 ratings
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4.13 | 343 ratings
ROOM V
Shadow Gallery
4.10 | 445 ratings
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ENTROPIA
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4.15 | 201 ratings
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Latest Progressive Metal Music Reviews


 Hymns for the Broken by EVERGREY album cover Studio Album, 2014
5.00 | 2 ratings

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Hymns for the Broken
Evergrey Progressive Metal

Review by Second Life Syndrome
Collaborator Post/Math Rock and Crossover Teams

5 stars Preparing to write a review for an Evergrey album is something of a ritual for me. I mean, this is EVERGREY, for Pete's sake. This is one of the first bands that I ever truly loved. Indeed, I am a fan for life. So, after waiting for what seemed like a decade for the band to release another album after "Glorious Collision", I am thrilled to be able to review "Hymns for the Broken", especially since Evergrey, one of my all-time favorite bands, was almost dead a few years ago.

Evergrey has always been a band of emotion, darkness, and relation to their listeners. Though dark, there is always hope. Though emotional, they are always profound. Relating to their listeners, then, is immensely important to them, and they have certainly done it again. "Hymns for the Broken" is an ode to all those fallen, imperfect humans out there that are tossed to and fro by the waves of insecurity, sorrow, and fear. Yet, we are never alone, are we? We all experience the pain of not being who we want to be, but we can be strong knowing that we are not alone. Evergrey had definitely made an album with a positive arc lyrically.

Evergrey has a strange fan base. Though labeled as "dark, melodic metal", the band enjoys support not only from the metal crowd, but also from the progressive community, mainly due to some of their older work. I've often heard some reviewers pining for them to return to those more progressive days, and so I find it interesting that "Hymns for the Broken" is basically right in the middle of the two genres. It's far more progressive than their last few albums, especially on the tracks "Black Undertow", "The Grand Collapse", and "The Aftermath", but the focus on melody and metal is still there, too. This is really smart, and the results are spectacular.

Of note here is the fact that the core group of Tom Englund on vocals/guitars, Rikard Zander on keys, and Johan Nieman on bass have been rejoined by Evergrey-alumni Henrik Danhage on guitars and Jonas Ekdahl on drums. What this means, then, is that the band has regained some of their older sound, especially with Henrik's signature solos and Jonas' strangely technical-but-not style of playing drums. Ultimately, though, the band sounds amazing. They've regained a fervor that I didn't think possible again, and they've tried some new things, even though the foundation of this album is certainly the Evergrey I love so well. Indeed, there are plenty of Evergrey-isms, especially in Tom's vocal melodies, but there are definitely some new ideas at play. Speaking of Tom, there's a reason he's one of my favorite vocalists. He really outdoes himself here with immense range, even the amazing lows of "Black Undertow". His signature emotional style is intact, and he simply sounds great. I'm seriously impressed.

Being a big keyboard fan and also being a fan of Rikard's atmospheric style, I quickly noticed that "Hymns for the Broken" has a great deal more keys on it. Either that, or the mix is just way better. The mix is certainly way more professional and crisper than their last couple albums, but I think that Rickard has really gone out on a limb here with wild keys on such tracks as "Barricades" and "A New Dawn", and he is simply more present from beginning to end.

Yet, the dual guitars sound as great as ever. Tom and Henrik lay down some incredibly heavy riffs on a few tracks, such as "A New Age", "Black Undertow", and especially the middle of "The Fire". All the riffs are really, really clean, and Jonas' drumming around them is sensational. Johan's bass, too, is utilized in new, atmospheric ways, and I also noticed an electronic element showing itself now and then. Overall, the Evergrey sound is here for sure, but there are some new variations that keep it completely fresh.

So, what more can be said about this album? It's Evergrey at their best, really. Although I still like "The Inner Circle" better (and also "Recreation Day"), I think "Hymns for the Broken" could be in the top three best they've made. It certainly does remind me of "The Inner Circle" at points with some of the choirs bits, the barren atmospheres, and the heavy guitars fronting a crystal clear background of keys. Yet, it's very much a different album than anything they've done. Honestly, I only have one complaint: no Carina on the album. I always look forward to hearing Tom and Carina sing together, but it wasn't to be here, and I'm sure there's a good reason.

Overall, then, "Hymns for the Broken" has something for Evergrey fans of every stripe. Whether it's the melodic metal of "King of Errors", the addictive nature of "A New Dawn" (second best track), the dark yet hopeful "Black Undertow", the emotional ballad "Missing You", the incredible instrumentals of "The Grand Collapse" (my favorite), or the funky sound of "The Aftermath", Evergrey hasn't missed a beat or made a bad track on this album. I'm sure glad they are back. This is already one of my most played albums of the year, and I don't see that changing any time soon.

 The Perfect Element Part 1 by PAIN OF SALVATION album cover Studio Album, 2000
4.25 | 910 ratings

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The Perfect Element Part 1
Pain Of Salvation Progressive Metal

Review by FragileKings

3 stars An 80's hair metal band gets marinated in progressive rock.

I read a lot of very good reviews about this album and saw it was among the top rated prog metal albums on PA and MMA. Since I had just received Symphony X's "V: The New Mythology Suite", which is another top rated prog metal album on both sites, and I quickly grew to love it, I thought that this album should be among my next prog metal purchases. Honestly though, this one is taking its time to appeal to me.

The good points are many. Daniel Gildenl÷w has a very diverse voice and can sing anything from gruff barks to high screams to smooth and calm to somewhere in between it all. The album tells the story (part 1) of two broken people, He and She, who meet and begin a relationship. That's as far as I got there. I'm afraid the broken people stories don't go far with me. The best one I've heard is Nine Inch Nails' "The Downward Spiral". After that it's difficult to impress me with that kind of story. Still, Gildenl÷w uses his voice to effectively convey the emotions of each part of the story. The music is for the most part not too complex but like "The Wall" (in a way) mostly sticks to relaying the moments in the tale. The tempo stays slow to mid-range and I only noticed one part where a double bass drum comes into play. In this way, this is a pretty mild and tame metal album despite the theme of pain and frustration.

Two other points to mention in favour of the music are the guitar and keyboards. While there are no catchy, bang-your-head metal riffs, the guitarist (be it Gildenl÷w or Johan Hallgren) uses lead playing to create beautiful melody lines and as well there are some delightful licks here and there in the solos, particularly in "Her Voices" lies a favourite of mine. Fredrik Hermanssen is used very well to provide beautiful piano passages, atmospheric synthesizer, and some powerful rhythm synth work that treads into symphonic prog metal at times, most notably in the title track. I always feel that if you're going to have a keyboard player in a metal band then you should let him/her contribute to the overall quality of the music and not just keep the keys in the background for rhythm behind the guitars.

There's some great music on this album and the songs to stand out the most for me are "Ideoglossia", "Her Voices", "King of Loss" and "Reconciliation". These songs are where the overall feel of the album is wonderfully combined with some excellent music that captures the progressive metal quality best or where the music is simply beautiful. The title track offers some great moments too.

However, there are some aspects of the album that still haven't grabbed me. First, this is not really a heavy metal album. There are parts where the guitars are loud and the vocals screaming or full of raw energy but the majority of the songs are pretty lightweight. Even when the music gets heavy and aggressive I find myself thinking that it needs more bass to enrich the sound. It's as if the band wanted to show aggression without wanting to be offensive. The first four songs are easy to get by because they don't really get the album up and running. It's not until "Ideoglassia" that things really turn exciting and even then the song reuses the pseudo-rap of "Used" and reintroduces the chorus of "Ashes". It almost seems that the album is already reprising music before it has hardly gotten started. Thankfully the rest of the song really begins to show off POS's talent. There are also a couple of puzzling spoken lines like "Call your dad" at the end of "Her Voices" and the beginning of "Dedication" (I'm sure he says, "Call your dad") and "Will I ever walk again?" in the title track. If I familiarize myself with the story more it might make more sense to me, but these lines just seem to leap out from the music and I'm like, "Huh?"

For me, a good album should be enjoyable to listen to straight through and as well have a few songs that can be enjoyed on their own. The four songs that I have mentioned here are great stand alone tracks but the rest of the album goes by me without many parts signaling my attention. I agree that this is a great album insofar as the effort and outcome are concerned. But I am not as excited about the whole concept as I am about the music in a few parts.

For anyone who doesn't like really aggressive metal but can appreciate something a little more melodic and easy, this album makes for a nice safe step into progressive metal. I think it's still a good album, but I'd like to hear another POS album that is either a little more technical or a little more varied in pace.

 Bilo by MICIC, DAVID MAXIM album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 2011
4.86 | 5 ratings

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Bilo
David Maxim Micic Progressive Metal

Review by Cylli Kat

5 stars With myself coming from a background of being considered a shredder guitar player akin to the whole Shrapnel stable of the 1980's and 1990's, I have a thing about enjoying gifted guitarists. DAVID MAXIM MICIC and the whole of the djent form was a bit of a revelation to me. Wow!!! Thank you to my fellow members here at PA for turning me on to this great talent!

After reading the reviews, I sought out the free download of Bilo 1.0, and I was completely floored! This young man is a talent to be reckoned with!!! I liken this EP and the subsequent releases Bilo 2.0 and 3.0 as a suite of recordings that have hit me with all the impact that Steve Vai's Passion and Warfare, and Guthrie Govan's Erotic Cakes have... The compositions are adventurous, and well executed. The production is fresh and interesting. And there is absolutely no doubt that David has a great command of the guitar. This is for me truly a FIVE STAR recording! Absolutely an essential. Your mileage may vary, but for me this is a priceless gem!

Grace and peace, Cylli Kat

 Elegia Balcanica by ALOGIA album cover Studio Album, 2014
4.00 | 1 ratings

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Elegia Balcanica
Alogia Progressive Metal

Review by lucas
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

— First review of this album —
4 stars Band steming from Serbia and comprised of very skilled musicians, AlogiA play a slightly prog-oriented power metal, bringing back to memory the best moments of Kiske-era Helloween with a dash of early Dream Theater or Crimson Glory. The band seems to have gained some fame in their own country, even topping the charts and performing sold out gigs in stadiums. The reason for this success lies probably in the delivery of catchy choruses in serbian, and a strong focus on the balkan Identity in their lyrics.

Regarding the music, we are in for some catchy tunes, where shy verses (like on "Galija") or more agressive (like on "Vreme je") turn to anthemic choruses with cheerful vocals. All along the record, we are exposed to galloping rhythms, hasty drumming, above-the-standard guitar playing, at times harpsichord-sounding keyboards when they are not filling out the space in an orchestral or enchanting way, and singalong-driven chorus. Some arabian-sounding violins in the first half of the album also add a traditional touch to the whole ("Callis ad Astra", "Galija", "Elegia Balcanica"). Altogether, all those elements interlock quite well, even if originality is not outstanding.

On a final note, this album can be recommended to anyone who is into the more melodic branch of power/prog metal. The use of local language is not so common in this category, and we can salutate the band for this courageous endeavour.

 Ink by PERVY PERKIN album cover Studio Album, 2014
3.85 | 125 ratings

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Ink
Pervy Perkin Progressive Metal

Review by lucas
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars Two years in the making, 'Ink' is a dream come true for Pervy Perkin, a 6-piece band hailing from Murcia in Spain. In fact, their goal was to bring the various musical genres they listen to into one unique musical project, and they quite succeeded in this endeavour as their album defies any genre.

If one wanted to label the music of our young spanish musicians, progressive hard-rock would be the best label, the main features being swirling keyboards, raging guitars and drums crackling with energy. This is true when you listen to the first CD of their ambitious project. But then you listen to the second CD, and you soon realize that some tracks are definitely in a completely different mood. "Shades Under a City Lamppost" is electronic music (ambient through the slow notes and bombastic with the more flashy bridge). "Memories of the Water" and "S!urm" are alternative rock (the former with typical vibrating guitars and undecided drums of this style, yet with a short hardcore passage, the latter including zappaesques, hard-rock and hip-hop touches). "Asleep in a Wormhole" is psychedelic pop in a circus arena. "3.11 A.M. (The Crystal Clock)" and "Epilogue" are sunny pop songs. On the first CD, even if this hotchpotch of styles is less obvious, the band already warns us about many possible digressions from a traditional progressive rock line. In fact, the opener is nothing more than the soundtrack to an unexisting movie, with the tearful trumpet, the pleading choir and galloping strings bringing back to memory the scores of Ennio Morricone for western movies. While "The Tree in the Sky" is mostly brazilian music with flute evoking wild forrest, classical guitar and hypnotic drums. In the same spirit of overture to other musical styles, "Falling from Earth" is a sad lullaby where the mournful voice is accompanied only by a melancholic guitar.

Even in their progressive rock tracks, the band feels the need to throw in here and there elements of other musical horizons. The classical music elements abound indeed (canon vocals in "Of Echoes and Reflections", strings in the same song, Renaissance music with the classical guitar of "The Tree in the Sky", music of the Middle Ages with the melody line of "Far Away Crusade Defending the Colonies of Satellite A.T.L.A.S"). Elements of popular musical styles are present as well (funk, reggae, circus music, latin music, ragtime, rock'n'roll, punk, hip-hop, trip-hop). Traditional elements are not forgotten (sea shanties, an accordion, an arabian motif).

We see that our promising band considers two definitions of progressive rock: a music with rhythm changes and abundance of solos on one hand, a music that blends many different styles on another hand. Besides, the progressive side of their music can be further witnessed in the vocals. Those can be indeed mournful or more cheerful, involving both male and female vocalists. Another sign of their open-mindedness is the (very spare) addition of death metal growls. Humour is also invited as circus music and zappaesques are included in their musical world. Progressive music, as envisioned by Perky Pervin, is not only about rehashing the recipe of the retro-prog rock acts where long guitar and keyboard solos support changing rhythms. It is also in creating surprise by bringing together many various musical styles, and by creating contrasts in vocals.

Pervy Perkin, just as their compatriots of Cheeto's Magazine, are a breath of fresh air and a wealth of originality in the somewhat breathless world of progressive rock. For some listeners, their music might sound lacking consistency as the unexpected elements come all of sudden. Besides, some people might have the impression that the band is still looking for an identity, as taken as a whole, the album might sound as a sampler with many different bands. In my opinion, that is no issue, as their goal is clearly to belong to the most adventurous group of progressive rock acts, along with bands like Dixie Dregs, Mr. Bungle, Praxis or Modest Midget. Given their young age (20 y.o. at the time of the album's release), we are really surprised by the quality of the compositions and their good use of elements of their various influences. Let's hope that they will continue on the path of eclecticism, with, next time, why not some country music and indus-metal ?

 Dragon's Kiss  by FRIEDMAN, MARTY album cover Studio Album, 1988
3.98 | 12 ratings

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Dragon's Kiss
Marty Friedman Progressive Metal

Review by siLLy puPPy
Prog Reviewer

4 stars MARTY FRIEDMAN may be best known for his decade long stint as lead guitarist for Megadeth churning out metal masterpieces like "Rust In Piece" but it was this album that Dave Mustaine heard that convinced him to hire MARTY to fill that roll. His debut solo album DRAGON'S KISS has been a favorite shredding classic for a long time now. After the two album duration in Cacophony with fellow neoclassical shredder Jason Becker, MARTY FRIEDMAN released his own thunderous roar of a shredder's manifesto. This is an all instrumental affair with MARTY handling all guitars, bass and production. Jason Becker makes a cameo on three tracks and Deen Castronovo from Cacophony handles drumming duties. This is an early Shrapnel Records release and like most of them from the era the production is utter crap.

This is an album for lovers of virtuoso musicianship. MARTY FRIEDMAN remains one of the finest guitarists in all of rock history but on this debut album he displays his sweeping arpeggios, exotic scales, masterful picking and progressive time signatures with a sense of flair and bravado unmatched on his following solo releases. MARTY is all about worshiping the melody and nails it on every move here. Although he can shred like nobody's business, it's his calculated discretion as to when to do so and when to let the note wail milking every conceivable possibility for its use. The music here is thunderous traditional 80s metal with speed ladened licks running up and down the scales shifting moods and tempos in a flash but also contains fair amounts of laid back slow building crescendo inducing scales and chord changes. Every little note is well placed and the aim of this music is to create a pleasing emotional response while simultaneously blowing your mind technically speaking.

DRAGON'S KISS is simply put a brilliant masterpiece of instrumental music that works in every possible way. Melodically, energetically, exotic flair etc. I am so tempted to give this 5 stars because MARTY's guitar playing and songwriting are of that caliber however the production is just awful and MARTY's bass playing skills don't match his guitar talents. A very close call but these flaws really keep this album in the 4 star range. If you are thrilled by faster-than-the-speed-of-light guitar wizardry that worships the melody then this is a mandatory addition to any guitar freaks collection where melody rich metal will melt your soul with every sweeping picking frenzy. Every track on here is outstanding but I still have a few faves. One of my absolute favorite instrumental musical pieces ever is the mind-blowing "Forbidden City" followed by "Evil Thrill," the beautiful "Narada" and "Jewel."

 Synthetic by HEMINA album cover Studio Album, 2012
3.98 | 202 ratings

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Synthetic
Hemina Progressive Metal

Review by Progrussia

4 stars Seeing how the two words are similar, somehow my brain keeps on substituting the name Hemina with femina, which in Russia is sometimes used by world-weary folk in the meaning of the word "babe". And I can see why this would have a cross cultural appeal. The band uses a little bit of everything - a bit of female vocals, a bit of growl and screams, a bit of haunting atmospherics, a bit of dissonance and shredding, but the main aim here is to deliver as much ear candy as possible. Guitars and vocals rule the day (even more impressive that the same guy provides both), but keys sound cheesy and generic.

This melodic power prog approach is most similar to Swedish band Seventh Wonder. Somehow even louder and poppier. At the same time. But with as yet less seamless sense of melody and structure, as the different instrumental sections sometimes don't go well together. Considering, however, that this is their full-length debut, an 80-minute concept with five songs around the 10-minute mark is impressive.

 Nebulae by HEMINA album cover Studio Album, 2014
4.34 | 51 ratings

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Nebulae
Hemina Progressive Metal

Review by Chines

5 stars Hemina, the unsung heroes of Australian progressive music, have done it again and released an album worthy of consideration and comparison alongside their more well known contemporaries. Their sophomore major release, Nebulae, is loaded from start to finish with equal parts melody, musicianship and emotion. Production is strong, also, being in the very capable hands of guitarist and lead vocalist, Douglas Skene.

Another conceptual record, Nebulae is concerned with a journey through dreams. As a result, the songs are representative of the main character's episodic explorations of various facets of their being. From lustful urges to a need for true love, from delusions of something greater to a bad case of megalomania, the story enables music that is as varied as it is cohesive.

Opening with a synth pad slowly faded in, followed by Skene's double-tracked low-register vocal delivery, "Before" quickly sets the tone for the album. A sense of the grander is very effectively communicated by the electronica-fuelled sound field coupled with the climbing and expansive vocal range exhibited in the mere two minutes that this track takes up. Hard-hitting percussive strikes and lyrics such as, "Each day with head in hand seemed like eternity," paint the picture of a character discontented and frustrated with her life.

"Before" leads smoothly into the first full band performance, a song entitled "Nightlives". A busy yet catchy synth lead line, courtesy of Phill Eltakchi, is superimposed upon wide, distorted guitar chord stabs coupled with a syncopated drum pattern welcome us at the song's outset. This contrasts nicely with the following verse section which, whilst remaining interesting instrumentally, leaves ample space for the vocals to be digested easily. Continuing on with the vocals, this song easily has one of the most beautiful chorus sections on the album. Extremely catchy and full of energy, it showcases the band's four-part harmony prowess, and it's one that will certainly get stuck in your head. Following the chorus' second occurrence, another exciting moment can be found where Skene reaches for the song's vocal pitch peak on the word, 'except', over a well-timed sub bass drop.

Following a tasteful guitar-noodling moment reminiscent of John Petrucci's guest appearance at the end of Periphery's "Erised", we are soon greeted by the opening of the album's lead single, "Freedom". A prog metal anthem of sorts, this song is pure energy condensed into a tidy three- minutes that could be easily digested by the masses who may or may not have just been set free. Don't let the apparent accessibility put you off, however, as this song is anything but filler. It's groove and melody galore.

The following track, "Lust", is, in my opinion, is one of the album's stand-out tracks. Effortlessly blending the seemingly disparate worlds of funk and R&B with djent, the resulting experience is fun and inspiring. With a chorus spanning from falsetto to chest to near disruption in the time it takes for one line to be sung, a guitar solo from Skene that would make Guthrie Govan proud and a breakdown so hyper-syncopated it would make the most discerning rhythm-elitist grin, this song is indicative of Hemina successfully pulling out all the stops.

Quality is not lost in the grand statement of love that is "Soulmates". A semi-acoustically-charged ballad, this song feels like the spiritual cousin of "For All Wrong Reasons" off of the band's debut effort, Synthetic. Musically, the song has a great flow. Beautiful melodies feed off of each other like they were always meant to be together and the arrangement is carefully balanced. Lyrically, the wordplay in this song is tremendous. "Will I ever live my life in a lifetime, with a lioness to share my pride and goals?" Just one of many examples. Again, the four-part vocals are in full force for the chorus, however, particularly noteworthy is bassist Jessica Martin's first spotlight on lead vocals. She gives a stunning performance, and the love between her and Skene, who are engaged in real life, is very apparent whilst not hindering the narrative curve of the album - indeed, it fits right in.

Next, we have "Strength". One of the heavier songs, tight grooves speckle the eight-minute second-half kicker. Harmony isn't sacrificed, however. This song has some of the most interesting chord changes and the melodies are festering with the ability to be recalled in the shower. Prog aficionados will rejoice at the song's reprisal of lyrics from the album's opener, and guitarists will marvel at the mastery of Mitch Coull's melodic phrasing in the closing solo.

Another memorable chorus lies in the brooding depths of "Loss". A beautiful melody, again wonderfully harmonised by the rest of the band, with a delightfully unexpected shift in phrasing that, without it, may have rendered its contour as predictable. Lush string orchestration also permeates the bridge section here. This one, I believe, will particularly appeal to fans of Evergrey.

"Hope" follows. The opening reminds one of a similar sound aesthetic used at the start of "The Boy Is Dead" off of the aforementioned debut. This is soon interrupted by glitch-like sound effects reminiscent of old video games that quickly segue into the band on full assault. Dreamily modulated acoustic guitar backs a wonderful guitar solo followed by another deep and expressive Skene vocal. Also dreamlike are the choir voices, drenched in reverb, that serve as an interlude between "Hope" and the following track, "Promise".

Another song clocking in under four-minutes, "Promise" still seems to be bursting with musical goodness. A memorable chorus augmented by Martin exclaiming the word, 'eternally', and ear- catching piano tinkling from Eltakchi during the first verse help make this one another of my favourites from an excellent album. Additionally, we get a bit of nasty from Skene's vocal delivery in the second verse, which is juxtaposed by his boy soprano-like falsetto at the very end ? intended as a sincere compliment.

Closing the album is the eleven-minute epic, "Otherworldly". What I love about this track is how it showcases all four members of the band. Skene does an excellent job on lead vocals as usual, but we also get to hear a verse superbly sung by Eltakchi that climbs down to near-basso profundo territory, sounding quite sexy, really. This is immediately picked up by Coull giving us a verse with his soaring tenor vocals, giving us a taste of what we'd previously only heard to such an extent on the previous album's "With What I See". Later on, we also get a couple of verses from Martin who sounds sublime approaching the heights of contemporary soprano repertoire. Instrumental prowess is not forgotten, however, as there are a plethora of lead lines from the keyboardist and both guitarists with the rhythm section holding it all down.

At the very end, there is a short spoken word section that leaves me eagerly awaiting the next release that will, hopefully, tie together the story arc set by Synthetic and this album, and I hope you will be waiting with me as well. In the meantime? Nebulae ? get on it!

 Nebulae by HEMINA album cover Studio Album, 2014
4.34 | 51 ratings

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Nebulae
Hemina Progressive Metal

Review by BugsyEdwards

5 stars On the one hand, you could say that the second album from Hemina is more accessible than the first. Which it is. But, on the other hand, there is so much packed into this mighty opus that you could easily find yourself a little dizzy after the first hearing. Like all good prog, the deepest rewards come from subsequent listenings.

In a decade that has old guardians of prog issuing work of little substance (Yes, I think you know who I mean), these guys are not in the business of missing opportunities to add depth, detail, and dynamics whenever it is in the service of taking the listener on a journey of drama and nuance.

This is not prog metal in one flavour; from beginning to end we are guided through multiple sound landscapes with a metal that moves from djent through to steely (sic), but never losing its way as a cohesive whole. Incidentally, speaking of sound landscapes, it turns out Skene is more than a creative front man, he is also a fine sound engineer. The 'outsourced' mixes of the previous album now pale next his own work here.

That these musicians know their instruments could not be questioned, though this album is clearly not intended as music that showcases their respective skills so much as skilful musicianship that showcases the music. (Unless you are still in the sad business of willing Dream Theatre to play 'even faster', it's the right agenda.) And, with every member of Hemina but the drummer pitching in at the microphone, these musicians also know their voices.

Stand out tracks for me; 'Strength' and 'Nightlives'.

 Nebulae by HEMINA album cover Studio Album, 2014
4.34 | 51 ratings

BUY
Nebulae
Hemina Progressive Metal

Review by Introspekrieg

5 stars "Chunks of thorns and dreams"

This album is truly representative of a tormented soul.

"Paint me something grander"

Improving upon the guitar rhythms of "Synthetic" .

"The Nebulous warmth of a world far away"

A truly worthwhile progressive album that hasn't been seen so much as of late.

"Scar-tissued calligraphy"

The emotions come across as true and genuine, not constructed for the sake of "progginess "

"For the first time (Melting the ice that once dominated me)"

Reminds me of listening to my favorite classic prog album for the first time, rejuvenating.

"At first I didn't know what this was or could be"

A grower, took a few listens to appreciate all the dynamics and harmonic interfaces.

"Marching out, reels me in! Consensual lust."

Once the pristine vocals reel you in the accommodating low lines pad your ears with comforting bass blasts.

"But what could make this change?"

After a subdued response to "Synthetic", I think they really wanted to drive their passion for making music home.

"I knew there must be something more."

Doug & Jessica. That is all. Try to find any similar dynamic in prog today, you won't.

"Before they added a little more fire."

Their last album was already a masterpiece, but this is a quantum leap in their songwriting. Developing maturity, heart-wrenching emotional intelligence, and rocking the [%*!#] out. 4.9/5.0

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