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HEAVY PROG

A Progressive Rock Sub-genre


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Heavy Prog definition

Heavy Prog defines progressive rock music that draws as much influence from hard rock as it does from classic progressive rock. In simple terms, it is a marriage of the guitar-based heavy blues of the late 1960s and 1970s - artists such as Cream, Led Zeppelin, and Black Sabbath - and the progressive/symphonic movement represented by King Crimson, Yes and Genesis.

The electric guitar, amplified to produce distortion (or 'overdrive') is a crucial element, providing the 'heavy' tone required for this aggressive style, and later for the British and North American heavy metal of the late 1970s and 80s. The primary rock format of drums, bass and guitar with keys and/or vocals on top is represented strongly in heavy prog. The presence of the Hammond organ with its deep, intense rumble was also common among harder progressive groups such as ATOMIC ROOSTER. Although certain other acts, such as King Crimson and Jethro Tull, utilize a heavy guitar, bass and keyboard sound, the bulk of their work over the years puts them in a different category.

Bands that represent Heavy Prog would include RUSH, PORCUPINE TREE, THE MARS VOLTA, URIAH HEEP, TEMPEST, BLACK WIDOW, DR. Z,ATOMIC ROOSTER, WARHORSE, BIRTH CONTROL, TILES.

- written bt Atavachron (David)

Current Team as of 12/24/14

rdtprog
Thanos (aapatsos)
Frank (infocat)

Heavy Prog Top Albums


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

4.41 | 2045 ratings
MOVING PICTURES
Rush
4.37 | 1721 ratings
HEMISPHERES
Rush
4.35 | 1596 ratings
A FAREWELL TO KINGS
Rush
4.31 | 1479 ratings
PERMANENT WAVES
Rush
4.23 | 1881 ratings
IN ABSENTIA
Porcupine Tree
4.23 | 1916 ratings
FEAR OF A BLANK PLANET
Porcupine Tree
4.22 | 992 ratings
DE-LOUSED IN THE COMATORIUM
Mars Volta, The
4.15 | 716 ratings
THE MOUNTAIN
Haken
4.15 | 554 ratings
SALISBURY
Uriah Heep
4.09 | 1549 ratings
2112
Rush
4.09 | 1553 ratings
DEADWING
Porcupine Tree
4.08 | 1014 ratings
THE SKY MOVES SIDEWAYS
Porcupine Tree
4.09 | 765 ratings
VISIONS
Haken
4.07 | 777 ratings
AQUARIUS
Haken
4.09 | 481 ratings
LOOK AT YOURSELF
Uriah Heep
4.14 | 293 ratings
FROM WITHIN
Anekdoten
4.05 | 733 ratings
FRANCES THE MUTE
Mars Volta, The
4.01 | 1122 ratings
LIGHTBULB SUN
Porcupine Tree
4.13 | 232 ratings
SOUND AWAKE
Karnivool
4.03 | 534 ratings
DEMONS AND WIZARDS
Uriah Heep

Heavy Prog overlooked and obscure gems albums new


Random 4 (reload page for new list) | As selected by the Heavy Prog experts team

VULTRESS
Cosmic Nomads
ONCE WE WERE BORN ...
Divine Baze Orchestra, The
A COMPLEX NATURE
Yang
HARVEST TIME
Elonkorjuu

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Latest Heavy Prog Music Reviews


 Snakes & Arrows by RUSH album cover Studio Album, 2007
3.59 | 753 ratings

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Snakes & Arrows
Rush Heavy Prog

Review by Pastmaster

5 stars Rush-Snakes & Arrows

Following the darker mood and atmosphere of their previous album, Rush released their follow-up album five years later. With Rush taking long breaks in-between albums, expectations may get rather high. Don't expect the same thing as 'Vapor Trails' though, because Rush never remains the same with their recent releases.

The music differs from 'Vapor Trails', with Snakes & Arrows having more of a variety between heavy rocking tracks and softer acoustic moments. You have, as always, the heavy opener 'Far Cry' with driving guitar riffs, which is probably my favorite song on the album. From haunting yet still heavy tracks like 'Armour & Sword' and 'Faithless' to a great bluesy 'The Way the Wind Blows' and a great finale 'We Hold On', Snakes & Arrows never fails to captivate me.

Unlike other albums, 'Snakes & Arrows' is filled with unique instrumentals. You have an experimental jam 'The Main Monkey Business' with heavy guitar, nice acoustics, space-like sounds, and an ambient guitar solo. The 2nd instrumental 'Hope' is a short but sweet acoustic song. Nothing but acoustic guitar, it's a really unique folk-like song. The 3rd and final instrumental is 'Malignant Narcissism', a heavy track with strong bass. Hard for me not to tap my foot to this song, with the driving bass riffs.

The lyrics are dark, like the previous album. There is a less raw and dark sound to the songs though, making them feel a little more uplifting. Certain songs are in fact empowering, like the closer 'We Hold On' which gives the feeling of hope and is combined with great heavy guitar. The instrumentals, having no lyrics, have to let the music speak. The song 'Hope' is, not surprisingly, relaxing, but the other two are heavy and haunting.

If you are one of the people who didn't like the production on 'Vapor Trails', You'll enjoy the loud powerful production 'Snakes & Arrows' has. Production for me sets a certain atmosphere for an album, and that's why I enjoyed the production for 'Vapor Trails'. For 'Snakes & Arrows' the production fits with matching the powerful riffing, vocals, and drumming.

Overall, 'Snakes & Arrows' is another flawless album in my opinion. It's less raw then 'Vapor Trails', but it doesn't remove the rock and dark mood. It's certainly essential if you enjoy Rush's present century releases.

 Deadwing by PORCUPINE TREE album cover Studio Album, 2005
4.09 | 1553 ratings

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Deadwing
Porcupine Tree Heavy Prog

Review by Pastmaster

5 stars After the success of the previous album 'In Absentia', which was pretty consistently prog metal instead of the previous albums having a few metal songs here and there, Porcupine Tree decided to maintain the heaviness but Deadwing features a more alt metal-twinged sound in my opinion.

Deadwing opens up with the title track, which sets the pace of the album really well. Many well-performed transitions between heavy crunching riffs and mellower passages take place here. Unlike the previous album, Deadwing featured two singles that were pretty successful on modern rock radio; The heavy 'Shallow' and the ballad 'Lazarus'. 'Shallow' is one of my favorites on the album, with great heavy-soft transitions, an awesome Tool- like chorus, and a crazy bridge with tons of distortion. The concert-staple 'Halo' is another one of my favorites with a kick-ass bass-line by Edwin. Probably my favorite song on the album is the Tool-esque 'Open Car', which has some great riffing.

Of course I can't forget the epic 'Arriving Somewhere...but not Here', which has very beautiful lyrics and an awesome build up for some great guitar work. Also featured on certain editions of the album is a re-recording of the classic 'Shesmovedon' from 'Lightbulb Sun'. I actually prefer this version of the song to the original, it sounds cleaner and the production sounds better.

The lyrics on the album are very strong, 'Halo' having some of the best on the album. The lyrics of the aforementioned song are about using religion as an excuse to do cruel things and wage war, with such lyrics as 'God gives meaning, God gives pain' and 'I got a halo round me, I got a halo round me I'm not the same as you'. There have been plans for a movie based around Deadwing, not sure how that will turn out but it could be interesting.

Overall, Another Porcupine Tree masterpiece. I recommend this album to any fan of progressive metal or alternative metal. Porcupine Tree would come back two years later with one of their most critically acclaimed albums and rightfully so.

(Originally written for www.MetalMusicArchives.com)

 Vapor Trails by RUSH album cover Studio Album, 2002
3.44 | 665 ratings

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Vapor Trails
Rush Heavy Prog

Review by Pastmaster

5 stars Rush - Vapor Trails

After being on hiatus since 'Test for Echo', Rush came out with my favorite Rush album. Seeing as Peart lost his wife and daughter during Rush's hiatus, it makes sense that Vapor Trails is one of Rush's darkest albums. This is no light and uplifting album, this is a dark album where Peart unleashes his emotions very well in the lyrics.

This album signaled yet another new era of Rush, a much heavier style having the most metal moments since probably 'Hemispheres'. It is also the first Rush album to not have keyboard since 'Caress of Steel'. It's not all the same sound though, you get a nice variety with heavy driving riffs on tracks like 'One Little Victory' or melancholy ominous tracks like 'Ghost Rider'. The lyrics are among Rush's best in my opinion, with themes as 911('Peaceable Kingdom'), Death of Peart's wife and daughter('Ghost Rider'), and Change('Celing Unlimited').

The song structure is stronger, with the bridges of songs like 'Secret Touch' transitioning perfectly. Speaking of the bridge of 'Secret Touch', Lifeson gives some of his best riffs in a while driving throughout the bridge while Lee slaps the bass and Peart keeps a strong beat. We get to see another part of the 'Fear' saga as well, with 'Freeze' having some heavy riffs and lyrics about fight or flight. To close of the album there is a much lighter song, 'Out of the Cradle', to end the album off on a nice note.

Most of the songs on the album are dark and heavy, so if you're into Rush's darker and heavier stuff you will probably enjoy it. 'Peaceable Kingdom' and 'Earthshine' are my personal favorites.

A lot of people dislike the production, yet I honestly think it fits. The production is dark and raw matching the mood of the songs, and I think that is how it was supposed to be. Even if you don't like the production though, Rush recently re-mixed the album with a different production so more people can enjoy it I suppose.

Overall, I think Vapor Trails is Rush's first flawless album since 'Moving Pictures'. Even though it may not appeal to some, I think this is when Rush entered their best era. It's darker, heavier, and raw.

Give it a chance.

 The Gift of Awareness by P.A.W.N. album cover Studio Album, 2014
3.51 | 19 ratings

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The Gift of Awareness
P.A.W.N. Heavy Prog

Review by Tarcisio Moura
Prog Reviewer

4 stars A few months ago I was asked to write a review about this new band from Germany. I didnt know anything about their former members neither of their previous gothic/death metal background. when I first heard the first track, Sailors In The Sky, they reminded me of british combo Touchstone: good melodic hard rock with a female singer. But upon listening a little more it was obvious that they had a much stronger prog leaning and certain german folk "accent" or "flavor", if you will, within their music. Those elements together gave them a quite unique personality. Good start!

I was surprised when I read the credits that they were not really a band, but a duo: Dennis Matzat (drums) and Sebastian Rudolph (Keyboards, vocals) plus some guests. Their best asset is singer Lisa-Marie Rothe, a terrific vocalist with a great voice and stunning delivering. There are a few male vocals but they are totally eclipsed by Rothes. The songs in general are long, with shifting moods and tempo, but aside from the occasional mellotron, they are not all that symphonic as it may sound. Some parts do have a few hard edged guitars that throw them close to the prog metal category, but they are good enough songwriters and arrangers to avoid most cliches with ease. The production is also brilliant.

Overall I found this CD to be quite enjoyable and very well performed. All the songs are nice and some parts are even brilliant. However, they have not achieved a real "band" sound, i.e., the CD sounds a bit disjoined on parts, lacking a cohesive whole. But those are minor flaws since it is just their first effort and Im sure that if they follow this pattern they will mature their obvious talent as composers and maybe give us a more cohesive work in near future.

Conclusion: an interesting mix of power, gothic and symphonic rock with terrific female singer. A very promising act that Im looking forward to hear their next release.

Rating: somewhere 3.5 and 4 stars.

 Spoke of Shadows by SPOKE OF SHADOWS album cover Studio Album, 2014
4.00 | 2 ratings

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Spoke of Shadows
Spoke of Shadows Heavy Prog

Review by Raff
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars As the project named Spoke of Shadows comprises one-half of Texas band Herd of Instinct, who released two critically acclaimed albums between 2011 and 2013, first-time listeners might be forgiven for expecting more of the same. However, Warr guitarist Mark Cook has stated on several occasions that his collaboration with session drummer Bill Bachman has provided him with the opportunity to add new elements to his sonic palette - also thanks to the contribution of artists coming from a wide range of musical backgrounds. Indeed, while the connection to Cook's work with Herd of Instinct is clearly on display, quite a few surprises await the listener throughout the 12 relatively short, completely instrumental tracks featured on the duo's eponymous debut.

Unlike some musicians who seem to be in a hurry to distance themselves from the "prog" tag, Cook and Bachman (who, among other things, share a love of Gabriel-era Genesis) embrace the definition, as highlighted by the prominent role given to the genre's iconic instrument, the mellotron. Coupled with Cook's masterful handling of the hauntingly versatile Warr guitar (an instrument that, in many ways, symbolizes modern prog, even if it has never become truly widespread), it builds lush yet deeply mesmerizing atmospheres that surge and shimmer, conveying a wide range of moods in a subtle yet clearly recognizable way.

The skillful blend of atmospherics and aggression of opener "Dominion", with its polyphonic guitar chords offset by Bachmann's nuanced drumming, immediately brings Herd of Instinct's distinctive style to mind. "Images", however, heralds a keen change in approach - more straightforward in compositional terms, and therefore more reliant on contrasts of light and shade, Bob Fisher's expressive flute adding an almost free-form touch towards the end. The short, jazzy mood piece of "One Day" - embellished by Charlie Daniels Band's keyboardist Shannon Wickline's lovely flowing piano - introduces the razor-sharp Crimsonian workout of "Harbinger", where the haunting wail of the Warr guitar and the pastoral tone of flute and mellotron rub elbows with a "shredder" solo by Thought Chamber guitarist Michael Harris, as well as a funkier one by Tony Rohrbough (formerly of West Virginia metal band Byzantine). "Lost One" brings back a gentle pastoral mood fleshed out by lush mellotron, while the 7-minute "Pain Map" (the album's longest track) closes the album's first half on a striking modern classical note - mellotron and evocative field recordings vying with riff-heavy passages and eerily echoing guitar.

The second half's more low-key direction is ushered by "Splendid Sisters", co-written and -performed by Dave Streett, another Warr guitar enthusiast and long-time collaborator of Cook's. The wistful, elegiac piece is a tribute to talented Italian stickist Virginia Splendore (who passed away in 2011), suitably adorned by its soothing guitar and flute, understated drumming, and solemn mellotron and electric piano (courtesy of Djam Karet's Gayle Ellett). The restrained, atmospheric "Persona" and "Accord" are conceived along similar lines, while the dramatic sweep and doom-laden riffing of "Tilting at Windmills" once again suggest Herd of Instinct's cinematic vision. "Dichotomy" starts out in deceptively subdued fashion before developing into another Crimson-hued number propelled by Bachman's imperious drumming. The album is wrapped up by the heady stylistic mix of "Drama of Display", where assertive riffs coexist with ethnic-tinged drumming and a panoply of intriguing sound effects.

With its understated elegance and focused eclecticism, "Spoke of Shadows" offers an ideal complement to Herd of Instinct's two albums. As usual, the visual aspect of the cover art - a dark grey background interrupted by a row of bright orange windows (courtesy of photographer Garth Hill) - has been carefully thought out, providing a fine foil to the music within. While the album is a must-listen for devotees of the King Crimson school of instrumental progressive rock (which includes the work of Trey Gunn and Tony Levin), it also has the potential to appeal to a broader section of the prog audience - especially those who are looking for fresh approaches to the old Symphonic Prog chestnut.

 Grace Under Pressure by RUSH album cover Studio Album, 1984
3.70 | 861 ratings

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Grace Under Pressure
Rush Heavy Prog

Review by FragileKings
Prog Reviewer

3 stars Right from the beginning of my album-purchasing days, I became familiar with Rush. "Tom Sawyer" was on my first ever cassette purchase, a compilation of hits from 1982. Geddy Lee appeared as a guest on my second cassette, Bob and Doug MacKenzie's "Great White North" album, a comedy album that included a song "Take Off (to the Great White North)" with Geddy singing the chorus. So I knew about Rush. However, once I started watching late night music video programs, the Rush I heard was "Grace Under Pressure" and "Power Windows". As a young lad who was into anything heavy metal, these albums did not impress.

It wasn't until the fall of 2010 when I was checking out Rush on Wikipedia, just out of curiosity, that I learned what an incredible career these three fellow Canadians had achieved. Always proud to support domestic talent, I braced myself and delved into the world of Rush, knowing that it would mean acquiring those eighties albums that had failed to stoke my interest back then.

"Grace Under Pressure" came in my first purchase of six albums (I actually already owned five Rush albums; I was just not a big fan) and hearing "Distant Early Warning" and "Red Sector A" brought back memories of those eighties videos. Surprisingly though, I found myself enjoying the music. Perhaps 26 intervening years of musical exploration and personal maturation along with a desire to welcome the music of Rush whole- heartedly into my life made it very easy to accept what had previously been unacceptable.

This is the first Rush album to have been recorded without long-time producer, Terry Brown. From "Permanent Waves" through to "Grace Under Pressure" the band was experimenting with shorter songs that packed a progressive approach into a more compact and traditional rock song format. In spite of this, you can still expect to find a few of the Rush trademarks including Geddy Lee's active bass and unique vocals, Neil Peart's crafty drumming and insightful lyrics, and at least a couple of signature guitar solos by Alex Lifeson. However, as with the previous album "Signals", the guitar sound has changed from the heavier rock sound of the band's earlier albums and become a tinny, New Wave pop slashing of chords with lots of echo and reverb. Also gone were the heavy riffs, replaced largely by these "schwaaang"-sounding chords. And of course there is the heavy use of synthesizers and electronic drums. It's funny how an album that sounds very seventies receives a compliment while an album that sounds very eighties receives scorn or derision, but I personally find this eighties style to be very treble focused and lacking in the bass department. The sound is not as balanced as seventies albums nor as rich as more modern albums. This I also find on Saga's album "Heads or Tails". I like the music of both "Grace" and "Heads" but the bottom end of the sound spectrum is missing.

"Grace Under Pressure" includes eight songs, though there are no longer any Rush "epics" to wriggle with excitement about; the songs range from 4:21 to 5:45, a fairly standard range for more intelligent pop rock. There does indeed seem to be a lyrical theme of "Grace Under Pressure" throughout the album. The Cold War theme surfaces in "Distant Early Warning" and "Red Lenses"; "Red Sector A" is a song about a Jewish prisoner in a concentration camp and was inspired by the real life experiences of Geddy's mother; "The Enemy Within" is about facing up to one's own inhibitions and living a more adventurous, regret-free, life; and "The Body Electric" is about an android attempting to free itself from servitude.

Musically, some of the highlights for me are the dramatic opening of "Distant Early Warning" and the overall quality of the song, along with Geddy's passionate expression; the eighties rock reggae sound of "The Enemy Within", which I also find is the most frantic and intense song on the album; and Alex's memorable guitar solo in "Kid Gloves" as well as his guitar work in "Between the Wheels", which is also the heaviest song on the album with a grinding-of-steel and gritted teeth quality to it at times. I also have always loved the cover art even back in the day when I had no interest in the music. I like the Asimov-themed story of "The Body Electric", too.

This music bears no resemblance to the great epic songs that Rush were known for in the seventies; however, I do believe we see the band progressing. Heaven knows the eighties were a challenging time for the seventies progressive bands, and music was changing in style, sound, and production. It is my opinion that with "Grace Under Pressure" Rush were evolving and progressing as they explored new angles and new possibilities with their music. Yes, the songs follow a more standard rock/pop format and are rife with the sounds and instruments of the often derided eighties pop scene. But Rush attempt to make them work here within the framework that is Rush, which happens to be a rather elastic framework capable of stretching and expanding to accommodate the whims and curiosities of three creative musicians.

 Known/Learned by ARCANE album cover Studio Album, 2015
4.29 | 14 ratings

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Known/Learned
Arcane Heavy Prog

Review by Second Life Syndrome
Collaborator Post/Math Rock Team

4 stars 4.5 stars

Australian prog will soon rule the world. I'm convinced of this. There are so many wonderful progressive bands coming out of Australia right now, but, for my money, Arcane is the greatest of all. Arcane crowdfunded this new album "Known/Learned", and, what an album it is!! As you may have suspected, "Known/Learned" is a double album of epic proportions, complete with a darkness/light theme, a heavy disc (Known) and a softer one (Learned), and emotional lyrics. Indeed, the insights explored lyrically in this album are quite heavy and deep. So, this being their third album, how does Arcane fare? Can they really pull off an album in excess of 130 minutes?

The answer is a definitive "yes". I'm incredibly impressed with the grace, maturity, and compositional tightness with which this massive album was created. The band is: Jim Grey on vocals, Michael Gagen on guitars, Matt Martin on keyboards, and Blake Coulson on drums. Due to losing their bassist, the band recruited the bassists from Dead Letter Opener and Ne Obliviscaris to record the bass lines. Anyways, these musicians are clearly talented on a high level. Michael's guitars are stuttering brilliance, and the rhythm sections on both albums are massive successes, especially Blake's mad drumming. Jim's vocals, however, are on a level of their own. This guy has the range, the tone, and the lungs to out-sing just about anyone. From quiet, beauteous moments to blaring monuments, Jim Grey makes this double album work. Need convincing? Listen to "Womb".

Arcane has a rather distinctive sound that carries on in this double album. On "Known", soaring melodies crash straight into hefty riffs and incredible polyrhythmic instrumentals with results that aren't quite metal, but could certainly be called that. "Known" is a joy from start to finish, with an opening track that grabs your attention, "Promise [Part 2]". In fact, when my wife and I heard it for the first time, we looked at each other in jawdropping amazement. "Known" starts out, then, with definitive, perfect Arcane---exactly what we were hoping. The album continues on with solid tracks, including the amniotic silence of "Womb" and the greatness of the 20+ minute epic "Learned". In fact, the latter has one of the best closing five minutes that I've heard in some time. Catchy, impressive on a technical level, and always sublime, "Known" is near to a masterpiece. If I have any complaints, it is that the album may drag a bit in some of the longer tracks, but that is nitpicking at best.

"Learned" is a much different album. Dropping the technical feats of the previous album, "Learned" explores a more human, delicate side to the band. In fact, it's much more relatable and personal, as the band isn't hiding behind a wall of sound, so to speak. The album begins strongly with "Hunter, Heart & Home", featuring a consistent and addictive melody. Other strong tracks include "Nightingale's Weave", which loops and spins around your mind precariously; and "Impatience and Slow Poison", which has that slow building effect that can be so incredible. "Learned" is a strong album by itself, and it honestly doesn't need "Known" at all.

Had Arcane given me either "Known" OR "Learned" for my hard-earned cash, I would have been immensely satisfied. As it is, the band has given me two incredible albums that will certainly top their previous albums in my mind. It isn't often that one can find a band with such finesse and maturity in playing combined with top-notch vocals and deep lyrics. Arcane really is the full package, and I hope that the inspiration keeps flowing freely.

 Known/Learned by ARCANE album cover Studio Album, 2015
4.29 | 14 ratings

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Known/Learned
Arcane Heavy Prog

Review by Gallifrey

5 stars Double albums are honestly one of the biggest double-edged swords in the music world.

When this album was announced, during Arcane's crowd-funding campaign, I was a bit skeptical of its quality. For starters, both the previous Arcane records could have been cut shorter, and as a general rule in prog, the more restrained it is, the less it tends to piss about shredding and key mashing. So Arcane announcing a double album, light/dark, yin/yang themed, with one being long and heavy and epic and the other being soft and sweet, both containing themes from each other and crossing over lyrically. On the one hand, that's nearly two hours of music, and for sure will end up dry as hell and certain to dissolve into at least a dozen dick waving sessions. But on the other, that concept is absolutely awesome.

But I think the success of Known/Learned is almost entirely down to the fact that this is not a double album. This is two completely separate albums, and should be treated as such. Sure, they have overlapping themes and titles and the digipak has this cool ying/yang thing going in the art (bonus shoutout to whoever the printing company is - this is one of the best looking (and feeling) CDs I own), but in essence these albums are their own entities with their own themes and styles and they should be treated as two separate sides of a whole, Deliverance/Damnation style. And I have done this in my listening, never playing both disks too close to each other. And because of that I've split this review up into discussions on both records individually, with a conclusion talking about the double album as a whole.

Side A: Known

For the first three listens of this album I only played Known, and didn't touch Learned. I thought it would be cool to form an opinion on one, then go into the other with some familiarity and expectation. And after those three listens I remember saying 'if this was the only album Arcane released right now, I would already have enough great things to say about it'. Essentially, this album is the follow-up to Chronicles of the Waking Dream, and Learned is just an album-long extra.

Despite the fact that I was one of the crowd-funders for this album and paid for it months before hearing it, I was never really sold on it being great, I really just wanted to support the band. Ashes was a solid album plagued by some poor production and a bit of over-wanking, and even though Chronicles of the Waking Dream did fix those parts for the most part, I would never call myself a big fan of this band, the only thing that really impressed me about that record being Jim Grey's voice. While musically it had good moments, it really failed to grip me beyond 'decent'. Although I could hear them becoming a fantastic band on that record, I absolutely did not expect them to do it, do it brilliantly, and do it with two albums at once.

This album is pretty much everything Chronicles of the Waking Dream was trying to be. The melodies and riffs are stronger, the production is fantastic, the songs don't drag on (mostly), and every single performance is greatly improved. On this album Arcane play a style somewhere in the midst of progressive rock and metal, but keep a distinctly emotional take on it, in the same way a group like Riverside do, but without the melodrama (and that bloody organ). It goes from huge riffs and anthemic choruses to the near-silent beauty of 'Womb', but never loses track of its overall aim, and never spends too long doing one thing.

In terms of negative sides, there's not much that's wrong with Known per se, it just could be a bit better if it absolutely needed to. As with any progressive metal album, there is an affinity to playing a bit more than you need to in solos, and while this does keep itself mostly within reasonable bounds with relatively sensible keyboard patches (there's one in 'Instinct' that sucks though) and solo counts, particularly during the 23-minute closing track it does push a bit past my wankery limit. I really only have one actual problem with this album though, the rest are just nitpick, and that problem is the way that the best song on this album shoots itself in the foot halfway through to become' not the best song on this album.

The first half of 'Selfsame', especially coming out of the solemn and beautifully reverbed 'Womb', is by far the best thing I have heard from this band, and one of the best things I have heard in a long while. 'Womb' sets such a beautiful scene, Grey's voice haunting like he's singing in an enormous cathedral, and when that oh-so-subtle guitar comes in to open 'Selfsame' you know it's going to be gold. The lead melody of this song, whether it's backed by nothing but an acoustic guitar and ambience like its first rendition, or backed by a massive wall of keyboard choirs and guitars like its second and third, is one of the most spinechilling things I have ever heard. It's simultaneously depressing and uplifting, going from solemn to anthemic in the space of a minute.

And then we get the bridge. Sigh. Why is it that the first time (and pretty much only time) Arcane decide to dissolve into some Haken-tier key-mashing and shredding on this album is during the best and most emotional song? Yeah sure, those blast beats are pretty cool and are good for a laugh, but I was crying 35 seconds ago, I don't want a bloody shredfest, I want feelings. But at least it isn't too long before the song gets back to absolutely glorious (Jim's 'give me a voice to be heard' line is an absolutely flawless reintroduction).

To me, this album represents what I think 'standard progressive metal' will sound like for the next few years. Leprous represent the slightly avant-garde and out-there side, Ne Obliviscaris represent the extreme metal side (although their new album isn't exactly consolidating their position), and I feel Arcane, with this album have made an album that is quite simply 'transparent progressive metal'. This album has enough links to classic bands like Dream Theater and Fates Warning in the structuring and riffs to keep purists impressed, but replaces the overwhelming cheese and corniness of those bands with sincere and quite beautiful melody and emotion. If they can keep this up I honestly believe these guys can overtake current poster-boys Haken, whose dorkiness and over-soloing will no doubt fall short to the spinechilling emotion that Arcane pack behind this album.

The overall sound of this album, with a few brief exceptions that I've touched on, corrects everything that critics have against progressive metal over the years. The guitar tones are sensible and well-produced, the vocalist isn't a ball-breaking power metal dude, the compositions focus on emotion and sincerity over technicality and show, and the band knows that it doesn't have to be metal all the time (because despite all I've said about this, only about 50% of this disk is actually 'metal'). I can see Known becoming a modern classic simply because of its style. Compositionally it's impressive but not absolutely brilliant, but in combination with the wonderfully fresh-yet-familiar sound that Arcane have built, makes it into something bigger.

Side B: Learned

As I said earlier, if you treat Known as the 'album', Learned is like an extra-good bonus disk, with Arcane stripping away the metal (but not all of the prog) to make an album of relatively soft songs in the vein of a band like Anathema. But don't get me wrong - I don't mean bonus as in 'a bunch of average cuts from the recording session', I mean bonus as in 'Known is easily enough to be a full album and catapult these guys right into the middle of upcoming prog royalty and this is just a ridiculous victory lap'. If this was released as a side project or from a completely separate band then it would probably also be enough to catapult them into prog royalty, just in a different way.

Although it does definitely feel like an annex, the thing that impresses me the most about this disk is that these songs aren't just soft acoustic tracks, they have flow and structure and even some heavy parts like any prog album, there's just a bit more focus on softer instrumentals. The opening two tracks both could be big heavy Arcane tracks with a few more instruments, but they instead strip it down to let Jim Grey's voice shine through. I love the way these songs build, too, because they're not afraid to ramp up the intensity near the ends, despite this being 'the soft album'. The softer sound also gives the instrumentalists a lot more room to be subtle and mood- building. Throughout the first few minutes 'Hunter, Heart & Home', the piano, drums and bass can all be heard adding their own little touches to the relatively consistent acoustic guitar part. I especially love the little piano melodies that are added into these tracks, in a very post-rock esque way, putting just enough into it to add complexity, but not to overwhelm the main parts.

And that's not the only thing that is very post-rock influenced on this album - many of these songs reach distinct crescendos, featuring longer parts repeating the same chord progressions, adding little parts in as they keep going forward. There are no screeching tremolo-picked crescendocore peaks on this album, but the way the instruments, particularly the drums rise and fall with everything without ever getting heavy is masterful, reminding me the most of New Zealand band Mice on Stilts' longer songs, although comparisons to the softer parts of groups like Anathema are also warranted.

But the real star of this disk is Jim Grey himself, and I honestly feel like the idea behind this album could have been spawned by the band wanting to write material specifically for his nearly angelic soft vocals. 'Little Burden' is one in particular that sounds very much written for him, with his reverbed falsetto of the first few minutes being utterly enchanting. The way they're produced is wonderful too, with tons of reverb and atmosphere reminds me so much of the best countertenors back when I was in the choir. The longest song here, 'Nightingale's Weave' is easily the strongest track, almost entirely because of Jim's voice and the melodies he pulls (that recurring one is absolutely beautiful), but the amazing build from the band is also stellar, even if the song is a touch long.

Honestly, in a similar manner to Known (but for different reasons), the only thing that pulls this down is its length. The only track that truly justifies its length is the opening track, even 'Little Burden' could be cut down - the song's crescendo comes after a bit too long I feel, and when it comes it feels a bit short compared to the build. The midsection of the album, before 'Nightingale's Weave', does lose a bit of momentum in my opinion, with 'Impatience and Slow Poison' outstaying its welcome a bit much, for a song that is based on an already-used motif from the first disk, and 'Known' being an uber-soft track amongst already soft tracks just sort of floats by. That technique worked on the first disk with 'Womb' because all the other songs were heavy. Here, it just becomes an unnecessary interlude in an album filled with interludes. Doesn't stop it from being a really nice acoustic track though.

In the end I guess it's the soft nature of this album that makes it a bit homogenous - all these songs are great, they just need one of the more intense tracks to break it up. Either way, Learned is still a strong disk of subtle beauty, and while next to the first disk it does get dwarfed, for what it is, it's very good.

Conclusion

I think I went a bit overboard in the praise from my closing paragraphs on Known, because I've said pretty much everything I need to say here already. Known alone is a fantastic example of the future of progressive metal, and with the added depth that Learned brings, I think I might have a case of 'oh [&*!#] I found my album of the year in January'. But together, the biggest praise I can give this album is that it is pretty much the perfect double album. Last year saw another Australian double album, Chapter & Verse, finding both of its disks in my top 10 for album of the year, but that album had serious problems of diversity within its 90- minute runtime, whereas this is exactly what a double album should be, two albums that compliment each other perfectly, can stand on their own, sound completely distinct and yet aren't all homogenous. Known isn't all metal all the time and Learned isn't all soft acoustic stuff all the time, which is what makes them work so beautifully. That, in combination with the fact that these guys can also write pretty great songs as well makes this not only the best modern progressive double album I have heard, but possibly the greatest double album I have heard, ever.

I feel I'm being way too positive. I'm just in a good mood today. Known/Learned may not be a flawless album, but what really is? There's room for improvement on the next album for sure, but for what this is, this is pretty stunning. Progressive music, we have a new leader.

Known - 8.9 Learned - 8.3

Originally written for my Facebook page/blog: www.facebook.com/neoprogisbestprog

 The Gift of Awareness by P.A.W.N. album cover Studio Album, 2014
3.51 | 19 ratings

BUY
The Gift of Awareness
P.A.W.N. Heavy Prog

Review by AtomicCrimsonRush
Special Collaborator Symphonic Team

4 stars P. A. W. N. are a heavy Prog band hailing from Germany. Their album "The gift of awareness" opens with a wonderful track called 'Sailors of the sky'. A lonely piano tinkles softly a pretty melody then is joined by synthesiser pads and a harp sound. The mood lifts with guitar that quickly changes pace with the tempo quickening as flighty keys and a bright sounding melody resounds. The extended intro has some incredible drums then it locks into the main melody with Lisa-Marie singing about preternatural events, and her voice takes on an ethereal quality. The chorus has a different feel as we hear "we are the sailors of the sky, we sail up on clouds, we're more flesh than men". This brings us to wonder are they vampires? In any case it is a Gothic atmosphere as keyboards flow in a haunting organic piece of music with exceptional playing. The choral intonations again instigate the Gothic atmosphere and Lisa tells us in the next verse "lightning never strikes twice". Then it changes with heavy crunches of chopped fractured guitar. The urgency of the music is jarring after the pastoral tranquillity previous, then lead guitar emanates with face melting fingering and keys carved up on a plate of razor edge drums. On the next verse we head into wintry clouds and into the eye of the storm with sullen keyboards and a downbeat icy coda. This is masterful songwriting by any standard and simply entrancing.

A bright metal intro opens the dynamic "The Princess is out tonight". It settles into a steady tempo with phased male vocals balanced over with Lisa-Marie's vox. She takes over on the next verse with her melodic tones and the Chorus is very catchy and hooks into my subconscious immediately. The song quickly moves into a new time change that stays locked into the melody somehow. This track sounds more like one you may hear on the radio due to its shorter length and melodies. It is thoroughly enjoyable and has some wonderful drumming towards the end with blast beat triplets and high-speed double kicks. It is just so great to hear real drums that add so much to the overall sound.

"A voyage of uncertainty" opens with peaceful tranquil piano solitude and the tolling of the bell. There is a peaceful piano and a haunting melody resounds. The sig switches with distorted chugging guitars and a strong drumbeat again adding to the change in mood. It breaks suddenly into the piano motive then the time sig changes again into halftime feel. The tempo becomes sporadic as a marching drumbeat ensues. Then we move into a new section as if marching to the gallows as the bell tolls ominously. The atmosphere is scary as Lisa asks "do you dare to keep silent, do you dare to snare a wolf, do you dare to go down with this ship?" This is an intriguing Gothic track worthy of hearing.

"Vessels" bursts with exuberant keys and heavy guitars over a steady beat. It breaks into soulful ambient keyboards as heard with Lisa-Marie singing with vibrato. The soundscape darkens as we hear "abandon your soul and feed my vessel" that hints at Vampiric undertones. "Hours of the day and hours of the night, they'll be our servants and they'll be our slaves, our unification to the end of all days"; lyrical poetry that may be a love song for vampires. This is mesmerising music and very majestic with embellishments of vocal choir.

"Fatal Wounds" begins with a crash of distorted guitar and a chunky riff joined by melodic keys in harmony. This is synchronised with blast beats of drums. The lyrics speak of "a scar that will never heal". A time sig change heralds some machine like metal crunches then overflows with pastoral keyboard melodies. The keyboard showcase has layers of notes and breaks out into faster cadence. It slows again and Lisa sings about "fire and desire". Then some blazing lead guitars are heard till we return to the chorus "fatal wounds that sting us, this coldness that chokes me to see that we, we must be, now I lay myself beside your tomb taking fatal wounds". The death dirge is in enhanced by violins and ghostly synths. The distorted metal chugs and double-click drums take the song to its conclusion. The Coda is again well executed and majestic, with drums and cymbals that crash and burn with energy right to the end. An absolutely wonderful epic of accomplished musicianship from the band.

The album ends with a Prog epic that opens with quiet ambience as a patient piano is joined by Angel choirs, like sunrays bursting through the trees in a dark forest. It gets heavier and the tempo quickens with fast metal guitar precision and blinding keyboard fingering. Lisa sings "what was once giveth shall be given away, knowledge is lost in decay, since the dawn of light enlightened fire burns, awareness is the gift which brought us to life, let us have compassion of an evil willed mind, the young of heart or the burden of old had their share of life, we are passing the gift being blessed by a curse." So again there are vampiric nuances with themes of a wintry Twilight forest by the light of the moon with howling wolves. The Gothic grandeur is embellished with sorrowful piano governed over by meandering retro synth. There is a showcase of fluttering keyboard prowess as a completely different feel ensues with an awesome bass line. Lisa sings "from birth to life it's on our side, from cradle to bed let us shine bright, we carry the burden and pass on our gift". So with these words immediately I think vampires that are passing on a gift of the undead; immortality with a bite "from maturity to the grave". A very fast keyboard phrase follows with unusual time signature and more powerhouse playing. This section is akin to Dream Theater or Haken. The mood switches to tranquillity with a cool bass line and Oriental keypads. The sigs go wildly out of control at 14 minutes as the drums go into overdrive with blast beats and sporadic triplets. The dramatic keys are accompanied by grinding hard-core distorted chunks of guitar. The song builds to a sweeping Cinemascape ascending into a finale. The final showdown of guitars and synths battle it out before the epic pulls down the curtain of the album; a colossal multi movement suite of tension and power.

Overall all this album is a compelling twilight journey of wintry Gothic landscapes, vampires and howling wolves locked in a heavy Prog environment. I recommend this to those into Gothic metal with female vocals such as Nightwish, Ever After, Within Temptation and those bands who indulge in extended soloing such as Yes, Transatlantic or Dream Theater. It has elements of all these artists and yet burns with it's own passion and energy with German accents and keyboard finesse workouts being at the centre. The inspired musicianship and operatic vocals make this a powerhouse album for complex prog lovers and for those into the vampire genre. It is an album to sink the teeth into as P. A. W. N. bares it's fangs and unveils some of the best dark romantic cinematic prog of 2014.

 The Great Divide by ENCHANT album cover Studio Album, 2014
3.47 | 83 ratings

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The Great Divide
Enchant Heavy Prog

Review by Evolver
Special Collaborator Crossover & JazzRock/Fusion Teams

3 stars I enjoyed Spock's Beard's latest album "Brief Nocturnes And Dreamless Sleep" immensely. So immensely that I began looking for albums with singer Ted Leonard, and his previous band, Enchant. It turns out that Enchant had been dormant for over ten years before the release of this album.

The music is very similar to Spock's Beard, some symphonic tendencies mixed with heavy prog. And the musicianship is excellent. The performances are excellent, as is the production.

But here's the problem. When I'm listening to the album, I find it enjoyable. It's just the type of prog that gets me going. But once it is finished, nothing stays with me. I've played it a few dozen times, and before I play the disk, I just cannot recall anything from any of the songs. My wife tells me that she thinks all of the songs sound the same. And unless I'm concentrating on the album, most of them do have a similar sound.

I think if they had added some of the humor and whimsy of the Beard's album it would have lifted this one much higher. But perhaps the presence of Neal Morse (in limited capacity) on the SB release was what lifted it higher.

Oh well. I like it, I just don't love it.

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