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TECH/EXTREME PROG METAL

A Progressive Rock Sub-genre


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Tech/Extreme Prog Metal definition

This category lists technical Progressive Metal bands that have roots in Extreme Metal or that are strongly influenced by it. The style developed by the end of the 80s in the Thrash Metal scene when a number of bands stretched the boundaries of their sound by including elements from Progressive Rock. Death Metal followed a similar path in the 90s and by the 2000s, also Black Metal and Metalcore saw an increasing amount of bands taking in Prog influences.

Certain bands like EPHEL DUATH and UNEXPECT developed a style that largely abandoned their extreme metal heritage in favour of a highly eclectic jazz-influenced Avant Metal style. These bands are listed under Experimental Metal.


Progressive Thrash Metal
By the end of the 80s Thrash Metal had diversified its sound significantly to an extent where the originally very direct and uncompromisingly aggressive style had become more sophisticated, boasting challenging technical skills and ambitious song structures frequently surpassing the 6 minute mark. The best known examples are METALLICA and MEGADETH.

The bands listed in this section went one step further and embraced notable influences from Progressive Rock, replacing much of the typical Thrash Metal riffs and rhythms with a more progressive and melodic riffing style, influenced by KING CRIMSON and RUSH. The most well-known of these early bands was VOIVOD, who also brought the early psychedelic sound of PINK FLOYD into their unique mold. Important pioneering albums were released by WATCHTOWER, CORONER, MEKONG DELTA, as well as the debut album of SIEGES SEVEN.
More recent examples of Progressive Thrash are SPIRAL ARCHITECT and VEKTOR


Progressive Death Metal
Death Metal further built on the sound of the most extreme bands of the Thrash scene. Next to the brutal sound, blast beat drumming, complex song structures and multiple tempo changes, the most notorious feature of the style is probably the growled vocals. Death Metal is generally highly technical, making the dividing line between Technical Death Metal and Progressive Death Metal sometimes rather faint.

The bands considered for Prog Archives are those that show significant influences from Progressive Rock and/or Fusion. One of the landmarks in the style is "Elements" from ATHEIST, who mixed their hyper-technical Speed Metal with fusion. Other early albums include "Focus" from CYNIC and "Spheres" from PESTILENCE, where progressive riffing, polymetrics, fusion influences and atmospheric keyboards complemented their brutal Death Metal. Also DEATH, the popular founder of Death Metal, incorporated fusion and progressive elements on their later albums.

A different flavour of Progressive Death Metal came from the European continent, when half-way into the 90s leading death and doom-death bands started expanding their basic metal sound. The most significant album relevant to this section is "Crimson" from EDGE OF SANITY. In typical Scandinavian fashion, their epic approach wasn't fusion oriented but less technical and more melodic, introducing the now typical alteration between brutal Death sections and more melodic breaks with clean vocals; an approach perfected in the next decade by OPETH.


Progressive Black Metal
Unlike Thrash and Death metal, Black Metal is not a technical genre. Originally it was even purposely non-technical and low-fi. By the end of the 90s the genre had developed into various sub-styles, of which some incorporated elements from progressive music.
The bands listed in this section are Black Metal bands that traded the minimalism of Black Metal for a more progressive, technical or experimental approach. This distinguishes them from the Black Metal bands that fleshed out their sound with either post-rock and/or shoegaze influences. Those are listed under Experimental/Post Metal.

One of the earliest and best known example of this style is ENSLAVED, who maintained the harsh atmosphere and aggression of classic Black Metal but extended this with a more textured psychedelic sound, chromatic riffing and odd time-signatures, citing influences from PINK FLOYD, VOIVOD and KING CRIMSON. Also IHSAHN, front-man of EMPEROR, should be mentioned here.

Most artists in this section are Symphonic Black Metal-oriented bands with progressive and experimental influences, but without fully crossing over to either Prog or Avant Metal as they remain oppressively dark, harsh, often dissonant and inaccessible. Their strong ties to Black Metal is why they are featured under Tech/Extreme Prog Metal and not in Avant Prog Metal. Examples are DEATHSPELL OMEGA, MOONSORROW, NEGURA BUNGET and the slightly more accessible theatrical Symphonic Black Metal of ARCTURUS.


Modern Phase
In the 2000s trends became more diffuse, introducing bands that had some of their stylistic features in common with the extreme metal genres without fully belonging in any of them. Some of them continued the strong fusion element and hyper-technical approach from ATHEIST and CYNIC. Instrumental acts such a as EXIVIOUS, CANVAS SOLARIS and BLOTTED SCIENCE received lots of critical acclaim from progressive metal fans.

A new trend was set by MESHUGGAH, one of the most defining bands of this era. At the end of the 90s their eclectic mix of Death, Thrash, Avant, Fusion and Prog laid down the groundrules of Extreme Metal for the next decade. Another well known band to take a similar eclectic approach to Extreme Metal was GOJIRA.
In the second half of the 2000's, many young bands copied MESHUGGAH's guitar tone and rhythmical riffing style, giving rise to the so-called 'djent' movement. Many of these bands belong in Tech/Extreme, such as ANIMALS AS LEADERS, CHIMP SPANNER etc.


Progressive Metalcore
The second half of the 2000s also saw the rise of a new generation of Progressive Tech/Extreme acts with roots that lay in Metalcore, Mathcore and Technical Sludge, rather then the 'classic' Extreme Metal genres. Their music is inherently technical and complex and has quite a number of formal features in common with Progressive Metal such as odd time signatures and non-standard song formats.
Prog Archives only lists these bands that go beyond the default expectations of the genre and bring in distinct non-extreme Prog influences. Some of the most eye-catching bands in this area are BETWEEN THE BURIED AND ME, PROTEST THE HERO, BURST, DILLINGER ESCAPE PLAN and MASTODON.


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

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

Tech/Extreme Prog Metal Top Albums


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

4.31 | 1477 ratings
STILL LIFE
Opeth
4.26 | 1513 ratings
BLACKWATER PARK
Opeth
4.25 | 1416 ratings
GHOST REVERIES
Opeth
4.37 | 153 ratings
OBSCURA
Gorguts
4.26 | 422 ratings
CRIMSON
Edge of Sanity
4.24 | 486 ratings
SYMBOLIC
Death
4.26 | 282 ratings
UNQUESTIONABLE PRESENCE
Atheist
4.27 | 248 ratings
NOTHINGFACE
Voivod
4.18 | 950 ratings
PALE COMMUNION
Opeth
4.20 | 487 ratings
FOCUS
Cynic
4.23 | 247 ratings
ELEMENTS
Atheist
4.27 | 162 ratings
DIMENSION HATROSS
Voivod
4.20 | 379 ratings
THE SOUND OF PERSEVERANCE
Death
4.25 | 169 ratings
OM
Negura Bunget
4.21 | 240 ratings
THE PARALLAX II - FUTURE SEQUENCE
Between The Buried And Me
4.17 | 327 ratings
HUMAN
Death
4.39 | 70 ratings
KIVENKANTAJA
Moonsorrow
4.21 | 172 ratings
BACK TO TIMES OF SPLENDOR
Disillusion
4.13 | 472 ratings
TRACED IN AIR
Cynic
4.33 | 80 ratings
DEATH'S DESIGN
Diabolical Masquerade

Tech/Extreme Prog Metal overlooked and obscure gems albums new


Random 4 (reload page for new list) | As selected by the Tech/Extreme Prog Metal experts team

INTEGERS
Collapsar
THE DESIGN
Into the Moat
A THIN LINE BETWEEN HEAVEN AND HERE
My Bitter End
CITRINITI
Citriniti

Latest Tech/Extreme Prog Metal Music Reviews


 Moziac by SUNSET IN THE 12TH HOUSE album cover Studio Album, 2015
5.00 | 1 ratings

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Moziac
Sunset in The 12th House Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by RuntimeError

— First review of this album —
5 stars Looking for soothing non-technical instrumental music? Then look no further.

Here is a stunning masterpiece that gladly I noticed in metal forums because it has become one of my favourite albums of all time. Started by ex- Negura Bunget members, Sunset in the 12th House's debut offers a wide palette of sounds ranging from echoed guitars in 'Arctic Cascades' to beautiful driving and groovy, eastern-influenced 'Desert's Echaton'. Each song creates a fantastic sonic landscape that one has to experience by oneself. The opener 'Seven Insignia' feels like sailing in a storm, while the third track 'Paraphernalia of Sublimation' takes you into a large cave. Like the cover art suggest, this album feels like going through different parts of the world - and it succeeds in it's task better than any record I have heard. The final track offers the listener much more heavier approach and even some death metal vocals. The drive an energy the final track suggest a path to death or the "final journey".

The production is flawless, the drums are perfectly arranged in each song with high emphasis on groove and support. The guitars create large landscapes with effects. The bass plays the least interesting part, but offers the support required for heavier guitar riffs and low end for cleaner parts.

Insanely good record, definitely for fans of classic prog (Pink Floyd, Tangerine Dream) and modern prog metal.

 ObZen by MESHUGGAH album cover Studio Album, 2008
3.66 | 208 ratings

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ObZen
Meshuggah Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by Something_Wicked

4 stars Obzen is a contraction of the words 'obscene' and 'zen', in that the music within is the heaviest, densest and to many the most brutal, yet it imparts a trance like state on the individual. One may get lost in the cyclic odd time rhythms, counting out the numbers like some kind of Buddhist's litany, or maybe caught in the gentle atmospherics that envelope the sheer anger and energy, transcending the filth, simultaneously detaching from and becoming one with the music. And after the fact, however many times you've made the journey through the music, you'll always want to go again, to revisit the plane in which you observed the mingling dance of dark and light, but each time is never the same.
 Terminal Redux by VEKTOR album cover Studio Album, 2016
3.94 | 107 ratings

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Terminal Redux
Vektor Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by The Crow
Prog Reviewer

4 stars A brutal travel through space and death!

Hearing Terminal Redux is like being propelled through light years of heinous wars, apocalyptic starship crashes and obscure mythologies. The concept of the album is obtuse and difficult to understand, but also an adventure to discover, just like the music of Vektor. They proudly carry the banner of technical death metal today. And they deserve it!

The production of the album is also very solid, leaving space for every instrument. I would mention the guitars, which sound piercing and pristine, and also the powerful drums. Maybe the bass is a bit low for my taste, but that's usual in thrash and death metal anyway. But let's talk about the songs!

Charging the Void introduces us in a very powerful way in the style of the album. A very technical and fierce death metal but with tons of epic melodies, really catchy for adventurous listeners. The DiSanto vocals are pure black metal nevertheless, and they are accompanied in this song by splendid clean female choirs. A very solid, progressive and surprising song!

Cygnus Terminal is a bit more melancholic and melodic, but also powerful and it contains incredible drumming from Blake Anderson. LCD is even faster, with brutal lyrics with helps to define the concept of the record. And then comes Mountains Above the sun, a very wise track which introduces variety while being just an introduction for Ultimate Artificer, a song which is a bit more classic death metal, but it contains some of the best riffs of the album.

But hey... The second half of the CD is even better! Pteropticon is one of the most complete songs of the album with its devilish speed and brutal melodies. Is one of the best written tracks. Psycotropia increases the craziness level and it contains one hell of a bass solo. And Pillars of Sand follow the more straightforward line of Ultimate Artificer... At this point we start to feel again the album needs a change.

And then we find Collapse! A semi-acoustic and beautiful track with clean vocals which increases its intensity progressively bringing a beautiful moment when clean vocals and growls unite, making a very original and catchy section. The final part of the song is a bit more conventional, but also great. Another marvelous bass playing from Frank Chin!

Recharging the Void... If I had to introduce Vektor to someone, this would be the chosen song to do that. Over 13 minutes of epic melodies, haunting clean choirs, brutal guitars and incredible riffs. It's arguably the best song of the album and one of the highlights in Vektor's career. Just a must hearing song for every prog metal lover! Just like the rest of the album.

Conclusion: Terminal Redux has a pair of not so brilliant moments where the music can be a bit repetitive. But as a whole is just one of the best metal albums of this decade. Superb songwriting, cryptic concept and impressive instrumental skill which brings to mind the best technical death metal moments of the 90's while it achieves to sound different and very actual.

If you are not scared by extreme metal and black metal vocals, you should give Terminal Redux a chance. It's a very impressive release from which confirms that Vektor are not the future of metal anymore. They are the present!

Thank you for this great experience, guys.

Best Tracks: Charging the Void, Pteropticon, Psycotropia, Collapse, Recharging the Void.

My rating: ****1/2, rounded down to four stars.

 The Future In Whose Eyes? by SIKTH album cover Studio Album, 2017
4.05 | 2 ratings

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The Future In Whose Eyes?
Sikth Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE & JR/F/Canterbury Teams

4 stars SIKTH took the progressive metal world by surprise when they debuted their unique and demanding debut release "The Trees Are Dead & Dried Out Wait For Something Wild" in 2003 which along with the avant-garde tendencies of Meshuggah changed the coarse of djent guitar styled extreme progressive metal in the early 21st century. This Watford, England based band emerged seemingly out of nowhere and showed the world a new way of melding the avant-garde with progressive rock and metalcore. Despite being cited as major contributors to the djent guitar sound and dizzying mathcore freneticism, SIKTH only released two albums in a four year span and then suddenly disappeared into the ethers of the underground only to let a whole slew of imitators (think of bands like Periphery) to fill the newly created vacuum. In 2015 the band dropped a little teaser of an EP called "Opacities" which showed that they were still in top form and ready to jump back into the mosh pit and fight it out with the newbies on the block. Finally in 2017 we see the long waited third release THE FUTURE IN WHOSE EYES? which emerges a full eleven years after the last full length album "Death Of A Dead Day."

One of the main reasons for the band's initial demise in 2007 was the fact that the duo vocal team of Mikee Goodman and Justin Hill had left the band to pursue other musical endeavors and since a great deal of SIKTH's signature sound is utterly dependent on this one-two vocal punch, the band called it quits lest they sound like any old metalcore band with progressive leanings out there. The band rekindled their connections when Goodman returned but Hill had apparently jumped ship for good, so in with the new blood and Joe Rosser makes his debut as the second vocalist. The album also has been released in two formats. There's the original release with 12 tracks and the Earbrook Edition that has two bonus discs, one of re-imagined tracks and another of the entire album in all instrumental form. Whaaaat?!!!! Now who wants to hear an instrumental album of SIKTH? The vocals are half the fun! I've forsaken this bonus pack and stuck with the originally intended program.

As the album begins with "Vivid," it sounds like SIKTH never went away as the combination of Goodman's socially conscious lyrically prose bursts out in schizophrenic screams with the combo effect of Dan Weller and Graham Pinney's duo guitar onslaught of blistering core based guitar riffing. The rhythm section of James Leach on bass and Dan Foord hammering out precision percussion is fully aflame as well. SIKTH is back and means business. "Century Of The Narcissist?" only continues to ramp up the frenzy and sounds very much like SIKTH's comfort zone as heard on previous albums only incorporates a nice mix of both screamed and clean vocals with a rather alternative metal type of riffing approach. "The Aura" displays a new style for a full album SIKTH album although was present on the EP "Opacities" as baritone poetry is read introducing yet another blistering metal assault to the senses. At this point it's clear that SIKTH has mellowed out a bit as they have incorporated a lot more slower passages that mix and mingle with the bombastic as [%*!#] trademark maniacal madness that they are known for.

"The Ship Has Sailed" is yet another short poetic prose with dark ambient musical accompaniment that ushers in yet another progressive metal / metalcore frantic mashup. By the time we get to "Cracks Of Light" it is apparent that the spoken poetic prose mixed with the clean progressive metal style is here to stay as the hardcore elements are deemphasized and only appear in certain proportions in the mix. While these developments were laid out on the EP "Opacities," it is now quite apparent that the band has been working on fusing these elements into their new style which takes the balls-to-the-wall aggressiveness all the time and allows the music to expand into a more diverse arena. Depending on your reaction, you could possibly deem this as an attribute of "selling out" or simply "maturing." Perhaps it's a bit of both considering three singles have been released from this one, however bands need to move on and find a new relevant way to express themselves and metalcore is not exactly the easiest of metal genres to expand one's tentacles into new arenas. SIKTH prove on THE FUTURE IN WHOSE EYES? that they can still stand ground with the best of the newer metal bands out there.

True that this one doesn't have the same whoah factor that the first two albums did and it took me a few more spins to appreciate but once it sinks in, the results are stunning in how they have mixed and melded hitherto unthinkable aspects into their musical mania. In addition to the newer elements already mentioned, there is a very mature approach to the production standards which is quite professionally and pleasantly executed. After a skeptical start with this album, i think it has grown on me to the point i'm actually glad that SIKTH have returned. With the more dynamic effects of pacing the aggressive elements that intermittently commingle with more ambient and more subdued alternative metal approaches, SIKTH have found yet another avenue of musical delivery which is very different than their earlier albums where it was 100% adrenaline firing at full speed with more subdued respites later on. Here they maintain a flow of different energy levels that ultimately works quite well. While this album does tend to lack some kind of major high that blows me away, i can't fault it in any way as well. It seems that it was only my unrealistic expectations that kept me from initially warming up to it. After accepting it for what it is, i'm quite enamored by the maturity of composition and musical performances.

 Welterwerk by DROTTNAR album cover Studio Album, 2006
4.17 | 8 ratings

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Welterwerk
Drottnar Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by UMUR
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars "Welterwerk" is the debut full-length studio album by Norwegian extreme metal act Drottnar. The album was released through Endtime Productions in April 2006. "Welterwerk" is lyric wise upon initial listen a World War 2 concept album, but there is a bit more to it than that. There seems to be a political and social agenda to the concept as well. The World War 2 atmosphere is further enhanced by the band posing in vintage soldier uniforms in the booklet and of course as a consequence of song titles like "Victor Comrade" and "Niemand Geht Vorbei".

The music on the album is technical black metal (or maybe technical blackened death metal is more correct) and in my experience that´s not a music style many artists practice. Imagine a combination of the twisted, gloomy and industrial tinged progressive black metal of "Supervillain Outcast (2007)" by Dødheimsgard and the technical extreme metal of "Unquestionable Presence (1991)" by Atheist and you´re half way there. The playing is on a high level by all involved. Technical precision drumming, sharp and twisted riffing (lots of dissonance) and an aggressive and raspy sounding vocalist in front. The tracks are generally complex and not necessarily memorable upon initial listen. The power of the music and the technical skills of the players are features that you instantly notice though and the tracks do start becoming more recognisable the more you listen to them, so it´s not necessarily a major weakness, but maybe a question of patience and repeated listens. Sometimes the fact that music is not instantly catchy and memorable only adds to it´s longivity, and that´s certainly the case here, as "Welterwerk" is the kind of album that you can put on and find new details on every time you give it a spin.

Most tracks on the album are in the furiously fast played and aggressive technical black/death metal style that is the band´s predominant style, but the track "Victor Comrade" is quite a bit different from the rest and works both as an album divider and as a "breather" among the busy technical riffing and chaotic atmosphere of the rest of the tracks. There is a kind of World War 2 movie soundtrack atmosphere to it with samples of people talking, a trumpet playing the lead melody, sirenes sounding, and bombs falling.

The 9 track, 52:04 minutes long album is a very well produced affair. The sound is detailed, powerful, and perfectly designed for the band´s chaotic, technical, and aggressive music. So upon conclusion "Welterwerk" is a very strong debut album by Drottnar. An incredibly aggressive and technically well played release, that they can rightfully be proud of. A 4 - 4.5 star (85%) rating is deserved.

 Heritage by OPETH album cover Studio Album, 2011
3.82 | 1148 ratings

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Heritage
Opeth Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by The Crow
Prog Reviewer

2 stars Good bye death metal, welcome boredome!

Heritage changed it all... One of the most well crafted and influential prog metal bands of the last decades suddenly left the style that made them big to derivate into an attempt to replicate the 70's prog rock sound that Akerfeldt loves so much. And they clearly succeeded in achieving this goal buty the forgot the good and catchy songwriting in the process. Where is the overall quality that this band always had? Gone!

Per Wiberg gained a lot of protagonism (and he left right after finishing the album) in the sound of the band and that also happened with the ambiental and jazzy parts too, decreasing the decibels and eliminating the growls. But the album sounds good... Well, that's not accurate. The music has a great production and mixing! Steven Wilson helped, of course. But what happened with the songs?

Heritage is a beautiful and melancholic intro wich introduces us in the album's mood effectively, leading to The Devil's Orchard, the best song of the entire record, very dynamic and with a superb guitar and keyboard work. The ending of the song is astonishing! And the vocals are also adequate here.

But the comes I Feel the Dark... Why are you shouting all the time, Mikael? Where are your mellow and soft vocals? Are you trying to be someone else or it's just my imagination? The song is to bad, but the singing is. It just doesn't fit with the mood of the song. And them comes Slither, a mediocre attempt to recreate the 80's NWOBHM style, with a Mikael trying to sound like Dio... What the hell were you thinking, guys?

Nevertheless, Nepenthe is even worse. A boring jazz oriented track with a lot of psychedelia on it but with an absolute lack of direction, apart from a great guitar solo. Häxprocess starts with almost three minutes of nothing, and at this point we are irreparably bored to death. And the slightly better final part of the song can't repair that.

And of course Famine and its eternal and boring percussion part is not better. The good instrumental work can't disguise the complete lack of inspiration this song has. Fortunitely, The Lines in my Hand and its pompous mellotron, good acoustic guitars and the typical Opeth's sound save us from cutting our wrists. One of the best tracks of the album!

Folklore is not so bad like Nepenthe or Famine, but it's also far from the band's best moments. Echoes of Damnation but again with unfitty and lame vocals. Marrow of the Earth comes as summary of this album: sad, unloved and unispired.

Conclusion: it's not the lack of death metal vocals, or the style change. The problem with Heriage ist he bad songwriting and the endless boring parts. And of course, the Mikael Akerfeldt's singing, wich is strange, loud and just lame in occassions. What happened to you? I think this man was trying to became a different musician, a different singer... And he failed miserably.

After all this years, I'm still amazed... How managed one of my favourite bands to release an album so unispired? This always be a mistery for me.

Best Tracks: Heritage, The Devil's Orchard, The lines in My Hand.

My rating: **

 Sorceress by OPETH album cover Studio Album, 2016
3.83 | 335 ratings

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Sorceress
Opeth Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by kev rowland
Special Collaborator Crossover Prog Team

4 stars I still remember the impact 'Ghost Reveries' had on me when I first heard it back in 2005. It was Opeth's eighth album, but the first I had come across, and it totally blew me away. I then sought out the earlier albums and was intrigued to see how much they had changed over the years: what would that mean for the future I thought? This is their fourth album since then, and features the same line-up as 2014's, 'Pale Communion', namely Mikael Åkerfeldt (guitars, vocals), Martín Méndez (bass), Martin Axenrot (drums), Fredrik Åkesson (guitars), and Joakim Svalberg (keyboards). But, of that line-up only Mikael was a full member on 'Reveries' (Martin played on just one song), so in many ways this isn't the same band, so perhaps it isn't surprising that the band have moved in such dramatic fashion from their death metal days. But what does that mean for the fans who followed them?

I found that I kept thinking of classic Uriah Heep, but on steroids, as the guitar is that much sharper and the solos more powerful, but the way the organ keeps thing moving and repeating motifs is very much of that style. When I told someone, I was finally getting around to listening to this album, which came out in September last year, he said that he would be very interested in hearing what I thought of it. In the end, I told him that in many ways I think this is a good album, but it's not Opeth. And there's the rub, looking at the cover art does one really notice that the peacock is displaying his tail feathers on a mound of skulls? The skulls may be where they have come from, but are they now a bird with an annoying cry? Do they look good, but there is little substance and no taste?

Musically this is all over the place, but early Seventies is where it is most at home, and songs such as the acoustic "Will O The Wisp" would be more at home on a classic Jethro Tull album than Opeth. But, and it's a big but, take the word "Opeth" off the album cover then I and probably all other reviewers would be looking at this in a different light. What will fans be wanting when the band play live? Will it be the older material or this? I know what I think. This should probably have been released as a solo album by Mikael, as there is too much risk of disengaging fans who have been with the band for years. The question is, how many of them will turn up for gigs, and how many will buy the next album? I enjoyed this on a pure musical level, but it isn't what I expected at all.

 The Violent Sleep Of Reason by MESHUGGAH album cover Studio Album, 2016
3.99 | 62 ratings

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The Violent Sleep Of Reason
Meshuggah Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by kev rowland
Special Collaborator Crossover Prog Team

4 stars

When one buys a Meshuggah album one knows exactly what to expect, and this 2016 is no different to the ones that have come before. What we have here boys and girls is djent, but in a complex downtuned and aggressive form like none other. It is just not possible to state how brutal this album is, from the very first crunch to the last. Singer Jens Kidman has a great deal of work to do to make himself heard, as the rest of the guys are just so tight, so precise, that it is incredible that he manages to find a melody line at all. This is complex stuff, and no-one does this style of music better than the Swedes. True, they are somewhat lacking when it comes to dynamics, as there isn't a great deal of light to play against the shade, but that doesn't seem to be a problem for them as they just paint the shade somewhat darker. Polyrhythmic is the only way to describe a band who haven't worked out that 4/4 is often thought to be a valid time signature in metal. Why do that when they can groove in 5/8 instead?

There really is no other band like them, and that they continue to tour the world (they even turned up down here not long ago!) and release albums (this is their ninth) shows that while this may not be to everyone's tastes, there is simply no-one who can do this any better. Meshuggah, djent, metal, intense, superb.

 Till Fjälls del II by VINTERSORG album cover Studio Album, 2017
3.91 | 4 ratings

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Till Fjälls del II
Vintersorg Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by kev rowland
Special Collaborator Crossover Prog Team

4 stars

This is quite a special album in many ways, as it not only looks back to the debut from 1998 both in title and style, but even includes music from before the very first EP. As bandleader Andreas "Vintersorg" Hedlund (vocals, guitars, bass, keyboards, programming) says, 'To write a sequel to the first Vintersorg 'Till Fj'lls' album was something that many people wanted me to do after its release. The second album ''demakens Son' was in the same direction but still something different. So, throughout the years that same mantra was often mentioned again and again 'you need to do another album like Till Fj'lls'. As an artist I've always followed my heart much more than my mind, so inspiration and passion has taken us on a journey through different atmospheres and different musical spheres. From the very folk- music-drenched metal in the beginning, to more progressive and complex textures and structures. As time passed by I just started to write more folk music oriented music again, just out of that same inspiration and passion. On the last three or four albums, we've in a way spiraled back to the starting origin, but with new experiences and a different stronghold to rest our art upon. So, I wrote some music and it came over me that it was somewhat 'Till Fj'lls del II' (part II) and after that fire was lit in our hearts it was a very easy choice to put it in that perspective. It's not an attempt to do a classic sequel, much more like a lost twin finds its other half after many years. They're connected to each other but with different experiences and perspectives. The included EP 'Tillbaka till k'llorna' (Back to the Sources) is an attempt to portray the time before Vintersorg was Vintersorg. The songs are written in that transition period when Vargatron was put to rest and Vintersorg was given life. Still, these songs didn't make it to the first EP 'Hedniskhj'rtad' due to different reasons but has survived in the back of my head, and on some worn-out tapes. When we decided to do the part II of 'Till Fj'lls' it came to me that it would be nice to really do a new take on these songs, trying to keep the basis of them but just put them into the Vintersorg perspective.'

Joining Andreas was Mattias Marklund (guitars), who joined not long after the debut, and Simon Lundstr'm (bass), who has only been there a few years. This is classic folk/Viking metal, with strong riffs and walls of sound, although they do also bring in some black metal influences here and there. The result is an album that is incredibly powerful, and although I would much prefer a 'live' drummer (as they use when they gig), even I must admit that the programming has been done well and isn't too painful to listen to. They remind me more of classic Dimmu Borgir than Amon Amarth, but that isn't a bad thing in my book, as this just screams class from start to end. That one man is responsible for all the writing and much of the instrumentation is quite something, and by singing everything in Swedish they add some mystique. They can be emotional and ambient, or powerful and in your face, often within the same song, and it is the use of dynamics which really make this album stand out from the rest.

It has been three years since their last release, but it has been time well spent, and this is an album that any metalhead could do well to discover.

 Still Life by OPETH album cover Studio Album, 1999
4.31 | 1477 ratings

BUY
Still Life
Opeth Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by FragileKings
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Opeth's fourth album, 'Still Life' is for many where the band finally established their classic sound in all its glory. 'My Arms, Your Hearse' brought in two new musicians and a serious alteration in the band's music writing style: heavier, more brutal, and with a more natural inclusion of lighter parts into their now heavier songs. But Mikael Akerfeldt was deeply influenced by progressive music by this point and claims that 'Still Life' was their most progressive album up to that time.

What is interesting to note on this album is how the heavier guitar chords are very well balanced with higher tone riffs, allowing for complex riffing to coexist with the more thunderous side of the band's heavy sound. As if intentionally in complement, Mikael's death vocals also show two sides: a deep guttural bellow and a wet, back-of- the-throat, blasting roar. These two vocal styles are best heard in the chorus to 'Serenity Painted Death', where the first part is sung (or vocalized?) in the deeper voice and the second part in the higher, shredding voice. In fact, it is this song that finally made me appreciate the skill and talent behind death vocals. Previously I had likened this style of vocalizing to a demon with severe stomach troubles the night after an ungodly pasta binge and heavy drinking. Perhaps somewhat unfortunately now, all death vocalists I hear will be compared to Mikael Akerfeldt.

I'll admit that in the beginning this album was a slow grower for me when I brought it home four years ago. At first, only 'Serenity Painted Death' and 'White Cluster' stood out as memorable. But earlier this year, I this album on frequently and my brain become awakened to its overall charm. Mikael's clean vocals are stronger than they were on the previous three albums and can now create an atmosphere. The acoustic part in 'Godhead's Lament' makes me think of Jethro Tull a bit, and the use of acoustic and clean electric guitar passages in the heavier songs has really become a natural development within the song frameworks. Daring to go further than before, Opeth give us 'Benighted', an all-acoustic track plus some clean electric guitar with a smooth jazzy feel and all clean vocals. 'Face of Melinda' also spends the first four minutes delivering an easy-swaying acoustic number with light jazz-influenced percussion. The inclusion of these tracks shows that the band is not driven towards an album of brutal auditory assault like many or most of their death metal contemporaries but is instead striving for texture, mood, and melody alongside the expected aggressive music.

Looking at 11 lists ranking Opeth's albums, 'Still Life' has an average rank of 3.1, second only to 'Blackwater Park' with a 1.9 average rank. It is, in my opinion, one of the four essential Opeth albums from their progressive death metal period, along with 'Blackwater Park', 'Ghost Reveries' and "Watershed". And 'Serenity Painted Death' is one of my top 3 favourite classic Opeth period songs! I'd love to give this 4 1/2 stars but I'll settle with 4.

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