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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 are: (15/1/2021)
Karl (bonnek)
Kevin (Necroncommander)
Mike (TCat)
Sebastian (Kempokid)
Cristi
Nick (nick_h_nz)

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

4.27 | 1731 ratings
STILL LIFE
Opeth
4.37 | 207 ratings
OBSCURA
Gorguts
4.27 | 598 ratings
SYMBOLIC
Death
4.27 | 494 ratings
CRIMSON
Edge Of Sanity
4.23 | 1682 ratings
GHOST REVERIES
Opeth
4.26 | 474 ratings
THE SOUND OF PERSEVERANCE
Death
4.22 | 1803 ratings
BLACKWATER PARK
Opeth
4.30 | 227 ratings
DIMENSION HATROSS
Voivod
4.26 | 324 ratings
NOTHINGFACE
Voivod
4.21 | 413 ratings
HUMAN
Death
4.21 | 330 ratings
THE PARALLAX II - FUTURE SEQUENCE
Between The Buried And Me
4.20 | 330 ratings
INDIVIDUAL THOUGHT PATTERNS
Death
4.20 | 350 ratings
UNQUESTIONABLE PRESENCE
Atheist
4.19 | 289 ratings
ELEMENTS
Atheist
4.16 | 563 ratings
FOCUS
Cynic
4.13 | 1191 ratings
PALE COMMUNION
Opeth
4.14 | 658 ratings
CRACK THE SKYE
Mastodon
4.15 | 536 ratings
TRACED IN AIR
Cynic
4.15 | 410 ratings
TALL POPPY SYNDROME
Leprous
4.20 | 199 ratings
BACK TO TIMES OF SPLENDOR
Disillusion

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

CITRINITI
Citriniti
INTEGERS
Collapsar
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Ansur
CORTICAL TECTONICS
Canvas Solaris

Latest Tech/Extreme Prog Metal Music Reviews


 Aphelion by LEPROUS album cover Studio Album, 2021
3.98 | 61 ratings

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Aphelion
Leprous Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by Gallifrey

4 stars Listening diary 19th September 2021: Leprous - Aphelion (art rock, 2021)

I don't think I'm going to make my feelings on this concrete just yet - Leprous are definitely a band that needs time and context, and given I've been saying "this is their weakest album yet" with every release since 2013's Coal, only to retract that statement twice, I'll hesitate to state it with full confidence here.

But regardless of whether this is as good as their past material, it's certainly another steady evolution, and Leprous should be commended with their consistent and tasteful evolutions, never moving too much at one time but just enough to keep you wondering where they'll head to next. Ever since Raphael Weinroth-Browne first appeared on cello, they've hinted at a more chamber pop oriented sound, and the strings have finally taken the forefront here - although not in the way I anticipated. Instead of being quaint and subdued, they're bombastic and symphonic, in a Hans Zimmer sort of way, and I whether or not you rate that kind of melodrama is probably going to be what makes or breaks this album for you.

Musically, every song here has something to offer in terms of a great riff or melodic idea. There are far fewer genuine standout moments - the far more uneven Pitfalls[ had much greater highs - but there isn't a single weak track or even really a weak section on the entire album, making it a pretty solid listen, without ever blowing you away. But this can cause some of the tracks to blend into each other, and this is probably the most formulaic Leprous record other than The Congregation (not a criticism, by the way, as long as your formula is good). There isn't a single track that goes by without at least one bombastic string line, at least one angular mathy riff, at least one Supertramp-esque pop hook, at least one skipped beat. The formula isn't bad, but it does make some of the songs hard to tell apart.

And despite singing their praises for their continued evolution, there does seem to be a feeling that Leprous are imitating their imitators a bit here - for a lot of this, you could be mistaken for thinking you're listening to an Agent Fresco or Maraton record, and only occasionally do Leprous flex the kinds of songwriting chops that made them influence those artists in the first place. This is still a fine record from a fine band, but it's probably their most nondescript album yet. But perhaps it's time for Leprous to be nondescript for a bit. After all, it doesn't stop them writing good hooks, of which this album has plenty. I'm not sure I ever expect them to reach the creative heights of some of their early work, but as long as they keep moving and developing, I'm not sure I care. We're blessed to have a band this creative in modern metal, I think they can be forgiven for just writing an album of serviceable pop tunes.

7.6 (4th listen)

Part of my listening diary from my facebook music blog - www.facebook.com/TheExoskeletalJunction

 Obscura by GORGUTS album cover Studio Album, 1998
4.37 | 207 ratings

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Obscura
Gorguts Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by Maw The Void

5 stars Gorguts - Obscura

Not joking when I tell you that this is one of the most important records in the history of metal. It is the first record to combine metal with dissonance and avant-garde, all in an incredibly technical manner that was never achieved before in metal or even rock. The musicianship is unparalleled and execution is flawless. Since it has dissonance and avant-garde, it's very inaccessible, so I recommend you to listen it in bits. A full listen could become tedious half-way through. Regardless of inaccessibility, the reward for giving this record a try is unimaginable.

An essential record for metal.

 Shrines Of Paralysis by ULCERATE album cover Studio Album, 2016
4.00 | 8 ratings

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Shrines Of Paralysis
Ulcerate Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by UMUR
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars "Shrines of Paralysis" is the 5th full-length studio album by New Zealand death metal act Ulcerate. The album was released through Relapse Records in October 2016. It´s the successor to "Vermis" from 2013 and features the same three-piece lineup who recorded the predecessor.

"Shrines of Paralysis" is relatively similar in style to the dissonant and technical death metal featured on "Vermis (2013)". It´s a style of music the band introduced on their second album "Everything Is Fire (2009)" and have developed and refined since then. Ulcerate are strongly influenced by mid- to late 90s Gorguts and that act´s creative use of dissonance and desire to push the boundaries of death metal. It´s dark and ultra heavy oppressive music, and even when the band play faster, the overall sound is still gloomy and heavy.

It´s pretty surely an aquired taste if the listener is able to appreciate the band´s vision as the heavy use of dissonance is probably an obstacle for some. Viewed more objectively Ulcerate arguably succeed well with their ideas though, and "Shrines of Paralysis" is generally an adventurous, massive, and gritty journey into darkness. The band are technically very well playing, and although the growling vocals are one-dimensional and a bit emotionless in nature, they do get the job done and apply another layer of bleakness to the listening experience...

...and this is bleak, bleak, bleak. Not even a small ray of light will ever be able to penetrate the thick dissonant darkness of the material on the 8 track, 57:44 minutes long album. "Shrines of Paralysis" features a heavy, detailed, and raw sounding production, which suits the material perfectly, so upon conclusion "Shrines of Paralysis" is another high quality release by Ulcerate. A 4 star (80%) rating is deserved.

(Originally posted on Metal Music Archives)

 Scream Bloody Gore by DEATH album cover Studio Album, 1987
2.99 | 183 ratings

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Scream Bloody Gore
Death Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by progtime1234567

3 stars Ah, the classic. Scream Bloody Gore is commonly referred to as the first proper death metal album, that and Seven Churches by Possessed. Both were crucial in the blossoming of this new genre. Like thrash metal's more rebellious and edgy younger sibling. Scream is one of those albums that every metal-head should hear, and even study, to an extent, because it was key in the development of metal music as a whole. It really does belong on the same unholy altar that also includes Black Sabbath's eponymous 1970 debut album, Venom's Black Metal, Metallica's Kill Em' All, Iron Maiden's The Number of the Beast, etc.

Scream itself is lacking in the progressive rock department. Death didn't embrace their newfound love for experimenting until at least Human. There is nothing complicated or technical about this record, it is pure death metal, and some of the best at that. The vocals are ugly, guttural, Cookie-Monster vocals, no clean singing. The songs are rowdy, rapid blasts of death metal vigor, with the thrash metal influence still lingering around. This really isn't the best album for the normal progressive music fan where the heaviest music they will listen to is 21st Century Schizoid Man.

If this wasn't a progressive music website, I would give this album five stars in a heartbeat, but since that's a different context, I will give Scream a good three stars. Three stars as a progressive album, but definitely five stars plus as a metal album. Scream is truly a metal classic.

 Deadlands by MADDER MORTEM album cover Studio Album, 2002
3.85 | 17 ratings

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Deadlands
Madder Mortem Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by UMUR
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

3 stars "Deadlands" is the 3rd full-length studio album by Norwegian metal act Madder Mortem. The album was released through Century Media Records in October 2002. It´s the successor to "All Flesh Is Grass" from 2001 and features the same quintet lineup who recorded the predecessor.

Stylistically the material on "Deadlands" is hard to put a label on. It´s female led metal, but it´s not symphonic metal or goth metal, but rather a heavy and dark type of metal with Agnete M. Kirkevaag´s distinct sounding and powerful vocals in front. She is sometimes backed by very low in the mix semi-growling vocals and often by harmony vocals too. The tracks are predominantly riff heavy, but there are more melodic and less distorted and loud tracks on the album too. Madder Mortem are often labelled progressive metal, but other than a few adventurous ideas here and there, I wouldn´t call the music on "Deadlands" particularly progressive in nature ("Distance Will Save Us" is probably the closest Madder Mortem come to playing progressive metal). This is just gloomy and really heavy music, and maybe groove heavy doom metal is a better description.

"Deadlands" is not only well performed it´s also well produced, featuring a sound production which is both powerful and detailed, and which suits the material well. Upon conclusion "Deadlands" is another solid release by Madder Mortem, which shows their relatively unique sound. A 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.

(Originally posted on Metal Music Archives)

 Crimson by EDGE OF SANITY album cover Studio Album, 1996
4.27 | 494 ratings

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Crimson
Edge Of Sanity Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by Ian McGregor

5 stars Don't like this band, but this is one of the most influential records of its genre. It was one of the first to blend death metal with progressive rock, and manage melodic death metal. The most noticeable fact is that the entire album is just the title track. This forty minute track goes from raw death metal to melodic sections with acoustic guitar. The vocals also go from growls to clean singing. This style of death metal influences bands like Opeth and most modern melodic death metal bands.

I respect this record for what it has done to its genre, and it's essential to death metal.

 Colors II by BETWEEN THE BURIED AND ME album cover Studio Album, 2021
3.96 | 51 ratings

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Colors II
Between The Buried And Me Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by Necrotica
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Colors II is a loaded album title if I've ever seen one. 14 years down the line, it seems our friendly neighborhood prog-tech-core-death-etc. band has seen fit to draw from the well of their breakthrough masterwork; and really, why shouldn't they? Colors remains one of the most acclaimed metal albums of the 2000s, practically redefining what it meant to be a progressive metal band going forward. Between the Buried and Me's penchant for creative musical set pieces and genre-bending craziness really hit a stride on the landmark record; however, as with any album that garners that much adoration, there will always be that lingering pressure to top it. But let's be real here: 2021 Between the Buried and Me is quite different from 2007 Between the Buried and Me. So much has changed, whether that be the inclusion of even more off-the-wall avant-garde elements or the growing prominence of vocalist Tommy Giles as a keyboardist. But I think the reason for Colors II being a loaded title is fairly obvious; it's a title intended to cause excitement for fans - especially longtime ones - but that could quickly turn into crushing disappointment if Colors' level of quality isn't at least somewhat met.

On a surface level, Colors II does seem to provide exactly what it should: a highly enjoyable followup to Colors that mirrors it stylistically. The same techy riffs, blazing solos, crazy genre experiments, atmospheric synth excursions, and juxtaposition of clean and growled vocals? they're all still here. And if stuff like that is your criteria for loving the record, I can't blame you. "Monochrome" is a pretty dead giveaway that there will be references to the original album, the song taking on a similar "piano intro to extreme metal" crescendo to "Foam Born A: The Backtrack" which opens Colors. On the other hand, there are a few experiments that really surprised me, as they likely wouldn't have found a place on the original record at all; the hardcore punk elements of "Fix the Error" and random fife-driven folk breaks in "Never Seen/Future Shock" immediately come to mind. Meanwhile, you'll find more familiar territory with songs such as the chugging extreme-yet-melodic approach of "The Double Helix of Extinction" or the "White Walls"-esque rolling drums and complex web of riffs that comprise closer "Human is Hell (Another One With Love)".

The performances, as you'd expect at this point, are fantastic. The members really haven't lost a beat since the original Colors in regards to playing such complex and technical material with grace and confidence. Paul Waggoner and Dustie Waring remain a formidable guitar duo, whether it be navigating the crazy rhythm parts of the Dream Theater-esque intro to "Prehistory" or the beautiful - and vaguely jazzy - chords found on "Stare Into the Abyss". Waggoner is particularly noteworthy for some of the striking leads he pulls off on this record, especially in the fantastic? uh, Latin circus section(?) (that's probably the best way I can describe it) at the end of "Revolution in Limbo". And obviously Dan Briggs and Blake Richardson still bring the thunder on the low end of things. However, the member who deserves the most recognition for Colors II is definitely Tommy Giles. He's often the member who garners the most criticism from both fans and detractors, but he sounds so much better here than he did on the original Colors. His growls have stayed largely the same, but you can tell his cleans have come a long way - both in technique and confidence behind the mic. Plus, on songs like "Prehistory" and "Never Seen/Future Shock" his way of hamming up the more theatrical bits is just so fun.

Unfortunately, there's one thing holding Colors II back from the heights of its predecessor, and I think it's a pretty big one. That being: the glue that holds everything together. The original Colors was unapologetic about having wild flights of fancy and not giving a damn what direction the music was going, but there was always some centralized location the music could come back to. And that was usually in the form of a cathartic release, whether it be the beautiful "feed me fear" section of "Informal Gluttony" or the soaring Pachelbel-esque melody that rears its head twice on "Ants of the Sky". Not only were these moments anthemic and memorable, but they were also a great way of ensuring the more technical and crushing sections didn't kill the record's focus. More importantly, the music would have simply become riff salad without these moments of restraint, and that's where Colors II all too often hits a wall. 79 minutes is already a beefy album length to begin with, and there simply isn't enough focus to maintain that runtime. This is particularly felt in "Human is Hell (Another One With Love)", which just meanders on without much of a reason for being 15 damn minutes long. Even the pleasant soft section that builds up the song's conclusion is just kinda? there. Sure, there are a few potentially anthemic moments on the record, such as the "monotonous drought" section from "Revolution in Limbo", but the album really could have benefitted from more of these segments.

With all of that said, I think Colors II can be enjoyed more for its craftsmanship than as an emotional journey. The compositions and diverse arrangements are still a lot of fun and the performances are incredibly solid, but the album often comes off as a jumbled mess when compared to its predecessor; it doesn't help that so many parts mirror that record as well, thus constantly inviting further comparison. But then again, that's what happens when you brand it as a sequel, right? The callbacks were inevitable. However, given a lot of the amazing material that's here, it's just a shame that I don't feel much of anything when listening to it like I did with the original Colors. Still, it's worth a listen for its abundance of great riffs and impressive technical acumen, so don't miss out on it if you've enjoyed Between the Buried and Me's more recent work.

 Aphelion by LEPROUS album cover Studio Album, 2021
3.98 | 61 ratings

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Aphelion
Leprous Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by alainPP

5 stars LEPROUS is the mega band founded in 2001 playing on extreme tech at the start. They have approached IHSAHN and EMPEROR closely and make music that is almost unclassifiable, flirting prog metal then art music with a complex range, hard, djent, pop with the voice of Einar recounting his existential torments in the titles. An 8th album worked on in 3 different studios, covid obliges, album moving further and further away from their mentors DREAM THEATER, OPETH, CYNIC or WINDS. LEPROUS is also high and classic forays with Raphael and his magical cello, it is the violence of riffs associated with a divine voice, it is the association of hitherto opposing sounds united to create a new genre.

"Running Low" Leprousian attack with brass from the group Blåsemafiaen, slightly oriental atmosphere of the tune and the sublime voice of Einar which navigates between softness and trance due to his falsetto organ; not too accentuated this sound, minimalist break to properly stage the sounds, the emphasis is limited with a reminder of the recognizable 'pitfalls' sound and this Raphael cello solo that ends up tickling your ears. '' Out Of Here '' title intimate on percussions juggling with the hip-hop synth and bringing a dreamlike melody of any beauty, latent air; adrenaline rush with vocals and high guitar, its synth-wave starting with prog metal that keeps you going. '' Silhouette '' continues with a characteristic synthetic frame, the violin very present, the choirs, Einar vociferating, Baard's jerky rhythmic imposes on a surge of adrenaline that can induce trance; note the Leprousian airs anchored on the 'oh oh oh' furnishing more than anything else, necessary I doubt. `` All The Moments '' for the real progressive incursion with the classical orchestration and the melancholy strings of Raphael and Chris, the creaking country slide guitar, the sad rise which is transposed in beauty with this minimalist piano, we are not far from 'a depressive climate pointing to contemplation and again this inimitable voice. "Have You Ever?" Muted intro then synth flooding the sound space, almost pop, almost industrial, almost electronic, here we are dealing with a huge title; the east still very close, the keyboards invite to dance, the voice too, what can I say, we reach perfection in this animal air, undulating and hypnotic, short in time, long in musical sensations, a title which imposes it.

"The Silent Revelation" starts with the pure LEPROUS sound, jerky tune covered with a frozen synth; the angelic voice, whispered, siren or archangel, sets off on a good intriguing dancing rock; the electronic orchestration takes the bet on an intimate break then the raging guitars of Tor and Robin accompany the final chorus in an insane apocalyptic rise. "The Shadow Side" simple, minimalist, bordering on bombastic new wave with soft intro gives pride of place to fresh and airy synths; more common title jazzy limit where the voice is put forward to praise it a little more; the finale comes back to repetitive clichés on a high voice with riff, fortunately magnified by a too rare hyper energetic guitar solo which makes you want to put the title back. "On Hold" continues on an icy vocal harmony, spatial atmosphere; the longest track marshmallow, it's beautiful, it reminds me a bit of MANFRED MANN's keyboards on 'Chance' a time; the break with Raphael on the cello drives the nail on the beauty of an unclassifiable title, neither pop, nor rock, neither djent, nor jazzy; it is at the same time grandiloquent, cutesy and majestic with the rise of the voice and the rhythmic guitar, all amalgamated by the drums of Baard. from ANATHEMA, a deep basic air playing on a muffled sound pierced by Einar's voice; a dreamlike rise, progressive in fact which puts you in a trance after a few titles more behind, more overdone, too obvious; here it's power in crescendo with a crystal clear two-step solo; it sounds simple but it's perfect. "Nighttime Disguise" for the finale which goes off strong, riff of the drums, the bass, the synths, the Leprous what; a syncopated sound already on the distortion attenuated by the guitar and the voice; break metal then drift with again the Norwegian brass group Blåsemafiaen which gives another dimension, breaking all musical criteria; the interlude ends with what makes the strength of this quintet, namely its colorful swirling choirs; go for some growl, throaty sounds, some symphonic djent now for the final dreamlike explosion and an all too rare guitar solo; there it's finished.

LEPROUS due to the pandemic composed each title separately, without a frame except for the melancholy tone that emerges from it; powerful positive chaos whether in the register of rock, pop, djent, funk, trip hop or metal; Einar taking charge of the progressive soldering with an intrepid zest of inventiveness, ravishing melancholy and spleen that ANATHEMA would have signed immediately. Note the starting title "Adapt" sign of our company, "Aphelion" not being better since it expresses our maximum distance from our benefactor sun. Good mental health you will need to remain impassive in the face of this musical inferno, energy you will have while listening to this opus in the continuity of Pitfalls, heavy, nasty, metallic, depressive and high how overwhelming. A fresh, lively, intense album that can bring you to the musical firmament.

 Aphelion by LEPROUS album cover Studio Album, 2021
3.98 | 61 ratings

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Aphelion
Leprous Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by lukretio

4 stars The aphelion is the point in the orbit of a celestial body most distant from the Sun, so that, no matter where the body moves next, it must get closer to the Sun. With the title of their seventh full-length album, Leprous splendidly capture the bleakness of our current difficult state of affairs, while at the same time sending a powerful message of hope for the future. This ambivalence also describes perfectly the atmosphere that pervades the new record: bleak, introverted and coming from a place of darkness, yet full of yearning and anticipation. Charged with these conflicting emotions and packed with loads of unconventional arrangements and sonic ideas, Aphelion may just be the most difficult, yet intimately rewarding, album released by the Norwegian quintet to date.

Over the years, Leprous have followed a path that is not unknown to a few other contemporary prog metal acts: starting from the extreme boundaries of progressive metal, they steadily navigated towards more melodic songwriting and lighter arrangements. This process arguably culminated with their 2019's masterpiece Pitfalls, a gloriously melodic fusion of progressive ambition and pop sensibilities. Aphelion germinates from similar seeds, but has taken a moodier, more introspective turn, shying away from the catchy melodicism and propulsive songwriting of its predecessor, and resorting instead to sparser arrangements, slow winding song structures, and complex vocal arrangements that take time and repeated listens before they properly sink in.

Sonically, Aphelion leaves few points of reference to rock and metal audiences. Vocals, strings, piano and synthesizers are often the sole driving force of the songs. Raphael Weinroth-Browne guests once again on cello as he had done before on Pitfalls and Malina, and is joined here by Chris Baum on violin. Their contribution to the sound of the new album is massive: their instruments are literally everywhere on this record, often taking the place of the guitars that are instead notable for their absence throughout most of the album (this must surely be Leprous' LP with the least guitar in it!). Yet, when Tor Oddmund Suhrke and Robin Ognedal do cut through the mix, their presence is all the more powerful for it. Meanwhile, Baard Kolstad's drumming and Simen Børven's basslines strike a great balance between clever rhythmic complexity and minimalism. As on Pitfalls, Einar Solberg's voice and keyboard textures take centre stage on Aphelion. Solberg is probably the best singer in progressive metal at the moment, not just for his impressive vocal range and the sheer brilliance of his multifaceted vocal arrangements, but also for his incredibly powerful and emotional delivery. His performance on Aphelion is nothing short of exhilarating, encompassing everything between the simple, heart-breaking melody of "Castaway Angels" and the vocal acrobatics (that even see a return to growls) of "Nighttime Disguise".

The ten songs of Aphelion are a rollercoaster of new and re-discovered sounds: they look back at the band's past catalogue while at the same time running forward, unafraid to push new ground. If "Running Low" is a fairly safe way to open the album, with strong melodic hooks that are reminiscent of Pitfalls and ominous strings arrangements that reference prog artists both past (King Crimson) and present (Steven Wilson), already on the second song "Out of Here" the Norwegians start subverting expectations, showcasing a new taste for hermetic minimalism and a stubborn refusal to provide that easy melodic release they have accustomed us to with previous albums. The nervous electronic backbone of "Silhouette" and its angular, unsettling chorus push the album in further dark territory, creating a mighty contrast with the bluesy melodic guitar lick that opens, unexpectedly, the next song, "All the Moments". But it's only a fleeting moment, as also this song soon mutates into a sparsely arranged, unnerving piece for voice, piano and strings that eventually explodes into an emphatic, Steven Wilson-esque chorus.

"Have You Ever?" continues with the experiments in electronic minimalism of "Out of Here" and "Silhouette", pushing them to a new extreme (English art rock band Everything Everything comes to mind here). "The Silent Revelation" revisits more conventional territories, with djenty guitar riffs and big vocal melodies that could have sat comfortably among the notes of Malina. But the next two tracks immediately propel the album in a different direction. "The Shadow Side" is again a string-driven affair that surprises with its mid-section a cappella vocal arrangements and an explosive melodic guitar solo that is a rare find in the Norwegian's discography. "On Hold" is probably the pinnacle of the album, condensing in its nearly 8 minutes all the disparate sound ideas that can be found throughout the record: obscure electronic beats, slow winding loops, dramatic strings, minimal yet incredibly inventive use of the guitars, complex vocal arrangements intertwined with surprising melodic twists that push the music almost in pop singer-songwriter territory (am I the only one to read some Amy Winehouse into that poppy, uptempo bridge?!), and an epic soaring chorus that is 100% old Leprous.

The album winds down with two more conventional (in the sense of being closer to Leprous' previous sound), yet nonetheless stunning songs. Most people will probably have already heard "Castaway Angels", a song that was written and released as a standalone track in late 2020. It is an incredibly beautiful piece of music that explodes into a powerful and emotional crescendo, with one of the most effective melodies of the whole record. "Nighttime Disguise" is instead the outcome of an experimental interactive songwriting session that took place in early 2021, where fans could contribute to the creation of a Leprous' song by voting in real time on its musical direction. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this is the piece where the "old" sound of Leprous surfaces most clearly ? harking back even to the days of Coal. Yet, everything is reinterpreted through the voice of the "new" Leprous, with their focus on stark minimalism, string-driven songwriting and unpredictable vocal arrangements. It is a fantastic musical ride that unveils new depths with each fresh listen.

By constantly fluctuating between conventional and uncharted territories, while always rejecting easy melodicism in favour of challenging musical arrangements, Aphelion is not an easy album to love. Having sat with it for more than two weeks now, I cannot say that the record has truly "clicked" with me yet in the same way as Pitfalls, Malina or Coal instantly did after very few listens. In truth, I am not even sure it ever will. Yet, each time I listen to Aphelion, I can't help but marvel at the incredible depth, sophistication and inventiveness of its compositions. This is music that lives beyond progressive metal, rock, pop, electronica, and the other myriad influences that are carefully woven into the 56 minutes of this LP. It is the sound of a band that is unafraid to carve new paths to follow its own muse and bravely reinvent its songwriting formula with each new release. Aphelion is a genuine, riveting artistic statement from one of the most exciting bands in the progressive universe right now and, whether you'll end up loving it or not, it deserves your full attention and respect.

[Originally written for The Metal Observer]

 Colors II by BETWEEN THE BURIED AND ME album cover Studio Album, 2021
3.96 | 51 ratings

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Colors II
Between The Buried And Me Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by mneil1968

5 stars It's been a while since I've had a reaction quite like this to a new album.  At this point, 10pm on 8/21/21, I've listened to Fix The Error about 10 times, Revolution In Limbo about 4 times, the entire album twice (while driving or doing yard work), and once all the way through with total undivided attention, reading along with the lyrics.  I've not given this much attention to any album in several years; many reasons for that I'm sure. There have certainly been many worthy subjects for this level of scrutiny in the past several years, but none have affected me this way yet. There's no doubt that the timing is of upmost importance: if  this album dropped in any other time rather than at the (sort of, maybe) tail end of a global pandemic, during which I've had no opportunity to view live music in person for over a year, maybe it would not catch my attention as much.  (Also, there's the fact that I'm supposed to see them live in 6 days; though thanks to COVID I'm prepared for a cancellation.)  There have been a couple of other new releases that I've been enjoyed recently, but nothing has hit me like this. Nothing.

How long has it been since I've gasped at the majesty of what I was hearing for the first time?  For me, that happened in nearly every track, and most pertinently in Double Helix, Revolution in Limbo, Prehistory, Bad Habits, Turbulent, and especially Human is Hell. Really really loved Human Is Hell.  Really, a lot. A large amount. It's amazing.

How long (if ever) has it been since I read along with lyrics that described my inner and outer conflict over the past year and a half so accurately?  It wasn't too difficult to craft a story to fit, even a little, the horror of this time, but this is so miraculous in its execution that I found myself, gasping. At the risk of overstating this (given that I've only listened a few times), the emotional and intellectual responses I had with this album have brought to mind the response I remember when first listening to In The Court of the Crimson King, Close To The Edge, The Wall, or Farewell to Kings.  It certainly reminded me of the excitement that happened with new releases way back in my youth.  It's just wonderful, and I can't wait to see them next week, hopefully?

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1980 France
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ANATA Sweden
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ARTCELL Bangladesh
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CODE Multi-National
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THE LOCUST United States
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MASSEN Belarus
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METALMORPHOSIS Poland
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SUPER MASSIVE BLACK HOLES Canada
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SYK Italy
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TEXTURES Netherlands
THANTIFAXATH Canada
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VINTERSORG Sweden
VOIVOD Canada
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VORTICE Spain
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