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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

4.32 | 1460 ratings
STILL LIFE
Opeth
4.26 | 1500 ratings
BLACKWATER PARK
Opeth
4.25 | 1402 ratings
GHOST REVERIES
Opeth
4.26 | 417 ratings
CRIMSON
Edge of Sanity
4.37 | 150 ratings
OBSCURA
Gorguts
4.24 | 482 ratings
SYMBOLIC
Death
4.26 | 282 ratings
UNQUESTIONABLE PRESENCE
Atheist
4.27 | 247 ratings
NOTHINGFACE
Voivod
4.20 | 485 ratings
FOCUS
Cynic
4.18 | 932 ratings
PALE COMMUNION
Opeth
4.23 | 247 ratings
ELEMENTS
Atheist
4.20 | 377 ratings
THE SOUND OF PERSEVERANCE
Death
4.27 | 162 ratings
DIMENSION HATROSS
Voivod
4.25 | 167 ratings
OM
Negura Bunget
4.17 | 323 ratings
HUMAN
Death
4.41 | 69 ratings
KIVENKANTAJA
Moonsorrow
4.22 | 170 ratings
BACK TO TIMES OF SPLENDOR
Disillusion
4.13 | 470 ratings
TRACED IN AIR
Cynic
4.16 | 237 ratings
THE PARALLAX II - FUTURE SEQUENCE
Between The Buried And Me
4.32 | 79 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

1980
1980
LEAVING LOTUS
Counter-World Experience
SILHOUETTES
Textures
THE DESIGN
Into the Moat

Latest Tech/Extreme Prog Metal Music Reviews


 Piece Of Time by ATHEIST album cover Studio Album, 1990
3.75 | 125 ratings

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Piece Of Time
Atheist Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by aglasshouse

5 stars Musical intuition and technical prowess catapulted Florida's Atheist into cult status shortly before the 1980's, a decade which was perhaps the most prolific for housing the best metal bands of the era, came to an end. It's not hard to see how Atheist achieved a following so quickly, as the band's influence from both thrash metal and elaborate jazz fusion were quick to differentiate them from their peers.

However with a band with such high quality there comes heavy scrutiny. It's, for the most part, a consensus that out of Atheist's current four releases not a single "failure" exists, but a general hierarchy is constructed for them. Of this totem, Atheist's 1989 debut is generally thought of as at the bottom. Not only was Piece of Time a preceding to the band's often-thought-of masterpiece Unquestionable Presence in 1991, but it's often cast aside as the least technically proficient and most sophomoric of Atheist's discography.

With this there should be something understood amongst all- more complexity does not always equal a better release. What I believe to be the folly of many metal bands is their inability to put themselves within boundaries, directly distancing themselves so far from a familiar structure that they alienate themselves from the listener, and just become not fun to listen to. Some jazz fusion bands of the 70's experienced this, and sometimes Atheist does too. Just not on this record. In a world where the barbarism of death metal and the maturity of jazz is blurred, a world which Atheist creates, it is quite hard not to step over this line. However because of this I believe that Piece of Time is overall the best album that they've recorded, because it lacks them tripping over themselves for the sake of creativity, and it has a whole lot of heart.

Piece of Time is filled with elements of what Atheist would go on to do, albeit with a much more juvenile attitude. Each element of Atheist's sound is a multi-layered shell, with each peeling away to reveal another hidden complexity. The fusion of influences the band takes in gives way to duplicitously intricate time signatures, aided by the zealous syncopation of Steve Flynn's constantly morphing percussion. The album can slip at the speed of light from a crunching thrash-gallop easily to a grueling groove, as the band seems to act like a hive mind that can shift and change it's direction at will without sacrificing individuality. The sheer speed of each member, especially bassist Roger Patterson and guitarist Rand Burkey, adheres particularly well to the album's overall quality. Some particularly good tracks on here include 'Piece of Time', 'On They Slay', and 'I Deny', all of which are prime examples of the aforementioned attributes Piece of Time has.

I think album is a masterpiece, and although saying so is polarizing, I feel that if you think it is lackluster I urge you to take a second look.

 Tepeu by Q'UQ'UMATZ album cover Studio Album, 2016
5.00 | 1 ratings

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Tepeu
Q'uq'umatz Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

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

— First review of this album —
5 stars Well into the 21st century it seems like the ability to create an original product in the context of the greater metal universe becomes ever more difficult as subgenres splinter out into every possible direction like newly formed branches on trees. While most bands seem to settle on a few influences and adhere to a set parameter that they won't expand beyond, some bands like the bizarre experimental act Q'UQ'UMATZ have no problem with scouring the entire musical universe in order to find inspiration. Founded in South Lake Tahoe, CA and named after the Mayan deity who was one of the gods who created the world in the Popol Vih which was the famous K'iche' creation epic. Like that god, this band has created some of the most distinct and experimental metal music of the modern era incorporating everything from atmospheric black metal, post-rock and progressive rock alongside with traditional Native American music, noise rock and neo-psychedelia.

This is one of those bands that prefers to remain mysterious and enigmatic not releasing their identities or even the instruments played on their albums. Everything is a freakish romp through the sonic parade of their own making. Having only debuted in the year 2016, the band set forth by releasing two albums in the single year of which this debut TEPEU (another K'iche' Mayan language term that means "sovereign," "one who conquers" or "one who is victorious") came first (followed by "I Know It's The Trees?.") Prepare yourself for an adventurous ride into the unknown with this one as there is nothing i've ever heard that can compare to it. Just like a trip from Quetzaltenango, Guatemala to the verdant jungles surrounding the mysterious ancient pyramids of Tikal, Q'UQ'UMATZ delivers a musical journey that flows much like a physical journey across the ever changing landscapes of our planet.

While beginning with indigenous flute music of the Central American region where the Mayan ruled for centuries and still exist in sizable numbers, Q'UQ'UMATZ are the masters of musical flow where they slowly morph into one style of music over the other creating a sort of baton passing effect with more than one style usually existing at any given moment. Whether they incorporate black metal riffs, post-rock atmospheric presence or extremely challenging progressive rock time signatures that run amok, they exhibit a tidal wave of moods and textures ranging from moog organ psychedelia to some of the most unexpected layers of styles that create wild and vivacious counterpoints in atonal yet satisfying rhythmic patterns. This is avant-garde to the max! Some tracks like "Ik Kil Cenote" are just frenetic and complex beyond belief and enough to make some music listener's heads explode as it delivers several polyrhythms imposed upon each other with each trying to be more jarring and freaky than the other. While the album is almost entirely instrumental, there finally emerge some black metal shrieks that appear after the eight minute mark of the final title track.

TEPEU is evenly split between three shorter tracks and three very long ones that all exceed the twelve minute mark with the title track nearing a whopping 25! This is simply music so bizarre and resistant to any points of reference that is the epitome of the avant-garde that defies every possible attempt at such silly notions of nomenclature. It seems like every single aspect of this music has been designed to be utterly alien to any comparisons. Despite being an utterly alien sounding and a soundtrack for the deranged on lysergic joyrides in the astral planes, there is a continuity in the rhythmic flow which saves this from collapsing into a free fall train wreck that sputters into the truest form of chaos however that doesn't mean that progressive time signature don't change at the drop of hat, it only means that somehow Q'UQ'UMATZ create a totally satisfying river of consciousness that allows the listener to float on their little inner tube with their head phones on allowing each segment of the music connect logically to the next despite every segment being completely off-kilter in its mondo bizarro reality. I love this! This is simultaneously sensual and aggressive as hell and creates a distinct soniscape that connects the dots but never tells you where those dots reside. This would CERTAINLY have been included on the Nurse With Wound List had it come about 40 years ago!

 Moontower by SWANÖ, DAN album cover Studio Album, 1999
3.87 | 43 ratings

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Moontower
Dan Swanö Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by Corcoranw687

4 stars This album rules and is one of my favourites ever! This is a very niche album, I've never heard anything quite like it. The persistent synth dominates the overall sound overtop heavy distorted guitars and growled vocals. Despite this I find Moontower to be a very accessible album for the prog fan who doesn't tend to enjoy metal, since the songs remind me more of IQ or the first two Marillion albums than anything in the metal world. Every instrument was played by Dan Swano who also produced the album, which is probably why this is a solo album and not under a new band name like Swano is oft to do. Within the first 10 seconds of "Sun of Night" you will know if this is something you'll love or not, I knew I was hooked just by the tone of the synth used, I just love that sound. Each of the 8 tracks have a pretty similar sound to them, but highlights are "Add Reality" which is sort of the most prog track, and "Encounterparts" which does nothing to hide the Rush influence right down to the title. "Creating Illusions" has a great part in the middle where it sounds like the song is ending, before it comes firing right back at you. I found this album about 14 years ago and always come back to it, I recommend it to any fans of 80s-sounding music looking for something a little different
 Orchid by OPETH album cover Studio Album, 1995
3.24 | 585 ratings

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Orchid
Opeth Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by FragileKings
Prog Reviewer

3 stars So here we have the very first Opeth album, released by Candlelight Records in 1995 but recorded in the spring of 1994. By the time Opeth hit the studio, none of the founding members remained in the band, the last one, David Insberg, having left two years prior. On the current roster were a young Mikael Akerfeldt (vo/g) who was joined by Peter Lindgren (g), Anders Nordin (dr/piano), and Johan De Farfalla (bass/backing vo ) for the debut.

This album and its successor, "Morningrise", show Opeth as they never would sound again. Though labeled as death metal with some black metal aspects, Opeth were from their first platter already showing prog tendencies. The songs are mostly over ten minutes and are composed in multiple parts with tempo and meter changes, not to mention the frequent acoustic breaks. I'll admit here that my knowledge of death metal is rather sparse and lacking and so I did a bit of research, first reading the Wikipedia article on death metal and discovering that I already was familiar with its origins (which as it turns out are close to those of black metal). In the eighties I had in my cassette collection albums by Venom, Bathory, Hellhammer, Celtic Frost, and Possessed, and it was these bands among others that inspired both the death and black metal movements. To further educate myself, I found a playlist on YouTube with 224 videos of old school death metal and I listened to the first two dozen songs. From those I conclude that early death metal was fast like trash but featured growled, or perhaps more accurately roared, guttural vocals. This matched my loose impression prior to hearing the album. When someone somewhere commented that early Opeth albums were more straightforward death metal, I imagined something like early Gorguts: fast, technical, and brutal.

The guitar sound strikes me as rather primitive for the day. Though we are talking mid-nineties here, the distortion sound, the tone, and the use of delay are similar to albums I picked up in the eighties. The one that comes to mind most readily is an EP by Ruthless. The guitars have a rawness to them and sound a bit high tone compared to the city-leveling, bombastic, full-on distortion whump! of later albums like "My Arms, Your Hearse" and "Blackwater Park". But the dual guitars play complex and melodic riffs that more than once remind me of Paul Di'Anno-era Iron Maiden. This cannot just be me because I read someone describe the guitar playing as Celtic-influenced and I have read the same appraisal about Iron Maiden.

Rather amazingly, this debut death metal album opens with a 14:10 mini-epic that introduces more than a couple of harmonized dual guitar riffs for the first 2:20 of the song before the vocals finally come in. Around the 3-minute mark the speed picks up, but with more emphasis on slower melodic riffs I feel the music is more akin to early nineties thrash bands like Sacrifice, Slayer, or Annihilator because raw speed has given way to complexity in music and song structure. The first acoustic break comes at 3:48 and get used to it because this is what the band is going to build its career on: frequent acoustic breaks in heavy songs. True to melodic form, the lead guitar parts are not wailing or shredded but exude a taste for style and feeling over volleys of notes.

Three of the next five tracks are all lengthy numbers featuring more melodic riffs, a few speedy sections, some wonderful mid-eighties early death metal heavy riffs, frequent exploitation of acoustic guitars, and some noteworthy bass guitar highlights. There are moments, especially in "The Twilight Is My Robe" when the acoustic passages become frequent to the point of redundancy, I felt at first, the uniqueness and surprise quickly wearing off. However, by the end of the song the quick binges of speedy heavy parts actually seem more like the breaks while the acoustic parts carry the weight of the song.

Throughout these tracks, Mikael's death growl is harsh and demonic, sounding like his vocal chords are being given a good shredding while the lead guitars eschew shredding altogether and stick to being melodic and emotive. There is still room for some great trad metal guitar moves in places. On the down side, the clean vocals here often sound weak as though they were deemed a necessary part of the songs but no fully adequate singer was available. Mikael would certainly perform clean vocals much better later on down the road.

There are two short instrumental pieces. "Silhouette" is a piano composition by drummer Anders Nordin. It could have been rather pretty but I feel the playing is clunky and graceless. The keys are pounded throughout and the tempo seems ready to derail at inappropriate times. "Requiem" is an acoustic guitar number with bass guitar, and despite the band's insistence on working in acoustic guitar sections into their songs, this instrumental is unremarkable.

The true highlight of the album for me is in the final track, "The Apostle in Triumph". Beginning with an upbeat acoustic piece, it sounds like something that might have been an outtake from Led Zeppelin's third album, hand drums and a restless bass guitar adding to the interest. Then bizarrely, the music fades out and for two seconds there is only silence. Another acoustic composition begins, and you might be wondering here what has happened as "Requiem" was followed by two more acoustic only bits. But "Apostle" is a mighty track of 13 minutes with some ominous guitar riffs and brutal vocals. Much more emphasis goes on the heavy music than on any other track, I presume. At 7:25 a huge surprise is dropped on our cochleae with an instrumental segment that features a guitar that sounds more like a viola. I suspect it is played by adjusting the volume dial but done with such a speed and agility that I would not be surprised to hear another technique had been employed. After the first two listens to this album, this song had cemented itself as my favourite track of the album and one of my top ten favourite Opeth tracks, at least until I acquired more albums when the list had to be expanded to a top 20.

Though Opeth would go on to release many excellent albums later on, this earnest debut, though a little rough in a few spots, establishes the band as more than just another death metal outfit. Rankings of Opeth album usually put "Blackwater Park" or "Ghost Reveries" at the top but at least one list I found has "Orchid" in the number one position.

A more straight forward death album this is not. These four young men produced quite an achievement in their early days as Opeth and set their course for progressive melodic death metal.

 Sorceress by OPETH album cover Studio Album, 2016
3.82 | 312 ratings

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Sorceress
Opeth Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by Necrotica
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Sometimes it's hard to determine if a review is really going to sway people anymore. With a number of bands, especially ones with established fanbases, it often seems like people's minds are set pretty quickly on a new album or project. But the real fun happens when a group has a polarizing impact on its audience; there's an odd pleasure in watching a bunch of critics fight each other on a band's quality or musical direction, preferably with some popcorn on standby. And since 2011, Opeth has been one of the most interesting bands to witness for this very reason. Their 2003 record Damnation might have been an interesting deviation from the typical progressive/death metal formula we know them for, but hey, at least Ghost Reveries and Watershed brought those elements back! Surely they wouldn't switch to a different style for good, right?

Right?

Ok, so most of us know what went down after Watershed. But, for the people who aren't aware, I'll give the rundown. Essentially, Heritage was a major switch for a band who were mostly rooted in extreme metal at this point. Sure, the progressive rock stuff was always there from the beginning, but from Heritage onward, the band decided to abandon metal altogether to create something more rooted in the golden age of progressive rock. The title of the album was pretty apt, as it seemed like a deliberate tribute to the band's 70s roots. What fans didn't expect, however, was that the band stayed on this path up until the present day. Pale Communion ended up being more of a prog throwback than its predecessor, and the band started sounding more and more like a stylistic pastiche who forgot their original musical identity. So when these elements started popping up again on the new record Sorceress, many people's minds were already set and the fanbase battlegrounds were established as usual. So what's the point of reviewing something if that's the case? Well, hear me out on this one.

Right from the get-go, Sorceress plays out like a long buffet of musical stylings. It's really fun hearing Opeth go from genre to genre on this album, as the record sees them tackle folk, progressive rock, progressive metal, jazz, 70s classic rock, classical, blues, and more. This does lead to some disjointedness from time to time, but the adventurousness of Opeth's songwriting is what anchors them here. You almost have no idea what to expect when the introductory folk number 'Persephone' sets the tone, but the following title track is much more effective at giving an overview of the experience. Technical drumming marries bizarre keyboard motifs, until a doom metal riff drives the distorted guitar playing. It's like a funeral march, but with a heightened sense of fury in Mikael Akerfeldt's mean vocal performance. Say what you will about the musical content, but I simply can't deny how strong Akerfeldt's singing is on this album. From the mid-range Ian Anderson-esque performance he gives on the light folk rock ballad 'Will O' the Wisp,' to the raspy high notes he provides on the title track and 'Chrysalis,' the man's dynamics and range have improved over time.

But these aren't the only strong points of Sorceress. Go a little deeper, and you'll find the aforementioned 'Will O' the Wisp,' a simple acoustic guitar piece that evolves into a beautifully melodic and emotive electric guitar solo. The blues tone melds perfectly with the acoustic framework, and the rhythm work is suitably subtle underneath the great melodies. 'Sorceress 2,' despite the lazy title, is also a highlight here. It's entirely driven by vocals and acoustic guitar work, and the blend of major and minor keys creates a fascinatingly unsettling piece of music. And if there's anything that this album has shown me, it's to never underestimate the versatility of Opeth's band members. Just listen to the incredible buildup and climax of 'Strange Brew' (nice Cream reference, by the way), in which Joakim Svalberg's eerie keyboards create a suspenseful vibe before anything else kicks in. The piano work keeps building and building' and the guitar work comes in briefly' and then the band just goes ***ing nuts. The playing is controlled and precise, but the discordant keyboards and Martin Axenrot's nimble drumming create sort of an organized chaos. Eventually, the track erupts into a gloriously bluesy metal section with amazing guitar solos topping it all off. The entire song is a masterpiece of atmosphere and dynamics, and the musicianship is top-notch the entire way through. This is easily the album's centerpiece.

But as one might imagine, not all is perfect here. First off, the lyrics have taken quite a huge nosedive from previous Opeth efforts. Remember those amazing stanzas the band would write in the old songs? Here's a sample from 1999's 'Godhead's Lament':

Marauder Staining the soil, midst of stillness Beloved fraternity to an end Red eyes probe the scene; All the same Stilted for the beholder Depravity from the core Handcarved death in stoneladen aisles

And now look at an excerpt from 'Will O' the Wisp':

When you're tired of waiting And time is not on your side When you're tired of hating me You no longer want to hide; Stuck to the failures of your life Marred with the sorrows of your strife

Not that simple lyrics are necessarily bad, of course, but there's a lot of cheese to sift through on Sorceress. The lyrics tend to be both cliched (especially on the title track) and corny, which is a far cry from Akerfeldt's previous work with the band. Also, as I stated, things do get disjointed once in a while. There probably could have been a better way for the band to transition from the beautiful folk of 'Will O' the Wisp,' to the abrupt metal intro of 'Chrysalis,' or from 'Persephone' to the weird groove of the title track. The album's structure seems a bit confused and unpredictable, which proves to be both a good and bad thing in the end. While it keeps the listener guessing, it also means the record struggles to find a real concrete direction to take.

Still, part of the fun with Sorceress is the variety. It's a true musical adventure, and while the derivative moments of Pale Communion rear their heads here and there, the diversity on this record is crucial to replaying it over and over again. This may not necessarily be the best Opeth album I've heard, but it's the most fun I've had with an Opeth album in a long time. Many of you may have your minds made up already, but for those on the negative side of the fence, I recommend giving the record another listen. You might just find a few gems and a few surprises lurking within this glorious mess of an album.

 Crescendo Dezign by THEORY IN PRACTICE album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 2017
4.00 | 1 ratings

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Crescendo Dezign
Theory In Practice Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by UMUR
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

— First review of this album —
4 stars "Crescendo Dezign" is an EP release by Swedish technical/progressive death metal act Theory in Practice. The EP was released independently in January 2017. Theory in Practice went on a longer hiatus after the release of their third full-length studio album "Colonizing the Sun (2002)", but returned to the scene in 2015 with the "Evolving Transhumanism" single. "Crescendo Dezign" features the same lineup who recorded "Evolving Transhumanism (2015)". The Sjöberg brothers, Peter on guitars and bass (appearing under his pseudonym Peter Lake) and Patrik on drums, and Andreas Lyngmo on vocals.

The "Evolving Transhumanism (2015)" single featured a continuation of the technical/progressive death metal sound of "Colonizing the Sun (2002)", almost to the point where the listener didn´t notice the 13 year gap between the two releases, and "Crescendo Dezign" continues down the same musical path as those two releases. The musicianship is on a very high level, and the tracks feature several jaw-dropping technical parts, loads of tempo- and time signature changes, and also a futuristic sci-fi atmosphere (sometimes enhanced by keyboards), which along with the technical playing creates the right environment for the material on the 5 track, 19:23 minutes long EP to shine. The vocals are predominantly aggressive growling, but there are a few clean vocal parts on the EP too.

"Crescendo Dezign" features a powerful, clear, and detailed sound production, which suits the material on the EP well. Nothing on "Crescendo Dezign" is left to chance. It feels like there is a plan for everything and that it´s a plan Theory in Practice have worked on in detail and are now executing with seamless ease. These guys are seasoned professionals and it´s a joy listening to a release as convincing as "Crescendo Dezign". Fans of technical/progressive death metal with a sci-fi atmosphere are recommended to take a listen. A 4 star (80%) rating is deserved.

 Opacities by SIKTH album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 2015
3.91 | 4 ratings

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Opacities
Sikth Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

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

4 stars After a near decade absence after their 2006 album "Death Of A Dead Day," the English progressive metalcore outfit SIKTH dropped a little EP out as an appetizer to keep their fans salivating for yet another full album. Despite only having released two full-length albums, OPACITIES is actually the fourth EP following the twin EP output of 2002 and the 2006 release "Flogging The Horses." The band members are exactly the same as their previous lineup, so this is very much a genuine SIKTH release and once again the band delivers an outstanding cross-pollination of hard and heavy metalcore fused with their brand of extreme progressive metal that often reminds me of the type Enslaved weaved into their albums such as "RIITIIR." OPACITIES is a short but sweet EP with six tracks not quite reaching the half hour mark.

OPACITIES pretty much continues the well-known style that SIKTH unleashed on their full-length albums, that being highly caustic core type riffing mixed with progressive song structures. While on the full albums Mikee Goodman utilized his frenetic screaming vocal effect as his main sonic instrument of torture, on this one there is a lot more emphasis on clean vocal delivers. The opening tracks "Behind The Doors," "Philistine Philosophies" and "Under The Weeping Moon" are the most recognizable SIKTH tracks sounding very much like the noisiest and obnoxious tracks heard on the earlier albums, however the core elements are somewhat toned down and progressive metal riffing is just as and often more prevalent and sometimes it actually sounds more akin to heavy alternative metal styled riffs.

The biggest surprises are the spoken word "Tokyo Lights" which utilizes a poetic approach along with vocalized shadow and sound effects to create a very memorable and bizarre track. With no instruments to be heard. "Walking Shadows" returns with the full furry of progressive core riffing and metal intensity including some trademark frenetic vocals akin to the opening tracks but "Days Are Dreamed" completely changes things up with an etheric atmosphere that introduces a clean vocal track that is not metal at all but rather a progressive rock composition that will probably remind more of the newer Opeth albums than of earlier Sikth releases as the mood is thick and the symphonic touches dominate.

OPACITIES is a quirky little mix of old and new for SIKTH but still manages to deliver a satisfying shot of their unique hybridization of progressive rock, metal and the core elements that they belt out with all the technical precision one would expect. This band has maintained a very high standard and is fairly consistent from one release to another and in that regard OPACITIES will not disappoint especially if you can appreciate the diversity of styles as heard on albums such as "The Trees Are Dead & Dried Out Wait For Something Wild." This EP rekindles the past but also points to newer directions that the band could possibly carve out and expand on future releases, so it is indeed a satisfying whetting of the appetite for fans to anticipate.

 Torn Between Dimensions by AT WAR WITH SELF album cover Studio Album, 2005
3.83 | 29 ratings

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Torn Between Dimensions
At War With Self Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by UMUR
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

3 stars "Torn Between Dimensions" is the debut full-length studio album by US, Indianapolis, Indiana based progressive rock/metal act At War With Self. The album was released through the Free Electric Sound label in February 2005. At War With Self was founded in 2002 by multi-instrumentalist Glenn Snelwar (also known for his work with Gordian Knot) and is essentially a one-man project. "Torn Between Dimensions" does however feature session work by drummer Mark Zonder (Fates Warning, Warlord, Slavior) and bassist Michael Manring (Windham Hill, Jeff Loomis, Jim Matheos...among others).

And with a trio like that playing together it's no wonder the musical performances on the album are of a high quality. Stylistically the music on the album is instrumental progressive rock/metal with strong jazz rock/fusion leanings and more than one nod towards latin music. While At War With Self is widely considered a metal oriented act, the metal elements are limited to some heavy riffing and occasional distorted guitar sections. A couple of darker tinged tracks also contribute to the metal sound, but it's actually 90s Al Di Meola releases like "Orange And Blue (1994)" and "The Infinite Desire (1998)", that I'm mostly reminded of. So there are as many latin influenced acoustic guitar sections, jazzy guitar solos, fusion influenced drumming, and ambient keyboards featured on "Torn Between Dimensions", as there are heavy distorted riffs.

The balance between the different stylistic elements is an important element in At War With Self's sound. At times the dynamic music works well and other times the transitions between sections are a bit more awkward sounding. There's is no doubt that Glenn Snelwar is both a skilled musician and a skilled composer when it comes to the techncial aspect of playing and writing music, but listening to "Torn Between Dimensions" there's very little on the album that really grabs me and pulls me in. I find myself more interested in the music from a musician's point of view than from a music listener's point of view, and although that sort of "musician's music" is always interesting from a technical perspective, the music generally lacks emotional impact and memorability.

The sound production is also a bit disjointed and although all instruments individually feature a relatively good sound (the distorted guitar tone isn't that well sounding though), the instruments don't always work well together in the mix. So "Torn Between Dimensions" is an album with quality assets and some issues and therefore a 3 star (60%) rating is warranted.

 Ashore The Celestial Burden by DARK MILLENNIUM album cover Studio Album, 1992
4.05 | 2 ratings

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Ashore The Celestial Burden
Dark Millennium Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by UMUR
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars "Ashore the Celestial Burden" is the debut full-length studio album by German death/doom metal act Dark Millennium. The album was released through Massacre Records in 1992. Dark Millennium was formed in 1989 and disbanded in the mid-90s after releasing two demos and two full-length studio albums. The years leading up to the release of "Ashore the Celestial Burden" were quite busy with both lineup changes and the release of the band's two demos taking up Dark Millennium's time. Lead vocalist Christian Mertens was out of the band for a couple of months and didn't participate in the recording of the "Of Spectre Their Ashes May Be (1992)" demo, but he is present on "Ashore the Celestial Burden".

5 out of the 10 tracks on the album are re-recorded versions of tracks from the two demos. "Black Literature" was originally featured on the "The Apocryphal Wisdom (1991)" demo and "Below the Holy Fatherlands", "Spiritual", "Wizardry Assemblage" and "Medina's Spell" were originally featured on the "Of Spectre Their Ashes May Be (1992)" demo.

Stylistically the music on "Ashore the Celestial Burden" is a doomy type of death metal with occasional progressive leanings. Haunting and melancholic guitar leads, brick heavy doomy riffs and rhythms, and some very aggressive and snarling growling vocals on top. But that's not all, because this is not solely a doom/death metal album and there are usually several tempo changes in the tracks and the band often play mid-paced (and occasionally slightly faster) old school death metal parts, which adds to the brutality of the music. When they do that they remind me slightly of their fellow countrymen in Morgoth. Dark Millennium also bring progressive ideas and song structures to the table and to my ears a track like "Beyond the Dragon's Eye" is a fully fledged progressive death metal track. The tasteful and clever use of acoustic guitars and piano on that track works really well. The addition of clean vocals sung by Gerhard Magin, also make that particular track stand out.

The musicianship are obviously on a high level and "Ashore the Celestial Burden" is also packed in a raw and suitingly dark sound production. It could have been slightly more powerful and well sounding, but it's a minor issue, and it's pretty great as it is.

While I mention progressive ideas and structures above, "Ashore the Celestial Burden" is an album where Dark Millennium successfully balance death metal brutality, doomy melancholy, and progressive sophistication. Which means that the progressive ideas never come in the way of the death metal brutality or the doomy melancholy and visa versa. And along with the skilled delivery of the music, the decent sound production, and the adventurous songwriting, that's probably the album's greatest strength. A 4 star (80%) rating is fully deserved.

 Symphonaire Infernus et Spera Empyrium by MY DYING BRIDE album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 1992
3.28 | 15 ratings

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Symphonaire Infernus et Spera Empyrium
My Dying Bride Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

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

4 stars SYMPHONAIRE INFERNUS ET SPERA EMPYRIUM is the very first release from MY DYING BRIDE released as an EP way back in 1991 as well as their first on their long lasting Peaceville Records label. While the 12 " vinyl edition released in 1991 consisted only of the 11:38 title track, the CD edition released the following year contained the tracks "God Is Alone" and "De Sade Soliloquay" which were released as a two sided 7" vinyl single limited to 1000 copies the year before. Due to startling originality of the inclusion of the melancholic session violin contributions of Martin Powell on the title track, MY DYING BRIDE gained instant recognition as a major innovator in the nascent death-doom metal sound that only Anathema and Paradise Lost were also developing at the same time period.

It's no doubt that MY DYING BRIDE caught the attention of the world with the track "Symphonaire Infernus Et Spera Empyrium" as it remains one of their most masterful compositions of their entire career exquisitely melding the elements of doom and death metal along with neoclassical darkwave with the addition of the soul piercing violin and highly sophisticated compositional conceptualization. With its humble intro it almost sounds like we're going to the Renaissance fair with its medieval violin setup but soon the down-tuned doomed distortion of heavy guitar riffs enter as does the death growls of Aaron Stainthorpe. The track deftly walks the tightrope of the classical and metal worlds with grace but also carefully paces the fusion effect with pure down and dirty death metal outbursts however the violin never strays too far for too long and always brings the listener into the eternal cauldrons of dread.

The remaining tracks are less symphonically complex and are rooted more in heavier death metal with elements of doom percolating through. "God Is Alone" and "De Sade Soliloquay" are perhaps the heaviest tracks that MY DYING BRIDE has ever released as they are blistering fast in tempo and eschew the violin trademark sound that pretty much defines them on every full length album that follows. These were siphoned from the cauldrons of their earliest demo material therefore sounds as primeval and raw as could be expected. SYMPHONAIRE INFERNUS ET SPERA EMPYRIUM is an excellent debut from MY DYING BRIDE and only one of two where Stainthorpe exclusively utilizes his death growls (the other being the following full-length "As The Flowers Wither." While the title track has gotten around on many of the compilations, the other two have not and can only be found on this EP as well as the collection of the first three EPs "Trinity." This debut release showed great talent that has been successfully in staying relevant for decades after this first hit the market.

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