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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)

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

4.33 | 1149 ratings
STILL LIFE
Opeth
4.25 | 1178 ratings
BLACKWATER PARK
Opeth
4.24 | 1094 ratings
GHOST REVERIES
Opeth
4.28 | 300 ratings
CRIMSON
Edge of Sanity
4.26 | 255 ratings
PALE COMMUNION
Opeth
4.22 | 399 ratings
FOCUS
Cynic
4.21 | 377 ratings
SYMBOLIC
Death
4.25 | 197 ratings
ELEMENTS
Atheist
4.22 | 198 ratings
NOTHINGFACE
Voivod
4.14 | 403 ratings
TRACED IN AIR
Cynic
4.27 | 108 ratings
OBSCURA
Gorguts
4.16 | 220 ratings
UNQUESTIONABLE PRESENCE
Atheist
4.15 | 222 ratings
TALL POPPY SYNDROME
Leprous
4.14 | 261 ratings
HUMAN
Death
4.19 | 142 ratings
OM
Negura Bunget
4.11 | 306 ratings
THE SOUND OF PERSEVERANCE
Death
4.19 | 126 ratings
DIMENSION HATROSS
Voivod
4.11 | 211 ratings
INDIVIDUAL THOUGHT PATTERNS
Death
4.13 | 156 ratings
BACK TO TIMES OF SPLENDOR
Disillusion
4.12 | 170 ratings
ISA
Enslaved

Tech/Extreme Prog Metal overlooked and obscure gems albums new


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CORTICAL TECTONICS
Canvas Solaris
CITRINITI
Citriniti
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1980

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Latest Tech/Extreme Prog Metal Music Reviews


 Two from the Vault by PESTILENCE album cover Boxset/Compilation, 2003
4.00 | 1 ratings

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Two from the Vault
Pestilence Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by UMUR
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

— First review of this album —
4 stars "Two From The Vault" is a boxset release by Dutch death metal act Pestilence. The boxset was released through Roadrunner Records in September 2003. "Two From The Vault" is a concept Roadrunner Records invented to give people a chance to purchase two albums for the price of one and also to reissue some out of print albums. Other than Pestilence, releases by artists like King Diamond, Suffocation and Gorguts, have also been given the same treatment.

This particular "Two From The Vault" box set features Pestilence 2nd and 3rd full- length studio albums "Consuming Impulse (1989)" and "Testimony Of The Ancients (1991)". Both "classic" death metal albums by one of the greatest Dutch death metal acts from the late eighties/early nineties. Although both albums were released under the Pestilence monicker, they are actually very different in style. "Consuming Impulse (1989)" is relentlessly raw and brutal death metal while "Testimony Of The Ancients (1991)" is generally a lot more sophisticated and at times even semi-progressive. Both were groundbreaking releases when they were originally released though. Few albums from 1989 sounded as raw and brutal as "Consuming Impulse (1989)" and few death metal albums from 1991 sounded as sophisticated as "Testimony Of The Ancients (1991)". A shift on the lead vocalist spot between the two albums is one of the explanations behind the very different sounding albums, but overall it´s actually just the first sign that Pestilence were never a band to make the same album twice...

Both albums are high quality death metal releases and definitely worth a purchase. Both because of historical value, but certainly also because of the high quality songwriting, musicianship, and sound productions contained within. If you can get a hold of this "Two From The Vault" version, I can definitely recommend a purchase. A 4 star (80%) rating is deserved.

 Focus by CYNIC album cover Studio Album, 1993
4.22 | 399 ratings

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Focus
Cynic Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by siLLy puPPy
Prog Reviewer

5 stars This is an album that is guaranteed to piss off the purists. It's not death metal enough. It's not jazz enough. It's not progresesive enough. Waaa! Get over it. This album has taken me a long time to appreciate and not to come off as some BS elitist but geez. Such complex music doesn't hit you upon first listen or even the tenth. Yes. There exists music that takes multiple listens to fully take in to "get." FOCUS, the debut album by CYNIC is one of those such albums. There are definitely hooks to be had on this album but they will surely rub you the wrong way as they unfold unless you are a fan of a multitude of genres of the musical spectrum.

Let's start with metal. They are indeed a metal band but only in amplification, death metal vocals and thrash metal performance of the chords. The chords themselves are firmly placed in the jazz-fusion branch of progressive rock. In fact dare I say that CYNIC is the Mahavishnu Orchestra of extreme metal? Perhaps so. Electronica. God forbid. What are these funky Floridians thinking for frack's sake? Yes, they use a strange electronic embellishment to enhance the vocals but there is also a sound of electronic music mingled in with the wholeness of this project. Sacrilegious? Perhaps. Satisfying because this band knows no arbitrary boundaries? Fer sure.

CYNIC were simply in their own world. They took their influences and put them together in a way they saw fit at the time. Would I have done things differently? Of course. But I am judging this album because this band simply did things their way in a time when that wasn't very popular to do so. This album has become much more popular over time as many a progressive rock album has since its release. What can I say? They melodies are a brilliant mix of melody, harmony, dissonance, brutality, tenderness, accessibility and avant-garde all jumbled together. Yes, it is easy to find faults with this album at first listen because it doesn't measure up to YOUR personal take on how this fusion should have arisen but did you do anything better? If taken on its own merits from the time it was released it is a musical masterpiece that not only takes many listens to fully comprehend but rewards greatly once those walls of "getting it" have fully been broken down.

Genres are simply nomenclature that someone else created to sort things into digestible arenas but when one realizes that music is a series of spectrums that demand careful assignment and occasionally tagged exceptionalism then it is easier to embrace albums such as FOCUS that don't easily fit into any. Upon first listen I liked this album. Upon quite a few I love it. This is not only a cornerstone in metal music but a brilliant piece of art that works on so many levels once a full comprehension of influences has fully been embraced. I hope you don't let your initial impressions impede you from letting this album grow on you. It is one of those rare pieces of music that can take your breath away after countless listens. Absolutely brilliant.

 Pale Communion by OPETH album cover Studio Album, 2014
4.26 | 255 ratings

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Pale Communion
Opeth Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by BrufordFreak

3 stars This is a good album. The mixes are a bit off--vocals and drums often mixed too far back. Performances are top notch but they feel too often a bit too "heavy prog by numbers." The b vox are less-than inspiring as are some of the leads. And drummer extraordinaire Martin Axenrot doesn't have as many mind-blowing moments as I heard on Heritage. The electric guitar work is solid and shines most in its workman like steady-riffing. I was one of the few who really enjoyed (enjoys) Heritage. The folky, acoustic side of Opeth--like that of "Elysian Woes"--has always been what has drawn me in most to this group. The organ play on the album opener, "Eternal Rains Will Come" make it a pleaser. "Cusp of Eternity" is the one that best showcases Martin's drumming prowess--and feels the closest to the beloved Opeth of "old." The Goblin tribute is awesome. (It's nice to see more people acknowledging the genius of that Italian band). "River" could almost come from a Wishbone Ash album from the 70s. "Voice of Treason" is enjoyable but feels like . . . it's been done. "Faith in Others" is probably my favorite from this album for its dynamic range and the way it showcases the vocal variety of Mikael Akerfeldt. The album's "epic," "Moon Above, Sun Below" just never comes out and grabs me, kind of meanders and morphs around without ever seeming to know where it's going. This is a 3.5 star album that I will continue to listen to--though I have the suspicion that it will not hold my interest for very much longer. There's just too much other really good, fresh music that this has to compete with.
 Pale Communion by OPETH album cover Studio Album, 2014
4.26 | 255 ratings

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Pale Communion
Opeth Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by LakeGlade12

4 stars 3.8 Stars

Pale Communion (PC) is the 11th album by the veteran band Opeth and the second that fully abandons their Death Metal past in exchange for full 70s Prog (Damnation does not count). The previous album Heritage was in my opinion by far the worst thing Opeth had ever done, mainly due to the horrific songwriting and that hardly anything in the album sounded like Opeth! It was not easy to know when a song started or finished nor was there any flow within the songs or album in general. I initially gave it 2 stars but I have now reduced it to 1.

For these reasons I was very worried about this album as it would determine if I continued buying Opeth albums or not. My initial reaction to PC was that it was significantly better than Heritage but I needed time to fully get into it. And as I predicted PC has grown on me over time until I was finally ready to review it.

PC has many similarities to Heritage with its Classic Prog instrumentation, production and songwriting, but where it differs is the cohesion within each song and that they have re-incorporated some of the key aspects of the Opeth sound. Its now possible to know where each song is roughly going unlike before where it was very random and jarring. There are still some re-occurring problems which were present on Heritage, but its not as bad or frequent as before.

"Eternal rains will come" starts with a bang! There is a blast of keyboards, drums and guitars firing off in a complex arrangement. It then settles down briefly before going crazy again. A peaceful guitar instrumental follows which then leads into the main theme of the song. Here we find another thing Heritage lacked; hooks. The vocals are extremely catchy, uncluttered and leave a immediate effect. The song finishes as it starts with more intense instrumentals and some powerful singing from Mikael Åkerfeldt. A great start!

"Cusp of eternity" was the single from this album so as you would expect its the catchiest and easiest to digest. Its a reasonably heavy song with some aspects of metal in the electric guitar work. The pace is constantly fast and restless but there are still some strong hooks to be found, especially in the chorus. There is also a tasty Prog Metal instrumental at the end which is a great pleasure to hear. They have not totally lost their metal edge, only suppressed it.

"Moon above, Sun below" also starts with a fast pace which then turns into one of the heaviest parts of the album. There is a point here where Mikael is on the verge of doing a Death Growl, but he stops himself. Its a bit of a shame, I would like him to use it every now and again (his voice is no longer strong enough to constantly growl). Things quieten down into one of those acoustic guitar breaks that were found on many of the Death Metal tracks. The song then goes though many load and quiet twists and turns as you would expect from a 11 min song. The key thing though is that the choices made all make sense unlike that found on the longer songs in Heritage. The ending is also very catchy and reasonably heavy. Fans of old Opeth will probably find this the best song on the album.

"Elysian woes" has a very strong Damnation vibe throughout the song (i.e very gloomy, quiet and guitar driven). So strong that if it were on that album nobody would have thought it out of the ordinary. The only slight deviation is towards the end which starts to get loader and more intense, but this quickly fades as the song ends. Its a decent track but no where near as interesting as the first 3 songs.

"Goblin" is a instrumental which is a big tribute to the band Goblin, so much so that it does not sound like Opeth at all but a 70s Jazz Fusion band. While the song is complex its still quite repetitive and forgettable. I see it as the weakest song on PC simply as they are not in their comfort zone and so cannot come up with anything very interesting or unique.

"River" starts with some amazing vocal harmonies that are incredibly infectious and powerful. The melody also works perfectly with it to make some of the best minutes on the album. Its not common for Opeth to sound positive and upbeat but if this is the outcome then I defiantly want to hear them do this more often! The songs progresses into some complex instrumentals which keep the energy present at the start of the song. During this time the song darkens somewhat, just to remind people that this is still a Opeth album. The best parts of this song remind me quite a lot of Steven Wilson's The Raven which is a big complement!

"Voice of treason" however is not very strong. Its more like typical aggressive Opeth without the Death Metal and that's the main problem with the song. Whenever they try to go all out it does not work properly. They have not mastered how to be really heavy without doing Death Metal yet. When I say this I mean like what King Crimson or Van Der Graff can do without going into metal. Its a alright song but easy enough to forget and ignore.

"Faith in Others" is very different to the other songs Opeth have written. It is very emotional and grand in sound and uses strings throughout a lot of the song. Its not really a ballad though, they still have several twists to ensure that fans don't criticize it as commercial. It takes a few listens for the beauty of the song to be fully appreciated, but once you do its one of the best songs they have written. A perfect closer.

So there are 5 songs on PC that I really like and 3 alright but far from amazing songs (which would be highlights on Heritage!), so 4 stars seems to be a fair rating. Its not a masterpiece as the current ratings show it, but a solid return to form. I was not optimistic for the future of Opeth beforehand but now I am. Its still not at the level of Death Metal Opeth though and I hope one day they will go back to that. But for now I am satisfied.

 Heritage by OPETH album cover Studio Album, 2011
3.84 | 929 ratings

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Heritage
Opeth Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by Gatot
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars A clever way to call it as "Heritage" ...

It took me quite a while to take a deep breath on what Opeth have done with this album when I listened to it for the first time. There were two main issues I faced by the time I got this album and both of them were critical to ask and answer as they form a foundation for me to write this very late review - by the time I write this I already received the new album "Pale Communion" which actually I am about ready to write a review. But I was surprised when I looked at this site I have not written anything yet with respect to Heritage album. That's definitely the results of posting those two critical issues that I raised.

The first issue was: If this is called as a heritage from previous legends, what forms in this album that I can refer to the legends?

Typically when we call legends it's all about those who shone in the glory days of the 70s ...the hey day of progrock and other styles of music: disco, funk, blues , rock, pop as well as R&B. I did not count jazz into it as by that time I did not pay any attention to the development of jazz music until found the music of Chick Corea and Dave Brubeck with his Take Five fame. Talking about legends of prog you can bet me with names like Yes, Gentle Giant, King Crimson, Pink Floyd, Van der Graaf, ELP, Genesis etc. In fact some new prog bands already labelled as they are heavily influenced by Genesis or ELP or Pink Floyd etc. For example when I mention RPWL, people will automatically associate the band with Pink Floyd even though it's not the same.

But now ...look at any track this album by Opeth features: where is in the segment of the music in any track that I can easily refer to legendary bands? Is there any segment that I can say something like ..."A ha ....this sounds like Genesis!" ..."Aha ...this looks like Gentle Giant" or whatsoever. Having spun this album for many times, I think it's been more than 8 times, the critical numbers enough to give fair views about any prog album irrespective its complexities. Unfortunately my friends ... I failed to identify anything (even a small chunk of segment) where I can say it's influenced by legends like Yes, genesis, ELP and the like.

If that is the case, is it fair enough to say that this album is influence-free? Not really ....!!! I can sense it ... I can taste it ... I can feel it that somehow the music has a very deep connection with the spirit of 70s prog music but I fail to identify any reference in the music where I can easily say its connection with legendary bands. So what is the conclusion? Well ... what I can say is that Opeth is really CLEVER in a way to compose an album that use that spirit and nuances of legendary progrock music and translate them into a beautiful composition where any part or segment in the music has no direct relation with the past. It's really clever!

The second critical issue is how I should rate this basically new style of progressive music where I can find little reference as comparison?

This second issue has caused me to defer the review for such a long time until now. Actually partly due to my busy schedule in my real life profession. But as far as review concern I tended to delay because I was quite confused with the rating. Honestly I do not quite put this album as my favorite largely due to I do not get used to listen to music like this album. It's not fair to review based on liking or not liking the album. For sure it's a definite a good one but how good? Should I consider it as excellent? In fact ...after long time thinking about it I land into a conclusion that this is really a four-star rating album. I enjoy the album even though not really love so much. But I admire the boldness of Opeth making this new avenue of prog whenre maybe in the future I will love this kind of music. I remember vividly that in the past I was not happy with Yes "Tales from Topographic" but then I admired it highly as it grew on me really.

SALUTE for Opeth who has made this excellent album! Keep on proggin' ..!

Peace on earth and mercy mild - GW

 Pale Communion by OPETH album cover Studio Album, 2014
4.26 | 255 ratings

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Pale Communion
Opeth Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by Progrussia

4 stars Opeth show that retro early 70s sound of Heritage was no outlier. There's nary a fat modern metal riff. The music here unfolds on its own pace and is ornamented with sweeping mellotrons, rumbling organs, acoustics and backing strings. Opeth don't try to "outprog" anybody, but instrumentation here is richly detailed, and, I think, strikes a balance between melancholic and more energetic sections, accessibility and complexity, length and compactness. If there is a nod to Opeth of old, is that the longer songs may seem to be disjointed, even though there's certainly no filler songs here. One may not agree with directions that some songs may take (such as the obvious influence of King Crimson's Starless, first melancholic "crooning " part, in Faith in Others, or the uncharacteristic hippy-esque first half of River (don't worry, it gets heavier later on), but taken together, Opeth diverse catalogue would make a hell of a live show.
 Animals As Leaders by ANIMALS AS LEADERS album cover Studio Album, 2009
4.01 | 202 ratings

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Animals As Leaders
Animals As Leaders Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by Approgximation

5 stars This album seems to be from another planet! As if listening to an album in reverse. Their first and self-titled album is a technical virtuosity maze ranking as high as as could be (Joe Satriani) with layer upon layer of mathematical sounds at different tempos and highly variant pitches. Tosin Abasi leads like troop commander coming hard above the rise of a hill into battle as he rips into an abstract form of prog. The front man absolutely demands your attention to which you obey as you get your ears wrapped around their delivery of fine instrumentation.

The sounds of Animals As Leaders are heavily and uniquely structured (Liquid Tension Experiment) which would clearly define this album as prog to any uninformed initiate to the genre. At times the structures collide in true prog form, but seems to be the nature of the album and a testament to the band's flavour in general. These collisions have their own agendas but do come together in a seemingly 'second-phase' or even a 'third-phase' of collaboration to drive the tracks like seen few and far in between other bands. Though technicality vibrant, at the same time the music is absolutely transparent enough that you could pick any instrument or sound structure and strip it away clearly enough so as to analyse and appreciate it (or not).

Being a predominantly instrumental layout means they can exploit their voiceless speech (instruments) hard, allowing the layered music to do the talking. Vocals would only deter the delivery of mastery at hand here. ( Joe Satriani is not known for his vocals either ). The sound of Animals As Leaders comes across in many formats from the drive of thrash metal, metalcore (Reflux being Abasi's prior band), some small structures with blues riff, right down to a folk-like traditional sound, even at times incorporating strong 'Trance electronic' programming that brings the group into a futuristic and very modern position. Regular sounds of euphoria and electronica fill the gaps of mathematical layering to cement this together as a truly unique band.

The virtuosity of Abasi leads the band with a jazz ferocity reminding us of their potential in any given prog genre. Dependant on taste and audio equipment layout, the bass is well delivered to bring into balance the higher end pitch of Abasi's play. Double-Bass drumming delivers drive to push the collaboration like a steam train in full momentum. It certainly picks you up wanting more as the next corner is an uncertainty.

( I attempt at delivering reviews objectively at least, but I will say here that this album is one for me that optimises the sound of a technical and a typical prog format, making it almost a bench mark. I classify Tosin Abasi in the ranks as marksman-axeman at least. If technical virtuosity is your flavour, Animals As Leaders will not disappoint. )

 Pale Communion by OPETH album cover Studio Album, 2014
4.26 | 255 ratings

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Pale Communion
Opeth Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by Deathangel

2 stars i was so looking forward to this album. In theory it should be pure heaven for me: the great growling beast that was Opeth with a new, proggier attitude. Up until Heritage Opeth could do no wrong in my eyes. Not sure what happened there, but I was hoping that Heritage was just a bit of a blip. But no.

If Mikael Akerfeldt really wanted to introduce a proggy element why on earth did he not be truly progressive and make something a bit different (than all the other prog bands)? This is just sub- Steven Wilson music, and they're capable of so much better than that. In the recent collaborations between Steven Wilson and Mikael I'd say that SW definitely got the better end of the deal.

I was hovering between 2 and 3 stars as I never thought I'd be marking Opeth too low, but I'm afraid I'm going with 2 stars. I'm just hoping that the next one will be a return to form.

 The Sleeping Gods by ENSLAVED album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 2011
3.18 | 18 ratings

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The Sleeping Gods
Enslaved Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by thwok

4 stars The Sleeping Gods is one of Enslaved's best releases IMO because of its progressive quality. Isn't that why we're all here? It shows the band moving into previously unexplored territory. At the same time, it maintains Enslaved's typical high level of composing and performing. I give The Sleeping Gods an enthusiastic 4 stars. It's tough for me to pick out favorite tracks because Enslaved is always good, and there's less than a half hour of music here. I'm going with "Nordlys" and "The Sleeping Gods". They demonstrate Enslaved's willingness to try new things, which is probably the best thing about this EP. Some of the songs drag a bit, and I wouldn't pick The Sleeping Gods as the first Enslaved CD to listen to. However, it's still an excellent 4 star addition to a prog fan's collection.
 Pale Communion by OPETH album cover Studio Album, 2014
4.26 | 255 ratings

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Pale Communion
Opeth Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by Conor Fynes
Prog Reviewer

4 stars 'Pale Communion' - Opeth (83/100)

Admittedly, I had avoided listening to the new Opeth record for a while before finally caving in and checking it out. It's certainly not been for a lack of love for the band or their illustrious career, but rather that I was almost certain to be disappointed by anything in the vein of their post-Watershed retro style. It must have felt like I was a girl waiting on a pregnancy test to see if she was going to have a child with a man she didn't love; the best-case scenario (being that the album was good, or negative on the pregnancy) would be relieving, but there wouldn't be a sense of catharsis or ecstasy involved, the sort of things Opeth's early work was often prone to conjuring. Even if Pale Communion turned out to be good, I supposed, I still wouldn't be able to shake the disappointment over Opeth having exchanged their unique (though countlessly imitated) progressive death metal trademark for some brand of retro-prog- an oxymoron if ever I've known one. Somehow, Opeth's second plunge into this style has succeeded in doing what I previously thought impossible: not only has it sold me on this shift, it has finally proved to me that Mikael Åkerfeldt is capable of brilliance outside the melancholic strains of metal. This is the album Heritage tried to be, the one Storm Corrosion hinted at. Even if it doesn't match the perfection they achieved with Opeth's best work, Pale Communion stands as a refreshing (and unexpected) burst of creative inspiration.

Although I've always had more of my heart in prog than metal news some years ago that Opeth had drifted towards a classic progressive rock style was immediately disappointing. Although the original definition of the style referred to a group of artists who meant to push rock music to the limits of its ambition (often with the help of classical music theory), in recent times it's often associated with hollow musicianship, twenty minute songs that go nowhere, and an overarching desire to relive and fetishize the 'good old days' between 1969 and '75, sort of like a Civil War reenactment but with more mellotrons. Anyways, Heritage was much less guilty of this self-important retro kitsch than Transatlantic or a host of other horrible modern prog acts, but it felt much less relevant than the work they had done before. With Pale Communion, I've realized my dislike of "Heritage" was less to do with the style itself, and moreso the fact it was otherwise incoherent and lacked conviction. There is plenty of the classic prog spirit here (ranging from the legendary King Crimson to Jethro Tull and Italian proggers Goblin) but it's imbued with a life and energy that far outweighs what I'd normally associate with the retrogressive scene.

If anything's changed since 2010, it's that Opeth have become confident enough in this new style to finally outstretch their wings and write full-bodied compositions over the individually appealing ideas that dotted Heritage. With the exception of the sappily cheerful piece of hippie drivel "River", the songwriting is tight and expertly realized. The epic scope adopted in "Eternal Rains Will Come", "Moon Above, Sun Below" or even "Voice of Treason" bridge the previously non-existent gap between Ghost Reveries and Watershed , balancing grooves and general weirdness without letting one get the best of the other. Among these tracks, the gorgeously melancholic closer "Faith in Others" sounds most like the classic Opeth we know, picking up where "Burden" from Watershed left off and arguably being the most emotionally intense ballad the band have ever done, complete with dynamic vocals and sombre string accompaniment. Opeth's musicianship remains a constant joy, with particular props going to Martin Axenrot who, again, fuels the music with some of the best drumming I've heard this side of jazz fusion.

If there was ever something I liked about Heritage, it was it's sense of surprise and general weirdness, as if they had aimed to make an album based around the wigged-out keyboard solo from Watershed's "The Lotus Eater". Opeth have consolidated that weirdness on Pale Communion, bolstering it with the virtues of solid songwriting and form. "Goblin" is a perfect example of this fusion of chaos and order. Taking its name from the band that most readily inspired it (along with heavy doses of King Crimson) the song shifts seamlessly from one disjointed idea to another. I can see it being the track fans will have the most difficult time getting into an appreciating, but it comes together in a way that feels satisfying. While I find the throwback vocal harmonies on "Eternal Rains Will Come" sort of hokey, it's a total masterpiece from the instrumental angle, and while I didn't care for its eerie successor "Cusp of Eternity" when I heard it alone as a single, it enjoys new life within the context of the album. Really, it's just "River" I don't like, and even then it's just for the overly cheery vocal section. Then again, that seems to be the track most people are swooning over. Maybe I'm weird and need to see the cheery side of life more often. Maybe everyone else is wrong.

While I've warmed up to most aspects of this 'new' Opeth, the change in style hasn't translated well with Åkerfeldt's vocals. I'm of the belief he's always been a better harsh vocalist, but even so, his clean singing on Ghost Reveries and Watershed was rich and full of feeling. I'm not getting much of that emotional resonance in Pale Communion. He's lost none of his technical ability or range as a vocalist, but there's something still missing from the formula. My thoughts towards his vocals now are similar to the ones I had for Heritage as a whole; the weight of the influences have become much more apparent in the delivery. Even if Mikael's voice remains distinctive, the performance feels less intimate, and more as if he's adopted a new vocal persona to better fit the progressive rock archetype floating in his head. Sometimes there's a clear nod to Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson, but most times it sounds like he's amalgamated a host of ballsy heavy prog and hard rock vocalists into a melting pot and tried his best to replicate it. Anyone who appreciated the bombastic side of Åkerfeldt's voice will find more to love on Pale Communion, but it doesn't do much for me. With that being said, there are moments (most notably "Moon Above, Sun Below" and "Faith in Others") that highlight what I loved best about his voice.

When all is said and done, I don't think Pale Communion will ever achieve the acclaim of Blackwater Park or Still Life, nor does it strike me in the same life changing ways that my personal favourites Ghost Reveries and Morningrise did. Even so, the album demonstrates a full-bodied return to excellence for Opeth, and confidently demonstrates the amount of potential this new approach has in store. At the very least, it's a conscious improvement from what I consider to be the weakest point in their career. Sure, If I ever wanted to hear vintage prog traditions thoughtfully explored and modernized, I could turn to Änglagård, another group of Swedes that still might do it better than Opeth. I think part of me would still like to hear Opeth return to their golden ratio of prog and death metal, but for what it's worth, I'm very glad this album exists.

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