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TECH/EXTREME PROG METAL

A Progressive Rock Sub-genre


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Tech/Extreme Prog Metal definition

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

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


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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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


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


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

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

Tech/Extreme Prog Metal Top Albums


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

4.31 | 1445 ratings
STILL LIFE
Opeth
4.26 | 1483 ratings
BLACKWATER PARK
Opeth
4.25 | 1389 ratings
GHOST REVERIES
Opeth
4.27 | 409 ratings
CRIMSON
Edge of Sanity
4.37 | 150 ratings
OBSCURA
Gorguts
4.24 | 473 ratings
SYMBOLIC
Death
4.27 | 245 ratings
NOTHINGFACE
Voivod
4.26 | 280 ratings
UNQUESTIONABLE PRESENCE
Atheist
4.20 | 481 ratings
FOCUS
Cynic
4.18 | 920 ratings
PALE COMMUNION
Opeth
4.23 | 245 ratings
ELEMENTS
Atheist
4.27 | 162 ratings
DIMENSION HATROSS
Voivod
4.19 | 370 ratings
THE SOUND OF PERSEVERANCE
Death
4.25 | 166 ratings
OM
Negura Bunget
4.17 | 320 ratings
HUMAN
Death
4.40 | 68 ratings
KIVENKANTAJA
Moonsorrow
4.22 | 167 ratings
BACK TO TIMES OF SPLENDOR
Disillusion
4.13 | 468 ratings
TRACED IN AIR
Cynic
4.16 | 236 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

THE SENSE APPARATUS
Frantic Bleep
A THIN LINE BETWEEN HEAVEN AND HERE
My Bitter End
OM
Negura Bunget
INTEGERS
Collapsar

Latest Tech/Extreme Prog Metal Music Reviews


 The Order Of The False Eye by GIGAN album cover Studio Album, 2008
3.87 | 4 ratings

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The Order Of The False Eye
Gigan Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE Team

4 stars After emerging from the chaotic primeval lava pools that spawned other surreal metal mayhem in the form of pioneer bands like Gorguts, Mithras, Portal and Deathspell Omega, the power trio who adopted the name GIGAN, the prime nemesis that made Godzilla have very, very bad days, released their debut EP 'Footsteps Of Gigan' but quickly followed up the following year with their first full length album 'THE ORDER OF THE FALSE EYE' on Napalm Records. This band is a power trio from Tampa, FL who can deliver a massive inundation of chaotic sound that gets lumped into the world of technical death metal mostly due to the usual death metal techniques such as insane growling vocals accompanied by heavy distortion all gussied up with palm muting, tremolo picking and the ubiquitous blast beat percussive drives however GIGAN have found a way to merge these aggressive extreme metal attributes into the surreal world of psychedelia with traces of electronica and drone noises to paint a surreal sonicscape upon which to display their extreme metal creations.

The trio consists of the seasoned veterans left-handed guitarist / bassist and founder Eric Hersemann (Diabolic, Hate Eternal), Randy Piro (vocals, guitars, theremin) and Danny Ryan (drums and percussion.) The music heard on 'THE ORDER OF THE FALSE EYE' is the type of surreal metal madness that could drive the uninitiated utterly mad as the unrelenting noisefest is the name of the game only to be broken by periods of oscillating electronic pulses that seem to be the driving underpinning of the intergalactic journey and lyrical fascinations that GIGAN takes us on not dissimilar to the 21st century thrash metal kings Vektor. The opener 'Undead Auditory Emanations' displays GIGAN's full metal regalia displayed in relentless pummeling riffs and blast beats trading off with technical jazz drumming wizardry in strange new ways that keep the pace fast and driving with snarling angry vocals and Hersemann's unique spastic guitar slides and technical bass workouts.

'THE ORDER OF THE FALSE EYE' is one of those albums that didn't win me over upon a listen or two. No way. This one required a multitude of listens to allow its abrasive nature to percolate under my skin and only after nailing my attention span to the wall did it at last penetrate into my consciousness. This is not an album of catchy riffs or predictable song structures in any way, shape or form. This cacophony is almost formless in nature with only a solid rhythmic pulsation driving the music from beginning to end which finds itself most noticeable with the non-metal segments utilizing electronica and theremin sounds to create an ambient and oscillations of noise. Likewise the aggressive nature of the extreme metal simply flows over these underlying elements and creates a very bizarre stream of consciousness to say the least. Call it no wave metal if you will.

Upon first listen it does come off that the tracks don't have enough variation to them but dig beneath the surface and it's quite the opposite. While tracks do sound quite similar in the dynamics and tempos on display, the compositions actually have quite the variation of mangled and jarring progressively laced death metal riffs that have a blackened veneer with a psychedelic frosting which occasionally emerges from the din to send the listener into a pacified trance before the pummelation of the extreme metal once again arises from the abyss. This album consists of eight vocal tracks that are indeed quite similar in stylistic appearances but offer different glimpses into their psychedelic take on extreme metal and consist of 2/3 of the album. The final ninth untitled track is a 21 minute plus sprawling surreal metal fantasy instrumental which focuses on the pulsating electronics and abrasive guitar weirdness with lots of sliding and alienating licks while the drums exhibit periods of techy jazz outbursts and many moments of simple rhythm maintenance. This album was a hard one to win me over but it finally has and remains one of the absolute strangest of the strange in the extremities of surreal technical metal. Highly recommended for adventurous listeners who love to hear things that they had never even considered possible.

 Feel The Misery by MY DYING BRIDE album cover Studio Album, 2015
3.73 | 22 ratings

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Feel The Misery
My Dying Bride Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Something of a return to form compared to A Map of All Our Failures, Feel the Misery boasts a title which could act as a manifesto for My Dying Bride's entire back catalogue when you think about it. With a reconfigured lineup perhaps refreshing the sound a little and Calvin Robertshaw returning to the lead guitar post, the band produce an album which gives each member a moment in the sun. Check out the instrumental section on A Thorn of Misery, which starts with bassist Lena Abé backed on spectral organ by Shaun Macgowan and building up a mountain of tension before the rest of the band come in and bring us to the peak.
 A Map of All Our Failures by MY DYING BRIDE album cover Studio Album, 2012
3.26 | 30 ratings

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A Map of All Our Failures
My Dying Bride Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

3 stars Bit of a ballsy move to invite critical low blows with such an album title, isn't it? This is especially the case when, for the first time, it feels like My Dying Bride haven't moved forward on a release. As much as I (and others) personally didn't care for 34.788%... Complete, and as mixed a reception as Evinta received, at least both those releases constitute My Dying Bride trying something different, and there's always been a sense on their releases that they've been updating their sound one way or another between them.

Here, though, they seem to have stalled in the style of one of the more generic doom metal moments on For Lies I Sire, and don't really seem to have much of a map out. Luckily, it's still pretty good doom metal and worth a spin if you're a fan, but we've come to expect better from them over the years.

 TĂU by NEGURA BUNGET album cover Studio Album, 2015
3.57 | 9 ratings

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TĂU
Negura Bunget Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by Conor Fynes
Prog Reviewer

3 stars 'Tau' - Negură Bunget (61/100)

Following the fateful schism between Negru and the other core members of Negură Bunget in 2009, there has been question as to the legitimacy and substance of the band in its current incarnation. I don't write this as a critic, so much as a fan that remains disappointed by the way things turned out for them. I am almost certainly not alone in saying their fourth album OM had one of the most original and otherworldly atmospheres ever committed to the black metal artform. Estranged bandmates Hupogrammos and Sol Faur forged a suitably magical successor to OM when they released Dar de Duh as Dordeduh. In a turn of events not wholly incomparable to the more-recent debacle with Queensr'che, Negru hired a cast of fresh initiates and pushed onward. V'rstele păm'ntului was decent enough, but it pales in comparison to what the other side of NB have done since, nevermind the bold monuments that came before it.

With talks of a bold 'Transylvanian Trilogy' (of which Tau is the first installment), it seems as if the present- day Negură Bunget intends on making a statement as (if not more) ambitious as their old work. Completed trilogies tend to become landmarks in the discography of any band that attempts them. It's because of that promise of ambition that I'm so disappointed in Tau. I am disappointed because the other expectations I had for a post-schism Negură Bunget album have been met. Tau wanders. It dawdles. It is challenging without being rewarding in an enduring sense. It is enjoyable in spite of those things, but ultimately comes off as a contrived echo of the mastery genre-veterans should have come to associate the band's name with.

It is worthy to note that the lineup on Tau is nigh-indistinguishable from that of V'rstele păm'ntului. In other words, Mr. Negru is the sole proprietor of the direction the band takes; the rest of the musicians are largely there to fulfill the execution. Tau mirrors the band's trademark style well. The avant-garde laden mixture of folk and black metal is here in full. More importantly, the weird, indescribably mystical atmosphere-- the likes of which that made Negură Bunget such a challenging listen in the first place-- is still here. Even if the membership has given rise to the question whether this project warrants its name or not, the distinctive sound remains. If there is any issue to be taken with the album on a purely stylistic basis, it's that Mr. Negru hasn't seen fit to push the sound forward. Tau feels like an understated shadow of their past, rather than the bold new chapter that the Trilogy concept might have promised.

Yes, the sound is weird, though not in a way that demands proper understanding. Negură Bunget automatically sounds at least a little alien by their everpresent folk instrument. Slavic folk has informed the way melodies are shaped. Far less consonant than the folk of Northwestern Europe we most often see incorporated with black metal, Negură Bunget still earn points from the sense that they're making metal that is indelibly coloured by its folk influence. So many 'folk' metal bands could be heard just as well without the slathering of accordions and violins. Even without the swirling pan flutes and atmospheric touches, you would be able to hear significant traces of Negură Bunget's Romanian homeland. The style is comfortably described as avant- garde, but Tau still feels like the largely natural amalgamation of cultural influences. A few outlandish exceptions exist; the buzzing sound of theremin at the end of "Nametenie" cannot be explained by any traditional standard of folk music.

You can certainly hear the black metal at work on Tau, but it is made to seem like something else by the layers of clean vocals, folk orchestrations and alien experimentation. Regardless whether this is the 'true' Negură Bunget or not, Tau has a firm grasp of the adventurous and jarring style I've (slowly) grown to love about their music. Where Tau suffers most is the songwriting. There are great ideas, but only a couple of great songs. "Schiminiceste", for instance, is a suitably melancholic closing piece, armed with a perfectly mournful chorus and reprise. "La Hotaru Cu Cinci Culmi" is a beautiful showcase of their folk side, replete with enchanting pagan vocals and varied instrumentation. More often than not however, most of the great concepts on Tau feel the need of some better context. The songs do not make full use of their best ideas; they stray and wander, and only rarely sound like they're building up to something. Most times a promising momentum is kindled, it is stopped in its tracks by some misguided detour. "Taram Valhovnicesc" is a particularly jarring example of this; while the last two minutes is one of my favourite parts on the album, most of it sounds like cheap synthphonic black metal. There's a time and place for that sort of thing, but in the context of Tau, it serves to hurt the album's folk-infused atmosphere.

There isn't anything that really surprises me about the way this album turned out. Hupogrammos and Sol Faur were responsible for most of the writing before Negură Bunget went their separate ways. Mr. Negru has proven he can capably lead a band with all of the bells and whistles associated with this project, but songwriting is not among his stronger talents. With "Schiminiceste", Tau is very good. With "Taram Valhovnicesc", not so much. Most of the time, the album falls into that nondescript mid-range where the music is enjoyable without being immersive.

I do like this album, and hope the best for the next chapters in this 'Transylvanian Trilogy' they are working on. But, barring the non-possibility of some miraculous reconciliation, I think the best days of Negură Bunget are over, and have been now for quite a while.

 For Lies I Sire by MY DYING BRIDE album cover Studio Album, 2009
3.71 | 34 ratings

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For Lies I Sire
My Dying Bride Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Katie Stone joins My Dying Bride as their new keyboardist, and also brings violin back into their sound for the first time in a good long while. (Would you believe it hadn't featured in their sound since Like Gods of the Sun?) This is well suited for what is, for the most part, one of the most gentle and intimate releases from the band.

"Gentle" isn't usually a term used in metal - especially not in doom metal - but it's apt here, with the band allowing more quiet and acoustic moments to work their way into their sound and keep proceedings varied. In fact, this album might see Aaron Stainthorpe's most diverse vocal performance yet.

Lest you think that they've lost their teeth, though, there's still some grim surprises to be found in here - in particular, A Chapter In Loathing represents My Dying Bride's deepest dive into the depths of black metal up to this point.

If I had one criticism of the album, is that it's sound is just a little *too* diffuse; each My Dying Bride before this one has its own particular sound, but this time it's not really clear what overall atmosphere they were going for. Still, with a collection of songs this good, that's a minor complaint.

 A Line of Deathless Kings by MY DYING BRIDE album cover Studio Album, 2006
3.64 | 36 ratings

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A Line of Deathless Kings
My Dying Bride Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Is "Deathless" in the album title a clue? I ask because right after My Dying Bride had completed a triumphant return to death-doom on the previous three albums, they once again banished the death metal influences from their sound.

In fact, A Line of Deathless Kings represents perhaps their most purely doom metal offering up to that point - recall that earlier doom releases such as the run of albums from Turn Loose the Swans to Like Gods of the Sun included a significant influence from darkwave music. That's not so here - unlike, say, Turn Loose the Swans, which at points seemed poised to abandon metal entirely, this is a doom metal album through and through.

This stylistic shift seems to have yet again refreshed this chameleonic band, the gang once again avoiding the trap of continuing to push one particular style or another to the point of tedium. Out of all of the original "Peaceville Three", My Dying Bride has consistently remained within the wider sonic universe of doom metal, but has with equal consistency managed to constantly find new ways to revise and refresh their sound in that sphere. If you want a role model for how a band can constantly evolve and develop their sound without losing touch with their roots, My Dying Bride would be an excellent candidate.

 Symphonaire Infernus et Spera Empyrium by MY DYING BRIDE album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 1992
3.12 | 14 ratings

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

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

4 stars My Dying Bride's first release for Peaceville is this EP, rerecording some material from their early demo and independent releases. God Is Alone and De Sade Soliloquay are probably the most traditional death metal songs that My Dying Bride ever put out through Peaceville, and are competent but not enormously interesting. The real treat here is Symphonaire Infernus Et Spera Empyrium, an early expression of the band's death-doom style, with its extended running time and mournful violin contributions making it clear that this right here was no simple rehash of early Paradise Lost but an intriguing new take on death-doom in its own right. On balance, I'd say that this EP constitutes a four star title track backed up by some three star B-sides.
 Of Spectre Their Ashes May Be by DARK MILLENNIUM album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 1992
3.00 | 1 ratings

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Of Spectre Their Ashes May Be
Dark Millennium Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by UMUR
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

— First review of this album —
3 stars "Of Spectre Their Ashes May Be" is the 2nd demo release by German death metal act Dark Millennium. The demo was independently released on cassette tape in March 1992. Dark Millennium was formed in 1989 and disbanded in the mid-90s after releasing two demos and two full-length studio albums. Quite a few lineup changes have taken place since the release of "The Apocryphal Wisdom (1991)" as Torsten Gilsbach has replaced original lead vocalist Christian Mertens, bassist Markus Gabriel has been replaced by Jörg Dinstühler, and finally Michael Burmann has been added to the lineup as the band´s second guitarist. So only drummer Christoph Hesse and guitarist Hilton Theissen remain from the original lineup. Christian Mertens would however return to the fold later in the year for the recording of the band´s debut album "Ashore the Celestial Burden (1992)".

The many lineup changes haven´t affected the music too much though. It´s slightly more doomy than the case was on "The Apocryphal Wisdom (1991)" and the vocals are more deeper growling, but the infectious aggression and relatively technical and adventurous approach to playing old school death metal is still intact. The sound production is raw and brutal and initially I felt the quality of the recording had dropped a bit since "The Apocryphal Wisdom (1991)", which featured a near semi- professional sound production, but upon repeated listens I realise this more raw sound production suits the music perfectly.

In addition to the high quality songwriting featured on the demo, the musicianship is a great asset too. Drummer Christoph Hesse again stands out as a rather different extreme metal drummer with a subtle drumming style and new lead vocalist Torsten Gilsbach proves to be a great replacement for Christian Mertens (although his tenure would be brief).

Dark Millennium were an ever changing act in their relatively short existence, but "Of Spectre Their Ashes May Be" pretty much stay in the same territory as "The Apocryphal Wisdom (1991)", although it´s overall a bit harsher. Quality wise it´s not as such a step up from "The Apocryphal Wisdom (1991)", but it´s definitely equal in quality and a 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.

 The Apocryphal Wisdom by DARK MILLENNIUM album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 1991
3.00 | 1 ratings

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The Apocryphal Wisdom
Dark Millennium Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by UMUR
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

— First review of this album —
3 stars "The Apocryphal Wisdom" is the debut demo release by German death metal act Dark Millennium. The demo was independently released on cassette tape in February 1991. Dark Millennium was formed in 1989 and disbanded in the mid-90s after releasing two demos and two full-length studio albums.

The music on the 5 track, 27:51 minutes long demo is death metal with both relatively technical death/thrash riffing and drumming, and the occasional more doom/death oriented section. The material are quite adventurous and dare I say semi- progressive at times. Structurally these guys aren't afraid to experiment and while some shifts between sections are slightly awkward, it predominantly works pretty well. The 12:07 minutes long closing title track is the most doomy track here, but it goes through several changes, tempi, and sections during it's playing time. The other tracks which are more regular length songs, are quite adventurous too and the creative songwriting should definitely be mentioned among the assets of this release.

Another asset is the high level musicianship. Dark Millennium sound a bit more seasoned than they probably were at this point. Especially drummer Christoph Hesse has a very creative drumming style, that's kind of subtle for such extreme music. Jazzy would be a wrong description, but there is something about his style that points in that direction. The extremely aggressive and quite distinct sounding snarling intelligible growling vocals by Christian Mertens deserve a mention too. The music is actually quite aggressive in nature and generally not as melancholic and doomy as their studio albums are.

Considering the fact that "The Apocryphal Wisdom" is a demo, the sound production is very well sounding and not far from (contemporary) professional studio quality. It's not often you'll hear death metal demos from this era, with a sound quality like this. It's still suitably raw and authentic old school sounding though. After listening to the demo it's a bit of a mystery to me, that Dark Millennium had to release another demo before getting signed, because the high quality here should have warranted a great deal of attention from labels back then. A 3.5 star (70%) rating is fully deserved.

 Catch Thirtythree by MESHUGGAH album cover Studio Album, 2005
3.61 | 166 ratings

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Catch Thirtythree
Meshuggah Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by Tapfret
Prog Reviewer

4 stars From the "wall of sound" section of my collection comes Swedish metal kingpins, Meshuggah, with their fifth full length LP-CD and first attempt at a concept album, Catch-33. The term "wall of sound" is used so that anyone reading this that is susceptible to ultra-distorted discordant guitars, maximum yell vocals (I am at the edge of my own tolerance), and obtuse, disorienting polymetric rhythms should turn around and walk away. If those elements are your cup of tea, or at least tolerable to dig deeper into a musical challenge, then let us proceed.

Released approximately 3 years after the less than enjoyable LP Nothing, the shift in album structure to a continuous piece on Catch-33 was prefaced a year earlier with the EP I, not only in its compositional presentation, but also in its lyrical theme. I may be completely off base as the lyrics contain enough metaphoric ambiguity, and there is a significant amount of interpretative discussion to be found on the internet about Catch- 33, that the concept of I appear to be expanding on the concept of self, inner struggles/paradoxes and pitfalls of defining self in reflection of others. To a lesser extent, one might even look at Catch-33 as a microcosmic extension of the concepts used in guitarist Fredrik Thordendal's Sol Niger Within. The ideas expressed in these thick metaphors are abundant with images of self being the primary perpetrator of psychological torture, even in the chemically stable mind. The summation of ideas seems to be presented early on in the album in one of its most recognizable lines, "The struggle to free myself from restraint, becomes my very shackles". Many of these ideas are expressed in the basic ubiquitous teachings of Zen philosophy and the core tenets of Buddhism. From a delivery standpoint, it is understandable that many may feel the ideas and depth of concept are lost in the profoundly distorted and incomprehensible screaming vocals of Jens Kidman. But in the case of Catch-33, there is a dichotomy in that loss of understanding by the listener is the representation of what is conveyed by that soft inner voice that speaks in paradoxes and generates the internal torment of confusion and loss of self.

Instrumentally the band uses 8-string guitars for an extremely thick bottom end. The processing of the guitar sound is peculiar in that even during the most distorted sections the lowest guitar sound less like the distortion of amplification overdrive and more like two metal pieces (wire/fret) vibrating against each other. This creates unconventional accents in the rhythmic patterns that are mimicced frequently today, but were very unique at the time of this release. Thordendal's typical Holdsworthian soloing style is used primarily as a texturing tool throughout the album. A particularly unusual aspect of this album is that Tomas Haake's drum tracks are actually programmed rather than recorded. Haake explains that this occured in the writing process, the programming was used for laying down the guitar tracks and the band as a whole decided the samples "sounded really good" and just went with it. Interestingly, they did perform some of the Catch-33 material live with Haake playing.

Catch-33 is separated into tracks for indexing purposes, but is presented as a single composition with different movements that seem irrespective of the track assignments. The composition displays a great deal more dynamic contrast than previous work. And while the use of "quiet" parts are nothing new to a Meshuggah album, they are never quite as extended as they are delivered on Catch-33. Nor are they ever delivered with as much of an avant-garde musical approach. Previous songs like Unanything, Acrid Placidity had a more generic "this is the mellow song on the metal album" feel to them. Even later, The Last Vigil, approached the use of undistorted strings in a similar vein, but did not come close in the complexity of musical idea. The sections of particular note I am speaking of are at the end of the tracks In Death...Is Death and Sum. There are a couple shorter undistorted sections, but these are the two longest. Each has intertwining guitar patterns and both contain some of the eeriest, most sinister sounding passages in the body of Meshuggah's work. I should hope that Thordendal and Mårten Hagström will employ more of this approach or even explore a separate project in the future. There is something truly majestic about that style. And even the percussive portions of the music display a depth of musical understanding that exceeds that of bands considered in the same paradigm. From the rhythmic structures that use multiple time signatures simultaneously, to use of jazzy dodecaphonics (12-tone), Meshuggah was, and continue to be unbound by expectation.

When taking into account Meshuggah's body of work I find Catch-33 at the forefront of my appreciation for its unconventionality, diversity, and thoughtfulness. It is held from the regard of masterpiece outside of the metal world simply by the vocals. And as I stated previously, there is a fundamental value to that style in the story. But it will be the thing that holds it down from the 5 star criteria set forth by progarchives.com. But I believe that the listener who is up for a challenge will find a very deep and rewarding experience in the intricacies and complex build of this mammoth construction. 4 stars.

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1980 France
7TH NEMESIS France
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