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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 | 1479 ratings
STILL LIFE
Opeth
4.25 | 1515 ratings
BLACKWATER PARK
Opeth
4.25 | 1418 ratings
GHOST REVERIES
Opeth
4.37 | 153 ratings
OBSCURA
Gorguts
4.26 | 423 ratings
CRIMSON
Edge of Sanity
4.24 | 487 ratings
SYMBOLIC
Death
4.26 | 282 ratings
UNQUESTIONABLE PRESENCE
Atheist
4.27 | 248 ratings
NOTHINGFACE
Voivod
4.20 | 487 ratings
FOCUS
Cynic
4.23 | 247 ratings
ELEMENTS
Atheist
4.17 | 953 ratings
PALE COMMUNION
Opeth
4.27 | 162 ratings
DIMENSION HATROSS
Voivod
4.20 | 379 ratings
THE SOUND OF PERSEVERANCE
Death
4.25 | 169 ratings
OM
Negura Bunget
4.20 | 242 ratings
THE PARALLAX II - FUTURE SEQUENCE
Between The Buried And Me
4.17 | 327 ratings
HUMAN
Death
4.39 | 70 ratings
KIVENKANTAJA
Moonsorrow
4.21 | 172 ratings
BACK TO TIMES OF SPLENDOR
Disillusion
4.13 | 473 ratings
TRACED IN AIR
Cynic
4.33 | 80 ratings
DEATH'S DESIGN
Diabolical Masquerade
4.14 | 309 ratings
TALL POPPY SYNDROME
Leprous
4.15 | 264 ratings
INDIVIDUAL THOUGHT PATTERNS
Death
4.17 | 198 ratings
ISA
Enslaved
4.45 | 50 ratings
ELVENEFRIS
Lykathea Aflame
4.25 | 99 ratings
BELOW THE LIGHTS
Enslaved
4.15 | 207 ratings
THE SHAM MIRRORS
Arcturus
4.08 | 569 ratings
CRACK THE SKYE
Mastodon
4.15 | 184 ratings
THE WAY OF ALL FLESH
Gojira
4.27 | 66 ratings
VISIONS FUGITIVES
Mekong Delta
4.14 | 136 ratings
CONTROL AND RESISTANCE
Watchtower
4.15 | 127 ratings
THE OUTER LIMITS
Voivod
4.04 | 417 ratings
THE CONGREGATION
Leprous
4.22 | 74 ratings
VIIDES LUKU - HÄVITETTY
Moonsorrow
4.10 | 150 ratings
THE MACHINATIONS OF DEMENTIA
Blotted Science
4.14 | 106 ratings
COLORED SANDS
Gorguts
4.03 | 342 ratings
COLORS
Between The Buried And Me
4.04 | 255 ratings
THE GREAT MISDIRECT
Between The Buried And Me
4.11 | 112 ratings
THE FRAGILE ART OF EXISTENCE
Control Denied
4.03 | 254 ratings
ANIMALS AS LEADERS
Animals As Leaders
4.07 | 144 ratings
PORTAL OF I
Ne Obliviscaris
4.04 | 191 ratings
AXIOMA ETHICA ODINI
Enslaved
4.38 | 35 ratings
NESPITHE
Demilich
4.03 | 187 ratings
WEIGHTLESS
Animals As Leaders
4.00 | 344 ratings
COAL
Leprous
4.08 | 119 ratings
EXIVIOUS
Exivious
4.07 | 119 ratings
VERTEBRAE
Enslaved
4.10 | 92 ratings
FAS - ITE, MALEDICTI, IN IGNEM AETERNUM
Deathspell Omega
4.19 | 57 ratings
LAZARUS BIRD
Burst
4.64 | 20 ratings
EMBODIMENT
Sculptured
3.96 | 1184 ratings
DAMNATION
Opeth
4.10 | 89 ratings
THE ADVERSARY
Ihsahn
3.95 | 1083 ratings
WATERSHED
Opeth
4.03 | 133 ratings
KILLING TECHNOLOGY
Voivod
4.17 | 55 ratings
AT THE DREAM´S EDGE
Chimp Spanner
4.14 | 64 ratings
CYBION
Kalisia
4.31 | 34 ratings
SUPERVILLAIN OUTCAST
Dødheimsgard
4.10 | 72 ratings
CORTICAL TECTONICS
Canvas Solaris
4.06 | 90 ratings
SPHERES
Pestilence
4.12 | 62 ratings
SONGS OF DARKNESS, WORDS OF LIGHT
My Dying Bride
4.22 | 41 ratings
SHIN-KEN
Persefone
3.98 | 190 ratings
AFTER
Ihsahn
3.96 | 241 ratings
COMA ECLIPTIC
Between The Buried And Me
4.05 | 88 ratings
ENERGETIC DISASSEMBLY
Watchtower
4.15 | 50 ratings
THE TREES ARE DEAD & DRIED OUT WAIT FOR SOMETHING WILD
Sikth
4.01 | 114 ratings
RUUN
Enslaved
3.92 | 698 ratings
MY ARMS, YOUR HEARSE
Opeth
4.18 | 43 ratings
THEN COMES AFFLICTION TO AWAKEN THE DREAMER
Twisted Into Form
4.13 | 50 ratings
TWO HUNTERS
Wolves in the Throne Room
4.07 | 66 ratings
MONUMENSION
Enslaved
3.96 | 173 ratings
CHAOSPHERE
Meshuggah
4.07 | 64 ratings
PENUMBRA DIFFUSE
Canvas Solaris
4.10 | 53 ratings
BURIED IN OBLIVION
Into Eternity
4.34 | 25 ratings
WARP ZONE
Martyr
4.05 | 69 ratings
TURN LOOSE THE SWANS
My Dying Bride
4.24 | 30 ratings
FEEDING THE ABSCESS
Martyr
4.02 | 77 ratings
INK COMPLETE
Spastic Ink
3.94 | 165 ratings
FROM MARS TO SIRIUS
Gojira
4.18 | 34 ratings
THE AURA
Beyond Creation
3.89 | 413 ratings
BILATERAL
Leprous
4.24 | 27 ratings
SPIRITECH
Alchemist
4.16 | 34 ratings
666 INTERNATIONAL
Dødheimsgard
3.98 | 77 ratings
OUTER ISOLATION
Vektor
4.61 | 13 ratings
CITRINITI
Citriniti
4.02 | 60 ratings
VERISÄKEET
Moonsorrow
4.03 | 54 ratings
DEATH OF A DEAD DAY
Sikth
4.67 | 12 ratings
MEPHISTO LETTONICA
Neglected Fields
3.99 | 67 ratings
BLACK FUTURE
Vektor
3.94 | 109 ratings
TERMINAL REDUX
Vektor
4.59 | 13 ratings
AS THE ROOTS UNDO
Circle Takes The Square
3.87 | 310 ratings
LEVIATHAN
Mastodon
3.89 | 197 ratings
RIITIIR
Enslaved
4.47 | 15 ratings
PREY ON LIFE
Burst
4.25 | 23 ratings
AGONY
Fleshgod Apocalypse
4.19 | 27 ratings
IN HARMONIA UNIVERSALI
Solefald
3.89 | 154 ratings
LA MASQUERADE INFERNALE
Arcturus
3.98 | 62 ratings
LIMINAL
Exivious
4.58 | 12 ratings
SWEVEN
Morbus Chron
4.06 | 38 ratings
AUTUMN AURORA
Drudkh
4.04 | 40 ratings
ONE OF US IS THE KILLER
Dillinger Escape Plan, The
3.96 | 63 ratings
THE VIOLENT SLEEP OF REASON
Meshuggah

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

LEAVING LOTUS
Counter-World Experience
CITRINITI
Citriniti
SILHOUETTES
Textures
CORTICAL TECTONICS
Canvas Solaris

Latest Tech/Extreme Prog Metal Music Reviews


 The Parallax II - Future Sequence by BETWEEN THE BURIED AND ME album cover Studio Album, 2012
4.20 | 242 ratings

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The Parallax II - Future Sequence
Between The Buried And Me Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by Luqueasaur

4 stars Shout from the top of your lungs, "we're not just crappy metalcore", BTBAM...: 8/10

BETWEEN THE BURIED AND ME's metalcore tendencies fuse with a hyperactive technical death metal to create dynamic tracks that stray far from generic metal on THE PARALLAX II. I was truly apprehensive about giving them a shot because their annoying fan base kept idolizing them and "metalcore" scared me. But, as Wicket puts it on his review, BTBAM has a particular way of making non-metalcore fans enjoy their music, regardless of the listener's distaste for the genre. Mostly because they just take certain characteristics of it; their music is rooted on metalcore, but it also offers several other influences that, all fused together, stray far from the sameness, fake emotionality or immaturity the genre can connote.

Over an hour long, its dynamism and metamorphic rhythms, patterns, arrangements, and melodies - albeit not really different among themselves - was able to keep me actively hooked and particularly entertained. Granted I had little idea of what was going on, mostly due to the confusing lyrics or disorientating, boastful wall of textures, but it genuinely a good experience. Assuming I had been tortured by a "musical crisis" (I was having a hard time genuinely enjoying music) and they took me out of it, it's safe for me to assume that their output is pretty entertaining.

The band clearly opted to separate their avant-garde (due to lack of better term) highly technical extreme metal expression on the longer tracks, which are pretty obviously the limelight of the album. Highly eclectic, sonically intense and offering a vast array of sounds, there's no sleepy moments while listening to them, mostly because if you ever felt lightheaded the powerful lead guitars or the melodic rhythm ones would blast you back to your place, awake and well. The shorter tracks are mostly there for conceptual purposes, functioning as a tool of cohesion. They offer profound lyrics, perfect as a tool of immersion on the context BTBAM constructs. Musically, though, they fall short, I don't feel the band works well with softer music.

All's good so far, but I do have a critic. I felt the concept was poorly expressed. The lyrics are convoluted and cryptical, I barely could understand the general idea they were trying to propose. In my opinion, concepts, at least at its very fundamental level, should be easily identifiable on the first spin. Naturally, there's no issue with details being harder to spot, but the problem is that both the very structure PARALLAX II is based upon, as well its details, remained shady to me even after I finished the album.

THE PARALLAX II should be listened in its entirety at once. I can't imagine trying to give the songs a shot on shuffle, or individually, I feel as if its magic and pompously noisy capacities wouldn't be enjoyed to the max if done so. And, pretty obviously, more than one listen is imperative to really absorb it (although roughly all prog albums are like that so I'm sure you're aware of this condition). Nonetheless, I highly recommend giving it a shot. At once, or not, as you will, really, but just don't let the "this is metalcore" or "this is too long" prejudices fool you. BTBAM is pretty dope.

 Diana Read Peace by DARK MILLENNIUM album cover Studio Album, 1993
3.00 | 2 ratings

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Diana Read Peace
Dark Millennium Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by UMUR
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

3 stars "Diana Read Peace" is the 2nd full-length studio album by German progressive metal act Dark Millennium. The album was released through Massacre Records in 1993. Dark Millennium was formed in 1989 and disbanded in the mid-90s after releasing two demos and two full-length studio albums. They started out playing death metal with doomy sections and occasionally progressive structures, but "Diana Read Peace" doesn´t feature much which indicate that Dark Millennium just the year before released the death metal oriented debut full-length studio album "Ashore the Celestial Burden (1992)".

Instead we´re treated to an adventurous and occasionally gothic take on progressive metal with a few nods towards thrash and doom metal. The atmosphere is dark, melancholic, and at times even alien, as if the band have visited places other people don´t dare to, and have found inspiration in that. Some tracks are not as complex as others, but there are some very progressive structured tracks on the album. The best example os probably the 9:45 minutes long "Brotherhood Sleep... Back to Treasureland".

The musicianship are on a high level, even though lead vocalist Christian Mertens is probably an aquired taste. He sometimes sound a bit out of tune, and his vocal lines are not that memorable and generally not very melodic. He sounds a bit strained when he does his more raw vocal parts too, and considering how strong his growling vocals were on the debut album, it´s a bit of a mystery why he would chose to sing in a vocal style like this on "Diana Read Peace". Development is almost always a positive, but in this case it´s a step down the quality ladder.

"Diana Read Peace" is a relatively well produced album, and as mentioned especially the instrumental part of the music is very well delivered, but the adventurous songwriting is sometimes a bit too adventurous for it´s own good, and sometimes it feels like Dark Millennium had a thousand individual ideas for each track, and some parts and transitions between parts therefore come off as disjointed from the rest of the track.

So upon conclusion "Diana Read Peace" is an album that leaves me a bit biased as I hail the adventurous nature of the album and the high level musicianship, but at the same time I have some issues with the vocals, and with the core songwriting (the album is also a bit too long featuring a playing time that exceeds the hour mark). "Diana Read Peace" therefore ends up falling in the catagory of being more interesting than actually good, but I´d still say a 3 - 3.5 star (65%) rating is warranted.

 Suden Uni by MOONSORROW album cover Studio Album, 2001
3.78 | 40 ratings

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Suden Uni
Moonsorrow Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

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

4 stars After a string of demos proving that they had what it took to master the art of becoming mere black metal clones of their Norwegian neighbors, the Finnish Pagan folk metal band MOONSORROW that formed in 1995 in Helsinki had differentiated themselves enough from the pack and released their debut album as the old millennium was swallowed up by the Northern lights and a new change of guard had occurred. While present on the demos, the Pagan folk elements were obscured in a lo-fi cacophonous din of buzzsaw feedback and pissed cat screams. On their debut album SUDEN UNI ("Wolf's Dream") cousins Ville Sorvali and Henri Sorvali added on Marko Tarvonen for percussion as well as an army of guests who provide nothing more than handclaps!

Right from the very first track "Ukkosenjumalan poika" ("Son of the God of Thunder") it's clear that MOONSORROW had latched onto a style that is theirs alone. While the black metal is as ferocious as ever with heavily distorted guitar and bass fuzziness, the compositions are now composed as Pagan folk melodies that utilize epic hummable catchiness with the black metal augmenting the intensity into overdrive and often dominating to the point where the folk is buried. While the band would prove shortly to blend these elements together even more seamlessly with their second album of the same year "Voimasta Ja Kunniasta," the result of the blending of blatant folk melodies on keyboard, accordion and mouth harp in full company of black metal shrieks, guitar fury and the insane drumming prowess of Tarvonen was quite novel at the time and is quite satisfying even at this early stage as it seems once MOONSORROW hit pay dirt with their signature sound that any variations of their elements dominating was secondary to the strength of the compositions churned out.

At this point MOONSORROW hadn't quite ventured into the world of progressive metal as with their later releases but the tracks on SUDEN UNI are ripe for the picking as each track exudes an epic feel with several extended length tracks clocking in over six minutes with the profound "1065: Aika" just squeaking over the eleven minute mark. On SUDEN UNI the beauty is in the pacing of the elements as each synth drenched moody atmosphere builds up intensity as the guitars and drum fury are coaxed from their reticence and then allowed to unleash hypnotic fury into the musical patterns that provide a simultaneous epic charm and sonic assault. Ville Sorvali's vocals have improved big time as his pissed off cat shrieks have become more distinguished shrieks and offers some clean vocal Viking metal moments as well although the band dislike that term and insist on being referred to as Pagan black folk metal.

For me SUDEN UNI is not a weak debut in the least despite the elements not being as neatly tucked together as cleverly as on future albums. This one is more straightforward in nature but not one bit less satisfying and actually sounds more diverse than some of the epic albums with sprawling never-ending tracks like "V: Hävitetty." SUDEN UNI has been released in two significant forms. The first release with the fire orange album cover with a ghostly wolf howling into the blood red horizon and re-released in 2003 with the cover art i prefer with a human body donning a wolf's head holding a spiral-ended staff of some sort. This edition includes the bonus track "Tulkaapa äijät!" ("Come Along, Fellows!") which is probably the closest thing to a black metal drinking song that MOONSORROW has ever recorded. While not a vital experience in relationship to the rest of the album since it doesn't have the epic feel, it nonetheless is a nice little lighthearted (black metal style) closer. SUDEN UNI is hardly a throwaway debut release. This is a major step from the demo laden abyss from whence they came and a true declaration of blackened folk metal innovation.

 The Portal Tapes by CYNIC album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 2012
3.49 | 48 ratings

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The Portal Tapes
Cynic Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by SoundsofSeasons
Prog Reviewer

3 stars Not bad, but ultimately forgettable, especially for a band with so much more to offer like Cynic. I would call this the 'easy listening' album of their discography. There are some gorgeous melodies in this one, and the female vocals in particular are quite smooth along with the layered slow-mid tempo compositions. More of that please! Fits nicely with the album, but also with this style of easy prog-metal as i will be calling it. Reminds me of Out Of Myself by Riverside, in the sense that the band was obviously holding back in their technical ability, an literally in the tempo of the songs, but proved that they were more than competent in crafting gorgeous prog- metal. I applaud the attempt at a lighter shade of their brand of music, but it simply isn't quite as good to my ears as the rest of their discography. They are, after all, clearly a progressive METAL band and without that edge they lose points on the grounds of being compared to more symphonic outsets (who are just better at this sort of thing).

For fans of the band only; not the best place to start. Perhaps they needed to focus a bit more on this one?

 Emperor Of Sand by MASTODON album cover Studio Album, 2017
3.67 | 54 ratings

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Emperor Of Sand
Mastodon Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

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

3 stars As the 21st century unapologetically churns out one decade after the next, the heavy metal universe seems like its in no hurry to disappear with bands becoming more popular worldwide and seeing no end in sight. Come 2017 and the Georgia, USA based band MASTODON releases its seventh studio album which hit number 7 on the US Billboard charts after a three year gap from their "fruit monster" album "Once More Around The Sun." EMPEROR OF THE SAND pretty much picks up musically where that album left off and finds the band collaborating with producer Brendon O'Brien who finessed the audio pleasures in 2009's "Crack The Skye." Once again the Neurosis connection firmly connects MASTODON to the world of sludge metal with Scott Kelly once again contributing guest vocals on "Scorpion Breath" and "Andromeda." EMPEROR OF SAND is actually a concept album about the death sentence of a nomadic desert wanderer which was inspired by loved ones who were recently diagnosed with cancer. This album, lyrically speaking, is about soul searching and the horrible realizations of mortality which makes this extremely personal in nature.

While firmly based in a progressive sludge metal sound that emerged from the beginning, MASTODON began to de-emphasize the progressive aspects of their music beginning on "The Hunter" and pretty much continues the trend on EMPEROR OF SAND. For anyone familiar with "The Hunter" and the next album "Once More 'Round The Sun," then this one will come as no shock since this is virtually a retread of those albums complete with the lead vocals and crazy percussion talents of Brann Dailor, the rhythmic guitar sludge of Bill Keiliher, the lead guitar counterpoints of Brent Hinds and the downtuned bass guitar brilliance of Troy Sanders. The band sound as sharp as ever with all the heaviness you would expect in their unique brand of the heavy metal universe and as always they deliver their catchy off-kilter yet totally accessible stamp on the world of sludge metal with an energetic delivery and percussive scaffolding unlike any other band in the metal world.

EMPEROR OF SAND is yet another very well crafted MASTODON album with all the expected riffs, vocals and percussive accompaniments. While that may sound like a sort of comfort food for some, it is also a source of mediocrity to others. MASTODON effectively carves out a very accessible radio-friendly album with the eleven songs crafted on EMPEROR OF SAND that despite having a conceptual lyrically wrapping around the package unfortunately fail to distinguish themselves adequately in the music department. Unlike previous MASTODON albums, this one literally sound the same from beginning to end despite nothing being terribly inadequate in any particular way. The problem for me with MASTODON is that they simply lack that special magic that graced the first four albums that when listened to in comparison to this, simply blow the last three albums away. MASTODON has obviously settled on cruising along on auto-pilot at this stage of their career for whatever reasons ($ perhaps?)

If their last two albums appealed to you, then you will find this as attractive as those however if you long for the days when MASTODON was an utterly unique and distinguished band that defied the trends of the day, then i'm sorry to say that this doesn't hold a candle to albums such as "Leviathon" or "Crack The Skye." EMPEROR OF SAND is very formulaic and MASTODON-by-the- numbers despite being a well performed sludge metal album with progressive accouterments. While there is nothing particularly bad about this newest offering, it does seem that it nonchalantly covers territories already tread upon. I, for one, would prefer something a bit more experimental taking them into new territories and that doesn't necessarily mean playing tuba covers of Nancy Sinatra songs. It simply means that they take their music to the next level. That is not the case on EMPEROR OF SAND where they seem to be coasting on cruise control. Still though, a pleasant enough album to freewheel through despite not really dishing out anything remotely unexpected.

3.5 rounded down

 Pale Communion by OPETH album cover Studio Album, 2014
4.17 | 953 ratings

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Pale Communion
Opeth Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by The Crow
Prog Reviewer

3 stars A vast improvement over Heritage... But still underneath their best albums.

I think the best virtue of this album is being a lot more focused, centered that their previous work. The style of more of less the same, but this time Mikael managed to compose a very much coherent and cohesive collection of songs, far from the proggy mess of Heritage. But again, if you are waiting a return to their metal albums, you will be disappointed.

The production of the album is really good, again with the mixing of Steve Wilson, and the sound of Joakim Svalberg at the keys is very similar to Per Wiberg, so it is hard to notice any difference in terms of keyboards. The rest of the band is the same since Watershed, and I have nothing to complaint. They are all great musicians.

Pale Communion starts with Eternal Rains Will Come, in a style very reminiscent to Heritage with its old fashioned keyboards. But we can hear that Mikael sings a lot better this time, far from the excesses their previous work. But sadly Cusp of Eternity bring back the horrible clear voices of Heritage, with Miakel shouting rather than singing in the attempt to break his voices in the style of Bonnie Tyler. Nevertheless, this song has great riffs and a very good instrumental section.

Moon Above, Sun Below is maybe the best song of the album, with tons of mellotron and an acoustic part which clearly reminds to Damnation. Mikael sings very well at the beginning, but soon after he screws the vocal melodies again. This way to extend the vowels in the words is artificial, ugly and typical for rookies than for experimented singers. The end of the songs is pretty good... Only circles on the water.

Elysian Woes is a beautiful acoustic song with mellotron but not really remarkable for the career of the band. Goblin is a homage to this band, beloved for the Dario Argento films and in some parts the music sound just like one of his films but a bit more jazzy. River is another highlight of the album, which opens with a good acoustic sound which reminds me to Kansas and a very good guitar solo with a blues feeling. The instrumental section is also wonderful, one of the best parts of the album.

Voice of Treason starts in a menacing and dark way with good orchestral arrangements. After that we can hear another lame vocal interpretation from Mikael, who again shouts his lyrics in a rather annoying way. The final part of the song is another instrumental tour de force in the same way of River, but not so good.

The beginning of Faith in Others could be included in a King Crimson album, and again Mikael ruins what could have been a great song. In the minute 2 starts a Savatage sounding piano melody and the song gets better with its mellotron, good choirs and another imitation of the seventies prog-rock. Mikael shouts again towards the end of the song, this time through a telephone.

Conclusion: Pale Communion is better than Heritage. No doubt about it. The songwriting is stronger and more coherent, and the singing of Mikael is also a bit better, though his way of shouting his clean vocals annoys me sometimes. The work of the rest of the musicians is flawless.

And this record also confirms that Opeth are not this outstanding and influential prog metal band anymore... Now they are just a good prog-rock band which tries to imitate the glory days of the seventies prog-rock, with just a moderate success. And that is a pity in my opinion.

Best tracks: Eternal Rains Will Come, Moon Above Sun Below and River.

My rating: ***

 Emperor Of Sand by MASTODON album cover Studio Album, 2017
3.67 | 54 ratings

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Emperor Of Sand
Mastodon Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by Prog-jester
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Their best (read "proggiest") since "Crack The Skye"? Rightfully so. Gone are the bangers like "Motherload" and "Curl of the Burl"... wait, they're actually not! While the opener "Sultan's Curse" is 100% 2006-2009 MASTODON, the very next one, a 3-min long "Show Yourself" is the guys at their poppiest, spreading them hooks left and right.

For "Crack The Skye" fans there are mini-epics like "Roots Remain" and "Jaguar God", for die-hard metalheads (hadn't they given up on the band like three albums ago?) there's an obligatory Scott Kelly feature on a bombastic "Scorpion Breath", and so on and so forth. Unfortunately it gets MASTODON-by-numbers on tracks 6 through 9, and those would've worked way better as a single 10-12-min long epic - though I doubt they'd be playing it live then, ha! Anyway, a nice return to form for the quartet with a near-perfect balance of good songs and proggy tricks.

 Moziac by SUNSET IN THE 12TH HOUSE album cover Studio Album, 2015
4.75 | 3 ratings

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

Review by RuntimeError

5 stars Looking for soothing non-technical instrumental music? Then look no further.

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

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

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

 ObZen by MESHUGGAH album cover Studio Album, 2008
3.65 | 209 ratings

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ObZen
Meshuggah Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by Something_Wicked

4 stars Obzen is a contraction of the words 'obscene' and 'zen', in that the music within is the heaviest, densest and to many the most brutal, yet it imparts a trance like state on the individual. One may get lost in the cyclic odd time rhythms, counting out the numbers like some kind of Buddhist's litany, or maybe caught in the gentle atmospherics that envelope the sheer anger and energy, transcending the filth, simultaneously detaching from and becoming one with the music. And after the fact, however many times you've made the journey through the music, you'll always want to go again, to revisit the plane in which you observed the mingling dance of dark and light, but each time is never the same.
 Terminal Redux by VEKTOR album cover Studio Album, 2016
3.94 | 109 ratings

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Terminal Redux
Vektor Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by The Crow
Prog Reviewer

4 stars A brutal travel through space and death!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you for this great experience, guys.

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

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

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1980 France
7TH NEMESIS France
A.I.(D) France
ABIGOR Austria
ABORYM Italy
ABSORBED Spain
ACHOKARLOS Spain
ACID DEATH Greece
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THE ADVENT EQUATION Mexico
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ANSUR Norway
THE ANTIKYTHERA MECHANISM United States
APRIL ETHEREAL Poland
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CODE Multi-National
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CONTROL HUMAN DELETE Netherlands
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DE PROFUNDIS United Kingdom
DEAD LETTER OPENER Australia
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DEMILICH Finland
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EDGE OF SANITY Sweden
MATTIAS IA EKLUNDH Sweden
ELECTRO QUARTERSTAFF Canada
ELECTROCUTION 250 Sweden
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ENDITOL Canada
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NEXT LIFE Norway
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THE NUMBER TWELVE LOOKS LIKE YOU United States
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TEXTURES Netherlands
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VALBORG Germany
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VEHEMENTER NOS France
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WHAT'S HE BUILDING IN THERE? Canada
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