Guest Post From Bored In Pittsburgh-Brought To The Water-Creator, Destroyer

By Ben Gibbons of Bored In Pittsburgh

If I were a betting man, I’d put some money on the possibility that the members of Winston Salem, NC’s Brought To The Water are big Deafheaven fans. From the fact that they’re named after a song by the popular San Fran metal band, to the strong resemblance between the cover art for the newly released Oblivion EP and 2013’s Sunbather, to Brought To The Water’s strong experimental streak…it’s a safe guess.

That’s not to say that this band is derivative, though; I’d go so far as to say that “Creator, Destroyer” is stranger than anything I’ve heard from Deafheaven. The song kicks off with an atmospheric three minute intro featuring harmonized vocals, a sample that sounds like some infernal machine revving up and then dying, and legitimately jazzy guitar and keyboard flourishes. Then comes the ass-kicking in the form of molten guitar riffs, punishing drum fills, and vocals that vacillate between Killswitch Engage-esque and My Chemical Romance-ish.

I was baffled when I first listened to “Creator, Destroyer,” since it packs so many styles and influences together into a relatively short runtime. After a few more plays through, I’ve grown to appreciate it for its sheer weirdness and willingness to push the sonic envelope. I’d recommend it to anyone who’s interested in the more bizarre side of heavy music.

A visual representation of this song’s mashed-up styles (courtesy of South Park)

Check out more from Brought To The Water: https://broughttothewater.bandcamp.com/

Check out Bored In Pittsburgh: https://wordpress.com/view/boredinpittsburgh.home.blog

Industrial/Rock Band 51 PEG Breaks 14 Year Silence with A\VOID


Industrial/Rock band 51 PEG are pleased to announce the release of their new album A\VOID. This is their first release after a 14 year hiatus.
After garnering a following in the Mid-Atlantic region in the mid-2000’s and sharing the stage with acts such as 30 Seconds to Mars, Orgy, and The Birthday Massacre, the band is back with a 16-track offering that builds on their unique blend of the alt rock, goth, prog, and industrial genres

 

“A\Void bearing all the hallmarks of the band’s previous work – striking melodies, complex progressions, and top-notch musicianship… but now, much more finely tuned, honed, sharpened into an eloquently produced industrial/rock package. With such a strong showing after 14 years, 51 Peg has certainly made the 14-year-long wait worth our while.” – ReGen

A\VOID Track List:

1. A Void 03:46
2. No Ctrl 04:50
3. Another Nothing 03:38
4. Coded in Time 04:36
5. Acceptance 04:31
6. Prying Eyes 04:04
7. Super Spy 05:19
8. Night Things 05:25
9. Parachute and Savior 06:09
10. Cat Scan 03:25
11. Now and What Used to Be 04:19
12. Death March 03:34
13. Zero Zero 04:47
14. Walk Through Me 04:40
15. The Light That Lit Your Way 05:28
16. The Void 02:56

BUY/Stream A\VOID Via BANDCAMP NOW

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51 Peg formed in 1998, with the release of their first album “Strange Appointments” coming in 2000 which drew comparisons to a varied group of artists like Peter Murphy, Depeche Mode, and Orgy. The follow-up album “Esc \ Ctrl” featured a more focused and polished sound, and pushed the band forward in popularity. The group went on an indefinite hiatus in 2007 but was offered a reunion show in 2016 which proved to be successful.

Building on that momentum and with the combined experience gathered over the years in other projects, the band decided to write their most ambitious material yet. Listen to the latest evolution of the band’s sound at 51peg.com.

REVIEW: Scythia Deliver True Prog Metal Majesty

Canada’s Scythia have been pushing their snow-covered cavalry for nearly six years now, touring vigorously across the world and constantly aiming to find their comfort zone in the crowded realm of post-90’s progressive metal. It’s not easy; there are so many subgenres and styles to approach, but with their newest release, the band is finally coming into their own. 2014 is off to one hell of a start, because Scythia’s …Of Conquest is an album loaded from stem to stern with virtuosity, intensity and vision. Barely half a month into the new year and we’re already seeing something we’ll be talking about at year’s end. Scythia are a blistering example of progressive metal done right.

Scythia injects a strong shot of folklore influence into their progressive sound, and while that’s nothing too unusual for the genre, the emphasis on Dio-era power metal mythology is a remarkable shift. In fact, the band’s use of folk/power metal lyricism is a striking inclusion. “Sailor’s Accolade” draws plenty of inspiration from European history with the revving guitars of metal, but the upbeat “pirate” themes of seafaring Celtic songs. Lead vocalist Dave Khan is clearly educated in the work of bombastic metal mavens Iron Maiden, though his belting call does possess a trace of Axl Rose, with equal range, but cleaner delivery. In addition to Khan’s powerful singing, drummer Celine Derval also delivers some truly ascendant vocal performances, such as the amazing opening to “Reflections”, a simmering bit of balladry that erupts into a colossal blitz once Khan re-enters the fray. Even the storytelling “Land of Scythia” emits an aged vibe, one that commemorates a fallen fleet with an acoustic guitar line and Khan’s tremendous vocal chops before bursting into an epic climb. Each song tells a story, one built with exceptionally epic musicianship and, as heard in the stampeding “Army of the Bear”, plenty of charging battlecries.

A major problem spot with many progressive metal bands in this new age is that the progressive tends to usurp the metal. Very few bands are able to deliver something heavy and intense while also bringing something intricate and complex. Scythia dodge that pitfall masterfully; …Of Conquest is a very heavy album. Khan’s excellent guitar solos in songs like “Reflections” and “Into the Storm” are razor-sharp, but toned to pitch perfection, not unlike those heard in Iron Maiden or Judas Priest. Drummer Celine Derval’s drumming patterns are extremely adaptive (a key feature for progressive metal); beats shift very frequently throughout …Of Conquest, but Derval keeps pace without a second of hesitation, while delivering just as much heated rhythm as jazzy virtuosity. The same can be said of bassist Terry Savage, whose varied musical background allows him to keep tabs with both the melodic and rhythmic ends of Scythia’s spectrum. The album is heavy, but not in the sludgy sense of Mastodon or Baroness. Scythia are able to hone the claws of the Dream Theater side of progressive metal; it’s certainly majestic, but it’s also just as furious.

But Scythia’s strong grip on prog metal tradition is never ignored. In fact, it’s some of the strongest heard from the community in years. The dizzying keyboards of Jeff Black in the end of “Rise of the Kraken” take the jazzy jam feel of King Crimson and jack in a healthy dose of purely metal drum beats, courtesy of Derval. They don’t sound as heavy as Khan’s guitar, but their texture is a welcome inclusion, one that cools the impact of Derval and Savage’s slamming rhythms. The intricacy isn’t used as a crutch for pretentiousness either; Scythia stays very sensibly in classic power metal mythology and the ever evolving world of heavier progressive metal like Dream Theater. The 13-minute stampede of “Path Through the Labyrinth” constantly changes tempo and rhythm, and while it doesn’t reach the most epic of heights of prog rock/metal forefathers, it manages to stay interesting throughout, a feat that many other prog metal bands have failed to achieve.

…Of Conquest is an album rich with progressive and heavy metal fundamentals, but even more impressive is how much these fundamentals are tightened up. The compositions are majestic and epic, but amazingly heavy. The furious vocal charges into battles, the steady keyboard serenities, the hardened guitar solos, the massively versatile rhythm section; every single one of these elements fulfills the satiations of any prog metal album, but Scythia always go one step further. Scythia are a band with so much creativity and virtuosity in their bones that they give even the prog veterans from Europe a run for their money. Just a few weeks into 2014 and we already have an album that’s sure to reach some Top 10 lists by year’s end. …Of Conquest is simply spectacular.

A Tradition Worth Repeating: Fates Warning’s Dark/Light 11th Album

As the first Fates Warning album in nearly ten years, Darkness in a Different Light has a long legacy to fulfill. Alongside bands like Queensryche and Dream Theater, Fates Warning were a definitive progressive metal band, influencing countless other groups in their journey to step beyond speed or doom metal. They fused the epic nature of 70’s and 80’s prog rock with the growing New Wave of British Heavy Metal influence, creating a heavy, but operatic sound. Darkness in a Different Light isn’t going to set the world on fire. It pales in comparison to Perfect Symmetry, but for a band that has taken so much time off from studio recordings, it’s an album that only reiterates what made Fates Warning so influential.

Unlike modern progressive metal bands, Fates Warning (along with their peers in Dream Theater and Queensryche) didn’t revel in their songs. Many of the tracks throughout Fates Warning’s albums aren’t marathons of virtuosity, and Darkness in a Different Light is no exception. Only two songs on the entire album break the six-minute mark, a shocking move for contemporary prog metal, but also a smart return to tradition. The songs are prime examples of progressive musicianship, but even better, progressive songwriting. With so many other bands stretching their songs out to stupidly lengthy tracktimes, Fates Warning trims the fat while still retaining that majesty and expansiveness they’ve established from square one. “Firefly” has great uses of heavy riffs; for a few moments throughout, it actually sounds like a radio-friendly track (mind blown). The same can be said of the chugging guitar rhythms of “Kneel and Obey”: they show virtuosity, but also oust pretentiousness. They are the perfect length.

But don’t think that Fates Warning have gone all mainstream on you; this is still a progressive metal record and these guys can still spread their wings and break convention. The final track, “And Yet it Moves”, is a 14-minute showcase of melodic symphonies, one that isn’t as heavy as you might expect, but its multiple segments emit fascinatingly intricate guitar rhythms and drumming patterns whose intricacies will stutter your wavelengths. Vocalist Ray Adler’s singing is also on full display with “And Yet It Moves.” His operatic beckon is a rising call that eventually settles into the acoustic coda at the end of the track. The guitar solo on “Into the Black” captures a slick speed metal aesthetic, but it’s toned just enough to not sound overly indulgent. Guitarists Jim Matheos and Frank Aresti combine heaviness and quelled elegance to produce a strong highlight on the album and one of the most impressive performances from the band in years.

There is, however, a big chunk in the album that sounds obnoxiously stale. From third track “Desire” to “Lighthouse”, the band’s creativity isn’t on full display. This section blends together too much; those moments of distinctive instrumentation heard in “Into the Black” or “Kneel and Obey” are buried under power chords and surprisingly tame vocals from Ray Adler. After the rhythmic bliss of “Firefly”, this streak of weakness sticks out like a sore thumb. Not even a brief interlude in “Falling” has the potential of breaking up this period of monotony.

Fates Warning have definitely made their mark on progressive metal over the course of their career, so Darkness in a Different Light has a tough set of acts to follow. While it’s not the band’s best performance, the album is fresh and resilient enough to give the younger prog metal mavens a run for their money. Its steady flow of traditional metal musicianship and epic symphonic ideals make the album recapture the long-lost spirit of 80’s prog metal. Fates Warning’s penchant for disguising intricacy with aesthetic elegance is alive and well; even if you were skeptical about a fresh Fates Warning album, Darkness in a Different Light, despite its flaws, is an album that delivers on the band’s legacy.

Into Space: Ayreon Continues Sky-High Ambition With Eighth Album Opera

Dutch musician Arjen Anthony Lucassen burst onto a new scene in 1995, pioneering a project that made the world of metal stop for a brief moment. As a fan of sci-fi and dramatic musical opera, Lucassen brought out Ayreon, a group that gripped its goal of massive and cinematic metal with a clenched fist. After seven albums following the epic narrative of Lucassen’s development, Ayreon has returned, starting from scratch, but still keeping its signature ambition. The Theory of Everything marks a new beginning for Ayreon. Lucassen, content with the saga concluded with the previous album 01011001, began a whole new mythology for the Ayreon project, with The Theory of Everything marking its genesis. Ayreon’s ambition continues to walk on air with the project’s eighth album; it’s a powerful and massive endeavor whose strength comes from its united result instead of its scatterbrained components.

Lucassen’s aspirations and creative ambition toward his Ayreon project is downright superhuman (he makes Coheed and Cambria’s seven-album Amory Wars mythology look like a Dr. Seuss book). His bizarrely routine practice on enlisting upwards to 20 guests for each individual album continues with The Theory of Everything. If there’s a face in classic prog rock, modern symphonic or progressive metal, there’s a good chance it appears in an Ayreon album. The Theory of Everything doesn’t stray from that tradition, bringing on vocalists like Marco Hietala of Tarot, Cristina Scabbia of Lacuna Coil and John Wetton of Asia to name a brief few. Joining the instrumentalist section are musicians like ex-Genesis guitarist Steve Hackett and ex-Yes keyboardist Rick Wakeman. With such an eclectic group of musicians from such diverse rock and metal backgrounds, The Theory of Everything very rarely stays in one lane. Lake & Palmer’s Keith Emerson and Dream Theater’s Jordan Rudess provide a cosmic synthesizer double team on “Progressive Waves”, while the grinding guitars of “Quantum Chaos” are sure to rev up the atmosphere before ascending even higher. The constant shifts in tone from heavy metal to synth-driven symphonies are poignant, but a bit too abrupt to avoid being disorienting.

The cavalcade of musicians also shows a general lack of synergy, since almost none of the musicians have collaborated with Lucassen prior to The Theory of Everything. There is a large emphasis on keyboard and spacey synths over heavy guitars, especially in comparison to past Ayreon albums, but the more subtle inclusions like the uilleann pipes from Nightwish’s Troy Donockley and a fantastically melodic solo on “Transformation.” But overall, it’s an album fully under Lucassen’s wing, and while that’s still a very admirable feat of creativity on his part, it tends to divide the album in small, but noticeable ways.

Like Ayreon has accomplished in the past, The Theory of Everything is a prog opera, a bombastic and massive spectacle of a metal record. Each vocalist represents a specific character in Lucassen’s story, a tale that draws influence from the cult series The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. In explaining the transcendent nature of The Universe and the characters that Lucassen uses to demonstrate the story’s purpose, Ayreon bathes itself in such loftiness that it can be very difficult to understand what exactly Lucassen is trying to tell us. In four phases across two CDs, Ayreon demonstrates an insanely ambitious story that just tends to stretch further than the seams can hold. Lucassen clearly has a vision that demands to be heard, but hesitates to be comprehended.

When divided up into individual sections (even by phases), The Theory of Everything sounds more unfocused than it should. With a lack of distinctive moments, a restless musical tone, and a premise so absurdly up in the clouds, it’s not the kind of album that your typical metal fan would fall in love with, even after multiple exposures. But when listened to in its entirety, the vision that Lucassen has pitched to the world doesn’t sound as out of reach. Like any great opera, The Theory of Everything is better than the sum of its parts, a culmination of smaller components that when united, become something completely different and completely unique. And like any theory, this 90-minute opus of ambition has noticeable flaws and a focus that sounds absurdly off-kilter at first, but once the research is put in and the pieces come together, something understandable and poignant appears, something that furthers itself and the world around it in ways originally thought to be impossible.

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Retro Rewind – Tool’s Mindbending Prog Metal Masterpiece

Anytime you discuss progressive metal, the bands that usually come to mind are the more extravagant and elegant ones like Dream Theater or Queensryche or the more complex and rhythmic ones like Messhugah or Between the Buried and Me. While these bands were dominating the world of elaborate polyrhythms and bizarre time signatures in their days, Tool was always an essential cornerstone in the genre. However, you always need to set Tool aside in the long run because at the time, no one sounded like them. Danny Carey’s Rush-inspired drumming patterns mixed brilliantly with the thick and weighted bass tones of Justin Chancellor and Adam Jones’ crunchy guitars, with singer Maynard James Keenan pioneering a blend of soothing melodic singing with a furious scream. Despite having been around for more than ten years, Tool had only released two studio albums during their career at that point, 1993’s Undertow and 1996’s Ænima, with both reaching widespread critical acclaim and classic status. 2001 marked the long-awaited release of the third studio album for Tool and expectations were reaching shockingly immense highs. But Tool remain as a group of very private and humble guys, which makes their third studio album Lateralus even more impressive in the sheer effortlessness of the way these guys perform such superhuman feats of musicianship and songwriting.

Lateralus demonstrates Tool’s official embrace of complexity. While the band’s dark and brooding tone was crystal clear on Ænima, Lateralus is all about intricately arranged rhythms and some of the most unreal musical performances ever documented on disc. The title track alone offers a rhythmic form taking cues from the Fibonacci sequence, a numerical “spiral” pattern displayed in nature and implemented into a heavy and unquestionably sophisticated recording. The time signatures and tempos change very frequently, but in an act of timing that would make Albert Einstein dizzy, the band keeps the pacing and the entire recording sounds natural. As stated earlier, these men are beyond simple musicians. No better example of their genius in rhythm and pacing is “Ticks and Leeches”, regarded by some as the greatest drum performance in the history of music. No disrespect to John Bonham or Neil Peart, but Danny Carey’s opening drum fill alone is no mere fill. He’s keeping a beat, one of the most complex you’ll find. He may be working to the bone, but Carey’s drumming remains a natural feel. The sheer organic nature of the band’s complexity is stunning. No band has come close to the intricacy on Lateralus.

But even if the songs weren’t as polyrhythmic or musically unorthodox, the band still has a careful hand in making their songs dark, textured and toned. Adam Jones’ guitar revs in the single “Schism” walk the line of grinding heavy metal and melodic rock. Opener “The Grudge” offers a belt-out scream from Maynard James Keenan lasting for more than 30 seconds, with the rest of the band offering an ethereal and otherworldly metal sound that lasts from start to finish. Even the more radio-friendly “Parabola” takes perfect control of the melodic/rhythmic merging that the band has made. Keenan’s voice has proven to be a major influence on bands across the board from Chevelle to 30 Seconds to Mars, from Deftones to Karnivool, and for good reason. Whether he’s screaming in “Ticks and Leeches” or echoing a psalm-like sound in “Parabol”, Keenan is a fantastic vocalist, one who can bring beauty and ascendance out at one point and fury and intensity out at another.

Lateralus is quite possibly the most well thought-out progressive metal album ever to hit the top of the Billboard 200. Its tone is accessible and heavy enough to get on rock radio, but the in-depth elaborateness of the songs is clearly what makes the album such an instant classic. If you listen to it for the first time, you’ll be headbanging along to the thunderous drum crashes in “Parabola” or singing along to Keenan’s guttural cry in “Lateralus.” But repeated listens prove amazingly rewarding, as the mind-bending melodic, rhythmic and vocal patterns show the skill of the band and the genre itself. There’s nothing really majestic about how Lateralus sounds; it remains a haunting and almost supernatural album. But the men in this band bring out a sense of promise and optimism toward the art of progressive metal. Their alternative take on what prog metal can be hasn’t just been recognized; it’s been deified. Whether they agree with it or not, Tool set the standard with their third studio album. Musicianship in progressive music is one thing, but songwriting is just as important. In Lateralus, Tool do both near flawlessly.

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Time Enough At Last – The Custodian’s Quiet Storm of Prog

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The Custodian’s debut album, Necessary Wasted Time is a very dismantled album. It’s not so much in the fact that it’s “broken,” but more in the fact that it’s divided upon first listen. The band’s reverence for so many different genres makes the album feel just as separated from itself; the focus isn’t clear once you start listening. However, Necessary Wasted Time is something that gradually comes together after you give it time. Like a tree from a seed, it grows from humble and uncertain beginnings into something that can rival even the mighty forests themselves. In a crowded progressive rock circuit, it takes more than polyrhythmic drum fills and intricate guitar solos to stand out, but The Custodian have successfully made one of the slowest, but most enjoyable burns so far this year.

The Custodian twist around the expectations of a progressive band; you won’t find too many Dream Theater-esque riffs and Messhugah-style drumming patterns. Instead, the band focuses on a subdued use of acoustic guitars and synths, similar to the style of spacey indie darlings Radiohead. Aside from some minor syncopated drum patterns, this isn’t a very heavy album at all. Necessary Wasted Time doesn’t march into the stormy unknown; instead, it sits upon the sea shore, staring into the distant and turbulent sea. It’s not so much a timid or nervous record; there’s a strong confidence in The Custodian’s sound.

The mastermind behind The Custodian, former Xerath vocalist Richard Thomson considers his new band’s sound to take bits and pieces from a number of different musical eras, not limiting himself to prog rock alone. It’s very hard to do this, mostly because the different genres blend together messily. Fortunately, The Custodian avoid this hazard; the music on Necessary Wasted Time is ethereal and otherworldly, but it also knows when to bring on the shred. Thomson’s vocal style is part A Perfect Circle-era Maynard James Keenan, part Alter Bridge-era Myles Kennedy. His range mostly stays on the softer, more serene side like in “The Sun Is God”, but songs like “Persona” let the vocalist disperse into something downright ascendant. Despite these many, MANY influences ranging from spacey alternative to 70’s prog to modern power metal, The Custodian do make strides in defining themselves (though what they define themselves as is extremely ambiguous).

“Other People’s Lives” captures that softer and more intimate sound that Thomson aims to achieve. But beneath groovy rhythms and lighter synths, lead guitarist Owain Williams shreds some tight solos, many of which follow acoustic guitarist Nariman Poushin’s forward position. It’s very atmospheric and well-dimensioned, taking the composition patterns of prog metal bands like Between the Buried and Me. The intricacies in the songwriting shine brilliantly on songs like the surprisingly heavy “Things We Tell Ourselves.” The only significant flaw on Necessary Wasted Time is that while the almost indulgent instrumental sections are brilliantly crafted, they don’t differ too much from each other. While extensive guitar solos and multiple passages might keep your typical prog metal fan interested, The Custodian don’t rely on that sense of massive scope and bombastic epicness. It’s a steady story, but ultimately, it feels stronger than the sum of its parts. Necessary Wasted Time is an album best heard in its entirety instead of in its lesser pieces.

Necessary Wasted Time emphasizes its progressive nature over its rock nature, which obviously won’t make too many fans in the headbanging community. However, The Custodian don’t conform to the prog metal template that’s been passed around for the last decade or so. The band is an anomaly in the circuit of progressive rock and metal, one that emphasizes atmosphere and ambiance more than any other band you’ll hear this year. It’s very hard to classify a band like this, but one thing’s for sure: this is a band you’ll definitely want to hear more from in the coming months.

 

THE CUSTODIAN has teamed up with Bloody Disgusting for an exclusive premiere of the video for “Stop Talking”.  The video can be streamed HERE.

UK Prog Legends Nektar To Play Pittsburgh @ the Altar Bar June 21

UK progressive rock legends Nektar will be performing at the Altar Bar in Pittsburgh on June 21, 2013. In celebration of the 40th anniversary of the original release date of the band’s classic album, Remember the Future, Nektar is looking to perform in its entirety this most heralded release from its vast catalog, a rarity in that the band has not performed the entire album live in years.

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One of the summer’s most highly anticipated tours, “Legends of U.K. Classic Rock”, will feature progressive rock legends Nektar, beginning in June 2013. After a bit of an absence from U.S. Stages, Nektar is sure to be a treat for concert-goers who will be fortunate enough to catch one of the shows!
Nektar founding member Roye Albrighton (guitars/lead vocals) says, “We can promise you high quality performances wherever we play. I know I speak on behalf of the band when I say we are all looking forward to it.”
Nektar, featuring Albrighton, founding drummer Ron Howden, keyboardist Klaus Hentasch and bassist Lux Vibratus, is British, but was formed in Hamburg, Germany in 1970. Their early albums featured a heady, exhilarating mix of progressive, experimental rock sounds that soon caught on worldwide at the height of the international prog-rock boom. Touring the world behind numerous album releases throughout the ‘70s & ‘80s helped to cement the band’s reputation as an influential prog-rock legend. Having undergone a variety of personnel changes over the past decade or so, the band now boasts its strongest lineup in years and is ready to prove so yet again to its many fans throughout North America. In celebration of the 40th anniversary of the original release date of the band’s classic album, Remember the Future, Nektar is looking to perform in its entirety this most heralded release from its vast catalog, a rarity in that the band has not performed the entire album live in years.
Nektar’s new album, Time Machine, featuring the band’s first album of new original material in several years, will be released on Cleopatra Records on June 18.
Nektar Tour Dates:
June 20 – Chantilly, VA – Sully’s
June 21 – Pittsburgh, PA – Altar Bar
June 22 – Sellersville, PA – Sellersville Theatre
June 23 – New York City – B.B. King’s
June 25 – Cleveland, OH – The Winchester Music Hall
June 26 – Etobicoke, ONT, Canada – Rock Pile
June 28 – Milwaukee, WI – Shank Hall
June 29 – Lincolnshire, IL – Viper Alley
June 30 – Minneapolis, MN – Famous Dave’s Blues Club

Peaceful Prog – Tesseract’s Atmospheric Altered State

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Progressive metal has taken many different forms over the years. While Dream Theater was mixing 80’s thrash with King Crimson-esque arrangements, Tool was taking sludge metal and adding incredibly intricate rhythm patterns. Nowadays, prog metal isn’t as nuanced as it was in the 90’s, but that hasn’t stopped bands like Britain’s Tesseract from pushing the genre forward. Ten years and six vocalists later, Tesseract release their sophomore studio album, Altered State, a mix of polyrhythmic beats and ephemeral soundscapes that might not set the world on fire, but still demonstrates what the progressive metal genre has up its sleeve.

Altered State is the first full release with new vocalist Ashe O’Hara, who replaced the band’s fifth vocalist, Elliot Coleman, after the band’s previous release, the Perspective EP. O’Hara’s voice isn’t what many have come to expect from a metal band. In stark contrast to the growls of Tommy Giles Rogers of Between the Buried and Me or the psalmic hums of Tool’s Maynard James Keenan, O’Hara’s melodic resonance is more akin to Kyo of Japanese metal band Dir en Grey. It’s not a high wail or a baritone bellow, instead walking the line between ascendant and smooth. O’Hara’s vocal style also distinguishes itself from former Tesseract vocalist Daniel Tompkins (who sang on the first Tesseract studio album, One), where harsher and rougher vocals appeared alongside clean melodies. O’Hara’s voice is a fine specimen that cools the burn that many other prog metal vocalists have prided themselves on.

Altered State offers ten tracks divided into four groups, with each group representing a different stage of change the band has undergone since their beginning. Considering that Tesseract has gone through multiple vocalist changes since their inception in 2003, this theme of change is clearly something of significant value to the band. The theme is one rich with ideas, though Altered State doesn’t do as much with it as expected. A major factor in a successful prog metal outing involves extended demonstrations of musicianship and creativity, and while Tesseract definitely deliver on the former, the creative element starts to wane by the last third of the album. The less successful prog metal albums usually sound pretentious, suffering from a longevity that outstays its welcome by the end. While Tesseract don’t overdo it too much on Altered State, it can be pretty difficult to distinguish one song from another. There are a few solid hooks (such as the Of Mind track “Nocturne”) but Tesseract’s atmospheric resonance is what drives Altered State both into realms of the epic and the slightly over-lasting.

Tesseract’s mastery of atmosphere is especially apparent with some great musicianship that, while not of the highest caliber when compared to bands like Between the Buried and Me, make for some wonderful songs that demonstrate a strong skill with their respective instruments. A healthy mix of rhythm and melody contribute to some memorable prog metal songs as well. Tesseract have taken the route of Messhugah when it comes to rhythm, as they’ve adopted the “djent” rhythmic design coined by Messhugah guitarist Fredrik Thordendal. The djent trappings are especially alive in the Of Energy track “Singularity”, an intricate polyrhythmic composition that takes the Messhugah style and adds a clean, atmospheric polish. The moments of innovation may be brief, but make a lasting impression. The use of a saxophone solo by Chris Barretto during the Of Reality track “Calabi-Yau” is brilliantly reminiscent of a King Crimson jam, just heavier and even more epic. While it would’ve been better to see more of these crazy breaks from tradition, Tesseract have taken solid steps forward for both themselves and the modern prog metal field.

Tesseract’s second studio album may not reach the prog metal stratosphere, but Altered State’s defining element of atmosphere mixed with rhythm is something special for the genre. These UK brainiacs prove their reverence for their predecessors, but ambitiously mix their influences together into a prog metal brew well worth their fanbase. The riffs aren’t the focus here; it’s the vibes produced by the low-tone atmosphere that make Tesseract an exceptional progressive band, but by introducing that “djent” rhythm, it becomes something beyond anything they’ve made before. Tesseract don’t abandon the prog metal traditions of intricate arrangements, but Altered State still keeps those fundamentals close to heart. Tesseract have proven that they want to change the prog metal world, and while their second LP isn’t an earthshattering album, it still is a solid listen that is bound to earn them some serious cred here in the States.

Altered State is streaming in full on the Century Media YouTube Channel HERE.

TESSERACT has released a series of trailers as well. They can be viewed below.

 

The band’s first trailer release can be view here: http://youtu.be/RIysXnFSEdo

Their second trailer here: http://youtu.be/jxE0SZK5y3A

Their third trailer here:http://youtu.be/z-QmAdI7YDk

Their final trailer here http://youtu.be/7QDQWhusH88

www.facebook.com/tesseractband

www.twitter.com/tesseractband

www.centurymedia.com

 

BLACK COWGIRL ALBUM TO SEE NATIONAL RELEASE

Lancaster County, Pennsylvania’s BLACK COWGIRL will see the North American release of their self-titled double ep released via Restricted Release on May 14. The 11-song recording was produced by the band with mixing and recording by Rich Gavalis. The national release of Black Cowgirl has been expanded to include lyrics previously unavailable on the version of the album sold at live performances and the band’s official webstore. It showcases the unique illustration work of Adrian Brouch.

“Here is truly a 120-proof bottle of the finest blend of traditional rock, grunge, and grooves to escape this hilly Pennsylvania terrain,” says Heavy Planet. “If you want riffs, this album has got it in spades,” adds Sludgelord. BLACK COWGIRL recently performed at West Chester’s The Note alongside England’s Viking Skull. It was the UK rocker’s final show. BLACK COWGIRL vocalist/guitarist Ben McGuire shares, “the Viking Skull guys have always been great to us. It is a shame it was their last show. We played our first show with them a couple years ago and were honored to play their last, though I won’t be surprised if they come back from the grave down the road.”

Black Cowgirl will also include a recently recorded cover of “I’m Not Awake Yet” by Rory Gallagher. One of the late Irish singer/guitarist’s most popular songs, it is a tough one for any band to tackle. “I’m Not Awake Yet” is one of our favorite Rory Gallagher songs,” notes McGuire. “We talked about recording it for a while because we felt like it fit in with our other songs pretty well. We are all big fans of his mellow songs that are often overshadowed by his blues rock songs. There is just something about the sad, desperate, lonely feeling he captures in some of his low key songs that strikes a chord with what we are trying to do.”

Originally conceived as a one-man instrumental project by McGuire, BLACK COWGIRL’s current incarnation took shape in 2008. Guitarist Nathan Rosenzweig, bassist Chris Casse, and drummer Mark Hanna with McGuire initially united their talents to record six songs. Recorded quickly, three days in fact, the band immediately set out on tour supporting local heros CKY. Drummer Jess Margera was immediately impressed by the band. “BLACK COWGIRL kicks ass,” he says. “The band combines all the best elements of classic rock, groove rock, and even some prog at times.” Since that maiden tour, BLACK COWGIRL has shared the stage with Graveyard, The Company Band, Radio Moscow, Karma to Burn, Black Tusk, Monstro, and many others.

Complete track listing for Black Cowgirl is:
1. Talk of Wolves
2. Roadmaster
3. The Ride
4. Alkaline
5. Dead House
6. Eclipsor
7. Weight of Oblivion
8. Three Seasons
9. Solarizer
10. Becoming Nothing
11.Unio Mystica
12. I’m Not Awake Yet

Prog Upstarts MASCHINE Sign with InsideOut Music

InsideOut Music are proud to announce the signing of rising young prog-upstarts Maschine to their worldwide roster. The UK band was awarded Best New Band by both Prog Magazine and the Classic Rock Society in 2011, and features guitarist/vocalist Luke Machin and bass player Dan Mashal of The Tangent.

“Since I can remember I’ve always played the guitar and composed music. To have the amazing credibility that comes with IO to assist our music is extremely exciting,” says band leader Luke Machin. “The inspiration that I’ve taken from many artists over the years, a lot of whom are with IO, I’m certain this album will have something for everyone.”

“The thing that really excites me about signing to IO is that the label is interested in our music and our band,” adds drummer Doug Hamer. “The vote of confidence is invaluable. We will work tirelessly to bring the vision of Maschine that we and IO share into reality.”

Says InsideOut label head Thomas Waber, “Luke and his band are a really young and talented bunch. We are looking forward to working with them on their debut album!”

Look for Maschine’s debut album next year on InsideOut Music…