Svart Crown – Abreaction Review

Svart Crown is a death metal band that came across my radar when they appeared on some of my favorite online ‘zines and blog’s year end lists. Specifically,  their release of 2013’s “Profane” began popping up on some lists made by some writers whose opinions I hold in high regard. At that time, and seemingly still to this day, any country with a large French-speaking population churns out some of the most innovative, interesting, striking, and highly original, yet thought provoking metal acts. These artists aren’t afraid to make a bold statement byt putting their own person stamp on some, often times, tired genres; thereby breathing unexpected life and therefore interest into what many have perceived as stale. I’m talking the likes of Canada’s Gorguts, Thantifaxath, among others; as well as France’s Svart Crown, Gojira, Benighted, Deathspell Omega, Blut Aus Nord (my favorite all-time Black Metal act), and many more. Maybe it’s just the superiority complex that comes with the language. Either way, some of the best new bands to grace multiple metal subgenres during the past five or more years have been from countries and cities where French is the primary dialect.

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One of , if not my favorite, online metal reviewers/writers, Doug Moore, who writes for a varitey of online metal-centric sites and publications, described Svart Crown as France’s answer to America’s underground death metal powerhouse, Immolation. Specifically, back in February, just before the release of “Abreaction,” Moore stated:

“Svart Crown have gradually forged a unique identity out of the basic Immo[lation] features — fluttering black metal blasts, bouncy groove segments that burst in from nowhere to create maximum whiplash, a dour and magisterial sense of melody — over the course of four increasingly compelling albums, including the upcoming Abreaction”

This caused me to check out Immolation, and while I see some of the similarities that Moore mentioned above, I still prefer Svart Crown’s overall approach and sound. Maybe it’s the simple fact that Svart Crown brought me to discover the work of Immolation and not the other way around, but I think that SC, in direct comparison, is a more unique band featuring more diversity in their sound, an aspect that the band has expanded upon moreso recently than on its previous three releases. Moore’s description of the band’s sound, cited above, offers a more concise and accurate summary of the band’s sound than I could produce myself, so rather than attempt to top Moore’s perfect write-up, I will focus on the things that make SC’s newest work stand out among the rest of their catalog, as well as among other modern Death Metal releases.

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“Abreaction” is  quite the progression, a display proving that the group has collectively grown leaps and bounds ahead of anything they’ve released previously, but specifically, their 2013 release, “Profane.” The 2013 record, with it’s rightfully profane (to some. . . I mean, it’s ART) cover art which features a black and white photo of a topless, demonic-looking, sunken-faced, obviously, quite-pregnant woman was a straight forward, in-your-face, and relentless Death Metal assault, “Abreaction” maintains many of the same elements yet expands upon them in unexpected ways. The band abandons the constant blast-beat assuault commonly found, and often criticised, in most run-of-the-mill Death Metal productions. Death Metal records really can’t truly fit the genre without the blast-beat assaults littered throughout, but Abreaction’s tracks also contain more intricate parts that differ from one another; often featring more groove-oriented lines and phrases to seperate, and mix up, the full-on Death Metal blasts. Other ways that the band has expanded upon its trademark sound are difficult to explain, as it’s somthing that has to be experienced by the listener; something that reveals itself as a “feeling,” rather than specific, easily identifiable elements. This album, while still keeping with the in-your-face style of all of Crown’s work, “breathes” more than any of the band’s other releases.  Songs are cohesive, but feature many more distinctive sections that serve as individual per-song highlights: breakdowns, extended intros, elongated bridges, and  the entire work possess an “airy” quality at times; all of which fit each song, serve to set the album’s tone, and set this album apart from the rest of band’s discography.

Just a little over five months into the current year, and I have yet to find a Death Metal release that I like more than (several that I like as much) “Abreaction.” Its heaviness at times borders on that of DM’s cousin subgenre, Brutal Death Metal, and while it’s an intense listen throughout, I recently found myself listening to it while fighting off a pretty intense migraine headache; albeit at a much more reasonable volume than the album deserves, or even requires.  With song titles such as “Orgasmic Spiritual Ecstasy,” SC isn’t a DM band for the prudish, prim, and proper; but is any Death Metal? – Is there Christian Death Metal – the most ironic of all DM subgenres?

Regardless, if you’re a fan of the likes of traditional modern Death Metal heavyweights like The Black Dahlia Murder, Dying Fetus, Obituary, The Faceless, and others, then you’re totally missing out on an entire discography of competent and interesting metal if you haven’t given Svart Crown a real listen. It’s Death Metal that stands on its own just as well as the any of aforementioned acts, and even brings some new and innovative, even if subtle, sounds to the table. Svart Crown is a little known band that deserves big-time exposure, especially if you’re a fan of forward-thinking genre-boundary stretching (not breaking) Death Metal. “Abreaction;” is an album that I am certain will end up near the top of my year end best of list, as I can’t get enough of it even after multiple back-to-back listens.  And the next time you’re looking for some new and interesting Death Metal, check out some of the newest exports from your favorite French-speaking country/city (Montreal, Quebec, and France immediately come to mind), as you’re sure to uncover something interesting happening in their metal scenes if you simply dig deep enough.

Mastodon – The Emperor of Sand Review

Before I delve into my personal views on Mastodon’s newest concept album, “Emperor of Sand,” this quote from a very recent interview that Mastodon did with Noisey seems fitting as a prelude to this VantaBlog review. In the Noisey interview, guitarist Bill Kelliher said:

“Our fucking fans are nuts. They pick apart every fucking note, every fucking word, who’s singing what, why this song doesn’t sound like the last song, why this song sucks because it’s different. I’m always trying to come up with riffs and ideas and songs to impress Troy, Brent, or Brann. I’m not trying to do to it to impress Joe Blow on Facebook. I don’t give a shit. That’s what keeps us going. It’s funny when I read these comments on the internet of people saying we sold out by playing songs like “Show Yourself.” Who the fuck are you? What do you mean we sold out? I’ll play whatever music I want to play! I’ll put out a goddamn pop record if I want to. I don’t have to answer to anybody but my bandmates… and my wife.”

While Mastodon records have been leaning a variety of  directions ever since the bands very first demos, and maybe their first full-length, “Remission,” their more recent recordings have been often cited/dubbed as being “poppy” or “poppier” for lack of a better term. That doesn’t mean, however, that the songs fit neatly into formulaic pop song boxes, nor will much of their material be found on modern pop-rock radio alongside the likes of Nickelback or Staind. – Perhaps an unlikely feature on an edgier station that may feature the likes of System of A Down, but Mastodon certainly do not dominate modern rock radio like Korn or Limp Bizkit during the mid-to-late-1990s.

Every since the band made “Blood Mountain” and was nominated for their first Grammy award for Best Metal/Hard Rock Performance for “Colony of Birchmen,” every Mastodon record has had a lead single. Admittedly, every single has been the most listener-friendly track on each respective album. While the most recent two or three records’ singles have been the most radio-ready songs of the band’s catalog, the songs fit the unique vibe of each album (as each album does have its very own themes and vibe/sound each executed in a purposeful manner) and are still distinctly, and unmistakably, Mastodon.

In other interviews featuring Mastodon band members, they discuss how they write songs and the process of becoming better songwriters, along with evolving into more well-rounded musicians. A look at Mastodon’s first two records reveals songs that are distinctly heavier and linear with very few, if any, repetitive themes or choruses. These first few albums were also written by one or two band members at the helm, and usually one member harnessing all vocal duties (commonly bassist Trey Sanders). Nowadays, the band takes a completely different approach to its songwriting; allowing all band members to contribute in a truly collaborative writing process, and it shows. This evolving process is something that the band has been quite vocal about in myriads of interviews they’ve done throughout the past several album cycles. So while some may ignorantly generalize Mastodon’s recent albums as being more “poppy,” “radio-” or “listener-friendly,” etc. a delve into the band’s writing approach, processes, mindset, desires, and goals reveals that these changes are simply a function of these very conscience, yet natural evolutionary aspects of a band trying to be the best band that they can be in a plethora of different ways; all of which serve the greater good – the album, the song, and the individual efforts put forth to make these things happen.

“Emperor of Sand,” in my opinion, is Mastodon’s best work since 2009’s highly regarded, yet mind-blower of a concept album, “Crack the Skye” – arguably Mastodon’s most prog-influenced, and complexly themed, album to date (seriously read the story behind the album’s themes in this Wikipedia article). “Emperor” marries the two sides of Mastodon in a way that makes the band more appealing: the song-driven side that’s been evolving since the bands inception, but most notably over the course of the bands past few albums; and the progressive behemoth that’s been harnessed in the band’s early years that’s been constantly tamed, and refined during recent years.

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From a musician’s standpoint, there are some blistering instrument-performance portions that are going crazy underneath pristine vocals; including subtly shifting rhythms, spider-finger riffing, and blazing solos that may go unnoticed by the casual listener who may often only recognizes a great song.  So, it’s certainly not a situation in which Mastodon is attempting to appeal to pop-rock-radio in any way, shape, nor form.  The above quote from Kelliher, that leads off this review, best sums up that the band really answers to no one except each other, and that radio play is the furthest thing from their mind(s) when writing a songs that fit within the concept of any given album. Considering that the band’s initial recording contract was with extreme metal underground mainstay label ,Relapse Records, it’s hard to believe that Relapse execs were pushing for a lead single to show off at MTV Music Awards (this is simply a guess; what does this writer know?). The misconception of this particular band “trying” to be radio-friendly is simply a result of their desire to become better writers, players, musicians, and band members.

The songs on “Emperor of Sand “fluidly move from one to the next, and the overall song arrangement is quintessential to the album’s feel. It kicks off with a simple cymbal-laden intro that delivers the desired desert vibe (a staple recurring theme throughout the record) in a smooth and subtle manner before kicking into traditional Mastodon sludge-rock on “Sultans Curse.” The first few songs flow well into one another and continue to further develop and solidify the desert wanderer theme quite well through instrumentation and lyrics delivered in the freshly developed, and ever-evolving triple-vocal assault that has been a mainstay since “Skye.” As evident on the latest effort, the more these vocalists write and sing together the more cohesive they become with each vocalist delivering their part(s) in their own uniquely striking style. Even more impressive are the stacked vocal harmonies that really take a front seat on this album more than ever before. While Mastodon’s first works really focused on the elements: fire (“Remission) water (“Leviathan“), earth (“Blood Mountain”) and aether (“Crack the Skye”), I was expecting Emperor to focus on air (the only element around which a Mastodon album has yet to be based) – possibly focusing on the themes of wind/sand/desert/erosion, etc.

Emperor, however, has a very different set of themes that are evident through paying close attention to the lyrics which tell a story of an unfortunate soul who has been forced to wander the desert for all of eternity as a punishment for some unnamed slight against some kind of high power/desert ruler – a metaphor for cancer and death that has recently effected many individuals close to the actual band members in recent years between records.

The album ends on quite the heavy note when guest vocalists Scott Kelly (of Neurosis fame), and Mike Keneally (of Frank Zappa fame, among other projects) step in for album closers: “Scorpion Breath,” and “Jaguar God,” respectively. While these two tracks are among the album’s heaviest, and “Jaguar” is the album’s longest cut, at just over seven minutes, they fit the overall vibe of the album, ad to its charm, and work great as a way to perk up listener ear drums as the album ends with a bang.

Whether one is experiencing Mastodon’s heavy metal-sludge-stoner rock cross over sounds for the first time through Emperor of Sand, or the work is being experienced through the ears of veteran listeners well versed in the previous works of the world’s most hard working, down-to-earth metal band, it’s a great listen. Sure, it may take veterans a few spins before they really get what the band is going for, as it is easy to write off as all of the things the review previously described after a half-hearted attempt at this newest Mastodon product, but once one really takes time to let these songs steep in one’s mind, ears, and soul for a while “Emperor of Sand” delivers the best work since the ever-so-prog “Crack the Skye.” As the band continues to put in obvious work individually, through other projects, and with one another, it leaves listeners excited at what the band has in store for future recordings, as each release takes Mastodon fans (those willing to take the ride, at least) on a journey to distant fictional worlds that no one – fan or casual listener – could have ever predicted. Don’t let the shiny production fool you, Mastodon are the same unwavering, heavy metal sludge machine they’ve always been it just takes a little more patience to uncover it – and isn’t that how any real work of aural art should be? – Continually delivering new and unnoticed subtleties upon each subsequent listen?

Black Metal in the Modern Era

The New Wave of Black Metal Arrives. . . Finally

 

What happened, Black Metal? Sure there’s still traditional BM all over the place – low-fi, horrible screeching screams over constant blastbeats and constantly buzzing too-much-treble sixteenth note guitar, bass (is in there somewhere?) picking some root notes, I imagine…all played by a bunch of dudes wearing Corpse Paint – a more demonic version of Kiss make-up.   The quality, however, is sooooo bad; who can hear the bass tones, anyway? So. . . there’s still that stuff..the stuff that’s “traditional,” the stuff that has no purpose and goes nowhere and just plain sucks. Keep in mind, as a music lover. . .a lover of all kinds of music, I don’t mind traditionalism: traditional values – nodding towards the roots and infantile beginnings of a genre. Hell, I’m a pretty big fan of the Grateful Dead, and you can’t get much more traditional rock/Americana than that – the once-novel, once prolific blending of the sounds of the American “Old West,” bluegrass, folk, blues, jazz, and more. And I love it! But also, in the same way that I love that kind of traditionalism, I am, even moreso, a total fan and absolute believer in pushing the boundaries of music: exploring the supposed imaginary boundaries of a genre; pushing it forward by constantly trying to find new angles and approaches to its music and adding other elements found outside the given genre. This is progressive music not as a genre, but as a mind set, belief, approach, and way of looking at music that few, if any, have thought of….or even attempted. Every band I have been in has been one that tries to blend elements of a variety of influences in order to form something progressive, original, and new.

Black Metal and its proponents, however, have been so stagnant and stuck it a tradition developed in the mid-to-late 1980s for so long it really is mind boggling. I don’t know of a single genre or subgenre that has been so adverse to change than Black Metal. So it’s refreshing to notice that there has been a trend occurring, slowly but surely, over the past. . . decade. . or so – perhaps longer, perhaps not. It has been happening so slowly that I have just, in recent years, realized this evolving “new wave of black metal. ” While looking back and trying to pinpoint an exact time frame during which this new wave, or even its remote elements, began to take hold it’s quite difficult. At first, I found myself looking at Rotting Christ, and their release, “Theogonia,” and all that came after. Then I found myself looking at the majority of the catalog of Blut Aus Nord – the ever-evolving avant-garde French Black Metal act that has also been pushing the genre’s boundaries for quite some time.

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Rotting Christ is a Black Metal band from Greece that, despite several line-up changes throughout the years, has always aimed to maintain its own identity within the world of Black Metal. Even some of RC’s releases prior to Theogonia, dating back to the early 1990s, while largely being considered “traditional,” had some elements present in this new and updated Black Metal. Blut Aus Nord (which I must confess is one of my personal favorite bands) is an enigmatic act which consists of only one person, who refuses to verify any of the lyrics contained in any of BAN’s songs. Each release differs greatly from the last leaving listeners excited for each upcoming album. While each release is undeniably Black Metal, BAN has found a way to mix in a variety of elements of other genres while consistently leaving most critics in awe. Most notably, one must check out the “777” series – three albums which incorporate industrial elements, with BM, atmospherics, and general metal aesthetic. In my opinion, these are some of BAN’s most prolific recordings, and a great entryway for any newcomer to the band. While the newest release,”Memoria Vetusta III: Saturnian Poetry,” is a throwback to traditional BM, it manages to add new and interesting atmosphere, clean modern production, and more.

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Rotting Christ and Blut Aus Nord are probably the earliest examples of BM acts splicing elements ultimately found outside of the genre into their sound. They have, ultimately (and likely without knowing it – do prolific artists understand the impact their work will have while they’re making it? – entirely different discussion), paved the way for more modern acts that are microgenre’d to hell. . . let’s fact it though, this stuff is Black Metal with some new twists here and there. And I get it; some of the mincrogenres are necessary: Traditional Black Metal, Atmospheric Black Metal (which casts a wide net in, and of, itself), Post-Black Metal (which technically a lot of the stuff to which I am referring in this post falls under: generally when I speak of a “New Wave” of Black Metal. But doesn’t one think that Post BM would combine elements of Post-Metal/Rock with BM?!? – but I digress), More modern examples include stuff like: Deafheaven (“Sunbather”), Black Monolith (“Passenger”) Altar of Plagues (“Teethed Glory and Injury”), Gris (“A L’Âme Enflammée, L’Âme Constellée…”), Summoning (“Old Mornings Dawn”),Thantifaxath (“Sacred White Noise”) (another of my favs – like BM’s version of Ghost, as they don’t show their faces, but they’re waaay more progressive with crazy time signatures and other prog elements uncommon in BM); Deathspell Omega (to whom much of these shifts within the Black Metal genre have been attributed), and the band that actually planted the seed for my writing of this post – Schammasch – which I will get to in a moment. But before we do, I would be remiss if I failed to mention American’s own Agalloch, who created their own brand of Black Metal infused elements of folk along with the grim sadness that can only be inspired by their Northwest American surroundings. Though they’ve recently (and prematurely is you ask most of their fans) disbanded, they’ve left a legacy and a sound that is remarkably their own within the Black Metal genre. Though their entire catalog is impressive, critically acclaimed, and deserves your attention,“The Serpent & The Sphere” – the band’s final release – remains my personal favorite. Granted, all of the aforementioned bands in the list deserve as much, or in certain cases, more credit to these shifts in Black Metal. And, please, let me be clear, this “shift” to which I am referring, really consist of artists viewing Black Metal as a true form of art; probably Blut Aus Nord’s crowning achievement as the band is/was one of the first to see Black Metal as an art form. BAN saw the stupidity in making Satan/Satanism/Religion the primary focus of Black Metal, and really began looking at the genre as one that could be twisted, turned, manipulated, and artfully viewed as artfully as any other musical genre. To get back to my my original inspiration for writing this post. . .

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I was recently on my fourth full listen through of Schammasch’s epic album entitled “Triangle.” This thing is truly epic – a three disc (if you still use CDs or their mention as a representation of musical length) concept album that explores the idea(s) and journey that is death/loss/nothingness. Each “disc” is delivered in its own style – one that is still the style of the artist, but a style that differs from the last set of songs in order to further, or one may argue, more properly develop the themes contained therein. This album hearkens to some of BM’s finest, with nods toward Behemoth’s “Demigod,” among others; while also bringing its own atmostphere(s) to the table through a variety of vocal styles (chants, spoken word – like that of a fire and brimstone preacher’s sermon, screams, and more). This album incorporates some traditional elements, but really does serve as a terrific example of how Black Metal has changed. . . or is changing. . . for the better.

Until a few years ago, I was really only a fan of a handful of those “traditional” bands within the Black Metal genre: Immortal (probably the most traditional), Dimmu Borgir (technically Symphonic Black Metal), Emperor (cause…who doesn’t), Rotting Christ (their earlier works were “traditional”), and some others. I never considered myself to be a true fan of Black Metal as a true metal subgenre, but keeping an open mind over the years and by doing a lot of listening, my mind has taken an abrupt turn. So, if you’re one that has completely and totally written off BM for some of the reasons that I’ve described above (i.e. traditionalism), or for any other reason(s), perhaps you should hear me out and give it another chance. – These recent shifts away from traditional BM have really helped expand the genre and bring it into the modern age; the Black Metal of the future is now.

Better Late Than Never: VantaBlog’s Best of 2016 Metal & Guess Who’s Back! – VantaBlog’s Return After an Unexpected Hiatus




Back in August I experienced some personal setbacks that directly led to an inadvertent “hiatus” from this blog which I had only begun publishing a couple of months beforehand. Granted, I had already been experiencing a slight lull in my posts, but previously mentioned setback put to rest any desires I had of ending the lull. During that time, my computer – the device on which I obtain, keep, save, load, produce, and listen to music (all of the music I have obtained throughout the past three or more years), as well as write, edit, rewrite, and publish this blog – as well as my iPhone – the device through which I rotate albums, listen to music, and subsequently analyze music for this blog – were stolen.

This caused quite the setback, as I was pretty much kept out of the metal loop of new releases, metal-related news, and more; thus putting my knowledge of metal far from the forefront. Until recently I was unable to return to writing the blog again, but during the holidays I was gifted a new laptop (a chromebook – sufficient for obtaining music and writing, but insufficient for making music. . . but . . . baby steps a la “What About Bob”). Also, I obtained a phone, albeit the worst phone in the world, which has the capability to hold five or six full album for my listening pleasure. Needless to say, the vast amount of music that I listen to for pleasure, and for this blog (don’t worry; there’s a great deal of overlap), forces me to switch out albums from the phone quite often.

Since August, not more than a few days have gone by that I haven’t thought about resurrecting, so to speak VantaBlog. I feel as if I owe it to myself, and to my readers; what few there are, and obviously I hope that my passion for finding , reviewing and introducing others to new music impacts at least one stranger; and that those current readers introduce their metal-loving friends to my blog so that I may write to a larger audience. In order to make it up to myself, and others, I have decided to combine several writings/posts into one “comeback post” so that I may once more proceed with the regular cycle of publishing a new blog post; once or twice-per-month. During the time that my things were stolen I had been working very hard on what I thought, at that time, was going to be the best, most developed and realized blog posting that I had been able to publish. It was a review of the newest Meshuggah album; a review that I had written, rewritten, edited, and re-rewritten a hundred times in my head while I listened to the album driving around in my car whilst running errands. Sadly, the moment I had developed an actual rough draft, and had begun editing it, my precious computer was taken away from me. So, I am going to include a shortened and more to-the-point version of that review in the descriptions associated with the best of 2016 list, below.




In pouring over the year-end/best-of-2016 album lists of some of my favorite online blogs, columns, etc. I felt the motivation to put up my own 2016 best of list, albeit a bit late. I, however, have always liked to develop my best-of-whatever-year toward the end of January of the new year. This may seem unusual, but I feel that it gives me a chance to really look back on the previous year, look around and see if there’s anything that i had forgotten, and to see if there’s anything that I simply missed out on by checking out other year end lists. This is even more true with my current best-of-2016 list, as I had to look around some of my favorite and most respected metal blogs to rejuvenate my memory about some albums that I had been listening to around the time of the “Great Electronics Theft of 2016,” as without being able to look back through my archives of downloads, digital notes regarding releases, and even my iPhone/iTunes library to see what albums I couldn’t bare to delete in favour of newer releases, it was difficult to fully realize my 2016 list. After a great deal of searching, remembering, and more, I was able to finalize a list about which I feel quite good. So, without further ado:

VantaBlog’s Top Ten Metal Albums of 2016 (with Honorable mentions)

10. Neurosis – Fires Within Fires:

I had a hard time attempting to decide which album to place in the number ten spot on this list, which iis – partially – why I have decided to inlcude honorable mentions. This Neurosis album probably won’t/doesn’t appear on a lot of year end lists for 2016. Honestly, I wasn’t a huge Neurosis fan until their previous album, “Honor Found in Decay.” Mostly, I really enjoyed the bands that noted Neurosis as a primary influence in their sound; the likes of Mastodon, Isis, Baroness, etc. So I triend numerous times to “get” Neurosis, and the “Honor. . . ” album really made things make sense for me. I then was able to go back through their catalog and appreciate what they’ve done, the path they’ve forged, and the sound they had developed on their own. So when I heard “Fires. . . ” I was able to listen to it from front to back – always a majoir qualifier for includion in any list of mine – but also the album made me go back and explore other Neurosis stuff: pro footage live shows, Tribes of Neurot material, Jarboe material, Neurorsis albums and their Tribes . . . companion albums, etc. So this album helped to revitalize my interest in Neurosis again in 2016; especially when it comes to thier live stuff. . . seeing them live is likely a soon-to-be-added bucket list item. Listen here

9. SubRosa – For This We Fought The Battle Of Ages:

SubRosa is certainly an acquired taste. . . like a good wine or a complex coffee, it gets better over time with repeated listens. I was first turned on to SubRosa when their 2014 album was released, and there seemed to be a huge trend in underground metal towards sludge/doom stuff. The problem with the sludge/doom subgenre is that a lot of it is terrible. Any two or three individuals with some instruments, power chords, and ability to play slow with lots of disortion can form a sludge/doom band; as a result, there is a lot of completely terrible shit to wade through when exploring the genre. That’s why a band such as SubRosa is really a lucious fountain in a desert of crap. If you’re not familiar, SubRosa is a five-piece featuring two females who front the band and play cellos, violins, guitars, and provide most of the vocals. The drummer, bassist, and second guitarist are males who serve as the backbone of the band. The strings, combination of shrieks and softly sung vocals, precise and on-time lurch of the sludgey tempos set them ahead of the curve within the genre. It may not be for everyone, but afer repeated listens it really does provide something new and interesting for those with the patience to try it out right here.

8. Opeth – Sorceress:

Sorceress is the record that Opeth has been trying to make since they made the very conscious decision to move away from making metal, toward making progressive 70s influenced, complex, yet seemingly heavy music. Essentially, they began toying with the mostly-acoustic sound on “Damnation,” the companion album to “Deliverance.” At that time, however, it was just a one-off, as the band was still fully immersed in pushing the boundaries of death metal in their own way. This is their new sound fully fleshed out and realized. Fans of Opeth know that they’ve always been fans of semi-obscure European 1970s European act, Gentle Giant; and have always cited them as a primary influence, even in earlier Opeth albums; but that influence is as clear on “Sorceress” as it’s ever been. Truthfully I was a bit surprised at how much this album rocks compared to my expectations, I actually excpected it to be more mellow; and while it’s not an album that one may be included to mosh or headbang along with, the album really does strike a unique balance of beauty, power, and plan ol’ rock. You’ll certainly find your head nodding to the band’s penchant for cyclical 6/8 time signatures while they build peaks and valleys that make-up most of the album’s length. Everything really seems to work here, the band has added a bit more psychedelia to their brand of prog rock/metal, and somehow ends up putting a modern spin on an old school traditional sound.  and regardless if you’re a new fan of Opeth (I assume they’ve drawn in some new fans with their newly developed sound over the past several years), or a long-time fan of the Swedish prog metal  mainstays, this record has to make you excited to see what Akerfeldt and company have up their sleeves in the future. For now, you can check our “Sorceress” right here

7. Fallujah – Dreamless:

I hate to sound redundant, but if you check out one of my first posts here on VantaBlog, I did a full review of Fallujah’s “Dreamless.” Fallujah have been gaining consistent popularity since their deput album, “The Leper Colony.” Despite some line-up changes, as well as developments in their sound with each release, “Dreamless” is the album that Fallujah have been trying to make since they began incorporating a variety of elements beyond bone-crushing heavy riffs, ripping solos, and technical runs prevelant on their early releases. Though those elements are still present, the band has been incoroporating electronics (drums and keys), female vocals (both: sung and chanted), and other elements to create a sound that is all their own. Again, without tying to sound redundant; this is the album that Fallujah has been trying to make for some years now. This is their newly developed sound fully realized in the best way possible. They keep it heavy while adding touches of the aforementioned elements to make things interesting. It’s always a pleasure when a band takes risks to expand their sound and succeeds with flying colors. That is what Fallujah has done here. If you’re a fan of technical death metal and are not familiar with Fallujah, do yourself a favor and check out their entire catalog; you’ll be glad that you did. I, myself, enjoy starting with a band’s newest album and working my way backward; if you’re into that method, or just want to hear “Dreamless” then click here

6. CB Murdoc – Here Be Dragons

(See Meshuggah – The Violent Reason of Sleep mini-review, for the CB Murdoc “Here Be Dragons’ review.  . . listen to “Here Be Dragons” here.)

5. Astronoid – Air :

Astronoid is for those who are fans of Ghost Bath, Black Monolith, and Deafheaven. That’s, however, not to say that Astronoid sounds the same as these bands, only that they kind of go down that same path. Astronoid, however, benefits from crystal clear, top of the line, high quality production. All of the vocals here are sung in a way that does not annoy (for my take on clean vocals in metal please see my very first introduction to VantaBlog), and the albums title, “Air” is quite fitting as the albums just seems to breath – a result of the immaculate production and the strong songwriting that the musicians exhibit here. Another album on the list that may not be for everyone, but after repeated listens, I thoroughly enjoy it. Confession: this album was in my rotation at the same time as the new Blood Incantation (described below), but I listened to this album more often than BI, as my girlfriend – who hates metal. . . like real metal – was in the car when i was doing the most listening, and she became an actual fan of Astronoid – probably the only album that she’s actually enjoyed since I’ve begun writing this blog. See if you enjoy it as much as she, and I, did by checking it out here

4. Gorguts – Pleiades Dust

To borrow an idea from another one of my favorite online metal blogs (at this point I cannot remember which one), it’s a rare event that a band is able to make a song that spans 33 plus minutes without boring the listener. This, however, is exactly what Gorguts has done here; they’ve created an album, more like an EP that is one track/song that spans over one half-hour. At no time during one’s listening experience is the listener waiting for the next segment, or worse, for the song to end. Though Gorguts has been famous for changing line-ups for nearly every album (Canadian musical mastermind and full-time woodworker, Luc LeMay being the only consistent member) , resulting in large departures from the sound of their last line-up and its associated album; the newest Gorguts offering stays close to the style first introduced on the band’s 2013 critically acclaimed LP, “Colored Sands.” Similar to how Inter Arma produced their one-track “Cavern” EP between their most recent album and the critically acclaimed 2013 offering, “Sky Burial,” the newest Gorguts material will, hopefully, be a very filling appetizer to tide fans over until a proper long play  entree arrives. Though I have no knowledge that this is what the band has planned on doing, it has served as a successful strategy for others in the past. – Let’s hope that I’m right. . . the world could always use more of the brand thinking man’s metal that Gorguts has become.. Listen to Pleiades’ Dust here.

3. Inter Arma – Paradise Gallows:

Inter Arma are one of the most exciting metal acts in existence right now, and have been since 2013’s “Sky Burial,” the album that introduced the metal world to their subgenre defying sound that the metal world needed. 2013 marked the rise of popularity of sludge and doom, and other sludge/doom hybrids and mircogenres, like Funeral Doom, Drone,Stoner metal, etc.These subgenres aren’t for everyone, especially those who are into more technical and faster sounds on the vast spectrum of metal. Inter Arma actually helped me, along with a couple of other bands from that same year, to find my entrance into this world of slower tempo, sometimes-snail-paced, yet equally heavy, metal landscapes that often push beyond the seven-to-ten minute mark(s).  Despite these characteristics, they don’t just simply fall into the doom or sludge category, they sometimes use it as a starting/jumping off point. Inter Arma continues to successfully blend elements of technical/progressive metal, sludge, doom, and even slight hints of death and black metal at times. Long gone are the days where (especially as teenagers) one would purchase an album, open it’s case, revel in the scent of new-cd/tape/record, pop it into its appropriate player, and begin to pour over every detail in the liner note: lyrics, production credits,dedications, thank yous, little letters from the musicians themselves, and most importantly – the artwork.. This experience helped the listener to create, or develop, an inherent direct connection between the album’s graphics (sometimes an original piece per page in the linear notes, sometimes more obscure graphics,a larger fold-out piece, or something entirely different) and the aural art contained within the audio medium. Though I have not personally seen the entire physical package of this particular album (I’ve gone digital – who hasn’t?), the cover of “Paradise Gallow” seems to fit perfectly with the songs on the album. . . colorful, slightly psychedelic, lurching against a harsh tide of rhythm, and (genre) blending together to churn out something so discordantly haunting yet delicate and beautiful. Check out this one here. Then check out everything else the band has to offer ’cause they’re quite good!

 2. Blood Incantation – Starspawn:

Blood Incantation is a band that I wish I had discovered a long time ago. I get it: their name is absolutely ridiculous…maybe even to the point of being corny, even amongst the ridiculous band names commonly found in death metal and its associated subgenres. This band falls into the technical death metal category, and is pretty relentless. One commenter, on a website I recently came across (possibly YouTube) noted that this is the band that modern Morbid Angel could have been. Starspawn follows the trend of metal bands using space as their influence for darkness, isolation, danger, and more. The songs are a relentless aural assault with quick, technical, and angular leads moving across the rhythm section(s) as meteor showers across the night sky. If you love tech death metal, and sometimes think that it is getting stale – all technically, speedy scale runs and blast beats and no heart – do yourself a favor and check out everything that Blood Incantation has done; it’ll only make you excited for more, and you’ll be glad that you did. Enjoy Starspawn right here.

1. Meshuggah – The Violent Sleep of Reason:

Image result for meshuggah the violent sleep of reason album cover

If I do say so myself, I do a pretty spot-on impression of the legendary actor, the late, great Jimmy Stewart. When I was in my adolescent years; around twelve years old, one of my all-time-favorite episodes of Saturday Night Live aired. This episode featured the at-the-time extremely popular actor/comedian, Jim Carey (a self-proclaimed metal head who scheduled filming around  Cannibal Corpse’s European tour to have them appear during that small scene in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective as their tour conflicted with the original shooting dates. Rather than get another band, that’s how hell-bent Carey was on getting CC for the now-infamous scene) as its host. . . and if memory serves me correctly, Soundgarden was the musical guest. At any rate, this particular episode featured a skit in which Jim Carey does an impersonation of Jimmy Stewart doing and impersonation of Jim Carey doing and impersonation of Jimmy Stewart; the final result, of course, due to Carey’s penchant for accurate impersonations, was my own fairly decent Jimmy Stewart impression. What does this have to do with metal of any sort, let alone the newest Meshuggah release, “The Violent Sleep of Reason?” As nearly every modern metal fan is aware the recent emergency of a microgenre – one that I refuse to recognize as its own legitimate microgenre, is one referred to a “Djent -” the onomatopoeia of the guitar sound, found,specifically, in the works of Meshuggah. The emergence of Djent has brought fourth a seemingly endless bounty of individuals who discovered the music of Meshuggah around fifteen to twenty years after Meshuggah’s debut in the underground metal scene; a debut that evolved from thrash but incorporated incredibly original futuristic staccato sounds from distorted down-tuned  eight-string guitars centered around non-stop mind boggling, rhythmically complex drumming such as polyrhythms, beat displacement and more. Meshuggah’s sound that was all theirs; a sound that remained completely unique to their recordings until the late-2000s. Nowadays a metal fan doesn’t have to look long, nor far, nor hard for a band – often referred to as Djent – that has attempted to take those complex rhythmic inspirations and distorted down-tuned tones resulting in some kind of Meshuggah wannabe. Too many of these bands aren’t even aware of the roots of the influences that they’re copying…they think that they’ve been inspired by ABC band, who really just sounds like a low-rent version of the sound Meshuggah has perfected, retooled, and re-perfected over the years. As a result, the metal landscape is filled with copies of copies of copies. . . or more to my original pont: an impersonation of an impersonation of an impersonation . . . Rather than fidning themselves lost in a field of wannabe’s, however, ever since the emergence of the Djent movement (which Meshuggah themselves also refuse to recognize as a genre), each album of new material that the band releases, features a slighly more futuristic and edgier sond that they’ve developed, written, perfected and performed live to serve as a reminder that they – as originators of a sound – will always be lightyears ahead of the pack; alrways remaining two steps ahead of those who try to feebly copy the “Meshuggah sound” or “style.” – A constant, but less in-your-face reminder (in the words of Dr. Dre) that “we started this gangster shit, and this the mutha-f#%kin’ thanks we get?”

The Violent Sleep of Reason, however, does all of the aforemetnioned in terms of pushing the bands sound farther ahead, but also dose more. It also incorporates slight hints of the thrash sounds found in the earliest of Meshuggah’s works, but works them into their constatnly evolving, yet always themselves, style. While all of the band’s works have sounded other-worldly, this sounds like it come from the not-quite-so-near future. . . and did I forget to mention that it punishes and pulverize?.Did I forget to include the fact that the listener is bombasted with and onslaught of constant drums, break-your-neck riffts, speed, and straight ahead brutality? – Because it does. . . it’s one the heaviest, most complex and brilliant Meshuggah records since just before the “Catch 33” era, and it doesn’t quit. This album serves as a a reminder that no matter how many copycats are out there, Meshuggah will always be looking down from their valiant prog-metal thrones as they gaze upon the feeble masses attempting to climb to the top while barely managing to gain purchase. Listen to this masterpiece here if you have Spotify, or here if you don’t.


One band, who released an album during 2016 that was inspired by Meshuggah, yet does not remotely attempt to copy thier style is CB Murdoc. – A band that I only discovered this year with their release of “Here Be Dragons.” This album takes the rhythmic complexities, and polyrhythm structural ideas made famous by Meshuggah, but applies their own Converge-meets-Dillinger Escape Plan-meets-death-metal  and slightly hardcore punk aesthetic to it for a sound that is all their own.

The band, and its material, succeed in being just as talented, just as crazy and just as  brutal; though in a different manner, as Meshuggah. Murdoc refrains from sounding anything like them. Only the musically-inclined fans would be most apt to notice the Meshuggah influence. “Here Be Dragons” ended up being one of my favorite albums of the year, along with “The Violent Reason of Sleep.” I actually ended up with these two albums on my iPhone (shortly before ti was stolen), and found myself bouncing between the two regularly. It got me to thinking: what if during the time when all of these late-teenage/twenty-somethings began copying Meshuggah, they all – like Murdoc – applied the concepts set forth by Meshuggah’s music and applied it to establishing their own individual syles, or simply mixed it with an amalgamation of their favorite elements found in other bands/genres/sounds they equally enjoyed? Sure, maybe we’d end up with a few sound-alikes, a few Meshuggah wannabe’s, perhaps even some CB Murdoc wannabes;  but I would be willing to bet that there wouldn’t be a djent movement – copies of copies of copies – maybe. . . just maybe. . .we may just be lett with a bunch of original sounding, more diversely creative bands. . . just like CB Murod.

Honorable Mentions:

These are albums that wanted to put somewhere in my top ten (many fought for the number 10 spot) but I didn’t feel right placing them on the list for one or more reasons.

Often the reason was that I, simply, hadn’t listened to the album in its entirety, or enough to include it. When I listen to an album I like to fullly imerse myself in the experience with repeated listenings; other reasons may incude that it’s an album that I only recently discovered after looking over some of my favoirte blogs’ year end list, and I’m not going to be some copycat who acts as if he was all about an album throughout the year when I jsut discovered it in 2017. – Now don’t be surprised if I end up loving one or two of these so much I write something about it in the coming months. – Remember: this blog is for me to introduce music to you. . . not just newly released music, but bands I have recently discovered regardless of how old the material may actually be. Other reasons for the Honorable Mentions list is that I love the band, and think it should be heard by others. . . especially when they make a comeback to their original sound that fans have been yearning for for years (looking in your direction Hetfield, Lars, Hammett, and Rob)

Metallica – Hardwired . . . to Self Destruct:

Image result for metallica hardwired

This is the best Metallica since “. . . And JUstice . . ” oddly enough, in fears of polarizing their fanbase the band stuck to non-political (thus non-offenseive) lyrical themese. . . funny for a band whose last album using this now-classic thrash sound had such a political title. . . from a band that wrote “One.” Regardless, here are rifft after riff after riff. It’s a relentless wrecking ball when it comes to the musicianship on this record.

Dillinger Escape Plan – Dissociation :

Image result for dillinger escape plan dissociation

Honestly. . . any why not be perfectly clear and honest about this, regardless how embarrassing it may be .. . I LOVE DEP, and I KNOW that this is their last album as they are calling it quits. I wanted soooo badly to catch them on the last, essentially “farewell” tour, but was unable to obtain tickets. At any rate, I KNOW this album is amazing…at least I know it WILL BE amazing. As in…I haven’t listened to it yet. . . not even a snippet. I’m saving it..for when I feel like I really need some DEP in my life. I’ve been a fan since Calculating Infinity, and the band has pieced together an extremely solid catalog since their inception. So, this is in the HM list because I KNOW it’s good, great, grand…an effin masterpiece…but I simply haven’t heard it yet. BLASPHEMER! you say…I know….I know.

Alcest – Kodama:

Image result for alcest kodama

I’ve just discovered this 2016 album in the past week or two, so I can’t take credit for having heard it during 2016. But…so far…it’s original, and I want to hear it more and more. I certainly suggest you check it out…for fans of Deafheaven and the like. Though their last album, which I haven’t heard (keep in mind this is the my first introduction to Alcest), was apparently compared to Coldplay in some circles; I’ve heard no nods towards any british adult comtemporary rock-esque sounds.

Revocation – Great is Our Sin:

Image result for Revocation Great is our sin

I’m not sure if metalcore has fallen our of favor or, simply, isn’t as revered as it once was during . .. say the mid-to-late aughts (00’s), but Revocation keep churning out burner after burner when it comes to albums.However, for whatever reason, I didn’t see them on any year end album list for 2016. And whereas their last effort, “Deathless” was all over most best-of lists in 2014, I would argue that “Great Is Our Sin” is an even better release. It’s a bit more technical, fast paced, relentless, just plain good headbanging fun: huge solos, monster get-stuck-in-your head/wish-I-had-written-that-one riffs, and more. I would go so far as to say that Revocation is the most important metalcore band since Unearth. Whereas, in my opinion (but. . .isn’t this entire blog my opinion?), Unearth fell off a bit after “III: In The Eyes of Fire,” before returning to form an album or two later; Revocation keeps making consistently fantastic metalcore. . . no frills…but just straight ahead metalcore rooted in thrash tradition. I actually considered this one strongly for my number 10 spot in the list above due to the amount of times I listened to this one on repeat. As a musician, I find Revocation to be inspiring and jaw-droppingly awesome with their great riffs, shifting time signatures and tempos, and overall great songwriting combined with entertaining songs that translate well in a live setting. If you missed this release during 2016, as it seems that it may have slipped through the proverbial cracks for many, check it out now!

Animals As Leaders – The Madness of Many

Image result for animals as leaders the madness of many

Having only heard the new AAL only once in its entirety (once again, due to the Great Electronics Heist of ’16), I couldn’t place it in my top ten list above. In fact, I don’t even know where it could have/would have fallen. However, what I heard was excellent. It was quite and extreme, yet welcome, departure from the direction(s) of their previous releases. “The Madness . . . ” was as diverse as an instrumental prog metal album could be with each song taking on its own sound often derived from a traditional sounds of various cultures. For example, one song is distinctly spanish-influenced, featuring flamenco style guitar and latin rhythms, another uses sitar-sounding tones and the appropriate scales/modes to create a middle-eastern flavor. All of these traditional cultural elements are combined with the progressive tendencies that are so essential to the core that is Animals As Leaders, thus making a highly original sounding record that took long-time fans by surprise in the best way possible. This is an album that could appeal to older jazz oriented crowds, as well as fans of prog-metal and many listeners in between. It successfully blurs the lines of metal, jazz, progressive rock, and more. It is certainly a must-hear for anyone remotely interested in the more progressive or progressive metal bands.

Radiohead – A Heart Shaped Pool

Image result for radiohead heart shaped pool

I know…this is a metal blog…Radiohead isn’t metal. And while I’m not about to start putting all kinds of albums from other genres on this blog, and its unlikely I start a blog for all other genres of music to which I listen (metal is just so niche, so diverse as it spans all cultures, nationalities, race, etc; inclusive while being exclusive;  has hard and fast rules that beg to be broken; challenges its fans and musicians alike to define and redefine “heavy,” while never forgetting its roots. . . and my love, rather pure passion, for it warrants its own blog), I am placing this album on this list. Why? – because its release inspired me to make this blog. I had considered video blogging, YouTube reviews, Facebook page(s),among other methods to get my opinions to the world, and to introduce friends and strangers to new metal music without having the same conversation(s) umpteen times with umpteen people.Then, when “A Heart Shaped Pool” was released,  I wrote a mini-review of it  Facebook which was well written and well received by my peers. Not only that, but I really love Radiohead. Like many of the bands in my top ten list, they’ve never been afraid to go against the grain, challenge their fans, challenge themselves, push boundaries, and take risks all in the name of developing something unique . From what I understand, the word on the street, or in the blogosphere, so to speak, is that there is a strong possibility that this is Radiohead’s final record; if not forever, at least for a while. This album is great from start to finish, if it is to serve as the band’s “Swan Song,” it’s a fitting tribute and retrospective that covers, but does not copy, all of Radiohead’s strong points throughout their many iterations of their always-evolving sound. It still pushes their sound forward while offering a throwback to some of their earliest material. – And unlikely feat, and one that few bands could accomplish with mild success, let alone the monster success as Radiohead has done here and throughout their career.. Also, this album – at least the story behind it – bears a great deal of similarity to what Dillinger Escape Plan has done in establishing and gracefully ending their career.While it’s not heavy, it’s a lengthy but fantastic sonic voyage that bids a proper farewell, if that is/was the band’s intention(s). If you’re into more than metal, and I hope that you are (otherwise you may be selling yourself short by missing out on great music from all corners of the musical globe), then give this masterpiece a spin.

Throughout the next two weeks I plan to work on my next VantaBlog post, but will also periodically update this Honorable Mentions as I’m sure to find some 2016 releases that deserve to be mentioned here. Check back, if you’re so inclined, as I plan to update this one for a couple of weeks, and I’m always tweaking and refining my typos and whatnot. Until next time, Enjoy! Horns up: \m/

Progressive Progress

Let’s face it: sometimes the subgenres of subgenres, or sub-subgenres; for the sake of clarity, let’s call them what I title them – microgenres, get a little out of hand. I certainly can appreciate the minutiae of subgenres, especially when it comes to metal. They help me differentiate stuff I want to listen to from the mountains of shit out there that I have, literally, zero interest in checking out. This holds especially true when it comes to black metal and its myriad of subgenres: technical black metal, traditional black metal, atmospheric black metal, etc. etc. etc.

Recently, however, it has been brought to my attention that there is an emergence occurring in the world of Technical Death Metal; one that, through the use of keyboards, samples, and electronics, delivers a more atmospheric or ethereal sound to the darkness that usually exists within the world of Death Metal. Some are calling this stuff atmospheric death metal, or atmospheric technical death, and these are just a few of the terms that I have heard to describe this sound. . . not to mention the ones that end with “-core.” This, I feel, is out of hand. Keyboards have been used in metal of all likenesses for decades, sometimes in seamless ways which add to the music (Dream Theater comes to mind), and sometimes in a more-than-gimmicky way that serves to distract from the core sound of the band (insert name of post-hardcore-wannabe-metal here). These bands that are found under this new microgenre label, to me, are simply death metal. . . or, more precisely, Technical (and/or Progressive Death Metal). . . with keyboards. . . done right. There’s no need to microgenre the hell out of the many aptly-divided death metal out there. One of these bands that seems to constantly come up in recent metal news, that certain metal sources want to label with this new microgenre is a death metal band that has been around for a while, and one that has gained a great deal of popularity in recent months, and even years: Fallujah.

Fallujah’s newest album, entitled “Dreamless,” is their best album in years. It is an extension of a sound that they have been developing for some time now. Long time listeners of Fallujah may recall their humble beginnings as a technically proficient death metal band with their first and second releases, entitled “The Leper Colony” and “The Harvest Wombs,” respectively. These albums introduced, and then cemented, Fallujah to the world of death metal, and its legions of devoted fans. These two recordings displayed a unique sound that was their own, and while that sound was exciting, like a lot of death metal releases, it did not bring forth anything new to the genre. Attempting not to repeat themselves, Fallujah released a teaser EP for fans entitled “Nomadic,” which served as an appropriate introduction to the new, still in progress, Fallujah sound – a newly developed, more melodic, and exploratory sound that Fallujah was to become. This sound included slower melodic breakdowns, more melodic solos, melodic female vocals, and more.

I, myself, admit that I found the EP a little more than polarizing, and it took me a while to warm up to the new sound. Fallujah fully unveiled their new style on the full-length release, entitled: “The Flesh Prevails” in 2014. While I enjoyed the album, I felt that there was an edge missing that had been a part of the “Fallujah-sound” since their first record releases. Now, with the release of Dreamless, Fallujah have brought back that metallic and aggressive “edge” and married it perfectly with their progressive and melodic sounds first introduced to fans through the release of the “Nomadic” EP. It’s as if this is the album that they have been striving to make as fans of the band have watched them continue to develop and push forward their overall style. . . this is their newly developed style fully fleshed, realized, and perfected. I feel like this is the album that the band has been striving to make since their abrupt transition on “Nomadic;” this is the band fully comfortable in its skin since shedding the tried and true death metal armor and heading into more adventurous and progressive depths. This time it’s not just working – it’s firing on all cylinders. The band deftly chose elements of some of metals most popular, innovative, and technical acts while managing not to sound as if they’re piggy-backing or blatantly copying any one of them; and they have the chops to execute such musicianship. Some parts of the album bring to mind aspects of bands like Dream Theater, Between the Buried and Me, and even the “Language-“era tones of The Contortionist (specifically the intro to the album’s title track).

“Dreamless” has all of the technical virtuosity and aggressive riffing which served as the focal point(s) of their first releases, yet also manages to uniquely marry it with their melodic side, newly introduced intricately interspersed electronics, and precise sweeping solos to beautifully form an overall more “progressive” sound toward which the band has been reaching in recent years. At times it’s almost like a more aggressive BTBAM, while still sounding very Fallujah.

Fans of the new Fallujah album are likely to be interested in checking out a not-yet-as-popular Some parts of the album bring to mind aspects of bands like Dream Theater, Between the Buried and Me, and even the “Language-“era tones of The Contortionist (specifically the intro to the album’s title track).

Yet a another band that has recently been on my metal radar is Earthside – another metal group often labeled under the previously harped-upon death metal microgenre. Although Earthside released their newest album, “A Dream in Static” in 2015, I am just – in the past month – discovering them. Their sound is extremely ethereal, progressive, technical, and, alas, heavy. The majority of the band’s 2015 recording is instrumental, and they are, primarily, an instrumental band, and they display their best riffing and progressive tendencies in their instrumental pieces. The album, however, is not an entirely instrumental one. After the listener realizes that Earthside is an instrumental band and begins to feel comfortable with their sound, vocals suddenly appear. The band was able to recruit some vocalists from the world of hard rock and metal to help add some variety to the recording. Specifically, the singers of Sevendust, Soilwork, and others add their talents to four of the bands songs; each singer featured individually on a particular track aptly suited to their vocal style. Notably, the work of Sevendust’s vocalist  – Lajon Witherspoon –  is reminiscent, on this track,  of Incubus’ Brandon Boyd vocal style over a backdrop of precise, churning progressive metal track, and it works remarkably well.

The ethereal sound of both of these bands certainly adds something unique to the world of death and progressive metal, but shouldn’t be deserving of its own genre title. There are other bands out there that are currently doing similar, and equally as exciting and technically sound work. Fallujah and Earthside are simply two of my current favorites, and I hope that you check them out too. I am excited to hear more from both of these bands as the metal world follows their progression.

 

check it out:

Fallujah Dreamless (song):

Earthside A Dream in Static (full album):

Dreadnought- More then Meets the Ears

Welcome to Vantablog  – the darkest blog on the web. The intention of this blog is to discuss the vast, , dark, and often mythical world of heavy metal music. This blog is a response to the fact that , though many blogs exist on the web that focus on the world’s most omnipotent musical genre, there are none that focus, specifically, on the type(s) of metal that most interest me: highly technical, unique, and heavy, usually without melodic vocals. More specifically, while I do not normally enjoy metal that features melodic vocals, I do enjoy melodic vocals if they are very original sounding. While the term “heavy” is quite subjective, metal and its seemingly limitless subgenres tend to be obnoxiously inclusive in what one may deem deserving of the “heavy” label.

This brings me to the subject of my first blog entry: Dreadnought – a band from Denver, Colorado that incorporates a great deal of influences from across the musical spectrum, outside of, and within metal subgenres. The band’s latest album – “Bridging Realms –” released in 2015 is an amazing piece of work which serves to bridge the gap separating many of metals subgenres. The aptly titled album serves up five slow burners that, while long at an average length of around ten minutes, keeps ones attention with its seamless transitions into, and out of multiple genres. Immediately evident is the band’s classical music influence, including a plethora of orchestral instruments and choir vocals which gives way to traditional a traditional sludgy doom metal stomp. Across the five tracks the band makes evident its affinity for 70s acoustic progressive styles, a la Sleeping Giant, and even manages to mix in several short; yet properly placed, psychedelic/experimental/noise elements in the disguised as well-crafted transitions, along with more traditional progressive sounding elements. Anyone who is a fan of Opeth’s recent work will find themselves right at home while devouring Dreadnought’s latest offering.  Despite the fact that the above introduction notes that most of the music that will be featured on VantaBlog will not contain melodic vocals, Dreadnought serves as an example of a melodic vocal style that one may find alluring and very original. All of the vocals on the album: choir chants, melodic singing, and even black metal-style tortuous, yet somehow melodic, screams are all, surprisingly, performed by the band’s female singer.

This album certainly classifies as “heavy,” but in a very unique way. It is a perfect example that all metal music and its associated subgenres are not always harsh on its listeners’ ears with fast tempos, blastbeats, and loud screaming or growling vocals. While this piece of work would be a fitting addition to any established fan of true heavy metal, it would also serve as a perfect introduction to any newcomer to the heavy metal world by introducing them slowly  to the array of diverse sounds that make up “Bridging Realms.”

 

Check it out here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LPYFGE954os&list=PL1XxcxNTPtGLxLVg6ue3QzLnq5TmtOqxO

Bridging Realms