Revocation – all their albums

In life people are addicted to many varied things! Me? I’m addicted to music, and hence am continually searching for new interesting music to listen to. I’ve got regular favourites too that have stayed with me across many years, but mostly I get my buzz out of finding new stuff. A regular go to for me for a while now has been the excellent (and oft mentioned on here) Prog Metal Zone, but my most listened to band of 2015, Revocation, came via a different route. I was on YouTube and it suggested I watch this video …

Whilst outwardly the world of the more extreme genres of heavy metal might appear to be all scary growled lyrics, extreme volume and tattoos, my experience has been that it’s mostly populated by friendly intelligent people. As you can see from the video,  Phil Dubois, the drummer in Revocation is once such person. Likewise, Dave Davidson, Revocation‘s lead guitarist and vocalist, is a graduate of the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston, where he studied guitar with a principle focus on jazz! Genres like technical metal and progressive metal are, as their names suggest, the most musically complex forms of metal and so it seems they attract the most talented virtuoso contemporary rock musicians.

Here’s Phil playing the drums on Scorched Earth Policy, from their most recent album Deathless …

And even if you’re not a guitarist, I’m sure you’ll be able to recognize the complexity of the guitar parts courtesy of this live version of Fields of Predation, from their debut album Empire of the Obscene

Revocation have recorded five albums in total, and I seriously can’t recommend them all highly enough!! According to last.fm, I’ve listened to a mere SIX HUNDRED AND FIFTY-NINE Revocation tracks since discovering them on February 9th, and that doesn’t include all the times I’ve listened in the car or in the gym!  You could say I rather like them!

 

Axial Lead – Of Infamous Credentials

Happy New Year! With 2015 upon us, there is one retrospective task I absolutely don’t consider a chore! My favourite music site Prog Metal Zone publish a Top 50 albums list for the year just passed, and I take it upon myself to work through it to see what I’ve missed across the year.

The list is alphabetical and the first album on it I’d not heard is at #6 from Axial Lead and it’s a corker, well apart from the small nit that the lack of capitalisation in the title “of infamous credentials” pointlessly does my noggin in! Very progressive with both a heaviness but also quirky jazzy avant-gardism that makes it extremely listenable to. Heck it’s even a concept album around the memories of an escaped convict lost at sea, who washes up on the shores of a utopian island city! All clean vocals so nothing too scary, so why not take a listen!?

Upcoming albums wot I iz rather excited about!

I listen to all sorts of music, and indeed listen to music as much of the time as I possibly can, but I do think it’s fair to say that majority of my listening in recent years has been to music that has the word progressive tagged on it somewhere. Said progressive tag spans a wide range of heaviness though.

The first couple of months of 2015 are already shaping up to provide some killer new albums from some of my favourite progressive bands, and the plan is that I keep this post up-to-date with impending releases that I’m looking forward too hereon.


Beardfish – +4626-COMFORTZONE – 12th January 2015

Beardfish still hold the crown as my most scrobbled band. They’re my favourite modern “traditional” prog rock, with a sound definitely anchored in the prog rock of the 1970s, but with more than enough contemporariness to make them sound like their own band. Their sound is anchored on twin guitars but also awesome Hammond organ as multi-instrumental lead singer Rikard Sjöblom switches readily between guitar and keyboards (which is why I’ve hankered after a Nord Electro 3 keyboard for a while). Their last album, The Void,  was released in 2012 and marked their heaviest sound to date, bordering on progressive metal at times.

Apparently the new album is all about addressing the inner self.


Sylosis – Dormant Heart – 12th January 2015

Two great albums on the same day … what am I going to do!? I’ve posted about my love of Sylosis before. Definitely at the other extreme of the progressive spectrum, Sylosis are progressive thrash metal, and I’m totally open about my fanboi adoration of Josh Middleton’s guitar playing. Their last album Monolith was released back in 2012. Apparently this new one is their “most pissed off album” lyrically, and so definitely something to scare the neighbours with when I’m out washing the cars! It’s also the first album with their new drummer, Ali Richardson, who’s sharing his time between Sylosis and his other awesome deathcore/metalcore band Bleed from Within.


Steven Wilson – Hand. Cannot. Erase. – 2nd March 2015

I absolutely adored Steven Wilson’s previous album The Raven That Refused to Sing (And Other Stories) from 2013 and, if you need a very special endorsement of something I listen to, Mrs ® Andy liked it too! Steven Wilson has his hands in lots of things across the progressive spectrum, including his solo albums, various collaborations, and also production including most of Opeth’s recent albums. Also of course there is/was his band Porcupine Tree, currently on hiatus. I’d characterise his solo albums as the best of contemporary prog rock though, whilst he composes all the music, practically his well established band make a clear creative stamp through their performances too. Just like The Raven That Refused to Sing, this new album is firmly anchored on a particular concept – in this instance the idea/reality that some people can disappear but be literally missed by no one!

 

Spires – The Whisperer


If you want to you can shortcut reading the rest of this rambling post, and simply take it from me that The Whisperer from Spires is the most beautiful and overall amazing progressive metal album you’re going to hear this year!! Epic is an oft overused word these days, but not by me, and this truly is an epic album! Simply spend £6+ for the digital download and have your ears (and possibly your musical horizons) expanded.

If you’re still reading, I will openly admit that I’m a huge Spires fan, so clearly any claimed objectivity is underpinned by huge subjectivity. I discovered them by way of my friend @LennyLaw, who’d heard a track from their debut album played on Radio 6 and said I’d probably like them given my love of Opeth and similar bands. He wasn’t wrong and, whilst clearly I’m not going to attempt to diminish Opeth’s global mega-metal-stardom, I love Spires even more since, put simply, they’re even better!

I think it’s fair to say that the fundamental anchor point of Spires is progressive death metal, in as much as they at times use growled lyrics and blast beats, but they self-declare as simply progressive metal. What is important is that this is music with huge dynamic range, and that’s what’s always key to me. No standard song structures here! Quiet to loud; slow to fast; growled to clean lyrics; brutally heavy to light and dainty; multiple achingly beautiful complex solos; and all in the one song. This is the sort of stuff that’s only possible with talented musicians at the top of the technical scale, and Spires are that!

I played their debut album, Spiral of Ascension, to death and if only the CD player in the Vee could scrobble you’d see the impact of me listening to the same album on repeat for about 6 months whenever I was driving. Amongst that album probably Broken Hourglass got the most plays, with its guitar solo at the end being enough to make me feel like giving up pretending I can play guitar!

A while later they brought out a great acoustic EP, Lucid Abstractions, that broadened their sound and that I naturally bought, along with a band T-shirt which is pretty rare for me! I’d worn that T-shirt to various other bands’ gigs, but didn’t think it likely I’d get to wear it to a Spires gig since they’re Manchester based and most of their mini-tours haven’t made it down to the south coast. However, I felt very lucky when they announced they were playing The Face Bar in Reading in September 2013, and so of course I was there along with son#1. It was a great night of music from various bands including Mark Their Silence and Collibus, naturally finished off with an awesome set from Spires! Great kebab afterwards too!

Between then and now, there’s been a bit of change in the band. Sadly just as they began to record their second full album, original guitarist Paul Cuthbert decided to leave the band, courtesy of a move down south and to concentrate more on family life. That Paul (since the vocalist, guitarist, producer and band founder is Paul Sadler) was replaced ably by a new recruit, Richard Corrie. Also, as is the vogue currently, to help finish off the new album there was a Kickstarter campaign run by the band to support mastering and pressing. I enjoy funding things on Kickstarter anyhow, but clearly this was a no brainer for me … “Limited edition 6 panel digipak first issue of the album, including exclusive artwork, and 6 page lyric booklet. SIGNED BY THE BAND (!), Plus T-shirt featuring the album artwork.” = sorted!

The Whisperer was released on Monday 10th November, and I was itching to get my hands on it!

As is the aim with sophomore albums, Spires have moved onwards and upward. The songs are bigger and the instrumentation broader and bolder. The Whisperer builds from Spiral of Ascension, but also Lucid Abstractions with strings and piano and some female vocals. It’s got a beautiful melancholy about it, and regularly has me eyes-closed in awe of how moving it is (to me). The seven tracks vary between 2 minutes 43 seconds and a whopping 20 minutes 57 seconds. This is adult music!

I’m not going to go through each track, but here’s a bit of a feel of things. The opener, Ethereal Organisms, starts with beautiful deep cello before being joined by acoustic guitar and then violin with a mournful eastern European vibe, and then we’re off, building into an increasingly heavy track of the sort you might expect from a progressive metal band. Then at halfway you’re suddenly into complex clean interweaving guitar lines underpinned by great bass lines and subtle drums, the strings return, and then just like that we’re back into the world of heavy again! Track 3, Surrogate, is gorgeous classical guitar which builds to when the strings come in to wind around that guitar with more European sadness. Straight off the back of that, the awesome Primal Revelation opens with a scream of feedback, double bass drum pedals pounding away and a growl of lyrics, then around 2 and half minutes in it’s like the “stoner metal” pedal has been hit, everything slows down to a wonderful bending crawl before a simply gorgeous whammy-bend-ladened solo leads into a dainty minute of calm. Then we’re off again into left and right and left again screaming metal solos, finishing with a rising growl! Track 6, Elsewhere, wouldn’t be out of place on a 70s’ prog rock record from somebody like Gentle Giant! Building from vocal harmonies, you get intertwined acoustic guitar parts, then piano, then the strings build, the vocals harmonies return, ending in a fade out to lapping water. And finally to my second use of E-word in this post – the title track The Whisperer. Take all the light and shade we’ve seen across the album, and put it into almost 21 minutes of epicness! To add to everything there’s a nice bit of a djent tone in the tail end too with some 7-string guitar layered with bass showing through I reckon. Tracks at this length are a bit difficult to play on repeat, but I’ve found myself doing just that!

And there you have it! My first ever “serious” album review. Hopefully other similarly rave reviews will follow from reviewers who actually matter, and I’ll naturally be looking out for others’ opinions, but ultimately I don’t care! I absolutely love this album! The only sad thing to report is that the mini-tour that Spires are supporting the release with doesn’t get any further south than Brum!

Illuminati – The Core

In lieu of the various posts I’ve got in draft about books I’ve finished recently and importantly my visit to the Balfron Tower, here’s a quick music post instead. Another of the Top 50 albums list from Prog Metal Zone, this is a slice of rather awesomely complex progressive jazzy death metal from the band Illuminati from Romania. I knew I was going to love it within about 15 seconds! Just like the other Illuminati of folklore, these guys seem to be very well connected since there are guest contributions from a remarkable list of people from notable progressive metal bands, including members of Atheist, Voivod, Cynic and Pestilence!

Sylosis – Mercy

Sylosis have just released their first new song in a while, Mercy, ahead of their new album which is due out in January. To say I’m excited is an understatement! Take a listen if you like brutal progressive metal very much at the thrash end of the speedo played by a band who are always technically spot on!

Sylosis are actually one of these bands that I happened upon when they supported another band I saw live. That headline act was DevilDriver, and I’m not going to lie – I now rank Sylosis and another of the supports, Bleed from Within, well above DevilDriver in my list of favourite bands. Bleed from Within were below Sylosis on the bill, and then interestingly the drummer from Bleed from Within subbed-in for the drummer in Sylosis owing to his unavailability, with less than 24 hours notice! He nailed the drum part, and has since joined Sylosis officially, whilst also remaining in Bleed from Within too.

Anyhow, this rather boring post is about to get worse, with me going a bit fanboi about the lead singer/guitarist of Sylosis, Josh Middleton. You know the sort … artistically talented in numerous ways! I consider him one of the fastest and most accurate guitarists out there, and his ability to play hugely complex things absolutely perfectly live without even appearing to try is second to none! I did find his recent video about how to play fast cleanly rather frustrating though … basically practice lots very carefully and really focus on cleanness. He’s an artist and illustrator too, doing various bands’ stuff, and that transfers into a clothing business too. Yep … I do have one of his t-shirts! Seems like he’s a clean living vegan, posts cat pictures on Instagram and he always comes across as a nice guy in interviews. Maybe I should hate him in a fit of jealousy whilst I play my guitar crappily!?

Intronaut – all their stuff is awesome but here’s just one favourite

Autumn is upon us! It’s cold, wet and miserable! As part of me spending a bunch of days enjoying Intronaut’s albums, here’s a literal black cloud! Awesome tune and, like many of my favourites, with great dynamic range from really heavy to almost dainty at times, with lovely fretless bass from Joe Lester and Danny Walker’s drums powerfully complex as ever. The bit from 4 minutes is a particular sweet spot for me. Shame it’s in some bonkers B-tuning I’ll never detune even my Viper-1000 down to.

Simbelmynë – Trillium

According to the official website …

Simbelmynë is a musical project inspired by love of ecology and awe of the natural world.

Given that it’s instrumental, I’m not sure if I can detect the ecological inspiration. However, I can detect inspiration from Opeth at the more melodic end of their canon, and that’s never a bad thing! I ended up listening to this free album, which is another thing I’m not going to complain about, by way of the drumming of the awesome Travis Orbin. He drummed on it with his session drummer hat on, and like many of his sessions recorded himself doing so for his YouTube channel.

Anyhow, why not take a listen, though I’d recommend maybe not with your best headphones on unless you get a buzz from background hiss making is sound like it was ultimately mixed down onto a C90 cassette! Apparently it’s been remixed again to improve the clarity, but I still wonder what happened during the production process!?

Dimaeon – The Blood of Millions

Been listening to this one on repeat for a few days, courtesy of the recommendation from the awesome Prog Metal Zone. It’s a debut album which is always daftly frustrating, because it means I’ve not got a back catalogue to now go and enjoy. A superb blend of progressive death and doom metal. It’s heavy but musically complex and clever with it, which is the perfect blend for me.

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