Circle of Illusion – Jeremia’s Foreshadow of Forgotten Realms

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Jeremia’s Foreshadow of Forgotten Realms” is one hell of a prog rock\metal gem, both its strength and weakness stemming from its theatrical style. It uses motifs that instantly proclaim it a rock opera, like the classic-esque arrangements and the dual operatic vocals, where the two heroes of our story share an unfolding dialogue. The band’s music at first brings to mind bands like DT and Haken, but the great focus on dialogue you hear from beginning to end on this album sets Circle of Illusion apart from other modern prog acts.

Beside the obviously needed and well-placed instrumental breaks, the music seems to be always following the lyrics – by either preparing for them, accentuating words to convey what feelings are being expressed, or complimenting them in the next arriving melody; As I said, a rock opera. Personally, I found following the lyrics was a bit tiring, Maybe since it’s not a very straight-forward story and the lyrics are way too vague at times. So if I were to recommend this album to a friend, I’d ditch the story part and emphasize the great, great musicianship featured in this releaseespecially on tracks like “The Beginning“, “The Memory Returns“, or “New Age“.

- We’re talkin’ beautiful, often symphonic arrangements using many classic instruments as well as modern synth pads and metal guitar tones that set the groove just right. Using this wide diversity of sound together with those perfect female vocals by singer Elga Shafran gives the songs an element of surprise. It’s such a refreshing listen – the most memorable moments for me being probably the Disco sections. Not kidding, there are a few Sections of proggy disco parts and they work really well, reminding you immediately of ABBA with their infectious phrases and hooks. Have a listen below:

As you can hear, the band fuses together many genres – and travels through many moods, doing so in such a charming way it feels very organic, never forced. The only flaw this album has in my opinion, is that by deciding to stick to the theatrical, it is bound to be somewhat formulaic. Don’t get me wrong – there is a lot of creative freedom here. The guys are exceptional musicians, among the best you’ll find in prog really. I’m merely suggesting that the band’s (obviously conscious) intention was clearly the creation of a rock opera, and they do not deviate from that idea, for good or bad. (Mostly for good, but if you know me – I just gotta have a bit of chaos and destruction in my playlist!).

Putting my tendency for critique aside though, I’d take this record over the countless power-prog copycats out there any day. Forget’em! Circle of Illusion offers you a whole different wonderful thing, an album with so much thought and effort put into it it’s impressive, and if you’re a fan of progressive music, this record of theirs should be in your collection, no doubt about it! Don’t miss out and give it a listen on their Bandcamp page!

9/10

7 H.Target – 0.00 Apocalypse

This is a guest post written by reviewer Akerfeldt_Fanboi, and is re-blogged from http://www.metal-archives.com/.

7 H. Target‘s 2012 full-length Fast-Slow Demolition was a refreshing breeze in the stagnate climate of slamming brutal death metal. Each track was an overwhelming chaos of modern Malignancy mixed with a healthy dose of groove and later drenched in Japanese body-horror references, leaving a disgusting record that backed up its slam with proper death metal.
0.00 Apocalypse 
,while still having an equally nonsensical title, pushes the band away from the sampling and body-horror from the debut into a hellish cyber post-apocalypse that seems to move with a thematic continuity between the records.

Likewise, the music evolves. The maelstrom of riffs and breakdowns are dismembered, cauterized, and sewn back together with mechanical precision here – though not to say the debut was incredibly sloppy or amateurish by any degree. Here, however, the performance is nearly robotic in its precision and power. Even with their technical prowess, one of the most impressive aspects of the band was that they reserved their slower moments and slams for special occasions, leaving them for the most climactic points of their career (i.e. “Hara-Kiri Torture Mechanism”) and letting the momentum of that apex propel the rest of the music into a blistering finale. Continuing in that trend, “Technofetishist” represents that same turning point of the album where the nearly nonstop ferocity of the previous tracks grinds to a halt for a grooving junction before turning the dial back up immediately. But this rendition is more intense, less organically disturbing with more imagery of mechanical halls of torture and cybernetic mayhem.

The songs themselves are just that: songs. Unlike many of their peers, this Russian trio writes tunes that have a cohesive feel and flow and stick to your brain for weeks on end and rarely leave without a lasting impression. I know I was desperately trying to play the opening riff of “Meatball Machine Story” for the first few days this album was in my hands. The squeal of harmonics and low-end rumbling all attributes to the inorganic material this album tries to fuse itself with, and in the process the listener is left scarred by the surgeries and attempts at grotesque combinations. These guys know how they want to sound, how pitch-perfect the placement of each groove is, and by God do they execute that idea with a pristine finish.

Every passage strikes the cold, lifeless tone in each slam and half-time before spitting out a stream of brutal death metal. Crunchy, roaring death metal abounds on this album with frequent dips into blasting insanity and endless tremolo that neatly wraps the musical package together into something special. As usual, the drumming of Mikhail is one of the highlights here, with each massive beat of the snare pulling the pieces of each song together into a cohesive whole. The tone of the album is phenomenal, with a clear production that suits the style of the music to the point where it mimics the progression of the band’s lyrical content and concept of a transhumanist future. This, to them, is a vile, detestable future for humanity – or at least the incredible (and sometimes incredibly indecipherable) situations in the songs point to this. For instance “S-94″ is a tale of a wasteland of sex addicts preying on any and all women they come across, even ending in a horrible sampled audio at the end with somber music devolving into noise and ending with sadistic laughter.

With every song the band submits the listener to a barrage of hyper-demented slam with an unforgettable twist of production and song-writing quality. They have a keen eye on their direction, clearly, and somehow pull off this brand of metal without forgoing the structure, composition, and quality of their music. From paper to performance, this album is a definite must-buy for any fanatics of the genre and anyone looking to take the final step to total assimilation.

Suffocation – Effigy of the Forgotten

Effigy of the Forgotten” is such an interesting album to review, maybe since it contains zero elements of the melodic department, instead having this pure, insane focus on rhythm. The guitars chainsaw through every song with a buzzing, conquering speed that almost never stops, while in between, cymbal chokes hammer down on you like large-caliber bullets. While most metal, even in the DM subgenre, usually has a bit of “space” in the mix to resonate within, Suffocation leaves none, holding you cruelly in their claustrophobic chokehold, your mind attacked by their labyrinth-like collection of riffs; and the calculated repetitive nature of this insisting battering on some songs like the title track, quickly grows close to being an overkill; the constant violence rendering its structure partly unimportant, serving just to contain and organize.

The only relief comes from those slower grooves that gave much inspiration for today’s modern BDM\Slam; and there are also a few catchier numbers like “Jesus Wept” and “Reincremation“, with their ultra-memorable main riffs. Many times, the band sounds so immersed in their own created chaos that the listener becomes unsure – where is his place in all this estranging music? But there are also middle-of-the-road options where the guys stick together the catchy and the chaotic very well – like “Seeds of the Suffering” and “Infecting the crypts“. Those are the real classic tracks here, me thinks. Give one of’em a listen and you will either immediately love it – or regret it – depending on your taste in music. As I said, “Effigy…” is not a forgiving listen..

Representing the convoluted nature of this album, the artwork does a good job. The place or world captured in this painting is really terrible, and was probably meant to reflect modern humanity’s demise and self-destruction with a glimpse into a possible, quite ugly future. The lyrics touch on that too if I remember correctly, though lately, I can less and less relate to this bleak perspective on humanity. It’s great as a creative expression of release – from conventions and from lies. Yes, extreme metal is maybe the greatest place and opportunity to unleash the angst and pent-up energy that life instills in you. But I wouldn’t wanna get lost in this dark chaos, and within the genre of DM prefer the less cold and more human perspective on life bands like ATG or (early) In Flames offer.

When speaking solely about rhythm though, of that “brutality” every metal site today likes to measure DM records with, then this here is the birth of it ! And with it Suffocation achieve a classic state, playing an important role in metal history, and inspiring some of my favorite bands to later come up with their own killer records. To sum it up, beyond enjoying the amazing drumming and guitar dexterity of “Effigy..”, this harsh and terrifying delivery of sound is hard to *love* in the deeper sense, but can and should be respected and hailed as the artistic monolith it is. A monolith of Death Metal !

8/10

Persefone – Spiritual Migration

Spiritual Migration” is an album that has rightfully caught many people’s attention with its unique twist; bear with me here: It’s Death Metal about Buddhism. Yeah you’ve read that correctly. we’re talking about a feel-good extreme metal album. Sounds off? But the concept seems to work surpisingly well, thanks to epic arrangements and a seriously powerful vocal delivery; witnessing these “enlightened”-type positive lyrics being combined with growls is one of the refreshing things I’ve heard all year.

Now add to this bold concept an insane technical prowess that many guitar players will envy (I really don’t understand how anyone could play these riffs, let alone memorize them) and you got huge amounts of potential here. It’s a goddamn riff goldmine that’s what it is! All you gotta do is hack away, it’s all gold. Well..theoretically.

The problem is that this really-awesome-in-theory idea quickly falls flat on its face in reality, mainly because the album loses itself in its own complexity. And though there are countless technical acts who’ll bore you to death with their “musical” endeavours, I was especially disappointed this time around because the premise as I described is at first so epic and promising. Why? Why should we be tortured like this? When all we crave is a few catchy riffs, a killer rhythms section and memorable song structures?

I really don’t have an answer. I don’t know why this band decides to go breakdown on me every few minutes. Is that trend never gonna let up? And I don’t know why they complicate everything, disjointing their riffs into a labyrinth of frequencies and puzzling syncopations that no listener could possibly remember. These two issues seem contrasting but they share something being the most obvious, biggest traps bands can fall into, composition-wise. No matter how good the album’s concept is (and it is very good), the aforementioned frantic composition style quickly becomes obnoxious to my ears.

To offer an example demonstrating a possible opposite direction, as always when speaking about melodeth we can use At The Gates‘ “Slaughter of The Soul“, with its memorable but intelligent melodic guitar-playing, its uber-solid rhythm section and furious vocalist. Of course this is not a review of ATG and I am not saying all bands should take their path, I only imply that metal music is better off being to-the point and should not obsess over the hyper-technical on such a ..stupefying level !

Still, if you are by chance a tech-freak or devour djents for breakfast every day(that is a good idea for a new cereal isn’t it ?), “Spiritual Migration” just might be up your alley. However, if you happen to listen to this band in an actual alley, please choose the street furthest from this oldschool headbanger right here.

6\10 

Exivious – Liminal

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If you enjoy Cynic‘s beautiful & mind-boggling music, the instrumental work of Exivious just might be for you. With two of the band’s ex-guitarists playing in the group on their new album “Liminal“, you are guaranteed to get the exact sort of jazz\fusion wild melodic leads that you’ve come to expect, and more.

Although the obligatory reference to Cynic, do bear in mind that this is no death metal territory. To the contrary; Exivious are all about creating spacious, otherworldly soundscapes whose energy is never that of anger, the band continuously traveling through energetic momentums that carry them in a very organic manner through human emotions, unviolently.

I think this very “un-violence” matter is the key to interpreting the abstract listening experience you get on “Liminal“. While the chords and lead guitar are often distorted with high gain as with most rock\metal, it can be confusing to see phrasing and scales which are very “natural” in meaning, I. E expressing human emotion but not falling into emotional traps, not treating emotions as absolute truth. More bluntly put, the music might for example, trigger melancholic feelings in a certain person, but by itself, does not sound melancholic at all. How odd, right? and how interesting.

Even without going into any such philosophical depths at all, though, I think you’ll find this album to be a calming, enriching experience that will remind you what music can be. Each time I listen to groups like Cynic, Exist or Exivious, it makes a lot of what we call “the music scene” suddenly look pale in comparison, and even a bit obsolete. I don’t think it’s obsolete, I’m just glad groups like Exivious are here to give us such bright contrast and color, and must say these are hard to take your eyes off of (well, more like ears). A good release, no doubt about it. 8/10

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