Category Archives: Instrumental

The Very Best Of Progstravaganza 13 – PART II

It’s time for part II of our lengthy journey to review Prog-sphere’s Progstravaganza 13 ! The tracks on this second installment are quite different, and heavier than those found in PART I. If like me, you like your prog heavier, this one’s for you !

Well then, while the first songs in this catalog were, for the most part, kinda light weight as you understand, two real heavy contenders finally enter the stage in the form of space rockers Temple Of The Smoke and sludge\stoner band Pike.

Temple Of The Smoke‘s “Moth Of Time” is a good instrumental piece where quiet and bright psychedelic patterns turn to heavy riffs and vice versa. The band reminds me at certain moments of My Sleeping Karma but are less about hypnotically circular phrasing, instead having a more freeform, unexpected experimental\progressive structure.

Pike‘s “Ned Land” is so doomy and sludgy, a slowly growing storm, angry and despairing, crushing you with a buzz that doesn’t let up. ‘definitely not an easy listen, this is an ambitious, massive song, with interesting vocals, and I would love to hear it re-mixed.

Following numerous cheesy, tedious and puzzling tracks, we stumble upon a real surprise in this catalog – “Requiem Aeternam”, by the band Eyevory. Now, this 10 minutes track isn’t perfect, at first sounding even amateur, and it somewhat is, but you just can’t ignore the crazy endeavour these guys quickly get themselves into. It’s one the most lively, original instrumental sections I’ve heard in a while, commanded by non other than a flute! Eyevory‘s creative sense of melody is just a joy to listen to, free from inhibitions and unafraid, going places and genres you’d never expect. It’ll put a smile on your face.

At 32#, “Dark Symphony” by “Le Reverie” is the total opposite of experimentation, doing the “modern metal” thing by the numbers. The group executes this style very well compared to other similar bands on this tracklist. They have good female vocals, catchy hooks that keep you interested, and a bit of a southern US sound to’em too.

This concludes part II of this series. Stay tuned for part III !

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Queen Elephantine – Scarab

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On “Scarab”, Queen Elephantine commence with quiet precussion, taking their time – moving with patience. Then menacing and dirty, join the bass and guitar, speaking wordlessly of endless despair, while band member Srinivas Reddy gives those a calm yet eerie background ambience using his tanpura(Indian instrument).

In this way the band creates an echo unique to them using only a few instruments. But even more interesting than this reverberating presence is their choice to musically, not “move” much. Instead of reaching for change, they dwell in the shadow they’ve created, looking for something, looking for nothing. Going out of hiding here and there, looking out and seeing reflecting and contrasting elements in the distance. But always returning, remaining in this dark place, in the back of your head, in a place with no light. And embracing what that means. How does that feel? Meditative? dark? sad? Listen below and you’ll have your answer.

The singing on “Veil“, which I almost forgot about since its very sparse, arrives sooner on track two, “Crone“. The praying-like wailing voices plays a role on the album, but the lyrics’ meaning elude me for the most part. One thing can be certain – they carry a certain mournfulness about them as the rest of “Scarab“, sounding like some abstract, associative eulogy. Clocking at 18 minutes, this second piece’s repetitive nature slowly turns from calming to torturous over time, making it very hard not to lose one’s mind – especially with the constantly present buzz of the indian instrument.

Track three, “Snake“, resembles doom metal the most so far in this experimental soundscape. Music-wise it is still unchanging and minimal, so dragging that it feels like time itself is being slowed down. Pretty mental stuff. Looking at the lyrics, these might confirm my guess at the textual concept. Here they are together with my interpretation:

Arms yearning, am I home again (yearning for home – to reach death\god)
Why lie on, won’t you make it out (“make it out” = make the soul exit the body)
And the saints have been here 
But in bliss and not in shame 
Bathed in wine, and not in sand 
Glimmering, glistening, suffering  (describing some kind of a funeral rite)

Simmering, glistening, suffering 
Dirt in my throat  (being buried, covered in earth..)
Drowned in my own (buried near his own – his own people – in a graveyard)
Drawn like a snake  (the dead body being dragged into the grave)
I will swallow it, swallow it (being covered in earth)
I am home again (…)

Scarab” is far, far from being a downright metal record, but is however beyond heavy in the context of its own atmosphere. Plodding, yes, it trudges on endlessly – which some will find tiring, but others might enjoy, and even – ‘not joking – worship, in a sort of cult-following manner. ‘Cause this is some dark art right here. 7/10

You can find the album and purchase it at:
http://queenelephantine.bandcamp.com/album/scarab

Encryptor – All is Continuous

All is Continuous” is the natural continuation of the Djent fad which seems to be going in two directions these days: The original, creative one and the solely technical, I-can-do-it-too attempt by fans of Periphery, who basically write Periphery-worship guitar lines. Sadly, the latter is the case with projects like Encryptor. This album is basically a bunch of okay-ish riffs with some programmed sounds, I don’t even know what else can be said about it. I mean, the guitars aren’t technical than the usual, the mix isn’t impressive, and most noticeable – the musical progression is immature, the band wanting everything, going in all directions, and for that lack of patience not reaching anything substantial really, beyond OCD-inducing experimentation and..breakdowns.

I get the wish to separate Djent and x-“Core” music..but if you want to play a bunch of breakdowns, trying to disguise that as something more sophisticated just won’t work. The only redeeming factor here is the lead\solos on track 5 “Stepping Stones” and 7th track “The Cycle(Stage One)“, where a little feel creeps in on the guitar player. But for the most part, “All is Continuous” is so emotionally sterile it could have been written by a computer.

All this is too bad, especially since the melodic leads on “Stepping Stones” show the band is capable of writing much more intriguing and less one-dimensional music. Maybe they will have a go at that in the future, who knows, I hope they do. But for now, this hyperactive output is really incoherent. I’d give it a pass if it was presented as an amateur project or demo. But the band defines it as a progressive metal album, no less, giving me no choice but to rate it accordingly, no holding back, no giving breaks. Look at the scene around you, Encryptor – the bar is too damn high! I give this one a score of 3/10.

Raz Ben Ari – Augmented Reality

Raz Ben Ari is a guitar player mostly known for his popular 2010 YouTube video, “Ten Genres of Metal in 3 Minutes”. With approximately 2 million views, you can tell the guy has struck a chord(pun intended) with fans of metal music and guitar enthusiasts worldwide. However, today we are not going to talk about the video, but about Raz’s new 2013 instrumental EP, “Augmented Reality”.

It’s never bad to have a few million people around who already know your name, but that also creates greater expectations regarding this release, I guess. Regardless of those, making a successful album is always hard work, and it’s time to check out what Raz has in store for us!

Augmented Reality” begins with a straightforward and fun opening track titled “Spasm” that is really hard to dislike, showcasing Raz’s melodic heavy metal style and sound. It’s a catchy piece, short and sweet, with a very nice lead guitar tone that reminds me of the Italian Marco Sfogli. Check it out ya’ll:

At number 2# we have the title track slowing things down a bit for an “epic” effect perhaps. It’s a varied track but I actually don’t think it’s the best here, and while you could say next song “Beneath the Skin” is also on the slower side, the latter has a more natural flow to it. It’s chill build-up leads to an excellent climax with tasteful soloing. No nonsense shred here!

Fireworks” begins with a nostalgic synth intro taken straight from old video games, preparing the stage for some highly melodic content. Yes, this one’s a truly riff-tastic lead-fest, and perhaps my favorite on the album. It will definitely remind you of some classic video game tunes, but certainly has its own memorable personality.

Sink or Swim” is a lightweight but rocking instrumental with a real american vibe to it, which can be heard in phrasing of the leads and in those open chords. I bet Joe Satriani would like this piece. The sixth and final song on “Augmented Reality” is “A Night Among The Wolves“. ‘Downright the best song title I’ve seen in a while, “A night..” has it’s guitars backed up by a brilliant piano and generally has quite the Neo-Classical\Prog feel to it, brought to a conclusion with an awesome solo. It’s the most epic, lengthy track here and probably the best on the album together with “Spasm” and “Fireworks“.

All in all, although a short release, “Augmented Reality” is definitely a solid one. To listen to the whole EP head to http://razbenari.bandcamp.com/, and let know what you think. I certainly enjoyed this album and would love to hear more new material from Raz Ben Ari in the future. Long Live Heavy Metal!

8/10

Exist – In Mirrors

For different reasons, it’s been a while since I enjoyed heavy music…but thank god, a group called Exist has recently shown me the way back home with their EP “In Mirrors“, it’s opener track “Writhe” bursting with a jazzy extreme metal attack in Cynic fashion; then we fall, deep deep into a Holdsworthian solo section, the basslines floating beneath the leads with a fretless sound, flowing like the muscles of the flexible creature that is this band. I’m so glad I tweaked the EQ on my system or I would have missed out on those sweet frequencies..

Track 2 “The Pine” starts differently with a more subtle, traditional prog, offering a sublime performance of clean vocals. But just as the aesthetics of Extreme Metal seem all forgotten, Exist bring them back with a dissonant chord and a polyrhythm that confuses the hell outta you(one of those moments progheads go crazy for). From there on the two styles seem to battle it over the soundscape as if in slow-motion, creating a hypnotic pulse from which emanates a sinister doom metal vibe…listen for yourself..

The plodding is left behind with track 3 “So We Are“, throwing us into a storm of riffs filled with groove and epic melodies with a melancholic edge. Harsh and cleans vocals share the same stage here, only to give it up for a second long solo section on the final track “Equilibrium“”, while in the background you can hear the chords of “The Pine” loom like a saddening memory..You’ve got to appreciate the way these guys combine the different elements at their disposal, making some definite changes along the tracklist but keeping those within a meaninful organic flow, so that nothing feels out of place.

This album has tons of instrumental sections, but I think that for a great listening experience, it can be listened to without concious thought, in the background, as atmosphere; An atmosphere that you will find to be perfect and pure, isolating you from the nonsense of the everyday and opening your awareness up like the sight of a clear night’s sky. I love it when you think you are going to be listening to this or that, then find yourself in an upexpected experience that transcends your dull conceptions and definitions..and without definitions, you are left, yes – speechless!

Every note that closes “In Mirrors” convinces me this is the case with this EP. Forget subgenres, this is just a beautiful piece of music!

8.5/10