Zenith ($3 Special)

""It has happened to me twice here in 2009. You stumble upon a band that you have never heard of which totally blows you away. The first time was with the band Anima Mundi out of Cuba. Now, it has happened a second time.

From Germany comes the band AtmOsfear with their third release called Zenith. After hearing this one, I am now they have me on a mad search for their past two discs. I cannot believe that they have been ignored by the prog metal world if the past music is as good as this album. Any fan of groups such as Dream Theater, Symphony X or Evergrey whom they have shared a stage with, are in for a treat that is the equal of any of these bands.

The disc kind of lulls you in with the short instrumental intro titled "Beginnings". Aptly titled as this is only the start of what is about to fill your senses. The five remaining songs fill the remaining 70 minutes of music and it culminates in the almost 30 minute epic "Spiral Of Pain". Along the way you are treated to a group of five musicians that can hold their own with anyone you would like to name. Stephan Kruse on keyboards, vocalist Oliver Wulff, bassist Burkhart Heberle along with drummer Tim Schnabel and guitarist Boris Stepanow form one of the most dynamic group of musicians ever assembled. They seem to draw off each other and interweave their individual talents into one of the best musical offerings of 2009 or any year for that matter.

When music has the power to make you stop what you are doing and listen then you know you have something special. As the very metal opening to "Loss Of Hope" hit me I perked up the ears. When the vocals started, I knew this was no run of the mill offering. Then as the band swelled to their full magnitude, I was completely absorbed. Who are these guys? It is still amazing that music of this caliber can fly under the radar for this long. All you have to do is listen to the exchange between the keyboards and guitars during the extended instrumental section of this song and you will become a fan without a doubt. These guys are the real deal.

I have been trying to think of what I can tell you are the highlights of this disc. Well it could be the terrific instrumental piece "Reawakening" with its powerful piano that sets a mood that the guitar plays off of so well, or it may be the enthralling "Generations" which is a roller coaster ride of sound. Then there is the edgy "Scum Of Society" which shows that they are as powerful lyrically as they are musically. Of course all this is setting you up for the epic "Spiral Of Pain" where they take you on a 30 minute quest for musical perfection. They leave nothing on the table as this vast work captures all that we prog metal lovers dream of. Intoxicating from beginning to end this is a classic piece of art. Where Michelangelo used many different mediums to project his art, AtmOsfear similarly uses many different musical approaches to convey their message, melancholy when called for, melodic where needed, brooding and harsh as the story calls for and totally mesmerizing throughout.

This is a must have disc. For anyone who has a love of great music this is one that needs to be given a chance. You will not be disappointed." - Sea Of Tranquility

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  • The revitalized Kayak continue on with a grandiose 2 CD rock opera written by Ton Scherpenzeel. If you liked the larger-than-life direction they took with Merlin then Nostradamus will blow you out of the water. This is epic symphonic rock in the vein of Ayreon's "Electric Castle" and Glass Hammer's "Lex Rex" with various singers portraying the roles of the different characters in the story of Nostradamus. Includes a 24 page booklet detailing the story and lyrics. Highly recommended to the symphonically inclined.
    $21.00
  • "Following their independent leap from the music industry in 1980, the band's audience continued to grow with the release of 'Something Wicked This Way Comes' which far outsold it's predecessors. For the first time in Enid history some of the tracks are vocal lead, producing anthems still chanted by fans today."
    $16.00
  • "It seems these days that metal musicians collaborate with players from other bands quite a bit. Personally, I have mixed feelings when these collaborations happen. Sure, they can make some great music, but for some reason I tend to prefer what said players do with their main bands as opposed to their cross–band work. OSI is an exception to that.Started in 2002 by Fates Warning Guitarist Jim Matheos and former Dream Theater keyboardist Kevin Moore, OSI has remained a long–distance cooperative between the two. Several guest musicians have been brought in for each of their records, such as drummers Mike Portnoy and Gavin Harrison, bassists Sean Malone and Joey Vera, and vocalists Tim Bowness and Mikael Åkerfeldt. This most recent effort, their fourth, sees Gavin Harrison (Porcupine Tree) returning on drums, with Moore taking care of lyrics and main vocals. Matheos and Moore worked together on all other aspects of the music.As I said earlier, I typically listen to these kinds of albums once or twice and then return to their normal band’s material. But Fire Make Thunder isn’t an album to do that to; sure, it sounds very much like what you’d imagine this trio would create, but all three players are known for creating some great music on their own. And here, put together, they don’t disappoint.The opening track “Cold Call” and the follow–up “Guards” have a sort of sinister tone to it, but aren’t very aggressive tracks. “Indian Curse” is completely void of drums and percussion of any sort, and sounds rather bleak. It’s a good song, but don’t listen to it on a dark, rainy day in March. “Enemy Prayer” is much more metallic than its predecessors on the album, sounding a bit closer to what these two wrote in their main projects. It’s also an instrumental track, a key component of a prog metal record. “Big Chief II” continues the picked up the tempo a bit, and the guitars sound a bit angrier. But the vocals don’t really get that intense, lending a sense of control to the turmoil. “Invisible Men” clocks in at just under ten minutes long, so these two haven’t lost their touch when it comes to lengthy songs either.Thinking of something to compare this album to was difficult at first, but then it hit me. This album is like a horror movie that uses menace to scare, playing on the viewer’s mind, rather than excessive gore or monsters leaping suddenly out of nowhere. Granted, this music isn’t scary, but one can’t help but notice its dark tone. The ambience it captures is one of many things that make this album great. The album artwork is another–I like how the cover kind of reflects the primitive nature of the title, Fire Make Thunder.If the only kind of Prog Metal you’re into is twenty–minute songs with six trillion notes in them, this album won’t interest you in the slightest. None of these songs get even close to becoming exercises in technical wizardry. They are simply well written songs. Each one sounds unique enough that they don’t blend together. They’re short enough to keep just about any listener’s attention for the entire songs’ duration, and there’s enough creativity in each one to ensure that. Moore and Matheos have proved they can write material as well as any prog legend, without having to play more notes than God. This is an album both novices and prog experts will enjoy. Good job, OSI." - Muzikreviews.com
    $11.00
  • "It took almost 20 years for German power metal masters IRON SAVIOR to release a live DVD/CD. The band, founded in 1996 by Piet Sielck, Kai Hansen (Gamma Ray) and Thomen Stauch (ex-Blind Guardian), has unleashed eight studio albums since then and has just recently issued a reworked version (remixed, remastered, partly re-recorded) of their Megatropolis album, titled 'Megatropolis 2.0'. Now with their first ever DVD, IRON SAVIOR will satisfy their fans again completely: 'Live At The Final Frontier' includes the band's recent hometown concert (Hamburg, Germany January 2015) on DVD and 2CDs (as package in digipack format). Additional bonus (video) material (backstage/concert) rounds off this extensive package, which is a must-have for all IRON SAVIOR fans!"
    $19.00
  • Note this is not a 2 on 1.  Its a 15 track compilation of the albums Balls To The Wall and Restless & Wild.
    $5.00
  • "Italian power metal band Holy Knights have managed to let ten years elapse between releases. This is not often the best business model- just ask Axl. The band currently consists of Simone Campione (Nexus/Thy Majestie/Ex-Irencors): Guitars, Bass with Claudio Florio (Crimson Wind/Trinakrius/Ex-Synthesys): Drums and Dario Di Matteo: Keyboards/Vocals and they have produced an easy-to-review-for-the-lazy album. Why is it easy? That would be because it would be simple to say something along the lines of, "If you like (insert Euro power metal band such as Rhapsody)...then you'll like Between Daylight and Pain.In the main this is a generally accurate comparison as Holy Knights bombard the listener with a massive wall of sound including fairground/carnival type music on "Frozen Paradise". They are not quite as over the top as some of their contemporaries and when they rein it in they are like Royal Hunt which is a good thing. Yes it is somewhat of a cheesefest but it reveals a joie de vivre lacking in so much modern music and that makes this reviewer happy." - Sea Of Tranquility
    $14.00
  • "…And now for something completely different. This is a record I've been waiting two entire years for- as (Hellride-spawned) lore would have it, this record was devoured by the gluttonous maw of Black Widow Records swiftly following its recording, and has been withheld for flabbergasting reasons till now. Now, I'm not entirely clued in to the politics of Black Widow, but the furor the label has engendered among the underground doom community of late (what with the spurning of Minotauri for refusing to play ball with their “add some flutes and Hammonds to your doom or else!” doctrine) has cast them in a rather dubious light of late. Thank Azathoth and his blind pipers, then, as they have finally deemed it fit to disinter this gloriously graven masterpiece.As many sworn doom droogs will know, this is a band that developed parallel to, and contemporaneous with, the eminent Reverend Bizarre, and features all three members of said luminaries as well as a supporting trio of prodigious musical ability. Aesthetically, however, the two bands share scant similarities- true, there are some passing parallels to RB's more contemplative passages, but whereas Reverend Bizarre quaff deeply from the sarcophagus of Saint Vitus, Cathedral and Witchfinder General, Orne present a uniquely somber, arrestingly emotive take on late ‘60s/early ‘70s British progressive rock. Painting with broad strokes of Meddle and Wish You Were Here Pink Floyd, and tasteful brushes of In The Court Of The Crimson King King Crimson, Spring and Nursery Cryme Genesis, Orne's expansive sonic canvas also exhibits a healthy affinity for vintage Finnish prog, particularly the likes of Tasavellan Presidentti (though they are never as sprightly or upbeat as most TP material), Wigwam and Kalevala. Rest assured, then, that this is not even remotely close to the neo-prog tripe that countrymen Amorphis have been plumbing to nauseatingly poor effect for the last decade.Patrick Walker ushers us into the catacombs of Orne with a suitably ominous sermon, offering a portent to the contents of the record. Fittingly, the entire record has a weightless, dreamlike, yet assertively disciplined feel that lends a ritualistic, yet not austere feel to the proceedings. Instead, the record juxtaposes Bacchanalian Black Widow/Comus whimsy and flightiness with a dolorous melancholy, creating a very interesting dichotomy between orgiastic mischief and grave introspection. This contrast becomes corporeal in the band's exquisitely dynamic compositions- the bewitching “A Beginning” opens with lush clean guitar, mournful, grieving saxophone, sparse percussion and markedly subdued cooing from Albert, who further cements his extraordinary versatility and emotive range. At the 01:40 mark, the song escalates into a swinging, upbeat groove that surely would not be awkward on Reverend Bizarre's more uptempo material. All the hallmarks of said band are here and accounted for- swerving, elegantly expressed and nuanced drumming by Void, propulsive Peter riffing, and cocksure, swaggering Albert vocals. The song continues this dramatic ebb-and-flow to great effect, the transitions proving as fluid and natural as the tasteful musicianship. For all its unabashed idolatry and reverence (the influences would be blatant for anybody who has some background in progressive rock), the instrumentation never feels studied or contrived, and the organic feel of the album truly distinguishes this troupe from other similar minded artists (many of which share the same label).Another merit that becomes apparent once one begins to peruse the accompanying booklet is the expansive breadth of Orne's vision- one must digest the contents of this record with its visual supplement, as the soporific, halcyon images conjured in the lyrics, as well as the images contained within the booklet (one of which is a brilliant still from Mario Bava's greatest movie, The Whip & The Body), collectively form the whole of the Orne experience. One cannot help but feel as though Lord Dunsany has as much of an overarching influence on this recording as the aforementioned prog giants- “Island Of Joy” has the same meandering, sprawling, bittersweet feeling of drifting on Dunsany's River Yann, or embarking upon a nautical expedition on Lovecraft's phantasmal White Ship, though the surging, stormy denouement (an unresolved climactic torrent of frantic flutes and tumbling percussion) suggests that the journey is perhaps not fated to be pleasant, and the affectionate warmth of the song is savagely undercut- shipwrecked on Ashton Smith's Isle of the Torturers, maybe? Truly spellbinding stuff, this.“Frontline Dreams”, again, has a distinctly Dunsanian/Lovecraft ‘Dream-cycle' feel, juxtaposing the romance of imagination with the harsh ennui of crude reality, the band dispelling doe-eyed, wistful Pink Floyd atmospherics at the 5:08 mark with a deeply reverent bow to Black Sabbath's “Black Sabbath”, as Albert projects an affectionately Ozzy melody atop fierce gushes of Iommi-esque riffing and white-knuckled drumming. “Opening By Watchtower” pricks a vein bled by vintage Foxtrot Genesis and Peter Hammill, while GORGEOUS album-closer (though maybe a bit incongruous with the vision of the rest of the record) “Lighthouse” reveals a proclivity for English prog's more bucolic propositions- Affinity is the most obvious parallel here (particularly on the hook, TOTAL Affinity, and it is a bit weird to hear Albert's voice on this instead of Linda Hoyle's!), though one could also point out Curved Air, Saturnalia, Mellow Candle and the like.Now, I know this review doesn't exactly relate to the bulk of the material reviewed on here, but cognizant of the fact that progressive rock and heavy metal have nurtured amicable ties over the years, and the probability that many of you have enlisted yourself to the Reverend Bizarre cause over the years, I thought this record might interest some of you. Rest assured that if you nurture a penchant for brooding fantasy/early weird fiction and an appreciation for the vintage, characteristically mercurial English prog sound, championed by everyone from Procol Harum and the Moody Blues to Arcadium and T2, you will find much to adore here. A most satisfying, indulgent feast for all dark prog gourmands…will we have another hearty platter anytime soon, Peter?"- diabolicalconquest.com
    $16.00
  • "The old cliché “you can’t go forward by moving back” might be true in the sense that without new music we wither and die, but this doesn’t necessarily mean that we need every single album to be a stylistic revolution onto itself, lest we find ourselves with no genre or categories within it left to speak of. The truth is that when it comes to rehashing a format that works, the devil is always in the details, and an approach to crafting newer material that is attentive to nuance is an excellent way to bridge the gap between consistency and novelty. Insofar as Firewind goes, the name of the game is consistency, and the particulars go to the charismatic and virtuosic persona of Gus G and his uncanny ability to turn a few signature riffs into a celebration of neck wrecking goodness that can also be sung along to.“Allegiance” is a new beginning for Gus, as he has parted company with his entire musical past with 3 other highly respected projects, and has completely revamped the lineup of this, his now solitary project (at least until he began hanging with the Ozzman). However, this new start is really a reassertion of what his music had been about since he began putting out label supported material under the Firewind name, a sleek yet simplistic approach to heavy, powerful metal that doesn’t skip up on the former while putting a lot of the latter into every single memorable melody. It is a format where guitars and drums rule the arrangement, where the vocals are raucous and husky (exuding a bit more depth and masculinity than a lot of other bands in this genre), and the keyboards are present yet mostly playing support. In other words, this is the same overall sound that typified the first 2 albums under this moniker.In many respects, this album could be seen as a reminiscence of the catchy mid to late 80s heavy metal that grew out of the NWOBHM, combined with a slight helping of the German love of speed and mayhem here and there. A single listen to mid paced grooving monsters like “Deliverance” and “Where Do We Go From Here?” will reveal a band that definitely knows how to kick forth the spirit of Saxon and Judas Priest through the medium of a thunderous modern production. Simultaneously, the riff happy cruiser “Ready To Strike” takes a few tricks out of the Dio playbook (think the first two albums with Vivian Campbell with all the rapid power chords and guitar screams), while the flashing “Dream Chaser” seeks to escape the speed of sound while ushering a beautiful combination of George Lynch style guitar shredding and Grave Digger oriented riffing.There are, naturally, a couple of areas where the band flirts a little too closely with genre straddling, likely for the purposes of scoring a few radio hits. The particular point where this really becomes blatant is the obvious single cut “Breaking The Silence”, which is an earlier attempt at what was successfully done by Primal Fear when they brought in Simone Simons for a guest slot alongside Ralf Scheepers. Unfortunately, the singer brought in here sounds too much like a goofy R&B singer, albeit with a different accent, and the whole thing gets stylistically muddled. It doesn’t quite hit the low of inviting Christina Aguilera to do a guest slot on a metal album, but it definitely goes in that direction. “The Essence” is also a weak link, though not nearly as much of one, and comes off as extremely forced during those obligatory acoustic sections typical of Gus’ various half ballads.While this is just a little behind the impressive brilliance of Firewind’s previous work, this is definitely a fun and entertaining album that will have its audience singing along the second time through. It is easy music to like, and has very little that can be described as either adventurous or otherwise ambiguous. This is metal at its most predictable, but done in such a way that it isn’t grating nor stale. Vocalist Apollo Papathanasio isn’t quite the gravely bellower that Stephen Fredrick is, but he is probably the closest thing that Gus’ could find, and definitely gets close to recapturing that same massive vocal sound that is needed to match the massive production going on behind it. But as always, the real treats are found in the guitar playing, and everything else is along for the ride, and in this rudimentary approach to metal, that is way it should be." - Metal Archives
    $5.00
  • "When people think of Melodic Power Metal from Finland, obviously two of the biggest acts that come to mind are STRATOVARIUS and SONATA ARCTICA. ASTRALION are another quintet pumping out that addictive, uplifting Euro Power Metal sound on their debut, self-titled album. Forming in 2011 and containing two ex-OLYMPOS MONS members in vocalist Ian Highhill and bassist Dr. K. Lundell, they also have two musicians from the Thrash band THE ADDICATION in their ranks with drummer Arnold Hackman and guitarist Hank Newman. Keyboardist Thomas Henry rounds out the lineup, so the experience in terms of players and musicianship makes this 11 song record much easier to ingest than the average ‘newer’ act attempting to breakthrough on this very active scene.The foundation of ASTRALION’s style cements itself in the early to mid-90’s Power Metal movement: chord structures that have a touch of that mead hall/ cultural thematic feel, as well as those larger than life choruses that BLIND GUARDIAN, GAMMA RAY, and HELLOWEEN made a staple of their sound. The keyboards certainly have that Finnish meets FREEDOM CALL happy tone – the opening strains of “At the Edge of the World” reminding me at times of “Hunting High and Low” from STRATOVARIUS. Of course you’ll get the prototypical speed numbers featuring guitar/keyboard synchronized arpeggio-like runs as the double bass cruises and the vocals hit ultimate bird call highs – “When Death Comes Knocking” and “Five Fallen Angels” textbook Power Metal 101 arrangements that should go down a storm.Beyond the mid-tempo ‘ode to what we love about the genre at hand number “We All Made Metal;” I also enjoyed the theatrical/ semi-Symphonic nature of the dramatic “Computerized Love” as well as the 13 minute epic closer “Last Man on Deck” that opens in ballad form before picking up the Neo-Classical pace and giving Hank and Thomas ample solo break / ‘can you top this’ moments. Ian may not tickle all the right notes vocally at times, but his passion and personality makes up for any small deficiencies. I come away every time singing the chorus to “Mysterious & Victorious”, and isn’t that half the battle in winning over consumers in this style?ASTRALION are off to a high quality start, so those who miss the 1990’s style of Power Metal would be wise to scoop this up." - Metal Temple
    $15.00
  • Domestic pressing of the second album from this superb Polish prog band. While their first album tended to veer more towards the metal side, Metafiction is a bit lighter - but only in overall sound, not thematically. There are plenty of heavy moments but lets call it heavy progressive rock as opposed to metal. Whereas Riverside initially drew heavily from bands like Porcupine Tree, Opeth, and Anathema they ultimately found their own voice. Votum find themselves at the same crossroads. These bands are all similar influences emphasizing atmosphere and mood. Melancholy prevails - this is not an upbeat sounding album. The heavy parts may seem heavier because the quiet parts...are well...they are quieter! This adds to the dynamics of the album and overall it draws you right in to an inxoticating dreamscape. Easily one of 2009's best albums. Lets hope with a US release they are able to find an audience here. Highest recommendation.
    $13.00
  • Fourth album from this outstanding jazz metal band from Hungary getting outside exposure with their signing to IQ's Giant Electric Pea label.  Special Providence started out their career as a pure fusion band - not unlike Tribal Tech and Return To Forever.  With their third album, Soul Alert, the band injected a heavier metal presence primarily in the guitarwork.  Essence Of Change carries on from Soul Alert in terms of heaviness and the use of distortion but at the same time there is clearly more of a jazz/fusion emphasis in the writing.  This gives us a nicely balanced sound that has a lot of cross over appeal.  Liquid Tension Experiment and Morglbl fans will love this and I expect open minded fans of RTF and Mahavishnu will enjoy hearing the young kats update the sound they developed in the 70s.  Expect a non-stop assault of laser beam synth solos and blistering distortion laced guitar solos.  Yeah this one hits the sweet spot and after many future spins I suspect this will sit at the top of their already impressive discography.  BUY OR DIE!!
    $15.00
  • Danish guitarist Erik Ravn unites with vocalist Kristian Andrn (Tad Morose, Memento Mori) to creat a conceptual tour-de-force of symphonic speed metal infused with folk and classical elements. Fans of Rhapsody, Angra, and Blind Guardian will not want to miss out on this epic musical adventure!
    $13.00
  • Third collaboration from Steven Wilson and Aviv Geffen. Mr. Geffen wrote all of the material except for one track. Musically speaking its a very different animal than Porcupine Tree. Its much more laid back with a heavy emphasis on orchestration. I'm reminded a bit of later Pink Floyd and also Roger Water's solo works. Not a lot of pyrotechnics and really not much in the way of heaviness. Its almost as if Mr. Wilson has taken a supporting role as opposed to equal stature to Mr. Geffen. If you are looking for Porcupine Tree's quasi psychedelic metal look elsewhere. Blackfield presents you with (well recorded) art rock that targets your emotions rather than your thought process.
    $20.00
  • ""It is a rare thing these days for a post-metal band to break the mold. So many bands play sludgy, lurching, epic metal that it can be hard to tell what band is trying to sound like Isis this time. This brings me to the breath of fresh air that is Secrets of the Sky.The Oakland based sextet takes what is a great but tired genre and adds a dash of black metal and a bit of prog. Imagine if you tossed Neurosis, more recent Immortal, and Porcupine Tree into a blender. Sounds like a fucked up mix, right? It's an awesome fucked up mix though.The Sail Black Waters consists of 4 tracks that are rooted in sludge, that manage to take twists and turns throughout it's all-too-short forty-one minute run-time. There are moments of dreamy soundscapes, harmonized clean vocals, and crescendos aplenty.A band they bring to mind is the Australian black-metal-with-a-violin band Ne Obliviscaris. They don't necessarily sound alike, especially because Secrets of the Skysimple aren't playing as fast, but their progressions are quite similar. Also, Secrets happen to employ a violin as one of the several talents of vocalist Garett Gazay. Their use of it is much more subtle than Ne Obliviscaris to the point where it becomes a game listening for it.In short, a phenomenal debut." - Metal Injection
    $14.00