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Japanese SHM-CD in a mini-lp sleeve.

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Japanese SHM-CD in a mini-lp sleeve.

$16.00
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Japanese SHM-CD in a mini-lp sleeve.

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Japanese SHM-CD mini-lp sleeve.

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"E-Force was formed in Montreal, Canada in 2001 by vocalist/bassist, Eric Forrest, upon his departure from the legendary Canadian cyber metallers Voivod. In all Eric appeared on two studio masterpieces, Negatron and Phobos; on the live album, Voivod Lives, and on the compilation: Kronik.

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"Live albums are a tricky business and for some bands they work perfectly for, Metallica and Iron Maiden in particular have about a million live releases between them. Then there are bands that they don’t really work for.

$7.00
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"When the 'Big Four,' Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth and Anthrax shared a stage together on June 22nd, 2010, in Sofia, Bulgaria, it was the moment their fans had waited decades for.

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"The year 2013 has proven to be a very, very busy one for Metallica.

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"Though Megadeth and their founder Dave Mustaine have spent their entire existence just a few steps behind Mustaine's former group Metallica, it's important to remember that they've also spent a lot of time as one of the most popular metal bands in the world.

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"fter having a very positive experience with Mekong Delta on their fifth album, Kaleidoscope, I have decided to increase the ammount of albums by them that I own, acquiring at one time Dances of Death, Vision Fugitives, Lurking Fear and Wanderer at the Edge of Time and I must say that, with the

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  • We have a special offer Tiles "Pretending2Run" t-shirt/2 CD bundle.  The shirt design is courtesy of the illustrious Hugh Syme.  The new Tiles album is a 2CD set in a digipak with a 28 page book.After an eight year absence, T I L E S returns with a vengeance by delivering the mesmerizing 2-CD magnum opus “Pretending to Run.”  Clocking in at over 96-minutes, “Pretending to Run” is an ambitious and richly crafted song cycle spinning the tale of a man blindsided and disillusioned by betrayal.Once again, T I L E S teamed up with producer Terry Brown – and with mastering by Grammy award winning engineer Peter Moore, “Pretending to Run” boasts a powerful and detailed sonic landscape.  Complementing the dramatic and multi-layered storyline is Hugh Syme’s striking and surreal imagery.  Featuring a lush 28-page full-color booklet, the design and packaging for “Pretending to Run” is an elaborate and stunning work of art.Lending their talents to “Pretending to Run” is an extraordinary collection of special guest musicians: Ian Anderson (Jethro Tull), Mike Portnoy (Dream Theater, Winery Dogs), Adam Holzman (Steven Wilson Band), Mike Stern (Miles Davis), Kim Mitchell (Max Webster), Colin Edwin (Porcupine Tree), Kevin Chown (Tarja Turunen, Chad Smith), Max Portnoy (Next to None), Matthew Parmenter (Discipline), Mark Mikel (Pillbugs), Joe Deninzon, and other notable guests from the Detroit area… Destined to be on the radar of Prog fans everywhere, “Pretending to Run” is a distinctive  presentation framed in the grand traditions of progressive rock.  Clearly and unmistakably T I L E S, but infused with a more expansive sound as the guest artists propel the band into new directions sure to please fans old and new.Special guest performances by:Ian Anderson (Jethro Tull)Mike Portnoy (Dream Theater, Winery Dogs)Adam Holzman (Miles Davis, Steven Wilson)Mike Stern (Miles Davis)Kim Mitchell (Max Webster)Colin Edwin (Porcupine Tree)Kevin Chown (Tarja Turunen, Chad Smith)Max Portnoy (Next To None)Matthew Parmenter (Discipline)Mark Mikel (Pillbugs)Joe Deninzon (Stratospheerius)  
    $25.00
  • So here's my personal confession...after Neal left I felt that Spock's Beard lost their way.  Nick is a fine vocalist but there was something quirky about Neal's writing that had a reverential old school quality that I found lacking.  The albums didn't grab me.  Nick left and Ted Leonard took over on vocals.  Whether it was Enchant or Thought Chamber, he's always stood out and he fits Spock's Beard quite well.  The new drummer Jimmy Keegan slipped into the blend with no dificulty.  The result is (to my mind) a resurgence from this band.  Ryo Okumoto always puts on a show - in particular his heavy reliance on Hammond organ reminds me quite a bit of Steve Walsh.  In fact the sound of the whole album has a Kansas vibe. Coincidentally David Ragsdale guests on one track.  I'm not sure I can remember the last time I said this about a Spock's Beard album - Highly recommended."Very few bands are so recognizable that you know who you are listening to within 2 seconds.  That is all it takes at the beginning of the first track on The Oblivion Particle to know you are listening to Spock’s Beard.  There is no slow buildup or keyboard swells, just straight BAMM!, here we go.  And if the opening notes don’t get you, the organ 5 seconds in will.  The band’s 12th studio album, this one the second with singer Ted Leonard and drummer Jimmy Keegan, is a culmination of years of perfecting a sound and identity, one that not even 2 major lineup changes could fracture. With this new album, Spock’s Beard up their game again and show that this lineup is here to stay.If there was a track that defined what Spock’s Beard are, it might be the opening track, “Tides of Time.”  There are certain checklist items that mark their sound and they are all in this track.  The organ, the harmonies, the acoustic breakdown, the rocking middle and the epic ending.  Each member finds their moments to shine on this one and it provides a jaw-dropping sound overload that could leave one satisfied at that moment; only there is another 60 minutes to go.The album zigs and zags through a few more experimental moments, mixing in some surprises with more traditional Prog elements.  The album’s second track and first single is “Minion”, is a perfect example.  The opening a cappella harmonies provide the sort of memorable chorus and harmonies we’ve come to expect from the group.  While, the following distorted keyboard section is also standard Spock’s Beard.  But the verse and middle of the song is much darker and takes us on a surprising journey.The most unique song the album is the brilliantly titled “Bennett Built a Time Machine”, which the album’s cover is based on.  Drummer Jimmy Keegan takes lead on the vocals here and sounds incredible.  His voice actually fits the track better than Leonard’s probably would have.  The song is one of the album highlights and helps keep the record from sounding redundant.  It is almost a pop song most of the way through until turning on the jets and shifting into Prog mode.There are some heavier moments such as “Hell’s Not Enough” and “Get Out While You Can”. “The Center Line”, however, might be the most similar to something you might have found on their group’s previous album “Brief Nocturnes…”  The track opens with an expansive piano recital piece, before turning into a combo Prog-Western bounce with acoustic guitars carrying the groove. Ted’s voice lifts the choruses flawlessly and creates an almost cinematic soundscape.Even with all of these great moments, it is the album’s closing track that is the best song on the album.  “Disappear” might be one of the best songs the band has recorded since Neal left the group.  “We could disappear, you and me, we could be, anyplace else not here” sings Ted in the chorus as he wonders what might be if we left with no one knowing what happened.  The song is really the closest thing to a ballad on the album, but it doesn’t stay that way for long.  2 minutes in, the song stirs into a frenzy just before a brief cameo by Kansas’ David Ragsdale, appearing with his violin.  Of course, the big epic orchestral ending takes us home as Alan Morse provides the finishing touches with his unique finger picking soloing excellence.Spock’s Beard are Prog rock’s most reliable unit.  They have yet to disappoint and always provide comfort to their faithful fans with music that is both inspiring and breathtaking.  And while The Oblivion Particle shows a harder edged Spock’s Beard, it also displays a group that shows no signs of slowing down and is ready to take on all comers." - The Prog Report 
    $12.00
  • Arjen Lucassen's long awaited Ayreon project is a total blast.  Like some of the earlier Ayreon albums, it owes as much to prog rock as it does metal.  All the old school heroes like Emerson, Wakeman, Wetton get to strut their stuff showing a young stud like Rudess a thing or two.  As always Lucassen latches on to some of the best vocalists around and this one is no exception.  Highly recommended.PLEASE NOTE THERE WILL BE A VERY EXPENSIVE IMPORT "ART BOOK" EDITION FORTHCOMING."You know what the metal world needs more of? Musicals. I'm not saying that ironically either. Sure, we have plenty of prog bands putting out concept albums, but cool as these records many be, the story themselves are not the focus of the album. Ayreon mastermind Arjen Anthony Lucassen has resurrected his grandest of all projects to continue showing these folks how to tell an epic story the right way.With 01011001 the Ayreon story came to an end, or so we thought. Arjen instead decided to focus on projects like Star One, Guilt Machine, and his solo album Lost in the New Real. When he revealed not too long ago that he was working on a new project, it wasn't a surprise to discover it was new Ayreon, but I was still plenty excited.Lucassen said of the newest record, "It's not science fiction, but a human story set in a science context." So no aliens or battling emotions or any of that. So, in an attempt to better understand the story, I contacting him for the lyrics and much to my surprise, he sent them to me saying, "Oh yes, you need the lyrics, definitely." Holy hell, was he right. The story is indeed more grounded than previous records, but there are still layers to this beast.Fans of Ayreon should know what to expect here. The Theory of Everything has seven guest singers and each singer plays a part in the story. They are JB (Grand Magus) as the Teacher, Christina Scabbia (Lacuna Coil) as the Mother, Michael Mills (Toehider) as the Father, Tommy Karevik (Kamelot) as the Prodigy, Marco Hietala (Nightwish) as the Rival, John Wetton (Asia/ex-King Crimson) as the Psychiatrist, and Sara Squadrani (Ancient Bards) as the Girl.Of these singers, the most impressive is the relatively unknown Sara Squadrani. She performs on a large portion of the story and shines every time, especially on "Love and Envy". I was also surprised to be so enamored with the performance of Christina Scabbia. She's always had  a wonderful voice, but her performance in this record might be her finest. Her harmonies with Squadrani stand out particularly on "Mirror of Dreams". This isn't to say only the performances by the female singers are worth mentioning. Tommy Karevik's introduction in "The Prodigy's World" is one of the strongest moments on the album.Press_Photo_01Every Ayreon album comes an eclectic group of guest musicians. This round primarily consisted of guest keyboardists. Rick Wakeman (ex-Yes) handles a good portion of the record, while Keith Emerson (Emerson, Lake & Palmer) and Jordan Rudess (Dream Theater) both make excellent solo appearances on "Progressive Waves".Having listened to all of Lucassen's albums at least once, I can say The Theory of Everything is the most musically diverse offering he's had a hand in, perhaps with the exception of his solo record. This isn't as heavy as previous Ayreon titles, but it has its driving moments like "Collision" and the Dream Theather-esque "Frequency Modulation." The aforementioned "Love and Envy" is a slower introspective song, while "Diagnosis" is massive and a little cheesy, but so awesome. "Transformation" has a Middle Eastern feel to it, and  "The Eleventh Dimension" sounds like intergalactic renaissance faire music.Often times there are jumps in mood, genre, etc in the middle of a song. This is fairly typical for an Ayreon release; what isn't typical is that technically this record consists of only four songs. These four songs are each at least twenty-one minutes, but they are cut up into forty-two pieces (yes, that's a Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy reference) .This is a fun record. It's a record that does require a time commitment. I'd say listeners should treat it as a proper musical or film in a theater. Try to experience it all in one sitting for the full effect. It's absolutely worth it." - Metal Injection
    $17.00
  • Prospekt are a British Progressive Metal band influenced by bands such as Dream Theater, Symphony X, Opeth and Circus Maximus, as well as film scores and fusion. Prospekt combine the fierce technicality of progressive metal with the symphonic elements of contemporary prog.From brutal riffs coupled with odd time-signatures, to majestic melodies, the principle of Prospekt’s music is to create an intelligent and atmospheric mix of melodic, modern progressive metal. Incorporating passionate higher ranged vocals, frenetic guitar work, haunting orchestration and solid grooves, every composition remains both interesting and original.The Colourless Sunrise was mixed by  Adam "Nolly" Getgood of Periphery and mastered by Jens Bogren at Fascination Street.
    $13.00
  • WE ARE NOW ACCEPTING PREORDERS FOR THE 2LP SILVER VINYL/CD REISSUE OF HAKEN "VISIONS".  PLEASE NOTE STREET DATE IS SET FOR FEBRUARY 3RD.  PLEASE DO NOT COMBINE PREORDERS WITH YOUR REGULAR ORDER AS IT WILL CAUSE DELAYS IN PROCESSING AND LOTS OF LONG FACES...Ten years since the band first formed, 2017 will see Haken’s first two albums, ‘Aquarius’ & ‘Visions’, reissued through InsideOutMusic after being unavailable for a lengthy period of time. Remastered by the renowned Jens Bogren (Devin Townsend Project, Between The Buried & Me), who worked with the band on their last two studio albums ‘Affinity’ & ‘The Mountain’, this reissue sees the albums brought up to the sonic quality of their most recent output.Originally released back in 2010, the band’s debut album ‘Aquarius’ capitalised on 3 years of work from the band which saw them staking their claim as one of the most exciting new progressive metal bands, playing with the likes of King’s X, Riverside & Bigelf. A 72-minute concept record that touched on themes of global warming, this album has long held a place in their fans’ hearts & the lengthy 17-minute closing track ‘Celestial Elixir’ remains in their set lists now.Arriving just a year on from their debut, ‘Visions’ cemented the bands reputation as one of the most solid progressive metal bands of recent years, bringing them to the US on tour for the very first time in 2011. Another detailed concept album conjured in part from a dream that vocalist Ross Jennings experienced, ‘Visions’ captured the imaginations of both fans and critics alike. Haken have also announced that they will be revisiting the album in full, live at Prog Power USA in September 2017.‘Aquarius’ and ‘Visions’ will be available as a remastered double CDs, each featuring a bonus disc of instrumentals, as well as on heavyweight vinyl for the very first time.HAKEN “Visions”:1 Premonition (00:04:17)2 Nocturnal Conspiracy (00:13:09)3 Insomnia (00:06:03)4 The Mind’s Eye (00:04:04)5 Portals (00:05:27)6 Shapeshifter (00:08:08)7 Deathless (00:08:06)8 Visions (00:22:07)
    $29.00
  • Third album from Sam Vallen and Jim Grey.  Plain and simple another triumph.  The great thing about this band is the way they assimilate different influences and make a cohesive whole.  Vallen's guitarwork touches on djent riffing as well as fluid clean lines and Grey's vocals...well they are spectacular as usual.  You get a little bit of Opeth here and Haken there.  Maybe even a little Dream Theater and Pain Of Salvation.  Naturally if you are a fan of Jim Grey's other band, Arcane, you are going to love this one as well.  Very dynamic and dramatic.  Essential 2015 purchase.  BUY OR DIE!"There are certain albums that require more than just open ears. Sometimes, you need to close your eyes in order to sharpen up your senses, to be able to really consume and obtain the musical message delivered throughout the record. So before pressing the ‘play’ button on Caligula’s Horse newest release, Bloom, pour a glass of your favorite drink, put your headphones on and close your eyes.Consisting of 8 tracks, Bloom delivers something deeper than a compilation of technical riffs; it sets an atmosphere, driven by emotion and by the story line, as the sound and production correlate towards that notion. From the very beginning, with the theme song being the opener of the album, you can see how the band sets the mood for the entire record. Mysterious, dark, heavily Opeth influenced, and yet still having its own characteristics to the story.Right from the beginning of the album, one cannot miss how Opeth deeply affected the band’s music. The vocal ideas and implementation, the guitar sound and the general image that’s created, can immediately drift the listener to many of the Swedish group’s finest works. Nevertheless, I do feel that within these carried elements still lies a large chunk of originality that separates this album from being another Opeth-imitation attempt, which can easily be found on a variety of past-releases of different bands.One impressive thing to notice on this record is vocalist’s Jim Grey. It is easy to fall in love with the color of Grey’s voice, as can be heard on The Tide, The Thief & River’s End (2013), but he did manage to improve a certain and essential vocal ability for this album: I’ve always felt that when hitting the higher notes, he needed to “shout” those notes just a little bit too much, having immediate impact on the tenderness and vibrations of his voice. On this album, it seems that Grey feels much more comfortable on higher scales, and that vocal freedom affects his entire range. Grey has turned it up a notch, becoming not only great a singer, but a great storyteller. His vocal movements are probably the most interesting thing to follow on this album, as it escorts the listener throughout each and every song.Another thing that immediately stands out is the band’s cooperation while putting Grey’s vocals as the leading musical idea of the album. Nothing is over-pressed, and it seems that band took a great care of composing the songs mostly to create an atmosphere, to set the right stage to deliver the story in the best way. It is impressive, since many bands tend to miss this very idea, with every musician trying to overlap the other, which mostly leads to a confusing blend that misses the main idea. This shows great maturity of the band, which helped them carry their music to the next level.Many bands these days try to force their music in to a hidden musical horizon just to be different. What’s so great about Bloom is that the band did not try to reinvent the wheel, but only used the tools they had, mixed just a little bit of everything to create something unique. Every song has that thing that sticks to your head; whether it’s a defying chord, a vocal movement, mesmerizing vocals and at times – some really catchy, groovy guitar riffs. That alone helps the fluency of the record, making it an album, 44-minutes of which you listen to from the top to the bottom, rather than just a collection of different songs.Overall, it’s easy to see how the band feels more comfortable with their work with every passing release. With time, Caligula’s Horse understands what they look for while composing their music, yet something still feels held back. It’s funny, because even I, after countless of times listening to the album, still cannot really put my finger towards what it is that is missing. Perhaps it is something that cannot be described by simple words, but it is that something that turns a 9 into a 10. That something that transforms an album which is great to hear, to a one that really dives into your deeper cells, and stays there. Rest assured: You cannot turn a blind eye in regard of the band’s progress, and you absolutely must give this album a try." - It Djents
    $12.00
  • Guitarist/vocalist Clay Withrow is the heart and soul behind Vangough.  He's made some fine albums in the past but this is clearly his best as you can tell that he's exerting more of his own vision.  The previous albums were fine slices of progressive metal, bu they were clearly influenced heavily by Pain Of Salvation.  While there is some of that early PoS feel, Between The Madness has more of Clay than Daniel.  Its very angst driven music - from the vocals to the grinding guitar solos.  This is one pissed off band.  Its a non-stop prog metal roller coaster ride.  BUY OR DIE!"Over the last two full-length albums leading up to this, the band’s most important release, one thing is strikingly clear: Vangough has been eating their Wheaties. Whereas the last album couldn't find its center of gravity despite merits and high replay value, "Between The Madness" bridges the gap between Vangough's left brain and right brain. Moreover, the band feels much more balanced with the addition of drummer Kyle Haws. Further, it sounds like mastermind Clay Withrow had pushed himself beyond his limits to expand the Vangough tone palate.On the “Acoustic Scars” EP, Withrow developed a vocal technique that finds full maturation on "Between The Madness:” the rage-sing. Almost a yell, but neither a scream nor a simple vocal fry and free of any pitch interference, Withrow's rage-sing makes the lyrical intent as clear as it can be. The album offers bile to many parties, lyrically, and puts the listener behind a sometimes uncomfortable but necessary first-person perspective: any other perspective simply would not do justice to the intent. Vangough has always been more effective at conveying feelings than telling stories, but never before had the songs had such a natural novel-like flow to them. All the while, Withrow peppers his versatile clean singing with elaborate layers of harmony and polyphony, making for subtly different listening experiences each time.The overall sound hasn't drastically changed, and even shows some musical nods to prior songs. In "Vaudeville Nation," a scathing condemnation of a track, a clever link is established with "Mannikin Parade" around 4:28. The main melody of the latter is re-introduced on guitars in a straight-played manner. Later in the song, a similar "Mannikin Parade" vocal melody emerges in the line "...and burn the circus to the ground," and up through the yell following it. Further, continuing the storyline started with "Road To Blighttown" on the “Acoustic Scars” EP, "Depths of Blighttown" adds a fitting dark and ominous chapter to the story.The added input from Haws and bassist Jeren Martin have made the songs seem more logical, acting as balancing forces. The drumming style of Haws is noticeably organized, nuanced, and thought-out and could be accurately categorized as a blend of the styles of Lamb of God's Chris Adler, Opeth-era Martin Lopez, and Pain of Salvation-era Johan Langell. The mixing job by Sterling Winfield is a stunning step forward for the band as well, and the drum sound is particularly remarkable for its bright, punchy, but balanced character. Lead guitarist Jay Gleason makes several shred-tastic appearances to accentuate the technicality of Vangough's instrumentation, while Justus Johnston and Jose Palacios make appearances on strings to further amplify the feeling of the songs and add a superb creep factor touching on Resident Evil levels at times.No song feels out of place or unessential, with "Infestation," "Schizophrenia," "Vaudeville Nation," "Useless," and "Corporatocracy" as highlights. The dynamic growth between “Kingdom of Ruin” and “Between The Madness” makes this album out to be Vangough's “Blackwater Park,” what many will no doubt cite as the band’s seminal record. Put simply, there has never been a better time to jump off of whatever progressive metal train you've been on and ride with Vangough. "Into the dark I take you," Withrow jabs at us. Make sure your seatbelts are securely fastened." - Metal Underground
    $11.00
  • Deluxe mediabook edition with one bonus track."This autumn seems to become a sophisticated season when it comes to progressive metal music. There have been already some quite exciting records that have been published; like the new album from Gazpacho and now there are two German prog bands coming with new albums too. Next to Vanden Plas it is Subsignal that offers a new journey through the world of sound."The Beacons of Somewhere Sometime" is the cryptic title of the new long player which is the forth one of the the band that arose out of the ashes of Siege Even. Brain and soul behind the band are guitarist Markus Steffens and singer Arno Menses who started Subsignal as a project in 2007. Things developed very positively and what began as a project became a fix part of the German prog metal scene."The Beacons of Somewhere Sometime" isn't build on a conceptual storyline. But there is a red thread through the various tracks on this long player. The overarching theme is about loss and parting.When it comes to the music Subsignal became harder again. The predecessor "Paraiso" was in general a bit softer with some tracks that have been close to AOR. The new album brings back heavier riffs. "Tempest" is a first indicator for this, underlined by songs like "Everything is Lost".But in the end it's not about heavier or softer when it comes to Subsignal's music. It's the band's lambent way of composing great songs that come with big melodies merged with a lot of emotional depth and thoughtfulness. "The Beacons of Somewhere Sometime" is full of those attributes and it's the passion for details, that makes Subsignal's sound complex as well as approachable also for non-musicians.This long player is the soundtrack for an exciting journey through eleven new tracks from a band that combines technical capabilities with an outstanding sense for good songs. "The Beacons of Somewhere Sometime" belongs to the highlights of 2015 and I would be surprised not finding back the album in some of the 2015 polls." - Markus' Heavy Music Blog 
    $18.00
  • Brief Nocturnes is the band's 11th album.  It marks their return to Inside Out and quite frankly its the best album they have released in a very long time.  Chalk it up to Ted Leonard handling vocals or Neal Morse contributing writing to a couple of tunes?  Not sure.  I am definitely hearing more vitality and overt progginess in the compositions.  Ryo is going off his nut here - keys are whizzing all around - organ/'tron/the whole schmear - and Alan's guitar runs are matching him step for step.  Maybe I haven't been paying attention as closely as I should have for the past few years.  I do know that I'm enjoying the hell out of this.  Highly recommended.
    $14.00
  • My Soliloquy is a British band formed in 2002 by multi-instrumentalist Pete Morten.  Since then the band has released a number of demos, gaining traction in the metal underground. The band had a number of notable support shows with Pagans Mind, Power Quest, Oliver and Rick Wakeman, and Threshold, as well as a second-to-headline set at Bloodstock 05 and a showcase at 2007’s ProgPower UK II.Since 2007, Morten has been an active member of British prog metal legends Threshold.  His membership has raised awareness (and created anticipation) for My Soliloquy’s long awaited debut.The essence of My Soliloquy is pure forward thinking metal – symphonic keyboards, shredding guitar leads, soaring vocals – all finely woven together with a blend of intricacy and melody.  The Interpreter was mixed and mastered by Rob Aubrey who has been a mainstay of Marillion’s camp for many years.
    $5.00
  • Second album from this California based prog metal band with ties to Redemption. The Tragedy Of Innocence is a far more mature and developed release than their debut. It's a conceptual work dealing with a very heavy subject - Valerie Quirarte (wife of drummer Chris) and her experience with child abuse. The music is a reflection of the story - its darker and more intense. All in all Prymary are a progmetal band. You can expect some serious complex arrangements and stand out playing. Kudos to the band for tackling a difficult subject and also jumping up to the next level musically. Recommended.
    $2.00
  • Big Big Train have ascended to the top echelon of progressive rock bands currently active.  They are easily the best band coming out of the UK - the fountainhead of all prog rock."Is there a nicer feeling than when you discover that one of your favourite bands is to return with new material much sooner than predicted and somewhat unexpectedly? There aren’t many better moments that’s for sure and Big Big Train are the architects of this great piece of news, offering us their tenth album ‘Grimspound’ less than 12 months on from the release of the utterly sensational ‘Folklore’.Long term readers will perhaps be familiar with that review, where I was quoted as saying that “‘Folklore’ is another amazing addition to the Big Big Train discography and is something all lovers of quality progressive rock should cherish and take to their hearts. I know that I have.”However, the feelings of levity and excitement about such a speedy a follow-up are, for me, tempered ever so slightly by a few more cautious thoughts. ‘Is it too early for more material?’, ‘has this album been hurried?’, ‘will the quality take a hit?’ You can see where I’m going with this. I worry that speed doesn’t always yield positive results and therefore, whilst I’m like a child at Christmas following this news, I have a few nerves as well. ‘Folklore’ remains on heavy rotation at the Mansion of Much Metal (and Progressive Rock), providing the same levels of magic as it did at the time of its release. The bar has been set and I desperately want ‘Grimspound’ to follow suit.So, does it?The answer, after a slightly slow start is ‘yes, very much so’. At the outset though, I wasn’t convinced if I’m honest. I was looking for similar heart-stopping moments to those that featured within the likes of ‘Brooklands’ or ‘Winkie’ and I couldn’t find them initially. But that says more about my levels of patience than it does about the music on offer within ‘Grimspound’ because, with time, those moments of genius are there to be found and to be heard. In fact, this entire record borders on genius as far as I’m concerned now. How else can you explain the fact that these eight musicians have returned so quickly and effortlessly with another eight superb, intricate and captivating progressive rock compositions?I understand that the band came up with an awful lot of material during the ‘Folklore’ writing sessions and some of what we hear on ‘Grimspound’ was given birth back then. But regardless, the achievement here beggars belief, it really does. Take a bow, Messrs Spawton (bass), Poole (guitars/keyboards), Longdon (vocals/flute), D’Virgilio (drums), Gregory (guitars), Manners (keyboards), Hall (violin) and Sjöblom (guitars/keyboards). You deserve it.Big Big Train have always followed a path of progressive rock that veers down the pastoral route and they probably always will – it’s in their blood. But this is not a group of musicians to stagnate either. So, whilst the music here is recognisable as Big Big Train, there are some differences to be heard between ‘Grimspound’ and previous albums.Some of this is down to the fact that newer members, Rikard and Rachel along with Danny have become more active in the song writing process, bringing their own unique view points to the table. And it is testament to the open-mindedness of the other members that this has been allowed to happen. Mind you, I think ‘welcomed with open arms’ would be a more appropriate description.One of the first things that I notice is that ‘Grimspound’ features very little brass. As someone who genuinely intensely dislikes brass within rock or metal music, I must confess that I am ever so slightly torn by this turn of events. For some reason, I never had a problem with the brass element of Big Big Train and so, once you realise how little of it is evident, it does give the music a slightly different flavour overall.As the band readily admits in the accompanying press release, ‘Grimspound’ also sees Big Big Train experimenting with longer passages of instrumental expression. So it comes as no surprise to learn that ‘On The racing Line’ for example is a five-minute instrumental piece, whilst other compositions have plenty of space for some indulgent instrumental flamboyance. Normally, I would baulk at the notion but where Big Big Train are concerned, they pull it off with style and elegance. Their music has always had the ability to tell a story and this is true whether or not there are lyrics being sung over the music; the dynamics and ideas at play here within the instrumental passages are such that the stories are able to continue very eloquently.Another interesting addition this time around is with the inclusion of a guest vocalist on the song ‘The Ivy Gate’. Judy Dyble offers her voice within this quite a dark and powerful composition that concerns “the reported sightings of a ghostly apparition beside the cemetery gates in a quiet English village.” It is an intriguing composition that begins with a folky, bluegrass banjo-led melody that initially I railed against. In the context of the song however, it makes a lot of sense and is a wonderful addition to the band’s armoury. Moreover, it is an ingredient that I have grown to rather like and enjoy.The violin playing of Rachel Hall is beautiful and I embrace the sadness and atmosphere that is conjured within this track. But even more, I love the way in which the song builds and opens up at the 4:30 mark to deliver a sumptuous melody that is made even more powerful by the duet of Longdon and Dyble that joins it, before the track deconstructs to end with some impressive and emotional vocals and the soothing sound of rain falling.It seems like I am uncontrollably waxing lyrical about this album, but that can’t be helped I’m afraid, with every positive word being well earned and justified. And it must continue I’m afraid.The opening few moments of ‘Brave Captain’ and indeed the album as a whole, create a very subtle, ambient soundscape, very introspective and thought-provoking at the same time. After a minute or so, the entire band enters the fray in what becomes a rousing and dynamic piece of music. This is arguably the most immediate track on the album but in true Big Big Train fashion, it ebbs and flows throughout its substantial 12 minute life creating a sense of drama upon which they tell the powerful story of a World War One pilot named Captain Albert Ball who gave his life for his country.Naturally, given the subject matter, there are moments that convey the sobriety of the story, like the almost Dire Straits-esque piano and bluesy guitar section. But equally, there are also times where the musicians open up their wings and take flight, just like the central character in the song. When they do so, it is quite a heady experience and it is easy to get caught up in the music that swells all around you.Another favourite is the quite stunning ‘Experimental Gentlemen’, a tale of Captain Cook on his first journey of discovery. Incorporating a vast array of intricate ideas within a remarkably cohesive whole, it moves from gentle, dreamy and wistful to up-beat and bouncy. You can feel an increase in intensity as the song slowly and inexorably moves through the gears to eventually deliver a dramatic sequence complete with an emotional and delicate lead guitar solo. That’s not the end though as there’s time for an extended atmospheric outro that has a subtle yet moving feel to it.Arguably the biggest exponent of those aforementioned extended instrumental passages is the longest track on the album, the hugely impressive ‘A Mead Hall In Winter’. The melodies are just so strong that they draw me in for repeated listens in spite of its length, rivalling anything that appeared on ‘Folklore’. But it is the experimentation and the ambition that is the most impressive aspect, including a plethora of bold and striking keyboard sounds as well as plenty of lead flamboyance all round. It all helps to create genuinely rich and engaging textures not to mention a multi-faceted, multi-layered soundscape. This sort of music only works when it is handled with care and attention to detail. And Big Big Train are fast becoming the safest pair of hands that I know, turning everything to gold with their unique Midas touch. My mind never wanders, my attention is never diverted away and as this epic composition draws to a close via a reprise of the early sumptuous melodies, I am filled with nothing but admiration for what has been achieved here.By contrast, ‘Meadowland’ is a much shorter proposition that benefits from a truly gorgeous lead violin and acoustic guitar intro, full of sensitivity and elegance. The wistful vocal delivery of Longdon adds a compelling embellishment to a piece of music that straddles the divide between folk and progressive rock, that I wish was twice as long.The title track begins in strange fashion with an oddly creepy and discordant introduction, quickly replaced by more acoustic guitars. Another serious grower, I’m currently of the opinion that it contains my very favourite melody on the entire album, accompanied by the words:“Out on the Heathland,Look up to the night sky.See the second brightest star?Adjust to the dark light.”The vocals and music together combine in magical fashion to stop me dead in my tracks. But I also enjoy the way in which the track subtly moves away from its starting point, to finish with more instrumental prowess in a much different and more up-tempo vein. The closing vocal passage is inspired too.Seeing as I’ve mentioned all the others, it seems churlish to overlook the closing composition, ‘As The Crow Flies’. It ends ‘Grimspound’ in fine fashion, fittingly oozing warmth and richness. It begins in delicate fashion, featuring more female vocals and some really welcome flute from Longdon. At the mid-point, the composition explodes in typically controlled but epic fashion, delivering a briefly rousing and heartfelt melody, led by hungry guitar notes that retreat all-too-quickly, allowing the song to ease to a gentle and introspective conclusion.Just when you thought that Big Big Train couldn’t possibly get any better, they do. ‘Grimspound’ is without doubt the best progressive rock album I’ve heard since…well, since ‘Folklore’ to be exact. Big Big Train have become an integral part of my musical life, to the point where I cannot imagine what my life was like before I discovered them. Right now, I can’t think of any bigger compliment that I can pay or one that is more justified and thoroughly deserved. Without question, Big Big Train are my favourite progressive rock band on this planet, bar none." - Man Of Metal blog
    $12.00
  • To say this album is monumental would be an understatement.  Jon Anderson has finally made the Yes album that we've all been waiting for the band to record for the past 40 years and never seemed to get around to it.My understanding is that the germ of the collaboration between Roine Stolt and Jon Anderson began when they met on one of the mega-concert cruises.  Anderson and Stolt have been bouncing material back and forth since then and Roine pulled it together into something amazingly cohesive.  Ex-Yes keyboardist Tom Brislin is on board, as are many of the members of Flower Kings and Karmakanic: Jonas Reingold, Michael Stolt, Lalle Larsson, Felix Lehrmann.  Daniel Gildenlow and Nad Sylvan contribute backing vocals.The album consists of 4 epic length tracks.  The vibe, the feel, the soul feels like Yes.  Some people say this sounds like The Flower Kings with Jon Anderson singing.  I don't hear it that way.  To me this has the DNA of Going For The One and Tales From Topographic Oceans.  Is there some Flower Kings feel here?  Sure - after all if there was no Yes there probably wouldn't be a Flower Kings.Roine is a fabulous guitarist.  While he doesn't try to mimic Steve Howe's tone or style he does use a parallel array of guitars.Plain and simple...this is the Yes album you've been craving for decades.  Easily the prog rock album of the year.  I'm simply blown away.  BUY OR DIE!
    $12.00
  • The Custodian is a new British post-progressive rock band formed by Richard Thomson, vocalist for cinematic death metal band Xerath.  Unlike Xerath, The Custodian is an outlet for the more melodic, rock oriented writing from Thomson.While there are moments in the album that harken back to old school bands like Genesis and Yes, the music of The Custodian is contemporary in sound.  Necessary Wasted Time is an album full of dynamics - light and dark shadings balancing acoustic vs electric, heavy vs pastoral.  While atmospherics and tension are a strong component of the album, the band demonstrates their adept musicianship offering up long instrumental passages to complement the emotion filled vocals.  When needed the band unleashes some complex electric runs.The Custodian's debut should deeply resonate with fans of Steven Wilson, Riverside, Pineapple Thief, and Anathema.Necessary Wasted Time was mixed by noted engineer Jacob Hansen and give the full audiophile mastering treatment from Bob Katz. 
    $14.00