Of Adoration

SKU: PROS103042
Label:
Prosthetic Records
Category:
Post Metal
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"Chill metal? In our genre-naming culture, Zaius would do well to jump in front of that one in terms of colorful self-description. In all seriousness though, it does seem to pretty accurately describe what is going on with their music. The up-and-coming instrumental act has been at it for a few EPs at this point, with Prosthetic officially launching their full-length debut, Of Adoration.

Casually blending metal with post rock, there’s never a moment on the album that feels abrasive or even aggressive in tone. While that might be a turn off for some, some of the strongest instrumental band work usually comes in this form. Without having to stick vocals in front of their music, they don’t have to feel relegated to the ‘verse/chorus/verse’ formatting and just simply go with gut instinct. Zaius have a good grasp on this, and never wander too far into random territory. Instead each track seems to focus itself on the mood and setting of the material, giving it just enough structure. It can all flow together if you let it, but each track on its own still stands strong. Gentle melodies still contain a fair bit of power (see “Echelon”), and they work best to stick into your head in an almost hypnotic approach. There’s a good blend of melancholy and tenderness, with songs like “Anicca” slowly building up towards something a bit heavier in their back-end. The type of material that you could easily imagine being the soundtrack for a video game on the dreamier side of things. Some moments of heaviness level things once in a while, such as “Magnolia,” and give the band a chance to flex some muscle in a way that doesn’t feel out of character.

Of Adoration carefully strings together floaty, airy music that still has enough riff power to keep you attentive as they weave pensive melodies. Some really beautiful passages to be had, which will whisk you away to a peaceful journey." - Dead Rhetoric

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  • Since their first release in 1999, WOLVERINE has pushed outside the boundaries of metal and evolved through inventiveness and explorative ambition, now incorporating a wider spectrum of musical elements into their own progressive sound.Machina Viva is a natural evolution from their last album Communication Lost, inviting the listener into the melodic yet dark and moody world of WOLVERINE.  It is the band’s most dynamic album to date; from the 14-minute epic and powerful “The Bedlam Overture” and the dark electronic landscapes of “Machina”, to the naked and organic nature of “Pile of Ash” and “Sheds”. This is the next step in WOLVERINE’s explorations in the progressive field.Machina Viva was recorded and produced by WOLVERINE in Sweden during autumn and winter 2015/2016. The album was mixed at Spacelab Studio (Germany) by CHRISTIAN “MOSCHUS” MOOS (HAKEN, DELAIN), and mastered by Grammy Award winning audio engineer BOB KATZ.
    $13.00
  • "Alcest, the pioneering post-metal/blackgaze band from France is back with ‘Kodama’ (translates from Japanese as “tree spirit” or “echo”) after a brief two year absence. I was quite excited to hear that they had a new album coming out, and more excited still when I learned that Neige (vocals, guitars, bass, and keys) was returning to his more black metal infused roots. I mention Neige specifically as even though Winterhalter (drums) is an official member, Alcest is Neige’s own unique creation, and one he has been at work on since the tender age of fourteen. He writes the music, lyrics, and forms the concept –historically his expression of visions from his youth contacting a far off country or Fairy Land. Together they (along with live members for shows) have crafted a rich and beautiful discography of music that is part shoegaze, part post-metal, with a healthy dose of black metal as well. Since gaining in popularity, the scene has seen many rip-offs, but none do it as well as Alcest have over the past decade.Which brings us back to ‘Kodama’. I’ll say quickly that I found 2014’s ‘Shelter’ to be quite disappointing. That album focused solidly on the shoegaze element of their sound; it was a very light album, almost poppy in nature. I think it was actually rather boring, truth be told. With ‘Kodama’ however Neige deliberately wanted to go in a heavier and darker direction. The artwork hinted at this even before any music was released. The album is also a concept album, dealing with the relationships between mankind and nature, and was inspired by Japanese culture, and specifically Hayao Miyazaki’s film ‘Princess Mononoke.’ Of course unless you speak French far better than I do, you have to interpret all this by the music and vocals alone. Thankfully Neige’s music and vocal work is very expressive, and the music this time even more so than on some previous albums.The album starts with the title track, and the listener is immediately greeted by Alcest’s signature sound, it’s full, melodic, heavy, and as always very beautiful.  And typical of shoegaze, the elements blur and bend together into a wall of sound. The result is very expressive, and very spiritual. Neige’s guitar work is very recognizable, as is his composition style, and the balance between the light and dreamy elements and the heavier elements are once again perfectly balanced and walked between. The second track, “Éclosion,” starts similarly to the previous, but soon we’re treated to the heavier, more aggressive black metal style and screams which Alcest is so well regarded for. The difference between the screaming style of Neige and other vocalists who use black metal screams is that even while the screams are aggressive and wild, they are never negative, Alcest is deliberately a positive and uplifting band, and Neige has spoken in past interviews over his disappointment that people take his screams as anger or negativity when in reality they’re most often an expression of ecstasy. In other words trve kvlt black metal fans will do well to steer clear of their music, and good riddance.‘Kodama’ continues with this pattern through the rest of the short (42 minute) album. The mix of the two styles, and the wonderful juxtaposition of them that was so painfully missing from ‘Shelter’ run through several other songs as well, perhaps highlighted best by “Oiseaux de proie” the second to last track, which was also the first single from the album. I know I wasn’t the only fan to smile when I first heard it and be pleased to see the light and heavy balance be brought back in such a satisfying way.The only small complaint I have after repeated listens is that while it’s great to hear Alcest return to a balance of their signature sound (rather than the one side we got with their last album) is they don’t really give the listener anything they haven’t already heard on earlier albums such as ‘Écailles de Lune’ or ‘Les Voyages de l’Âme.’  I would have liked to have heard them take more risks and try or add something new to their already well established sound. But perhaps I’m simply being unnecessarily critical. Not every band has to, or even should, change their basic sound and approach, particularly when they set the bar for how it should sound. Neige has been remarkably consistent with his vision and the quality of it for a long time now, and I listen to Alcest to hear his vision of the world, not mine.To reiterate, ‘Kodama’ is a welcome and triumphant return to the sounds and style that Alcest fans have come to love and expect. And it takes the listener on a journey out of themselves to places they perhaps never knew existed, a place of beauty and healing. Any fan of the band should be very pleased with this release, and it’s as good as any of their early releases as an introduction to their sound. Neige and Winterhalter have joined together and put out a beautiful and solid release. And one that deserves repeated listens." - Metal Wani
    $12.00
  • ""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
  • "If you look at Jim Matheos’ career, across his role at the helm of the pioneering progressive metallers Fates Warning, to his collaborations in OSI and Arch/Matheos, and his appearances with Gordian Knot and Memories of Machines as well as his own solo material, people might think they know what to expect from this guitarist. Tuesday The Sky, however, from the opening sounds of the debut album Drift, is set to expand those boundaries even further.The impetus for Tuesday The Sky came from a Fates Warning bonus track that Matheos felt didn’t fit: “I started the first song, probably about a year and a half ago, as an idea for a Fates Warning bonus track. But as we progressed with Theories of Flight I realized it might not fit in and we decided to go with the all-acoustic bonus disc. This left me with a song that I really liked but didn’t know what to do with. So I started thinking about writing a few more in this style to see where it might lead.”The resulting full-length album, Drift, came together in the downtime between Fates Warning finishing Theories of Flight and the beginning of the touring cycle, enabling Matheos to explore a type of atmospheric and instrumental music you might not expect of him. He comments: “With this kind of music, it’s a lot about creating a mood and letting that sink in and develop over long periods of time, as opposed to the more frenetic format of most prog music.” Taking cues from artists like Brian Eno, Boards Of Canada, Sigur Ros and Explosions In The Sky, he explores expansive textures and ambient electronica, as well as some of the most colossal riffs he has ever produced. The album also features the talents of God Is An Astronaut’s drummer Lloyd Hanney, who provides a rhythmic backbone that is at once punchy, precise and restrained when necessary. Other guests include long-time OSI collaborator and former Dream Theater member Kevin Moore who plays keys on two songs, and Anna-Lynne Williams (Trespassers William, Lotte Kestner) who provides ethereal vocals (of the non-verbal kind) on two other songs.Instrumental music often forces a different way of thinking when it comes to writing, and Tuesday The Sky is no different: “One of the things I did was to look at the writing from a sound design perspective. What I mean by that is I would start with interesting sounds that would (hopefully) lead to interesting parts, rather than the other way around.” Matheos continues: “So, I would start by experimenting with different guitar/amp/effects combinations, sometimes all analog, sometimes digital, often for days, until I came up with something that inspired me to play things I liked.” It’s an approach that has paid dividends and is reflected in the music, flowing freely and naturally across its 10-song duration.What the future of this project holds and whether it will be taken out on the road is yet to be seen. Matheos comments: “It would be a challenge to bring this project but it is an interesting idea and one I would at least consider if there seems to be enough interest.” What is sure though, is that Tuesday The Sky’s debut is a bold, brave, creative and ultimately successful album from one of rock’s most underrated of musicians."
    $20.00
  • "There’s something to be said for the willingness to change. Some bands get stuck in the mud, developing a signature sound and then finding that they are unable to shake free of it. Iceland’s Momentum is not one of those bands. The band technically started in 2002 as a one-man black metal act called Afsprengi Satans. The first transformation came a year or two later as drummer Kristján Gudmundsson began to add musicians that could help play his music in a live setting. Those early sounds ranged from black metal to death metal, and the Momentum moniker arose out of the realization that this wasn’t the same band that Gudmundsson had started.As the band has progressed, from their first recorded demo Death to Christianity to their newest release The Freak is Alive, they have mutated into a three-piece progressive sludge/doom act. Kristján Gudmundsson is still playing drums, with bandmates Ingvar Sæmundsson and Hörður Ólafsson handling guitar and bass duties, respectively. With tinges of post-metal and deep clean vocals that are reminiscent of some kind of Gregorian chant, Momentum certainly does not rest on their laurels.he Freak is Alive is an album I picked up simply because I thought both the title and album artwork were a little ridiculous. I had no prior experience with Momentum, but I was immediately taken with Holaf’s vocal stylings. The album’s lead off track ‘Bury The Eyes Once Gold’ is one of my favorites, and demonstrates the range in Holaf’s voice. His howls are intense and full of emotion, while his clean singing is low and haunting. The track starts off heavy and sets the tone for the rest of the record. ‘Between Two Worlds’ has opens with a clean, melancholy guitar progression. Other standout tracks include ‘Gauntlet’, a six-minute journey that makes use of a sitar, and ‘Creator of Malignant Metaphors’ with its intricate guitar lead. The record has a gloomy, heavy feeling that is well represented in the first two tracks and carried through final seconds of sound. Whether the guitars are clean or distorted, whether the vocals are clean or howling, The Freak is Alive stays heavy and a little sad.Momentum makes good use of odd time signatures, strings and sitar, and melds progressive and post-metal with sludge in a really interesting way. My only issue with the album is that by the time I get to the final two tracks, ‘Undercover Imagination’ and ‘Depth of the Whole’, the melancholia is played out. The last two tracks don’t grab your attention the way the earlier songs do. It leaves the ending of the album weak. Overall though, I appreciate and enjoy what Momentum has done on this record. I’m very glad to have discovered this treasure from Iceland, and I certainly recommend you dive into their previous albums." - Echoes And Dust 
    $12.00
  • "The Flower Kings have been performing their brand of symphonic rock since their formation in 1994. Roine Stolt is the "veteran cosmic rocker" who heads this formidable assault on modern prog. They and some of their peers have been responsible for both maintaining and expanding the fan base for modern progressive rock since the '90s.Although I have enjoyed some of their music over time, I have only slightly enjoyed most of their work. That changes with Desolation Rose. This is a masterpiece in modern prog and it will definitely compete for one of the top spots on my favorite albums of the year list.Last year, The Flower Kings returned after an almost 5 year hiatus. They released Banks of Eden in the summer of 2012 to a strong favorable reaction from fans and critics alike. I missed that one, but will go back and try to listen to it after hearing Desolation Rose. They celebrated their success with a tour of the world. This year the band hit the road again to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of their label InsideOut Music with old friends, and label mates Neal Morse & Mike Portnoy. They kept the momentum going with a return to Fenix Studio in Sweden to start work on the recording of Desolation Rose.The band describes Desolation Rose, as a "live" recording made on reel to reel tape to bring back the feeling from analog recording. They also brought out some classic vintage keyboards, like a Hammond B3, Mellotron M 400, Fender Rhodes, Minimoog and a whole host of Tube amps. All to bring back the glorious past. They further describe Desolation Rose as: "Being somewhat of a political statement, the epic theme of Desolation Rose is a logical step in a time where perpetual war, famine, environmental threats, religious conflicts dominate the media and our minds. This is a time to wake up and the music on this album takes you on a journey where you are forced to question what the mainstream media feed us and to rethink your whole world view on all of the above. This is in many ways a typical Flower Kings album but we have also taken it into another realm where we do take chances and where you may struggle to get into the music - or the lyrics - but trust me when I say that you will be rewarded, as this may be our most involved, important and interesting album ever." (Roine Stolt).Ok, so… "on with the show…this is it"."Tower ONE" is an over 13 minute epic to start this album off in the right direction. Stolt's vocals opens with, "She'll walk me slowly through burning spear. She'll be my shelter no sign of fear. She'll walk me slowly through wholesome light. She'll be my shelter. She'll be my eye". Stolt describes "an observation by an angel who resides in a mysterious tower, looking down on the entire world's ongoing perpetual insanity, yet unable to reach out and help" (Flower King's Desolation Rose Press Release, 2013). The solid drums, dripping bass, lead electric guitars rock. The band gives you more than you may ever have dreamed of receiving on this epic opener. But for me it's the keyboards that truly shine the best on this track. "Don't we all shine on?" Well…yes definitely on this one.If you close your eyes and listen to "Sleeping Bones", you may actually visualize Rael emerging from the mist and rain on Broadway. And with all the wonderful string arrangements and soft mandolin, this one will definitely take you immediately back to some of the highlights from "The Lamb". But Stolt enters to provide a new direction, "We're the third from the sun. We're a long way from home. We're between land and sea. We are blessed and we're greed". He then proceeds to uncover the world's many ills as the deep bass, power Hammond, and punching drums march their cadence. A dark march into the current state of affairs delivered with powerful lyrics."Desolation Road" opens with limitless grand piano, yes the kind you may remember again from "The Lamb", and powerful slamming drums and stellar synths that create a spectacular grand opening. "Be sure to meet your enemies with open eyes. As you answer drums of war with a lullaby. Battlefields that come alive. You know you cannot hide. But here you know your fears…the man inside". "There are no glittering prizes." Yes, another powerful lyrical commentary on the state of affairs globally. The weeping lead electric guitar licks are perfect for the mood of the song. The keyboards, drums, bass and jams are excellent. Three tracks in and you know you're listening to a winner. Something you will play over again…many times.Well, when you open with excerpts of a speech from Richard Nixon, you know "White Tuxedos" is going to be full of political angst. "I respect your ideals. I want peace. Bring the boys home". Nice that they decided to go with images of Vietnam, for all of us old enough to remember the ravages of that war. No war or person personifies the evil politician more than Nixon and the unfortunate war he escalated only magnified that feeling globally for many. Modulated vocal delivery helps add swag to the powerful message. The music supports the power of this piece well. Dark and full of some excellent solo electric guitar, accompanied by solid bass, punching drums, and deep keys."The Resurrected Judas" is full of wonderful acoustic guitar and elegant keys after the opening explosion of drums and lead electric guitar. The softer transition welcomes you to this tale full of soft synth keys and great vocals. The lead electric guitar soloing adds dramatic flair. The dark tone keys and dripping bass help create a jam session full of piano and melody which at times take you back to Collins era Genesis with its Tony Banks keyboard romps. At over 8 minutes this track is full of imagery and cinematic music that will definitely entertain. I kept hearing echoes of the imagery in the lyrics and music from the song "Squonk", which is not a bad thing at all."Silent Masses" opens with bold keys and organ and what sounds like Jonas Reingold singing about factories again, "So you think you can rule all the fools. Staying cool when the walls coming down. Got the world on a string, but your bird cannot sing. All these men in the factory lines. And all the angels who fell from the skies. You tried to say hello, but they say goodbye", while some Beatles "And Your Bird Can Sing" chords fall like rain. "We are just the silent masses" becomes the refrain. The solid drums, bass, lead electric guitar and keyboards build as the drama continues on the second half of the track. Another solid song to add to the discography."Last Carnivore" opens with some dramatic flair from drums, bass, and lead electric guitar. The momentum continues to build excitement and mystery. "The nightmare becomes real. You have fallen from your tower". "Seven matches seven". The lead electric guitar solos accompanied by drums are powerful. The keys slide in to garnish the sound perfectly. The rhythm and melody of this track make it one of the best.With a title like "Dark Fascist Skies", you know it can't be good. The opening reminds me of Jethro Tull's A album classic "Black Sunday"; with its heavy keyboard and lead electric guitar assault. The ominous start forebodes multiple mellotron tones and a full on launch of power keyboards, bass, lead guitar and drums to the ears. This track is full of drama and ominous lyrics and sounds."Blood of Eden" is my second favorite track on the album. "We're the third from the sun. We're a beacon and a seventh wonder. We are green and we are growing. We are the one and eternal Mother". Its lyrics like that which will endear you immediately to this song. This is no way as powerful as Peter Gabriel's "Blood of Eden". And at times you can even here a bit of Jon Anderson in the high notes reached vocally. But still it is a solid track for this album."In "Silent Graveyards" we look for saviors" is repeated several times as launching guitars, and keys rocket this short song high.This is a keeper. If you are new to the Flower Kings, welcome to the party. You picked a good time to find them. If you are a fan this is a must buy." - Sea Of Tranquility
    $11.00
  • "Chill metal? In our genre-naming culture, Zaius would do well to jump in front of that one in terms of colorful self-description. In all seriousness though, it does seem to pretty accurately describe what is going on with their music. The up-and-coming instrumental act has been at it for a few EPs at this point, with Prosthetic officially launching their full-length debut, Of Adoration.Casually blending metal with post rock, there’s never a moment on the album that feels abrasive or even aggressive in tone. While that might be a turn off for some, some of the strongest instrumental band work usually comes in this form. Without having to stick vocals in front of their music, they don’t have to feel relegated to the ‘verse/chorus/verse’ formatting and just simply go with gut instinct. Zaius have a good grasp on this, and never wander too far into random territory. Instead each track seems to focus itself on the mood and setting of the material, giving it just enough structure. It can all flow together if you let it, but each track on its own still stands strong. Gentle melodies still contain a fair bit of power (see “Echelon”), and they work best to stick into your head in an almost hypnotic approach. There’s a good blend of melancholy and tenderness, with songs like “Anicca” slowly building up towards something a bit heavier in their back-end. The type of material that you could easily imagine being the soundtrack for a video game on the dreamier side of things. Some moments of heaviness level things once in a while, such as “Magnolia,” and give the band a chance to flex some muscle in a way that doesn’t feel out of character.Of Adoration carefully strings together floaty, airy music that still has enough riff power to keep you attentive as they weave pensive melodies. Some really beautiful passages to be had, which will whisk you away to a peaceful journey." - Dead Rhetoric
    $15.00
  • "With Post-black metal experiencing a kind of popular renaissance, the amount of bands either jumping on the genre bandwagon or being thrust into mainstream recognition is at an all time high, and to some the genre is reaching it’s saturation point. Writing Lotus Thief off as just another post-black metal band, however, would be a grave mistake. Elements of the genre certainly do exist on Rervm, their debut album, but serve as more of a creative launch point than a genre template or set of stylistic rules. This presents an album that’s as sprawling and varied as the story it tells, and one that seamlessly blends genres into a greater whole. The one constant are the ethereal, beautiful female vocals layered atop the varied instrumentation.As previously stated, post-black metal is just a starting point for Lotus Thief. The first three tracks contain everything from doom metal style slow crawls to classic Deep Purple style riffing. That the band weave all of this together so effortlessly on their debut album is proof of the band’s skill as musicians and bodes very well for future releases. Part of this genre hopping instrumental virtuosity is certainly due in part by Otrebor, the man behind the always incredible Botanist. The compositions here are as lush and expansive as his previous work, and further cement him as one of progressive metal’s unsung visionaries.However, Otrebor is joined by Bezaelith, who not only contributed the female vocals to the album but also wrote and composed the vast majority of the music. Otrebor focused mainly on drums, where his genius can indeed be heard, but Bezaelith is due credit for her brilliant work on creating the evocative and bottomless soundscape which permeates the entire release.The album’s production strikes a balance between lo-fi warmth and modern depth, giving birth to lush soundscapes where guitars, drums and keys ebb and flow under the angelic vocals. Repetition is a key element to the album, but never to the point where anything becomes tiresome. Sections are repeated just enough for them to to feel familiar, and then the song moves on, very much akin to how Gojira will milk a riff for all it’s worth before switching things up for the listener. This is a very easy album to get lost in, and it seems to fly by all too quickly. Thankfully, there’s a good amount of subtle depth in the instrumentation, and combined with the vocal hooks you’ll be coming back for more in no time.Lotus Thief have crafted a fantastic debut that comes out of left field and leaves you wanting more, and that most other bands should envy. Time will tell if this project will bear as much fruit as Otrebor’s other work, but if it does, we’ll all be the better for it." - Heavy Blog Is Heavy
    $8.00
  • "Katla is an Icelandic band featuring ex-Sólstafir drummer and visual artist Guðmundur Óli Pálmason and singer/multi-instrumentalist Einar Thorberg Guðmundsson (Fortíð, Potentiam). Named in tribute to one of Iceland's greatest active volcanos, Katla creates powerful, panoramic music where shimmering guitars, crushing melodies and atmospheric density meet dark, entrancing power. Katla's debut album, "Móðurástin", shines a spotlight on the band's hook-heavy, horizon-stretching sound. The lyrics tell tales of living in a country of contrasts; a land where fire and ice co-exist and dark winters are offset by the summer's midnight sun. Iceland: a country where insular existence has spurred a rich and vibrant culture. "Móðurástin", Icelandic for (a) Mother's Love, might seem like a strange title for a metal album, but Katla dares to be different. What on Earth is stronger than a mother's love? Nothing. Not hate, not lust, not greed. Katla has shaped a towering sound sharpened by experience and forged for fans of heavy, atmospheric music. It is time for Katla to erupt again!"
    $15.00
  • "Even though John Peel raved about Circle years before the release of Meronia, their first indie EPs stayed underground. And even though this is a harsh, 75-minute heavy load of Krautrock, it brings Circle more toward popularity. And when thinking about the content of the album, they sure have earned it. Krautrock and hypnotism are old genres, but Circle has brought it to a whole new level. Their punkish past shows easily through, so that gains another new level which can be heard as heavy guitar walls and complex basslines. Also, the simplified drum sound and the patiently used keyboards add something to Circle's sound that is raw, but yet quite hard to copy. If you ignore the two noise rock tracks here ("Merid" and "Wherever Particular People Congregate"), the base line of Circle's music is clear: one guitar riff, which is played with only slight changes during the whole song. And believe it or not, it works. Lehtisalo's Gregorian singing and moaning guitars make Meronia a really moving album. And luckily the music of Circle doesn't concentrate to a one player; the band as a whole depends on the each other member. Sure, you can call some lacks in dynamic playing and the whole sound, but, after all, losses make albums more individualistic. Meronia is an outstanding debut album, but even more it is an unvaluated indie rock milestone." - Allmusic
    $27.00
  • 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
  • "Germany's Eden Circus is a band that has been together for a while but worked tirelessly on the songs that make up this, their debut album, "Marula." Much like the time they invested in the album and its songs, the listener should be just as committed to listening to the album and giving it the necessary time to plant its seeds and grow. When I first listened to "Marula," I thought it was just a good album with a fair amount of contrast in each song. But when you have those contrasts (i.e., quieter moments and heavier moments), it's important to pay closer attention to how they are used and what is going on. It's easy to think "Wow, that's so subtle" and not really listen to the vocal or the intricacies of the music underneath.The fact that vocalist Siegmar Pohl has a very quiet, raspy voice that tends to blend with the music just makes it more challenging. But the key to music that has a thick layer of complexity is to listen to it over and over, allowing it to reveal itself. You cannot force "Marula" to be something it isn't. It has elements of '90s alternative progressive metal like Tool, but don't expect them to attack you like Tool would. They have post-prog moments like Porcupine Tree, yet they never commit to sounding like them. Eden Circus is familiar but still a stranger. You think you know what will happen next but when it doesn't, you aren't sure why.The opener "Devoid of Purpose" starts off quietly before it works its way into heavier riffing. "Comfort" has quieter verses leading to a very angular riff that works as the chorus. Siegmar does have a harsh vocal in his arsenal but uses it quite sparingly, which makes those moments all the more powerful. A perfect example is "101" where he works his way to a growl.The majority of the songs are long, which allows them room to ebb and flow as needed. In addition to the aforementioned songs, my favorite tracks are the two closers, "Her Lovely Hands Upon the Black Earth" and "Playing You." Both are atmospheric, progressive and epic - full of dynamics.Eden Circus has figured out how to be melodic but not make it so obvious that you tire of them. "Marula" is a textbook "grower" of an album. If I were to give it a rating a month from now, it would probably be an even higher rating." - Power Of Metal
    $14.00
  • Beautiful, haunting experimental metal from this Icelandic band.  Like some other extreme metal bands (think Ulver and Opeth) they have evolved into something very different.  If Sigur Ros recorded a black metal album it might sound like this.  If you like to be challenged by metal outside the norm this is highly recommended."I’m a prime example of being caught in a rat race, a cog too much a part of the corporate clockwork and maybe that’s why on some basic level I identify so strongly with the timeless concept behind Sólstafir‘s fifth and much anticipated release. Ótta comes three years after the release of Svartir Sandar, with the concept of the album staying close and personal to their Icelandic roots. So much so that that the album flows according to an old Icelandic form of time-keeping similar to the monastic hours or Eykt (one eighth of a solar day), And so, Ótta consists of eight tracks, beginning with a representation of midnight, moving through each Eyktir in the day, coming to a close in the period between 9 pm and midnight. Hardly a riveting concept on paper, but thought provoking nonetheless.Much like the post-metal genre being built on rising crescendos, so “Lágnætti,” “Ótta,” “Rismál” and “Dagmál” are the slow and steady climb before you reach the boiling point of “Middegi” and “Nón,” only to have their power stripped away quite dramatically with “Midaftann” and “Náttmál.” Now stop for a moment, close your eyes and feel “Lágnætti” (low night) wash over you. The intro rises up, uncoiling with slow deliberation, pure atmosphere at first, culminating in an isolated and memorable piano melody that along with frontman Aðalbjörn Tryggvason’s vocals, would fit right in on Coldplay‘s Viva La Vida. “Lágnætti” quickly settles in and gives you that familiar feeling that Ótta is indeed the next logical progression from Svartir Sandar. The album grabs hold of and builds on the very same subtleties and charm, the same enveloping moodiness and even the same delicate eccentricities of the earlier release, rather than following on with the bolder adolescence like Köld and Í Blóði og Anda (In Blood and Spirit).Aðalbjörn Tryggvason’s vocals have been perfectly matched to each track and at times it’s tough to imagine it’s the same vocalist. For much of the front-end of Ótta and then again towards the back-end, our intrepid frontman dabbles in the same instrumental, minimalistic style he used on Svartir Sandar. In “Lágnætti” and the title track, he could take the place of Chris Martin fronting Coldplay, and then in “Rismál” and “Midaftann” he creates a new and fantastical beast seemingly from leftover parts of Shining and Katatonia. Giving the release more time to soak in, you’ll find hints to the glory of the past, like his screamy shouts leftover from Köld‘s “Love is the Devil (and I am in Love)” and then in “Middegi” and “Nón” there are hints of the glory locked and loaded in Svartir Sandar‘s “Þín Orð.”Instrumentally Ótta feels like a swirling melting pot of flavours, colours and textures. The title track stands out, surely competing with Ulver‘s “Not Saved” as one of the most addictive pieces of music I’ve come across, all thanks to its bluegrass-like banjo frivolity playing with the violins. And while I have no idea whom to credit for the piano arrangements on “Lágnætti” and “Midaftann” and they don’t don’t hold quite the same dizzying quirk of Svartir Sandar‘s “Æra,” they’re beautiful, melodic, well played and hold just the right amount of tragedy and atmosphere. Aðalbjörn Tryggvason, Sæþór Maríus Sæþórsson and Guðmundur Óli Pálmason go minimalist on the guitars and drum lines, only playing what’s absolutely necessary. The guitars are delivered with a tasty distorted fuzz that takes away from the cleanliness of the album, and while solos are used sparingly, stand-out moments do filter through on “Nón” and “Miðdegi.”The production used on Ótta sounds largely like what worked so well on Svartir Sandar, and if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. There’s enough fuzzy warmth and focus of dynamics to keep the album an interesting and comfortable listen. What more can I say here, I’m unable to find fault with this album. It’s not one you’re going to skip around and listen to in bits and bites and needs to be experienced as a whole. Ótta is a serious piece of art and yes, it does indeed stop time!" - Angry Metal Guy 
    $12.00
  • "The allure of This Misery Garden might be found in their name. A garden is a place of beginnings and endings, of life and death, with the eternal element of hope also fixed upon it. Yet, misery can describe any of these appointments as well. On their debut work, Another Great Day on Earth, This Misery Garden explores both hope and despair with each swelling and rising within the progressive compositions. The title itself is also reflective of their musical and lyrical tone even as it bends in upon it's own cynicism. This Misery Garden's atmosphere and content is dark, deep, and often foreboding layers of melancholy with songs such as Swan Song, Rejection Song, the carefully betraying Instant Recoil and Dirty Playground being disturbing representatives. Between the eerie and introspective movements, This Misery Garden weaves thick threads of bleak chords over a dark rock resonance. If visions of Katatonia or Perfect Circle, possibly even Tool, invade your audio experience as you listen, then you will have a sense of Another Great Day on Earth foundations. For some, myself included, Another Great Day on Earth may be too despondent for an immediate repeat listen, but it does require significant and repeat attention to plumb the depths of its sophisticated portrait of hope and despair." - Dangerdog
    $3.00