Dark Deceiver (BLOW OUT PRICE!)

With each successive release the question always is asked – How will the Tipton Brothers top their last album? The band’s fifth album, Dark Deceiver, is another jaw-dropping achievement of technical metal. The quartet of Jasun Tipton, Troy Tipton, Mike Guy, and Chris Salinas take their “chops from hell” attitude to a new level. In creating Zero Hour, the brothers envisioned a dark, heavy, emotional vibe, expressed through intricate arrangements, forceful vocals, and meaningful lyrics.

2006 found the band in a curious situation. Although they were attracting attention and accolades around the world they were in need of a new vocalist. The problem was solved by the arrival of noted vocalist Chris Salinas, formerly of Power Of Omens. The resulting album “Specs Of Pictures Burnt Beyond” met with stellar reviews, a US tour and a headlining slot at the Headway Festival in Netherland. The year culminated in the band’s third appearance at ProgPower USA in Atlanta – the largest progressive metal festival in the world.

For the recording of their new album the band once again collaborated with producer Dino Alden. Dark Deceiver finds the band experimenting with their already defined sound. The compositions are more technical than before. Alden took advantage of Salinas’ incredible vocal talents to apply some interesting and dramatic treatments, creating something very different from their previous recordings. This is without question the band’s crowning moment.

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Peters’ vocal line feels a little rushed during the verse – it’s almost as though there were too many syllables to fit in the line – but the interaction of his and Eiselt’s guitars in the instrumental break and the balance between the guitar and Vedder’s drumming in the mix makes up for any such hiccups. Another chorus feels delivered more appropriately, and the progression cycles through again; solo section into chorus, solo section into chorus. And it’s not until Behrens’ highlight bass line begins “Outside Insight Blues” that it’s apparent just how much Samsara Blues Experiment put into the album’s flow. Added keys allow the guitars to go farther out into sporadic notes without sacrificing fullness of sound, but after about two and a half minutes, there’s a turn into riffier material that carries the groove through the next six. There are a few part changes, but things don’t really feel jammed out until the classic ‘70s boogie meets psychedelia of the last 90 seconds or so, blues harp and all. It’s a shift worthy of Siena Root, and the two-minute interlude “Zwei Schatten im Schatten” (in English, “Two Shadows in the Shadow”) follows suit with an appropriate marriage of Eastern and Western musical traditions with sitar and acoustic six-string. There’s something sweet and solemn in the intertwining melody, and it’s a passing thing on the way to the 12-minute closer, but worth paying attention to in a way that many interludes aren’t.Then, at last, comes the ending title cut. Worthy of its name, “Revelation and Mystery” caps the album with a sense of psychedelic majesty through which Samsara Blues Experiment show their ability to keep hold of a song no matter how deep into space they might also want to push it. The song winds. Its progression is at once driving and subdued, and of all the songs on Revelation and Mystery, it’s probably the best blend of all sides of what’s shown itself to be the band’s current sound. Of course, at 12 minutes, one could easily argue it has time to do and be all these things – with room left over for a bit of that sitar to show up as well among the guitar leads – but still, it’s another display of the maturity Samsara Blues Experiment have been able to take on in a relatively short amount of time (their demo gave first notice in 2008). Some bands need three years to learn and foster growth between their albums, and some bands need to play. If the jump between their first and second records is anything to go by, Samsara Blues Experiment would seem to be the latter. Wherever this stylistic form takes them, I don’t imagine it’ll be too long before we find out, but until then, the 47 minutes of Revelation and Mystery provide a varied and exciting listen worthy of repeat visits. 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  • Special 2CD tour edition comes with a bonus Acoustic Sessions CD featuring 4 new interpretations, plus "Anathema" recorded at Liverpool Cathedral."It’s been quite a past few years for the incredible Anathema. Honors have been bestowed upon them, they’ve released an instant classic album in “Weather Systems”, and last year they released one of the best live concert films I’ve ever seen, “Universal”. Anathema is on top of the world, and they are only getting bigger. With all of this on their shoulders, they approach the world once again with their new album, “Distant Satellites”, a fitting name for a massive album. Again, with all of their recent success creating huge expectations, can this band meet such critical reception? Needless to say, Vincent Cavanagh on vocals, Danny Cavanagh on guitar, Jamie Cavanagh on bass, John Douglas on percussion, Daniel Cardoso on drums, and Lee Douglas with her wonderful vocals were all up to the challenge.“Distant Satellites” is a very different album from “Weather Systems”, or anything else they’ve done, for that matter. It is different, yet somehow instantly familiar. It includes everything that makes them Anathema, but adds new and exciting elements to their already excellent formula. If you’ve never heard Anathema, their formula (in their last few albums, anyways) includes soaring guitars, amazingly catchy melodies, spiritual lyrics, and emotional flow both vocally and structurally. They are the masters of melody, and they remain complex and progressive even while being simple and accessible. They are truly masters of their craft.This new album, then, is no different in those terms. The melodies return in force, such as the serene beauty of “The Lost Song” parts 1-3. And, yet, there is something different here. The melodic lines are somewhat more complex, less in-your-face, and more organic. This especially shows in the song lengths, most of them being over five minutes. This allows for more growth and more progression. Indeed, then, the melodies on “Distant Satellites”, while not being as instantly lovable or recognizable, are certainly more difficult and possibly will have a longer “shelf life” in my mind. Yes, the orchestrations seem to be lower key, as well, allowing the vocalists to express themselves more personally then ever.There are other improvements, too. I feel that the musicianship is more fervent and on a higher plateau of difficulty than Anathema has tried. Drummer John Douglas, especially, plays amazingly well from start to finish, accenting the music with awesome pounding and fills. The rest of the band are at their peak, too, with Vincent and Lee being especially great with emotional and meaningful vocal performances.“Distant Satellites” is different in more meaningful ways, too. Utilizing post-rock/metal structures is nothing new for Anathema, but they really do perfect them here, as on “Dusk”, a dark, climactic song. Yet, there is a sense of continuity between tracks, too. This is obviously the case between the three parts of “The Lost Song”, but it’s also apparent throughout the album, as if Anathema is telling us a story, convincing us of our true selves and our connection with the universe and with each other.This album is wonderful in the first half, but my excitement reached new heights in the second half. Anathema has taken it upon themselves to change things up a bit. They wanted to progress their sound, but make it all seem so natural. So, in the second half, the album climaxes with one of the best songs, simply called “Anathema”. But then, we are thrown for a loop somewhat, as “You’re Not Alone” features a hefty portion of electronic vibe. It’s great, but the best is still to come.Next, “Firelight”, a darkly ethereal instrumental track that is completely electronic, is thrust upon us, and is followed up by what may possibly be the best song Anathema has ever produced, “Distant Satellites”. This track combines everything that has ever made Anathema great: soaring melodies, climactic structure, gentle spirituality, amazing vocals, and now an electronic beat that is both complex and catchy. Vibrant, mesmerizing, and pure, this track elates me every time I hear it. It takes this album, and my heart, to new heights. The album finishes with a gentle ballad that just seems so fitting, yet it still has the strong electronic influence.So, is “Distant Satellites” a winner? In every way! Is it their best album? I don’t know; it has the potential, but it might take time, just like “Weather Systems” did. What I can tell you is that this new album is more mature, more progressive, more interesting and eclectic, and less formulaic then anything Anathema has crafted yet. It does sacrifice some accessibility and some instant likability for these things, but I respect their decision massively, and I fully expect to see “Distant Satellites” at the tops of many lists at the end of 2014." - Progulator
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