E (Digipak)

SKU: 4090-0
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Nuclear Blast
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"First of all, no, Enslaved didn’t just title their 14th studio album, E, after the first letter of their name. The letter is a translation/reference to the rune ‘ehwaz’ that appears on the Truls Espedal cover art — looks more like an ‘M,’ but there it is — and among the meanings it holds are ‘partnership,’ ‘collaboration’ and ‘horse.’ It’s a one-letter title and a complete concept thematic on which to base the record. And as it happens, E is the most progressive outing the Bergen, Norway, extreme metallers have yet composed in their 26-year career, offering an expanse of sound and intensity that continues to push ahead of their last full-length, 2015’s In Times (review here), while clarifying production ideas, answering the varied intentions of their first live album, earlier-2017’s Roadburn Live (review here), and — in unquestionably the most major change the band has undergone in at least the last decade — introducing new keyboardist/vocalist Håkon Vinje to the lineup. Vinje worked with Enslaved founding guitarist Ivar Bjørnson and bassist/vocalist Grutle Kjellson (among many others) in the broad-reaching and historically-minded Skuggsjá project, and in joining Enslaved with Bjørnson, Kjellson, guitarist Arve “Ice Dale” Isdal and drummer Cato Bekkevold, he fills the role formerly held by Herbrand Larsen, whose contributions to the band’s overall sound in atmospherics and melodic vocals had only increased in scope since he made his debut on 2004’s landmark Isa LP.

That was six records ago, and in the 13 subsequent years, Enslaved only grew more dynamic as they progressed through 2006’s Ruun, 2008’s Vertebrae, 2010’s Axioma Ethica Odini (review here), 2012’s Riitiir (review here) and the aforementioned In Times, though the latter drew back toward a rawer production feel that E once again pulls outward into a larger sphere, and the soaring, soothing melodies of Vinje‘s vocals from opener “Storm Son” through cuts like “Axis of the Worlds” and closer “Hiindsiight” greatly enhance that impression. That Enslaved would introduce someone new in such a pivotal role feels like a bold enough step to make on a new album — one could hardly hold being tentative on some level against them, given how much Larsen brought to their sound — but they brazenly continue their apparently ceaseless and willful growth as songwriters and performers, and Vinje absolutely shines in the role into which he’s stepped, carrying the penultimate “Feathers of Eolh” (8:06) through ambience the thrust alike as Enslaved gallop with the fury that’s become one of their trademarks and step back to allow vocal harmonies to carry more subdued verses. It is a stunning late-album moment.

And by then, not the first time Enslaved have made the spine shiver. E launches with its longest track (immediate points) in the adventurous 10:54 “Storm Son,” which begins with captured outdoor sounds — birds, a shout, a Viking horn, a whinnying horse — leading to an unfolding of shimmering guitar and emergent push. It is a patient opening and when the verse kicks in, Vinje backs Kjellson‘s telltale rasp to set the stage for an exploration of proggy guitar-led turns and chug past the midpoint, heading toward a forward surge that carries them toward a repeated chorus that doubles as crescendo. The chant-style vocals in back of that hook are a foreshadow of what will become a major element throughout E, and one can’t help but wonder if perhaps Bjørnson is carrying a bit of influence from working with Wardruna‘s Einar Selvik (who also makes a guest appearance here) on Skuggsjá into these tracks, since even second cut “The River’s Mouth” — which is the shortest at 5:12 and an immediate contrast to “Storm Son” as it brings Kjellson to the fore in the verse and instead lets Vinje handle the chorus — seems to have some aspects therefrom at play.

Of course, creative arrangements of vocals, guitars, keys, and other instrumentation, are nothing new for Enslaved, but as “The River’s Mouth” swirls to its apex and the acoustic opening of “Sacred Horse” — a definitive moment of arrival, if brief — there’s a prevalence factor for resonance of mood that’s impossible to ignore. “Sacred Horse” (8:12) kicks into a vicious pummel with some of Bjørnson‘s roaring growls complementing Kjellson in the verse before a spacious-but-classy guitar lead takes hold before the next push, building a tension that continues as Vinje takes an organ solo after the three-minute mark and brings a melodic verse shortly before a break at 4:25 introduces the guitar part that will serve as the rhythmic bed for a thudding march that proves to be a standout moment of E as a whole, Bekkevold introducing the progression on toms before crashing cymbals to get officially underway. Guitars make a neighing sound to recall the ‘ehwaz’ theme, and choral vocals top the nodding groove in one of the record’s most singularly affecting moments. Amid laughter, they bring it back around to a few last measures of furious push to close out, and let “Axis of the Worlds” (7:49) take hold with more immediacy and a rocking feel at the start of side B.

As their titles would seem to acknowledge, “Sacred Horse” and “Axis of the Worlds” feel very much like the heart of E in their presentation. I won’t take anything away from the impact of “Storm Son” or “Hiindsiight” at the start or the conclusion, and the direct contrast between “The River’s Mouth” as the second cut and “Feathers of Eolh” as the second-to-last seems nothing if not a purposeful display of range, but with the one-two of “Sacred Horse” and “Axis of the Worlds,” Enslaved provide some of their proggiest stretches and show how they’ve made these elements cohesive with the context of their own, ever-shifting approach. To wit, the organ lines of “Axis of the Worlds,” the chorus hook “Chase the serpent/Step on his tail” delivered in clean and echoing screams, the movement into returning chants amid a section that’s as much black metal as it is still somehow drawing from psychedelic and classic progressive rock, and the way the song seems to resolve itself in making its way back to the chorus at the end, the band clear enough in knowing what they want to do to not even in this moment lose sight of the underlying foundation of structure amid all the raging complexity. Especially after the thundering “Sacred Horse” — and, for that matter, before “Feathers of Eolh” — it gets to the core of what Enslaved accomplish with E, manifesting ideas of duality, complement, collaboration, whether that’s between band members or between the band itself and their craft or the instruments they’re playing.

Begun at a rhythmic rush, “Feathers of Eolh” is peppered with nuance of play and topped by piano sounds and guitar flourish for its proggy intro, kicking at about the minute mark into chant-backed drive and bringing in the aforementioned highlight performance from Vinje on vocals. His voice — clear, confident, powerful, layered — recalls some of what Larsen did melodically, but he brings his own edge to the changes in key as well and one expects he’ll only continue to make the role more his own as Enslaved move forward. “Feathers of Eolh” touches on what might be considered Viking post-rock (stick that in your genre search engine) in a brief interlude before springing forth again for the next verse and turns circa six minutes deep into a head-spinning reinterpretation of the intro that meets with further chanting, double-kick from Bekkevold and piano skronk that builds to a sudden finish, bringing the melodic first-minute intro of “Hiindsiight,” which wraps up E fluidly while still holding a surprise or two of its own.

Namely: saxophone. At 9:36, “Hiindsiight” is the second longest inclusion and thereby bookends E with “Storm Son,” but its structure is decidedly working on another wavelength. Cutting from the intro to about as close to a doomed roll as Enslaved have ever come, before the track is into its third minute, it has turned once again to lush melodies from the guitar and keys, trading back again before introducing what sounds like a tenor sax for an echoing solo prior to the halfway point from which Kjellson‘s vocals pick up like throaty searing and jazz instrumentation just go together all the time and there’s nothing at all unusual about it — it’s brilliantly pulled off — and with airy noodling guitar holding the melody beneath, “Hiindsiight” welcomes Vinje back to the arrangement briefly, but gurgles out at around 5:45 to let the guitar set the stage for the E‘s final stretch: a patiently delivered build of melody, chants, the sax, and a wash that’s unlike anything Enslaved have done before and yet so definitively theirs that it couldn’t possibly have come from anyone else.

It is a suitably glorious ending to an album that does nothing less than begin a new era for the band. I’m writing as a fan, but the bravery with which Enslaved take to the formidable task before them in E only underscores how special this group truly is, and in thinking of the stated them of collaboration, one would be remiss to ignore how pivotal the core founding duo of Bjørnson and Kjellson are, and how much their work together has changed over the years while still holding fast to the creative drive that has been so easy as a listener to take for granted all along. It’s only one letter, but E spreads itself across the consciousness with worldbuilding mastery, and is a work of true vision simply not to be missed. One of 2017’s best and then some. Recommended." - The Obelisk

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    $15.00
  • "Discovering new music is always a great feeling. Especially (at least to me) when you’re discovering a new band that not many people have heard yet. Back in early May my life took a change for the better when Voyager’s promoter Incendia Music sent me an email about this new band from New Haven, CA, called Earthside. I checked out the single, entitled “The Closest I’ve Come”, that was supplied with that email. I don’t think I have ever been more gobsmacked before ever. Within seconds my brain was literally strewn all across the floor. I don’t think I have recovered yet from that experience. You know when you hear a song that is so good that you’re wondering how you could have lived your life up until that point without having heard said song before? That’s how I was feeling.A Dream In Static is the title of Earthside’s debut album, and if I was blown away by the first single, it is nothing compared to what I’m feeling now. A second single, “Mob Mentality”, was released about a month ago, and it was then that I fully realised just how big this album would turn out to be. But let’s start with the basic stuff. The gentlemen in this band are Ben Shanbrom (drums), Frank Sacramone (keyboards), Jamie van Dyk (guitars) and Ryan Griffin (bass). I commend each and every one of these guys, the amount of musical brilliance on this album is through the roof. It’s like listening to a slightly more laid back version of Opeth.A Dream In Static kicks off with the first single. For many years I have struggled big time with instrumental tracks, and especially prog music in general. I have slowly gotten into the likes of Opeth and Dream Theater, but this is the song that finally won me over completely. The composition is one of total beauty, and the melody that kicks in at 1.30 is just too good for words. Mind-blowing, spine-tingling, mind-boggling, heck, whatever you want. Bring out your thesaurus, it still wouldn’t be enough. I could dedicate this entire review to the one track, but let’s move on!Next up is the second single, “Mob Mentality” features one of my favourite metal vocalists of all time, Lajon Witherspoon of Sevendust. He is the first of a handful of guest vocalists featured on this release. Lajon’s voice fits this song perfectly, I don’t know many other vocalists that can conjure up so much raw emotion, and in combination with the talent of Earthside, backed by The Moscow Studio Symphony Orchestra, this track is more like a roller-coaster ride than anything else. An intense sense of drama is seeping through every second of this 10 minute piece that also would serve as the perfect movie score. 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  • 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
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    $13.00
  • In our changeover in distributors we received back a quantity of copies of Specs. We need to bring our inventory level back to normal so we are going to temporarily blow out this title. Grab copies at below wholesale price while you can.
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  • “Known/Learned’ is the third album from this thought provoking progressive band from Brisbane, Australia.  It’s a sprawling 2CD collection of themes and moments, captured between recurring characters. While never explicitly told in the traditional vein of the ‘concept album’, the imagery of Known/Learned depicts fragmented moments in the lives of a father and his daughter, their loss, their love, their journey. A bittersweet love song for life.Occupying a unique place in the Australian progressive music scene, Arcane’s transcendental live performances and 2009’s critically acclaimed, dark and enigmatic concept album 'Chronicles Of The Waking Dream' have earned them a inimitable reputation as one of Australia’s premier progressive rock bands.Sharing stages with artists as diverse as Anathema (UK), Soilwork (Swe), Queensryche (USA), Dead Letter Circus, Ne Obliviscaris and hundreds more, Arcane's live show, often accompanied by a backdrop of staggering visualizations, is a vast sensory experience.Arcane's immersive sound, and the vocals of Jim Grey quickly found favor throughout Australia, headlining the annual Progfest tour, providing touring support for Ne Obliviscaris, and performing to capacity crowds at Sonic Forge Festival in Melbourne. A crowd funding campaign in July, 2013 heralded the 2015 release of 'Known/Learned' a 16 track conceptual double album. Arcane blends the technicality of progressive metal with the atmospheric intensity of bands like Tool, Riverside and Anathema.  The world is about to discover what their Australian fan base already knows – that Arcane is a rising star in the world of progressive music.
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    $14.00
  • Excellent debut from this Venezuelan band. Echoes skirts the edge between progressive rock and metal. Clearly Dream Theater (and Rush to some degree) are an influence but the music isn't as heavy as most progressive metal bands. There are some great atmospheric parts that have more of a prog rock vibe. There are a number of guest vocalists that contribute to the album and they are all quite good. I'm surprised there isn't more of a latin influence going on - these guys could pass for a US band. I can see this easily appealing to fans of both prog rock and prog metal. Highly recommended.
    $3.00
  • Since the release of 2013’s In Crescendo, Kingcrow toured North America in support of Pain Of Salvation, and headlined a European tour.  Kingcrow kept busy in 2014, touring Europe with Fates Warning and at the same time crafting the material that would become Eidos.“Eidos” is a new conceptual album about choices, consequences, dealing with regret and disillusion. Their earlier album Phlegethon dealt with childhood and In Crescendo about the end of youth.  Eidos can be considered the third part of a trilogy about the path of life. Musically it sees the band exploring new territories and pushing the extremes of its complex soundscape with a darker atmosphere and a more progressive attitude.Describing the band today is quite a difficult task, but one could state that the influence of such artists as Porcupine Tree, Riverside, Opeth, Anathema, Radiohead , King Crimson and Massive Attack are all present in the music of Kingcrow.With each release Kingcrow has taken a step further away from their original roots as a classic metal band and is now one of the most personal and exciting bands that Italy has to offer.
    $13.00
  • Superb return to form from these German masters of melodic progressive metal. Beyond Daylight exhibits many similarities to The God Thing and may well prove out to be their best effort yet.
    $15.00