I did not realize how much I needed to let off some steam in my review, but here we are. I think what upsets me the most about 2000s era Dream Theater is how super talented each member of this group is, as both performers as well as songwriters and how they wasted away on half formed progressive metal albums throughout the entire decade. This band should have been pushing the envelope so hard given their reputation instead of releasing the same album like clockwork bi-annually for ten years. The hooks are empty, the production sounds thin in places where it shouldn't and bloated in others, the "innovation" feels surface level at best, and outside of "Stream of Consciousness", this album wreaks of non-effort in the worst way possible.
My thoughts on some tracks (including my suggested ones):
Haken – “Invasion” (from “Virus”, 2020)
5/5. Starting this playlist perfectly is a song to end my interest in this band in a djent-ish progressive metal bang! It's quite a shame that I'm not feeling interested in this band, because one of the best songs of Haken's newest album (this one) has earlier Leprous vibes that would make some thing of what Gentle Giant sounds like in modern times. This beautifully wonderful songs has lyrics that very well synchronize with the djenty beat, though it might cause some to think of the verses of Billie Eilish's "Bad Guy", which isn't the kind of relation I wanted to think of. The Virus album is great but I actually like their earlier albums more such as Aquarius. But still, good job, guys!
4.5/5. Wow, an incredible ambient interlude! You might expect Kidman to sing nicely like Burton C. Bell in some Fear Factory ballads, but nope. I guess Kidman just wanted to stay shouting in most of the band's other tracks.
5/5. This one is suitable for when I feel some slight regret over my recent change of metal interest, like a part of me wishes I hadn't made that move. The low strumming over the 7-minute mark is pretty d*mn chilling. The magical soloing from John Petrucci is one of my favorites from him! This impressive song has still made me grateful for this band to be around to launch my interest in progressive metal. Some might be reminded of Eloy due to the genre's brilliant genius. The song is from the 5-song "Twelve-Step Suite" which chronicles drummer Mike Portnoy's battle against drug/alcohol issues. The concept is so touching, along with song's beautiful simplicity, from the first verse to Pink Floyd-like great ending, all of which are something to love! This is also perfect for helping depressed/suicidal people get better and enjoy life more. I might definitely go listen to the second part of the suite "This Dying Soul" when reviewing this month's Infinite feature release (Train of Thought). Around the 3-minute mark, the instrumentation reminds me of Opeth, before giving me goosebumps with that solo a minute and a half later. Speaking of Opeth, I almost forgot, that band's lead singer Mikael Åkerfeldt, along with Pain of Salvation's Daniel Gildenlöw, Transatlantic's Neal Morse, and various other fellow musicians all speak their own apologies, regrets, and sorrows.
5/5. John Petrucci, Mike Portnoy, and Jordan Rudess, I salute your astonishing talents in both Dream Theater and this instrumental band Liquid Tension Experiment! I might listen to more of this band and write my own lyrics to the music, and this band has awakened the instrumental progressive metal scene while Animals as Leaders is asleep.
Seventh Wonder – “By The Light Of The Funeral Pyres” (from “Tiara”, 2018)
4.5/5. A kick-A song from a masterpiece album! Nothing else to say there...
Entropia – “Poison” (from “Vacuum”, 2018)
3.5/5. Good attempt at an extreme progressive metal epic, but slightly poisonous to me. Again moving on...
Kamelot – “The Great Pandemonium” (from “Poetry For The Poisoned”, 2010)
4/5. This song is from Kamelot's last album with Roy Khan before he left the band, and it has guest growls by Björn Strid from Soilwork, along with some of the best guitar soloing from the band. Those make the song one of the greatest of the album, though the album doesn't quite reach the epic heights of the surrounding symphonic power metal albums. Good to know that this progressive experiment is a one-time move for this band.
5/5. This is pretty short for a progressive metal song, just as long as that Kamelot song, both each 4 and a half minutes, but this Voivod song demonstrates highly creative originality, packing powerful metal punches. Why did I mention the lengths? Because it can be progressive without turning into a 15-minute epic! After a calm dark ambient intro with a few bass touches, the crossover-ish dynamics erupt with speedy riff rhythms and signature snarling vocals. Near the two-minute mark, the song makes a weird evolution into old-school Hawkwind-like spacey guitar rhythms. Many styles and influences all in dexterous textures in only under 5 minutes. A truly awesome feat!
Symphony X – “Evolution (The Grand Design)” (from “V: The New Mythology Suite”, 2000)
4.5/5. Speaking of great feats, this song would make you want more of this band. Great job!
Very surprising for sure Daniel, you'll be happy to know Evergrey have been doing the same sort of thing since 2014's Hymns for the Broken, they're an extremely consistent band if nothing else. So you've got a lot more material to go through at the risk of it getting too samey. I'm torn on whether you'll like The Atlantic more than this one or not, you might find it a bit too cheesy since it has a bit more electronic melody elements to it. I like the riffs and choruses of that one more than this one at the end of the day though.
My thoughts on some tracks (including my suggested ones):
Opeth – “The Funeral Portrait” (from “Blackwater Park”, 2001)
4.5/5. A brutally good song with crushing progressive riffs from one of the greatest progressive metal albums to begin the 21st Century. Yet another great way to start a playlist that would contain other good and better songs!
Ayreon – “Day Eleven: Love” (from “The Human Equation”, 2004)
5/5. A marvelous song with manic serenity! There's an amazing story told throughout this song and concept album, but I guess you would have to listen to the album on your own to find out the whole story.
The Contortionist – “Follow” (from “Our Bones” E.P., 2019)
4.5/5. The Contortionist is one of those progressive metal bands that started extreme (djent or otherwise) then the extreme part starts to fade into something more melodic. Fortunately, this song shows that The Contortionist still have a bit of their earlier heaviness while having progressive melody. Hope their fanbase is still following!
Cara Neir – “Floodgates Of Doom” (from Phase Out”, 2021)
3.5/5. HORSE the Band gone post-black/experimental noisegrind? Sounds pretty killer, but f*** it! Let's move on...
Animals As Leaders – “Song Of Solomon” (from “Animals As Leaders”, 2009)
5/5. Now this is a much better song, filled with jazzed-up heaviness and synth patterns. Whoever this Solomon dude is, he would be so proud of this band for such a gift. Still looking forward to getting the rest of their discography!
Neurosis – “Souls At Zero” (from “Souls At Zero”, 1992)
4.5/5. A great song to play from your surround sound system until the police tell you to turn it down to not disturb the peace! Neurosis need more recognition after starting a new revolution, the beginning of post-metal and post-sludge! Also, anyone else think the main riff in the intro and outro sounds like that of "Carol of the Bells"?
Ne Obliviscaris – “Forget Not” (from “Portal Of I”, 2012)
5/5. The title of this track is the English translation for the band name Ne Obliviscaris. The first half is a long quiet atmospheric passage that tries to build up to heaviness but ends up falling back down. Then in a second attempt, it gets up much higher and closer to metal, and by the midway point, it made it! The violin stops and let the instrumentation and vocals do their work for the rest of this song.
Evergrey – “Leaden Saints” (from “Escape Of Phoenix”, 2021)
5/5. AMAZING SONG!!! More about it in my review for this album...
Meshuggah – “Marrow” (from “Koloss”, 2012)
4/5. This one is predatory eccentricity. Maybe a little too eccentric to be my absolute favorite song of this album. Either way, this is a good introductory song for anyone stumbling upon Meshuggah and wanting to hear more of the band.
I didn't think that I'd need to get something off my chest when I chose this record for the feature, but apparently I did. Easily the most hard-stanced, "I will die on this hill" style of review that I've written, but it's how I truly feel about any talented progressive/mathy band getting voted down to oblivion because they wanted to play more notes than normal. I understand that it's an egregious oversimplification and I'm not saying that anyone is forced to like this kind of stuff, but seeing so many of the same comments over the past few years really got under my skin apparently. Full review link below:
Progressive death metal with heavy emphasis on "progressive". This is essentially what I would dubiously call "deathgaze" with it's use of atmospheric bridges to connect the brilliant world that has been crafted together. The buildup's are justified and the extended runtimes do not feel overindulgent. FFO (if you could even compare this to anything else): Be'lakor, Wilderun, Ne Obliviscaris, Windir
My thoughts on some tracks (including my suggested ones):
Opeth – “The Moor” (from “Still Life”, 1999)
5.5/5 (not exaggerating). Definitely the perfect song to start this playlist! One of Opeth's finest tracks that shows other progressive metal bands how to make a G****MN AWESOME OPENING TRACK!! After a mysterious two-minute intro, you'll be pulled into under 10 minutes of atmospheric complex progressive metal! I F***ING LOVE IT!!!
Pain Of Salvation – “Ending Theme” (from “Remedy Lane”, 2002)
4/5. Not really the ending theme, there's a lot more to go. This song has a dark mood and Daniel Gildenlow's soothing vocals especially in the great chorus. The talking part is really challenging for me to like without thinking it's dreaded rapping.
4.5/5. I'm quite proud of this band for their amazing melodic progressive metal that made my day in my earlier epic metal taste. There are plenty of good times to remember about this band, but I'm over them while making a few flashbacks to them like when I submitted this cool epic song.
Soen – “Lumerian” (from “Imperial”, 2021)
5/5. Soen has unleashed progressive metal at full power! I love it, especially the crushing riffing and strong commanding vocals of Joel Ekelöf. I might've just found one of the most d*mn important songs of this year. It's so stunning with a h*lla catchy chorus. Joel's singing in the softer parts remind me of Jonas Renkse. That's very great along with the f***ing genuine blend of heavy and melodic. The intro riff opens the song perfectly, and when it returns at around the two and a half minute mark, it sounds great in epic execution, along with the guitar bend and bass finish around 30 seconds later. The lyrics are so amazing! This ripped artful progressive metal sound can remind some of the recent Opeth and Tool. The chorus' triple-melody is f***ing incredible! This has greatly blown my mind more than Dream Theater and Leprous. This tremendous smasher has definitely gotten this month to a great start for me. The remarkable heavy intro reminds me of a progressive Disturbed. This is majestic powerful progressive rock/metal that should live on forever! An amazing killer song to pass the time when stuck at home. With their sound at heavy modern heights, I'm surprised they haven't been signed yet to Sumerian Records. They're definitely far heavier than Steven Wilson's music. Thanks for suggesting this, Xephyr, and thanks for sharing, Daniel!
Devin Townsend – “Sky Blue” (from “Z²”, 2014)
4.5/5. Interesting how I decided to spice up this playlist with a soft electronic-dance track, but this one works! Continuing Devin's willing experimentation, electronic beats and melodies surround soft vocals before a dance-rock chorus where the first half with Devin singing is based on Usher's "DJ Got Us Fallin' in Love", and the other half shows Anneke's velvety voice.
The Ocean – “Devonian: Nascent” (from “Phanerozoic I: Palaeozoic”, 2018)
5/5. This one I actually submitted to The Fallen, but this also works in The Infinite, a grand progressive post-sludge epic with guest vocals by Jonas Renkse of Katatonia (he was originally gonna be one of the guests in the epic Precambrian album, but he had to bail because of his band's touring and he was chosen to do guest vocals for Ayreon's 01011001). While, the sludgy elements drag along and test your patience, the drum aggression and harsh vocals are balanced out by ambient influences. After the complex experimentation, the song gets repetitive, but never excessively, staying perfect!
4.5/5. I'm a little surprised that I haven't reviewed this EP yet. Perhaps I should, especially this song that is a great early example of the djent sound Meshuggah would build. Review for this EP coming sometime this month.
Persefone – “Underworld: The Fallen & The Butterfly – Act III: When The Earth Breaks” (from “Core”, 2006)
4.5/5. Core works better as 3 multi-part epics instead of separating them as different tracks, but it's still amazing either way.
Pan.Thy.Monium – “III” (from “Dawn Of Dreams”, 1992)
5/5. Their actually is a name for this song now, "SIEEGEH", whatever that means. Anyway, this is THE SH*T! Awesome prog death that made me wanna enjoy the style a little more. A killer way to end this playlist!
"Core" is certainly a very solid release but I wouldn't go so far as to say that it's overrated. It may not be as well known as it could be but it doesn't really challenge the tier one progressive metal acts & generally seems to have received positive reviews of around 3.5-4 stars so I'd say that the consensus is fairly appropriate personally.
We'll have to agree to disagree then as I don't hear much resemblance to the heavier, chunkier & hard-hitting grunge-based sound of Tool & Deftones to be honest. For me, alternative metal is more of a late 80's/ early 90's thing than is a late 90's/early 2000's one & doesn't have as much to do with crossover appeal as much as it does with a crossover with the sounds being heard on early 90's alternative radio stations who were taking an alternative route to the cleaner, glossier & more indulgent approach of 80's rock & metal. Pain Of Salvation just seem to take a traditional progressive rock/metal path that's much more in line with the 80's to my ears.
For my track thoughts here, I originally commented on all of the 17 tracks here because there are so many bands I like and songs from bands that I might like. However, I realized that my comments on some of the songs from bands that I used to and still listen to were outdated, most of which were copied from my own reviews and my opinions on those songs have changed since then. I might give them up and sacrifice their discographies to make room for newer bands eventually if I feel like it, God forbid (NOT one of those bands). So I cut my amount of reviewed tracks to just 11 and rearranged the order of songs here to sound more complete. Here they are:
4/5. This is the only song from Catch Thirtythree that fits well as a single and a good introductory song for new Meshuggah fans. They unleash their djent action but get more eerie and melodic over the brutal groove.
4.5/5. Interesting attempt at a djent version of Antonio Vivaldi's 4 Seasons. I kinda love this phenomenal blend of djent and neoclassical shredding. So extraordinary intense, but I'm just not into the whole neoclassical metal motive anymore...
3.5/5. Keeping up the "classical-poppy second track" trademark from Ocean Machine, the chorus sounds a little cheesy where the only other repeated lyric is "That's all I ask of you", a little too much like that Phantom of the Opera song. Fortunately, the nice intense bridge is a good lead-in to the final chorus.
Armia – “Wyludniacz” (from “Triodante”, 1994)
3/5. Umm... OK. This is kind of just Voivod-like punky progressive metal with small horn sections, and the lyrics are all in Polish. This song is decent, but with these odd horn sections and Polish lyrics, Armia might not be the band I'm looking for.
The Reticent – “Stage 2: The Captive” (from “The Oubliette”, 2020)
4.5/5. This one's much better, like holy cr*p, listen to those fantastic blended dynamics! I found another powerful underrated band sounding influenced from the older Opeth with a bit of Riverside. Outstanding legends! It's a good bite of powerful prog metal, but I kinda wish it would last longer. The Rivers of Nihil-like heaviness is amazing, but at the two-minute mark, the saxophone is unnecessary and there should've been a guitar solo there instead. Maybe those are the flaws there. Oh well...
Sólstafir – “Ótta” (from “Ótta”, 2014)
4.5/5. For this song's scenario, like the old man in the cover art, you wander around the beach at the dark dawn with just a sliver of sunlight from the horizon beyond the sea. This song is quite amazing, a sad yet serene song that you kinda consider an ambient doomy bluegrass metal ballad. The theme riff being reprised at under the 4 minute-mark and close to the 8-minute mark at h*lla incredible!
4/5. A killer epic of psychedelic black metal to end the playlist, but...NAH. It is killer, but this sounds closer to black metal if most of the metal heaviness was replaced with psychedelic jazz. Great song, but a poor mix of genres.
Lör – “Ruin” (from “Edge Of Eternity”, 2020)
4/5. Sounds amazing as f***, but this unorthodox mix of extreme progressive metal with folk tendencies doesn't quite level up so much enjoyment. It kinda ruins the good memories of my earlier epic metal taste and makes me glad I moved out of there.
Shadow Gallery – “Crystalline Dream” (from “Carved In Stone”, 1995)
5/5. Having tried listening to this band a few times about 5 years ago in my high-school-age years, I decided right now's a great time to try again, and it paid off! Mike Baker sounds like one of the best singers of progressive metal with fantastic clean-singing magic, but sadly he's gone. RIP... Who knows how many years until their next album after this last one that was released over a decade ago? I don't know, hopefully not too long. I just love this great piece of old-school prog metal, no question about it. They're another great band utilizing Dream Theater influences. The world needs more of their music that has dropped jaws, especially that mind-blowing keyboard solo. This is so good, I just hope to get more of this band soon...
Enslaved – “Jettegryta” (from “Utgard”, 2020)
4.5/5. A gigantic-sounding progressive black metal song! More about that in a review I might make for its album Utgard.
Ainsoph – “The Long & Self-Destructive Road” (from “Ω – V”, 2020)
4/5. Amazing, but I'm not into the avant-garde blackgaze sh*t. Let's wrap this up...
Despite the massive cutdown, this is still an amazing playlist, and I'm glad to comment on a great number of tracks. Thanks again for these great playlists, Daniel, and let's hope for more submission participation from the other members for many more to come...
Normally I never plan on listening to any metal solo artists because I seem to have more appeal to full-group bands, and solo artists are usually mostly found in other genres besides metal, like...radio pop!! The other Devin Townsend album I've reviewed, Ziltoid the Omniscient, was good but other than that "solo artist" issue, it was far too comedic. Now we're at Terria...which is another one of the best albums created! It's perfectly heavy while being so soothingly atmospheric. Great for a relaxing drive! This is an album every listener must get, both progressive and open-minded audiences! You can't go your entire lifetime without listening to at least one song from this masterpiece. The main album has incredible songs ranging from heavy to uplifting, and I might share a few songs to my friend whom she likes this uplifting classic kind of rock! I agree that the hidden track "Humble" is a boring pointless track, but why should we include it as part of the album?! It's a hidden outro that you shouldn't let affect the album, like the outro at the end of Between the Buried and Me's Alaska! Just remove it, and the album would be perfect. So yeah, not including that pointless outro, Terria is a wonderful album and has now been made one of my favorite albums ever. If you wanna start your journey with Devin Townsend's music, this is where you gotta start. Highly recommended!
8/10. Interesting song to start this playlist, though this is from Coroner's most experimental album. The usual energetic thrash enters the groove arena with lively proposition and pounding atmosphere without ruining too much.
Sólstafir – “Fjara” (from “Svartir Sandar”, 2011)
7/10. A beautiful song, though it sounds more like an Icelandic Pink Floyd gone grunge. Done talking about this one!
Dream Theater – “Lie” (from “Awake”, 1994)
9/10. One of the best Dream Theater songs ever, besides the ones from their other 90s albums! The riffs by John Petrucci sound massive and dark, inducing great amounts of headbanging. Killer song from a great album and band, including that solo and ending! Though the singer sounds a bit like Ian Astbury from The Cult (band). The solo near the 4-minute mark has one of the great balances of melody and technicality, showing Petrucci's impressive virtuosity. Then after another chorus with clear bass, at over the 5-minute mark is a small metalcore-ish breakdown before those were a thing. Also there's a bit of an early Tool influence. Love this song!
10/10. Not The Ocean song I've submitted, but I won't bite. This is The Ocean's epic comeback to continue their Phanerozoic saga with guest vocals by Katatonia's Jonas Renkse. This is almost like Dream Theater's "Lie" on steroids, enough to put that Dream Theater song to shame! I got no other words to describe this supermassive epic. Please, just listen to that piece!
Nevermore – “Optimist or Pessimist” (from “In Memory” E.P., 1996)
9/10. A short but killer progressive piece, with killer guitar playing by Jeff Loomis and amazing vocals by Warrel Dane. The lineup for this EP had already recently fallen apart with the passing of Warrel Dane (RIP), and temporary guitarist Pat O'Brien's arrest for breaking into a woman's house and attacking her.
Meshuggah – New Millennium Cyanide Christ” (from “Chaosphere”, 1998)
10/10. The best song of Chaosphere, with drummer Tomas Haake's shining lyric writing. Those lyrics aren't as complicated as they are clever. That's my second favorite Meshuggah song behind "Future Breed Machine"!
As an Oranssi Pazuzu noob going into the bands most recent record, I can wholeheartedly agree with the assessment that in terms of what defines a metal as "black metal", this is one of the farthest from the genres roots. But I would argue that the harmonic and melodic passages from the guitars do have much in common, even if these tropes are used in unique ways. The shrieking vocals are also very inline with what one would expect from this genre. Whether or not one agrees that this is enough to quantify its classification as a black metal record is in the eye of the beholder.
I see a lot of similarities between Mestarin kynsi and Written in Waters by Ved Buens Ende..... It is music that has clear influences in black metal, but is so far removed from what that genre entails that classification is seemingly impossible. Whether that constitutes this record as progressive or avant-garde is irrelevant (personally, I believe these two tags are interchangeable). I respect this record for pushing boundaries as far as it did, and you know what? It even produced a great song in the process (Oikeamielisten sali). But like with most "alien" progressive records, the production takes the reigns in creating a claustrophobic atmosphere a fair bit too often for my liking, instead of off the floor dissonance or obscurity.
This is terrible! Both Cynic members named Sean passed away in separate ends of this year. The only remaining member of all 3 Cynic albums is Paul Masvidal. I hope Paul can keep himself and the legacy of Cynic alive, and I wish the best of luck to him and the fallen members' loved ones. RIP the two Seans );
My thoughts on some of the tracks (including my suggested songs):
Evergrey – “Hymns For The Broken” (from “Hymns For The Broken”, 2014)
10/10. I haven't heard Evergrey in a long while, but ever since I left my earlier epic metal taste, they have released another album The Atlantic and they've just announced an upcoming album Escape of the Phoenix to be released in February. This is one of the best melodic progressive metal songs I've heard 5 years ago, with the vocalist Tom S. Englund singing his heart out in the perspective of this concept album's suicidal protagonist. There's even a bonus melancholic piano version. Evergrey is an underrated band that deserves more love. Awesome track from a top-notch album that I haven't heard since so long ago!
Between The Buried & Me – “Silent Flight Parliament” (from “The Parallax II: Future Sequence”, 2012)
10/10. This is the climatic 15-minute epic nearing the end of a two-part saga, with the intensity from high to low, and the vocals ranging from growling to clean, often put in a powerful simultaneous combination. Brilliant!
Enslaved – “Neogenesis” (from “Isa”, 2004)
10/10. Yet another attempt at trying to get into enjoying Enslaved, and maybe this is it! An awesome song from a legendary band, taking you on a journey beyond stars, lightyears, and the universe itself, like that "Cygnus" track. This might just be my key to listening to Enslaved...
Opeth – “The Drapery Falls” (from “Blackwater Park”, 2001)
10/10. A favorite for many fans and probably would be until the end of time. I can definitely understand why! An acoustic intro gives way to a nice riff then calms down back to acoustic guitar as the clean vocals join in. Then it gets stampeded by a bombastic chorus that can give you goosebumps. I got goosebumps an hour before the first time I've listened to that song. Perhaps it's foreshadowing...
Nice pick on the Cloudkicker song Daniel, I didn't realize you included it in the playlist and, by coincidence, I've been listening to Solitude for the entire week so far, I think it's incredibly good.
As a mostly positive reviewer, I've stumbled upon albums so good, so great, that I give them the high ratings they may or may not deserve. However, there might be one album that goes beyond great, and I mean far beyond...
In order for an album to reach this "beyond" status, it has to attract me enough to get the band's full discography ASAP so you can discover new stuff from this legendary group, stay in my playlist for at least 6 months of maybe for eternity, and keep listening to them during that period of time. And that album is... Disillusion's 2004 debut Back to Times of Splendor!! You won't believe how much I love this epic masterpiece with song lengths ranging from 5 to 17 minutes filled with strong riffs, fast drumming, clean melodic singing, aggressive growls, softer sections, heavier sections, and much more to create the ultimate progressive metal adventure! Anyone who doesn't love this album as much I do might be thinking, "He doesn't mean to really give the album 5 stars, he's probably just biased with so many albums rated like that." No, they're all real, especially my rating for this album. I wish I could give Back To Times of Splendor more than just 5 stars, maybe 6, 10, or over 9000! Every moment is excellent, perfectly helped out by the deep meaningful lyrics. Many magnificent influences and elements in and out of metal creates this epic masterpiece of splendor. This is so incredible! I don't know what else to say, other than...Thanks so much for the rec, Daniel. I thought the ultimate album would never come....but it came!
I'm really glad I came back and checked this one out because, for me, it shows how much my musical taste has grown throughout the years. I used to be a massive Dream Theater and Prog Metal guy, in awe of their 20+ minute songs and insanely technical writing and somewhat random transitions. However, over the years, I've gotten tired of that kind of "whiplash Prog Metal", and Green Carnation's extremely cohesive and gradual style is now much more appealing to me. The whole thing is superbly written and has great pacing, even though the album is generally more low energy than most Prog Metal since it dives into Doom/Gothic themes for its massive climaxes. There's a great deal of variety stuffed in here, especially with the sax/vocal interlude, and it all comes together like very few hour long tracks can.
I think I've grown to appreciate the progression of melodies and ideas more and more as I've drifted away from the likes of Dream Theater. Tracks like "Octavarium" and "Metropolis Pt. 2" are obviously stunning and impressive, but they're an entirely different beast compared to this. DT's brand of Prog lives off of subverting the listener's expectations by constantly swapping between ideas that sometimes have nothing to do with one another and are there to just sound cool. Light of Day, Day of Darkness has almost none of this and while it requires more patience to really get a solid listen out of it, the payoff is definitely worth it. I can see why people were so hyped up about Green Carnation's return album this year and while I wasn't too impressed with that one, I'm glad I finally came back and got to appreciate this album from them.
A belter of a double live album from the masters of their subgenre. I've had the DVD for probably a decade now but had never tried listening to the album version until now & I've gotta say that I enjoy it more when I can simply focus on what's coming out of the speakers. The tracklisting is spectacular with lengthy & fully realised inclusions that span their entire career & it's very hard to fault the execution or consistency, particularly on the second disk which is mind-blowing. As a bonus, you get to enjoy Mikael Akerfeld's sense of humour which is as much a part of the appeal of an Opeth show as the music is. He's a genuine entertainer & if you have even a passing interest in Opeth then you can't really go wrong with this release. In fact I think this might be my favourite Opeth release these days.
Great to hear, they just released a new album today actually, which is why I included it! I wasn't able to check it out, I'll be sure to put it in the New Music Thread when I get a chance. I'm real excited but Colliding Skies was a bit dull compared to The Human Connection, so I'm hoping for the best.
Another immensely complex single-track release from the Swedish masters of djent who had tested the waters the previous year with their incredible "I" E.P. & now took things one step further with a full album-length undertaking of the highest quality. The production job is excellent & this time Meshuggah take off in top gear rather than building up over time with the first three (sub)tracks being complete home runs. In fact, I see very little reason to separate them as they're clearly the same track. Then the intensity & quality drops a touch during the middle of the album with a couple of more atmospheric periods breaking things up nicely. The climax comes with a trio of brilliant pieces beating you into submission immediately following the epic 13 minute centrepiece "In Death - Is Death" & the band finishes on a real high.
Overall, I'd suggest that I probably prefer "I" just marginally over "Catch Thirtythree" but there's very little in it. The mid-section possibly just lacks a little in the hooks & melody department if I'm being particularly picky but have no doubt that this is a classic & defining release for the subgenre & Meshuggah once again prove that they can't be touched when it comes to this style of metal. For fans of Kobong, Fredrik Thordendal's Special Defects & TesseracT.
Neurosis eighth album (or ninth if you include their 2003 collaboration with Jarboe) saw them delivering their most stripped back, emotionally charged & atmospheric release to the time. Subsequently, you'll find that "The Eye Of Every Storm" requires a little more commitment from the listener before its qualities start to shine through but, once they do, I can assure you that this is yet another mind-blowing record from one of my all-time favourite artists. The depth & substance on display here is nothing short of phenomenal, despite the fact that the band tinker with self-indulgence at times. It's also another prime example of why we don't need the atmospheric sludge metal tag because this record is a hell of a lot closer to post-metal than it is to sludge. Essential listening for fans of Isis, Cult Of Luna & Minsk.
My thoughts on some of the tracks (including my suggested ones):
Ayreon – “Isis & Osiris” (from “Into The Electric Castle: A Space Opera”, 1998)
11/10 (not exaggerating). There's no better way to start this playlist with the beginning of a journey...Into the Electric Castle!! Ayreon was a special band during my high school years (not that I ever was in high school). That project along with Dream Theater were my gateways band to the Infinite realm of progressive metal. For that I say... Thank you, Arjen Lucassen! This is one of the greatest progressive metal pieces to appreciate. While this isn't the first album in the Ayreon project, Into the Electric Castle is the first to include not only members of more popular Dutch rock/metal bands but also from bands from a few other places outside the Netherlands. This has helped those vocalists and musicians take them further into their path to fame and would help younger artists follow the path. This can help you travel through the stars and learn more Ancient Egyptian mythology. Even after giving up on this group during my grand switch out of my earlier melodic epic metal taste, I still amazed at this masterpiece. Many of the vocalists sing their own characters but it's as if they're the ones telling the stories instead of narrator, especially Fish (Marillion) who plays the Highlander. The last album I've heard from Ayreon was The Source which was a greater album for me because during my great metal taste switch, while I was saying farewell to many of my biggest progressive/power metal influences, one of the other vocalists indirectly directed me to another progressive metal band in the extreme side (Tommy Rogers (Between the Buried and Me)). Yet after all these years abandoning Ayreon (except a couple album reviews), this song is still one of my favorites from the project and helps maintain its legacy. I would definitely wanna hear another Arjen Lucassen/Sharon den Adel collaboration. Since cats are attracted to Egyptian music, do you think if I have a pet cat, it would enjoy some parts of this song? Hmmm... Even the album cover drawing can draw me in. Forget Yes, Ayreon is true progressive music. And wow, 22 years after its release, this song is now on radio! This Spotify radio playlist, that is. I really enjoy the clean production, amazing arrangements, and a great plethora of melodic vocals. I'm pretty sure my friends and family would've had no knowledge of Ayreon if it wasn't for me finding them. I still can't believe this album came out so long ago, back in 1998. I think the instrumentation alone might've inspired non-metal artists like Brunuhville. And another connection with The Source is when in that album The Prophet mentions a "castle deep in space". Cool callback! So dump your Madonna and Phil Collins and try this epic. Thank you Arjen for this project, and thanks Daniel for including this song.
Leprous – “The Price” (from “The Congregation”, 2015)
8/10. Addictive and groovy and one of Leprous' most compelling songs, but The Congregation is the album is where the band is transitioning out of their avant-prog metal past to their accessible progressive rock present.
Pain Of Salvation – “Ashes” (from “The Perfect Element I”, 2000)
10/10. Pain of Salvation is another one of the more melodic progressive metal bands that first helped developed my journey into the Infinite realm. "Ashes" is another perfect song from a timeless masterpiece album! Once again I still love it even after giving up on this group during my grand switch out of my earlier melodic epic metal taste. This is quite a haunting song reminding me of a more progressive take on Type O Negative whose bassist/vocalist Peter Steele is one of metal's passed legends along with Death's Chuck Schuldiner but that's beside this point. The spine-shivering voice of Daniel Gildenlöw is a little strange but has great passion. You can practically mouth the lyrics! This is quite an awesome heartbreaking song. I'm starting to miss my melodic prog-metal phase from nearly 6 years ago, back in my "high school" years. The vibe is violent yet emotional. Similarly with Ayreon's The Source, I have not been in touch with Pain of Salvation since after listening to In the Passing Light of Day, another album of absolute perfection that made me grateful about Daniel Gildenlöw surviving the life-threatening flesh eating bacteria he suffered a couple years before that album. The chord progression of this song can be a little repetitive but it's dusted aside by the song's advantages including some of the best vocals that I've heard during my phase back then, which might remind OG prog-metal fans of Geoff Tate. Beautiful! The turn into the new millennium was a great period for this band along with Dream Theater who released their own concept album a year before this one. If you thought Daniel Gildenlöw was so young in this album, you should've stuck around 15 years before when he was in middle school and in a band called Reality. Anyway, I'm glad this song is on a Spotify playlist (this one) for a good amount of Spotify metalheads to hear. I love and dark and heavy this song is. It's times like this when I wish I can go back to that phase, but I guess it's too late now. I guess you can consider this a love song in the midst of a duel between God and Satan. I also miss when Daniel Gildenlöw's brother Kristoffer was in the band, he's quite the bass king. Its album's concept deals with sexual abuse, and I think I was handling heavy concepts slightly better than when I was first listening to After Forever's Invisible Circles. I was starting handled different heavy scenarios, and they were addictive. The Perfect Element would later have its own sequel, Scarsick. I thought my interest in this band was over after In the Passing Light of Day, but I guess I'm still there. I have two Daniels to thank; Daniel Gildenlöw for this creative music and Metal Academy's Daniel for including this song.
Fates Warning – “The Apparition” (from “The Spectre Within”, 1985)
9/10. Because of how great I think of the first 3 more melodic progressive metal songs in this playlist, I decided to listen to a song from a band that I've only listened to for an album review and never got around listening to more of them because of how old the band is, back to the mid-80s. "The Apparition" is very good and beautiful with some of the best progressive metal lyrics to reflect upon. This is a deep classic I love and might give me some slight influence for if I ever start my own metal band in the future. An amazing marvelous song, which even though the vocals can sound a bit stressed is helped out by the riffs. A progressive metal classic for the OG listeners!
Seventh Wonder – “The Black Parade” (from “Mercy Falls”, 2008)
10/10. This is from a concept album about a victim of a car crash who ends up in a mysterious world within his coma. You would have to listen to the album yourself to know the full story because I ain't gonna spoil it to you here. Its epilogue, "The Black Parade" starts aggressively before adding happy melodies. The chorus and keyboards are just epic! Perfect ending to a perfect album!!
Dream Theater – “The Ytse Jam” (from “When Dream & Day Unite”, 1989)
10/10. The true highlight of the debut of progressive metal masters Dream Theater. Some might call this the best progressive instrumental since Rush's "YYZ"! The memorable opening riff is exciting. There are some Arabian melodies along with great soloing. The bass is very audible and enjoyable.
Protest The Hero – “All Hands” (from “Palimpsest”, 2020)
8/10. In this endearing eccentric progressive metal tune, Protest the Hero's technical proficient arsenal shines through with the band's incredible ability on the harborside to engage the listener through the arrangement that never gets overwhelmed. Great song, but personally I would choose their epic single "The Canary".
Symphony X – “Nevermore” (from “Underworld”, 2015)
10/10. Symphony X was another of my favorite epic progressive metal bands from 5 or 6 years ago. This song and "Kiss of Fire" are my favorite songs in their recent album Underworld, having the note-tapping guitar skills of Michael Romeo and the monstrous drumming of Jason Rullo, the latter suffered heart failure a couple years before this album but I'm glad he survived. The lyrics and vocals combine perfectly with the guitar. The theme of this album is inspired by inspired by Dante's Inferno and Orpheus in the Underworld, and this song heavily references the number 3 used by Dante; three syllables, a three-note melodic phrase, and three references to three songs from the band's third album, The Divine Wings of Tragedy. Too bad it's not the album's third track, but almost everything else about this song is perfect and never disappoints. Though the lyrics are a little cliche, it helps keep the band's exciting throwback to their old stuff. Holy sh*t, this is great! The day Underworld came out was a great day for me. And I say "H*ll yeah" to the intro/outro riff! Even the bass does great progressive justice. With Underworld having masterpieces like this song, it's a shame they didn't record a live DVD concert during the album's tour, though they probably would have if it wasn't cut short by a year-long hiatus for Russell Allen to spend some time in his other band Adrenaline Mob and injuries he sustained in vehicular accident involving that band. Anyway, I noticed that this song was blocked in the Spotify playlist, but hey, that's what this album and YouTube is for! Symphony X is so underrated that I would be really happy if a future artist considers this band their influence. After the first royal metal generation of Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and Dio, Symphony X should praise as metal's second generation royalty, unlike bands like High on Fire who think bicycles and drugs would give them royalty which...NO. It would be great if Symphony X perform live in my country. The band's awesome vocalist and brilliant musicians inspired me to keep believing in metal. Epic kick-A progressive metal, though I miss their early-2000s orchestration. Keep the good stuff coming Symphony X, you never disappoint me!
Solstafir – “Kold” (from “Kold”, 2009)
9/10. This is the title track of an album that I recently loved so much that I plan on getting the rest of the Solstafir discography soon. It crashes you through an icy wall of power chords while the tortured vocals of Aðalbjörn "Addi" Tryggvason wander through poetic delight. A superb song, though it's not at all like the grand epic progressive metal masterpiece that is Symphony X's "Nevermore".
Nevermore – “The Sound Of Silence” (from “Dead Heart In A Dead World”, 2000)
10/10. Speaking of Nevermore, you gotta check out their cover of the Simon & Garfunkel song, "The Sound of Silence". Who knew you can turn it into a death metal-sounding progressive/thrash tune with drilling riffs and a wonderfully gloomy theme!? That's what Nevermore did here!
9/10. This great chaotic song is from the album that very well began piecing together the progressive subgenre djent. It starts with a bit of an apocalyptic atmosphere that sounds like robotic machines taking over the world; industrial noises for almost 30 seconds, then a piercing siren over a total headbanging onslaught. The djent knights rise!
From the northern island of Iceland comes the band Sólstafir! First starting as a pagan black/viking metal band, they soon began to shed away their North sound for a style more ambient and thematic. In this album Köld, the bleak coldness still remains while blowing into the imaginative landscapes of post-rock/metal. This is pretty much haunting black-ish post-metal, a bit of sunshine glowing in the peaks on depressive winter valleys where the band's home sound runs through every phrase and tone. 8 tracks, many of which are around 8 minutes plus a 4-minute hit and two 12-minute epics, thoroughly create a compelling journey through an environment of pale empty space. Köld is a brilliant album of haunting immortality and the finest hour for Sólstafir. A superb recommendation for fans of post-rock/black metal!
It's now September which of course means that we'll be nominating a brand new monthly feature release for each clan. This essentially means that we're asking you to rate, review & discuss our chosen features for no other reason than because we enjoy the process & banter. We're really looking forward to hearing your thoughts on our chosen releases so don't be shy.
This month's feature release for The Infinite is 2002's "Sadness Will Prevail" album from avant-garde US outfit Today Is The Day. This band began life as a noise rock act in the early 1990's but over the course of their first five albums we'd see them becoming something increasingly unusual with "Sadness Will Prevail" marking the high point of their creative journey. We can't wait to hear what you think of it.