Hhhmmm.... I have to admit that I initially found "Deconstruction" to be a bit of a struggle as it's so clearly not targeted at me as an audience. I usually steer well clear of words like "wacky", "quirky" & "theatrical" when it comes my metal & this record has all of them in spades with Devin seemingly throwing the kitchen sink at every track on this lengthy third album under the Devin Townsend Project moniker. I quite liked 2009's "Addicted" but had no time whatsoever for the prog rock of "Ki" from the same year. This time he released both "Deconstruction" (an avant-garde progressive metal beast) simultaneously with another ambient new age album in "Ghost" which I really despised & perhaps that's what kept me away from "Deconstruction" up until now.
You can expect a real wall of sound with all sorts of things layered over the top of each other here. It's very clear that Devin has made a conscious attempt to sound as off-the-wall & bizarre as possible with his strange sense of humour coming into play at various times too. There's a significant symphonic component incorporated throughout the record & Devin tries all sorts of vocal techniques across the tracklisting along with a variety of musical styles from electronic music & opera right through to blast-beat-driven death metal. A couple of listens saw my ears starting to become adjusted to what was in store for me & by the end of the third listen I found myself showing some appreciation for what is undoubtedly an extraordinarily original & generally very consistent piece of art. It's just not something that appeals to me enough to see me returning to it too often. "Deconstruction" is highly progressive, is over the top in every way & pushes the insanity dial up to eleven for its entire duration. "Addicted" still gets my vote for Devin Townsend Project's best work but not by a lot & I feel sure that there's a healthy fanbase out there for records like this.
For fans of Strapping Young Lad, Ihsahn & Buckethead.
Wow, Saxy, it's incredibly nice of you for me that you've placed all 5 of my suggestions first before the rest of the playlist. Thanks for that! However, I'm still kind of straining from some of the more melodic genres, such as the melodic side of progressive metal, but don't worry, I'm still staying in The Infinite, I just need to pace myself if I want my time in the clan for be more bearable for me. I still look forward to submitting track suggestions for next month's Infinite playlist, and I have a special amount planned for then. In the meantime, here are my thoughts on over half of the tracks here:
Between the Buried and Me - "Specular Reflection" (from The Parallax: Hypersleep Dialogues)
4.5/5. Ah, one of my favorite BTBAM epics when I was still listening to that band. This can be reduced to a 7-minute radio edit and still be brilliant! The melodic and aggressive chills are a nice step up from the previous album The Great Misdirect. The clean singing sections can remind some of Circa Survive.
Dream Theater - "Hell's Kitchen" (from Falling into Infinity)
4/5. This instrumental is, contrary to the title, like transcending through Heaven's gates in magnificent mind-space. Still it did not beat the other Dream Theater instrumentals I liked when I was still enjoying this band, especially "Stream of Consciousness" which takes its title from a lyric in the epic coming after this track, "Lines in the Sand".
Leprous - "Restless" (from Bilateral)
4.5/5. A short catchy song with Einar Solberg's vocals ranging from peaceful to, that's right, restless!
Seventh Wonder - "Victorious" (from Tiara)
5/5. There's another reason why I would never forget Kamelot, and that's because of the powerful vocals of Tommy Karevik, who's also in this band Seventh Wonder. It's songs like this that make me enjoy the best of both worlds reigning victorious!
Veil of Maya - "Doublespeak" (from False Idol)
5/5. This song is aptly named because of both the singing and the growling playing out well in the lighter instrumentation. The chorus filled with singing really creates a beautiful aura along with rising drumming. The guitar tone lingers through heavy verses before the delicate chorus.
Threshold - "Silenced" (from Silenced)
4.5/5. I've practically forgotten about this band in the two years since I've given up interest in them after a mere two months, but now I remember them again with this excellent new song. Welcome back, Threshold! Absolutely sensational and could almost make an instant classic.
Cynic - "Infinite Shapes" (from Kindly Bent to Free Us)
4/5. Interesting choice, since this is from Cynic's small break from metal in Kindly Bent to Free Us. With that said, this was one of my favorite tracks from the album with the best lyrics there. So beautiful, especially the g****mn synthesized wolf howling at over the 3-minute part that then transitions into guitar. This is also the final album with the two Seans before their untimely passings in separate ends of 2020. RIP...
Mastodon - "More Than I Could Chew" (from Hushed and Grim)
4.5/5. A killer track from Mastodon's recent offering that marks their first double album. So f***ing beautiful, but what else can I say?
Novembre - "Jules" (from Materia)
5/5. An astonishing blend of progressive metal with gothic/doom influences, similarly to Green Carnation in the early 2000s. I think I might've found a decent re-entryway into gothic/doom metal, thanks to this track!
The Ocean - "Triassic" (from Phanerozoic II: Mesozoic | Cenozoic)
4.5/5. This one has heavy dynamic groove and stays in a between clean soft melody and harsh aggressive riffing. They haven't unleashed their contained destruction yet until later on in that album.
Protest the Hero - "The Canary" (from Palimpsest)
5/5. This song shows intricate groove hooks alongside the captivating narrative. The charging pace and epic dramatic chorus really makes that song a sweet highlight.
It's been many years since I revisited this seminal & quite bizarre one-off record from Norwegian avant-garde progressive metal outfit Ved Buens Ende..... & that really needed to be rectified because it's a truly confounding & resoundingly original piece of work from a band that were far too young to achieve such a feat. I first encountered Ved Buens Ende..... through the 1996 Blackend Records compilation "Blackend: The Black Metal Compilation Vol. 1" via one of the highlight tracks in "Carrier of Wounds" & immediately found myself captivated but it took time for the full effects to take hold because there's simply far too much going to be able to grasp it in one or two sittings. There are enough common traits to comfortably determine that Ved Buens Ende..... hail from the Norwegian black metal scene of the early 90's & you'll see plenty of evidence of that across the tracklisting however to describe them as a black metal band is far too limiting. You can expect to hear dissonant & completely atonal open-string guitar work that wouldn't seem out of place on Voivod's more ambitious records mixed in with jazzy experimental drumming & unusual & quite powerful clean vocals that somehow seem to draw upon dark melodies that perfectly compliment the tense atmosphere. Then a simplistic & consciously grim old school black metal section will appear out of nowhere & the snarliest, croakiest blackened vocals this side of Darkthrone will leap forth to penetrate your calmed state & remind you that this is still a release that has been born from the darkest pits of extreme metal territory.
For all those positives, Ved Buens Ende..... don't get it all right here. I rarely find an entire track to ticks all of my creative boxes with only the lengthy "Remembrance of Things Past/To Swarm Deserted Away" doing enough to qualify as a genuine metal classic in my opinion. There are also a couple of pretty ordinary atmospheric pieces included in "Autumn Leaves" & the hidden track that closes the album, both of which suffer from being too loose & wishy washy. Thankfully though those are the exception rather than the rule with the more substantial works being much more successful in their realization of an ambition that's stood out amongst its peers ever since. The best moments occur when the clean vocals manage to penetrate my soul in a way that leaves their eery melodies still easily recalled by my brain all these years later. More often than not these melodies are accompanied by a majestic & often dissonant guitar arpeggio that could only have been drawn from the Norwegian black metal scene yet somehow doesn't feel like black metal at all & it's this sort of contradiction that makes "Written In Waters" an enthralling ride, despite all of its imperfections.
For fans of Dødheimsgard, Fleurety & In the Woods...
I wasn't the biggest fan of French metal megastars Gojira's fourth album when I first encountered it back in 2009. Perhaps it just sounded a little flat in comparison with the band's classic 2005 record "From Mars To Sirius" but it would seem that my opinion has changed significantly over the years as I now find "The Way Of All Flesh" to be a very enjoyable metal release indeed. It's probably a little more straight forward than I remember from the band as it isn't their most progressive release but it's definitely hard to categorize. I'd suggest that it sits somewhere in the grey area between progressive metal, death metal & groove metal although neither of those labels is really all that reflective of the music it contains. If pushed I'd suggest that progressive metal is probably the closest description of the three but this era of Gojira kinda sounds like Strapping Young Lad meets "Domination"-period Morbid Angel with the vocals sitting very much in that Devin Townsend space. There aren't the quantity of genuine classics to see this record pushing for elite status but there are rarely weak moments either (with the exception of the clear low point "A Sight to Behold" which I have very little time for). Interestingly though, the two most impressive moments are left right to the end with the closing title track being the pinnacle of the Gojira sound at the time & the untitled hidden post-metal track being the best thing on the entire album.
"The Way Of All Flesh" is a very solid release in it's own right. It may represent the band going through the motions to an extent but if that was the case then it's proof that even Gojira's less inspired work is top shelf metal music.
For fans of Hacride, Mastodon & Devin Townsend Project.
I have strayed into unchartered waters by drifting into The Infinite feature release and I feel I may be about to alienate the clan residents somewhat with my attempt to review this release, but I am here now so might as well use the rope in my hand. I feel that in listening to Handmade Cities that I have just watched an eighties film were the protagonist has just overcome great evil (or maybe a serial killer) and I am revelling in the joy of the end credits having somehow missed the whole film. Sarcastic comment over, I promise.
If I focus on the talent required to make this album then I cannot failed to be impressed. It might not be my bag at all but despite there being more than one "WTF" moment for me, I could not quite bring myself to turn it off. Intrigue got the better of me even though I am not a fan of instrumental tracks (let alone full releases that are all instrumental tracks). It kind of reminded me of a Joe Satriani record I listened to years ago which although inoffensive never held my interest enough for me to ever explore it enough to truly get to grips with it. I guess that I find Plini to be decent enough background music and nothing more. Occasionally it does something interesting as it chops away at the aether around me enough to break through whatever it is I am focusing on to remind me that it is still there.
Overall, I find Handmade Cities just to be too safe a record for my extreme tastes, and whilst I acknowledge its merits I am coloured a dull, pastel shade by it. If I had the patience (not something that I have vast stocks of) then I would perhaps revisit over the coming days but I have to get my head around Spheres and that Parkcrest record yet as part of the monthly reviews and at least one of those has got me ruffled already this month so I feel they will be the focus of my attentions for the coming days instead.
Saxy, let me just say, you have done such as incredible job assembling this month's Gateway and Infinite playlists! This tracklisting has encouraged me to go through the entire playlist and find excellent tracks from bands I already listen to along with different bands in which some of them I feel up to trying some more songs from them. Well done, please keep it up! So let's get my track thought journey started:
4.5/5. A great opening highlight to show each member's skill! This is actually also in the January playlist, but never mind. Moving on...
Evergrey - "The Orphean Testament" (from A Heartless Portrait (The Orphean Testament))
4/5. Evergrey strikes again with a good heavy tune from their new album released only a year after the last.
Charlie Griffiths - "Luminous Beings" (from Luminous Beings)
4/5. I was only a Haken fan for about a year before realizing that band was better off being listened to by me 8 years ago when my melodic side of progressive metal was dominant. With that said, I'm still delighted by such a h*ll of a prog-metal experience from that band's guitarist. This song's pretty great and so is the cartoony video for any biology lovers out there. Monstrous Haken-like riffs can be found especially near the 4-minute mark and in the intro chord. Great guitar skills from this man, with some Allan Holdsworth influence. Amazing how creative he can be! The drums also rule, though I don't know who's performing them. Blessings to this beautiful yet monstrous piece, along with the video aesthetics reminding me of Spongebob Squarepants. Call this song prog, rock, or metal, but what matters is this journey with lyrics warning us about the darkness of extinction. Crawl, walk, run!
Dream Theater - "The Shattered Fortress" (from Black Clouds & Silver Linings)
4.5/5. This was one of my favorite melodic progressive metal epics that marks the end of the band's "Twelve-Step Suite" and eventually, Mike Portnoy leaving the band after 25 years, heart-breaking many DT listeners. There's a lot to mention, so here goes: The volume heads up at the 3 and a half minute mark, then two minutes we have a f***ing great riff. At the 7-minute mark we have a Metallica-ballad-like section with narration, before throwing back to Octavarium a minute and a half later, even sounding close to Black Sabbath after a minute. And after some Paul Gilbert-like soloing and one more verse ("I am responsible when anyone, anywhere reaches out for help, I want my hand to be there"), the opening of "The Glass Prison" is reprised, closing the suite in full circle. EPIC!
The Contortionist - "Early Grave" (from Our Bones)
4/5. This one continues the aggressive vs. mellow pattern. Then we reach a climatic post-metal bridge with an outro that's probably the band's heaviest since their Language album from 5 years prior!
Between the Buried and Me - "Prequel to the Sequel" (from Colors)
4.5/5. Between the Buried and Me is another band I loved for a few years but have not gotten in touch a lot recently, other than this album's recent sequel Colors II. This one's quite awesome despite the recent remaster making not a lot of difference, other than making the bass and keys sound better while lessening the power of Adam Fisher (Fear Before)'s screams. Life is constant happiness...
Kardashev - "Cellar of Ghosts" (from Liminal Rite)
4/5. This one's quite powerful from start to end. F***ing sick instrumentation and growls at times. Rock on!
Diablo Swing Orchestra - "Exit Strategy of a Wrecking Ball" (from Pandora's Pinata)
4.5/5. The lyrics here convey the feeling of betrayal and not seeing the one you love again. That inspiring lyrical theme might one day make me up to trying Diablo Swing Orchestra despite crossing them out after a short month. This is a band of musical geniuses! Who knew swing and metal fit like a glove?! There's even a slight death/nu-metal scream section towards the end. The lyrics should probably have thicker meaning though, but I can identify with that situation well. High-quality unique swing-infused progressive metal here, am I right? Still there are other bands for me to enjoy in my nearly a decade of listen to metal...
Isis - "Garden of Light" (from In the Absence of Truth)
5/5. Such as this band whom each instrument has their own significant parts. An incredibly epic song with a f***ing awesome intro and outro. The album this song is in shows a more melodic/experimental side that the Isis band members would have in their later band Palms with Deftones' Chino Moreno.
Symphony X - "Seven" (from Paradise Lost)
4/5. This was one of my favorite Symphony X songs from when I was still commonly listening to that band and Dream Theater. It's decently long at 7 minutes, but I guess it's short in comparison with the longer progressive epics out there.
Polyphia - "Playing God" (from Playing God)
3.5/5. The first time I heard the jazzy riffing, I had a confusing "WT*" look on my face, but the majority of this is a beautiful listening experience. Note that this band's earlier material was basically just jazzy prog-rock.
The Ocean - "The Grand Inquisitor I: Karamazov Baseness" (from Anthropocentric)
4/5. This is part of "The Grand Inquisitor" trilogy that has killer heaviness. Enough said!
Novena - "Ghosts" (from Ghosts)
3.5/5. This one ends the playlist in an almost similar direction to the end of the Gateway playlist, sounding the closest to hard rock. In saying that, the male and female vocals sound pretty good. Though there could've been a better end to this playlist in which the rest of it is awesome.
I enjoyed my attempt in genre-tagging the tracks in Trivium's The Crusade last week, so much that I felt like doing the same for another one of the most stylistically divided albums, this one from a former favorite band of mine and, while this album is non-metal, I still put it in the Infinite thread because of my judgement submission:
I have never really listened to a lot of BTBAM (including this cover album) for over a year, but when I was still listening to them, I submitted The Anatomy Of to the Hall of Judgement to be added to The Gateway and The Infinite because it possesses the alternative metal and progressive metal genres in RYM despite not reaching the 2:1 ratio and I agreed that it sounds close to those two genres. But how close?! I decided to revisit this album after over a year of abandoning it to see if my judgement submission is still valid or if it needs any changes or an additional submission. So before I declare Judgement Submission Day on this album, here's how I would tag the genres and the clans in the 14 tracks:
1. Blackened (Metallica cover) - thrash/progressive/technical death metal - The Horde/Infinite/Pit
2. Kickstart My Heart (Mötley Crüe cover) - glam/classic heavy metal - The Guardians
3. The Day I Tried to Live (Soundgarden cover) - grunge/hard rock/alternative metal - The Gateway
4. Bicycle Race (Queen cover) - hard/pop/progressive rock with slight metal tendencies - non-metal
5. Three of a Perfect Pair (King Crimson cover) - progressive rock - non-metal
6. Us and Them (Pink Floyd cover) - progressive rock with a bit of jazz instrumentation - non-metal
7. Geek U.S.A. (Smashing Pumpkins cover) - grunge/alternative rock edging into metal territory - non-metal
8. Forced March (Earth Crisis cover) - sludge-ish metalcore/hardcore - The Revolution
9. Territory (Sepultura cover) - groove/thrash/progressive metal - The Infinite/Pit
10. Change (Blind Melon cover) - acoustic/alternative rock - non-metal
11. Malpractice (Faith No More cover) - alternative/progressive metal - The Gateway/Infinite
12. Little 15 (Depeche Mode cover) - synth-pop/alternative rock - non-metal
13. Cemetery Gates (Pantera cover) - classic heavy/groove metal - The Guardians/Pit
14. Colorblind (Counting Crows cover) - acoustic/alternative rock - non-metal
Wow, this album is much less metal than I thought. Based on what I've analyzed, I can consider Between the Buried and Me's The Anatomy Of a mix alternative/progressive rock/metal with secondary influences from various genres such as classic heavy metal, thrash metal, groove metal, grunge, hard rock, and acoustic rock. Lots of rock and metal genres, though half of this album is non-metal, but at least it's close to those RYM-voted genres. So I'll just keep my earlier judgement submission up and wait for the fate to be decided by listeners of this offering in the future....
Well I have to say that I fucking loved this release Xephyr. It took me by complete surprise. The size of this dudes balls must be absolutely astronomical to have pulled this off with his debut solo album. It's just so beautifully executed & emotionally engaging. I can understand Saxy questioning whether it should technically qualify as metal or not as the metal component isn't huge but I think it's enough for me to want to link it to Post-Metal as it invites me to recall some of the more stripped back & atmospheric works of bands like Kayo Dot, Neurosis & Anathema. The androgynous vocals are lovely, the strings are very well orchestrated & even though the 55 minute single-track arrangement may seem drawn out to many (if not most) metalheads I never find myself questioning the artist's patience thanks to his exceptional ability to build tension & atmosphere. This record is just pure class from start to finish to be honest & I'm sure it'll be right near the top of my AOTY list come January.
I'd like to once again thank Saxy for allowing me to create the threads for his Gateway and Infinite playlists each month and including my really long submission in this one. However, I will skip out on commenting in this month's Infinite playlist. After that incident last month that happened because I didn't ask for permission that time (among other reasons), I'm still not sure about commenting on tracks from clans with the more melodic genres (except for a few tracks that I still like from this month's Guardians playlist). I'm currently more focused on my other 3 clans, but don't worry, I'm still staying in The Infinite, I just need to pace myself if I want my time in the clan for be more bearable for myself and others. With that said though, I've already submitted track suggestions for next month's Infinite playlist, which I'm still up to doing. Plus I'm planning to comment on the majority of the Gateway playlist, so stay tuned for that...