The sound is very similar to their first record, but this new song has some very interesting sounds to it, and I look forward to the band’s sophomore effort.
Also, a new discovery I made recently: the band Boar, which let out their self-titled, four track, first record on Bandcamp: http://boar.bandcamp.com/album/boar
Boar is a grueling mix of traditional doom, sludge, and extreme metal. From Finland, Boar released this album in 2010. You can stream the album directly, or support the band by purchasing a digital copy with a whopping cost of ‘name your price’.
I know the title says Top 10, but this time I am only going to give five. First, it will give me more space to talk about each band, and second, prog metal songs are really really long. Progressive metal is usually marked with multiple, and usually odd, time signatures (none of that boring 4:4 or 2:4). Implemented nontraditional instruments and jazz influence are also used heavily in progressive metal. Taking roots from prog acts like King Crimson, Yes, and Rush, prog metal should not be confused with alternative or post metal, which share many traits with progressive metal. (Bands like Tool, for instance.)
I have taken the liberty to painfully pick five of the most worthy (and best starting points for new listeners) of progressive metal bands, starting with one of the most well known, Dream Theater.
Dream Theater hails from New York, formed in 1986, and has written a number of concept and prog albums. The band’s core for most of its lifespan were John Petrucci and Mike Portnoy, on guitar and drums, respectively. The album Black Clouds and Silver Linings was written and produced by the two, with the main concept being of painful and difficult experiences, and given generally favorable reviews. Dream Theater is also one of the more accessible prog metal acts around, due to the nature of their sound and ease of listening.
Next is Animals as Leaders, an instrumental prog group from Washington D.C.:
The jazz influences are very apparent in their first, selt-titled effort. No vocals are needed either, the instruments are all that is needed to convey the emotional, and often times dizzying, display of technical mastery.
Even farther down the dizzying scale, is Periphery, who also released a thrilling self-titled record.
While definitely prog, Periphery is also considered a founder of the newer genre titled ‘djent’ (Meshuggah, for example, is djent). Djent is often lovingly termed the “chugging” genre, for its heavy use of palm-muted distortion in guitar, making a ‘chug’ sound. The vocals in Periphery are as ranged as the instruments, and create a well balanced sound throughout the entire album.
Getting back on the lighter side, we’ll look at one of the original prog metal acts, Symphony X:
While Animals as Leaders and Periphery could be described as dizzying, Symphony X would fall into the more beautiful side of metal. Incorporating more classical elements in their songs, Symphony X has put out a number of high quality concept records, including V: The Mythology Suite, Paradise Lost, and Iconoclast. (Author Note: Symphony X was one of the first metal bands I had ever heard, and set my listening pattern for quite some time.)
Lastly, I will ask you to take a dive into progressive death metal, dwelling place of Ansur, from Norway. Ansur takes death, black, progressive, and jazz in a single gulp, and spits out a mix quite unlike anything you have ever heard:
You heard right, a jam session AND a saxophone break in a death metal song. We really have reached new prog metal heights. This comes off the album Warring Factions, probably one of the best prog metal albums I have ever heard. In 2011, Ansur gave up using its name, with the band members not releasing any news since.
An honorable mention must be given to Dark Angel, who became an unofficial prog thrash group with the release of Time Does Not Heal, a concept album about psychological issues and trauma (mostly about sexual trauma), gaining popularity by advertising the use of 246 different riffs in a 67 minute window.
I hope you have enjoyed this look at the fantastic and mind-bending world of prog metal, a genre of metal that is constantly changing, and one that often takes some time to truly appreciate. Progressive metal always takes me back to a jazz teacher I had, who described music as the only thing that could bring out every emotion and feeling, even some that we do not want to experience. Progressive metal does have fantasy and sci-fi environments, but like metal, is filled with darkness and a questioning that challenges everyone. Prog simply brings those issues to light.
So we’re back with another round of Top 10, this time focusing on the genre of doom. I have always been a big fan of doom, it might even be up there with my favorite genre of all time. Doom features soul-crushingly slow riffs, with wailing, sorrow filled vocals. Usually very simplistic, like sludge, but doom strays away in content and themes; filled with imagery of the occult, death, horror, and other dark and evil things. The argument can be made that, while not necessarily knowing what they were creating at the time, Black Sabbath was the original doom metal band (But hey, they were the original everything, weren’t they). I am leaving Sabbath off the list, but don’t take that as insult, they deserve better than such humble listings as this. Doom can really be broken down into three major sub-genres: Traditional Doom, Epic Doom, and Funeral Doom. I am leaving out any bands with stoner influence, they would have fallen more in the sludge category, which was already covered.
First, my only pick from funeral doom is one of the harshest and heaviest bands around, Ahab. This track comes from their most recent album, The Giant:
2. Candlemass - Prophet. One of the founders of epic doom.
3. Cathedral - Melancholy Emperor, traditional doom off the album Endtyme.
4. Pallbearer - Given to the Grave, more epic doom, one of my top album picks for this year, off of Sorrow and Extinction.
5. Pentagram - Forever My Queen, another founder of the genre, this band has some history. Check them out one day, especially their lead singer Bobbly Liebling.
6. Solstice - Only the Strong, more great traditional doom.
7. The Lamp of Thoth - Wings of Doom, another big name in traditional doom.
8. Saint Vitus - I Bleed Black, another big founder of the doom genre.
9. Witchfinder General - Shadowed Images, that’s right, even MORE traditional doom. Off of their second album Friends of Hell.
10. Black Oath - Death as Liberation, yet another traditional doom track, but you made it to the end!
I hope you enjoy these tracks on a day when you want to feel extra gloomy, because that is the perfect time to listen! If you still have a craving for more doom metal and have an hour of listening time, check out Sleep’s quintessential doom record, Dopesmoker. An hour long album that isn’t divided into any songs, enjoyed best in one go.
As we approach Halloween, the days get shorter, and the air gets colder. We must find music that matches the season, and I’m here to help.
Today’s first pick is Van Helsing’s Curse, a project put together by Dee Snider (Twisted Sister). His goal was to make a similar project to Trans-Siberian Orchestra, but with a Halloween theme. So mixing metal and orchestral/chamber music, the group released one album, Oculus Infernum (2003). It follows the story of a child seeking revenge teaming up with a descendant of Van Helsing to destroy an ancient evil seeking to destroy the world.
The second pick for today is Candlemass, a doom group from Sweden, released a new, and final, album this year titled Psalms for the Dead. The band has broken up and reformed several times through its career, but is still able to crank out some great doom tracks. For the most part, their lyrical content fits the bill for doom: death, the Occult, and other Satanic/morbid imagery.
Halloween is growing near, my friends. Make sure you have the right soundtrack for it.
So on a more cleaner note from Coffinworm, but still just as evil, we have Iced Earth’s Horror Show. Now I have talked about them before, but I still have to post one song of this record. Again, this album focuses specifically on monsters and demons and whatnot, and is filled with really solid tracks.
And this isn’t exactly metal, but I want to talk about some dark ambient for a minute. To really set the mood, I think one can step outside of metal into a different, but somewhat similar musical genre. Groups like Midnight Syndicate, Nox Arcana, and Dark Sanctuary create a specific variety of music which spawned in the 70’s and 80’s and have reached peak popularity since the 90’s. Tone and subject matter is often similar to metal in this genre, with some bands creating music specifically for the Halloween season. Midnight Syndicate’s 13th Hour and Gates of Delirium follow the story of a haunted family and cursed mansion, and are both set up to play like a movie soundtrack. Perfect for some background effect and atmosphere music.
So this is the first of a new segment I’m calling ‘The Top 10’ where I give my top picks for a specific genre. Maybe so people who don’t much about a certain area of metal can learn more, or try new music, or just listen to what I think is worthwhile. Tonight, we look at sludge metal. Sludge metal incorporates doom and punk with twists of blues and progressive rock here and there. Sludge first came to be with The Mevlins (who are on the list), though many see Black Sabbath as early sludge as well. Sludge metal got it’s name due to the backlash against the 80’s and 90’s speed race in metal. Everyone was trying to go faster and outperform each other technically. Most early sludge acts slowed the pace down, cranked the distortion, and groaned and shouted their lyrics. The list I have put together are in no order, these are just the ten songs that show the best of the genre.
1. Kylesa - Running Red
2. Melvins - The Bit
3. Bison B.C. - Two Day Booze
4. Neurosis - Locust Star
5. The Sword - Iron Swan
6. Mastodon - Crusher Destroyer
7. Baroness - Rays on Pinion
8. Black Tusk - Embrace the Madness
9. High On Fire - Blessed Black Wings
10. Electric Wizard - Funeralopolis
Now I’m sure you’ve listened to all of them, and you’re well on your way to becoming a sludge metal expert! These are all good examples of the various kinds of sludge bands. Some are more progressive, some dip more heavily into stoner rock, but they are still sludge.
Have a specific genre you want me to cover next? Let me know!
A lot of folks ask me “Where did metal come from?” or “Who thought metal would be a good idea?” Well, tonight I will briefly explain the origins and early evolution of metal. It wasn’t always as large and as popular a genre as it is today…
Travel back in time to the 1960’s and 70’s. Blues and rock were in. Bands like Led Zeppelin, King Crimson, Deep Purple, Cream, and Blue Oyster Cult were combining 50’s and 60’s rock ‘n’ roll and blues into a faster paced product. Drums were louder, guitars were louder, and lyrics were getting more complex.
More and more bands began straying away from ‘hippy rock’ and becoming faster and louder, and adding more layers both musically, and in their instrumentation. In the 70s, bands emerged from all corners of the world, augmenting 60’s hard rock with new additions. From Australia, the hard rock group AC/DC brought in catchy and risque lyrics, along with a sonic crunch and wailing guitar solo’s barely seen before. English rock band Rainbow brought themes of mysticism and fantasy into the mix, with none other than the late, great Ronnie James Dio as lead singer (He would also arguably re-invent the role of lead singer/front men, and is seen by many metal singers as their main source of inspiration). From the United States, shock rock group KISS attained a level of theatrics and rabid marketing reached by few in metal. Lastly, Irish band Thin Lizzy added something very unique. Dual lead guitars, something that is seen as common practice by today’s metal standards.
Last but not least, that band that might have contributed the most to metal, Motorhead. Lemmy to this day, as do most of the other band mates, claims that Motorhead is not a metal band, but a “fuckin’ rock ‘n’ roll outfit”. No matter your definition of them, one fact remains. Motorhead was the first band to succesfully use double kick drums on a song. That in itself might be one of the most distinguishing aspects of metal, and a credit that should not be taken lightly. (Overkill was the first song with double bass):
The story goes that “Fast” Eddie Clarke was bored one day in the studio, and set up two pedals and started wailing on his bass drum. Lemmy and Phil “Philthy Animal” Taylor heard it from the other room, and were blown away. It wound up on the final cut of the record. And the rest is history.
Finally, the last piece of the puzzle. Black Sabbath. Sabbath took the blues and rock mix they found and added their own contributions: First, the dreary, woeful wail of Ozzy’s vocals, combined with Geezer Butler’s lyrics, and second, the forced down turning of Toni Iommi’s guitar. Iommi injured his hand in a factory accident, and lost some of his finger tips, forcing him to detune his guitar to play. This resulted in a heavier sound from the usual guitar sound. Another factor attributed to Sabbath’s darkness is the environment the members grew up in. Birmingham was a dirty, gray city with nothing but factory work and other monotonous life-styles. Their music simply emulated that, along with a curiosity for dark themes like black magic and Satan.
Again, this has been a very BRIEF outline. Proto-metal is much more than just lists of bands. But the changes can be seen clearly. As technology, war, and the progression of man’s curiosity for the unknown continues, so will musical evolution.