espite being too many times affected by a spasmodical research for virtuosity, Progressive Metal remains a musical sub-genre capable to generate authentic masterpieces. Typically this is a kind of music which has many admirers but just as many detractors. We here belong to the first category, but only at the condition to be in front of genuine works of art in which the music is really a way to convey those complex feelings that only this type of music may really represent at its best.
Let’s thus have a look to the best progressive releases of these first months of 2017, which include works from very different areas of the world.
#5) The Eclipse by Serenity in Murder
Serenity in Murder is a female-fronted quintet from Tokyo which plays a nice blend of symphonic-death and progressive metal. The band published early this year the third full-lenght album of their career, named The Eclipse.
The songs of this album are mostly focused on a succession of speedy riffs alternated by guitar solos, complemented by multiple layers of synths, growly voices, and gusts of drumbeats. The style of the disc unfolds between the typical atmospheres of epic metal and the musical structures of progressive rock, and despite the fact that the final result doesn’t shine for originality, the album is a very enjoyable piece of music. Whilst retaining all the typical elements of symphonic metal (cinematic intros, vocal choirs and a few musical extravagances spread over the 12 pieces), the disc never gets too overloaded with useless embellishments and gets straight to the point with a masterful combination of catchy and melodic motifs with death metal elements.
What Serenity in Murder have brought us with The Eclipse is an album that, despite its familiar adherence to melodic death metal, manages to be refreshing in how it implements its other elements. (Sputnik Music)
#4) Galactic Empire by Galactic Empire
Every now and then it is important to abandon the seriousness of the music analysis and let ourselves be captured by the simplicity and insanity of an idea as simple as incredible: to take the most beautiful songs from the Star Wars saga and play them in the form of a metal song. And although this operation will offend the purists of music and progressive metal, I challenge anyone to remain indifferent when the metal cover of the Imperial March arrives at your hears at high volume and you see these crazy masked guys shaking their heads at the rythm of music.
Picture the scene: a Stormtrooper takes the bass and Boba Fett plays drums while Darth Vader and two Sith employees shred on guitar, playing adapted versions of John Williams’ iconic Star Wars compositions live to an audience of cosplaying Star Wars fans. There’s actually no need to picture it, because since early February 2017, that scene played out across a load of venues. This is Galactic Empire, the metal band playing the gnarliest Star Wars melodies ever heard. (from NME)
In its essence, Galactic Empire is nothing more that a Star Wars – themed metal band from Pennsylvania. In the space of just over a year they gathered some celebrity going around playing in full costumes for every show and they eventually released on last February their self-titled album, which was mostly funded with the money raised via crowfund after launching on 2016 their first cover of the Star War’s Main Theme. Destined presumably to remain a fleeting meteor in the progressive metal scene, these crazy guys play honestly and passionately the music they like, and the result, for the short time it will last, it’s definitely brilliant.
#3) Spectra by Dark Lambency
As reported in their official web-page, Dark Lambency define themselves a melodic metal band whose music is made up of hunting drums, driving bass, growling guitars and flying keyboard sounds. Founded in Belgium 10 years ago, the group has eventually released in 2017 a berautiful album of progressive metal, named Spectra, which is de-facto their debut LP.
Although affected by an amatorial production which we can’t define impeccable, the album features some of the most beautiful melodies we’ve heard this year so far. It’s evident how these guys from Belgium had the chance to play these songs again and again during the last years, improving the balance between the main constituting components (double voices, guitar riffs, keyboards and choruses). This is relatively young band with skilled and passionate musiciansm: the margins for improvement are thus very large and the results they can achieve in the future could be amazing. The starting point, however, is remarkable and this is definitely a group which we’ll follow with special attention.
#2) Lykaia by Soen
Located on the thin border between progressive metal and post rock, Soen is a musical project that has been active in various forms since 2004. In this time span the group has published three LPs with varying formations but a few some constant members, namely former Opeth drummer Martin Lopez and Willowtree vocalist Joel Ekelöf (the group featured in the first album also the long acclaimed bass master Steve di Giorgio).
The musical style of Soen has been always compared to the one of Tool and somehow Opeth, which are clearly among the key influences for most of the musicians in this project. Differently from these inspirations, however, the music played by Soen very often diverges towards a more rock and “clean” sound, which also highlights a more melodic and progressive approach to the songs. Beyond the similarities and the divergences with other bands, however, what’s really important about Lykaia, which is the last album published by the group, is that all of the songs show a dedicate and an absolute search for musical perfection, which does not result, however, in sterile mannerism.
Lykaia is not the typical progressive metal album you may expect to hear. You won’t finde here guitar rides, layers of synths and catchy choruses. Rather you will be exploring dark sounds and ambiguous atmospheres, enjoying the articulated and elegant musical motifs crafted and played by these skilled musicians.
Lykaia is a study on interplay. Bass with drums, aggression with tranquility, melody with ambience, blended together in a whirling dance, never losing balance, never losing focus. It is varied and colourful, flowing effortlessly, with a stellar production that helps all instruments prove their organic contribution. (Sputnik Music)
#1) Contingent by Pyramaze
We were expecting them, and they delivered.
Danish progressive & power metallers Pyramaze released on last April their four full-lenght studio album, named Contingent, which follows the highly acclaimed previous effort, Disciples of the Sun. Similarly to their last album, the music in Contingent is still dominated by Pyramaze’s signature ear-catching melodies and powerful choruses, on top of which the vocal lines by singer Terje Haroy (who joined the group in 2015) stand out as an additional element of greatness. In this sense, Contingent follows the path of their previous work, even if there are clear elements of innovation in the introduction of more persistent cinematic and atmospherical elements inside most of the songs. We can therefore say that the slow but steady roadmap which sees Pyramaze receding from their power metal origins continues in this last work.
In general terms, one perceives in Contingent that there was a strong effort by all the members of the group to make all the constituing elements of the, from the guitar solos to the more dramatic progressive escalations, at the full and unique service of the main idea which is behind every track of the album. This happened at the price of a reduced “metal” impact and instead favoured a more melodic development of the songs. As is the case for every band which undertakes an evolutionary roadmap, new releases may generate preplexities within some elements of their fanbase, but at the same time they have the potential to capture new music enthusiasts. With Contingent, Pyramaze have clearly developed a more mature and progressive style for their music, which clearly reflect the situation of a band looking to renovate their sound as their musical experience increases.
With Contingent, Pyramaze has grown and matured into a band that is capable of satisfying their fans while simultaneously continuing to break new ground. The incorporation of modern cinematic film score elements mixed with progressive metal riffs and melodies will leave the listener breathless. (Blabbermouth)