Feed Your Brain III: Maiden Prog

Iron Maiden are indisputably one of the most influential heavy metal bands in the history of rock music. While not considered a progressive metal band as such, they have always been progressively oriented due to Steve Harris’ love for early Genesis, Rush, Yes and the like. Moreover, several leading progressive metal bands have taken direct cues from Maiden’s distinct style. And, of course, their music has taken an even more distinctively progressive turn in recent years.

Therefore, the third installment in the Feed Your Brain series. Here are ten progressive Maiden tunes. Spotify users will find a playlist at the bottom of this entry.

Phantom of the Opera (Iron Maiden, 1980)

Iron Maiden, 1980

Iron Maiden’s eponymous debut album is, while the songs on it seem pretty straightforward, actually quite progressive with its unconventional song structures and surprising tempo changes. For instance, the instrumental ‘Transylvania’ features two different main parts that sound like two completely different songs, and even ‘Prowler’ and ‘Iron Maiden’ feature some, at the time, quite unconventional brides for heavy metal songs. Then, of course, there is the magnum opus of the album, ‘Phantom of the Opera’ with its 7 minutes of playing time and many changes, breakdowns, build-ups and variations. Oh, yeah, and then it’s simply a kick-ass track!

22 Acacia Avenue (The Number of the Beast, 1982)

The Number of the Beast, 1982

Starting out like a conventional metal tune, this classic from The Number of the Beast suddenly breaks down after a couple of verses and what sounds like a completely new song kicks in, which in itself contains several passages and changes. According to legend, the song was originally written by Adrian Smith for his previous hard rock band Urchin. In its original state, the song was much more of a straight rocker, but when adopted into the corpus of Maiden songs, it was enhanced, as the Iron Maiden trademark changes and shifts were added, resulting in what I consider a progressively oriented heavy metal classic.

To Tame A Land (Piece of Mind, 1983)

Piece of Mind, 1983

One of the more obscure Iron Maiden songs perhaps, ‘To Tame A Land’ is nonetheless the epic track of Piece of Mind. In a way, it is a precursor to the much more epic ‘Rime of the Ancient Mariner’ from Powerslave, as it features a similar song structure including a bass-driven breakdown and, of course, several changes in tempo. Where ‘To Tame A Land’ goes in its own direction is the slight Middle Eastern feel that it has and of course the subject matter which is inspired by the cult science fiction novel Dune. Being primarily set on a desert planet, the Dune-inspired lyrics, needless to say, definitely call for a slight Middle Eastern feel.

Rime of the Ancient Mariner (Powerslave, 1984)

Powerslave, 1984

This is the epic that ‘To Tame A Land’ prepared the listener for. With its almost 14 minutes, it is considered the Maiden epic of their first golden age. It features many of the not-so-progressive elements which Maiden are also known for, such as relentlessly galloping guitars and large sing-along-choruses. But with its sheer length, the song obviously is not for the mainstream pop music listener, and, after the song has been galloping around for what corresponds to the length of a standard pop song, it suddenly changes into a dynamic more uptempo section, before breaking down into a dark and atmospheric bass-driven passage, then building up into another bass-driven passage followed by a series of guitar harmony sections, before the galloping section kicks in again and rounds off the track with another verse. And, of course, the lyrics feature several direct quotes from Coleridge’s epic poem. If that’s not progressive, I don’t know what is.

Seventh Son of a Seventh Son (Seventh Son of a Seventh Son, 1988)

Seventh Son of a Seventh Son, 1988

Maiden’s first proper concept album, Seventh Son of a Seventh Son was also the most progressive album of their first golden age. One area where this album took Maiden’s sound in a new direction was the introduction of keyboards into Maiden’s sound. Somewhere in Time from 1986 had be a kind of precursor in that the band had started using guitar synths n that album, but this was the first time they made fully fledged use of keyboards. The title track of the album almost reaches the epic proportions of ‘Rime of the Ancient Mariner’, also featuring some of the same aesthetics such as heavy galloping guitars and an atmospheric bass-driven bridge. While neither as long nor as complex as ‘Rime of the Ancient Mariner’ the use of ambient keyboards adds a dark epic atmosphere not heard before in a Maiden track. And then of course, there is the flurry of solos, riffs and oddball guitar harmonies that follow the atmospheric bridge. This song truly is a(nother) Maiden masterpiece whose progressive underpinnings are undeniable.

Sign of the Cross (The X Factor, 1995)

The X Factor, 1995

With the departure of Adrian Smith after Seventh Son of a Seventh Son and the release of two more straightforward metal albums in the form of No Prayer for the Dying and Fear of the Dark, Maiden’s first golden age ended. Eventually Bruce Dickinson also left Maiden, and Blaze Bayley was brought in as the new vocalist. With him behind the mic, they released their two worst albums ever, in my opinion. A lot of fans blamed Bayley, but that is unfair. It cannot be his fault that the music itself generally became less interesting, and on The X Factor he actually does a brilliant job I think. While the least interesting Maiden albums to me, both Bayley-fronted records have some rather brilliant moments. Virtual XI has ‘The Clansman’, and The X Factor ‘Man on the Edge’, ‘Blood on the World’s Hands’, ‘The Unbeliever’ and ‘Lord of the Flies’… and of course the rather exceptional ‘Sign of the Cross’, a dark epic track featuring a song-length intro, breakdowns, build-ups and slightly challenging rhythmic patterns, and, of course, the Maiden trademark tempo changes.

Out of the Silent Planet (Brave New World, 2000)

Brave New World, 2000

With the return of both Dickinson and Smith, the Maiden sound was reinvigorated, and Brave New World started off the second golden age, and took on an even more bombastic nature than ever before, both thanks to the use of three guitars and Dickinson’s unique voice. ‘Out of the Silent Planet’ is a good representative of this sound, in which the progressive is constantly lurking under the surface in the form of acoustic guitars overlaid on distorted ones, long verses, tempo changes and all those other Maiden goodies. The progressive never bursts out completely on this album, but it definitely is a sign of things to come. And, well, Brave New World is a brilliant album on all accounts.

Paschendale (Dance of Death, 2003)

Dance of Death, 2003

Upping the progressive tendencies lurking beneath the surface on the predecessor, Dance of Death is, for my money, the first album of the second golden age where Maiden really embrace their progressive self. And the Smith-penned ‘Paschendale’ is very much the pinnacle of progressiveness on this album. According to legend, Smith, who had otherwise preferred writing shorter pieces, decided to try his hand at writing more epic material amd thus created ‘Paschendale’ which is bombastic, complex, symphonic, cerebral and emotional at the same time. They even make use of musical symbolism in the form of the hi-hat pattern in the intro, which is intended to represent the sound of morse coding, seeing that the song describes a World War I battle. For my money, this is one of the best Iron Maiden tracks of all time.

Brighter than a Thousand Suns (A Matter of Life and Death, 2006)

A Mater of Life and Death, 2006

Taking the progressiveness even further on A Matter of Life and Death, Iron Maiden sound even better on this album than on the previous two ones, and the epic song has almost become the standard format. But they never gave up on the accessibility and melody of their music. And the marriage of the progressive and refined and the accessible and memorable shines though perfectly in ‘Brighter than a Thousand Suns’ which features both add time signatures, complex song structure, food-for-though lyrics, melodic guitar leads, and bombastic sing-along-choruses that your brain will never forget once you have heard the song.

Ilse of Avalon (The Final Frontier, 2010)

The Final Frontier, 2010

The Final Frontier is the most progressive Iron Maiden album to date, to the point that I consider it a progressive metal album proper (not so much in a Dream Theater sense as in a Crimson Glory sense). Due to its experimental nature, the album does not sit well with all listeners, but, if you happen to like both metal and progressive rock, then this album should be up your alley. ‘Isle of Avalon’ is just one example of the many epic tracks on the album. It features a long intro which slowly builds in intensity and a main body consisting of many passages, ranging from relatively simple ones to considerably complex ones, even featuring some odd time signatures.

Posted in Iron Maiden, NWoBHM, Progressive Metal, Progressive Rock, Spotify, Traditional Heavy Metal | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Deus Otiosus competition on Metal Music Archives

Win 1 Godless CD + 1 t-shirt!

The death metallers Deus Otiosus released Godless in 2012 on Deepsend Records. The album has extensively been praised by reviewers and fans alike. Now you can win a Godless CD plus a t-shirt in Metal Music Archives’ official Deus Otiosus competition.

Click this link to go to the competition.

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The Underground of the Roaring 90s: Erector

They say that grunge nearly killed metal in the 90s. That may be so on the mainstream scene, but in the underground metal prevailed – although many of the underground bands never released anything other than the occasional demo or split.

One of those bands was the danish thrash acts Erector, who started out in 1992-1993 a Metallica cover band among many, but evolved into a fully fledged thrash metal band who wrote their own material and recorded and gigged on several occasions. Releasing one demo in 1995, their music combined traditional Bay Area-inspired thrash with groove metal and added their own very mildly progressive touch.

The band lived through the mid 90s, but eventually split up, as the band’s members decided to pursue non-musical careers (several of them are still involved in writing and recording music, though). Here are two tracks from the 3-track demo (the third track should be made available digitally at some point in the near future). Bear in mind that the Erector guys were basically just a bunch of crazy teenagers when they wrote and recorded the music, and the quality is that of a 90s demo tape.

“Deceit” is among the groovier Erector tracks, but features an uptempo bridge which is both thrashy and melodic. This track was features on the Fuck You We’re From Denmark Vol. 4-compilation and is considered to be among the handful of top quality tracks on an otherwise sub par compilation (compared to the first three ones).

“Scapegoat for Life” is a more traditional thrash metal track, albeit a quite melodic one – along the lines of Death Angel and Anthrax (who were among Erector’s sources of inspiration anyway), and it features a heavy bridge.

Posted in Demo tape, Erector, Groove Thrash, Melodic Thrash Metal, Thrash Metal, Underground | Tagged | Leave a comment

Feed Your Brain II: Instrumentals

Instrumentals is not a unique thing to progressive metal; they pop up virtually in every single subgenre, but in progressive metal, with all its bombast, high concepts, and technically and structurally complexities, prog metal instrumentals typically take the listener on quite a journey. Here are ten enjoyably and/or challenging prog metal instrumentals.

Queensrÿche: Anarchy-X (Operation: Mindcrime, 1988)

Operation: Mindcrime (1988)

Having booted Geoff Tate and vowed to return to the style of their early albums, Queensrÿche promise to leave the swamp of uninspired, mediocre rock music that they have waddled in since the release of Hear in the Now Frontier. Their magnum opus is undoubtedly their magnificent concept album from 1988 Operation: Mindcrime. ‘Anarchy-X’ is the instrumental that really kicks off the album. It is a nice piece evolving around a military style snare drum pattern and a fitting way to ignite a concept album about conspiracies and terror orginizations.

Glen Drover: Egyptian Danza (Metalusion, 2011)

Metalusion, 2011

Glen Drover is perhaps best known for his tenure with Megadeth. Since Dave Mustaine only allows the best of the best into the line-up of Megadeth, it is a given that Glen Drover is an incredibly skilled guitarist. This is documented on his instrumental solo album from 2011 Metalusion, which combines progressive metal with a touch of jazz rock. ‘Egyptian Danza’ is an incredible instrumental featuring sweeping guitar solos and a Middle Eastern feel.

Mekong Delta: Moderato (Lurking Fear, 2007)

Lurking Fear, 2007

Exploring the no-man’s land between progressive metal, power metal and thrash metal, Mekong Delta is one of the most original metal bands to come out of Germany. Making use of all sorts of quirky elements – from dissonant chords to lush symphonic arrangements – Mekong Delta definitely challenge their listeners. The dark symphonic instrumental ‘Moderato’ from Lurking Fear is a good example of this – and also showcases the band’s use of humor (Imperial March, anyone?).

Death: Cosmic Sea (Human, 1991)

Human, 1993

Chuck Schuldiner is, if anything, the godfather of progressive death metal. It was on the album Human from 1991 he changed Death’s style in a more progressive direction. Featuring brutal tracks, such as ‘Lack of Comprehension’, ‘Flattening of Emotions’, ‘Suicide Machine’ and ‘Two As One’, Human is also home of the instrumental ‘Cosmic Sea’ which combines the trademark Schuldiner sound with an atmospheric feel which is quite unusual for Death. This is not my favorite track by Death, but it is definitely special enough to be very enjoyable.

Dream Theater: Stream of Consciousness (Train of Thought, 2003)

Train of Thought, 2003

Train of Thought may be Dream Theater’s most aggressive and dark album to date, but it also features the quite expressive instrumental ‘Stream of Consciousness’ which opens with a melancholic and (by Dream Theater standards) simple riff accompanied by perhaps the most simple way of rhythmically accentuating a 5/10 beat. Throughout the song, the listener is taken through various typical Dream Theater-esque quirky passages and, while this is definitely one of my favorite instrumentals by Dream Theater, it is not without flaws, as I think the ridiculously shreddy guitar solo is totally out of place. Still, it does not ruin the totality of the listening experience for me.

Vargton Project: Vargton (ProgXpriMetal, 2011)

ProgXpriMetal, 2011

Vargton Project is more of an avant-garde kind of act, and their 2011-album ProgxPriMetal is all over the place in terms of styles. Truly eclectic, it might not be for everyone – even seasoned prog metal fans might not like it – but, if it clicks with, there is no way out. The instrumental ‘Vargton’ builds on a simply guitar groove which serves as the background of some jazz-rock inspired guitar leads. For some reason, this track reminds me of one of my favorite jazz fusion acts Chich Corea Electric band and, although it is not the most metal track on ProgXpriMetal, it is nonetheless very enjoyable.

Cynic: Textures (Focus, 1993)

Focus, 1993

One of my favorite bands and arguably one of the most original bands on not just the metal scene, but the rock scene in general, Cynic released Focus in 1993, which was so much ahead of its time that people simply didn’t get it. ‘Textures’ is a fitting title for this track which combines passages of crystal clean guitars with metallic sections, which are nonetheless multifaceted, and the whole thing is wrapped in Cynic’s trademark jazz fusion orientation. A great instrumental with a great build-up structure.

Prototype: Illuminatum (Catalyst, 2012)

Catalyst, 2012

Prototype’s progressive brand of thrash metal combines the aggression of thrash with the finesse and complexity of progressive rock, and the entire Catalyst-album from 2012 album showcases the band’s ability to juxtapose aggressive, but melodic, thrash parts with mellow and progressive passages. While a shorter affair, the neat little instrumental ‘Illuminatum’ pretty much captures the gist of the entire album, as it starts out with a melodic thrash riff, but then morphs into a near-atmospheric melodic progressive passage  which slowly builds up towards the following track on the album ‘My Own Deception’.

Chimp Spanner: Cloud City (All Roads Lead Here, 2012)

All Roads Lead Here, 2012

The djent genre may be unpopular with certain metalheads – many of whom even deny djent the status of a genre. Whatever the status of djent might be in the metal fan community, I think that there are some pretty amazing bands who are classified as djent acts. One of these is the all instrumental project Chimp Spanner, whose take on djent does include the rhythmic patterns that define the genre (or non-genre if you belong to the skeptics), but they wrap it in layers of Cynic-inspired jazz fusion and lush multi-layered. Just check ‘Cloud City’ from the All Roads Lead Here-EP from 2012, which features some pretty cool slapping-popping bass-work.

Rush: La Villa Strangiato (Hemispheres, 1978)

Hemispheres, 1978

And, of course, then there is the prog metal instrumental over them all – namely, Rush’s classic prog hard rock track ¨La Villa Strangiato’, which truly is a lesson in musical self-indulgence… and totally awesome!

Here is a playlist for Spotify users to enjoy featuring the ten tracks above:

Posted in Chimp Spanner, Cynic, Death, Djent, Dream Theater, Glen Drover, Mekong Delta, Progressive Metal, Progressive Rock, Prototype, Queensrÿche, Rush, Spotify, Uncategorized, Vargton Project | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

They Came to Thrash II: Teutonic Attack

Germany is one of the great European bastions of metal in general, and, of course, the German thrash scene – affectionately referred to as “the Teutonic thrash scene” – has a near-mythological status, spawning legendary bands such as Destruction, Sodom, and Kreator. Here are ten enjoyable Teutonic thrash tracks.

Sodom: Tired and Red (Agent Orange, 1989)

Agent Orange, 1989

One third of The Great Three of Teutonic thrash metal, Sodom’s style is decidedly more raw and primitive than their peers, Kreator and Destruction, and therein lies the awesomeness of Sodom’s music. However, every now and then the German trio, lead by Tom Angelripper, reveal that they are indeed capable of adding sophistication to their music. ‘Tired and Red’ from their legendary album Agent Orange is an example of this. It starts out with a primitive, almost death metallish riff, but suddenly an acoustic breakdown pop in the middle of the song and is followed by a midtempo and passage which features a melodic rock-tinged guitar solo. It takes a lot of songwriting talent to pull this off!

Hate Squad: Your Rotten Life (Katharsis, 2011)

Katharsis, 2011

Drawing on crossover and groove metal, Hate Squad is a modern thrash metal who entered the scene in the 90s. Incorporating groovy riffs played on downtuned guitars and featuring almost guttural vocals, Hate Squad’s music captures the spirit of 90s thrash metal, but combine this with the speed and aggression associated with classic thrash metal. ‘Your Rotten Life’ from the 2011-album Katharsis showcases Hate Squad’s knack for balancing 80s thrash metal aggression with 90s thrash metal grooves.

Kreator: Betrayer (Extreme Aggression, 1989)

Extreme Aggression, 1989.

One of The Great Three, Kreator’s music was incredibly fast and aggressive back in the early years of their career. Although they have slowed down, their music is still of top quality. ‘Betrayer’ from 1989’s Extreme Aggression is a classic anti-politician song (politicians are betrayers, you know) and documents the fact that a lot of early Teutonic thrash acts were indeed politically and socially aware. The song is extremely aggressive (pun not really intended), but also shows that Kreator were a tad more technical than their peers. We are simply dealing with a Teutonic thrash classic here.

SDI: Alcohol (Sign of the Wicked, 1988)

Sign of the Wicked, 1988

SDI had a really short career, spanning from 1989 to 1989, and is more of a cult band. Their music is admittedly more on the melodic side, combining traditional metal with speed metal and thrash metal. This is quite well documented in ‘Alcohol’ from the Sign of the Wicked-album from 1988. Also, this track, of course, deals with a very popular topic in thrash metal in general – namely, alcohol, but, again showing the social awareness of many German thrashers of the 80s, the song actually does not glorify alcohol; it is actually a critical commentary on alcoholism.

Holy Moses: Current of Death (Finished with the Dogs, 1987)

Finished with the Dogs, 1987

Holy Moses were one of the very first Teutonic thrash metal bands, and – yes – it should really have been The Great Four of Teutonic thrash metal with Holy Moses as the fourth band. They are known for their extremely aggressive music and for having a female vocalist in the form of Sabina Classen. whole growling singing style rivals that of any male death-thrash vocalist. ‘Current of Death’ from 1987’s Finished with the Dogs is raw, dirty and aggressive and simply kicks ass. Holy Moses are unfairly underrated and deserve much more credit and attention than they have received so far.

Tankard: Under Friendly Fire (Beast of Bourbon, 2004)

Beast of Bourbon, 2004

Another legendary German thrash metal band is Tankard, who are known for their humorous lyrics, many of which deal with alcohol (in a more positive perspective than the SDI-song mentioned above). Despite their humorous outlook, there is nothing silly about their music. They deliver skull-crushing thrashing riffs and rock solid drumbeats (maybe being drunk has that effect). ‘Under Friendly Fire’ is from their 2004-album Beast of Bourbon, which is not one of their classic albums, to be sure, but still shows the band’s ability to combine humorous lyrics (in this case, they’re making fun of the many instances of friendly fire in which American troops would shoot at their British allies during the US-lead wars in Afghanistan and Iraq) with crushing thrash metal.

Assassin: Judas (Breaking the Silence, 2011)

Breaking the Silence, 2011

Another cult band, Assassin are veterans and among the very first Teutonic thrash metal bands. Unfortunately, they were forced to call it a day in 1989 because all their gear was stolen, and they could not afford to buy new gears. Of course, now the band is back together, thrashing up the world. ‘Judas’ from 2011’s Breaking the Silence is one out of many German thrash metal songs about betrayal, and it features some old school crunchy thrash metal riffage. Musically, an impeccable thrash metal song, it features lyrics sung – or yelled – with such a thick German accent that you only realize that they are actually singing in English, after a couple of lines. Broken English is not a problem in Teutonic metal; it’s part of the genre.

Baphomet: Time has Come (No Answers, 1991)

No Answers, 1991

Baphomets is another band whose career ended too soon. Considered one of the earliest death-thrash band by many, their style was actually considerably more technical than could be said about many of their peers. Formed in the mid 1980s, they released three albums in the early 1990s before calling it quits. ‘Time Has Come’ is taken from their 1991-album, and absolute classic, No Answers. Taking the listener through a bewildering array of riffs and changes, ‘Time Has Come’ is, for my money, a true tech thrash song. The vocals are so harsh that you can get laryngitis just from listening to the song.

Destruction: Day of Reckoning (Day of Reckoning, 2011)

Day of Reckoning, 2011

One of The Great Three of German thrash metal, Destruction have been going strong since the 1980s and have released a string of thrash metal classics. While their music has developed from primitive black thrash into a more sophisticated and melodic type of thrash metal, their style has always retained the aggressive core of thrash metal. ‘Day of Reckoning’ from the 2011-album of the same name features both heavy and fast parts, and showcase Destruction’s solid playing and their ability to harness and express aggression.

Paradox: Hollow Peace (Riot Squad, 2009)

Riot Squad, 2009

Paradox may be an obscure and relatively unknown band outside the thrash-geek circls. Nonetheless, Paradox is a veteran band that was formed back in 1986 and are still going strong. 2009’s Riot Squad offers a lyrical criticism of present-day human civilization laid on top of really tight thrash metal. Like Anthrax, Paradox incorporate a lot of melody into their music, which can be heard in this track which features both melodic guitar leads and melodic vocal lines. But make no mistake, ‘Hollow Peace’ is still aggressive as heck and features some passages that would make you break your neck if you tried to headbang to them.

Spotify users can access a playlist with the ten tracks in question here:

Posted in Assassin, Baphomet, Crossover, Destruction, Groove Thrash, Hate Squad, Holy Moses, Kreator, Melodic Thrash Metal, Paradox, SDI, Sodom, Speed Metal, Spotify, Tankard, Technical Thrash Metal, Thrash Metal | Tagged | 1 Comment

From the Hörse’s Mouth IV: Interviews

Here’s the last bunch of interviews posted in 2012 at the MMA.

Krokmitën (Canada)

“I personally believe that we have great music to offer but in the end it’s up to the public to decide if we deserve any attention.”

  • Interview posted September 30, 2012.
  • Genre: experimental death metal
  • Topics discussed: the album AlphaBeta, the album OmicronOmega, the term “experimental death metal”, religion.
  • Krokmitën on the “experimental death metal” term: “The experimental tag could easily be dropped for convenience since at its core, we’re a Death Metal band. However, we mix styles of metal when we see fit. Our music has some elements from Thrash, Doom, Funeral Doom, Technical, Prog, a little psychedelic touch and whatnot. We don’t really experiment that much with the music itself; we never go totally out there with riffs. What’s experimental about us is basically the entire concept and the way we blend styles together. Also the way we see an album, the structure, the format, the way to release an album and our overall mentality towards the music industry. We felt that calling Krokmitën a pure Death Metal band wouldn’t be entirely true. Also from a marketing point of view it helps promoting your band with a simple explanation. But we could label ourselves the way we want but in the end the listeners will decide how to label us, that we agree or not.”
  • Want to read the interview? Access it here.

Moonsorrow (Finland)

“If you’re looking for some skeletons in the closet, I really enjoyed the latest Lady Gaga album as well!”

  • Interview posted October 22, 2012.
  • Genre: Folk metal
  • Topics discussed: ghettos, zombie towns, the difference between American and European audiences, the Finnish metal scene, pagan metal, beer and cheeseburgers.
  • Moonsorrow on the “pagan metal” tag: “It’s ‘Pagan metal’. That does nothing to describe the music, it describes the mindset. We would all consider ourselves pagan, and I think that’s something that ties us all together.
  • Want to read the interview? Access it here.

Bone Fragments (USA)

“Definitely don’t let anyone talk you out of expressing yourself the way you want! We’ve gotten a lot of crap for our weird themes; people see our covers and don’t want to take us seriously. And true, we’d be taken more seriously if we laid off the clowns and octobunnies, but that’s how we love making music.”

  • Interview posted November 3, 2012.
  • Genre: black metal
  • Topics discussed: Bone Fragments’ brand of black metal, the history of the band, lyrical inspirations, recording Too Gruesome to be Real, the Virginian metal scene
  • Bone Fragments on their own style:  “Originally, we had a mission to combine our weird fascination with clowns and circus music with our love of black metal, and I think we achieved that pretty well on our first two CDs, Circus Maleficus and Dark Amusement. Since then, we’ve been taking more risks, branching out into symphonic metal on our latest release Too Gruesome to be Real and now delving into more of an avante garde style for the new CD we are working on.”
  • Want to read the interview? Access it here.

Lagrima (Lebanon)

“Well, for me composing music is “You compose what you play”. In other words, if you play different genres of music and they all inspire you, your composing will be a mix of all those styles you play.”

  • Interview posted November 6, 2012.
  • Genre: blackened death metal
  • Topics discussed: the band name, the history of the band, lyrics, the making of the album Hannibal Ad Portas, multi-instrumentalism.
  • Lagrima on the title of Hannibal ad Portas: “The phrase “Hannibal Ad Portas” means “Hannibal at the Gates”, a sentence used by the Romans after they lost the battle of “Cannie” which was a big defeat , and they lost most of their army in that battle. “Hannibal” could have occupied the city, or at least put it under siege, but for an unknown reason he never went for the city.”
  • Want to read the interview? Access it here.

To-Mera (United Kingdom)

“If I may say so, I’ve always felt Julie was a master of allegory. She buries herself in philosophy and self-help books, and has wisdom, be it direct or indirect, beyond many people of her years.”

  • Interview posted November 15, 2012.
  • Genre: progressive metal/rock
  • Topics discussed: the band name, the history of the band, genre transgression, relations with Haken, vocal melodies, writing processes, recording Exile.
  • To-Mera on the recording of Exile: “Creating this album really was a marathon. After I’d had my year away from music (2009-2010), I really had the itch to do another album with this band, but after the positive response Haken was receiving with “Aquarius”, I realised how To-Mera had been going about the album production process in a grossly inefficient and compromising way. What we’d done up till then had been to record everything in recording studios, paying considerable amounts to sound engineers with limited time. As a result we always felt the time and monetary constraints always got in the way of obtaining the optimal outcomes on record.”
  • Want to read the interview? Access it here.

Lacrimosa (Germany)

“Don’t listen to anyone! Music comes from the heart and not from the head. No-one knows which music you want to do, so no-one can tell you what to do!”

  • Interview posted November 3, 2012.
  • Genre: gothic metal/rock
  • Topics discussed: inspirations, Lacrimosa’s sound, the “gothic” tag, symphonicity, creating orchestral parts.
  • Lacrimosa on symphonicity: “I think it comes down to my love of combining things that might not fit together on first sight. When you take a closer look at things you often can discover that the flame awakes out of contrasts. A violin for example sounds the best if you compose a melody for it in which it can evolve as well as a guitar can only punch you right in the face if you give it the right chords. So every instrument is doing what it can do best and at their peek you bring them together and the magic becomes unstoppable!”
  • Want to read the interview? Access it here.

Dragged into Sunlight (United Kingdom)

“Misery forever.”

  • Interview posted December 10, 2012.
  • Genre: death metal
  • Topics discussed: the sound of Dragged into Sunlight, the history of the band, anonymity, the Widowmaker-album, pessimism, passion.
  • Dragged into Sonlight describing their style: “Everything louder and heavier than everything else. A collective madness of unspeakable horror.”
  • Want to read the interview? Access it here.

Remember to check the MMA interview section for new interviews with your favorite metal artists in the coming year.

Posted in Black Metal, Bone Fragments, Death Metal, Dragged into Sunlight, Folk Metal, Gothic Metal, Krokmitën, Lacrimosa, Lagrima, Moonsorrow, Progressive Metal, Progressive Rock, To-Mera | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Feed Your Brain I: Thinking Person’s Metal

It’s bombastic. It’s challenging. It’s spacey. It’s quirky. It’s complex. It’s technical. It’s larger than life. It’s progressive metal. Here are ten enjoyable tracks – some legendary and some obscure – from the weird and wonderful world of prog metal.

Dream Theater: Fatal Tragedy (Metropolis II: Scenes from a Memory, 1999)

Metropolis II: Scenes from a Memory, 1999

Dream Theater have bot been heralded as the masters of progressive metal and received a lot of flack for their bombastic style. Scenes from a Memory, while received very positively at the time it came out, has subsequently received criticism for its lyrical concept and the so-called pretentious nature of the music. To be honest, I don’t give a damn what the detractors think. I love this album and I particularly love ‘Fatal Tragedy’ because of the quirky shrink-n-grow section. It’s classic progressive metal at its finest if you ask me.

Psychotic Waltz: Tiny Streams (Into the Everflow, 1992)

Into the Everflow, 1992

Dream Theater, Fates Warning, and Queensrÿche were The Big Three of progressive metal in the late 1980s and early 1990s, but there was a fourth band which was greatly admired among metal musicians – namely, Psychotic Waltz, whose dark and psychedelic brand of metal resonated well with the metal-loving community. Psychotic Waltz never made it as big as The Big Three, but they were still very influential, with Into the Everflow being their most cult album. ‘Tiny Streams’ is, in its dark and slightly aggressive psychedelic oppressiveness, one of my favorite tracks on the album.

Symphony X: Set The World On Fire (Paradise Lost, 2007)

Paradise Lost, 2007

One of the leading prog power metal bands out there these days, Symphony X combine the epic, and slightly cheesy, feel of power metal with the complexity of progressive metal (although they are allegedly more into ‘Owner of a lonely Heart’ than ‘The Revealing Science of God (Dance of the Dawn)’). ‘Set the World on Fire’ from 2007’s Paradise Lost has it all, ranging from heavy and groovy riffs over odd time signatures and spacey keyboard parts to epic and catchy power metal chorus lines. It’s awesome.

Winter Crescent: Furrow (Battle of Egos, 2009)

Battle of Egos, 2009

If you can make your progressive metal both technically advanced and accessible, then you have struck gold. That’s what Queensrÿche and Fates Warning did in their heyday, and that’s what Greek underground progressive metal act Winter Crescent did on their 2009-EP Battle of Egos. ‘Furrow’ is one of the heavier tracks on the EP and displays the band’s ability for making wide-reaching progressive metal. And, if you like very skilled and versatile singers, then you’re going to love Nikos Spyridakis’s performance on this song.

Anubis Gate: Lost in Myself (The Detached, 2009)

The Detached, 2009

Denmark does not have that many progressive metal bands, but there are a few, and they’re generally pretty good. Among the most well known Danish progressive metal bands we find Anubis Gate who might well be the next Queensrÿche in the sense that they manage to make their music extremely accessible but at the same time sophisticated and progressive. 2009’s The Detached featured famous producer and Invocator main man Jacob Hansen on vocals, and ‘Lost in Myself’ is a prime example of Anubis Gate’s skills as musicians and songs miths.

Queensrÿche: Speak (Operation: Mindcrime, 1988)

Operation: Mindcrime (1988)

But, of course, the old Queensrÿche could also end up being the new Queensrÿche, as recent developments in the band’s history (the firing of Geoff Tate and a promise to return to their hard rocking progressive metal roots). Back in the day, their huge breakthrough was the concept album Operation: Mindcrime, although they’d already two artistically successful albums and en EP. ‘Speak’ is one of the more straightforward track on the album and features some nice baritone vocals from Geoff Tate in the chorus. It is not my favorite track on that album, but it is definitely among the better songs in the career of the band.

Cynic: The Unknown Guest (Traced in Air, 2008)

Traced in Air, 2008

Cynic are probably one of the most original bands ever. With Focus from 1993, they boggled the minds of the entire world with their progressive blend of death metal and jazz fusion, topped with high pitched robotic vocals. Although a masterpiece, people just did not understand the album, and it resulted in the band splitting up. Until 2008, that is, when they released their second album Traced in Air which, while the death metal has been toned down, still maintains the perfect balance between jazz and metal. Still original, still challenging it is, but now the world is actually ready for that kind of music.

Control Denied: When the Link Becomes Missing (The Fragile Art of Existence, 1999)

The Fragile Art of Existence, 1999

Chuck Schuldiner is probably one of the most iconic characters in the world of metal. He is revered for his work with Death, and is considered the godfather of both death metal and prog/tech death metal. After he disbanded Death (well actually before, because he had to reform Death for contractual reasons), he formed Control Denied, which was a much more melodic progressive metal band with clean vocals and a slight power metal touch. But what I like about it is that you can recognize that typical Chuck-style of writing that also characterized Death. “When the Link Becomes Missing” is interesting in part because of the long melodic bridge.

Watch Tower: The Size of the Matter (The Size of the Matter, 2010)

The Size of the Matter, 2010

Watch Tower, or Watch Tower, are more of a cult band than anything, having released only two albums. Yet they are hugely influential on the progressive metal scene. Their music was complex and quirky, combining thrash aggression with odd time signatures and really dynamic drums. Their third album Mathematics has been in the making for years, and who knows if it’ll ever see the light of day. So far, only the single The Size of the Matter has been released, but, wow, what an amazing track it is. It’s complex, dynamic and strangely melodic. Simply brilliant!

Prototype: My Own Deception (Catalyst, 201 on you. At first listen, you can really hear that there’s something 2)

Catalyst, 2012

Catalyst from 2012 is one of those albums that grow on you. I mean already upon first listen, you can hear that Prototype have something special going on with their very progressively oriented melodic thrash meta. However, the more you listen, the more details you discover. The album contains both long and short songs – some of which are complex and some of which are simple. Especially the long songs have a nice progressive dynamism to them, and then the lyrical concept of the album is a mindboggling sci-fi themed one.

Spotify users can access a playlist featuring the tracks in question here:

Posted in Anubis Gate, Cynic, Dream Theater, Progressive Metal, Prototype, Psychotic Waltz, Queensrÿche, Somphony X, Spotify, Uncategorized, Watchtower, Winter Crescent | Tagged | 1 Comment

They Came to Thrash I: Revenge of the Titans

With roots in both NWoBHM and hardcore punk and inspired by the aggression of Motörhead, thrash metal was born in the early 80s, as bands like Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer, Exodus, Testament, Overkill and Anthrax gave it full throttle and created that was, at the time, unmatched in aggression.

Thrash metal thrived for almost a decade and helped give birth to a number of heavy metal genres, such as groove metal, death metal, and black metal among others. But in the mid-90s grunge had taken over, and thrash metal itself had been eaten up from the inside by groove metal, which had become stagnant and bloated. Eventually the genre slipped out of the limelight, as established thrash metal bands either threw the towel in the ring or made a mockery out of themselves by frantically trying to keep up with the trends.

Then after the change of the millennium, something happened. Hordes of young musicians revived the genre, and the many of Gods of Thrash that they worshipped came out of retirement, while many of those who had been dabbling in more mainstream music found a rekindled interest in thrash metal and returned to glory. Others had steadfastly trooped on through the dark age of the 90s and were rewarded with a renewed interest in their music by the new generation of thrash metal fans. This first installment of They Came to Thrash – a series of posts focusing on thrash metal – introduces the interested reader to some post-Y2K tracks by ten returned, revitalized, or just rediscovered thrash metal legends (there’s a Spotify playlist at the bottom of this page in case you want to listen to the tracks while reading).

Death Angel: Truce (Restless retribution, 2010)

Relentless Retribution, 2010.

In 2004, fourteen years after the release of Act III, Death Angel released The Art of Dying and Killing Season, both of which were all out thrashers, but it was in 2010 with the release of Relentless Retribution, after a line-up change, that Death Angel returned in full force. The track ‘Truce’ from that album captures Death Angel at their best, as it combines aggression, groove and melody, topping impeccable musical performance with Mark Osegueda’s edgy and in-your-face vocals.

Slayer: Disciple (God Hates Us All, 2001)

God Hates Us All, 2001

Although most people agree that Christ Illusion from 2006, I have always found that God Hates Us All from 2001 was the album that showed that Slayer were back. The music was aggressive and simple, and Tom Araya sounds angrier than ever on this album. ‘Disciple’ is probably the most iconic song from that album, featuring the words ‘God hates us all’ in its brutally nihilist lyrics, and it feature elements from Slayer’s pre-90s era as well as peeks at things to come on subsequent albums.

Exodus: Children of a Worthless God (The Atrocity Exhibition: Exhibit A, 2007)

The Atrocity Exhibition: Exhibit A, 2007

After a long hiatus in which Exodus fucised on dealing with personal issues, 2004 saw the release of a Steve Souza-fronted album in the form of Tempo of the Damned. This was followed in 2005 by Shovel Headed Killing Machine which introduced Rob Dukes and his harsh voice as Exodus’ new singer. ‘Children of a Worthless God’ is taken from the Atrocity Exhibition: Exhibit A from 2007, and is a solid midtempo thrash featuring both some more technical and some more melodic moves from Exodus in addition to their trademark aggression.

The Accüsed: Fast Zombies Rule (Oh, Martha, 2005)

Oh, Martha, 2005

The Accüsed, fronted by the instantly recognizable Blaine Cook, The Accüsed combined hardcore punk and thrash metal into an aggressive and unique crossover sound. In 2005, they released the follow-up to Splatter Rock from 1992 – namely, Oh, Martha – which is an all-out splatter attach of simple aggressive riffs and bizarre horror-lyrics. “Fast Zombies Rule” features a b-movie-like introduction, punky drums, and primitive butt-kicking riffage, and documents The Accüsed’s knack for packing explosive energy into relatively short songs.

Megadeth: This Day We Fight (Endgame, 2009)

Endgame, 2009

After a break-up following a streak of albums generally considered to be weak by the metal community, Mustaine put together a new Megadeth and released The System Has Failed which was a return to form. Things got even better on United Abominations, and Endgame from 2009 formed was the peak of this development, capturing pretty much all that was good about Megadeth up until and including the massive Countdown to Extinction and Youthanasia. “This Day We Fight” is one of the more aggressive tracks on Endgame and features a crunching riff reminiscent of Rust in Peace as well as the energy and aggression of Megadeth’s first couple of albums.

Testament: Native Blood (Dark Roots of Earth, 2012)

Dark Roots of Earth, 2012

Testament should really be counted among the upper echelon of thrash metal, as they have much more consistently than any of The Big Four released top quality material. After almost ten years of absence, they released the incredible The Formation of Damnation in 2008, and this year they released Dark Roots of Earth, which is even better. “Native Blood” is a great example why Testament are so awesome: it is aggressive and melodic at the same time and features sublime musicianship across the board.

Overkill: Come and Get It (The Electric Age, 2012)

The Electric Age, 2012

Overkill were there from the very beginning, and they are one of those bands who have steadily soldiered on, releasing material of varying quality during the dark age but their 2012 album The Electric Age really blasted the band back into the spotlight of the thrash metal scene that they helped create more than two decades ago. The album is an instant classic and is jam-packed with gut-kicking and face-punching classic thrash metal riffage, and Bobby Blitz sounds angrier than ever. The opening track of the album “Come and Get It” is an uptempo aggressive affair which captures the spirit of this mighty album.

Anthrax: Fight ‘Em ‘Till You Can’t (Worship Music, 2011)

Worship Music, 2011

After more than a decade of financial and, some would have it, artistic fiascos, Anthrax’ comeback album Worship Music was slated for release in 2009, but was delayed three additional years due to conflicts with then vocalist Dan Nelson. Eventually the band did the best move of their career in a long time and welcomed the gifted and charismatic Joey Belladonna back into their ranks. The album was finally released in 2011 and fans witnessed an Anthrax who’s returned to form, combining thrash metal and rock into their own brand of melodic thrash metal. ‘Fight ’em til you Can’t’ was the first single from the album and shows that the New Yorkers have not forgotten how to make thrash metal with both crunching riffage and lots of melody,

Discharge: CCTV (Disensitise, 2009)

Disensitise, 2008

A punk band at heart, Discharge are probably one of the most important, and the most influential band from the British hardcore/crust scene. The band influenced the earliest thrash metal bands and would eventually cross over into thrash metal territory themselves. Disensitise from 2009 is a raw and aggressive album displaying the band’s newfound energy and gritty street attitude. ‘CCTV’ features aggressive simple riffage, a political message and fast d-beating from inventors itself. It’s gritty. It’s dirty. It’s Discharge.

Heathen: Morbid Curiosity (The Evolution of Chaos, 2010)

The Evolution of Chaos, 2010

One of the more obscure bands, Heathen released Breaking the Silence in 1987, which was an okay album, but far from a sensation. The band spent the next couple of years honing their skills and released Victims of Deception in 1991 which was not only sensation but also remains one of the best thrash metal albums ever, easily reaching Anthrax’ Among the Living in greatness. Then the band slipped out of the limelight. Reuniting in 2001, they eventually released The Evolution of Chaos in 2010, and when it came out, it sounded like they’d never been away. ‘Morbid Curiosity’ is an aggressive and energetic track and old school thrash metal at its best.

Spotify users can access a playlist featuring the tracks in question here:

Posted in Anthrax, Crossover, Death Angel, Discharge, Heathen, Megadeth, Melodic Thrash Metal, Overkill, Punk Metal, Slayer, Spotify, Testament, The Accüsed, Thrash Metal | Tagged | Leave a comment

From the Hörse’s Mouth Special: Massive Bedemon Interview


“Randy had done a rough drawing of a face peering out of a doorway with one hand on the door as potential cover art for what was going to at the time be called “Kaleidoscope of Shadows”. On Eric’s site was this artwork of his showing a partially lit face peering out from behind a tree with one hand on the tree. It was eerily similar to Randy’s sketch concept, and so we contacted Eric and arranged to use his art for the cover.”

Metal Music Archives have just posted a massive interview with the legendary doom project Bedemon, who recently released their first album Symphony of Shadows. It is the first, and to date, only full-band interview with Bedemon. Here are some excerpts:

Bedemon on their music: “At times it sounds like molten lava slowly descending down the slopes of the volcano, about to consume everything in its wake. When it’s not doing that, it sounds like a desperate sociopath on the fringe of sanity – looking for their next thrill. It’s a beautiful mix of doom and attitude-laden hard rock.”

Bedemon on the power of the riff: “A great riff is what starts the formation of the song. From “Iron Man” to “Mississippi Queen” to “Smoke on the Water,” the riff grabs you right from the start. I love unusual chord changes and having a song take you places where the listener isn’t expecting it to go, but they need to be hooked from the start with a killer riff.”

Bedemon on the late guitarist Randy Palmer: “Randy died three months after we finished the basic tracks so he was totally involved and we agreed to use the solos exactly as they were recorded.”

Honor the memory of Randy Palmer and access the entire interview here.

Posted in Bedemon, Doom Metal, Interviews | Tagged | Leave a comment

Winter Crescent now on Spotify

“Battle of Egos” available on Spotify now.

If you find yourself in a Spotify-serviced territory, you can now access Winter Crescent’s EP Battle of Egos on Spotify. Access it here. Fans of progressive metal will love it.

Posted in Music services, Progressive Metal, Spotify, Winter Crescent | Tagged | Leave a comment