White Noise: Prog 2011

A number of major prog acts released their albums this year, and fans of this genre are spoilt for choice. Here are some of the notable releases.

"Iconoclast" by Symphony X


Heavier than Dream Theater, this five piece band from New Jersey, USA, has been plying their trade in progressive metal since 1994. “Iconoclast”, their 8th album, comes in 2 formats – the usual 1 CD, and the limited edition 2 CDs.  You should really opt for the limited edition because it contains a second CD with 5 extra songs, the total length of which is almost the same as the first CD. Plus the 5 extra songs are not just fillers; they have excellent quality and are most certainly on par with those in the CD.

It goes without question that the band is extremely proficient in playing their instruments. One can’t help but marvel at how fiery guitar and keyboard solos were delivered so fluidly on a tightrope of tricky time changes. The combination of powerful drumming, devastating riffs and Russell Allen’s strong vocals create a potent force of music, perfect for driving the moshpit into a frenzy. From the opening track “Iconoclast” until the last song “Reign In Madness”, you will find yourself taken on an exhilarating journey of rousing, take no prisoners, power metal.

"Heritage" by Opeth


Upon listening to the purely instrumental serene piano and double bass opening track “Heritage”, it is natural for one to stop the CD player and take out the disc to verify whether it really is an Opeth album. The 10th observation (they label each of their albums as an observation) from this Swedish group is a natural culmination of its direction away from death metal towards prog, a journey which Opeth began with 2003’s “Damnation”. Turning down the distortion gain on their amplifiers, ditching the guttural growls but still retaining their long hair, their playing is infused with the spirit of Seventies’ rock. The absence of any metal song is likely to disappoint some fans, but those with open minds will find much delight in the band’s versatility on display here. Two introspective instrumentals bookend the album, “Heritage” at the start and the guitar dominated “Marrow of the Earth” at the end. Melancholic and brooding, the mood is perhaps best exemplified by the slow and sublime interplay between bass and lead guitar at the conclusion of “Häxprocess”. This latest work of Opeth is best listened to late in the night, glass of wine in hand.

"A Dramatic Turn Of Events" by Dream Theater


Byzantine melodies, guitar monologues at light speed, cascading double bass drumming executed by a human octopus, 20 minute songs that cover every scale and time signature known to man, opinion is sharply divided over whether these are virtues or vices. Whatever the case may be, those features are commonly associated with the music of Dream Theater. The band has had a tumultuous year, caused by the sudden departure of their drummer Mike Portnoy, who was widely regarded as the backbone of the quartet. Determined not to call it a day, the remaining band members (Petrucci, Rudess and Myung) found a replacement drummer with technical credentials as impressive as Portnoy, and recorded this album. This time round, the drums are not as prominent in the sonic landscape as compared to their previous songs. Which, again, depending on taste, may not be a bad thing. The tracks in this album are more rock than metal, similar in mood to their 2009 release “Black Clouds & Silver Linings”. There are one or two schmaltzy Eighties’ sounding tunes, but when they get it right in the final three songs, the result is sublime. My favourite is the last song, “Beneath The Surface”, a beautiful acoustic number which will compel you to repeat play.

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Mian‘s favourite musician is Lord Bobo. His Supreme Eminenceness is well known for his ability to play a total of 25 instruments, and to compose, perform, and produce albums all by himself. A veritable one-manmonkeyband (some say control freak), his career started its meteoric rise in the mid eighties with the release of his soundtrack to a movie starring him and the babelicious Apollonia Kotero. His songs about smooching, velvet rain and crying birds are considered modern classics. Waitaminit! Is His Supreme Eminenceness the artist formerly known as The Artist Formerly Known As…?

Posted on 15 December 2011. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0.

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