You may not have heard of MESTIS, but you may have heard the guitar stylings of Javier Reyes, the other guitarist alongside Tosin Abasi in the instrumental prog metal band Animals as Leaders. MESTIS is the side project of Reyes, and Eikasia is the second album under that moniker released through Sumerian Records, and it also features Eric Moore on drums. If you are looking for a companion to the heavier Animals as Leaders releases, you’ve come to the wrong place. Eikasia is a melding of instrumental jazz, relaxed atmospheric tones, classical guitar and a touch of proggy djent, in the same vein as Reyes’ previous release, Polysemy from 2015. Reyes delivers clean, groovy guitar with a couple muted surprises. My beef with this album is not in the talent of the artist, but is the same as it is with many instrumental prog acts. Eikasia is pleasant, but lacks the dynamics necessary to give the music any weight or to make it truly engaging. (more…)

One of the most interesting aspects of progressive music is how artists choose to deliver both message and melody. I often wonder how some of my favorite artists decide to marry certain verbiage to certain note progressions. Did they fall in love with a lyric and work to find a way to deliver it within a preexisting melody? Was that melody picked to emphasize the lyric, or perhaps the other way around? For whatever reason, some of the most interesting lyrical moments occur when a string of notes are delivered within the confines of a single word, syllables be damned. With that in mind, here are 5 of my favorite one-word melodies. (more…)

Although one can often find profound or illuminating ideas within the lyrics of progressive metal songs, occasionally one will encounter two opposing philosophies that cannot coexist. Not all of our favorite song writers have the same perspective on every issue, and some ideas are simply mutually exclusive.

I recently noticed such incompatible truth claims with the advent of Rivers of Nihil’s Where Owls Know My Name. In 2001, Devin Townsend made a declarative statement in the lyrics of the track “Canada” off the album Terria, the opening lines of which clearly state “The road; it’s home.” Now, in an apparent direct refutation of this sentiment, RoN state “you can never call this a home,” “this” seemingly referring to “the road” for a traveling musician. As these are both respected artists within the community, it behooves me to analyse and conclude on which writer is correct. (more…)

A few weeks ago, I reviewed IV by Grayceon. Now, we have another project made up of former members from Giant Squid, and in this case, Agalloch as well. Indie band Khôrada have come out with their debut album, Salt, and it’s a lot to chew. This is a band that’s difficult to categorize. They’ve been able to cultivate a unique sound, somewhere amidst post-rock, sludge, and black metal. Like the twisted, abstract face adorning its cover-art, Salt is perhaps summed up best in one word—tortured. It is in all ways somber, but often animated, captivating, and evocative. (more…)

Hopefully you like songs describing the collapse of the universe in the most convoluted way possible, because Obscura have given you ten more of them. Diluvium is the fifth release from this German, progressive technical death band and the final in a series of related concept albums. The concept of Diluvium is almost too all-encompassing, as nearly all the songs are similar both lyrically and in their instrumentation. Minor shortcomings aside, Obscura once again display nearly unmatched technical skills, effortlessly blending intimidating guitarwork with entrancing melodics, making Diluvium one of their strongest releases to date. (more…)

It’s been a while since Between the Buried and Me released Automata I, and now, after months digesting it, we have the second half, the aptly named Automata II. I praised the first half as being one of the better BTBAM releases, despite the mysterious choice to split what we now see is clearly intended to be one complete product. The music on the first half was every bit up to snuff with prior releases, pulling from some of the best sounds of the Colors era and adding some clean, minimalist refinement. Now, part two continues that trend and takes a detour into the zany, as we ought to expect by now. Overall, the entire package is a worthwhile endeavor. The lyrical theme of being lost in a dream-state carries throughout the two parts, and they flow seamlessly from one to the next. Regardless of whether we approve of it being released in parts, BTBAM can do as they please when the music is of this quality. (more…)

With the release of their first full-length album, Gyre emerge in the arena of progressive stoner metal, but risk too closely parroting their obvious influences. Though decent overall, Shared Visions is possibly both too experimental and yet too uninspired at the same time. The rawness of the album is one of its strongest and weakest attributes, at moments feeling woefully unrefined, yet refreshingly genuine. Above all, this is music the artists have made for themselves, but there’s plenty for the rest of us to enjoy as well. (more…)

The Pacer is the debut EP from Virgil, an instrumental super-group comprised of members from Cynic, Entheos, The Faceless, The Zenith Passage, and Animals as Leaders. With such an intimidating pile of bands to pull from, and The Pacer meets expectations (allowing for its short duration). Nothing is pushing the envelope to a scary degree here, but the different personalities of the group all shine through, and play well together. (more…)

It doesn’t get blacker than Zeal and Ardor. As far as I can tell, this is the first and only negro spirituals plus black metal act out there. Manuel Gagneux originally started Z&A as a solo project in 2014 more or less as a dare from a 4Chan user, who suggested Gagneux combine “black metal” and “ni**er music.” Now in 2018, we get Stranger Fruit, the first full-length release from this very real band. (more…)

Amorphis is one of those bands that I can never tell whether they take themselves seriously or not. I’m thinking they do. This is a band that really wants you to know how much they love their homeland, Finland. The lyrics to Queen of Time, their 13th release, are vague in every way, but undoubtedly celebrate a romantic idea of the medieval Finnish adventurer. The music is over the top epic, with full orchestra, and a smattering of traditional folk instruments. Basically, if Skyrim was a metal band, it would be Amorphis. (more…)