Mastodon, Hushed and Grim (Reprise Records 2021)

Progressive metal band Mastodon cap a big year with a new full-length album, Hushed and Grim.

Since 2000, the band has been Troy Sanders (bass and vocals), Brann Dailor (drums and vocals), Brent Hinds (guitar and vocals), and Bill Kelliher (guitar and vocals). I remember exactly when I started listening to Mastodon. I did not hear their first long-player, Remission, when it came out in 2002, but I did hear Leviathan two years later. I liked, I recall, but for some reason it didn’t land with me the first time the way it ultimately would. Time passed and then I heard Crack The Skye (2009) – there was no turning back from that. I immediately went back through the entire catalogue and since have waited less-than-patiently for every new release. Mastodon is one of my absolute favorite metal bands.

In 2021, Mastodon has been showing up more regularly than most bands at festivals, sometimes stepping in at the last minute to replace bands that were sidelined by covid-19, as they did at Psycho Las Vegas, and in a headline spot, too. I have seen them several times live this year and always to my amazement. Each and every performance is masterful.

The new album is another exceptional set the band has added to their already galactic catalogue. Early singles were “Pushing the Tides” and “Teardrinker,” both of which have more than a million spins on Spotify by now. The more recently released “Sickle and Peace” already has half a million plays. Their fans are legion.

Mastodon’s music has evolved over the years, and now it in the complex and leans toward the progressive end of the metal spectrum. It has a haunting quality, and hypnotizing nature that draws you quickly in and holds you as the enchantment unfolds. The new album is almost an hour and a half long and it seems exactly right in its construction. Not extended or stretched; just precisely as it should be.

I am not going to pick favorites because every song has its necessary place, from the reflective “Skeleton of Splendor” to the forceful “Pain with an Anchor” to the overwhelming closer “Gigantium.” I will say this album goes toward the top of the list of the work the band has released. I found it to be captivating. Highly recommended.

Hushed and Grim is out now on all streaming platforms and in the expected physicals. Look to the links below.

Band photo by Wayne Edwards at Blue Ridge Rock Festival 2021.

Links.

Mastodon, https://www.mastodonrocks.com/

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/Mastodon

YouTube, https://www.youtube.com/user/MastodonMusic

Mastodon, Hushed and Grim (Reprise Records 2021)

At The Gates, The Nightmare Of Being (Century Media 2021)

The seventh studio album from At The Gates is a progressive take on the condition of existence.

For more than thirty years the Melodic Death Metal band from Sweden, At The Gates, has been a consistent creator of heavy music. From The Red in the Sky Is Ours (1994) to 2018’s To Drink from the Night Itself, you could always count on them for compelling new metal that rang out in ways you’d never heard before. And here we see that again on the new album, The Nightmare Of Being.

The band – Tomas Lindberg (vocals), Martin Larsson (guitar), Jonas Björler (bass), Adrian Erlandsson (drums), and Jonas Stålhammar (guitar) – expertly executes an expanded palette of composition that embraces progressive metal elements more extensively than fans might have anticipated. An outlying example is “Garden of Cyrus” which features a saxophone – not an instrument you hear on a lot of death metal albums, but one that fits perfectly in this song, complementing gruff vocals and lyrical guitars. Still, it was a surprise to hear it

Not every song is an oddity. Long-time fans and newcomers looking for heavy, crushing metal are going to find it here, too. In most cases, the songs have more than one movement that is reached through effluence or stark shift, each standing in seeming, if not actual, juxtaposition to its neighboring fellows. The complexity of the music is one of its most attractive features.

The new album does sound different in many ways compared to early work of the band. For me it is a fitting addition to the canon of At The Gates and it is a strong sign of the continuing vibrancy of the musicians. Recommended.

The Nightmare Of Being is out now from Century Media in a plethora of versions. You can get it all over.

Links.

Website, http://atthegates.se/

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/AtTheGatesOfficial

Century Media, https://www.centurymedia.com/artist.aspx?IdArtist=729

At The Gates, The Nightmare Of Being (Century Media 2021)

Midhaven, Of the Lotus and the Thunderbolt (2021)

Midhaven bring forth a new concept album on their sophomore long-player Of the Lotus and the Thunderbolt.

The Mumbai heavy music trio Midhaven is made up of musicians Aditya Mohanan (guitar and vocals), Aviraj Kumar (drums), and Karan Kaul (vocals and guitar). They released an EP in 2013, Tales From The Tide, and followed it up the very next year with Spellbound. The music they create can be broadly described as heavy metal and it runs a wide spectrum from death metal to progressive, often incorporating fusion elements.

Of the Lotus and the Thunderbolt is a concept album that deals with ideas of time and rebirth. The band describes the ideas that they incorporate into the compositions well: “We follow the single but universal soul on its journey to realization, with symbolisms that are deeply rooted in the collective Indian subconscious. They are curated in a manner wherein each song appears as though it’s a chapter in a book, conveying individual meanings that when heard together form a holistic understanding of the universe.”

“Para Brahman” starts the set off and has a talk-in segment beginning near the front that establishes the narrative over a mid-tempo, mild prog base. Next we hear exceptional lead guitar work on “Primal Song” – this song flat out slaps and so it is no wonder it was chosen as a single.

“Codeman” is proggy, poppy, energetic, and again features some great guitar work. The tempo changes on “The Immanent Effervescence of Sorrow” which opens with storm effects and is quiet and beautiful. “Zhitro” is ten minutes long and is very doom-like for the first few minutes then it rolls into a death metal posture before transforming into hypno-prog. It is my favorite song on the album.

The last two songs are “Mahakaal,” which is grungy and also very ritual-music-like, and “Bhairav,” a more ethereal and understated piece. As a concept album, this new Midhaven release delivers what it promises. Even without connecting one song to the next thematically, it is an impressive heavy music achievement. Recommended.

Of the Lotus and the Thunderbolt is out now. You can find it at the Bandcamp link below.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://midhaven.bandcamp.com/

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/midhaven.ind/

Midhaven, Of the Lotus and the Thunderbolt (2021)

Silver Talon, Decadence And Decay (M-Theory Audio 2021)

The first full-length album from dark power metal band Silver Talon is an epic attack on your senses.

With a sound as big and complete as Silver Talon produces, Decadence And Decay is a promising sign of what we hope will turn out to be a long string of mesmerizing albums. The band is unusually large, with three listed guitarists: Wyatt Howell (vocals), Bryce VanHoosen (guitar), Sebastian Silva (guitar), Devon Miller (guitar), Walter Hartzell (bass), and Michael Thompson (drums). They make the most of all these assets in the performance of their sweeping compositions.

The music the band creates is usually described as Power Metal but that does not catch all the aspects of Silver Talon. The precision of the lead guitar – and the astonishing speed – has to be heard to be believed. There are many prog elements here, too, with complex parts working together to achieve a greater whole. Wyatt Howell’s vocals press to the soaring in a broad range. The rhythm section is at times in the service of the meter and at other moments a whirling inclination of its own. Taken together, the effect can be overwhelming.

The lyrical themes are often dark fantasy and breathe the essence of large gathered forces in conflict. The eight songs on the album average in the five minute range giving plenty of opportunity for extension and expression. The epic closer, “Touch The Void,” runs over eight minutes at the end and has the full complement of entreaties. It is essentially a suite, and it tests the highs and lows, the speeds and slows. If you are looking for spacious metal with both straight-forward and complex compartments, you will be glad you found Silver Talon. Recommended.

Digital, CD, cassette, and vinyl versions become available from M-Theory Audio on Friday, May 28th.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://silvertalon.bandcamp.com/album/decadence-and-decay-2

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/silvertalonband

Silver Talon website, https://www.silver-talon.com/

M-Theory Audio, https://www.m-theoryaudio.com/

Silver Talon, Decadence And Decay (M-Theory Audio 2021)

Gojira, Fortitude (Roadrunner Records 2021)

In their twentieth year as a metal band Gojira issues their seventh full-length studio album and it is one of the very best.

Gojira is from France and they play heavy metal. The music has groove and progressive elements to it, and you do not mistake Gojira for another band when you hear their music. Magma (2016) is the most recent album up to now, and while they have been quiet on the recording front since it came out they have been playing live and dazzling fans continuously. The band is Jean-Michel Labadie (bass), Mario Duplantier (drums), Christian Andreu (guitars), Joe Duplantier (guitar and vocals).

There are eleven tracks on the album, beginning with “Born For One Thing.” The drum lays in a march cadence while the guitar wind-up does not prepare you for the metal when it kicks in a few seconds later. The composition is heavy and complex, syncopated and variegated, groovy and mysterious – all these things at once. “Amazonia” comes up next, with its subtle slither and shimmer. Its every element is mesmerizing, like an shamanic chant. The narrative is compelling and delivered with authority.

The songs on Fortitude are big and ambitious. Some are delivered on a softer register throughout, like “Another World” and others demonstrate an incredible range from peace to aggression, as in “Hold On.” Progressive influences live in and amongst the growling metal. And then there is the title track, which is a short reflective piece that transitions into “The Chant,” a song that builds into a powerful statement before handing off the torch to “The Sphinx” with its heavy and sinister posture. This set wraps on “Grind” featuring punishing percussion, whispering vocal savagery, and stabbing, whirling guitars.

I was expecting something big from Gojira on this new album. What they have done is even more than I expected. We are all going to be reading about how this album is setting a standard others will be compared to and let me add my voice to that chorus. I am sure Fortitude will be on the 2021 Best Of list. Highly recommended.

Fortitude is out now. Hit the website link below to investigate the options.

Live photo by Wayne Edwards, Aftershock Festival 2019.

Links.

Website, https://www.gojira-music.com/?frontpage=true

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/GojiraMusic

Roadrunner Records, https://store.roadrunnerrecords.com/gojira.html

Gojira, Fortitude (Roadrunner Records 2021)

Oceana, The Pattern (Time To Kill Records 2021)

Italian progressive death metal trio Ocean release their first full-length album twenty five years after their inaugural EP.

In 1994 the band began to come together with the thought of creating melodic death metal music. They issued a demo and an EP in 1996, then went silent on the recording front for a couple of decades. They are back now, realizing the original intention. The band is Massimiliano Pagliuso (vocals, guitar, bass, keyboards), Gianpaolo Caprino (guitar), and Alessandro “Sancho” Marconcini (drums).

The sound of waves and a crying baby are the opening bars of the first song, followed by a short melodic voice interrupted by coarse croaking. Acoustic guitars dance around swelling electric ones. The percussion becomes increasingly persistent, urgent, and menacing, and the guitar turns stabbing. Then voice is back, bigger than before. This is “Hiding Lies,” and it is a flag for the entire set.

The band’s music is described as melodic death metal sometimes. I think progressive elements are stronger here, but there is a large and abiding melodic element so I see where the recurring handle comes from. The appealing factors for me throughout the album are the recurring juxtaposition of light and dark, harsh and quiet, and the unfiltered emotional expressions. The longer you listen to the album the more it grows on you.

I especially appreciate the lead guitar moments were technical ability shines through. The epic fourteen-minute “Atlantidea Suite Part 1” is a stand-out track in this regard and as a summary and emblem of the intent for the overall set. This album will appeal more to the prog crowd than the death metallers out there.

The Pattern is out now. You can pick it up from Time To Kill Records at their on-line store, or the ever-ready Bandcamp.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://oceana.bandcamp.com/

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/oceanabandofficial/

Time To Kill Records, https://timetokillrecords.bigcartel.com/category/oceana

Oceana, The Pattern (Time To Kill Records 2021)

Dvne, Omega Severer review (Metal Blade Records 2020)

The new EP from Dvne captures some of their new music and reinvigorates some of their well-known work.

Edinburgh, Scotland Prog Metal band Dvne will have a new album out in 2021. In the mist of time between now and then, they have released an EP that has two songs: one new, and the other a re-recording of a favorite tune from the band’s Aurora Majesty release of 2015.

The band is Victor Vicart (guitar, vocals, and keys), Dudley Tait (drums), Daniel Barter (guitar and vocals), Greg Armstrong (bass), and Evelyn May (keys). I found out about them via Psycho Las Vegas, and I have been a fan ever since. For many people, Prog is an acquired taste, perhaps because of its compositional density – it requires participation from the listener. I like it in just the right amounts; I know when to listen and when to stop.

The new song is “Omega Severer,” to which the EP owes its title. It is heavy on the synthesizers. I do not mean that as a negative criticism – the song is ten minutes long and there is a lot going on throughout the journey. There are multiple voices, heavy guitars, quiet moments and outrageously loud ones. The complex nature of this type of music often means that these sort so transitions are expected, and here they all are. The possibilities are truly endless but artistry and talent are required to make something enjoyable to listen to and memorable. This song hits all the marks, and more.

The re-recorded song is “Of Blade And Carapace.” I liked this song the first time I heard, and the re-recording is excellent. It is a very active piece, with rapid movements and a pulsating, compelling nature.

Bandcamp is the place to collect these songs. Link below. I am anxiously awaiting the full album in 2021. Recommended.

Band photo by Johannes Andersen.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://songs-of-arrakis.bandcamp.com/

Facebook, https://facebook.com/DvneUK

Dvne, Omega Severer review (Metal Blade Records 2020)

Fates Warning, Long Day Good Night review (Metal Blade Records 2020)

Fates Warning has released their biggest album yet and it has all the trappings of a milestone.

Back at the beginning, Night on the Bröcken (1984) was something very different for the times – we were in the midst of the NWOBHM. That first album had a an occult theme (which I really appreciated) but it was the Progressive Metal elements that were the most important sign of something completely different, and you can hear them in there if you listen. Queensrÿche is another example – their first album (the self-titled EP) was also Power Rock with occult elements and they, too, emerged on the forefront of Prog, along with Dream Theater and … Fates Warning. I knew about Queensrÿche first because I was so taken with their song “The Lady Wore Black,” but it was Fates Warning that really stuck with me through the decades because of their compositional ingenuity. Look back and listen through the long catalogue of this band (on Spotify, say) and I think you will be amazed.

The new album finds Ray Alder and Jim Matheos working together writing the music. There are thirteen songs on Long Day Good Night, which is the band’s 13th album. It listens like a tour through the world Fates Warning has created over the years and a few special glimpses of things we have never seen before. It is Progressive Metal of course, and complex, but it also has many heavy linear passages that forge a straight-forward groove.

After a three minute soft, eerie, and somehow reassuring intro, “The Destination Onward” lands the first hard punch. It is eight minutes of structure you could build the rest of the album on, from the stabbing guitar assertions surrounded by heavy riffs to the fibrillating percussion to lithe lead break. And of course the soaring vocals. “Shuttered World” is next and it is a little more abrupt, while “Alone We Walk” is pensive and also curiously frenetic. Songs like “Under The Sun” are quiet and lyrical in their fullness and objective beauty. Others are aggressive and challenging, like “Scars.” The long-form is here, too, the strongest example of which is “The Longest Shadow of the Day” with its amazing bass lines and unforgettable guitar work. Nothing is left out here and there is no filler, either – it is simply excellent.

Long Day Good Night is available right now in many different forms and functions. I am convinced this is going to turn out to be one of my favorite Fates Warning albums. Highly recommended.

Links.

Website, http://www.fateswarning.com

Bandcamp, https://fateswarning.bandcamp.com/

Facebook, http://www.facebook.com/FatesWarning

YouTube, https://www.youtube.com/user/fateswarningvideos

Fates Warning, Long Day Good Night review (Metal Blade Records 2020)