Tag Archives: heavy metal

Calculated Risk

Force of Progress – Calculated Risk

Force of Progress – Calculated Risk (Progressive Promotion Records, 2017)

Force of Progress is what is described as a progressive rock project put together by four German multi-instrumentalists. It’s a very keyboard-centric album, with great synth and piano work, although throughout Calculated Risk the band adds hard rock and heavy metal guitars.

There is way too much hard rock and metal riffing for this album to be seriously regarded a progressive rock album. Toning down the guitars would have helped a lot.

The lineup includes Hanspeter Hess, Dominik Wimmer, Chris Grundmann and Markus Roth.

 

 

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Carptree Immersion

Carptree – Emerger (Reingold Records, 2017)

Carptree is a Swedish band formed by an excellent vocalist named Niclas Flinck and multi-instrumentalist Carl Westholm. The vocals, the magnificent keyboards and the rhythm section are fabulous, taking the listener to a beautiful world of epic symphonic progressive rock. However, this is one of those bands that injects heavy metal in most of its songs. By the time I got through with the album, I had had enough of heavy metal. This album is a prime candidate for a prog remix.

Flinck and Westholm are joined by the No Future Orchestra, a talented group of musicians who provide support to Carptree.

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Metallic Re:Search

Retrospective – Re:Search

Retrospective – Re:Search (Progressive Promotion Records, 2017)

The new album by Polish rock band Retrospective should appeal to heavy metal fans. The album features a mix of heavy metal, hard rock and AOR.

Band members include Jakub Roszak on lead vocals; Beata Łagoda on keyboards and backing vocals; Maciej Klimek on guitars; Łukasz Marszałek on bass; Robert Kusik on drums; and Alan Szczepaniak on guitar.

Buy Re:Search in the Americas and rest of the world

Buy Re:Search in Europe

Lonely Art

Seeking Raven – Lonely Art

Seeking Raven – Lonely Art (2012)

Although this outfit is described as a progressive rock band, most of what I heard here is heavy metal and hard rock. Occasionally, Seeking Raven offers some interesting guitar solo and vocal work, but the metal riffs are prevalent throughout the album. The only track that has more of a progressive rock flavor is “The Last Waltz,” where the band ditches the heavy metal and adds classical music influences and a nice guitar solo.

Denied Truths

Pareidolia - Denied Truths
Pareidolia – Denied Truths

Pareidolia – Denied Truths (Pareidolia, 2016)

Although this band is sometimes described as a prog metal band, it’s really a heavy metal/hard rock band. The only progressive rock-connected part is a short symphonic piece with well-crafted keyboard orchestrations and electric guitar solo titled “Voices I.” Aside from that, most of the album is full of the usual heavy metal riffs and solos.

Band members include Steve Dadaian on guitars; Chandler Mogel on vocals; Jon-Michael Caldwell on bass; and Ryan Bertone (drums). Guests are Simon Ciccoti on drums and Thomas Frost on orchestrations.

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Flor De Loto – Peru

Flor De Loto
Flor De Loto

If ever there was a country most conducive to prog rock, it must be Peru. The molten heart of South American embraces Amazonian rainforest, frozen Andean peaks, mist-shrouded ancient monuments and the incredible folk-prog powerhouse that is Flor De Loto. To sample just one of their extended audio adventures is to fly to all these places and beyond.

The band comprises lead guitarist Alonso Herrera; bassist Alejandro Jarrin; Junior Pacora on wind instruments, charango (Andean stringed instrument) and backing vocals; Alvaro Escobar on drums and Pierre Farfán on lead and rhythm guitar.

Alonso and I started to play together back in 1998,” says Alejandro, “we just hang out at a drummer friend of mine´s house and jam for hours. We released our first album in 2005,we have eight albums now. We have a lot of influences. A lot of progressive rock bands from the 70s and 80´s, heavy metal, progressive metal, Latin American folk, Jazz, world music, etc.”

The hallmark of the band is the fusion…” adds Alonso, “…we can have moments oriented more towards metal, hard rock or progressive but always the differential element is the influence of Latin American folklore.”

Says Pierre: “…it is the progressive rock influence that allows us to fuse the metal and Andean music. The expertise in their representatives, their complex structures and capricious cadences, easily seduces [those} who seek music with extensive content. It is a transgressor that has something to offer everyone.”

Composition is very much a group responsibility. “Usually what happens when one of us shows a new song to the rest of the band, we all propose arrangements and sometimes, the song ends being different [from] it´s original version,” says Alejandro.

We put all our influences and knowledge to the service of the songs,” says Alonso, “ and we make these no longer the work of a single composer, to become part of the whole band. We call this process ‘florlotization’. At this stage what you do is connect with the other members of the band; turning the whole into a single musician.”

This ‘oneness’ is impressively evident in the band’s recordings and live shows. Even on their wildest flights, the guys display an easy togetherness that never seems to falter.

So what next for Flor De Loto?

After an intense and emotional step towards the Crescendo festival in France,” says Alonso, “we have to make dates in Lima to present our new album, Tree of Life , then in November we will travel to festival Crescendo in Cayenne, French Guyana. 2017 will continue with the ‘Tree of Life Tour’ and we have planned concerts in Mexico and the US.”

Catch them if you can. You won’t regret it.

Dark Sorceress

Opeth – Sorceress (Nuclear Blast, 2016)

Heavy metal band Opeth has been gradually drifting towards progressive rock in recent albums. The band’s 2014 album Pale Communion had discarded a lot of the heavy metal riffs and death metal screaming. On Sorceress, Opeth’s new album, we find a mix of heavy metal, Deep Purple-influenced hard rock and progressive rock.

The metal tracks are straight-ahead metal so they should please heavy metal fans. If you’re into the group’s progressive rock material, you’re better off skipping those tracks.

The highlights of the album are the “progressive” tracks, beginning with the opening piece, a short instrumental titled “Persephone,” featuring acoustic guitar.

Another effective track is “Will O the Wisp” where Opeth uses strong vocal harmonies, mellotron, Jethro Tull-style folk-prog ambience and a great guitar solo.

“Sorceress 2” is a short gem, with acoustic guitars, enchanting mellotron and soft vocals.

One of the high points is “The Seventh Sojourn,” a composition that introduces exotic world music elements.

On “A Fleeting Glance” Opeth offers a good balance between folk rock and progressive rock, with some of the harmony vocals on the album and a memorable epic prog guitar conclusion.

Although the heavy metal community seems to think that Opeth has become a progressive rock band, more than half of Sorceress is heavy metal or hard rock. I look forward to future recordings where the band sheds off the metal or maybe comes up with two versions of the album: a metal mix and a progressive rock mix.

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The Rise of Regressive Rock

Arena - Seventh Degree of Separation, a good example of a former progressive rock band shifting to heavy metal
Arena – Seventh Degree of Separation, a good example of a former progressive rock band shifting to heavy metal

It is now common to see the term progressive rock associated with all kinds of genres and artists that really belong in other musical categories. One of the most bizarre associations is the pairing of heavy metal with progressive rock known as prog metal or progressive metal. It’s like putting garlic on ice cream. Sure, you can eat it, but does it taste good? I’m calling it regressive rock.

Before going any further, let me state that I have nothing against heavy metal. I liked it as a teenager and it’s a totally respectable music genre. However, heavy metal has little in common with progressive rock. Head banging and skull crushing rudimentary guitar riffs are really distant from the progressive rock aesthetic. How did progressive metal, a heavy metal subgenre, loaded with loud, repetitive riffs, mysteriously become a progressive rock subgenre? It’s very simple, if you follow the history, and marketing has a lot to do with it. If you repeat the same erroneous information numerous times, it will stick.

Since the 1990s, heavy metal and Adult Oriented Rock (AOR) bands that had no connection with progressive rock (other than having former progressive rock musicians) were aggressively marketed to the progressive rock community through advertisements and record label publicity.

Leading progressive rock publications like Progression in the United States started publishing ads from labels such as Magna Carta, Laser’s Edge and Insideout. Despite the objections of many longtime fans, Progression and other publications started to review heavy metal recordings that were rebranded as progressive rock or progressive metal to make them more appealing to the progressive rock fan that normally stayed away from head banging music.

One certainly understands that the steadily flow of heavy metal album advertisements helped cash-starved progressive rock publications survive, but, unfortunately, the process also boosted the progressive metal intrusion into the progressive rock realm.

Progressive metal sounds like a category invented by record companies and publicists. Add fantasy artwork here, occasional keyboard melodies there, and sometimes a concept album and, what do you know?, heavy metal has been transformed into progressive rock. Now you can sell it to heavy metal fans and progressive rock fans alike. With a larger market pool; bigger profits.

From the very beginning, progressive rock has been a genre that looks forward, that seeks new frontiers and experiments with music and sound. Progressive rock is known for incorporating classical music, jazz, folk, funk and electronic music, and blending it in a highly creative way. Heavy metal, on the other hand, is pretty much the same old formula over and over again; the same skull crushing and blistering riffs.

Metal is a safe formula that is also used in other genres like smooth jazz, Nashville-style country music (which is pop), romantic Latin pop and many other music categories. Genres that are predictable, heavily formatted and easy to market.

Progressive metal may use brief moments of progressive rock creativity with short-lived interesting keyboard work and semi-decent guitar shredding, but the best moments are frequently ruined and drowned by the heavy metal riffs that appear too often, used over and over again ad nauseam. There is no exploration and very little jazz, classical, folk or electronic music. It’s rudimentary and regressive, which is the opposite of the progressive rock spirit.

Progressive metal has spread like wildfire, even among some progressive rock musicians who had originally nothing to do with heavy metal. Bands that have crossed over into full blown heavy metal include former progressive rock British acts Galahad, Pendragon and Arena.

Opeth - Pale Communion
Opeth – Pale Communion

It’s disappointing to listen to potentially beautiful epic pieces ruined with the heavy metal guitars, steady pounding drums and loud vocals or growling. Listening to all these prog metal recordings we receive for review, I’ve started to wonder if it would be worth proposing to artists and labels the release of two separate mixes for these albums: a progressive rock mix that leaves out the metal and a metal mix for those who want to hear loud, crushing metal.

On the bright side, we have groups like former doom metal band Anathema making splendid post rock with symphonic rock elements and Opeth who recently recorded a superb progressive rock album titled Pale Communion, that left out the heavy metal riffs.