Review: As A Conceit - Frown Upon Us

Everyone can agree that it is becoming increasingly difficult to find new talent in today's modern metal scene. In recent years, ...

Review: Hyaena - Existence

Progressive death metal is a genre that can be quite difficult to appreciate at times. It took me some time to get my head around some of its intricacies. I would now consider it to be one of my favourite sub-genres. Unfortunately there don't seem to be many bands from the northern hemisphere that are playing it so I was excited to hear what France's Hyaena had to offer. Straight off the bat it is clear that Hyaena have a bit more to them than some of the more generic progressive death metal bands around. 

The music is essentially a riff soup that is continually stopping, starting and changing tempo. There aren't any direct comparisons to be made to other bands though there are plenty of influences including Hate Eternal, Dillinger Escape Plan, Between the Buried and Me and Meshuggah. The sheer intensity of this album is something to behold. It has all the characteristics of a band that have been playing and recording together for years, and that’s true as they released two EP’s prior to this record. It is a credit to their musicianship and provides a glimpse and a hint towards what they may be able to achieve in the future. 

Not only is 'Existence' extremely heavy, it is ultra technical also. There isn't a moment where the entire band are resting on their laurels. While the guitars are shredding away, drummer is putting in one of the most spirited performances I have heard for some time. Though he isn't the fastest drummer I have ever heard his choice of beats and fills is really interesting and creative. His playing reminds me a lot of the late Steve MacDonald from Gorguts. The production of the album was handled by Jamie King, and that really makes difference. Everything is audible and certainly doesn’t lack the bite and the punch that would push the sound to the next level. 

Hyaena is an asset to France's metal scene and should have a long future if things keep going the way they are. Pre-order 'Existence' here.

Review: Pregnant Whale Pain - Blank

Pregnant Whale Pain is an experimental metal band from Budapest in Hungary, and "Blank" is their second release. In 2014, the band put out the self-titled full-length debut, and back in January they released "Blank."

What "Blank" shows is a band that honed its style to near-perfection. This is an EP that will definitely put the band on the map; for the most part "Blank" is a taste of what is to come for PWP. Most of "Blank" is blistering metal, oddly-timed rhythms that tear across the small length of recording. Pregnant Whale Pain is not afraid of exploring different music styles, and it’s fascinating how they can switch from a mathcore part to some weird mix of funk and psychedelia with ease. The sound is still very raw and well done, and the clear intent throughout the album is to give you something tangible before it leaves the listener in the dust.

For example, "Blank long Nights Kill Romance Vengefully" is bruising for all of its almost five minutes; it includes beautiful laid-back melody, only to hit you in the face with brutality of vocals, courtesy of Krisz Horváth, who absolutely shines on this record. His voice is an excellent example of the diversity these guys aspire to. Horváth is perfect with screams, spoken-word, and he definitely can sing.

"Cicada" pounds away right from the beginning, and giving the you just enough to move your head to. “When Home is Wrong" is quite a break after the previous song, its blindingly hasty rhythms still wrack your mind and ears.

This is without doubt one of the most exciting releases to appear at the beginning of 2017. "Blank" may be an EP, but with five tracks it’s a generous one and the songs are so good that it fully deserves full marks. If they can follow this work of genius with a full album of similar quality, they’ll very quickly find themselves among the elite.

"Blank" is available from Bandcamp here.


Serpentyne's Maggie-Beth Sand and Mark Powell discuss with Metal Horizons about their music, inspiration, the new album titled "The Serpent's Kiss."

What made you go for the name Serpentyne?

MAGGIE-BETH: We wanted a name that sounded mediaeval, but also somehow conveyed the notion of strength and power. We thought of “Serpent,” inspired by the medieval instrument the serpent which is a very long brass tube……but that had already been taken. Mark suggested “Serpentine,” like the lake in Hyde Park, so I then said, “Yes, but let’s spell it with a “y” making it sound more medieval as in the old word for time; tyme. We both liked it, so we went with that.

How do you usually describe your music?

MARK: One magazine editor described us as “Tarja meets Solstice,” which is a fairly good summation; a mix of Nightwish-style orchestrations with progressive rock. Although we’ve progressed from acoustic mediaeval band to rock, there is a world-mediaeval-fantasy thread running through everything that we’ve done.

What is your writing process like?

MARK Often I’ll hear a traditional tune, or be playing one myself for practice when I think; “Hmm, I could make a good song out of this.” Lyrically, a lot of my ideas come from plays or stories, like “The Dark Queen” and “The Serpent’s Kiss.” A track on “Myths and Muses,” “Alexandria,” was inspired by Homer’s Iliad. The reason we chose that as a theme was that after writing the tune, Maggie said “The chorus needs to be the name of a place or person with five syllables.” That was the only one that I could think of, but as it happened, the story goes perfectly with the song, which is based around a traditional tune from that part of the world. Our songwriting is always a joint effort- often Maggie will suggest an idea to me, I’ll write a tune, then she’ll come up with some ideas on how to improve it, so the end result may be quite different from how it started off. Or she’ll write something which gives me ideas. Looking back at all the songs, it’s impossible sometimes, to remember which one of us wrote which bits of each.

Who or what is your inspiration, if you have any?

MAGGIE-BETH It comes from all sorts of sources - films, books, poems, paintings, or places we visit. We’ve played festivals in a lot of castles and mediaeval settings and they’re often very inspiring.

What is your favourite piece on the “The Serpent’s Kiss” album?

MAGGIE-BETH …I like all of them but I’d choose “Jeanne D’Arc” because the story is about a brave woman who went to fight for her people, and I think musically it’s a very strong theme.
MARK It’s hard to pick one. I love “Saltarello,” as it’s one of my favourite mediaeval tunes, but I also like “The Dark Queen” for the story. There again… no, I can’t say that I have a favourite; I like all of them.

What makes “The Serpent’s Kiss" different? What would you say is your biggest difference from other bands out there?

MAGGIE-BETH: The previous album, “Myths and Muses” was themed mainly around historical and mythical figures; Boudicca and the Valkyries, for instance. This one continues the legends and fantasy route, around Helen Of Troy, Jeanne D’Arc, Brigantia, the mythical; figure of the Morrighan for example - all powerful female figures. But it’s more loosely themed - one song, for example, “Spirits of the Desert” is about lost ghostly souls wandering the desert, while another, “The Dark Queen” is based on a Howard Pyle short story. There is a world-mediaeval-fantasy thread running through everything that we’ve done, which is, I suppose, what makes us different.

What should music lovers expect from “The Serpent’s Kiss”?

MARK: If you like a mix of progressive rock, metal, world and mediaeval music, you might like to give this a try! If you can’t imagine what that sounds like… well, here’s your chance to find out!

What kind of emotions would you like your audience to feel when they listen to your music?

MARK: Any piece of music, of any style, can inspire different emotions in different people. They may feel excitement, joy, or pathos, depending on the song. If you can communicate any of these emotions, then your music is working.

Which do you like most, life in the studio or on tour?

MAGGIE-BETH: Both. Studio work, for me, means focusing on creativity and developing ideas into songs, and stories into compositions. This gives me a sense of achievement; the pleasure of thinking how much I would like to share this music with my audience. Being on tour gives me the opportunity to share directly with our audiences and it is always a pleasure to get this immediate feedback.

Pick your three favourite albums that you would take on a desert island with you.

MAGGIE-BETH: Led Zeppelin - Physical Graffiti. Within Temptation - The Silent Force. Carl Orff's Carmina Burana; the version recorded by the Choir and Orchestra of the  Deutschen Oper Berlin, with Eugen Jochum.

Visit http://www.serpentyne.com for more news from Serpentyne.

Review: SynaptiK - Justify & Reason

Prog/Heavy metallers SynaptiK from England have been around since 2012, and they are about to return with their second studio album “Justify & Reason.” Why the hell didn’t I know about them earlier? Now, thanks to the PR wire, I got a promo copy of the upcoming release which is a real t(h)reat. 

The style that SynaptiK plays is pretty standard, comparing somewhat with more traditionalist 80s metal throwbacks, yet they manage to sound different and fresh when compared with a lot of the other bands that attempt to play in this particular style.

John Knight’s vocals are gravely and rough, standing at the very center of the counter-tenor wails of Rob Halford and the husky baritone of Blaze Bailey. During the choruses of such catchy anthems as “The Incredible Machine” and “As I Was, As I Am” the vocal work almost punches past the rest of the arrangement. While he doesn’t soar into the higher stratosphere in the manner that most in the genre do, he more than compensates with sheer power.

Although the voice alone gives this album a heavy yet melodic edge, the entire arrangement pounds the sonic threshold of the listener into submission. Whether its faster songs like “Conscience” or down tempo stomping machines like “White Circles”, there is a consistent picture of a mighty fist slamming itself down on a stone table and commanding your undivided attention. Balancing out the simple yet aggressive riffs and backing instruments are flashy leads of guitarists Ian Knight and Jack Murton.

“Justify & Reason” is a powerful statement from a band that is hungry to show what their abilities are, and according to this they have much more to offer. Grab this record, you’ll not regret.

Follow SynaptiK on Facebook here.

Interview: Zafakon

Zafakon from Puerto Rico has been bringing their mixture of thrash, death and progressive metal since 2013, and the release of their debut album "War as a Drug." The band's second full-length, "Release," saw a band shifting towards more complex sound, adding on their progressive metal influences.

We talked with the band about their beginnings, writing, and more.

What made you go for the name Zafakon?

Marcus Veit: The name started out as a sort of joke. It comes from a word that only has meaning to Puerto Rican people, which is zafacón. It actually means trash can. We decided to keep it mostly because of the fact that most people will hear the word “Zafakon” and find it mysterious and ominous. And only of you were Puerto Rican you were in on the joke.

How do you usually describe your music?

MV: I personally find it hard to describe what our music has become. On our first record “War as a Drug”, it was mostly just straight up Thrash with a bit of Death Metal. Now it’s sort of like that, but the addition of Yhann to the band has brought on a whole new layer of sounds and influences. More melodic and technical stuff.

What is your writing process like?

MV: Usually we come up with ideas at home. We usually record them and then bring them to the rest of the guys so we can develop it into a song. I, personally, sometimes come up with stuff at work and have to hum it into a voice recorder app on my phone (looking and sounding like a weirdo in the process) and then get home and record it with the guitar. The main idea for a song we start developing will usually go through dozens of changes and tweaks until we have something that we are 100% happy with.

Who or what is your inspiration, if you have any?

Weslie Negrón: There are many things that keep inspired to make music. There are two that are always present in my mind. First, I’m a diehard Opeth fan, so knowing how Mikael Akerfeldt has kept and evolved the band from pretty much being in the bottom, it’s always very inspiring to know. Also, having to be on stage and watching how much people are enjoying themselves, how they are forgetting about life’s issues during the thirty or forty minutes of our sets, it’s always gratifying and it keeps driving me to do this as long as life lets me.

MV: I usually list Nergal from Behemoth as one of my main inspirations. Not just in music but also in life. Here’s a guy who has built this band from the ground up and has been through so much in his life, still standing possibly taller than ever, and never once letting himself down. His creativeness has been more than proven and I he just doesn’t care what anybody has to say about his beliefs, his music or his life decisions.

What is your favourite piece on the “Release” album?

WN: My favorite track is “Valor y Sacrificio”. I just love the prog elements in the song and it’s just such a soothing song, if you compare it with the other tracks of the album, that it just hits the spot if you’re looking for a kind of a technical, melodic, and progressive song in our catalogue.

What makes “Release” different?

MV: I think there’s something for everyone on this album. There’s some technical stuff, there’s some fast, thrashy tunes, there’s songs you can sing along to… I think it’s a very complete album and what makes it different is that it comes from a place where many influences come together, which is Puerto Rico. There is a distinct flavor to the Puerto Rican Metal sound.

What should music lovers expect from “Release”?

MV: Like I said, there are things on this album that everyone can enjoy. There is plenty of melodies and arrangements that feel catchy but aggressive at the same time. There also plenty of lead breaks and riffs for the guitar lovers. And Nicko did a great job adding a proggy feel to the drums in many different ways. Check it out!

What kind of emotions would you like your audience to feel when they listen to your music?

MV: I mostly would like everyone to feel empowered somehow. I feel that surge of power every time we play these songs on stage. I would like them to feel like they are taller than buildings. At least that’s how I feel when I listen to a good Metal song.

Which do you like most, life in the studio or on tour?

MV: TOUR hands down! I hate the studio *laughs*. My favorite thing about being in this band is being able to travel and play this music to different people every day. The road is not easy at all, but it sure beats the hell out of being locked up in one room the entire day playing do-over after do-over. That’s just my opinion, of course.

WN: I prefer life on the road. I mean, both are tough in their respective ways, but touring is better for me. I love being able to meet new people and seeing their reaction towards our show. Also, discovering new places I haven’t got the chance to go before it’s always nice.

Pick your three favourite albums that you would take on a desert island with you.

WN: I would take:
1. Ayreon – The Human Equation
2. Opeth – Ghost Reveries
3. Porcupine Tree – Fear of a Blank Planet

MV: Oh boy... let’s see (in no particular order):
1. Pink Floyd – Wish You Were Here
2. Behemoth – The Satanist
3. Testament – The New Order

Like Zafakon on Facebook for more news.

Review: Increate - Void

As if Progressive Metal met Technical Death and Djent for lunch and the three later casually partook in rough coitus, Portland-based Increate make some heavy, heavy music. Call it progressive metal or even an incredibly atmospheric derivative of death metal, the band’s debut record, Void is an oppressive sea of fury, and it resonates with me in a way few bands of its style manage to do. The songwriting may be solid and the production some of the best I’ve seen in metal, but it’s the ubiquitous atmosphere that has this album screaming ‘masterpiece’.

Too many bands in metal ultimately sound indistinguishable from one another, and it is a bleak statement. True enough, Increate’s resistance from this heavy metal clone complex pays off. Although their dark brand of tech metal can still find itself associated with a number of prescribed genres, Void feels like a natural collision of influences from across the spectrum, from black and doom metal to modern and extreme variant of prog.

As a whole Void relies on a sickening atmosphere of rage and fear. Although Increate sticks exclusively to their guitars, drums, and bass (you guessed it right - Void is a fully instrumental adventure), the music sounds vast. “Depths of R’lyeh” introduces the sinister mood that pervades the majority of the album. By the cornerstone “Interstella Displacement,” Increate have developed their riff energy into a dense fury complete with burstfire picking. All the while, Portlanders layer their music with atonal atmospheric guitars. The band’s style will certainly draw a number of comparisons with other bands, but Increate combine the elements and make the sound truly their own.

Although it’s not the biggest reason why Void has stood out to me so much, it’s worth mentioning that Increate enjoy some of the richest, most organic production I have heard on a metal record for quite some time. Perhaps it’s the heavy presence of the bass guitar, but Increate find an incredible balance between a live ‘raw’ energy, and a clear mix between instruments. It certainly doesn’t hurt that Increate channel their atmosphere-laden heaviness through such an organic studio execution. Those willing to set the time aside to fairly digest the atmosphere will find an incredible world to explore with Void, one governed by anger and chaos. I give my highest recommendation.

Void is out on February 3; pre-order it from Bandcamp.

Review: Burnt City - Resurgence EP

Burnt City is a prog-power metal project by guitarist and composer Aydin Zahedi hailing from Sydney in Australia. Zahedi has gathered quite a line-up for Burnt City’s debut EP "Resurgence" which was released on the first day of 2017. He teamed up with singer Gus Monsanto (Revolution Renaissance), keyboardist Bob Katsionis (Serious Black, Firewind), bassist Mike Lepond (Symphony X), and drummer George Kollias (Nile) to create quite a powerful synthesis of genres.

Musically very rich, "Resurgence" is not easy to understand at the first encounter, but I immediately discerned some obvious qualities. The vocal performance from Monsanto is very convincing; he owns such a powerful voice and charisma to deliver.

As the record passes by, "Resurgence" expands further, in a precise and clever way little by little, a long process to fully enjoy it in its fullness. The identity of the album is based around a dark Progressive Metal sound with some Melodic method and some intricate harmonic arrangements, more dramatic in the ambiances than it seems, while the smartness and the complex shape of their creative ways are updated by an evolutive style in a thick schema of heaviness.

Songs on "Resurgence" are of same quality throughout the record; this quality is uniform and goes gradually all the way from the opening intro to the closing piece “Armageddon.” 

"Resurgence" is a great release; the talent of Aydin Zahedi accompanied by masterful execution of collaborators is evident on every step. I hope that this record is just an indicator that this project has a lot more to say.

Get a copy of "Resurgence" here.

Listen: the Flight of Sleipnir - Skadi

I have been a long time fan of these guys, I own t shirts, posters, signed prints, cds, you name it, I got it. There is just something so ethereal about their music, a balance of darkness and light, a battle of emotion and an atmosphere quite unlike any other. Am I looking way too deep into this? Probably. Though somehow the Flight of Sleipnir makes this kind of introspection come with such ease that it is hard not to delve deeper and deeper while letting the music wash over you.

I urge literally everyone in the world to listen to these guys, start with any track from their catalog, they are all worth it. Below you will find their latest album 'Skadi' named after the Norse goddess of winter, skiing and hunting. It is beautiful and I can not get enough of it.

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Listen: Dopelord - Children of the Haze

Dopelord are a stoner/doom band from Poland who were founded in late 2010 in Lublin. Smoking, rehearsing and touring ,their main inspirations are: old movies, 70s music and magical herbs. Seems like a great combo if you ask me. Dopelord just released 'Children of the Haze' which you can find below, its 6 tracks of fuzzed out crushing doom. Make sure you turn your volume up to eleven for this one!

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Review: Farwatch - Transmigrated

"Transmigrated" is an album by US Progressive Symphonic Metal group Farwatch, independently released in December 2016. With four lengthy tracks – "Library of Empyreus," "Water Turns the Wheel," "Viridian Pearl," and "Behold the New" – this is album is a good exemplar of the genre, developing harmonies that evolves from very subtle, lucid and poetic melodies, that has in beauty a very mature element that constantly revolves and adorns the harmonies, as a resilient broken hearted universe, trying to fix its overall emotions in a more theatrical, but ethereal consignation of truth. 

An interesting genre work, consolidated by a very solid line of interchanged rhythms absorbed in an inadvertently sensorial musical definition, "Transmigrated" departs from a very symbiotic pattern of cohesive harmonies, that relies constantly in beautiful melodic overtones, and all around the sonorous shapes of its contiguous abundant poetic stature, also inserts into the creative outlines convoluted and surprising electronic elements, precisely combining interesting components to create and develop a very peculiar style of their own.

With interesting passages, designed to fulfill and comprehend a more magical and indefinite musical cosmogony, that aligns several different sonorous elements into an unusual style of ambitious artistry, "Transmigrated" is really focused in a very antagonistically complex, but cohesive musical proposal, that never departs from absurd or overall commonalities: developing their own colossal and monumental concept of Symphonic Progressive Metal, "Transmigrated" is really absorbed in an interesting pattern of poetic diversity and creativity, being a lot more ambitious and solid than other works on the genre. They truly develop a new concept, being so vigorously original, that is impossible not to recognize the new values they present to the genre, as a whole.

"Transmigrated" is a very colorful and versatile album, filled with beautiful, precise and delicate harmonies that, despite the fact that widely explores several different layers of musical shapes at all corners of symphonic / progressive metal, does fully secure a lucid and vivid sonorous cohesion, all the way through. Destined to become a powerful reference to the genre, this work really opens new possibilities, as well as consecrates a true evolutionary road for the genre, in each and every possible aspect. Farwatch is a band of enlightened logic, poetic versatility, unusual fulfillment, musical beauty, and artistic ambition, destined to take Progressive Metal to the next level. Until them, the genre was inclined to a very monotonous decline and stagnation. Now, we can see a revival, an upheaval and a vigorous rebirth in the horizon!

"Transmigrated" is available now from Bandcamp.

Review: Second Horizon - Albdruck

Albdruck is the debut studio album from German experimental band Second Horizon. The band employs wide spectre of elements in their music, and if you are a fan of bands such like Cult of Luna, Enslaved, Isis, Tool, Mastodon and more, I kid you not, you will make a room in your heart for this album. 

Albdruck consists of modern day, relentless, in-your-face riffs, and pounding rhythm section. The drums really shine through over the thrashing, heart-pounding tracks with insane sound quality and wicked speed that are easily to focal point in many of the songs. 

Second Horizon add this ear-popping and near hypnotic distortion to their heaviness which really adds character to the album. Although there are no vocals, the band makes up for it by a mind blowing performance. Their heavy take on the already heavy genres is what makes this record a very pleasant discovery.

You can get yourself a copy of the album here.

Frost Giant Show That Amon Amarth Arent The Only Ones Who Can Do Viking Metal

If you couldn't guess from the title, Frost Giant play their own fusion of viking metal inspired by Norse mythology punk rock and american hardcore. Their latest album, 'When Myth and History Merged Into History' is not just a mouth full, but a pretty solid release featuring 5 original tracks which are full of lore and brilliant viking hall sing along moments and 4 cover songs. One of which being 'Song of the Dragonborn' from Skyrim which is the perfect track to go alongside viking inspired music.  Check it out below.

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