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, ...

Interview: Aydin Zahedi of BURNT CITY

I have already wrote about Burnt City and the project's debut EP "Resurgence" here, but it's always great to know more about what it took to come up with a release, and Aydin Zahedi, the mastermind of the project, was kind enough to give us more information about the project, the release, inspiration.

What made you go for the name Burnt City?

There are few reasons, it’s the name of a 5000 years old mysterious city recently discovered in south of Iran, they have found an artificial eye which belonged to a woman (that’s why we put an eye in the cover art, if you look closely you can find it) and also a bowl which has sequential painting and by spinning it we can see an animation, I don’t want to go to details, readers can read about it online it is fascinating, I thought it is a good name for a band, also it was a name which hasn’t been taken so I could use it without any copy right issues, it is easy to remember because it is easy to visualise a burnt city.

How do you usually describe your music?

Power metal with a dash of progressive. I didn’t push for complexity in ‘Resurgence’, and there was no effort to make it technical.

What was your writing process like for the debut EP “Resurgence”?

I improvise and I record the interesting parts, and when I like a riff I start playing it over an over again, and I think about how I can expand it, usually different sections of the song are variation of the same riff, for other instruments I used to play everything with Guitar and describing the type of sound that I have in mind, but that was for the demo, Gus wrote the vocal melodies himself, same as Bob, George and Mike. So I had these demos, I sent them to the guys and they recorded their parts and they sent them back to me. In order George, Mike, Gus, Bob and then me again (Guitar solos) recorded the parts.

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

I have a very long list, but for this EP I name the bands that I was listening to at the time of writing, Annihilator, Megadeth, Helloween, Dream Theatre, Symphony X, Firewind, Ark, Judas Priest. But at the moment I listen mainly to western concert music and video game and film soundtracks.

What is your favourite piece on the “Resurgence" EP?

It is hard to tell since I have memories with each one of them, but I would say the title track Resurgence is my favourite. I enjoy playing it so much.

What makes “Resurgence” different from other prog-power metal albums?

I didn’t try to be different, and I don’t think it is that different to any other prog-power metal bands, but it has it’s moments, for instance vocals are heavier and more aggressive than most of the power metal bands, and it sounds darker than most progressive metal bands. the influence of each member can be heard vividly, and the combination is very interesting, the line up and their influence can be factor that might make it differrent to some audience.

What should music lovers expect from the EP?

Deep lyrics, powerful vocals, kicks drums, jaw dropping keyboard solos, detailed bass lines, good sound and catchy choruses and rhythms.

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

Anything that they can relate to, I don’t want to dictate how they should feel, It happened to me before that I related to a song in a certain way and the song writer described it in a completely different way and couldn’t have the same connection with that song again. So I rather not to dictate anything, but I would love to hear how audience feel about each song.

Are there any plans to bring Burnt City on the road?

I am working on it, I don’t think gigging with the recording members is possible since everyone is touring on different schedule and they are extremely busy, at the moment I am trying to find local musicians to play some gigs and see how it goes from there. But touring is my goal, and if everything goes according to plan I will definitely do my best to play with these guys live.

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

Underworld by Symphony X, Scenes from a memory by Dream Theater, Queen’s greatest hits (if I can take compilation) otherwise I go with a completely different choice which is Pink Floyd’s The Wall.

Visit Burnt City's official website for more info, where you also can order the "Resurgence EP." Burnt City is also on Facebook and YouTube.

Review: Cast - Power and Outcome

Hailing from Mexico, Cast instantly grabs your attention with a giant classic prog sound bolstered by surreal keys, giant vocals, intense bass, and skilled guitar.  They love long songs and concept albums. Their sound is big and vibrant; even colorful.

“Power and Outcome” is a concept album of sorts.  The lyrics, however, are honestly not a major part of the music, as most of the album’s playtime is instrumental.  This record shows that there are few musician ensembles as tight, skilled, or unique as the one here in Cast.

This skill shows from the very first track on the album.  “Rules of the Desert” is an 11+ minute instrumental epic that absolutely blows my mind.  The band has returned with a much darker, less celestial sound.  It’s almost overwhelming at first, putting your heart into your throat.  This first track is especially fierce and driving, containing greyish shades and more intensity than I’ve heard on some of the previous releases of the band. It begins with delicate piano and beauteous effects, but transitions into a dark, jazzy retro vibe.

Other tracks, like the title song, feature the same vibe, only the sound is more surreal and even haunting, using violin almost like a distorted guitar. “Through a Stained Glass” and “Illusions and Tribulations”, for example, are more vocally driven and closer to classics such Camel and Yes, but there ever remains a certain dystopian color that stains their atmosphere, not to mention larger than life keys.  “The Gathering” might be my favorite track, though, with its wonderful vocals and its genuinely interesting instrumentals. 

“Power and Outcome” is a thoughtful, fierce experience from Cast. This is an album that strikes me as inspired from beginning to end, through all the machinations, excellent vocal lines, and flowing emotions. This is true progression from an under-appreciated band that is close to my heart. Make sure you get the chance to hear it.

Review: Emperor Guillotine - Emperor Guillotine

"Emperor Guillotine" is a debut album by Emperor Guillotine, a project fully managed by Dallas, Texas native Ben Randolph. The self-titled debut is a glorious homage to the heavy metal crunch, all the way keeping the prog sensibilities in mind. "Emperor Guillotine" is an instrumental album heavily inspired by Black Sabbath - Tony Iommi in particular. The synths can be heard throughout the record, but they are subdued in exchange for a rekindled devotion the almighty riff.

"Sea of Dust," "Witch  Mountain" and "The Bastille" are all powerful, rock- oriented songs driven by thick riff mastery. "The Unearthly" is a step above in terms of its sophistication, fitting in crunchy guitars with quite a few unsettling spots. 

"Emperor Guillotine" is a record worth giving a try for everyone who enjoys organic heavy metal / hard rock sound, and I am sure that there are people who still appreciate this over hyper-tight computerised albums.

Get a copy of Emperor Guillotine here.

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.