Under The Surface – Underground Bands Spotlight



Under the Surface is our new column in which we take a listen to and critique artists with independently released albums. As with our website, we will explore the boundaries of heavy music by reviewing releases that range from fringes of post-rock to the heaviest of the heavy. The releases will be scored from on our 10 scale (poor – fantastic). The goal is to promote the underground and give artists the chance to be heard, providing descriptive overviews, kudos – and constructive criticism – as necessary, giving our readers the opportunity to check these artists out and support our scene.



Alek Darson – Panopticon

Alek Darson is a Berklee College graduate by way of Serbia, and has the guitar chops to prove it. After paying his dues for a decade, he has released Panopticon, which clearly showcases both his virtuosity and songwriting skill. Conceived to reflect the range of emotions he has experienced throughout his life, his influences of Dream Theater and Steve Vai are pretty clear. However, this release reminds me very much of Animals As Leaders. If you enjoy those artists, you will totally love this release. It is primarily instrumental, using three drummers, a flautist, keyboards and a string section over the course of five songs, which are all carefully crafted. The last song, The Rind, finally brings in vocals courtesy of Vladimir Lalić, and while his vocal performance is excellent, he sounds so much like Devin Townsend that it is uncanny – and a bit distracting. Lalić also wrote the lyrics, which, while cool and interesting, are also very Townsend-esque. I hope that on a future release Darson will utilize Lalić more so we can get a better gauge of his range – and hopefully individuality – as a vocalist. But even with that, sounding like Mr. Townsend is never a bad thing, and what he does is perfect for the song. This EP is quite impressive on a few levels, and if you love music that is not shy with the technicality but still manages to incorporate some dynamics and feeling, this is a must-have. Purportedly Dream Theater’s Jordan Rudess is a fan, and after listening to what Mr. Darson is capable of, I can understand it. This fellow is as good as anyone out there, and he definitely should be given the opportunity to flex his musical muscle in front of a much larger audience.


Alek Darson on Bandcamp

p18e61bt8784f5hdqqj14tl1cbp4Palefeather – (self-titled)

Formed by members of In Mourning, October Tide, Majalis and others, this is an instrumental, psychedelic Post-Rock journey with an ambient bent. Palefeather is a very relaxing and downright pretty release and easily reminds one of Opeth, Devin Townsend or even Tiamat in their mellower moments crossed with Pink Floyd. Since I do enjoy that type of stuff, I really enjoyed this CD. Great as ‘chill out’ music or for spacing out, hell, I’d even do yoga to this. Mind-expanding without being overly prog, this is well worth checking out. 7.5/10

Palefeather on Bandcamp

The Cloud Shoveler – Les Jeûnes de la Chair

Nicolas Aubé-Lanctôt, alias Le Pelteux de nuages (The Cloud Shoveler) is a celestial-sounding post-rock release. This album is the first of a trilogy entitled Sahara d’endorphine, and while there is no indication of what the remaining two albums will sound like, this one is clearly out to set a melancholic

mood. The guitars are layered with effects, and combined with the onomatopoeic vocals (which are overused a bit for my taste), lends a very dream-like quality to all of the songs. There are other instruments involved, such as accordion and piano, and altogether creates a release that may intend to be soothing, but there is an undercurrent of tension that, for me, keeps it from being relaxing; in fact, at times it is a little creepy. So, if you like your ambient music to have a little bit of a Gothic bite to it, you’ll probably love having this in the background of your next dinner party.



The Cloud Shoveler on Bandcamp

Minimal Bogart – Cosmic Caveman Blues

Formed in 2008, Minimal Bogart is stoner/psychedelic/blues from Bulgaria. The music is instrumental and quite musical without getting either boring or totally distracting. There is a very strong 60’s influence, with a good amount of keyboards and harmonica. As far as execution, it is a bit loosey-goosey in spots, and the production is pretty lo-fi (perhaps that is where the ‘Minimal’ in their name comes from), but that definitely lends to the 60’s rock feel if that’s your thing. Picture an old Kyuss jam crossed with some 60’s dudes in someone basement or a crusty bar on the edge of town. Titles such as ‘The Intergalactic Drug Baron’, ‘Reefer Madness’ and ‘Interlude – Quest for Shrooms’ should further give you an idea of what you should expect sonically. The guitar tone did get a little grating after awhile, but he has got some chops. Unfortunately, the band members are not named on any of the links that were provided.


Minimal Bogart on Bandcamp


Hoth- Oathbreaker

Hoth is a two-member music project from Seattle consisting of Eric Peters and David Dees, and they have quite the release in Oathbreaker (Epicurus Records). A concept album about a person descending into darkness from birth, it’s a task that requires a lot of dynamics, thought and, of course musical execution. This record has all three qualities in spades, traveling through many Metal genres such as Black, melodic Death, and Traditional. The vocals, reminiscent of Dimmu Borgir‘s Shagrath, are not as dynamic and they do not stray from a Black/Death growl. They are heavily effected to convey the coldness tension that matches the storyline, so while not particularly unique, they do fit the music perfectly. They introduce violin, choir sounds, acoustic guitars and keyboards to really set the Black Metal mood, but it is so well-crafted and produced they know when to change it up and keep the listener engaged. Other musicians appear to have been involved and it is unclear what their contributions were, but overall every musician and element is used to best effect. Picture Dimmu, Opeth and a touch of Amon Amarth and maybe even a dash of The Haunted – that’s a mix you can’t go wrong with! I was truly impressed by this release from beginning to end, and it is something that I will actually keep and play as part of my regular collection.


Hoth on Bandcamp