EP REVIEW – Astaroth Incarnate – Ascendance

It used to be easy, doing the devil’s good work. A pentagram here or there, maybe an inverted cross on the forehead, and audiences would cower at your brimstone-summoning bravura. But the competition for our evil-seeking dollar and download has grown to unspeakable proportions. Just ask Sam Astaroth, vocalist for Toronto-based death metal gurus Astaroth Incarnate about the demands of wickedness in 2019. A Mephisto-summoning moniker doesn’t go far enough, even housed in a thorny, nigh-unreadable font. Add a few bullet-belted warlocks crawling from the backwoods with pointy guitars, not to mention Sam’s own demon warpaint. Yet, these hellacious Canadians are still restless and wild. Continue reading

The Neal Morse Band Live at The Space, Westbury, Long Island

There are talents and there are rare talents in this world like Neal Morse. The prolific progressive rock genius seems to top himself over and over throughout his storied career. Where others would just stand pat and repeat themselves, Neal continually writes, records and performs across a spectrum of styles. All of this has synthesized in The Neal Morse Band. Certainly not his final destination musically by a long shot, with 2016’s The Similitude of a Dream and the sprawling double album The Great Adventure (both InsideOut Music) he has gelled all of his various elements together impressively. Continue reading

Therion Debut New Song – “Temple Of New Jerusalem”

On February 9th, symphonic metal pioneers Therion will finally release Christofer Johnsson‘s monumental brainchild, Beloved Antichrist, a sweeping rock opera loosely inspired by Vladímir Soloviov’s “A Short Tale Of The Antichrist”. The dramatic and epic opus comes to life in three acts through 27 different character roles, performed by long-time band members like Thomas Vikström, Lori Lewis and Chiara Malvestiti, amongst many others. Today the band has unveiled the first track from the upcoming rock opera for our listening pleasure. Continue reading

Audio: Dream Theater – The Gift of Music

 

dream theater astonishing cover cd 2015

Dream Theater have released a brand new song from their forthcoming album The Astonishing, due for release on January 29th, 2016 from Roadrunner. You can hear the track at this link or below:

 

The band has launched a mini-site for The Astonishing, which is a sweeping rock opera/concept album in to acts, based on original characters.

 

John Petrucci commented on the making of the record:

“The idea to do a concept album as a band felt right. The last one we did [1999’s ‘Metropolis Pt. 2: Scenes From A Memory’] was about 15 years ago, and it really felt like we were in a good place to do this. I knew that what needed to happen, first and foremost, is that we had to have a story to base this on, because the idea of basing an album off of a loose concept or something that was sort of arbitrary, that didn’t interest me at all. I wanted this not only to be a concept album, but really to write a full show. And to have all the elements in place, the story needs to drive that. We needed to have the storyline, a plot, places, characters, maps — you name it. So that started about two and a half years ago; it took about a year for me to get that story done and ready to present to the guys. And I wanted to write from a place that was familiar to me, so I knew that music had to play a role in the story somehow. I’m a huge fan of the sci-fi and fantasy genres, so I had a pretty good idea of where I wanted to go. But it was a matter of really diving into it and working on it, revising and revising again, and working on it every day until I had something solid.”

“The Atonishing”. He said: “Because of the sheer volume of music — you’re talking, when all’s said and done, probably two hours, 10 minutes’ worth of music — every step of this has been a huge process. I don’t think I’ve had time to do anything else over the last year or so [laughs]! In order to do this right, I had to be really, really organized about it. Jordan [Rudess, keyboards] and I wrote the music as really a prog-metal score to the story. We didn’t sit down and say, ‘Let’s write a song, here’s the first chorus, whatever.’ We would go through the story and say, “What’s happening here, where is it taking place?” We had to make sure the mythology was right, the timeline was right. And that carried through on every level. When it came to presenting the orchestration to [veteran conductor and orchestrator] David Campbell and getting him involved; when it came to writing the lyrics, and then me having to go through it song by song, character by character; even things like the artwork, creating the map and all those different towns and cities and roads — every sort of level and layer took a lot of organization and focus.”

Dream Theatre astonishing characters

The Astonishing track listing:

Act I

01. Descent Of The NOMACS
02. Dystopian Overture
03. The Gift Of Music
04. The Answer
05. A Better Life
06. Lord Nafaryus
07. A Savior In The Square
08. When Your Time Has Come
09. Act Of Faythe
10. Three Days
11. The Hovering Sojourn
12. Brother, Can You Hear Me?
13. A Life Left Behind
14. Ravenskill
15. Chosen
16. A Tempting Offer
17. Digital Discord
18. The X Aspect
19. A New Beginning
20. The Road To Revolution

Act II

01. 2285 Entr’acte
02. Moment Of Betrayal
03. Heaven’s Cove
04. Begin Again
05. The Path That Divides
06. Machine Chatter
07. The Walking Shadow
08. My Last Farewell
09. Losing Faythe
10. Whispers In The Wind
11. Hymn Of A Thousand Voices
12. Our New World
13. Power Down
14. Astonishing

Augment Of Rebirth (Part 2) – Dan Briggs of Between The Buried And Me

 

 

Between the Buried and Me, photo by Justin Reich

Between the Buried and Me, photo by Justin Reich

With their, at times, near insanity-inducing levels of genre merging and sheer unpredictability it is pretty apparent that the lyrical subject matter of Between The Buried And Me also fits this bill. Even a cursory glance over previous song titles such as ‘Foam Born (A) The Backtrack’ and ‘Croakies and Boatshoes’ prove that even lyrically they come with rather a large dose of head scratching. Even so, the concept that saddled both The Parallax releases (both Metal Blade) was so intricate that explaining fully would require its own essay to explain (Dan Briggs’ own advice in conversation was to check Wikipedia).

On Coma Ecliptic (Metal Blade) the story is much easier to understand on the face of it, but still presents a multitude of “WTF” moments, nor is it any less grandiose. In its most basic explanation it follows a man who falls into a self-induced coma in order to explore a plethora of different realities. Seriously, it’s still easier to understand than The Parallax.

Firstly, Brigg’s explains where the story came from: “That was totally Tommy’s thing. We were a while into the album and I think he was getting nervous, he was out in California and we were locked in, and we pretty much had the album laid out. I think Tommy felt all of a sudden “I had a load of catching up to do”. I don’t know how many ideas he had before he went with the coma idea.”

“I know he was influenced by The Trumann Show and The Twilight Zone, like you’re in a reality and it’s not quite what it seems, it’s fucked up and it’s not what you thought. Thus lies an interesting groundwork for, I guess inherently a BTBAM album which is going to be all over the place.”

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With this overriding story thread through the album, rather than simply an ideal or a notion, the band have raised the idea before of it being more than a concept album but instead a “Rock Opera”. The thought behind this is one that Briggs seems keen to back up, as he explains. “All a rock opera is, is telling a story through a song, and that’s what we are doing. Not too different from a concept album but it’s being in the mindset that we wanted to do something more theatrical and take it to the next level, and for us that was just calling it that, and that was propelling us to a different headspace.”

Certainly it’s a terminology which pricks up interest more so than the more tried and tested concept album, and with it brings a greater sense of gravitas. This way of looking at their work, it turns out, is also a product of some important members coming further out of their shell in terms of story writing, even with elements of stories and tales in their work before;Colors (Victory) is a conceptual album but not lyrically, musically it works as one unit but lyrically was not locked in. Tommy was not confident enough that he could do it, even though there are songs like ‘Sun Of Nothing’ that was such an intense story that surely he could have locked in and carried out. So he was hinting at it then and on the The Great Misdirect (Victory), and he picked at little elements of those in The Parallax, but he is at a cool place now when it comes to writing stories and being vivid.”

What is made even clearer from Briggs’ explanations about the songwriting processes is just how long the whole system has proven. “Some of these songs we have already been sitting on for a year, and it’s so nice that people are finally hearing it, to finally get feedback.”

 

Between The buried and Me, by Meg Loyal Photography

Between The buried and Me, by Meg Loyal Photography

With the framework begun such a long while ago, it makes it all the more bewildering the number of other musical projects that Briggs has under his belt and currently in work. As passionate about each one, with a hugely variant music taste, Briggs relishes the chance to touch base, firstly with the most high-profile of all, his dissonant, Mahavishnu Orchestra inspired Trioscapes, and the adrenaline shot it gave him: “We have done a good bit, we’ve done handfuls of touring in America and trying to get to Europe; it’s just lining up with the right people to make it happen. That group’s a lot of fun. When that started in 2011 it really gave me a jolt, and I feel like I’ve been riding a wave ever since. I don’t know what it is but it just got me so pumped and really excited and it hasn’t stopped.”

Also included are the more melodic Orbs with a new album, which “We have been trying to shop it and work out how to get it released”, a project he describes as the closest yet to a solo effort, which is “inspired by a lot of music from the 30’s and 40’s, jazz standards, but it’s pretty fucked up, it’s different”, and another that has been mostly kept under wraps until now which sees a new working relationship with Richard Henshall of UK tour buddies Haken.

“We haven’t really announced the band yet but I’ve been posting bits and we finished the album in April, trying to find a good time to record it, which will probably be towards the end of the year or start of next year. That music is really fun, really exciting, really different, and I love the band Haken, and Richard has been super cool to work with.”

How Briggs finds the time and the energy to work on so many different acts and types of music is simply astounding, and you get the impression this is just the tip of the iceberg for him. What can’t be overlooked though is how much Briggs (and the rest of BTBAM for that matter) are fans of exciting, experimental music that pushes boundaries. “For me, all the music I do is equally as important. It’s never a question of do I ever want to book studio time in these two weeks I have free before I go out; it’s like ‘Yeah, obviously, am so excited to do that’.”

More than enough proof that the future of the quirky, difficult to grasp music is in very sturdy hands.

 

CHRIS TIPPELL

 

 

His Name Is Alive Announces 25 Anniversary Tour

his name is alive band pic

Veteran Detroit rockers His Name Is Alive has announced their 25th Anniversary tour, starting in February (dates below), in support of their latest release Tecuciztecatl, a psychedelic rock opera with heavy fuzz guitar depicting an epic struggle between identical twins, reflective in nature, and mirrored in twin science, secret language and mythology. Check out “See You In A Minute” here and “African Violet Casts A Spell” here.

25th Anniversary Tour:
Feb 06: Grog Shop – Cleveland OH
Feb 07: Johnny Brenda’s – Philadelphia PA
Feb 09: Great Scott – Boston MA
Feb 10: Rough Trade – Brooklyn NY
Feb 12: Black Cat Backstage – Washington DC
Feb 14: Magic Stick – Detroit MI
Mar 29: Circle Bar – New Orleans LA
Mar 31: Dan’s Silverleaf – Denton TX
Apr 01: The Mohawk – Austin TX
Apr 03: Valley Bar – Phoenix AZ
Apr 04: Casbah – San Diego CA
Apr 05: The Echo – Los Angeles CA
Apr 07: Rickshaw Stop – San Francisco CA
Apr 10: Doug Fir – Portland OR
Apr 11: Barboza – Seattle WA
Apr 15: 7th Street Entry – Minneapolis MN
Apr 16: Schubas – Chicago IL

his name is alive