A Few Words About John Wetton

 A year ago, one of my heroes Died, when it happened, I was in Chile, I live in the USA, but this time, I was there staying for a year, after an absence of 12.

It was a Hot Summer in the South of Chile, my Native Country, where I spent most of my Schooling and Formation years.

I Had live in Spain for over 7 years, early in my youth, My dad, would help me record Music straight from the TV set, to a one Mono-Cassette device, I was 9, when I landed back, in my home land, and I brought a bunch whole of cassette tapes along, and I was glad I did, everything was different, the TV series I use to watch in Spain, where way different from the ones, the Chilean TV would broadcast.

Although Music was always happening around me, as far as I can remember I was introduced to Music through my Older Sister, she played guitar and sang, and would listen to The Beatles, Queen and E.L.O. cassette tapes, among the many others, there was always American Folk Musicians from the seventies involved within the menu of the day too; Peter Paul and Mary, Cat Stevens, Elvis and from Argentina Sui Generis, were a big part during my growing days.
It was in Talca, this beautiful and, still Spiritual and captivating City, about 150 miles south of Santiago the Capital of Chile, where I met some neighbors and learned about their many other preferences and devotion for bands like: Genesis and Yes, it was then when I first heard of Asia, through a Friend’s, cassette Tape, in which he had recorded a song, from the Radio in Santiago, a song that had been played heavily on radio stations around the globe, It was the single/tune; Only Time Will Tell.

I had been listening and absorbing all kinds of Music since I was a Kid: Mexican, Spanish - Italian Pop Singers from the seventies, Flamenco, TV Series Scores, etc, my Father used to listen to German Marching Band’s Music, so I always wanted to explore and pick up as many different styles of Music as it was possible at that time, when there wasn't many sources, like it is right now.

My father would travel due to working reasons, to The Capital City, Santiago, at least once a month, and he would bring me different imported cassettes, some of them where really bad recordings, but some of them where Original Epic, or CBS, Columbia record’s cassette tapes straight made and imported from the USA.

On one opportunity, I had the chance to go to Santiago, it was the summer of 1982, in December, Asia’s eponymous record had been released a little before, I went to a record store, and made sure that this particular song, Only Time Will Tell was in it, the rest didn’t really mattered.

Credited as a sell out, Corporate top market oriented super group, since: John Wetton, Carl Palmer, Geoff Downes and Steve Howe, the musicians involved on the Band, were all previously members of other well known British bands.
Truthfully; Asia’s self titled first album-record, released by Geffen Records, the company responsible for putting their Music and group together and out to the public, Changed the Music Business and inspired other music outlets, happening in the market during the early 80’s.

 Asia, bound two known Styles, shaped back in the seventies, by bands like Deep Purple en Genesis, and putted them together.

The band’s musicians Despite the bad Press given, were 4 of the finest talented musicians at the time, who also fused the more majestic sounds from Eloy, plus hints of Kansas and another Asia, the American band who were their contemporaries and had the same name.

Apart from any speculations or criticism, their music had much to say and it did, it landed number one in the USA, staying there for numerous weeks.

Asia was not only about the hit singles Only Time Will Tell, which had that uplifting keyboard intro, or Heat of The moment, the album cover had the amazing famous oriental Dragon, chasing a pearl, drawing made by Roger Dean well known by his previous work with Yes and Uriah Heep.
The record also features Wildest Dreams, which has no resemblance at all, with the work of any other band, from that period, often compared with Boston or Journey, bands which music Style is awfully often known as AOR (Adult Oriented Rock).

The aforementioned bands composed mostly songs, within the ABBA structure, while Asia’s Wildest Dreams, holds a powerful and bombastic Instrumental intro, with a metric pattern that reflects the more experimental styles of progressive rock, while Sole Survivor and Time Again, portray that heavier approach, and sound quality,  explored only by the bands, each member had been with before, consequently, giving, the group a whole different and fresher identity, therefore, that influence was passed straight to groups like; Europe and influenced the Progressive Metal style which emerged towards the mid 80’s with bands like Helloween.

The revival of the Band happened in 2006, their former members hadn’t played together since the release of Astra, in 1985, it’s been said, that Steve Howe, was able to rehearse songs for that record, but he left shortly after and was never featured on the recording, instead they hired Mandy Meyer, from Switzerland.

For their 25 anniversary of the release of that eponymous album from 1982 the members gathered secretly, rehearsed and toured, surprising every follower of the band, to add gratefulness to it they recorded three albums between 2006 and 2010, year where they putted out their last record with Steve Howe and John Wetton, the first leaving to continue, with Yes, and Wetton’s untimely passing in January 2017.

But Wetton’s Music is not only Asia, yet how he said it once; "...if you have to put food on the table you have to work any how", and he did, he was a session player for Uriah Heep, Roxy Music, among many other side projects he collaborated with, he was a solo artist as well, and was a pivotal acquisition to Robert Fripps’ King Crimson, with whom he was the front man and bass player, through three of their most seminal records, between1973 and 1974.

As a solo artist he worked with numerous musicians from all kinds of backgrounds including the recently deceased American pop star David Cassidy.

His work is prolific, before Asia’s reunion he meet with his twin composer musician keyboardist Geoffrey Downes creating ICON.

When John Wetton Died, it marked the end of an era, the analog era, in which we grew up, with hopes for the future, dreaming of a life full of uplifting moments, an ideal resembled on that keyboard opening of the song, Only Time Will Tell,  a very similar intro-beginning to that of  Europe’s Final Countdown and Van Halen’s Jump, although the idea, might have been taken from, “In the Dead of Night” Wetton’s earlier band, UK, a group that at one point was going to include Rick Wakeman in it.

The days of good inspiring and well constructed and executed music are gone, and along with it, some of the best musicians in that genre, Keith Emerson, Greg Lake, Chris Squire, Bowie, Wetton.

Life is short and when someone even much closer to us dies, it makes us reflect even more, yet thank God, we have plenty of good Music immortalized, to be played for ever, to be shared with friends and to be passed to new generations, who are not keen to grow listening to lame new pop trends, back in the day, even commercial music was much more elaborated.

......."the brightest ring around the moon, will darken when I die"......
John Wetton12 June 1949 – 31 January 2017

Rodrigo Trupp (dedicated to my sister in life Loreto Masot Aguirre ….we will meet again one day)

Circus Maximus Havoc 2016 Frontiers Italy 2CD Digipak

CIRCUS MAXIMUS HAVOC 2016 (Frontiers Italy)

Contemporary Progressive Metal Band Circus Maximus has three strong albums in their career putted out since 2005. In which the group's work gains credibility due to their constant search crossing and using; Symphonic, Power and Progressive Metal. As soon as this album is out, we see people already criticizing the orientation of the music in it and how certain song sounds reminiscent to a Marylin Manson tune. Well I can't care less if it sounds or not like a Marilyn Manson song, cause I never cared about Marilyn Manson, and if a Circus Maximus song gets to sound like a Marylin Manson song, so what? nobody has invented anything here then? I don't normally write long reviews on records and if I do, I also won't analyze song by song,  unless it's a Musical technical analysis of it, which I also stopped doing a while ago, because people usually are not familiarized with the terms and because its time consuming.

Nevertheless Havoc (released in Italy 3/18/16 on frontiers) which I found about just a few weeks away from it's release, caught my attention because I really enjoyed their previous album "Nine" from 2012.

Well Havoc's Cover was kind of intriguing, by just being a 3d mathematical graphic in the shape of a Prism and a Pyramid, so the package itself it's nicely putted as well and has a second CD with the Japan Live Gig in it.

Havoc goes back to Nine, yet evolves differently away from it too and it sounds good, I enjoyed the long songs and mixture between noise and more structured sonic passages, the keyboard is used as an electronic induced sound device more than a polyphonic Instrument, and when using string and horn arrangements, the sound evokes Neo-progressive pioneers; Marillion and Asia. The Album is more than Nine and not more of the same and as I said before, long.

A couple of nights ago I was reading and Listening to Dream Theater's Octavarium, released around 2004. It's believed that they wrote about a concept based on the Octave note and it concentrated on developing from the major chords and stuff, well coincidentally or at purpose, but for good, Havoc has several songs, as it was Nine written on Standard tuned guitars and Major chords, or first position neck Chords, C, Am, Em, making the album's quieter moments very accessible and memorable.

I'm still far from having the songs echoing in my head, so In the end, a follow up to their previous? I say maybe part II which is not bad, the band's instrumentalists shine solo or together and you have the sense that they are doing what they also enjoy best, consistent metrically and a bit innovative on its more commercial song aspects, yet still sounding heavy, just get the record enjoy the Digi Pack, put earplugs on, lights out! and go away with your mind for a moment.

Don't forget that the final stop is the "Loud park Live in Japan" 2012 extra CD. Rodrigo Trupp(03/27/16)

Is Progressive Metal still around?

"Music unites me and the people. When somebody tells me that is going to listen to a song of mine I want to listen to it as well for the million time, as I have the chance to do it in a new way, through his ears, heart, body, mind... I have the feeling that we are actually sharing something, no distance, no separation, not even the music itself stands between us, we experience that little while together, and sometimes it can last more. This makes me feel less alone and in some lucky periods, even together with all around me" Roberto Ramon Messina (Physical Noise, ex Secret Sphere, Alkemyst)
Progressive Metal: A Few Words From The Dead?
Are Rush the founders of Progressive Metal Music? the first name that comes to mind, these influential Canadian trio of Musicians took some of Led Zeppelin’s more drastic sound and converted into its own.

To me Zeppelin has some Metal in them, yet it was contemporaries Black Sabbath and Deep Purple when around entering the seventies emerged with a fresh beat, provocative sound, extended pieces often Orchestral Music, conceptual writings, these three bands also got out of the AB-BA , “song” construction. They were the ones who took the turn and the initiative to convert Hard Rock into something even more complex and less superficial.

 If we think on what was really the Beginning then, we need to discuss on what Music trends Rock Music was based back in the early days. First and before any Rock guitar was seriously developed or Distortion invented more likely and technically “Overdrive” as we know it, we should mention the works of late Classical Music composers/trainees: Edgar Varese 1883 –1965, father of the Electronic Sound. Post war a-vant-garde, researcher and Aleatory Music creator John Cage 1912 –1992 (he studied with Henry Cowell and Arnold Schoenberg fathers of the War world II Expressionism) Pierre Boulez 1925 who used electronics and Serialism in his later compositions, Karlheinz Stockhausen 1928 – 2007 also an Electronics devotee and finally Master Frank Zappa 1940 –1993 a declared fan of Varese’s work.

Using certain intricate musical motives, usually complex arrangements and Polyphony due to the inclusion of the Piano and Organ, featuring much of the orchestral instruments, Symphonic Rock became very important in the late sixties, also another movement called Canterbury Sound (the name relates to the area in England were bands came from) the genre’s had been represented in the specialized circuits by known musicians such as: Hugh Hopper, Robert Wyatt, Fred Frith and Steve Hillage.

The early Canterbury Sound would generate precursor Jazz/Fusion ensembles such as: Gong, Soft Machine, Caravan, Camel, National Health, Matching Mole and Henry Cow.

Sometimes known as Cinematic Rock the main groups on this particular period that came from England too, were: The Nice (featuring Keyboard Player Keith Emerson) Renaissance, Yes, E.L.P (Emerson, Lake and Palmer), King Crimson, Genesis, Pink Floyd, Curved Air, also; Focus (Netherlands) and Magma (France) are important and no less contributors on developing the Style.

In Italy the movement took center stage in 1972, with; New Trolls, Van Der Graaf Generator (they made it big in Italy although they were an English Band), Banco del Mutuo Soccorso, Premiata Forneria Marconi and Le Orme. New Trolls, Osanna, Metamorfosi, Alphataurus, Semiramis and Biglietto, had a heavier approach in their work influenced by classical music, some used the; Italian Canzone (Italian for song) structure making the style a bit more approachable.

Jimi Hendrix influenced the British when he irrupted on the London Scene in 1966, his stage rituals and Over Distorted guitar where soon to be taken by people like Arthur Brown who took the theatrics to the extreme, he combined his stage show and added wilderness with is operatic voice and Shock Rock antics he is also part of the British progressive, Heavy rock pioneers.

Heavy Metal Music can be found relevantly in the late 60’s and early 70’s with England’s own Cream, Blue Cheer and Jeff Beck which style of Hard Driven and distorted sound was soon after caught by Hide Tide (also from Britain) one of the earlier heaviest bands to be known. The term Heavy Metal, not only refers to Military Weaponry; it’s also associated to Hot Rod Cars, Motorcycles and Medieval Legend, all themes often used by musicians to write about.

That variant to “Metal” Music, Progressive or Symphonic Rock remained accessible with popular Bands such as: Yes, E.L.P. Genesis, but with no doubt it was King Crimson whom after their first album In the Court of the Crimson King (an Observation) from 1969 and under the hands of Robert Fripp, embarked in a Heavier Hard-Rock/Progressive Music, experimental, darker and even sometimes minimalist career. Canadians Rush were the first extremely Heavy/Fast pace and ferocious sounding group by their second album; Flight by Night which contained the opening song Anthem the very first Speed/Heavy Metal tune, although it wouldn’t be until their Concept album/LP from 1976, titled 2112, that the band would be classified as the “Inventors” of Progressive Metal.

Kansas represents the US, using American Folk motives added with harder rough guitar sounds. Influenced by British Progressive Symphonic Bands, they had long mold pieces of Music with Violins, piano, and keyboards, they also added Jazzy expressionism in their albums as well.

British Band Uriah Heep, another pioneer in the Heavy/Riffing sound has been frequently quoted, along with Ireland’s Thin Lizzy and Scotland’s Nazareth as the forefathers of Speed metal and the Fathers of the now famous: N.W.O.B.H.M. mostly active, their album collections are wide.

Years after the inception of Progressive Rock, nearing the 80’s, the self called Neo-progressive movement arose, In England Marillion would be the pivoting Band to maintain the style interesting today, on the side; Pallas, IQ, Arena, Pendragon, Iluvatar and some other descendants remain very popular, some bands have developed more than others, but still maintain credibility and commercial success.

So what has happened during the last 15 years or so? Well, going back to how much Progressive Metal has developed, let’s trace Iron Maiden and their 2 North American immediate pupils: Queensrÿche and Fates Warning, both bands from very different areas within the United States, Washington and Connecticut, correspondingly, both bands were formed in 1982.

While Queensrÿche took Iron Maiden’s punk-ish style of Music, Fates Warning contemplated, darker, longer tracks and the usage of Acoustic guitars, both Bands have had two guitar harmonies (like Maiden) and started using Piano, Keyboards or Synths around 1988. Iron Maiden experimented with Guitar Synths on their acclaimed; Somewhere in Time from 1986, to many, Progressive Heavy metal’s first album, although not a concept album, the theme involves inspiration from the book-based Sci-Fi movie "Blade Runner", directed by Ridley Scott in 1981. Iron Maiden's style of music, was inspired by; Genesis, Yes, Jethro Tull among others. Steve Harris reflects this influence when approaching his Bass playing.

Considered by many the precursors, or the responsible ones for the development of such style, these bands started out in the early 80’s and took their careers, into different paths, but always exploring new sounds and experiencing undetermined line changes, Dream Theater would take the “Torch” towards and beginning the 90’s.

During this late period, the genre has since seen several ensembles from different backgrounds and parts of the Globe and their consequent releases have had great impact into the style’s own development, here there’s some of those works in Music I believe are not to be passed with a brief description of them.

Queensrÿche/Operation: Mind crime 1988 (EMI) USA

Even though my favorite album is its predecessor “Rage for Order” 1986 (EMI), Mind crime’s importance is cited by many as the first “Progressive Metal” Concept album of the Era, along with a Movie which portrays the band playing live against back dropped images and animation, its also referred as the “The Wall” of Heavy Metal, paying homage to Pink Floyd’s masterpiece.

Watchtower/Control and Resistance 1989 (Noise)USA

Acclaimed by many as one of the most influential band of the genre, their experimental Music can't be easily classified, hints of the heavier Rush's first and more aggressive sound, fierce-frantic 
electronic-pad drumming odd time signatures, staccato guitar playing along with Jazz punctuation Bass playing mixed with high pitched vocals. Watchtower resurfaced in recent years with former members; Ron Jarzombek, Doug Keyser, Rick Colaluca and Alan Tecchio and putted out some new recordings around 2010, some of this songs were long conceived for their third album which is believed to be released soon finally under; Concepts of Math in 2016. The reason why the band stopped making Music has been attributed due to guitarist Ron Jarzombek's chronic Hand Illness. Jarzombek along brother Jon and Pete Perez both from Riot,  formed the instrumental project Spastic Ink. Later Jarzombek also created another instrumental band called Blotted Science(often portrayed as a Death Metal band), He also assembles his own guitars.

Dream Theater/When Dream and Day Unite 1989 (Mechanic/MCA) USA

First Album by the band, and a breakthrough, a turn in sound and a return to what Fates Warning had started, longer songs. When Dream and Day Unite, ignited new speed and force to what is considered the genre they renewed or re invented, although a bit more accessible and Keyboard oriented they added a mixture of Rush/Kansas meets Metallica developing those extended ideas that brought instrumentalists back to the center stage, drifting away considerably from the Iron Maiden sound.

Voivod/Nothing Face 1989 (MCA/Mechanic)Canada
It sounds strange, but since their debut: War and Pain from 1984, the Band gained recognition worldwide with a self Identity-Music and Sound of its own without the use of keyboards. Taken psychedelics Art Work from bands like Genesis and Pink Floyd as an inspiration and motives and using atmospheric, raw “Thrash Metal” and “Punk” styles combined, makes Voivod to appear as an Entity in their own words. Nothing Face contains brilliant guitarist “Piggy” and his unique blend of textures and tricks beyond orthodox playing, Snake’s hallucinating vocal lines, Blacky’s thick ambient Bass playing, together with Michel Langevin’s (Away), Ethereal, Jazzy like, Orchestrated Drumming. He is also responsible of their graphics Arts.

King Diamond/The Eye 1991 (Road Runner)Denmark

The Father of conceptual Heavy Metal and a controversial figure with love and passion for the occult and the unknown world of evil, King Diamond, who’s style of writing is curiously not cited as Progressive, has created the most fantastic albums of all times. Formerly the singer for his other band Mercyful Fate, most of his albums tell a story, he uses a wide in register voice and combines high pitched soloing and church organ creating convincing cinematic emotive Music surrounded by a halo of mystery. The Eye is actually a none conceptual album yet it tells truthful events that happened during the French  Inquisition between 1450-1670. The album is a masterpiece in terms of texture, inventiveness and well blended Instrumentals. The characters and most of the facts used on the Story really existed.

Magellan/Hour of Restoration 1991 (Magna Carta)USA
Dream Theater admittedly say they did had a lot of trouble to put out their second album, difficulties as finding a new singer or having the band signed to a Record label for proper distribution and management were among such as problems, but at the end of the day Images and Words was released in 1992, its not until such a phenomenon record, that the style took off considerably. Hour of Restoration is perhaps the first album by a different US Progressive Band also following that Kansas related tradition in sound and style and heavily influenced by Yes, due to the usage of multi layered choruses and voicing, it also follows the “Speed Metal” path and the Drumming was done by both Brothers/creators; Trent and Wayne Gardner, through Keyboards, a much more consolidated group, their second release, Impending Ascension1993, opens with the song Estadium Nacional, which is based on the Infamous Chilean/CIA 1973 Coup which killed president Allende. To my surprise while writing this article, I found that Wayne has passed away in 2014.

Threshold/Wounded Land 1993 (G.E.P)UK
UK’s response to Dream Theater, and only prolific/consistent contender, through the years, Wounded Land deals with killing “Mother Earth” and other topics like the Green House Effect, Oil Spilling and Pollution, not as intricate as their following records, the Band showed a distinctive sound; Heavy yet slower with predominant fulfilling keyboards and the powerful versatile voice of former “Neo-Progressive” singer Damian Wilson.

Damn The Machine/Damn The Machine 1993 (AM Records)USA

A one spin off band putted together by Former Megadeth Virtuoso Guitarist Chris Poland and his Drummer Brother Mark, probably due to the ongoing hard times for such non-commercial Style and poor support towards such few starting struggling acts, the group didn’t last long and disbanded short after. Yet the quality in Music and the abundance in tracks, twelve total, this piece of Gem is worth to explore, intricate, dynamic and fresh of Metric Changes, the Rush influence is vivid but with a tasty twist and a Maiden Meets Jazz, touch. The singer can be compared to Ray Alder from Fates Warning yet even more versatile in high range. Hugh Syme, who had worked with Rush and Fates Warning previously, designed the Art and graphics.

Anacrusis/Screams and Whispers 1993 (Metal Blade) USA

Another exception to the rule and in the same vain as; Watchtower or Voivod; Anacrusis, combined Metallica’s Thrash-Speed tactics with a higher level of complexity, using regular instruments through Synthesizers, generating walls of ambient and powerful uplifting Sounds of its own kind. Another short-lived group, their work has immense value due to its originality and makes them a “Cult” Band, the style it’s been classified as “Brain Metal” also. Anacrusis re-did all their 4 first albums and Are still active.

Cynic/Focus 1993 (Roadrunner) USA
Another band classified as the precursors of “Progressive Metal”, like Voivod and Anacrusis, Cynic experimented further away in terms of time signature and odd punctuation also adding; growls, regular singing, Vocoder, guitar synths and keyboards they opposed both, clean sound against extreme noise, Cynic consequently and along other Bands such as; Believer, Atheist and Tourniquet started to be called; Brain, Jazz, Progressive, Extreme-Death Metal.

Sanvoisen/Exotic Ways 2004(Noise)Germany
Another rare gem in Music, Sanvoisen only lasted 2 albums, and both are different from each other. Following Fates Warning's more commercial time-line, side(1989-1994), Exotic Ways is that combination, yet with a classical old twist. All instruments together in syncopation, and technical mastery, the voice, reminiscent of both, Ray Alder/Fates Warning and Geoff Tate/Queensrÿche. 

Fates Warning/A Pleasant Shade of Gray 1997(Metal Blade Records) USA
Along Threshold, the 2 most cohesive and favorite Bands of mine, and as it is, I definitely recommend all Fates Warning albums before this one and the one after Disconnected from 2000. A Darker and Heavier side of the Band whom until this moment had released all their best material, depicting interesting change after change in sound and experimentation, A.P.S.O.G. it’s their masterpiece, based on a concept in which parts are all portrayed as Roman Numbers I through XII, it’s one of the many albums featuring former Dream Theater Keyboardist Kevin Moore. Moore will pair after with guitarist Jim Matheos creating the more “Electronic-Ambient-Metal” project called O.S.I. A.P.S.O.G. sounds more experimental and less accessible than Parallels and Inside Out, both of their previous albums, Fates Warning never used ultra Speed tempos. In a similar way to Queensrÿche’s “Mind Crime”, A.P.S.O.G. was too, recorded live performed in it’s entirety with a movie involving; Cold, Shadowy and Wintry Black and White footage.

Angel Dust/Border of Reality 1998 (Century Media)Germany

Another band tagged with Cult status, it wasn’t until it’s second term, when they were signed by Germany’s recently emergent Rock Label Century Media in 1998 and released their third album; Border of Reality. Former members Drummer Dirk Assmuth and Bass player Franx Banx, started a new concept from scratch, departing from its Thrash Metal Roots and creating a unique blend of Old School Heavy Metal, incorporating Atmospheric keyboarding and unique powerful singing. Their next three albums show considerate transition in experimentation between them worth the Listen (see article). They were capable to mix technique; ambient, noise, interest time signatures, Chromatic phrasing without going too expressionist.

Bruce Dickinson/The Chemical Weeding 1998(Sancturay)UK

Versatile and Prolific, Bruce Dickinson, uses this two virtues into his Music too, this is his 5th effort as a solo artist. Based on William Blake's visions and sightings, Chemical Wedding brings back the two friends from Maiden, Adrian Smith and Dickinson, to the top and to the fore front of re modernized Progressive Heavy Metal. Raw guitar riffing, uplifting soloing and intense lyrics, a record for the serious and more intellectual listener.

Shadow Gallery/Tyranny 1998 (Magna Carta)USA

Top one on my list of best Conceptual Progressive Metal records. I know it sounds like an obvious response to their peers Dream Theater, in name, but truly, this is the only remarkable relationship between them, intricate, Power Metal at times, Tyranny is a concept disc that follows a storyline involving topics such as Politics, corruption and government conspiracy (see article), is one of the best of its kind, faster and even more technically well developed, guitar wise I think is better than any DT album putted out at that point, remarkable and original in sound, the songs are extended pieces, over the 5 minute structure.

Crimson Glory/Astronomica 1999 (Spitfire Records) USA

Florida based Symphonic Progressive Speed Metal Pioneers which career detoured from consistency due to their Erratic but Charismatic Virtuoso Singer “Midnight” (see article), started as a Queensrÿche “Clone” band, yet their fame rose to cult status thanks to their first two classic albums, after Strange and Beautiful their third controversial in style album, Midnight left the band to pursue a solo career, to continue, the Band hired vocalist extraordinaire Wade Black an amazingly underrated singer formerly with “Seven Witches”. Astronomica has been criticized wrongfully by the fans, it sounds amazingly original, perhaps due to the inclusion of Drum Machines and the intentions of continuing a tradition experimenting new trends, slower yet heavier and well structured at sometimes minimalist Music, it’s a concept album based on Extra Terrestrial Contact, The album marked the premature end of the Band. Ahead of its time I think is a well kept secret good to be discovered, a rarity in its own terms.

Magnitude 9/Reality in Focus 2000(Limb Music)USA
With a short carrier that involves three albums and inspired by Fates Warning's more accessible still technical and darkish side explored between Perfect Symmetry 1989 and Inside Out 1994. Reality in Focus shines with its own ambient keyboard oriented sound, atmospheric outstanding musicianship. Powerful Singer Corey Brown, was going to be Balance of Power's next front man, but both bands became inactive since round 2004. The record features the remarkable cover of Iron Maiden's Flight of Icarus.

Andromeda/II=I 2001 (Century Media)Sweden

A Group from the uprising and influential movement from Finland, Andromeda's first and previous album had a lot of influences from Europe, the Band. II=I their second album marks the debut for singer David Fremberg, if Rush would have stopped doing commercial Music and putted out a Metal album again at the moment this is how it would have sound like, brilliant, intelligent, add subliminal lyrics and loads of syncopated metrics, and definitely you have a more perfectioned version of Dream Theater’s best work., much more intricate, less faster and Keyboard predominant.

Pagan’s Mind/Celestial Entrance 2002 (Inside Out)Norway

Rush's 2112, with Mindcrime and some earlier Marillion?
An original outfit from Sweden, this would be the best kept secret, since singer Geoff Tate, this their second album, shows a very Technical, yet Melodic and Keyboard oriented group that shines with epic sonic passages and powerful vocals, the album could be associated directly where Iron Maiden left off with “Somewhere in Time” back in 1986, multi timber drumming, Van Halen flavored guitar playing. The Theme also deals with Extra Terrestrial Life.

Vanden Plas/Beyond Daylight 2002 (Inside Out)Germany
Since their inception in 1994, V.P, has maintained a cult following, their albums take years to make, but the results are worth the wait.
Following the Dream Theater tradition of re-inventing and mixing; power(speed)
progressive(structure development) heavier and thicker sounds. Beyond Daylight also has hints of Neo-Progressive, (I.Q. Marillion, Pallas), making it a bit more emotive with slow numbers reminiscent of rockers Dokken and Prog-Kansas. I recommend the song; Scarlet Flower Fields.

Balance of Power/Heathen Machine 2003 (Massacre Records)UK

This the band's sixth and last studio album to date, it’s the first album without former singer extraordinaire Lance King, instead the band brought Biomechanical’s lead vocalist and creator John K. the album captures the band at their best, Drummer, Producer Lionel Hicks, brilliant sound and different approach to recording, enhances the fact that the record moves a bit away from Symphonic, onto a darker territory, although keeping that fresh, dynamics that has consolidated the group as “Cult” act.

Pyramaze/Melancholy Beast 2004 (Nightmare-Massacre)Denmark/USA
Once in a while something different happens. Pyramaze's first album has that, all. With the amazing and solid Lance King on Vocals, a singer with vast experience, the Music and contents on this record makes it one of the best debut albums of all times; old and new Maiden, combined with the best of Queensrÿche, atmospheric bass, guitar,  and keyboard playing with an Operatic voice are some of the greatest elements putted out on each song, great structures and interesting pace Drumming. An original record with an original approach and class.

Pain of Salvation/Be 2004  (Inside Out)Sweden

A Band formed by Brothers Gildenlöw, Kristoffer and Daniel, a straight Fates Warning forward sounding group in their beginnings, Be sees the culmination of the group and their consequent consolidation through the genre. A concept album (most of their albums are) Pain of Salvation’s originality relays on the fact that the mix very well acoustic almost classical compressed electronic sounding parts with Heavier sonic passages, another feature is the well-blended multi vocal work and doses of old progressive atmospheric ideas; Genesis and E.L.P. sound related. Melancholy and Psychological themes as well as Human relations and Political issues are well portrayed in their Music, the Band is famous for putting out albums and then performing them entirely Live, with minimum changes and outstanding accuracy.

Time Machine/Reviviscence/Liber Secundus 2004 (Massacre Records) Italy

An interesting and rare almost difficult to find band and one of the few from Italy that doesn’t strictly play “Symphonic-Speed Power Metal”, a deeply and widely developed style by the Country’s many acts. An obscure almost into the occult trend sounding record, which involves the secrets of the Vatican, the many dishonored activities committed by such High Power people, Bible quoting, are also the themes on the album. It includes contributions by Angra guitarists Kiko Loureiro and Rafael Bittencourt. Time Machine activities and albums date back to the early 90’s. The vocals retain that Italian Metal Operatic tradition; they also use odd punctuation, keyboard imagery choral chanting and expressionist guitar soloing, their guitars seem to be tuned down to D flat.

Dreamscape/End of Silence 2004 (Massacre Records)Germany

Germany’s answer to Dream Theater’s Awake album era, the band had only one constant member, former guitarist Wolfgang Kerinnis. End of Silence has a powerful atmospheric sound accompanied by an orchestra on the song The End of Light of 20 minutes duration. The album moves through cohesive and long songs, keyboard arrangements, intricate, odd drumming and sonic visuals, fresh and strong, not to pass is the originality of singer Roland Stoll, who in contrast to most of the style’s vocalists gives us a very accessible, at times commercial performance. Guitars are also down tuned.

Labyrinth/Freeman 2005 (Arise)Italy
Former Italian Power-Symphonic Metal Pioneers, redeemed themselves and finished their most prolific moment with 2 albums Six Days to Nowhere 2007 and their Previous; Freeman. It seamed that their most determining factor in them becoming more progressive, was Olaf Thorsen’s departure from the Band. I think what Thorsen has done with his other Band, Vision Divine is outstanding, but Labyrinth's switch to explore other territories is remarkable. Freeman brought shorter, slower songs, darker themes  experimental ambient keyboard playing in contrast with Singer Roberto Tiranti's acclaimed voice chops.  

Circle II Circle/Burden of Truth 2006(Locomotive)USA
After the album" The Wake of Magellan 1997, Zak Stevens  left Savatage,one of the most original and influential bands in Rock Music. Energized and inspired by his tenure as the lead front man during 4 albums, the singer created one of the most tight and dedicated projects around, Circle II Circle. Using developed expanded song structures, ideas. Stevens brings his personal style to it creating unique visuals and emotional tripping. since 2003 has released 7 albums, all recommended. Burden Of Truth is a conceptual piece, based on the "Da Vinci Code" book. Burden of Truth embraces; Orchestration, Piano, Counter Point Choir and Heavy Metal, easily among my top 5.

Bottled Science/Machinations of Dementia 2007 (Eclectic Electric)USA
An instrumental record(no singer in it), Ron Jarzombek, from the progressive-Death-technical Metal pioneering band Watchtower, explored the "Twelve Tone  Techniques" created by one of the fathers of the Musical Expresionism" Arnold Schoenberg(1874-1951) and putted it down on this record, which if it was a book, Machinations of Dementia, would be a Manual, a text that would explain to you on how to play innovative Music and the proper way of approaching your instrument to create a whole different World, through it.

Biomechanical/Cannibalized 2007 (Earache)UK

A unique blend of chaos and dark symphony, Cannibalized is the third album and last chapter from Biomechanical’s concept trilogy of albums, which started in 2003 with Eight Moons and was followed by The Empires of the Worlds 2005. Their Music is extreme, in metric, signature, guitar soloing, often super fast quickly changing in tempo and combines the versatile vocal range from singer John K who also uses growling, there’s the use of full Orchestra as well, there’s very few groups that I can recall, could sound as strange as this, John K creates a whole different universe with his voice, same as he does with the direction of guitar playing, sound mix, choral and instrumental arrangements. 

Arch/Matheos Sympathetic Resonance 2011 (Metal Blade)USA
Recapturing one of Metal's finest, versatile and unique voices, guitarist Jim Matheos, pairs once again with his fellow and Former singer for Fates Warning, with who he created, the band's trade mark's own style recording three albums between 1984 to 1986. Matheos and Arch are accompanied by former guitarist Frank Aresti and new members; Drummer Bobby Jarzombek and long time Bass player, Joey Vera. Sympathetic Resonance as a result, captures on of the most fine recordings of all times, with all the modern technology, 6 songs, 55 minutes and pure uncompromising yet technical musicianship. Density as opposed to melody, S.R. proves itself in heavier/experimental territories and brings back one of the greatest and under rated singers of all times.

Vision Divine/Destination Set To Nowhere 2012 (Ear Music)Italy
With singer extraordinaire Fabio Lione Back and apart from their usual Symphonic Style, Vision Divine offers this their most solid album since Stream of Consciousness 2004 , a concept album D.S.T.N. picks up and doesn't lower its riffing, intensity and space Imagery from beginning to end, the band's musicians shine with excellence creating V.D. most visual cohesive record in years.

-The New Breed: In terms of the latest contributions in the genre, a few Bands have moved Biographically and cohesively through the mid 2000's to the present day, wider keyboard/Synth work usually carrying the opening of songs, a musical motive taken and started by Keith Emerson which continued through Eddie Jobson while in the Band UK and trespassed to Asia, Van Halen and Europe(Final Countdown)

Fortunately extremely complex arrangements can coexist with hooking and simpler ideas, next is some of the Groups that have taken time to fuse and infuse new ideas into Music.

Voyager/Univers 2007 (Dockyard)Australia 
Bringing in some psychedelia, and David Gilmore playing with subliminal keyboarding, Voyager have putted out their most recent album in 2014, but Univers, is a strong contender to all their other albums. With predominant atmospheric keyboard, piano and sentimental vocal lines, Voyager blends a bit from all progressive tendencies, commercial, non commercial with some hidden simplicity, but well executed instrumentation. Voyager also brought in a mixture of raw with clean/clear singing and extreme speed.

Secret Sphere/Archetype 2010 (Avalon/Scarlet)Italy
To me the Best well kept Secret from Italy, Archetype is their first album in which they simplified their pompous ideas and concentrated on writing songs, S.S. have always managed control in their blend and mixture of; Sound, Music Techniques and Technology and instead of abusing it, they leave space for each others talents and that's hard to find with modern recording. that's why Italians get my recognition and all my respect to them and to all other Bands from the country, mostly Under Rated Globally speaking.

Seventh Wonder/Mercy Falls 2008 (Lion Music)Sweden
A conceptual dramatic adventure of 74 minutes long, based on the fictional events that happen after a Family's car accident and the transition and story events behind it. Seventh Wonder's third and most ambitious Concept Album since Scenes from a Memory 1999 by D.T. and Marillion's Brave 1994. Although reminiscent of both aforementioned records, Mercy Falls moves respectfully with reinvigorated ideas, masterfully played. The Great Escape released in 2010, Seventh Wonder's consecutive album, sees the band even more consolidated and intricate. Singer Tommy Karevik was brought to replace Roy  Khan in Power/Symphonic group; Kamelot in 2011, he sings for both bands.
Circus Maximus/Nine 2012(Frontiers)Norway 
With two outstanding previous records, The 1st Chapter 2005 and Isolate 2007. Circus Maximus took the time but moved quickly from one territory to another. Compressing to a less Symphonic style, Nine still opens with an over eleven minutes of grandeur and full of inventiveness, song, that marks the start to a near an hour of purified more accessible ideas and Music imagery but with a slower and darker touch and a bit of expressionism.
Vanishing Point/Distant is The Sun 2014(Dockyard)Australia
Moving away from Neo-Progressive to Heavier trends is been Vanishing Point's constant, and the results are the best of all worlds. since "In Thought" their 1996 debut, they've developed more as musicians and instrumentalists and it reveals drastically on Distant is the Sun. The record's cohesiveness and sometimes abruptness speed, appears on each song, its Music moves through different topics and the sound keeps itself original, in Musical dexterity.  Silvio Massaro's voice reminds me of most Arena's singers and Fish, Marillion's first front man. 
Anubis Gate/Horizons 2014(Nightmare)Denmark
Another evolving, original and classy heavy-melodic group, that since the early 2000's have released 6 amazing records capturing great dramatic-atmospheric and visual sensations in them. Not relaying only in complexity, they offer a different universe that oscillates between melancholy and Darkness with an interesting-accessible approach and well use of musical ideas and song structure. Singer uses high and mid ranges.

 -Written and compiled by Rodrigo Trupp. foreword by Rob Messina Feb 2016 

Related Posts with Thumbnails