Friday, April 2, 2010

BROMANTIC INTERLUDE #6: The Triumphant Return of HELM

Thats right, motherfuckers.
Illogical Brother #1 Helm (of Asides-Bsides, the Illogical Contraption logo, and countless other projects) has returned, to follow up on the success of his last contribution (Bromantic Interlude #2: Helm Schools Us On Greek Metal). Last time around, Helm gave us a thorough schooling not only on 90's black metal from his home country, but also on such diverse topics as Hollow Earth Theory, heavy metal philosophy, and Hessian Bros from Alpha Centauri. Today's post, while focusing on a different metal genre, is similarly epic (the tunes are surprisingly tasty, as well). Through mutual agreement with Mr. Helm, I've added my own images to break up his trademark Wall of Text. I can only hope that he find my additions agreeable...

- Cobras

Prog metal, remember that? Of course you do. Over-capable musicians wearing frilly shirts, slumming it metal-style with their interminable musical collages that wander from pop to jazz, bridged with noodly solos and unavoidably culminating in some generic chugging thrash-as-a-reminder. Dream Theater and the like are the common straw-man. Oh, and the fans of this style of music, the most overbearing and arrogant bunch of pony-tailed nerds, always ready to remark that whatever you're listening to is worse than the inevitable Dream Theater variation of it. That's right, they recorded a version of your favorite song while you weren't paying attention, they did it better. It has more keyboard solos.

Well I'm here to make the case that progressive metal didn't start out to become all that and although arguably the aspects of the sub-genre most worthy of attention are now buried and dormant, this shouldn't stop the reader from exploring its rich past. So push aside memories of smug bespectacled introverts looking down on your music taste and of Petrucci's robot hands shredding another phryggian minor solo whose sole raison d'être seems to be a hateful entropic accumulation of ennui and take a trip with me back to the '90s again.

Brief historical analysis follows. Progressive metal (and not "prog", just like how you might decide to sacrifice some extra milliseconds and call someone you respect with their full name once in a while) like most metal sub-genres is conceived in around 1985-1986 and given a marketable name in around 1990. Heavy Metal became self-defined circa 1980 with the New Wave of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM to its friends) and recaptured the good parts of the '70s proto-metal bands, discarded some of their excesses, added liberal doses of youthful lust and a side of punk rock. It is commonly said that in around 1984 the promises of this young type of music have generally been delivered. One needs only to browse the record release list for that year to see this argument holds some water. The 5-year cycle in modern popular music seems a reoccurring phenomenon also. From there to 1986 or so it is often then said that Heavy Metal gives birth to its various sub-genres (thrash, death metal, doom, black, progressive being the main strands) whose vital role was to crystallize and amplify specific facets of the Heavy Metal whole - that is to say, circa 1984 there are HM bands that are occasionally showing glimpses of what would become thrash, doom or progressive in their otherwise HM material (some even on the same record or on the same song) but not many were dedicated to pushing one of these aspects to its logical aesthetic conclusion. In a brief two to three year period, specialist bands came to be. This is inevitable for musical sub-genres that have peaked; niche evolution fills in the spaces not occupied by the main organism with various improbable extremities. While the truth of the main organism becomes ingrained and safe (and statist), the evolving fringes seek to replace mom and dad through risky mutations. This was what was attempted by nearly all of the sub-genres during the latter part of the eighties. A pursuit to become faster, heavier, more savage, to project a tougher image, to be more convincing. But not only.

To understand the inception of progressive metal one must understand the aesthetic charges of the Heavy Metal that came before it. Without getting too much into this, Heavy Metal could generally be said to be a romantic & fantastical type of art, its concerns are not contemporary but ancient, as is usually its language. It's about the internal struggle for existence and the mythos of conflict, war, death and desire. What is often considered by annoying hipsters to be 'fantasy metal' once was basically, all of Heavy Metal. It also had its Dionysian aspect with songs about over-drinking and over-fucking but I generally consider those to be baggage from the rock n' roll that gave birth to it and certainly not a defining characteristic. This is easy to test, ask someone whole loves HM about a few of their favorite songs and check how many of them are about fucking or drinking. Still even some of the metal party songs often seem transcendental due to the storm of sound that HM conjures.

Talking about storm of sound, around 1987 thrash metal starts to make a market splash and a lot of people that would otherwise never listen to metal are lured in due to thrash's addictive sonics. You know, the choppy guitars and double-bass. Thrash (esp. from the USA) was also divergent in its semiotics, more and more every year talking about pedestrian politics and teenage-sociology (like hardcore punk rock only dumber). With publicity and a bigger market the mythological aspect of metal was on the decline because its inherently more difficult to sell as anything else but shock rock. If mythological metal is approached earnestly it reminds of a few ugly aspects of the psyche (need for irrationality & faith, lust for control & dominance, death & destruction) that popular music buyers by large would rather pretend they didn't have.

Because HM cannot hold its breath in that particular base atmosphere for long, it was searching for a higher ontology even through the pretend-'street' antics of the American thrash bands. The way it did this was multi-faceted. Thrash's continuation, death metal, explored the imaginary grotesque and nihilistic through an obsession with disease, dead flesh and senseless violence. Doom/death and black metal violently returned to the fantastic mythologies of earlier metal although with a dark inversion (everything good is now bad!). And finally, to the point, progressive metal explored the question of modernity: highly personal, human, reflective material discussing the dynamics between the inner self and the outer world. Progressive metal was 'the psychoanalysis of metal', tracing its movements one can see the parallels to the developments in other art fields, from grassroots youth culture to commercialization, from naive romanticism to modernity to inevitable post-modernity. The reason it's useful for the interested reader to explore the 'early' - or often just more obscure - progressive metal acts is that they are a mostly forgotten step in this time-line, it's like going from romanticism to post-modernism giving modernism the miss.

Sound-wise, progressive metal comes from Iron Maiden and Rush. The first filtered through Fates Warning, whose early records ("A Spectre Within" and "Awaken the Guardian") in many ways set the standard for 'power/progressive'. Queensryche prototype a somewhat similar future-shocked Maidenesque progressive in "Rage for Order" with a bigger influence on vocal gymnastics (truly, most of the pierce-the-heavens singers in progressive metal have Geoff Tate in mind). At roughly the same time, Watchtower mix Rush with early thrash like Metallica and prototype a different take, often called techno-thrash in some European circles, which borrows the percussive aspects of metal and mixes them with more abstract techniques borrowed from jazz and fusion on "Control and Resistance". Psychotic Waltz come a bit later with their debut "A Social Grace" that sounds demented and psychedelic, belying a 60's and 70's influence in their otherwise convoluted guitar interplay. They've rarely if ever been imitated but are fondly remembered my most progressive metal lovers. I've not included these bands in the compilation because if you're reading this, you probably have these records and love them (if not, stop reading, go get). Of course Dream Theater (huge Fates Warning nerds in the beginning) came later and created the bastard Kansas-U2-Pantera mixture with the overall focus on technicality that most modern fans consider prog metal but let's talk about that later.


Now, notes on the songs selected!

Heir Apparent - And... Dogro Lived On

Heir Apparent were in Queensryche's scene, an oft encountered quote is "either Queensryche would make it or we would" well guess what happened. Keep in mind this is very early proto-progressive metal, 1986 in fact. Current to Fates Warning doing "Awaken the Guardian". Read the lyrics:

Face the facts of life On earth
The nature of mankind
Pages from our past are now defined
Humanity has common sense
We all know right from wrong
We've lived in false pretense too long

Face the facts of present day
Rid yourself of ancient ways

Fear of gods and demons is the folly of your mind
Acknowledge facts of science - don't be blind
The war of Good and Evil is what you create within
The facts of life are where the truth begins

Prepare for your future - don't live within the past
The ancient cultures never knew the facts
Technology has given truth where myth had been before
It's time humanity stepped through the door

What is this? Technocratic positivism in my metal? There is no right and wrong besides what we make of life ourselves, no gods and demons, Humanism in my metal?!? Yes, progressive metal is now go.

Musically the song is pretty straightforward (the form would become excessively convoluted as an end in itself in the '90s. During most of the '80s it's usually on par with the more involved Iron Maiden suites) but check out the intro riff being presented one note at a time, like ages unfolding. Check out the whammied bar chords that flutter while the drums do discrete fills. Oh yeah, as most of these bands in this compilation, One Guitar Player is the standard, Rush-style. Some more techno-thrash influenced bands go with the customary twin axe attack but you'd be surprised how little space in the mix the guitar takes in a lot of early progressive metal.

By the way, both of Heir Apparent's records are absolute gems with not a single filler track anywhere. The second album "One Small Voice" that came out late in 1989 is more 'prog' too if you want to trace the evolution of this style of music, go get. If you do, watch out for Steve Benito, one of the stronger voices in HM.

Jester's March - Middle of Madness

This comes from a more techno-thrash point of view, specifically I hear a lot of Megadeth in it, if Megadeth were German and were braver whenever they ventured outside of the pentatonic blues box. The lyrics again paint the scene:

And when I look around and face the world like it is
It's still a place I'd like to live in
Still I hope this Earth will be one day a place of bliss
And the cradle for our children
But my hope is fading, the time's running out

That middle break is really touching for me. How often does modern metal express this sentiment with equal grace?

Musically, note the double-leads at parallel thirds, a Psychotic Waltz influence? Note the brave melodic sense and how well they harmonize for emphasis as if they're a mini orchestra. Also, there's some sensibly used keyboards here and there, by 1991 this was seemingly becoming the standard. Some people really thought this would be the new face of metal for a while.

Guardian Angel - Antarctic Fire

My favorite Greek progressive metal band. They're pretty late in the game here in 1997 but taking the customary 5-years-too-late grace period for Greek culture, let's pretend this is more like 1992 and it makes more sense. This is full-fledged prog, really, as influenced by Fates Warning as it is by Dream Theater but so well constructed and performed. Keyboards are now a main instrument in this genre, guitars tend to do separate things in each channel, drumming and bass playing, influenced by the rhythm sections of the now established progressive metal bands are busy busy busy. I don't catch all the lyrics but it seems the antarctic fire is an allegory for the accumulating passive-aggressive rage that can occur when a relationship is slowly going south. The song sounds appropriately glacial. Interesting Fates Warning heritage here can be noted on the densely harmonized vocals, a practice in which John Arch, original FW singer extraordinaire, excelled at. The end result is very multi-layered generally, every instrument filling in every available space. Check out the two solos, the first one very melodic and lyrical and as if a reaction the second one is an extremely packed scale run to show you they could. The dichotomies that fueled the rise and fall of progressive metal in just 10 seconds for you.

Secrecy - Acting With Intellect

The song is called Acting With Intellect, what more do you want, heh. Actually Secrecy were a very idiosyncratic band, this is 1990 and obviously the band is thrash-inspired but, check out how untypical this sound is for early 90's thrash. Often happy-sounding and major, very condensed rhythmics (some amazing right hand chops on these guitarists) and on top this haunting voice-of-teenagerdom that sounds like it's endlessly complaining about all the things that went wrong. This is the sound of my teenager years, at least. Incessantly catchy (once you get into the Secrecy way of writing songs, at least) and very emotionally impactful, it's a shame they only did two records. Truly a lost band outside of vinyl collector circles, I haven't heard even ponytail metal enthusiasts talk about Secrecy much. Germany had a really vibrant techno-thrash and progressive metal force at once point. Worth checking out are also Anon Vin, Megace, Sieges Even, Mekong Delta (well you probably know those two), the last two Deathrow records, End Amen and so on.

Xerxes - Falling Leaves

Xerxes are probably my favorite progressive metal band from the 'second tier' (not meant as a disrespect, I mean just in terms of visibility). This is their best song and intentionally the only composition that goes over ten minutes in the compilation. That is to show that generally speaking early progressive metal wasn't as overindulgent as Dream Theater would later go on to typify it as. Xerxes are allowed to roam free because this suite is extremely effective and I wouldn't cut off a single second of it.

Xerxes were from Switzerland, they put out two absolute gems and then disappeared off of the face of the earth. Falling Leaves here in fact is self-released and notoriously difficult to get a hold of even on e-bay. Their style is very floaty, almost ethereal yet dense and technically fluid like any post-Watchtower prog band hoped to be. I often feel like this record, although it has its shortcomings (rhythm section, mostly) has no equal in its specific idiom. When I listen to this I imagine a temple in the clouds, far outside and beyond my mortal life, where I am free to reminisce on my past struggles and future peace without the confines of urgency that reality dictates. I often wonder if there are at least by accident, any other bands that have arrived to a sound close to that of Xerxes, I certainly haven't found any. Perhaps in progressive rock proper there might be some close calls but it wouldn't be the same without the Watchtoweresque guitar chops either. Just as well then for Xerxes to be a singularity. (However if any wise readers can spot any similarities to other acts they should leave me a comment!)

Observe how for once, synth horn and string sections complement the stereo-guitar compositions, how one can't take away anything from this without detracting from the whole. Bigger bands have tried this and failed and yet a small band from Switzerland achieves a triumph for the ages. I have much respect and adoration for this band, their two records and this song in particular. I wish I could thank them in person but they're difficult to track.

Pay attention to the middle break where the composition veers away from the staccato guitars and ambient synth pads dominate. Their singer half-whispers under the wash "to be dead...". Has metal before this ever made death sound so peaceful and inviting (well, outside of perhaps Skepticism)? A deep sleep and a dream of falling forever. Cushioned by caerulean clouds, Morpheus stretches his elytrous wingspan and delivers the spent corpse to the embraces of his older brother, commences the final journey with no destination.

And then! Xerxes takes us out of the deathly trance with gleaming guitar leads that cut through the clouds and promise a dawn. Truly a journey to a place, as tangential as any hope and desire (which is to say, more tangential than the concrete walls around us) and the high concept of art itself.

This is from their first record but it says a lot about Xerxes and progressive metal at that point in time:

"Oh you the poets of this world
You have been honored by the grace
Writing in the manner you wish
Gliding out of this earthly realm

Raise your voices again and again
They should announce us like messengers
Catch the world of phantasm and bring it over here
With which we want to ally

Our desire is to defeat the bluntness
To save the highest aim
We don't want to comply any longer
With this interminable senseless game

Raise your voices again and again
And create new poems, fairy-tales and songs
You poets of this world"


Taramis - Behind These Eyes

Here's a Psychotic Waltz/Watchotwer mix from 1991. Great vocalist, great hooks, propulsive and even slightly demented-sounding! No deeper significance to my inclusion of this Australian outfit besides their exceeding competence at capturing the zeitgeist of techno-thrash-to-progressive metal slippery slope of the early '90s. So now you know what to call the more loopy and left-field thrash metal acts that would be really out of place standing next to Exodus or other single-cell organisms. Oh well, techno-thrash is a different compilation and discussion altogether. If you're interested, leave a comment saying so!

Mind Over Four - Barriers and Passages

Now here's a completely different aspect of progressive metal, one almost completely forgotten. Alt-prog metal, so to speak. File next to Last Crack, Thought Industry, Naked Sun and the two or three other bands that attempted something similar. I suspect these bands are the bastard offspring of Voivod and the grunge scene. Mind Over Four are my favorite of the alt- bunch, I find their expressionist lyrics very evocative and their quirky quasi-thrash basis is robust enough to follow even when the lyrics become slightly too elliptical.

Clouding issues way on high
Won't I fear the nighttime?
Wanna blow away

Gonna dance with all the fire
That is burning in my day
But I know my time is coming
What I've done and who I've said

Pray at night the age old plight
Before our eyes are dead
See those big holes
Drown blue skies
Clouding issues way on high

I hear some voices rising
From the film of life
I close my eyes
To the fall of them

We have barriers and passages
It's such a beautiful life

There's a lot of thought put into the cadence of the lyrics, how it sounds when sang. Something very attractive about how Mind Over Four frame these sentiments in manic yet melodic material that emphasizes the high-mixed drum kit. A lot of the composition is happening on the drums here, follow the ride bell embellishments for example, even the disembodied echoed falsetto voice in the beginning seems to me to be taking its lead from the drum phrases. I like how Mind Over Four engage me on the gut level but also welcome cerebral inspection, I guess that's a big reason for why I like a lot of progressive metal.

Mayfair - Advanced In Years

My other favorite from the second tier, this Austrian quartet put out three records that increasingly went from Fates/Theater inspired progressive metal to alt-prog not completely unlike the trajectory of the more poppy Thought Industry material. On their third 'Fastest Trip To Cyber Town' they sound like Radiohead only a year after Ok Computer came out, I guess they were faster on the uptake than most other metal bands. "These are the '90s / Enjoy the '90s" as the lyric goes.

But here on their debut ("Behind") Mayfair are still a progressive metal band, albeit one that is very idiosyncratic. I guess I can hear the Fates Warning influence on both the drumming and the guitar playing like a darker Marillion but at the same time the compositional sense and especially the vocal work is one-of-a-kind. Although I never could track out the lyrics for this record (I've unsuccessfully talked to their drummer about this even) the lines and bits I've got from repeated listens set an atmosphere that is truly congruent to the musical accompaniment. 'Advanced in Years' seems to be about aging, dying and assorted regrets, subjects that before progressive metal were not widely explored in HM. That is the contribution of this sub-genre to the whole, its insistence of exploring the human condition from different vantages, not all of them attractive or complementary to the Nietzscheian core HM ethos. A broken mirror casting warped reflections.

The mixing here is very indicative of progressive metal aesthetics before Dream Theater decided Pantera and Black Album groove riffs should be what the guitar player should be playing whenever the singer had the first voice. Guitars here are low in the mix, the vocals are on top and then immediately after the drums and bass. This comes, I suspect, from "Perfect Symmetry" by Fates Warning and perhaps also from how Rush were mixed during the '80s.

Tempest - The Voice Inside

Here's an oddity. Outdated progressive metal by 1993, this sounds on par with Heir Apparent's opening effort, but yet I enjoy it a lot. Germany's Tempest strike me as a very honest band and in a genre rife with delusions of grandeur that's a welcome change. The demo version of "The Voice Inside" is much better than the final take on their self-released debut "Metal" which I found out to some disappointment after ordering it from them directly. There's an immediacy to the demo that augments all that is great about Tempest even if the sound is a bit muddier.

The proud main-riff is such a winner the band takes care to return to it readily. Thematically it seems to be anti-war/racism, although I haven't caught all the lyrics. This reminds me of the Sieges Even debut (also from Germany) which has a Bertolt Brecht quote inside:

"He who does not know the truth is only a fool. He who knows the truth and calls it a lie is a criminal."

This quote is framed by a picture of the band clad in denim and with their sternest thrash-faces on. Which is very relevant to what I was saying above about progressive metal trying to work through the thrash 'street rulez, dood' idiom to something more intellectually honest. Since, let's face it, if you can play like Sieges Even (and god, on the debut even, they could play with the best of them) you probably are an introvert sitting in your room studying scales, you aren't a thrash party animal smashing beer cans on your forehead. I wonder if with all the recent retro-thrash resurgence shit if we're going to eventually get to the techno-thrash revival but I doubt it.

Zen - Gaze Into The Light

Juxtaposition to heighten the contrasts. This is Dream Theater prog metal, to the t. Only, I... I... I like this! Italy's Zen only put out this record and then changed their name to Karnya (amusingly metal archives informs me some members also went on to play in an allegedly heavy metal band called "Regressive") and although it's not all gems, there are 3 very very good tracks that never sacrifice the journey for guitar flash. In fact most of the flashy bits of this song are played on the keyboards and wait! Wait! Come back. The keyboardist takes care to be - mostly - tasteful about it. The Italian version of LaBrie is also alternating between amusing enunciation and actually impressive falsetto, shows how Dream Theater would sound if they had a more adventurous singer.

But what I like most about this song is that although it falls for all the familiar trappings of prog metal, the composition itself is so joyous to exist, so brimming with enthusiasm to show you all its tricks and to take you on wild detours that I kinda have to concede my Dream Theater hatred for a while. I guess if DT had only put out the first two records I might hold them in similar regard to Zen, here.

Mercury Rising - Upon Deaf Ears

Sliding back a bit from the Theaterisms (but not completely) this Maryland quintet put out two records, one more thrashy the other more like Dream Theater, as expected. This is a track from their first album, which I prefer on the whole. Mercury Rising were 'subtly Christian' if you know what I mean. They didn't preach like a lot of the other American out-and-proud Christian metal bands but if you cared to check it's all there. The second record is more Christian than the first. This is curiously the case with Secrecy's two records, the existential angst of the first record is answered by the overt Christian message of the second. I do not have any problem with this (and with faith generally) although I cannot say I have space in my ontology for gods, I sympathize with how some things in life cannot be parsed without an irrational system of belief. Albert Camus would call for acceptance of the absurdity of it all and then, revolt (an idea that both appeals to me and is very metal), but there are, obviously other paths.

I enjoy the finely crafted dual guitar work here and the song also doesn't waste any time, hits its moods, shreds your face off and departs. I guess that was the thrash aspect of early progressive metal, urgency, not meandering noodling. As we've seen in this compilation it doesn't hold in all counts but on the whole wasn't this more concise than the biased listener expected?

For a pretty daring compositional idea in this song listen how at around 2:40 the main riff is laid under the chorus chords almost subliminally and then breaks out and expands, hits those beautiful Voivod chords and alters a lyrical mood with manic energy. When's the last time you heard a 'prog metal' band not only attempt something this complicated but also pull it off coherently?

Kingsbane - The Wages of Sin

This is another favorite. A Canadian band with a great love of middle-period Fates Warning but with surprising melodic acumen that is completely their own. They only did this demo and then eventually became a more alt-progressive band "In The Name" which I haven't listened to very attentively yet. But this, it is beautiful. From the clean Rush type chords that open the song, to the winding main riff - that is in an odd meter (sounds like two counts of 12/8) but you wouldn't notice from how well it's phrased - to the classy singing. It doesn't matter even that this has the usual muffled demo sound.

The whole demo is excellent, one of those that makes it worth to search around in the American (and Canadian) underground in the period where progressive metal was still new. The lyrics are the existentialist pastiche that was introduced by Jim Matheos into the progressive form but their vocalist endears himself to me by a few vocal codas that sound especially like John Arch. Good stuff. The lesson to learn from this song is that you can have complicated parts in odd meters and you can make a cohesive and flowing song out of them if your focus is on expressing an emotional situation and not to just show off.

Also note how the two guitarists trade fills for leads very tastefully. Check out the climax at the 5:24 mark, too. Magic.

Leviathan - Passion Above All Else

Closing off with a band from Colorado that was not as talented as the first tier boys but had a big heart. Leviathan took their cue from Fates Warning too but not so much in how the music sounds but instead in the ethos of their singer, who, on their second album "Questions, Riddles, Poetry and Outrage" bares it all out. Even when the vocal line is pretty bare or the orchestration doesn't completely work, there's something touching about how honest and true every word is. I wouldn't write "Passion Above All Else" like Leviathan did but I wouldn't change a single thing when it comes to what it conveys. Also "I don't forgive you for giving up on me" is a great bit of wordplay.

So, let that chorus resonate for the exit. A critique of progressive metal and its various failings and why it became a spent genre very fast can wait. Truth of the matter is many people scattered all over the world came to write complicated Heavy Metal to express complicated passions, to elevate the point of view of the human condition from the gutter level that the thrash explosion would have it stay on, to higher stratas. Most failed, some veered off tracks ensanred by the promise of the 'alternative rock' scene whereas others said their piece and promptly disbanded. This compilation is but a glimpse into the legacy of this period in Heavy Metal, the full extent of which I too am still persuing. If there's one thing to get from this all is that what the reader thought they knew about 'prog metal' might be keeping them from some gems. Let go of the stereotype and explore, explore the '90s!


Helm said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
B said...

Way to interlude, dude! Listening to Xerxes on youtube right now!

Shelby Cobras said...

Just trying to do justice to an excellently written and researched post. PS this mix iz RULZ (except Leviathan, those dudes give me a headache).

!Shako! said...

Superb post!
I believe it's time for a technothrash (helm TM) piece. I hereby request one!

Nekromantis said...

Great post Helm! Although I'm not a stranger to the subject of Progressive Metal and it's musical evolution this piece made me understand it's place, motives and reason of existence in HM better. I knew about half of the bands in this comp but found some new (to me) gems as well. I remember trying to get a rip of that Kingsbane demo in the past but didn't succeed and forgot about the band and nearly shat my pants when I listened to The Wages of Sin, heh. The last time we discussed Xerxes I was still getting into them and had not seen but a glimpse of their glory. Man what a grower Falling Leaves turned out to be. Did you ask for some retro techno-thrash? I present you Vektor

Nekromantis said...

I would also enjoy the aforementioned possible technothrash post!

Helm said...

O yeah I remember Vektor when they were a demo band, time to check out if their Voivod/Mekong Delta thing has developed, wasn't very impressed in the past.

Thank you for your kind words and I guess you'll be reading more from me in a couple of months!

Nekromantis said...

Aces! :D

Steven said...

I run off for the weekend, and I miss all this stuff. Gotta catch up. And another vote for a tech-thrash retrospective.

knifetooth said...

Gave Heir Apparent's Graceful Inheritance an initial listen today. Nice to read some commentary here. "you'd be surprised how little space in the mix the guitar takes in a lot of early progressive metal." Yeah, that was remarkable in my listen. Much more audible bass than say, Queensryche's EP or Warning. Rage for Order is so different. Yeah, the Rush influence seems Grace Under Pressure-like to my ears. But man, that axe space can flutter and single note pick and express the bold existential potency of a single guitarist in a band of musicians kicking ass as a team. I've only given this focussed attention so I'm a green pair of ears apparently. White collar...oh...well, the humanist vision versus a more selfish, hedonism lyric sheet for the album makes sense. I doubt any progressive metal wants to be "collared" but that's just me.