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Review: Dreamgrave – “Monuments” (EP)

Release date: October 26, 2017
Rating: outstanding (4)

Line-up:
Dömötör Gyimesi – vocals, guitars
János Mayer – keyboards
Mária Molnár – vocals
Tamás Tóth – drums
Krisztina Baranyi – violin
Péter Gilián – bass

The first full-length release called “Presentiment” by the Hungarian progressive band Dreamgrave saw the light of day over three years ago and ever since then, “Presentiment” remains an album I listen to on a regular basis. I believe that Dreamgrave’s formula for success is their diversity, and they continue to release great music with their (fairly) new EP “Monuments”. For a more detailed introduction to the band, I suggest reading my (slightly embarrassing) review of Dreamgrave’s debut album on powerofmetal.dk.

I had nothing but the highest expectations of this new release. Still, I was surprised to hear an even broader spectrum of different sounds and styles than I had anticipated, compiled into only three tracks. The EP starts with the track “Drop The Curtain”, which has an atmosphere similar to the two part-track “Presentiment” off the same-named record. This is a beautiful way to create cohesiveness between the two records. “Drop The Curtain”, however, is, in contrast to “Presentiment”, a much more “welcoming” track, less intrinsic. All in all, it’s a succeeded opening track that leaves nothing to be desired. Singer Mária Molnár’s singing style surprised me a little bit, she sounds very much like young Tarja Turunen here. This changes drastically on the next track, however. On “Monuments”, you’ll find skating followed by classical singing (all by the same vocalist!), groovy rhythms, eerie and mysterious acoustic parts, gothic metal in the style of early After Forever, classic progressive metal, and a very intriguing mix of medieval music, prog and jazz towards the end. I would like to be able to describe this track with some kind of adjectives, put a label on it. “Monuments”, however, proves that it is impossible to put a label on everything. Although it took some time for it to grow on me, I now adore this … damn, I’ll just stop searching for the perfect adjective, just give “Monuments” a listen.
Many of the aforementioned influences can be found in the next and last track called “The Passing Faith In Others”. There is one last surprise to be found here – lyrics in Hungarian language, which I heard being spoken every day growing up, but haven’t heard since a few years. I therefore felt connected to this song right away.

There are many reasons why “Monuments” is a critical release for Dreamgrave. It shows much more than “just” three new and outstanding tracks. It shows that Dreamgrave moved beyond their dark, cinematic progressive metal style into territories many metal bands don’t dare to explore. Moreover, it once again shows that they don’t neglect any aspect of their music: From the composition, to the vocal harmonies and the production, everything sounds well taken care of. Especially vocal melodies and harmonies are things that many bands don’t put enough emphasis on.
The crazy thing about Dreamgrave is, beyond all this beautiful music that they are creating, that I always feel like they have only scratched the surface of what is to come. Taking into consideration the music they have been releasing and the steps they have taken on their journey so far, it is safe to say that Dreamgrave is an ever-evolving band that, at least in my eyes (and ears), has truly earned its place in the progressive scene, and I would love to see Dreamgrave growing from an insider tip to a well-known progressive act.

Tracks:
01. Drop The Curtain
02. Monuments
03. The Passing Faith in Others

Review: The Contortionist – “Clairvoyant”

Release date: September 15, 2017
Rating: outstanding (4)

Line-up:

Michael Lessard – vocals
Robby Baca – guitar
Cameron Maynard – guitar
Joey Baca – percussion
Jordan Eberhardt – bass
Eric Guenther – keyboards

I am the type of person who listens to black metal while studying. I am also the type of person who falls asleep to Swallow The Sun. But from time to time, I am like everyone else: I’m craving calm, balanced music, and that’s the kind of music The Contortionist, one of the greatest prog bands on the market, have been offering for the last couple of years. If you aren’t familiar with The Contortionist, note that this band’s style pretty much went from a quite balanced mix of prog rock, djent and deathcore to almost meditative post-rock and fusion in less than ten years. Someone even commented on one of The Contortionist’s music videos saying that their new material feels very soothing for people who struggle with anxiety.

The Contortionist still play progressive music of course, but ever since their third record “Language” released in 2014, it seems as if they have found a niche they enjoy and to which they will probably stick for the future. While there still were some djent and deathcore elements to be found on that album, things have changed a little with “Clairvoyant” – the harsh vocals have completely disappeared and even though there are some heavier parts, they can’t really be compared to The Contortionist’s djent/deathcore past.
One thing I often dislike about progressive bands is how they try to include every single idea they might have had during songwriting without considering if those different elements are in tune with each other. The Contortionist, on the contrary, have been establishing a more simplified approach to songwriting, and have perfected the art of writing songs that flow perfectly from beginning to end and into each other from the first to the last track. That is why discussing every track individually wouldn’t make any sense – you really have to listen to the whole record to understand it. Some beautiful songs, however, are “Godspeed”, “Reimagined” and “Absolve”.
Additionally, I can’t stress enough what great of a vocalist Michael Lessard is. It is not only his ability to change from soft head voice singing to pig squeals that makes him special, but also the fact that he sounds absolutely flawless live. He really has full control over his voice and I particularly enjoy how he incorporates his r’n’b influences into his vocals. On “Clairvoyant”, he dispenses with harsh vocals, though, and to be honest, I do believe that giving up the harsh vocals wasn’t the best idea. I see, however, where The Contortionist wanted to go with this record and that such vocals just wouldn’t fit into the musical concept of “Clairvoyant”.
Another aspect that could be seen as a downside to this record in general is the fact that it flows to the point where it lacks a certain surprise effect. Or, in other words, you could be listening to “Clairvoyant” and there probably wouldn’t be any kind of “WTF!” moment. Of course, a record shouldn’t be solely based on those moments, but a little surprise here and there would be welcome on this particular one. Having Lessard’s whole vocal spectrum would probably enable a more extreme sound dimension to the record and make it even more interesting and enjoyable.

Other than that, I can’t think of anything negative. Just keep in mind that if you are looking for tech metal and djent, The Contortionist isn’t the band to offer you that kind of style of music anymore. Apart from that, I believe that this album can make you happy: It is great at calming you down, and to top it all, it will satisfy any progressive music freak’s need for extraordinary music.

Tracks:
01. Monochrome (Passive)
02. Godspeed
03. Reimagined
04. Clairvoyant
05. The Center
06. Absolve
07. Relapse
08. Return To Earth
09. Monochrome (Pensive)

New tracks worth checking out: July 2017

The Contortionist – Absolve
Ah, The Contortionist. I still remember listening to them for the very first time when I received the promo for their 2014 release Language. Already one minute in, I knew that I would adore that album, and I still do. It is safe to say that The Contortionist are amongst the most exciting acts in progressive music, and they continue to please their fans with this new track. “Absolve” is the second track off The Contortionist’s new record Clairvoyant out on September 15. Same as on Language, they continue to play intricate, yet very calming, ethereal music. Trust me, you need this band in your life, and you definitely need to throw this new track onto your playlist.

Hallatar – Mirrors
Hallatar’s debut album No Stars Upon The Bridge is one of my most anticipated releases of 2017. Equally, I was really excited to listen to the first song off the new record. The band is featuring Juha Raivio of Swallow The Sun, Gas Lipstick of HIM and Tomi Joutsen of Amorphis, so if you know these bands, you probably can imagine how “Mirrors” might sound like. It is the darkest shade of dark, powerful, and, similarly to Juha Raivio’s previous project Trees Of Eternity, hauntingly beautiful.

Arch Enemy – The World Is Yours
Unlike many other Arch Enemy fans, I am really happy with the band’s new work with vocalist Alissa White-Gluz. She brings her own influences as an artist into the band while trying to stick to the classic Arch Enemy style without sounding fake. After the last album War Eternal, the first one with White-Gluz, Arch Enemy is about to release their new, highly anticipated album Will To Power and “The World Is Yours” is the first taste of the new record. There is not a lot to say about Arch Enemy, only that they deliver every single time, period.

Ne Obliviscaris – Intra Venus
Ne Obliviscaris is one of those insanely good bands that everyone and their mama lose their minds when they announce anything new. Long ago, the Australian prog band released the first track off their new record URN due in October. People lost their minds. I lost my mind.
One thing I have always loved about this band is that despite the fact that very instrument has a place to shine, the music never sounds overdone or too much. These guys probably just can’t write bad songs. However, let’s wait for the entire record and for now, we can enjoy this beautiful new track called “Intra Venus”.

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