album review

Lacuna Coil at one time seemed poised to absolutely dominate the metal universe and become the next great breakthrough artist in the genre. Unfortunately, they were stalled by an ill fate – a section of their fans backed away and resented the band’s natural evolution toward a more accessible sound, angry that the fury of Lacuna Coil’s early releases had become, in their eyes, too commercial.

The rock and metal revival movement that got off to a running start a couple years ago has continued in earnest, thriving into 2014. With the joyful reception of that material by fans and press in the past, it’s time to produce and prove sustainability.

Female-fronted, symphonic metal is one of the few types that can appeal to more than the average metal fan. Whether it's the difference a female voice makes, or the symphonic arrangements tempering the more metallic aspects of the music, the bands of this style have been able to find an audience beyond the usual groups, which is essential, given how their music goes against most everything that modern metal stands for. The roster of bands mining this style is ever increasing, but not nearly as many are able to do it well.

If you're of a certain age, you know Emerson Hart's voice, even if you can't recall the name. As the lead singer of Tonic, he was front and center on a string of hit rock songs, including the most played single on all of radio in 1997. Anyone who turned on a radio back then knows “If You Could Only See”, and ever since he has continued writing great songs, even if the radio landscape has made it hard for an artist like him to get airplay. The pop world is fickle, and as the trends have changed, there isn't much room left for an honest songwriter.

Alright, class. The subject we'll be discussing this week is a genre commonly referred to as "progressive metal". When I hear the word "progressive" I think of acts like Rush and King Crimson. Technically, Fates Warning and Queensryche are also classified as progressive along with one of the most successful progressive metal acts, Dream Theater. Add to that list the album I'm reviewing today, "Into the Maelstrom" by Bigelf.

Lost Society is one of those bands who comes along every handful of years and makes you sit up in your chair and say ‘let’s see what happens here.’ The band’s talent and clear understanding of thrash as we know it was so evident on their debut “Fast Loud Death” that they were practically on the verge of being anointed the Next Big Thing. So with mounting anticipation, the world awaits the forthcoming storm of the Finns’ second effort, “Terror Hungry.”

The world of progressive metal is pretty insular, so when a band makes a splash, it's hard not to hear about it. Vangough was able to do that with their first two albums, the acclaimed “Manikin Parade” and “Kingdom Of Ruin”, albums I must say I never got around to checking out as fully as I should have. I heard the praise coming from all corners, but for whatever reason, I never managed to hear more than a song or two at a time. Album number three is now upon us, once again attracting a flurry of critical adulation, and this time I'm not going to let the band pass me by again.

When last we saw Sonata Arctica, the veteran band was in the midst of rebuilding their legacy, after a detour that alienated a large portion of their fan base. That record was a step in the right direction, but not one that was up to the standard that everyone has set for the band. For every great song they wrote, there was a ridiculous attempt at pop stardom, or a banjo-infused number that made little sense. By this point, Sonata Arctica has spent almost as much time rebuilding their credibility as they did establishing it in the first place.

Two years ago Shear introduced the world to their debut full-length, “Breaking the Stillness,” which showcased the Finnish band as a band worth watching into the future. Two years later, the band releases “Katharis” to the world, the anticipated follow up that will put more cement in the band’s foundation and establish what trail they are attempting to blaze.

Have you ever found an album that changed your life or, at least, changed the way you listen to music? An album so good that, when it ends, you just can't wait to play it again from the beginning? So have I. Unfortunately, "Napalm Nights" by Nocturnal Breed is not that album.