Artist: Green Carnation Album: The Acoustic Verses Genre(s): Rock Subgenres(s): Art Rock, Progressive Rock Released: 2006 Length: 43 minutes Language(s): English Label(s): Sublife Records, The End Records
01. Sweet Leaf
02. The Burden is Mine… Alone
06. Child’s Play (Part 3)
07. High Tide Waves
The Acoustic Verses is the 5th and final album by Green Carnation. It shows a drastic shift in sound by taking the soft art rock/progressive rock sound that could be heard on parts of their previous album, The Quiet Offspring, and letting its influence seep out to create an entire album based on that sound. The Acoustic Verses is full of low key melancholic vibrations and unstrained, almost delicate singing from Kjetil Nordhus to match the theme. The Burden is Mine… Alone only consists of an acoustic guitar, keyboard ambiance and straightforward lyrics but it manages to neatly summarises this theme over its short duration.
While the title of album allures to acoustic instrumentation, there are still some electric instruments used including the bass, keyboard and theremin. The acoustic guitars often take centre stage with the biggest exception being Child’s Play (Part 3). It is the only instrumental piece on The Acoustic Verses and only involves the piano and keyboard. Songs such as Alone and High Tide Waves see Green Carnation go as far as bringing in a string trio (consisting of a violin, viola and cello) to add another dimension to the rich sound of The Acoustic Verses.
In a throwback to Green Carnation’s knack for writing long songs back in the early stages of their career, they wrote a 15 minute, 3 part suite called 9-29-045 (Part 1 My Greater Cause, Part 2 Homecoming and Part 3 House of Cards). This is at odds with the other songs being that they are between 3 and 5 minutes. Placing it in the middle of the album was certainly a bold move as it could throw off some listeners but Green Carnation pulls it off and melds all the elements of The Acoustic Verses together to make a fluid sonic journey out of it.
Drummer Tommy Jacksonville deserves a special mention for being able to play a diverse and often subtle role that could have easily gone against the soft nature of the music. The drums haven’t been mixed too loudly which prevents it from overshadowing anything which leaves Green Carnation and your own ears with the best results.
Long-time fans could be disappointed by the change in sound, or even the lack of distorted heavy metal guitar riffs, but Green Carnation proves to be adept enough to dive headfirst into their new sound that lets the band end their career on a well-deserved high note.
Artist: Storm Corrosion Album: Storm Corrosion Genre(s): Ambient, Folk, Rock Subgenres(s): Dark Ambient, Progressive Rock, Psychedelic Folk Released: 2012 Length: 48 minutes Language(s): English Label(s): Roadrunner
01. Drag Ropes
02. Storm Corrosion
05. Lock Howl
06. Ljudet Innan
Storm Corrosion is the long awaited collaborative project between progressive rock/metal stars Steven Wilson (Porcupine Tree, solo) and Michael Akerfeldt (Opeth). Given the background of these 2 prolific musicians you would think that you would have some inkling as to what Storm Corrosion would turn out like but the results are much more unexpected than you’d think. As with a lot of Steven Wilson’s output in the last few years, the music is brooding and dark sounding without strictly sounding like anything either musician has put forward before.
There are only 6 songs on Storm Corrosion and together they manage to make up a little bit more than the average length of an album. Drag Ropes, Storm Corrosion and Ljudet Innan all clock in at around 10 minutes each and like most of the album, they work around the same tired format; soft guitar lines that keep the rhythm, dark keyboard atmospheres, sparse and infrequent percussion and unstrained singing from both halves of Storm Corrosion.
Half way through Hag you’ll be treated to a short burst of distorted guitar noise and frenzied drum rolls with plenty of sharp clashes on the cymbals thrown in in an effort to keep your attention and break up the monotony. Lock Howl is the only song with steady use of percussion and while remaining well within the duos ominous criteria, it manages to wake the listener from their slumber before abruptly stopping once they realise that they are in danger of playing something that might be memorable.
Unlimited artistic freedom isn’t a bad thing in and of itself but when 2 of the current progressive rock/metal scene figureheads get together and produce an album with maybe 20 minutes of material worth hearing you know that something hasn’t hit the marker.
Artist: Porcupine Tree Album: Deadwing Genre(s): Rock Subgenres(s): Progressive Rock Released: 2005 Length: 60 minutes Language(s): English Label(s): Lava
05. Arriving Somewhere But Not Here
06. Mellotron Scratch
07. Open Car
08. The Start of Something Beautiful
09. Glass Arm Shattering
Deadwing makes for another impressive foray into progressive rock by Porcupine Tree, who used their previous effort, In Absentia, as a blueprint to build off for this album. The brooding soundscapes have been replaced with a dreamlike ambiance created through the heavy presence of keyboards, synthesisers and pianos. The metal-esque guitar tones now resemble a driven, rock-orientated sound, while Steven Wilson’s singing remains firmly in their established passive and unstrained style.
The rock-centric portion of the album is often mid-paced, while the ambient portion is restrained with steady percussion and subtle bass playing that stops it from drifting into formless soundscape territory. The soft sounding moments are easily recognised on Mellotron Scratch and Glass Arm Shattering as the ambient textures lead them. Many of the songs switch between these styles and because of this, the album rarely stays static. Instead, they opted to create sprawling and imaginative passages with plenty of dynamic changes.
The different styles are brought together seamlessly over the course of Deadwing and never feel out of place with one another, which is exemplified with Arriving Somewhere But Not Here. This is Deadwings centrepiece and epitomises the albums sound over its 12 minute duration. The length of the song could seem daunting to some, but it builds up and flows into new passages effortlessly to keep the listener interested and comes to an end before you know it.
Deadwing is an excellent introductory album to the current progressive rock scene. It is also a worthy addition to the already lengthy Porcupine Tree catalogue and easily ranks amongst their strongest and most rounded efforts.
Artist: Devin Townsend Album: Ziltoid the Omniscient Genre(s): Heavy Metal, Rock Subgenres(s): Progressive Metal, Progressive Rock Released: 2007 Length: 54 minutes (CD 1), 14 minutes (CD 2) Language(s): English Label(s): HevyDevy (Canada), InsideOut Music (Europe), Sony (Japan)
02. By Your Command
03. Ziltoidia Attaxx!!!
04. Solar Winds
07. Planet Smasher
08. Omnidimensional Creator
09. Color Your World
10. The Greys
11. Tall Latte
Devin Townsend Ziltoid the Omniscient Special Edition Review
Ziltoid the Omniscient is an album that was created, written, produced, recorded, engineered, programmed and mixed almost entirely by Devin Townsend alone. Mastered by Ue Nastasi, additional support was also given by Dave and Mike Young (additional engineering), Fredrik Thordenal (Drums) and The Beav and Dave (additional dialogue). The paragraph below provides an outline of the concept so if you want to avoid any spoilers skip ahead.
Ziltoid travels to Earth in search of the universes ultimate cup of coffee (as explained in ZTO). Dissatisfied with the brew offered, he goes to war with Earth and sets out to capture the fleeing humans as they leave Earth in search of a way to stop him. Further into the adventure, Ziltoid encounters the Omnidimensional Creator who reveals the truth about his existence that leads to an unexpected conclusion. A more detailed synopsis can be found by reading through the lyrics and supporting text in the albums booklet.
Townsend showcases his vocal talents through a range of spoken word voices, varying degrees of aggressive singing and shouting mixed with higher pitched and cleanly sung verses. Instrumentally, keyboards are more prominent during the softer moments but they do have some interplay with the metal parts of the songs although they can quickly lose out to the relentless mechanical drumming and synchronised guitar riffs. Songs like By Your Command and Ziltoidia Attaxx, (which is one of the two songs to feature guitar solos, the other being N9) exemplify this style.
Solar Winds takes a different approach, featuring dramatic keyboard work and soft guitar playing while departing from the percussion entirely for a brief time. Eventually it builds up into a hard rock song before shifting into the hammering metal style again over a 10 minute period. Color Your World has a flawless transition between the metal and soft progressive rock parts that will make you question whether it’s even the same song until a raspy voice slowly roars “Ziltoid… the Omniscient” out of nowhere. Planet Smasher briefly gives the bass time to breathe by plodding alongside the guitar to create a sense of foreboding as it trudges on ominously. Townsend takes this opportunity to show off how deep and guttural he can make his voice, while making it fit the tempo of the song aptly.
Hyperdrive is probably one of the biggest standout songs on the album because the music has a strong ethereal quality and a repetitive guitar hook that will stay in your head long after the album is over. Townsend’s voice follow suit as he sings in a soft and distant way for most of the song. N9 begins with an intense barrage of drum patterns and the keyboard jumps to the forefront and calls out with a sense of urgency, waking up the listener just in case you were getting too comfortable listening to Hyperdrive. The vocals are delivered in the same way as they are in Hyperdrive, which would makes it a good introductory song to metal for someone who isn’t fond of the harsher singing style but is interested in what can be offered musically.
Two short interlude-type tracks are present on the album. The mid album Omnidimensional Creator is a dialogue between Ziltoid and the Omnidimensional Creator that disappears as fast as it arrives. The second is the albums closer, Tall Latte, which prevents it from finishing with the bang you’d expect, but it is necessary to finish the story. Other parts of the plot can be missed quite easily as the instruments are made the focal point in the mix and not always the vocals. It’s also worth noting that some of the lyrics are not directly related to the story and could contribute to this problem.
All in all, Ziltoid the Omniscient is a highly entertaining and unique sounding album that doesn’t neatly fit into a subgenre. It could easily speak for itself based on the musical merits alone but the accompanying story, despite the narrative flaws, is joined with a great sense of humour (something that the metal realm often lacks) and a creative style of song writing that makes it an exciting and memorable listening experience.
Track List (CD 2):
01. Don’t Know Why
02. Travelling Salesman
03. Another Road
The special edition CD has three tracks, the latter two of which do not relate to the Ziltoid concept. The first track does and opens with Ziltoid stating “you will hear some terrible, terrible bonus material but you know it’s Ziltoid so it’s fun” and manages to live up to both parts of the statement and the title, with Ziltoid going on a long, unfiltered tangent spanning several subjects in Don’t Know Why.
Travelling Salesman is an upbeat song with a strong rhythm section and overly loud, punchy drums and slurred lyrics. Another Road features a fuzzed out electric guitar with some lively solos and a metronome ticking away over the top of everything for no discernible reason. Townsend’s voice is placed right at the back of it all for the duration of the song. In summary, the material has some novelty value to it and is worth a listen or two, but it isn’t the kind of thing that you will keep coming back to.