Voyager – Colours in the Sun Review

While Voyager’s 2017 album Ghost Mile represented a stark and haunting record including bleak piano melodies throughout and having themes of darkness, the night, and a ghost mile journey, their 2019 album Colours in the Sun represents a brighter and more varied album.

Containing elements of 80s synthesizers, the chugging djentleness of progressive metal riffs and the tight grooves of a solid bass and drums funk foundation, Voyager finds themselves on a trajectory similar to a lot of heavy metal bands who, in more recent years, have resorted to adding an increasing number of electronic instrumentation and often completely doing away with the guitar on their records. The difference here, obviously, is that rather than doing away with the chugging riffs and opting for a solely throwback 80s electronic album, Voyager uses their increased synthesizers to enhance or color the tracks on the album, leading to an ideal album that is equal parts heavy and equal parts melodic.

The song “Colours” uses the interesting synthesizer sounds to great effect. As the synths are the opener to the first song on the album, as the band is introduced the song quickly turns into something entirely different. The chorus in particular is an interestingly melodic, haunting, and beautiful score, with the chorus having a gradual crescendo “Leave / Leave all / Leave now / Leave I.” It’s an altogether straightforward Voyager song with the extra seasoning of a ideal synth.

While “Colours” sounds like Voyager with an 80s synthesizer, “Brightstar” is the most direct sound Voyager gets on this album, and similarly to “Colours”, it contains the equal bits of melody and progressive riffage that Voyager is known for.

Probably the best new type of song on the album, “Saccharine Dream” is also a departure from their typical grooves, focusing instead on an entirely funkified rhythm that’s more of a creamy soup texture than a meat and potatoes kind. Yes, the song is akin to great food.

Alas, “Water over the Bridge” and “Sign of the Times” are the heaviest tracks on the album. While they sound similar to old Voyager, “Water over the Bridge” has darker and angrier riffs while “Sign of the Times” has a more subtle feel, similar to the lyrics and its themes revolving around the title. “Severomance, which actually comes after “Colours”, is a track in similar fashion, with eerie vocals during the verse laid over a harmonic, Arabic sounding, churned out riff.

Voyager’s brand of “pop progressive power metal” is an equally new and old beast, and as they progress, the band is taking steps to incorporate new sounds and create new sonic landscapes for their listeners. While “Colours” is the cream of the pop, “Water over the Bridge” is the hammer smashing the bowl, the album itself creating new sounds for Voyager while also leaving room for further and further experimentation and growth.

Score: 8.5/10

Ancient Empire’s Other World Album Review (2016)

Ancient Empire is a band I discovered late last year, yet it took me another six months to actually start listening to the band. When I did, however, I was not surprised that the epic space concept albums would pull me in like a black hole of our galaxy.

In this album’s story, unlike their most recent release, an alien civilization has invaded Earth. It’s not just humanity leaving Earth to survive a cataclysmic war or disaster of some type. Instead, humanity leaves the Earth to escape the onslaught of extraterrestrial invasion. Lines like “A blackened silence replaces everyday / Funeral shroud for the Mother we betray” incite a kind of emotional fear while what little of humanity can escape manages to go to space to find a new home. Eventually, after years of attempting to settle space and another planet (“No place for man among the star / No solace in the cold of space”), the Empire of Man returns to Earth and repels the alien invaders, eventually taking back the “ashes” of the old human civilization.

The concept definitely takes nods from Rush’s 21 minute epic “2112”. While not as poetic as the lyrics of Neil Peart, each song on Other World definitely carries a great deal of weight in terms of progressing the concept.

However, while the lyrics and the story is fun to follow along with and interpret, the real bread and butter of the album lies in the instrumentation. Guitars and vocals carry each song, with harmonized choruses, melodic guitar solos and harmonies, and an abundance of catchy guitar riffs slay each song into the next dimension. Imagine listening to an Iron Maiden record, a Rush record, and a Dio record all in one? Put them altogether and you have Ancient Empire.

With the always prevalent cheesiness of power metal, it’s difficult to create music that transcends that cheesiness on the way to grandiosity, with quality riffs, vocals, and lyrics to go along with it. However, Ancient Empire manages to achieve this with this 2016 album. Other World and Wings of the Fallen manages to deliver on the promise of epic power metal with a straightforward riffing edge to round out the lasers coming from the incoming return of the Human Empire.

Score: 9.5/10

Rush: Hemispheres, Side One Review.

Rush is a thinking man’s band. Sure, they have some songs that are ridiculous and humorous in nature, such as “I Think I’m Going Bald” and “Trees” (which trees, off this album, is fantastic and about trees and how they somehow relate to oppression). In fact, they have so many songs that connect the dots between the words interesting, cool, and funny that it’s almost impossible to deny that Rush is intentionally trying to portray themselves as intellectuals bordering on obsessive comedians and expert hobbyists on their instruments.

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Boston Third Stage: Album Review

After an 8 year courtroom battle with Epic Records that Boston had won, The band, or Tom Scholz brainchild with the epic singing of Brad Delp, released the third Boston album Third Stage. While it wasn’t as massive of a financial success as the albums as Don’t Look Back (1978) and their hit-infused singles debut album (1976), Boston hit their highest music mark with Third Stage.

Comprised of ten stellar tracks, the album centers on the portion of a person’s life known as the “Third Stage” which, even though the exact age range is not given, is somewhere between 30 to 50 years old more than likely. As this album was written between 1980 and 1984, by the time of its release, The band was in their mid to late 30s (they released their debut album in their late 20s).

By the time of Third Stage’s release, Tom Scholz and Brad Delp were the only original members in the band by the time of the album’s release. Gary Pihl joined as lead guitarist for the song “I Think I Like It”, Sib Hashian provided drums, and Jim Masdea was credited with writing the short instrumental “A New World”.

The album is mostly made of ballads such as “Can’t Ya Say…”, “Amanda”, and “Hollyann”, with the former beginning with piano and the latter two beginning with 12-string acoustic parts. “Hollyann”, I feel, is a very overlooked Boston song, with the 12-string guitar portions of the song underlying the soft vocals of Brad Delp and creating a very calm and romantic atmosphere, similar to the lyrics themselves discussing the love of the 1960s during Woodstock. Then the song builds to a climactic chorus, and the singing becomes evermore romantic and powerful. During the buildup and the chorus thereafter, I usually imagine a thousand lights springing up into the air, with thousands of couples each holding the line of light while a ballad reaches thousands.

I would describe “Can’t Ya Say…” and “Amanda”, but those songs are already iconic ballads within the Boston discography.

On the flipside of the ballads, however, songs such as “We’re Ready”, “Cool the Engines”, “I Think I Like It”, and the instrumentals show off the greatest part about Boston; the ability to switch between soft ballads and happy rockers while still being able to switch comfortably between the two like in the song “To Be A Man”.

The intro song to “Cool the Engines” known as “The Launch”, in particular, has a hard rock and spacey feel to it. I especially love when songs try to evoke an atmosphere separate from love ballads, and while I love the ballads on Third Stage, I tend to listen to the harder rocking material more than the ballads.

All-in-all though, for me Third Stage remains Boston’s magnum opus. It’s with this album that all the years of analog innovation and the creative mind of Tom Scholz came together in an album of unending beauty, philosophy, and that classic, savory Boston guitar tone. Alongside the equally airy and massive vocals of Brad Delp, Third Stage takes to the skies and reaches its destination, or “My Destination”, if you wanted the pun there.

Score: 9/10

Devin Townsend Premieres New Music Video for Song “Why?”

The music video for the song “Why?” shows a man escaping out of a spaceship that feeds and clothes him in a prison-cell sized room. Once he breaks out, he at some point in the video turns into a colorful human character, growing to a proportion of size that is near impossible, and begins sucking everything into the black hole that had sucked him in almost.

Here’s the thing; Devin Townsend’s newest album Empath was released earlier this year. And I never reviewed it.

If you’re wondering, it was a 10/10 fantastically spectacular album for me. From death screams and growls to Disney’s orchestral cascades, the album has a diverse array of influences, and lyrically is uplifting while also showing us the facades to force others to see us as great.

Across his entire discography, Devin Townsend’s done everything from death metal to progressive metal all the way to the soothing sounds of ambient music. And at this point, it seems as though he’ll never let up in writing a diverse array of music.

Empath encompasses nearly everything great about Devin Townsend, and it’s an amalgamation of various song styles put into one album. Not only that, but it molds together extremely well. There is no one theme on the album barring the lyrics; it simply goes where it needs to be.

Sabaton: The Great War Review

Sabaton’s 2019 album The Great War is their most polished and well written record. It also just-so-happens to be their worst. Objectively, that’s not saying a lot. Since their debut album, Primo Victoria, their music has been a ride through all the great battles of history, from ancient Greece to the modern day. And as they’ve progressed, their albums have gotten more and more defined. Where 2008’s The Art of War was based on the book of the same name by Sun Tzu, All the way up to The Last Stand, they’ve consistently created concept albums representing all eras of warfare and the consequences, heroes, and horrors of each era of war and battle. They’ve covered everything from the Battle of Rorke’s Drift in the song “Rorke’s Drift” (duh), where 150 British soldiers shot down and defended themselves from thousands of Zulu warriors. They’ve covered the Battle of Thermopylae in the song “Sparta”, where 7,000 Spartans held off a Persian force of 70,000 to 300,000 men. Essentially, any battle or war, they’ve likely put out a heavy metal anthem about it.

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Ancient Empire: Wings of the Fallen Review

Releases from bands such as Twilight Force, Freedom Call, Rhapsody of Fire, Avantasia, Hammerfall, and Sabaton might overshadow the release of Ancient Empire’s 2019 album Wings of the Fallen, but make no mistake, this is power metal at its finest. The chugging flight of riffs, fiery rhythms and epic guitar and vocal harmonies spread the entirety of the album like a nice layer of . Even after the first listen, the music keeps getting better.

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