Apart from the pretty different release from Leprous, Coal, that seems to have the fans divided, there hasn’t really been that much to shout about on the metal front just lately. Then again, maybe it’s just me who has been missing all the great releases out there. It does seem a little too quiet, especially as Download was so recent. Albums from Alice In Chains and Queens Of The Stone Age have not really filled that gap either. Despite all the hype, and phrases such as the best rock album of recent times, I have been left disappointed by it all. Thank god for Leprous, because although I still love Bilateral and for Coal to surpass that was probably an impossibility, given my own level of bias, Coal is a great album and another attempt to drift somewhere else on the band’s musical journey.It’s not perfect, I know, and there are sections of it that, quite frankly, drive me to mowing my lawns, but there is enough there to make it a worthy addition to anyone’s collection.
That’s enough of the Leprous plug, still not as good as Bilateral though boys. The impending release of albums from Dream Theater, Haken and Avenged Sevenfold may yet save the day, or more precisely, save the year. Dream Theater got a bit of a clubbing from certain sections of the press and their own fans for ‘remaking Images And Words’ with A Dramatic Turn Of Events. At one point I could have sworn I saw Mike Portnoy putting the boot in as well. Despite all this, let’s get a couple of things clear. For one thing, Images And Words was a fantastic album (apart from Pull Me Under, I know, I know, the trad-brigade are gonna troll me), and secondly A Dramatic Turn Of Events danced between the technicalities of progressive metal and harmony very successfully. Which is my way of saying, I loved it and I don’t car what the doubters think. On that basis, I am really looking forward to the new album, given that Mangini will be let off the leash this time. (Please, no ‘he’s not Mike Portnoy’ comments , seen ’em, heard ’em, I love Mike too, but jeez), and Petrucci stepped into a world of bluesy solos at times on the last outing. I’m not sure about the first track they have released from the new album, for exactly the same reasons I never liked Pull Me Under. The musicianship and driving metal rhythms are very evident, together with the solos and the switching of styles, but the song itself is a little, ahem, weak. Still Dream Theater will not let me down, and even if they did, there are two mighty rivals waiting in the wings.
Avenged Sevenfold really upped their game with Nightmare and seemed to develop an even bigger following after the release of that album. Drifting between the out and out metal tones of the title track and the piano laden, anthemic moments of ‘Save Me’, Avenged seemed to point out to the rest of the music world that they were far more than just a metal band, incorporating moments of prog and softer musical styles, and bugger me if that bloke Portnoy didn’t turn up again. Great band, who despite the tragic death of The Rev, and thoughts of disbanding, managed to produce a fine album. And so it is that we eagerly await the release of Hail to the King, which will surely cement the band’s rise in the metal rankings.
Haken have neither the following or exposure that the previous two artists enjoy, but what the boys from England do have, is an absolutely ridiculously good and sadly overlooked album from 2011, called ‘Visions’. From the grinding ,metal ending of Shapeshifter, to the twenty-two and a half minutes of pure brilliant emotion that is the title track, ‘Visions’ was, and is a must have album. What do you mean, you haven’t heard it? Go out and buy it now. No, don’t check it out on YouTube, Spotify or any other streaming site, just buy it immediately. It’s embarrassing enough that you don’t own it at the minute, now go and get it quickly before your mates find out. Right, with your taste credibility restored and seventy-one minutes of your life uplifted, you can look forward to the next album that will turn up from Haken, ‘The Mountain’, which is due for release on the 2nd September. With a couple of tracks already making the YouTube rounds, this already has my mouth watering. Is that expression alright for music, mouth-watering? I guess it will do. Well I didn’t want to say ‘ears bleed’, or anything like that, because that’s not really what Haken do. What they do well is, they take you on a musical journey, that somehow moves between the lighter prog style of Transatlantic and then back towards the heavier themes of Dream Theater. I think that bloke Portnoy is trying to get back in again. Haken are definitely on the lighter side of the progressive metal spectrum, but they hold that ground so strongly.
So there we are, my most eagerly awaited albums for the year of 2013 so far. That will change and new bands will emerge and poke me to say hi, and other folks will point out albums or bands that I have missed, and enrich my ears with their advice. All that will happen and more. I don’t profess to know every fine band or album out there, I can only recommend to you guys out there, what I feel should be magnificent albums. These three are as good as I can get. Enjoy.