Dominici – O3: A Trilogy (Part 3) (2008)

Dominici_Trilogy34.5 out of 5 Stars!

New York band Dominici is probably best known for being the band formed by Charlie Dominici, Dream Theater’s original lead vocalist.

Although the first of the albums released under the Dominici banner—the Part 1 of the trilogy—proved to be nothing but a forgettable collection of acoustic rock and disappointed many fans like myself who expected a foray into Prog-Metal territory, the group’s second and third albums, however, actually did contain music not too dissimilar to Dream Theater.

Yet unlike Dream Theater, these last two Dominici releases seemed to have gotten lost in the musical ether and remain horribly obscure. It’s a shame, really, since both albums are actually quite impressive.

On O3: A Trilogy (Part 3), tracks such as “Enemies of God,” “Genesis,” “Revelation,” “King of Hell,” and “King of Hell,” offer outstanding musicianship, with decent songwriting overall, intricate song arrangements, and a highly polished sound.

Charlie Dominici truly did himself a favor by surrounding himself with top-notch players, his team easily rivaling the skill level and professionalism of his former group. Therefore, it’s too bad the band disappeared after this final release, since another album or two of this caliber might have finally gotten Dominici deservedly noticed by Prog-Metal fans.

Some reviewers on various music-related websites have labeled this album a masterpiece. I’m unsure if I’d go that far, but in my eyes, it’s at least a forgotten gem!

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Vanden Plas – Chronicles of the Immortals: Netherworld, Path II (2015)

VandenPlas_Chronicles24.5 out of 5 Stars!

Back in 2006, I became aware of this German group for the first time when (on a lark) I purchased the album Christ O, and I instantly fell in love with it. Immediately afterward, I hunted down all five of the band’s previous studio albums I had sadly missed upon their original release and found myself reveling for hours and hours in the glorious and symphonic Progressive Metal the band had unleashed on the world, with each magnificently talented musician performing his heart out and the extraordinarily gifted singer Andy Kuntz adding his recognizable voice to each track.

Well, since those exciting days of discovery, Vanden Plas has released three additional studio albums, this one being the most recent.

And let me tell you, I have never once been disappointed, since each new collection wound up delivering some of the most stunning, most dramatic, most well-written, well-performed, well-orchestrated, and well-produced Prog-Metal on the planet.

And Chronicles of the Immortals: Netherworld, Path II is no exception. Like the previous ten-track …Netherworld, Path I album (the opening salvo in the band’s grand Prog-Metal “Rock Opera”), this release offers nine additional tunes (or “visions” within the opera), awesome and often soul-stirring compositions such as “Diabolica Comedia,” “Godmaker’s Temptation,” “Circle of the Devil,” “Monster,” “Where Have the Children Gone,” and the epic “Blood of Eden,” with each and every track providing myriad moods, luscious melodies, and killer instrumentation, some of the finest in the band’s ever-growing catalogue.

For me, Vanden Plas is beyond amazing, the epitome of professionalism, and easily one of the best, most consistent bands in the Prog-Metal genre, a leader among many. May the band live on forever!

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Waken Eyes – Exodus (2015)

WakenEyes_Exodus4 out of 5 Stars!

Although several websites state that Waken Eyes is a Canadian band, the group is indeed comprised of international musicians, including in-high-demand German drummer Marco Minnemann, killer New Jersey bassist Mike LePond (Symphony X), and Swedish vocal powerhouse Henrik Bath (Harmony/Darkwater), which leads me to believe that skillful guitarist/keyboardist Tom Frelek is the actual Canadian native.

Regardless, the band’s wealth of experience and craftsmanship clearly shows on its debut album, especially on sundry tracks such as “Cognition,” “Cornerstone Away,” “Deafening Thoughts,” “Across the Horizon,” and “Palisades.” Aside from the seemingly flawless musical performances and often-complex instrumentation, and the clear yet punchy production quality, Exodus includes everything fans of Progressive Metal typically require—melodic songs that periodically shift and spiral through a wide variety of influences, a splendid balance of laid-back, mid-tempo, and energetic moments, with the diverse extremes of stark/moody and bombastic/orchestrated passages providing welcome contrasts, along with the often cinematic-sounding epic title track exceeding the eighteen-minute mark.

In short, Waken Eyes is a promising band, and Exodus is an impressive debut!

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Adramelch – Broken History (2005)

Adramelch_BrokenHistory4 out of 5 Stars!

Italy seems to produce a ton of better-than-average bands (both past and present), especially in the genres of Progressive Metal (or Prog-Rock in general), so there must be some magic in the drinking water since the country definitely has its lion’s share of creativity. And after listening to this album, I’ve concluded that the members of Adramelch have imbibed plenty of whatever mystical brew the country has to offer.

Although I find nothing in particular on Broken History that will likely set fans of the genre into a tailspin of insanity or controversy, I nevertheless savor every moment of what the band has produced. On heavy-hitting tracks such as “Beloved Jerusalem,” “Ten Wiles (Much More Than Begged Mercy),” “Different Times, Different Places,” “I’ll Save the World,” “Darts of Wind,” and the lighter “Heap of Bones,” the performances by all involved are more than commendable. I appreciate the way the musicians and vocalist constructed and orchestrated the various tracks and melodies, maintaining both combustible heat and moodiness to the occasionally epic atmospheres, lending intricacy and variety to the arrangements, and adding unexpected rhythmic shifts throughout, while all the while keeping each song tuneful and spicy.

Therefore, on Broken History, talent obviously abounds, occasionally bringing to mind the classic sounds of groups such as Queensrÿche, Balance of Power, Time Machine, and Iron Maiden. Therefore, to Adramelch, bravo!

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Khallice – The Journey (2003)

Khallice_Journey4 out of 5 Stars!

Khallice, a talented band from Brazil, released only a single album in 2003 before sadly vanishing.

The Journey is a collection of spirited and highly complex Prog-Metal, with blazing guitar riffs, manic keyboard solos, thundering rhythms, and the band’s vocalist, with his wide range, belting out the lyrics like a champ.

While listening to various tracks on The Journey, I couldn’t help thinking that fans of groups such as Superior, Circus Maximus, Andromeda, Dream Theater, and Spheric Universe Experience would certainly enjoy much of the music on offer here.

Indeed, the band’s potential for greatness is apparent in spades on diverse and intense tunes such as “Turn the Page,” “Thunderstorm,” “Stuck,” “Spiritual Jewel,” “Loneliness,” and “Vampire,” so it’s unfortunate Khallice issued no additional material. Yet at least this single album is a clue to what might have been, so is worthy of investigation for lovers of the genre.

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Silentium – Seducia (2006)

Silentium_Seducia4.5 out of 5 Stars!

I stumbled upon this talented Finnish group when hunting for more music similar to bands such as After Forever, Nightwish, and Within Temptation, and Seducia (Silentium’s fourth studio album and the collection that introduced me to the group) is generally quite superb—ominous Goth Metal atmospheres with full and biting dual guitars, a dynamic rhythm section, and the ultra-lush keyboards so highly associated with this particular genre.

But what sets Silentium apart from the aforementioned Symphonic Metal/Gothic Metal groups is that Riina Rinkinen, the gifted female vocalist (the band’s third and final one), is not at all operatic in her approach, but more Hard Rock oriented. Plus, the band also includes Elias Kahila, a full-time cellist (a rarity in the “rock business”), thus adding an unusual, almost eerie lead instrument to Silentium’s overall style, and definitely places the group slightly apart from the rest of the pack. The sheer goth-drama of the cello is used to wonderful effect on the beginning passages and instrumental sections of the bombastic “Serpentized” and “Empress of the Dark,” or during brief solo spots on “Dead Silent,” when simply accenting verses on “Frostnight,” or accompanying the gentle piano during the introduction to “Unbroken.”

Regardless, from the beautifully orchestrated “Hangman’s Lullaby” and “Children of Chaos,” through to the lengthy and majestic self-titled closing tune, Seducia is a high-quality, well-produced album. Most of the arrangements are quite complex, almost soundtrack-worthy, compared to many of Silentium’s contemporaries. Moreover, the vocals—both female and the less-abundant male “counterpart” vocals—are bright and powerful in the mix, and don’t veer too profusely into that “beauty and the beast” territory that typically destroys the enjoyable factor on so many albums of this nature when overdone, either by the total number of appearances or by the sonic ugliness of the male’s growling and grunting and indecipherable babble. In other words, Silentium keeps things musical when it comes to the male vocals and doesn’t bombard the listener with the unnecessary noisy “demonic” nonsense described above.

Although the band released one additional album in 2008, the equally impressive Amortean, after that, Silentium suddenly fell off the radar (dare I say, “went silent”?). Therefore, since the group had previously released a new album every few years, this current ten-year gap doesn’t bode well for fans of the band like myself who were hoping for new material.


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Threshold – Clone (1998)

Threshold_Clone4.5 out of 5 Stars!

The U.K.’s Threshold has to be one of my favorite Prog-Metal bands since I stumbled up the debut album back in the ’90s, and for me, each of the band’s ten studio collections easily hovers around either the 4 or 4.5 Star (out of 5) rating category, being near perfect, and Clone (Threshold’s fourth release) is one of the best.

This well-produced album, the first to feature the wonderfully gifted Andrew “Mac” McDermott (RIP) on vocals, sees Threshold further developing its trademarked style of classy and sophisticated, often-complex yet catchy Progressive Metal on tracks such as “Voyager II,” “The Latent Gene,” “Goodbye Mother Earth,” “Lovelorn,” “Freaks,” and “Sunrise on Mars.”

As like every one of Threshold’s albums, Clone includes a seemingly perfect balance of both mellow or manic moods, often within the same track, with haunting melodies galore, enthralling instrumentation, and masterful performances by each musician.

Simply put, this band never fails to impress!

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Shadowkeep – The Hourglass Effect (2008)

Shadowkeep_Hourglass4 out of 5 Stars!

The Hourglass Effect is the third and most recent (the final?) release from Shadowkeep, a Progressive Metal band from the U.K. that delivers a collection of thundering and semi-intricate songs in the style of groups such as Balance of Power, Andromeda, Lanfear, Avian, Section A, and also early Queensryche, thanks mainly to the excellent vocalist with his wide range and dramatic style of delivery.

Although the band has a keyboardist in its line-up, the keys are relegated to the background apart from the beautiful piano-driven final track, “How Many Times Have We Tried to Save the World,” thus keeping the music decidedly guitar-oriented, with the talented lead guitarist being the undeniable star of the overall proceedings.

If this is indeed the band’s final album, at least Shadowkeep went out with an impressive bang!

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Zero Hour – The Towers of Avarice (2001)

ZeroHour_Avarice4 out of 5 Stars!

2001’s The Towers of Avarice, the second album from Zero Hour, was actually my formal introduction to the California group, and after picking up my jaw from the floor, I became a fan.

Wickedly sinister in atmosphere, the music itself is technically awesome, extremely inventive and progressive, and as heavy as all hell. Each of the proficient musicians kicks up a mighty storm, while the powerful vocalist (apart from when singing the two ballads appearing on this six-track release) belts out the lyrics like a tortured maniac on acid—alternately snarling, whispering, shrieking, and gasping the lyrics, yet making it all work like a blockbuster cinematic experience.

The majority of other “Tech Prog-Metal” and “Djent” bands typically leave me cold, but not so with Zero Hour, and The Towers of Avarice ranks high on my list of favorites in the genre.

The talented brother team (Jasun Tipton on guitar/keys and Troy Tipton on bass) along with drummer Mike Guy and singer Erik Rosvold truly captured lightning in a bottle with this release!

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Conception – Parallel Minds (1993)

Conception_ParallelMinds4 out of 5 Stars!

To me, this impressive Norwegian band sounded almost like a “prologue” to the group Kamelot, and no surprise considering that the wonderfully gifted Roy Khan was the singer on all four Conception releases in the 1990s before he joined the band for which he came to be most recognized.

Therefore, Kamelot fans will probably enjoy Conception, although the band is generally less grandiose, less heavily orchestrated, when it comes to its arrangements and production. Nevertheless, when listening to hard-hitting tunes such as “And I Close My Eyes,” “Water Confines,” “Wolf’s Lair,” “My Decision,” “Roll the Fire,” and the lengthier closer “Soliliquy,” the similarities between the two groups are way too numerous to ignore.

Although Parallel Minds (the band’s second album) is probably one of my favorites, in truth, all four Conception releases are just about equal when it comes to the high quality of the songwriting and overall musicianship.

(Also, a note for Prog-Metal fans: once Conception disbanded after Roy Khan’s departure, band founder and ace guitarist Tore Ostby went on to form Ark with singer Jorn Lande, a fantastic Prog-Metal group that released two exceptional albums just around the turn of the century before also disbanding.)

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