Issue 3 - June 20, 2001


Not blessed, or merciful
Apr 11, 2001
Sarf Lundin, Innit
Greetings devoted readers! The internship is working out great. This may alarm some readers, but this week's installment is going to be a change in pace, as only about half of the suggestions are progressive. I would like to clarify that Songs To Watch is devoted to the best new music in ALL subgenres of metal, and I never intended it to focus on one particular genre, in spite of my preferences. The special this week is devoted to the best epics of 2001. And now, the songs…

Iced Earth - 'Ghost Of Freedom': Only one week left in the Horror Show Countdown. I really should have ended it with 'Phantom Opera Ghost', but then I remembered that I have not included this stirring ballad yet, the only one (thank god) on the album. Be sure to crank it up when the Fourth comes around.

Ark - 'Absolute Zero', 'Can't Let Go': The two Ark albums finally arrived in the mail, and they are just as great as "Hellion" and "Progmetalfan" have repeatedly stated, though I can't decide which one I like more. The former is a great progressive rocker with many superb time changes, while the latter is a ten-minute ballad similar to Burn The Sun's superb 'Missing You', with some Floyd-like elements toward the end.

Kamelot - 'Temples Of Gold', 'Across The Highlands': Karma is a worthy followup to last year's The Fourth Legacy, and falls more heavily on the band's progressive side, especially the latter, which is a great slower track with some beautiful string accompaniment. The former has a chorus that reminds me of Roy Khan's days in Conception, which included Ark's guitarist.

Enchant - 'Oasis', 'Open Eyes': Thanks to "Ben Iscock" for this one. I'm already familiar with this band's excellent Juggling 9 or Dropping 10 album, but these tracks are from their 1994 debut A Blueprint Of The World. The songs are generally longer and feature more soloing than on their latest release, and are just as highly recommended.

Vanden Plas - 'Into The Sun', 'Fields Of Hope': More from this German act that is often labeled a Dream Theater clone, which I personally think is ridiculous. They are accomplished musicians in their own right, and these songs from Far Off Grace feature great arrangements and strong choruses.

Andromeda - 'The Words Unspoken', 'Starshooter Supreme': I have stressed that this album is the best debut so far of 2001, and one of the year's best progressive metal releases. I mention it again after its domestic release on CM. The opening track is a great introduction to the band's sound and superb guitarist and keyboardist. As for the latter track, you will not be able to get that chorus out of your head…

Dimmu Borgir - 'Hybrid Stigmata', 'Architecture Of A Genocidal Nature': Part of my continuing black metal education, and a good example of how a band I once dismissed has now caught my attention. The former showcases their talents in incorporating symphonic elements, while the latter features a deadly lead riff. I still need to adjust to the (for lack of a better word) vocals…

And Oceans - 'Of Devilish Tongues', 'White Synthetic Noise': See above, only this band is far more unconventional, uses synthesizers instead of orchestral elements, and features a far less annoying, though still harsh, vocalist. I bought AMGOD after sighting it in a local store and I really enjoy it, these are probably my favorites.

Threshold - 'Goodbye Mother Earth', 'Freaks': I have mentioned Hypothetical as being one of this year's best progressive metal albums. The following songs are from Clone, the only other of their five albums I've heard. Both songs feature the band balancing prog-metal and prog-rock elements, and have great choruses.

Nocturnal Rites - 'Genetic Distortion Sequence', 'Sinners Cross': A little more well-known than most bands in this column and from a fall 2000 release, but I think this deserves a mention because this band, once thought of as a stereotypical weak power metal band, has adjusted and toughened their sound (while dropping the clichéd themes) and won over cynics.

Warrior - 'We Are One': From time to time, I will need to include a disclaimer notifying that while I do not personally like this song, I think it might appeal more to readers. This falls into this category, key point of interest being that this song features a writing credit from Bruce Dickinson, but unfortunately falls into the generic metal that he usually avoids. Available at

Tristania - 'Midwinter Tears', 'Cease To Exist': More from this often-praised Gothic act with features captivating atmospheric and symphonic music, and angelic female vocals contrasting with growled male vocals. The latter is a bonus track on a reissue of their first album Widows Weeds, and features female vocals only.

Manticora - 'Dragon's Mist': "Icarus78" has strongly suggested this band's Darkness… album, and it is an excellent power metal album that combines Iced Earth's power with Blind Guardian's unparalleled songwriting skill. If you don't like this nine-minute epic, featuring an amazing instrumental break, than you will not like this promising band from Denmark, although Lars Larsen's vocals do take time getting used to.

Dark Tranquility - 'Hedon', 'Insanity's Crescendo': Perhaps the most purely talented of all the Gothenburg acts, Niklas Sundin's band doesn't receive enough credit, perhaps due to the abrupt stylistic shift from The Mind's I (from which these songs hail, the former being exemplary melodic death, the latter being a complex composition featuring a long acoustic intro with female vocals) to Projector.

Anathema - 'Deep', 'One Last Goodbye': This UK doom act has long been regarded as one of the leaders in the genre. This is the first time I've heard them, and while the songs are very slow paced, they are also very moving and passionate.

Spiral Architect - 'Moving Spirit', 'Cloud Constructor': Recommending this highly praised Norwegian progressive metal act is a difficult task, as their extremely technical presentation leaves no easy description. Oyvind Haegeland's voice is commanding yet unconventional, and Lars Norberg's bass playing is incredible.

Ambeon - 'Ashes', 'High': As we all await what direction Arjen Lucassen will lead Ayreon into with his next project, and anticipate his rumored collaboration with Bruce, he currently has out an album with a female singer and a more ambient (hence the name) sound. The latter track showcases his talent on keyboards.

THE EPICS OF 2001: Whoever said that less is more needs to be shot in the head. When progressive metal is concerned, the epic is the ultimate test of one's ability and can make or break an album, as well as provide its centerpiece. Here are the best epics (minimum length: eight minutes) from this year's releases, limited to one per band.

Opeth - I'm tempted to say all of Blackwater Park, but for me the song that has the most epic atmosphere would be 'The Drapery Falls'
Iced Earth - 'Damien': My early choice for song of the year, most of you have already heard this masterpiece.
Avantasia - 'The Tower': superb closer on this often awe-inspring metal opera.
Shadow Gallery - 'Cliffhanger II': Thirteen minutes of prog-metal perfection, the latter half of which is a mindblowing instrumental.
Manticora - 'Dragon's Mist': see description above
Ark - 'Missing You': what the extended power ballad should be, highly emotional, featuring great guitar work, and free of clichés.
Threshold - 'Narcissus': Easily the best song on Hypothetical, featuring a memorable chorus, superb lyrics, great atmosphere, and an unbelievable midsection.
Adagio - 'Seven Lands Of Sin': The year's second best debut next to Andromeda, this is excellent progressive metal and this 12-minute track is epic in every sense of the word.
Zero Hour - 'Demise And Vestige': Nearly sixteen minutes of technical metal mastery, featuring a schizophrenic vocal tour de force from Erik Rosvold.
Kamelot - 'The Elizabeth trilogy': The last three tracks on Karma are highly emotional and contain great arrangements.
Andromeda - 'Extension Of The Wish': The superb ten-minute title track from this incredible album, definitely a unique listening experience with its robotic yet catchy vocals and its stunning keyboard-led long instrumental section.