Issue 60 - May 21, 2003


cheating the polygraph
Apr 29, 2001
dead between the walls
The fine line between deliverance and damnation.
Issue #60 – The Dreadful Hours
Written May 21-22, 2003 - recent additions: brought to you by the letter SS
Dysrhythmia: Bastard
Envy: Pulse
Hex: Enlightenment
Lacuna Coil: Swamped

After considerable delay (this list was initially prepared at the beginning of this month), the songs:

Ajattara – Kuolevan Rukous, Manan Lapset: An Amorphis (more on their upcoming album Far From The Sun next issue) side project turned serious that has released two albums so far, this heads in a more primitive doom direction, with harsh vocals.

Another Life – Concealed By Fright, Cotton Pines: A Dan Swano-produced project brought to my attention on his UM-hosted forum, the former track, which uses the band’s name in its chorus, sounds a lot like Nightingale’s last album while the latter has a hunting intro. Both songs have been made available on the previously mentioned forum.

Dark Aether Project – Dark Aether, Night’s Embrace: Blatimore-based progressive rock project specializing in atmospheric music with minimal instrumental backing, the aptly named latter track would make a nice soundtrack to a summer night’s walk. Former song available on official site.

Djam Karet – Dream Portal, The Red Thread: On their eighth (not including a pair of limited edition releases) album, this acclaimed instrumental act’s dexterity is as powerful as ever, showing an equal ability to create ethereal soundscapes like the former opening track of A Night For Baku, or lengthy harder hitting tracks like the latter closing track from the same album.

Empyrium – Ode To Melancholy, Fortgang: This German act has gained a reputation for creating incredibly mournful music using a base of acoustics and string accompaniments. Both of these songs, especially the latter from the album Weiland, project feelings of profound sorrow upon the listener.

Eniac Requiem – Wyrm, The Slow Poisoners: Yet another entry in the ever-expanding list of progressive metal acts who released a promising debut album in the late 90s, only to vanish immediately after its release. On these songs, this band plays darker-edged progressive metal reminiscent of Fates Wraning at times, and the former track has some great riffing.

Ephel Duath – Ruins, Labyrinthine: What do you get when you put together a screamer with a hardcore background and a 48-year old jazz drummer and put them in an avant garde black metal act? Something like this band’s Painter’s Palette album, which is a study in controlled chaos, one jawdropping instrumental section after another executed with the precision of jazz fusion. This will undoubtedly stand as one of 2003’s most daring releases….

Enslaved – Havenless, The Dead Stare: …and based on what I’ve heard from Below The Lights, file that album right near the Ephel Duath in terms of pure ambition and incorporating a multitude of influences in an extreme metal context. Both of these songs have unorthodox elements (a Viking chant, a wailing strand of electronics) but the band doesn’t forget to provide a solid foundation for the experiments.

Envy – In The Twilight, Pulse: A Norwegian band whose debut Sweet Painful Reality finds them playing progressive metal with a dark atmosphere, sounding a bit like Wolverine although less busy instrumentally. The former track has some skilled keyboard accompaniment and the latter builds nicely from a vocal intro. Both songs available on

The Gathering – Those Good People, A Life All Mine: I have no idea why this year’s Souvenirs has been the first of this band’s releases to have any real impact on me. Maybe it’s because I’m more receptive to the band’s sound than I was when their last albums were released. Either way, Anneke’s voice soars on the former track (which features a humorous “hearse/purse” rhyme in the chorus), and the latter is a duet with Garm, who seems strangely in place with the band’s increasingly trippy sound.

Grey Skies Fallen – Athena, Let Me Breathe: New Jersey based act who recently broke up after two well-received independent albums that alternated nicely between doom metal and death, as on the former track. The latter track contains some pummeling riffs. Both songs available at

Hex – Age Of Mystics, Enlightenment: This band’s Our Synthetic Soul is one of the better debuts I’ve heard this year, the instrumentation on both of these tracks is reminiscent of prime Queensryche, adding some menacing guitar lines and insightful lyrics. Both songs available at

Jadis – The Great Outside, Into Temptation: Slick, highly mannered neo-progressive rock typical of this band, recently signed to Inside Out and featuring members of Arena and IQ. Occasional flashes of skill appear throughout these songs and the Fanatic album, but overall it’s a fairly innocuous affair.

Little Atlas – Dance, Salmon Song: Hailing from the least likely place for a progressive rock band (namely Miami), this act has quickly received much positive press for Surface Serene, the first release for both the band and the Progrock Records label. Both songs are lush progressive rock whose technicality is rarely upfront, although the former ballad does have a sudden chaotic break.

Lyzanxia – Lost, Mind Split: Again another band from a locale not exactly known as a breeding ground for its respective genre, this French band plays compact melodic death, with a considerable amount of aggression…don’t expect any In Flames-like dual leads (back when they actually built their songs around them) here.

Man On Fire – Internal Combustion, Entertaining Angels: The most recent signing to the Progrock label (also home to an excellent Live365 station), this band sound owes a lot to mid-80s Rush, but with more loose instrumentation and some slight quirks. Another band on this startup label that I will be playing more attention to in the future….

Marduk – Night Of The Long Knives, Bleached Bones: Over the course of eight albums, this Swedish act has upheld the flag for primitive black metal, although their latest album World Funeral heads in a more midpaced death direction. The band’s preoccupation with juvenile shock value pervades each track: the original title of the latter was I Collect Dead Girls’ Bleached Bones.

Mechanical Poet – Hermetical Orchard, Handmade Essence: Russian act whose three song instrumental demo (the band has since recruited a vocalist and has cited Devin Townsend as an influence) shows much promise, both of these songs contain impressive orchestrations for an unofficial release and the songs are arranged very skillfully. Both songs available at

Naglfar – Wrath Of The Fallen, Force Of Pandemonium: The title of the latter track describes this band’s no-nonsense death metal extremely well. Blistering riffs abound on Sheol, the band’s first release in five years. The former track contains some great solos amidst the relentless pace.

No-Man – The Breakup For Real, Together We’re Stranger: A project that has been Steven Wilson’s home away from Porcupine Tree for over a decade, the key differences being that Tim Bowness does the vocals, the latter track features long ambient passages that haven’t been heard in PT since Signify, and the sound is less muted overall, but still as melancholic and disarming.

Overkill – Crystal Clear, No Lights: A band that needs zero introduction, a staple of the thrash scene since the mid-eighties and one that has evolved, but has never strayed from its obvious strengths over a dozen albums. This year’s Killbox 13 is arguably their best since Horrorscope…the riffs are as sharp as ever, and the band’s anchors Blitz and Verni are in peak form throughout.

Praetoria – Stratus, A Dismal Procession: Canadian band whose songs are epics that could best be described as progressive doom metal, although there are obvious traces of black metal here as well: the band cites Emperor’s Prometheus as an inspiration for the latter track. The former track goes through a number of changes over its twelve minutes. Both songs available on official site.

Ritual – Once The Tree Would Bloom, Moomin Took My Head: Swedish progressive rock act and a recent signing to Inside Out. The former track is an acoustic number played with a sense of exuberance, while the latter is a cleverly crafted track with great use of organ, pleasant vocal harmonies, and a well-placed escalating instrumental break.

Second Sufis – Eternal Golden Braid, The Society Of Egyptian Undertakers: Percolating instrumental prog that reminds one of Robert Fripp’s soundscape experiments, building haunting waves of repetitive electronics in a similar manner. The band also successfully incorporates acoustic elements on the former track. The superbly titled latter track has a great Eastern atmosphere.

Secret Sphere – Virgin Street 69, Surroundings: This album has all the makings of a career ending embarrassment. Heading in a hard rock direction after releasing one of the better attempts at power metal bombast in recent years is questionable in itself, but such touches as the former’s moronic lyrics (complete with simulated moaning) and a Def Leppardish three part harmony in the latter isn’t going to win you respect. Thankfully, the music is more respectable, but this is still a big disappointment.

Derek Sherinian – Stony Days, Black Utopia: Although this is credited as a solo album and he does have some great moments here, this release doubles as a showcase for his impressive roster of guest guitarists, who turn portions of the ferocious nine-minute title track into a blur typical of shredfest albums. The former track is a more melodic piece that finds Derek trading parts with studio vet Steve Lukather.

Spyral – Log Out, The Monkey Mirror: Another Progrock signing, this German act is characterized by detailed arrangements and some bizarre angles such as the repeated chorus on the energetic latter track. The former, available on the Progrock site, sounds a bit like Porcupine Tree and contains some unintentionally humorous lines about the effect of Internet addiction.

Star One – Amazing Flight In Space, Eyes Of Time (live): Not long after declaring touring an impossibility, Arjen Lucassen took his crew of space crusaders for a handful of shows, the last of which was filmed. The songs translate surprisingly well in concert. The excellent closing section of the former track is replaced by an entertaining keyboard duel, and Damian Wilson does a great job on the latter track.

Symphorce – Longing Home, Where Night Returns: Obviously short on inspiration, this band’s latest album finds singer Andy B. Franck shamelessly lifting entire passages from Pain Of Salvation’s lyrics. The music is also anything but original, which makes the chorus of the former, ripped off from POS’ New Year’s Eve, deeply offensive. Included here solely for ridicule.

Thought Industry – Satan In The Gift Shop, A Week And Seven Days: Gradually shifting from technical metal into offbeat progressive rock, this band’s most recent releases are full of oblique and inscrutable appeal. Both tracks include some unexpected turns and some emotional passages.

Threshold – Sheltering Sky, Fragmentation: The limited edition release Wireless transforms ten songs from the band’s entire career into an acoustic setting with largely stunning results. The former track is a slight improvement over the version on Hypothetical, while the latter differs significantly from its counterpart and can be found on the band’s official site.

Thyrfing – Urkraft, Kaos Atemknost: With Urkraft and Vansinnesvisor, this band has placed itself at the forefront of the Viking genre. The former album’s title track is arguably their most epic composition, while the latter track from their most recent album successfully adds to the heaviness factor while further exploring traditional Scandinavian sounds.

Twelfth Gate – Bridge Of Uncertainty, Innocent: Illinois-based band whose debut album Summoning has attracted some favorable reviews (no doubt due to incessant promotion on the band’s part) and comparisons to Nevermore. Neither of these tracks quite approaches the dark majesty of that band, although the former has a powerful lead riff and the latter contains an anthemic chorus.

Valparaiso – The Lonely Views Of Condors, Where Our Shadows Sleep: Formerly known as Looking Glass Self, this band features the three principal members of the brilliant and tragically ignored tech-metal act Sieges Even. Somebody reissue their catalogue, and sign their current incarnation too. Both songs follow in the same path of precise and thoughtful prog, and are available on the band’s official site.

Vital Remains – Dechristianize, Entwined By Vengeance: For death metal fans only, and then you have to get past the considerable task of Glen Benton, forever dedicated to endlessly rehashing comic book Satanism, being involved. But both of these tracks should appeal to the fans of the genre that haven’t moved on yet, and manage to maintain their intensity over long periods of time.

John Wesley – Chasing Monsters, Waiting For The Sun: Solo material from Porcupine Tree’s touring guitarist, who added immensely to the band’s performance when I saw them in concert, he and Steven did the complex harmonies of Heartattack In A Layby flawlessly. On his own, these are closer to pop than prog, but are played with enough skill and passion to avoid being dismissed as lightweight.

Xthoughtstreamsx – Hardcore Indie Pop, To Devour Ovaries: Bands like this present a monumental headache to the reviewer, especially one who tries to describes a band’s general sound in thirty words or less like me. Both of these songs contain aggressive sections, jazz touches, and prog elements, and neither lasts more than three minutes. Both songs available at