(Prog) Death Metal Or Die Trying

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Opeth has been distancing themselves from death metal for years. Who will you look to for prog/death when they’re gone? 

Paean 

Paean1

If you’ve ever wanted to hear Death’s earlier forays into progressive waters reinterpreted by a melodeath band, Scorn of Eternity might have what you seek. The band has managed to glue together a variety of elements, atmospheric rock and post-rock included, into their music, though never parting from their death metal influence and never allowing their influences to separate themselves from the death metal found in their roots.

Vocals are handled with a deep and dry growl, and while it’s remarkably strong, I found myself craving a more varied approach, something that would better have represented the multiple faces of their music. This is, unfortunately, where the band falls short on the whole. Scorn of Eternity features hooks, memorable lead-work and good riffs. However, there’s also blander, nondescript guitarwork and unremarkable riffs. The band knows how to use dynamics but doesn’t bank on it. The smooth, atmospheric parts are the ones that often lack memorable features, and due to this, combined with a few lackluster riffs, both the songs and the album feel stretched.

But hey, it’s much easier to point out flaws than strengths, and this is only Paean’s (self-released) debut full-length. The band has already developed an almost virtuoso-like ability to make the different elements work together, and their technical abilities are used to advance the songs, not to shine on their own, which in my eyes is commendable. Furthermore, the band mostly steers away from endless use of odd time-signatures, sudden tempo changes and challenging rhythmic-work, growing and nurturing their songs instead of rushing them (not that there’s anything inherently wrong with the aforementioned “quirks”). Yet they never appear anything but a skilled group of musicians. Estonia is not exactly known for a vibrant metal scene (outside its borders, anyway), so Paean is a welcome addition to the fold.

You can find their 2011 EP Livium on their Bandcamp page. Give Paean a like on Facepalm.


Gwynbleidd

Gwynbleidd1

Sapkowski and prog/death, a combination to die for. I actually found out about this band by googling the published works of Polish fantasy author Andrzej Sapkowski. Not that the two have anything in common except Polish-ness  (although, the members of Gwynbleidd actually reside in the United States). I’ve been trying to write about these guys for the better part of a year now, but haven’t been able to compose anything coherent.

Of the three bands featured here, Gwynbleidd is the only one that does actually compare to the one band every single prog/death outfit gets unfairly called out for sounding like, Opeth. That is not to say they are without a character of their own; far from it, in fact. On both their ’06 EP Amaranthine and ’09 album Nostalgia, they weave elements of black and folk into their brand of prog/death, creating a mixture of their own. Their music is dominated by growls and death/black riffing, but they’ve a strong melodic sense as well and it is here that the aforementioned comparison best shows – aside some quite obvious chord progressions. What sets Gwynbleidd apart from pretty much all of their peers is the cohesion of their songwriting. Yes, many prog bands sacrifice showing off for songwriting (thank god) but rarely do I get a feeling like the one here. Predictability is not the word I am looking for, but mayhaps the concepts have something in common, Gwynbleidd’s songs don’t lack twists or turns, but at all times they maintain a natural flow. As if part A could not have segued into any other part than B, as if the band only went where they had to go, in order to get the most out of their compositions.

It has been quite some time since Gwynbleidd last released anything, but there have been rumours and ruminations. Just this February the band hinted at the possibility of a coming sophomore full-length by informing the public they had in their hands pre-production tracks of new material. Hopefully we will hear some of it soon.

Like them on Facebook, listen to Amaranthine on Spotify and Nostalgia on Bandcamp (or below).


Pressure Points

PressurePoints1

Pressure Points made their debut about half a decade ago. I’ve yet to spend any time with their debut, but I’ve spun their sophomore, False Lights – released last year, plenty.

Pressure Points is much like Porcupine Tree; I don’t mean that they sound exactly alike, even though False Lights does begin with a PT-like groove before settling into a metal riff coupled with growled vocals before blossoming into guitar harmonies, an oldies-prog-section, and returning to the riff. Calling them prog/death almost seems too much as there is little else to anchor them into any kind of extreme metal besides the growled vocals. But there is no doubt they do play prog metal, yet no more important a part of their sound is metal than any other.

Six songs and an album that clocks in at almost an hour is a certain mark of prog, but Pressure Points steers clear of instrumental wankfests, using extended lengths to develop their songs. Good riffs meet working and clever arrangements, and great guitar solos that you can actually hum to. Pretty much every song includes parts that catch on and rock on in your head. Take the ending of “In Desolation”, the slide guitar of “Between the Lies” or possibly the single most earworming thing released this year – the piano riff towards “Electric Shadows'” end.

The death-y bits on False Lights are good, but the band is at their best when they’re settling on a groove or sensually caressing your ears with melodies. I did find the band through De Lirium’s Order, whom Kari Olli fronts as well, and I can only wonder why he didn’t sing on DLO’s latest himself; I can’t think of a simple complaint about his cleans here, and they’re the dominant choice of vocal-style.

Hopefully Kari Olli’s tenure as Insomnium’s live member has brought at least a few new fans for the band; they’re one of the few bands I’d actually be sorry not to see go much further.

Please listen to the album through here, or in Spotify. Like them on Facebook, or don’t – it’s your call.

 

Featured image is Stooks of Corn in Moonlight by Theodor Kittelsen (1900)

  • Jom Pootersan

    Dis iz 4 me

  • Maik Beninton™

    I like Opeth, but I don’t listen to them so often.

  • “Who will you look to for prog/death when they’re gone?”
    …you mean when they called it quits after Watershed?
    *dodges empty beer bottle thrown by Tapir

    • Maik Beninton™

      Tapir uses a knife.

    • Dubs
      • CyberneticOrganism

        GAH

    • Sir Tapir The Based

      Downvoted

    • sweetooth0

      Opeth is boring as hell now. I remember last time I saw them with Ghost and Mastodon my brother and I left part way through the set because we ran out of beer money and could go drink at another bar he worked at for free. I don’t remember a single thing other than Opeth being boring background noise from that set. They refused to play a single song from their death metal years.

      • Well same goes for Mastodon now. Last time I saw them was a total yawn fest. No old shit at all.

        • RustyShackleford

          I’ve seen Mastodon like five times now and it’s weird. Sometimes they’ll just go through the motions and even make sloppy mistakes. Other times they’ll kill it. Really hot/cold…

          • Seen Mastodon 3 times. 2 of ’em were great, 3rd had the shitty setlist problem.

          • RustyShackleford

            One time I saw them they opened with three random old songs. Great for my friends and I who are hardcore fans, but some people were clearly expecting the new stuff haha

          • Vault Dweller

            I saw them once, on the tour with Gojira; apparently I caught them on a good night, because they slayed (though I enjoyed Gojira more, much to my surprise)

          • PostBlackenedWhaleGaze

            Agree. I’ve seen them 3 times, first time was great, second time horrible, and the last time was better, but not nearly as good as the first time.

      • that’s very interesting. one of my friends said now they have to play older, metal songs because the crowds were thinning over time.

        • Stanley

          As soon as the bank manager starts calling, they’ll be back to playing death metal.

        • Paddlin’ Rites ov Beargod

          They’ve played 3-4 times here in the last 2 years. Half the set has been death metal each time.

      • Janitor Jim Duggan

        I have no problem with the latest Opeth album. It’s trying to bring back the way prog was. It’s not perfect but if they work on the formula more maybe they can perfect it.

        • Downvoted.

          • Janitor Jim Duggan

            I don’t think they’re going to go back to recording death metal. Theyre doing what they enjoy and thats what they’re going to do. This is a new era for them and the last album kickstarted it like Reroute To Remain did for IF.

          • Janitor Jim Duggan

            You may not want to admit it but I am right. Their death metal days are behind them now.

          • No way bro. They are going tech death on the new album.

          • #staypurple

          • Janitor Jim Duggan

            Jimmy plz!

          • Eh, when I saw Opeth they played ‘windowpane’, ‘burden’, ‘grand conjuration’, & ‘deliverance’ among others. For a 75 minute set, I’d say that’s pretty good.

          • In Live Concert at the Royal Albert Hall is one of my favorite set lists. Killer DVD!
            All of Blackwater Park:
            1.”The Leper Affinity”
            2.”Bleak”
            3.”Harvest”
            4.”The Drapery Falls”
            5.”Dirge for November”
            6.”The Funeral Portrait”
            7.”Patterns in the Ivy”
            8.”Blackwater Park”

            Observation Two – A song from every Opeth album in chronological order.
            1.”Forest of October”
            2.”Advent”
            3.”April Ethereal”
            4.”The Moor”
            5.”Wreath”
            6.”Hope Leaves”
            7.”Harlequin Forest”
            8.”The Lotus Eater”

          • I’m guessing if they do any 25th Anniversary US shows the setlist will be a bit more balanced.

          • Stanley

            The Moor >>>>

          • Still Life >>>>>>>>>>>>

          • Stanley

            Yep. It’s their best IMO.

          • I agree 666%

          • Stanley
          • Óðinn

            Maybe they’ll go Black Metal?

            ….Okay, maybe not.

          • Dang, that would be sick. If they went more in the direction of “Under the Weeping Moon”, that would make me very satisfied.

          • XXXX Atomic Tongue Hair

            Or full blown dragon and ogre fucking power metal.

          • Óðinn
          • XXXX Atomic Tongue Hair

            I’d love to see them go pornogrind!

          • Mikael has said it’s easier on his voice to do clean vocals now.

          • Maybe if he didn’t smoke so many cigarettes he’d be able to scream more.

          • He smokes? Dang.

          • Most every time I’ve seen him interviewed he’s smoking. I have 3 live DVD’s all of the studio footage captures him smoking a lot.

          • XXXX Atomic Tongue Hair

            Didn’t smoke when I interviewed him, but then again smoking indoors has been banned for quite some time in Chicago. Drank quite a bit though.

        • Dave Vincent’s Perm

          That’s the exact opposite of what being progressive is about. It’s not progressive rock, it’s regressive rock. Reg.

        • I didn’t care for it, and I liked Heritage.

        • XXXX Atomic Tongue Hair

          Doesn’t even sound prog to me. It sounds like coffeehouse open mic night with some Moogs thrown in.

      • RustyShackleford

        Didn’t see this, literally just posted a story about that from the same tour lol. Shit sucked!

      • Óðinn

        That’s too bad. I’d at least want some Blackwater Park or Ghost Reveries. It’s a live Metal show. It should have some excitement.

        • XXXX Atomic Tongue Hair

          Opeth and exciting are two things that no longer belong in the same sentence nowadays. Going from innovative prog death metal band to a grandpa prog version of Jason Mraz.

          • Janitor Jim Duggan

            I’d rather see DMX. Prog isn’t that exciting live in my opinion.

          • XXXX Atomic Tongue Hair

            Better be packing heat if you’re going to that DMX show! I can’t even imagine how out of place you’re going to look over there.

          • Janitor Jim Duggan

            I changed my mind. I’m trying to convince a local radio DJ who books concerts to hold a rock festival in my area. People would buy tickets with a good enough lineup. Since classic rock is popular here I suggested Ratt, Kix, Warrant, Firehouse, Blue Oyster Cult, Styx, Tesla, LA Guns, Foreigner or Toto and Saxon. Is that a good lineup?

          • XXXX Atomic Tongue Hair

            No (outside of Saxon). Sounds like you’re trying to organize the music lineup of a BBQ festival or state fair.

          • Janitor Jim Duggan

            That’s basically the caliber of classic rock we get.

          • XXXX Atomic Tongue Hair

            Throw some TNT in there. They’re still around and kicking ass.

          • Janitor Jim Duggan

            I wish they’d come here but I don’t know if they tour the US that much.

          • XXXX Atomic Tongue Hair

            I don’t think they tour very much at all nowadays.

          • Janitor Jim Duggan

            That’s the problem. Maybe in their place they could get Krokus or Jefferson Starship.

          • more beer

            Sounds like he is trying to bankrupt a promoter.

          • XXXX Atomic Tongue Hair

            Or trying to get up with all those washed up road sluts from the 80’s.

          • more beer

            That too.

          • XXXX Atomic Tongue Hair

            They’d definitely make a whole new man out of him, along with making him a pietri dish of STDs.

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KET11SOC5YA

          • It’s the WLOL Summer Chili Bake Off!!!

          • Boss the Stoutdrinker Ross

            SAXON.

          • more beer

            Do you know how much that would be in guarantees? This guys are all saving for retirement. They will want some serious money. The promoter will ed up losing his shirt on this. The turnout won’t be that big in your area.

          • These days? It’ll probably be mostly white college kids going to DMX.

          • XXXX Atomic Tongue Hair

            Good point. And maybe a few of his pals from the brick house.

          • TrickleDownOvTacoKvltRiff

            ELP?

    • *dodges bottle while entering*

      MACÑULTI!

      Shut the fuck up, you have to concentrate in the good things, man.

      *kicks Macñulti*

      *put a song*

      (I love the part around 6:30):

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MDBykpSXsSE

    • Ted Nü-Djent ™

      Jim (Short for James) McNulty plz!

  • Purrrrfection. (No actual cats were involved in the making of this album.) ((Feel free to fast forward through the full minute of ambient water sounds and guitar fuzz to get to the rawwwwwrz.))

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q39t56nK5Ng

  • Waynecro

    I’m totally digging all these bands, Mr. Karhu! Thanks! After I gave up on Opeth’s new stuff, I listened to a lot of Ikuinen Kaamos.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ksmweQ61IaE

    • Paddlin’ Rites ov Beargod

      I’ve never listened to a lot of these guys, but they sound quite good.

      • Waynecro

        I dig ’em. They remind me a bit of Opeth with maybe a few extra black-metal elements mixed in.

  • Janitor Jim Duggan

    Technically speaking prog is slowly becoming a different genre than what it was. The former giants are being replaced and the ones that outlast them aren’t selling out giant arenas. Neo prog is completely different from what prog was. I hate a lot of the neo prog except for Marillion. I hope that Opeth succeeds at bringing the prog sound of old back but that’s a tall order.

    • I’d say Opeth succeeded in doing that LONG ago.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qEaf9LqIUZQ

      • Janitor Jim Duggan

        They’re selling bigger venues now. Theyre doing better than the old gods of prog like Yes and KC.

        • I dunno, when I saw Yes it was at the Centrum with about 11,000 people. When I saw Opeth there was about 2,500.

          • Janitor Jim Duggan

            Yes isn’t the same anymore now that Chris is gone. They’re performing Drama and Fragile in full in Europe. I wish they’d come back here but I don’t know if I want to see them without Chris.

          • Nah, Yes is dead as Motorhead now. Done. Finished.

          • XXXX Atomic Tongue Hair

            I thought Yes would’ve been so much better with Glass Hammer’s singer having joined. Oh, how wrong I was! Glass Hammer is probably right up your alley, btw.

          • Boss the Stoutdrinker Ross

            No Jon Anderson. No YES.

          • Paddlin’ Rites ov Beargod

            Machine Messiah though

          • Boss the Stoutdrinker Ross

            Both Anderson and Wakeman are gone. FLUSH.

          • Paddlin’ Rites ov Beargod

            I really only miss Squire. Such unique style.

          • Boss the Stoutdrinker Ross

            I’m just giving you a hard time. Squire is one of the greatest bass players of all time. As you said, a very unique style that was all his own. It was sad to hear of his passing, and hard to believe Yes went on without him. He really was the heart of the band.

          • Sir Tapir The Based

            DAMN STRAIGHT, MAN

          • Boss the Stoutdrinker Ross

            He’s one of my favorite singers of all time. His voice sits atop the glorious prog music with grace and precision.

      • this is so fucking good, i don’t know why couldn’t replicate it on the newer, proggy albums

        • I liked Heritage so I can’t speak to that, but good songwriting either happens or it doesn’t.

    • Spear

      Well, prog should be a changing genre by its very nature. Otherwise you can’t really call it prog, right?

    • PostBlackenedWhaleGaze

      I think the’re starting to accomplish that with songs like Goblin or River. Shit reminds me of Uriah Heap or even a little bit of Yes.

      • Janitor Jim Duggan

        I love Heep even though they’re much closer to hard rock in my opinion.

  • Stanley

    Dubs, we were talking about Welsh the other day. Well, gwynbleidd is Welsh for white wolf.

    • Dubs

      Ah, gotcha. I’ve just always heard from Englishmen how absurd the Welsh language is.

      • Stanley

        Yes, pronunciation is tricky. For example, the double d at the end of bleidd, is pronounced like the “th” in the.

        Also, the language has the concept of soft mutation. For example, the word for “women” is “merched”, the word for “the women” is “y ferched”. m’s change to f’s. b’s also change to f’s. Oh, and f’s are pronounced like v’s. If you want yo have an f sound, you need to use double f. Got it?

      • Temperus Maximus

        Absurd is a bit of a strong word, but admittedly, our tongue is a wee bit unwieldy. We largely growl and spit.

        • Dubs

          Ooh, our blog now has two Welshmen. This pleases me.

          • Temperus Maximus

            I’m glad we please you Dubya.

    • Paddlin’ Rites ov Beargod

      Sapkowski has used a ton of European culture (whether language or tales) as an inspiration. I understand his elvish is largely based on Welsh.
      (Gwynbleidd is an elvish name of the protagonist in his best known series)

      • Stanley

        Is elvish real? I thought it was like Finland.

        • Paddlin’ Rites ov Beargod

          (Funny thing here is, Tolkien’s elves were based on creatures of the myths, known as “Finns” – so… an imaginary people based on an imaginary people?)

        • Paddlin’ Rites ov Beargod

          That looks very much like elvish. Also quite a bit like Polish too actually. Not that I’d mistake them for each other, but there’s a resemblance.

        • CyberneticOrganism
          • BLACKBEARD UNFILTERED

            Lololo

    • Temperus Maximus

      Almost correct but if we’re going by Welsh and not the Tolkien character, should be spelt gwynblaidd, there ain’t no ‘e’ in it.

      • Stanley

        If we are splitting hairs, it would also be blaidd gwyn. 🙂

        • Temperus Maximus

          Yarp.

  • RustyShackleford

    Really digging Gwynbleidd! Yup.

  • This seems to be a thing in which I will say: “this is a thing right up in my alley”.

    “If you’ve ever wanted to hear Death’s earlier forays into progressive waters reinterpreted by a melodeath band (…)” FUCK YES, This is my sheit.

  • BLACKBEARD UNFILTERED

    OT: todays haul (suck it mcnutty!) (Rfi)

    • pfft, what are those laserdiscs?

      • BLACKBEARD UNFILTERED

        Dinner plates

    • Forn?

      • BLACKBEARD UNFILTERED

        Yeah

      • The one in the left it’s clearly an album from ‘Rudkh’.

        • BLACKBEARD UNFILTERED

          First pressing 1/600 😉

          • Damn.

          • BLACKBEARD UNFILTERED

            They also gave me some free pins (one False, one Kowloon Walled City, and some others i dont know)

      • BLACKBEARD UNFILTERED

        Man this album is crushing

  • Dave Vincent’s Perm
    • Capra Hircus Hubertus

      This record is fantastic.

  • RustyShackleford

    I’ve always liked Opeth, but man I saw them open up for Mastodon (or more like coheadline I guess) at the Roseland here in NYC. Huge crowd, we were all amped, and they just played Heritage (just out at the time) and oh my god was it so fucking boring. I didn’t like it live, but it’s still intricate music so I was trying to enjoy myself. However, Akerfeldt spent the whole time being a HUGE dick. The fans weren’t even doing any bitching, but he kept going “oh you must hate me, I’m not playing any of the old stuff, sorry fanboys.” It was literally the worst stage attitude, really pissed me off. I totally understand musicians not wanting to just play old hits, but you gotta find a more respectful way to do that…

    • CyberneticOrganism

      How To Lose A Crowd, by Mikael Akerfeldt

    • XXXX Atomic Tongue Hair

      Pretty hard imagining him being a dick. He was super laid back when I met/interviewed him, but that was long long ago. But, yeah, the crowd was being that way when I saw them play nothing but the stuff from Damnation. He just laughed and went on with the set after at least a dozen requests for “Demon Of The Fall”.

  • Guppusmaximus

    I think this falls into the same category of “Who did you look for in Progressive Metal when Dream Theater dropped the ball?”. Regardless of what band might’ve filled the void for me back then – Scenes PT.2- I wasn’t necessarily looking for a DT clone. Since Opeth stopped a while back (yes, Watershed), I think I found solace in the Fusion realm from bands that had similar dynamics but wasn’t necessarily Death Metal. Opeth had a truly original progressive style that, for me, started on Blackwater Park and I can always listen to their old shit to get that fill…

  • Beargod, i love this article and i love you, but i can’t press the “stop” button on Paean to listen to the other bands…

    • Sir Tapir The Based

      You love Beargod? What the fuck, man?

      • he’s my second favorite Finn 😉

        • Sir Tapir The Based

          Who’s the fucker on top? I know I’m your least favourite.

    • Boss the Stoutdrinker Ross

      Blackout is good. I don’t know why i put Scorpions off for so long. Thanks man.

      • Excellent.

        • Boss the Stoutdrinker Ross

          This may be old news to you, but have you heard that Wo Fat is releasing a new album this year? Most likely a spring release date.

          • Oh yes, posted about that back in December.

          • Boss the Stoutdrinker Ross

            Cool, i just read it this morning. Probably gonna be top 10 this year.

    • Óðinn
      • Sir Tapir The Based

        Good älbum

  • Dubs

    Digging Gwen Blood. Good show, karhu.

  • XXXX Atomic Tongue Hair
  • Óðinn

    Inserting a bit of Prog or Tech in your Death can be excellent. But it needs to be carefully balanced. Too much Prog, or (even worse) too much Tech, without maintaining enough Death, and your music could become douchey, masturbatory garbage.

    • Boss the Stoutdrinker Ross

      Well said.

    • CyberneticOrganism

      You are wise, ice zombie.

  • Xinen

    Nice recs, I forgot about Paean. I may get some flak for this but if I want something in this neck of the woods I’d reach for something Swano orientated, Edge of Sanity and Witherscape are great. Granted I prefer his voice over Akerfeldt’s. Opeth does have some neat songs but I’ve never been able to stomach a whole album from them.

    • XXXX Atomic Tongue Hair

      Edge Of Sanity was awesome!

  • XXXX Atomic Tongue Hair

    Fred Durst covering ‘Ace Of Spades’ = GAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH!!!!! GAH GAH GAH GAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHH!

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-ugBsTidCLM

    • more beer

      I never in my life thought I could find this song horrible. Until I saw a minute of this. Fuck he ruined a good song.

      • XXXX Atomic Tongue Hair

        Everything he touches turns into monkey shits. I thought it couldn’t get any worse than Limp Bizkit’s cover of Ministry’s ‘Thieves’. Oh, how wrong I was!

        • more beer

          Absolutely horrifying! He needs to meet this guy. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4D13KjR_Xvc

          • XXXX Atomic Tongue Hair

            LMAO! Hated that movie, but that was one of the few good parts.

          • more beer

            Yet you liked Cabin Boy. Plus hangings to good for him,burning s to good for him. Those 2 things were the first things I thought of when I saw that.

          • XXXX Atomic Tongue Hair

            Like my grandma used to say, he should be shot with shit and hung for stinking.

          • more beer

            Your grandmother was very wise.

          • XXXX Atomic Tongue Hair

            Indeed! The 28th will be one year since she passed away. 🙁

          • more beer

            Sorry man that is a tough anniversary.

          • XXXX Atomic Tongue Hair

            Yeah. Thankfully I’ve had plenty of time to take it in, so I’m pretty sanguine with it nowadays.

          • more beer

            It’s still tough. Glad you are able to find peace with it.

          • XXXX Atomic Tongue Hair

            Thanks, man. 🙂

        • hands off Three Dollar Bill, Y’All

    • CyberneticOrganism

      !!!

  • I found Gwynbleidd a while ago and totally forgot about them! Thanks for reminding me!

    • Paddlin’ Rites ov Beargod

      You’re welcome warrior.

  • Eliza

    I don’t want Opeth to go away! :,(

    • I want them to tour The US this year.

      • Boss the Stoutdrinker Ross

        That’d be nice.

    • BLACKBEARD UNFILTERED

      I dont care for them

      • Eliza

        That’s you, but I like them.

  • BLACKBEARD UNFILTERED
  • A.P.

    I expected this to actually be about Opeth in one sense or another and came to hopefully find the alternatives in the comment section but was pleasantly surprised to find that the article was entirely the answer to the question posed in the first place.