Within each metal subgenre, whether obscure or mainstream, there are certain bands that are considered essential. In order to call yourself a fan or follower of that subgenre, you must like the essential band or bands, or else other fans won’t recognize you as a true fan. Some call this tendency elitist, and I agree to a small degree, but the standard exists nonetheless, especially in the more cerebral subgenres. Jazz fusion comes to mind today, as it is only utilized by a select few technical metal acts. In this style, two bands are required for anyone wishing to call themselves a fan, and both bands continue to have oddly similar parallel careers.
Cynic and Atheist both rose from the death metal craze of the mid-to-late ’80s to become something more than what had become the expected standard. Both bands have utilized jazz fusion melded with progressive metal to create wholly unique styles by which all newer bands are judged. Both groups released albums in the early ’90s that are landmarks in the genre (Focus for Cynic and Unquestionable Presence for Atheist). Both disbanded in the early ’90s, only to reunite in 2006 to create new material. At this point, both groups have been whittled down from their original lineups to two core members and several studio/touring stand-ins. And at this point, it’s easy to say that both bands are still creating timeless music that will influence many bands to come. With that in mind, let’s move on to today’s list, led by a new Cynic EP that is sure to leave many fans clamoring for more.
Cynic, Carbon-Based Anatomy (Season of Mist)
This new EP takes a different approach than Cynic’s previous work. While instrumental breaks are nothing new to the group, three of the six songs on the EP are instrumentals, which is a major shift in the formula. And while the album is a continuous piece that includes the instrumentals as part of its overarching composition, they likely won’t attract as much attention as the three standard tracks. I agree with our buddy Axl over at MetalSucks in his review of the EP. Carbon-Based Anatomy is an exciting and outstanding addition to Cynic’s discography, only serving to create more excitement for any further new material they have in the works.
White Wizzard, Flying Tigers (Earache)
White Wizzard continues to have a tumultuous career, unable to stabilize their lineup in and around touring or recording. Although Flying Tigers features singer Wyatt Anderson (who also sang on last year’s Over the Top), he left the band for the second time after the recording of the album, and was replaced once again by ex-Cellador frontman Michael Gremio. However, the lineup shifts have not diminished the songwriting abilities of the band, as evidenced by the rave reviews that the album is already receiving. I can safely say that after seeing the band open for Firewind and Arsis last month, the reviews are definitely accurate overall. Traditional metal fans will get excited by this album and its stylistic homage to Dio and Iron Maiden.
Sonata Arctica, Live in Finland (Nuclear Blast)
2011 marks the 15th anniversary of Sonata Arctica, one of the most prolific and productive power metal groups that Finland has ever turned out. Their career has been a constant evolution, always striving to create more than their previous recordings. Such a legacy was honored at a home show in Oulu, Finland on April 15th, and that event is now available for the entire world to experience. Live in Finland has the full show from Oulu on one DVD, a second DVD loaded with documentaries, music videos, more live performance footage, and other goodies, and two extra CD’s loaded with live tracks. This is meant to be a celebration of Sonata Arctica’s history, and it does that extremely well. It also creates even more anticipation for the group’s next release, planned for release in the first half of 2012.
Hypocrisy, Hell Over Sofia: 20 Years of Chaos & Confusion (Nuclear Blast)
In a direct follow-up to their ten year anniversary album (which also utilized the subtitle “Chaos & Confusion”), Hypocrisy is back with another landmark collection of material to commemorate two decades of musical battery. Their 20 year anniversary show took place at the legendary Bluebox in Sofia, Bulgaria in February 2010, where the group spanned their entire discography to deliver an unforgettable set of classics and new favorites. This show was recorded and is the main feature of this release, taking up two CD’s and much of the DVD. There is also a documentary on the band’s history on the DVD, in addition to some other extras. It may be awhile before Peter Tägtgren and Co. are ready to unleash 30 Years of Chaos & Confusion on the masses, but until then, we can count on the melodic death metal veterans to continue making incredible music for their devoted fans.
Also being released this week:
Coliseum, Parasites (Temporary Residence)
Esoteric, Paragon of Dissonance (Season of Mist)
Taake, Noregs Vaapen (Candlelight)
Vile, Metamorphosis (Willowtip)
Wolves at the Gate, We Are the Ones (Solid State)
Pianos Become the Teeth, Lack Long After (Topshelf)
Next Week: We have a lot of reissues and compilations in store, the most exciting of which comes from a group that the world was unsure would ever come back just a year ago. A triumphant return is just seven days away, so be ready!