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User Page: Mike

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Joined 17 years ago
Last Visit one hour ago
Ratings Submitted 1809
Main Genres Set 2411
Artists Added 4072
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About Me
I'm the founder of this crazy website ... I hope it's helpful to you in some way!
Contact me Please write me a mail at info@progfreak.com. Contributors can also join progfreak.slack.com for easier communication (ask me for an invite).
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Review by Mike 17 years ago <Permalink>
Dream Theater - Awake 1994
9.4
Technical Experimental Prog Metal
This is my favorite DT album. Images & Words and Scenes are equally perfect from an objective standpoint (if I had to recommend one I wouldn't know which to choose) but this one is best balanced IMO. Scenes has that Rudess influence which moved DT a tiny bit closer to ELP, Images & Words is a tiny bit less "metal" than Awake. On Awake you have it all ... and I really like Kevin Moore's contribution, which adds an - if even only on the subconscious level - experimental and slightly avant-garde feeling, not only on Space-Dye Vest.

In a nutshell this album has all which makes Prog Metal the wonderful genre which it is - if you're into this sort of thing. Of course there are many reasons to dislike it ... outstanding musicianship, crystal clear production, amazing bandwidth of musical styles from soft/acoustic to heavy/thrash, you name it.

The only problems I have with the album are a few passages where LaBrie sings in registers which are on the fringes of what he's capable of - it's a bit better than on I&W though - and the track Lifting Shadows Off a Dream, which is perhaps the earliest example of DT honoring U2 and is simply not a particularly noteworthy song IMO.

But that still leaves us with over an hour of pure masterpiece.
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Comment by Mike 17 years ago
Karrin Allyson - Ballads: Remembering John Coltrane 2001
9.2
Retro Non-Prog Jazz
This is my favorite Jazz album ... the way Karrin Allyson interprets those Coltrane compositions is absolutely amazing. Her vocals sound almost like a saxophone at times, and every little detail fits perfectly. An absolutely essential release!
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Rating by Mike
Spock's Beard - The Light 1994
8.4
Symphonic Retro Prog Rock
What can I say - I love this album. Technically later Spock's Beard albums like V or Snow may be better, but in this case you can't really beat the charm and magic of a debut like this. Even long after Neal had left Spock's Beard the guys still played classics like The Light and Go The Way You Go on stage.

This album is essential to any modern prog rock collection. Having said that, it is a little bit derivative of the classic prog bands of the 70s. Although I personally think that Neal did a really good job and found a very unique way to blend all the influences into his very own, easily recognizable style ... some people disagree.
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Review by Mike 17 years ago <Permalink>
The Gathering - Souvenirs 2003
8.1
Eclectic Prog Post Rock
This album was even more a turning point for The Gathering than How to Measure a Planet. With this album they turn away completely from the kind of music which got them confused with Gothic Metal at the beginning of their career. Instead we get a really modern sound - lots of effects, different instrumentation throughout with the distorted guitar as an important, but not dominant element. The drums are really laid back, often not using the snare drum in favor of brush or rim/stick.
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Review by Mike 18 years ago <Permalink>
The Mistakes - The Mistakes 1995
7.9
Avant-Garde Prog Rock
If you enjoy early Mike Keneally albums like hat., Sluggo! or Boil That Dust Speck, you'll probably love this album. It is not a pure MK album though, Henry Kaiser adds tons of interesting ideas. Some of the stuff is pretty inaccessible for people not used to Jazz improvisation or atonal Avant-Prog though.

About half of the album tracks are short bits of less than one minute ... I'll just comment on the longer tracks. But these bits are not just interludes ... sometimes they contain motifs which are explored in the longer tracks, sometimes they are funny outtake-like clips.
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Review by Mike 18 years ago <Permalink>
Pagan's Mind - Enigmatic: Calling 2005
8.7
Prog Power Metal
This album is a feast for fans of technical excellence. The music is a mix of Pain of Salvation, Dream Theater and many Neo Prog Metal bands ... but Pagan's Mind manage to create their own recognizable style. The guitar work is stunningly accurate and perfectly in sync with the rhythm group, and the vocals are much better than the genre average ... a bit whiny at times and too much in the high registers for my taste though.

The keyboards are in the background and provide for spherical textures more often than duelling with the guitars or taking the helm themselves, so that's a major difference to Dream Theater. They're very present though, and that emphasizes the Neo Prog influences in their sound, while the guitar dominance makes them sound a bit heavier than their peers ... but I wouldn't go so far as to call them Power Metal.
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Review by Mike 18 years ago <Permalink>
Evergrey - The Inner Circle 2004
8.5
Prog Metal
This is an album which takes a little more time to settle than your usual prog metal album. It's about cults and how people get seduced by spiritual leaders and get drawn into something which they can't control anymore. In the liner notes the band even cautions the listener about the seriousness of the music ... and it really is quite intense and emotional.

Much of the intensity has to be credited to their singer, who does a tremendous job. The vocals are not for everyone though, they remind some people of 80s hair metal bands, which is a connection that I can't reproduce at all. Composition and musicianship is excellent throughout, as is the production and sound. I rate this album 4.5 stars, and it is heavily recommended to fans of Pain of Salvation or Riverside. Evergrey have a heavier sound than those bands though.
Review by Mike 18 years ago <Permalink>
Tool - Lateralus 2001
8.9
Experimental Prog Metal
This is a real masterpiece of prog metal ... a genre defining album. I won't go into too much detail in this review, maybe I'll expand it later on. The foremost quality of this album is its unbelievably focused and determined approach - Tool are a quite popular band, but they make absolutely no compromises here. Every little bit is carefully arranged, and the subtle mathematic implications of the rhythmic changes are stunning and never seem uncalled for or out of place. The result is a complex work of art, which is up there with albums like Larks Tongues or A Pleasant Shade of Gray.

This is an absolutely essential album in every prog collection ... even if you don't like prog metal, you should at least have heard this album.
Review by Mike 18 years ago <Permalink>
Therion - Vovin 1998
5.0
Orchestral Prog-Related Metal
A mediocre album ... any Rhapsody album is at least 10x better in terms of musicianship and proper implementation of classical music. There are also many metal bands which are generally considered to be less progressive, for example Blind Guardian, who do a much better job than Therion. It's hard to believe that this is even considered to be one of their better albums ...
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Review by Mike 18 years ago <Permalink>
Adagio - Underworld 2003
8.7
Orchestral Neo Classical Prog Power Metal
Summary: This is a masterpiece. A perfect blend of prog metal with an agressive edge and classical music. It's really different from bands like Rhapsody who try to create the impression that there is a fully fledged orchestra playing. Although Adagio also do this occasionally, they mainly use piano and strings/synth/effects which create a rich, polyphonic experience. Usually there are one guitar, one pianist and underlying strings - and of course the bass and vocals.

I won't mention each song here - they are all really outstanding, not at all derivative of bands like Symphony X and Dream Theater. Many rhythmic extravaganzas, purely classical piano interludes by maestro Andersson and stunning guitar solos by Mr. Forte. What I like most about this album is the diversity of the songs which at the same time really work as a whole, every little melody seems to be vital, nothing uncalled-for or forced. The vocals are more than a match for the best vocalist of the genre - namely Russell Allen of Symphony X.
Review by Mike 18 years ago <Permalink>
Steve Vai - The Ultra Zone 1999
8.9
Prog-Related Rock
This is a stellar release from one of the best and - at the same time - most underrated guitarists ever. Two common preconceptions about Vai are that his primary asset is technical prowess and speed, and that his playing and songwriting lack emotions. Well, on this album he again proves that both assumptions are wrong.

This album is not for the faint of heart - I'm sure that many people will not be able to get into it. Steve Vai is a guitarist, and of course all the songs have lengthy guitar solos. But the reason for giving this album 4 stars on a website for progressive music is that here he goes way beyond other shred guitarists. Joe Satriani's Engines of Creation has a similar concept, but The Ultra Zone is like ten times more adventurous and bizarre. You can hear his Zappa influences throughout the album, not just on the
song "Frank". The whole album is a mixture of weird Avant-Prog and cool Jazz-Metal- Fusion - except for a few songs which are not very progressive, and that is the only reason for me not giving this album 5 stars.
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Review by Mike 18 years ago <Permalink>
Heaven's Cry - Food for Thought Substitute 1997
9.2
Eclectic Technical Prog Metal/Rock
This is a prog metal gem. Unfortunately these incredible musicians are far less popular than they should be, as their albums easily compete with the best works of Pain of Salvation or Shadow Gallery. At the same time, they are also very different. They have an unique approach to songwriting, most of the time far from the usual metal structures. This band might be really something for prog fans who dislike prog metal because of the rigid form and structure of most metal styles. That doesn't mean that they're not heavy though - the band has three guitarists.

The vocals are truly amazing - they have three vocalists and make as heavy use of them as of the guitars, so most of the time, all three of them are singing. The lyrics are also really clever. Generally, Heaven's Cry lyrics deal with social issues, environmental pollution and other serious problems. But they're going about it in a mystic and really artsy way. The production is great - they created a good balance between guitars and vocals in the mix. Also, you can always hear the bass guitar - Auclair plays with a plectrum most of the time, and the bass has a life of its own on their albums, unlike many other prog metal bands where the bass doubles the rhythm guitar most of the time. The original CD pressing suffers a little bit from digital distortion (clipping) - you can purchase a remastered edition from their website.
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Review by Mike 18 years ago <Permalink>
Kevin Gilbert - The Shaming of the True 2000
9.2
Eclectic Prog Rock/Pop
This is an incredible concept album about the music business. Kevin Gilbert truly was an imaginative person, and a multitalent on many instruments. On another website someone stated that he could pick up any instrument and play it nearly instantly - and knowing his music, I'm inclined to agree.

I won't go into too much detail on what his beef was with the music industry - suffice it to say that he wrote a lot of songs on Sheryl Crow's debut album and wasn't even mentioned in the liner notes. Having said that, let me assure you that The Shaming of the True doesn't even remotely sound like Sheryl Crow ...

On this album Kevin is mainly backed up by Nick D'Virgilio, who is also a multi instrumentalist to no lesser degree - well, maybe just a tiny bit less. Anyway, every instrumental part is done flawlessly, and at the same time with great passion and ambition. Production is top notch, and the mix is very open, with very little compression. I apologize for the length of this review, but one of the most intriguing aspects of this album are the lyrics, and I just had to quote some passages.
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Review by Mike 18 years ago <Permalink>
Roine Stolt - Hydrophonia 1998
8.9
Instrumental Prog Rock
This is a remarkable solo album. Like The Flower King, this album obviously sounds much like the Flower Kings, as they are mainly based on Stolt's songwriting. Let me rephrase that - This album sounds like the essence of the Flower Kings. It's so full of beautiful melodies, interesting and sometimes funky rhythms, and very dynamic. Every theme is fully developed and explored here, a quality that many similar albums lack.
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Review by Mike 18 years ago <Permalink>
Power of Omens - Rooms of Anguish 2003
7.8
Technical Prog Metal
Power of Omens are a really small band. Their albums are mainly available from their website. It's a pity, because they put tremendous efforts into those albums. This is highly complex Progressive Metal that can rival the most complex bands of the genre, like Cynic, Watchtower or Spiral Architect. Ironically, that is also a drawback in case of this album, because I think that they went a little over the top here ... on their previous album, they had a better balance between complexity and simple parts.

Musicianship is stellar, and the vocals are outstanding - the singer sounds very much like Geoff Tate in certain passages, great range and volume in the lower registers.

The production is not as good as it should be - but you can't hold that against them, as they are not a full time band, and don't have a big record company to support them.
Review by Mike 18 years ago <Permalink>
Chroma Key - Dead Air for Radios 1998
8.2
Minimalistic Prog Post Rock/Electronic
Kevin Moore obivously chose to do something completely different when he left Dream Theater. I think the term Space Rock fits best, although this has nothing to do with Pink Floyd, I don't even think there's any guitar involved. On second thought - there are guitars involved, but only in the background. The main instrument on this album is the piano, and lot's of keyboard textures - and samples.

It all creates a soothing ambience of sound. Moore's voice get's a little dull sometimes, he rarely uses any advanced phrasing technique - it's a strange mix of talking and singing. That - and the lyrics - remind me of Roger Waters a little bit.

I give this album 4 1/2 stars - I really can't put my finger on it, but something is missing for this to be a masterpiece. It's very good though, and really deserves to be more popular among prog fans than it apparently is.
Review by Mike 18 years ago <Permalink>
Dead Soul Tribe - Dead Soul Tribe 2002
7.7
Experimental Prog Metal
"We were somewhere around Barstol, on the edge of the desert, when the drugs began to take hold ..."

This quote from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas kicks of a roller coaster ride of what I would call Psychedelic Metal. The whole album sounds a bit like it's predecessor - Bleeding by Psychotic Waltz (Dead Soul Tribe is the solo project of Devon Graves, who was the singer of Psychotic Waltz under the pseudonym of Buddy Lackey).

In many aspects, this is much evolved compared to Bleeding. It seems more refined, there's more happening simultaneously. Each instruments simply receives more attention and the whole album has a lot more atmosphere. All of that makes it just more progressive than Bleeding.

All in all, I'd recommend this album to all fans of Sabbath-inspired metal, and it's fairly progressive - not in terms of complexity, but in terms of feel, and sophistication.

Powertrip : This song reminds me of Led Zeppelin's Achilles Last Stand, but the Rob Zombie - like vocals and the heavy chorus make it quite unique.

Coming Down : I love that ultra-low guitar riff in the intro. This track is a perfect example of the sublime, hypnotic Dead Soul Tribe formula. Devon's vocals are much evolved compared to his PS aera, he screams less often. He concentrates on melody and phrasing instead, which is a very good thing.

The Haunted : after some sphaerical keyboard textures, a hefty guitar riff kicks in. The verse again heavily relies on Devon's voice. It really has a "haunting" quality to it, and Devon's guitar work complements it perfectly.

The Drowning ... -> show full review
Review by Mike 18 years ago <Permalink>
Enchant - A Blueprint of the World 1991
8.1
Neo Prog Rock
This is simply a beautiful, timeless album. Most people have one problem with Enchant: On all their albums they managed to maintain a certain characteristic sound and never strayed far from it. As a result some people miss development and "progression". But I have no problem with that - their sound is fine. It's instantly recognizable, and instead of changing their sound, they focus on writing good songs.
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Review by Mike 18 years ago <Permalink>
Psychotic Waltz - Bleeding 1996
8.0
Experimental Stoner Prog Metal
This is an amazing album, unfortunately the last that this awesome band made before they split up. It's somewhat different from their other albums, a little more relaxed and not as complex as A Social Grace or Into The Everflow. But I like it very much, and I gave it 3 stars because the other Psychotic Waltz albums are a bit better, and some tracks on Bleeding are not very progressive, but just plain metal. Still, they're very good. All in all, the album will not disappoint Psychotic Waltz fans, but is not essential for the general prog fan. Fans of Sabbath-inspired Metal can add one star to my rating.

From all the Psychotic Waltz albums, this is the one that's most similar to the music of Dead Soul Tribe, the band that the Psychotic Waltz singer founded after they split up (Devon Graves/Buddy Lackey). Having said that, it's clear that it's also not as complex as masterpieces like A Social Grace and Into The Everflow.
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Review by Mike 18 years ago <Permalink>
Devin Townsend - Infinity 1998
8.9
Prog Metal
As Devin notes in the liner notes: This album was a tremendous effort, extremely difficult to make. In order to fully appreciate it, you have to listen to it on a good hifi system. Many tracks were used, and on this album Devin really begins with his massive layering of sounds - dozens of instruments playing the same, creating a wall of sound.

The tracks are all great, and the ONLY reason for not giving this 5 stars is that Terria is even better ... so consider this a 4 1/2 star review. The tracks are all very different, every track sets a different mood.
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Favorite LPs of 2022
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Playlist
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131
1-20 of 2613  
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