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User Page: Mike

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Joined 17 years ago
Last Visit 38 minutes ago
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Main Genres Set 2411
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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 18 years ago <Permalink>
Winds - The Imaginary Direction of Time 2004
8.3
Symphonic Experimental Prog Metal
I give this album 3 1/2 stars ... it's an excellent addition to any prog metal collection, but the average prog listener might consider this to be too heavy. I don't mean the level of distortion of the guitars, but the general approach to songwriting and song structure. It seems a bit crude and in my opinion needs much refining.

The album features a string quintet that not only plays a few intros and interludes, but is fully integrated into all of the songs. Together with a piano and clever arrangement, the melancholic songs work tremendously well, but there are some passages where the vocals and guitar riffs seem too heavy and don't fit too well into the concept. Bands like Pain of Salvation do a better job of blending everything together nicely and creating a balance. Also, the band plays metal double-bass rhythms too often, in situations where sparse drums and/or free time would be appropriate.

If you like melancholic metal bands like My Dying Bride combined with authentic classical instruments and progressive elements, this might be something you should check out. At times, they even create a similiarly epic feel like Opeth do.
Review by Mike 18 years ago <Permalink>
Dixie Dregs - California Screamin' 2000
8.2
Instrumental Prog Fusion
The Dixie Dregs are the ultimate Fusion between - well, Fusion and Country. Steve Morse and Rod Morgenstein are the constant elements in their lineup. Violins also play a major part in their music, keyboards are more supporting elements in the background. I'll just list the standaout tracks and tell you what I think about them:
As their regular studio albums are quite hard to find in record stores, I recommend this album as a perfect way of getting to know the world of the Dregs!
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Review by Mike 18 years ago <Permalink>
Porcupine Tree - Staircase Infinities 1994, EP
7.8
Eclectic Prog Rock
This is a very cool and laid back album (EP). It is out of print, but it is included in the recently published re-release of Up The Downstair. I think that it's very good, but not a masterpiece, because - apart from Cloud Zero and Yellow Hedgerow Dreamscape - it is just too mellow and monotonous. A few occasional outbursts of more structured and focussed playing would have done wonders. The only uptempo track (Yellow Hedgerow Dreamscape) is also the most repetitive one.
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Review by Mike 18 years ago <Permalink>
Neal Morse - One 2004
9.5
Epic Retro Prog Rock
This is the second album from Mr. Morse since he left Spock's Beard. In my opinion it is better than the first one (Testimony) in several ways. It's less emotional than Testimony, because it is not autobiographical.
One is a very tight album, and very cleverly constructed. Highlights are Author Of Confusion, which is a very complicated track with lots of breaks, frenzy druming and guitar riffing and Gentle Giant like vocal fugues that have become a trademark of Neal's songs, and The Separated Man, which contains some amazing oriental sounding parts and - as a contrast - is based on acoustic guitars.

All the other songs are brilliant as well. Cradle to the Grave might seem a little cheesy to some (It's a duet sung by God and man), but it is so well done that one can hardly complain about that.

Musicianship is stellar on this album, as is the production. Neal's guitars sound very modern on this album, compared to the fuzzy sound on Testimony. Mike Portnoy does an even better job than on Testimony, giving the songs plenty of room to breathe. As a whole, the album also seems more compact than Testimony - clocking in at nearly 80 minutes, it fits on one CD.
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Review by Mike 18 years ago <Permalink>
Royal Hunt - Paper Blood 2005
7.0
Prog-Related Metal
This is a tremendously well done album. I'm not sure if it satisfies the requirements that some people define for prog music, but it does for me.

The foremost quality of this album is the level of sophistication in every aspect of the music - the production, the songwriting, the arrangements, the vocals etc.. I think that this album is a perfect combination of their previous albums The Mission and Eyewitness. It is much more diverse than The Mission, and much more complex than Eyewitness.

There are many unusual sounds they rarely used before. The only problem for me is that most of the songs are based on standard rock song structures, reminiscent of Deep Purple and Whitesnake. But they add so much complexity, neo-classical interludes, solos etc. that it never get's boring - if you're into that kind of music.
Review by Mike 18 years ago <Permalink>
Royal Hunt - Eye Witness 2003
7.5
Prog-Related Metal
This is a very pleasant metal album. It would be an excellent addition to any metal collection, but it's not really a progressive album like their 90s albums, so they get one star less than they would deserve from a metal standpoint.

The tracks are all quite ok, no fillers. The production is very good, with the guitars and vocals dominating the mix.

There are a few standout tracks: Wicked Lounge has extremely cool lyrics and saxophone, a very laid back track compared to their usual neo-classical prog metal. The Prayer features church organ and majestic vocal arrangements ... their singer is phenomenal. Most of the other tracks are power metal songs with occasional glimpses of neo-classical interludes and solos on synth and guitar.
Review by Mike 18 years ago <Permalink>
Porcupine Tree - Deadwing 2005
8.8
Eclectic Prog Rock
This is a nice "progish" album. It is not a prog masterpiece, because you have to put it in relation to In Absentia and Lightbulb Sun. But it's definitely quite sophisticated, yet easy to listen to, never get's boring, and the melodies really grow on you pretty fast.

I can understand why some people call this alternative, as it has an alternative touch. But Porcupine Tree has always been difficult to describe, a quality that's not uncommon for prog artists. I'd say that this is a good starting point to get to know Porcupine Tree, if you don't mind a rough edge towards prog metal or alternative.

People looking for the Floyd centric mellow records which Porcupine Tree are famous for should go for Sky Moves Sideways or Voyage 34, Deadwing is considerably more heavy.
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Review by Mike 18 years ago <Permalink>
Shadow Gallery - Tyranny 1998
9.2
Technical Neo Prog Metal
This is as well a masterpiece as their latest effort, Room V. Tyranny is often compared to Queensryche's Operation: Mindcrime, but I don't think that this is appropriate. Shadow Gallery is more prog, whereas Queensryche is more mainstream rock/metal. Let me clarify that I love Mindcrime as well and consider it to be a masterpiece, too. But it is more accessible than Tyranny, which takes some more time to grow on you.

Many friends of mine listened to it and then complained about it being boring, and all songs sound the same. It is true that Shadow Gallery (like Symphony X, for that matter) have their own sound, that
they vary a little bit from song to song, but not as much as for example Dream Theater did on Images And Words or Awake.

But Tyranny is about killer melodies (the ballads, Spoken Words), stunning guitar/keyboard acrobatics (Stiletto in the Sand), and interesting and credible lyrics (New World Order). The musicians easily match the qualities of Romeo, Petrucci, Rudess and the likes. The singer is also very nice, although when you first hear the vocals you find the voice a little too unspectacular ... but it grows on you just like the
whole package!
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Review by Mike 18 years ago <Permalink>
Symphony X - The Odyssey 2002
9.2
Technical Prog Thrash Metal
This is a really excellent metal album. The discussion about it being inferior to V or Divine Wings reminds me of the Dream Theater: Train Of Thought discussions. The albums are quite similar in their effects on fans and critics.

I think that while it is not as good as V or Divine Wings, The Odyssey is slightly better than Twilight in Olympus. There are no weak tracks, but apparently some are more prog and some more metal. The
epic, Awakenings and Accolade II are standout prog tracks, ALL of the other tracks are wonderful (power) metal songs.

The band is playing very tight, and - again very much like Train Of Thought - the keyboards not very prominent ... but they're there, it all blends nicely into a power metal onslaught, culminating in a symphonic epic (sadly, the classical instruments are samples).

The limited edition also features the older track Masquerade as a bonus, re-recorded with Russell Allen vocals and a nice symphonic intro.
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Review by Mike 18 years ago <Permalink>
Kamelot - The Black Halo 2005
8.8
Symphonic Prog Power Metal
Simply wonderful. This is their best record to date, and for me is THE masterpiece record that I always hoped Rhapsody would make ... but they didn't, Kamelot did. I give it 4 stars, because although this album has much more progressive moments than the previous Kamelot albums, it is still more Symphonic Power Metal than Progressive Metal. But if you're a Power Metal fan, you can add one star to my rating.

Actually, on this record they managed to incorporate many different approaches to songwriting and
sound. I hear Nightwish influences, very subtle Dream Theater and Symphony X hints in the guitar riffs, and Shadow Gallery is also shining through in the keyboard layering and epic chord progressions. And, of course, Rhapsody. While I love their stuff as well, I was always bothered by the accent of the singer and the cheesy lyrics. None of these problems exist on the Black Halo, except maybe for some latin/italian passages, but they are performed flawlessly.

With all that said, if you're not into symphonic (as in classical) orchestration and operatic singing, you might be a little bit careful ... but if you're looking for an album to begin with in this genre, this album is IT. It's very much better than many of it's direct peers (Therion, Nightwish, Rhapsody) because it has more facets and diversity.

The limited edition is a bit of a let down, because the bonus tracks are merely shorter versions (radio edits) of album songs, but the digipack is quite beautiful.
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Review by Mike 18 years ago <Permalink>
Dream Theater - Train of Thought 2003
8.9
Technical Prog Thrash Metal
This is a good example of a band that made a decision (in this case to make a heavier, more straightforward album, which nonethless is still on a high musical level) which split their fan base in two. Of course it didn't decrease the number of their followers, because even the ones who were pissed of eventually found some ice aspects in the music, and now that Octavarium is about to be released, the wounds are healing nicely.

Now what do I have to say about the music of TOT? It has a very unique charm, but takes more time to settle. I'd say that after 20 times listening to the album from beginning to end, the patient listener will be rewarded, and the killer melodies that strike you instantly on albums like SfaM will become apparent on TOT as well. If you get bored along the way ... you don't have to like this.

This is more metal than prog, but with many twists and the usual stellar musicianship!
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Review by Mike 18 years ago <Permalink>
The Flower Kings - The Rainmaker 2001
7.3
Symphonic Retro Prog Rock
This record introduced me to the Flower Kings. I downloaded the track City of Angels and was struck with awe: Very clever chord progressions, together with totally emotional and inspired vocals, and a very natural use of 11/4 in the verse, captain future style keyboard interludes ... very nice.

It's not the best FK album to start with, although it worked for me. I'd go for Stardust first. It's more diverse than The Rainmaker, which is a bit mellow as a whole (although one of the key aspects of FK/Stolt is dynamics and contrasts).
Review by Mike 18 years ago <Permalink>
Shadow Gallery - Room V 2005
9.1
Symphonic Prog Metal/Rock
This is the Shadow Gallery masterpiece that the fans have been waiting for: A worthy successor of Tyranny, with elements from all their other albums - most prominently Carved In Stone - thrown in ... let me rephrase that: carefully interwoven. The songs are divided in the two acts III and IV, which shows that this is really meant to be the successor to Tyranny.

Listening to the first song the heritage becomes obvious anyway, as it's basically an Overture to the new songs as well as a summary of Tyranny, constructed in a manner similar to the Overture 1928 on Dream
Theater's concept album or the Neal Morse opuses. I don't want to go into too much detail on the music, because it really boils down to being "just" what they did on Tyranny and Carved In Stone, but with lots of fresh ideas and beautiful melodies.

The story picks up pieces of Tyranny, but although I didn't give it much thought (didn't listen and simultaneously read the booklet), it obviously isn't about a new world order, but more about the personal life of the protagonists.

Mr. Arjen Lucassen makes a guest appearance, and tracks 2 and 3 feature beautiful female vocals in the same unusual manner as on Tyranny (quite low registers, I wonder if it's the same singer).

One word about the BONUS DISC: Among some acoustic versions and demos of the Room V songs, there's an absolute highlight: The 25 minute medley Floydian Memories. While it's basically a medley, where typically passages from different songs are put together, this track goes one step further and merges different Pink Floyd tracks in a psychedelic way. Marvelous. Wonderful. Masterpiece.

What a pity that apparently they don't tour ... maybe that changes with them signing on to InsideOut, let's hope so!
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Review by Mike 18 years ago <Permalink>
Ayreon - Universal Migrator 2: Flight of the Migrator 2000
8.8
Heavy Prog Metal
There are no weak songs on this album. The solos are lengthy, but never directionless. However, the whole package does take some time to grow on you. I give it 3 stars, but you might want to add a star if you're a "metalhead".

If you're not a musician, you might indeed find some passages boring and repetitive. It might have
something to do with the fact that many songs contain solos by different artists. If you don't know these artists, you might not recognize the "change of artist". All of the solos are beautiful and relevant - melody in favor of technique and "noodling".

For those that prefer more progressive stuff and a little less metal, I recommend Into the Electric Castle. This is the essence of Ayreon, even more so than The Human Equation. Both are masterpieces, but Into the Electric Castle is more over the top, which really is one of the key aspects of Ayreon. Consider this album as a short "journey" into the heavier realms, only to be topped a few years later by Lucassen's Star One.
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Review by Mike 18 years ago <Permalink>
Dream Theater - Scenes from a Memory 1999
9.5
Technical Experimental Prog Metal/Rock
This really is a masterpiece, a quintessential modern prog rock concept album. There are many people out there who don't consider Dream Theater to be prog at all. IMHO there are many more who do, and I'm one of those open minded people who have understood that there are many different kinds of prog music.

Dream Theater - generally and on this album in particular - focus on structure and virtuosity. The music is always very controlled, refined and thoughtfully laid out. But with all this technical perfection, this album features beautiful melodies as well.

Production also is nearly perfect, I cannot understand people who say otherwise. However, there might still be a chance that you will not like the album (or Dream Theater) at all: The vocals are not everybody's cup of tea, as are the classical and avantgardistic (ZAPPA) influences and lengthy solos.
Review by Mike 18 years ago <Permalink>
Vanden Plas - Beyond Daylight 2002
8.8
Symphonic Prog Metal
This is good stuff. The bands reminds me of Dream Theater, the similarities are obvious. The vocals are different though, at times similar to newer Threshold albums. There are really stellar moments in some of the songs, but the album as a whole is just not inventive enough for me.

But they're trying really hard, musicianship and production are top notch, so they get 4 stars from me, which really are just 3 1/2 stars. Sorry, but DT did it first! Also, the keyboards are - well - underwhelming. They are buried in the mix, and appear too thin and unimportant compared to the Guitars.
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Review by Mike 18 years ago <Permalink>
Fantômas - Suspended Animation 2005
7.8
Experimental Technical Prog Metal
Very nicely done. I give their debut album five stars, because it is really unique and wasn't done before, they really "added to the substance of the universe". This record is a combination of all their previous records, and also quite unique.

You get lots of samples, incoherent riffs, vocal acrobatics and occasional blastbeats ... it's not really prog in a Yes sense, but in a King Crimson meets Slayer meets Mr. Bungle sense. If you're new to Fantomas, I recommend you begin with Director's Cut and then continue with this record or their debut.
Review by Mike 18 years ago <Permalink>
Fantômas - Fantômas 1998
9.0
Avant-Garde Experimental Prog Metal
This is so unique and beyond any reference or tradition, and at the same time performed with such precision and stellar musicianship, that I cannot give this gem any less rating than masterpiece. I still cannot understand how such an album can exist at all, it's unreal. It's such a daunting task to create this weird concept and then to pull it through.

It's not really prog as in Symphonic Progressive Rock epics, rather the very opposite. There are hardly any tracks longer than 2:30, and no mellotron whatsoever, or any keyboards apart from strangely modified hammond samples. But I think that the whole album is an epic of sorts - it surely has recurring phrases, just not in a musical sense.

It surely is the first album I've ever heard to feature vocals throughout, but no lyrics - just vocal acrobatics of the kind that only Mike Patton dares to base albums upon. Add to that the Slayer drums mayhem by Dave Lombardo, and King Buzzo (Melvins), who manages to mogrify his puristic Les Paul & Amp to a similar extent that Patton does voicewise.

If you want to hear something COMPLETELY different, try this!
Comment by Mike
Shadow Gallery - Legacy 2001
8.2
Prog Metal
This is not the best Shadow Gallery album ... but it get's a high score from me because of the brilliant epic and the first track. Colors might be the weakest track, but given some time it begins to grow on you as well.
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Review by Mike 18 years ago <Permalink>
Pink Floyd - The Wall 1979
9.0
English/British Symphonic Neo Prog-Related Rock
IMO this is a masterpiece ... even though there are other Pink Floyd albums that are even better - like Wish You Were Here and Dark Side of the Moon. Those albums are more progressive in many ways and an amazing team effort, whereas this is essentially a Roger Waters solo album. It is also regressive, it might even be considered easy listening by the standards established by their previous albums. But then again progressiveness and musical complexity cannot be the only criteria.
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2022
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Favorite LPs of 2022
1
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14
1-20 of 278  
Porcupine Tree - CLOSURE / CONTINUATION
 #1
9.2
Avant-Garde Prog Rock
Charile Griffiths - Tiktaalika
 #2
9.0
Prog Metal
Pure Reason Revolution - Above Cirrus
 #3
9.0
Prog Metal
Big Big Train - Welcome To The Planet
 #4
9.0
Symphonic Prog Rock
Black Midi - Hellfire
 #5
8.9
Prog Rock in Opposition/Independent
Ghost - Impera
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8.9
Epic Non-Prog Metal/Rock
Ashenspire - Hostile Architecture
 #7
8.8
Prog Post Extreme Metal
The Dear Hunter - Antimai
 #8
8.8
Prog Rock
Pattern-Seeking Animals - Only Passing Through
 #11
8.8
Eclectic Prog Rock
Oceans Of Slumber - Starlight and Ash
 #13
8.6
Prog-Related Rock
Derek Sherinian - Vortex
 #14
8.6
Prog Jazz/Rock
The Michael Schenker Group - Universal
 #15
8.6
Neo Classical Non-Prog Metal
Playgrounded - The Death of Death
 #16
8.5
Prog Post Metal
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 #17
8.5
Prog Post Rock/Metal
Cult of Luna - The Long Road North
 #18
8.5
Prog Metal
Kaprekar's Constant - The Murder Wall
 #19
8.5
Prog Rock
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 #20
8.4
Prog Metal
Playlist
1
2
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131
1-20 of 2613  
Swans - Love of Life 1992
 3 hours ago
7.8
Prog-Related Independent
Ulver - Scary Muzak 2021
 23 hours ago
Wave
Blind Guardian - Nightfall in Middle-Earth 1998
 23 hours ago
9.3
Orchestral Prog Power Metal
Between The Buried And Me - Coma Ecliptic 2015
 one day ago
9.0
Prog Metal
Ulver - Scary Muzak 2021
 2 days ago
Wave
Weezer - SZNZ: Autumn 2022
 3 days ago
7.5
Prog-Related Rock
Witherscape - The Northern Sanctuary 2016
 4 days ago
8.8
Heavy Prog Metal
Anathema - The Optimist 2017
 4 days ago
Anathema - We're Here Because We're Here 2010
 4 days ago
8.9
English/British Atmospheric Prog Rock
Charile Griffiths - Tiktaalika 2022
 4 days ago
9.0
Prog Metal
Pink Floyd - The Dark Side of the Moon 1973
 11 days ago
9.8
English/British Minimalistic Experimental Prog Rock
Blind Guardian - Nightfall in Middle-Earth 1998
 11 days ago
9.3
Orchestral Prog Power Metal
Blind Guardian - Nightfall in Middle-Earth 1998
 11 days ago
9.3
Orchestral Prog Power Metal
Pagan's Mind - Enigmatic: Calling 2005
 11 days ago
8.7
Prog Power Metal
Noekk - The Water Sprite 2005
 12 days ago
8.2
Eclectic Prog Post Rock
Tool - Lateralus 2001
 12 days ago
8.9
Experimental Prog Metal
Steven Wilson - Insurgentes 2009
 13 days ago
8.8
Prog
Symphony X - V: The New Mythology Suite 2001
 13 days ago
9.7
Technical Neo Classical Prog Power Metal
Steven Wilson - Insurgentes 2009
 13 days ago
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