No Gods or Kings

My name is Anton, I'm a college student in San Diego. I study your brain. That's right, YOUR brain. This is what I listen to.

This is one of my favorite recent finds in the progressive metal genre.  Irepress, a quintet like my true love Isis, excels in a beautiful yet brutal progression.  Diaspora is the opener track of their newer album, Sol Eye Sea I.  Their first release, Samus Octology, was actually a self-produced album that was then picked up by a label, refined, and then re-released.  The end result was a polished, refreshing piece of work that does well to remind us all that progressive music is not dead— but rather, alive, kicking, and rocking out harder than ever.  This track in particular is a beautifully done, multi-movement progression incorporating elements of post-rock,  post-metal, and post-hardcore techniques to create a dynamic buffet of musical talent.  I almost see this song as Irepress trying to show off just how much variety and talent they’re capable of, and I can’t say I mind one bit.

Animals As Leaders - Isolated Incidents

This song is something beyond progressive— if anything, it reminds me of the blooming genre of math rock. I would say that Animals as Leaders is the only example of math metal that I know of.  Every part in this three-piece band has its own amazingly intricate and technical explosion of musical talent, with the crescendos taking off together in a tag-team jump-start straight into orbit.  No two parts of this song are alike— the idea of a chorus is out the window, along with any semblance to traditional metal formulas.  The heavy hitting bass pedal leaves no room for error, however…this is most certainly a metal band.  Guitarists Tosin Abasi and Javier Reyes make their 8-strings wail with the precision formerly restricted to symphonic violinists, building higher and higher the mountain of notes with which to elevate the listener to a different level of instrumental appreciation. This band is the personification of “I didn’t know that instrument could do that.” 

Jeremy Soule - Morrowind Theme

In light of Skyrim’s recent release (and it is fantastic, by the way), I was taken back to my days of playing Morrowind and being in awe of how amazing the music was.  Jeremy Soule is one of my favorite composers of all time— and it’s an absolute wonder that he can pull it all off with a fully synthesized orchestra.  This might not be a staple song of mine, but it’s an old favorite and one dear to my heart nonetheless.   I can’t help but be taken back to the old feelings of adventure and fantasy that enthralled me so much when I was younger.  This theme is short, simple and sweet.  It tells you everything you need to know about the journey you’re about to embark on as the player— you can almost see the world flowing around you as the symphony picks up and spills over the edges.

Sky Architects - This Day On Our Side

Post Rock with lyrics! It can’t be! But it is.  I recently discovered Sky Architects and I must say that they’ve impressed me thus far— sounding like a mix between a heavier incarnation of Explosions in the Sky and the vocal elements of a more impassioned, softer, and slower All-American Rejects. As with everything in a proper post-rock song, the vocals are minimalist, always taking a backseat to the instrumentation. Delicate piano notes can be heard underneath the pounding drums in the crescendo, and as the heaviness fades the airy guitar riffs and gentle undertones linger in the void left post-explosion.  Gentle when appropriate, powerful when necessary. I’ll be keeping my eye on Sky Architects.

Forest Swords - Miarches

You owe it to yourself to listen to this in better quality than is available on youtube. A far stretch from ordinary, Forest Swords is a band that I admittedly know little about.  But I don’t need to in order to appreciate the originality in their album, Dagger Paths.  It’s hard to even think of how to begin describing this song. It has almost an Animal Collective vibe to it, with odd samples coming in over a delicate yet prominent beat. Everything about this has an organic, ethereal vibe— like listening to a choir of forest spirits playing with a KORG. The vocals arc over delicately balanced tones to create more of a musical wave rather than a solidly structured song.  Everything ebbs and flows with a natural current as the sounds layer over one another seemingly forever, drawing you into a surreal world, painted from the distant echoes of once-familiar instruments. 

Isis - Stone to Wake a Serpent

I will get this out of the way first— I’m biased beyond all reason when it comes to Isis.  I love this band and their music more than practically any other.  Raw, powerful, hypnotic and seeping with atmosphere, their every album has been a delectable audio treat.  Sadly, they are no longer together and as such this release was their last.  Wavering Radiant represented an apex of Isis’ progressive inclinations, with song length exceeding seven, eight minutes on most tracks.  Isis is known for their minimalist approach to weaving sounds together into something more intricate and encompassing than should be possible with the simple elements involved.  This is a band in which each song transcends the sum of its parts, and becomes a complete odyssey through the audio-temporal world.  The growling vocals are reduced somewhat in Wavering Radiant than in previous releases, but are still present.  They are however, interspersed with more of the cleaner vocals introduced on In The Absence of Truth— a delicate balance between harsh, guttural rasping and a smooth, lulling vocal presence.   This song takes me places.

Giant Squid - Mating Scars

Giant Squid is a hard band to classify, this song even more so.  A slightly dissonant string intro gives it almost a middle eastern feel, as do the background vocalists as they fade in and out behind the heavy oceanic tones of the guitars.   I don’t know whether to classify it as Doom or Drone— it’s a bit of both.  But if you think that you don’t care for one or the other, this would be the song to change your mind.

Fleet Foxes - Mykonos

Folksy, atmospheric, peaceful.  It’s hard not to drift off to sleep to this.  A masterful use of harmony, instrumental variety and song progression to create a complete sensation of being enveloped in something beautiful in its simplicity— though the musicianship is far from simple.  

Mastodon - The Sparrow

This song is an atmospheric kind of progressive metal, filled with layered textures of both grit and beauty. One of my all-time favorites- and for good reason.  Mastodon’s latest album, The Hunter, is dedicated to the death of the lead singer Brent Hinds’ brother in a hunting accident.  It represents a new direction, a new way of breaking from the niche that Mastodon had built for itself with the previous four elemental concept releases.  The Sparrow is every intense, painful and ecstatic emotion compressed into song, strained through distortion to create the same raw power that the band mastered with Blood Mountain— then projected into the realm of the ethereal with airy, sighing vocals taken from Crack The Skye.  It flows like the water of Leviathan and sears the soul like the flames of Remission. The Sparrow is the culmination of every element in Mastodon’s repertoire coming together to express the raw, human passion that is such an integral part of love, loss, and life.  And through it all, it has one message, simple yet elegant among the soundscapes.


RX Bandits - Only For The Night

So this one is a jazzy, mathy sort of reggae ska. Hard to really classify, but the drums alone make the song, and it’s catchy on top of that. RX Bandits is one of my favorite new bands, introducing a technically impressive and musically stunning twist to what most would consider to be a mostly tapped out ‘sound’. With guitars, a drumset, a bass and keyboards this band manages to create an entirely unique texture to every song while maintaining a greater sense of style and purpose.