My choices for the BEST OF 2016:
Movie: Don’t Breathe
Music: Evergrey – The Storm Within
Book: Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy
DeeperNET – The Network
Spotted Peccary Music – 2016
The latest CD from DeeperNET (aka Andrew Miles) is a florid creation of sound, beats and musical imagination.
For some reason “Cracking the Code” reminded me of the great score for Tom Tykwer’s Run Lola Run. Once the stomping beat begins to pulsate it’s hard not to go with the flow.
“Vision Quest” plays like computer geek on a rampage searching for the answer to the world’s biggest tech mystery. Keyboards lines run amok, while a constant percussive strikes drives the tune towards the ultimate answer. The dripping keyboard sound is pretty cool an unique.
“Hearts on Fire” felt like was composed by a wicked DJ at some sort of Fashion Show gone mad. I can picture fashion models struggling to match the dynamic groove of propulsive electronica tinged with darkness.
Hearing the fourth track “Satori” brought a smile to my face because three minutes of it was used in the Martial Arts product infomercial I Directed for Super Punch & Kick Target (click to view the commercial). It’s carried by a rhythmic engine of thumping drums and slamming keyboard lines whirling and twirling about.
“Mystic Division” blows in like the cool breeze of a tropical ocean, bringing the fragrance of serenity and peace. The nine and a half minute track definitely has a purpose, but not at the expense of bringing relaxation. I love the bongo or international sounding drum hitting, which was totally unexpected and fitting at the same time. I love the way Miles uses the production technique of making the sound swell wide and then he funnels it down to a point. Very cool approach and displays a musical master at the helm.
I think it would be darn near impossible not to move to the rhythm of “Quadraphilia.” Drums slap in all sorts of ways, while cymbals slink & hit for the 8-minute duration. It’s not hard for DeeperNET to catch you in it’s webbing of melodic techno trance.
You better hurry to jump on the audio train that is the title track, “The Network.” This tune takes off for a nine-and-a-half minute sprint down a sonic pathway of electronic euphoria. Miles switches things up just for the six-minute mark just to make your journey unforgettable.
“Fabrics of the Subconscious” is a conglomeration of sound design and mixed with expert manipulation of a full arsenal of electronic firepower. It even ends with 2 minute slow down to ease you off the this wild ride.
What I found particularly interesting about listening to The Network is how fast it seems to zip by. But the fact is that it’s a 69-minute album that feels half its length. That’s a real testament to DeeperNET and the talented man named Andrew Miles.
Evergrey – The Storm Within
AFM Records – 2016
The keyboard notes that hit during the intro of “Distance” really set the gravity of The Storm Within, which is all built around the concept of love. When the guitars and drums come in 31 second mark, they tag along with the purposeful rhythm established. Tom S. Englund sings with his heart wide open, as there is a vulnerability to his voice that allows him to sing about the deep feeling of affection. I’ve got to say I believe that this is the best playing I’ve ever heard from guitarists Henrik Danhage and Tom Englund. They feel utterly connected to expressing their emotions through their six-string instruments, not just this song, but the entire album. I adored the real dirty-grimy heavy guitar repeat pattern that runs through the song. It’s brilliantly contrasted against the beautiful keyboard and even children’s choir voices later in the song. You should definitely check out the music video by filmmaker Patrick Uuellas, as it visually matches the meaning of the song.
The band kicks things up a notch on “Passing Through.” Like Evergrey’s instrumentation, Englund is more aggressive with his voice. The harmonized guitars keep the rhythmic likability at a maximum. The backing choir-like voices within the mix also take this tune into metallic celestial realm. The vibrato in the guitar playing is tremendous and I love the way Danhage and Englund hand the guitar soloing baton off to each other. I’m pretty certain that the chorus will stay with you long after you listen to this album a few times.
The ambient beginning of “Someday” sets a melancholy mood before the drums hit like a jackhammer. The chorus is gigantic in this third tune and it’s accomplished with the musical environment instead of just producer’s knobs. This takes real talent from a musical writing perspective. I’m quite fond of when the guitars get muted and soft before the chorus returns. I also like when the instruments drop out of the mix while the vocals sing the chorus. Extremely well done.
I completely love how “Astray” begins with the guitars, Johan Niemann’s bass and drums hitting all at once like strategic metal missiles. I had to turn up the volume on my stereo to crank it. The guitar pattern picked is killer and the soft keyboard layered against it is pure genius. Jonas Ekdahl’s drums are addictive and powerful. The lead guitar work is real bluesy and contains deep felt emotion. I couldn’t stop myself from banging my head to the heavy guitar part 4 minutes in. Awesome to say the least.
Rikard Zander’s keyboard in “The Impossible” is touching and a perfect choice to underline Tom S. Englund’s masterful vocals. The inclusion of orchestral touches (strings) gives this song incredible texture and warmth.
Guitars and drums strike like a bolt lightning in the sixth song “My Allied Ocean.” The apocalyptic lyrics sound perfect with the stampeding drums and supercharged guitars. I’m attached to the little guitar rhythmic pattern changes throughout. Zander’s keyboard features a cool sound. Henrik Danhage absolutely kills it on guitar with Tom S. Englund. I’ve got to repeat this is the best guitar playing I’ve ever heard from Evergrey. The Evergrey guitarists always deliver the goods, but this time they’ve taken their expressive playing to another level. They do this in terms of power, feel and just their ability to communicate themselves on a poignant level through the six-string instrument.
The seventh song “In Orbit” features Nightwish vocalist Floor Jansen. But before she does, listen to the keyboard cadence that is guaranteed to hook you. The inclusion of Jansen’s powerful voice boosts the strength of the song even more. Believe it or not the idea of pairing their voices together came from Tom Englund’s wife Carina Englund. Something that I really loved about this song was the guitar rhythm part that sounds like the notes are vibrating from the tremolo bar being hit. Both Danhage and Englund are fantastic playing super heart-rending lead guitar parts. Without question, I hope to see a music video of this.
Jonas Ekdahl sets a real steady drum beat in “The Lonely Monarch.” The guitars are really unique during the beginning of the lead section, when they play a dual harmony at a real high tone. Also cool is the way Danhage and Englund trade-off taking turns the rest of the way. The way the lead guitar echoes out at the end of the solo section and then has the acoustic guitar come in was stunning.
Rikard Zander is amazing with his exquisite keyboard playing in “The Paradox Of The Flame.” The addition of orchestra and slide guitar really makes this song touching and soul deep. Carina Englund sings her heart out with her husband and their duet is, as always a match made in heaven. The solo guitar choices during this track show not only the band’s maturity but willingness to share the musical space (orchestral strings) for the betterment of the song. Filmmaker Patrick Uuellas did a sensational job making the music video for this song.
Tom Englund lets his voice bleed-out completely during “Disconnect.” He proves again why I feel he is absolutely one of the best vocalists in heavy metal. Carina Englund’s backing voice is like an angel floating above the song’s mix. Ekdahl pounds his kit with total conviction. Rikard Zander’s keyboard brings a spiritual calmness to the proceedings. The guitar soloing made the hairs stand straight up on my body because it’s done with such impassioned skill. Danhage and Englund have outdone themselves on this record. I love how the bass comes in and bridges the gap between solo section. The backing female and male voices are simply astounding. What’s so fantastic about the musicality of Evegrey and makes them quite unique, is how they are progressive without being making it feel like they are just trying to impress. Wow, pick me off the floor after I got blown away by this incredible song.
The title track “The Storm Within” wraps the album with devine feel the band is striving for. I believe Evergrey wants the listener to not only visualize their music and lyrics, but to have it seep into your moral core and to affect you on the innermost level.
There’s no way a better album comes out this year than The Storm Within. I found it very telling and interesting when I’ve asked a couple other metal writers what they’ve thought of this album they responded with, “I think Evergrey is my favorite band.” To be honest I’m not surprised Evergrey are making others feel the same way I have felt for many years now.