The Metal Years
I can't speak for anyone else who enjoys metal, but I think that prog metal is completely and totally wonderful, when done in a rockin' manner. I love the complexities and odd time changes, the incredibly intricate guitar work, and the overall high level of musicianship often found in prog metal bands. With that said, I'm very happy to say that this compilation is a hot slab of prog metal goodness! Let's discuss...
The album opens with "Demon of the Fall" by Opeth. With furiously growled vocals, warm and inviting buzzsaw guitars, and an incredibly well-done production quality, this song pounds the listener over the head for the first four minutes, only to subside into a weird, trippy sounding outtro with sung vocals.
Oh baby, Fates Warning and their sick guitars are up next, with "Nothing Left to Say." This track sounds A LOT like Rush when they were in their prime and not using keyboards. The drummer does all kinds of weird trills on his hi-hat, and the beat he thumps out induces involuntary swaying from the listener. After about two minutes, the band switches up and begins to sound like Queensryche, circa Empire (that's a good thing).
The Gathering gives us one of the least "metal" songs on the album, "Liberty Bell." Nonetheless, the song rocks very hard, in spite of a very annoying synthesizer that makes weird noises, as if it were mad at me. The guitars are heavily overdriven, the drums are big in a Led Zepplin kind of way, and the lead singer, a girl, has a very powerful voice, both sweet and aggressive.
Getting back to the metal side of things, Jag Panzer deliver a crushing chunk of hottness with "Take to the Sky." It's hard to believe that this song was recorded within the last two years, because the song sounds totally like early-'80s Iron Maiden.
Yngwie Malmsteen reminded what was bad about the 1980s with his track "Prophet Of Doom": overly theatric metal. This is terribly over the top, operaticly sung cheese metal. YUCK!
To make it two in a row, White Skull does their best to bring back the ghost of Skid Row on "Time For Glory." The singer sounds like Sebastian Bach and the music is generic, fast-paced metal.
Thank God for Angel Dust! "The Human Bondage" is a heavy crusher, sounding similar to Peace Sells...-era Megadeth. The song is incredibly heavy in all facets and is a definite high point for this comp. The end of the song even features some blast beats and speed picking!
Holy crap! "Astronomica" by Crimson Glory is one of the corniest songs I've ever heard! The lead singer sounds almost EXACTLY like Mark Slaughter of Slaughter fame! The song features a way too long intro with mandolins and stuff. Skip this one entirely.
Steel Prophet's "Burning Into Blackness" isn't much better. This is way too dramatic and just doesn't rock enough to even be called metal. Too much whining!
Ayreon offer up another song that isn't really metal! "The Dream Sequencer" is just five minutes of weird, trippy noises with synthesizers chirping around and occasional light guitar work.
"I Love the World," by Anacrusis, takes us back to the metal. "I Love the World" is what prog metal is all about: complex guitars, equally complex drum beats, and the singer being relatively obscured by the instruments. This song is an up tempo number that rocks all the way through.
Iced Earth's "The Funeral" is a two-minute long acoustic guitar track.
The last track is from Stratovarius, and features vocals so absurd and corny that they totally ruin the entire song; he thinks he's Ronnie James Dio.
In closing, this compilation is totally worth the money. It's really long and most of the songs rock. There's a lot worse things you could do with your money than buy this!
Spitfire Records: http://www.spitfirerecords.com