Archive for Alt. Prog. Rock

Marko Hietala – Pyre of the Black Heart

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on 19th January 2020 by Mickelrath

Marko Hietala

Pyre of the Black Heart

Heavy Metal, Progressive Rock

Released: 24th January 2020

via Nuclear Blast Records

I have never claimed to be the biggest fan of Nightwish. However, I have always appreciated the vocal talents of Marko Hietala. He’s a spectacular singer and musician. So, imagine my surprise to find out that he’s releasing his debut solo album this year. Pyre of the Black Heart is a pretty mixed bag of material. I guess he wanted to throw a bunch of different styles at the wall to see what stuck. The album is a mix of prog-rock, heavy metal and some clear folk inspiration here and there. It feels quite personal and hits pretty hard.

Right from the opening track “Stones” Marko shows everything that he’s trying to do on the album. You can really feel that forceful presence that has made him such a fantastic performer over the years. The tone of his vocals is damn-near perfect and really hit you in the gut. Songs like “The Voice of My Father” and “I Dream” grab your attention and the emotion just took hold of me when I was listening. The production is simply outstanding with every part of the arrangement shining. The bombastic bass and drums, with the heavy electric guitar, is really gut-busting and coupled with Marko’s pure intense vocal performance really made this a larger than life album. Even the quieter, acoustic sections hit hard due to the purity and richness of the production.

His use of poetic license suits this music well. The weary and emotional language used kept me engaged throughout. It’s almost like dark-twisted lullabies in the quieter sections. The heavier moments it feels like dark prog-rock epics of the past. The passion and conviction that this album presents certainly delivers, with Marko giving his all with his commanding and forceful voice. It gives the words a great sense of urgency and left me speechless at times.

I think if you like rock or metal music of any sort you’ll like something here. It’s progressive rock without the fluff, folk-rock without going overboard, heavy metal with more complexity and almost has a stoner rock vibe to the riff. I think the only thing that most people wouldn’t like about the album is that it moves a little slow. There aren’t many songs with a lot of vibrant energy, the one exception being “Runner of the Railways” which definitely rocks. It’s definitely an album that takes some time to digest. I mean, it’s not a power metal or thrash metal record. So, if you’re looking for something with a lot of fast-paced, in your face metal, then this isn’t for you. However, I think there’s enough energy and heaviness that most rock and metal fans will be impressed.

Overall, a solid album from a man that has earned his place in the annals of heavy metal history. If you’re in the mood for something powerful and captivating, then this might be right up your ally.


Mick Birchall

Solstice Coil – Natural Causes [2011]

Posted in Review with tags , , , on 17th November 2011 by Nico Solheim-Davidson, the North Sea Poet

Band: Solstice Coil
Album: Natural Causes
Release year: 2011
Genre: Alt. Rock/Prog. Rock

Israel has never really being noted for its music scene – Especially the rock scene – But now a new band have emerged on the scene known as Solstice Coil. Being Israel’s first alt-prog-rock band, they are set to bring exposure to Israel’s diverse music scene. Their first album, Paper Cuts, which was released in ‘05 was well received by both the media and the public.

“Questions Irrelevant” begins the album with the sounds of telephones ringing and people talking. The drums and guitars soon enough replace the sound samples, creating a raw, melodic sound. The vocals are soft and mystifying, like the soothing effect a lullaby has on a baby. The song has a few changes through out its progression but none of the changes ruin the song or its composition values. The guitar solo that acts as the outro is brilliant but it does feel as if it was place in the wrong section. “Outcome Inevitable” seems to carry on from where “Questions Irrelevant” finished. The song feels more like a progressive-meets-jazz track before it turns into a heavier rock composition.

The third track “Fall Schedules” starts with a very alternative based introduction. Like the first track, the vocals appear in the softer track for the most part though when the guitars turn heavier, the vocals do make a few appearances. The combination of the usual instrumentation of guitars, bass and drums coupled with some other sounds makes for an interesting experience for the ears. The slightly more melodic-yet-softer guitar riff eases the listener into the track entitled “I Know”. The drum work is weak on this track, as are the guitars, leaving the vocals being the only strong point of the song. “Human Again” has a slower approach to the music. The drums do well to adapt to the progression of the song. The vocals are soft and harmonious, very easy on the ears.

Though it has somewhat of a grim and macabre name, “Singalong Deathtrap” is certainly not a grim track. Though it starts slow, the tempo soon increases, making the song feel more energetic and powerful. The vocal work is much more diverse, featuring a mix of high and low notes. The keyboard sections certainly add a unique sound to the music as well whilst the guitar solo adds that final perfect detail. The sound of vocals and acoustic guitars usher in the next song “Walking Graveyards”. If acoustic guitars aren’t your cup of tea, you’re in some form of luck as the track features the use of electric guitars as well. In one part, the synth section sounds almost jazzy. “Too Many Regrets” has a somewhat soft-Goth feel and sound at the beginning, which is no doubt created by the synths. While it’s a good effect, it doesn’t work with the guitars, leading the listener to be tempted to press the skip button. The vocals however save the track from total devastation.

“Moral Oxidation” is a mediocre song with nothing standing out too much to make it something superb. “Replacing People” has a good intro, being composed of a piano and a melodic guitar section. The vocals, when combined with the piano, make the song sound like an 1920s love song from the States. The guitar solo is a welcome break in the song for those who aren’t a fan of pianos. “Designed Instincts” brings the rock back to the album, though in what sounds to be a palm muted way at the beginning. The guitars are raw sounding but strong, as are the drums. The vocals keep the alternative sound flowing through the song as well. The album comes to an end in the form of none other than “Recipe For Eternity”, which begins with a combination of melodic guitar work and violins which are eventually joined by the vocals. The song progresses into a very dramatic song due to the use of violins coupled with the guitars and drums. The organ-synth sounds do take something away from the song however, making it less enjoyable.

”Natural Causes” requires a few listens before one can make a proper judgement if they’re not used to alternative progressive rock. Solstice Coil have proven themselves to be a talented band with some well constructed songs and catchy riffs, though there are parts of “Natural Causes” that do still need some work. Regardless, the band are certainly paving the way for the next generation of rock bands in Israel and potentially the world.


Nico Davidson