So, Heavy Prog, Progressive Metal, Prog Metal, any of those do? Having never given the genre any thought or consideration because I never really thought the twain shall meet but some of the following are considered to be some of the best in business; “Queensryche“, “Fates Warning“, “Mastodon“, “Opeth“, “Symphony X“, and of course, “Dream Theater“. I can see elements of Progressive Rock in the traditional sense in a couple of these bands but not everything but who am I to say right? It’s a whole genre unto itself but as a facet of a more populous genre. So I came across this band, “Abigail’s Ghost” on a dare to myself to listen to something new from reading an issue of Prog Rock Magazine and was caught off guard by what I heard as I wasn’t expecting the sounds to come through my speakers as such. Impressed and hooked on them because prior to this I hadn’t been growing attached to any of the others in the sub-genre of Progressive Metal.
Now the recipe does change a little here because it’s not Prog in the traditional or classical sense but in a heavier sense of…metal. I will admit I love my hard rock and metal, personal favs; Motorhead, Black Sabbath(Ozzy and Dio), old Metallica, DownRiver, Fusskalt to name a few but this band, Abigail’s Ghost is Prog AND metal combined. “Selling Insincerity” was released in 2007 unknown to me and I wish i had of known about it then, would of had it that day! Sadly the internet did not live in my house in 2007, it only arrived here about seven years ago! Since then I have procured all of the band’s albums and live at Rosfest as they are a well rehearsed band so without further ado let’s dig in to this album.
“Mazurka” a simple street vendor song to welcome you to the procession with what sounds like an old record playing. A local minstrel playing a hurdy gurdy on the street corner only to be interrupted by the mayhem of an angry guitar riff busting in with the rest of the band quickly behind also forcing their way in. “Close“, the song does what a lot of Prog Metal/Hard Rock does where the intro is massive and then calms down for the vocals to segue their way in. Altering the timbre, a good first ingredient to the Prog recipe well applied. The song’s chorus riffs build up a heavier sense to the song and the replay riff from the introduction comes before the chorus again which is a common theme to add in but nearer to the end the drums ad lib some double kick in giving it a bit more punch. “Waiting Room” follows up next with a slightly softer introduction than Close did and has a groove vibe feel to the way it jangles in to the song, very Porcupine Tree sounding definitely. The solo with a great 60’s fuzz tone to it rips in as fast as it fades out letting loose the feel of tightness but yet it creeps back in in spots to help fill out the track nicely. The album immediately grabs your attention and keeps you there as the music is good, really good and the band is certainly tight and done their homework for they don’t leave any sauces out of the mix. “Love Sounds” clearly has facets and inspirations of the “Gothic” (i.e. N.I.N., The Cure, Dead Can Dance) movement of the 90’s with it’s clear completely mechanical feel and sound to the song, the least heavy song on the album but a key track as it shows the band being able to diversify its sound, another good Prog element. Not until it’s past the halfway point does the drums come in with a tight rap and a dirty bass line to accompany it as they wait for the industrial guitar tone to step over them and rip to shreds the calm sense that beginning of the song had. A very “metal” guitar solo of sweep picking and whammy bar wankery happens but it does fit the bill of the song quite nicely till the songs ending distorted fade away. “Sellout” is far from that but a real grinder of a tune that incorporates synths sounds and has a drag to it that keeps it dirty but maintaining the Prog recipe and elements in a control environment. Start/stops and tempo/timbre changes help keep the album fluid and rolling all the way through.
The album has a very Porcupine Tree feel to it and being a huge fan of that band this album is going over well with its style and set-up and execution of it musically. Many people don’t realize that a lot of today’s Heavy Metal musicians and Prog Metal bands that were kids in the 80’s listened to Prog Rock bands of the 70’s and developed a unique style all their own evolving in to today’s present Heavy Prog and Prog Metal music. Even bands like; Black Sabbath, Metallica, Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin has snippets of Progressive movements in some of their material throughout their tenures and canon of albums, trust me it’s there. ; )
“Dead People’s Review” comes at the centre point of the album with a snap and continues to slap forward as the synth spins swirls in the background till a final quick wrap of the drums and the songs drops in to an acoustic and vocal journey that glides even keel for its duration. It utilizes good effects vocally which is a classic Prog element from the 70’s that still provides a good expression of singing when used in small doses which is done here quite nicely. The song doesn’t pick up the hardness it had in the intro which I figured it would during the chorus to comply with the Prog recipe but instead it didn’t which was a surprise and they took a new spin on an old recipe piece and was quite nice to discover the first time listening to the song. “Monochrome” follows next with a calm and dreary ballad sense of consciousness. It sways and floats in a very ethereal manner and compliments the band ability to also be emotional and have a sense of compassion to their musicianship besides being able to drop bombs of distortion and smashing drums with exact precision. The guitar solo bends notes and pulls off strains of spiralling articulation to finish off the song with an angelic refrain as the dark synth notes complete the progression ending the song. “Windows” has another very Porcupine Tree feel to it with its shuffling drums and acoustic bounce to it with a sweet chorus effect on the vocals in a minor key carrying this song on a sojourn of fluidity and tact. A beautiful track that falls in to perfect place being at the three quarter mark of the album. It doesn’t rise nor fall but maintains a level of absolute certainty and understanding. A stand out track.
“Cerulean Blue” is the longest song on the album coming in at 7:45minutes breaks out with a dirty bass riff and a strict drum pattern. The guitar inflicts notes like wasp stings as it hits the song with tight precision. The vocals and synths, determined and sinister as they snake-like slide over the song with accuracy. It picks up and pulls back in varying sections creating a true Prog recipe completion. As if they saved up their Prog coupons for one big cash-in for this song as they went all out here. The album certainly didn’t need an epic Prog number but we are truly grateful for this grand offering making this album better and better. “Seeping” segues in with a carnival type synth riff and like a merry-go-round it swirls as it recants its tales. Like a waltz this song provides a ballroom feel to it allowing the Prog elements to float along the watery synth drones and acoustic upper cuts as the bass carries the tune and the drums ever so tight snap with a buoyancy like a signal beacon in a storm. The timbre shifts to a heavier edge tone at the four minute mark and the haunting aura is only broken by the whirling synths and acoustic guitar coming back in then to a distorted fade away. The final song, “Mother May I?“, one of favs on the record clearly closes the album out with a punch bringing back the haunting heaviness that the band details beautifully throughout this record. It begins with exactly that, a haunting synth refrain only to enroll the rest of the band in a frenzy of chord shifting and tempo/timbre changes throughout. Dirty guitar riffs surround the mazes of synth whirls and drones as the bass and drums keep check and stay in tight formation. A thunderous song live and absolute crowd pleaser with double kick near the end to give it added strength and ferocity finalizing it’s finish with a last crack note closing it out with dedication.
Abigail’s Ghost is an awesome band of diversity and fans of Porcupine Tree will appreciate their similarities and differences alike. Their last album, “Black Plastic Sun” from last year continues their love of the genre and they are well on their way to the Halls of Prog as the Friars have seen their forthcoming efforts well received and their continued push for releasing more music to appease our auditory senses. I encourage you to check them out regardless what album you choose to start with. This is their first record from 2007 and they’ve done well for themselves so far so here’s to another ten albums at least and continued creativity! Prog on…