Tag Archives: Empty Yard Experiment

2014 Albums of the Year – Part One

Every music blog must have an end-of-year list. 2014 has been such a great year that I could not whittle the list down to fewer than 25 albums without excluding something that deserved to be honoured.

One obvious caveat; this is the best-of list from the albums I’ve actually heard, taken from those I’ve either shelled out money for or heard as review promos. There are naturally going to me many great records excludes from this list simply because I’ve not had the chance to hear them.

The top ten records will be covered in later posts, but we’ll start with No 25 up to 11. Except it’s next to impossible to rank them all in order, so I’ll list them alphabetically instead. The first batch are A to E.

AlestormSunset on the Golden Age

Alestorm - Sunset on the Golden Age“Scottish Pirate Metal” doesn’t seem like an idea strong enough to last for four albums without the concept wearing thin, but Alestorm seem far from reaching the point of diminishing returns. Like their previous albums, it’s filled with tales of nautical adventure and booze set to music with a strong folk-metal flavour, though “Wooden Leg” is close to punk. It’s all entertaining stuff that doesn’t take itself remotely seriously, which is precisely what metal should be.

AnathemaDistant Satellites

Anathema - Distant SatellitesAside from the occasional dance/electronica touches Anathema continue in a similar vein to last year’s “Weather Systems”. Their emotional widescreen music combines a big sound with a minimalist approach to songwriting, using the power of repetition to create something that’s often more than the sum or it’s parts. The great mystery is why mainstream crossover recognition continues to elude them and they’re still relatively unknown outside of the prog scene.

AsiaGravitas

Asia GravitasNot many people would have expected a 1980s supergroup made up from 70s prog musicians to still be making albums in 2014. They’re now down to a trio of original members plus young guitarist Sam Coulson, not even born when the band first started. This is really John Wetton’s album; he’s on superb form vocally, with big soaring melodies throughout. It’s a far better album than Yes’ lacklustre effort.

BehemothThe Satanist

Behemoth - The SatanistThe Polish black metal band recorded this album just after mainman Nergal was given the all-clear in his battle against cancer. The resulting record is a heavy, intense and deeply spiritual work, which makes Satanism sound like an actual religion. A vastly better album than anything Venom could have imagined, let alone made.

Bigelf Into The Maelstrom

BigElf Into the MaelstromAn album where the title is a perfect description of how the music sounds. Bigelf combine the melodic ear of The Beatles, the hand of doom of early Black Sabbath, the theatricality of The Crazy World of Arthur Brown, the musical ambition of 70s King Crimson, and the lack of inhibitions of Queen. This record captures the intensity of their live experience in a way their previous albums never quite managed.

Curved AirNorth Star

Curved Air - North StarCurved Air reformed a few years back and have been playing the festival circuit for a while, but North Star is their first studio recording since the 1970s. With their quirky but fluid jazz-rock they’ve picked up exactly where they left off decades before, and Sonja Kristina is still on superb form vocally. The only thing that lets it down are some unnecessary covers, though they do demonstrate that they’re better songwriters than Snow Patrol.

ElbowThe Takeoff and Landing of Everything

Elbow - The Takeoff and Landing of EverythingElbow are one of those mainstream rock bands that owe a huge debt to 70s progressive rock, which is obvious if you listen beyond their hits. Peter Gabriel is clearly an influence on Guy Garvey’s vocals and composition, and Elbow sound like the band Genesis might have become if Hackett had left but Gabriel had stayed. Even though it might have benefited from a solo or two in the right places, it’s still a rich and ambitious record with a great amount of emotional depth.

Empty Yard ExperimentKallisti

Empty Yard Experiment - KallistiEYE are a multinational prog-metal band based in Dubai, with members from the Middle East, India and Eastern Europe, and this impressive work with shades of Anathema, Opeth, Porcupine Tree and Godspeed You Black Emperor is quite remarkable for a début with its mature composition and strong use of dynamics.

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Empty Yard Experiment – Kallisti

Empty Yard Experiment - Kallisti Unlike many other genres of music, progressive metal is a global phenomenon. Its reach now extends well beyond the traditional strongholds in north America and northern Europe. Dubai-based Empty Yard Experiment are the sort of band that exemplify this, a multinational band with members from Serbia, Iran and India.

“Kallisti” is the band’s first full-length album, following their self-titled EP from 2011. They cite the likes of Tool, King Crimson, Porcupine Tree, Anathema and Mogwai as influences, and have come up with an impressive and varied record. Dark and dense guitar riffs and swirling Mellotron contrast with delicate piano arpeggios, and there’s always a strong sense of dynamics balancing light with shade. Highly melodic songwriting sits alongside lengthy instrumental compositions, and there are moments where the strength of the arrangements make it difficult to believe this is a début.

Unusually for a prog-metal record, especially one with such a strong emphasis on instrumental material, it’s marked by the complete absence of any conventional solos, but there’s so much going on that the songs don’t need them. Unlike so many lesser bands who give progressive metal a bad name with self-indulgent widdly-woo, there is absolutely no technical showboating for its own sake on display here.

There is certainly something of Judgement-era Anathema in the highly melodic “Entropy” and of Porcupine Tree in chiming guitar of “Lost In A Void That I Know Far Too Well”. There’s also more than just a hint of more recent Opeth across the whole record, notably evident in the twists and turns of the lengthy closing number “The Call” especially in that massive piledriving riffing at the end. The atmospheric “The Blue Eyes Of A Dog”, one of several instrumentals, even recalls the symphonic post-rock of Godspeed You Black Emperor.

But Empty Yard Experiment are no derivative pastiche of other, better bands. With a sound that stretches from the sparse classical piano of “Sunyata” to the claustrophobic heaviness of “Entropy”, Empty Yard Experiment are a band with a strong music identity of their own, and “Kallisti” works well as a coherent album where the whole is more than the sum of the parts. It’s a hugely ambitious and mature record that represents much of what is great about progressive metal while avoiding that genre’s obvious clichés.

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Empty Yard Experiment – GHHR‬

Track from the multi-national prog-metal band with a big following in the middle-east. Prog metal is not just a European and American thing. Their album “Kallisti” is released on September 29th.

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