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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Manes

How the World Came to An End

Review by Gary Hill

This is an amazing CD! I know I’ve seen these guys listed as a metal band, and a couple of the songs here might qualify, but that’s really limiting them. I’ve included them in progressive rock partly because their sound often times has a lot of similarities to Porcupine Tree, modern Marillion and the more proggy Radiohead. But you’ll even hear Korn as an influence here and there and there are some raps in the midst. All in all this is a dark masterpiece that has both a feeling of dread in its execution and yet sheer beauty as well. Call it what you like, it’s still great.

Track by Track Review
Deeprooted
Odd effects lead this off. It has bits of a world music texture here and there. This rises up with what sounds like theremin into an industrial like jam. Then it drops way back down to ambient sound effects with some spoken words low in the mix. The track sits from there in a techno sort of groove, perhaps feeling a bit like Korn at times, but the sound bites and other elements that come over the top (is that more theremin?) lend a dark prog atmosphere to this cut. It moves out to mellower motifs to close out.
Come to Pass
We get a dark texture leading this one off, but it’s mellower than a lot of the last track. The vocals here sound to me like they might be in French and some of them are in the form of a rap. This is an intriguing piece of music and layers of vocals and sounds are added in a killer arrangement.  A cool, but very weird segment with female vocals (and lyrics that seem to be in English) is a great touch. While the last track might have been called metal because of its similarities to Korn, this one wouldn’t get that label, although, there are still some links to the sounds of that band. It builds up toward the more energetic later in the track, but drops back again to techno-like ambience.
I Watch You Fall
This has a dark texture, but the arrangement is a lot more stripped down. The vocals carry the bulk of this, but still other layers are placed in the mix to create drama and power.  In an intriguing juxtaposition of styles one of the most blatantly proggy segments of the CD emerges here with keyboard type sounds laying the backdrop for the vocals (the female and male are both here) and yet we get a rap over the top, too. This works out later to some powerful sounds, but still remains fairly sedate in terms of volume.

A Cancer in Our Midst (Plague One)
The most explicitly metallic textures thus far lead this off in a killer techno-type jam. The riff on this is just so tasty. They drop it way back to ambience after a verse, though. Then the riff seems ready to power back out from there. It delivers on that promise and the group take us out into a rubbery sort of jam that’s got both techno and progressive rock textures. Eventually this transitions out to a more percussion based segment and then turns to weirdness before ending.
Last Lights
Sound effects lead things off here and then more musical elements threaten to take over. Instead, the vocals come in over this stripped down motif in a retro jazz meets prog sort of balladic approach. There is still a modern dark element here, but this is one of the more distinctly progressive rock oriented cuts on show here.  They turn this into a more powered up version of itself later with added elements bringing new sounds and power. I’m sure there are those who might say this isn’t progressive rock, but those same people would probably say the same of Porcupine Tree and modern Marillion as this isn’t worlds apart from that.
Nobody Wants the Truth
This definitely has more of a crunchy metallic texture. Rather than move out into pure metal, though, this element stays down and eventually is covered over by sounds that are more like the prog side of modern Radiohead. Mid track this crunch sound does ride up to drive things along, but it’s still got enough drama and proggy magic to keep it from being interpreted as metal.
My Journal of the Plague Years (Fuckmensch Warmensch)
I might say that this is my favorite track on the whole CD. A dark, but incredibly powerful sound serves as the backdrop and then spoken vocals that feel like old school Cylons enter. Other vocals come over the top pleading, “I need to be heard.” They work this concept through a number of changes with some world sounds and other elements working their way along this path. I absolutely love this track.
The Cure-All
As strong as the last track was, this is stiff competition for it. A balladic sort of ambient texture serves as the backdrop for the first vocals. The cut works through like this for a time and the chorus on it is extremely contagious. As they power this up it resembles more mainstream modern prog even more despite the fact that they throw another rap into the mix. This modulates into more techno sounds for a short time and then drops back to a more rhythmic arrangement before moving back into the song proper.
Transmigrant
What an incredible piece of music this is. It starts with a definite prog rock meets jazz and techno texture. This motif carries the early vocals but then they explode out into some of the most purely metallic music of the CD in an anthemic chorus that just plain rocks. They aren’t content to stay there, though. They pull it down later to a more stripped down arrangement and vocals take control over this. We get a sound bite meets rap texture as they carry it forward.
Son of Night Brother of Sleep
This is another intriguing piece. The music here is balladic early on with a spoken vocal (definitely not a rap, though). They work this out into a more powerful, but still no where near hard rocking, version of itself. It’s dark and melancholy, but also quite beautiful. Some crunch can be heard skirting around the edges, but the songs is definitely driven more by techno-styled proggy sounds. It drops way down to sound effects with nearly whispered spoken words to end.
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