This is to be the first of many posts, cropping up once a month or so, regarding the Fear Candy sample CD. This is the free CD included with every issue of Terrorizer, an extreme music magazine. The quality of tracks varies greatly, but there is generally a good mix of styles represented, and is a great way of discovering new bands - which is exactly what it's helped me do over the last year or so, since I first bought myself a copy.
This month, Terrorizer has begun a 3-issue special investigating the phenomenon that is progressive rock. This caused me to get a wee bit excited, I must admit. Appropriately enough, the CD contained more than the usual ration of music which would fall broadly under the heading of "progressive".
Here are the highlights:
Amorphis - The White Swan
(from the album Silent Waters)
From the start, my immediate reaction was "Opeth. Very Opeth." The similarities are hard to ignore, but attempting to do so yields some enjoyable differences. The vocals are given greater dominance, for example, and this is definitely the right move; while the growling parts may not be to everyone's taste, most would find it difficult to deny that the vocalist has huge talent, and this track demonstrates this wonderfully. If you want a description, the best avenue is comparison: think recent Tyr vocals, in the mood of My Dying Bride, with occasional hints of Turisas' stylings. The instrumentation, too, is subtly different from the majority of Opeth's work; this feels like less of an effort to make an audio painting, and more of an effort towards the songwriter's art.
This is recommended listening for anyone who loves Opeth, and anyone who thinks Opeth could stand to be a bit more down-to-earth.
Epica - Chasing the Dragon
(from the album The Divine Conspiracy)
Less of a progressive track, from less of a progressive band. Undeniable talent on the part of the vocalist, and quite a relaxing chill-out feel to the track; by no means a heavy offering. Without listening to the lyrics, one is left with a feeling of "OK, I had in mind something more in the mood of 'chasing' and 'dragons'", but you could do far worse than give this a listen.
Not an oustanding track, but worth a listen if you're a fan of Epica or any of Nightwish's more laid-back numbers (think Sleeping Sun, for instance).
Centurion's Ghost - In Defiance
(from the album The Great Work)
A more heavy offering, with a driving bassline. Echoes of rock and roll, with some fairly generic "angry" vocals; and, oddly, some guitar work reminiscent of black and heavy metal. Indeed, this is where the main appeal is in this track, for me: the music itself is very varied in style throughout, and acts as a good showcase of what this band is capable of.
A litle generic, but intriguingly eclectic at the same time.
Alcest - Souvenirs D'un Autre Monde
(from the album Souvenirs D'un Autre Monde)
Heard this, and had to have it. I would be loathe to class this as metal, so I'm not going to; it has electric guitars making the customary noises, but it's so ethereal in effect that the only headings under which this could conceivably fall would be "ambient", and "progressive". Hauntingly beautiful, with echoes of Opeth in their "Patterns in the Ivy" moods; this is one to put on and let it carry you away from grim reality for an all-too-brief sojourn in this compelling "Other world".
Listen to it. Listen to it now.
Sepia Dreamer - Capitulation 
(from the album The Sublime)
Starting with a very Tool-esque bass intro, this track then goes in a less expected direction with the addition of strings, turning it towards a 5-minute instrumental that simply screams "progressive" (bearing in mind this is the edit version). It is both moving and undeniably talented, but I must admit to being left with a feeling of incompleteness. I presume this is either because it's an edit, or because it's intended to be a part of a larger work and is best appreciated (as with the majority of progressive music) in the context of the album itself.
Very much worth a listen, as a taste of what this band can (probably) deliver in a full album.
Ride the Sky - A Smile From Heaven's Eye
(from the album New Protection)
Power metal with an admittedly bizarre 80s electronic twist. In the main, this track gives us what every other power metal offering does, and very little more. The production doesn't quite feel right either, with the main backing riff sounding a little staccato for my tastes. If you can get past these, though, it's another name to add to your list of power metal practitioners. If, however, you're like me and that list is quite long enough already thank you very much, this band is unlikely to make you go out of your way to snap up what they've brought to the table.
Generic (mainly), but add it to your list if you're short of power metal.
And thusly, we draw to a close this review of the highlights from Fear Candy 45. For more information, head on over to the Terrorizer magazine website.