Jonathan Hill

A Soapbox for Uninformed Opinions


Lost Horizon A Flame to the Ground Beneath Review

Lost Horizon A Flame to the Ground Beneath Review

Artist: Lost Horizon
Album: A Flame to the Ground Beneath
Genre(s): Heavy Metal
Subgenres(s): Power Metal, Progressive Metal
Released: 2003
Length: 53 minutes
Language(s): English
Label(s): Music for Nations

Track List:

01. Transdimensional Revelation
02. Pure
03. Lost in the Depths of Me
04. Again Will the Fire Burn
05. The Song of Earth
06. Cry of a Restless Soul
07. Think Not Forever
08. Highlander (The One)
09. Deliverance

Lost Horizon A Flame to the Ground Beneath Cover

A Flame to the Ground Beneath is the second and final album by Swedish metal outfit Lost Horizon. It is a direct continuation of the distinctively uplifting power metal/progressive metal sound that they developed on their first album, Awaken the World.

The songs are longer than before and in keeping with the tradition of progressive music, they contain many verses that can flow easily from one to the next without necessarily having the need for a chorus. The saving grace Lost Horizon balances this out with is never getting wrapped up in taking their songs in a thousand and one directions while maintaining their triumphant sound and positive message about self-empowerment and free will over fate in their lyrics.

Sadly, Lost Horizon still insists on including their ambient interludes which fail to leave a lasting impression. The introduction song, Transdimensional Revelation, is slow on the uptake and doesn’t give any indication as to what A Flame to the Ground Beneath is all about. However it does serve as an excellent buffer to the first metal song, Pure, and gives it a bigger impact when it kicks in seemingly out of nowhere (although it should be noted that like the other songs, it can speak for itself). The odd coupling of ambient interludes and heavy metal is by no means a bad concept but the execution is definitely in need of refinement.

Both the bass and keyboard playing can be heard clearly enough but the bass still finds itself competing with the guitars and drums like it does in many other metal bands. The keyboard tends to find itself in a supporting role but has a few moments to bolster some songs such as Lost in the Depths of Me and Again the Fire Will Burn. It is also the only instrument on the mid-album interlude The Song of Earth, which pleasantly enough turns out to be a full song rather than misguided soundscaping.

Much like Awaken the World, A Flame to the Ground Beneath is sung entirely in English and not being the bands native language, there are some mishaps with the lyrics that don’t flow exactly as they should do. On most occasions Daniel Heiman’s vocal range alone will distract you from this and more than makes up for it.

One of the major highlights of A Flame to the Ground Beneath is Highlander (The One), a 12 minute epic that features some of Daniel Heiman’s most extravagant moments and with all the wailing he does, it would make you think that the entire song was written for him to push his voice to the limit. The last minute of the song is by far one of the best metal moments committed to a recording. Unfortunately A Flame to the Ground Beneath ends with the interlude Deliverance. This deals a significant blow to the flow of the album as it should have ended on Highlander (The One) to give you the massive triumphant feeling that Lost Horizon is all about.

The songs (that go from 6 to 12 minutes) might sound daunting on first impressions but Lost Horizon have the musical chops to back up their ambitious goals and present another significant entry into the power metal/progressive metal catalogue with A Flame to the Ground Beneath.


Behold the Arctopus Skullgrid Review

Behold the Arctopus Skullgrid Review

Artist: Behold the Arctopus
Album: Skullgrid
Genre(s): Heavy Metal
Subgenres(s): Progressive Metal
Released: 2007
Length: 34 minutes
Language(s): N/A
Label(s): Black Market Activities

Track List:

01. Skullgrid
02. Canada
03. Of Cursed Womb
04. You Are Number Six
05. Some Mist
06. Scepters
07. Transient Exuberance

Behold the Arctopus Skullgrid Cover

Behold the Arctopus’ Skullgrid will either leave you in awe of the bands musical abilities or recovering from a throbbing headache. If you do manage to get passed the intense musical acrobatics of Skullgrid you’ll quickly find that there isn’t much left to intrigue you with beyond that.

It’s nearly impossible to absorb and remember any of Skullgrid because no part of any song is present for more than a few seconds before it changes into something else. There are some strong moments but they are scattered throughout the album and get lost between the meandering instrumental passages on either side of them.

Canada is probably the most coherent song on Skullgrid with the opening segment being repeated a handful of times at seemingly random intervals, making it at least partially memorable. Song lengths vary greatly on Skullgrid with the title track being just over a minute long, You Are Number Six clocking in at 9 minutes and the other 5 songs going from 3 to 7 minutes in length.

There is easily enough material on Skullgrid to be fleshed out into multiple full length albums but instead you will hear Behold the Arctopus play every guitar scale, drum pattern and rhythm under the sun packed into a brief 34 minutes. The trio have technical abilities in spades but they would rather show off said abilities instead of crafting a series well thought out instrumental songs.

Skullgrid can best be likened to masturbation: self-indulgent, messy and no one else should have to hear about it.


Devin Townsend Ziltoid the Omniscient Special Edition Review

Artist: Devin Townsend
Album: Ziltoid the Omniscient
Genre(s): Heavy Metal, Rock
Subgenres(s): Progressive Metal, Progressive Rock
Released: 2007
Length: 54 minutes (CD 1), 14 minutes (CD 2)
Language(s): English
Label(s): HevyDevy (Canada), InsideOut Music (Europe), Sony (Japan)

Track List:

01. ZTO
02. By Your Command
03. Ziltoidia Attaxx!!!
04. Solar Winds
05. Hyperdrive
06. N9
07. Planet Smasher
08. Omnidimensional Creator
09. Color Your World
10. The Greys
11. Tall Latte

Devin Townsend Ziltoid the Omniscient Cover

Devin Townsend Ziltoid the Omniscient Special Edition Review

Ziltoid the Omniscient is an album that was created, written, produced, recorded, engineered, programmed and mixed almost entirely by Devin Townsend alone. Mastered by Ue Nastasi, additional support was also given by Dave and Mike Young (additional engineering), Fredrik Thordenal (Drums) and The Beav and Dave (additional dialogue). The paragraph below provides an outline of the concept so if you want to avoid any spoilers skip ahead.

Ziltoid travels to Earth in search of the universes ultimate cup of coffee (as explained in ZTO). Dissatisfied with the brew offered, he goes to war with Earth and sets out to capture the fleeing humans as they leave Earth in search of a way to stop him. Further into the adventure, Ziltoid encounters the Omnidimensional Creator who reveals the truth about his existence that leads to an unexpected conclusion. A more detailed synopsis can be found by reading through the lyrics and supporting text in the albums booklet.

Townsend showcases his vocal talents through a range of spoken word voices, varying degrees of aggressive singing and shouting mixed with higher pitched and cleanly sung verses. Instrumentally, keyboards are more prominent during the softer moments but they do have some interplay with the metal parts of the songs although they can quickly lose out to the relentless mechanical drumming and synchronised guitar riffs. Songs like By Your Command and Ziltoidia Attaxx, (which is one of the two songs to feature guitar solos, the other being N9) exemplify this style.

Solar Winds takes a different approach, featuring dramatic keyboard work and soft guitar playing while departing from the percussion entirely for a brief time. Eventually it builds up into a hard rock song before shifting into the hammering metal style again over a 10 minute period. Color Your World has a flawless transition between the metal and soft progressive rock parts that will make you question whether it’s even the same song until a raspy voice slowly roars “Ziltoid… the Omniscient” out of nowhere. Planet Smasher briefly gives the bass time to breathe by plodding alongside the guitar to create a sense of foreboding as it trudges on ominously. Townsend takes this opportunity to show off how deep and guttural he can make his voice, while making it fit the tempo of the song aptly.

Hyperdrive is probably one of the biggest standout songs on the album because the music has a strong ethereal quality and a repetitive guitar hook that will stay in your head long after the album is over. Townsend’s voice follow suit as he sings in a soft and distant way for most of the song. N9 begins with an intense barrage of drum patterns and the keyboard jumps to the forefront and calls out with a sense of urgency, waking up the listener just in case you were getting too comfortable listening to Hyperdrive. The vocals are delivered in the same way as they are in Hyperdrive, which would makes it a good introductory song to metal for someone who isn’t fond of the harsher singing style but is interested in what can be offered musically.

Two short interlude-type tracks are present on the album. The mid album Omnidimensional Creator is a dialogue between Ziltoid and the Omnidimensional Creator that disappears as fast as it arrives. The second is the albums closer, Tall Latte, which prevents it from finishing with the bang you’d expect, but it is necessary to finish the story. Other parts of the plot can be missed quite easily as the instruments are made the focal point in the mix and not always the vocals. It’s also worth noting that some of the lyrics are not directly related to the story and could contribute to this problem.

All in all, Ziltoid the Omniscient is a highly entertaining and unique sounding album that doesn’t neatly fit into a subgenre. It could easily speak for itself based on the musical merits alone but the accompanying story, despite the narrative flaws, is joined with a great sense of humour (something that the metal realm often lacks) and a creative style of song writing that makes it an exciting and memorable listening experience.

Track List (CD 2):

01. Don’t Know Why
02. Travelling Salesman
03. Another Road

The special edition CD has three tracks, the latter two of which do not relate to the Ziltoid concept. The first track does and opens with Ziltoid stating “you will hear some terrible, terrible bonus material but you know it’s Ziltoid so it’s fun” and manages to live up to both parts of the statement and the title, with Ziltoid going on a long, unfiltered tangent spanning several subjects in Don’t Know Why.

Travelling Salesman is an upbeat song with a strong rhythm section and overly loud, punchy drums and slurred lyrics. Another Road features a fuzzed out electric guitar with some lively solos and a metronome ticking away over the top of everything for no discernible reason. Townsend’s voice is placed right at the back of it all for the duration of the song. In summary, the material has some novelty value to it and is worth a listen or two, but it isn’t the kind of thing that you will keep coming back to.

External Links:

Devin Townsend Homepage
Devin Townsend on Wikipedia | Ziltoid the Omniscient Special Edition on Wikipedia
Devin Townsend on Discogs | Ziltoid the Omniscient Special Edition on Discogs