Orphaned Land – All is One
Known as the master’s of oriental prog metal, Orphaned Land is back with an album that rivals Mabool in power while presenting itself as much more accessible to the non-metal fans. Gone are the harsh vocals (on all but one song), being replaced by the melodic and nuanced voice of Kobi Farhi. All is One delivers a dynamic and powerful message of peace and coexistence which is bolder than ever before, presenting uplifting, and even heart wrenching, lyrics over a palette of symphonics and electric guitar. This time around, the Israeli band included a full orchestra as well a Turkish violin orchestra, the likes of which must absolutely be heard, to create a moving and picturesque record. If there is anything that I would change about the album, it would be the track order, which seems to be a bit front loaded. That said, the band manages to deliver some of the most moving music and messages of their career with the absurdly catchy groove in seven and marvellous chorus of the title track, as well as the heartwrenching ballad, “Brother,” which reminds of ancient family ties between the major Abrahamic religions of the world. All is One, while not a perfect album, is most certainly a record that will please fans of symphonic rock and even touch their hearts.

Fright Pig – Out of the Barnyard
Fright Pig, a band who at first glimpse of the song titles seems to be just a gag, ends up being quite a storm of modern, heavy, hard hitting progressive rock. At some point or another this group of oinkers seems to be just about everywhere on the map from classic symphonic prog to neo prog and prog metal, with the tendency to deliver with loads of energy and a frequency of swapping instruments in and out of the arrangement that would please your ADHD. “Recreation” delivers up front with some Yes like tendencies in the keys, but then gives us moments of prog metal and even a great eerie section of vibrato choir vocals over the top of weaving guitar harmonies and piano runs. “Incident at Bembroke” is a straight up prog/folk metal jig with 70’s prog leanings (lots of organ and synths) and a good deal of rhythmic interest, while “Barque at the Lune” is a full out prog metal romp replete with technical guitars, double kick, shredding, and classical style piano soloing. As the album progresses it seems to get more and more technical with tunes like “Darkest of Forms,” mixing 80’s rock, baroque, and wild instrumental sections, as well as “Presumido,” a full on flamenco metal piece (calling to mind Power of Omens) with some nice extra touches like the screaming Hammonds and classical guitar. At first I was blown away by this as being an album that presents mountains of energy and sounds, but as it went on it became apparent that there may be a bit too much focus on wild instrumental arrangements and not enough on clearly purposeful composition, in my opinion at least. Still, Fright Pig delivers an impressive debut with Out of the Barnyard, dazzling with their ability to seamlessly meld and transition between prog genres and really come out all guns blazing. Get ready for Rosfest, because this will certainly be an entertaining set.

NEMO – Le Ver Dans Le Fruit
If your looking for French prog with a hard rock/bluesy edge, Nemo’s latest release, Le Ver Dans Le Fruit, should be your cup of tea. Songs like “Trojan” and “Milgram, 1960” effectively incorporate hard edged bluesy rock, as well as Dream Theater-esque musings, while tracks like “un Pie Dans La Tumbe” deliver passionate solo work, constantly moving rhythm guitars, and effective melodic piano. I hope you’re in for a long ride, since this is two discs, but it’s well worth it to make it to the second one where I consider the highlights of the album to be. “A La Une” las down some solid, fresh riffing with fantastic groove, and the 80’s vibe and catchy vocals make the perfect combination. “Triste Fable” goes it bit more old school with a tron intro, and “Arma Diama” pounds out the epic length piece that every solid prog album should have: a full-on 17 minutes of prog, including loads of riffs, celtic inspired melodies, pizzacato strings, melodic lead guitars, and odd grooves. Although Le Vers Dans Le Fruit didn’t leave a huge and lasting impression on me, there are certainly some great moments, particularly for those that love guitar rifs.