2+2 Reviews: March Edition (SION, Svalbard, Insomnium, Liquid Tension Experiment)

Welcome to 2+2 with BPMHill and George Folz.  Thanks for coming back or joining in for the first time and hope you will continue to check out our posts through the year.  We’re expecting a lot of new tracks/albums to come from the summer through fall 2021 as bands start to unleash what they’ve been sitting on during the pandemic.  In the meantime, we have terrific new tracks from SION, Svalbard, Insomnium, and Liquid Tension Experiment to discuss.

The Blade- SION

GF: I’ll admit, until the first chorus hit– I was a bit nervous.

Instrumentally, the opening section initially brought to mind some unfortunate characteristics of early 2000s nu-metal, and the parts of, “djent,” music that I don’t especially care for.

That said, when Howard Jones hit the switch, and starts, “singing, singing,” I realized what time it was, and now I love this song dearly.

For the record, I believe Howard Jones to be his generation’s defining voice within metal.

Every vocal theatric that comes with the genre he can do just as well or better than most of his peers. His howls, his growls, and lordy, lord– his singing voice?

Everyone else eats his dust.

His partner in crime here, Jared Dines, was someone whom I was unfamiliar with, until I came across this tune. My cousin, Andy, informed me that he’s a legendary metal musician on YouTube, and I certainly found myself impressed with some of his guitar work here.

His solo towards the end of the song is short but sweet, and does a magnificent job of splitting the difference between melody and shredding. 

In constructing it, he effortlessly manages to weave a tapestry that is equal parts Zakk Wylde, Dimebag Darrell, and Eddie Van Halen. Naturally, this means there are a couple of DOG-WHISTLE pinch harmonics in there that probably pulverized a few of my ear hairs.

Brandon, how big of a Killswitch fan are you? Are you jazzed that Howard is pursuing new music outside of the band, or do you wish Killswitch featured a twin vocal attack, now that Jesse Leach is able to perform with his band again? What was your knee-jerk reaction, when you heard this?

BPMHill:  That’s a fair point in regards to the start of this song.  I’m not a huge fan of the 2000’s nu-metal scene at all BUT I do love both djent and metalcore.  Once Howard’s vocals kicked in here though, I was pretty hooked.  

Killswitch Engage was actually one of the first bands I began to listen to in the metalcore scene, alongside Unearth and Atreyu.  I’ll admit that I got into them with “The End of Heartache” so Howard’s vocals have always been a big part of the appeal for me with the band. 

Quick side note, “The End of Heartache” is a special one for me.  I left high school early the day of release with some fellow metalhead friends so we could buy a copy at Best Buy.  I wasn’t so much into drugs/drinking but new albums could absolutely lure me away from being the “good kid” at school.

Anyhow, The Blade is a banger!  I do like what’s going on here instrumentally but honestly Howard’s vocals are what seals the deal for me.  He sounds ferocious when he needs to and his clean vocals during the chorus are hooky and really sound great.  

To further answer your question, George.  Since Howard has been out of KSE for over a decade at this point, I’m all for hearing new tracks from him.  I would love to hear more tracks like The Signal Fire from Killswitch Engage’s 2019 album “Atonement” which featured both Jesse and Howard and was a damn good song.  If I’m really dreaming here, yes a permanent twin vocal attack with Jesse and Howard would be pretty badass but anything Howard does outside of KSE, I’ll gladly check out.  Definitely looking forward to hearing more from Sion. 

Silent Restraint- Svalbard

GF: Okay, so two things–

  1. Those screamed vocals in here? That’s a lady throwing those down, so three cheers for women screaming in metal. We need more of it.
  2. Have you ever heard a more perfect fusion of turn-of-the-century At-The-Drive-In and Thursday?

With regards to the second question, I’ll admit that I’m fully and 100% biased towards both of those band’s output from around that time.

I was 13 when I heard both, “Understanding in a car Crash,” and, “One-Armed Scissor,” for the first time.

Both of those songs encapsulate a very, very, particular moment in time that was my generation’s last gasp of air before the attacks on 9/11.

The summer of 2001 was a very special, and very particular slice of time, and this song recalls that time for me in a way that no other modern piece of music has (or, perhaps, ever will).

This is something for the skate park, or late afternoon sessions of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2, in your friend’s basement.  

This song is a blast of MOLTEN sun, and the pain of the pavement when you crash. It’s the dazed feelings that comes along afterwards, combined with the laughter, and the desire to get up and try again.

I’m super excited to dive into the album as a whole, and I’m so excited to have discovered this band.

The Conjurer- Insomnium

BPMHill: Finland’s Insomnium have been cranking out great tracks since the late 90’s when their first demo was released.  I have to say though that their more recent material has really been what’s kept me coming back to the band.  

Their creative output since “Shadows of the Dying Sun” has been very consistent and tracks like Pale Morning Sun from 2019’s “Heart Like a Grave” and of course the entirety of “Winter’s Gate” have paved the way for a song like The Conjurer.  

The band has been seemingly busy during the quarantine.  Not only have they done a few livestream shows but they’ve got at least one new song (and perhaps more to follow).  

The Conjurer starts with a beautiful acoustic riff and some delicate piano that makes me feel like I’m wandering through the snowy peaks of Ridnitšohkka at dawn. 

Then there’s a terrific break at close to the three minute mark that really makes the song stand out for me.  I really like the riffing here and the choral arrangement underneath.  Niilo Sevänen’s raspy harsh vocals are always a treat too.  

According to Niilo, The Conjurer is a “tragic tale of jealous and searing love…”  The new music video that goes with the song certainly showcases this storyline and blends it with some truly stunning and chilling visuals.

George, I’m curious if you were already familiar with Insomnium?  What stands out for you.  Also, are you looking forward to hearing more from their particular melo-death style and sound?

GF: This is my first introduction to them, and I must say, I’m pretty impressed.

The purely instrumental opening of the song is indeed, truly stunning. 

I’ve never been to Ridnitšohkka, but the picture you paint up there sounds right on the money. When the music really kicks into gear after the intro, I imagine one of those hyperspeed ramping things occurring only to slow down when the sun is perfectly peeking over the mountain, extra radiant.

Some Zack Snyder shit, basically?

In any case, I definitely appreciate their particular brand of melo-deth. Strange as it may sound, I actually found myself wanting the vocals to be more harsh? I feel like that’s such a strange thing to say, considering my tastes, but I found myself wanting just a little more scream action– something a bit more intense.

Musically, I thought the song was flawless. There’s a great warmth amongst the guitar sounds, and I thought the solo was a lot of fun. Melodic death metal is not something I’m super familiar with as a genre, but I really appreciate just how stunning some of the music is in here. This is a great song to be enjoying, as spring kicks off.

The Passage of Time- Liquid Tension Experiment

BPMHill: It’s kind of insane that we haven’t had a full studio album or track from Liquid Tension Experiment since 1999 so the hype is at an all time high for the aptly titled “Liquid Tension Experiment 3” coming out in a few weeks.  

If you’re not familiar with the Liquid Tension Experiment basically this is a fully instrumental side project with several Dream Theater members/ex-member (Mike Portnoy, John Petrucci, Jordan Rudess) and Tony Levin from King Crimson on bass.  They did two albums in a row in the late 90’s and those two albums cemented them as one of the best prog groups of all time.  At a minimum, Acid Rain is an absolute MUST listen for any prog fan and a song that has stuck with me since release.  

The Passage of Time is the first single released for the new album and it’s a doozy.  It took me a few listens to really see what the band was creating here and there are a TON of layers to uncover.  

The song feels not only fresh but simultaneously feels like an appropriate follow up to their last album, which is no easy task.  

Every member is in peak shape on this track. It seems the excellent John Petrucci solo album featuring Portnoy from last year was just getting the party started.  The Passage of Time showcases the incredible chemistry between Portnoy and Petrucci but is spacious and leaves room for each member to shine.  

My absolute favorite part of the song is the absolute barnstorming solo at just over four minutes.  Petrucci has such a great guitar tone here and I love the jazzy fusion mixed in here.  Really stunning.  Portnoy also continues to be one of the most tasteful and brilliant drummers around.

Anyhow, check the music video out here:

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