2+2 Reviews: Evergrey, Cult of Luna, Soen, Gojira

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 Evergrey, Cult of Luna, Gojira and Soen to discuss. 

First up is Evergrey:

Evergrey – The Beholder

BPMHill:  Long time fan of both Evergrey and Dream Theater here, so having a collaboration track between Evergrey and James Labrie, the vocalist of Dream Theater, is kind of a huge deal.

That “The Beholder” is such a catchy and excellent track just makes this collab even more exciting.  

Oddly when this track first dropped on Thursday, I saw several people say they couldn’t find Labrie on the track, which unless they didn’t actually listen to the song, it’s pretty hard to miss his vocals.  Tom Englund’s and Labrie’s vocals are both really distinct and I think the contrast here is part of what makes the track special.  Not to mention that when Labrie comes in, the rest of the music (other than synths) drops out, leaving a perfect spot for Labrie to shine.   

Englund and Labrie are actually two of my favorite vocalists so hearing them work together is a real highlight of the year so far. 

I also have to mention how much I dig the synths throughout this track.  Rikard Zander (keyboards) has been with Evergrey since 2002 and he’s continually added really hooky moments with his keys throughout their discography.  

By the way, this track comes from album number twelve, “Escape of the Phoenix”, for the band and I’m impressed that the singles I’ve heard so far sound as fresh and unique as they do.  I’m eagerly awaiting my copy from Germany as we speak.      

I’m curious George, are you familiar with Evergrey?  If so, have you kept up with them through the years?  I also would love to know your thoughts on Labrie and his work with Englund here.

GF: So, this was the first I’d heard of Evergrey, and the first time I’d heard LaBrie sing in a long time. 

Dream Theater is one of those bands whose chops I respect more than I can say, but I just… it’s hard for me to get into their music as a whole. 

Strangely enough, the DT tune I listen to most often is a live medley off of their, “A Change of Seasons EP.” It’s basically them running through various sections of, “The Rover,” “Achilles Last Stand,” and “The Song Remains the Same,” with LaBrie outsinging Robert Plant at every turn.

Pretty great stuff.

I really appreciated this, as it had a really classic metal feel to me– something that could cruise comfortably in the lane of the tunes found on “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath.”

The three most formative bands when it came to my metal experience as a young person were Metallica, Deftones, and Sabbath, so I’m always appreciative of a heavier tune where there’s some real-deal singing involved. Both LaBrie and Tom Englund show up to work here, and I’m for it.

I actually dug the synths a lot here, too. I felt like they really added a lot of color to the track– warm earth tones, that sound hot, without overwhelming the other instruments. 

While not especially long, the song has a somewhat epic feel about it, and I appreciate that too. It kinda towers in its own particular way, and I think that’s cool.

Cult of Luna – Three Bridges

GF: I’m not gonna lie, YouTube is kinda killing it with their music recommendations as of late.

In February, they showed me the VOLA track we reviewed, and this month, they put me back onto Cult of Luna.

I’ll admit, I’m not SUPER familiar with CoL’s music, but the first time I heard, “Vertikal,” wayyyyyyyyy back in October of 2012, I made note of it.

While this track has been out for a couple of months now, the EP that it’s from, “The Raging River,” just came out on February 5th.

It’s the EP’s introductory track, and what an introduction it is.

The song begins as a low-key, eerie, affair, that almost has shades of industrial music to my ears? 

I think one of the things that endeared this to me is that when the screamed vocals come in, the music doesn’t explode in the background as a compliment, or, at least not initially. It’s an unconventional choice, and I think it only adds to how uncomfortable the minor-key magic is, bubbling in the background?

The song doesn’t really develop anything along the lines of traditional, “pretty,” melodic work until about a third of the way into the song, and after it’s initial introduction, it slips into the background.

I think what I appreciate most about this song is how intentional it is– the band knows exactly where to layer what, and how to both add and subtract flavors to give this some seasoning that’s almost proggy?

Idk– how did you feel about these elements of the song, Brandon? As someone who’s listened to more Cult of Luna than I, does this feel like a real evolution of their sound? What are your thoughts?

BPMHill: George, I’m so glad you’re rediscovering Cult of Luna.  I think they’re one of the most consistent post-whatever bands around.  Even if the tracks on the “The Raging River” EP are leftovers from “A Dawn to Fear” (their last full length), they are all uniformly good songs.  

“Three Bridges” is one of my favorite songs offered on the EP.  It might be a touch predictable for the band but I don’t think that hurts the track in any way.  It reminds me a little of the atmosphere they had on their album, “Eternal Kingdom”, which I absolutely love so I’m all for a continuation of that style.

Johannes Persson’s absolute throat destruction just blows my mind every time.  He’s very precise live as well and I think he’s at the top of his game right now.  I actually filmed a bit of their last concert in LA so you can see what I mean on my Insta:

Also, to your point George, I love when the vocals come in, as perhaps what you might expect to happen musically, doesn’t.  Cult of Luna are masters at this kind of foreplay.  They build layer upon layer and then (sometimes abruptly) will leave your jaw on the floor.  

The section that does this the most for me is the buildup at around the six minute mark.  It’s haunting and you know we’ve been building to a crushing climax and then Johannes comes back in, along with drums.  Also, good point on the proggy, yet organic nature of the structure here.  I definitely feel that as well.  As typical, Cult of Luna delivers.

Soen – Lumerian

BPMHill:  What a killer opening to the new album, “Imperial”, from Soen.  I liked the singles initially released, but this has become my favorite track on the album.  Love Lopez’s intro on drums and Cody Ford’s opening riff.  It really kicks off the song in an exciting manner.

I’m also a huge fan of the production on this song.  It’s really clean and you can hear every instrument and Joel’s vocals clearly.

When this band first appeared, some were quick to dismiss them as a TOOL and Opeth worship group, but I think the band is really operating on their own level entirely.  Particularly here on their fifth album.  They sound like Soen…which is a very good thing.  

The chorus is hooky and I think it’ll play exceptionally well live with an audience.  While everyone in the group is a technical player, their particular blend of prog metal generally doesn’t go off on random tangents with insane guitar solo’s.  While I’m all for that style too, it doesn’t suit what Soen has been aiming for  

“Lumerian” balances some heavy riffage with top-tier clean vocals, in addition to some light but stunning synths.  I can’t wait to see where the band goes from here. 

Gojira – Born for One Thing

GF: So, I’m gonna lose any and all metal cred that I might have, because (I think) this is *winces* the FIRST Gojira song I’ve heard.

I know, I know… sinful.

But, do you ever have that thing with a band where you’re like, “Oh, I know I’m gonna love them. There’s no rush to check them out, because I’m sure they’re gonna be great?”

That’s how I’ve felt about Gojira for as long as I’ve known about them.

In any case, this song has sold me.


There are pinch harmonics…

There’s some OG Slayer flavor…

The bass rides up in certain spots, and goes to WORK, WORK, when it’s not busy sounding like Clayface, engaging in a mutation celebration (#rhymeslikedimes).

In any case, I pretty much love all parts of this song. The chorus was a little bit of a hard sell for me at first, but I’ve come to appreciate it, as I feel like it almost throws a little bit of swag and groove into the mix. That’s not especially common in modern day metal, and I’m glad they’re rocking with that sound.

I had to draw two different St. Louis apartment complexes this week for a commission, and this powered at least one of those drawings, exclusively.

This is a muscular tune, with equal doses of immediacy and panic, so it gets two thumbs up from me.

If you like what you’ve heard, drop us a note in the comments section and please support the artists.

Fresh Earworms: 2021 Albums to Shape the Year

2021 is looking to be another great year in music even if we don’t get any live concerts. Several artists delayed their latest releases during the ongoing pandemic and as we’re inching closer to a time when they can tour again, some of the albums are finally seeing the light of day. Without further ado, here are some of the releases I’m most excited for.

  1. Steven Wilson – “The Future Bites”: Releases Jan 29 This album has been in the can so to speak for nearly a year but naturally was delayed until Wilson might have a chance to tour with it. Now we’re only a day out and I’m excited to see what he will bring to the table. It’s clear he’s going a very different direction with his latest, appearing to abandon his prog roots almost entirely and embracing retro art pop fully. Regardless of any genre labels, Wilson is consistently brilliant and “The Future Bites” looks to be the next big step in his evolution.

2. Soen – “Imperial”: Releases Jan 29

Soen has been cranking out terrific albums since their inception. Their last album, “Lotus”, was a near masterpiece in my eyes so the hype is incredibly high for “Imperial”. The singles so far have been total bangers, so I expect we will have another great album in our hands come Friday.

3. Tribulation – “Where the Gloom Becomes Sound”: Releases Jan 29

Three potential albums of the year are all releasing this week. Tribulation‘s last two albums were some of the best music in the previous decade. If you haven’t yet checked out the song “Strange Gateways Beckon” from their 2015 album “The Children of the Night”, time to draw the shades, light some candles and slap that baby on the vinyl player. Tribulation‘s new album is likely to feature some changes in the band’s sound and even includes a nearly 20 minute epic as a B-side. Check out one of the singles below:

4. John Carpenter – “Lost Themes 3”: Releases Feb 5

John Carpenter is one of the best filmmakers and composers of all time and he’s continuing to stay busy during the quarantine with his musical endeavors. The last two “Lost Themes” albums have been like hearing your new favorite score to a film that doesn’t yet exist. That is to say Carpenter‘s songs are so well crafted, you can easily imagine a film that would fit perfectly with each song. Needless to say, his latest should kick all kinds of ass.

5. Cult of Luna – “The Raging River EP”: Releases Feb 5

It may be an EP but given this is Cult of Luna, every song here should be fucking grand. Seriously though, Cult of Luna never fails to impress. Their previous full length, “A Dawn to Fear” was fantastically brutal and they’re one of the best live acts around. Don’t miss this.

6. Evergrey – “Escape of the Phoenix”: Releases Feb 26

Evergrey is back with album number twelve and the band looks to be re-energized with new catchy songs and seriously terrific artwork. Can’t wait to see what singer, Tom England, and the rest of the group have in store for us.

7. Liquid Tension Experiment – “LTE 3”: Releases March 26

The last album from Liquid Tension Experiment released when I was in junior high, which was (double checks current age) 22 years ago. Additionally, this is the first time John Petrucci, Mike Portnoy and Jordan Rudess have jammed on record since Dream Theater‘s 2009 album, “Black Clouds & Silver Linings”. If the first single is any indication, this may well be their finest hour. The hype is very real.

8. Panopticon – “…And Again Into the Light”: Releases TBA

Though not much is known about Panopticon‘s new album, it was just announced to be releasing in the first half of the year. If you haven’t yet been introduced to Austin Lunn AKA Panopticon‘s blend of atmo-BM, folk, bluegrass, it’s a great time to start. Austin generally plays every instrument on his albums and the ridiculous thing is he’s exceptional no matter he’s playing on. If you want to see a true DIY artist in the scene, give Panopticon a listen.

9. Carcass – “Torn Arteries”: Releases TBA

Another casualty of the 2020 release schedule, Carcass‘ latest should release at some point this year. Based on last year’s excellent EP, “Despicable”, which consisted of the tracks that didn’t make the cut on the album, this should absolutely CRUSH.

10. Devin Townsend – “Puzzle”: Releases TBA

Devin flirted with releasing this last year but realized “Puzzle” needed more time to develop and he pushed it into 2021. It is unclear when it will be released (or what it is exactly) but whenever it does (and whatever it is), it is sure to be a doozy. Devin is also working on a number of other projects that could be released as well which should surprise no one if you’ve followed his career to date. He’s one of the busiest artists out there and “Puzzle” is sure to be another crowning achievement.

There are a number of other artists who are currently in the studio or have hinted at having a release in the works so I’ll add on more releases as the 2021 schedule firms up.