Triple Feature: The Resonance Project, YYNOT, and Borknagar


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This month, Luke offers thoughts on three very different releases.  Read on to hear about The Resonance Project, YYNOT, and Borknagar.  Should be something for everyone here.

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The boss (Jason) sends me most of my review music, but this was actually a recommendation from my real-world manager. (Thanks, Sean!) The Resonance Project is a very promising young instrumental prog metal duo. Formed by guitarist and bassist Yas Nomura and drummer and synthestrator (I’m not exactly sure what that means) Lang Zhao, their music displays vast technical skill and inspired compositional abilities. Imagine if Jaco Pastorius and John Petrucci formed a prog metal supergroup (which, needless to say, will include Mike Portnoy), and you have a decent idea of what this band sounds like.

The first thing I noticed, of course, was the bass. Nomura is quickly becoming one of my favorite new players on the scene. More often than not, he plays a fretless. Yes, in a metal band. As the proud owner of a gorgeous fretless bass and a fan of de-fretted bassmen from Rainey to Wilkenfeld, Nomura’s smooth, melodic lines can’t help but make me smile. He’s also a gifted guitarist. His guitar style is pretty shreddy and djenty, which is not usually my jam, but he puts enough heart in it to make it enjoyable. Zhao is a very skilled drummer, guiding the songs through various time signatures. Many of them are his own compositions.

I do have one beef. There isn’t as much melody as I might prefer. But hey, it’s instrumental prog metal! It’s not supposed to be accessible! Overall, this album is an impressive debut by a band that sounds a lot older than they are, and I’m excited to see what they may have in their future. My favorite songs are “A Progression To Infinity” and “Neo Thangka.”

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Resonance is the word of the day, I suppose. It’s also the title of YYNOT’s sophomore effort. You may remember them as the former Rush tribute that recorded one of my favorite albums of original music in 2018. Their second record, Resonance, is proof-positive that their eponymous debut was no fluke. They are more than ready to take on the world as an original band in their own right after years of playing Rush’s immortal tunes.

The sound of this album is largely the same as that of the last album, but I would say it’s cleaner and more refined. The production, too, is  greatly improved from last year’s effort. In a good way, it’s more of the same. Bassist Tim Starace still kicks as much “gluteus max” as any bass player on the planet today. His tone is similar to that of Geddy Lee and Chris Squire, but his playing style reminds me more of John Paul Jones. Rocky Kuner is probably the most underrated female singer in prog. Her voice is bold and emotive. So yes, this is the YYNOT we all know and love, but with another year of experience under their belts.

The bad news? The songs, for the most part, simply aren’t as good. The first song, “Synergos,” is an instrumental that just doesn’t do it for me, followed by two pure pop songs whose lyrics just kind of rub me wrong. There are still some great songs, though. My personal favorite is “She Said I Love The Rain.” I think it’s both the proggiest song and the poppiest song on the record, weirdly. It showcases both aspects of the band perfectly. I love Billy Alexander’s guitar work; it supports the melody perfectly. “Precious Time” is a heartfelt power ballad with a melody I can’t help but wish I’d written, “Open Book” is an energetic slice of punk-pop, and “Chemical Burn” is a complex instrumental rhapsody that would make King Crimson proud.

In short, Resonance is somewhat typical of a sophomore effort in that it shows growth from the debut but leaves a little to be desired. However, after hearing this music, there’s not a doubt in my mind that there will be a third album from YYNOT. While their primary fanbase is made of old Rush fans like myself who see them as a kind of “second coming,” I think they’ll appeal to many prog fans who aren’t all that into Rush. Resonance is a statement, and it says “We aren’t Rush. We aren’t a tribute. We’re a real band.” I encourage you to give it a spin, and I think you’ll agree with my belief that they’re the most exciting new band in prog.

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Borknagar has been a pleasant surprise for me. I asked Jason for their latest record, True North, because it was one of the last unclaimed items on the new-release spreadsheet. I was greeted with sweeping melodic black metal unlike any that I’ve heard recently. Founded in 1995 by guitarist Øystein Garnes Brun, the band now consists of vocalist and bassist Vortex, keyboardist Lars Nedland, drummer Bjørn Dugstad Rønnow, and guitarist Jostein Thomassen. (Off topic, but if there are any readers who know how to write “ø” on Chromebook without using copy and paste, let me know. All these Scandinavian metal bands are going to wear out my ctrl key.) Their sound is exciting, fun, and cohesive-probably the happiest-sounding black metal band I’ve ever heard.

For me, Vortex is both the best and the worst thing about this album. I love his clean vocals. He sounds like a pirate singing a sea shanty to inspire his mateys…or something. His voice is very operatic without trying too hard or using too much modulation. Vocal teachers should point to this guy when they’re teaching clean metal vocals. Now, his harsh vocals are a different story. They sound like a dying creature, which a lot of people enjoy, but I don’t. It’s not just the harshness. I’m okay with growls and shrieks most of the time. It’s just not done well. His bass playing is equally bipolar: it’s fantastic bass playing, but (like too many metal bassists) you really have to listen for it. That’s not his fault, of course, but I want to hear more bass in my metal.

Nedlund’s keys are also a highlight. One of the coolest things about Borknagar is their use of surprising chord progressions, which naturally lend themselves more to keys than to guitar. He frequently leads the charge into a new key or section. The guitars are also excellent. My favorite songs are “The Fire That Burns” and the killer nine-minute epic, “Tidal.” If you like metal of any stripe, this is an album you need to hear!

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Find The Resonance Project online:

Facebook

Bandcamp

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Find YYNOT online:

Facebook

Website

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Find Borknagar online:

Facebook

Website

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