Album Review: Perséide – Parmi les arbres

perseideBand: Perséide | Album: Parmi les arbres | Genre: Psychedelic rock, Progressive rock | Year: 2019

From: Trois Rivières, Canada | Label: Independent

For fans of: The Moody Blues, Yes, Ange, early Pink Floyd

Buy: Bandcamp | Apple Music

Much of the non-metal featured on this site has its roots planted firmly in the years of 1971-73. That fact is neither inherently good nor inherently bad, but it does lead to the prevalence of certain tropes and trends. Perséide’s roots extend a few years further back. Instead of harkening to prog giants like Genesis or Yes, their music stems most obviously from late ‘60s psychedelia and proto-prog, a la The Pretty Things or The United States of America.

This Quebecois quintet is not wrapped entirely in the past, though. On Parmi les arbres (Among the Trees), modern touches of indie rock are present. These influences make the music feel like a vibrant descendent of ‘60s psychedelia, rather than a rehash.

“Hier ne saura jamais” (“Yesterday will never know”) opens with a simple but lively guitar line, backed with astral keyboard tones. This song, like much of this album, is brimming with space-age synth tones and lush Mellotron. “Istanbul”, meanwhile, is rooted in a vaguely Asiatic riff and a somewhat sparser arrangement.

A more openly poppy angle is taken on “Enracinés” (“Rooted”). The rhythm is bouncy, and the twin melody of the guitar and the organ are reminiscent of some of Pink Floyd’s earliest releases, like “Arnold Layne” or “See Emily Play”.

However, most of the tracks on this first half of the album possess detectable weaknesses. Most of the songs are about a minute too long, and “Le tombeaux d’Atuan” (“The Tombs of Atuan”) never really manages to get going and borders on being soporific.

The album’s second half is noticeably stronger than its first. “La nuit des faunes” (“The Night of the Fauns”) has a slow-moving first half that gives way to a fun, energetic extended instrumental period. Guitar and organ prance around in a nearly-folky melody before evolving into a Yes-like series of guitar exercises. “Contreplongée” is a gentle, acoustic piece which only serves to strengthen comparisons to early Pink Floyd. It’s a bit longer than it needs to be, but its placement on the album makes sense.

Parmi les arbres closes on its epic title track. The opening is slow and moody, built upon simple guitar strumming and light percussion. Mellotron flutes eventually are given a brief moment in the spotlight, adding to the dark folk character of this song’s first part. The second half is mostly instrumental and centered around an extended synthesizer solo. In a somewhat rare occurrence, the pitch bend knob is used a great deal, twisting notes in ways usually reserved for guitar solos. This gives way to the song’s finale: a menacing synth line is repeated over a dark, driving rhythm which eventually resolves with a brief return to the song’s folky opening theme.

Perséide’s second full-length album, particularly its second half, is a shining example of how sounds from decades past can be married with modern trends and sensibilities to yield impressive music. Not only do they draw from late ‘60s psych and modern indie rock, but they also channel the unique sounds of Francophone prog, such as fellow Quebeckers Vos Voisins and the French act Ange.

Score: 81/100

Odds & Ends – December 2, 2019

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legendryBand: Legendry | Album: The Wizard and the Tower Keep | Genre: Power metal, Progressive rock | Bandcamp

For all the hackneyed, cliché, sword-and-sorcery heavy metal imagery Pittsburgh’s Legendry evoke in their artwork and lyrics, the music is ambitious and inventive while remaining surprisingly accessible. They walk a fine line straddling traditional metal, power metal, and progressive rock with their speedy riffs, dramatic vocals, and soaring solos. The Hammond organ adds a distinct character that helps Legendry stand out from other traditional metal acts.

Score: 84/100 Continue reading “Odds & Ends – December 2, 2019”

Deep Dive: Porcupine Tree & Steven Wilson

pt deep diveWelcome to the third installment of Deep Dive, where I take an in-depth look at the studio discographies of some of the giants of progressive rock and progressive metal.

For those who don’t feel like reading this massive entry, I’ve included a TL;DR and ranking of albums at the end. I’m opting to explore albums chronologically, as opposed to a ranked-list format. The context in which albums were made is important, and this is an element often missed in a ranked list.

My first two entries in this series focused on some of the giants of progressive rock’s 1970s heyday. For this entry, I wanted to focus on something heavier, which means someone more modern. After weighing a few options and starting Deep Dive entries on a couple other artists, I settled on Porcupine Tree and Steven Wilson.

Porcupine Tree covered a wide style of music until their disbandment in 2010, ranging from space rock to art pop to progressive metal. Wilson has maintained that experimental spirit in his solo career, covering similar ground across his five solo albums. The early-21st Century progressive rock renaissance we’re currently enjoying may not have happened at all, had it not been for the wide success of Porcupine Tree, which opened the door for many, many other acts.

As a disclaimer, this essay does not cover all of Steven Wilson’s myriad musical projects. The man is too prolific for me to reasonably address all those projects in this one essay. I am solely focusing on Porcupine Tree and his solo material. No-Man and Bass Communion don’t fit this site’s purview; and while Blackfield and Storm Corrosion may fall under the margins of progressive rock, I simply don’t like their output and would not enjoy reviewing them in-depth. I also do not plan to discuss his remastering work on classic prog albums. I do highly recommend his King Crimson remasters, though I’d avoid his work on Too Old to Rock n Roll: Too Young to Die!, as mentioned in my Jethro Tull Deep Dive. Continue reading “Deep Dive: Porcupine Tree & Steven Wilson”

Album Review: In Mourning – Garden of Storms

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Band: In Mourning | Album: Garden of Storms | Genre: Melodic death metal, Progressive metal | Year: 2019

From: Falun, Sweden | Label: Agonia Regords

For fans of: Edge of Sanity, Opeth, Agalloch

Buy: Bandcamp | Amazon | Apple Music

In Mourning are a Swedish metal band who play in a style very similar to that of their fellow countrymen, Opeth; but they’re distinct enough to avoid the label of “Opeth clone,” something for which the current prog-metal scene does not want. Opeth’s classic material is some of the best progressive metal ever recorded, and there’s been a yawning, Opeth-shaped hole in the scene ever since they switched to playing unimpressive, unimaginative retro-prog.

In Mourning have been around for nearly two decades, giving them plenty of time to develop their own unique flourishes within the framework of progressive melodic death metal. Garden of Storms is their fifth full-length release and a noticeable step up in quality over 2016’s Afterglow. The songwriting is strong, and there is a smart degree of interplay between distorted and clean sections. Continue reading “Album Review: In Mourning – Garden of Storms”

Album Review: Halcyon Reign – The Voyage

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Band: Halcyon Reign | Album: The Voyage | Genre: Progressive metal | Year: 2019

From: Sydney, Australia | Label: Independent

For fans of: Mastodon, Opeth, Dream Theater

Buy: Bandcamp | Amazon | Apple Music

Halcyon Reign are a trio hailing from Sydney that play a brand of progressive metal which borrows heavily from Mastodon’s most-acclaimed era. It’s sludgy yet melodic, complex yet accessible, and a successful album overall. However, some of the Mastodon influence can be a bit on-the-nose. The most egregious example is the album artwork. Mastodon’s Leviathan, a retelling of Moby-Dick, features striking artwork of the white whale and the Pequod. Similarly, The Voyage—while not based on Moby-Dick, as far I can tell—features a monstrous white whale charging at a ship.

Moving past the artwork, though, The Voyage stands on its own as a strong, enjoyable album. Many riffs are rooted in sludge metal, but the band incorporate other influences, including jazz and folk, to create smart contrasts and interesting textures. Continue reading “Album Review: Halcyon Reign – The Voyage”

Album Review: Garcia Peoples – One Step Behind

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Band: Garcia Peoples | Album: One Step Behind | Genre: Psychedelic rock, Progressive rock, Krautrock | Year: 2019

From: Rutherford, (NJ,) USA | Label: Beyond Beyond Is Beyond

For fans of: The Grateful Dead, Gong, The Moody Blues

Buy: Bandcamp | Amazon | Apple Music

Garcia Peoples’ 2018 debut album, Cosmic Cash, easily made my personal top 10 of last year, with its mixture of inventive song structures, psychedelic textures, and fun, loose garage rock atmosphere. Their album from March of this year, Natural Facts, while enjoyable, didn’t quite hit the same highs as their debut. It was more overtly folk-influenced, with significant touches of Americana. It seemed they were charting out a trajectory reminiscent of the Grateful Dead. With this context, this album took me by surprise.

One Step Behind is nearly 40 minutes long but contains only two songs, one of which stretches over half an hour. There remain ample doses of Dead-like jangly guitars, but the band have also included krautrock-like meditation and repetition, as well as technical guitar and keyboard lines I would expect from the likes of Yes. Continue reading “Album Review: Garcia Peoples – One Step Behind”