Album Review: Pinkish Black – Concept Unification

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Band: Pinkish Black | Album: Concept Unification | Genre: Space rock, Gothic rock, Experimental rock | Year: 2019

From: Austin, USA | Label: Relapse Records

For fans of: Van der Graaf Generator, Bauhaus, Magma

Buy: BandcampAmazonApple Music

It’s really tough for me to describe Pinkish Black. I love their music; it’s a fantastic, innovative blend of different genres, but it’s packaged in such a way that they’re tough to sum up. The band consist of a keyboards-and-drums duo, but they’re on a metal label and are often mentioned in the same breath as doom metal bands. I’ve heard them referred to as “doom metal for people who don’t like metal,” which isn’t a terrible description. The music is heavy, in that it’s emotionally weighty. My go-to word for describing these guys is gloomy. At the same time, mixed in with this melancholy is a keen sense of musical adventurousness and ambition. The lush synth tones resemble those of acts like Eloy and Ozric Tentacles, though little else in this band’s repertoire resembles those acts.

Concept Unification is Pinkish Black’s fourth full-length album and their first in four years. Their last release, 2015’s Bottom of the Morning, was one of that year’s highlights. Compared to past releases, the sound palette here is very similar: spacy, echoed vocals; bass-heavy piano; lush, cosmic synthesizers; and sparse but powerful drumming. The songs on this album are more experimental and ambitious than past releases. This record is probably their most challenging release, though highly rewarding. Continue reading “Album Review: Pinkish Black – Concept Unification”

Odds & Ends – June 20, 2019

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Odds and Ends is a segment where I do brief reviews of albums I either didn’t prioritize for longer-form reviews, or ones for which I don’t have that much to say.

a1413993540_10Band: BLASTAR | Album: Construct | Genre: Progressive rock, Jam band | Bandcamp

I really loved BLASTAR’s debut album, so I was very excited when I saw them announce their latest release. On Construct, they’ve opted to go fully instrumental. The music is cosmic and high-energy, and the overall sound has shifted more in the direction of jam bands like Aqueous or Umphrey’s McGee, with jazz and folk tones. As I’ve frequently said, it can be tough to make an instrumental album consistently engaging, but this does a good job of holding the listener’s attention. That’s not to say it doesn’t have faults, but it’s enjoyable on the whole.

Score: 77/100 Continue reading “Odds & Ends – June 20, 2019”

Album Review: Dreadnought – Emergence

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Band: Dreadnought | Album: Emergence | Genre: Progressive metal, Doom metal | Year: 2019

From: Denver, USA | Label: Profound Lore Records

For fans of: Tool, Cormorant, Panopticon

Buy: Bandcamp| Amazon | Apple Music

Like any metal subgenre, doom metal has an abundance of sub-subgenres, including stoner-doom, death-doom, and funeral doom. Prog-doom, to my disappointment, is one of the less-proliferated of these, even when put in the context of progressive metal. Other prog varietals—like black, sludge, and death—far outstrip progressive doom in both volume and prominence. Of the rather small cohort of bands who do fuse the murky, morose field of doom with the artistry and ambition of prog, Dreadnought are at the forefront.

Emergence is the fourth full-length release from this Colorado quartet, and it’s a logical progression from their last release, 2017’s A Wake in Sacred Waves. AWISW was among my favorite albums from that year, so this was a highly, highly anticipated release for me. I’m pleased to say it lived up to my hopes and exceeded my expectations. The sound on this album is massive—far more imposing than would be expected of four musicians. The guitar attacks in thick walls of guttural distortion, while the piano thunders and adds a certain weightiness rarely heard in metal. Continue reading “Album Review: Dreadnought – Emergence”

Album Review: Tanagra – Meridiem

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Band: Tanagra | Album: Meridiem | Genre: Progressive Metal, Power Metal | Year: 2019

From: Portland, (Oregon,) USA | Label: Independent

For Fans of: Symphony X, Dream Theater

Buy: Bandcamp | Amazon | Apple Music

I often cite the vague concept of “cheesiness” as a fault in a lot of modern progressive rock and metal. Much like actual cheese, I enjoy it in limited amounts, but if I down a wheel of brie or a block of Cheddar, I’ll probably feel at least a little sick. Certain subgenres abuse this more than others, and power metal is one of the most cheese-forward styles out there.

The Oregonian quintet Tanagra whole-heartedly embraces cheesiness on Tanagra, their second full-length release. The earnestness with which the music is played is a huge plus for the band: had they been more self-aware, tongue-in-cheek, or even a little shier about the grandiosity, I don’t think this album would have worked as well as it does. Even the album art features a loving embrace of power and progressive metal’s tropes: amid a sci-fi landscape, the band’s logo is in a faux-Devanagari script, while the album title looks Tolkienian. (Had I not enjoyed this album, I probably would have decried this as lazy hackery; my feelings about an album’s artwork and the music itself often feed off of each other.) Continue reading “Album Review: Tanagra – Meridiem”

Album Review: Dizzy Mystics – Wanderlost

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Band: Dizzy Mystics | Album: Wanderlost | Genre: Progressive rock | Year:  2019

From: Winnipeg, Canada | Label: Independent

For fans of: Tool, RX Bandits, Children of Nova

Buy: BandcampAmazonApple Music

“Dizzy” is an apt adjective for this Manitoban quartet. The music here is packed to the brim with tight, technical riffs played at a breakneck pace. But this isn’t some math rock-style exercise in sheer complexity, nor is it some John Petrucci-style masturbation session. Dizzy Mystics are shockingly melodic in their compositions. Wanderlost is definitively not a metal album, but the closest analog is Tool. The melodies seem rooted in a similar strain of ‘90s alt-rock and are run through a similar artistic lens, albeit one with less distortion.

Folk influences are pervasive. Mandolin and acoustic guitar are often given prominence, and the technical skill combined with the tempo can give some echoes of bluegrass at times. There’s even the occasional flash of 1980s-Rush-style-vaguest-hint-of-reggae touches. Continue reading “Album Review: Dizzy Mystics – Wanderlost”

Album Review: PoiL – Sus

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Band: PoiL | Album: Sus | Genre: Progressive rock, Zeuhl, RIO | Year: 2019

From: Lyon, France | Label: Dur et Doux

For fans of: Magma, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Ni, Frank Zappa

Buy: Bandcamp | Amazon | Apple Music

I’ve written before of France’s unique place in the world of progressive rock. Of the countries with distinct national sounds, theirs has always been the most unashamedly weird, fusing progressive rock with jazz and avant-garde music. Zeuhl was an almost-exclusively-French genre for the first twenty or so years of its existence, and two of the five founders of the Rock in Opposition (RIO) scene were Francophone. (Univers Zero were from the French-speaking Wallonia region of Belgium.) PoiL, the experimental Lyonnais trio, are one of the most prominent contemporary bands carrying on this tradition.

Last year, PoiL fused with the band Ni to become three-sevenths of the supergroup PinioL. Ni’s particular brand of experimental rock music has frequently bordered on metal, and on Sus, it sounds as if some of that may have rubbed off on the guys in PoiL. PoiL lacks a guitar player, but that doesn’t stop the band from laying down their heaviest music to date. The bass on this album crunches and snarls; the electric piano pounds out weird, dissonant chords; and the drumming is downright virtuosic. Continue reading “Album Review: PoiL – Sus”