Band: Ak’chamel, The Giver Of Illness | Album: The Totemist | Genre: Krautrock, Psychedelic folk | Bandcamp
The Totemist is a swirl of ritualistic atmosphere and repetition. The murky aura augments the contrasts between the sharp notes of the acoustic instruments and the omnipresent, sinister drone. The compositions morph in naturalistic ways, and subtle touches of jazz are worked in amid the faux-shamanic folk, resulting in something quite creative.
Band: Cthulhu Rise | Album: Last | Genre: Progressive rock, Jazz-fusion | Bandcamp
This instrumental Ukrainian band reminds me a lot of Liquid Tension Experiment. The roots of the act’s sound clearly derive from Dream Theater-style melodic prog metal, but jazz plays a large role here too. The individual musicians flaunt their chops on the three songs here, but the soloing always comes off as purposeful. Each track is full of surprising twists and turns, with few ideas sticking around for more than about a minute at a time. Somehow, it avoids feeling disjointed.
Band: Elephant Stone | Album: Hollow | Genre: Psychedelic rock | Bandcamp
Elephant Stone have historically hewed to a sound more akin to poppy garage-psych, rather than prog. Hollow, this Quebecois act’s fifth full-length album, shows considerably more ambition than past releases. The album opens with a string of songs that flow together to act like a 7-part, 19-minute suite. However, four of those songs are under two minutes, and two barely cross one minute. All four of those minuscule songs feel incredibly rushed, and they all could have been expanded upon. Unfortunately, it seems like the band used up all their ambition in this suite, and the remaining 22 minutes of the album ranges from alright psych-pop to something of a slog.
Band: Frogg | Album: A Reptilian Dystopia | Genre: Technical death metal, Progressive metal | Bandcamp
Frogg’s debut EP is an engrossing serving of intricate, pummeling riffs served up in a shockingly melodic vessel. “Ancient Rain” channels Between the Buried and Me, while “Nuclear Storm”, with its terse two-minute runtime is stuffed with croaking, bassy riffs. The last two songs each contrast tech-death insanity against complex structures and breaks of cosmic gentleness reminiscent of Cynic.
Band: Search Division | Album: Uten Tolkning | Genre: Progressive rock | Bandcamp
(Note: This release has been re-titled multiple times; Uten Tolkning is the third title it’s had in as many weeks. If the artist changes the name again, I’m not updating this.)
This EP consists solely of one 16-minute, 13-part suite. (The artist’s Bandcamp page offers it as its 13 separate pieces, split in half, and as one monolithic track.) Despite the sheer number of discrete movements in this piece, it’s a cohesive effort, overall. Lush synthesizers dominate for the entire runtime, and the most identifiable influence, to my ear, is Marillion. While there are no individual, weak elements, no single part of this epic particularly stands out.
Band: Ulls | Album: Anoia s’apodera | Genre: Progressive rock | Bandcamp
Oh man, if I’d found this album when it was released late last year, it would’ve earned a high spot in my 2019 Best-Of. This one-man project from Barcelona is heavily inspired by the Italian prog sound of the early 1970s. It is, at varying points, driving, spacy, jazzy, folky, and near-metallic. Each of the four songs is a complex, multi-parted effort full of surprising tonal shifts and top-notch instrumental interplay.
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