Band: The Garin | Album: The Garin | Genre: Progressive rock | Bandcamp
The Garin hail from Kazan, Russia, and the band mixes prog, psych, and indie rock into an enjoyable package. This EP has four songs which bounce and twist energetically. Jazzy rhythms frequently crop up, and cosmic synthesizers often get a starring role. The vocals are a bit weak, but beyond that, the compositions are strong. “Yurei” is simultaneously influenced by shoegaze and ‘80s thrash metal, which makes for a unique experience, and “Duomo” closes the recording out with a guitar solo that evokes the best moments of ‘90s Pink Floyd.
Band: Hail Spirit Noir | Album: Eden in Reverse | Genre: Progressive metal, Progressive rock | Bandcamp
Hail Spirit Noir have been one of my favorite metal acts since they debuted with Pneuma in 2012. Mayhem in Blue, their 2016 release, was the only album to give Terminal Redux a run for its money in my personal best-of list for that year. Their unique synthesis of black metal and late-60s psychedelic rock and folk has been nothing short of brilliant. On Eden in Reverse, HSN has brought their sound up to the mid-1980s, with rich, creepy synthesizers taking over where swirling organ once dominated. While most of the album is quite strong, it’s definitely their cleanest album to date. I really missed the raw, abrasive black metal fury which was more prominent on their earlier records. The glossy synthesizers often only underscore just how slick everything sounds.
Band: Haken | Album: Virus | Genre: Progressive metal | Buy
Haken have proven themselves to be one of the most consistent acts in all of progressive metal. Even their worst album is only spotty. Virus shares a lot in common with its predecessor, Vector, with the two having been recorded in quick succession. Everything here is meticulously crafted, highly dynamic, intelligently structured, and skillfully played. However, much like Vector, once the record is over, almost none of it has stuck with me. I’m not the biggest fan of Affinity, their 2016 release, but that album (and the three which preceded it) stuck out in my mind when I heard them. I’m not sure what it is about Virus (and Vector), but it feels ephemeral. Like, if you’re not actively listening to it, it doesn’t really exist.
Band: Howling Giant/Sergeant Thunderhoof | Album: Turned to Stone Chapter 2: Masamune & Muramasa | Genre: Progressive metal, Stoner metal, Heavy psych | Bandcamp
Masamune & Muramasa is one of the most cohesive split records I’ve ever heard. The two acts—Tennesseans Howling Giant and Brits Sergeant Thunderhoof—collaborated in their compositions to make sure the two sides of this album, which tell the story of a pair of Japanese swordsmiths, shared adequate musical DNA for a unified story. “Masamune”, Howling Giant’s contribution, is the unquestionably proggier and stronger of the two 20-minute suites. Stoner metal melodic tropes are augmented with lush keyboards and inventive rhythms. This song flies by in a blink, and the dramatic arc feels perfectly natural. “Muramasa” leans more on stoner metal and heavy psych, rather than prog, but it’s a strong complement to the first song. Sergeant Thunderhoof have some noticeable post-metal influences in their sound, frequently utilizing big walls of distortion and allowing chords to ring out and echo over one another.
Band: Vinyl Dial | Album: Oceanic Electron Harvest | Genre: Space rock, Progressive rock | Bandcamp
I featured the remaster of Vinyl Dial’s debut earlier this year and heaped a lot of praise onto it. This one-man act’s latest album is a pair of 20-minute suites which lean heavily into psychedelia and space rock. The title track comes first. It’s full of snappy bass lines and airy keyboard tones, and it maintains a light atmosphere throughout. “Myristica” is a peppier composition and features some heavily-affected vocals. The whole record has a certain lo-fi charm about it, which is a rare compliment from me. I’m normally not the biggest fan of lo-fi aesthetics, but Vinyl Dial’s background in vaporwave was certainly helpful in the mastering of this album.
Band: We Pyrrhic Conquerors | Album: Misconceive | Genre: Progressive rock, RIO | Bandcamp
Misconceive is an aurally-odd, melodically-chaotic collection of instrumental progressive rock. Dissonant chords are employed generously, and jazz motifs are apparent on almost every track. While this is an interesting sound in small doses, the constant onslaught of discordance grows exhausting, and the fact that this is an instrumental record makes it feel that much longer (despite not being particularly long).