Band: Arcade Messiah | Album: The Host | Genre: Progressive rock, Progressive metal | Bandcamp
Arcade Messiah is a one-man project out of Ireland that mixes progressive rock and metal with earworm melodies and intriguing electronic touches. Hints of post-rock and stoner metal permeate this album, and each song works wonderfully with the next. This release reminds me a lot of ADHD-era Riverside with its strong hooks, varied textural palette, and adventurous spirit. The Host artfully threads the needle in a way that many acts are unable to. This album strikes a balance of metallic bombast and smooth melodicism.
Band: Babel Trio | Album: The Martyr | Genre: Stoner metal, Progressive metal, Greek folk | Bandcamp
I’ve previously discussed this Cretan trio, and I found their blend of Greek folk melodies, progressive songwriting, and sunbaked fuzz truly refreshing. In lieu of guitar, the lead instrument in this band is a modified electric lute, which imbues the songs with a unique timbral quality. The Martyr took a bit longer for me to get into than their previous album, but it gradually grew on me over several listens. This distinctly Hellenic stoner metal kept drawing me back in with its uncommon melodies and well-structured compositions. Compositions range from charging to plodding, and that diversity of atmosphere serves this record well.
Band: IER | Album: 妖怪 | Genre: Death metal, Progressive metal | Bandcamp
IER is a one-man project out of Argentina who creates music which is immense in every regard. The album might be long (10 songs and 95 minutes, ignoring the bonus tracks), but the individual songs also feel absolutely monolithic. Walls of down-tuned guitar pummel the listener, and the snarled vocals only add to the menace. The songs maintain their aggression well, while also twisting and evolving in ways that keep the listener invested. Plenty of diverse influences are incorporated here, and that diversity really helps such a huge album remain interesting over the course of its runtime.
Band: Ring Van Möbius | Album: The 3rd Majesty | Genre: Progressive rock | Bandcamp
This Norwegian act fits in well in the corpus of retro-prog bands currently popular. Rather than aping Yes or Genesis, though, they’ve gone closer to the route of ELP or very early Deep Purple. This trio lacks a guitarist, so keys are at the forefront. Unlike many retro-prog bands, RVM manages to nail to keyboard tones of the early 1970s, which gives the music an authentic feel and goes a long way in making this album that much more enjoyable. The organ has some nice grit to it, and the synth leads channel Tarkus better than any other modern band. The songs themselves keep things changing and shifting, and solos feel purposeful.
Band: Space Druids | Album: Weird Tide | Genre: Space rock | Bandcamp
This Russian band channels Hawkwind heavily in their impressionistic guitar lines, propulsive grooves, and lysergic jamming. Reverb practically acts as an instrument unto itself, making everything blurry around the edges. Space Druids do more than just jam, though. The melodies are intelligent and catchy, and the individual songs strike a balance between smart composition and open-ended exploration.
Band: Yobrepus | Album: Mycelium Days | Genre: Progressive rock, Indie rock | Bandcamp
The 22-minute title track is the real highlight on this Norwegian quartet’s debut. It ranges from Tangerine Dream-style electronic soundscapes to post-rock-style textural adventures to fuzzy psychedelia with plenty of stops in between. It’s a rich and varied song that skillfully utilizes diverse sounds. The other songs on the album don’t grab me quite as much, often veering into more overtly-indie territory. There are some interesting electronic experiments sprinkled throughout, though.