Band: Alustrium | Album: Insurmountable | Genre: Death metal, Progressive metal | Bandcamp
The music on this EP is played with incredible precision, and the density of riffs-per-minute is impressively high. However, it also feels like this band’s main goal was to play as fast as possible, and even across such a short EP, that gets exhausting. There’s also nothing particularly unique about this release; this is rather boilerplate tech-death.
Band: Esthesis | Album: The Awakening | Genre: Progressive rock | Bandcamp
This band heavily channels Porcupine Tree in just about every regard. It’s a skillful facsimile, right down to the tones of the individual instruments, and the songs are well structured. There is also the occasional outside influence, such the odd jazzy lick here or there. On the downside, this album is pretty long-winded. Only one of the six songs comes in under eight minutes, and most cuts could have benefitted from some trimming.
Band: Luna’s Call | Album: Void | Genre: Progressive metal, death metal | Bandcamp
This is some brilliant prog metal. Void is in the vein of acts like Between the Buried and Me, though perhaps a bit less focused on the death metal side of things. The songs are colossal and intense, and the constant interplay of metallic brutality and gentler acoustic and keyboard-forward moments is fantastic. My only gripe is that it’s a bit long-winded, but that’s not a cardinal sin in this case.
Band: Mother’s Cake | Album: Cyberfunk! | Genre: Progressive rock, Funk rock | Bandcamp
This is the first Austrian act to earn a place in my library, leaving Liechtenstein, San Marino, Monaco, the Vatican, Malta, Cyprus, and Kosovo as the only European acts without representation in my collection. Beyond that bit of odd trivia, this is a fantastic record. It’s full of mad, kinetic energy that can’t seem to decide which way it wants to go. I’d strongly recommend this release to fans of The Mars Volta. The punkish energy of their early work is well-represented here, and it blends well with the visceral funk grooves the band lays down. Echoes of Rage Against the Machine are evident too. Everything is clearly tightly structured, but there’s somehow still a fun, spontaneous vibe to this record. This is one of the big surprises of 2020 for me, and considering the strength of this year’s crop of prog, that’s a ringing endorsement.
Band: Ozric Tentacles | Album: Space for the Earth | Genre: Space rock | Bandcamp
I mean this in the nicest possible way, but this release sounds like every other Ozric Tentacles album I’ve ever heard. Spacey synth lines underpin psychedelic guitar with the odd bit of jazz flavor here and there. Ozric Tentacles are a very predictable band, but they are good at what they do.
Band: Qüassi | Album: Mareas | Genre: Progressive rock, Jazz-fusion | Bandcamp
This Argentine four-piece plays an energetic, jazzy variety of prog. Despite being an instrumental album, it does a good job of remaining interesting. There are plenty of structural change-ups, and the playing is top-notch. One of the tags for this record on Bandcamp is “improvisation,” but the tracks manage to remain quite focused. Mareas isn’t without unnecessary elements, but it’s a solid release overall.