Band: Børeal | Album: Las Mariposas Agitan Sus Alas | Genre: Progressive rock, Alt-metal | Bandcamp
The debut EP of this Colombian four-piece combines the gritty, dirty guitar tones of early-‘00s alt-metal with engaging melodies, and diverse song structures. “Homo Homini Lupus” is a highlight, with its rolling rhythm and descending chorus. The band’s eponymous song closes out this brief release, and it’s my favorite of the bunch. This song is weird and draws the most heavily from modern metal. Some moments on this EP are a bit too evocative of the weaker elements of alt-metal, and some of the catchier melodies feeling incongruous against the harsh backing. Overall, it’s an enjoyable release.
Band: Dancing Sun | Album: Heart Tales | Genre: Progressive metal, Psychedelic rock | Bandcamp
There’s a lot of variance in the styles and discernable influences on these individual tracks. While a somewhat heavy album overall, some songs go all-in on metal influences, while others draw from jazzier corners. Heart Tales’ longer songs are the obvious high points. The extra space allows Dancing Sun to have the most fun with structure. I’m not wild about the vocals on this album, but if you’re able to move beyond it (like I was), or if you wind up enjoying them, there’s some very good music here.
Band: Higgs Field| Album: Paracusia | Genre: Progressive rock, Progressive metal | Bandcamp
Higgs Field is the latest in a long line of obvious Tool-worship acts that I’ve encountered. While these acts fall within a narrow stylistic band, quality can vary wildly, and this inconsistency is based largely on differences in compositional skill. Higgs Field succeeds at evoking Tool’s sound without mindlessly aping them, though. The guitar tone is fantastic, and the songs are satisfyingly to-the-point without being simplistic. Every song on this seven-song EP is between 3 and 4 minutes long, but each one is full of weird, techy riffs and unexpected compositional decisions.
Band: Ikitan | Album: Twenty-Twenty | Genre: Post-rock, Progressive rock | Bandcamp
Ikitan reached out to me in December with this EP, after I’d already finalized my best-of list and had sent it off to my editors/proofreaders. If they’d found me (or I’d found them) a bit earlier, this would’ve bumped ORM off my Top EPs list. All sense of time got fucky during 2020, and the swirling, lurching beast that is this 20:20-long epic encapsulates that trudgy sense of oddness. There’s an enveloping heaviness to this record, but it doesn’t rely on many traditional tropes of heaviness. There are a few flashes of metal, but it is mostly expressed through atmosphere and tone. The opening theme is revisited throughout the composition, lending a sense of continuity.
Band: Mindwork | Album: Cortex | Genre: Progressive metal, Death metal | Bandcamp
Cortex is an EP I struggle to say that much about. Not because it’s bad or anything like that, but simply because it’s just so good. It’s solid, proggy death metal that ticks all the right boxes in balancing Opeth-y melodicism with the brutality of acts like Hoth. While perhaps not the most distinctive act—they are quite reminiscent of early Cynic, overall—this EP deserves a spot in the library of any fan of prog-death.
Band: Up-Tight | Album: The Beginning of the End | Genre: Psychedelic rock | Bandcamp
Up-Tight plays a droning, buzzing, freaky brand of psychedelia. Guitars fuzzed beyond their maximum groan in the background as wiry leads weave their way through the indistinct backdrop. Even on the acoustic cut “A Song for Your Pain”, there’s a hazy, smoky atmosphere to everything as if this is being performed in some dingy basement where the air is about 40% bong smoke. Parts of this record strongly reminded me of Up-Tight’s countrymen, Boris, during their dronier experiments.