Odds & Ends: April 3, 2023

Band: Enslaved | Album: Heimdal | Genre: Progressive metal | Bandcamp

If nothing else, Enslaved is a very consistent band. They’ve got a sound they stick to pretty well, and they release albums reasonably often. However, this can also lead to a number of their albums bleeding together into a vague mush of proggy, blackish metal. Heimdal is certainly better than Utgard, but it still doesn’t do much to stand out in their discography. Maybe it’ll grow on me; Enslaved’s best albums have always taken a few listens to sink in. But as it stands, after a couple listens, this is a perfectly fine–though inessential–release.

Score: 74/100

Band: Fistfights with Wolves | Album: The Sheep That Eats The Wolf | Genre: RIO, Zeuhl, Progressive rock | Bandcamp

This short release has some good ideas on it, but the problem is there aren’t quite enough of them to justify the 28-minute runtime. This band is clearly heavily influenced by Magma, especially in their vocal arrangements, but they feel like a bit of a one-trick pony. None of the songs stood out that much, and the 12-part mini-suite “RMFP” is scattershot and unfocused. The opening “Skeletons” is pretty good, so maybe this should have just been a single with one other tightened-up song.

Score: 61/100

Band: Grandma’s Ashes | Album: This Too Shall Pass | Genre: Progressive rock, Stoner rock | Bandcamp

This French trio plays a crunchy, somewhat psychedelic variety of progressive rock. The vocals are powerful and both complement and contrast with the heavy riffs. None of the songs here are all that long, but that works in this album’s favor. The band gets to the point with impactful, arty riffs; they avoid the bloat that is common among many more stoner-inclined acts.

Score: 76/100

Band: Santa Rostro | Album: Despu​é​s no habrá nada | Genre: Heavy psych, Progressive rock | Bandcamp

This Spanish act has a great blend of heavy, stoner-reminiscent riffing and interesting, exciting song structures. The instrumental passages are hard-charging and engrossing, and the vocals are powerful and passionate. The closing, 12-minute title track is especially impressive. It features a series of compelling instrumental passages that weave together beautifully.

Score: 82/100

Band: Sterbus | Genre: Solar Barbecue | Genre: Progressive rock | Bandcamp

This instrumental release from this Italian ensemble is a rollicking, high-energy variety of prog. Guitar lines are usually charging and crunchy, the drumming is propulsive, and the many keyboard tones add a sense of drama. Threads of jazz, blues, and psych are woven into this EP, and it makes for a fun experience. The overall mood is light, so it’s a pretty easy listen. This release isn’t breaking any new ground, but it’s fun.

Score: 77/100

Band: Tritop | Album: Rise of Kassandra | Genre: Progressive rock | Bandcamp

It really is a crapshoot on whether or not I’ll like a given retro-prog album. Maybe I’ll write an article for this site on the topic if I ever get around to analyzing and organizing my thoughts on the matter. On paper, Tritop is not dissimilar from other retro-prog acts that put me to sleep. But there’s just a certain something about this record that clicks with me. Yes, the sounds are mostly unashamedly ripped right out of 1973, but the band sounds like they’re having a lot of fun doing it. This album has a vivacious feel to it, and you can sense the musicians’ passion. Parts of the closing opus might be a bit too close to “Octavarium”, but it’s still a pretty solid record overall.

Score: 80/100

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