Albums Review: Atsuko Chiba – Trace

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Band: Atsuko Chiba | Album: Trace | Genre: Progressive rock, Math rock, Post-punk, Post-rock | Year: 2019

From: Montreal, Canada | Label: Mothland

For fans of: The Physics House Band, The Mars Volta, early Portugal. The Man, Cardiacs

Buy: Bandcamp | Amazon | Apple Music

The 1980s produced a lot of very good music. I’ve got a soft spot for some synthpop, and I love genres like new wave and post-punk. However, that decade, particularly its latter half, was not especially kind to progressive rock. In the current musical landscape, though, both progressive rock and post-punk are on the cultural and creative upswing. Occasionally, there is the rare nexus of both those genres’ revivals. Atsuko Chiba are one such nexus.

On Trace, their second full-length release, this Quebecois quintet lean into the dark, jagged rhythms of bands like Joy Division and Wire while mixing these influences with the complexity and technicality of math rock. Ample synthesizers, inventive melodies, and nonlinear song structures add to their prog bona fides. Continue reading “Albums Review: Atsuko Chiba – Trace”

Album Review: Pervy Perkin – Comedia: Inferno

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Band: Pervy Perkin | Album: Comedia: Inferno | Genre: Progressive metal, Progressive rock, Death metal | Year:  2019

From: Madrid, Spain | Label: Independent

For fans of: Dream Theater, Between the Buried and Me, Cynic, Porcupine Tree

Buy: Bandcamp | Apple Music

Literary references are nothing new in the fields of rock and metal. Grim writings, in particular, have provided musical inspiration to artists ranging from metal bands like Mastodon to acts as impressively-un-metallic as The Alan Parsons Project. The Inferno section of Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy is one of the most-referenced works in the whole of the literary canon. In spite of this, Comedia: Inferno, is an inventive, original, and enthralling album.

Each of the nine songs represents one of Dante’s nine concentric circles of Hell. Pervy Perkin’s music has always been heavy, but they turned up the aggression sharply here to match the dark subject matter. Continue reading “Album Review: Pervy Perkin – Comedia: Inferno”

Deep Dive: Yes

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Welcome to the first entry in my Deep Dive series, where I look at the full studio discographies and histories of some of the major names in progressive rock and progressive metal. I plan to highlight output beyond the “classic” releases. In fact, I plan on the discussion of a group’s classics to be quite brief.

For those who don’t feel like reading this massive entry, I’ve included a summary/TL;DR and ranking of albums at the end. I’m opting to explore albums chronologically, as opposed to a ranked-list format. The context in which albums were made is important, and this is an element often missed in a ranked-list.

For this inaugural entry, I’ve opted to look at one of the absolute biggest names in the genre: Yes. For many, this band is the band when it comes to progressive rock, and it’s clear why. They’re known for their album-side-covering suites, virtuosic musicianship, sci-fi-scenery-adorned album covers, and abundant pretension. Yes are practically metonymy for “progressive rock.” The band has a massive discography, stretching across 21 albums and six decades. This body of work features a great breadth of stylistic variation, as well as a wide range in quality.

Part I: Origins (1968-1970)

Yes were formed in London in 1968 by bassist Chris Squire, vocalist Jon Anderson, drummer Bill Bruford, and guitarist Peter Banks, with keyboardist Tony Kaye joining the band shortly thereafter. Like most bands of this era, they started off playing primarily covers of bands like The Beatles and Traffic, but they soon began writing and performing original compositions. (A Beatles cover (“Every Little Thing”) did make it onto their debut album.) Continue reading “Deep Dive: Yes”

Odds and Ends – March 21, 2019

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Odds and Ends is a segment where I do brief reviews of albums I either didn’t prioritize for longer-form reviews, or ones for which I don’t have that much to say.

a1945761875_10Band: Cheeto’s Magazine | Album: Amazingous | Genre: Progressive rock, Pop, Progressive metal | Bandcamp

This album was a disorienting experience. Cheeto’s Magazine blend sunshiny pop with metal riffs and complex structures. The closest analogue I can think of would be A.C.T., though this has an even more aggressively poppy edge. The songwriting is consistently ambitious, and there are some moments reminiscent of Dream Theater’s better output. I give them a lot of credit for ambition, but the juxtaposition of metal with those bubblegum synths is often jarring.

Score:  69/100 Continue reading “Odds and Ends – March 21, 2019”

Album Review: Amalgam Effect – Sketches

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Band: Amalgam Effect | Album: Sketches | Year: 2019 | Genre: Progressive rock

From: Denver, USA | Distributor: DistroKid

For fans of: Jethro Tull, Phideaux

Buy: Bandcamp | Amazon | Apple Music

Long song cycles are nothing new to the field of progressive rock. Bands have been filling whole albums with pieces meant to be listened to as one extended piece since the early 1970s, and Amalgam Effect’s third album, Sketches, is a great new addition to this particular variety of progressive rock album.

Sketches tells the story  of Alan Quill, a clerk who writes in his free time. The story is about trying to balance the desires of an artist against the drives and demands of living and succeeding in a world where art rarely pays the bills. Calvin Merseal, Amalgam Effect’s drummer and lyricist, has written a book called Quill, which tells the story not just of Sketches but of the two preceding albums. (I’d highly recommend both of those, as well.) Continue reading “Album Review: Amalgam Effect – Sketches”

Album Review: Syrinx – Embrace the Dark – Seek the Light

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Band: Syrinx | Album: Embrace the Dark – Seek the Light | Year: 2019 | Genre: Heavy/Traditional metal, Progressive rock

From: Vancouver, Canada | Label: Church Recordings

For fans of: Queensrÿche, Rush, Fates Warning, Iron Maiden

Buy: BandcampAmazon

Optically, it may be weird to use genre labels including both the words “traditional” and “progressive” to describe the same band. But truth be told, many progressive rock acts do little to progress rock, and traditional metal provides a broad enough template to allow a lot of innovation. Syrinx take their base sound from the realm of bands like Judas Priest and Black Sabbath. But they add the structural complexity and ambition of early prog-metal bands like Queensrÿche alongside aesthetic flashes of some ‘70s prog giants like Yes and Rush. Embrace the Dark – Seek the Light is full of fun and energetic riffs, but there’s a healthy dose of rhythmic weirdness and structural abstractness.

After opening with a short, swirling instrumental, Syrinx dive right into a shining example of their hybrid sound. “Time out of Place” is carried on the back of a tight, anxious riff during the verses, and the chorus features a cascading synth line that could have featured on a classic Rush album. The ensuing “Devil’s Soldier” opens with a soberer tone, but it doesn’t take long to launch into a more aggressive timbre. While one of the less-proggy tracks on the album, it’s engaging, and the vocals, a hoarse semi-shriek, are especially striking. Continue reading “Album Review: Syrinx – Embrace the Dark – Seek the Light”