Top Prog EPs of 2019

Top EPs 2019Welcome to the first of three planned installments for this site’s best of 2019. Starting things off is TheEliteExtremophile’s Top Prog EPs of 2019. The vast bulk of what I listen to for this blog is full-length albums, and the assorted prog-related genres tend to be long-winded. As such, this list contains only five entries, but all five are highly recommended.

As a disclaimer, I’m sure there are some excellent releases not included. This site is my personal pet project, and I simply cannot listen to everything that gets released. I also have my personal biases against some rather popular trends in prog, which affected the composition of this list. But if you’ve got recommendations, do not hesitate to shoot them my way, either through this site, via email, or through my Facebook page. Continue reading “Top Prog EPs of 2019”

Album Review: Perséide – Parmi les arbres

perseideBand: Perséide | Album: Parmi les arbres | Genre: Psychedelic rock, Progressive rock | Year: 2019

From: Trois Rivières, Canada | Label: Independent

For fans of: The Moody Blues, Yes, Ange, early Pink Floyd

Buy: Bandcamp | Apple Music

Much of the non-metal featured on this site has its roots planted firmly in the years of 1971-73. That fact is neither inherently good nor inherently bad, but it does lead to the prevalence of certain tropes and trends. Perséide’s roots extend a few years further back. Instead of harkening to prog giants like Genesis or Yes, their music stems most obviously from late ‘60s psychedelia and proto-prog, a la The Pretty Things or The United States of America.

This Quebecois quintet is not wrapped entirely in the past, though. On Parmi les arbres (Among the Trees), modern touches of indie rock are present. These influences make the music feel like a vibrant descendent of ‘60s psychedelia, rather than a rehash.

“Hier ne saura jamais” (“Yesterday will never know”) opens with a simple but lively guitar line, backed with astral keyboard tones. This song, like much of this album, is brimming with space-age synth tones and lush Mellotron. “Istanbul”, meanwhile, is rooted in a vaguely Asiatic riff and a somewhat sparser arrangement.

A more openly poppy angle is taken on “Enracinés” (“Rooted”). The rhythm is bouncy, and the twin melody of the guitar and the organ are reminiscent of some of Pink Floyd’s earliest releases, like “Arnold Layne” or “See Emily Play”.

However, most of the tracks on this first half of the album possess detectable weaknesses. Most of the songs are about a minute too long, and “Le tombeaux d’Atuan” (“The Tombs of Atuan”) never really manages to get going and borders on being soporific.

The album’s second half is noticeably stronger than its first. “La nuit des faunes” (“The Night of the Fauns”) has a slow-moving first half that gives way to a fun, energetic extended instrumental period. Guitar and organ prance around in a nearly-folky melody before evolving into a Yes-like series of guitar exercises. “Contreplongée” is a gentle, acoustic piece which only serves to strengthen comparisons to early Pink Floyd. It’s a bit longer than it needs to be, but its placement on the album makes sense.

Parmi les arbres closes on its epic title track. The opening is slow and moody, built upon simple guitar strumming and light percussion. Mellotron flutes eventually are given a brief moment in the spotlight, adding to the dark folk character of this song’s first part. The second half is mostly instrumental and centered around an extended synthesizer solo. In a somewhat rare occurrence, the pitch bend knob is used a great deal, twisting notes in ways usually reserved for guitar solos. This gives way to the song’s finale: a menacing synth line is repeated over a dark, driving rhythm which eventually resolves with a brief return to the song’s folky opening theme.

Perséide’s second full-length album, particularly its second half, is a shining example of how sounds from decades past can be married with modern trends and sensibilities to yield impressive music. Not only do they draw from late ‘60s psych and modern indie rock, but they also channel the unique sounds of Francophone prog, such as fellow Quebeckers Vos Voisins and the French act Ange.

Score: 81/100

Album Review: In Mourning – Garden of Storms

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Band: In Mourning | Album: Garden of Storms | Genre: Melodic death metal, Progressive metal | Year: 2019

From: Falun, Sweden | Label: Agonia Regords

For fans of: Edge of Sanity, Opeth, Agalloch

Buy: Bandcamp | Amazon | Apple Music

In Mourning are a Swedish metal band who play in a style very similar to that of their fellow countrymen, Opeth; but they’re distinct enough to avoid the label of “Opeth clone,” something for which the current prog-metal scene does not want. Opeth’s classic material is some of the best progressive metal ever recorded, and there’s been a yawning, Opeth-shaped hole in the scene ever since they switched to playing unimpressive, unimaginative retro-prog.

In Mourning have been around for nearly two decades, giving them plenty of time to develop their own unique flourishes within the framework of progressive melodic death metal. Garden of Storms is their fifth full-length release and a noticeable step up in quality over 2016’s Afterglow. The songwriting is strong, and there is a smart degree of interplay between distorted and clean sections. Continue reading “Album Review: In Mourning – Garden of Storms”

Album Review: Halcyon Reign – The Voyage

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Band: Halcyon Reign | Album: The Voyage | Genre: Progressive metal | Year: 2019

From: Sydney, Australia | Label: Independent

For fans of: Mastodon, Opeth, Dream Theater

Buy: Bandcamp | Amazon | Apple Music

Halcyon Reign are a trio hailing from Sydney that play a brand of progressive metal which borrows heavily from Mastodon’s most-acclaimed era. It’s sludgy yet melodic, complex yet accessible, and a successful album overall. However, some of the Mastodon influence can be a bit on-the-nose. The most egregious example is the album artwork. Mastodon’s Leviathan, a retelling of Moby-Dick, features striking artwork of the white whale and the Pequod. Similarly, The Voyage—while not based on Moby-Dick, as far I can tell—features a monstrous white whale charging at a ship.

Moving past the artwork, though, The Voyage stands on its own as a strong, enjoyable album. Many riffs are rooted in sludge metal, but the band incorporate other influences, including jazz and folk, to create smart contrasts and interesting textures. Continue reading “Album Review: Halcyon Reign – The Voyage”