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”
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”
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: Bandcamp | Amazon
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”
Artist: Guy Hatton | Album: I Am Concentric | Year: 2019 | Genre: Jazz fusion, Space rock
From: Rochester, UK | Label: Pantechnicon Recordings
For fans of: Return to Forever, Gong, Al Di Meola, Soft Machine, King Crimson’s jazzier side
Buy: Bandcamp | Amazon | Apple Music
Guy Hatton is a prolific multi-instrumentalist specializing in high-energy jazz, jazz fusion, and progressive rock. His previous releases have had significant funk and Latin influence, featuring bouncing bass, congas, and rich synth textures.
Here, Hatton plays guitars, bass, and keys and programs all the drums. A pair of guests are also brought on for this album to play saxophone and additional keys. The album title is taken from a quote by Salvador Dalí, “It’s true I am eccentric, but in the same time, I am concentric!”, which features in both the opening and closing tracks. It’s a fitting quote to inspire this album—the music is weird, wonky, and off-kilter. At the same time, it’s carefully constructed and complexly layered, with guitars and synths piling up to make an intricate mesh. Continue reading “Album Review: Guy Hatton – I Am Concentric”
Band: Mezquita | Album: Recuerdos de mi tierra | Year: 1979 | Genre: Progressive rock, Flamenco-rock
From: Córdoba, Spain | Label: Chapa Discos
For Fans Of: Yezda Urfa, Gentle Giant, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Flamenco music
Córdoba was a stronghold of Islamic culture and influence from its conquest by the Umayyads in 711 until its recapture by the Castilian-Leonese king in 1231. Those five centuries of Islamic rule left an indelible influence on the region’s culture, most notably in music and architecture.
Mezquita was formed in Córdoba in 1978, in the wake of the death of Francisco Franco and Spain’s transition to democracy. This quartet drew heavily upon local Andalusian history as a center of Islamic culture: “mezquita” is Spanish for mosque, the album cover features Arabic text, and the music is powered by Moorish influences alongside Spanish ones. Continue reading “Lesser-Known Gem: Mezquita – Recuerdos de mi tierra”
Band: Not Otherwise Specified | Album: Deadweight | Genre: Progressive rock | Year: 2019
From: Atlanta, USA | Label: Weeping Angel Studios
For fans of: Dream Theater, Kansas, IQ, Riverside, Spock’s Beard
Buy: Bandcamp | Amazon | Apple Music
When progressive rock first emerged as a distinct genre, the United States were slow to make a sound for themselves. The Brits were the genre’s progenitors, and they largely defined its archetypes and evolution. “Anglo-prog” is an awfully broad swathe of musical styles, but it conjures up a definite set of sounds. The Italians forged a unique niche, and the French, Spaniards, and Yugoslavs had their own identifiable quirks as well, to say nothing of Krautrock.
The American sound that eventually did emerge was pioneered by bands like Kansas and Starcastle: derived from the Anglo sound but grander, more bombastic, and less subtle. Not Otherwise Specified (NOS), while unmistakably modern, draw heavily from that mid-70s American sound. Continue reading “Album Review: Not Otherwise Specified – Deadweight”
Band: Dream Theater | Album: Distance over Time | Genre: Progressive metal | Year: 2019
From: Long Island, USA | Label: Sony Music
For fans of: You know if you like Dream Theater or not.
Buy: Many options
I must be some sort of masochist. Every other year or so, Dream Theater put out an album, and I self-flagellate by listening to and thoroughly disliking it. The last time Dream Theater put out a good album was in 2004, with Octavarium, and even that was spotty at moments. I’m pretty sure I’m still traumatized from just how bad their last album, 2016’s The Astonishing, was.
Nonetheless, Dream Theater are one of the founders of progressive metal and one of the giants of the contemporary scene. From the early ‘90s into the early ‘00s they put out a string of fantastic records, including two of the most vaunted albums in all of progressive metal. So, it’s with a sense of obligation that I subject myself to every new release from this band, knowing it will likely be uneven and masturbatory to the extreme. Continue reading “Album Review: Dream Theater – Distance over Time”