This Norwegian quartet plays a melodic variety of post-metal and post-rock with strong alt-rock influences. Tool is an obvious comparison, but there are also flashes of Isis and even Soundgarden. They do a good job at balancing harsh and clean passages, and I appreciate the subtle touches of jazz they incorporate. Some songs (and the album as a whole) run a little long. This is nothing groundbreaking, but it’s solid and enjoyable.
Band: The Dunning-Kruger Effect | Album:Psychik Adventures in Stereo | Genre: Krautrock | Bandcamp
This Irish duo plays music very strongly influenced by early electro-kraut acts like Tangerine Dream and early Kraftwerk. Loops and insistent rhythms help push the songs forward, and the unfolding synth textures give the listener something to focus on. There’s nothing particularly innovative here, but if you’re looking for some spacey music to have on in the background, this is a pretty decent choice.
Band: Call Me Ishmael | Album:Cosmic Travellers | Genre: Progressive folk, English folk | Bandcamp
This is some pretty enjoyable prog-folk, with a very heavy emphasis on the folk part. I’m not an expert in the folk music of the British Isles, but when I think of “English folk music,” something not too far off from this pops into my mind. Mixed into that, though, are smart, inventive structures and melodies. And aside from a rather regrettable synth-brass tone on one track, the tonal choices are pleasant. This album does feature the eight-millionth version of “The Unquiet Grave,” though, and this band doesn’t bring anything new to the table there.
Artist: Paul Gunn | Album:The Ludwig Suite | Genre: Progressive rock | Bandcamp
This is a lovely little EP. The music incorporates bits of jazz and classical music, and Gunn has a distinctive voice. I get echoes of acts like Gentle Giant, Bubu, and Magma throughout, and I appreciate that this release doesn’t try to do too much. It’s 15 minutes of thoughtful progressive rock that focuses on a few strong ideas. Most of this release is instrumental, but those cuts maintain a strong sense of purpose while weaving together diverse influences
Band: Ahleuchatistas | Album:Expansion | Genre: Math rock, RIO | Bandcamp
Ahleuchatistas are something of an outlier when it comes to bands I like. I’m often not a fan of improv-heavy acts that sound like they’re constantly on the verge of falling apart, but this trio always manages to thread the needle of tight, complex riffs and wonky, off-kilter meters with loose improv. Expansion feels a bit more composed than some of their past work, and that pays dividends here. The riffs are weird and wild and wiry, and the songs have an odd, shambolic energy to them. This is a bizarre and rewarding album.
Band: Fren | Album:All the Pretty Days | Genre: Progressive rock | Bandcamp
Had I known Wiosnawas a single off an upcoming album and not an EP, I wouldn’t have reviewed it. But alas! All the Pretty Days is Fren’s second full-length album. Much like their debut, it’s melodic and dramatic instrumental prog. The songs are engaging and attention grabbing, and despite their length, there is very little bloat here. This reminds me of Änglagård’s best work while also being distinct. Hints of jazz pop in from certain piano lines, giving flashes of Magma’s lighter moments.
Band: Audio’m | Album:Godzilla | Genre: Progressive rock | Bandcamp
This album consists of just one 43-minute, kaiju-sized song. Though it doesn’t have the city-destroying fury of kaiju-themed thrashers Oxygen Destroyer, this French septet’s newest release is quite strong. The music is often swirling and otherworldly, with the band’s two keyboardists weaving together complementary moldies and textures. Hints of jazz and Baroque music are sprinkled throughout this release, and that diversity of influences keeps this opus interesting.
Band: The Bronze Horsemen | Album:IV | Genre: Progressive rock | Bandcamp
This is some solid, enjoyable progressive rock. It’s a bit rough around the edges, but rather than detracting, it adds a homespun charm to it. This allure is especially evident when considering the combination of certain folk and bluegrass elements. This band roots its sound in the 1970s, with particularly strong Camel flavors. While it’s not groundbreaking, there’s a lot of heart and creativity here, and it’s definitely worth your time.
Band: Arkheth | Album:Clarity Came with a Cool Summer’s Breeze | Genre: Progressive metal, Psychedelic metal | Bandcamp
I’ve run across a number of acts claiming to be psychedelic metal, but not many actually pull it off. This Australian act manages to deliver on that promise, though. Psych, folk, and jazz are blended with blazing black and death metal to make an alluring sound. The album drifts along with gentle atmospherics at some points, but there’s no shortage of metallic aggression. Hints of Agalloch-ian post-metal crop up on occasion, and this whole release is very well-put-together.
I covered Gospel’s 20-minute single “MVDM” earlier this year, but this album came out about two months before that. The Loser is Gospel’s second full-length release, following their 2005 debut. In that 17-year hiatus, it’s evident the band crafted the best songs they could. The blending of top-notch instrumental skills, complex but concise compositions, and the raw power of their post-hardcore roots makes for a deeply engaging listen. Every song on this album is an exhilarating thrill ride. If the disappointment of the new Mars Volta album left you with an itch for aggressive, engaging prog, then this album should help out.
This band reminds me a lot of Gojira. It’s sludgy, groovy metal with a powerful but unhurried pulse. There are some strong vocal melodies on here, and the songs each make an impression without overstaying their welcome. Neat riffs are sprinkled in, too. However, there’s nothing particularly noteworthy or unique about this release. If you’re in the mood for some solid post-sludge, this ain’t a bad place to turn, but it’s nothing genre-defying.
Band: Church of the Cosmic Skull | Album:There Is No Time | Genre: Psychedelic rock | Bandcamp
CotCS is a band that cultivates an odd image. Between their all-white clothing and referring to themselves as “Brother” and “Sister,” they obviously lean into a cult-y vibe. The music, though, is melodic, catchy, and dramatic psychedelic rock. Vocal melodies are a key component of their music, and all seven members contribute their individual voices to the overall sound. This blend makes for rich, lush passages that contain many overlapping layers of vocals; and I am a sucker for complex vocal arrangements. The music skirts along the edges of dark and light, alternatingly hopeful and anxious. This release is CotCS’s best album to date, featuring a diverse, dynamic array of songs.
Band: General Admin | Album:techno techno techno techno | Genre: Math rock | Bandcamp
Leave it to a math rock band to have such an odd album title. (Then again, I might be disappointed by a math act giving a record a straightforward name.) The four tracks on this EP are energetic, anxious, yet also fun. The riffs are flashy, of course, and many of the melodies are surprising. It’s a to-the-point release that comes in, makes a statement, and does its job well.
Band: Gospel | Album:MVDM | Genre: Progressive rock | Bandcamp
MVDM is made up of just the titular 21-minute song (which actually has a much longer full title). The song was originally written back in the mid-2000s but lay unfinished for over a decade. This epic features lush, languid synths, technical, mathy riffs, and impassioned hardcore punk-style vocals. The song is exhilarating and features a ton of raw intensity.
Band: Bekor Qilish | Album:Throes of Death from the Dreamed Nihilism | Genre: Black metal, Progressive metal | Bandcamp
Bekor Qilish is a one-man project hailing from Italy. The songs are full of high-energy shredding, technical soloing, and some really great keyboard textures. The production is fantastic, as well. This release (the title of which is impressively cliche for the famously-verbose world of one-man black metal projects) clocks in at under 30 minutes, and that works in its favor. There is absolutely no fat to trim, even in the sprawling and atmospheric closing track.
Band: Birth | Album:Born | Genre: Progressive rock, Psychedelic rock | Bandcamp
I really liked Birth’s self-titled EP last year, and their debut LP contains rerecorded versions of those three songs. The album as a whole is a bit mixed, however. Songs like “Cosmic Tears” and “For Yesterday” are fun, engaging slices of retro-prog. They’re obviously going for the sounds of 1969, but it’s well-enough played and written that I don’t mind. But then others, like “Descending Us” and “Another Time” lack that spark, making the retro sound feel more like a crutch. Overall, there’s a lot to like here, but it’s not without its drawbacks.
Band: Artificial Brain | Album:Artificial Brain | Genre: Technical death metal, progressive death metal | Bandcamp
I remember there being a lot of hype around this band’s last album–2017’s Infrared Horizon–but it just never quite clicked with me. Their new self-titled album, though, is great. The riffs are blistering, dizzying, and mind-bendingly dissonant. The songs are well-built and feature some wonderful hairpin turns. Amid the mucky morass of gurgling vocals and growling guitars, lead guitar lines are often surprisingly melodic.
Band: Bess of Bedlam | Album:Dance until the Crimes End | Genre: Psychedelic folk, Canterbury sound | Bandcamp
This album varies between idyllic folk with psychedelic tinges and some Canterbury-leaning prog-pop. There’s a lot of good music here, but unfortunately, there’s also a fair amount of unspectacular indie-folk-pop. The weak moments are never bad, per se–just dull. And it’s usually quickly counteracted with a good song. If you’re looking for something arty but light, this isn’t a bad option.
This Hong Kong-based act plays a variety of music very heavily inspired Magma. This zeuhl is relatively dark, and its most evocative of Üdü Ẁüdü.It’s fine overall–well played, with some interesting motifs. However, Athak does nothing to differentiate themselves from Magma. A lot of this simply sounds like a rough draft of a Magma record.
The second full-length album from this French act consists of three massive epics bookended by a pair of brief, gentle pieces. The first two of the epics are enjoyable, if somewhat typical, prog-black metal. There are lots of twisting riffs and thundering guitars, and it is very good. There’s just not much that makes it stand out. The third epic, though, leans more into death-doom, which simply isn’t that common of a genre.