Arkitekture is a South Korean progressive rock band that plays a lush variety of progressive rock augmented by strings, winds, and reeds. Jazz, classical, and chamber music influences are prominent across this instrumental album. The individual tracks are well-constructed and full of powerful, emotive playing. If you’re looking for something grand and dramatic, this one is for you.
Band: Entropia | Album:Total | Genre: Progressive metal, Black metal | Bandcamp
Entropia’s new album is full of icy, biting riffs. The guitar passages are intricately layered and full of irregular rhythms. They’re often repeated in a krautrock-like way as minor changes accumulate. Though they’re hardly the focus, I love the way keyboards are deployed on this album; they add drama and depth whenever they’re included. The 15-minute title track includes some nice flavors of post-metal here and there. This is a really exciting record, and if you’re into acts like Oranssi Pazuzu or Inter Arma, I would especially strongly recommend this release.
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.
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.
Band: Ak’chamel, The Divinatory Monkey and the Sovereign Plumed Serpent | Album:A Mournful Kingdom of Sand | Genre: Psychedelic rock, Progressive folk | Bandcamp
Ak’chamel is back with a slightly altered name since I last covered this band. The music’s a bit different, too, and I like this album more for it. It’s less murky, and the instruments are more able to shine through. There’s still a hazy, incense-filled atmosphere to this record, but it’s easier to discern individual elements. Wiry guitar lines, hypnotic rhythms, and assorted non-European flavors swirl together. Some songs are relaxing, and others have a mood that portends doom.
Band: Atsuko Chiba | Album:Water, It Feels Like It’s Growing | Genre: Post-rock, Post-punk | Bandcamp
The latest release from this Quebecois act is a hazy, somewhat droney excursion. The music is often abstract and shifting, but the compositions are strong enough to give the songs identifiable and enjoyable structures. There are still plenty of driving, energetic riffs, but they’re often coupled with ethereal atmospheres to make for a haunting effect. There’s a sense of menace to a number of these songs, and everything gels into a cohesive whole.
Band: Astrochemists | Album:Starman Rising | Genre: Space rock | Bandcamp
The latest release from this instrumental Singaporean act consists of just one massive 32-minute epic. This composition is full of driving riffs and intergalactic synth embellishments. It’s got an infectious energy to it, and it holds up very well both as background music and as a showpiece.
The latest release from this one-man project out of Hungary consists of just a pair of epic tracks. The first, “Sötétség”, features piano passages that remind me of Arcturus. The meat of this song is pummeling, but the effect of the distorted arpeggi as they float is quite pretty. “Homály” opens with similar artsy piano lines, and the riffs are punchier overall. Both tracks are pretty solid, and if you’re looking for moody, complex black metal, this is a good choice.
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.