Welcome back to The Elite Extremophile’s Topg 50 Prog Albums of 2022. In case you missed it, Part 1 can be found here.Continue reading “Top 50 Prog Albums of 2022, Part 2: 25-1”
Welcome to the first half of The Elite Extremophile’s Top 50 Prog Albums of 2022. This article covers spots 50-26, and the top 25 can be found here!
Full disclosure: the label of “2022” is not entirely accurate. The music featured here covers December 2021 through November 2022. Trying to find new music in the month of December is a fool’s errand, as much of my time during that month is occupied with writing and editing this list.
As I always say, I’m sure there are some excellent albums not included in my list. This site is a one-man operation (in relation to reviewing, that is; my editors, Kelci and Dan, have been tremendously helpful), and I simply cannot listen to everything that gets released. I also have my personal biases against some rather popular trends in prog, which affects the composition of this list. But if you’ve got recommendations, do not hesitate to shoot them my way.
2022 wound up being a decent overall year for prog. It felt as if the year started off slowly, and there definitely were fewer albums that truly knocked my socks off, as compared to other years. However, there was still a lot of super-solid prog, psych, and otherwise-weird and experimental music to be heard. And I listened to more albums than ever before, which allowed me to draw from a larger pool. That meant I had to make some tough decisions about the final composition of this list, and deciding on the final order was challenging. Outside of the top 7 or 8, most of these albums could have easily been placed several spots higher or lower, depending on my mood.
Now, let’s get to it!Continue reading “Top 50 Prog Albums of 2022, Part 1: 50-26”
Welcome to the fourth installment of The Elite Extremophile’s Top Prog Releases of 2022. We’re starting off with the Top Prog EPs of 2022. The two-part Top 50 Albums list will be posted in the coming days.
I’ve never settled on a firm number for this list, but the last three years have all been Top Fives. This year, though, I listened to many more short releases than usual, and there are nine in particular that I want to highlight.
The difference between an EP and a short LP can often be murky. A number of these releases could have feasibly been included in the Top Albums list (and at least two initially were). However, upon thinking it through, I’m comfortable with this list. Aside from being fairly short, I don’t have firm criteria for differentiating LPs and EPs. It’s very much an “I’ll-know-it-when-I-see-it” situation.
So, without further ado, let’s jump into the list!Continue reading “Top Prog EPs of 2022”
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
Score: 81/100Continue reading “Odds & Ends: December 19, 2022”
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.
Band: Gospel | Album: The Loser | Genre: Progressive rock | Bandcamp
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.
Score: 84/100Continue reading “Odd & Ends – November 7, 2022”
Band: Ashenspire | Album:Hostile Architecture | Genre: Avant-garde metal | Year: 2022
From: Glasgow, UK | Label: Aural Music
For fans of: Ulcerate, Tomarum, Arcturus, Deathspell Omega
Certain albums click with me immediately. Some of them I wind up absolutely loving, like Moura’s self-titled or Papangu’s Holoceno. Others fall from my graces fairly quickly, like Hand. Cannot. Erase. or Devin Townsend’s Deconstruction. Yet other releases, meanwhile, take a while to sink in. Even if I didn’t totally love it on the first listen, I keep feeling drawn back to it; and on subsequent spins, my enjoyment only grows deeper.
The second full-length album from Scotland’s Ashenspire is one of those albums that really grew. On the first listen, I liked it. It’s an incredibly dense record, so I knew I was going to need to revisit it. By the third time I made my way through this opus, it had become a serious contender for my album of the year. The blend of black metal and avant-garde influences is incredible, and the raw anger of this record truly shines through.Continue reading “Album Review: Ashenspire – Hostile Architecture”
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.
Score: 70/100Continue reading “Odds & Ends: August 1, 2022”
Band: Athak | Album:ATHAK XI – Dihmin Ïszhe | Genre: Zeuhl, Jazz-fusion | Bandcamp
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.
Band: Epitaphe | Album: II | Genre: Black metal, Progressive metal, Post-metal | Bandcamp
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.
Score: 74/100Continue reading “Odds & Ends: June 14, 2022”
Band: Besna | Album:Zverstvá | Genre: Post-metal | Bandcamp
Besna hails from Slovakia, and they play a variety of melodic black metal and post-metal which artfully weaves together multiple musical ideas. Each of the six songs on this album sprawl without being overlong. The passages blend together seamlessly, and the emotional intensity makes these tracks that much more impactful. I’m also glad that this band sings in their native language, as I quite like the sound of Slovak (and Czech, since they sound so similar, aside from that terrible ř sound the Czechs have).
Artist: Tanshuman Das | Album: Progress Report | Genre: Progressive metal, Progressive rock | Bandcamp
Tanshuman Das is a bassist and composer from India who writes music in the vein of ‘90s Dream Theater and similar acts. The music on Progress Report is epic, dramatic, and cinematic. The compositions are intelligently-assembled, and the playing is skillful. This album is a bit longer than it needs to be, but that’s a pretty common issue in this style of music. Overall, though, this is a fun, enjoyable release.
Score: 75/100Continue reading “Odds & Ends: April 4, 2022”
Band: Somalgia | Album:Inverted World | Genre: Progressive metal, Progressive rock | Year: 2021
From: UK | Label: Repose Records
For fans of: Sigh, Porcupine Tree, Kesem
Records like this one are why I’m glad I decided to lump music released in December 2021 with 2022 for my year-end list-making purposes. I’m often in a bit of a rush getting my draft lists off to my editors, and trying to find new music in the midst of that is a fool’s errand. Somalgia’s debut album–Inverted World– was released in mid-December, and it’s a fantastic blend of genres, including progressive rock, black metal, trip-hop, and psychedelia.
Somalgia is an English duo who go so far as to label their music “post-genre.” It’s certainly a diverse release, especially as far as progressive rock and progressive metal go; but they’re not doing the stereotype of pretentious prog-rockers any favors with this sort of posturing. The lyrics are also a bit 14-year-old-who-just-saw-The-Matrix-and-is-now-a-conspiracy-theorist for my taste. The band has used the NPC wojak meme multiple times on their Instagram, as well as engaging in some 5G conspiracy. I get the feeling it would likely be unproductive for me to engage in political discussions with whomever wrote the lyrics.
Political gripes aside, Inverted World has a lot of fantastic music on it; and it’s situations like this one where I’m glad I’m good at just tuning words out most of the time.Continue reading “Album Review: Somalgia – Inverted World”