Welcome to the third installment of The Elite Extremophile’s Top Prog Releases of 2021. We’re starting off with the Top 5 Prog EPs of 2021. The Two-part Top 50 Albums list will be posted next week.
I listened to more EPs than usual this year, but it was still a relatively small crop, so I decided to keep this list limited to five entries.
As I have stated in the past, I’m sure that I’ve missed some excellent releases. 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, email, or my Facebook page.
As I referenced in my Scheduling Note back in November, this list only addresses EPs put out between January 2021 and November 2021. Next year’s list will cover December 2021 through November 2022.
Band: Børeal | Album:Las Mariposas Agitan Sus Alas | Genre: Progressive rock, Alt-metal | Bandcamp
The debut EP of this Colombian four-piece combines the gritty, dirty guitar tones of early-‘00s alt-metal with engaging melodies, and diverse song structures. “Homo Homini Lupus” is a highlight, with its rolling rhythm and descending chorus. The band’s eponymous song closes out this brief release, and it’s my favorite of the bunch. This song is weird and draws the most heavily from modern metal. Some moments on this EP are a bit too evocative of the weaker elements of alt-metal, and some of the catchier melodies feeling incongruous against the harsh backing. Overall, it’s an enjoyable release.
Band: Dancing Sun | Album:Heart Tales | Genre: Progressive metal, Psychedelic rock | Bandcamp
There’s a lot of variance in the styles and discernable influences on these individual tracks. While a somewhat heavy album overall, some songs go all-in on metal influences, while others draw from jazzier corners. Heart Tales’ longer songs are the obvious high points. The extra space allows Dancing Sun to have the most fun with structure. I’m not wild about the vocals on this album, but if you’re able to move beyond it (like I was), or if you wind up enjoying them, there’s some very good music here.
This Czech quintet play a noisy, chaotic blend of post-punk and prog. They make me think of a rawer, noisier Atsuko Chiba, or a more progressive Viet Cong/Preoccupations. Glassy synthesizers shine against jagged guitars, and the compositions twist and surge in exciting ways. Math rock flourishes are common, and squealing guitars contrast against a buzzing background. There are other surprising moments: the keys in the instrumental “Skelněná Krajina” give a feeling not unlike video game music at times, and the sprawling “Ken Kesey” features some electronic inclusions.
Artist: Aurora Ferrer | Album:Night Oracles and Falling Stars | Genre: Art rock, Electronic rock | Bandcamp
This album, while not strictly prog, is evocative of many prog and prog-related acts. The pulsing electronics are usually krautrock-y in nature, and the overall atmosphere is akin to acts like Kate Bush, Peter Gabriel, and Pure Reason Revolution. The compositions are dense, creative, and driving. Particularly praiseworthy are the varied yet cohesive textures in each composition; the album has a distinct feel to it, but no two songs are quite alike.
For as much as I disparage the 1990s as progressive rock’s dark ages, there were some genuinely excellent albums from that decade. The few bands that did put out good music in that era—acts like Spock’s Beard and The Flower Kings—had a distinct sound that, when put to strong compositions, could stand alongside the prog giants of yore. With the rise in popularity of heavier prog acts in the early 2000s (think Porcupine Tree and The Mars Volta), the relatively lush sounds of the ‘90s became much rarer. That’s why I was surprised to find such a ‘90s-sounding album being released in 2020.
Different Light aren’t just aping that old sound; they were formed in 1994, but they disbanded after just one album. They re-formed in 2008, and Binary Suns is their third album since that reunion. The overall sound on Binary Suns is lighter and lusher than most acts in the contemporary scene. Piano is the dominant instrument, and synth pads tie everything together. Continue reading “Album Review: Different Light – Binary Suns (Part 1 – Operant Condition)”→