Six Tonnes de Chair is a small French record label that specializes in garage rock, often with psychedelic and kraut-y flairs. I’ve covered acts from this label before (Perilymph, WEEED, Slift), and Missing Jack & The Kameleons fit into this general mold quite neatly. Their style draws a lot from late ‘60s garage rock, albeit often sounding a bit cleaner. Krautrock and surf influences are commonplace here, and they’ve got an overall fun feel.
“You Don’t Think” opens up with a buzzy, jumpy, krautrock-tinged riff. Flavors of surf rock are evident, too, especially in the airy backing vocals. There’s a bit too much going on with the drums for this to have a truly motorik beat, but the spirit is there. The rhythm is insistent and infectious, and it really complements the hazy atmosphere.
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.
After four years, PoiL returns with another daring, angular, madcap album. 2019’s Sus was a fantastic release, and it saw the band both focus its songwriting after the sprawling Brossaklitt and stretch out with a pair of 20-minute suites. On this release, the band has teamed up with biwa player and singer Junko Ueda.
I’m hardly an expert in traditional Japanese music. I knew what a biwa was before writing this review, so I’m probably ahead of most Americans, but not by much. According to Ueda’s website, she specializes in “biwa storytelling” and shomyo, a type of Buddhist chant. My primary source of knowledge of Japanese folk music prior to this was Osamu Kitajima’s seminal Benzaiten, a sublime synthesis of progressive rock and an array of Japonic styles.
Much like Sus, PoiL Ueda is made up of a pair of large suites, each of which typifies one of Ueda’s professed specialities.
Years ago, I ran across a poll on the ProgArchives forums asking what the most important instrument in a (progressive) rock band is. It’s obviously not guitars or keys, as ELP and mid-career King Crimson demonstrate, respectively. Neither Van der Graaf Generator nor Atomic Rooster had a bassist in their classic lineups. So that’s why I ultimately chose “drums” in that poll. What makes rock music rock music is its rhythm. Ditch the percussion, and it’s difficult to make something feel like rock music.
I bring this anecdote up because for about the first twenty-ish minutes of Light’s debut album, The Path, there is almost no percussion. (Side note, the generic nature of the names of both the band and the album made this a bit of a challenge to find.) This album opens in a manner which feels more like classical or chamber music. As the record progresses, though, more traditional prog influences are brought in.
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.
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.
Magma returns with a new studio album and a frustrating set of diacritics that make writing about this album in Google Docs a hassle. Kãrtëhl follows 2019’s Zëss, the conclusion of the Kobaïa mythos, so I have no idea where (or if) this fits into the story of the Kobaïans. (For more on that, check out my Magma Deep Dive!)
Where Zëss ended things on a bit of a somber note, Kãrtëhl has a noticeably sunnier disposition. It’s distinct from Félicité Thösz, but it shares that same general uplifting hopefulness. Magma has always been good at conveying emotion, whether it be the doom-and-gloom of “De Futura” or the celebratory warmth of “Öhst”.
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.