Caratucay is a German prog-death metal quintet, and Nocturnes of the Incarcerated is their second full-length album. I will admit that I was entirely unfamiliar with this band before running across Nocturnes while perusing Bandcamp, but this album made enough of an impression on me, I felt it’d make a solid spotlight for this site.
After the brief subdued intro “Captivi te Salutant”, the album starts in earnest with “Paralysis”. It’s an immediate punch in the face, full of pummeling yet melodic riffs. The vocals have more in common with black metal than death metal for the most part, but that’s something I like. In general, I prefer black metal shrieking over death metal Cookie Monster vocals. Those low guttural vocals feature prominently, too, but they strike a nice balance. “Paralysis” is a tight, anxious song, where the riffs bounce all over the place. Despite the many shifts, the song holds together well.
PeroPero is a Berlin-based progressive metal duo of Austrian origin. It’s been six years since their last release, 2017’s Lizards. Massive Tales of Doom hews rather close to PeroPero’s typical sound. The vocals are idiosyncratic and dramatic, and the songs are full of wild and twisting riffs.
Massive Tales of Doom opens on the pummeling, slightly-askew guitar lines of “Vermin”. The drumming is exciting and energetic without being overbearing. The vocals are dramatic and are perhaps the most distinctive part of the band, overall. It’s unorthodox but it works excellently. The song alternates between expansive, doom-influenced walls of guitar and twisting, irregular scalar runs. Growling stabs of synthesized bass add an effective counterbalance during the song’s more ascendent moments.
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.
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.
Elder is a big enough name in the world of progressive rock and progressive metal that I figured I could probably safely exclude the “For fans of” section from my header. Their sound is a distinctive mix of heavy psych, progressive rock, and stoner metal that is (usually) smart, technical, accessible, and expansive.
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.
Phaneronaut is a one-man project out of Germany with an inclination for weird, experimental electronics and sharp contrasts in tone. In the three years the project has been active, they have been quite prolific, so I have not listened to their whole back catalog. What I have heard, though, is strongly reminiscent of early krautrock acts, often landing somewhere between Neu! and The Cosmic Jokers.
This album, then, marks something of a shift in Phaneronaut’s sound. Originally envisioned as having two contrasting halves–a “wood” side and a “metal” side–the project evolved into something else, though the “metal” concept remained. Thus, where previous works are synth heavy and quite electronic, Anabasis features sounds (synthesized or otherwise) that use metal in their production. So the celestial synths of earlier works are reduced, and now there are much earthier tones, meant to portray a (possibly hallucinatory) journey to heaven.
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.