Album Review: Ciccada – Harvest

Band: Ciccada | Album: Harvest | Genre: Progressive rock, Progressive folk | Year: 2021

From: Athens, Greece | Label: Bad Elephant Music

For fans of: Gentle Giant, Gryphon, Renaissance, PFM

Bandcamp

“Retro-prog” does not necessarily need to be a negative term. It usually is, and I most often deploy it when describing unoriginal Yes and Genesis clones. But there are acts who manage to successfully evoke certain elements of the first wave of progressive rock without being derivative. The most enjoyable of these draw from oft-overlooked corners, such as the Italian scene and progressive folk acts like Comus and Gryphon.

Harvest is the third record from Greek septet Ciccada, and it is easily my favorite of theirs so far. All the prog tropes are here—long and obtuse song structures, retro-futuristic synth tones, and top-notch musicianship—but they’re blended with under-utilized and unexpected influences. The eclectic inclusions range from jazz to Greek folk to the Canterbury scene to Baroque music, and beyond.

Continue reading “Album Review: Ciccada – Harvest”

Odds & Ends – November 16, 2020

Band: Arcade Messiah | Album: The Host | Genre: Progressive rock, Progressive metal | Bandcamp

Arcade Messiah is a one-man project out of Ireland that mixes progressive rock and metal with earworm melodies and intriguing electronic touches. Hints of post-rock and stoner metal permeate this album, and each song works wonderfully with the next. This release reminds me a lot of ADHD-era Riverside with its strong hooks, varied textural palette, and adventurous spirit. The Host artfully threads the needle in a way that many acts are unable to. This album strikes a balance of metallic bombast and smooth melodicism.

Score: 89/100

Band: Babel Trio | Album: The Martyr | Genre: Stoner metal, Progressive metal, Greek folk | Bandcamp

I’ve previously discussed this Cretan trio, and I found their blend of Greek folk melodies, progressive songwriting, and sunbaked fuzz truly refreshing. In lieu of guitar, the lead instrument in this band is a modified electric lute, which imbues the songs with a unique timbral quality. The Martyr took a bit longer for me to get into than their previous album, but it gradually grew on me over several listens. This distinctly Hellenic stoner metal kept drawing me back in with its uncommon melodies and well-structured compositions. Compositions range from charging to plodding, and that diversity of atmosphere serves this record well.

Score: 80/100

Continue reading “Odds & Ends – November 16, 2020”

Odds & Ends – September 14, 2020

Band: The Garin | Album: The Garin | Genre: Progressive rock | Bandcamp

The Garin hail from Kazan, Russia, and the band mixes prog, psych, and indie rock into an enjoyable package. This EP has four songs which bounce and twist energetically. Jazzy rhythms frequently crop up, and cosmic synthesizers often get a starring role. The vocals are a bit weak, but beyond that, the compositions are strong. “Yurei” is simultaneously influenced by shoegaze and ‘80s thrash metal, which makes for a unique experience, and “Duomo” closes the recording out with a guitar solo that evokes the best moments of ‘90s Pink Floyd.

Score: 79/100

Band: Hail Spirit Noir | Album: Eden in Reverse | Genre: Progressive metal, Progressive rock | Bandcamp

Hail Spirit Noir have been one of my favorite metal acts since they debuted with Pneuma in 2012. Mayhem in Blue, their 2016 release, was the only album to give Terminal Redux a run for its money in my personal best-of list for that year. Their unique synthesis of black metal and late-60s psychedelic rock and folk has been nothing short of brilliant. On Eden in Reverse, HSN has brought their sound up to the mid-1980s, with rich, creepy synthesizers taking over where swirling organ once dominated. While most of the album is quite strong, it’s definitely their cleanest album to date. I really missed the raw, abrasive black metal fury which was more prominent on their earlier records. The glossy synthesizers often only underscore just how slick everything sounds.

Score: 74/100

Continue reading “Odds & Ends – September 14, 2020”

Album Review: Guppy Fish – The Fall of Man

gfBand: Guppy Fish | Album: The Fall of Man | Genre: Progressive rock, Progressive metal | Year: 2020

From: Athens, Greece | Label: Independent

For fans of: Opeth, Riverside, Porcupine Tree

Bandcamp | Spotify

I’ve largely been unimpressed with Opeth’s pivot away from death metal. A lot of their recent output has felt flaccid and derivative in an oversaturated retro-prog scene. However, the full-length debut of Greek act Guppy Fish covers the territory I’d always hoped Mikael Åkerfeldt and his crew would. The Fall of Man isn’t exactly a metal album, though it often flirts with the territory. The music is both grand and gloomy. The shadows cast by the giants of the genre are readily evident, but this album stands on its own.

This album’s title track aptly sets the mood as its opener. An eerie, watery guitar arpeggio bursts forth from its quiet beginning into the looming verses. A jagged, irregular riff is deployed to great effect between verses. Two-layered vocal arrangements are utilized both here and throughout the rest of the album to add a layer of depth. Continue reading “Album Review: Guppy Fish – The Fall of Man”

Album Review: Jargon – The Fading Thought

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Artist: Jargon | Album: The Fading Thought | Genre: Progressive rock, Art rock, Chamber music | Year: 2020

From: Athens, Greece | Label: Independent

For fans of: Phideaux, Genesis, Peter Hammill, Steven Wilson

Bandcamp 

The Fading Thought is the debut solo album of Greek keyboardist Jargon. Prior to this solo effort, he was one of the founders of the progressive rock band Verbal Delirium. There are some obvious sonic overlaps, but he’s managed to differentiate his solo sound from that of his band. The band’s efforts hew heavily toward certain prog-rock clichés; organ and bombast permeate the music. Jargon’s solo album, though, borrows extensively from chamber music and film scores. Piano and strings are given prominent roles throughout The Fading Thought.

The opening track, “The Film”, lacks traditional rock arrangement altogether. It’s a quiet, bittersweet instrumental led by piano with lush string backing. This flowing composition serves as a strong introduction to this record’s overall tone. Continue reading “Album Review: Jargon – The Fading Thought”

Album Review: Babel Trio – The Island of Cretal

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Band: Babel Trio | Album: The Island of Cretal | Genre: Progressive rock, Stoner metal, Greek folk | Year: 2018

From: Crete, Greece | Label: Labyrinth of Thoughts Records

For fans: Elder, Baroness, Numidia, Anatolian rock

Buy: BandcampAmazonApple Music

Greece punches above its weight in regard to its metal scene. It’s no Finland or Norway, but for a rather small, sunny, non-Scandinavian country, its metal output is prolific and influential. Most of this tends to be in the form of black metal, with the scene-at-large’s sound being dubbed Hellenic Black Metal. Babel Trio produce music which, to my ears at least, sounds a bit more geographically-appropriate than black metal, which often is associated with cold, grim, wintry imagery.

Babel Trio is a Cretan band who play a brand of proggy, fuzzy, and distinctly-Greek metal. The Aegean is not necessarily a new location for heavy psychedelia to be fused with local folk traditions. Turkey’s been doing it since the 1970s. But where Turkey’s Anatolian rock is a celebrated niche genre, Greece’s folk traditions have remained largely absent from the world of rock music. Babel Trio aim to counteract that by infusing fuzzed-out metal with Cretan traditions and progressive ambition. The overall timbre of The Island of Cretal is evocative of many stoner metal bands from the US, but the melodies are unmistakably Grecian. Folk tunes are reinterpreted as complex, rolling riffs that help the band stand out. Continue reading “Album Review: Babel Trio – The Island of Cretal”