After nearly a decade of silence, British math/progressive rock band Plank (alternately stylized as Plank! on Spotify) returns with a new record. Their last release was 2014’s Hivemind, an insect-themed album with some absolutely killer tracks on it. “Grasshoppers from Mars” demonstrated the band’s ability to be flashy yet catchy and melodic, and “Khepri” was a beautiful example of how to execute a build-up.
Their new release, Future of the Sea follows in a similar sonic palette. This instrumental record is built around weird, complicated riffs, where both crunchy guitar and glimmering synths get their chance to shine.
Band: Ak’chamel, The Divinatory Monkey and the Sovereign Plumed Serpent | Album:A Mournful Kingdom of Sand | Genre: Psychedelic rock, Progressive folk | Bandcamp
Ak’chamel is back with a slightly altered name since I last covered this band. The music’s a bit different, too, and I like this album more for it. It’s less murky, and the instruments are more able to shine through. There’s still a hazy, incense-filled atmosphere to this record, but it’s easier to discern individual elements. Wiry guitar lines, hypnotic rhythms, and assorted non-European flavors swirl together. Some songs are relaxing, and others have a mood that portends doom.
Band: Atsuko Chiba | Album:Water, It Feels Like It’s Growing | Genre: Post-rock, Post-punk | Bandcamp
The latest release from this Quebecois act is a hazy, somewhat droney excursion. The music is often abstract and shifting, but the compositions are strong enough to give the songs identifiable and enjoyable structures. There are still plenty of driving, energetic riffs, but they’re often coupled with ethereal atmospheres to make for a haunting effect. There’s a sense of menace to a number of these songs, and everything gels into a cohesive whole.
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.
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!
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.
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.
Band: General Admin | Album:techno techno techno techno | Genre: Math rock | Bandcamp
Leave it to a math rock band to have such an odd album title. (Then again, I might be disappointed by a math act giving a record a straightforward name.) The four tracks on this EP are energetic, anxious, yet also fun. The riffs are flashy, of course, and many of the melodies are surprising. It’s a to-the-point release that comes in, makes a statement, and does its job well.
Band: Gospel | Album:MVDM | Genre: Progressive rock | Bandcamp
MVDM is made up of just the titular 21-minute song (which actually has a much longer full title). The song was originally written back in the mid-2000s but lay unfinished for over a decade. This epic features lush, languid synths, technical, mathy riffs, and impassioned hardcore punk-style vocals. The song is exhilarating and features a ton of raw intensity.
Louis de Mieulle is a multi-instrumentalist and composer I’ve previously coveredtwice on this site. Since his last outing, there have been a few changes. He’s moved from the US back to France and rebranded as “Louison.” His new album, Magnetic Feel, is much more electronic and synth heavy than either of his Sideshow albums. He also performs (almost) all the instruments, whereas those two prior releases were recorded with bands. This solo approach has also forced him to be more structured in his songwriting, and considering some of my comments on Sid€show 2, that’s probably a net good.
Not everything is different on Magnetic Feel. Though de Mieulle bills this album as “cyberprog” and “retrofuture,” there is a grounding in jazz-rock, math rock, and the contemporary prog scene. Like the two Sideshow albums, this is entirely instrumental, and there’s a strong sense of sonic continuity across the ten songs here.