Band: Bekor Qilish | Album:Throes of Death from the Dreamed Nihilism | Genre: Black metal, Progressive metal | Bandcamp
Bekor Qilish is a one-man project hailing from Italy. The songs are full of high-energy shredding, technical soloing, and some really great keyboard textures. The production is fantastic, as well. This release (the title of which is impressively cliche for the famously-verbose world of one-man black metal projects) clocks in at under 30 minutes, and that works in its favor. There is absolutely no fat to trim, even in the sprawling and atmospheric closing track.
Band: Birth | Album:Born | Genre: Progressive rock, Psychedelic rock | Bandcamp
I really liked Birth’s self-titled EP last year, and their debut LP contains rerecorded versions of those three songs. The album as a whole is a bit mixed, however. Songs like “Cosmic Tears” and “For Yesterday” are fun, engaging slices of retro-prog. They’re obviously going for the sounds of 1969, but it’s well-enough played and written that I don’t mind. But then others, like “Descending Us” and “Another Time” lack that spark, making the retro sound feel more like a crutch. Overall, there’s a lot to like here, but it’s not without its drawbacks.
K’mono is a Minneapolis-based trio that are not shy about fully embracing the sounds of the early 1970s. Doing a wholehearted embrace of retro-prog can be a risky move. Most of the acts I’ve run across who take this route end up releasing records which are middling retreads of ideas done better half a century ago. There are certainly strong examples of unashamed retro-prog, though: Ring Van Möbius’s most recent album is fantastic; Chromatic Aberration’s debut (which I covered earlier this year) is a strong reimagining of Rush’s classic sound; and even my favorite punching bag Glass Hammer has a couple good records under their belt.
Return to the ‘E’ is K’mono’s debut record, and even without seeing this album’s tags or reading its description, it’s clear that they’re trying to evoke the imagery of famed album cover artist Roger Dean. A fantastical landscape of mushroom forests is the backdrop to some dark lord facing off against a trio of warriors, with the band’s logo written in a flowing, flourished style.
Band: Days Between Stations | Album:Giants | Genre: Progressive rock | Bandcamp
Though technically not a member of the band, ex-Yes multi-instrumentalist Billy Sherwood produced and contributed heavily to this album. This band is extremely Yes-y, almost to the point of distraction. It’s a skillful aping of Yes’s sound, but it does leave me wanting a bit more originality at moments. I’m also not wild about Sherwood’s production; this album sounds thin and washed-out. However, if you’re craving something in the vein of (good) ‘90s Yes, these guys are a decent way to scratch that itch.
Band: Enslaved | Album:Utgard | Genre: Progressive metal | Bandcamp
This is certainly an Enslaved album. It’s melodic black-ish metal with frequent intrusions of harmonized clean vocals and prominent keyboards. Enslaved’s albums tend to grow on me over time, but they’re also often structured significantly differently. This record feels like Enslaved are trying to be more accessible. The songs are shorter than usual, and the band’s black metal background is played down. When RIITIIR (my favorite release from this band) came out, it didn’t click with me at first, but I felt the itch to revisit it. I don’t think I’ll be having much urge to put this album on repeat.