Album Review: Light – The Path

Band: Light | Album: The Path | Genre: Progressive rock, RIO, Chamber music | Year: 2023

From: Toulouse, France | Label: Independent

For fans of: iamthemorning, Van der Graaf Generator, Univers Zero

Bandcamp

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.

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Album Review: Hammers of Misfortune – Overtaker

Band: Hammers of Misfortune | Album: Overtaker | Genre: Progressive metal, Thrash metal | Year: 2022

From: San Francisco, USA | Label: Independent

For fans of: Detente, Voivod, Droid

Bandcamp

Hammers of Misfortune is a progressive thrash four-piece currently based somewhere out of Montana. Every source outside of their Bandcamp listed their location as San Francisco, but Bandcamp said they’re based in Montana. So I’m guessing a relocation occurred somewhat recently.

Geographical unclarity aside, they’ve got a distinctive sound. Female-fronted acts outside of power and traditional metal are somewhat rare, and this band is quite keys-forward, especially for a thrash band. The vocals remind me a lot of Detente, and the rich synths and organs could fit in perfectly with any classic prog band. The riffs are fast and complex, though, and the music overall is uncompromising.

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Lesser-Known Gem: Barış Manço – 2023

Artist: Barış Manço | Album: 2023 | Genre: Anatolian rock, Progressive rock | Year: 1975

From: Istanbul, Turkey | Label: Yavuz Plak

For fans of: Pink Floyd, The Moody Blues

Buy

Barış Manço (pronounced roughly BAR-ish MAHN-cho) was a Turkish composer and musician. He was one of the founders of the Anatolian rock movement, along with guitarist Erkin Koray and the bands 3 Hür-El and Moğollar. I’ve mentioned Anatolian rock a few times on this site, but I haven’t given it its own entry before now.

Anatolian rock blends the sounds of psychedelic and space rock with Turkish folk melodies and instrumentation. There was a lot of variation in this field, with Moğollar being on the folkier end of things and 3 Hür-El remaining rooted in fuzzy psychedelia. To this day, Anatolian rock persists as a micro-genre, though it had its heyday in the late ‘60s and through the ‘70s.

I’ll be the first to admit that 2023 isn’t exactly the least-known entry in this series, but it’s an opportunity I couldn’t pass up! (For those of you reading this in the future, check the date this review was published.) Manço was the spaciest and most overtly proggy of the major Anatolian acts. His lush keyboards and wind instruments call to mind acts like The Moody Blues and late-’60s Pink Floyd.

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Odds & Ends: December 19, 2022

Band: Call Me Ishmael | Album: Cosmic Travellers | Genre: Progressive folk, English folk | Bandcamp

This is some pretty enjoyable prog-folk, with a very heavy emphasis on the folk part. I’m not an expert in the folk music of the British Isles, but when I think of “English folk music,” something not too far off from this pops into my mind. Mixed into that, though, are smart, inventive structures and melodies. And aside from a rather regrettable synth-brass tone on one track, the tonal choices are pleasant. This album does feature the eight-millionth version of “The Unquiet Grave,” though, and this band doesn’t bring anything new to the table there.

Score: 75/100

Artist: Paul Gunn | Album: The Ludwig Suite | Genre: Progressive rock | Bandcamp

This is a lovely little EP. The music incorporates bits of jazz and classical music, and Gunn has a distinctive voice. I get echoes of acts like Gentle Giant, Bubu, and Magma throughout, and I appreciate that this release doesn’t try to do too much. It’s 15 minutes of thoughtful progressive rock that focuses on a few strong ideas. Most of this release is instrumental, but those cuts maintain a strong sense of purpose while weaving together diverse influences

Score: 81/100

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Odds & Ends: December 14, 2022

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.

Score: 81/100

Band: Fren | Album: All the Pretty Days | Genre: Progressive rock | Bandcamp

Had I known Wiosna was 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.

Score: 78/100

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