Odds & Ends – July 11, 2019

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Odds & Ends is a recurring column where I cover short releases and albums I wasn’t able to commit enough time to for a full-length review.

custBand: Custard Flux | Album: Echo | Genre: Psychedelic rock, folk rock | Bandcamp

Custard Flux has a neat little gimmick. With the exception of one electric guitar solo, all instrumentation is acoustic. This band’s particular blend of psychedelic pop and folk rock with progressive leanings results in something unique. Despite being almost all acoustic, the music is bombastic and impactful, and there’s a nice mix of the straightforward and the weird.

Score: 80/100 Continue reading “Odds & Ends – July 11, 2019”

Album Review: Moon Letters – Until They Feel the Sun

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Band: Moon Letters | Album: Until They Feel the Sun | Genre: Progressive rock | Year: 2019

From: Seattle, USA | Label: Independent

For fans of: Yes, Genesis, Camel

Buy: Bandcamp  Amazon

Moon Letters are the first of my fellow Seattleites to be featured on my blog. I’ve seen them live a handful times, and they put on a fantastic show. I was introduced to them when they opened for Pinkish Black at the show with the most confusing lineup that I’ve ever personally been to. (The four bands played retro-progressive rock, Bulgarian folk, punk, and spacy gothic rock.)

This group, like many in the contemporary progressive rock scene, heavily base their sounds on the giants of the genre. Yes and Genesis are their two clearest influences, but the songwriting is original enough for them to rise above the territory of schlocky knock-offs and stand on their own as a distinct band. Continue reading “Album Review: Moon Letters – Until They Feel the Sun”

Album Review: Baroness – Gold & Grey

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Band: Baroness | Album: Gold & Grey | Genre: Sludge metal, Progressive metal, Hard rock | Year: 2019

From: Savannah, USA | Label: Abraxan Hymns

For fans of: Mastodon, Adrift, Inter Arma

Buy: Many options

Baroness are one of the biggest acts in all of progressive metal. Their first two albums (Red Album and Blue Record) are beloved by the prog metal community for their creative fusions of sludge metal, progressive rock, and some surprising pop sensibilities. Their sprawling third album, Yellow & Green, was a noticeable step down in quality, featuring a lot of music that sounded like attempts to make radio-friendly hard rock. There was still good music here, but it should’ve been cut down to one album. Purple, released in 2015, was a step up. It was a metal album, for sure (and a pretty good one, at that), but it still wasn’t on par with those first two albums.

So, with Baroness’s recent ups-and-downs in mind, I approached this album somewhat cautiously. The singles were okay on the whole. Some were certainly better than others, but this is a long record, so I tried to keep an open mind.

The music itself is varied in its quality. The addition of guitarist/backup vocalist Gina Gleason works very well. Her backing vocals add a rich, new character to the music, and she and lead vocalist John Baizley sound great together. Continue reading “Album Review: Baroness – Gold & Grey”

Odds & Ends – June 20, 2019

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Odds and Ends is a segment where I do brief reviews of albums I either didn’t prioritize for longer-form reviews, or ones for which I don’t have that much to say.

a1413993540_10Band: BLASTAR | Album: Construct | Genre: Progressive rock, Jam band | Bandcamp

I really loved BLASTAR’s debut album, so I was very excited when I saw them announce their latest release. On Construct, they’ve opted to go fully instrumental. The music is cosmic and high-energy, and the overall sound has shifted more in the direction of jam bands like Aqueous or Umphrey’s McGee, with jazz and folk tones. As I’ve frequently said, it can be tough to make an instrumental album consistently engaging, but this does a good job of holding the listener’s attention. That’s not to say it doesn’t have faults, but it’s enjoyable on the whole.

Score: 77/100 Continue reading “Odds & Ends – June 20, 2019”

Album Review: Dreadnought – Emergence

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Band: Dreadnought | Album: Emergence | Genre: Progressive metal, Doom metal | Year: 2019

From: Denver, USA | Label: Profound Lore Records

For fans of: Tool, Cormorant, Panopticon

Buy: Bandcamp| Amazon | Apple Music

Like any metal subgenre, doom metal has an abundance of sub-subgenres, including stoner-doom, death-doom, and funeral doom. Prog-doom, to my disappointment, is one of the less-proliferated of these, even when put in the context of progressive metal. Other prog varietals—like black, sludge, and death—far outstrip progressive doom in both volume and prominence. Of the rather small cohort of bands who do fuse the murky, morose field of doom with the artistry and ambition of prog, Dreadnought are at the forefront.

Emergence is the fourth full-length release from this Colorado quartet, and it’s a logical progression from their last release, 2017’s A Wake in Sacred Waves. AWISW was among my favorite albums from that year, so this was a highly, highly anticipated release for me. I’m pleased to say it lived up to my hopes and exceeded my expectations. The sound on this album is massive—far more imposing than would be expected of four musicians. The guitar attacks in thick walls of guttural distortion, while the piano thunders and adds a certain weightiness rarely heard in metal. Continue reading “Album Review: Dreadnought – Emergence”

Album Review: Tanagra – Meridiem

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Band: Tanagra | Album: Meridiem | Genre: Progressive Metal, Power Metal | Year: 2019

From: Portland, (Oregon,) USA | Label: Independent

For Fans of: Symphony X, Dream Theater

Buy: Bandcamp | Amazon | Apple Music

I often cite the vague concept of “cheesiness” as a fault in a lot of modern progressive rock and metal. Much like actual cheese, I enjoy it in limited amounts, but if I down a wheel of brie or a block of Cheddar, I’ll probably feel at least a little sick. Certain subgenres abuse this more than others, and power metal is one of the most cheese-forward styles out there.

The Oregonian quintet Tanagra whole-heartedly embraces cheesiness on Tanagra, their second full-length release. The earnestness with which the music is played is a huge plus for the band: had they been more self-aware, tongue-in-cheek, or even a little shier about the grandiosity, I don’t think this album would have worked as well as it does. Even the album art features a loving embrace of power and progressive metal’s tropes: amid a sci-fi landscape, the band’s logo is in a faux-Devanagari script, while the album title looks Tolkienian. (Had I not enjoyed this album, I probably would have decried this as lazy hackery; my feelings about an album’s artwork and the music itself often feed off of each other.) Continue reading “Album Review: Tanagra – Meridiem”