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”

Album Review: Inter Arma – Sulphur English

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Band: Inter Arma | Album: Sulphur English | Genre: Progressive metal, Sludge metal, Black metal | Year: 2019

From: Richmond, USA | Label: Relapse Records

For fans of: early Mastodon, Agalloch, Giant Squid

Buy: BandcampAmazonApple Music

Inter Arma is among the most-talked-about bands in the realm of modern progressive metal (at least online). It’s not hard to see why. The band’s last few releases have been stellar, and their most recent album, 2016’s Paradise Gallows, was especially impressive in its scope and ambition. They’ve managed to effectively blend the pounding heaviness of doom and sludge metal with the speed and sharpness of black metal. I try not to set my hopes too high for high-profile releases like this, lest I be disappointed with a pretty good album.

Sulphur English continues a trend that was begun on Paradise Gallows. Their 2016 release was the first of theirs to feature clean vocals, and acoustic guitar was even given prominent placement at moments. Clean vocals are even more widespread on Sulphur English, and acoustic guitars continue to be given a large role in an increasing number of songs, offering a sharp contrast against the thundering, growling sludge riffs. Continue reading “Album Review: Inter Arma – Sulphur English”

Odds and Ends – May 6, 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.

boltBand: Boltzmann Brain | Album: Spacesquid Brain | Genre: Krautrock, Noise rock | Bandcamp

I wanted to like this album a lot more than I did, largely because of its super-cool album art. However, the dissonance is simply too much for me on this release, and the songs often feel unfocused and meandering. If the band were to tone down some of the more shrieking noises, this would be enjoyable, jammy krautrock. I’m sure the dissonance is intentional, but it more often than not comes off as amateurish, rather than daring and deliberate.

Score: 51/100

yoreBand: Branch of Yore | Album: Kingdom of the First Time | Genre: Progressive rock | Bandcamp

This is a nice, gentle album. Lush synths are the primary instrument on this release, and the vocals are sung delicately and treated with ample reverb. That approach gives this whole release a floating feeling. While I wouldn’t call this album particularly jazzy, many of the keyboard tones are reminiscent of jazz acts. By the end of the album, it does begin to sound a bit same-y, but it’s a nice release overall.

Score: 75/100 Continue reading “Odds and Ends – May 6, 2019”

Album Review: Pervy Perkin – Comedia: Inferno

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Band: Pervy Perkin | Album: Comedia: Inferno | Genre: Progressive metal, Progressive rock, Death metal | Year:  2019

From: Madrid, Spain | Label: Independent

For fans of: Dream Theater, Between the Buried and Me, Cynic, Porcupine Tree

Buy: Bandcamp | Apple Music

Literary references are nothing new in the fields of rock and metal. Grim writings, in particular, have provided musical inspiration to artists ranging from metal bands like Mastodon to acts as impressively-un-metallic as The Alan Parsons Project. The Inferno section of Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy is one of the most-referenced works in the whole of the literary canon. In spite of this, Comedia: Inferno, is an inventive, original, and enthralling album.

Each of the nine songs represents one of Dante’s nine concentric circles of Hell. Pervy Perkin’s music has always been heavy, but they turned up the aggression sharply here to match the dark subject matter. Continue reading “Album Review: Pervy Perkin – Comedia: Inferno”

Album Review: Amalgam Effect – Sketches

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Band: Amalgam Effect | Album: Sketches | Year: 2019 | Genre: Progressive rock

From: Denver, USA | Distributor: DistroKid

For fans of: Jethro Tull, Phideaux

Buy: Bandcamp | Amazon | Apple Music

Long song cycles are nothing new to the field of progressive rock. Bands have been filling whole albums with pieces meant to be listened to as one extended piece since the early 1970s, and Amalgam Effect’s third album, Sketches, is a great new addition to this particular variety of progressive rock album.

Sketches tells the story  of Alan Quill, a clerk who writes in his free time. The story is about trying to balance the desires of an artist against the drives and demands of living and succeeding in a world where art rarely pays the bills. Calvin Merseal, Amalgam Effect’s drummer and lyricist, has written a book called Quill, which tells the story not just of Sketches but of the two preceding albums. (I’d highly recommend both of those, as well.) Continue reading “Album Review: Amalgam Effect – Sketches”

Album Review: Syrinx – Embrace the Dark – Seek the Light

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Band: Syrinx | Album: Embrace the Dark – Seek the Light | Year: 2019 | Genre: Heavy/Traditional metal, Progressive rock

From: Vancouver, Canada | Label: Church Recordings

For fans of: Queensrÿche, Rush, Fates Warning, Iron Maiden

Buy: BandcampAmazon

Optically, it may be weird to use genre labels including both the words “traditional” and “progressive” to describe the same band. But truth be told, many progressive rock acts do little to progress rock, and traditional metal provides a broad enough template to allow a lot of innovation. Syrinx take their base sound from the realm of bands like Judas Priest and Black Sabbath. But they add the structural complexity and ambition of early prog-metal bands like Queensrÿche alongside aesthetic flashes of some ‘70s prog giants like Yes and Rush. Embrace the Dark – Seek the Light is full of fun and energetic riffs, but there’s a healthy dose of rhythmic weirdness and structural abstractness.

After opening with a short, swirling instrumental, Syrinx dive right into a shining example of their hybrid sound. “Time out of Place” is carried on the back of a tight, anxious riff during the verses, and the chorus features a cascading synth line that could have featured on a classic Rush album. The ensuing “Devil’s Soldier” opens with a soberer tone, but it doesn’t take long to launch into a more aggressive timbre. While one of the less-proggy tracks on the album, it’s engaging, and the vocals, a hoarse semi-shriek, are especially striking. Continue reading “Album Review: Syrinx – Embrace the Dark – Seek the Light”

Album Review: Guy Hatton – I Am Concentric

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Artist: Guy Hatton | Album: I Am Concentric | Year: 2019 | Genre: Jazz fusion, Space rock

From: Rochester, UK | Label: Pantechnicon Recordings

For fans of: Return to Forever, Gong, Al Di Meola, Soft Machine, King Crimson’s jazzier side

Buy: BandcampAmazonApple Music

Guy Hatton is a prolific multi-instrumentalist specializing in high-energy jazz, jazz fusion, and progressive rock. His previous releases have had significant funk and Latin influence, featuring bouncing bass, congas, and rich synth textures.

Here, Hatton plays guitars, bass, and keys and programs all the drums. A pair of guests are also brought on for this album to play saxophone and additional keys. The album title is taken from a quote by Salvador Dalí, “It’s true I am eccentric, but in the same time, I am concentric!”, which features in both the opening and closing tracks. It’s a fitting quote to inspire this album—the music is weird, wonky, and off-kilter. At the same time, it’s carefully constructed and complexly layered, with guitars and synths piling up to make an intricate mesh. Continue reading “Album Review: Guy Hatton – I Am Concentric”