Album Review: Not Otherwise Specified – Deadweight

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Band: Not Otherwise Specified | Album: Deadweight | Genre: Progressive rock | Year: 2019

From: Atlanta, USA | Label: Weeping Angel Studios

For fans of: Dream Theater, Kansas, IQ, Riverside, Spock’s Beard

Buy: Bandcamp | Amazon | Apple Music

When progressive rock first emerged as a distinct genre, the United States were slow to make a sound for themselves. The Brits were the genre’s progenitors, and they largely defined its archetypes and evolution. “Anglo-prog” is an awfully broad swathe of musical styles, but it conjures up a definite set of sounds. The Italians forged a unique niche, and the French, Spaniards, and Yugoslavs had their own identifiable quirks as well, to say nothing of Krautrock.

The American sound that eventually did emerge was pioneered by bands like Kansas and Starcastle: derived from the Anglo sound but grander, more bombastic, and less subtle. Not Otherwise Specified (NOS), while unmistakably modern, draw heavily from that mid-70s American sound. Continue reading “Album Review: Not Otherwise Specified – Deadweight”

Album Review: Dream Theater – Distance over Time

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Band: Dream Theater | Album: Distance over Time | Genre: Progressive metal | Year:  2019

From: Long Island, USA | Label: Sony Music

For fans of: You know if you like Dream Theater or not.

Buy: Many options

I must be some sort of masochist. Every other year or so, Dream Theater put out an album, and I self-flagellate by listening to and thoroughly disliking it. The last time Dream Theater put out a good album was in 2004, with Octavarium, and even that was spotty at moments. I’m pretty sure I’m still traumatized from just how bad their last album, 2016’s The Astonishing, was.

Nonetheless, Dream Theater are one of the founders of progressive metal and one of the giants of the contemporary scene. From the early ‘90s into the early ‘00s they put out a string of fantastic records, including two of the most vaunted albums in all of progressive metal. So, it’s with a sense of obligation that I subject myself to every new release from this band, knowing it will likely be uneven and masturbatory to the extreme. Continue reading “Album Review: Dream Theater – Distance over Time”

Album Review: Ananda Mida – Cathodnatius

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Band: Ananda Mida | Album: Cathodnatius | Genre: Psychedelic rock, Progressive rock, Stoner rock | Year: 2019

From: Venice, Italy | Label: Go Down Records

For fans of: ‘80s King Crimson, Spock’s Beard, Led Zeppelin, Kyuss

Buy: Bandcamp | Amazon | Apple Music

Italy has a proud history of producing some of the best progressive rock out there. At its peak in the early 1970s, the Italian scene was arguably on par with the British. The Italians carved out a unique sound for themselves, drawing heavily from jazz, classical, and folk and singing in their native language. Even now, a few bands play in this distinctly Italian style. Ananda Mida are not one of those bands.

That’s by no means a swipe against Ananda Mida. I’ve listened to and thoroughly enjoyed both their albums, but if you had played their music for me and asked me to guess, I would’ve told you they sound like they come from the American Southwest. They’ve got that sunny, desert-y stoner vibe commonly found in bands from the region. Blues riffs loomed large on their debut, 2016’s Anodnatius, interspersed with spacier interludes and a handful of more adventurous moments. Their new album, Cathodnatius, keeps that desert vibe, but they’ve amped up their experimentation, drawing influences from sources as diverse as early 1970s Pink Floyd, new wave, and math rock. Continue reading “Album Review: Ananda Mida – Cathodnatius”

Odds and Ends – February 18, 2019

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.

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Band: Cosmocracy, Inc. | Album: A Ride Across Your Mind | Genre: Progressive rock, Psychedelic rock | Bandcamp

This is a delightful album. It’s a high-energy, progressive garage rock piece, and it’s a ton of fun. The guitars have a distinctly bluesy twinge, and the keyboards lend a wide, galactic atmosphere. The bass tone used here comes across as downright funky. The vocals are a little rough and weak, but I’m hoping that’ll be improved on future releases. This band have some room for improvement, but they’re starting off strong.

Score: 80/100 Continue reading “Odds and Ends – February 18, 2019”

Album Review: Kekal – Deeper Underground

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Band: Kekal | Album: Deeper Underground | Year: 2018 | Genre: Progressive metal, Black metal, Electronic

From: Jakarta, Indonesia | Label: Hitam Kelam Records

For fans of: Agalloch, Atheist, Kayo Dot

Buy: BandcampAmazon | Apple Music

Kekal have been around for two decades, but this may be their best album yet. The band’s signature sound of complex black metal, catchy pop sensibilities, and wonky electronics comes together in a way more balanced than anything else I’ve previously heard from them. This is a huge improvement over their last release, 2015’s Multilateral, which was an uneven effort. Throughout much of this band’s discography, they’ve often had a hard time getting the black metal and electronic influences to meld effectively.

Here, however, Kekal have dialed back the electronic elements of their sound. Bloops and bleeps are saved for interludes and building texture and atmosphere. It’s rare for synthesizers to take the spotlight for any extended period of time. This isn’t some purely black metal shredfest, either. Yes, a lot of the metal here is extreme, but the band also mixes in gentler sounds, ample interludes, and surprisingly accessible moments. Continue reading “Album Review: Kekal – Deeper Underground”