Band: Abstracción | Album: Abstracción | Genre: Progressive rock, Psychedelic rock | Bandcamp
The debut EP from this Spanish septet draws heavily from the sound of Jethro Tull’s early material, and the liberal inclusion of sitar adds a late-‘60s psychedelic folk feel to the mix. Swirling Hammond organ and echoing electric guitar lines keep the atmosphere lush, while vocalist Catalina Requena’s willowy delivery occasionally bleeds into the instrumental elements. Each song is distinct, but the tonal continuity between the pieces keeps this recording cohesive and coherent.
Band: Ars de Er | Album: La Métamorphose | Genre: Progressive rock | Bandcamp
I’ve run across more Belarusian prog bands while writing for this site than I ever anticipated. The latest of these is the one-man act Ars de Er, which incorporates hefty doses of classical and jazz. Strange harmonizations predominate on La Métamorphose, drawing comparisons to the original big names of avant-prog and RIO. Heavy, metallic guitar lines underpin moments of furious soloing and chaotic rhythms. The atmosphere on this record is oppressive. The strange, diminished chords and haunting keyboard textures make for an anxious, claustrophobic feel.
Score: 80/100 Continue reading “Odds & Ends – August 17, 2020”
Band: Guppy Fish | Album: The Fall of Man | Genre: Progressive rock, Progressive metal | Year: 2020
From: Athens, Greece | Label: Independent
For fans of: Opeth, Riverside, Porcupine Tree
Bandcamp | Spotify
I’ve largely been unimpressed with Opeth’s pivot away from death metal. A lot of their recent output has felt flaccid and derivative in an oversaturated retro-prog scene. However, the full-length debut of Greek act Guppy Fish covers the territory I’d always hoped Mikael Åkerfeldt and his crew would. The Fall of Man isn’t exactly a metal album, though it often flirts with the territory. The music is both grand and gloomy. The shadows cast by the giants of the genre are readily evident, but this album stands on its own.
This album’s title track aptly sets the mood as its opener. An eerie, watery guitar arpeggio bursts forth from its quiet beginning into the looming verses. A jagged, irregular riff is deployed to great effect between verses. Two-layered vocal arrangements are utilized both here and throughout the rest of the album to add a layer of depth. Continue reading “Album Review: Guppy Fish – The Fall of Man”
Band: Custard Flux | Album: Oxygen | Genre: Progressive rock, Progressive folk, Psychedelic folk | Year: 2020
From: Detroit, USA | Label: Independent
For fans of: Comus, Van der Graaf Generator, Jan Dukes de Grey
Custard Flux is the brainchild of Detroit-based multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Gregory Curvey, and this is one of the more unique acts currently active in the progosphere. Custard Flux is a (almost) fully-acoustic band, with electric instrumentation being limited to a small number of guitar solos on this band’s first two albums. Acoustic guitar and harmonium have been the primary instruments this act’s sound has been built around.
Oxygen is Custard Flux’s third album in as many years, and it’s their best and most diverse yet. While the sound is still primarily acoustic, it’s been augmented with ample saxophone and violin. Electric guitar—in its rare appearances—feels more integral to the compositions, rather than being a solo laid on top of a fully-acoustic piece. The compositions are also the most daring and progressive they’ve recorded yet. Continue reading “Album Review: Custard Flux – Oxygen”
Band: Elder | Album: Omens | Genre: Progressive rock, Stoner metal | Year: 2020
From: Boston, USA (Originally); Berlin, Germany (Currently) | Label: Armageddon (US), Stickman (EU)
For fans of: Mastodon, Tool, Pink Floyd
Buy: Bandcamp | Amazon | Apple Music
Over the last few years, Elder have established themselves as one of the most interesting acts in progressive rock. Their albums Lore and Reflections of a Floating World deftly blended prog and psychedelia with a stoner metal backbone, and their 2019 EP The Gold & Silver Sessions saw heavy incorporation of krautrock and jam band influences.
The recording of Omens, Elder’s fifth full-length release, marked several major changes for the band. The most obvious of which was that the band underwent their first-ever lineup change to introduce a new drummer and guitarist/keyboardist. The band also relocated from Boston to Berlin, and the press for this record leading up to its release emphasized this state of change. Sonically, the most obvious change over previous releases is the widespread incorporation of synthesizers. Overall, though, Omens doesn’t stray that far from Elder’s typical sound; all in all, they’ve just added a few baubles. Continue reading “Album Review: Elder – Omens”
Band: Ak’chamel, The Giver Of Illness | Album: The Totemist | Genre: Krautrock, Psychedelic folk | Bandcamp
The Totemist is a swirl of ritualistic atmosphere and repetition. The murky aura augments the contrasts between the sharp notes of the acoustic instruments and the omnipresent, sinister drone. The compositions morph in naturalistic ways, and subtle touches of jazz are worked in amid the faux-shamanic folk, resulting in something quite creative.
Band: Cthulhu Rise | Album: Last | Genre: Progressive rock, Jazz-fusion | Bandcamp
This instrumental Ukrainian band reminds me a lot of Liquid Tension Experiment. The roots of the act’s sound clearly derive from Dream Theater-style melodic prog metal, but jazz plays a large role here too. The individual musicians flaunt their chops on the three songs here, but the soloing always comes off as purposeful. Each track is full of surprising twists and turns, with few ideas sticking around for more than about a minute at a time. Somehow, it avoids feeling disjointed.
Score: 84/100 Continue reading “Odds & Ends – March 9, 2020”
Though this blog is only about a year old, I’ve been publishing music-oriented year-end lists on my personal Facebook since 2010. Those lists have usually covered all releases—albums and EPs—as well as music from genres outside the progosphere. Since starting this blog, I listened to more new music in 2019 than I had in any previous year, and it was even more skewed toward prog and prog-related output than in years past.
To save myself from having to write (and you from having to read) a 100-plus-entry list full of mediocre releases, I’ve instead opted to publish TheEliteExtremophile’s Top 50 Prog Albums of 2019. This post will cover entries 50-26. Part 2, covering the top 25, will be published on Monday.
I’m not publishing album scores here, and past album scores should not be read into too much. Reviews generally reflect something of a first impression, and after months of listening, albums’ standings rise and fall. This list also features some very good albums which I just never reviewed in full.
As a disclaimer, I’m sure there are some excellent albums not included. This is a one-man operation (in relation to reviewing, that is; my editors, Kelci and Dan, have been tremendously helpful), and I simply cannot listen to everything that gets released. I also have my personal biases against some rather popular trends in prog, which affected the composition of this list. But if you’ve got recommendations, do not hesitate to shoot them my way, either through this site, via email, or through my Facebook page. Continue reading “Top 50 Prog Albums of 2019, Part 1: 50-26”
Band: Híbrido | Album: I | Genre: Progressive rock, Heavy psych | Year: 2019
From: Algeciras, Spain | Label: Spinda Records
For fans of: Mastodon, Antemasque, Yes
Buy: Bandcamp | Apple Music
Spain has thriving progressive/experimental rock and metal scenes, and Spanish bands have been featured on this site multiple times. The Spanish label Spinda Records is a recent discovery of mine, and they’re the sort of label I love. Based just north of the border with Gibraltar, they focus on underground, local acts that play progressive and psychedelic music. This support provides such acts with a valuable link to the outside world.
One act which particularly stood out to me was Híbrido. Híbrido’s music straddles a line between desert rock and more traditional progressive rock, which occasionally veers into the territory of a somewhat light version of post-metal. Continue reading “Album Review: Híbrido – I”
Band: Merlin | Album: The Mortal | Genre: Heavy Psych, Stoner metal | Year: 2019
From: Kansas City, (MO,) USA | Label: The Company
For fans of: Elder, Hawkwind, Pink Floyd
Buy: Bandcamp | Big Cartel | Apple Music
Merlin are one of the better examples of progressive stoner metal, and their last few albums have shown a clear musical evolution from dank groovemasters to artistically ambitious dank groovemasters. The saxophone which first appeared on 2018’s The Wizard now is more fully integrated, and with it, an injection of jazz influence. Blues elements are certainly present as well, but they don’t overpower, and many of the sludgy riffs are played with impressive restraint.
The Mortal appears to be something of a follow-up to The Wizard. Beyond their shared use of saxophone and similar titles, both close with an eponymous suite, and both those suites share musical and lyrical themes of magic. Continue reading “Album Review: Merlin – The Mortal”
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.
Band: 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”
Band: Pinkish Black | Album: Concept Unification | Genre: Space rock, Gothic rock, Experimental rock | Year: 2019
From: Austin, USA | Label: Relapse Records
For fans of: Van der Graaf Generator, Bauhaus, Magma
Buy: Bandcamp | Amazon | Apple Music
It’s really tough for me to describe Pinkish Black. I love their music; it’s a fantastic, innovative blend of different genres, but it’s packaged in such a way that they’re tough to sum up. The band consist of a keyboards-and-drums duo, but they’re on a metal label and are often mentioned in the same breath as doom metal bands. I’ve heard them referred to as “doom metal for people who don’t like metal,” which isn’t a terrible description. The music is heavy, in that it’s emotionally weighty. My go-to word for describing these guys is gloomy. At the same time, mixed in with this melancholy is a keen sense of musical adventurousness and ambition. The lush synth tones resemble those of acts like Eloy and Ozric Tentacles, though little else in this band’s repertoire resembles those acts.
Concept Unification is Pinkish Black’s fourth full-length album and their first in four years. Their last release, 2015’s Bottom of the Morning, was one of that year’s highlights. Compared to past releases, the sound palette here is very similar: spacy, echoed vocals; bass-heavy piano; lush, cosmic synthesizers; and sparse but powerful drumming. The songs on this album are more experimental and ambitious than past releases. This record is probably their most challenging release, though highly rewarding. Continue reading “Album Review: Pinkish Black – Concept Unification”