Odds & Ends: April 3, 2023

Band: Enslaved | Album: Heimdal | Genre: Progressive metal | Bandcamp

If nothing else, Enslaved is a very consistent band. They’ve got a sound they stick to pretty well, and they release albums reasonably often. However, this can also lead to a number of their albums bleeding together into a vague mush of proggy, blackish metal. Heimdal is certainly better than Utgard, but it still doesn’t do much to stand out in their discography. Maybe it’ll grow on me; Enslaved’s best albums have always taken a few listens to sink in. But as it stands, after a couple listens, this is a perfectly fine–though inessential–release.

Score: 74/100

Band: Fistfights with Wolves | Album: The Sheep That Eats The Wolf | Genre: RIO, Zeuhl, Progressive rock | Bandcamp

This short release has some good ideas on it, but the problem is there aren’t quite enough of them to justify the 28-minute runtime. This band is clearly heavily influenced by Magma, especially in their vocal arrangements, but they feel like a bit of a one-trick pony. None of the songs stood out that much, and the 12-part mini-suite “RMFP” is scattershot and unfocused. The opening “Skeletons” is pretty good, so maybe this should have just been a single with one other tightened-up song.

Score: 61/100

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Odds & Ends: July 11, 2022

Band: Artificial Brain | Album:Artificial Brain | Genre: Technical death metal, progressive death metal | Bandcamp

I remember there being a lot of hype around this band’s last album–2017’s Infrared Horizon–but it just never quite clicked with me. Their new self-titled album, though, is great. The riffs are blistering, dizzying, and mind-bendingly dissonant. The songs are well-built and feature some wonderful hairpin turns. Amid the mucky morass of gurgling vocals and growling guitars, lead guitar lines are often surprisingly melodic.

Score: 78/100

Band: Bess of Bedlam | Album: Dance until the Crimes End | Genre: Psychedelic folk, Canterbury sound | Bandcamp

This album varies between idyllic folk with psychedelic tinges and some Canterbury-leaning prog-pop. There’s a lot of good music here, but unfortunately, there’s also a fair amount of unspectacular indie-folk-pop. The weak moments are never bad, per se–just dull. And it’s usually quickly counteracted with a good song. If you’re looking for something arty but light, this isn’t a bad option.

Score: 68/100

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Album Review: Moura – Axexan, espreitan

Band: Moura | Album: Axexan, espreitan | Genre: Progressive rock, Galician folk | Year: 2022

From: A Coruña, Spain | Label: Spinda Records

For fans of: Pink Floyd, Hawkwind, Traffic

Bandcamp

Moura’s self-titled debut album was my album of the year for 2020. It was an exceptional release which blended dark psychedelia, progressive song structures, and the folk music of Galicia (the bit of Spain that dangles over Portugal; not to be confused with Eastern European Galicia). Two years later, the band has returned with another outing that blends those aforementioned influences, as well as some new inclusions.

Axexan, espreitan (Eng. Lurking, Peeking) is a strong successor to Moura while also having its own unique character. The songs are terser on this album; both records are roughly the same length, but this has twice as many individual tracks as their debut. The folk influences are prominent, and that helps Moura stand out in the current progressive rock landscape.

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Odds & Ends: May 16, 2022

Band: Cró! | Album:Buah! | Genre: Progressive rock, Psychedelic rock | Bandcamp

On such a short album, this Spanish quartet manages to cover a huge amount of territory. The title track strongly reminds me of classic Italian acts like PFM or BDMS, and “Coia” is slow-moving and creepy. Other songs touch on alt-rock, funk, and jazzy art-rock. It’s a wonderfully diverse release, and all those different styles are played excellently.

Score: 88/100

Band: Envy of None | Album: Envy of None | Genre: Post-rock | Bandcamp

Envy of None is Alex Lifeson’s new band, and it sounds absolutely nothing like Rush. I went in expecting that, based off the lead single. I knew it was going to be a lot spacier, more atmospheric, and mellower. And while there are a few good songs on the album (“Look Inside”, “Spy House”, “Dog’s Life”), most of this album is a bore. It reminds me of trip-hop–a genre I’m really not crazy about–but without much creativity. Most songs are slow and relatively unvaried. This might be good background music, but I was hoping for dynamism.

Score: 52/100

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Odds & Ends: December 6, 2021

Band: Devour Every Star | Album: Antiquity | Genre: Progressive metal, Trip-hop | Bandcamp

This is certainly one of the more distinctive genre fusions I’ve run across. Buzzy black metal merges with spacey instrumental hip-hop passages to forge a distinctive sound. It’s spooky and laid-back, and it’s definitely worth looking into. As a whole, it feels a little long; I think this style may be better suited to a 20-minute EP. Nonetheless, it’s quite unique, and this act shows ability beyond simply being a curiosity.

Score: 70/100

Artist: Ehsan Gelsi | Album: Ephemera | Genre: Progressive rock | Bandcamp

This instrumental piece was commissioned by the city of Melbourne to celebrate Melbourne Town Hall’s 150th anniversary, thus it prominently features the town hall’s grand organ as its primary instrument. Ephemera is grand and majestic in its harmonious marriage of reedy organ and lush, liquid synthesizers. The whole album is quite warm, and it feels midway between Mike Oldfield and Rick Wakeman. Elements of classical and electronic music are regularly incorporated, making this a surprisingly diverse record despite its limited sound palette.

Score: 80/100

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