Welcome to the February Progress Report. As with every month, we try to bring you a wide variety of music covering all ends of the progressive spectrum. This month that variety comes with a couple of similarities: a number of debut albums, and a number of albums influenced by Tool, all squeezed in between some more extreme prog and some more AOR-style music. In other words, something for everyone.
Ratings are on a five star scale.
Canada’s The Divided Line release their debut EP this month, Paramnesia. The band draws heavily from bands such as Tool (and other Maynard acts) and Deftones, creating a sound that can best be described as radio-friendly prog metal.
The six songs on Paramnesia are all solid, with the previously released single “Breathe” being a standout track. However, the band plays it pretty safe throughout, not really pushing any boundaries but rather letting their influences shine through a bit too brightly. A good start to their career: hopefully they step outside their comfort zone a bit more when they record their first full-length.
Dukes of the Orient – Dukes of the Orient (Frontiers)
Dukes of the Orient are essentially Asia Featuring John Payne, only renamed last year out of respect of the passing of the legendary John Wetton. Payne was Asia’s vocalist beginning in 1991, splitting off in the 2000s to form the above band. With that in mind, it should come as no surprise that Dukes of the Orient sounds very much like an Asia album would.
Payne’s voice is very similar to Wetton’s, and the material is very radio-friendly prog – perhaps with a heavier focus on synthesizers due to the fact that Payne’s partner in this endeavor is keyboardist Erik Norlander. The songs were recorded over a span of ten years, with many of the musicians who made up the two Asia bands, and will appeal primarily to those fans.
Letters From The Colony – Vignette (Nuclear Blast)
Another debut album, this time from Swedish math-metallers Letters From The Colony. These guys worship at the altar of Meshuggah and Gojira, but add in their own atmospheric variants, along with the occasional saxophone and (yes) deer call.
Musically there are some crazy, engaging songs, as we would expect with those influences. The death metal vocals definitely need work, though. Jens Bogren mastered Vignette, which would have been a special note a couple years ago but the guy seems to work on nearly every release. Now it just means the dynamics are poorer than they should be, which detracts from a solid debut.
Long Distance Calling – Boundless (InsideOut)
German post-rockers Long Distance Calling have had an interesting history. After three well-regarded instrumental albums, they brought in a singer for two records. Boundless, their sixth full-length, sees them returning to their instrumental roots, and taking a more spontaneous approach to the songwriting.
Labeling this band simply as post metal would be a disservice. The music on Boundless is very progressive, and displays plenty of krautrock influence. It even has a western-tinged number, “Like a River.” All of it works to wonderful effect, giving us what’s sure to be one of the best instrumental albums of the year.
Novareign – Legends (M-Theory)
Legends is definitely the most exuberant release of the month. Novareign are a power metal outfit from California that infuse their music with plenty of progressive chops on this debut album. These guys love bands like Dragonforce, Angra and Iron Maiden, and it shows.
With those influences it should come as no surprise that the complexity of the music is way up there, but these guys play with a don’t-care attitude and one can’t help but smile and headbang to the music. The songs do tend to blend into one another, but they sure are fun.
Poem – Unique (ViciSolum)
Another review, another Tool-influenced band, this time from Greece. Poem have been around for a decade now, and Unique is their third release. With ten years of seasoning, Poem have learned how to hone their style and make it their own, coming across as a more mainstream and emotional version of Soen.
The songwriting is a strong point here, with all seven tracks delivering in dynamic fashion, aggression and melody playing equal roles. Aside from the occasional hardcore vocal mistake (why throw in these vocals when George Prokopiou is such a strong singer?), this is a top-notch record.