Welcome to the July Progress Report. We’ve got a very diverse selection to look at this month, from ’70s prog rock to progressive death metal, and everything in between. If you can’t find something appealing here, please check your pulse. And while the ratings have some variance to them, none of the albums this month are bad: even the ones with relatively lower ratings are worth a spin or two.
Ratings are on a five star scale.
Originally a solo project by Florida vocalist April Rose, Auditory Armory became a full-fledged band a few years ago and Dark Matter is their second release. Citing influences as diverse as Tool, Anthrax, and Kate Bush, Dark Matter promises to be an interesting release.
The band comes close to realizing their goals on Dark Matter, with a sound that is essentially alternative metal with many progressive influences. Rose has a great voice – she reminds me of Dia Frampton in her laid-back moments – but it tends to weaken in choruses. Songwriting is a step below stronger alt/prog acts the band cites as influences, but this is a band heading in the right direction that’s worth keeping an eye on.
Contrarian – To Perceive is to Suffer (The Artisan Era)
Contrarian are an interesting group. While Nile’s George Kollias (drums, vocals) may be the big draw here name-wise, the real talent lies with guitarist Jim Tasikas, a Greek fellow who knows more than a thing or two about guitar wizardry. To Perceive is to Suffer is the band’s second release.
This is a traditional progressive death metal album, meaning the sound is based in the genre’s early days. The vocals are nothing to write home about, and I really hope the public release is in a much better bitrate than the 128kbps promo was, but To Perceive is to Suffer is worth a listen for the guitar work alone. Massive riffs and blazing solos permeate the proceedings, and almost make up for the album’s detractions.
Discipline – Captives of the Wine Dark Sea (Lasers Edge)
Naming your band after the ’80s King Crimson project is cheeky, and gets my attention. Detroit’s Discipline are the oldest band on the docket this month, having been together now for thirty years. Captives of the Wine Dark Sea, their fifth album, is mixed by prog veteran Terry Brown, lending even more street cred to the release.
This album is pure, unadulterated ’70s prog – not in the vein of the ’80s Crim band, but more like Peter Gabriel-era Genesis. Theatrical and eccentric are two words that come to mind while listening. It’s very well played and the songwriting is top-notch. If ’70s prog is your thing, Discipline are your band.
Prospekt – The Illuminated Sky (Sensory)
Yet another band releasing their second album, UK’s Prospekt up their game by bringing in guest musicians here – Greg Howe for a guitar solo, and DragonForce’s Marc Hudson as a guest vocalist on one track. That’s appropriate for their style of music, which is modern prog metal highly influenced by bands like Dream Theater and Symphony X.
Therefore, as one would expect, The Illuminated Sky is an album of excess – epic songs and arrangements, a lot of noodling on the instruments, vocals moving effortlessly between prog and power metal. Prospekt do a great job here, though, not getting too carried away while maintaining our interest throughout the album.
The Tangent – The Slow Rust of Forgotten Machinery (InsideOut)
If you considered England’s The Tangent to be a supergroup of sorts, you wouldn’t be far off the mark. With members who also play with The Flower Kings, Transatlantic, Karmakanic, An Endless Sporadic and others, these are prolific and accomplished musicians led by veteran Andy Tillison. The Slow Rust of Forgotten Machinery is the band’s ninth album over the past fifteen years.
Another more traditional prog rock album, The Slow Rust… brings a few more elements to the fore than just theatrics. There is a heavy jazz influence here, as well as some heavier moments, and Tillison’s scathing political dissertations are reminiscent of Roger Waters. After listening to all the albums in this column for the better part of July, this one is my pick of the litter. Check it out!
Tid – Bortom Inom, Giv Akt, Fix Idé (The Sign)
While not new albums per se, for some of us in the Americas these three releases from Sweden’s Tid (which stands for Time is Divine) are new, and very welcome. Longtime readers here might recall last October, when the band’s newest album Fix Idé was reviewed in yours truly’s Progress Report column, and it was good. So here’s a brief blurb about each of these three releases.
Released in 2007, Bortom Inom was the band’s first EP, featuring four mesmerizing songs heavy on atmosphere and rhythm. The harsh vocals are sparse yet effective, and never overshadow the epic nature of the tracks. Tid showed a lot of promise on Bortom Inom.
2010 saw the band progress slightly on Giv Akt, another short five-song offering that was stylistically identical to Bortom Inom – haunting songs of pulsing menace with epic arrangements and harsh vocals. While not a giant leap over their first album, Giv Akt was certainly a step forward in the band’s evolution.
Last year’s Fix Idé saw the band take things up to the next level – and increase the length of their release by one more song. The six songs here again are based on atmosphere and sinister arrangements, but on a grander scale and more subtle harsh vocals. This album just missed out on my Top 10 list last year, and has me drooling for Tid’s next effort.