Welcome to the June Progress Report. Last month featured some amazing albums, and while the reviews below might not indicate equality to May by their grades, these releases are compelling in their own primarily weird way. Many of these albums have a very avante-garde, experimental fusion of styles. In fact, nothing here would strictly be considered heavy progressive music – well, maybe the progressive death metal album, but even that one is heavily jazz-influenced, and an instrumental to boot. Anyhow, let’s stretch our conception of progressive music a bit this month and dig into these records.
Ratings are on a five star scale.
Bent Knee – Land Animal (InsideOut)
This first one is a great example of what June had in store. Bent Knee are a Boston sextet, and to be honest I hadn’t heard of them before now, despite Land Animal being their fourth album this decade. Well, I’m digging into their back catalog after this record.
Land Animal is a compelling mix of art rock, avante-garde and progressive rock, captained by the charismatic vocalist Courtney Swain. The album features intricate yet quirky arrangements, moving from a Kate Bush style to heavier progressive hard rock. Like everything this month, it takes a few listens to appreciate, but it’s well worth the time.
Dark Matter Secret – Perfect World Creation (The Artisan Era)
This is the first time I’ve reviewed a Russian band here. Dark Matter Secret are a trio of heavy hitters, and Perfect World Creation is their first album, following an EP that came out a couple years ago. The release is a short concept album, seven songs under 50 minutes, looking at the creation of the universe from religious and science-based angles.
We call Dark Matter Secret an instrumental prog-death band, but the death part of it isn’t suffocatingly prevalent. There’s just as much of a jazz influence here, notably through the fretless bass work. Dark Matter Secret can tear things up much like Scale the Summit, and Perfect World Creation is a superb debut album.
Foscor – Les Irreals Visions (Season of Mist)
Now that I look back on this month’s reviews, I see how international the entries are. Third review, third country. Foscor are a Spanish heavy prog band. This foursome mixes equal parts sludge, post metal and prog to create an enticing, hypnotic brew. Les Irreals Visions (Unreal Visions) is their fifth release.
The music is dark, moody, and hypnotic, as if somehow Kylesa, Katatonia and Pelican had some sort of bizarre offspring. And it works, with driving, repetitive rhythms and chant-like vocals, all of which stick with you and don’t let go. I’d love to get my hands on a translation of the lyrics to see if they match the music.
Nothing threw me off more this month than this EP from In the Presence of Wolves. First of all, Of Two Minds, Stages 1-2: The Ape and the Cage is almost a longer title than the five song album. Too pretentious for my liking. And opener “As We Speak Pt. 1” begins so weakly I immediately regretted grabbing it for review.
But things change, and by the end of the first song I was intrigued: by the end of the record I was hooked, and waiting for more. The closest comparison I can come up with for this Philadelphia act would be Coheed and Cambria. The music varies from traditional old-school prog to modern technical metal, to jazzy art-rock breaks and plenty of experimentation. Lots of potential in this band.
The Soundbyte – Solitary IV (ToT)
Norway’s The Soundbyte have been around longer than any of the other bands on this list. Again, a very avante-garde release, with a ton of post-rock influences, and a dash of folk music tinting this progressive release. Solitary IV is the band’s fourth album – although band is a loose term here, as The Soundbyte is essentially a solo project by guitarist Trond Engum.
Solitary IV is a short album, just seven songs in 38 minutes. Sounds range from foreboding, almost apocalyptical soundscapes to driving, hypnotic, post-metal, with occasional eerie vocals thrown into the mix – and that’s just in one song. If that doesn’t make much sense, sorry: Solitary IV is incredibly difficult to describe in 120 words. Let me just say you might be confused, but you won’t be disappointed.
Völur – Ancestors (Prophecy)
Representing the fifth country in this column, Canada’s Völur released Ancestors early this month. It’s the trio’s second album, and it’s another weird one for the month. Why is it weird? Because this doom-laden prog outfit plays drums, bass, and violin and features both male and female lead vocals.
Ancestors is comprised only of four songs, but they’re all epic, ranging from 10 to 17 minutes. Each song is skillfully arranged, never leaving the listener bored or clicking through to the next track. Heavy, ponderous, menacing, and filling the soundstage despite the scant instrumentation, Völur are a band to keep an eye on.