Welcome to the May 2017 Progress Report. And thank goodness! After the underwhelming month that was April, we’re stoked for this month’s albums. We’ve got you covered this month no matter what your tastes: from some heavy technical prog-death to some feel-good ’70s-style prog rock, everything we look below is worth picking up, so read on and check these bands out.
Ratings are on a five star scale.
Nad Sylvan – The Bride Said No (InsideOut)
Nad Sylvan has been around forever, having released music since 1997 and even singing with Steve Hackett on some Genesis Revisited material recently. Thus, as one might expect, the man and his music sound somewhat like a cross between Genesis and Jethro Tull. Sylvan has collaborated with a lot of prog musicians over the years, and his work here shows the influence they’ve had on him.
The Bride Said No follows 2015’s Courting the Widow thematically (both are concept albums: consider them parts 1 and 2), and maintains the same feel of ’70s prog rock with modern production and embellishments, although with some heavier moments. Guests include Steve Hackett, Tony Levin, and Jonas Reingold, making this a prog rock gem.
Night Flight Orchestra – Amber Galactic (Nuclear Blast)
What do you get when you combine members of death metal stalwarts Soilwork and All That Remains? Why, you get the most exuberant tribute to ’70s arena rock possible, of course! Amber Galactic ranks up there as one of the best albums 1980 could have given us, with Night Flight Orchestra having sonic influences ranging from old Kiss to Prism (for you Canadians) to Toto, and even with a sprinkling of Abba.
Sound dated? It is, but it isn’t. The band has crafted ten memorable songs that are all catchy as hell. Production is stellar, and Soilwork’s Bjorn Strid sings the heck out of these songs. You’ll be humming along to “Star of Rio,” “Josephine,” and “Something Mysterious” all summer long, and you should be. Amber Galactic is the feel-good summer album of 2017.
The Thirteenth Sun – Stardust (Aural)
Stardust is The Thirteenth Sun’s debut album. This Transylvanian quintet looks to have a bright future, judging from this album. Influences are wide and varied here, including Opeth (prior to recent output) and Mastodon, all with a psychedelic, sludgy tint to the music and predominantly clean, strong vocals with the occasional harsh line thrown in for effect.
The songs presented show immense breadth in their scope, from borderline blast beats to expansive piano, and all expertly arranged. Through it all, Septimiu Harsan shows himself to be one of the best young drummers out there, channeling equal parts Gavin Harrison and Neal Peart. Aside from the rather tepid instrumental closer, Stardust is a fantastic debut album.
Unbowed – Through Endless Tides (Self)
Our progressive death/black metal entry this month comes courtesy of Canada’s Unbowed. These guys are barely the legal drinking age, and already Through Endless Tides is their second album, joining two EPs as well. They cite Behemoth and Dimmu Borgir, among others, as influences, but one can also hear a less disturbing version of Dodecahedron as far as breadth and complexity goes.
Don’t let their youth or cheesy face paint fool you: Unbowed have chops, both musically and from a songwriting perspective. Black and death metal dominate the proceedings, but with healthy doses of technicality, sweeping symphony, and even sporadic clean vocals. There’s no weaknesses to speak of on Through Endless Tides: sure, the vocals could improve, but that’ll come in time. If they keep this up, Unbowed have a bright future in the prog/death arena.
Until Rain – Inure (The Lasers Edge)
Greece’s Until Rain are back with their third album, Inure. This is an interesting one. Over time, the band’s sound has evolved into sort of a progressively influenced amalgam of alternative metal, extreme, electronic and even piano-driven rock. In fact, there might be too many influences at play here, as the band struggles to maintain an identity.
New vocalist Cons Marg shows potential, but struggles at times. It would be nice to have heard more of backing vocalist Donna Zed, who seems to have the pipes to succeed. That being said, Inure is full of strong songs, with the most satisfying bass production of any album this month. Until Rain are just a hair away from a 4 here.
Voyager – Ghost Mile (Self)
Australia’s Voyager have had a cult following more than anything, which is a sin: they’ve been one of the more interesting prog metal bands around over the past few years (I’m only now digging into their back catalog), with consistently strong output. Ghost Mile is their sixth full-length effort, and sees the band continuing with their brand of pop-infused progressive metal.
Production is pristine as always for Voyager, and Ghost Mile contains a number of memorable songs – the lush opener “Ascension” and the chunky, guitar-driven title track are just two examples. Vocalist Danny Estrin has drawn comparisons to Simon LeBon (Duran Duran), which can be good or bad depending on your taste, but overall Ghost Mile is another top-notch entry in Voyager’s discography.