The Progress Report: September 2017

Welcome to the September Progress Report. I’ve been writing these for over a year now, and the variety of records that land on my doorstep never ceases to amaze me. This month, we’ve got major label releases, an independent release, folk, power, prog death, and general weirdness, and representatives from six different countries. Awesome!

Below are six super prog albums, each worthy of picking up or streaming. But don’t forget about what might be the best prog release of the month, In Contact, from Caligula’s Horse, which we reviewed in our September 15 column.

Ratings are on a five star scale.

Kaipa – Children of the Sounds
InsideOut Music

Kaipa – Children of the Sounds (InsideOut)

Swedish supergroup Kaipa are back with their thirteenth album, Children of the Sounds. The band features an accomplished list of musicians from Scar Symmetry, Karmakanic, The Flower Kings, and Ritual, and they play a flawless brand of folk-tinged progressive rock. The album may only contain five songs, but they clock in at just under an hour, providing a variety of moods and themes.

Monstrous guitar solos, lavish production and lush arrangements dominate the record, and while the lyrics tend towards the cheesy end of the spectrum, the songs are so strong we can ignore them. The most pleasant aspect of Children of the Sounds is the vocals of Aleena Gibson. I wish she sang all the songs, she’s that good.

Rating: 4

The Living – The LivingThe Living – The Living (Self)

San Francisco’s The Living have a unique style that can’t really be called progressive metal: it is more like alternative metal, with some definite pop and prog tendencies. On their debut album that uniqueness is on full display throughout thanks to guitars awash in reverb and delay, emotional vocal delivery, and raw yet effective production.

“Delay” is catchy enough to be played on radio, yet still draws the prog fans in with the complex interplay between instruments. And that’s just one example. Throughout The Living the band delivers infectious, multi-faceted songs. It’s a top-notch debut that has me taking note so as not to miss their next album.

Rating: 3.5

The Minerva Conduct – The Minerva Conduct
Transcending Obscurity Records

The Minerva Conduct – The Minerva Conduct (Transcending Obscurity)

We don’t get a lot of prog metal submissions from India, so my ears perked up when The Minerva Conduct came along. Back in their homeland this trio might be considered a supergroup, as their regular bands include Demonic Resurrection, Gutslit, and Albatross. Their self-titled album is 48 minutes of engaging instrumental prog metal.

No vocals means the musicianship and songwriting have to carry the day, and they do throughout The Minerva Conduct. This is the album Animals as Leaders wishes they could put out. It’s experimental, featuring a multitude of instruments and sounds, seriously complex and intricate, and most importantly, totally engrossing. There isn’t a weak song to be found, making this a top pick for fans of instrumental prog.

Rating: 4

Neck of the Woods – The Passenger
Basick Records

Neck of the Woods – The Passenger (Basick)

Our heaviest record of the month is courtesy of Vancouver, Canada’s Neck of the Woods. Their debut album, The Passenger, is a tasty prog-death platter that flies by a little too quickly. The band shines throughout the 36 minutes of The Passenger, leaving us wanting more – or at least whetting our appetites for their next album.

The closest comparison for Neck of the Woods might be old Opeth, although without the same level of writing chops or vocals. These guys do a great job here, though, mixing quiet instrumentals with crushing technical passages. Another year or two of seasoning and they’ll be a force to be reckoned with.

Rating: 3.5

Threshold – Legends of the Shires
Nuclear Blast/Metalville Records

Threshold – Legends of the Shires (Nuclear Blast/Metalville)

Threshold straddle the line between power and progressive metal. On Legends of the Shires, the U.K. band’s 11th album, they straddle that line admirably for a whopping 83 minutes. Anyone who follows this band knows they don’t have the best of luck with vocalists, having had a number of them come and go (and pass away) over the years. On this album, for the first time since 1994, they have Glynn Morgan on the mic.

Luckily for Threshold, Morgan fits in perfectly with the band’s bombastic approach, his classic prog-power voice bringing extra life to each song, be it power anthems like “Small Dark Lines” or a progressive epic like “Stars and Satellites.” While Legends of the Shires is a long album, it never bores the listener, making it a welcome addition to the band’s discography.

Rating: 4

Vulture Industries – Stranger Times
Season Of Mist

Vulture Industries – Stranger Times (Season of Mist)

Okay, this is a strange one, much like the title would suggest. More avante-garde and theatrical than progressive, Stranger Times is Norwegian band Vulture Industries’ second album. A cursory listen makes one think of gothic, artsy music, but listen more closely and you will be rewarded with layers of intrigue.

Vocals range from menacing croons to Scott Walker-like intonations, and the music is heavy and dark, with tinges of industrial and progressive flair. Sound odd? Well, it is, but the whole thing works. Vulture Industries have created an off-kilter yet alluring album that might widen your perception of progressive music.

Rating: 3.5

Other 2017 Progress Reports

The Progress Report: January 2017
The Progress Report: February 2017
The Progress Report: March 2017
The Progress Report: April 2017
The Progress Report: May 2017
The Progress Report: June 2017
The Progress Report: July 2017
The Progress Report: August 2017

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