Welcome to the April Progress Report. As always, we try to bring you a wide variety of styles here, from prog-death to lush prog rock, to psychedelic and, um, something else I haven’t quite figured out yet. Once again, all albums are worthy of checking out, so dig through the reviews, click on the bands, and show them some love by streaming or purchasing their music.
Ratings are on a five star scale.
Our first album isn’t an album; it’s an EP. But that’s how Connecticut’s Archaic Decapitator roll. The Apothecary is the band’s third EP in a row, and introduces us to two new band members (guitarist Chris Ridley, drummer Gary Marotta) formerly of death metal band Xenosis. Kyle Quinton continues to anchor the band with solid vocal performances throughout.
The Apothecary is a solid example of melodic progressive death metal. Aside from the seemingly obligatory (but, trust me, unnecessary) intro track, Archaic Decapitator drop four strong songs full of speed, power, finesse, some keyboards, and even a few interesting changeups we might not expect from by-the-numbers prog-death bands. Fans of progressive and melodic death metal will enjoy this EP quite a bit.
Avandra – Descender (Blood)
We don’t see many acts surface from Puerto Rico, but Avandra aim to make their country proud with their second album (and really, first as a fully-fledged band rather than Christian Ayala’s one-man project), Descender. Written in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, Descender has some potential to wow us musically and emotionally.
The music on Descender does not come from a dark place as one might expect: it is lush, expansive, and surprisingly powerful, perhaps like a more upbeat Katatonia. Ayala’s vocals are a bit at odds with this feeling, as he possesses a smoky, melancholic voice. This juxtaposition does give the album a bit of a strange feel, as if Avandra can’t quite pin down their style. However, Descender is still an engaging, great-sounding record.
Fractal Universe – Rhizomes of Insanity (Metal Blade)
The second of our progressive death metal releases, Rhizomes of Insanity only barely fits in that description. These French fellows have only been around for four years, and this is Fractal Universe’s second album. Song names like “A Reality to Foreclose” (is it about mortgages?) and “Masterpiece’s Parallelism” are very death metal, more so than the music.
Blastbeats are few and far between here, only present on a handful of songs. The same goes for death growls: Fractal Universe make use of a plethora of voices, and a wide diversity of musical styles (including saxophone courtesy of the guitarist’s father). Rhizomes of Insanity is a dynamic, varied, and compelling prog-death album, showcasing a band that is on the verge of producing something amazing.
Gone Cosmic – Sideways in Time (Kozmik Artifactz)
Gone Cosmic hail from Calgary, Canada (my hometown), and are a collaboration between musicians from stoner rock band Chron Goblin and The Torchettes’ vocalist, Abbie Thurgood. The band trades in stoner rock riffs for psychedelic, progressive vibes that rely heavily on Pink Floyd.
Sideways in Time is a fantastic album, with great Pink Floyd-inspired songs centered upon lengthy guitar jams and stellar bass play. Capping it all off in fantastic fashion is Thurgood, who absolutely slays on the microphone, elevating every song into the upper echelon of powerful, progressive goodness. What it adds up to is inspired, emotional, interesting songs led by an outstanding vocal performance. Sideways in Time is this column’s pick of the month.
Lonely Robot – Under Stars (InsideOut)
John Mitchell continues to shine as an unheralded progressive rock artist. Beyond his work with Kino, It Bites, and Frost*, his Lonely Robot project has produced music at least as sharp. Under Stars is the concluding album in the Lonely Robot Trilogy, and sees Mitchell again playing almost all instruments (and vocals), with drumming support from Craig Blundell (Steven Wilson) and a few turns on bass by Steve Vantsis (Fish).
Under Stars is as intricate, lush, and compelling as its predecessor, The Big Dream. Mitchell’s Peter Gabriel-like smoky croon pushes the dreamy songs along, and his occasional blazing prog-metal guitar solos add bite to the record. Fans of all the bands mentioned above need to own Under Stars – and the entire Lonely Robot trilogy, really.
Palehørse – Palehørse (Indie)
Okay, here’s this month’s weird album. Formerly known as Amendfoil, Finland’s Palehørse combine pretty much the entire musical spectrum into one crazy self-titled debut. Alt-metal, prog, hardcore, and extreme metal tropes all rear their heads here, making for a dizzying array of possibilities.
For the most part, the music on Palehørse is catchy as hell. These guys have a knack for writing superbly intricate melodies yet catchy, earworm choruses. The combination of alt- and prog-metal in these songs is stellar, and ranks high on my list of April enjoyments. The hardcore moments, particularly the rank vocals, that appear all too often are the only element of Palehørse that brings the album down a notch.