The Progress Report: April 2024

Welcome to the April Progress Report. Finally, four months into the year, we have a great month for these six albums. The quality is outstanding this month, with all six of these deserving at least a few spins, if not outright purchases. We have some returning artists as well as some brand new ones, and they all have what it takes to make a strong impression. As always, check these six albums out and support the bands you like.

Ratings are on a five star scale.

Thrill Jockey

Big|Brave – A Chaos Of Flowers (Thrill Jockey)

Montreal, Canada’s avant-noise leaders Big|Brave thrilled us with nature morte just last year, and their collaboration with The Body back in 2021 had the same effect. Combining heavy distortion, sublime minimalism, and Robin Wattie’s haunting vocals, the band drop A Chaos Of Flowers on our laps this month, their eighth release.

Aside from some massively annoying vocal production on the opening track, A Chaos Of Flowers is a mesmerizing album, massively heavy yet simple in nature. Wattie’s pure vocal tone anchors the underlying waves of distortion and feedback – even the initially delicate “chanson pour mon ombre” erupts in blasts of guitar – and keeps us mesmerized throughout the too-quick 40 minute runtime. Nothing else this year will test your speakers like this.

Rating: 4

Metal Blade Records

Dvne – Voidkind (Metal Blade)

Probably my most anticipated prog album in the first half of the year, Voidkind comes to us by way of Scotland-based Dvne, a group that seamlessly blends prog, sludge, stoner, and more into a simply fascinating stew. This is the band’s third full-length, and combined with several EPs and a short live offering they’ve never failed to both deliver and grow.

Back in 2021 Etemen Ænka found its way into our top 20 prog albums of the year, and best of March. If things have changed since then it is only for the better, as Voidkind is a step up across the board – even the vocals have improved in the last three years. With nearly an hour of stellar arrangements, serpentine grooves, and hypnotic riffs, there’s something for everyone here and once again Dvne top the month, our pick for April’s best.

Rating: 4.5

Prosthetic Records

Exist – Hijacking The Zeitgeist (Prosthetic)

Hijacking The Zeitgeist is U.S. progressive death metal band Exist’s fourth album, following 2020’s Egoiista. Led by guitarist Max Phelps, who has played with such luminaries as Cynic, Exist combine many styles and theories to make a cohesive sounding album that tackles both the allure and peril of today’s digital mazes.

Strong production values serve to augment stellar arrangements and performances. Hijacking The Zeitgeist is a mere 37 minutes long, which means no song overstays its welcome and the band is able to drive their points home in more succinct and memorable fashion. Replete with riffs and heaviness but also clean and nuanced moments, this album will be a welcome addition to any prog fan’s library.

Rating: 4

InsideOut Music

OU – 蘇醒 II: Frailty (InsideOut)

Chinese progressive metal band OU return with their second album 蘇醒 II: Frailty. This time around the band collaborated with the one and only Devin Townsend, who mixed and produced the album. The band blends metal, electronica, ambience, and more into what has to be described as an interestingly odd outing.

蘇醒 II: Frailty definitely has Townsend’s fingerprints all over it, from guitar tone to the highly processed vocals. Fans of him, or even just his production style, will really dig this album despite the fact that at times it seems a bit on the gimmicky side. But when OU unleash their metal side a bit more the songs are truly compelling.

Rating: 3.5

Black Lodge Records

Quantum – Down The Mountainside (Black Lodge)

Up and comers to both the scene and this column would be Quantum, a Swedish outfit that, despite forming eight years ago, are just now releasing their debut album, Down The Mountainside. Every band the promo listed as “sounds like” is in my wheelhouse – from Porcupine Tree to Soundgarden to The Mars Volta and more – so I had to give it a shot.

Happy to have done so, it turns out! While not really sounding like many of the bands referenced (there are slight hints of them all in the arrangements), Quantum have a great heavy prog/metal sound with splendid vocal melodies and plenty of variety. Down The Mountainside is a more than solid debut, and Quantum is a band we all need to keep an eye on going forward.

Rating: 4

InsideOut Music

SiX by SiX – Beyond Shadowland (InsideOut)

It seems like just yesterday that we were reviewing the debut album by SiX by SiX, but no, it was August of 2022 when this unlikeliest of power prog trios dropped their superb self-titled platter. Fast-forward a mere twenty months and we have Beyond Shadowland, the group’s second release, and one I’ve been very excited to hear.

The trio of Ian Crichton, Nigel Glockler, and Robert Berry pick up right where they left off, although now with a couple additional years of chemistry between them. The band push forward with their established sound, augmented by more riffs, bass licks, and powerful vocals and drumming. The most impressive aspect of Beyond Shadowland is the fact that this is quite simply a fun album, a joy to listen to each time it comes on. Well done!

Rating: 4

Other 2024 Progress Reports

January 2024 Progress Report
February 2024 Progress Report
March 2024 Progress Report

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