Welcome to the August Progress Report, and what an August it is, with two albums that stand a better than average chance of winding up on my year-end lists, and a few other records that are entertaining in their own right. From cool jazz leanings to massive post metal, we’ve got it covered this month. Not only that, four of these bands have been reviewed here at Heavy Music Headquarters, and their new releases were all eagerly anticipated. They do not disappoint. As always, read on and support the bands you like.
Ratings are on a five star scale.
Black Crown Initiate – Violent Portraits of Doomed Escape (Century Media)
American progressive death metal outfit Black Crown Initiate are back with their third release, Violent Portraits of a Doomed Escape. Four years between albums is a lot, but the band has been hard at work honing their skills, and boy does it pay off in spades here. As long as you prefer your prog-death to lean more towards the progressive side, Violent Portraits… will scratch your itch perfectly.
While the clean passages may outweigh the harsh, these guys are not afraid to bring the brutality, which they do on numerous occasions. The material presented here is dynamic and brilliantly paced, with devastating riffs countering melodic moments perfectly. The short interlude “Bellow” may seem odd, but even that adds atmosphere to an already superb record. Violent Portraits… is our pick this month, and one of the year’s best.
Tim Bowness – Late Night Laments (InsideOut)
Tim Bowness’s last solo album impressed us quite a bit last year, and his late-year collab with Stephen Wilson in No-man was also enjoyable. So Late Night Laments was an album I had marked on my calendar for quite some time. As opposed to the varying nature of Flowers at the Scene, Late Night Laments is a collection of exquisitely quiet and intimate songs.
Late Night Laments is a short album, just seven songs that are over in thirty-one minutes. It’s almost too short to fully embrace; just as you let the album’s mood sweep over you, it ends. And while the songs are all immaculately produced, arranged, and sung, the lack of variety does make it seem one-dimensional, making this easy-listening prog at its finest.
Nug – Alter Ego (Willowtip)
Nug may seem like an odd band name, until one realizes that this Ukranian post/prog outfit is named after the H.P. Lovecraft god that created Cthulhu. Then it makes sense. Alter Ego is the quintet’s debut album, after dropping a sterling EP two years ago. If you’re a fan of Precambrian-era The Ocean, buckle up, because Alter Ego is a helluva ride, and in fact just a molecule’s breadth away from Black Crown Initiate’s album as our choice this month. Think of Alter Ego as choice 1A.
More so than any other progressive post-metal release this year, Nug balance the crushingly heavy with the intricate in near-perfect fashion. Even the short interludes are forebodingly essential to the album. Anguished vocals, killer riffs, and an amazing rhythm section should immediately elevate this band into the same realm as Cult of Luna, The Ocean, and Herod, to name a few. Go get Alter Ego.
Two years ago the excellent American duo Radiant Knife released our top pick of the month, Science Fiction. Now here they are again, with part one of a two part album, The Body. The Ghost is set to follow this October. More of an EP, at only twenty-two minutes, The Body is shaping up to be the heavier, more substantial of the pair.
As with Science Fiction, influences range from Neurosis to King Crimson. In fact, the music here can be considered a heavier, riffier version of modern-era Crim. The quality remains high, with spectacular drumming from Greg Travasos again and excellent guitar/keyboard work from Stephen Sheppert. The Body is a top-notch release; let’s see how it pairs with The Ghost in a couple of months.
Self Hypnosis – Contagion of Despair (Svart)
The duo comprising extreme progressive doom act Self Hypnosis come from Esoteric – Greg Chandler co-founded that doom band, and Kris Clayton has served a couple stints on guitar with them. Contagion of Despair is the duo’s debut, and their goal here is to push previous boundaries and create something much more experimental than both Esoteric and Clayton’s other act, Camel of Doom.
Do they succeed? Yes and no. While the music here on Contagion of Despair is certainly eclectic, more often than not it is also mind-numbingly repetitive. The seven songs alternate from monolithic and long to undercooked and short. All told, we have nearly eighty minutes of music to wade through, but the themes and arrangements crumble under their own weight, making this an incredibly difficult listen.
The Tangent – Auto Reconnaissance (InsideOut)
British prog rock outfit The Tangent have graced our pages a couple of times. In fact, their last release, Proxy, was our album of the month a couple years ago, as was the one before that. Andy Tillison and crew never disappoint when it comes to sleek, jazz-infected prog, and ultra-long album Auto Reconnaissance is no exception.
Once again clocking in at well over an hour, Auto Reconnaissance is loaded with cool, slinky jazz-based arrangements. The songs are varied, with the oddest being “Jinxed in Jersey,” a sixteen-minute riff on Tillison’s experiences in New Jersey. While the lyrics of both this and “Lie Back and Think of England” will be anachronistic soon enough, the album maintains its cool vibes throughout. While not up to the level of the previous two albums, this one is still a worthwhile addition to your prog rock library.
Other 2020 Progress Reports
January 2020 Progress Report
February 2020 Progress Report
March 2020 Progress Report
April 2020 Progress Report
May 2020 Progress Report
June 2020 Progress Report
July 2020 Progress Report