Welcome to the August Progress Report, and what a report it is! The quality of music is high this month – no less than five of these albums could easily have been our pick of the month. That’s a great problem to have, and hopefully it is a sign of things to come over the next few months. As always the style of music is varied and engaging, so scroll through the reviews and have a listen – I guarantee you will find something you love this month.
Ratings are on a five star scale.
Dreadnought – The Endless (Profound Lore)
Progressive doom/death band Dreadnought have piqued my interest for years, but their last album, 2019’s Emergence, did not fare well in this column. Understandably, it was with a mix of trepidation and optimism that I pressed play on the Denver quartet’s fifth album, The Endless. Would they improve their songwriting, and let the vocalists be heard in the mix?
The answer to both questions is yes – not a resounding yes, but The Endless is a marked step up from Emergence in all facets – performances, production, writing. The glistening production allows us to hear the album’s nuances better than ever, from the delicate clean-sung movements to the heavy, harsh sections. If you are new to the band The Endless is a great place to start, as it is perhaps their best album since Bridging Realms seven years ago.
Elliott’s Keep – Vulnerant Omnes (NoSlip)
Texas-based progressive doom act Elliott’s Keep have been around since 2006. Named after the late singer of their original band (Marauder), the three-piece are releasing their fifth album Vulnerant Omnes, their first since 2017. They seem to aim for a style somewhat like Candlemass or Solitude Aeternus.
For a band on their fifth album, Vulnerant Omnes surprises by coming off as a very DIY-sounding project. Vocals are iffy, guitars monotonous, and the whole album sounds like it’s not been mastered at all – it’s a quarter the volume of most other music, with a DR score of an unheard-of 17. There are a few good ideas here, but a lot of spit and polish is needed for album number 6.
Lonely Robot – A Model Life (InsideOut)
John Mitchell is a prolific artist – in fact, many of today’s veteran British progressive rock bands seem to be churning out material at an alarming rate. A Model Life is his band Lonely Robot’s fifth album in seven years, but his work spans a number of other projects including Frost*, Kino, Arena, and more. Lonely Robot is essentially a solo project, allowing Mitchell free reign in all things creative.
Much like the other Lonely Robot albums we’ve reviewed here, A Model Life brims with vigor. Mitchell continues to give us music with a strong Steven Wilson vibe, and vocals with a big nod to Peter Gabriel. Combined with his usual engaging songwriting and poignant lyrics, A Model Life is another winner that will satisfy prog rock fans everywhere.
Long Distance Calling – Eraser (earMusic)
Germany’s Long Distance Calling have been around for fifteen years now, and Eraser is the quartet’s eighth album. In case you aren’t aware, they’ve been featured a couple of times already in these Reports, and for progressive post-rock fans, their albums are always highly anticipated. Eraser is no different in that regard.
Eraser is an album about the gradual destruction of nature by our hands, with each of the nine songs focused on one species on the verge of extinction. As always, this is instrumental post-rock/post metal at its finest, with a diverse set of sounds, hooks, and arrangements. There is some brilliant work here that can at times carry on a bit too long, but overall this is another stellar release in Long Distance Calling’s highly respected career.
Odd Circus – Deus (Good Idea)
Last year saw Floridian trio Odd Circus release two excellent EPs. Deus is the third to come from this week-long 2020 recording session, in which the three EPs come from almost pure improvisation. Much like Mantha and Arch Nova, Deus can be thought of as one long song (24 minutes) split into eight parts. This time around the band explores eight sociopathic vices.
Once again we are treated to some fantastic improv work. Through Deus the band moves down dark corridors of King Crimson-like prog, dissonant jazz, and avant-garde, making it all seem effortless as they do so. Fans of the band’s previous work, or improvised prog/jazz in general, will love this one as much as the previous two.
SiX by SiX – SiX by SiX (InsideOut)
One of the most unexpected collaborations in recent years has to be the new international trio SiX by SiX. Featuring Ian Crichton (Saga) on guitar, Nigel Glockler (Saxon) on drums, and Robert Berry (3, the Berry/Keith Emerson/Carl Palmer collab) on bass, keys, and vocals, this eponymous effort is the band’s debut. The band makes sense though, as the three have played together occasionally over the years. They bring their not inconsiderable skills and songwriting to bear on SiX by SiX with ten guitar-driven classic prog tracks.
Here’s something you don’t say about prog too often: these are catchy songs. From the three-minute “China” to the eight-minute “Reason to Feel Calm Again,” each track is instantly recognizable on its own. This is largely due to Crichton’s amazing guitar lines and Berry’s perfect “classic rock” voice, but Glockler’s drumming performance also cannot be overlooked. The surprise of the month is also our pick of the month.