Welcome to the August Progress Report. We are into the dog days of summer, as they say, and that is reflected in the material we’ve seen released this month. Maybe it is simply the malaise of enduring thirty-plus degree days, weeks of wildfire smoke, and squirrels eating crab apples in the house, but regardless, this hasn’t been a month with any real standout material. That being said, the six albums presented here are all good and worthy of attention, so dig in. As always, check these bands out and support the ones you like.
Ratings are on a five star scale.
Dun Ringill – 150 – Where The Old Gods Play Act 1 (The Sign)
Progressive Nordic folk-doom is the order of the day on 150 – Where The Old Gods Play Act 1, a mouthful for sure and the first of a double concept album from Sweden’s Dun Ringill. The story is centered on a priest with a secret agenda, and it also happens to be a film script the band’s bass player, Patrik Winberg.
A concept spanning two albums is ambitious, and there are certainly hints of grandiose doom at work here. At their best, Dun Ringill exhibit a majestic and epic take on the doom genre, and the concept at play here is certainly intriguing. Too often through the forty-one minutes of this first instalment, though, the songs bleed into each other rather than standing out. There are great bones here, but one is left wondering if combining the best of Act I and II might have been a better idea.
This month’s instrumental prog release is a mind-bender from New York city’s Fall Of The Albatross. This four-piece combines prog, jazz, post-rock, and mathcore into a dizzying stew that will require a lot of listens to come to grips with. Rite is the band’s second album and it sees the band laying all their cards on the table.
If your idea of progressive music is insane complexity, massive dollops of technical wizardry, and endless unpredictable changeups, Rite is right in your wheelhouse. The musicianship Fall Of The Albatross display is nearly unrivaled, and they complement it with enough variety to keep the listener on their toes. Rite is a technically amazing album that is worth digging into.
Hallucinate – From The Bowels Of The Earth (Caligari)
The first of our two progressive death metal albums this month comes from Germany’s Hallucinate. From The Bowels Of The Earth is their debut album, and the band aims to mix in plenty of psychedelic prog with their death metal, and they cap it off with dark lyrics stemming from a bad mushroom trip.
There is some fine prog-death at play here – songs like “AION” and “”Black Smokers” show some originality – but the cavernous vocals do nothing to lift the material beyond simply pretty good. Combining some psychedelic overtones with progressive death metal is a good idea (probably a better idea than the mushrooms were), and this is a fine debut album. Let’s keep an eye on Hallucinate and see where they go from here.
The Mystical Hot Chocolate Endeavors – A Clock Without A Craftsman (Massacre)
With a name like that, of course we had to take the bait and review A Clock Without A Craftsman, the second album from Boston’s The Mystical Hot Chocolate Endeavors. Not having heard of this band before, I was expecting an album loaded with oddball humor, maybe some ska music, and an overall irreverent vibe. Boy, was I wrong.
First, this is one of the longest albums you’ll hear all year. Thirteen songs across more than a hundred minutes is crazy, and in many cases a showstopper. It is definitely way too long, as many of the songs come across as repetitive, and the morose, monotonous vocal melodies certainly aren’t engrossing. But the band is onto something here, a sort of moody Tool-like vibe. They just need to up the ante, cut 55 minutes, and take it a bit further.
Noveria – The Gates Of The Underworld (Scarlet)
Noveria are the only band this month to have been previously reviewed here, all the way back in 2016. Forsaken was a strong album, but it didn’t blow us away back then. Their 2019 release, Aequilibrium, while not reviewed here, was a step forward for the band, so we were excited to get our hands on the Italian band’s fourth outing, The Gates Of The Underworld.
Noveria’s formula hasn’t changed over the years. This is still prime progressive power metal, from the production to the vocals to the chugging riffs and bombastic flourishes. The band’s songwriting has improved over the years, and it is safe to say The Gates Of The Underworld is the band’s best release to date, one that is sure to satiate the thirst of prog-power fans (and many others) everywhere. This one is our pick of the month.
Tegmentum – Evolvement (M-Theory)
Tegmentum are a Bay-area prog-death project assembled by producer/guitarist Michael Ball. He’s pulled in players from bands such as Fallujah and Dawn of Ourboros on Evolvement, the band’s debut album. Aiming to combine the best of both extreme and progressive metal, Tegmentum come out blazing across forty-eight minutes of unrelenting prog-death.
Similar to Hallucinate above, Tegmentum have plenty of good ideas and tons of talent. A slight difference here is the songwriting: Evolvement is a step up in that regard, hitting with a ferocity we don’t see every day. Perhaps a bit of nuance here and there would help, as would a bit more dynamic arrangement (strangely, a couple of times the music gets disturbingly loud. By dynamic we mean use a few quiet moments…), but overall Evolvement is a worthy debut and Tegmentum definitely deserve attention from prog-death fans.