Welcome to the February Progress Report. After a slow start to the year, things are slowly winding up. This month sees an overabundance of progressive power metal, but we aren’t afraid! In addition to some solid prog/power, we’ve also unearthed a couple of other gems for you, ranging from jazzy to sludgy. Take a look through the reviews below, and give these bands a listen – you might find an album or two that’s just right for you.
Ratings are on a five star scale.
Herod – Sombre Dessein (Pelagic)
The heaviest album to grace our Progress Reports this year is also one of the best. Sombre Dessein is the second album from these Swiss juggernauts, and the first to feature ex-The Ocean vocalist Mike Pilat. As one might expect from a release on the Pelagic label, Herod’s music is sledgehammer-massive, melding aspects of post metal, doom, sludge, and prog into one amazing amalgam.
Pilat’s vocals are as crushing as the music, which is saying a lot. Songs such as “Fork Tongue,” “Reckoning,” and “There Will be Gods” are stacked with superbly-arranged, thick guitars, tumultuous drums, and a ton of emotion. Fans of Cult of Luna, Downfall of Gaia, and even Gojira will find much to like on this excellent record.
Lord Divine – Facing Chaos (Fighter)
Facing Chaos is Argentinian prog-metallers Lord Divine’s fourth album in the last fifteen years, but until now they’ve been primarily a local act. With this hour-long opus, the band hopes to make their mark internationally. Diego Valdez (Also of Iron Mask) fronts the band, and leads them on a prog/power metal journey that in other hands might be overbearingly long.
Valdez clearly worships at the Ronnie James Dio altar, infusing his lyrics with a ton of drama, yet never going over the top. Musically, Lord Divine take most of their influence from Symphony X. Both of these namedrops are impressive, and the band manages to give us an album’s worth of top-notch music, well-produced and played with talent and verve. Facing Chaos will be welcomed by fans of progressive power metal across the world.
MÖRGLBL – The Story of Scott Rötti (Laser’s Edge)
The album cover for French instrumental prog metal band MÖRGLBL’s seventh album, The Story of Scott Rötti, made me think that I was in for something pretty weird, but nothing could be further from the truth. While the album cover and song titles (“2 Flics Amis Amish,” “Crime Minister”) convey a sense of humor, the band takes their craft seriously.
If you’re familiar with BLS, the Terry Bozzio-Tony Levin-Steve Stevens collaboration from the late 90’s, you’ll recognize the sound: well-written songs full of very capable shredding and jazzy interludes. Throw in just a hint of Primus-like weirdness and you’ve got a complex and highly engaging instrumental prog metal recording.
Mortanius – Till Death Do Us Part (Rockshots)
Our foray into prog/power metal continues with Philadelphia-based Mortanius and their short album Till Death Do Us Part. This is the band’s first full-length album, after releasing a series of EPs over the years. The band’s style is quite over-the-top, with symphonic and neo-classical elements generously spread throughout the songs.
Musically, Till Death Do Us Part is fairly rote, using all the standard tropes of the genres. Lucas Flocco, along with a couple of guest vocalists, provide captivating and dramatic singing – the highlight of the album. Throwing us for a complete loop at the end, though, is a very by-the-numbers cover of Wham!’s “Last Christmas.” There’s potential here with Mortanius, and hopefully they continue to grow stronger on subsequent releases – and not cover Wham! anymore.
Onydia – Reflections (Revalve)
From Italy comes Onydia, a progressive metal band that adds plenty of power metal overtones to their sound, along with moments of symphonic metal and even some opera, courtesy of vocalist Eleonora Buono. Reflections is the trio’s debut album, and is a relatively short (for progressive metal) 43-minute foray into melodic prog metal.
Musically, Onydia surprise us with tons of complex riffs and solos, and plenty of energy throughout the well-written songs. In that regard, Reflections is a very solid debut. The vocals don’t quite hold up as well: Buono lacks the power and charisma we like to hear from this type of music, which takes away from the power of the songs. Some confidence in the vocal department will go a long ways towards an excellent sophomore record, though.
Pyramaze – Legend of the Bone Carver (Inner Wound)
In their eighteen-plus years of existence, Danish prog/power band Pyramaze have yet to release a bad album. Contingent was released back in 2017, and to tide us over until their next new album the band has reissued their second album, 2006’s Legend of the Bone Carver.
This is one of the band’s stronger albums, and certainly worth exploring. The concept of this album (self-explanatory) is a fun fantasy, wonderfully played out over the course of ten songs, and the bonus track “Flame and Retribution,” previously only available in Japan, is a nice addition. Add to this a 16-page booklet and you’ve got a must-have reissue for fans of the band, and progressive power metal in general.