Welcome to the February Progress Report. It has been a pretty solid start to the year for progressive music, and this month is no exception. For February the column is bookended by a couple of solo projects and filled in with some seasoned veterans and one of the finest prog metal releases we will see all year. As always read on, check out the bands, and support the ones you like.
Ratings are on a five star scale.
Blinded by Hope – We Are (Wormholedeath)
Blinded By Hope is an Australian project headed up by Mitch Castell, who sings, plays guitar, and produces the band’s work. We Are is the band’s second album, billed as a fusion of progressive and alternative metal. The progressive part of that billing might be a bit of a stretch. Aside from the occasional dalliance with interesting arrangements, this is a pretty nondescript alternative metal release.
Despite the thirteen tracks having a one hour runtime, We Are fails to engage at any stage. Simple, chugging riffs dominate, every song is the same mid-paced tempo, and overall the album has a very detached feel to it. Here at the Progress Report we generally try to only review albums we think are worth picking up. We Are can be safely bypassed.
Breidablik – Alduorka (Apollon)
Norway’s Breidablik specialize in a rather hypnotic blend of electronic and progressive rock. Alduorka is the band’s fifth album, and sees the trio experimenting in widely varying ways, from the opening twenty-plus-minute “Alda” to the five shorter songs comprising the back half of the album.
“Alda” of course is the album highlight, a lengthy number that moves from hypnotic electronic rhythms to waves of soothing ambience and back in effortless fashion. The shorter tracks carry on in similar fashion, at times conveying shiny optimism in post-rock fashion, at other times making one think of the ever-shifting aurora borealis. While perhaps limited in scope, that scope makes Alduorka an at-times fascinating listen.
Caveat have been a mainstay on the Calgary, Canada music scene for more than twenty years now, but despite that I (even though I live here) have never heard their music. That’s a shame too, because if their latest release Alchemy is any indication, this is a supremely talented band with plenty of great ideas.
Caveat play modern progressive metal, with aspects of death metal and symphonic metal thrown in tastefully. There is some stellar musicianship here from all members and the seven songs are well written and engaging. The highlight of Alchemy is definitely the lead vocals of Amanda Marie Bourdon, who has a simply excellent voice. The vocal melodies at times can be overly complex and the harsh male vocals pale in comparison to Bourdon, but these are small nitpicks. Alchemy is definitely worth adding to your collection.
D’Virgilio, Morse & Jennings – Troika (InsideOut)
A progressive rock singer-songwriter supergroup of sorts, D’Virgilio, Morse & Jennings (respectively, Nick, from Big Big Train amongst others, Neal, from Spock’s Beard, and Ross, from Haken) give us Troika, a collection of eleven mainly acoustic songs. Eschewing ensembles and overwrought progressive arrangements, the trio focus on harmony and simplicity.
If you yearn for the days of yore when groups like Crosby, Stills, and Nash were thriving, Troika will be right up your alley. It is a gentle, intimate, feel-good romp down memory lane. A bit of a departure for the three involved, it is also fun and harmless. Standout tracks include the Jennings-led “Another Trip Around the Sun” and the groovy “If I Could.”
Persefone – metanoia (Napalm)
Five years ago we reviewed Persefone’s excellent fifth album, Aathma, a superb platter that made its way up to Number 4 in our year-end list. A well-deserved feat for this group of talented Andorrans, and here they are with metanoia, the much-anticipated follow-up. As with past releases, metanoia is a vast, all-encompassing epic album. It is also excellent, featuring stellar performances from all musicians and versatile vocalist Marc Martins Pia.
Persefone show why they should be at the forefront of the modern progressive metal movement. The music is cinematic in scope, painstakingly arranged and perfectly executed. The biggest surprise on this excellent album is “Consciousness (Pt. 3),” a stunning addition to the two Spiritual Migration songs. metanoia is hands-down our pick for the month, and my early front-runner for album of the year.
Much like Blinded by Hope, Trailight is a solo project. That’s where the similarity ends, though. Canadian Omer Cordell is the mastermind here, a multi-instrumentalist who, with the new album Chasing Daylight, now has five records under his belt. Cordell brings in a number of guest musicians including members of Imonolith, Cyanotic, and more on this svelte (38 minutes) undertaking.
Cordell grew up feeding on music from Rush, Tool, and many other prog acts, and the influences shine throughout Chasing Daylight. The spot-on production highlights some stellar songwriting and musicianship along with some pretty solid vocal takes. Trailight is a newfound surprise for me, and if it wasn’t for Persefone Chasing Daylight just might have been the highlight of the month.