Welcome to the June Progress Report. Big-name releases slow down as summer approaches, so this month we have augmented our column with a lot of self-released work, and even a couple of EPs. As always, we also try to look at varying forms of progressive music here; in this case, we’ve got some progressive death metal, instrumental work, some hardcore, some groove, and a dash of stoner prog. Let’s give some up-and-comers a chance to strut their stuff, shall we?
Ratings are on a five star scale.
This is the second album for Burial in the Sky, a progressive death metal band from the US. Bassist/saxophone player Zach Strouse is also featured on this year’s outstanding Rivers of Nihil album. Creatio Et Hominus is a short album, just 36 minutes long.
That turns out to be a good thing, as there aren’t many positive things I can say about the record. While the introductory song is an ambient piece designed to set the tone, the band quickly discards all attempts at feel and goes straight into uninspiring death metal. They do try to mix it up throughout, but the performances are tepid and the production is thin, leaving us with nothing really worth coming back to.
In very similar fashion to Burial in the Sky, prog-death outfit Goddess of Fate attempt to blend ambiance and death metal, although here they also add in some power/epic flair. Spiral Orchard Part 1 is the band’s first LP, and the beginning of, yes, their Spiral Orchard saga. Don’t ask me what that means.
What I can tell you, though, is that this Indonesian quartet has a ways to go if they want to attain the heights of the bands they cite as influences (Opeth, Steven Wilson, Between the Buried and Me). Vocals in particular are simply bad, and again we’ve got subpar production values. There’s a bit more potential in the songs here than with Burial in the Sky, but not by much.
Kevin Hufnagel – Messages To The Past (Translation Loss)
Guitarist Kevin Hufnagel is best known for his work with death metal band Gorguts, prog metallers Dysrhythmia, and occult rockers Sabbath Assembly. At heart, the man is simply an outstanding guitarist, and has recorded close to a dozen solo offerings to display his work. Messages To The Past is his homage to the heroes of his youth: Randy Rhoads, Fates Warning’s Jim Matheos, and the Mercyful Fate duo of Shermann/Denner.
Honestly, though, aside from some definite Matheos worship, I don’t hear it. What this all-guitar album sounds most like is The Bridge Between, a 1993 album by the Robert Fripp (King Crimson) String Quartet. Guitar players will love the layers of guitar and often-wonderful moods and interplay. Messages To The Past is a spellbinding listen, and certainly worth checking out.
Monolith Grows! – Black and Supersonic (Burning Wax)
As you might be able to guess by the band name and album title, Monolith Grows! is a stoner rock band with some progressive tendencies. Formerly just Monolith, Black and Supersonic is these Italians’ second album and features ten tracks similar in composition to music from bands like Brant Bjork and Mothership.
While not exactly a masterful record, there’s plenty to like on Black and Supersonic. Vocals are in the style of John Garcia, and the good songs here are really good – the balls-out boogie of “Satan Monday Bureau” and the stoner groove of “Silly Gods” are standouts, but the epic-length “So Fresh!” puts it all together in fine fashion. Looking forward to more from these guys.
The worst part of this debut EP from Austin, Texas’s Runescarred (aside from the horrible bitrate of the promo) is just that: it’s only an EP. This relatively new band cites acts such as Lamb of God and Iron Maiden as influences, although I also hear plenty of Dio and Teutonic power metal throughout.
With only three songs, We Are has to hit hard and fast to make an impression, and it does. Runescarred show plenty of talent both musically and songwriting, and Ven Scott has an interesting, Dio-like voice. Equal amounts of bombast, power, and technical finesse all lead to an outstanding debut. Now let’s see them do it all again on an LP.
Our second EP of the month comes from VRSA, an American outfit that’s been kicking around in the ‘core and stoner metal scenes for more than ten years. Cvlt of Machine attempts to amalgamate all of the band’s influences – hardcore, prog, metalcore, doom, and more – and do so in fifteen minutes.
There’s some technically excellent performances here, and although I’m no fan of hardcore vocals, singer Josh does sound suitably pissed off. VRSA are an enigma, though, as each album of theirs (three before this) sounds different, which makes it hard to really invest in them.