Welcome to the June Progress Report. A changeup this month; in May we had a lot of self-released albums, whereas now all the titles looked at below are from labels. We are lucky this month, as all six of these albums are worth a listen or two, and most of them had a decent shot at being our pick of the month (The Anchoret’s album would also have contended, if we had room to include it here, but luckily it is reviewed in the June 23 column). As always, check these bands out and support the ones you like.
Ratings are on a five star scale.
AVKRVST – The Approbation (InsideOut)
The Norwegian band AVKRVST wrote and recorded The Approbation, their debut album, in a secluded cabin last winter. This 49-minute concept album deals with the thoughts of a man as he moves towards death. Sounds like a perfect backdrop for some sort of folk-black metal project, but that is not at all the case here.
AVKRVST throw everything at us in The Approbation – prog rock, metal, death metal, atmosphere, and more – and do so with a vast amount of talent. This is a big-sounding album, full of stellar arrangements and performances one wouldn’t expect from a debut. And what confidence to close out the album with a 13-minute instrumental title track! All told this adds up to a wonderful heavy prog debut that is our pick of the month.
Jegong – The Complex Inbetween (Pelagic)
Swiss duo Jegong (consisting of drummer Dahm Majuri Cipolla and multi-instrumentalist Reto Mäder) have released The Complex Inbetween, their second album. The band has a sound firmly rooted in krautrock, but they push things further with their own vision across these eight tracks, creating inspired instrumentals that evoke a variety of emotions in the listener.
There are plenty of varied sounds, arrangements, and moods across The Complex Inbetween, resulting in quite an interesting instrumental album. The songs slowly move from angular, dissonant, almost industrial to a more atmospheric feel across the album. It all results in a cohesive, enveloping experience that even after multiple listens continues to reveal new details. If instrumental music is your cup of tea (or even if not), Jegong have dropped an album you need to hear.
Lars Fredrik Frøislie – Fire Fortellinger (Karisma)
Wobbler are one of this writer’s favorite bands of the modern throwback prog movement, and Lars Fredrik Frøislie is that band’s keyboard player. Fire Fortellinger is his debut solo album, and comes fairly close to what one might expect from a musician who loves his analog synths and earthy, organic tones. There are only four songs here, but with two clocking in at over sixteen minutes we still have a full album to dig into.
Fire Fortellinger is a raw album in that much of the material is recorded in one take, complete with errors (practically undetectable to us) and spontinaity. Frøislie’s keyboard wizardry is on full display, and all four songs are brimming with warmth and vibrancy. This is some fine ’70s-inspired keyboard-laden progressive rock, for fans of Wobbler for sure, but also the more keyboard-centric offerings from Gentle Giant and the like.
Pyramaze – Bloodlines (AFM)
Danish/American act Pyramaze never fail to impress. Their bombastic blend of progressive power metal is always infectious, catchy, and not too over the top. Bloodlines is the band’s seventh album and fourth with the current lineup which includes outstanding vocalist Terje Harøy. Produced by guitarist Jacob Hansen (a renowned producer in his own right), Bloodlines is punchy and bombastic, just as we hope and expect.
All ten songs strike memorable chords with the listener, from heavy riffs to moody keyboards to uplifting choruses. Not that Pyramaze need assistance, but they get some here from members of Unleash The Archers, Amaranthe, and Ad Infinitum. Put it all together and we’ve got a stellar power-prog album that will be sure to get fists pumping everywhere.
Ray Alder – II (InsideOut)
Ray Alder’s second solo album is II. The revered (at least in these parts) Fates Warning/Redemption frontman’s debut, What The Water Wants, garnered strong reviews across the internet, so II was definitely an album that we’ve been waiting for. Alder keeps the same supporting cast here as he did on his first platter, and this time around rather than experimenting with a few musical changeups the group gets heavier and darker.
This approach results in a meaner-sounding album, and Alder somehow continues to top himself on each outing – a remarkable achievement. While he more than delivers in the vocal department, the thick, chugging guitars can get repetitive. Fans will love Alder’s performance here, if not the album, but II fails to live up to his excellent debut.
Thy Catafalque – Alföld (Season Of Mist)
Tamás Kátai has been the mastermind behind Thy Catafalque for almost twenty-five years now. What started as a black metal outfit has morphed into one of the most respected avant-garde/progressive metal projects around. Alföld is Thy Catafalque’s tenth album, and in some ways it harkens back to the band’s formation. There is as much straightforward extreme metal here as there is off-kilter avant-garde.
Alföld is Thy Catafalque’s heaviest, darkest work to date. The predominantly short songs get to the point and pulverize us with big riffs and harsh vocals. The title track has moments of beauty that nicely offset the rest of the album, but make no mistake this is a furious release, and one that Kátai performs with aplomb. A worthy addition to this highly respected Hungarian’s discography.