The Progress Report: June 2024

Welcome to the June Progress Report. It’s a bonus month here: we’ve got seven albums down below rather than six, only because our Pick of the Month did not see a review during release week. So of course we had to throw it in here for some love. From beauty to brutality, we’ve got a bit of everything this month, and our luck is holding: these are all strong albums. Check them out and support the bands you like!

Ratings are on a five star scale.

Karisma Records

Airbag – The Century Of The Self (Karisma)

I’ve not reviewed Airbag before in these annals, which is a shame; this is the Norwegian proggers’ sixth album. They take a lot of influence from Pink Floyd, and like another band further down the column ply their trade in similar waters as The Pineapple Thief. So if you’re looking for ice-cool, hypnotic, moody prog, you could do worse.

On The Century Of The Self, Airbag do not stray far from their tried and true formula. The biggest difference is lyrically: on this album the band is obsessed with cancel culture and the changes in culture we’ve experienced over the last few years. The themes are a bit tired now, but the music holds up and the album is another worthy addition to the band’s catalog.

Rating: 3.5

Pelagic Records

Hippotraktor – Stasis (Pelagic)

We loved Hippotraktor’s debut Meridian back in 2021. It was our pick of the month that October and garnered Honorable Mention on our year-end list. The Belgian outfit’s blend of progressive and post-metal is alluring, perfect for fans of The Ocean and Cult Of Luna. And as mentioned back then, with ties to Psychonaut in the mix, Hippotraktor bring their own take to the genres.

Stasis is a natural evolution from Meridian, with moments that are just as heavy but also more clean, rhythmic, groovy moments aplenty. All five members truly gel this time around, creating a dynamic and emotional album that presses all the right buttons. In fact, if it wasn’t for the next album, Stasis would be our pick of the month.

Rating: 4

Prosthetic Records

Huntsmen – The Dry Land (Prosthetic)

This was unexpected. I wasn’t even planning on listening to The Dry Land, Huntsmen’s third album, let alone reviewing it – that’s how disappointed I was in their overblown, bloated sophomore effort, Mandala Of Fear (an album I sadly overrated here). But word of mouth got to me and I had to listen to The Dry Land and haven’t stopped since. This album is the natural progression from the band’s stunning debut, American Scrap.

Gone are the meandering arrangements of Mandala Of Fear. The band has wisely culled The Dry Land down to a svelte 42 minutes, less than half its predecessor. Those 42 minutes are a near-perfect blend of sludge, prog, black, and post-metal, with stellar vocal arrangements, sublime production, and overall performances that truly stand out. The Dry Land is our pick of the month, and quite likely a top album for the year.

Rating: 4.5

InsideOut Music

Kaipa – Sommargryningsljus (InsideOut)

It’s amazing that a band can go fifteen years between albums, as Swedish legends Kaipa did prior to 2022’s Urskog, and then somehow come up with not only a new album two years later, but an album that is a massive hour and fifteen minutes long. That’s just what has happened here though, with Sommargryningsljus gracing our ears 26 months after its predecessor.

Much like Urskog, Sommargryningsljus is a pristine-sounding album, with fine performances all around. What knocks this album down slightly is simply the weight of it. Not including the title track, the shortest song here is more than nine minutes long, and while every track sounds great, it is much too easy for our attention to meander. Less would have been more this time around.

Rating: 3.5

Long Branch Records

Rendezvous Point – Dream Chaser (Long Branch)

Our second entry from Norway this month is the third album from Rendezvous Point, Dream Chaser. This quintet, featuring musicians from Leprous and from Ihsahn’s band, have been honing their skills for five years since their last album and their songwriting has really matured. This is one of the catchiest and most accessible prog metal albums you’ll hear this year.

The progressive complexities of Dream Chaser aren’t always at the forefront here, but they permeate the album. The irresistible hooks and charismatic vocals overshadow the album’s progressive influences but that only serves to make the songs even more enjoyable. Dream Chaser is an album that can be played and enjoyed anywhere.

Rating: 4

Giant Electric Pea

Returned To The Earth – Stalagmite Steeple (Giant Electric Pea)

We’ve already mentioned The Pineapple Thief once in this column, and we are doing so again here. Returned To The Earth is essentially the solo project of Robin Peachey, who gets some assistance from Paul Johnston and has Stalagmite Steeple mastered by Steve Kitch (who happens to have also worked with The Pineapple Thief). This is the band’s fifth album, and Peachey’s style has evolved over the years to blend aspects of pop, prog, and post-rock.

Stalagmite Steeple is an easy listen. Returned To The Earth have a knack for writing catchy, moody pieces, much like The Pineapple Thief at their introspective best. There may not be any barriers broken here, nor any insane shredding or over the top prog shenanigans, but Peachey has delivered a thoroughly enjoyable album that many of us will certainly love spinning.

Rating: 3.5

Reigning Phoenix Music

Voidgazer – Dance Of The Undesirables (Reigning Phoenix)

The only extreme prog album in the column this month comes from Voidgazer, a St. Louis outfit who in the past released an EP and now this, their debut, Dance Of The Undersirables. Originally also an EP, this album now boasts seven tracks of progressive death metal with sludgy undertones and is an excellent debut (of sorts).

The band might still consider this an EP, hard to tell, but at 36 minutes it’s long enough to be an LP in my books, and well worth every minute. The band comes out on fire with “Jesus Take the Needle” and never let up. Big riffs backed by a tight rhythm section and furious vocals highlight the album, and the variety exhibited on tracks like “Blast Equalizer” show us that Voidgazer are a band to be watched, assuming they can keep the songwriting momentum up.

Rating: 3.5

Other 2024 Progress Reports

January 2024 Progress Report
February 2024 Progress Report
March 2024 Progress Report
April 2024 Progress Report
May 2024 Progress Report

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