Welcome to the March Progress Report. We’ve got a sweet variety of albums here for you all to check out, from serene progressive rock to old school progressive technical death metal. What all of these albums have in common, though, is the fact that they are very good. Read on, check out the ones that interest you, and we guarantee you won’t be disappointed!
Ratings are on a five star scale.
Tim Bowness – Flowers at the Scene (InsideOut)
Tim Bowness might be better known as the other half of the Steven Wilson collaboration No-Man, but Flowers at the Scene is his fifth solo album. And for the first time in over ten years, Wilson works with Bowness here on the production and mix, to great effect. Of note is the massive guest list, including Jim Matheos (Fates Warning), Colin Edwin (Porcupine Tree), Andy Partridge (XTC), and Peter Hammill (Van Der Graaf Generator), amongst many more.
Flowers at the Scene is artful progressive rock at its best. Bowness creates sublime, heartbreaking ballads and cinematic hard rockers with apparent ease. This is a beautiful (and beautifully sounding!), poignant album that will resonate with fans of the more quiet side of prog.
Contrarian – Their Worm Never Dies (Willowtip)
Almost completely the opposite of Tim Bowness, Contrarian are a progressive/technical death metal band with an old-school aesthetic. Featuring members of Nile and Delirium Endeavor, these guys worship at the altar of old Cynic and Atheist recordings. Their Worm Never Dies is the band’s third album.
Short and sweet, the seven songs on Their Worm Never Dies blast by in a mere 38 minutes, but Contrarian pack a ton of great work within. Equal parts brutal and nuanced, with plenty of jazzy tangents and impressive bass solos, the music here never seems pretentious or overwrought. A lot of that has to do with the warm, analog-sounding production, but regardless, this is a prog/tech death release that is well worth visiting.
Darkwater – Human (Ulterium)
Sweden’s Darkwater have been around for more than 15 years now, and Human is just their third album, so output from this group is rare indeed. Their brand of progressive metal is very melodic, toying with the boundaries of power metal at times as well, almost like a more upbeat Evergrey. In fact, the band makes use of Jacob Hansen (who has worked with Evergrey) for mixing here.
Human is a very long album – at 77 minutes, one of the longer ones we’ve reviewed. This length can detract from what is otherwise a stellar record. Songs are powerful and catchy, with great vocals and interesting arrangements. All musicians shine at various points in Human, notably on guitars and keyboards. For power/prog fans, Darkwater have delivered a satisfying album.
East of the Wall – NP – Complete (Translation Loss)
New Jersey’s East of the Wall bring us their fifth album, NP – Complete. It’s been a turbulent few years for the band, with numerous lineup changes, but through it they were able to evolve and progress their sound to the point that NP – Complete is, well, their most complete record yet.
Metalcore/hardcore stylings have been almost completely abandoned in favor of some sublime melodic prog metal, with excellent predominantly clean vocals and superb musicianship – “The Almost People” features some of the sweetest guitar/bass interplay heard this year. The ups and downs of the last couple of years have resulted in East of the Wall’s finest effort.
The Mute Gods – Atheists and Believers (InsideOut)
Two years ago, we looked at The Mute Gods’ second album, Tardigrades Will Inherit the Earth. Now, the same group is back for their third record, Atheists and Believers. The album can be thought of as the end of a trilogy of records which all rail against global populism and the downfall of civility.
Atheists and Believers toes a line very close to its predecessor, with a variety of mellow tracks as well as some notable hard-rockers. One item of note for prog aficionados is the guest appearance of Rush’s Alex Lifeson (although the credits don’t specify his exact contributions). While perhaps not quite as immediate as the last album, The Mute Gods have delivered another solid prog rock effort for us all.
Our final choice is a debut EP from Denmark duo Plained. Epidemic of Mass Hysteria is a 25-minute jaunt down riff-filled, groovy, progressive alleyways. The pair cite bands such as Tool, Opeth, and Karnivool (all personal favorites of mine) as influences, and that’s certainly the case, but the riffs are in control here.
Disregarding the one-minute “Prelude,” the four songs presented here wind and slink seamlessly throughout nifty arrangements, loaded with memorable riffs, clean/harsh vocals, and an atmosphere that certainly owes much to Plained’s influences. Epidemic of Mass Hysteria is a great taste of the pair’s potential, and leaves me eagerly looking forward to a future full-length.