The Progress Report: March 2024

Welcome to the March Progress Report. Interestingly enough, it took until March to get our first self-released album for review, and it’s a good one. While perhaps not a strong month overall, March does see a couple of outstanding releases here, of vastly different styles. Overall we’ve got prog rock, death, metal, and instrumental. As always, check these six albums out and support the bands you like.

Ratings are on a five star scale.

InsideOut Music

Big Big Train – The Likes Of Us (InsideOut)

I wasn’t sure what to expect from stellar international prog rock group Big Big Train after the sudden passing of lead vocalist David Longdon back in 2021. Lucky for us, though, the band decided to carry on, and they have brought in a new singer in Alberto Bravin, who played keyboards and sang on the last two PFM albums (which we reviewed favorably here).

The Likes Of Us is familiar and yet fresh and vital at the same time. Bravin is a very different singer than Longdon was and this works with the all-new material, which at times is a bit more rocking and adventurous than on past albums. Opening track “Light Left in the Day” is strong but the least memorable; the album gets better and better as it carries on. From epic tracks to poignant ballads, it’s all here in spades in what just might be Big Big Train’s best album, and our pick for the month.

Rating: 4.5

Omnivide – A Tale Of Fire (Self)

Canadian quintet Omnivide started life as an Opeth tribute band before changing lanes and writing their own music. A Tale Of Fire is the band’s debut album, promising to deliver engaging progressive metal that fans of Alkaloid, Obscura, and, yes, Opeth will enjoy. There are a lot of styles and influences at play here, and Omnivide aim to keep the listener engaged throughout.

The band succeeds wonderfully – and no, despite their history they do not come off merely as old Opeth imitators. The symphonic element present is tastefully done, the arrangements are all what one would expect from a more established band, and the performances are all outstanding. Overall, A Tale Of Fire is an excellent debut, and Omnivide are firmly on my radar going forward. In fact, if it wasn’t for Big Big Train this would have been our pick of the month.

Rating: 4

Despotz Records

Per Wiberg – The Serpent’s Here (Despotz)

Perhaps best known as a member of Spiritual Beggars and former member of Opeth, multi-instrumentalist Per Wiberg has collaborated on dozens of albums over the past few decades. A personal favorite was the work he did on the outstanding Vokonis album Odyssey back in 2021. His keyboard flourishes pushed that album into stratospheric realms.

Wiberg has also released some solo work in recent years, starting with 2019’s Head Without Eyes and followed by an EP. The Serpent’s Here is his second full-length, and sees him handling keys, vocals, and guitar while getting some help with the rhythm section. The album isn’t keyboard-heavy, but quite eerie and almost threatening in mood. Wiberg’s vocals are a big reason for this, but the music also contributes. There’s plenty of rock and prog here, all with a sense of uneasiness that makes The Serpent’s Here an intriguing listen.

Rating: 3.5

Metalville Records

The Progressive Souls Collective – Sonic Rebirth (Metalville)

Three and a half years ago we reviewed Sonic Birth, the debut of The Progressive Souls Collective, and found it brimming with promise but lacking in execution. Fast forward to the present and we see Florian Zepf collaborating once again with vocalist Vladimir Lalic and a cast of guest musicians on Sonic Rebirth, the conceptual follow-up to the debut.

Sonic Rebirth sees the band maturing in songwriting and performance, albeit somewhat incrementally. Lalic’s vocals are a step up, and the overall concept of the album flows well. More than once, however, I find my attention wandering as the band chugs along within an aimless arrangement. Zepf is getting closer to realizing his talent and ambition, although maybe not at the fastest of pace.

Rating: 3

InsideOut Music

Whom Gods Destroy – Insanium (InsideOut)

I suppose one could describe Whom Gods Destroy as a supergroup of sorts. Led by keyboardist Derek Sherinian and guitarist Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal, and featuring Dino Jelusick on vocals, the group aims to blend influences as wide as Led Zeppelin, Meshuggah, and Muse into one technical prog metal amalgamation.

Instrumentally, Insanium is heavy and complex, with plenty of signs of all three bands mentioned above. Jelusick’s overly enthusiastic vocals can make the songs even heavier as well. In fact, dynamics aren’t exactly this band’s forte, making for a sometimes tiring listening experience across the nine songs (and tenth bonus track). That being said, Insanium is a well done, enjoyable album, even if it’s a bit heavy-handed.

Rating: 3.5

Relapse Records

Zombi – Direct Inject (Relapse)

It has been twenty years since Zombi’s debut album appeared. In that time, the duo of Steve Moore and AE Paterra have released seven albums, including this month’s Direct Inject. The duo’s music is not overly complex or technical, instead focusing on a variety of different motifs in their instrumental approach.

Moore and Paterra are accomplished musicians and their skills are on full display on Direct Inject. The stylistically varied album features songs that can be menacing, groovy, or languid, sometimes in the same tune. In some ways this makes for a less cohesive album, but on the flip side every song is engaging in its own right, making the album an essential for Zombi fans, and a great listen to casual observers and fans of instrumental music.

Rating: 3.5

Other 2024 Progress Reports

January 2024 Progress Report
February 2024 Progress Report

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