Welcome to the May Progress Report. The themes this month are twofold: independent releases and long albums. Four of these entries are self-released and four are almost or more than an hour. Hats off to bands that put the time, effort, and funds into self-releasing their music! And hats off as well to any band that can release 60 or 75 minutes of material and not lose the listener’s interest; not an easy task, but pulled off more than once this month. As always, check these bands out and support the ones you like.
Ratings are on a five star scale.
Blindfolded And Led To The Woods – Rejecting Obliteration (Prosthetic)
One of two acts this month represented by a label, New Zealand’s Blindfolded And Led To The Woods smash us across the face with Rejecting Obliteration, their fourth album. Following 2019’s well-received Nightmare Withdrawals, Rejecting Obliterations carries the band’s sound onwards without missing a beat – in fact, they just might be heavier here.
This is a progressive death metal album that eschews all sense of nuance or delicacy and just simply attacks the listener with riff after pummelling riff. The band doesn’t rest on one motif (or one song) for too long, instead paring songs down to their core and bludgeoning us with heavy, complex ragers. Album closer “Caustic Burns” coalesces everything the band is about into seven minutes of prog-death brilliance, and if it weren’t for another prog-death album further down the column, this would be our pick of the month.
Haven’t heard of Lumsk? That’s because the Norwegian prog outfit’s last album came out sixteen years ago. Fremmede Toner has been under construction for nearly fourteen years, though, and this fourth album is a pretty sweet return. Like many albums this month it is a bit long (almost an hour) but we can forgive the band in this instance; culling fourteen years of music into twelve songs actually shows some restraint.
New vocalist Mari Klingen turns in a stellar performance, with a pure and emotive voice that brings André Bjerke’s poems to life. And the music holds up well also, occasionally deceptively heavy, more often though languid and beautiful. There is some exquisite folk-tinged prog rock here, nicely arranged and produced. We sure hope Lumsk don’t take another fourteen years to make their next album.
Israeli prog metal outfit Neolia have a lot to offer on their self-titled debut. The band brings a ton of skill to the table, along with some excellent music influenced by such luminaries as Faith No More, Tool, and maybe even a bit of world music. They’re leaving it all out on the table for us here – warts and all. For a self-produced album, Neolia sounds really good. But that self-production bites the band in other ways.
First of all, Neolia is way too long (75 minutes). And there is way too much meaningless screaming going on. Despite the strong musicianship, the arrangements often come across as rather aimless. Tacking on numerous outros (and labelling them as separate tracks) that don’t fit the songs doesn’t help, and neither does one of the most annoying ends to an album in history. That’s a lot of misgivings to throw at a debut, but there’s definitely a lot of talent here. Neolia just need some help putting it all together and getting to the next level.
Wilderun fans, pay attention here. The Amensal Rise is Belgian prog-death outfit Omnerod’s third and most ambitious album. Clocking in at seventy minutes (that’s over just seven songs), The Amensal Rise is a daunting listen both in length and complexity, but boy is it rewarding. Each song on this album screams “epic,” and draws from modern and classic influences alike, resulting in an album at once familiar yet different and captivating.
Much like Wilderun, Omnerod specialize in richly layered, intricate compositions. Arrangements and instrumentation are spot-on. There’s not a weak spot to be found across the album, aside from the daunting song lengths. In this case, though, the songs all flow wonderfully, making The Amensal Rise a rare long album that begs to be enjoyed in its entirety. Put it all together and you’ve got a prog-death album that’s done exactly the way I love them. This is our pick of the month.
This album might prove to be the most polarizing of the month. Oryad are an American outfit that blend progressive metal and doom with jazz and opera. Yes, opera: vocalist Moira Murphy has a stunning voice. Sacred & Profane is the band’s debut album, following an EP a couple years ago. Blending these genres is tricky business, as is overlaying it all with operatic vocals, but keeping the album to a svelte 46 minutes also keeps our attention.
Luckily Oryad succeed far more often than they fail on Sacred & Profane. The music is well written and polished with plenty of variance and arrangements that keep the listener firmly engaged. Murphy’s singing is strong – in fact, some might argue that her regular singing voice eclipses her opera vocals – and as long as one can sit back and enjoy this style, they will be rewarded with a very enjoyable album broad in scope and well executed.
Ring Of Gyges – Metamorphosis (ViciSolum)
Iceland’s Ring Of Gyges attempt to do what many young prog bands try; namely, blending the esthetics of ’70s prog rock with modern production and prog metal musicianship. Metamorphosis is the band’s second album, and they show here that they have put the six-year gap between releases to good use. The songwriting, arrangements, and production are all on par with far more experienced bands.
Metamorphosis is melodic and intricate at the same time. The band does an excellent job of melding the classic sounds they are influenced by with the modern, almost Haken-like take on progressive rock and metal. Outstanding performances vocally and musically make this album (despite being over an hour in length) a joy to listen to. Metamorphosis is an album I’ll be revisiting a lot this year.