The Progress Report: May 2024

Welcome to the May Progress Report. This month I’m lucky enough to be checking out new music from five bands I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing in the past, as well as one band that’s new to me (although they’ve been around for a while). And I can tell you, all six of these releases have positive qualities that make them deserve a listen or two. In fact, this was one of the hardest months to pick a clear favorite. As always, check these out and support the bands you like.

Ratings are on a five star scale.

Paid Vacation Records

Red Handed Denial – A Journey Through Virtual Dystopia (Paid Vacation)

Toronto quartet Red Handed Denial are up first, with their latest release A Journey Through Virtual Dystopia. Like many albums in recent years, this one draws from the negative experiences social media has had on the world, particularly during and after the pandemic. Vocalist Lauren Babic is the star of the show, with a masterful and vast repertoire of styles.

That’s a bit of an issue overall, though. Red Handed Denial lace their music with moments of prog, electronic, djent, and pop, but by and large they are a metalcore band, and most of the songs here seem to be straining to be mainstream hits, with similar arrangements. The album is admirably performed and produced, and Babic turns in some great performances. There could be a huge audience for this style, but it might not be our readers of this column. Give this a shot, though, and decide for yourself.

Rating: 3

InsideOut Music

The Tangent – To Follow Polaris (InsideOut)

Here’s an interesting one. Regular readers are more than familiar with The Tangent, as past albums have graced these pages. This time around is different, though, as To Follow Polaris is actually an Andy Tillison solo record. With the rest of the band engaged in a variety of other projects, Tillison received their blessing to carry on with this album. Seems like a pretty big task!

Tillison pulls it off with great aplomb. The songs, performances, and production are all excellent (maybe a couple drag on too long, but hey this is prog), and Tillison does the band proud with a release that, if one hadn’t read the press notes, sounds as though the entire band is still involved. Well done, Andy, and let’s see what happens when the rest of the group comes back around for more.

Rating: 4

Wells Music

Teramaze – Eli: A Wonderful Fall From Grace (Wells)

Australian melodic prog metal act Teramaze return with Eli: A Wonderful Fall From Grace. This is the band’s eleventh album and seems to be a concept of some sort. Sadly the info provided doesn’t make this clear, but the album’s structure (including a couple of short segues) definitely suggests concept.

If there’s one word to sum up a Teramaze album, it would be professional. Everything is exactly as it should be: arrangements are crisp, all the sounds are perfect, and it’s easy to fall into the album (aside from the aforementioned interludes). With these guys I often feel like they’re holding themselves back, though, and in the effort to be so perfect in their projects the passion doesn’t shine through as it should. The band is just a tiny step away from greatness; they just need to throw caution to the wind.

Rating: 4

Ripple Music

Vitskär Süden – Vessel (Ripple)

A recent favorite of mine is the Los Angeles quartet Vitskär Süden. They play a very unique and evocative style of psychedelic prog rock, and their 2022 release The Faceless King really pulled me in. Of course, it didn’t hurt that it shipped with its own Dungeons & Dragons module – how cool is that? Anyhow, the band is back with something quite different this time around.

Vessel is a hypnotic, trippy journey down damp and shady paths. The songs are replete with ’70s-sounding instruments and hazy vocals, and each song is moodier than the last. This is an album that begs to be played over and over simply to immerse oneself in the feel of it. In a month where most of the bands in this column released an excellent album, Vitskär Süden get our pick of the month not only for being great, but for changing things up, stepping beyond their comfort zone, and truly embracing their instincts.

Rating: 4

InsideOut Music

Wheel – Charismatic Leaders (InsideOut)

Over the years a number of Tool-influenced prog metal bands have been dropping albums, Soen perhaps the most successful of them. Wheel fall in this category as well. This Finnish-Anglo band is almost ten years old now, and Charismatic Leaders is their third album. The quality has not dropped off at all over time.

The Tool influences are still firmly atop the music, but Wheel are coming into their own now, with greater emotion in the delivery and more aggression in the songs. While other bands can come off as derivative, Wheel are moving past this and embracing both their heroes and their own individuality. It’s great to hear them putting it all together like this on their third, highly recommended, album.

Rating: 4

Deathwave Records

Witherfall – Sounds Of The Forgotten (Deathwave)

Last up for us this month is Witherfall and their fourth album, Sounds Of The Forgotten. Another band from L.A., these cats have credits with other bands such as Sanctuary, Iced Earth, Allan Holdsworth, and Steven Wilson. In other words, there’s plenty of talent to go around in this prog-thrash outfit.

On first listen, Sounds Of The Forgotten comes off as a bit uneven. It is slower and darker than past efforts, but give this a few spins; the songs and performances are still superb, the thrashier songs hit hard, and the album length is just right so as not to get bogged down in the moodiness. All told this is another great effort from Witherfall, a bit different from past releases, but absolutely worth digging into.

Rating: 4

Other 2024 Progress Reports

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

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