Welcome to the November Progress Report – and sort of December, as well. November is always our last month featuring new material, as the December column will highlight the year’s best. With that in mind, we’ve added an early December release here as a special bonus. As always, we try to keep the selections varied, from prog rock to melodic death metal, and this month the overall quality of the albums is stellar. There’s nothing in this month’s column that anyone should want to avoid, and there’s even a few bona fide gems here – and one album guaranteed to be on a ton of lists next month. Read on and support the bands.
Ratings are on a five star scale.
Avandra – Prodigal (Layered Reality)
We reviewed Avandra’s second album Descender a few years ago. The outfit hailing from Puerto Rico showed plenty of promise then, so of course we’ve been looking forward to Prodigal, hoping the band continues to grow and find their voice. This time around they look at what home means, as well as being able to create one’s own destiny, in this lengthy prog concept album.
So, good news: Prodigal is a definite step forward for Avandra. Despite being a bit too long, the songs are wonderfully constructed, produced and performed; and Christian Alaya’s vocals (clean and harsh) fit nicely with each song this time around. The songs are diverse and dynamic (that seems to be a theme this month), and the album as a whole is thoroughly engaging. This is a tough month for competition, but Avandra have things off to a great start with an album that will appeal to many.
It’s fun to watch bands progress. Case in point: Montreal’s Cydemind, whose 2017 debut Erosion showed potential but also had plenty of room to grow and illustrated the problem with instrumental prog metal. Namely, holding the listener’s attention for more than an hour is no easy task. Five years on and we have The Descent, the band’s self-produced followup.
Featuring the same lineup as Erosion, The Descent documents the, er, descent into hell in a person’s mind. The growth of the band is obvious, not just technically but in the more engaging manner of songwriting and arrangements. As with any album featuring violin, piano, and more, The Descent is quite cinematic in places. Cydemind have struck a fine balance between mood, emotion, and technicality. The Descent is a great step forward.
Disillusion – Ayam (Prophecy)
Despite forming nearly thirty years ago, Ayam is only Disillusion’s fourth album. The German melodic/progressive death metal band’s 2019 album The Liberation stormed its way upon the scene, making its presence felt on multiple year-end lists. Now a mere three years later (the last gap in albums was 13 years) the band is back with Ayam, and they aim to show us that not a single step has been lost.
The album kicks off with one of the best songs of the year, “Am Abgrund,” and barely lets up after that. One can hear plenty of influence from Katatonia to Amorphis, but Disillusion wrap it all up in their own style – majestic, epic, emotional, and quite simply beautifully executed. Even if you don’t want to, you can’t help but stop what you’re doing and just listen to the entire album. Ayam is easily our pick of the month and will certainly go down as one of the best albums of the year as well.
Edge Of Haze – The Convoy Of Ruin (Darkening Tone)
Usually when we review prog from Finland it’s in the vein of ’70s prog rock. Not so with Edge Of Haze, who on their third full-length The Convoy Of Ruin drop a full-on modern progressive metal gem on us. The quartet could be thought of as melding elements of BTBAM, older Leprous, and more into a tasty cocktail of all-encompassing metal.
Harsh vocals, clean vocals, and a couple of guest female lead vocals are all strong and used tastefully throughout the album. The music ranges from extreme and heavy to subtle and atmospheric, but it all ties together with a keen sense of melody and, yes, memorability. These guys know how to write great songs. The Convoy Of Ruin is a fine example of modern progressive metal that fans both new and old will love.
Getšemane – Viimaa (Svart)
Technically not out until December 2, Viimaa appears here because we won’t feature new music in the December Report (that’s our best-of list). It follows up Finnish act Getšemane‘s 2015 debut. In the words of the band, this is music “molded from the jawbones of a pike.” I’m not sure about that, but the quintet invokes genuine ’70s prog with healthy doses of demented saxophone.
Through forty-two minutes the band rips through King Crimson-inspired heavy prog. Their music features chaotic rhythms, off-kilter sax, luscious guitar solos, and complex bass grooves. The ’70s prog scene seems to be alive and well in Finland, and Getšemane are right at home in it. Definitely recommended for fans of this resurgence.
Sammal – Aika laulaa (Svart)
An odd month to have three acts from Finland in the column (and it could have been four: Sammal’s ex-keyboard player also released a good album as Tavat). Neoprog act Sammal play music in a similar vein as fellow countrymen Malady: ’70s-inspired prog with a psychedelic bent. Aika laulaa is the band’s fourth album, following 2018’s excellent Suuliekki. Change is afoot, though. The band is down from a five-piece to a power trio. Gone are the bass and keyboard players, leaving guitarist/songwriter Jura Salmi using pedals to mimic those instruments.
For this album the band found inspiration in music from acts as diverse as Bo Hansson and Whitesnake, and they sing the songs in whichever language they feel suits the mood: Finnish, Swedish, or English. It makes for an eclectic album with plenty of interesting songs, but the absence of past stylistic influences (and musicians) is felt at times. That being said, Aika laulaa is still a worthy addition to the band’s catalog.
Threshold – Dividing Lines (Nuclear Blast)
Five years have passed since we reviewed Threshold’s Legends Of The Shire. Now the British prog veterans are back with Dividing Lines, their twelfth album. Their lineup remains intact, and while this album does not adhere to an overall story arc like Legends did, it’s still a long (sixty-five minutes) opus full of the band’s stylistic oeuvres.
Sixty-five minutes is long; there’s no doubt that a couple of songs could have been left off here, or worst case shortened. But overall Threshold maintain a pretty high quality of songwriting and performance almost on par with their last album. Once again they present both epic-length tunes as well as more succinct numbers. Overall Dividing Lines is a satisfying melodic prog metal romp that fans will love.
Other 2022 Progress Reports
January 2022 Progress Report
February 2022 Progress Report
March 2022 Progress Report
April 2022 Progress Report
May 2022 Progress Report
June 2022 Progress Report
July 2022 Progress Report
August 2022 Progress Report
September 2022 Progress Report
October 2022 Progress Report