Welcome to the October Progress Report. Even though the year is winding down, there were still some very worthy progressive music releases in October – and none more so than the latest juicy platter from Haken, which was reviewed separately here. That being said, we’ve got quite a variety of albums for you to check out below, from ’80s-styled prog metal to demented jazz. While there’s no extreme metal selections this month, take a look below, and I’m sure something will catch your ear.
Ratings are on a five star scale.
Gösta Berlings Saga – ET EX (InsideOut)
Oddly enough, ET EX is one of two instrumental prog rock albums we’re looking at this month. Gösta Berlings Saga are a Swedish quartet with four previous albums under their belt, and they specialize in producing highly exploratory, dynamic albums, more keyboard- than guitar-centric, with plenty of textures and counterpoints throughout.
Aside from the throwaway opening intro, and one other very short interlude (do you need interludes on an instrumental album?), the other six songs show an interesting variety in arrangements and instrumentation, from quirky and chaotic to heavy and hypnotic, making ET EX a highly enjoyable and replayable instrumental prog rock release.
Heir Apparent – The View From Below (No Remorse)
This came from out of nowhere. Heir Apparent were an underrated Seattle prog metal band that released two criminally overlooked albums in the ’80s (I encourage you to go find One Small Voice and Graceful Inheritance) before dropping off the map as many other metal bands did around that time.
They’re back now, with a fresh album that is firmly rooted in the band’s ’80s style, but in a good way. New singer Will Shaw brings a big voice to the game, at times even hinting at the rawness of early Geddy Lee, and puts in a staggeringly impressive performance. Original guitarist Terry Gorle rips some amazing solos here, most notably on epic track “Road to Palestine.”
The vibe on The View From Below is so genuinely 1986, that those of us who remember Queensryche’s Rage for Order or early Fates Warning records will immediately fall in love with Heir Apparent’s comeback album. Closing song “Insomnia” is sure to be played a lot here. I don’t know if more albums will be in the cards for these fellas, but for now, let’s revel in one helluva excellent album – this column’s album of the month, in fact.
Mythic Sunship – Another Shape of Psychedelic Music (El Paraiso)
Our second instrumental album of the month, and boy is this one insane. Mythic Sunship are a Danish ‘space rock’ band, but with a twist. Here on the literally named Another Shape of Psychedelic Music, saxophonist Søren Skov joins the band, and things quickly get out of hand. Think if John Coltrane played in a psychedelic blues-rock band.
The music is as crazy as that sounds, and more. With maddened arrangements and a backing band that at times plays with cacophonous abandon, other times fierce groove, Skov’s sax noodling is on par with the most outre King Crimson jams. For example, “Last Exit” opens in utter chaos before moving into a breakneck surf-rock jam. If you like your prog crazy and filled with reedy delight, Mythic Sunship’s latest is for you.
NeversiN – The Outside In (Revalve)
Italian progressive hard rockers NeversiN are up next, and I always wonder when there’s an extra capital letter thrown in there. The Outside In is the band’s fourth record, and their past as a classic rock cover band really shows through here. Having cut their teeth playing songs from bands such as Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, and Queen, they know the sounds and style they’re trying to achieve.
Succeeding can be another story, and while the album starts strong, the hard rock (and even the prog-ness) slowly takes a back seat to saccharine ballads. In fact, the intro to “The Symphony in Light” could have been pulled straight from a Disney soundtrack. There are plenty of good songs on this front-loaded album, in the style of Queen and Toto, but overall on The Outside In NeversiN sound like a band struggling to find their own identity.
Stone Leaders – Stone Leaders (Vanity)
Identity is an issue here as well, for Stone Leaders and their eponymous debut, but this is understandable. New York drummer John Macaluso (ARK, Symphony X, Yngwie Malmsteen) found himself in Croatia doing a clinic, and the sidekicks he was set up with ended up forming this project with him. One thing led to another, and after a lot of back and forth their debut was born.
A little less progressive than the other releases this month, Stone Leaders features shorter hard-rocking songs based on a diverse list of influences – Queen, Deep Purple, and Macaluso’s previous bands, to name a few. Musically Stone Leaders show some fantastic chops (especially the drumming), but the production is quite raw and the variety in the songs leads us to believe Stone Leaders are still searching for what will make them unique. A solid debut, though.
VOLA – Applause of a Distant Crowd (Mascot)
They may be relatively new to the scene, but Denmark’s VOLA have earned plenty of accolades with their debut, Inmazes, and look to carry on with that momentum on their follow-up, Applause of a Distant Crowd. The band’s sound is quite varied, predominantly lush arrangements atop prog-pop structures such as one would expect from Steven Wilson, but at times very heavy as well.
This combination of styles results in some of the most beautiful songs of the month (such as “Ruby Pool”), spritely pop (“Ghosts”), and massive, heavy, technical prog metal with harsh vocal embellishments (“Smartfriend”). The songs are widely disparate in style and tone, but somehow VOLA make it all work in a very cohesive package, and if it weren’t for Heir Apparent’s sudden emergence this would be our record of the month. As it stands, Applause of a Distant Crowd is a close second that’s likely to end up on some year-end lists soon.
Previous 2018 Progress Reports
The Progress Report: January 2018
The Progress Report: February 2018
The Progress Report: March 2018
The Progress Report: April 2018
The Progress Report: May 2018
The Progress Report: June 2018
The Progress Report: July 2018
The Progress Report: August 2018
The Progress Report: September 2018