Welcome to the October Progress Report. This month just might see the highest overall level of quality this year. There isn’t an album on this list that I can’t heartily recommend. If you’re into prog rock: Effa Lente. Progressive melodeath: In Mourning. Traditional prog-metal: Ray Alder’s solo album. The list goes on, and to top it off we’ve included not six but seven albums. So I’ll stop proselytizing about it all now, and just let you get to the reviews and decide for yourself!
Ratings are on a five star scale.
Bent Knee – You Know What They Mean (InsideOut)
When one thinks of prog bands from Berklee College of Music, Dream Theater always comes to mind. But let me put forth that Bent Knee are a much more compelling act. Formed back in 2009, You Know What They Mean is the band’s fifth album, and follows 2017’s Land Animal, an album we reviewed in our June 2017 Progress Report.
At times, the sound on this album is decidedly more stripped-down and heavy than previous outings, but the band’s style still shines through. This is due in no small part to singer Courtney Swain, who is practically a modern Kate Bush. The songs presented here are all expertly crafted artistic prog rock, and they all leave us grinning and wanting more. I said it two years ago and I’ll say it again: get on the Bent Knee train.
The oddly-named Effa Lente is actually the project of multi-instrumentalist David Alfred Reilly. An Appropriate Mourning Period is his second album, and features Reilly on an abundance of instruments along with a vocalist named Marlo, who sings on five of the seven tracks.
Effa Lente’s music is lush, expansive, cinematic prog rock. Production is spot-on, and each of these songs is captivating in its own right, from the slow atmospherics of “Bring on the Morphine” to the pulsating almost indy-pop electronics of “Lost in a Long Time,” to the metallic builds in “No Response,” An Appropriate Mourning Period is an engrossing listen from beginning to end.
American instrumental duo Fought Upon Earth are back with their sophomore release, Grave Miscalculation. Mark Lamb (Acid King) and Lance Lea (Secrets of the Sky) last convened in 2015, but are back now after the dissolution of their other bands. The results are surprisingly impressive.
The style of music on Grave Miscalculation is varied, from thrash to prog, from doom to classic hard rock. But what do not vary are the skill and songwriting. There isn’t a weak track present here regardless of style. Throughout all nine tracks, Fought Upon Earth show they’ve got the chops to hang with anyone when it comes to instrumental prog metal. If you like your music sans vocals – or even if you don’t – do not miss this album.
In Mourning – Garden of Storms (Agonia)
Sweden’s In Mourning were in tough when they released their fifth album, Garden of Storms, earlier this month. Going up against melodeath titans Insomnium is no easy task, but In Mourning’s brand of melodeath isn’t quite the same: theirs is a more varied, progressive sound, and trust me, you can scratch two itches at once with both these bands.
Garden of Storms is a svelte 51 minutes, and In Mourning pack in a ton of variety, with many clean passages, a wide range of vocals, and still the occasional bits of brutality. There’s still some old Opeth influence, but at times one can also hear hints of Porcupine Tree’s heavier moments. All told, Garden of Storms is a fantastic progressive metal album with just enough death metal injected to keep the more brutally-inclined happy, and it’s our pick for the month.
Ray Alder – What the Water Wants (InsideOut)
What the Water Wants is Fates Warning/Redemption vocalist Ray Alder’s first solo album. Rather than making use of a plethora of guest musicians, Alder worked with Ignite drummer Craig Anderson, Fates Warning touring guitarist Mike Abdow, and Lords of Black guitarist Tony Hernando to write and record this album.
Stylistically the songs on What the Water Wants are only slightly akin to both of Alder’s other bands. The songs are less progressive perhaps, with a decidedly ’90s prog metal vibe about them, but are nonetheless compelling. Alder’s voice is in pristine shape, giving each song its own life. Fans of progressive metal in general, Ray Alder, or either of Fates Warning or Redemption, will love this outing.
Uneven Structure – Paragon (Long Branch)
France’s Uneven Structure came into being eleven years ago, and Paragon is the quartet’s third full-length album. The roots of the band’s sound are firmly embedded in a combination of progressive and alternative metal, with plenty of ambiance and variety to boot. Think of a heavier version of Dead Letter Circus and you’ve got a rough approximation of the band’s sound.
Don’t let the “alternative” part of the above statement scare you away: Paragon is a highly accessible album that is loaded with great songs. Mathieu Romarin employs both clean and harsh vocals to strong effect, and the band backs him up with great musicianship and arrangements. Paragon is an epic-sounding record, and establishes Uneven Structure as a legit force in progressive metal.
Yurei is a one-man international project. How, you might ask? Gabriel Castro is originally from Brazil, but started Yurei in Ontario, and recorded Saudade in his Maine studio with assistance from Evan Sammons (Last Chance to Reason) and award-winning mixer Jamie King. The result is a multi-faceted instrumental progressive metal creation.
Saudade showcases Yurei’s multitude of stylistic influences. Progressive metal is the bedrock of the album, but there are plenty of jazz, Latin, ambient, and video game influences as well. These songs aren’t self-indulgent or pompous at all, but hold our attention throughout and showcase Castro as a very talented multi-instrumentalist and, more importantly, songwriter.
Other 2019 Progress Reports
The Progress Report: January 2019
The Progress Report: February 2019
The Progress Report: March 2019
The Progress Report: April 2019
The Progress Report: May 2019
The Progress Report: June 2019
The Progress Report: July 2019
The Progress Report: August 2019
The Progress Report: September 2019