Welcome to the October Progress Report – our penultimate report of the year. Here we go with the usual fare – progressive rock, death, metal, and variations thereof, in an effort to shine light on a number of different albums and styles. While these albums may not have garnered the highest marks of the year, they all have a degree of appeal to fans of the styles, so be sure to check them out. In addition to these albums, though, don’t forget about some other excellent October prog reviewed in our regular weekly columns; namely, Kilter and Wobbler. And come back in November for our final report of the year, where we’ll highlight seven albums just because we can.
Ratings are on a five star scale.
Amiensus – Abreaction (Transcending)
Minnesotan progressive black metal quintet Amiensus are back with their fourth release, Abreaction, which serves as a cohesive summation of all the band has done prior. Led by singer/guitarist James Benson (also of Chrome Waves), the band’s previous releases each fit fairly neatly into a single category: melodic, progressive, or more conventional black metal. These facets are all integral to Abreaction.
Both production and songwriting values are high with Amiensus, as these young fellows blast and worm their way through fifty minutes of varied compositions. The band shifts effortlessly from pummeling black metal to shoegaze, to prog and to atmospheric, moody moments, in the process crafting a completely engaging album that just might have something for everyone going on, and that is our pick of the month.
Defecto – Duality (Black Lodge)
Okay, this one snuck by the defense. There is nothing progressive about Duality, the latest album from Norway’s Defecto. This is radio-friendly metal through and through. But the promo material said “melodic progressive metal,” so here we are. This is the band’s third album, and fans of Avenged Sevenfold, Disturbed, and maybe just slightly Volbeat will be into this.
The music is for the most part groovy and catchy melodic metal, although Duality is definitely front-loaded with quality, as a few questionable mellow songs drag down the back half. Nicklas Sonne is the star of the show, displaying excellent vocal skills, and one can see the band’s mass appeal. Prog Duality is not, but fun at times it certainly is.
The Flower Kings – Islands (InsideOut)
Prolific is an understatement when it comes to The Flower Kings. Roine Stolt and company have released three albums now in as many years, each longer than the last. Islands clocks in at a whopping 21 songs spread across 93 minutes. All told, that’s more than four hours of music in three years and honestly, it is never a good idea to just record every single idea.
Sadly, dumping dozens of songs on listeners at this rate does not equate to high quality. Aside from the glorious cover art, Islands is a largely forgettable progressive rock foray. The album sounds great, but the songs don’t stick and the album lacks cohesion – surprising, as Stolt considers this to be a single unified song. Hopefully the band steps back, regroups, and takes their time with a more memorable and concise outing next time around.
Jakko M Jakszyk – Secrets & Lies (InsideOut)
These days Jakko Jakszyk is best known as the vocalist for the latest incarnation of King Crimson, but the man had been releasing music for decades prior to that, both solo and as part of a variety of groups. Secrets & Lies sees him bringing on a number of collaborators, including many members of King Crimson.
At its best, Secrets & Lies comes off as watered-down King Crimson (in fact, a handful of songs here originated in Crim writing sessions, and the guitar solos are readily identifiable), but for the most part this is easy-going soft rock, pensive and retrospective. This can make it a frustrating listen, and the album may only appeal to a diehard few.
After delivering part 1 of this two-part album series back in August, the duo Radiant Knife are back with part 2, The Ghost. This is the much longer offering, with songs stretching into the 6 and 7-minute range. For this reason they offer more in mood, but a less immediate impact.
The overall tone on The Ghost is dark and pensive. Musically, these compositions drift more into post metal territory than prog, which isn’t a bad thing. Radiant Knife are also very adept at this style. While The Ghost might not grab you like The Body did, taken as a single long album, The Body and The Ghost pair up as one of the year’s more compelling prog releases.
London, Ontario quartet Skyless Aeons blend melodic death metal, black metal, and progressive metal into their own special concoction on Drain the Sun, the band’s debut album. Citing Dark Tranquillity and older Opeth as influences, Skyless Aeons are certainly setting their sights high. Like many of this year’s albums, it deals with subject matter such as greed and apathy. The overall idea is that we always find our purpose, and then over-indulge in it.
Skyless Aeons are accomplished musicians. Drain the Sun is full of complex moments, with some especially sweet bass lines, and the production is strong and hard-hitting, giving the music plenty of depth. The subterranean gurgle of the vocals could use more variance, but this is a worthy debut from an up and coming extreme metal band.
Other 2020 Progress Reports
January 2020 Progress Report
February 2020 Progress Report
March 2020 Progress Report
April 2020 Progress Report
May 2020 Progress Report
June 2020 Progress Report
July 2020 Progress Report
August 2020 Progress Report
September 2020 Progress Report