The Progress Report: October 2021

Welcome to the October Progress Report. As the end of the year (and therefore list season) approaches, things are heating up with the volume of releases. What this means is that there were a zillion albums released this month, so there’s a good chance we’re missing out on some worthy recordings here. Let us know on social media, so we can check them out. Regardless, we aim to provide a good cross-section of music here as always, from debuts to a band’s 50th-year release, from prog rock to tech-death and more. Read on.

Ratings are on a five star scale.

Willowtip Records

Cognos – Cognos (Willowtip)

We start the column off with the self-titled debut album from anonymous collective Cognos. Like many progressive or avant-garde bands, they claim to have no musical boundaries or stylistic preferences, instead taking inspiration from a vast breadth of musical influences, from ambient to extreme metal.

The final product may not be as grandiose as those aspirations, but it’s damned good. Progressive metal that’s often off-kilter, imbued with healthy doses of thrash and death metal, and yes, a hint here and there of serenity. Upon first spin the vocals might seem a bit, well, over the top, but multiple listens reveals an album full of great music and engaging arrangements.

Rating: 4

Pelagic Records

Hippotraktor – Meridian (Pelagic)

It’s almost impossible to go wrong with releases from the Pelagic label, which is also home to progressive post-rock titans The Ocean. Belgian outfit Hippotraktor undeniably worship at the altar of The Ocean on their debut, Meridian, although they do add plenty of their own touches to the archetypical prog-post-metal song structures.

Clean, growled, and shrieked vocals interweave perfectly with the complex musical arrangements, which can be brooding and atmospheric one moment, brutal and complex the next. Think of injecting pieces of Gojira and Psychonaut (singer Stefan De Graef’s other band) into The Ocean’s sound and you have Hippotraktor. This is undeniably top-notch progressive post-metal that fans of The Ocean will eat up, and is our pick of the month.

Rating: 4

Wild Thing Records

The Omnific – Escapades (Wild Thing)

Have you died and gone to bass player heaven? Quite possibly, as Escapades is the debut album from Australian instrumental prog metal trio The Omnific, comprised of one drummer and two bass players. An instrumentally limited band like this is already facing an uphill battle; on paper one might think this album will be fifty minutes of low-end drudgery. It’s not.

First of all, as expected the bass playing (and to a lesser extent the drumming) is off-the-charts fantastic. Matthew Fackrell and Toby Peterson-Stewart are immensely talented in multiple styles, and (as a bass player myself) there wasn’t a moment when I wasn’t mesmerized by their talent. Speed, groove, feel, funk, you name it, it’s all here. Sure there’s inherent limitations here, but The Omnific more than impress.

Rating: 3.5

InsideOut Music

Premiata Forneria Marconi – I Dreamed Of Electric Sheep (InsideOut)

When a band has been around for fifty years you know they’re going to have their modus operandi down pat. They’ll be fantastic musicians and have a great grasp of the sound and style they’re going for. But can they still write great songs? With Italian legends PFM, that hasn’t been a problem. We were impressed with Emotional Tattoos four years ago, and are once again here.

I Dreamed Of Electric Sheep of course takes its name from the Blade Runner-inspiring Philip K. Dick story, and on their twentieth studio album the band deliver (with the exception of one dud) a solid set of dystopian-inspired prog rock, complete with complex arrangements, recurring musical themes and overall strong performances. If you’ve never listened to PFM this is a great place to start.

Rating: 3.5

Eclipse Records

The Stone Eye – South Of The Sun (Eclipse)

This one is a bit of an outlier, as The Stone Eye aren’t really a prog band; rather, they fancy themselves an experimental grunge/desert rock outfit. On South Of The Sun, the Philly quartet aim to channel Frank Zappa and Queens Of The Stone Age into one bizarre trip over the course of thirteen songs and fifty-five minutes.

This sixth album of the band’s could be a long, strange trip if they lived up to their billing, but the QOTSA influence vastly overrides Zappa, to the point that this is a fun and well-executed album that rarely strays far from its desert rock influences – in fact, a number of these songs could be QOTSA B-sides. South Of The Sun is a lot of fun but not very experimental.

Rating: 3

Xenosis – Paralleled Existence (Self)

It seems like forever since Paralleled Existence came out, but that’s what happens when an end-of-month column includes an album released on the 1st. American technical death metal band Xenosis released three solid albums prior to this one, but here they have upped their game in a few areas, possibly due to the addition of a second guitarist and a new bassist.

Xenosis don’t rewrite the prog or tech-death genres here, but they execute their vision in commendable fashion, deftly blending speed, ferocity, and technicality across all eight songs. There are no weak points on Paralleled Existence, and in fact the guitar work stands out along with the varied arrangements. Xenosis are certainly moving more into the prog realm here, and showing plenty of promise as they do so.

Rating: 3.5

Other 2021 Progress Reports

January 2021 Progress Report
February 2021 Progress Report
March 2021 Progress Report
April 2021 Progress Report
May 2021 Progress Report
June 2021 Progress Report
July 2021 Progress Report
August 2021 Progress Report
September 2021 Progress Report

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