Welcome to the October Progress Report – our penultimate edition before list season starts. With that in mind, we start to expect a bevy of quality releases as bands vie for coveted spots atop lists. This month might not be spectacular, but there are some strong, and in a couple cases excellent releases that just might nudge their way into a few lists come December. Whether it’s post-metal, psychedelic prog, or even noise, there’s an album for everyone below. Check them out and support the bands as always.
Ratings are on a five star scale.
Black Space Riders – We Have Been Here Before (Cargo)
Black Space Riders make their first appearance in this column, although we are quite familiar with them. We Have Been Here Before is an apt title for this German collective’s seventh album; over the years their formula hasn’t changed. They mix psychedelic space rock with garage band tunes. As with every BSR album, there are a number of gems here, including “Almost the Lost,” “Shine” (which borrows the riff from AC/DC’s Let There Be Rock), and “In Dust.”
Black Space Riders are a band that always have plenty of great ideas on their albums, but for whatever reason it never seems to come completely together. In the case of We Have Been Here Before, a large part of that is the band’s inability to cull the song count. Fifteen songs stretched over eighty-two minutes is far too long, and truly dilutes the album’s many compelling moments. There’s a great fifty-minute album buried in here.
Caustic Casanova – Glass Enclosed Nerve Center (Magnetic Eye)
Eclectic prog/punk/sludge quartet Caustic Casanova (great band name) are back with their fifth album, Glass Enclosed Nerve Center. The album is a real mish-mash of styles and songs, ranging from the three-minute angular “Lodestar” to a couple of epic (one really epic) tracks, all loaded with guitar histrionics and sardonic vocals. If a punk band decided to embrace bands like The Mars Volta, they might sound like this.
The album has a real garage band feel to it, with plenty of humor, and the back half is a 22-minute song that seems to be poking fun at the January 6 insurrectionists. That makes sense, since the band hails from D.C., but the song itself collapses under its weight. Despite that, Glass Enclosed Nerve Center is an entertaining, slightly unhinged romp.
Even Flow – Mediterraneo (Self)
Italian progressive metal act Even Flow have been around for over twenty years now, but Mediterraneo is only their third release. Not the most prolific act, and here we have a five song, twenty-three-minute EP to tide us over. Even Flow will appeal to fans of acts like Stratovarius: this music is grand and symphonic, with plenty of keyboards and soaring vocals.
The five songs presented on Mediterraneo range from excellent (“Ocean Lies”) to well-executed but more average. At times the vocals get a bit shouty, but as a whole this EP is very uplifting and impassioned, showing plenty of potential. Here’s hoping Even Flow can follow this up with something more substantial, and sooner rather than later.
Mal – Malbum (Ordovician)
Minneapolis 4-piece Mal are a unique entry, with their multi-genre blend. Malbum is their debut recording – nine songs in a svelte twenty-seven minutes, consisting of a progressive hardcore power trio and saxophone. For the most part these songs hit hard with their blend of Cardiac-meets-Sleepy Time Gorilla Museum. “Friend Song” is certainly a miss, but the rest of the album consists of angular, noisy blasts of post-punk-infused prog.
Of course, the saxophone is being massively overused in metal these days (give me the old jazz legends any day of the week), so imbuing each track with sax is pushing it. Luckily, Ivan Cunningham blasts some complexities that keep pace with the music, and at times gives King Shabaka a run for his money. Malbum is a short jazz/noise/prog outing that will please fans of the outer reaches of music.
Psychonaut – Violate Consensus Reality (Pelagic)
Belgian progressive/post-metal trio Psychonaut return with their second album, Violate Consensus Reality, a loose concept album based on the idea of creating a new civilization based on a new human identity – not a bad idea considering the last few years. If you missed out on their debut Unfold The God Man, or singer Stefan de Graef’s other band Hippotraktor, don’t let this one slip by.
Psychonaut have mastered the dynamics needed to create compelling progressive post-metal. The eight songs here never let our attention slip, from the varied vocals (mostly harsh, but with some strong cleans as well) to the hypnotic and aggressive music. Guest vocal appearances from Stefanie Mannaerts (Brutus) and Colin H. van Eeckhout (Amenra) on the massive title track add just the right amount of variety. Hippotraktor were our pick of the month last October, and Psychonaut follow that up this month with this superb album.
Taking Balfour – Dawn Of Polaris (Self)
Canadian quintet Taking Balfour present their second album, Dawn Of Polaris. These guys have only been together for a few short years, but the chemistry in this ten-song attack is outstanding. Influences from the alt-metal of Faith No More to the hypnotic percussiveness of Tool and more can be heard here, all melded together with a skill that belies the band’s short time together.
These songs are loaded with cool riffs and occasional breakdowns. Vocalist Spencer Gill does a great job across the album, injecting plenty of character into each song. The band makes each track sound unique, blending guitar, bass, synth, and percussion in such a way that each band member gets plenty of opportunities to strut their stuff. It all adds up to a thoroughly entertaining album that misses out on being our pick of the month by a hair’s breadth.
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