The Progress Report: October 2023

Welcome to the October Progress Report. The year is quickly drawing to a close, and it is almost time to start looking forward to List Season. That usually means we get some heavy-hitting albums dropping in October, and while there is definitely some good material here, the album this month I was most looking forward to fell short. Still, the six albums here as always are worth checking out; some or all of them might tickle your fancy, in which case do the bands a solid and buy their work.

Ratings are on a five star scale.

Couch Cat Records

Michael Abdow – Séance In Black (Couch Cat)

American guitarist Michael Abdow might be best known among prog fans as guitarist for Fates Warning and Ray Alder, but he has also released five solo albums now, including Séance In Black. On this album Abdow once again shows off his multi-instrumental prowess (he plays everything except drums) as well as his stylistic virtuosity.

Séance In Black features seven well-written songs with plenty of emotive guitar work. You would never know this isn’t a full band playing: the arrangements and musicianship are stellar throughout. There’s plenty of nuance to offset the tasteful shredding, and despite being known as a guitarist Abdow gives all the instruments room to breathe. For instrumental prog you can do a lot worse than Abdow’s albums, and this is no exception.

Rating: 3.5

My Kingdom Music

Goad – Titania (My Kingdom)

Perhaps the most intriguing release this month is Titania, the latest from veteran prog rockers Goad. Virtually unknown, this band formed in Italy back in the seventies and has put out at least a dozen albums, all led by singer/multi-instrumentalist Maurilio Rossi. Titania is a massive 2CD outing, fourteen songs spanning seventy-seven minutes. Ambitious is putting it mildly.

Goad bring influences from across the ’70s prog scene on Titania – from King Crimson to Genesis, and of course Italian mates PFM. What will be key for this band to hit home for listeners is Rossi’s vocals; they won’t be for everyone, but his odd brand of drama has something charismatic about it. Titania might be a bit long and Rossi’s vocals won’t be for everyone, but there’s something about this album that makes it hard to stop listening to. Check it out.

Rating: 3.5

InsideOut Music

Pattern-Seeking Animals – Spooky Action At A Distance (InsideOut)

Count Pattern-Seeking Animals in that group of today’s ultra-prolific prog rock acts. Much like The Flower Kings, these folks crank out albums at an unheard of (these days) rate. Spooky Action At A Distance is the quartet’s fourth album in five years. And with albums generally coming in around the one-hour mark (this one is sixty-one minutes) there’s plenty of room for the band to experiment.

Experiment they do on SAaaD, with elements of ska and reggae making their way into the music. One can hear the Spock’s Beard origins, but the vocals have taken a step forward here, and the joyous hints of bands like The Police also creep through. This is a well-played, fun art-rock album that fans of the band will love.

Rating: 3.5

Vicisolum Records

Sky Empire – The Shifting Tectonic Plates Of Power – Part One (ViciSolum)

Britain’s Sky Empire present their second album, the ponderously-titled The Shifting Tectonic Plates Of Power – Part One. It’s almost as long as the 65-minute runtime. It’s been five tumultuous years for the band since their debut, but the music on Part One shows the time between releases has been well spent.

It is bold to open with a fifteen-minute instrumental, especially with singer-for-hire Jeff Scott Soto replacing the late Yordan Ivanov, but Sky Empire deliver with epic, layered, at times cinematic arrangements, all topped by a decent performance from Soto and superb guitar work (Dimebag-inspired, if you must know) from Drazic Lecutier. Fans of modern progressive metal like Dream Theater will love this one.

Rating: 4

Source – Emergence (Self)

Denver prog metal trio Source have been on my radar for years, and their fourth album Emergence was one of my most-looked-forward-to albums this year. Their 2019 release Totality stuck with me a long time, as they took their overt Tool influences and wove plenty of their own psychedelic, atmospheric leanings into the music. Totality reeked of potential.

Emergence can only be described as disappointing. There’s no attempt to forge any sort of Tool-adjacent path forward. Instead what we have is an album that could very well be a collection of Tool demos. The rare times they move slightly away from their main inspiration they end up sounding like Chevelle (another Tool-inspired band). Two albums in I thought Source had a real shot at being the next big prog act; now I’m not nearly so enthused.

Rating: 3

Atomic Fire Records

Theocracy – Mosaic (Atomic Fire)

Athens, Georgia-based Theocracy have been honing their craft for over twenty years now, the culmination of which is their fifth album, Mosaic. 2016’s Ghost Ship was a favorite around these parts, and it’s great to see the band back with ther power-prog style intact and as catchy as ever.

Yet another of this month’s albums clocking in at over an hour, Mosaic grabs our eardrums and never lets go. Matt Smith and band pull out all the stops across ten sumptuous, energetic, and diverse tracks. You want all-out power metal? It’s here. Balladry? Sure. Thrash? Yep, there’s a hint of that too. Epic prog? How about the nineteen-minute closing track “Red Sea.” All told, Mosaic is Theocracy’s best album, and our pick of the month.

Rating: 4

Other 2023 Progress Reports

January 2023 Progress Report
February 2023 Progress Report
March 2023 Progress Report
April 2023 Progress Report
May 2023 Progress Report
June 2023 Progress Report
July 2023 Progress Report
August 2023 Progress Report
September 2023 Progress Report

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