Welcome to the September Progress Report. As we head into the final months of 2021 (already?!) we will typically see an increase in the volume of new releases. That can make it harder to settle on just six for this column, when in reality there’s well over a dozen albums we could have talked about. Still, we do our best to bring you a selection of music worthy of listening to. This time around we’ve got plenty of technical and melodic selections to peruse. As always, check these bands out and support the ones that turn your crank.
Ratings are on a five star scale.
Canada’s Æpoch last graced this column just over a year ago, with their EP The Scryer. They’re back now with yet another EP, Hiraeth. This one is even shorter than the last, clocking in at a mere 19 minutes over five songs. Fans of the band take note: Hiraeth is quite different from The Scryer.
This time around the band ups the technicality and progressive tendencies, focusing on dextrous and complex passages. Despite its short length, there’s plenty to chew on here, and the songs are a solid showcase of Æpoch’s talents as well as quite possibly their approach to future releases – although the band has made it clear that we should expect the unexpected whenever new material pops up.
The Blue Prison – The Blue Prison (Metal Assault)
The Blue Prison are an instrumental progressive metal duo from Los Angeles, and this is their eponymous full-length debut. The Blue Prison is a compilation of previously released material from EPs, a couple of singles, and four new songs, all of which present a great showcase for the pair’s technical ferocity.
Featuring Keigo Yoshida on guitar and Jaime Munoz on drums, The Blue Prison is a clinic in highly technical prog metal. Think of acts such as Scale The Summit or Animals As Leaders and you’ve got an idea as to what’s in store here. With ample chops from both musicians along with some compelling songwriting, The Blue Prison is a sweet instrumental prog metal debut.
Headless – Square One (M-Theory)
Italian hard rockers Headless have been plying their wares for a quarter century, but when albums are spaced this far apart it can be hard to know about them. Square One is the band’s fifth overall and first in five years, but if this is any indication of the band’s capabilities it certainly makes one want to delve into their back catalog.
The closest comparison to Headless might be the Galactic Cowboys, as the two bands play a similar style of melodic hard rock with metal and progressive overtones. Headless show great skill in writing slick, catchy tunes that are occasionally infiltrated by groovy metallic riffs and plenty of tasty solos, but the strongest aspect of the band is their super vocals and harmonies.
Heretic – Feast (Soman/Treehouse)
Okay, this is cheating a bit because Feast actually came out August 31, but it is an album that must be mentioned somehow. International outfit Heretic have been cranking out an album every year since 2015 but Feast is our first chance to check them out, and it is possibly the most interesting album in this month’s column.
Feast features not only powerful progressive metal performances, but the inclusion of African percussion, Middle Eastern instruments, and a number of cross-genre elements that somehow all work together. It doesn’t hurt that all the musicians perform admirably and vocalist Erich Martins brings dollops of drama to the songs with a vocal style that is strangely charismatic. Heretic are a band to get into, and what better way to start with than Feast, which is our pick of the month.
Kesem – Post-Terra (Sentient)
Los Angeles-based Kesem came to be several years ago, and Post-Terra is the band’s first full-length offering. The quartet play a unique blend of psychedelic space rock mixed with progressive rock and punk, and bringing in local punk legend Paul Roessler to produce the album lends the songs a certain anarchic flair.
Frenetic, chaotic, and very punk-like in one song, mellow and introspective in the next, and psychedelic and spaced-out later on, Kesem blend all their influences into a style that keeps the listener’s attention throughout the shifts in mood and delivery. There’s a real “indy” feel to Post-Terra; the band is simply playing what they want to and not worrying about style, genre, or anything else that can pin them down, and doing a pretty fine job of it.
Shumaun started as a solo project of Iris Divine’s Farhad Hossain, but grew into a trio that also enlisted assistance from a number of well-known drummers to record their albums. Memories & Intuition is the band’s third album, and this time around features drumming contributions from Mark Zonder (Fates Warning), Thomas Lang (Peter Gabriel), and more.
Memories & Intuition is melodic progressive rock that is anchored by Hossain’s excellent guitar compositions and charismatic vocals. The songs are both catchy and complex – not dauntingly technical, but still possessing an abundance of slick yet unpretentious material. While the album may go on a bit long (over an hour), there’s a ton of excellent progressive hard rock here. Memories & Intuition has the capability to appeal to a wide range of fans.
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