Welcome to the September Progress Report. It felt like we struck gold last month with all the high-quality releases, and while we may not have hit such lofty heights this month, these six albums are all still worth a listen. In fact, a couple of these just might pop up again come list season, and as always some readers may take to these albums more or less than I did. So read on, check the bands out, and enjoy.
Ratings are on a five star scale.
An Abstract Illusion – Woe (Willowtip)
Woe is Swedish trio An Abstract Illusion’s second album, following their 2016 debut. At their core, the band is a progressive death metal act, but on Woe they bring so much more to the table. Adding elements of death, black, prog, electronic, and classical to an ambitious 60-minute song is a bold exercise, and thankfully they pull it off.
Broken up into seven acts, Woe delivers massive helpings of brutality, riffs, atmosphere, and poignancy. Piano solos are interspersed with guitar solos, some voiceovers and female clean vocals offset the main harsh vocals, and the song arrangements are impeccable. It is easy to get fully immersed in this album and have an hour of your day disappear. That’s why it’s our pick of the month.
Crippled Black Phoenix – Banefyre (Season of Mist)
Progressive doom collective Crippled Black Phoenix are a band I want to love – their song “Champions of Disturbance” is one of my favorites of the past ten years – but I have yet to fully connect with their albums over the same period. Their mix of Pink Floyd-inspired psychedelic prog along with doom and post-rock can be mesmerizing, but their penchant for long songs is sometimes their undoing. That’s the case here on Banefyre, the band’s twelfth album.
Clocking in at a whopping ninety-seven minutes, Crippled Black Phoenix hold nothing back here. No fewer than four of the thirteen songs cross the ten-minute mark. However, the songs cannot hold our attention for nearly that length of time. A strong album half as long is buried somewhere in Banefyre, and those with infinite patience just might find it.
Gone Cosmic – Send For A Warning, The Future’s Calling (Grand Hand)
Calgary’s Gone Cosmic return with their second album Send for a Warning, the Future’s Calling and aim to build off the success of their well-received debut, 2019’s Sideways In Time. This time around the songs are shorter and more direct, but no less psychedelic than on their debut. The key draw remains Abbie Thurgood’s vocals – she’s very much a bluesy, powerful Ann Wilson – backed by punchy, at times hectic progressive bluesy rock.
There are several standout tracks here (“Envy Thrives,” with its “Four Sticks”-inspired rhythm, is excellent), but also an equal number of songs (notably the title track) that fail to meet the album’s aspirations. And Thurgood, an amazing talent, tends to get a bit too shouty on most songs. Not helping matters is the heavy-handed mastering, which combined with the all-out vocal performance makes Send For A Warning, The Future’s Calling a tiring listen.
Mythic Sunship – Light/Flux (Tee Pee)
Mythic Sunship have graced these pages in the past, rather favorably in 2018 and perhaps not quite so much last year, and here on their sixth album, Light/Flux, they aim to right the ship. This Copenhagen outfit brings psychedelia and saxophones to progressive rock, dropping six jams of varying length and spontaneity in our laps. While Wildfire might have been a bit too scattershot, the numbers here are slightly more thought out.
It seems the band is back on track, as each song brings something different to the party, from fuzzy riffs to demented sax solos and jazz jams. Light/Flux is 43 minutes of all-out psychedelic prog craziness, and if that excites you, well, strap in for a great ride because this is possibly the band’s best work yet.
Stormland – The Human Cost (Self)
Canadian one-man progressive death metal outfit Stormland is back with The Human Cost, Justin Pierrot’s sophomore release. As with his debut, 2018’s Songs Of Future Wars, Pierrot uses the Mobile Suit Gundam meta-series as inspiration for his albums. This time around he has some guest help on a couple tracks – Leda Paige (The Hallowed Catharsis) and Ross Sewage (Exhumed).
Practice makes perfect, and Pierrot’s skills have improved in all facets – songwriting, playing, vocals, and production – making The Human Cost an incremental step up from Stormland’s debut. There are plenty of good ideas, solid riffs, and interesting arrangements peppered throughout, we just need to see more consistency. Still, Stormland is definitely heading in the right direction. This is a prog-death project to keep our eyes on going forward.
Virtual Symmetry – Virtual Symmetry (Sensory)
Swiss-Italian collective Virtual Symmetry return with their fourth release, a true progressive metal album in the vein of Dream Theater, Symphony X, and more. Across eight songs (the first of which is a 20-minute epic, a bold move that the band pulls off with aplomb) the band showcase their technical and songwriting prowess, whether in heavy chugging numbers such as “My Story Unfolds” or the AOR-tinged “Fantasie Di Verità.”
Virtual Symmetry is slickly produced, well written, and features top-notch performances. The band is clearly aiming for the same rarified air as the bands mentioned, and they come pretty close across the entire album. Fans of slick progressive metal with a touch of power metal, neo-classical shredding (both on guitar and keyboard), and extravagant arrangements will love this.
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
Woe by An Abstract Illusion is indeed a great album.