Welcome to The Progress Report, what will become a monthly column here at Heavy Music Headquarters dedicated to all forms of progressive rock. Each month we will highlight a few albums that intrigued us, disappointed us, or made us wish we had avoided them. Of course, don’t forget about the bigger prog releases that don’t hit this column, but rather get their own feature here, such as Fates Warning and Witherscape back in July, and The Pineapple Thief in August.
This month’s roundup is prefaced by a beef I have with harsh vocals in relation to progressive music. Basically, unless you are playing progressive death metal (like one of our choices below), harsh vocals should be an embellishment to the record, not a mainstay. And they certainly shouldn’t comprise 98 percent of an album’s vocals (like a couple more of our choices below).
Yeah, I’m showing my age by harping on harsh vocals, but with diverse, technically amazing music I don’t need someone screaming in my face for an hour. Between the Buried and Me is a great example of a band that knows how to arrange vocals. Family and Scientist, take note. I’ve always said if Neil Young can sing clean, anyone can. And now, on to the reviews. Ratings are on a five star scale.
Bangladeafy – Narcopaloma (Nefarious Industries)
Bangladeafy are an interesting New York duo (one is Bangladeshi and the other has a hearing impairment, thus the name) who have produced a short, sweet EP of chaotic, fusion-laced prog. It is a cacophony of instrumentation that holds onto your ears and keeps you interested, and Narcopaloma is short enough that it’s worth playing a few times.
The seven songs clock in at a paltry 16 minutes, low even for an EP, let alone a prog/experimental EP. Bangladeafy have some interesting ideas here; the music is very similar to what we heard in King Crimson’s ProjeKct recordings. Let’s hope they keep progressing and can expand upon those ideas, and carry these music themes through to completion on a full-length album soon.
Denominate – Those Who Beheld the End (Inverse)
Technical progressive death metal is how the Finnish band Denominate describe themselves, and they are certainly that, and more, on their debut album Those Who Beheld the End. The band is relatively new to the scene, and they wear their influences on their sleeves. You can hear Death, Carcass, and Morbid Angel at times throughout the album.
This is a short record by today’s standards – seven songs and 44 minutes – but the band throws a lot of diversity into the songs. You can tell they’re trying to display versatility in their styles here, but it doesn’t always work to their advantage. Songs like “In a Chasm of Stone” and “Apeirophobia” are generic-sounding technical death metal, but the epic “Torments of Silence” is a fantastic song, the epitome of progressive death metal, and a must-listen to. A good debut, Denominate show a lot of potential.
Destroying the Devoid – Paramnesia (Unique Leader)
First of all, you can’t destroy an adjective, so I don’t get the name. But more to the point, Paramnesia is the debut album from one-man progressive death project Destroying the Devoid. Craig Peters (Deeds of Flesh, ex-Arkaik) is the mad scientist here, concocting an album that is a mash of prog, symphonic and death metal.
Peters is a huge fan of film scores, as the music on Paramnesia shows. The death metal present here is curbed by orchestral flair. Production is much lighter and airier than a pure death metal album would be, putting more of the focus on the symphonic aspect of the recordings. Peters’ vocals are the weak spot on Paramnesia, with low-quality death growls throughout. With so much going on, the music lacks identity, but shows Peters has what it takes to produce interesting future projects.
DGM – The Passage (Frontiers)
Twenty years and eight albums in, Italian prog-metal veterans DGM play straight-up prog metal along the lines of Dream Theater, Symphony X and Evergrey. In fact, they have enough street cred in the genre to land guest appearances from Symphony X’s Michael Romeo on one track here, and Everygrey’s Tom Englund on another.
The Passage opens with a fifteen minute epic, “The Secret.” It’s a great example of what’s in store for listeners: dynamic, powerful prog metal with clean, modern-sounding production, big choruses and soaring solos. “Ghosts of Insanity” and “Dogma” (the two tracks featuring the guests listed above) are also standouts. Some may find this a bit generic, but fans of the bands mentioned above will love The Passage.
Family – Future History (Prosthetic)
Here we go with the hardcore vocals. Future History is the sophomore release from New York’s Family, and is not to be confused with the influential prog rockers from the ’70s. This Family are heavily influenced by Remission-era Mastodon. A bit of a concept album about a dystopian future (not an original concept at all in prog circles), the segues and interludes related to this overused idea really don’t add to the album.
Songwriting and musicianship is strong throughout. Check out “Funtime for Bigboy” for a great example of Family at their best. Production is a bit cramped and muddy, giving the music a claustrophobic feel, and with almost all the singing being hardcore vocals, it’s tiring to listen to. Some diversity on their next album is highly desired.
Scientist – 10100||00101 (Hell Comes Home)
Scientist up the ante on Family by featuring two vocalists on 10100||00101. Unfortunately, both sound the same, belting out more hardcore screaming and shouting. Versatility, please! This is Scientist’s second album. It was self-released in 2015, but is now coming out worldwide. It is progressive hardcore with a bit of an experimental edge to it.
Yakuza’s Eric Plonka shares guitar and vocals on this album with Patrick Auclair (Taken by the Sun). Similar to Family, Scientist is influenced by early Mastodon, but the music is a bit more technical. It’s a clean-sounding album (except for the vocals) engineered by Sanford Parker, but the songwriting doesn’t make this album stand out from the crowd. Average music combined with people screaming at you for an hour doesn’t add up to a must-have release.