Welcome to the March Progress Report. February was such a great month for progressive music, that March just feels a little blasé. Still, we’ve dredged up some interesting releases that cover a wide range of music and continents, including a rare entry from Down Under. Check them all out and see what you think!
Ratings are on a five star scale.
Modern prog metal that dips into such bands as Mastodon and Between the Buried and Me (and was produced by Jamie King) sounds interesting, and this new EP from South Carolina’s Behind the Sun is definitely that. Take opening track “The Fall,” an 8-minute epic that features everything from extreme metal to samba, and flows seamlessly throughout the transitions.
Featuring four songs and a brief interlude, Post Solis is a tasty appetizer from a prog metal band that shows plenty of potential. The music is powerful, varied, and well-written. Vocals could use some work – the band features overlaid death/hardcore vocals, which come off as gimmicky at times. Hopefully these guys are hard at work on a full-length LP.
Damnations Day – A World Awakens (Sensory)
Australia doesn’t really stand out as being a prog metal haven, but they do have their share of decent bands (Karnivool, Cog, Caligula’s Horse). Power prog outfit Damnations Day aim to join in the fray. A World Awakens is their second album, and is a well put together blend of progressive power metal. Strong vocals and modern production highlight the album.
A World Awakens is an energetic record, oozing thick guitar licks and solid arrangements, displaying influences from such bands as Helloween, Nightwish, and even Queensryche. With no song longer than six minutes, nothing here overstays its welcome. If power metal with some meat on its bones is your cup of tea, this album will satisfy your urge.
Forming the Void – Relic (Argonauta)
Relic might be the least truly progressive album in our column this month, but it’s also one of the more compelling. Forming the Void are an American outfit that focus on atmosphere and thick, fuzzy, prog-tinged metal. Think of the slower, groovier output from bands such as Baroness and Torche and you’ll have a good idea of what’s going on here. In fact, James Marshall’s voice is a highlight throughout.
Massive is the only way to describe the sound of Relic. Guitars dominate the mix, even with Marshall’s impressive vocal performance. Relic also features one of two cover songs out of this month’s albums, a spaced-out, fuzzy, and completely cool version of “Kashmir.”
Synaptik – Justify & Reason and The Mechanisms of Consequence: Brain Spark Edition (Divebomb)
Norwich, England is the birthplace of Synaptik. The band is relatively new, having formed about five years ago, and Divebomb has packaged their first two albums together – their new record Justify & Reason and a remixed version of 2014’s The Mechanisms of Consequence. The band’s influences include Watchtower and Queensryche, and they wear these influences on their sleeves.
Justify & Reason is the more progressive of the two albums, showing decent songwriting evolution, while The Mechanisms of Consequence, despite being remixed here, is still much more raw-sounding. At times the music can be a bit of a mess, with blast beats and messy riffs under the vocals, but overall the albums show the band’s potential, and the growth between the two albums leads me to believe Synaptik have a bright future ahead of them.
White Willow – Future Hopes (Laser’s Edge)
White Willow are a Norwegian prog rock outfit, and if you haven’t heard of them it might because Future Hopes is their first release in six years. Compared to the other releases in this column, Future Hopes is a calming influence. This is a keyboard-heavy mix of experimental Tangerine Dream-like prog that takes a few listens to get into, but is worth it.
Featuring the vocals of pop singer Venke Knutson, the overall sound of Future Hopes is light, airy, and at times eerie. The music is impeccably produced and mixed. The highlight is the 18-minute track “A Scarred View,” which sounds as if it comes straight from the Blade Runner soundtrack (in fact, the same synth model is used). The back half of the album is more experimental than the front, and also includes a long, weird version of The Scorpions’ “Animal Magnetism.”