Welcome to the November Progress Report. With the year winding down, most of the big name bands have released their albums, and we are left sifting through the promos in the hopes of unearthing a few jewels that are late to the party. What we found was some interesting new albums, a couple of which are self-released debuts, a reissue, and for the first time in a Progress Report, a DVD review. Enjoy them, and see you in a couple weeks with our Top Prog of 2017 post.
Arch Echo – Arch Echo (Self)
The backstory of Arch Echo will intrigue prog fans: these young fellas hail from Berklee College of Music, just like Dream Theater. They are clearly trying to follow in that band’s footsteps. This is their self-titled debut, an instrumental outing featuring eight compositions.
Arch Echo have the talent one would expect based on their background, but talent isn’t just about hitting all the notes: you have to be able to write great songs as well, and unfortunately that’s where the band comes up short. These songs, while dripping with technical talent, come off as school assignments rather than actual songs. The flow, theme, cohesion, you name it, but the pieces that make a song a song are missing here. The talent shines, now they just need to hone their writing skills.
Coraxo – Sol (Snow Wave)
For such a small country, Finland churns out a ton of music, but not much prog. Coraxo might fall into that category with Sol, their follow up to 2015’s Neptune. Sol follows Neptune’s sci-fi theme as well, continuing the cheesy story that would have been a great ’70s B-grade movie.
The album starts as a fairly rote death metal album, and after the first couple of songs I was pretty sure Coraxo were misrepresented, but patience won out and what the band delivers is actually a very diverse record. Sure, a fair amount of death metal (even a solo from Chris Amott), but also ample samplings of prog, melody, electronica, and various guest vocalists. It all adds up to the most interesting new release in the Report.
Another self-released debut, Lark are a pair of French brothers who played in other bands until early this year. Lark is an EP, with five songs that are a mix of prog, sludge, post metal and more, all indicative of the two brothers’ disparate style preferences. Lark came out on Halloween, but we’ll include it here.
It’s not hard to hear where Lark’s influences lay: the resemblance of these songs to Gojira and early Baroness is uncanny. Well-written and engaging, well-played and sung, there’s nothing on Lark that will turn off fans of those bands, but these brothers need to mold their influences into their own style a bit more.
Pyramaze – Melancholy Beast (Inner Wound)
By the time November rolls around, new releases are harder to find, so here’s a worthwhile reissue for you all. Melancholy Beast is prog-power outfit Pyramaze’s 2004 debut, and it absolutely rocks. We loved their latest release back in April, but it doesn’t pack the same punch as this.
Melancholy Beast is the epitome of progressive power metal, with aggressive riffs, rock-solid rhythms and killer solos. But what made these guys stand out was powerhouse vocalist Lance King, who sounds a lot like Geoff Tate. This reissue includes some commentary from founder/former guitarist Michael Kammeyer as well as a bonus track, and is well worth hunting down. You won’t be disappointed.
Spock’s Beard – Snow Live DVD (InsideOut)
Among prog fans, Spock’s Beard are revered for authentic prog rock with heartfelt lyrics and top-notch vocals, especially harmonies and counterpoints. Snow was their 2002 double-LP concept effort, their final album with founder Neal Morse. Some fans feel it was their crowning achievement, although I preferred their previous album, V.
Regardless, Snow Live is a concert filmed at Morsefest in 2016, unique in that it is performed by all members of the Beard past and present. All three singers sing, both drummers drum, etc. The musicianship is stellar and the vocals are passionate and on point. A behind-the-scenes documentary is a nice bonus. But what drags this offering down is the poor visual production, with washed-out colors and a real amateur feel. It was recorded in front of a few hundred fans in a church auditorium, and it really shows. That is too bad, because the material and band deserve a much better presentation. 4 for the music, but 2 for the video.
Other 2017 Progress Reports
The Progress Report: January 2017
The Progress Report: February 2017
The Progress Report: March 2017
The Progress Report: April 2017
The Progress Report: May 2017
The Progress Report: June 2017
The Progress Report: July 2017
The Progress Report: August 2017
The Progress Report: September 2017
The Progress Report: October 2017