Welcome to the August Progress Report. It’s been a quiet month on the progressive music front, and while I certainly wouldn’t say we’re scraping the bottom of the barrel looking for new music, I will say we had to search long and hard to find these six records. There are others coming out this month that definitely warrant a listen (you all know the big one), but these are the half-dozen that wound up coming our way. Check out the reviews below, and see if anything tickles your fancy!
Ratings are on a five star scale.
Essence of Datum – Spellcrying Machine (Season of Mist)
Belarussian duo Essence of Datum despise vocals – at least, on their releases. Spellcrying Machine is the band’s third record, and like the first two the band attempts to tell a story without the aid of lyrics. Artwork, song titles, and the music itself aim to convey the story of the band’s fictional universe. Here, the music is intended to play out in a post-apocalyptic world.
Essence of Datum are nothing if not talented, and Spellcrying Machine is loaded with aggressive, compelling, and gripping instrumental tracks. Whether it’s the heavy intricacy of “Shikari Algorithm” or the delicate nature of “Vitality,” the pair show themselves to be masters of their instruments. All seven songs here are top-notch slabs of extreme yet elegant instrumental progressive metal.
Our first act from Australia is melodic progressive metal quartet Hemina. Night Echoes is the band’s fourth album, and to be honest their third record, 2016’s Venus, did not grab my attention. The band still sounded rough around the edges in all facets: musically, vocally, and compositionally.
In the three years since, however, Hemina have come into their own. Night Echoes is full of compelling progressive tracks, featuring searing guitar solos and super-catchy, uplifting choruses. Singer Douglas Skene still tends to go overboard on his histrionics on occasion, but his and the band’s exuberance are infectious, and Night Echoes is their best effort to date.
Magic Pie – Fragments of the 5th Element (Karisma)
There are plenty of great progressive rock bands out there these days, and I’m sad to say I hadn’t heard of Norway’s Magic Pie prior to this month. Sad, because Fragments of the 5th Element is already these vets’ fifth outing, and it’s a damned fine slice of ’70s-style progressive rock.
There is clear influence from all the great ’70s acts here: Gentle Giant, Yes, and Genesis can all be heard, with modern touches that remind one of Spock’s Beard and others. Virtuoso guitar solos mix with earthy, raw progressive arrangements, and singer Eirikur Hanssen often reminds one of David Bowie, which is never a bad thing. Overall, this outing from Magic Pie is highly satisfying, and has me digging through their back catalog post-haste.
Mitchell Mantell is an Australian musician and producer, and his debut EP is entitled This is Your Opportunity. Mantell’s style can best be described as modern progressive metal, and as it turns out he’s quite a decent musician on guitars, keys, and drums alike. I can’t vouch for the production quite as much, though.
Unfortunately, once the vocals come in (presumably from a few guest singers), the music fades so far into the background that one can barely hear it. And the vocals themselves leave much to be desired, making the brief collection of songs here a chore to listen to. An instrumental album would have fared much better.
SixforNinE – Parallel Universe (Eclipse)
I’m not a big fan of gimmicky names – the backwards “r” and the capital “E” here don’t give me high hopes for SixforNinE’s sophomore album, Parallel Universe. This quartet hails from Athens, Greece, and play a progressively-tinged brand of alternative metal. Again, not an overly enticing blend.
That’s the bad news. The good news is all those preconceptions go out the window as soon as Parallel Universe kicks in. The album is hard-rocking, loaded with tight musicianship and great riffs, with hints of Tool, Dead Letter Circus, and alt-metal bands such as Alice in Chains prevalent. Overall, SixforNinE more than exceed expectations here, dropping a fun, accessible, and well-played/produced gem of a record.
Unprocessed – Artificial Void (Long Branch)
Our final album of the month is also the best. Unprocessed are a young but prolific quintet out of Germany: Artificial Void is their second album, hot on the heels of last year’s debut, Covenant. Modern, djent-based progressive metal is the order of the day here, but that statement is too limiting for what the band’s produced.
Djent is practically an afterthought on Artificial Void. The band has crafted some excellent modern progressive metal tracks here, full of memorable choruses and hooks, some killer bass lines, and plenty of funky moments. Each song has a near-impeccable arrangement, with electronics complementing razor-sharp guitars and drumming. The range and styles of vocals more than hold their own against the musicianship as well, making Unprocessed seem far more seasoned than they actually are.
Other 2019 Progress Reports
The Progress Report: January 2019
The Progress Report: February 2019
The Progress Report: March 2019
The Progress Report: April 2019
The Progress Report: May 2019
The Progress Report: June 2019
The Progress Report: July 2019