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The Progress Report: January 2020

Welcome to the January Progress Report – a brand new year and some brand new bands to check out. This was not an easy month to assemble candidates, however. Progressive music pickings seemed to be lean, so we’ve taken some liberties below and stretched the boundaries a bit. That being said, all of these albums have some sort of progressive elements to them, and if you like the styles incorporated you should check them out.

Ratings are on a five star scale.

Arrakis – Technontology Vol. 1 (Self)

The Thessaloniki-based trio Arrakis are an instrumental outfit who produce what could predominantly be considered psychedelic/stoner music. Technontology Vol. I is the band’s third full-length, and is comprised of six infectious jams ranging from five to nine minutes in length.

Arrakis are adept at taking a simple motif and extending and morphing it into a hypnotic, twisting groove. Opener “A Night in Tokyo” is one of the coolest jams I’ve heard in recent memory, putting the listener in a trance as guitars meander in and out of a simple rhythmic groove with King Crimson-like flair. This is an alluring album full of cool riffs, and while not strictly progressive, Technontology Vol. I will find a willing audience among those interested in cool instrumental work.

Rating: 3.5

Hard World

Colin Edwin – Infinite Regress (Hard World)

Colin Edwin may best be known as Porcupine Tree’s bassist, but that’s far too limiting. The man is a top-notch collaborator, and an integral member of many other prog outfits such as Metallic Taste of Blood, O.R.k., and Obake. Edwin comes from the Tony Levin school of prog, where the bass is more about groove and feel than diddling through scales.

On Infinite Regress, Edwin plays bass (of course) and programs the drums, while Robert Peck provides vocals and guitars. Tracks here are big on electronica, with subtly cool moods and ambiance the order of the day. Edwin provides some amazingly cool riffs as well, notably on “Mirror City” and “Almost Still”. Fans of mellow, moody prog will love Infinite Regress.

Rating: 4

Scarlet Records

Darktribe – Voici L’Homme (Scarlet)

This month’s prog-power offering comes to us courtesy France’s Darktribe, and their third full-length is a biblical-themed outing entitled Voici L’Homme, which can be translated as “Behold the Man.” Sung in both French and English, this album is an ambitious take on progressive power metal inspired by the New Testament.

Voici L’Homme is a technically and artistically competent, professionally-delivered album that presses all the right buttons in the genre, with epic-sounding arrangements and inspiring choruses – closing track “Symbolic Story” is a stellar song. Although Darktribe bring nothing new to the genre, Voici L’Homme is an above-average record that will appeal to fans of bands such as Kamelot and Dragonforce.

Rating: 3.5

Thematic – Skyrunner (Self)

If you are looking for a modern prog rock/metal album, you need look no further than Skyrunner, the second album from Indiana’s Thematic. I was surprised to find out this quartet was American, as their sound is very much in line with the Australian prog movement led by Karnivool, Caligula’s Horse, and others.

It’s been over five years since Thematic’s solid debut effort, The Endless Light, and that time has been well-spent. The songs on Skyrunner – a 68-minute concept album detailing a hero’s quest to honor a promise – are wonderfully arranged and performed, and run the gamut of delicate to heavy as effortlessly as one can imagine. Fans of the bands mentioned above will love this album, and for us, Skyrunner is our pick of the month.

Rating: 4

Season Of Mist

Thy Catafalque – Naiv (Season of Mist)

We’ve looked at the last couple of Thy Catafalque releases here, one of which ended up making the Top 10 Best Progressive Metal Albums of 2016. We always have high hopes for new material from Tamás Kátai, and he rarely disappoints. His multi-genre, avant-garde blend of music and influences, along with compelling guest assistance, always makes for engaging music.

On Naiv (a reference to art created by those with no training), the band’s ninth album, Kátai and friends weave an enthralling tapestry of metal, dance, cinematic, and other fresh ideas. They throw a lot at us, and for the most part it works. While perhaps not on the same level as Meta, Naiv is still another top-notch offering from one of metal’s most interesting bands.

Rating: 4

Halfmeltedbrain Records

Traps – The Fighter (Halfmeltedbrain)

Traps is a new project formed by OHHMS members Chainy and Max, and seems to stand for “The Red and Purple Songs,” although I have no idea what that’s supposed to mean. Taking their lead from their main band and others like The Mars Volta, The Fighter is a three-song EP that melds many genres into one.

From groovy to psychedelic, from math-y to chaotic, from screamy to mellow, the three songs here are all captivating and entertaining. The Fighter is an unfettered release of creativity that is beholden to no preconceived notions or genres of music, and really, isn’t that a decent definition of progressive music? Regardless, it’s a great taste of what these two are capable of, and whets our appetite for hopefully a full-length release in the future.

Rating: 3.5

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