Welcome to the July Progress Report. We are in the dog days of summer here, and aside from June, July is the quietest month for big releases. Still, we managed to find a couple of worthy albums, and a number of quirky records that otherwise might not get the attention they deserve – partly because, although they might feature progressive moments, we wouldn’t normally say they are progressive rock or metal. But as always, we try to bring you a variety of progressive styles, in this case from pop to psychedelic to death metal. Check these albums out and let us know what you think!
Ratings are on a five star scale.
Black Fast – Spectre of Ruin (eOne)
Spectre of Ruin is the third album from American foursome Black Fast, and they just might be the most appropriately named band of the month. These guys play a brand of heavy, fast, technical thrash with blackened, harsh vocals dominating the sound.
The album is a vicious, unrelenting pummeling, sure to delight fans who crave nonstop fury that is technically impressive. On the flip side, any thought of pacing or dynamics has been run over by this monster of a band, and with every song destroying your senses it can get aurally tiring. A breather in the middle would have been welcome.
If off-kilter avante-garde alt-rock is your thing, London newcomers Death and the Penguin might sate your thirst. Anomie is the band’s debut album, and that’s surprising because this is the music of a group of veteran players and songwriters. Think of a less crazy, easier-to-digest The Mars Volta and you’ll have a good handle on what’s happening here.
Full of songs that retain the sheen and melody of radio-friendly alternative rock while still going off the rails structurally via tempo and key changes, Anomie is an album that’s both contagious and infectious. I’m positive the efforts here will garner Death and the Penguin some well-deserved record label attention.
Kingnomad – The Great Nothing (Ripple)
Swedish progressive doom sounds enticing, and Kingnomad intend to hook us with The Great Nothing, their first full-length offering. This one has the most variance of all albums this month, at least in song length: opening track “The Yoga of Desolation” is less than a minute long, while closing track “The Great Nothing” clocks in just under 22 minutes. Whew!
Aside from the odd opener, the six songs on The Great Nothing are finely-written pieces of psychedelic, progressive doom. Kingnomad give us a variety of moods and paces, with plenty of hooks and solid vocals. It all adds up to a thoroughly enjoyable platter.
Obscura – Diluvium (Relapse)
Okay, after a few albums that may be only slightly “progressive,” here we go with veteran German technical death metal band Obscura, and the end of their four-album concept in Diluvium. Chock full of the most technically complex drumming, stellar guitar solos and virtuoso fretless basswork, the band ups the ante throughout Diluvium.
Obscura bring all the goods here: stunning brutality, amazing finesse, and everything in between. Not only that, they never lose sight of the most important facet of music: writing good songs. The technical death metal style here is augmented by a Cynic-like progressive bent. Aside from the marginally cheesy overuse of Vocoder effects in a few songs, Diluvium is the killer album that fans of the genre (and band) have been aching to hear.
Redemption – Long Night’s Journey Into Day (Metal Blade)
It’s not often you can lose a stellar vocalist and come back even stronger, but that seems to be what longtime prog metallers Redemption are going for. Long Night’s Journey Into Day is the band’s seventh album, and first without vocalist Ray Alder (currently busy with the re-emergence of Fates Warning) in fifteen years.
The replacement for Alder is none other than Tom Englund of Evergrey. Englund brings a different style to the game – moodier, darker, more emotional – but Redemption’s musical style remains the same: an enticing mix of power and finesse within melodic compositions. The combination is very effective, and Long Night’s Journey Into Day is at least on par with 2016’s The Art of Loss.
Vokonis – Olde One Ascending (Ripple)
It’s not often we will see two albums from predominantly sludge/stoner label Ripple Music, but here we are closing out the Report with another Swedish prog-sludge band, Vokonis, and their debut album, Olde One Ascending.
This is actually a re-release: the band is currently working on its third album, slated for release in 2019. But it’s a slow month for releases and in fact Olde One Ascending is worth a listen for folks who love bands like Black Sabbath, Sleep, and even The Stooges. The slightly progressive mix of sludge/psych/doom on this debut bodes well for Vokonis’ future releases.