Welcome to the June Progress Report. We are halfway through a crazy year! And to celebrate, how about seven reviews this month instead of six? That’s right, a bonus review this month. Easy enough when two of these releases are EPs, and a third is only half an hour long. This month the selections are a bit weird as well, so bear with us as we dig into some crazy, eclectic releases, and as always if you see something you like, support the artists and buy their creations.
Ratings are on a five star scale.
Behold… the Arctopus – Hapeleptic Overtrove (Willowtip/P2)
Indecipherable chaos? Demented genius? Self-indulgent diddling? Other-level compositions? Complete garbage? These are some of the many views of NYC-based trio Behold… The Arctopus’s output, and seventh album Hapeleptic Overtrove will not likely sway many opinions. Mike Lerner and scene veteran Colin Marston are joined on a very unconventional drum kit by Jason Bauers (ex-Psyopus) for an adventurous thirty-two minutes.
The style of Hapeleptic Overtrove is essentially a more modern-sounding, metallic version of the Mothers of Invention, with Warr guitar, electric guitar, and drums (played by mallets, with no cymbals) all sharing equally in the chaos. With no discernible beat, Behold… The Arctopus’s music will repulse or confuse many, but the album is certainly worth a spin or two even just for curiosity’s sake.
Creature – Ex Cathedra (I, Voidhanger)
After the chaotic barrage of Behold…, the classical/avant-garde black metal of France’s Creature seems downright accessible. Creature is really the solo project of one Raphael Fournier, who takes elements of baroque, symphonic black metal, prog, and much more to create his own somewhat unique vision.
Here on Ex Cathedra, Creature’s third album, and first with I, Voidhanger, Fournier assaults our aural senses with sixty-four minutes of grand, epic music that deftly amalgamates all the styles mentioned into a cohesive offering. If there’s a downside to Ex Cathedra, it is the length. The final two songs take up 22 minutes, which extends the album a bit beyond what might be a comfortable length. Otherwise, this is another sweet release from Creature.
Frost* – Others (InsideOut)
Not known for cranking out vast quantities of music, British collective Frost*’s last album was 2016’s Falling Satellites. The six songs on this Others EP were written at that time as well, and can be considered a stopgap between now and the band’s next full-length, slated for release later this year.
Featuring musicians who play for bands such as Steven Wilson, Kino, and Lonely Robot, Frost* play music that is lush and cinematic, much as though they are scoring a movie – as expected, since the band is led by keyboardist Jem Godfrey. There is a keen pop sense to many of the tracks, but also a grand sense of adventure that ties the songs together nicely. If the name-drops above interest you, so will Others.
Hail Spirit Noir – Eden In Reverse (Agonia)
At one point in time, Greek band Hail Spirit Noir would have been considered a psychedelic, progressive black metal band, as they deftly blended those genres into one hypnotic style. Eden in Reverse is the band’s fourth album, and all hints of black metal have vanished. Well, there is one anguished cry at one point, but that’s as close as this comes to extreme metal.
Instead the focus is on a sort of dated futuristic sound, as in what one might expect from the ‘80s. Vocals are highly processed, and the songs are awash in synths. When it comes together it works beautifully, such as on “Incense Swirls” or “The First Ape on New Earth,” but at other times the songs seem rather aimless. Eden In Reverse is an interesting album, though, and Hail Spirit Noir could be onto something if they fine-tune it.
The Hallowed Catharsis – Killowner (Lacerated Enemy)
The last of the short and sweet releases, Killowner is a six-song, fifteen-minute prog-death EP from The Hallowed Catharsis, who hail from Vancouver. This is possibly one of the most brutal progressive death metal releases you’ll come across, yet somehow focuses on the story of the struggles of a mutated human pet.
No song cracks the three-minute mark, which is the antithesis of progressive music in many ways. Still, the five-piece crams a ton of ferocity and unpredictability into the material. There’s no time here to catch your breath, as they careen from one moment of mayhem to another. If you lean towards the more brutal side of death metal, but still like a hint of prog, Killowner is the EP for you.
Jupiter Hollow first impressed back in 2017 with their debut EP, Odyssey. Bereavement is their second full-length, and I’m sad to say I missed 2018’s Ahdomn when it came out. That has since been rectified, but it doesn’t help too much when listening to Bereavement. The band’s style continues to evolve, and the sound of Ahdomn is only tangentially related to Bereavement.
The album opens in a quiet manner, with songs focused on acoustic guitar, piano, and ambience, before moving into more metallic territory. Each track displays plenty of musicianship from this young duo, with vocals continuing to strengthen and songwriting solidifying. Unfortunately, the disparate styles on display give the album a disjointed feel, making Bereavement sound like an album by a band that is still trying to find its way.
Long Distance Calling – How Do We Want To Live? (InsideOut)
There probably hasn’t been a better time for an album with this title. How Do We Want To Live is the follow-up to 2018’s Boundless, which made it onto our 2018 Best Progressive Metal/Rock Albums list. So yes, I had high hopes going into this, German post-rock outfit Long Distance Calling’s seventh album, which like Boundless is primarily instrumental with one guest vocal (from Kyles Tolone’s Eric Pulverich).
Consider expectations mostly met. The voiceovers describing the themes of curiosity can be a bit much, as LDC do a great job conveying their intent within the music, but the songs here are glorious progressive post-rock at its finest, with songs such as “Voices,” “Sharing Thoughts,” and the vocal “Beyond Your Limits” showcasing a band in the prime of their creative life.