Welcome to the March Progress Report. These are trying times for all of us on the planet. I don’t think there’s a person here who isn’t affected in some way by what is going on, and that includes pretty much every band in existence. Cancelled tours, festivals, and album release parties mean that most bands are not recouping the costs associated with releasing a record or touring in support of it. So please, if it is within your means, show these bands some love and buy a download, a shirt, some vinyl – every little bit helps keep music alive, and that is something we need now more than ever.
Ratings are on a five star scale.
Lychgate – Also sprach Futura (Debemur Morti)
Our first entry this month comes courtesy the U.K.’s progressive death/doom act Lychgate. Also sprach Futura is a four-song EP, and four albums into their career the band continue to hone their blend of death and doom metal into a compellingly progressive style.
Produced by their vocalist, Greg Chandler, Also sprach Futura has a decidedly old-school feel to it, but manages to maintain a fresh and vital edge. The songs here are short for progressive death/doom fare, which only helps to retain the music’s vitality. If you like prog-death with a dose of doom added in, Lychgate are the band for you.
This may be the first time I’ve reviewed a Russian band in this column’s history. The duo of Neorhythm consider their style to be progressive groove death, and Terrastory is their second album. It’s a concept album with perhaps the most grandiose theme of them all: the history of earth.
It’s a lot to bite off, and Neorhythm attempt to do so with plenty of groove to be sure. There is an industrial, highly processed edge to the proceedings, and lower register vocals have a hint of Rammstein in them. There are a few sweet tracks on Terrastory, most notably “Zeus Rules!,” but overall Terrastory falls short of the lofty heights the concept strives for.
Novena – Eleventh Hour (Frontiers)
Novena are a prog rock/metal band formed in the U.K. by a group of seasoned musicians. Most notably, vocals come courtesy of Haken’s Ross Jennings. Others joining the fray include Slugdge’s bass player Moat Lowe, Dan Thornton on guitar, Gareth Mason (Slice the Cake) also on vocals, and others. Eleventh Hour is the band’s first album after a 2016 EP.
As expected, Jenning turns in a captivating and emotional vocal performance. The music here hits all the notes one would expect from a modern prog rock/metal band, from delicate to punishing, from soaring leads to downtuned riffs, from short and catchy to long epic numbers. And at 73 minutes, it’s a lot to absorb. Make no mistake, though, Eleventh Hour is an excellent release that deserves a lot of attention from us prog fans.
Svengahli is the progressive death metal project of Exist bassist Alex Weber. Nightmares of Our Own Design is the band’s debut EP, a two-song, 24-minute exercise in jazz and prog-inspired death metal. Weber is assisted by a number of guest musicians, not the least of which is Gorguts’ Kevin Hufnagel and Obscura guitarist Rafael Trujillo.
This is a short but engrossing EP, and Weber’s concoctions owe as much to King Crimson as they do to Gorguts, which in this reviewer’s mind is a good thing. There are some blast beats and tremolo riffs, along with the death metal vocals, but more predominant than that are the off-kilter jazz and orchestral leanings. Nightmares of Our Own Design is an ambitious EP, but Weber is onto something here, and I expect great things from Svengahli’s full-length when it arrives.
Void of Sleep – Metaphora (Aural)
Italian progressive sludge/stoner outfit Void of Sleep are back this month with Metaphora, their third album. With new members on bass and synth, the revamped lineup are here to pound our senses through seven songs and forty-seven minutes of stylistically wide-ranging and dynamic music.
Progressive is the main theme throughout, laced with dollops of sludge, stoner, doom, and even blackened thrash. Void of Sleep show off top-notch ability and songwriting throughout, and if it wasn’t for two of the first three songs being short, somewhat ambient instrumentals, Metaphora would almost be a brilliant album. Despite that, this is an excellent release, and may in fact prove to have more staying power than a lot of other albums.
WuW – Rétablir L’Eternité (Prosthetic)
I’ll say this about Rétablir L’Eternité: when it first played, it made me stop what I was doing and listen. Albums rarely do that for me. This is the second album for the French duo WuW, and is comprised of five long, doom-paced progressive post rock tracks that, if you’re into those genres, need to be heard.
Making the gripping nature of Rétablir L’Eternité even more intriguing is the fact that these songs are instrumental. There are the occasional wails and screams, but that’s it. What makes WuW’s music so compelling is the mood conveyed in each moment. This is a pulverizing, foreboding, apocalyptic, mesmerizing, and utterly enthralling album that is our pick of the litter this month.