Welcome to the May Progress Report. A very interesting and highly anticipated month for us here. As always, we’ve got a range of styles, from extreme to experimental, old-school to modern electronic. We’ve got major label releases and self-released labors of love. The releases are high quality this month, and a few of the names are bands whose albums I’ve been waiting for with bated breath. So let’s dive into these and see if the big names deliver, and if the up-and-comers can make their mark.
Ratings are on a five star scale.
Alkaloid – Liquid Anatomy (Season of Mist)
Let’s get the oddest album out of the way first. Loosely described as technical death metal, Alkaloid are a supergroup of sorts, featuring ex- and current members of Obscura, Necrophagist, Aborted and more. Technical death metal is too limiting of a term for this quintet.
The eight songs on Liquid Anatomy, their second album, cover such a broad musical spectrum that the best description is really just experimental extreme metal. Progressive death metal is a huge part of their repertoire, interwoven with strikingly clean, jazzy passages, thrashy Megadeth-like riffing, a healthy sense of humor, and more. Through it all, Alkaloid hold onto our interest like perhaps nothing else this month. Highly recommended for the more adventurous among us.
Californian trio The Elephant Parallax are not exactly prolific artists. Loam & Sky is a 4-song EP that follows 2010’s debut self-titled album. Musically the band is a blend of alternative metal, post metal and progressive metal. The most obvious influence on Loam & Sky is Tool, although hints of many other bands creep in: The Mars Volta and King Crimson, to name a couple.
Musically all four songs are quite well done, with intricate yet catchy arrangements and warm production, but vocals leave a lot to be desired. Some singing lessons and a more frequent album release schedule would really elevate The Elephant Parallax, as the band oozes potential.
Gazpacho – Soyuz (Kscope)
Forget for a moment that these guys might have the worst band name in music – cold soup. More important is the fact that Gazpacho’s music is some of Norway’s best progressive rock today. Their last two albums, Demon and Molok, have been underrated and exquisite works of art.
Soyuz is an album which of course takes meaning from the ill-fated Soviet space expedition, while also paying tribute to any beautiful moments that pass throughout life. The band’s high standards of songwriting and musicianship are intact and expanded, with many electronic elements contributing to their sound. A hint of Muse still exists, but make no mistake: Soyuz is one of this year’s standout progressive rock albums.
Lunatic Soul – Under the Fragmented Sky (Kscope)
Lunatic Soul is the solo side project of Riverside frontman Mariusz Duda, and Under the Fragmented Sky is his sixth release. Originally intended to be a maxi-single, Duda found he had enough material recorded to warrant a full release. It serves as a companion piece to last year’s Fractured album and will appeal to fans of Gazpacho and Thy Catafalque.
There are two shades to the music on Under the Fragmented Sky: there are a number of haunting acoustic tracks, along with more hypnotic electronic numbers that remind me of Kevin Moore’s OSI project from some years back. Duda’s subdued yet emotional vocals are excellent, and the entire album is a captivating, immersive experience.
Old Man Wizard – Blame It All On Sorcery (Self)
Boy, I wasn’t expecting this. The band name and album title are a little bit on the goofy side, and I thought this California outfit was going to drop a bad version of Jethro Tull on me. And the opening track to Blame It All On Sorcery didn’t start in promising fashion.
Those thoughts all disappeared only a couple minutes into the album, to be replaced with pleasant surprise. Old Man Wizard have put together an impressive collection of heavy progressive rock songs that feature heavy moments, excellent arrangements and musicianship, and solid vocal work. While Blame It All On Sorcery might not be the best album in this column, it’s certainly the one that exceeded expectations the most.
Thy Catafalque – Geometria (Season of Mist)
If I had a Top 10 of albums I’ve been most looking forward to this year, Geometria would be on it. Back in 2016 Hungarian solo act Thy Catafalque’s album Meta made its way to number 5 on my Top 10 prog albums list. Now Tamás Kátai is back with more avant-garde goodness.
Thy Catafalque’s black metal influences are in the background on Geometria, although they are powerful when they surface. The album features a lot more electronica – a mix of heavy synth and “chill lounge” style music, hypnotic and fully engaging. Male and female vocals are featured, as well as some Hungarian folk influences. While not as heavy as earlier works, Geometria holds up on its own, and stands a fair shot at cracking my Top 10 list this year.