Welcome to the May Progress Report. As usual, variety is the spice of life (and review columns). We’ve got big label releases, independent releases, grizzled veterans, newcomers, instrumental, prog rock, and some extreme prog metal. In other words, something for everyone! Browse through the reviews and if something piques your interest, give it a go.
Ratings are on a five star scale.
Banco del Mutuo Soccorso – Transiberiana (InsideOut)
If you’ve never heard of these Italian prog-rockers, you’re forgiven: Banco del Mutuo Soccorso were prolific in the 1970s, but Transiberiana is their first album in twenty-five years. It also happens to be their first release with singer Tony D’Alessio, who replaces longtime vocalist Francesco di Giacomo, who died in a car accident several years ago.
Banco continue their long history of producing exquisite jazz-tinged progressive rock on this album. The sextet display sublime instrumental interplay throughout Transiberiana, and D’Alessio (a winner of X-Factor Italy) performs admirably. Sure, the band’s lineup features four members who were born after the band formed (Vittorio Nocenzi is the only original member), but this is still a very compelling progressive rock release.
Crestfallen Queen – Queen of Swords (Church Within)
If longform progressive doom is your cup of tea, get on board with Germany’s Crestfallen Queen. Aside from what would be prelude tracks to sides 1 and 2 of a vinyl release, their debut Queen of Swords consists of four songs in the 8-9 minute range, telling us medieval tales of fallen heroines that can be applied just as aptly to modern day.
Crestfallen Queen’s brand of doom is firmly rooted in the ’70s. The songs are laced with classic-sounding guitar solos and frequent gallops – somewhat like Khemmis, King Goat, or Sorcerer these days – and the vocals are old-school epic-sounding with harsh moments thrown in. Queen of Swords is an album that requires patience, but is an engrossing listen all the same. I’m looking forward to more from this band.
Winnipeg, Canada makes an appearance in the Progress Report this month, with the debut album Wanderlost from Dizzy Mystics. With influences as diverse as Steely Dan and Primus, you know you’re in for a genre-bending ride throughout many of progressive rock’s stylings. That’s a lot to bite off for this young quartet, but they seem up to the challenge.
The influences hold true on Wanderlost, and you can add the complexity of Tool and the insanity of Frank Zappa to the mix as well. Dizzy Mystics know how to groove with the best of them, blending feel, melody, jazzy meanderings, and excellent vocals into a mix that makes this the month’s feel-good album. Each song feels fresh and vital, and the band’s enthusiasm shines throughout the record. If there’s such a thing as summertime prog, this might be it.
Dreadnought – Emergence (Profound Lore)
The second progressive doom album of the month comes from Denver’s highly-regarded Dreadnought. Emergence is their fourth album, and much like Crestfallen Queen, we are treated to quite long compositions, and a mix of clean and harsh vocals. That’s where the similarities end though, as Dreadnought are not doom in the traditional sense, but rather in a more experimental, modern sense.
Dreadnought incorporate many instruments in Emergence. Saxophone, flute, and mandolin accent the traditional guitar/bass/drum ingredients, delivering complex, at times post-metallic songs. These densely layered tracks can be difficult to get into, and the fact that the vocals are inexplicably (and undeservedly) buried in the mix really prevents the listener from being fully immersed in what could have been a very strong album.
Australia’s Genetics attempt to take a unique approach to the concept album on their sophomore release, Cynosure. The goal with this album is to demonstrate how we are all part of a greater whole. Making their goal a bit more difficult is the fact that Genetics are an instrumental band, so there aren’t any lyrics to further the story along.
Making up for the lack of lyrics are a number of spoken-word overdubs, which do further the story. Focusing on the music, though, what we get is a strong band that plays tight progressive metal with plenty of additional influences, from jazz to post-rock, and even some djent. The eight songs are well-crafted and arranged, with plenty of variety throughout.
Huszar – Providencia (Morrowless)
Providencia is an interesting release on a couple of fronts: first, one-man Argentinian act Huszar released this in 2017 (and it’s still Name Your Price on Bandcamp), and second, the album has been remastered and re-released by new label Morrowless Music this month. Assuming the copy I’ve obtained is the remastered version, I can certainly say that it’s a very dynamic, well-balanced master.
As for the music, Marc Huszar plays an atmospheric, progressive brand of black metal. Providencia is a single piece of work, comprised of six movements and 65 minutes of runtime. You get your money’s worth here, with songs spanning 5 to 19 minutes in length, all with interesting arrangements, including plenty of blastbeats and black metal vocals as well as contemplative, atmospheric moments. Huszar show a keen sense of spatial awareness when it comes to the music, making Providencia an album that is easy to get lost in.