Welcome to the September Progress Report. We are now into our third year here at Heavy Music Headquarters, and it’s been more than a pleasure digging up progressive music releases for your perusal. As average as August’s releases were, September more than makes up for it with some really special moments. And to change things up just slightly, going forward I’m going to write a bit more about the best album in this column each month. So sit back and take a look through this month’s stellar releases.
Ratings are on a five star scale.
Not everything in this column can be a home run, but don’t let the grade below fool you: this Californian duo play a competent, at times compelling brand of progressive death metal similar to Obscura. Spawn of Odonata is Anisoptera’s debut album, and shows good promise.
The downsides to Spawn of Odonata are elements that should improve over time: average drum programming and vocals that are a little rough around the edges. What might help Anisoptera stand out from the crowd as they continue to mature as a band is the excellent jazz-influenced song structures and guitar work from Randall Krieger. Fans of progressive death metal will enjoy this album, and I’m looking forward to Anisoptera’s follow-up.
Besra – Anhedonia (Temple of Tortuous)
Johannes Nygård left Finnish post-metal outfit Callisto back in 2011 and formed Besra in an effort to expand his musical palette. Anhedonia is the band’s debut album, comprised of four long songs, ranging from 9-12 minutes apiece. The band blends a number of styles into one compelling mix. Think heavy, atmospheric post-metal meets death metal meets doom meets prog.
The songs are long, but the ebb and flow of the arrangements are superb and musically stunning. While the vocals, both harsh and clean, could use some refinement, Anhedonia as a package and Besra as a band are outstanding. Fans of bands like Cult of Luna and Isis will love Besra, as will most anyone who loves music that stretches boundaries.
Kingcrow – The Persistence (Sensory)
Italy’s Kingcrow play a compelling blend of metal, alternative rock, and prog metal. On their third album, The Persistence, one can hear influences ranging from Fates Warning to Meshuggah to Radiohead, all blended together into an excellent package that, if it weren’t for Riverside, just might be my pick of the month.
In fact, one can even hear a bit of the more aggressive aspect of Riverside in songs on The Persistence. Diego Marchesi has an excellent voice, bringing a wonderful sense of melody to the driving songs and more melancholy numbers alike, and the songs are tremendously well written and arranged, making this a must-have prog metal release.
Riverside – Wasteland (InsideOut)
Nobody can quite predict how tragedy will affect a band. When Riverside’s founding guitarist Piotr Grudziński passed away suddenly two and a half years ago, even they didn’t know what would come next. A posthumous album, Eye of the Soundscape, was released later that year, but that was more of a compilation. 2018 sees the band releasing their seventh album, Wasteland, and first as a confirmed trio.
Not filling Grudziński’s shoes means that singer/bassist Mariusz Duda pulls a lot of double duty here on Wasteland, although there are a handful of guest appearances to bring a bit more skill to the solos. There is also violin scattered throughout. All told, the guitar work is effective, and at times shines, but not so as to detract from the memory of Grudziński.
More important than that, however, is the impact of Wasteland as a whole. I haven’t been wowed by a Riverside album since 2009’s Anno Domini High Definition, but Wasteland comes darn close to that minor masterpiece. Wasteland deals with the concept of loss, both of those we love and our own identity. It also draws some parallels with 2005’s excellent Second Life Syndrome through lyrics and song titles.
Wasteland features some of Riverside’s heaviest and most emotional music, and both types of songs are stunningly effective. Duda’s performances vocally and instrumentally are outstanding, the songwriting can’t be beat, and the production and arrangements are impeccable. It all adds up to one of the best prog rock releases of the year, and the top September album here on the Progress Report.
Soen – Lykaia Revisited (Silver Lining)
We don’t often re-review albums here, but when Soen announced a remastered version of Lykaia, originally released early last year, I was intrigued, and anxious to revisit the album myself. In my original review I criticized the lack of emotion, but time can do a funny thing to opinions.
Listening to Lykaia Revisited with fresh ears, there is plenty of emotion in Joel Ekelöf’s singing, and the music sounds slightly fuller and punchier on the remaster. Add in three excellent live songs, and if you missed Lykaia the first time around there’s now no excuse to not own a superb progressive metal album.
Superfjord – All Will Be Golden (Svart)
All Will Be Golden may not be the best album in this month’s column, but it is hands down the coolest album. If there was ever a band name and album title that perfectly encompassed the sound, here it is. Finnish progressive rockers Superfjord drench their songs in psychedelia and groove, and the results on their second album, All Will Be Golden, are impressive.
On the surface, these songs are quite simple. Often the lyrics consist only of a chorus (in fact, on the single “Rainbow” there are only two lines, repeated ad nauseum), but the music that underpins these lyrics is simply mesmerizing, as if coming straight out of the early ’70s. Grooving bass lines, laid-back guitar licks, and wild percussion embellishments are all immaculately arranged to give us a supremely enjoyable prog-psych album.
Previous 2018 Progress Reports
The Progress Report: January 2018
The Progress Report: February 2018
The Progress Report: March 2018
The Progress Report: April 2018
The Progress Report: May 2018
The Progress Report: June 2018
The Progress Report: July 2018
The Progress Report: August 2018