Welcome to the April Progress Report. A relatively quiet month as far as gripping progressive music releases, but as always we’ve thrown together six albums worth checking out. This month is brought to you by the number 3: three really good albums, three decent albums, three instrumental albums, and three albums of a more extreme prog nature. Regardless, there’s some fun stuff to be had here, so browse through the notes and the bands, and if anything catches your ear do the band a favor and purchase that record.
Ratings are on a five star scale.
There isn’t a lot to say about Advent Varic. Their press release claims they were sent here by their god Varic to destroy us, perhaps with their blackened progressive stoner metal. Their Bandcamp page suggests they might be from Boston. Regardless, here they are with Tumulus, a 42-minute romp through psyched-out stoner worlds.
Tumulus is simply two songs, Side A and Side B, not really knitted together with much sense of cohesion. There’s plenty of interesting moments in these extended jams; trippy jaunts down strange pathways, along with blackened shrieks and howls to keep us company. This isn’t an easy album to digest, but there’s something about the band that does keep bringing me back.
Ajna – Rengeteg (Inverse)
There are a few bands named Ajna out there; this particular iteration is a trio hailing from Kondoros, a small town in Hungary, and Rengeteg is the instrumental outfit’s debut album. These guys have been around a long time, so don’t let the fact that this is a debut fool you. There’s a sleek, professional quality to these instrumental progressive post-rock songs that is mesmerizing.
There is a bounty of skill on display, most notably from Piller Gyorgy on the bass guitar – you can really hear some Les Claypool influence there. Immaculate production and captivating arrangements hold our attention throughout Rengeteg, more so than most instrumental albums do, and the grooves and melodies on display here make this my pick of the month.
Barishi – Old Smoke (Season of Mist)
We looked at Barishi’s debut album Blood from the Lion’s Mouth back in 2016. I spoke glowingly of the music, but had no kind words for the singing. That issue is taken care of here on Old Smoke, as guitarist Graham Brooks has taken over behind the mic, and while he may not have vocal cords of gold, he allows Barishi to become who they are meant to be.
The best way to describe the music on Old Smoke is heavy as hell. Raging distorted bass, crushing drums, and angular riffs bolster Brooks’ death growls through six powerful tracks of sludgy progressive metal. Barishi have taken a step forward in their already strong songwriting, and Old Smoke is one of the best extreme prog albums so far this year.
Dawn of Ouroboros – The Art of Mythology (Rain Without End)
Perhaps the most interesting album of the month (well, actually March 30, but I’m including it here so nobody misses it) comes to us courtesy California’s Dawn of Ouroboros, a prog metal band with black metal influences and a massive arsenal of talent. Featuring members of Botanist, Deliria, and more, the band combines technical death metal and post-black metal to great effect on their debut, The Art of Mythology.
The eight songs here cover the band’s range of styles in an effective manner, with moments of ethereal beauty (and Chelsea Murphy’s clean vocals) interspersed with blasts of blackened tech-death. There’s even a short piano dirge at one point. Add it all up and you have an excellent release that stands out from the crowd in compelling fashion.
The second of our all-instrumental albums this month is from the modern prog quartet Etherius. Chaos.Order.Renewal. is the second album from theses Jersey boys, and their goal is to create traditionally-structured songs that aren’t so awash in technicality that they lose the listener. And having toured with Angel Vivaldi for a decade, founding guitarist Jay Tarantino understands that concept well.
There’s a ton of fast-paced playing on Chaos.Order.Renewal, but it’s almost as if Etherius have injected heavy doses of power metal and thrash into their recipe. These songs fly and soar, and despite the fireworks there is a lack of pretension in the music. Etherius have succeeded in their goal.
Myth of I – Myth of I (The Artisan Era)
The first band that comes to mind when thinking of the Berklee College of Music is Dream Theater, of course. Welcome the latest prog metal band to come forth from that institute: Myth of I. Their self-titled debut is a clinical exercise in progressive instrumental metal, reminiscent of bands such as Scale the Summit and Cloudkicker.
The songs on Myth of I are studies in skill, with all four musicians displaying serious chops, but as can often be the case, the songs come across as far too clinical, with no emotion to draw us in. None of the songs tell us a story, and to take their offering to the next level (maybe like Etherius) that is what Myth of I are going to have to figure out.