Welcome to the August Progress Report. As summer draws to an end we hit a bit of a lull in output from progressive music artists. This is evident in the ratings for our six albums this month: while none of them are awful, none will be making my top ten list at the end of the year. But don’t let that deter you: give them all a listen and see if any of them grab your attention.
Ratings are on a five star scale.
Aethereus – Absentia (The Artisan Era)
Not to be confused with Etherius (reviewed earlier here), Aethereus are a progressive death metal band from the US, and Absentia is their third album (2013’s Transcendence was released as Seker). The band plays a style heavily influenced by bands such as Obscura and Cynic.
Absentia is a prototypical progressive death metal album, and I mean that in all the best ways Amazing musicianship, decent vocals, stellar production, and interesting songwriting all combine to deliver a solid experience. The songs don’t always maintain the highest quality – there are a couple of filler tracks, to be sure – but closer “The Pale Beast” is a standout song here.
Crack the Sky – Living In Reverse (Loud and Proud)
Here’s an album that can only be described as surprising. I’d never heard of Crack the Sky, but it turns out this West Virginia band has been around since the 1970s – in fact, their first album was released in 1975, and the band has opened for the likes of Styx and Foreigner in their time. They seem to have simply never broken through beyond their local following, it seems.
Maybe that will change with Living In Reverse, which is a fun, well-written prog rock album that pays homage to the band’s early sounds will still bringing a modern aesthetic to the music. Plenty of electronic samples, talented musicians, and super-catchy songs make Living In Reverse an album worth checking out.
California’s A Dying Planet have an interesting backstory. Vocalist Troy Tipton used to play bass until an injury a few years ago brought that to an end. His twin brother Jasun (both brothers from Zero Hour) began writing material, Troy became the singer, and Facing the Incurable came into being.
The first two songs, “Resist” and “Facing the Incurable,” are as good as prog metal gets. Complex compositions that reel you in and hold onto you. But the album just has that sense of something missing. It peters out, slowing down and then oddly ending on a good instrumental song. The odd track order and feeling of incompleteness are what hold this back from being a top pick for August.
Forming the Void – Rift (Kozmik Artifactz)
Forming the Void are a relatively new band from Lafayette, Louisiana, but Rift is already their fourth album. The band plays a heavy, sludgy, riff-filled style of progressive metal, evoking thoughts of bands like Baroness and Torche. And with a cover that features a mastodon, well, we can put two and two together.
The good thing is, Forming the Void put all their influences together into a compelling package that plays to their strengths. Rift is an album full of big, distorted riffs and booming vocals, capped off with two excellent songs in “Ark Debris” and the 10-minute epic “Shrine.” This is the right way to do progressive sludge.
Halcyon Way – Bloody But Unbowed (Agonia)
Modern progressive metal can be a slippery slope. There is a fine line between doing too much and being complex enough to really engage the listener. Atlanta’s Halcyon Way are veterans of the scene, and Bloody But Unbowed is the band’s fifth album.
With twelve songs clocking in at 53 minutes, there is a lot to digest on Bloody But Unbowed, and in fact Halcyon Way may have bitten off too much. Vocalist Steve Braun does a great job, but the inclusion of death vocals by other band members really drags things down. That fact, combined with too many songs that try to do too much, keeps Bloody But Unbowed from really taking off.
In my book, the most interesting release of the month comes from Radiant Knife, a duo also from Lafayette who combine influences such as Neurosis, Today is the Day, and older Mastodon to create an engaging second album in Science Fiction that is full of changeups and compelling psychedelic moments.
Science Fiction is a mix of instrumentals and vocal songs, about half of each on this 8-song offering, and all of the songs grab our attention and hold on. Greg Travasos’ drumming is intricate yet groovy, and Stephen Sheppert is a master of hooks on both guitars and synths. All told, Science Fiction is loaded with gripping songs, and is my pick of this month’s Progress Report.
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