Welcome to the July Progress Report. An interesting month here, featuring only one record label. Two albums from the always reliable InsideOut, and four others from independent artists. Hopefully as these bands continue to release quality music, labels will show some interest and support the acts like we all do. And as we see this month, sometimes the quality from unsigned bands rivals or exceeds that of established acts! So read on and check out the bands that interest you below.
Ratings are on a five star scale.
Canada’s Æpoch caught our attention with their 2018 debut, Awakening Inception. While we might have been hoping for a full-length follow-up, this 30-minute EP, The Scryer, will do just fine. While the band’s debut was most definitely a progressive death metal outing, The Scryer delves deeper into OSDM and thrash influences. Abysmal Dawn and Revocation might be good points of reference.
The six songs here vary from the acoustic intro to full-on blasts of death metal and thrash, with plenty of varied riffs and tempos. Singer/bassist Brett MacIntosh even lays waste to his fretless with some insane lines in “Shrapnel Baptized.” If you haven’t listened to Æpoch yet, The Scryer is a great place to start. There is great promise here, and the band’s next full-length will be greeted with open arms when it arrives.
The Last Semblance is Los Angeles-based quartet Alizarin’s second album, and it marks somewhat of a departure from their instrumental debut. On this new record, guitarist Josh Kay also provides lead vocals, which in some ways forces the band down different compositional roads. Labeling themselves as cinematic progressive metal, Alizarin aim for more of a dramatic flair with the inclusion of vocals this time around.
Musically, The Last Semblance is a diverse offering, featuring everything from technical metal riffs to meaty synths. All the songs are compelling in different ways, but unfortunately Kay’s vocals are not going to win any awards, and they detract from the overall instrumentally strong album. Fans of bands such as Porcupine Tree or even modern Opeth may find their interest piqued here.
Buried Realm – Embodiment Of The Divine (Self)
Buried Realm is the solo project of multi-instrumentalist Josh Dummer. On his second outing, Embodiment of the Divine, he crafts songs that take into account a wide range of influences, and he is assisted by an even wider range of guests. Members of Scar Symmetry, Mors Principium Est, Obscura, and more help out here, on an album that owes as much to traditional metal as it does to progressive death metal.
There’s as much galloping traditional metal influence as there is anything else on Embodiment of the Divine, and the guitar work throughout is stellar, with tons of tasty riffs and exciting lead breaks. Dummer (and guests?) make use of a wide vocal palette, and the variety in song styles and structure keep our attention. Better drum production on the next outing would go a long way towards beefing up the sound, but all in all this is a solid release from Buried Realm.
Gösta Berlings Saga – Konkret Musik (InsideOut)
Less than two years after ET EX, Swedish instrumental art-prog rockers Gösta Berlings Saga return with their sixth effort, Konkret Musik. Featuring twelve succinct (for them) songs of varying construction, the band has put together a sonically eerie conglomeration of ideas that does not let our attention waver in the least.
As always, the band’s sound is focused on keyboard and synth rather than guitar, but even more so this time around. With samples ranging from experimental to nostalgic, and combined with quirky chord progressions and brash percussive flairs, Gösta Berlings Saga deliver tracks that are hypnotic, dreamy, unnerving, and raucous. Konkret Musik is an album that is likely to grow even stronger in impact over time.
Lonely Robot – Feelings Are Good (InsideOut)
Lonely Robot’s first three albums formed a sort of astronaut trilogy. With that story arc complete, where does multi-instrumentalist (and mult-band member, in Kino and Frost* as well) John Mitchell go? On Feelings Are Good he goes inside, to explore human feelings and emotion. Once again Mitchell writes, produces, sings, and plays everything except drums, which are left in the abundantly capable hands of Craig Blundell (Steven Wilson).
Throughout Feelings Are Good, Mitchell affirms what the first three Lonely Robot albums showed us: the man writes impeccable modern progressive pop-rock tunes, such as what one would imagine a more conventional Peter Gabriel as sounding like. The production is lush and expansive, and the eleven songs are all strong, showing Lonely Robot (and Mitchell) has a lot left in the tank.
Florida’s Northern Crown really hit their stride here on their third album, In A Pallid Shadow. An alluring blend of epic metal, doom, and progressive rock a la Rainbow comes together in such a way as to keep our ears glued to the speakers for all forty minutes.
In A Pallid Shadow is only five songs long, but there is no filler here. From the solid rhythmic foundation to the burning guitar leads and the organ-accentuated riffs, the music perfectly backs up Frank Serafine’s majestic, dramatic yet not overdone vocal delivery. This may not be the most progressive album in our column, but it’s the most entertaining.