Reports from the (progressive metal) underground: things we missed in the first half of 2019

Good day reader! This edition will be a bit different from usual. Instead of continuing chronologically with August, this edition is filled with albums that slipped past our radar from the first two quarters of 2019. Yes it’s a bit weird to do this after July and not after June, but let me explain. Our list of albums to cover was (and still is) looong and Dylan wasn’t available during that period, so we lacked manpower to tackle all that. Also now that BaylorYou is fully integrated into our team we have even more manpower, though I did not plan for that as I recruited him on a whim a week before our last edition.

It always baffles me how many albums we miss for this blog. Our method is (if you ask me) incredibly thorough, yet here we have almost two dozen albums that slipped past us, and there were still four albums scrapped off the list. And it’s not just the seemingly randomly distributed albums outside of Metal-Archives you stumble on by accident, there are albums on Metal-Archives as well that just completely went us by. Even a couple that were tagged as Progressive we apparently didn’t judge as interesting the first time around ended up being way better than we gave them credit for. Idk how it happens. It’s weird.

The quality of the releases this is quite diverse if you ask me. It’s not like just all the mediocre releases got postponed to the backlog. There are some absolutely amazing albums as well in here. Maybe a bit much Dream Theater clones Flubbing around, but the list is so long and diverse that it hardly matters. I’m excited to share these bands with you, and I hope you’ll find something you enjoyed in this massive album batch. Finally we have a Spotify playlist with all the recommended tracks you can enjoy as always.

So now time for all the practical information:

What is this place? We use Metal-Archives’ advanced search engine to find all progressive/post/avantgarde metal (and some weird stoner as well if there’s any) releases in a month, then we select the best/most grabbing ones and write a (small) review on them. We go chronological through the months. We take releases from outside of metal-archives too, but that is generally limited to requests and recommendations from other prog fans as the other sites’ search engines aren’t as precise nor is their database as thorough as Metal-Archives. You can read more about us on our About page, which also includes some history. Do you want your band reviewed? Or do you want to send us a recommendation? Send an email to theprogressivesubway@gmail.com, send a PM to me (/u/genderlessperson) on Reddit or hit me up on Discord (sam1oq/genderlessperson). Just make sure it’s from this year for a month we haven’t covered yet.



Evaded – Not a Destination (US-MA)
Style: Traditional/Classic (clean vocals)
Related links: Spotify | Official Website | Facebook | Metal-Archives page
Review by: Dylan

Starting out on prog isn’t really a simple job. Between the technicality, the constant changing of tone, the 10 minute epics, and having to write something memorable that sticks out on top of all of that, it’s pretty simple to see why so many bands fail their first, or multiple, attempts at a Prog album. 

Evaded have got most bases covered. Their songwriting uses technicality and virtuose musicianship, they can write a memorable tune, throw all the Dream Theater/Haken wank in, and mostly make it work. Every element of Traditional Progressive Metal is here as we know and love it, including long instrumental sections, quirky melodies, hooks, reprises, and all of that good stuff. And because of that it’s a real shame that just one thing kind of lowers the quality of the album…

It’s the vocals. Now, I’m not entirely sure whether the singer just hasn’t got the pipes, or the production went horribly wrong, but it seems like a bit of both. This singer has got a completely competent mid register voice, which sounds pleasant and is mostly well produced/integrated into the tracks when used. The problem is that, most of the time, there’s layered vocals, on a register higher than what the vocalist should be using, which makes the singing feel forced, and the layered vocals sound a bit off key or flat out forced sometimes… You can tell the dude has room for improvement, so I can’t help but sympathize with him, as a person who’s also trying to find his style in the vocal department for his own band.

Once that voice has reached its potential, Evaded will have everything in their inventory to blow me away. As of right now, this release JUST misses.

Recommended tracks: Block Party
Recommended for fans of: Dream Theater, Haken
Final verdict: 6/10


Flub – Flub (US-CA)
Style: Tech Death (harsh vocals)
Related links: Bandcamp | Spotify | Facebook | Metal-Archives page
Review by: Tyler

Flub
noun
1.
a thing badly or clumsily done; a blunder


That’s from the band’s description on social media, and it’s terrible. This release is none of those things. In fact, I would say that Flub by Flub is decidedly flubless. Things on this album are tight, concise, technical, and most importantly, on purpose. Flub is sort of an underground metal supergroup comprised of members of Rivers of Nihil, Alterbeast, Vale of Pnath, and The User Lives. They came together to make something decidedly off of their respective day jobs, and the result is the 27 and a half minute slammer, Flub. 

As should be expected of the line up of the personnel, everything is excellent to the nth degree on here. Jared Klein made the world stop and watch with Rivers of Nihil’s last release Where Owls Know My Name, and the sentiment is repeated here. The guitar work is sublime with soaring leads and lows as thick as a babies arm. The bass, as low as it is in the mix, when it comes through, it shines and adds a great depth and complexity to compliment the guitars. And the vocals by Michael Alverez are likely the best part of the album, sounding horrendously gargoyle-esque in as good a way as I could intend. 

There could be a lot of arguments made that this band borrows a lot from their contemporaries and it doesn’t really explore a lot of new ground for the genre. And I don’t disagree, there are a lot of things I’ve heard before from other bands, but that’s not to say Flub doesn’t explore new ideas. I point to the last to tracks Rebirth and Wild Smoke. These are quite a bit different than the rest of the album, exploring the use of harp, synths, bells, and a surprising amount of marimba for a death metal album. There’s honest to goodness marimba lead on this thing that is wonderful in every way. Had the band done these sort of experimentations all throughout the album, it would have reached critical mass in my eyes, but for now I’ll just say it’s rad to the max and really cool.

Recommended tracks: Rebirth, Wild Smoke
Recommended for fans of: The Black Dahlia Murder, Rivers of Nihil, Alterbeast
Final verdict: 8/10


Vielikan – Back to the Black Marsh (Tunisia)
Style: Death/Extreme/Groove (harsh vocals)
Related links: Bandcamp | Spotify | Facebook | Instagram | Metal-Archives page
Review by: Matt

Back to the Black Marsh – this album’s title implies an ongoing story, and indeed, the phrase recurs several times throughout Vielikan‘s back catalogue. I still don’t honestly know what any of it means, beyond being more of the spiritual gobbledygook beloved by prog death bands. So far I’ve gathered that the Black Marsh bears some personal significance to sole band member Fedor Kovalevsky (editor’s note: r/progmetal Discord user @Vinyldrums21), and he’s going to take you there a second time.

There’s a lot to like here – the songs are extremely heavy and atmospheric, the writing occupies that nice “melodic but gross” area of the Death Metal spectrum, and there’s some Avant-garde weirdness on display. The riff in God(s), Love and Life that’s just one bend is strangely kind of brilliant. If Vielikan has one trademark, it’s the jangly clean guitars layered over everything, imbuing the trudging low riffs with a sinister space gypsy vibe. The arrangements are smart, and you’ll have plenty of time to ponder them, as the songs are long and content to dwell on ideas for awhile.

The album’s strength can also be a weakness, depending on the listener. Although I liked it overall, the oppressive atmosphere and dissonant background strumming started to get on my nerves eventually. It is a long-winded album, and you have to be in the mood for something difficult. There’s really only one mood here (despair, namely,) and even the specific riffs tend to be similar. Most of the album is a heavy 6/8 stomp with cleans or delay pedal noodling over it, and the occasional breaks or blasting sections provide little relief from the onslaught. The growled vocals and semi-melodic shouts sometimes offer a semblance of a hook, but are nothing you’re going to be singing along to anytime soon.

If crushing, vaguely uncomfortable chords are your thing, then this is all likely great. Otherwise, the songs don’t really do anything else, and the hypnotic structure doesn’t amount to much more than a series of riffs. Listening to Vielikan reminds me of listening to Funeral Doom, but fast. It’s draining, in a good way, just not something I’d put on daily.

Recommended tracks: “God(s), Love and Life”, “Mysticism, Thaumaturgy and Ephemeris”
Recommended for fans of: Gojira, but less digestible
Final verdict: 7/10


Stone Leaders – Stone Leaders (US/Croatia)
Style: Traditional (clean vocals)
Related links: Spotify | Facebook | Metal-Archives page
Review by: SharkTRS

This is a Traditional Prog album. Whatever you expect from the standard Trad Prog album, you’ll probably get. It’s technical, it’s somewhat cheesy, and there’s a good amount of Dream Theater worship. The biggest deviation from the norm on this one, I’d say, is that there’s a sizable chunk of 80s Rock influence here. This means, as anyone who’s listened to 80s Rock knows, that that “somewhat” is quickly turning into a “very”. Stone Leaders have put several pounds of cheddar into this one.

I don’t hate cheesy music, but it almost turns me off from this album. For starters, Stone Leaders clearly are anti-authoritarian. Very clearly. There’s nothing wrong with this. It’s a pretty common theme in music. However, albums that have done it justice are a tad more subtle with it than Stone Leaders, who opt to beat the listener over the head with it. They’ve got a song called Dv84u4ea. Say that out loud. This is that kind of album.

The music itself, however, is surprisingly good. The bass and drums are the clear standouts, carrying the album on their own at times. I’d like to especially praise the drumming. Drummer John Macaluso has a knack for coming up with inventive grooves that mesh well with what everyone else is playing, as well as a willingness to take a backseat to everyone else and play a more basic beat when it fits the song.

At times, Stone Leaders do deviate from their formula, and the tracks where they do end up as some of the best on the album. Shot by Lies in particular sounds like nothing else on the album, incorporating Funk Metal into their Traditional Prog sound to great effect. Many songs on the second half of the album suffer specifically because they don’t deviate in any way. Tracks like Heartless Stereo could be cut without any loss to the album, as they just retread ground already covered.

If these guys had a better producer, I imagine that they could make something great, but for now, I don’t see myself revisiting this album too often.

Recommended tracks: Shot by Lies, Electric City, Seeker
Recommended for fans of: Dream Theater, Haken
Final verdict: 5/10


Anabasis – Of Conviction (US-NY)
Style: Power/Melodic Metalcore (mixed vocals)
Related links: Bandcamp | Spotify | Facebook | Metal-Archives page
Review by: Jonah

I was expecting this album to be absolutely awful. Power Metal fused with Metalcore just sounds like a recipe for poppy, substance-less melodic wankery. So color me surprised when I threw this album on and lo and beh0old, it was actually pleasant to listen to. Frustrated that suddenly I had to do an actual review when all I wanted to do was shit-talk a band for 500 words, I soldiered on.

Man am I glad that I did, because this album has some really fun stuff in it. The guitars have that standard power metal cheese, but the riff-writing is actually pretty damn engaging, which was a lovely surprise. The bass is almost non-existent in the mix unfortunately, though when it does show up, it does some neat things. The vocals shift between some relatively standard, but enjoyable cleans, and some really nice throaty harshes that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Sludge album. They remind me of The Ocean’s more recent work a lot. 

There are two really exceptional parts of this album. The first is the drumming, which is incredibly fun and complex. The patterns used, especially in the otherwise standard power-metal parts, are very abnormal and play with beat structures not normally found in this style, something I was in love with from my first listen. The second exceptional element is the orchestral/symphonic elements, which are incredibly fun when they are used. There is a level of restraint in the use of these, as they only come in when a bit of a melodic punch is needed, and it does wonders. Also there’s a god damn glockenspiel in the first song and honestly that makes this a 10/10 right there.

The mix isn’t flawless, but other than the bass guitar’s general nonexistence I think it’s pretty dang good for a small band like this. They shift into some djenty nonsense sometimes that I’m not in love with, and the songwriting can drift into wankery on occasion, but honestly I think this album is a tremendous amount of fun and I highly recommend it. Plus, it’s not even 40 minutes long, so it really flies by when you listen. Pos.

Recommended tracks: Human Supremacy Illusion, Terminal, Deeper
Recommended for fans of: BTBAM, Tesseract, Anubis Gate
Final verdict: 8/10


Baradj – Hunnar (Russia)
Style: Post/Folk (mixed vocals, Russian lyrics)
Related links: Bandcamp | Spotify | Official Website | Facebook | Metal-Archives page
Review by: Dylan

I was originally gonna review this myself on the June edition of this blog, but I decided to take a couple more weeks with this album to really understand what it’s going for. The 4 or 5 times I listen to each album just wasn’t cutting it for this one, as I was still unable to figure out how I feel about said album. Do you wanna know why it took so long? 

Because it’s bad. Man, it’s such a bummer when you stick to an album, keep giving it listens, hoping you get a Between the Buried and MeColors case, but you get a Voyage 34 experience.

What’s attempted here is Metalcore songwriting with Shoegaze/Post Metal mixing and Russian lyrics. They’re mostly sung through the Metalcore rasp, and sometimes but very rarely, sung cleanly. Russian is super tough to work with in music as it’s a very non-poetic language. But it can work wonders when done correctly! (Editor’s note – see: Karma Rassa – Vesna… Snova Vesna) I’m afraid that’s not the case here. The vocals just sound bad man (wow, I’m really having a problem with this issue’s vocals). The harsh parts feel extremely weak, the clean ones feel half-assed, and there’s just nothing that stays in my head 5 minutes after each track is over. It also half asses the flow of the album, randomly throwing acoustic interludes whenever they feel they’ve gone for too long without having one, with 3 or 4 of them being present in the album. 

Overall, this was an extremely unpleasant experience for me. Someone may find value in this album, and if you feel intrigued by all means go ahead since this isn’t something that will boil your brain. As for myself, I’ll stay away from this.

Recommended tracks: Nah
Recommended for fans of: shite versions of btbam? I don’t know
Final verdict: 4/10


Veil of Conspiracy – Me, Us and Them (Italy)
Style: Extreme (mixed vocals)
Related links: Spotify | Facebook | Metal-Archives page
Review by: Tyler

Every now and again you hear something completely unexpected that makes your head turn and you need to stop what you are doing and really pay attention. I had this feeling halfway through Me, Us and Them. In full transparency, this was going in one ear and out the other for the first half, mostly because the thing sounds like a head cold. But after looking past that, the songwriting and musicianship shine through, and I needed to start over and listen again.

The ominous opening of Before Madness makes you feel like you are being prepared for something that you are being forced to take part in, like the album is demanding your attention. The way the album plays with expertly done heavy and clean vocals feels almost like good cop/bad cop. You are forced to be quiet and listen and then are bombarded by these kooky warbled heavy vocals that are all over the album. It’s a technique that isn’t exactly new, but the execution is pretty fresh. The musician ship overall is top notch. The guitar solos here really shine and are usually the highlight of the tracks they are on. The song writing itself is nothing extraordinary, but the album felt so organic and flowed so well, that I didn’t want there to be anything too out of the ordinary going on.

I want to circle back to the head cold comment from earlier. This album is written and performed expertly, I have no qualms about that. But it is a rough mix. There is some massive amounts of compression happening, especially in the drums that suck up most of the space that the songs have, so everything feel claustrophobic. Everything sounds like it’s constantly trying to be as loud as they can be, but also not step on everyone else’s toes. It kills me to hear music this good and well thought out be bruised by production. 

And in spite of how the album from a technical standpoint, what I walked away with was a moody, powerful experience from a band that has a bright future if they keep pushing their sound. Just open up the mix a little, fellas, then I’m there.

Recommended tracks: Mine Forever, How to Find the Light
Recommended for fans of: The Ocean, Opeth (according to the band)
Final verdict: 8/10


Endolith – Chicxulub – The Fossil Record (Norway)
Style: Symphonic Death (mixed vocals)
Related links: Spotify | Official Website | Facebook | Instagram | Metal-Archives page
Review by: Jonah

I’ve got a real sweet spot for music that uses symphonic or orchestral elements successfully. Alas, much of the “Symphonic Metal” subgenre tends to all fall into the category of female-fronted Power Metal with violins (See: Nightwish), and just doesn’t really butter my biscuit. Because of that, whenever a band really uses these elements in an exciting way, I get incredibly happy (See: Fleshgod Apocalypse or Wilderun).

I had absolutely no idea what this Endolith album was going to be going into it, as Metal Archives just has it listed as “Extreme Metal”. What that apparently translates to is Orchestral Death Metal with a few scattered other influences. This album begins with a purely instrumental orchestral piece that really sets the tone for what is a generally lovely, if somewhat confused, album. The instrumentation is generally spot-on here, with the guitar leads being nice and melodic when used, the riffs buzzsaw right through your ears, and the vocals are appropriately nasty. The moments where the death metal breaks into orchestral, or electronic, breaks are refreshing for the most part, although sometimes they break the energy in an unhelpful way.

However, and here is my really big qualm with this album, the production leaves a lot to be desired. The orchestral elements are really far back in the mix and often the riffs, which are real fucking loud, hid the orchestral stuff almost entirely. It’s a real shame because there’s some cool stuff going on but you can barely hear it. The riffs are also a little thin, feeling more like Industrial Metal or Metalcore riffs than the thick, pounding riffs I expect from Death Metal. Also the first god damn track ends on a fade-out. Like, why? Why would you do this to me Endolith?

Anyway this album is pretty good, even if the production isn’t, and I definitely recommend a listen.

Recommended tracks: Ichthys, Diseasons, Chicxulub
Recommended for fans of: Fleshgod Apocalypse, Wilderun, Septicflesh
Final verdict: 7/10


Obzerv – Acherontia Atropos (groove, Greece)
Style: Groove (mixed vocals)
Related links: Bandcamp | Spotify | Official Website | Facebook | RYM page
Review by: SharkTRS

Obzerv is a band struggling to find their voice. The first two tracks are straightforward Groove Metal, but they mix in ambient influences and clean sections as they go on. There wouldn’t be an issue with this if the cleaner parts were more competently performed, but as-is, they started to lose me as the album went on. They’re first introduced on Mother Nature Is a Serial Killer, and the clean section there works just fine, but after track 5 they take a nosedive in quality, mainly due to the clean vocals. Singer Nicos Marinakis has excellent harshes, but his cleans are simply not good. At times it sounds like he recorded his lines while drunk. This issue is expanded upon by the band not doing much at all to keep the listener hooked during the cleaner parts, placing an even greater emphasis on the lackluster vocals.

The heavy parts, though? The heavy parts are great. Obzerv know how to write a good riff, and with the raw drumming and throat-shredding screams from Marinakis, they can beat the hell out of the listener once they get going. Even the clean vocals are stronger here. As an example, while during the lighter parts it sounds off, Marinakis’ thick accent sounds awesome during the intro to That Defining Moment.

The bizarre, noisy solos complement the heavier sections excellently. I can’t even tell what the guitarist is doing during them half the time. They’re filled with massive bends and weird sounds that wouldn’t be out of place in a Car Bomb album.

Sadly, though, Obzerv‘s meandering clean sections steal too much of the album’s runtime. If they were performed more competently, I’d be fine with them, but as-is, they could use lots of trimming, or maybe even flat-out removal. Here’s hoping they’re better on the next album.

Recommended tracks: That Defining Moment, Apex Predator, Plot Twist
Recommended for fans of: Gojira, Between The Buried And Me
Final verdict: 6/10


Clément Belio – Patience (France)
Style: Rock/Jazz/Djent (clean vocals)
Related links: Bandcamp | Spotify | Official Website | Facebook | RYM page
Review by: BaylorYou

Patience was recommended to me out of the blue on the I&W discord, and I really didn’t know what to  expect. The album art peaked my interest, so I decided to bump this album to the top of my list. Just 30 seconds into track one, and I have been whisked away to the beautiful landscape that the album artwork displays, and am wondering where else the album would take me. 2019 has been an absolutely stellar year for releases, and Patience by Clement Belio is one of the reasons why.

I’ll try to keep this brief, because there is a lot to unpack here. Let’s start with the genres featured on this album. It’s a blend of Prog, Metal, Jazz, Soul, Djent, Orchestral, Classical, and Electronic elements that work together to deliver something truly beautiful. It also features a wide variety of instruments, including some that I have never heard before in prog or metal.  Take Your Time (along with the one-minute Dive In) really sets the mood for the rest of the album. It’s bright, beautiful, unique, and manages to make an 8:30 runtime feel short. 

Then steps in Chromatic Curtain, which is one of my favorites. There is a beautiful heaviness to it, and Clement Belio uses djent in a way that I haven’t heard before. Chromatic Curtain is followed by La Danse Macabre, the only track of the album that is completely in French. This song has a very unique feel to it. It’s  a French-waltz-prog-metal concoction that I enjoyed so much, that I had to start over on my first listen. Each and every track that follows is great. The last track I will highlight is Trampoline. What beautiful piano work this track has, wow. 

The only minor complaint I have on the album is that the middle section of the album didn’t have vocals, and I was really enjoying the vocal work on the album. If you enjoy prog that is both heavy and beautiful at the same time, do yourself a favor and bump this album to the top of your list. For me personally, this album is in the AOTY running. 

Recommended tracks: Chromatic Curtain, La Danse Macabre, Trampoline, and all the rest.
Recommended for fans of: Native Construct & Tigran Hamasyan
Final verdict: 9.5/10


GetMetal.CLUB

Omega Zero – Ocean Paradox: Chapter I (Italy)
Style: Traditional (clean vocals)
Related links: Spotify | Facebook | Metal-Archives page
Review by: Sam

We have all heard this before. Some bands just decide to sound like Dream Theater. Especially in the previous decade the prog metal scene was, for a good part, made up of bands emulating the New Yorkers: Circus Maximus, Vanden Plas, Pagan’s Mind, etc. Not that these bands are copycats, but the resemblance is strong to say the least. Omega Zero right here falls straight in line with this type of sound. The question is though: is it any good?

The answer to that is quite simple: yes it is! This band is very apt at songwriting and at playing their instruments. The songs are proggy, but don’t sacrifice anything in terms of catchiness and memorability. I found myself especially digging the keyboard performance. It takes on a very prominent role in the album, usually being the leading musical element. Andrea Germano is a very tasteful player. His patch choices and tones are just beautiful. That’s not to say there’s no good guitar playing on the album though. Filippo Rosati brings some beautiful, emotive lead playing and his textures are also very solid. The drumming is also really well done. It’s not overtly complex, but it definitely adds its own dimension to the music beyond just being the backbone and they sound powerful and punchy. 

That brings me to the production: it’s a great mix. There’s a lot of breathing room for all the instruments, making it feel very light on the ears and organic (and yes you can hear the bass!). The tones used are also just lovely. My only complaint about it is that the backing vocals don’t really have the “weight” you want them to, but that’s minor.

This album is not without its flaws though, and a lot of that has to do with the vocals. It’s not like Flavio is a bad singer, but his delivery is just quite standard at this point and good LORD does the guy have an Italian accent to his English. Imagine those standard soaring metal vocals in mid-range, but then with a heavy Italian accent and you get this guy. His vocal lines are certainly well-crafted, but it’s all just so heard-before. His chorus melodies also tend to get a bit same-y after a while. Lastly I just really miss some kick-ass riffage on this album. It’s all melodic and good, but on the other hand Omega Zero tend to forget that they’re also a metal band, and metal bands write riffs. It would have done wonders for the pacing of this album if there were some more aggressive, riff-based tracks to spice things up.

Ultimately, Omega Zero is not a band to break any new boundaries or reach new heights. This has probably been done at a similar (or higher level) a hundred times before. However if you enjoy listening to this type of music, Ocean Paradox: Chapter I is certainly a worthwhile addition to your catalogue. A solid debut and I’m eager to hear more from them in the future.

Recommended tracks: Memory of the Lost, A Sea We Call Life, The Great Descend
Recommended for fans of: Dream Theater, Circus Maximus, Vanden Plas, etc.
Final verdict: 7/10


Cabinets of Curiosity – The Chaos Game (US-NJ)
Style: Rock (clean vocals)
Related links: Bandcamp | Spotify | Official Website | Facebook | RYM page
Review by: Jonah

It’s something of a natural occurrence that when a band becomes popular or prominent in a particular musical scene other bands will begin to ape their style. Sometimes these other bands will do something new and exciting with the style, other times they’ll just copy it to a T and often will simply be less exciting than the source material. In recent years Bent Knee has really blown up in Prog Rock and Metal circles, and I’m seeing more and more bands begin to play a similar style. Is this a bad thing? Well Bent Knee is fucking fantastic, so no, as long as the new bands are interesting in their own right.

This brings us to Cabinets of Curiosity, a little prog band from New Jersey who are, unless I’m horrendously off-base in my assumptions, definitely Bent Knee fans. And in the case of this particular album, that’s completely okay. The influence is very visible, as well as a healthy serving of Thank You Scientist and Diablo Swing Orchestra, but it definitely feels like Cabinets of Curiosity is trying to make the sound their own.

From a performance soundpoint the band is pretty damn talented. The drumming and bass guitar are just absolutely stellar, presenting an enormously energetic rhythmic core to the music. The other instruments are all excellently played as well, and the vocal performance is incredibly strong, featuring jazzy female vocals that definitely remind me of DSO’s vocals more often than not.

So is this album perfect? Sadly no. There are two major flaws that prevent me from enjoying this more than I do. The first is that the songwriting, while often strong, drifts into feeling a bit disjointed a few times in the album, and generally feels like it lacks a sense of flow and cohesion between the various passages that occur in the music. Additionally, the album is a good bit too long for my taste. Especially given this particular style, I think there are a few songs the band could have easily cut to knock this album down to a much tighter 45 minutes instead of 60 that feel like they meander a tad too much.

Don’t let that dissuade you from trying this band out though. They do this style of Prog quite well, and I’m very excited to see how they mature, and what they make next.

Recommended tracks: Angular Sterility, Doomsday Algorithm, Nowhere Near the Blad
Recommended for fans of: Bent Knee, Thank You Scientist, Diablo Swing Orchestra
Final verdict: 6/10


Mortanius – Till Death Do Us Part (US-PA)
Style: Neoclassical Power (clean vocals)
Related links: Bandcamp | Spotify | Facebook | Metal-Archives page
Review by: Matt

Step one: Buy Mortanius‘ new album, Till Death Do Us Part.
Step two: Delete the Christmas cover, optionally reburn to CD.
Step three: Enjoy awesome album.

Mortanius are a band with a tumultuous history. They have shed members with each demo and EP, culminating in this debut with only a singer and bassist. Apparently, a firm guiding hand is all you need, because the album is hardly any worse for it. In fact, while the circumstances would suggest a train wreck being salvaged, this comes awfully close to being a masterpiece.

The genre on offer is Neoclassical Power Prog, but I’m gonna go ahead and call it Castlevania Metal. You know what I mean. It’s somewhere between King Diamond, Heavenly, and old Symphony X, basically a checklist of everything cool in Melodic Metal, with a lot of harmonic minor and a heaping helping of pipe organs, pianos, and choirs on top. Even the more generic bands of this sort tend to be kind of awesome – it’s just a winning formula. Mortanius up the ante with some extremely competent longform songwriting, a bit of Emperor influence, and a singer who instantly carves out a unique identity for himself.

We’ve all heard squeaky Power Metal vocals before, but there’s something different about this guy. There’s a distinctly androgynous quality to his voice which doesn’t sound quite like anyone I’ve heard – maybe a less manly Geddy Lee, if you can imagine that. It’s as over-the-top as it sounds, but his technique is amazing and not “wimpy” per se. Most of these singers have normal voices and learned to sing high – I think he started with a naturally high voice and just learned to sing even higher. He’s one of those singers who starts out bizarre and becomes a selling point of the band, like John Arch (early Fates Warning) or Mark Shelton(Manilla Road), a huge asset and just inherently interesting to listen to.

What really sells the album for me is the writing. They’ve gone all-out with the epics, and they stuck the landing. It’s one of those cases where the long title track overshadows everything else, but they’re all basically great. Lucas Flocco is able to consistently get extra mileage out of his song structures, keeping the momentum up and bringing things back at just the right time. Towards the end, I ask “are they going to do it?,” and damn, do they ever. The epicness of the title track really cannot be overstated, especially the ending. Then the Christmas song comes on and spoils the vibe (editor’s note: it’s a cover of Wham! – Last Christmas), unless you followed my advice earlier. It’s not that bad, but… There’s a time and a place for everything, you know.

It feels weird to give a 9 to an album with such a strange anticlimax, but ultimately people will just ignore it and play it later or something. So what stops this from getting a 10? Partially the programmed drums – not bad, but fake-sounding in a couple spots, and a good drummer just adds things you wouldn’t think of yourself. Occasionally, the vocals become a little too piercing, e.g. the very loud and very long scream closing out the first track. Mostly, there just isn’t a sense of cohesion, like the album was cobbled together and just happened to be really, really good. I would love to see Mortanius get a consistent lineup and release their equivalent of Operation: Mindcrime or The Black Halo, something with more of a complete identity. Right now they have the songs, but are missing the infrastructure to turn them into something more. Nevertheless, I am a big fan of this band.

Recommended tracks: Till Death Do Us Part, Disengage
Recommended for fans of: Heavenly, King Diamond, Symphony X (Damnation Game era)
Final verdict: 9/10


The Room – Caught by the Machine (UK)
Style: Neo Prog (clean vocals)
Related links: Spotify | Official Website | Facebook | RYM page
Review by: Tyler

Hey guys, remember Prog? No I don’t mean the odd time signature, heavy as shit, whackadoo nonsense we all brown our jeans to today, I mean the real prog. The stuff from the 70’s when music was new and weird and if anything was new or out there, you were immediately shot into musical stardom. You know, the kind that is dead and we all forgot. Well, The Room didn’t forget, they are still there, man.

Now let’s get this straight off the bat: No way this is a metal album. No way no how.

So if that’s a deal breaker, scroll down to the next review! For the six persons left, let’s dig in. You’ve probably heard all of these songs before. This isn’t a covers album, these are all original songs, but every single one sounds like one of those classic bands from the 70’s that started this whole genre in the first place. I struggled to find a real original idea or sound in this album, and I just can’t find it. The guitar tones are Rush, the themes of “Technology is bad, we are here to save the day!” has been done and tired for decades. There are even general Rock and Roll cliches that make there way on here (they actually use “Like a rolling stone” and “helter skelter” in the lyrics.)

The record on the whole actually sounds quite good. Performances are solid, production is clean, songwriting is actually pretty interesting. My main grief with this was the actual overall aesthetic: the classic sound that we’ve all heard a million times to the point where we realized we needed to actually progress progressive music. At first, I was pretty critical of the band for seeming to not move forward with the rest of the genre. But, then I realized that’s not what was happening at all. The Room is doing what it can to preserve that sound and carry it forward. Like a more honest Greta van Fleet, because most of these guys were around this sound when it was new and still finding its way.

I was about to write this band off as just a rehashing of everything that we’ve heard before. And, honestly, that’s what they are doing. But the songs are good, and they are great and soulful musicians (gimme more of that solo in Clover, thanks.) It’s not where I lie in the arbitrary musical ecosystem, but there are tons of folks who would feel right at home here. They aren’t trying to reinvent the wheel, and why should they? It’s a great wheel! We just put it on brand new car from the future, and they prefer something classic and timeless.

Recommended tracks: Drowning in Sound, Clover
Recommended for fans of: Rush, Dream Theater, Yes, a time gone by
Final verdict: 6/10


An Isolated Mind – I’m Losing Myself (US-CA)
Style: Extreme (mixed vocals)
Related links: Bandcamp | Spotify | Facebook | Metal-Archives page
Review by: Dylan

A Death Metal concept album about struggles with bipolar disease is bound to be ambitious. Any mental illness is no joke, and bipolarity is no exception. 

What An Isolated Mind does is to convey all of the emotions present in your head when suffering this illness into a very mood drifting album. The mood constantly switches between the abnormal highs and the ugliest lows in each song. Extreme dissonance, and a general tone of bat shit insanity can be immediately followed by the most beautiful acoustic melodies, only for the insanity to come back again and hit harder than before. 

This idea of build up, break down, bigger build up, bigger break down, is played with for 35 mins. It is until then when you’re gonna stop listening to actual songs. In its most tense moment, two tracks come in to play; the title track I’m Losing Myself and it’s follow up I’ve Lost Myself. They’re both ambient-sy tracks that pretty much convey everything the album has conveyed thus far. The 8 minute long title track starts with a very clean melody which gets progressively more and more dissonant, desperate, and insane. At its highest point of insanity comes in I’ve Lost Myself. What this track does is convey the fall out of what we can interpret as the ultimate breakdown that “lost” our protagonist. It goes on for 17 minutes and hardly has any music, but it’s so ingeniously built up that I believe it remains appropriate for the album. 

So yes, the album is, in my opinion, an achievement. But you either have to accept the fact that you’re sitting for the whole thing as an experience, or only get half an hour of actual music. Whatever you choose to do, I’m Losing Myself won’t fail to deliver. 

Recommended tracks: it’s an all or nothing
Recommended for fans of: mental illness Opeth
Final verdict: 8/10


Ceremony of Silence – Oútis (Slovakia)
Style: Blackened Death (harsh vocals)
Related links: Bandcamp | Spotify | Facebook | Instagram | Metal-Archives page
Review by: Dylan

A really heavy album for what we’re used to review is this blog, but holy cows is it a good one. Ceremony of Silence take Death Metal, throw all the Blackened on top of it, and add just a semi thin layer of complexity on top of it to make a tight, focused, catchy, and brutal release.

What you see is really what you get with this band. The name and aesthetics tell you all it’s gonna bring you and delivers perfectly well. What separates this band from most Blackened Death acts is that there’s this sense of melody, which is subtle enough for me to not call this album a Melodeath release, yet strong enough for me to call out, that fills this album with memorability all over it. This fact alongside the band knowing how long the songs and album for a style like this should last (just over 35 minutes) you get that sweet spot of everything that’s good about an Extreme Metal release.

Would I change something? Yes! The vocals, while absolutely competent for the style of music, are just a tad monotonous to me. This could be what they were going for, but I kept imagining if these low, heavy growls would ever climax to a higher more expressive style once the songs reach their climax, but they didn’t. Regardless, that can easily be overlooked if you’re used to this type of music, and because of that I’d recommend Oútis to anyone who does. 

Recommended tracks: Ceremony of a Thousand Stars, Into the Obscure Light
Recommended for fans of: Behemoth without the theatrical bullshit
Final verdict: 8/10


Dizzy Mystics – Wanderlost (Canada)
Style: Math Rock (clean vocals)
Related links: Bandcamp | Spotify | Official Website | Facebook | RYM page
Review by: SharkTRS

Dizzy Mystics are an anomaly. They sound like if a psychedelic band from the Woodstock era received glimpses of several disparate genres from the future. This all somehow coagulates into one coherent sound. Psychedelic math folk? Psychedelic math folk.

Understandably, they sound almost completely unique. The closest sonic comparison I can think of is Pink Lemonade-era Closure in Moscow, after they went off the deep end and decided that anything goes. This is a tighter release than Pink Lemonade, though; it’s not a concept album, so they focus more on songwriting than storytelling, and man oh man is the songwriting good here. Most tracks clock in at the five minute mark, and even the longer ones avoid most of the unnecessary noodling that plagues our genre so. They make every second count, every member contributing something new at every moment, crafting songs simultaneously technical and catchy. (Seriously, give Letter a listen. It won’t leave your head for days.)

So what’s not to like about this album? Nothing, really. It doesn’t work for me all the time, but it’s consistently more innovative than most of the current Prog scene. In the end it’s all down to personal taste, but I can see these guys getting huge some time in the near future.

Recommended tracks: Letter, Fallasophy, Wanderlost
Recommended for fans of: The Tea Club, Closure in Moscow
Final verdict: 7.5/10


TalaioT – U​-​pecats i traïdoria (Spain)
Style: Stoner (clean vocals)
Related links: Bandcamp | Spotify | Facebook | Metal-Archives page
Review by: Jonah

Thank god for 30 minute albums. I know it’s much shorter than most people would prefer, but when I’m reviewing 4 albums at once I definitely don’t mind a shorter run time. Especially when the album is…uh…this one.

Talaiot plays a brand of Traditional Metal influenced Stoner Metal that is, honestly, really god damn boring. The performances are technically competent, but still just very boring. The guitar riffs well, the melodies are enjoyable enough, the drums and bass sure do drum and bass, and the vocals sound like every other 80s Metal vocalist I’ve ever heard. There’s just not a lot new here, and nothing for me to really latch onto and enjoy. Every once in a while there’s some interesting elements from more traditional Spanish music that pop up, but other than that the actual metal isn’t really anything new. I will say that the Spanish lyrics do actually put an interesting intonation on the vocals, but that’s really the only other thing that caught my attention.

The production is competent enough for a small release, and the bass is actually audible and used to decent effect, so the band impressed me in that regard, but honestly I just can’t find anything exciting or new here at all. Hopefully these guys introduce a little more experimentation into their next releases, because they’re definitely talented dudes. Just currently maybe not the most creative.

Recommended tracks: Suicidi Virtual, Pessim, Barreres
Recommended for fans of: Black Sabbath, Kyuss, Judas Priest
Final verdict: 4/10


Steaksauce Mustache – Superwoke (US-NY)
Style: Mathcore (mixed vocals)
Related links: Bandcamp | Spotify | Official Website | Facebook | RYM page
Review by: SharkTRS

SUPERWOKE! SUPERWOKE! SUPERWOKE! SUPERWOKE!

Musically, Steaksauce Mustache is a mathcore band, but instead of the “noisy and depressive” or “extremely pissed” sound that most seem to go for, they opt for sounding like party music from hell. “Adult Swim metalcore” is another way to put it. I’m not the most well-versed in Mathcore, but I haven’t heard anything like this from the genre before.

Instrumentally, Superwoke is solid, but nothing insane. Guitarist Bret Roos has some great licks throughout this record, but not many memorable riffs. Nothing bad, but not outstanding. The album does begin to feel a bit samey towards the end, though, despite its 28-minute runtime.

Vocalist Taylor Bates can scream with the best of them and isn’t afraid to get weird. He effortlessly swaps between straightforward Hardcore screams, Deathcore-esque lows, and a whole range of cleans, be they aggressive ones or whatever demented, bizarro-world children’s show-sounding voice he can come up with. He’s one of the more out there vocalists I’ve come across this year, up there with the likes of Geordie Greep for me.

These elements all add up to an album that’s more than the sum of its parts. Listening to this never fails to put a grin on my face. It’s so ridiculous and flamboyant that it reaches the point where it’s impossible to take seriously and goes past it. Enjoy.

As a final note, if you ever get the chance to see these guys in concert, do it. I’ll never forget the experience of being in a mosh pit where everyone’s wielding pool noodles, and from what I’ve heard they’re managing to get a bouncy castle into the pit now.

Recommended tracks: Denim Diaper Daddies, Pass the Fist, Pacifist, Space Bank
Recommended for fans of: The Dillinger Escape Plan, fun
Final verdict: 8/10


Tercerdía – Mira sin mirar (Spain)
Style: Traditional/Rock (clean vocals)
Related links: Spotify | Facebook | Metal-Archives page
Review by: BaylorYou

Where to start with this review? When I heard the first thirty seconds of the album, I was very excited. I thought I was in for a prog-80s-hair-metal-band/album. Mira Sin Mirar’s first minute or so sounded like it could be the soundtrack for a prog spin-off of Top Gun. Huge guitar squeals, with that signature 80s metal guitar tone. OH HELL YEAH, SIGN ME UP! However, while they still delivered on that type of unique sound a little bit, Tercerdia played it safe after they were onto something very cool. Did my own expectations get in the way of my enjoyment of this album? Possibly, but I really don’t think so.

After discussing my frustrations with the other reviewers on the site, Sam came up with the term “Dream-Theater-itis.” In other words, when a band seems to be onto something very interesting, but instead they play it safe and deliver a familiar, watered-down version of something we’ve already heard instead: intro, verse, chorus, verse, chorus, interlude/outro with long, sustained vocals over some proggy scales. Damn it. Damn it, all.

Now, I’ve been really hard on the album so far, but you can tell these guys are very talented. There is some excellent guitar work, some nice keyboard work, and great vocals featured on the album, but… we’ve heard it all before. “Tesoro” came closest to delivering what I was hoping for. That song is pretty awesome. Overall, the album is good, but frustrating.  Tercerdia was onto something, but they played it too safe this time. Again, I was a bit disappointed by Mira Sin Mirar, but I do think it has enough going for it to appeal to some prog fans. 

Recommended tracks: Tesoro, Tonango
Recommended for fans of: Spock’s Beard, A.C.T., Pattern Seeking Animals
Final verdict: 6/10


Biomechanical – Orchestral Empires (UK)
Style: Symphonic (instrumental)
Related links: Bandcamp | Spotify | Facebook | Metal-Archives page
Review by: Matt

Remember Biomechanical? For a brief moment in the 2000s, they were going to be the next big thing in metal. Sounding like a bizarre ultra-technical combination of Nevermore, Judas Priest, Pantera, and John Williams, there was some legitimate brilliance in that band, until they went too far and released what most people considered unlistenable mush. When I saw that they had a new EP, I pretty much dropped everything to check it out. I still maintain that bandleader John K is a genius, and Eight Moons is an experience that has yet to be duplicated. So, how has the intervening decade tempered his musical output?

I’d love to answer that question, but I’m still waiting to find out. Actually, I was disappointed to find that this EP is just a collection of orchestral stems from past songs, dumped onto Bandcamp without fanfare or explanation. I’m not sure if any additional work was put in to dress them up or update them. At least a couple of these tracks came from good songs, but stripped of their metal context, they often just sound like a bunch of Michael Bay boom noises, and are really not of much use to anyone. They’re barely proper compositions, because they weren’t made to stand on their own, and the mix is compressed to hell, likely because the orchestra tracks had to be audible under guitars. It’s a short, brutal and unpleasant listen, and even further exposes how excessive and chaotic the band had become by the end.

So I don’t like it as an album, but what does this release represent? If it’s a prelude to a full return, John K should say so and put it into context. That would make the EP easily forgivable. If it’s a money grab… what money? I don’t know what the idea behind this was. Perhaps he was feeling nostalgic? He had to be disillusioned after losing all the band’s momentum in 2008. I wanted to see how he would react to that, if he would exercise some more restraint or do something else entirely. We don’t even get a glimpse into his thoughts here, but the inclusion of songs from Cannibalised might imply he stands by his old approach. Either way, I just wanna know what’s going on. For such an immense talent to remain silent this long is kind of depressing, and this EP wasn’t the silver lining I hoped for.

Recommended tracks: In the Core of Darkness, Eight Moons, Enemy Within, Absolution (from past albums.)
Recommended for fans of: Biomechanical only
Final verdict: 2/10 (technically, there’s competence under there.)


TheNightTimeProject – Pale Season (Sweden)
Style: Alternative (mixed vocals)
Related links: Bandcamp | Spotify | Facebook | RYM page
Review by: BaylorYou

Thenighttimeproject is a Swedish band made up of past and current members of Katatonia, October Tide, and Letters from the Colony. While Pale Season definitely has a Katatonia vibe to it, it is still very much its own sound. This album was very interesting, in a good way. The first track, Hound, left me guessing what direction the rest of the album was going to take. The song has a very cool and unique feel that features vocals that are deep, hypnotic and haunting.

After Hound, the album switches from the down tempo and haunting sound to a more metal feel, with tracks like Rotting Eden and Embers. The album manages to blend familiar sounds in a unique way that I haven’t heard before. Throughout Pale Season, Thenighttimeproject added an unexpected bass-y, ambient synth (or pad, I’m not positive) that was a very nice touch. Every time they did it, it surprised me, and every time, I loved it. 

Pale Season is a very enjoyable listen, and there are a lot of good tracks, but I REALLY enjoyed the different kind of sounds in the album’s bookend songs. Hound and Signals in the Sky both had a haunting, hypnotic sound that was pure ear candy. This is definitely an album I would recommend checking out. I don’t know if I will have Pale Season in the running for album of the year, but it’s close.

Recommended tracks: Hound, Embers, Signals in the Sky
Recommended for fans of: Katatonia, Vulkan, Sisare
Final verdict: 8.5/10


 

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