Reports from the (progressive metal) Underground: January 2020 (part 1)

Good day reader! I think I’ve joked about the phrase “New year, new me!” a couple of times now, but it’s never been as appropriate as it is now. Starting 2020 reviews, we’re gonna do things a little bit differently. Firstly, as you might have noticed in the title, this is only Part 1 of the January edition. From now on we’ll be splitting up each edition into three parts to have content out more on the regular. As we got more and more reviewers, the editions got longer and longer, to the point where one can hardly manage to keep track of everything every time. This way we felt it’s more digestible for the reader. We’ll release something new every week now instead of once every three weeks.

Secondly, we’re gonna stop trying to review every prog metal-related album out there. At a certain point, you just gotta accept that there comes out more than you can possibly cover. We’re gonna miss some great albums this way probably, but it’s just not feasible anymore. Jonah’s gotten so proficient at finding underground prog we have 40, if not more (looking at you, March), albums to choose from every month. We could add even more writers, but honestly covering 25-30 albums each month is plenty.

Thirdly, we have some more content planned for this review year than just Reports from the Underground. We’re already doing interviews (semi-)regularly, but we’ve also been toying with the ideas of Artist Retrospectives, where we dive deep into an underground artist’s discography, and highlighting more under-the-radar regional prog metal scenes.

And lastly what’s changing is that I won’t state what this place is at the end of every post anymore. I think you get it by now: we dig up underground prog metal albums (and everything related) all over the web and write a review on them. You can request shit by mailing us, check out our socials, blablabla. If you’re here for the first time I suggest you look at our About page. That says everything. Also since the editions are shorter now we won’t use spreadsheets anymore. It just doesn’t seem necessary anymore to me. Though if you want them back you can always message us I guess (reminds me that we should make a comment section sooner or later). What remains though is that we have a Spotify playlist with all the recommended tracks from the albums we featured in this post you can look at.

Well, I think that’s all I wanted to say for now. Let’s hop into it!

Future Indefinite – Oculus (Israel)
Style: Symphonic Death (mixed vocals)
Related links: Spotify | Facebook | Metal-Archives page
Review by: Andrew

Not much information is available about Future Indefinite. They are a progressive death metal band from Haifa, Israel and seem to only have two members. They have one EP from 2012 in addition to their debut album, Oculus. They don’t really seem to have an online presence at all either. So I’m going into this knowing basically nothing. Anyway, let’s get started. 

At over an hour long and with 17 tracks, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. Oculus opens with “Chapter I: Entropy”, an orchestral overture that sets the scene for the next hour of music as well as introducing the album’s storyline. I’ll get back to the story in a bit – for now I want to focus on the music. The next track, “Impact”, is a spoken word piece in the style of a radio broadcast, meant to further introduce the plot and build suspense for what’s to come. If you were wondering when the metal would kick in, “Mayday” immediately answers that question with heavy-hitting harsh vocals over some chunky riffing. Radio broadcasts and orchestral interludes are scattered throughout the album, providing exposition and plot progression. “Mayday” is a perfect foreshadow of the rest of the album – brutal screams, soft cleans, and everything from blast beats to slow, clean guitar –  it’s a true potpourri of sounds that come together excellently. 

The next couple of tracks follow this trend, with more radio broadcasts and orchestral interludes interspersed throughout. The centerpiece of the album is track 9, “Virres’val.” Coming in at over 11 minutes long, this behemoth demonstrates everything Future Indefinite is capable of. However, some of the riffs start to blend together which hinders the sense of progression throughout the song. This is a repeated issue in Oculus (as well as a lot of melodic death metal in general) which detracts from the listening experience slightly. Despite this lack of uniqueness among riffs, the symphonic backing tracks and ripping guitar solos provide a sense of separation that the riffs themselves fail to provide. 

“Taste of Freedom” is the last true metal song on the album – the remaining four songs are instrumental orchestral pieces to close it out. I was disappointed that there was no true closer – the album ends in a very unsatisfactory fashion. “Taste of Freedom” is great for what it is though. Earlier, I said I’d get back to the story. If you haven’t guessed by now, this is a concept album through-and-through. From what I have been able to surmise, (no lyrics are available online) the story revolves around a group of comets impacting the Earth, causing what remains of humanity to leave the planet on a spaceship called The Valkyrie. There is then an uprising on the ship causing a group to take over and enslave the remaining humans. The now-enslaved people then rise up against their rulers and take back their freedom. Don’t quote me on this because it might be completely wrong. I think the story is really unique and the music is well-suited to tell it.

Despite its shortcomings, Oculus is a fantastic symphonic progressive death metal album and I thoroughly enjoyed listening to it for this review. I wish more information on Future Indefinite was available so I could know more about what I am listening to. Oculus is a very solid debut album and it’s clear that a ton of work has been put into it by the band. Go listen to it. 

Recommended tracks: Fall of the Valkyrie, Virres’val, Symbiosis
Recommended for fans of: Fleshgod Apocalypse, Scar Symmetry, Children of Bodom
Final verdict: 8/10

Holy Fawn – The Black Moon (US-AZ) [EP]
Style: Post-Rock/Blackgaze (Mixed vocals)
Related links: Bandcamp | Spotify | Official Website | Facebook | Instagram | RYM page
Review by: Chris

Ok but why is this so short? 

I kid, but having listened to their earlier LP, seeing a random release back in January for Holy Fawn was a pleasant surprise, though I was admittedly a bit let down with only getting 15 minutes. That said, I’ll take  what I can get from these Arizona black-gazers. 

This EP opens with “Candy”, which about 20 seconds in immediately puts  you back where their last record left off, with heavy atmosphere drowning out your thoughts, the noise in your house, seemingly everything in its path as it washes into you. This is an album that begs to be played LOUD, where it really fills the room and has a chance to open up. After the  large wash and heaviness, “Candy” comes back down and treats you to vocals with a distinct Chino Moreno vibe as the guitars pluck along softly and the drums provide a marching beat to push us along towards our destination, another almost sludgy heavy part, with the vocals transitioning to harshes just in time for the song to let us back down.

“Tethered”is maybe ironically named as such for being a 2 minute transitionary piece with no real discernable beat to ground the song, though it does tie the two longer songs together very nicely and succeeds in something a lot of these style of  transition pieces fail at, which is keeping attention and engagement throughout before leading us into the silence before “Blood Pact”. “Blood Pact” opens with almost electronic sounding drums and a guitar part which feels familiar yet fresh. The feeling of having left a forest and entered  into a meadow is what overtook me here as the vocals started softly creeping into the periphery of the song before cascading back into the harshes that give the blackened atmosphere to the music, and as the guitars beef themselves even more to really jam home the heavy part of this track. “Blood Pact” resolves itself with another electronic feeling drum part and allowing the previous riffs to die away naturally in what becomes a really nice let down from the last 15 minutes.

Overall I really enjoyed this album but found myself wishing for a bit more or maybe a bit more variety in the EP, though for a surprise 3 track release I can’t knock it too much. I can’t wait to see what they provide next.

Recommended tracks: yo it’s 15 minutes long so all of it
Recommended for fans of: Deafheaven, mewithoutYou, Sigur Rós
Final verdict: 8/10

Windmill – Dance of Fire and Freedom (Poland)
Style: Folk Metal (mixed vocals)
Related links: Bandcamp | Spotify | Facebook | Instagram | Metal-Archives page
Review by: Tyler

Holy Jeez, is this what folk metal is? Has it always been like this? I’ll admit, folk metal is outside the scope of my being. I took a chance on this for that reason alone, but if this is what it is, maybe I was right to stay away. Spoiler, I am going to contradict another review this edition, and talk about the production heavily because holy cow…

…This album shook me something awful. Truth be told, the pure folk parts are not bad. Interesting instrument choices and melodies that are well performed. But when they are mixed with the metal parts, it’s not good. The songwriting itself is incredibly cliched with riffs your grandad rocked out to and lack any sort of personality or ingenuity. The metal portions are a massive washy wall of sound wherein it is near impossible to distinguish between the guitars, basses, and drums. The tone on all three when you can hear them is pretty lackluster as well. The drums are all the way in the far back of the mix, and when they are audible, it makes me wish they weren’t. Somehow the guitar and bass are woofy? Like there are no highs anywhere, so the entire thing sounds like you are listening to a swamp. When the folk instruments come to play, it is a clashing, jarring mess that’s like eating chocolate and cheese at the same time; it just doesn’t work. I will give credit where it’s due, the vocals are done pretty well and fit both the folk and metal aspects. But overall, nothing here worked compositionally, technically, or spiritually.

I’m not going to dwell on this too long at all. I like to criticize, but the more I listen, the more I want to tear this limb from limb, and I’m not that guy. I wish it worked, because folk metal in theory is cool, but this was just not fun to listen to, and I struggled to finish it.  If you like folk metal, try it I guess. But I guarantee, there is some better sounding music out there. There has to be.  

Recommended tracks: nope
Recommended for fans of: nuh uh
Final verdict: 1.5/10

Marvelous Talking Machine – Burden (Portugal)
Style: Classic Prog Rock (clean vocals)
Related links: Bandcamp | Spotify | Official Website | Facebook | Instagram
Review by: Stephen

You know when you are listening to an album and there is one issue with the album that you cannot overlook? Well, that is the vocals with Marvelous Talking Machines album Burden. The biggest issues I had were on the timbre of the vocalist and the production of the vocals. The vocals stood out from the rest of the mix quite a bit for me, and it was very difficult for me to get past. Was the vocalist bad? No, it was just a combination of not being a fan of the style and the production not being as good on the vocals.

With that out of the way, there were a handful of things I liked about the album. First, there was some very nice instrumental work on the album especially on guitar. Burden had a very 80s-prog feel to it at times, and I think a lot of that was captured by the guitar tone choice on the album. The only issue I had with the guitar tone was that the clean tones in certain segments of the album could have been dialed in a bit more on the production side. The next thing I did like was that compositionally, this was pretty damn good. I’d really like to hear this album again if there was better production and the vocals were improved. The best example of this I can think of is the song “Winter Came”. I think this song is actually pretty awesome compositionally, but still had the same issues with the song that I mentioned before, vocal style and production. 

I think my favorite song off the album is the final part of the trilogy on the album, “Trilogia: Stasis”. This song compositionally was very cool, there was some awesome guitar work, it was the heaviest song on the album in my opinion, and the vocalist sang part of the song in a different style. On “Trilogia: Stasis” the vocalist sang parts of the song with a raspy voice, and I wish it appeared more on the album. It combated that nasilly issue I had with the timbre, and also made the production less noticeable. 

Overall, this will probably be an album I won’t come back to, but there are some flashes of talent shown on Burden. The vocal and production issues I had were too difficult to overcome, despite some of the cool compositions. I hope that the next album I hear from Marvelous Talking Machine fixes some of the issues I had. 

Recommended tracks: Trilogia: Stasis
Recommended for fans of: Anglagard, Camel, Yes
Final verdict: 5.5/10

Belore – Journey Through Mountains and Valleys (France)
Style: Folk/Post-Black (harsh vocals)
Related links: Bandcamp | Spotify | Facebook | Metal-Archives page
Review by: Dylan

In my opinion, there aren’t enough bands that add folk to post-black. It sounds like a match made in heaven, however, I have yet to find many bands that fully fusion both these genres into one piece of music. Belore however, is one of the few that does it. And you may wonder, how well do they do it??

I’d say, pretty good! This is far from the perfect blend of both genres, a masterpiece, or any other adjectives that are synonymous to that. The folk element is what keeps the album afloat most of the time, with its atmosphere being the biggest standout by a mile. The post black-ness of it feels kind of underwhelming in comparison, but it’s certainly nothing bad, it just feels that I’m in it for the folk rather than both genres. 

This may sound like I was underwhelmed by the album, but I actually wasn’t. The folk present is genuinely strong enough for me to genuinely enjoy almost every single track here. It gives the album a constant atmosphere that’s almost magical. It’s very delightful. The post-black part’s problem is that there’s hardly any noticeable guitar/bass parts, and that the vocals are… peculiar. They’re not bad, they’re just something you’re gonna have to digest before liking this album. But once I managed to digest them, I was thoroughly entertained by this release. It’s not amazing, it’s got it’s issues (a tad too long, questionable drum production), but none of those took away how enjoyable Journey Through the Mountains and Valleys is. 

Recommended tracks: The Bewitching Horns, The Howlings Fields, The Initiation Ritual
Recommended for fans of: Alcest, Agalloch
Final verdict: 7.5/10

Ereley – Diablerie (Czechia)
Style: Gothic/Industrial/Doom (mixed vocals)
Related links: Bandcamp | Spotify | Official Website | Facebook | Instagram
Review by: Matt

For this round of reviews, I tried picking albums a little differently, rather than just grabbing the comfortable genres. I won’t lie, I took Diablerie because I’m guessing they got the word from playing Vampire: The Masquerade. So far, I’m sticking with my theory, as this album has all the 90s edgelord qualities of that setting: Sort of goth, sort of industrial, with a hint of neoclassical, plus the album’s concept is about a person losing his soul and becoming a monster. We also get the singer repeating “get the fuck out of my way” a bunch of times, so there’s plenty of angst to go around.

Ereley have fashioned the term “heavy joy music” for themselves, which might be ironic… Everything here seems pretty gloomy to me, at least. The bands I’m most reminded of are Tool and Disillusion; specifically, it’s like Gloria without the annoying vocals. Singer Lukas Reda mostly uses a low growl, but has some convincing atmospheric cleans as well. Nothing here really approaches catchiness, but it is well-composed and pretty moody. I started feeling some monotony later on, especially in the vocal lines that hover around the V a lot, but if you’re a fan of this goth-industrial aesthetic, I’d definitely check Diablerie out.

Recommended tracks: Nephilim, Flames of Deliverance
Recommended for fans of: Tool, Disillusion (Gloria)
Final verdict: 6/10

Dimlim – Misc (Japan)
Style: Math/Alternative/J-rock (clean vocals)
Related links: Spotify | Official Website | Facebook | Instagram | RYM page
Review by: Josh

I’ve listened to a whole lot of bands who mix their bassist out of existence, but very few who opt out of having a bassist entirely, and even fewer who also have more than two members, to the point where I can count those bands on one hand. This month, I raised another finger. Enter Dimlim.

So, how does the bandhold up without one? Surprisingly well. The drummer takes up most of the lower registers, beating that kick drum like it owes them money. I think I even heard a few blast beats, which feel super odd for a genre like this, yet somehow, they work. One of the guitarists also pulls a slap bass imitation from time to time, doing some popping on their lower register strings, which works fine enough. Honestly, I didn’t even notice that there was no bassist until well past my first listen.

Despite the underpopulated low end, the band holds their own. Each guitarist has their own easily identifiable style, with one playing mathy tapping leads and the other holding down the rhythm section with some funk-influenced strumming. Heavier riffs are heard too, but they’re few and far between. Behind all of this is the excellent drummer, who exercises restraint when it fits the song, but goes all-out on fills whenever the chance presents itself. I sure hope their kick drum is a masochist. The vocalist is also a treat. Their voice is incredibly expressive, and on top of that they’ve got range. Some of their highs remind me of power metal at times.

The biggest fault of this album is that it simply comes across as too derivative compared to what’s out there. The mathy J-rock sound has been done to death, and while they do stray from it at times, too often this album sounds just like everything else. Some of those steps away from that J-rock sound also fall flat on their faces. The scratchy hip-hop sounds in an alt-rock context come off as overtly Linkin Park-esque, and not good era Linkin Park, either. I’m hopeful, though. I can see them putting out a great album once they’ve matured their sound more. This one, however, is solid, but nothing worth writing home about.

Recommended tracks: MIST, Tick Tak, Before it’s too late
Recommended for fans of: Closure in Moscow, Linkin Park; Kami-sama, I have noticed
Final verdict: 6/10

Mobius – Kala (France)
Style: Symphonic Djent (Clean vocals)
Related links: Bandcamp | Spotify | Official Website | Facebook | Instagram | Metal-Archives page
Review by: Jonah

Djent isn’t a genre in which I find myself often. Due to both intense oversaturation and a reliance on songwriting tactics that I’m not personally fond of. However, when a band takes the stale trappings of djent and injects them with something fresh and fun, I tend to take notice and usually enjoy myself. In the case of Mobius, this means making symphonic djent, something I don’t think I’d ever heard before this album.

Mobius plays a brand of djent that is clearly influenced by genre progenitors like Periphery and Tesseract, but bears equal influence from bands like Orphaned Land and more traditional folk music from various parts of Asia. This fusion for the most part works excellently, and is complemented by some absolutely exceptional vocal work from singer Heli. She has one of the best voices I’ve heard in the genre, and I keep getting her vocal lines stuck in my head every time I listen to the album. The rest of the performances are competent, although I would’ve loved to hear the guitarists break from the djent conventions quite a bit more than they do. The drumming is again, relatively formulaic but effective. I’ll be damned if I can hear the bass guitar for the majority of the album though, which is a major loss as I think that would have thickened up the music wonderfully. The folk and symphonic elements are pretty effectively executed and complement the heavier music shockingly well.

While I wouldn’t say I was blown away by this release, I was definitely both surprised and suitably impressed by a combination of genres that I didn’t expect to work this well. I’m sure those who enjoy the djent stylings more than I do will find even more to love, but honestly this is a damn fine album and I heartily recommend it.

Recommended tracks: Abhinivesha, Sharira, Bhati
Recommended for fans of: Rolo Tomassi, Mother of Millions, Azusa
Final verdict: 7/10

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