Happy New Year! With 2015 upon us, there is one retrospective task I absolutely don’t consider a chore! My favourite music site Prog Metal Zone publish a Top 50 albums list for the year just passed, and I take it upon myself to work through it to see what I’ve missed across the year.
The list is alphabetical and the first album on it I’d not heard is at #6 from Axial Lead and it’s a corker, well apart from the small nit that the lack of capitalisation in the title “of infamous credentials” pointlessly does my noggin in! Very progressive with both a heaviness but also quirky jazzy avant-gardism that makes it extremely listenable to. Heck it’s even a concept album around the memories of an escaped convict lost at sea, who washes up on the shores of a utopian island city! All clean vocals so nothing too scary, so why not take a listen!?
I listen to all sorts of music, and indeed listen to music as much of the time as I possibly can, but I do think it’s fair to say that majority of my listening in recent years has been to music that has the word progressive tagged on it somewhere. Said progressive tag spans a wide range of heaviness though.
The first couple of months of 2015 are already shaping up to provide some killer new albums from some of my favourite progressive bands, and the plan is that I keep this post up-to-date with impending releases that I’m looking forward too hereon.
Beardfish – +4626-COMFORTZONE– 12th January 2015
Beardfish still hold the crown as my most scrobbled band. They’re my favourite modern “traditional” prog rock, with a sound definitely anchored in the prog rock of the 1970s, but with more than enough contemporariness to make them sound like their own band. Their sound is anchored on twin guitars but also awesome Hammond organ as multi-instrumental lead singer Rikard Sjöblom switches readily between guitar and keyboards (which is why I’ve hankered after a Nord Electro 3 keyboard for a while). Their last album, The Void, was released in 2012 and marked their heaviest sound to date, bordering on progressive metal at times.
Two great albums on the same day … what am I going to do!? I’ve posted about my love of Sylosis before. Definitely at the other extreme of the progressive spectrum, Sylosis are progressive thrash metal, and I’m totally open about my fanboi adoration of Josh Middleton’s guitar playing. Their last album Monolith was released back in 2012. Apparently this new one is their “most pissed off album” lyrically, and so definitely something to scare the neighbours with when I’m out washing the cars! It’s also the first album with their new drummer, Ali Richardson, who’s sharing his time between Sylosis and his other awesome deathcore/metalcore band Bleed from Within.
Steven Wilson – Hand. Cannot. Erase.– 2nd March 2015
I absolutely adored Steven Wilson’s previous album The Raven That Refused to Sing (And Other Stories) from 2013 and, if you need a very special endorsement of something I listen to, Mrs ® Andy liked it too! Steven Wilson has his hands in lots of things across the progressive spectrum, including his solo albums, various collaborations, and also production including most of Opeth’s recent albums. Also of course there is/was his band Porcupine Tree, currently on hiatus. I’d characterise his solo albums as the best of contemporary prog rock though, whilst he composes all the music, practically his well established band make a clear creative stamp through their performances too. Just like The Raven That Refused to Sing, this new album is firmly anchored on a particular concept – in this instance the idea/reality that some people can disappear but be literally missed by no one!
After several weeks of listening non-stop to Spires’ awesome The Whisperer, I thought I’d better get back to my usual pursuit of finding interesting new music to listen to (though I am still on repeat on The Whisperer when I’m in the gym). My most frequent approach to finding new music these days is shockingly simply – I read the reviews on the excellent Prog Metal Zone. That Jeff Stevens, who principally runs the site, and I have similar tastes in music really helps!
As a small aside, last week I installed a really useful Chrome plugin called scroblr that scrobbles tracks played on Bandcamp and many other web sites. Often the smaller bands that Prog Metal Zone reviews publish their albums via Bandcamp, and so now I can directly listen to them on there and make sure my listens are correctly scrobbled through to last.fm. Probably daft but I like to think that my listening to somebody’s track is correctly accounted for in terms of listener numbers etc.
Anyhow, amongst the stuff I’ve listened to over the last few days, the new album from Ysma stands out. I’m going to be lazy since there’s a full review on Prog Metal Zone, but my summary would be glorious chilled late night dark room prog! The band reference numerous influences including Porcupine Tree through to Steven Wilson’s heavier buddies Opeth, but also classic prog including probably the first ever real prog band I was into – King Crimson. In a subtle way you can hear some of those influences across the album, though often it’s just in the tone/voicing of the instruments, and this album is in no way a derivative piece. Overall it’s a well balanced album with its own highly dynamic sound, with gentle acoustic guitar and piano via soulful melancholic solos through to crunching guitars, but never really straying truly into the world of progressive metal.