It doesn’t get blacker than Zeal and Ardor. As far as I can tell, this is the first and only negro spirituals plus black metal act out there. Manuel Gagneux originally started Z&A as a solo project in 2014 more or less as a dare from a 4Chan user, who suggested Gagneux combine “black metal” and “ni**er music.” Now in 2018, we get Stranger Fruit, the first full-length release from this very real band. (more…)

Amorphis is one of those bands that I can never tell whether they take themselves seriously or not. I’m thinking they do. This is a band that really wants you to know how much they love their homeland, Finland. The lyrics to Queen of Time, their 13th release, are vague in every way, but undoubtedly celebrate a romantic idea of the medieval Finnish adventurer. The music is over the top epic, with full orchestra, and a smattering of traditional folk instruments. Basically, if Skyrim was a metal band, it would be Amorphis. (more…)

From time to time, bands like to give props to their influences in the most entertaining way possible—the cover. It’s particularly great when one of your favorite current bands covers one of your favorite classic bands. Whether with a fresh, modern twist on a psychedelic seventies track or with something more analogous to the original, these covers give us new perspective on the songs we’ve been hearing for decades. With that in mind, here are my top five favorite modern covers of classic progressive songs: (more…)

Well, if you haven’t heard of Grayceon, you are not alone. As of this moment, their full-album video of IV on YouTube has a whopping 310 views, at least a dozen of which are from me. They are indeed a unique band, and I’ll let them describe themselves—from their bandcamp page: “Atypical three-piece from San Francisco comprised of electric cello, guitar, drums, and vocals. Pulling together an extremely diverse range of musical influences, Grayceon’s sound defies the boundaries of the metal/rock/progressive genres. Screaming melodic lines over distinct guitar ‘chunk,’ doom riffs, jazz chord progressions, intricate folk-like delicacies, and just about everything in between.” Well said. (more…)

It turns out, hip-hop doesn’t have a monopoly on guest vocalist appearances. Because progressive music emphasizes both experimentation and dynamic contrast, artists inevitably seek out different voices to add to their songs. Many of the following artists are fans of each other, and have toured together in the past. It’s always a fun surprise when one of your favorite singers from a relatively obscure band shows up on the record of another one of your favorite, relatively obscure bands.

I chose these songs based on a couple criteria. First, how awesome is the song? Is it worth my time? The answer has to be “yes.” Second, how essential is the guest appearance to the success of the song? Does it lend something the band couldn’t present otherwise that really makes the song? With those criteria in mind, here’s my top 5 guest vocalist appearances: (more…)

Remember Dimmu Borgir? Well they’re back, in prog form. Eonian is Dimmu’s first album in eight years, following 2010’s Abrahadabra. What sets Eonian apart? Well, simply put, this album sounds more like Epica than Dimmu. They’ve gone whole hog, banking on big choral vocals, strings, horns, keys, and there’s guitar in there, too. (more…)

Does China djent? Apparently. Von Citizen, an instrumental djent band out of Guangzhou, China, have dropped their debut album, Sentience, and it’s a pretty good one. Von Citizen is basically Intervals, Scale the Summit, and Joe Satriani merged into one. The music utilizes a lot of guitar layers and atmospheric synth to create vast but clean soundscapes that are regularly grounded by groovy, punchy djent rhythms. So, by no means is Von Citizen original, but I do think they masterfully combine a lot of what is good in the instrumental djent world, working in the tradition of Animals as Leaders and Cloudkicker. (more…)

Ámr is the seventh full-length album from Ihsahn’s solo work away from Norwegian black metal band, Emperor. Ihsahn has consistently been putting out quality albums roughly every two years, and Ámr lands 25 months after his most recent, well-received album, Arktis. (more…)

One of the beautiful things about progressive music is that it expects listeners to have more than a three minute attention span. These artists understand how to craft songs that are meant to be listened to in succession. Sure, it’s great to enjoy an à la carte selection from time to time, but many artists intend their albums to be greater than the sum of their parts.

For the committed listener, there is no greater pay-off than absorbing an entire album front to back, and discovering all of its secrets. One of the most powerful elements tying a concept together is the motif—those great moments when you notice something familiar, either consciously or subconsciously.  With this in mind, I present to you my top five favorite prog metal callback moments: (more…)

It’s been 14 years since A Perfect Circle’s last album, eMOTIVe. Now, after over a decade of hiatus, vocalist Maynard James Keenan and guitarist Billy Howerdel have realized a new vision for their collaboration. Eat the Elephant is a different beast altogether. It is by far the band’s softest and most poppy album, squashing any hope for a return to the likes of Mer de Noms. For better or worse, the APC of 2000 is gone. (more…)