Well, it’s Soilwork, that’s for sure. This is a band that, as one of the forefathers of melo-death, has found a formula, and, by George, they’re sticking with it. Verkligheten hardly breaks any molds. With few exceptions, the track list sticks to predictable, simple riffing that smacks of early 2000s metalcore as well as to the band’s usual screamy verse/clean chorus structures. The few attempts to evolve their sound, including guest vocalists and a few retro riffs fail to keep Verkligheten from sounding like recycled (composted?) Soilwork. (more…)

Occasionally, I’m turned on to a truly unique act that I somehow missed, despite that act having a long and productive career. Such is the nature of progressive music—full of surprises, sometimes delivered as a sheer consequence of obscurity. The Norwegian group Madder Mortem is one of these bands. As I’ve only just now heard their music—on this, their seventh full-length releaseI’ll approach this review as objectively as I can, completely ignorant of their earlier catalog. (more…)

Not only did 2018 bring us the genesis of The Progress Report itself, but also myriad excellent new albums to bring into our listening rotation. We saw some new looks for some old favorites, and much maturation even amongst acts that have been around for more than a decade. Thankfully, there are still new avenues to explore in this, the most dynamic genre of music. With that in mind, let’s take a moment to reminisce about this year’s greatest offerings with my top five albums of 2018. (more…)

If The Magic School Bus was a German progressive death metal band, it would be The Ocean (or The Ocean Collective). Of all the ways one might be exposed to the geological periods of the Earth, the music of The Ocean is by far the most brutal, dramatic, beautiful, and entertaining. Phanerozoic I: Palaeozoic picks up where 2007’s Precambrian left off, continuing the epic chronological accord of the Earth’s geologic past in stunning fashion. Where Precambrian succeeds, Phanerozoic exceeds, surpassing all greatness already established by these titans of the genre, with this, the first of a two album package. We are treated to flawless and enthralling narrative structures, ever dynamic and dramatic passages that constantly excite and carry the listener along, aided by a diverse range of vocals and instrumentation that evolve yet remain rooted to the concept. (more…)

From the ever intriguing minds of Haken comes Vector, the British band’s fifth studio album. Clocking in at around 45 minutes, Vector is Haken’s shortest yet most dynamic full-length release to date. This succinct collection of seven songs takes the listener on a psychological roller coaster, focusing on themes of the mind from the perspectives of both the mentally wounded and their apparent psychoanalysts. Musically, Vector successfully delivers myriad tones ranging from an orchestral introduction, to catchy pop, punchy metal, and subdued melancholic passages. (more…)

Immersion, the latest from Belarus’ Irreversible Mechanism, has all the ingredients of a masterpiece without the refining touch of a true master. This album feels as though Irreversible Mechanism found the recipe for a Fallujah album in an issue of Martha Stewart Living and just went for it. All the ingredients are thrown in, from the ambient interludes to the technical guitars and tortured screams, but the doses aren’t properly measured, and the flavors aren’t adequately blended, unfortunately. (more…)

You may not have heard of MESTIS, but you may have heard the guitar stylings of Javier Reyes, the other guitarist alongside Tosin Abasi in the instrumental prog metal band Animals as Leaders. MESTIS is the side project of Reyes, and Eikasia is the second album under that moniker released through Sumerian Records, and it also features Eric Moore on drums. If you are looking for a companion to the heavier Animals as Leaders releases, you’ve come to the wrong place. Eikasia is a melding of instrumental jazz, relaxed atmospheric tones, classical guitar and a touch of proggy djent, in the same vein as Reyes’ previous release, Polysemy from 2015. Reyes delivers clean, groovy guitar with a couple muted surprises. My beef with this album is not in the talent of the artist, but is the same as it is with many instrumental prog acts. Eikasia is pleasant, but lacks the dynamics necessary to give the music any weight or to make it truly engaging. (more…)

One of the most interesting aspects of progressive music is how artists choose to deliver both message and melody. I often wonder how some of my favorite artists decide to marry certain verbiage to certain note progressions. Did they fall in love with a lyric and work to find a way to deliver it within a preexisting melody? Was that melody picked to emphasize the lyric, or perhaps the other way around? For whatever reason, some of the most interesting lyrical moments occur when a string of notes are delivered within the confines of a single word, syllables be damned. With that in mind, here are 5 of my favorite one-word melodies. (more…)

Although one can often find profound or illuminating ideas within the lyrics of progressive metal songs, occasionally one will encounter two opposing philosophies that cannot coexist. Not all of our favorite song writers have the same perspective on every issue, and some ideas are simply mutually exclusive.

I recently noticed such incompatible truth claims with the advent of Rivers of Nihil’s Where Owls Know My Name. In 2001, Devin Townsend made a declarative statement in the lyrics of the track “Canada” off the album Terria, the opening lines of which clearly state “The road; it’s home.” Now, in an apparent direct refutation of this sentiment, RoN state “you can never call this a home,” “this” seemingly referring to “the road” for a traveling musician. As these are both respected artists within the community, it behooves me to analyse and conclude on which writer is correct. (more…)

A few weeks ago, I reviewed IV by Grayceon. Now, we have another project made up of former members from Giant Squid, and in this case, Agalloch as well. Indie band Khôrada have come out with their debut album, Salt, and it’s a lot to chew. This is a band that’s difficult to categorize. They’ve been able to cultivate a unique sound, somewhere amidst post-rock, sludge, and black metal. Like the twisted, abstract face adorning its cover-art, Salt is perhaps summed up best in one word—tortured. It is in all ways somber, but often animated, captivating, and evocative. (more…)