2018’s In Contact by Caligula’s Horse was one of the band’s greatest releases to date—a carefully crafted album that tackled many themes both lyrically and musically. One of the album’s most memorable songs is a fifteen and a half minute epic that carries some of the most provocative imagery. I was struck by how viscerally I connected with the emotions of the song’s voice even upon the first listen. This is a song that merits a deeper look, and although the pronouns in the narrative are often impossibly vague, even the cryptic nature of the lyrics is intriguing—forcing the listener to examine the relationships therein in attempt to better understand the experience of the characters. Lyrically, “Graves” is a deeply interesting song that uses the metaphor of rival stone masons to examine the costs of obsession, and the fear of failing to realize one’s ambitions, particularly in regards to maintaining healthy fatherly relationships. (more…)

Keep a dictionary handy for this one. Time to bone up with Allegaeon’s newest release, Apoptosis. With this, his sophomore performance, Riley McShane solidifies himself as the band’s fully-capable, and versatile vocalist. The guitar licks on the fifth studio album from Allegaeon are fervent as ever, and we are treated to some excellent melodic passages that break up the intense, sonic assault of scientific jargon with sophistication—evidence of a consistently excellent band still at the top of their game. (more…)

Of all the eccentric ambassadors for progressive metal out there, Devin Townsend is certainly the most theatrical, and one of the most prolific. Depending on how you count them, Empath is Townsend’s 26th full-length album, and devoted fans will be pleased to see he’s showing no sign of slowing down with this one. More reminiscent of 2011’s Deconstruction than anything else, Empath pulls from much of Townsend’s successful sounds and brings us an intriguing and inspired concept about the uniting qualities of shared human experience. (more…)

Undying Light, by Fallujah, has been this writer’s most anticipated album since first hearing of the departure of standout death metal vocalist Alex Hoffman. Would the band maintain an unmatched level of excellence and innovation, taking the next evolutionary step and weathering their personnel change in stride? In a word—no. New vocalist, Antonio Palermo’s higher pitched screams fail to excite the way his predecessor’s did, often bleeding into the guitar riffs, which themselves are repetitive and droning. The technical skill of the band is not in question, but the songs themselves feel uninspired and rarely distinguish themselves from one to the next, leaving Undying Light the least engaging, surprising, and memorable album of an otherwise intimidating catalog. (more…)

The opening riff of Lotus sums up the album fairly well. Though the riff is technical and groovy, the guitar tone itself has a certain stank to it—a lingering, though not altogether unwelcome, stank that permeates the entire album. Lotus is generally more soulful than its predecessors, emphasizing passionate vocals and bluesy guitar sections, occasionally to a fault, but often successfully playing off precise, progressive riffs. (more…)

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…)