Selah No More

sanguine hum
Now, in technicolor from Bad Elephant Music.

Back in the summer, I worried that 2018 would prove a very slow and quiet year for progressive rock, perhaps a moment of what the Old Testament would have called “Selah.”

2018 is now a month past its halfway mark, and the year is somewhere in its middle age, and it will only continue to age until that fateful day, December 31, inevitably comes.

From the perspective of progressive rock, it’s been a solid year, but not an outstanding year–at least in terms of studio releases.  Certainly, those released–from The Fierce and the Dead to Gazpacho to the Kalman Filter to Galahad to 3RDegree–have been excellent, to be sure.  But, they’ve been few, especially compared to the re-releases and re-mastered and re-packaged.

Perhaps, 2018, in the end, will prove to be a moment of all of us catching our collective breath.  Maybe what the Old Testament called “Selah,” pause.

I’m very glad, as of October 2018, to have been quite wrong.  Since July, a lot of greatness has happened.  In no particular order, here are the best albums released thus far (or close to it) since July.

  • Glass Hammer, CHROMONONAUT.  Perfect.
  • NAO, GRIND SHOW.  Spectacular.
  • Riverside, WASTELAND. Haunting.
  • Oak, FALSE MEMORY ARCHIVE. Stunning.
  • Sanguine Hum, NOW WE HAVE POWER. Sublime.
  • Nosound, ALLOW YOURSELF. Intelligent.
  • Haken, VECTOR. Crisp.
  • Shineback, DIAL. Playful.
  • IAMTHEMORNING, OCEAN SOUNDS. Quality.

And, we still have the new Flower Kings to look forward to.

Am I missing anything else for the second half of 2018?

 

Review: Rainburn – Insignify

Insignify

Indian progressive rockers Rainburn are a band who sit firmly within that region of emotive music which crosses the line between the plaintive sound of Porcupine Tree and the bluster of cinematic indie. Now on their second release, Insignify out on November 7th, they return to the age old trope of the concept album with a narrative, which feeds into the at times explosive music.

Telling the story that deals with issues of existentialism, the significance of human life, narcissism, craving importance, insecurity and the search for reason, you may consider it all a bit convoluted. At nearly 50 minutes long it does test your patience and you may find yourself drifting away from the main theme. Give it some due listening though, and you’ll find a concept which works to keep your attention.

Although thematically it’s difficult to keep up, within the music you find a way to enjoy this album. Cinematic in not just scope, but in drive, the peaks and troughs of a film are recast within some wonderful playing. Particularly good are the plaintive guitar solos, feeding off a classic sound developed by masters of prog, and given new life here. They are moments which lift the album to another level and become moments of transcendent emotion.

Rainburn can do heavy too and on the tumultuous end of “Suicide Note”, the devastating centrepiece of the album, they bring a new heaviness to prog rock which only the metal maestros dare explore. Unafraid to raise the tempo, it’s fascinating to listen to the way the band use their music as a kind of soundtrack of emotion, rather than a classic style of songwriting. They may veer on the more predictable side of prog, but at least they do it well.

There is plenty on Insignify to excite prog fans. It’s always difficult to deliver emotional music such as this without veering into cloying territory and with a concept verging on the slightly pretentious, you’re edging towards dodgy terrain. All dues to Rainburn for pulling this off in the main though, and if you’re willing to give it the time you’ll find plenty to keep you coming back. Pour yourself a drink, stick your headphones on, and lose yourself in the story for a while. You’ll enjoy it.

 

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Tin Spirits No More

wiredtoearth
Wired to Earth

Well, I hate this news, and I hate being one of those spreading the news.  Sadly, it’s true, however.  The Tin Spirits–one of the best bands of the past decade–has called it quits.  Dave Gregory posted this on social media just about 10 hours ago.

It’s with heavy hearts that we must let you know, after 10 years of making music together, Tin Spirits is no more. There’s been no dramatic fallout, we’re all still dear friends, but unfortunately the end can no longer justify the means. We’d like to thank everyone who has helped us and been there for us through the years, everyone who’s turned up to a gig, it’s meant more to us than you could ever know. We wish all of you the very best xx
From Mark, Dave, Dan and Dougie

The last public announcement–dated November 22, 2017–revealed that the Tin Spirits was then writing a third album.  I’m guessing we’ll never see any part of that album.  Again, what sad news.

For what it’s worth, here is my review of their second album.

https://progarchy.com/2014/08/29/scorch-ed-the-tin-spirited-triumph-of-icarus/

And, here’s an interview with Mark Kilminster.

https://progarchy.com/2014/07/27/a-pretty-decent-racket-an-interview-with-mark-kilminster-of-tin-spirits/

 

 

Joy in the Wasteland: Riverside’s Seventh

A Review of Riverside, Wasteland (Insideout, 2018).

wasteland by riverside
Wasteland, released two days ago.

At first, I was surprised that the two best (and best known, at least in American prog circles) Polish bands named their most recent albums, Wasteland. Well, ok, there’s a slight difference. Newspaperflyhunting named its album with a plural. Still, it must be more than a coincidence. Presumably, each took the name either from the Arthurian legends or from T.S. Eliot (who took his from the Arthurian legends).  Regardless, the title fits for most of our world of 2018.

Continue reading “Joy in the Wasteland: Riverside’s Seventh”

Album Review: Devcord – Dysthymia

Devcord - Dysthymia

Dysthymia, the debut studio album from Spillern, Austria’s one-man band Devcord, is a roller coaster of aural delight, distress, and progressive imagery that is bound to be a career defining moment.

The nuanced atmospheres and melodic sensibilities that composer Peter Royburger brings to each of the nine songs on Dysthymia are nothing short of brilliant. As the lines blur between romantic-classical period music, progressive metal, and almost ‘70s style prog rock it becomes apparent that Dysthymia is one of the most progressively challenging albums to be released in 2018, so far.

Songs like the opening “The Mortician,” which has a dark, eerie intro and powerful guitar riffs that evolve into orchestral stabs of Royburger’s vocals, demonstrate the ease at which Devcord slips in and out of catchy hooks and technically sound orchestral song writing.

The discourse between the dueling guitars — acoustic and electric — places the listener into perfect attunement with the melodies and growl vocals. Dysthymia sounds like chaos tamed and controlled. This works to the project’s advantage on album highlights — the title track and especially “Reaper’s Helpers,” where Royburger is structurally coherent enough to be catchy yet throw enough curve balls to keep you invested for the full 10+ minutes. “Fade” and “Jerk Pitch Rape” that close the record are impressive on all fronts, but the instrumentation on these two pieces is splendid.

It is not only technically challenging and perfectly executed as a piece of musical literature, but it is also an album that demands the listener’s attention and ability to think on a multitude of spectrums they may not be used to. Overall, Dysthymia is an album that takes the listener on a cerebral journey through many mysterious and technically awe-inspiring landscapes that not so many groups are able to achieve.

Dysthymia is available from Bandcamp here

https://bandcamp.com/EmbeddedPlayer/album=2235363591/size=large/bgcol=ffffff/linkcol=0687f5/tracklist=false/transparent=true/