Chasing record after record: 69 releases overall this week including 10 highlights, 111 mini reviews so far this year!
This week’s 10 highlights span from avant-garde violin artrock supergoroup (Ultraphauna); atmospheric artpop (Stefano Panunzi feat. Pat Mastelotto & Jakko M. Jakszyk); avant-garde extreme jazz metal (Sarmat); Volkor X‘s new metal project Draxhan; atmospheric prog metal with Echoes & Signals; majestic death metal from Dutch newcomers Neverus; more melodic progressive death metal with Orpheus Omega from down under; groovy, funky, spacey instrumental prog with a retro sci-fi feel with Space Junk Is Forever; more ambient artpop with Michael Whalen feat. Michael Manring & more and finally another super slo-mo doom epic from the legendary Bell Witch! With today’s Releases of the Week edition and the 10 fantastic highlights, we also reached 111 mini reviews in total for this year alone so far, so I think it’s safe to say that we will easily crush last year’s record of 200 mini reviews total. Dive in and subscribe to our Spotify playlist if you haven’t done so already: https://theprogspace.com/rotw-playlist!
Ultraphauna - No No No No
Easily and by far my favorite album of this week is “No No No No”, the debut from a brand new band called Ultraphauna. Fronted by violinist Timba Harris (Secret Chiefs 3, High Castle Teleorkestra and many more…) and vocalist/keyboardist Dorothy Wave, completed by a fantastic rhythm section with Kayo Dot’s Toby Driver on bass and percussionist/drummer Joel C. Murray, “No No No No” is one hour and eight minutes of pure avant-garde art pop awesomeness. Touching violin prog metal à la Indukti (‘Collidascope’), suddenly going bombastically cinematic with timpani and brass sounds coming from a rather electronic synth beat (‘Im You Now’), or embracing influences from all around the world, this album is a true treasure chest and each of the then songs shows a distinct personality and different side of Ultraphauna’s sound. Four incredible musicians that set out to create fantastic new sounds where their individual sonic universes meet. An immersive journey through colorful universes of sound. Yes Yes Yes Yes! Give me more of that! (The quartet is currently on tour in Europe, check out the dates right there!)
Stefano Panunzi - Pages from the Sea
Just last weekend at the fantastic Prognosis Festival in the Netherlands, legendary King Crimson drummer Pat Mastelotto (who had just performed there with his other band O.R.k.) told me about this upcoming album from italian keyboardist Stefano Panunzi. And sure enough, here it is already! “Pages from the Sea” is a beautiful art pop record, full of ambient keyboard tapestries, wonderfully bubbling fretless bass (courtesy of Fabio Fraschini), the occasional Jakko M. Jakszyk (also King Crimson) guesting here and there and Mastelotto’s unique signature drumming style to spice it up even more. So if you’re into any of the aforementioned bands, Peter Gabriel’s solo albums or David Sylvian’s sound, this one should be right up your alley.
Sarmat - Dubious Disk EP
By far the craziest highlight this week is another I, Voidhanger Records find, a small italian label that seems to prove almost weekly how well and thriving the extreme avant-garde underground is these days. Sarmat’s curiously titled “Dubious Disk” EP is apparently nothing more than a little teaser for the band’s imminent full length debut “Determined to Strike”, but what a teaser it is! 17 minutes improvised live in Colin Marston’s studio, running the full gamut from jazz to extreme metal and back again with ease: if this is any indication of the quality of the music on the full length album, oh boy are we in for an insane treat of avant-garde extreme jazz metal. No wonder, if people from Imperial Triumphant and Artificial Brain are involved here. Crazy stuff!
Draxhan - Transmutations Act I EP
Admittedly, the sound aesthetics of French synthwave pioneer Volkor X have always been pretty metal, despite the absence of riffing guitars. So it seemed only a matter of time until he came out with a little metal side project. Draxhan is that side project, and the first epic little EP, “Transmutations Act I” just dropped. Volkor X synth swathes and epic and slow-yet-forward-driving post metal is truly a match made in heaven and while the title track sounds like a Floyd-ish interlude, the final ‘Blackened Stars’ is bringing the full metal epicness The Ocean style. Great match of vocal styles between Volkor X and the second part of the duo, Sab Elvenia. Excellent guest guitar solo as always on Volkor X records as well, with returning collaborator Sylvain Coudret (Soilwork), Aurélien Edouard (The Great Old Ones) and of course Lucas de la Rosa (Archætype). Bring on Act II! Or new Volkor X stuff, I don’t care, anything is poised to sound excellent, no doubt!
Echoes and Signals - Lunar
Atmospheric, melancholic, electronically tinged prog metal comes from Echoes and Signals this week. “Lunar” is the title of the follow up of 2021’s acclaimed “Mercurial” and sees the band changing into more or less of a one-man project by Fedor Kivokurtsev, whose wonderful timbre reminds me a bit of a less overbearing, more delicate version of Mick Moss. Musically, Antimatter could indeed also be a good reference point (or rather a slightly proggier version of it), whereas I feel that the electronic and synthesizer elements are granted more room to unfold and really shine compared to “Mercurial”, but then again it’s been a while since I listened to it, so I could be mistaken. An emotional vocal delivery, excellent songwriting, production and musicianship all around makes “Lunar” a compelling new album and reminds me that I should pay “Mercurial” another visit, as I remember liking it just as much.
Neverus - Burdens of the Earth
During last year’s Progpower Europe, a Dutch band called Neverus played their first show ever, and caught the audience by storm with their powerful music and entertaining performance. Nevertheless, we had to wait 6 more months for the release of their debut album, which is called “Burdens of the Earth”, and offers some serious listening fun. The general theme is about the balance of control between people and their surroundings, with each track taking a different perspective on this. Sonically, the songs are straight-forward, accessible yet diverse, presented with a mighty sound, great musicianship, and an infectious joy in their playing, especially during the guitar solos. The vocals switch effortlessly between full-sounding growls and clean, sometimes polyphonic singing. My favorites would be ‘Banish and Burn’, ‘Lazarus’ and ‘Temptation’, but at the end of the day the album has a great dynamic when listened as a whole, also because of the instrumental, playful interludes that give moments to rest in between. So if this is “majestic death metal” (that’s how Neverus call their music), I like it a lot – Worth to crank it up!
Orpheus Omega - Portraits EP
Having already 4 full-length albums and an EP under their belt, April 20 saw Australian melodic death metal act Orpheus Omega unleashing their newest offering “Portraits”, on which every band member contributed one song in its entire vision and execution, and features guest appearances of Andy Gillion (Ex-Mors Principium Est), Björn ‘Speed’ Strid (Soilwork / Night Flight Orchestra) and Jim Grey (Caligula’s Horse) as well as Jukka Pelkonen and Markus Vanhala (Omnium Gatherum).
The songs are as individual as the five musicians behind Orpheus Omega, all varied in their compositions, but nevertheless the EP is a strong unit, melted together by the beautiful, fitting cover artwork and a mighty, yet detailed production. While the basis is clearly high-energetic melodeath with mind blowing riffs, hard-hitting rhythmic and vigorous, harsh vocals, there is still plenty of melody thanks to the virtuoso guitar and keyboard solos and the awesome background orchestration. The clean sung parts deliver a good pinch of catchiness, and you can also find a more modern approach, as they sometimes add electronic or slight core elements. All-together, “Portraits” is a short-whiled, vibrant listen, recommended ffo of the genre and beyond.
Space Junk Is Forever - SJF4
Space Junk Is Forever is a Massachusetts based project founded by organist Jordan Holt and they play groovy, funky, spacey instrumental prog with a retro sci-fi feel somehow. Their fourth album, simply entitled “SJF4” is out now on YouTube and highly recommended for any space and synth prog lover to dive into. Just pure joy listening to it. Close your eyes and float in space, but beware, you gotta dodge the space junk… 😉
Michael Whalen - Our April Tigers
More instrumental keyboard centered prog, but this time more focused on ambience and textures: Michael Whalen presents his new album “Our April Tigers”, and this time around, he has enlisted none other than the legendary Michael Manring to grace the songs with his beautiful fretless bass sounds. Electronic ambient artpop for the connoisseur. The simplistic cover artwork design looks like it could be released by the legendary German ECM label, which it isn’t, but it would definitely be a good fit on their roster as well.
Bell Witch - Future's Shadow Part 1: The Clandestine Gate
And the bonus highlight of this week goes to Bell Witch’s new epic doom monster that is the 1 hour and 23 minutes spanning song/album “Future’s Shadow Part 1: The Clandestine Gate”. I think the first drum beat appears somewhere after around eight minutes in, and most of the time it feels like the antithesis to the alarming trend of declining attention spans. You probably could watch at least one full TikTok video in between snare hits. That is in the fast parts, mind you. For the first ten minutes, I had no idea where this was going, but then suddenly it pulled me in and didn’t let go. Step through The Clandestine Gate if you dare!
More releases for 21 April, 2023
- Jethro Tull - RökFlöte (Inside Out Music)
- The Book of Revelations - The Plumes of Enceladus (Conquest Music)
- Phaeton - Between Two Worlds Bandcamp
- Nerve End - The Cycle (Apr. 20) Bandcamp
- Night Fishing - Live Bait EP (Brutal Panda Records) Bandcamp
- The Eating Cave - The Miscalculation Bandcamp
- Dimwind - The Futility of Breathing Bandcamp
- MMXX - The Next Wave EP (Candlelight Records) Bandcamp
- The Revenants - Ghosts
- Dawn of Ouroboros - Velvet Incandescence (Prosthetic Records) Bandcamp
- Svntax Error - The Vanishing Existence (Bird’s Robe Records) Bandcamp
- Pestifer - Defeat of the Nemesis (Debemur Morti Productions) Bandcamp
- Magnify the Sound - Don’t Give Us That Face (Crispin Glover Records)
- Xavier Boscher - Starseeds I Bandcamp
- Perma Grin - Ode to Entropy Bandcamp
- Amala - Shell, Elapse, Haze, Aeon EP (April 19) Bandcamp
- Bandit - Siege of Self (Apr. 20) Bandcamp
- Legs on Wheels - L E G R O O M (Apr. 22) Bandcamp
- Nebulae Come Sweet - De Lumiere (April 20) Bandcamp
- Portrayal of Guilt - Devil Music (Apr. 20) Bandcamp
- Terms - All Becomes Indistinct (SKiN GRAFT Records) Bandcamp
- Ogives - La Memoire des Orages (Sub Rosa Label) Bandcamp
- The Ladderman - Figures on Demand
- As Everything Unfolds - Ultraviolet (Long Branch Records) Bandcamp
- Predatory Void - Seven Keys to the Discomfort of Being (Century Media Records) Bandcamp
- Dione - Cosmosphere EP (Apr. 22) Bandcamp
- Brand of Sacrifice - Between Death and Dreams EP
- Atavistia - Cosmic Warfare Bandcamp
- Off-Nominal - Off-Nominal Bandcamp
- Ruby Dawn - Beyond Tomorrow (Apr. 20) Bandcamp
- These Beasts - Cares, Wills, Wants (Magnetic Eye Records) Bandcamp
- Daydream Flights - The Garnet Bracelet (Apr. 22) Bandcamp
- Fall of Earth - From The Ashes
- Wakki - Taxonomi EP (AudioMaze) Bandcamp
- Ox en Mayo Alto - Vulpes: del fuego, quebrador del Hielo 9 EP Bandcamp
- Deep Space Destructors - Voyage to Innerspace (Apr. 19) Bandcamp
- Projekt Gemineye - What Lies Beyond Bandcamp
- Slung From a Tree - Voyage Into Cosmos (Apr. 20, Cursed Monk Records) Bandcamp
- Black Moon Circle - Leave the Ghost Behind Bandcamp
- Jonathon Stewart - Syncopated Angel (No Remorse Records)
- Overman - it is all overman Bandcamp
- Terzij de Horde + Ggu:ll - Van Grond EP (Apr. 22) Bandcamp
- Dominic Miller - Vagabond (ECM Records)
- Count Hamilton - Gnomeboy Bandcamp
- ALL HANDS_MAKE LIGHT - Darling the Dawn (Constellation Records) Bandcamp
- Tanith - Voyage (Metal Blade Records) Bandcamp
- Saint Deamon - League of the Serpent (AFM Records)
- Allochiria - Commotion (Apr. 23, Venerate Industries) Bandcamp
- E U X - Mor(t)sang Bandcamp
- Korribann - Autarkeia Bandcamp
- Birdflesh - Sickness in the North (Everlasting Spew Records) Bandcamp
- Evermore - In Memoriam (Scarlet Records)
- Axel Rudi Pell - The Ballads VI (Steamhammer/SPV)
- Cilvarium - New Beginnings (April 18, Sliptrick Records) Bandcamp
- The Devil’s Trade X John Cxnnor - Live at Roadburn 2022 (Pelagic Records)
- Car Bomb - Live in Santa Cruz Bandcamp
- Circle of Sighs - Performs an Invocation Bandcamp
- ten56. - Downer (Deluxe)
- The Mars Volta - Que Dios te maldiga mi corazon