66 releases, 11 highlights: May 2023 continues with an incredibly strong week!
Before we slide headfirst into the last release Friday of May 2023, here are our 11 highlights out of 66 releases overall from the previous week. Mystery, The Ocean, SHRVL, Ring of Gyges, Hrada, Tardigrade Inferno, Drott, Heretoir, Nattehimmel, Yakuza & Sleep Token! Now that’s what I call a massive release week! Dive in and don’t forget to subscribe to our weekly updated Spotify playlist: https://theprogspace.com/rotw-playlist
Mystery - Redemption
Why not start this release week with a prime purveyor of “Feelgood Prog”? Granted, Canada’s Mystery do have a sense of melancholy in their sound, yet it’s the one of the familiar, nostalgic, longingly beautiful kind. “Redemption” is their 8th album overall since 1996, with #4 (“One Among The Living”) and #5 (“The World Is A Game”), which came out more than 10 years ago, being absolute favorites of mine when it comes to a polished, pure, heartfelt neo prog sound. I have to admit that I didn’t care too much for the other two albums since then, even though they came in far from being dull or boring affairs. Maybe it was just me venturing in a bit more of an extreme prog direction in these last years. But every now and then, I still do enjoy those classic melodic sounds a lot, where everything is built around silky smooth vocal hooks, swathes of keyboard and synth layers and Gilmour-esque guitar leads and solos. And even though some of it might get a bit pretentious and cheesy, I can’t help but love every single second. Yes, there’s absolutely no doubt: last week saw the release of an excellent progressive rock album, and it’s definitely Mystery’s “Redemption”.
The Ocean - Holocene
Berlin-based post metal innovators, paleonthologists & anthropologists of The Ocean (Collective) can now (finally) be added to the evergrowing list of bands, who started out as an extreme metal band in one form or another, but adopted a more and more melodic style over the course of their multiple decades spanning career. Moreover, after the massive double strike of the “Phanerozoic” duology (2018/2020), and truth be told, a near-perfect run of perfect album spanning a whole decade starting with the “Heliocentric”/”Anthropocentric” double hit in 2010, also including the “Pelagial” deep dive into the unfathomable depths of the earth’s oceans, as befitting to their name, there has been some doubts, at least from my side, whether they were able to continue that artistic streak. Heavy, somewhat extreme outbursts take a further seat back on “Holocene”, the album that is said to conclude the era of The Ocean composing music about the earth’s different eras (and the oceans’ different layers), helping all those more mellow, moody passages and especially the build-ups to more gravitas and weight. And well, when they hit, they’ll hit even harder naturally. The 9-minute epic ‘Unconformities’ with vocalist (and Pelagic Records artist) Karin Park (Årabrot, solo) guesting in the first, delicate half while Loïc Rossetti’s anguished screams dominate the frantic second half. And thus, The Ocean prove single-handedly that they’re not only able to maintain their insane level of artistry, but at the same time further develop their signature sound. Just as hinted at with songs like the bridging ‘Holocene’ (sic!) on “Phanerozoic II”, the ambient sound design courtesy of Peter Voigtman is becoming more and more important to the overall The Ocean sound. And if, like me, you just can’t get enough of that part of The Ocean, there is a very special companion album that’s waiting for you after you’ve finished “Holocene”: read on in the following review!
SHRVL - Limbus
And then, SHRVL’s “Limbus” starts with delicate piano sounds. In comes an ominous, dark electronic, yet organic beat. And I know instantly, within the first two minutes of the album, that I’m gonna love it at least as much as The Ocean’s “Holocene” (see above). And even though I declared love at first sight (or listen rather), I was still not really prepared for what wonders were awaiting me over the course of the 45 minutes 41 seconds playing time of “Limbus”. Presenting another spin, an ambient exploration of “Holocentric” main themes, synth and sound guru Peter Voigtmann takes us on “…an ambient odyssey into the uncanny akin to The Caretaker’s “Everywhere at The End of Time“ albeit in a more accessible and digestible format. Melting together the electronic, the acoustic, the analog and the digital realm, “Limbus” is a warm but suffocating blanket that projects Kafka in technicolor and Massive Attack by way of Alice In Borderland.” And for once I see myself agreeing with the press text 100% and more. Diving a bit deeper into the background of the album, the very personal subject of clinical depression is quickly uncovered and with that knowledge, a listen through SHRVL’s “Limbo” becomes all the more deeply resonating and cathartic. Dive into a “Bermuda triangle between haunting beats, swirling synths and an old Russian piano” if you dare, spend some time in “Limbus”. But be careful not to drown in the Oceans of SHRVL.
Ring of Gyges - Metamorphosis
A musical pandora‘s box, going through various metamorphoses over the course of its 1 hour 2 minutes runtime is the aptly titled „Metamorphosis“ from Icelandic quintet Ring of Gyges. It’s the band‘s second full length album after 2017‘s „Beyond the Night Sky“, which I must have missed somehow back then, a mistake I’ll gladly correct now that I’ve discovered the wonderful musical world of Ring of Gyges. Equally inspired by all era‘s of prog starting from classic 70‘s stuff through less keyboard plastered neo prog all the way to modern prog (metal) heroes like Leprous and Haken. A kinship to the youngest generation of modern, melodic prog that can be heavy as well (when it needs to be heavy), like Ihlo, Rendezvous Point or French quartet Wyvern shows: Prog is alive, well, thriving, evolving and relevant as ever!
Hrada - Mirrorland
Can we just take a moment to appreciate the stunning artwork Pedro Correa created for Hrada’s debut “Mirrorland”? – Not only for the album, but also for some of the songs. And now, let’s search for a quiet place to enjoy the mesmerizing music that Peter Espevoll (former Extol vocalist) and Åsmund Janøy composed together. Stylistically, they’re clearly rooted into progrock, but skillfully weave elements of pop, classic, folk and jazz into their music to build up wonderful, often dreamy soundscapes, which easily could be used as a film score. The marvelous vocal harmonies and beautiful melody lines invite the listener to drift away, with the rich, yet playful orchestral arrangements offering many details to be discovered along the way, revealing more of their magic with every spin. Dive in and enjoy 🙂
Tardigrade Inferno - Arrival of a Train EP
“Never judge a book by its cover” are wise words, and in case of “Arrival of a Train” I have to admit that it sounds totally different than I’d have expected from the first visual impression. Yes, Tardigrade Inferno’s train rolls in heavy because of the fat guitar sound and the often pushing rhythmic, but it also comes along refreshingly cheeky thanks to the unique, theatrical vocal performance and the use of circus sounds like a creaking organ. The four, rather short songs, are full of contrasts, with a certain morbid charm on the one side, but also colorful and entertaining as only cabaret can be. Lyrically, they offer a farce, a body horror exercise about humanity, a post-apocalypse, and occult devilry, all presented with a good pinch of irony. Tardigrade Inferno are clearly not afraid to experiment in writing expressive, crazy music, and if you aren’t either in your listening habits, give them a spin to join their grotesque carnival. Katha
Drott - Troll
Darkly cinematic music out of Norway is delivered in spades on the second album of Norwegian supergroup of sorts, Drott. Featuring Enslaved’s Arve Isdal and Ulver’s Ivar Thormodsæter, Drott managed to captivate and mystify my imagination ever since I heard their first, self-titled EP two years ago. “Troll” is a psychedelic trip deep into the Norwegian woods, with a lot of variations on a universal musical theme (which, strangely enough, reminds me of the doomy main riff in Mystery’s ‘The Falling Man’ from “One Among The Living”, even though Drott’s overall sound is far too earthy and raw for any neo prog connotations), haunting cello and theremin sounds and trodding rhythms. It is definitely not a soundtrack to the recent Netflix production of the same name, it’s far too quirky and odd. But that is exactly the secret ingredient to their weird, wonderful and spooky charm.
Heretoir - Wastelands
Black Metal #1, the post edition: six years after their genre defining post black metal masterpiece “The Circle” and roughly three months after the re-release of their self-titled debut album, originally released in 2011, Heretoir are back with a sweet little EP called “Wastelands”. The three brand new songs cover the diversity of their sound perfectly, starting with the black metal part in the fierce opener ‘Anima’, continuing with serene, dreamy post rock throughout ‘At Dusk’, featuring guest vocals by Suldusk’s Emily Highfield, with the apocalyptic ‘Wastelands’ diving deep into deep, slow crushing doom riffs, without forgetting what came before. A blackened post doom anthem for the end of the world. Rounded off by three live in studio recordings of songs off “The Circle”, “Wastelands” clocks in at roughly half an hour of quality music that might make you either curious about their output so far if you dig any of the aforementioned genres, or if you are familiar with Heretoir already, it is a welcome stop-over hinting at even bigger things ahead. The post-apocalyptic world of the “Wastelands” is begging to be explored further.
Nattehimmel - Mourningstar
Black Metal May #2, the Norwegian edition: it seems like no band somehow loosely related to the legendary Green Carnation is able to come up with sub-par music. The line-up of Nattehimmel features the Botteri brothers on guitars and bass respectively, both part of the Green Carnation family, alongside their fellow Strange New Dawn timekeeper S. Rothe and brithish vocalist J. Fogarty (Ewigkeit, ex-In The Woods). Nattehimmel present a wonderfully melodic take on black metal on their debut album “Mourningstar”, out now through Hammerheart Records. The Night Sky Beckons. take in its bright glow and stare at it in awe and wonder.
Yakuza - Sutra
Chicago’s Yakuza are finally back after roughly a decade without new music, and here they are with their 7th full-length release, “Sutra”. This album further shows a pretty natural progression of their sound, as they have moved further away from the metalcore influences, and more into stoner/sludge territory. I hear lots of later-Mastodon and Dvne, plus a bit of 16 and Cave In as well. Of course, the one thing they hold true to their identity is the avant-garde metal approach, fusing elements of jazz-rock and prog into their sound, so no matter which direction they take, you can still tell it’s them. And honestly, after quite the wait for a new album, they did not disappoint with “Sutra”. I am particularly a big fan of their 2006 release, “Samsara”, with its manic aggression, crazy performances, and engaging jazzy jams, but if you’re looking for a nice combo of catchy hooks and good riffs, look no further than this one!
Sleep Token - Take Me Back To Eden
After a surge of popularity through social media in the metal community, Sleep Token return for their third studio album. “Take me Back to Eden”. Fronted by the enigmatic anonymous masked vocalist known only as “Vessel”, along with his other masked deity band mates, Sleep Token impose a mystifying lore through their music, centred around the mysterious god known as “Sleep”. Regardless of whether or not you buy into the lore surrounding the band, it’s hard to deny the commercial success of Sleep Token recently, and the unstoppable upwards trajectory the group are on.
Much like their previous two albums, Sleep Token continue to combine a mix of groovy R&B and trip hop hooks with metalcore breakdowns and djenty riffs, coupled with deep lyrics surrounding loss, defeat and renewal, Take me Back to Eden is a truly emotional gut wrenching experience. Vessel’s full range of vocals are clearly on display here, with plenty of gorgeous high notes in his cleans, and some seriously brutal death growls, it’s hard to compete with his vocal range when it’s executed so seamlessly. Their drummer (known only as “II”) also consistently proves why he’s one of the best in the business, with some of the nastiest chops in modern metal, he really is the backbone of the album.
Take me Back to Eden is completely unpredictable, with some lengthy tracks such as ‘The Summoning’ and ‘Ascensionism’ taking the listeners on journeys spanning through trap beats, filthy breakdowns, soft atmospheric piano passages, and even traditional prog rock sections. You only need to look at ‘Vore’ and ‘DYWTYLM’ to hear the clear contrast in their sound. One is a blisteringly heavy journey into Vessel’s dark twisted mind, coupled with face melting riffs and screams, the other a short synth pop track lead by hooks themed around love and regret. It doesn’t even feel like it’s the same band, and that’s what makes Sleep Token such a magical band to experience.
Take me Back to Eden is a fantastic end to their first trilogy of studio albums, starting with 2019’s “Sundowning”, and shortly followed by “This Place Will Become Your Tomb” in 2021, now in 2023, Sleep Token end the trilogy with their best record to date that truly shows who Sleep Token are. Sleep Token prove to show they don’t conform to any genres, and that they cannot be defined, they’re simply just Sleep Token, and that is the sound that has made them one of the most important and essential gateway bands into modern metal. I truly believe they have become one of the most forward thinking and progressive bands in metal right now.
Sleep Token are on top of the world, and love them or hate them, the sky is the limit for British masked deities. Who even knows what the future holds for Sleep Token next, and what Vessel has planned for the world to consume.
More releases for 19 May, 2023
- Omen Astra - The End of Everything (Moment of Collapse/Hypathreal Records) Bandcamp
- Arjen Lucassen’s Supersonic Revolution - Golden Age of Music Bandcamp
- Blindfolded and Led to the Woods - Rejecting Obliteration (Prosthetic Records) Bandcamp
- Yes - Mirror to the Sky (Inside Out Music)
- My Friend The Sun - The Orchestra of Life (May 15) Bandcamp
- Chronicle - Where Chaos Thrives (Mighty Music) Bandcamp
- Bend the Future - Sounds So Wrong Bandcamp
- Horizon’s End - The Great Destroyer Bandcamp
- Snow Child - Viscera Bandcamp
- Egor Lappo - Abandoned Corners (May 16) Bandcamp
- Dave Foster Band - Glimmer
- Sound of Strangers - Crossing Border (May 21, Dutch Music Works) Bandcamp
- Charonyx - Persistent Soul EP Bandcamp
- Fellow Robot - Misanthropioid Bandcamp
- Avidia - Sonitude EP Bandcamp
- Nospūn - Opus Bandcamp
- Giant the Vine - A Chair at the Backdoor Bandcamp
- Soft Power - Raw Bites (May 21, RRGEMS Records) Bandcamp
- Gozu - Remedy (Metal Blade Records/Blacklight Media Records) Bandcamp
- Lashless Lid - How to Dress in Fate EP Bandcamp
- Soulvapor - Soulscape Bandcamp
- Finte - Wie Das Endliche Treibt Bandcamp
- Mindvac - Mindvac EP Bandcamp
- Sacred Outcry - Towers of Gold (No Remorse Records) Bandcamp
- Botanist - VIII: Selenotrope (Prophecy Productions) Bandcamp
- Son Acido - I (May 18) Bandcamp
- The Spruce Moose - Pyramid Scheme Bandcamp
- Califone - villagers (Jealous Butcher Records) Bandcamp
- Maridia - Mouth of Ruin Bandcamp
- Radien - Unissa Palaneet (Svart Records) Bandcamp
- Gavial - Vor (Exile On Mainstream Records) Bandcamp
- Henget - Beyond North Star (Season of Mist) Bandcamp
- Vnder a Crvmbling Moon - I: Oblivion (Church Road Records) Bandcamp
- Golíat - Golíat III Bandcamp
- Thulcandra - Hail the Abyss (Napalm Records) Bandcamp
- Mystic Prophecy - Hellriot (Rock of Angels Records / Soulfood) Bandcamp
- Roadwolf - Midnight Lightning (Napalm Records) Bandcamp
- Moor - Heavy Heart (May 17) Bandcamp
- The Parlor - You Are Love and I Am You Bandcamp
- FORT - Once All Is Said and Done, We Still Draw Breath Bandcamp
- Vansidian - Reflecting the Shadows (Inverse Records) Bandcamp
- Bird Law - Disintegration Blues EP Bandcamp
- Sweet & Lynch - Heart & Sacrifice (Frontiers Music)
- Oak, Ash & Thorn - Eternal EP (Lost Future Records) Bandcamp
- Khanate - To Be Cruel (Sacred Bones Records) Bandcamp
- Elitium - Wrong (Gruesome Records) Bandcamp
- Lockstep - Arrival EP Bandcamp
- Age of the Wolf - A Pilgrimage to Nowhere Bandcamp
- Moonstone - Growth (May 17) Bandcamp
- Craving - Call of the Sirens Bandcamp
- Neal Schon - A Journey Through Time (Frontiers Music)
- Ghost - Phantomime EP (Fuzz Club Records) Bandcamp
- Leprous - Aphelion Live 2022
- PFM (Premiata Forneria Marconi) - The Event - Live in Lugano
- Miscreance - Convergence [Reissue] (Season of Mist) Bandcamp