Dario | Nov 22, 2023 | 0
September starts with a bang and an overflowing release week
Releases of the Week 35/2023 with Aviations, Toehider, Kaiju, Silent Skies, The Color of Cyan, The Grunions, From Grotto, Karmamoi, Ledmotiv, Minorarc, Empire State Bastard (ESB) & Dark Hall
Last week we had 80 releases in total and picked 8 highlights. This week, it’s ‘only’ 75 releases overall, but 12 highlights instead! No signs of any summer drought whatsoever! Check out our highlights with Aviations, Toehider, Kaiju, Silent Skies, The Color of Cyan, The Grunions, From Grotto, Karmamoi, Ledmotiv, Minorarc, Empire State Bastard (ESB) & Dark Hall and don’t forget to subscribe to our weekly updated Spotify playlist: https://theprogspace.com/rotw-playlist
Aviations - Luminaria
Boston based modern prog metal quintet Aviations took their time in between albums in order to offer their very best. So, five years after their sophomore effort, they present “Luminaria” and with it what should be a true breakthrough album. Five singles leading up to it, each one accompanied by self-produced, but no less damn professional looking music videos. One hour full of diverse modern prog metal oscillating between light-as-a-feather mathrock sounds, melodic djent goodness established firmly into the contemporary music landscape by bands like TesseracT and Monuments by now with occasional dips into heavier, more brutal territory (or, towards the other extreme, melodic immediacy borrowed from the post hardcore and dream pop/shoegaze direction) topped off by the occasional playful neoclassical tangent led by pianist Richard ‘Blumen’ Blumenthal and guitarist Sam Harchik, Aviatons have truly found their own voice combining all these influences to a true Aviations sound that is bound to be lapped up by the Euroblast, UK Techfest and Radar Festival crowd. Modern prog metal at its best, refreshing and inventive.
Toehider - XII in XII #02: "Snapshots from Beacontown Spring Dance '85” EP
One month after the first installment of Toehider’s XII in XII series comes, naturally, the second EP. Released to his patrons on Patreon back in March already, “Snapshots from Beacontown Spring Dance ’85” does hold up to the promise of its title: the four songs dive into 80s rock sounds galore, and while I’m a tiny bit reminded of Kyros by the first few opening chords, mastermind Mike Mills quickly takes a turn into ‘yes this sounds so dated because I want it to sound exactly like that’ territory. And I love it all the more for it. ‘You’d think I’d be used to it by now’, ‘it’ meaning Toehider churning out one banger after another. Well yes, on the one hand I might be kind of used to it by now. On the other hand, he never ceases to surprise and amaze. What a wonderfully contradictory combination. Let’s indulge in pure 80s nostalgia together, regardless whether we’ve experienced these glorious (or glorified?) times first hand or not.
Kaiju - K2
For their second album, Danish progressive metalcore four-piece Kaiju drew inspiration from the world’s highest summit, as “K2” can be seen as a metaphor for an immensely physical and mental feat, but also the spiritual mountain inside us all. With an opener like “Awakening Sign” they don’t need much time to wake up their audience… Especially the fat bass and dry drum sound push the songs forward coming along with complex polyrhythms, accompanied by a powerful, often dissonant guitar work. The vocals alternate between screams, growls and clean singing, giving each part the right expression. Over the next songs, they work well with these elements, wandering between metalcore and djent-driven progmetal, but also skillfully add thoughtful, atmospheric passages, as well as some amazing guitar solos. Sometimes, they tend to stay too long with a certain chord progression or melody line, but when they rock forward, or change tempo and atmosphere to support the message of their tracks, the music turns out powerful and intense. All-together, Kaiju present a strong, second album with a consistent concept and great sound, and songs like ‘False Truth’ or ‘Mirage’ showing their creative potential away from well-known metalcore paths towards more progressive song-writing and interesting sound structures. Welcome to join them on their metaphorical K2 climb.
Silent Skies - Dormant
“Dormant” is the third album already by Silent Skies, the transatlantic musical meeting of two kindred spirits – Evergrey’s velvet voice Tom S. Englund from Sweden and current Pain of Salvation/Avandra live keyboardist Vikram Shankar from the United States. What I believed to be a one off collaboration when “Satellites” came out in 2020 developed into a longstanding creative partnership and growing entity in itself apart from any other full blown band projects the two of them might be busy with elsewhere. Once again we’re treated to 10 beautiful, heartfelt cinematic pop gems that invite you for an extensive, immersive daydream. 10 songs that make you feel understood, not alone in your struggles. 10 songs that wrap you in a comforting blanket. Three surprising cover versions of well-known songs complete the package, as well as the occasional Raphael Weinroth-Browne finishing Cello touch. I was half expecting the last of the original songs, ‘The Last on Earth’, to break out in a Sleep Token djent riff any second, but alas, Silent Skies stick to their guns and to their very own pensive style. (Special shout-out to legendary cover artist Mattias Norén for this amazing painting!) Dreamy and soothing.
The Color of Cyan - Egress
In the wide world of music, there are plenty of post-rock bands, especially the ones with three-word-names. Some of these bands define the style and keep pushing its boundaries, while others, while still enjoyable, use the same formula over and over. One of the biggest challenges for the instrumental bands is being able to tell an interesting tale and create a mood without using words. This makes crafting remarkable post-rock tunes difficult, since lots of bands have already created the soundscapes that fit this style, making it hard to come up with something fresh. Nonetheless, a few bands are still striving and succeeding in this endeavour.
Today, I want to talk about The Color of Cyan – a name unfamiliar to me, but I was eager to explore as it’s always exciting to discover new music.
Formed in 2000 in San Juan, Puerto Rico, the band released their first full album, “Agape,” in 2021. Their second studio album, “Egress”, introduced me to their music. It can be described as cinematic post-rock, with symphonic elements that add that melodic aspect. To fully embrace such an album, I suggest lying down, closing your eyes, and connecting the music with imagery – that’s what I did.
The album has a cinematic structure, with some tracks starting gently, building up, and reaching climaxes (‘Sunwounds’, ‘When Autumn’), along with mellower, soothing pieces (‘The Crossing’). String instruments like violins, viola, and cello play a significant role – leading the way in some songs and setting the atmosphere in the others. I’ve always had a soft spot for string instruments in post-rock (similar to what’s found in EF or Toundra), and The Color of Cyan effectively infused emotions into their songs.
“Egress” is best enjoyed as a whole, much like watching a movie. It doesn’t feel like a random collection of songs, but more like a narrative with twists, turns, and emotional depth. Like a captivating film, this album managed to keep me engaged from start to finish. There was enough variety and atmosphere to keep me interested and eager to see what happens next.
The Color of Cyan managed to create an outstanding album that drew me back for multiple listens. The album’s strength lies in its atmospheric buildups, impactful moments, and the emotions it conveys. Similar to the constant movement of waves, it transitions from calm and serene (‘The Crossing’) to powerful and intense (‘When Autumn’), enhancing the emotional depth of the band’s storytelling. I highly recommend this album to all instrumental post-rock fans – it’s a worthwhile investment of your time, whether on a quiet Tuesday evening, while lying in bed, or during a stroll on the beach, if you are lucky.
The Grunions - Shadow Breaker
Proggy psychedelic fusion sounds, part 1: Canadian instrumental quartet edition. With a baritone saxophone as main lead instrument, The Grunions from Montreal are pretty unique as it is. Wait until you hear their own take on surf rock, 60’s spy themes mixed with jazzy and proggy bits though. Pretty weird mixture, huh? It sounds absolutely brilliant though and all the different influences merge seamlessly! From dreamy to thrilling to just downright fun tunes, “Shadow Breaker” is a really cool record for all those cool cats who absorb anything instrumental, jazzy and experimental. Also: was that just a jazzy iteration of the ‘I Was Made For Loving You’ theme in the final epic ‘Ophiuchus Spector’? I’m digging it big time!
From Grotto - Monuments of Our Time
Proggy psychedelic fusion sounds, part 2: Finnish trio edtion. From Grotto take us on a fun, relaxed journey on their fifth album “Monuments of Our Time”. From the classic psychedelic rock sounds in opener ‘Wildfire’, over wonderful guest piano passages from iamthemorning virtuoso Gleb Kolyadin and some special Finnish Flamenco vibes in ‘Turso’ all the way to a slightly Floyd-ish stoner finale with ‘The Unfolded Eye’, From Grotto definitely deserves your attention if you like anything remotely psychedelic and proggy. Would you like some ‘Dandelion Tea’? Yes please, absolutely!
Karmamoi - Strings From The Edge Of Sound
Usually when there’s the addition ‘Orchestral Version’ to a song, it’s a bonus track with boosted orchestrations in favor of the original ‘Band Version’, to be found as a ‘regular’ track on that album. Italian prog rockers Karmamoi have taken five songs from previous albums though and present them in Orchestral Versions alongside four brand new tracks on their newest, fifth album, “Strings From The Edge Of Sound”. Without being too familiar with the previous albums, thus not really knowing the original versions, I’m very impressed how well the new arrangements suit the songs, as if they were almost meant to sound like that all along. At the same time, the new songs don’t stand out too much, even though they’re not as orchestral as the others, so the album does work as a whole listening experience as well. A wonderful accomplishment and an excellent and refreshing addition to any serious progressive rock collection.
Ledmotiv - An Astronaut's Diary
Similarly orchestral, yet entirely different in comparison to the Italians of Karmamoi, Ledmotiv’s debut album “An Astronaut’s Diary” takes a whole lot of influences from traditional heavy metal rather than the smoother, mellower classic prog rock sounds. Hailing from Gothenburg (Sweden), the core trio’s self-declared aim is to continue the legacy of the great 80s metal bands and reach arena status. The release of a debut album certainly is one important step towards that ambitious goal. Writing for and especially recording with a huge classical ensemble is no easy feat for such a young up and coming band, financially, logistically and certainly also when it comes to the arrangements of the music. Ledmotiv have accomplished it quite impressively already with their debut album, so I’m looking forward to keeping an eye on them on their way to stardom.
Minorarc - Inclusions
Instrumental project Minorarc is the brainchild of Australian multi-instrumentalist Ivan Bullock, sonically exploring the wide fields of progressive rock, dark classical and modern electronic music, with some excursions into jazz and metal in between. What might appear like a weird selection of genres at first sight gets actually smoothly interwoven to wonderful, new soundscapes. “Inclusions” starts with the beautiful piano track ‘A Drizzle’s Vagrant I’, accompanied by light background string arrangements, followed by ‘Seven Times Burnt’, that has rough black metal chords besides bright neoclassical piano and guitar runs. ‘Meet the Blade’ offers a dense, dark orchestration, on which he lays shimmering melodies, and with the diverse drumming always serving the songs. The journey continues, takes us through the more uplifting ‘Three Times’ to the rather harsh ‘Bleeding Facet’ and an atmospheric ‘Triclinic’, before he closes the circle with a dreamy Part II of the opening track. While I wasn’t familiar with the work of Minorarc before, “Inclusions” was a pleasant surprise this week, offering an amazing soundtrack to drift away for a while.
Empire State Bastard (ESB) - Rivers of Heresy
Whilst he may be most recognisable for his huge stadium rock hits, Biffy Clyro’s Simon Neil has proved he’s leaving no stone unturned in the rock umbrella with his latest project, Empire State Bastard. Teaming up with touring bandmate and former guitarist/vocalist of Oceansize, Mike Vennart, as well as the mighty behemoth of a drummer that is Dave Lombardo (who needs no introduction), Empire State Bastard are the latest big supergroup in the world of metal. I was actually lucky enough to see ESB live on their 2nd ever live performance to the public, which was performed to about 200 people at a tiny venue known for creating massive names. It was intimate, raw, and very sweaty. And that really translates to the album listening experience too. The music here really defies genres, spanning from Napalm Death inspired grindcore to elements of mathrock and hardcore. On a surface level, it may seem like incoherent nonsense, and honestly sometimes it probably is, but multiple listens of this bizarre experiment reveals a lot of melodic grooves and progressive elements like time signature changes tying back to their mathrock influences. I also love how raw this album is. In a world of overproduced modern metal all sounding as clean as controlled as possible, hearing Dave Lombardo shred the drums sounding exactly like he would in the studio along with Simon Neil’s incoherent screaming is actually very charming oddly enough. I really applaud their willingness to make an insanely chaotic raw heavy album without any sparkle or fancy gimmicks, just 4 extremely talented musicians going at it hard. This may not be for everyone, but give it a try and dig a little deeper to reveal the beauty within the insane chaos.
Dark Hall - Dark Hall (2023 Remaster)
Ever wondered how metal legend Steve DiGiorgio’s insane bass chops would sound in a proper fusion/jazz rock environment? I have, many times, and thanks to Subcontinental Records we are able to witness this match made in heaven by way of the remastered tunes from the untitled 1998 Dark Hall demos. Formed in 1994 in the San Francisco bay area, this instrumental fusion project not only features some masterful, exuberant bass extravaganza courtesy of Steve DiGiorgio, but also equally amazing performances by just as skilled players on drums, guitars and saxophone/flute. A true gem, unearthed.
More releases for 01 September, 2023
- Polymorth - Palimpsest Bandcamp
- Adriatic - Krilé Bandcamp
- Timechild - Blossom & Plague (Mighty Music Records) Bandcamp
- VAK - The Islands (Indie Recordings) Bandcamp
- Randy George - Beyond Words Bandcamp
- Lyft Trio - Nord Bandcamp
- Odd Circus - Viridian (Aug. 29) Bandcamp
- Collyn McCoy - Taco Supreme Bandcamp
- The Bleak - Everything Is Great Being Alive Is Wonderful Bandcamp
- DJ Goku - 2 Sad 2 Make Crepes EP (Bormsen Records)
- Soen - Memorial (Silver Lining Music)
- Atrahasis - Ziusudra EP (Sept. 02) Bandcamp
- Mnira - Malignant Panacea Bandcamp
- Nexus Insidias - The Attested Atrocity Bandcamp
- Tragic Forms - Arms 'Round The Armistice Bandcamp
- Outergods - A Kingdom Built Upon The Wreckage of Heaven (Prosthetic Records) Bandcamp
- The Sound That Ends Creation - Exactly What You Thought, But Worse Than You Imagined Bandcamp
- Fierce Atmospheres - The Speed of Dreams (Aug. 29, Sliptrick Records) Bandcamp
- Obscure Sorrows - Obscure Sorrows (Aug. 28) Bandcamp
- Smoke the Light - The Great Never Ending Bandcamp
- Spiral Shades - Revival Bandcamp
- Spider Kitten - A Pound for the Peacebringer Bandcamp
- Phantom Druid - The Inner Landscape of Death Bandcamp
- Blessed Black - Seasons Vol. 1 EP Bandcamp
- Weird Tales - Second Coming, Second Crucifixion Bandcamp
- Symbiotic Tomorrow - Rise of the Pharaoh Bandcamp
- Razumikhin - Self Made Monster Bandcamp
- Heads for the Dead - In the Absence of Faith EP (Pulverised Records) Bandcamp
- Lord of Shadows - Echoes of Yore Bandcamp
- Asidie - A Restless Mind Bandcamp
- To Be Gentle - Aural Trauma and Anti-Sound Bandcamp
- Arcas - Where The Silence Once Shone Bandcamp
- Crestfallen - Melancholia Bandcamp
- Micarlla II - The Martyrs Bandcamp
- Black Birch - Black Birch EP Bandcamp
- The Last Oblation - ÆSIR Bandcamp
- Enterré Vivant - Shigenso (Antiq Records) Bandcamp
- Transcending Rites - Trinity and Ecstasy Bandcamp
- Borealys - L'héritage Bandcamp
- Białywilk - Zmora Bandcamp
- Imperial Crystalline Entombment - Ancient Glacial Resurgence Bandcamp
- Kilta - Varjorjen Laulu Bandcamp
- Undergang - De syv stadier af fordærv Bandcamp
- Reverence to Paroxysm - Lux Morte (Aug. 31) Bandcamp
- Crucible of Hate - The Unknown Path Bandcamp
- Show Me Wolves - All Roads Lead To The Same Grave EP Bandcamp
- Demoniac - Nube Negra Bandcamp
- Repentance - The Process of Human Demise Bandcamp
- Strike Master - Tangram Apocalypse Bandcamp
- Steamachine - City of Death Bandcamp
- Sprain - The Lamb As Effigy Bandcamp
- Bigstrut - Bigstrut (Aug. 30) Bandcamp
- Defueld - Octagon (Ninetone Records)
- Mind Swell - Hands of Fire Bandcamp
- Mind/Knot - Esigenza Bandcamp
- Polaris - Fatalism
- Blanket - Blue Eyes EP Bandcamp
- Pyrex - Noise For No Reason Bandcamp
- Slowdive - Everything Is Alive Bandcamp
- name - Internet Called the Audio Star (2023 Remaster) (Silent Pendulum Records) Bandcamp
- Firewind - Still Raging - 20th Anniversary Show (AFM Records)
- Misery Signals - Live in Isolation Bandcamp
- Amplifier - The Old Forge Sessions Vol. 4 (Rockosmos) Bandcamp