Nine Circles ov…Prog Rock in 2019

rick wakeman

Sometimes you want those blast beats and cavernous riffs to pound your skull from the inside…and sometimes you just want to float away on layers of keyboards, odd time signatures, and a plethora of instruments you’ve never heard of.  ‘Round these extreme parts we tend to only look at progressive music when it’s attached to the word “metal” but there’s been some excellent releases this year where the “prog” takes command of the music and allows its freak flag to shine.

Sometimes they’re not even Opeth.

So for this edition of Nine Circles ov…. I wanted to take a look at 9 prog releases from the Year of Our (Dark) Lord 2019 that have kept me moving in strange waters when I tired of the bludgeon of more extreme music. Continue reading

Album Review: The Wraith – “Gloom Ballet”

The Wraith - Gloom Ballet

Somehow the seedy dive bar you enter is darker than the night outside.  The music throbs, sending out pulses your cerebral cortex can’t process but some older, primordial part of your brain instinctually knows, and understands.  It’s that crux, that convergence of the primal beat that falls partly between the post punk of the early 80s and the tradition of gothic rock and roll, where early Danzig meets The Cult and howl into the moonlight.  Call it whatever you want, “death rock” or otherwise; there’s no mistaking the bleeding heart of influence laid bare on the sleeve of The Wraith.  To have something like Gloom Ballet arrive like a shot so late in the year is like that one drink at said bar that puts you over the edge from wary observation to full-on goon dance, and it’s a marvel to experience. Continue reading

Album Review: Obsequiae – “The Palms of Sorrowed Kings”

Obsequiae - The Palms of Sorrowed Kings

Black metal has an identity problem, and it’s exhausting.  The community froths at the mouth to validate, accuse, hoist aloft or otherwise dismantle what it means to be black metal in the current age.  But then I look at the rolling fields and crumbling ruins in broad daylight that note the arrival of a new Obsequiae record and I breathe a sigh of relief.  Here is a band unconcerned with status, with genre, with any kind of presence (seriously, beyond a Metal Archives listing I couldn’t find anything) in the community other than to carry high the singular sound they’ve been refining for three albums now.  And now the consumer of music can turn from the maelstrom and rejoice, for The Palms of Sorrowed Kings stands as the clearest, finest example of the kind of thing Obsequiae and no one else is doing in metal right now.  Continue reading

Album Review: Iapetus – “The Body Cosmic”

Iapetus - The Body Cosmic

It’s hard to stick out in the melodic/progressive death corner of this thing we call metal.  So many bands are cramming so many notes into so many songs it’s easy to get lost in the shuffle.  So knowing what you want out of music is essential to picking through the noise and static.  And Iapetus seem acutely tuned into what I’m looking for in a standout album: The Body Cosmic revels in intricate riff construction that refuses to bow to soulless technicality, instead focusing on melody and song craft to create an epic aural journey that’s a standout for the year. Continue reading

Album Review: Schammasch – “Hearts of No Light”

Schammasch - Hearts of No Light

The question is immediate, wet and dripping on the lips of everyone familiar with the avant-garde black metal leanings of Schammasch: How do you follow up Triangle?  How do you find something else to say after delivering a critically acclaimed triple album that seemingly touched on every aspect of a genre, heady and expansive and mystical in its aural presentation?  The way out is through, as the man once said.  By simultaneously expanding their sound and distilling its essence, Hearts of No Light does in one album what Triangle did in three: explore dark avenues of philosophical yearning by way of even darker, brooding atmosphere and winding black metal roads.

In short, it’s a killer, a worthy and mesmerizing new offering from one of the best bands putting their stamp on the genre. Continue reading