“Progressive rock” is a term that can encompass a wide variety of sounds. At one point or another in their 35-year history, Porcupine Tree — the brainchild of Steven Wilson — have probably touched upon most of these. Having put out several albums of electronica-infused psychedelic space rock since their formation in 1987, the band reached a peak of critical and commercial success in the 2000s with the metal-influenced experimental songcraft exemplified by In Absentia and Fear of a Blank Planet. By the start of 2011, however, Porcupine Tree appeared to be no more, with Wilson announcing a hiatus to focus on his solo career; he stated as recently as 2018 that getting the band back together “would seem like a terribly backward step”.
For every rush of adrenaline there’s the eventual lull. For each euphoric high there’s the comedown to follow. Thunderheads (Aqualamb Recordings) — the debut record of LaMacchia — plays like the 3am winding down of a night of excess. Thrills and sensual desires wedded to a shadow of sadness and introspection.
Good story telling is key to engaging a listener. Everygrey captures the listener with both words and music with their newest album A Heartless Portrait (The Orphean Testament) (Napalm Records). The lyrics tell a coherent story that is augmented by the composition; both what is played and in the silence in between. The album runs like a play; it has a first, second, and third act clearly delineated. There is rising action, a climax, falling action, and a denouement; a tragedy in 10 parts. Everygrey’s A Heartless Portrait (The Orphean Testament) creates an impression of being an open love letter to Vittorio de Sica.
Having amassed a discography of over twenty albums as the lead vocalist (of which this is the fifth solely under his own name), and nearly two dozen guest appearances across a thirty year professional recording career, you could have forgiven James LaBrie for taking some overdue and well-earned time off when the 2020 Dream Theater world tour was halted. Instead, he and Eden’s Curse (whose Trinity album was adorned by his distinctive a glorious pipes) guitarist Paul Logue began trading the musical ideas that would grow into Beautiful Shade of Gray (InsideOut Music).
As one cycle ends, another begins. The flamboyant, dancing Cardinal Copia has been anointed Papa Emeritus IV and the plague-ridden doom of the 14th century is gone. Taking place hundreds of years after Prequelle, Tobias Forge and his band of Nameless Ghouls, otherwise known as psychedelic doom rock popsters Ghost, leave the rats behind as latest chapter Impera (Spinefarm/Loma Vista) tells of new empires built from the ashes of the old.
Those who stumble across the hallowed pages of Ghost Cult with any degree of regularity, or have had the misfortune to know me and feel obliged to read my writings on any recurring basis, will know that I am not a fan of writers breaking the fourth wall. However, honesty is such a core tenet of Marillion that I feel that starting this review off with full disclosure is not only the best option, but probably the only one.
Fifty years into their career and Birmingham hard rockers Magnum are still pumping out the hits on this, their twenty-second full length studio release. Aside from a five-year period during the nineties when the band was put on hiatus, Magnum has been rocking for longer than some of us have been alive, churning out album after quality album like clockwork every two to three years.
Not content to just let the sludgy boi/spooky girl pairings have all the fun with multi-artist collaborations in Doom, A Story Of Darkness And Light (Stickman Records)features the coming together of Elder and Kadavar as Eldovar (I don’t know where that ‘o’ comes from either). The two groups certainly make for interesting bedfellows; while both are arguably rooted in Seventies Rock traditions, Elder has evolved to Heavy Prog splendor while Kadavar largely subsists on off-the-cuff Stoner Blues. However, their shared interest in various genre experiments as well as established track records of high quality material gives plenty of fertile ground for such a union.
One thing became crystal clear very quickly after listening to MØL’s most recent effort, Diorama: this band can do it all. They’ve devised eight elegant tracks to prove just that, frankly leaving fans wanting more. Listed as “Post-Black Metal/Shoegaze” on the Metal Archives, these Danes dabble in Progressive Rock, Black Metal, Melodic Death Metal and even a snippet of Pop Punk. Another appealing aspect of MØL’s Nuclear Blast debut is the apparent influences vocalist Kim Song Sternkopf takes from fellow Scandinavians Dark Tranquillity and Omnium Gatherum. There is even a whiff of Parkway Drive.
After two years of releasing the amazing album Pitfalls (Inside Out Music), the Norwegian Progressive Metal band Leprous comes back with an equally strong effort on their new album Aphelion (Inside Out Music). This is the kind of album that is released in what seems to be perfect timing, particularly for those who are going through some type of mental health issue. The quintet brings a variable set of songs that can capture both the passion and dexterity of the band in what seems to be a great year for Progressive Metal/Rock music.