Like all genres of music which assign great importance to the skilfulness of the interpreters and the technical complexity of the songs, progressive metal occasionally provides us with albums and formations in which the musical form prevails over substance and passion. Indeed, nowadays it is more and more rare to find a formation where the technical and experimental aspects of the music are really put at the service of emotional communication. With this new series of articles dedicated to progressive metal, I’m going to select the most relevant publications in a given period of time, trying to see which are those that are really worthy of our time, and attention.
In this first episode of the Progressive Metal radar, I’ve picked up four albums that were released in the period which spans from the beginning of 2019 and the mid of February 2019.
As far as geography is concerned, we have one band from France (Kadinja), two from Sweden (Evergrey and Soen), and one from Russia (Shokran).
Enjoy the article and stay tuned for future updates.
“Super 90′”, by Kadinja
After reading a few good recommendations on social media I approached this album with relative curiosity. My previous knowledge of the French progressive metal band Kadinja was practically inexistent, and therefore I started listening to their new record, named Super 90′, with high expectations.
To be honest, my first reaction to the album was a little mixed, but going forward into their LP I started to appreciate more and more their music. Kadinja plays an extremely technical and cerebral version of progressive metal, which is for many traits definitely close to math metal. In the first part of the album, however, I found the band very much focused on demonstrating their technical competence rather than trying to convey emotions and sensations to the listener. Fortunately, at some point in the LP, we may appreciate a group of songs where the proficiency of the musicians and the use of non-linear and syncopated rhythms are eventually put at the service of the music, with exciting results (I can mention at least two masterpieces in the album: Icon and the closing track Avec tout mon Amour).
In summary, I’ve still a sort of perplexity about some of the songs of the LP, but in general terms, Kadinja is definitely a formation to be taken in very good consideration.
“The Atlantic”, by Evergrey
The release of the new album by Swedish prog-metallers Evergrey was clearly one of the most anticipated events of this period of time, not only within the boundaries of progressive metal. The two records that the band released after the return of Henrik Danhage and Jonas Ekdahl (2014’s Hymns for the Broken and 2016’s The Storm Within) were in fact appreciated by both fans and critics, and with this new record, named The Atlantic, the trilogy was going to reach its ideal conclusion.
Personally, Evergrey’s new record has a bit too many ups and downs to be considered among the best one published so far by the band. Alongside a few exciting tracks (Weightless and A Secret Atlantis, just to mention a couple), there are many others which are much less inspired.
That said, in this new work you still feel the passion and dedication that the Swedish band has always put in their music, and therefore even if The Atlantic won’t be remembered among the highest peaks of their career, it remains an enjoyable and solid work from one of the most appreciated representatives of this genre of music.
“Lotus”, by SOEN
A couple of years ago, Soen was included in this blog (and not only here, of course) among the best progressive metal acts of the year, thanks to their very good release named Lykaia. That’s why I was expecting with some trepidation the release of their new album. But the arrival of Lotus, which is Soen’s fourth LP, somehow didn’t confirm the great expectations I had on this record.
In this regard, it is important to remember that approximately ten years ago Soen was born as a “supergroup”. The band was created as the ideal place where a number of already well-respected musicians could gather together and create complex and innovative melodic music. The main reference for their style was that genre of conceptual and elaborated music made popular by legendary bands like Tool. As the years passed, however, Soen went through changes in the line-up which somehow affected also the style (and the overall quality) of their music. Nowadays, when we hear the songs of Lotus, we realize how the band has become definitely less “special”, and that their music isn’t intriguing and experimental as it used to be in the early years of the band’s activity.
Stylistically speaking, the songs of Lotus look much more like a sort of alternative rock played with amplified guitar-driven sounds, rather than pure and standard progressive metal. The real problem, however, doesn’t reside in the specific genre that’s played by the band, but rather in the fact that whatever they’re playing, there’s no more innovation in what they do. I see that Lotus is still getting praises from lots of fans and casual listeners, but for those of us who were so much impressed by their debut LP, back in 2010, the new album is evidently a little disappointing.
“Ethereal”, by Shokran
Shokran is a metal act from Russia, created and led by multi-instrumentalist Dmitry Demyanenko. The band has released in February their third LP, named Ethereal, which offers a very particular version of progressive metal. There is in fact really a lot of material in each one of the songs on this record, maybe even too much. Guitar solos that overlap the lyrics, clean voices alongside screams and growls, plenty of synthesizers and keyboards, vigorous riffs underlined by continuous choruses. In short, a potpourri of stimuli which may really have the effect of saturating the listener.
Nevertheless, there is certainly quality in this overflowing mix of musical elements, although I would have personally recommended a drastic operation aimed at lightening the sound and cleaning all the superfluous. Here in Italy, we have a famous saying, “Il troppo storpia“, that could be translated as “too much cripple“. This is the feeling I have when listening to this band.
In stylistic terms, those who’ll manage to go beyond the tide of disparate items that have been recorded one on top of each other we’ll appreciate an interesting variant of progressive metal that incorporates huge amounts of metalcore, along with interesting folk and symphonic influences. In summary: this is an intriguing and enjoyable album when taken in small doses.