Xanthochroid – Of Erthe and Axen, Acts I & II

All the extreme metal fans on the real Earth have been anticipating a return to Xanthochroid’s fictional Erthe since 2012’s immensely impressive debut, Blessed He with Boils. Taking five years to meticulously craft a two-act follow-up, the Californian band have rewarded our patience with Of Erthe and Axen, a cinematic, dynamic album pair that blends the best facets of several metal genres with orchestral folk pieces to produce something totally unique.

The band craft a story that dives deep into a universe they have created. Like their previous release, Of Erthe and Axen comes with a map … Read more

Kamancello – Kamancello

Improvisation is the cauldron in which most great music is born, but for most musical acts it is just the beginning of the composing process. Some artists, though, are secure enough in their creative talents to make improvisation an integral component of their sound. The right musicians and framework can produce magic with this approach, and that’s precisely what a pair of internationally renowned string players have done on the self-titled debut album of Kamancello. If you like improvisation, chamber music, and portmanteaux, this is the album for you.

Kamancello juxtaposes the dynamic cello performance of Raphael Weinroth-Browne, whose … Read more

The Hirsch Effekt – Eskapist

Some albums come along and pleasantly join the ranks of what you previously considered “great music”. Some albums come along and make you question everything you previously classified as “great music”. The Hirsch Effekt’s fourth full-length, Eskapist, is the latter kind of album – a towering post-hardcore monolith that reaches a mountaintop I never imagined to be climbable, from which the view makes most other modern progressive acts look like ants.

The Hirsch Effekt are one of those bands whose sound cannot be tidily summarized in a couple of adjectives. Their own bandcamp liberally describes them as “rooted … Read more

Leprous – Malina

There is a trend in modern prog: some of the more popular bands are seeking to capitalize on their popularity via the age-old model of shifting to a poppier style with broader appeal – lowering their common denominator, as it were. Leprous’ debut single from Malina, ‘From the Flame’, suggested to some that the Norwegian titans might be drifting in that direction. They are certainly ripe for popularity, with their smooth and entrancing approach to metal composition and Einar Solberg’s appealing singing voice. However, I am pleased to report that, despite some of the structural elements being poppierRead more

White Ward – Futility Report

mulating our opinion of an album before diving back into the endless sea of new releases. Sometimes, however, a confluence of factors generates a scenario in which one album stays in rotation for an extended stay before pen gets put to paper. White Ward‘s Futility Report is an album I’ve been trying to write about since January, when I heard its first publicly released song. It took about 30 seconds of that track to convince me this was a band worth paying attention to. They were kind enough to send me a review copy, but shortly thereafter, the always-excellent … Read more

Matt’s Best of 2016

The ebb and flow of musical calendar years is a fascinating thing. In addition to annual best-of-year spreadsheets, I keep a running tally of the all-time greatest albums, always eager to find new things to add to that fold. I also assign scores on a 0-100 scale (which very rarely dips below 80 because why would I intentionally listen to bad music?). A score of 95 is my cutoff for distinguishing between ‘really, really good’ (94) and ‘potentially all-time great’ (95). Some years are just better than others: 2013 saw not one, but two top-ten all-time releases (Kayo DotRead more

Mini-Reviews XVI


I’m not a huge grind guy, but when the aesthetic is tempered a bit, I can appreciate it. Cognizant are a really solid example of that; with a self-titled album that explodes over the course of just 17 minutes, they weave a chaotic web of death, black and grind elements with relentless intensity and slick production. The result is simultaneously viciously aggressive and eminently listenable.

This album took me by surprise with its high quality and unique niche. I highlighted a couple of bands that could be considered progressive post-metal/sludge in my last set of mini-reviews, but Barishi actualize an … Read more

Seven Impale – Contrapasso, Review and Interview

Seven Impale Front promo highest res RGB 3000x3000“What is the next step?”

This question is the first thing crooned by vocalist-and-guitarist Stian Økland on Seven Impale‘s sophomore album, Contrapasso. It was also the question burning in my mind after several months of listening to their debut album, City of the Sun, which was my favorite record of 2014. I’ve heard plenty of bands with elements of both jazz and prog rock, but never one that truly synthesizes those styles in perfect balance. Typically you can feel whether a band is rooted in jazz and incorporating some elements of prog or vice versa. With this … Read more

Mini-Reviews XI


Greetings! It’s Matt here with my first contribution to our mini-review series. While I’m not quite as plugged in to the underground buzz as Dave, I have accumulated a handful of intriguing albums from 2016 that slipped under his radar, so I’m going to take this opportunity to highlight some of them.

Up first is Warm, a Connecticut four-piece progressive post-metal outfit that extend their sound from aggressive upbeat sludge to downtempo grunge-tinged grooves. The production on The Human Exemplar is solid, and the composition is unique; quality post-metal with prog leanings is pretty rare to come across. The … Read more