Jan Wouter Oostenrijk – We Are Connected
[Listen to audio previews here.]
Dutch electric quartertone guitarist Jan Wouter Oostenrijk comes back with his fourth album, We Are Connected. This album is a bridge between Maghrebi jazz, rock music, and desert blues. It’s full of really interesting ideas, and the odd grooves – especially in 9/8 – are more than noteworthy; I can’t get the bass and drums line of “Hurriya” out of my head! Moreover, all songs are in different maqamat, which is really the centrepiece of the album.
Dios Trio – II
Dios Trio is an instrumental band that likes to be called math rock, but that should be more appropriately approached as a post-hardcore unit. There are odd-time riffs, but they are not the focal point of the band’s sound. Despite this, II is an enjoyable album once you get out of your mind the expectation of relentless time signature changes. To make up for it, the songs are really energetic, focus on melodic integrity, and show a high level of musicianship from all people involved.
Lucky Cerruti – I Am an Alien
I Am an Alien is the debut EP of New York guitarist and composer Lucky Cerruti. The album is described as pop music by a prog head, and I can see how. The songs on display sound like that new wave of listener-focused progressive rock and metal – people such as Plini have been at the forefront of this new movement –, and it’s basically a subgenre where the song structure plays a bigger role than the musician’s skills on the fretboard, although they both are important in the end. What else can I say? Well, a bit of criticism is that the album is almost entirely made with programmed drums, but that’s to be expected with solo artists; the silver lining is that “Belong” was tracked by James Christopher Knoerl on drums, who has already proved himself many times over with various projects.
Léguman – A Tribute to Jacqueline Picon
More than a gorgeous cover art, Léguman‘s debut EP is also some pretty decent music! I haven’t been able to find who that Jacqueline Picon character was, but I guess that’s of little importance. Her tribute by this French band consists of five instrumental progressive metal tracks. These songs aren’t especially wild or unique, but they are enjoyable and can be quite interesting at times. In any case, that’s an underground band that deserves a little bit of recognition!
Omnea – Omnea
2018’s Omnea is not the same as their other, debut self-titled EP, even though it also features a “I” to “IV” track listing. Omnea the band plays an interesting kind of progressive metal, but the production value of even their latest EP leaves to be desired. The compositions themselves seem to stand on their own, but the guitars and drums sound a bit shrill, even lo-fi. Nevertheless, if you look past this, you’ll see some pretty cool riff ideas in songs that manage to stay interesting all throughout.
Schnack – Edelzwicker
This album unfortunately passed under my radar this December, for it would have certainly ended up in my monthly recommendations post! Edelzwicker is the debut album from France’s electro-post-math rock outfit Schnack. Here again, the focus isn’t so much on odd times as on building an atmosphere from the ground up and entrancing you while doing it. But they’re taking some of math rock’s defining sound and apply it to what is basically their psychedelic post-rock nature. I love this album. The first song, especially, gives you all aspects of their sound: from the entire first half atmosphere-building with lush guitar effects, steady drum beats, and dance-ish bass lines to the second half and ending of the song where, after an almost entirely ambient, psychedelic passage, we dive down into more heavy waters with syncopated accents. It’s really a tasty album that shouldn’t go unnoticed.
Jonny Turner – Journey
Right… I haven’t got any audio to give you, but trust me on this: this EP is really good. That being said, I was really a sucker for Tesseract’s Altered State sound, and Jonny Turner‘s Journey is basically more of exactly this. It even has some riffs that sound like they were lifted straight out of this album. While I usually favour hearing something new and different, I have a soft spot for some certain sounds that it seems I can never get enough. If I do give in, however, I will eventually grow out of this phase, but that isn’t the case yet, here. Journey is merely fifteen minutes long, and consists only of three songs plus an introduction track, but the new-Tesseract worship is very well done, and I like it a lot. The EP comes out on 19 January, so keep an eye out for it, but, either way, I will remind you.
Libera Scientia – Tellurian
Libera Scientia is a one-man progressive metal project. As such, it has all the qualities and flaws of this kind of band: on one hand, it uses unconvincing programmed drums and has a tolerable (at best) production value, but on the other hand it displays the unaltered artistic vision of one person, which usually is rather inventive and interesting. So, that’s pretty much that. The Tellurian EP is good and interesting, but it’s not without its easily-fixed flaws.
Estuarine – Sic erat scriptum
Estuarine‘s latest is really a sort of underground gem. Despite what I’ve said in the previous paragraph, there are certain musical genres which can tolerate a lesser production value better than others, and black metal is perhaps first among them. Sic erat scriptum is a psychedelic, atmospheric, progressive, dare I say avant-garde blackened death metal monstrosity that really seems to be getting traction in the underground metal community. Certainly this would be even better with at least better programmed drums, but, as it stands, it’s a fascinating and transcendental journey into the deepest depths of the ocean. More than merely the aforementioned subgenres, this album branches off every so often to include some jazz passage here, some folk there, and so on. It’s a wild ride, and you must be this tall to enter.