The third and last part of Out of prog for 2017 releases includes 11 releases from the fields of metal, jazz, ambient, desert rock, noise, folk, electronica and vintage heavy rock. It’s probable you’ll see some of them in our annual lists at the end of December.
Translation: Alexandros Mantas
John Garcia – The Coyote Who Spoke in Tongues
What a pleasant and ideal release at the beginning of the year. The project of an acoustic version of what we call desert rock / stoner sound was more or less expected by his numerous fans, especially when we are talking about the man who is committed body and soul to this sound right from the start. A tour where acoustic cover versions of songs of the legendary Kyuss featured had already taken place and The Coyote Who Spoke in Tongues comes as a reward for Garcia. Leave aside the omnipresent basses and the electric instruments and give in to a sole acoustic guitar which accompanies the telltale voice of Garcia. There are new songs here along with the familiar Green Machine, Gardenia, Space Cadet and El Rodeo which are unbelieavably stripped and unrecognizable. Garcia differentiated himself from anything he has done in the past. He is in a stage now where after conceiving the plot, he leaves his stamp as a mature artist! His voice alone is a trademark and lends its beauty well to this special venture.
Spectral Voice – Eroded Corridors of Unbeing
[Dark Descent Records]
Nobody harbours ambitions that the debut album of a band will be an extraordinary one, but last year’s Blood Incantation or this year’s Spectral Voice are exceptions. The Americans play dragging, ominous, cohesive and visionary death / doom since they pull off to formulate claustrophobic surroundings in the dark corridors of our mind. Think of the Finnish death / doomsters Unholy blending with Incantation and the muddy dISEMBOWELMENT. A mishmash that is not likely to be nailed and convince the listener but the band breezed through it thanks to its mastery of death metal, the production, the Incantation-worshipping riffs, the outbreaks and the clean melancholic guitars. The five tunes are lengthy, dragging, brute and unholy with muddy vocals alternating with sporadic growls and completing it.
Some dark fillers could be omitted of course, like towards the end of the album where something more intriguing might work better instead of a straightforward melancholic passage that promptly passes out from memory. Nevertheless, it is worth your time to have a listen to it in a dark place with earphones and enjoy this album which is going to suck you in from the get-go.
Tony Allen – The Source
In 2017 Tony Allen did a long-awaited abrupt-face and struck twice through Blue Note Records of course. After a homage-EP to Art Blakey earlier this year, The Source keeps investigating the jazzier side of things, without sacrificing the one-the-kind afrobeat approach of which Mr. Allen is famous for. Tagged as “the best drummer in the world” from the lips of Brian Eno and Damon Albarn, Tony Allen applies his ever-present polyrhythmic sensitivities over ostinato bass lines and sexy themes on the wind instruments that will send you straight to the dance floor; the eleven brand-new and beautiful compositions, whose best part is written by Mr. Allen, will take care of that. If you want to know what it is all about, think of the psychedelic afro-funk bands of Fela Kuti accepting the invitation of Miles Davis and Dizzy Gillespie for a frenzied party in Lagos. And just to make sure that the live feeling will be captured, it was recorded live, mixed and mastered on analogue tape. It doesn’t get any better than this.
MΕΤΖ – Strange Peace
Metz is a renowned punk group you wouldn’t bet to pop up in a website whose domain name includes the prefix “prog”. But listening to their latest release Strange Peace it makes perfect sense to be included in the column of Out of Prog. METZ never fail to prove it with every album they do and on Strange Peace we find them coping with elliptical rhythms in Mess of Wires, the Killing Joke mania in Drained Lake, the alternative (in the good sense of the word) Caterpillar and they are the absolute winners for the third time in a row. On Sink no less, they experiment more with electronic sounds and the result is very good indeed. The unquestionable highlight is the six-minute Raw Materials that bookends the album with its complex riffs and rhythm changes and get us wondering which side are they on (this composition brought to mind my favourite Cave In). Those who took a delight in this year’s release of At the Drive In, the new album of METZ will let them know where the action is with regard to the meta-post-punk era.
Argus – From Fields of Fire
[Cruz del Sur Music]
It seems that the activity of Brian Balich will keep us engaged for a long time, at least those us who get a kick out of the traditional metal sound. After the splendid Arduini / Balich album earlier this year, the gifted frontman strikes back with his main band Argus with one more remarkable album. Candlemass, Iron Maiden, Mercyful Fate, Manowar, Satan, Angelwitch, Trouble and loads of other influences are spotted in this record which render this album very interesting but also versatile, at least as far albums of that kind go. The rookies Justin Campbell and Dave Watson make their presence felt right from the start and it seems as if they took the band to the next level. Especially the latter along with the long-serving Jason Mucio have established a magnificent duo that spawns beautiful riffs, memorable melodies and scorching solos. Balich, just like on his previous album, steals the show and he proves that he is a frontman with personality and passionate singing. Argus demonstrated to all the bands who try to emulate the 80s sounds how to get it right, earnestly, no retro-fetishly, with precise playing and appropriate production but above all they have written quality compositions.
Robert Plant – Carry Fire
[Nonesuch Records Inc.]
Three years after the awesome Lullaby and… The Ceaseless Roar, Robert Plant is back with momentum. Carry Fire is one more victory in the personal career of the 69-year old legend. Positioning folk music in a modern rock context is once again the case here with a trifle sweeter and more eastern results this time. The feeling of his voice and its addictive tone are intact, no matter how its spectrum is now not as wide as it used to be. Plant belongs to a rare category of artists who after all these years have nothing to prove to anybody but they are still inspired and in step with the times. Expanding this concept, we could say that he is in a category by himself since his special musical proposal and the unforced growth that his latest releases emanate, place him on the other side of “should-have-retired rockers”.
Glen Porter – Mr. Vampire & The Deadly Walkers
From California, home to a huge musical tradition, comes Glen Porter (Ryan Stephenson) who carries in him the entire musical folklore of the place he was raised in which is evident throughout his work. From his first album in 2008 until today a lot of things have happened in the musical firmament, always aiming at the exploration of new tracks.
His musical palette combines the energy of surf rock with spaghetti western mysteries, the hail of breaks with merciless groove, everything sieved through the sound of Porter’s guitar with a sense of decadence looming over during the entire duration of the trip in the fascinating world of the dead.
I say “dead” because the title of the album imparts loud and clear the intentions of ‘Mr. Vampire & The Deadly Walkers’ for what is next to come. Yet, the listener is still unaware of the addition of Mr. Vampire’s vocals which add up to the flow of the narrative. The continuous and intense flirting with post-punk is also one more arrow in Porter’s quiver which also adds an interesting perspective. In case he flies under your radar, his new album is a marvelous opportunity to broaden your taste horizons.
Daniel Saylor – Spring Rain
On his debut album Spring Rain, the very young composer Daniel Saylor from Florida of the U.S.A. mingles inspiringly and ingeniously all the main modern trends of jazz and electronic music, pulling off to mould a sound lousy with references and at the same time particularly pioneering.
It is very hard to impart with words the surprise that I experienced when I listened to the influences from the space surrealism of Sun Ra and the emotional fusion of Jean-Luc Ponty walking hand-in-hand with elements of IDM artists like Autechre. On the instrumental compositions, with the labyrinthine repetitive structure of glitch hop as it was illustrated in Cosmogramma of Flying Lotus as a signpost, Daniel gives free rein to his musicians to improvise with tension and melodiousness. The artistic outcome is multifaceted, mysterious and chock-full with emotions. Listen to Ashes into Rivers – Part II or Forward Junctioni and see for yourselves… This beautiful noise which is punctuated quietly by ambient themes brings to mind the most lyrical moments of Vangelis Papathanasiou of the Blade Runner soundtrack.
Spring Rain has already clinched a prominent slot in the list of my favorite albums of 2017.
Sorcerer – The Crowning of the Fire King
[Metal Blade Records]
Sorcerer arrived on the scene in the 1990s with a string of demos of tremendous quality that combined doom with epic metal. An anthology of their short career was their only official release and also, unfortunately, their swan song which marked their split. Two years ago a rumour circulated that Sorcerer would put out a new album and it sounded like a poor joke but finally In the Shadow of the Inverted Cross – like a belated vindication – became a fact. The come-back of the band was quite likeable and raised the expectations and this year’s The Crowning of the Fire King lived up to them.
The band has now evolved its sound which is heavily influenced by the power metal scene, particularly the one that originates from their country (e.g. Tad Morose) and not only, tipping towards the epic instead the doom element. The references to the traditional sound of Black Sabbath (Tony Martin era), Rainbow and others help the band to structure an album which is characterized by epic outbreaks, melodious parts and very good guitar work.
Andres Engers and the performance of the two guitarists provide the guarantee that this release will overcome any average patches, like the pretentiousness in the somewhat more digestible songs or some glaring references, and may make it to the top-list of this genre for 2017.
Hällas – Excerpts From a Future Past
[The Sign Records]
Sweden is the cradle of superb rock and metal music. For many years now, this conclusion is verified every time that a promising band from the country we speak of decides to make the big step: to release its debut album. Hällas, after a string of four exciting compositions which were included in the self-titled EP of 2015, entitle their masterpiece Excerpts From a Future Past. Indeed, the title is indicative since the band treads firmly both on mid 70s and the early 80s rock /metal sound. To be precise, The Swedish will strike a chord with those who take delight in the magic which is emanated by the guitar harmonies of Wishbone Ash, the early Iron Maiden (Paul DiAnno era) and Thin Lizzy. Simultaneously, the band seems to have absorbed the influences from Eloy and Rush of the 1980s era (especially Grace Under Pressure). Finally, NWOBHM and more precisely the most obscure bands of this movement that married prog rock with the primitive metal (Shiva, Omega, Saracen) can be linked with the style of the Swedish. Hats off to the best epic album of the year!
Four Tet – New Energy
Kieran Hebden, the mastermind of the sonic venture that goes under the name Four Tet, seems to make music that suits the listener when their train of thought is submerged all the more in a sterile normality imposed by routine. There is where the redemptive snapshots that Hebden prepared turn up to mobilize the imagination, intending to bring you in contact with a different reality or maybe better to give you the opportunity to mingle with sounds, images and scents which might had already been before your senses, but the latter were idle enough to take them in.
In New Energy, the now 39-year old creator keeps integrating his sense of melody and rhythmology into his style in such a way that they interact like communicating vessels. Free of redundant rhythmical eruptions and sharp conversations between beats and bleeps as well, Hebden depicts an expressiveness which is mainly gentle and warm where the ambient electronic motifs (that recall Pause and Rounds) and the techno structures of his latest albums are the epicentre. His fondness for the dreamy tones of Indian music, the Latino-originating traditions and his general tendency to, allow me to say that, an exotic, almost otherworldly euphoria, tear at the heartstrings again and again here.