Pseudo_Sentai - Bansheeface 01I’m a bit wary of reviewing prog records because I don’t want to end up sitting through eighty minutes of decadent aural onanism from tedious Dream Theatre wannabes (I would rather listen to eighty minutes of “Wannabe”). But done well prog provides musical nourishment rarely offered by other genres, and having spent a large portion of the year listening to grindcore, I was ready to take a risk with Pseudo/Sentai. As I had never heard the band before I had few preconceptions, but a couple of clues suggested Bansheeface would not be the power-prog snoozefest I feared: firstly, it is a respectable fourty-five minutes long – only two tracks pass the five minute mark – and secondly, the promo material makes no mention of music conservatories.

I’m glad I took the risk, because this is a corker. On first listen, Bansheeface comes across as a blend of Yes and The Mars Volta, minus the frilliness of the former and the self-indulgence of both. But, though these influences are undeniably strong, there’s a lot more to Bansheeface than this initial impression suggests. Other references abound, from the catchy indie of “Terraformed Transcendence” to the brutal industrial beats on “Trap of Assassination,” the classic prog weirdness of “A Taste of Endangered” to the Hammers of Misfortune-tinged “Sleeping Closer to the Ground” and “March of the Selkies,” and from the Wishbone Ash dual guitars adorning the title track to the Radiohead-on-antidepressants rock of “Black Matter of Machinations.” These diverse ideas are blended perfectly and always executed with skill and taste (except perhaps the Weird Al rapping that opens the delightfully off-kilter “Immaculation”).

The fabulous songwriting really sets this apart from the majority of other prog. Pseudo/Sentai somehow manage to cram all their ideas into concise, catchy songs that inevitably leave you wanting more. Their songwriting approach means that each track has its own individual style, yet retains the distinctive Pseudo/Sentai personality. Even the shorter interlude tracks are memorable, particularly the deliciously sinister “A Taste of Endangered,” and the whole record has a vigorous flow.

Pseudo_Sentai - Bansheeface 02None other than Colin Marston engineered and co-produced Bansheeface, so you already know that it sounds good. It’s simultaneously contemporary and vintage; Scott Baker’s vocals at times bring to mind a punkier Jon Anderson (ex-Yes), classic synths abound, and the drums are all natural, yet the mix is much denser than seventies prog records and a sonic grittiness adds an almost garage-indie vibe. Fitting their creativity into short, memorable songs has resulted in some very busy arrangements, meaning clarity is inevitably lost, but this fits with the vibe the band are going for and means that, even on my gazillionth listen through, I’m spotting new things I hadn’t noticed previously. The material might have benefitted from a slightly broader dynamic range, but I’m picking at nits here.

Despite my gripes with the genre, 2015 has been a good year for prog, with March in particular serving up a pair of albums that are likely to feature on several writers’ end of year lists. Though stylistically very different, quality-wise Bansheeface holds its own against these heavyweights, losing out only in terms of emotional impact – the music is excellent, but it doesn’t quite take you on the emotive journey that Steven Wilson and Arjen Lucassen provide. Nonetheless, Bansheeface is a fantastic album with broad appeal, and you should buy it immediately.


Rating: 4.0/5.0
DR: 9 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Self-Release
Websites: pseudosentai.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/pseudosentai
Releases Worldwide: October 16th, 2015

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  • El_Cuervo

    Bah. Stephen Wilson. Nothing on Beardfish for prog this year. But this is really cool.

    • Kronos

      Beardfish for top ten lists everywhere!

      • El_Cuervo

        Unless something comes along to shake it up, I think Beardfish makes my top 5 tbh

        • Kronos

          Me too.

          • El_Cuervo

            But surely it’s not brutal enough for you?

          • Kronos

            The riffs, maybe not, but the material in general is pretty brutal, in a skewed sense of the word.

    • Totally missed new Beardfish. Nice one.

      But yes this is really cool.

    • Genezer

      Beardfish was very disappointing. Hand.Cannot.Erase. is a masterpiece of contemporary music.

      • El_Cuervo

        I like it, don’t get me wrong. But it’s very derivative.

        • Genezer

          Always interesting to see different opinions on a piece of art. I think HCE is quite original, even though it clearly has its influences.
          I’d agree if you’d call The Raven derivative, which can hardly be denied, still is a very valuable album to me though.

          • Gabriel PérezMolphe

            I loved HCE, I’ve always liked Steven Wilson’s output, being Fear Of a Blank Planet my favorite, on the other hand I can’t stand Lucassen, I want to like his albums, but I just can’t.

      • Monsterth Goatom

        You’re talking about +4626 – Comfortzone?

        • El_Cuervo

          Indeed.

          • Monsterth Goatom

            Thanks.

  • Genezer

    The songs on bandcamp, altough well played and composed, sound a bit too ADHD for my taste. They’d fit well on ProgpowerEurope 2016 I guess.

  • Karmazov

    I love old school prog like Yes and King Crimson so this will be something I definitely check out. Just out of curiosity, are there any Frank Zappa fans here at AMG?

    • Genezer

      I like my share of Zappa-madness. I mostly the like the proggy jazz fusion albums like Hot Rats and The Grand Wazoo

      • Karmazov

        I agree, Hot Rats is one of my favorite albums ever. I also enjoy Apostrophe, Chunga’s Revenge, and Sleep Dirt.

    • Yes! Not a megafan, but I do enjoy a bit o’ Frank. Maverick.

    • sir_c

      Yes sure, even though the wonky albums like Uncle Meat are at the bottom of my drawer.

    • Jeff Kent

      Huge Zappa fan. Huge. I’m more a fan of his classical/jazz/prog work than his 80s silliness, but Hell I like that too.

  • You wot m8?

    Was not expecting this. Thoroughly enjoying it though.

  • André Snyde Lopes

    Bashing Dream Theater in a prog review is like bashing Vanilla Ice in a hip-hop review. Too easy. I passoinately dislike DT but c’mon, step up your diss game.

    • To be fair I was dissing Dream Theatre wannabes, not Dream Theatre ;)

      • André Snyde Lopes

        Good call!

  • Philip Pledger

    Oddly enough, the embedded track strongly reminds me of Them Crooked Vultures once it gets going. I’m a fan of TCV, but it took a very long time for that album to truly grow on me. I’m curious if it’ll be the same for this one.

  • MelbCro

    Forgive me for being ‘that guy’ but you are meant to spell it Dream Theater

    • I always forget that, and am always confused when Spotify can’t find them…

      • Jukka Alanen

        Oh I didn’t know you were British… but that explains a lot. ;)

  • Jeff Kent

    A band that I don’t think gets enough digitial ink is Jolly. Granted it’s a bad name, but the music is catchy, proggy and heavy when it needs to be.

  • Soundchaser

    I remember that one of the members of this band sent me this album last year through the Progarchives forum. I’m kinda glad to see them reviewed here.

  • Jeff Kent

    This band has a big of a Cardiacs vibe. If you’re into zany British art rock, you should check them out.

    • LookinLike

      I’m in this band. We had never heard of Cardiacs before we wrote this album or the next one, but I can assure you that I became a huge proponent of them quickly! They’re definitely one of my favorite bands. I highly recommend the Napalm Death cover of “To go off and Things.”

      • Congrats on a fine album squire!

        • LookinLike

          @jeanlucricard:disqus, wasn’t sure how to reach out to you about this, but we have another album coming out on July 8th. It’ll be free so you’re welcome to a copy if you want to email me- gregsentai@gmail.com

          • Awesome! I think we’ve received a copy to review already and my name’s all over it. Looking forward to seeing what you’ve come up with this time!

  • Name’s Dalton

    I hear some 31knots and TFUL282 in their sound, which toasts this old indie-rocker-turned-metalhead’s grilled cheese nicely.

    And if I may, this site is a terrific and entertaining resource for someone who got into metal at age 40 and has scarcely listened to anything but since, this despite having literally thousands of indie, classical and jazz CDs and LPs in his collection. It’s like starting over as a music lover at middle-age.

    • Thanks for the kind words! It’s great to hear you discovered metal so late but are diving in and enjoying it. Thanks for your readership too.

    • I must check those bands out, cheers!

    • basenjibrian

      Metal Geezers Unite! :)