Progressive Metal

Ghost Toast – Shape Without Form Review

Ghost Toast – Shape Without Form Review

“It’s nice to have some actual dialogue after my solitary confinement to Shape Without Form. That’s right, tubthumpers: Ghost Toast are an instrumental band! There’s been a lot of that lately, and I’m not really sure why, but I was bound to deal with something of the sort sooner or later, and now here we are, Ghost Toastin’ it up.” Rye revenants abound.

Huntsmen – Mandala of Fear Review

Huntsmen – Mandala of Fear Review

Huntsmen was one of the best left-field surprises of 2018 with their American Scrap album. By mixing progressive sludge and Americana, they created a sound not quite like any other. The songs neatly encapsulated heartfelt stories about working in the coal mines, a tragedy in Atlantic City, and others, closing on “The Last President” which included a dramatic performance by Aimee Bueno as the POTUS who unleashes nuclear Armageddon and hangs herself right after. It was a potent storytelling format that was bolstered by strong riffs, earnest vocals and succinct songwriting. So it makes sense that Mandala of Fear continues in… Wait… Does that promo sheet say “85 minute double LP dystopian concept album?!”” More as less.

Dark Fortress – Spectres from the Old World Review

Dark Fortress – Spectres from the Old World Review

“Back in 2014, Madam X covered the release of Venereal Dawn by Bavarian brutalists Dark Fortress. Our Marchioness de Machiavelli didn’t particularly care for the album’s progressive expansion of melodic black metal. I, on the other hand, adored it. Since Morean joined forces with V. Santura, their sonic shade has substantially deepened. The duo’s combined involvement in projects as diverse as Alkaloid, Triptykon, Noneuclid and Hannes Grossmann has wrought one my favorite writing partnerships in extreme metal. Six years on, and Dark Fortress are poised to drop eighth album Spectres from the Old World.” Old world, new blackness.

RED\\SHIFT – Grow.Decay.Transform. Review

RED\\SHIFT – Grow.Decay.Transform. Review

“There’s a statement in the promo blurb that a “catastrophically drunk dive-bar patron” once described Minnesotan trio RED\\SHIFT as being like “Mastodon mugging King Crimson in a back alley on New Year’s Eve.” There was also mention of wolves with swords for arms.” The right to arm wolves.

Hex A.D. – Astro Tongue in the Electric Garden Review

Hex A.D. – Astro Tongue in the Electric Garden Review

“I’d never heard of the band, but for the next two weeks, I listened to the album at least 25 times. I lived it. I breathed it. The review I produced was no Tolstoyan masterpiece, but the score was correct, and I remain weirdly proud of it. Netherworld Triumphant was a cool, bluesy amalgamation of a whole bunch of 70s and 80s hard rock influences, performed by talented musicians having a lot of fun. It wasn’t original, but it worked. It was also my ticket out of the Skull Pit. Now, a mere 15 months later, the Norwegians return with the ridiculously titled Astro Tongue in the Electric Garden.” Tongue AND groove.

Runescarred – The Distant Infinite Review

Runescarred – The Distant Infinite Review

Runescarred blend thrash, heavy and progressive metal together into an amalgam that is simultaneously all of those things and its own thing entirely. Immediately upon completing a preliminary spin of The Distant Infinite, bands which first came to mind included The Offering, Nevermore, and Havok.” Prog may be closer than it appears.

Isle of the Cross – Excelsis Review

Isle of the Cross – Excelsis Review

“I admire bands who chance their arm at cracking into peoples’ music rotation, especially where their intent is to chart a new path or weave existing genres in dynamic ways. Enter Jo Schneider and the band he leads called Isle of the Cross. Excelsis is their debut release and promised to be an “enigmatic journey of sonic power.” Enigmatic is the key word as I have been unsuccessful in my efforts to learn more about the band, including the country of origin. Further promoting itself as for fans of Opeth and Symphony X is a bold strategy indeed, so I turned to my first listen with great interest.” Excelsisore!

Xenobiotic – Mordrake Review

Xenobiotic – Mordrake Review

“Recently a new rule was established in the AMG offices: no more claiming promos more than a month out. Giving everyone equal opportunity makes for more entertaining gladiatorial combat in the Skull Pit, you see. But now it’s become a game for the clever, so I decided to scout the waters ahead in case I needed to be ready to pounce. When I came across a promo by Australian prog-tech-deathcore outfit Xenobiotic, stared at the gorgeous Lewandowski cover and listened to its advance track, I actually set an alarm for the day I could lay claim to it, before Kronos or Ferrous could get their claws into my precious. Because if the rest of Mordrake was as good as the single I sampled, I knew we were dealing with potential Album of the Year material.” Throw it into the fire!

Psychotic Waltz – The God-Shaped Void Review

Psychotic Waltz – The God-Shaped Void Review

“The nostalgia circuit has been around forever, and while it’s fun (sometimes) to see old bands play their decades-old hits in casinos, it’s even more fun when formerly awesome bands reunite and put out new GOOD music. Case in point: Satan, with a 26-year gap between releases – and with a trio of excellent new albums to boot. Psychotic Waltz tried their best to match that, going 24 years between releases here, but with an asterisk: The God-Shaped Void is their first album in 26 years with the original lineup. Take that, Satan!” Not the last Waltz after all.

Dead Kosmonaut – Gravitas Review

Dead Kosmonaut – Gravitas Review

“January has been kind to me, and while I haven’t been the overrating bastard that Holdeneye has, I also haven’t had anything bad come my way. Am I just in a good mood? Likely not, since I hate winter. Even this blind dip into the promo bin, Dead Kosmonaut’s second album, Gravitas, has been more than a pleasant surprise, helping pull me out of the winter doldrums with a wholly unexpected sound and style.” Crushed by an anchor.