Hierosonic – Consciousness, Fame, God, Money, Power
When I first heard Pornos and Razorblades back in 2005 there was something unique that stood out about Hiersonic, but I couldn’t quite pick out what it was. 4 years later with Kymatica I not only found a top 10 album, but I pinpointed what Hiersonic does so well—they take the modern rock sound of the early ‘00s, give it a slightly new coat of paint, and add a bit of edge and variety to the tracks to create something that feels new even though their sound is firmly rooted in the groundwork previously laid by bands such as Incubus, Silverchair, A Perfect Circle, and their peers. When comparing Hierosonic to each of those individually, you may not see any similarities, but the approach, aesthetic, and feel is that of those stalwarts of the late ‘90s and early ‘00s.
Graviton – Massless
Consisting of members of Intronaut and National Sunday Law, these guys have experience in the musical world, and it shows. You can definitely hear some influences of both of those bands in Graviton, but the more overriding comparison would be to the lighter Godflesh fare or early Jesu. There’s some tracks that tread down a noisy path, but many others also meander into progressive soundscape territory. There are some distinct post-metal elements that bring to mind Isis and Baroness at times as well, so what you’re hearing on Massless is a very diverse set of tracks. At times the album loses a bit of momentum, but for the most part it is a solid post-metal offering all the way through.
Leprous – Bilateral
As I mentioned in my last article, progressive metal bands are often trying to shoehorn other genres into their progressive approach to set themselves apart. Again, with Leprous, we have another band that shows that if you play progressive metal well, and I mean really well, you can set yourself apart without gimmicks. Throughout Bilateral you’ll no doubt hear comparisons to bands such as Riverside, Opus Dai, Devin Townsend, and Between the Buried and Me (their progressive side, not their metalcore side). Leprous, throughout this album, sounds to me like what Devin Townsend would sound like if he could ever reign himself in when constructing a progressive album. Yes, Leprous still have the occasional lengthy track, but it all feels purposeful instead of meandering and self-indulgent. The entirety of Bilateral feels like it was constructed with a purpose and that is an essential for any prog album.
40 Watt Sun – The Inside Room
This album should come with a warning label reminding you not to listen to it if you are in any way happy as it will instantly shatter your soul and crush any positivity you have. I’d classify 40 Watt Sun as doom metal, but qualify the statement by also saying that this treads a lot towards the melancholic shoegaze-y doom metal that’s recently become popular and not the more plodding, crushing doom metal you may be thinking of. I feel like The Inside Room combines the moodiness of early Katatonia with the heart-breaking feeling of Alcest and then mixes it into the template established by Warning. If you need an album to cry to, if you need a soundtrack to a depressing day, or if you simply want to sit and contemplate your mortality and the fate that we all share, this will be your go-to album. Remember, you’ve been warned that this release will absolutely crush you.
Hail Mary Mallon – Are You Gonna Eat That?
First, this is a Rhymesayers release, so of course I’m going to check it out. Second, it’s a new group that includes Aesop Rock which also means it was bound to get my attention. Finally, it’s Rock teaming up with Rob Sonic and DJ Big Whiz so there’s the ex-Def Jux connection as well. I expected something crazy-cool, but what I got was something I’ve heard before. Truth be told this feels a heck of a lot like a solo Aesop Rock effort. The beats feel like his, he performs a solid majority of the lyrics, and Sonic manages to fit into the spaces he’s given perfectly (even though he doesn’t push the beats too far out of Rock’s usual range). With my expectations being reset, I found I easily enjoyed this as much as any of Rock’s other projects, which is to say I loved it. I’m not sure how much appeal this will have outside of already existing fans of Rock and abstract hip-hop, but if you’re even remotely interested in either this will be a hit for you.
Wolverine – Communication Lost
I don’t really know the best way to accurately describe what you can expect from Wolverine. They definitely fall into the progressive rock/metal genre, similar to Porcupine Tree or Pain of Salvation, but they’re much more subdued than either of those bands, almost taking on some similar traits to Radiohead or a very depressive Interpol. Even though the songs are very slow-moving and depressively composed, this isn’t at all doom-y as you’d expect, somewhat akin to a less aggressive Katatonia. Being that this album is very prog oriented, it may test your patience over the course of the 70+ minutes it runs, but fans of the genre will enjoy every one of those minutes.
Dan Dankmeyer – Arcologies & Origin
Dan is a busy guy. He’s released two albums this year after 4 (yes, 4!) from last year. In his bio he states that he tries to release an “album” every 3 months or so. That’s pretty ambitious and could easily lead to stagnation of content and burnout, but if you’re a progressive metal or djent fan, you’ll enjoy every moment of both of these albums. Playing in a style very similar to Vildhjarta (the instrumental tracks) or Periphery, Dankmeyer adds his own touch to the djent mix, tossing in some soloing and riffing that wouldn’t appear out of place on a Darkest Hour or August Burns Red album. Keep your eye on this guy as he could take off at any moment.
Subrosa – No Help for the Mighty Ones
When I heard this band described as an all girl doom metal band, my brain translated that as “gimmicky, subpar, knockoff doom band.” When I listened to Subrosa, however, I was confronted with a healthy mix of Neurosis, Kylesa, folk, Otep Shamaya styled vocals, PJ Harvey, and the bleakness of Across Tundras. If that combination has you at all interested, trust me, you’ll find yourself entranced by the droning, sludgy, textured approach to doom metal that Subrosa take. The last thing in the world that this album is is a gimmick.
Boys No Good – Never Felt Better
Every summer needs at least one truly great pop-punk effort and this year’s is Never Felt Better from Boys No Good. Now this is the classically styled pop-punk in the vein of The Wonder Years, Lifetime, The Movielife, and early career New Found Glory, not the crap that you hear called pop-punk at Warped Tour and on Pandora. It’s easy to see how Boys No Good excel at this sound as they have previous members of Casey Jones and Kids Like Us populating the band. Much like A Wilhelm Scream re-energized the genre when they came onto the scene, I think Boys No Good can do the same thing. They know how to create heartfelt, catchy, and authentic sounding pop-punk, which is exactly what we need with metalcore and auto-tune bands overcrowding the punk and hardcore scene.
Jardin de la Croix – Ocean Cosmonauts
This album falls smack dab in the middle of the instrumental math rock genre, but with some post-rock leanings for good measure. Hailing from Madrid, this Spanish band will be for fans of other instrumental artists, such as Buckethead, Toundra, Caspian, or This Will Destroy You. The focus of this album is obviously on the individual instruments and the sections that focus on the noodling and playing of each member (especially the guitars), but each song is relatively well composed and has an ebb and flow to it that often isn’t found in many wanktastic bands. This is probably where the post-rock influence helps; it grounds the songs and lets the show-off moments fit into the loose post-rock template utilized.