Review roundup - the best new prog metal releases

Textures Phenotype album artwork

If you’ve been remotely intrigued by the progressive nature of the ongoing tech metal/djent scene, spare a thought for Textures. Having been one of this new metallic movement’s pioneering forces, the band have often been overlooked, but new album Phenotype (Nuclear Blast) is another demonstration of their unique sound, instinctive ingenuity and technical prowess. Like a less eccentric Between The Buried And Me with a greater focus on straight-up (but polyrhythmic) riffing, songs like New Horizons and Timeless may stray too far into the growled vocals and punishing physicality of extreme metal for more sensitive prog fans, but the band’s depth and skill may ultimately prove irresistible.

Much the same can be said for Fallujah, a band with roots in the death metal world but whose collective vision has long since marked them out as inveterate proggers. Dreamless (Nuclear Blast) is their wildest and most musically adventurous album to date; a pointedly cinematic and densely atmospheric journey through shimmering galaxies of crystalline melody and outright fury. Again, the guttural vocals may prove an obstacle, but Fallujah owe far more to Devin and Floyd than they do to any death metal band.

Graciously living up to their name, Cyborg Octopus are the perfect band for those restless souls that find scattershot lunacy like Mr. Bungle and Naked City a bit too pedestrian. Despite boasting a robust core of forward-thinking and unashamedly brutal metal, the songs on self-released debut album Learn To Breathe are deranged mosaics with every conceivable genre and mood mischievously reappropriated. Quite how these Bay Area nutbags will top the swivel-eyed and acid-fried funk metal nightmare of DiscoBrain! is anyone’s guess. It’s so wrong it just has to be right.

For something far more cerebral, Russian/Ukrainian mystics Goatpsalm have conjured one of this year’s most vivid and immersive paeans to the dark in the grimly lugubrious form of new album Downstream (Aesthetic Death). In debt to the icy, windswept shamanism of Fields Of The Nephilim but approaching those wild plains from the depths of the dark metal underground, they deliver sprawling epics like opener Grey Rocks with the haughty disdain of immortal spirits. Surrender to the shadows and the rewards will be extraordinary.

On more traditional prog metal planes, Withem’s The Unforgiving Road (Frontiers) is a superb example of how Dream Theater’s 90s template can be rebuilt for a more demanding age. If you thought The Astonishing lacked riffs and anthems, the Norwegians’ state-of-the-art showboating provides more than ample compensation via the gleaming, melodic grandstanding of In The Hands Of A God and C’est La Vie. Consider your boxes ticked.

Dom Lawson

Dom Lawson has been writing for Metal Hammer and Prog for over 14 years and is extremely fond of heavy metal, progressive rock, coffee and snooker. He also contributes to The Guardian, Classic Rock, Bravewords and Blabbermouth and has previously written for Kerrang! magazine in the mid-2000s.