Prog Metal reviews column

Dom Lawson takes you to the dark and heavy hinterlands of prog, with Telepathy, OHHMS, Asira, Venenum. Earth Electric and Pallbearer

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These are times of abundance for those who regard progressive metal as an opportunity to explore alien territory, rather than to simply repeat established tropes. Although nominally members of the post-metal fraternity, Telepathy have the creative ambition of true prog warriors. Their second album, Tempest (Golden Antenna), is a full-blown concept piece, albeit an instrumental one, and a highly credible stab at one of those “journeys in sound” people often claim to have realised. Veering from Smoke From Distant Fire’s grandiose atmospherics to the jagged intricacies of the subtly extreme Water Divides The Tide, it’s a gently distinctive and wildly evocative squall of great ideas.

Similarly, Canterbury’s OHHMS use giant, snail’s pace riffs as a starting point for the elegantly lysergic sonic excursions on new album The Fool (Holy Roar). A great leap forward for the five‑piece, it’s an album full of devastating crescendos, skewed melody and moments of full-on doom metal savagery, climaxing with The Hierophant’s 22 minutes of other‑worldly dissonance and churning, contrary weirdcore. Like all the best psychedelia, its hallucinatory edge feels entirely accidental.

Once again, Asira’s debut album Efference arrives tethered to a subgenre, in this case “post-black metal”, but there are so many extraordinary details and unexpected switcheroos going on within the band’s sonic maelstrom that it seems a shame to saddle them with such narrow expectations. At their best, on extravagant centrepiece This Hollow Affliction, Asira reveal their true potential as intuitive masters of artful heaviness. Ones to watch.

Germany’s Venenum operate a little further within extreme metal turf, but the eccentric twists and turns that pepper long-awaited debut Trance Of Death (Sepulchral Voice) are plainly the fruits of a prog fixation. Dark, intense stuff, but weird enough for faint hearts, particularly amid the mutant clangour of the three-part title track.

Earth Electric is the brainchild of Rune Eriksen, former guitarist with Norwegian black metal legends Mayhem. Fear not, however, because their debut album Vol. 1: Solar (Season Of Mist) is firmly prog. An idiosyncratic blend of steely 70s hard rock riffing, rippling Hammonds, Carmen Simões’ ethereal vocals and some wickedly abstruse art rock detours, songs such as The Endless Road and Sabbatical Moons sound both vintage and box-fresh.

Finally, Little Rock’s mightiest doom metal squad Pallbearer look certain to outstrip all past achievements with third album Heartless (Nuclear Blast). Still in thrall to The Riff, they’ve become adventurous over time and these new songs bulge with evolutionary opulence. If it’s progressive heavy metal you want, then the majestically somnambulant Dancing In Madness and towering closer A Plea For Understanding will fit the bill.