Prog Metal Reviews Roundup

Dom Lawson takes you to the dark and heavy hinterlands of prog

TODO alt text

There is something sinister going on within Morkobot’s amorphous racket. The Italians’ fifth album GoRgO (Supernatural Cat) again showcases their warped blend of duelling bass guitars and skewed noise rock rhythms, but these songs are more neatly crafted than before, leading to a bug-eyed art rock din that is both familiar and wonderfully eccentric. The first six tracks amount to a sustained assault on the senses, but it’s the closing GoRgO’s nine minutes of exploratory abandon and horrified tension that seals the deal.

Originally from Hungary but currently based in Edinburgh, Thy Catafalque have forged a unique and fascinating path through the black metal avant-garde over the course of six albums, but it’s the one-man band’s seventh, Meta (Season Of Mist), that will surely see them embraced by the prog fraternity too. Vivid, unpredictable and stunning from start to finish, mastermind Tamás Káti’s wide and wild musical palette ensures that surprises come thick and fast, but whether dabbling in downbeat electronica, obtuse psychedelia or fervently cinematic ambience, multi-faceted sonic journeys like the startling, 21-minute Malmok Járnak present a deftly coherent vision that rejects the obvious in favour of the liberated and limitless. A truly extraordinary piece of work, all told.

Three years on from their promising debut, Sweden’s Witherscape have removed their safety net and plunged wholeheartedly into prog territory. Main men Dan Swanö and Rangnar Widerberg both have deep roots in the metal world, and while The Northern Sanctuary (Century Media) owes plenty to the adventurous bluster of King Diamond, the duo’s blend of thunderous modernity and vintage trimmings makes songs like Wake Of Infinity and Marionette feel like shrewd upgrades of Uriah Heep’s heavy prog template, with all the blissful analogue keys and narrative melodrama that such an excursion demands.

Eight-legged instrumental prog metal project The Night Watch spent two years putting the 36 minute Boundaries (available from their Bandcamp page) together, and it’s the band’s attention to detail and self-evident chemistry that makes this meandering but meticulous voyage so consistently engaging. The interplay between guitarist Nathanael Larochette and violinist Evan Runge gives everything a highly distinctive feel, as the quartet glide majestically through moments of punchy syncopation and densely atmospheric restraint.

Beloved of Europe’s goth metal masses but with a sound that fans of Katatonia and Anathema will recognise and embrace, Lacrimas Profundere have spent 23 years making darkly dramatic albums with a widescreen soul. Hope Is Here (Nuclear Blast) is simply the Germans’ best yet: a dour but emotional splurge of glowering melodrama that is heavy on soulful melody and lyrical yearning, if not on bright-eyed optimism. The goths wouldn’t have it any other way.

Black Crown Initiate might be the world's smartest prog metal band

Q&A: Symphony X's Michael Romeo On Prog Metal And Lucky Numbers

Review roundup - the best new prog metal releases