The best prog metal you can buy this month

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

Painted In Exile’s The Ordeal album art

You can trust Louder Our experienced team has worked for some of the biggest brands in music. From testing headphones to reviewing albums, our experts aim to create reviews you can trust. Find out more about how we review.

If you require proof that the future of progressive metal is in safe hands, Painted In Exile’s almost comically epic debut album The Ordeal (self-released) should fit the bill. Like a snottier, spikier and ever-so-slightly weirder Between The Buried And Me, the Long Island sextet’s bewildering mastery of countless musical styles and their explosive cross-pollination is beyond impressive: it’s almost eerie. Songs like 10-minute mini-symphony Jupiter arrive swollen with a surfeit of insane ideas, and yet for all their wilful perversity, Painted In Exile have the virtuoso chops to make every last wild detour make perfect sense. Vocalist Robert Richards deserves a special mention for a truly mind-bending performance that encompasses everything from soulful crooning to guttural barks. Truly, this is a debut album to savour.

Of course, if you want something even more demented, A Sense Of Gravity’s second album Atrament (self-released) is not to be missed. While more firmly rooted in extreme metal than many of their peers, the Seattle six-piece have a jazzy fluidity that enables them to skitter from warped riff to bug-eyed deconstruction in the blink of an eye and with breath-taking precision. Songs like Echo Chasers and The Projectionist may be too intense and unrelenting for, let’s say, Anathema fans, but when it comes to untamed creativity, both ASOG and Painted In Exile are in pole position at the cutting edge. Similarly, Cayman Islands mob Oni’s debut album Ironshore (Metal Blade) is undeniably proggy in delivery but also so remorselessly aggressive that the faint of heart plainly need not investigate further. But those with a taste for the extreme will find much to enjoy within the band’s disorientating blurred-fret blizzards.

UK post-djent crew Brutai have taken the slow and steady route to their debut album, but Born (Transcend Music) has been more than worth the wait. Less overtly extravagant than some of their contemporaries, their sound is driven by huge, soaring melodies and insistent, futuristic metal riffs, but beneath the surface there are multiple fine layers of invention, twinkling away and imbuing everything with immense heart and charisma. At their best, on the glacial grandeur of Valediction, Brutai sound very much like genuine contenders.

If all this 50-notes-a-second chaos and polyrhythmic pummelling is giving you a headache, Domkraft’s gloriously lysergic The End Of Electricity (Magnetic Eye) should give those synapses a luxurious massage. Knee-deep in Hawkwind’s world of marauding repetition, sprawling riff-mantras like The Rift and All Come Hither are the aural equivalent of being crushed under a giant bale of Mary Jane. If your idea of a floor-filler is Amon Duul II’s Eye Shaking King, Domkraft will have you polishing your dancing clogs in no time. Fantastic name for a band, too.

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.