Formerly known as Porshyne, Brighton’s Polar Son know their way around a riff. On Porshyne’s 2017 EP ‘Environmental Music’, those riffs took an arty, sometimes heavy path, taking in elements of Oceansize, Tool and bits of Godsticks, beneath a vocal that sometimes shared a love of Thom Yorke’s grander moments. It was the kind of release that deserved to place the band among up and coming prog/prog metal acts. Unfortunately, despite champions in a few high places, any massive traction the band deserved was cut short by a global pandemic.
When it came to promoting their full length debut ‘White Noise’, Finnish prog metal band were taking no chances. The first digital single appeared almost a full year before the album itself, and they subsequently drip fed their potential fans different tracks over the following months. This was no hit and run PR campaign. What’s more, in an effort to attract a variety of ears, they ensured those early digital singles covered a lot of musical ground. It was a campaign that worked. For those who didn’t enjoy the melodic metal of ‘Drown’ – an In Flames meets progressive metal workout – there would be the epic ‘Inverted’, a tune where the band abandoned their metal stance and embarked upon a very unfashionable 70s sound. Hey, if that were good enough for Opeth, going massively retro could work for others, and in the case of this massively uncommercial single, it proved a master stroke for Darkness. If anything, it was that unexpected shift which genuinely stoked up the excitement for the album itself.
By mixing elements of thrash and prog metal, Lower 13 have always taken a more interesting approach to constructing huge riffs than a lot of bands, but on their ‘Deception’ EP, their aggressive style takes a giant leap forward.
Masterminded by Mustapha Khetty, the Morpheus Project involves a revolving cast of musicians helping to bring his songs to life. This seven track release follows 2021’s ‘Mosaick’ and brings another concept album into the world, and its songs happily shift between classic rock, AOR and melodic metal, showcasing the fact that Khetty’s compositional skills – although shamelessly retro – straddle a broad spectrum of rock styles. That freewheeling approach means that ‘On The Edge’ could be the kind of album that’ll strike a chord with lovers of the pompier elements of bands like Asia at times, but those fans are unlikely to enjoy the more metallic output, whilst those who like a big helping of proggy metal are unlikely to gravitate towards the more 80s aspects of the album. In trying to please both camps, Khetty risks pleasing no-one in the long term – and that’s a pity, as there’s some fine musicianship and a few strong melodies here.
Previously the keyboard player with Shadrane and Hubi Maisel, Vivien Lalu formed his eponymously named band in 2004. The idea was that the band would approach prog in a very unrestrained way, and also add contemporary elements to keep things interesting. Considering a lot of prog metal in the mid noughties seemed to consist of stuck-in-a-rut Dream Theater-isms – especially from DT themselves – and so much prog relied upon obvious influences, Lalu’s desire for a bigger and more interesting musical canvas wasn’t unwarranted. Of course, there were a few freewheeling, pioneering spirits then – not least of all Devin Townsend, always marching to his own drum – but prog metal definitely needed new blood at that time.