Mini Reviews From Around the Bowl (8/17/23)

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What if reviews, but- wait for it- small?


The Anchoret It All Began With Loneliness
Willowtip | June 23rd, 2023

I regret to inform you that Willowtip has gone full “big prog boy” after dipping their toes in with Parius and Cognos in recent months. While this release certainly would make more sense on something like Inside Out, you got to hand it to a label when they branch out and sign a new band taking a large leap forward for a genre. It All Began With Loneliness feels meticulously arranged to keep your attention. With frequent sax, flute, synth, and orchestral cut-ins, their base prog metal sound stays super fresh. It’s one of those albums with a twist around every corner but also some hooky choruses. —Joaquin


Grant the Sun Voyage
Mas-Kina Recordings | June 19th, 2023

Norway’s Grant the Sun is one of those bands that blew my mind by being able to meld many of my favorite (and sometimes contradictory) genres into a single track. Voyage, as a whole, is hard to pin down, but something like sludgy prog-gaze is the best way to describe the base sound. It has a Lantlos level of etherealness but with disjointed rhythms more akin to Intronaut. The guitar tones are all over the place, from a nice crunch to a playful melodic hum to a mathy industrial abrasiveness. There’s a lot to digest. Grant the Sun is essentially an instrumental band with a few vocal tracks in there, but it has so much variety and memorability you’ll basically not even notice. It’s one of my favorites so far this year. Get on it! —Joaquin


Wilt – Huginn
Vendetta | June 23, 2023

Canadian black metallers Wilt released their fourth album in June, and like fellow Northerners Ulvik, they reach beyond the boundaries of black metal for splashes of color and grand gestures. Huginn is steeped in doom—closer “Resilience” moves with the speed and majesty of an iceflow. For the blackened side of Wilt’s coin, centerpiece “1831” picks up the pace without leaving behind lofty lead guitar. These Winnipeggers are in good company on Vendetta Records, which consistently releases albums that soar beyond metal orthodoxy. I won’t blame you if you need some huggin’ after Huginn. Theophrastus Bombastus


Nuclear Dudes – Boss Blades
Modern Grievance | July 7, 2023

Situated somewhere between noise rock, grindcore and industrial, Nuclear Dudes are here for both a good time and a long time on this latest full-length. Though nominally a solo project of Seattle musician Jon Weisnewski (SandriderAkimbo), Boss Blades feels more like the product of a big act like The Armed. This third album in two years sees Nuclear Dudes reach for the rafters—”Obsolete Food” and “Year 3” stretch beyond seven minutes, and as on previous releases (this is the band’s third in two years), dense layers of synth and bombastic drums leaves lots to unpack. This is first and foremost a fun listen, but it’s also a testament to the fact that artists like Weisnewski can still make one hell of a racket when left to their own devices. –Theophrastus Bombastus


Oxx – The Primordial Blues
Nefarious Industries | August 18, 2023

In their own words, Oxx sounds “like getting blackout drunk and beating yourself to death with a Thomas Pynchon door stopper.” The labyrinth they’ve created on Primordial Blues bears this out. This record is proggy as fuck, loud and unforgiving, but it can also be a delight for listeners whose necks don’t snap trying to keep up with time-signature changes. Oxx’s members clearly have the chops for music like this—there’s an abolutely bananas solo wedged into “The Lake and Everything Around It,” and the closing title track rockets between math rock and post-metal with astonishing ease. While some proggy bands feel self-indulgent, everything clicks into place on The Primordial Blues. Like Pynchon’s work, this record isn’t an easy listen, but it’s rewarding for those who can keep up with the sheer pace of Oxx’s ideas. –Theophrastus Bombastus


Vision MasterSceptre
Independent | August 25, 2023

Tales of epic swordsmen and their fantastic feats are all well and good, but sometimes you want your traditional heavy metal to take some chances and have some fun. Vision Master accomplish the latter by frequently mixing in enough d-beat to rival a crossover thrash record and even venturing into all-out black metal at times. Adventurous songwriting wrapped in a crunchy old school sound leaves nothing to be desired. As for taking chances, I could certainly see vocalist Dan Munro being a point of contention. He displays a range befitting the different genre influences, effortlessly moving into harsher climes were necessary, but his baseline is a rather nasal, warbling clean style that occasionally sounds like Dave Mustaine trying to front a power metal band. It’s a bit of an acquired taste, and he occasionally makes decisions that make it a little harder to like him, but ultimately, I prefer this over just another bland, forgettable performance. —Hans


Sadistic VisionDestroyer of All Dreams
Boris Records | July 28, 2023

Extremely well-schooled OSDM from a band that was there when it happened (they were originally active from 1989 to the mid-’90s), I guess this isn’t strictly speaking a “revival” but is an expertly informed recreation of the genre’s early years with all the fixings: churning shuffles, weird scalar flourishes, raging backbeats, death-doom arpeggios, suffocating chromaticism, off-kilter rhythms, wailing prog solos, and athletic kick drum performances. —Badgerchibo

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