The saddest thing about progressive music is how much of it sounds the same; in a genre that has experimentation and innovation baked into it, you’d expect to find more people taking risks. Alas, the tropes of the genre have solidified well and good, pretty much staying the same as they were at the end of the 90’s, when the genre had its heyday. Nowadays, a lot of the interesting stuff has been excised from progressive metal and into other genres; it’s almost as if, once you reach some point of innovation, you find that you’ve moved on from the genre. That’s why it was so refreshing for me to find out about Andy Hauck, a musician from Nevada, of all places. His take on progressive metal draws a lot of inspiration from artists like Devin Townsend and Periphery, channeling plenty of modern progressive metal into his sound.
But he also finds unlikely influences in country and folk music. To the sounds of chugging backing riffs and dreamy synths, he adds his own unique vibe on the electric and acoustic guitar. The obvious track to talk about would when approaching The Winding Way, his latest release, would be “Maximum Ultra”, the track that opens the album; the prominence of the more folk-y guitar line there makes it a perfect example of the style we’re talking about here. But, instead, I’d like to talk about my personal favorite track, “Peppers”. What makes “Peppers” so endearing is that it’s way more subtle than “Maximum Ultra”; you have to listen hard to find out what’s different about it. First, there’s Hauck’s singing timbre on it, which is unusual in its deepness and breadth of expression (and which, finally enough, really reminds of the singing on Chaos Divine). Then, there’s truly excellent synth tone, which hint to us that nothing about them is an afterthought; Hauck has spent time programming them and composing them to fit into the track.
Then there’s the piano, constantly playing in the back of the track and adding a whole level of hopeful playfulness to it which works really well with the modern and glitchy synth tones. And, lastly, yes, there’s the guitar, which does a lot of really interesting things on the track. It interacts with the piano to create that more whimsical sound, plays more contemporary lines and backing riffs roles. Overall, it’s a track which seems simple, until you listen to it and realize how much is going on. This is also emblematic of the rest of the album, which hides just as much beneath the surface. To be honest, when I started listening to it, I was ready to assign to it to the totally usual realms of progressive metal. But as I listened more and more, I realized there’s a lot more here. Give it a chance; I think you won’t regret it.