One of the most consistently difficult and frustrating things about covering music that falls into the buckets of math rock, fusion, prog, and more is that a central and foundational tenet of that music – complexity – also ends up being the very thing that is the music’s undoing. Fans can (and do) constantly obsess over how many unusual time signatures a song packs in as a proportional measure of how great that music is, but so often in the pursuit of the most head-spinning riffs, polyrhythmic grooves, and impenetrable song forms, what most frequently is lost is the music itself and whether it’s actually worth listening to. There’s nothing wrong with complexity and complicated music, but if there isn’t an adequate payoff for the time and patience required to “understand” it then what exactly are we doing here?
Each month, we always seem to come to the same conclusion when it comes to our Editors’ Picks column: Friday release days open the floodgates and unleash a seemingly endless stream of quality new music. But while some of our Editors and Contributors sit down gleefully each week to dive into this newly stocked treasure trove, others find themselves drawing a blank at the end of the month due to the breakneck pace needed to keep up to date with what’s been released. Which brings us to this Heavy Blog PSA: a weekly roundup of new albums which pares down the the day’s releases to only our highest recommendations. Here you’ll find full album/single streams, pre-order links and, most importantly, a collection of albums that could very well earn a spot on your year end list. Enjoy!
Another homegrown project we are immensely fond of comes straight from our dear editor-in-chief, the aforementioned Eden Kupermintz, and our good friend Greg Greenberg (Seven Circles), who, with guitarists Doug Van Bevers and Nick Maini and drummer Travis Orbin (ex-Periphery, Darkest Hour) form Instar, a beautiful fusion of post-rock, math-rock, jazz/metal fusion, and spoken word. Those who are at all familiar with Eden know that he is an ardent lover and connoisseur of sci-fi and a writer himself, and he lends his own illustrative prose and mellifluous voice to give the project a distinctly cosmic post-y feeling. The last time we mentioned the band on this site it was to recommend their debut EP, which featured Eden on one track and other guest vocalists on the other two. Eden has since joined the project as a full-fledged member, and if the lead track from their upcoming album Ex Nihilo Cycles “Stepping Stones” is any indication, Instar is prepared to take an enormous leap for their first full-length release.
Though I dislike making sweeping musical generalizations here, I’m going to start off this post with a couple of them. If it can be said that many of the breakout acts in American jazz in recent years can be described as being heavily-indebted to hip-hop, r&b, and adjacent genres (think BADBADNOTGOOD, Kamasi Washington, Thundercat, and more), then a lot of the more impactful jazz exports from Europe, particularly northern Europe, have seemingly been more indebted to influences from the electronic/IDM sphere, post-rock, and more. You have the likes of GoGo Penguin in England, who have certainly been pushing the definition of what jazz really is with their blend of acoustic jazz instrumentation and influences with more classical-style playing and heavy electronic influences. Norway’s Jaga Jazzist is, of course, the current reigning champion of blending jazz with electronic music (from IDM to synthwave and more), post-rock, krautrock, and far more. And to that list of great European bands finding new and interesting ways to explore the world of jazz fusion you can now add Finland’s VIRTA, whose sophomore album Hurmos is one of the more unexpected and brilliant albums I’ve heard this year.
Jazz and fusion are no strangers to the world of metal. From Dream Theater to Cynic to Animals as Leaders and well beyond, jazz music’s emphasis on technicality, compositional depth, and an ongoing exploration of sound and form have meshed easily with many parts of the metal spectrum. What is…