It’s been a while since I found a nu-prog album that really moved past its technicality and I should have known something from The Helix Nebula camp would be the blessed rain to break the drought. Jake Howsam Lowe, who plays guitar for the aforementioned, and excellent, project, released his album Oh Earth in November of last year. Its chock full of not only excellent guest spots (from folks like Stephen Taranto and I Built the Sky) but also plenty of excellent playing from Lowe himself. The main focus here, and what keeps drawing me back to this album, is the humanity and depth of expression in the also-impressive progressive metal on display. Let’s head on down below for your first taste!
I chose the last track because it has my favorite riff from the album, the one that ushers it in right after the acoustic mini-intro. It also features Jake Willson, a super talented guitar player and composer from the UK. Together Lowe and Willson fill “Refuge” with the kind of carefree, bright, and groovy vibes that I absolutely adore in my nu-prog. Yeah, things are fast and the notes just keep poring in but the track has obvious structure and plenty of hooks to sink your teeth into, making sure that the whole doesn’t just un-spool into a display of agility. There’s just a sort of exuberance which radiates out from the whole thing, finally come to a head right after the middle of the track when the pace slows down and the guitars take on this cheesy, alluring tone.
The instruments which back them follow suit, playing groovy, melodic, lock-step parts; listen to those synths! Everything just pops, taking its time to really flesh out the excellent main melodies of the solos and their refrains. The entire album is filled with this kind of passages, over-the-top ideas that aren’t just there for flash but for a more subtle interplay between “main” track and backing parts. For that alone is Oh Earth worth your time but make no mistake: it also gets super shreddy and technical. If both those elements sound appealing, head on over to the Bandcamp page above and grab it. I don’t think you’ll regret it.