Welcome back Strandbergs and syncopated chug riffs! It’s the beginning of the year (except it kind of isn’t) and truth be told, music has not exactly been at the forefront of my thoughts like it normally is. I have moved to a new city and moved in with my partner, as well as started a new job, and well, change is a hard one isn’t it? Time is suddenly a lot more precious, and while it was certainly precious before, finding the time and energy for new and enthralling music has been a challenge like never before. Music will likely never take a backseat in my life, but this period has forced me to etch a nook in my life solely for the enjoyment of music. “Force” is the key word here, and probably the reason why I haven’t clicked back into my old listening habits as easily as I assumed I would. I need to find a space to be comfortable in my new nook, and that will inevitably take time and adjustment, and that’s ok. Whenever I’ve ever tried to “force” music into my life, I’ve almost always ended up resenting my situation. It will find its way back to me, it always does. I’m staying grateful always and especially to Eden this month for picking up the prog torch. You da man. Read on for his thoughts on new records from Seven Nines and Tens, Persefone, and Wilderun

-Joe Astill

Closer To The Heart (Top Picks)

Seven Nines and Tens – Over Opiated In a Forest of Whispering Speakers (progressive metal, shoegaze, post-rock)

All of the odds were against me liking this album. First off, both the band name and the album name did not inspire confidence in me. Yes, I know, that’s sort of shallow but when you consume ~200 emails a day, you start to develop inadvertent (and advertent) filters. Then, there’s the shoegaze genre tag which is not really one of my favorite genres. Although, now that I think on it, I have been listening to more things from it lately. Anyway, lastly, and most damningly, my first few listens of the album didn’t really grab me. There was something that didn’t quite coalesce for me.

However, for one reason or another, I decided to insist on Over Opiated In a Forest of Whispering Speakers and now I consider it one of the more underrated albums of the first quarter of the year. I get why; like me, there’s something that’s hard to put your finger on with how this album sounds. On one hand, the guitar tones are very much shoegaze, smeared feedback slowly bleeding across the mix. But the arrangements themselves are more akin to doom metal while other passages invoke post-rock. Put together, you get the inevitable conclusion that the album is best described as progressive, for its unusual meshing together of elements.

And that’s why it’s included here, obviously, but also the mental shift that allowed me to better connect with what Seven Nines and Tens are going for here. There’s an obvious love and penchant for all of the genres that I mentioned above but it’s tempered with an unwillingness to simply put them together in the usual shapes and then just walk away. That’s how you get that unsettling lead on “Throwing Rocks at Mediocrity”, notes skipped in the middle of a fuzzy lead that then transforms into a groovy stoner riff. All of which don’t prevent the vocals from still channeling those shoegaze vibes, their drawl adding the edge which ties the track together in its somber melancholy.

Bottom line, you’re going to have to go on a little adventure with this one but if any of the touchstones that I mentioned above feel appealing to you, I very much encourage you to embark on this ride. It’s a fascinating look at these genres from a different perspective, familiar yet very unique. I’m glad I stuck it out with this album, not just for the musical experience but for further proof that my penchant to just choose random albums and be stubborn about them is a good idea.

-Eden Kupermintz

Polyphonia (Further Listening)

Persefone – Metanoia (progressive death metal)

I’ve written elsewhere about this album but it feels silly not to include it in our column dedicated to progressive metal seeing as the thing that I like most about it is how progressive it is. Metanoia is a true return to form for Persefone, a melding of the two parts of their career into an incredibly intricate and ambitious whole that doesn’t forget to be heavy while it juggles the many, many different things it tries to accomplish.

-EK

Wilderun Epigone (progressive death metal)

Like the above album, I’ve written about this one elsewhere so I won’t bore you too much. But, once again like the above album, it’s impossible for us to run a column about progressive metal and not mention the most ambitious, subtle, and sprawling album released in the first two months of the year. The more I listen to it, the better I understand it and the better it becomes; I am sure it will rank very high on my AOTY list when the time comes to do those again.

-EK