Circles – The Stories We Are Afraid Of Vol. 1 (djenty alt metal, Aus prog)
Circles really rounded a corner with 2018's The Last One and the addition of vocalist Ben Rechter. Although it's been a long time coming, that promising album's follow-up is every bit worth the wait. Six-track EP The Stories We Are Afraid Of Vol. 1 is not only another huge step up for the Melbourne trio, but also puts everything else released in this style recently to absolute shame. Fans of Tesseract, Karnivool, Monuments, Caligula's Horse and the like should be checking this out as soon as possible and I, for one, cannot wait for volume two.
Elder – Innate Passage (psychedelic prog metal, prog rock)
Although everyone else raved about it, Elder's foray into more spacious, Hammond-focussed prog rock on 2020's Omens left (and still leaves) me pretty cold. ...which is why I was so pleasently surprised when I was immediately swept up and away in the lush tones of Innate Passage. The classic prog rock leanings are still very much there, but – as its cover suggests – Innate Passage is a much warmer and upbeat affair than its stark predecessor, that reminds me a lot of that brilliant last Intronaut album (released the same year as Omens) that everyone else was less impressed by for some reason... It's not on the same level of genre-defining brilliance as Lore (2015) or Rflections of a Floating World (2017), but Inaate Passage feels like a welcome return from a band who are so clearly the best in their field.