Thursday, December 23, 2021

The Top 10 Prog Albums of 2021

If you are a regular reader here, you know when it comes to prog, I am not looking for a bunch of wanky shredding and math for the sake of math. I want bands that are progressing and that is what is happening with these bands who made the cut this year. Much like in years past I sort through the genre lists before making the overall top ten of the year list.  The fact these artists made it on the list speaks to how great these albums are, so it's not a slight that the number 8 album is above the 9th album, there is something that just gives it an edge that makes me want to listen to it more. After all we can try to look cool and pick the hippest bands for a list, but at the end of the day what makes an album the best is that it makes you want more, you look forward to listening to it again. I do hope you can find your next favorite on this list and have included links to reviews of these albums if you want to check out audio on these guys. Anyways here are the top 10 Prog albums of 2021

10-Green Lung - "Black Harvest" 

 This time around there are more rock punches with some pretty great guitar that is heading in a more blues direction. While I prefer what they did on the one before as tt was a little darker.  I totally approve of this very Deep Purple influenced gem. 

Abysmal Hymns: Green Lung : "Black Harvest"

9 Fucked Up- "Year of the Horse" 

What was once a punk band is now making 20-minute songs. "Dose Your Dreams" worked well for pushing the envelope, but have they gone too far? Things take odd turns with female spoken word and folk music. When things get really metal, they sound like  like Mastodon covering Bathory before they go off on some Norah Jones jams. But it does not stop there with dips into various trains of pop music along the way. 

Abysmal Hymns: Fucked Up : " Year of the Horse"

8-Cara Neir- "Phase Out" 

This project has gone from black metal with post rock wanderings now into video game music. One of the oddest albums on a list full of odd albums.  Verty little of their black metal past is still present. 

Abysmal Hymns: Black Metal History Month - Cara Neir : "Phase Out"

7-White Void - "Anti" 

These guys used to be more of a metal band than they are now, though if we are talking about perhaps late 70s metal then this would still count. They are about as heavy as Deep Purple. The melodic vocals work well. There is also something darker than your standard retro retro metal, almost reminds me of Beastmilk. Which is a huge compliment as they were one of my favorite bands.

Abysmal Hymns: White Void : "Anti"


6-Voices- "Breaking the Trauma Bond" 

The drumming is impressive, while the progressive elements that haunted the previous album are still in place it is handled differently. It is a darker album but, in some ways, also more of a straightforward arrangement, yet in the grandiosity of what they are doing some of the catchiness from the previous album might have been sacrificed, but it is still one of the year's best listens when it comes to prog.

Abysmal Hymns: Voices : "Breaking the Trauma Bond"

5-Starless - "Hope is Leaving You" 

Polished and catchy amid the wonderment. The vocals begin to remind me more of Opeth's mellower moments. There is the crunch of distortion here, and they are a metal band by definition they are certainly more middle of the road due to atmosphere and in the zip code of perhaps Katatonia when it comes to where they fall in terms of heaviness or the lack of.

Abysmal Hymns: Starless : " Hope is Leaving You"

4-Rivers of Nihil - 'the Work" 

This album is pretty epic and really well done. This is their most commercial work yet. If there was an album that was going to break them through to a larger audience, this is going to be it. Is it a sell out? Hmmm, well maybe in some ways. There is more clean singing, but it works for the songs. 

Abysmal Hymns: Rivers of Nihil- "the Work"

 3-Mastodon - "Hushed and Grim" 

The 8th album by the Atlanta band is a massive undertaking that takes some time to absorb. The playing is great and the melody floats, the drumming really goes for the gold. Not as aggressive as their first couple albums but puts its foot to the gas more. It is not until guitar work of Hinds when it drops into a more, blues-based section that makes the song shine. Often when we think of progressive rock, we think of just odd time signature and lots of dazzling wanking, but how much progress is being made there

Abysmal Hymns: Mastodon : "Hushed and Grim"

 2-Cynic- "Ascension Codes" 

I love Cynic but very surprised Paul Masvidal is carrying on after the death of of both Sean Malone and Sean Reinert. But drummer Matt Lynch who plays on this album was recruited by Masvidal and Malone, before Malone died Rather than replace Malone, the bass lines are done by a bass synth since his style of playing was untouchable. They are continuing more where they left off with "Traced in Air" as it is a return to heavier sounds than where they went into the more elf like prog of "Kindly Bent to Free Us". 

Abysmal Hymns: Cynic : " Ascension Codes"

 1-Danny Elfman - "Big Mess" 

Elfman has an ear to what is going on in music for sure. It is heavier than what you might expect from him, yet theater lies in the panned vocals that bounce around these songs.  It is progressive without really trying to be. Like I tell my daughter when she hears Oingo Boingo this is Kack Skellington singing! The drums and guitars are way harder edged than what you would find in Oingo Boingo, which explains why this is not being done under that name. He has both Josh Freese and Robin Finck playing on this album. Guitar is also provided by Warren from the Vandals, so both the Vandals and Nine Inch Nails figures in the mix

Abysmal Hymns: Danny Elfman - "Big Mess"

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