Top 20 Albums of 2019 by Prog Sphere

Top 20 of 2019 by Prog Sphere
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10. RICHARD HENSHALL – The Cocoon

The Cocoon is an enigmatic and emotive experience, characterized by ethereal soundscapes, mathematic rhythms, dark introspective themes, and blazing solo spots from a slew of accomplished guest musicians. The best way to describe this record to Haken fans is probably as a blend of the ethereal rock of Haken‘s Affinity record with the fusion-rock stylings of Nova Collective‘s debut album. Musically engaging from start to finish, The Cocoon features no shortage of interesting and thought-provoking musical grandeur. Henshall‘s compositional talents are in full force here, and the music is very strong.

09. LEPROUS – Pitfalls

Pitfalls is not a progressive metal album by any conventional definition of the genre, but it is absolutely progressive. There’s no other way to describe the way Leprous has been able to take their particular brand of melancholic prog, inject it with pop, dance and electronic music, and still come out the other side with something new and refreshing that is absolutely Leprous – and it’s not like they’ve completely abandoned conventional prog.

08. PERIPHERY – Periphery IV: Hail Stan

What has been announced with Select Difficulty is fully realized on Hail Stan — the band has taken the time to create an album that is by far their most mature and well-thought release. How well it will stand the test of time remains to be seen, but the nine songs found here show how far Periphery have come in a span of only six albums.

07. SOEN – Lotus

With Lotus, Soen delivers a solid follow-up to 2017′s Lykaia, reaffirming their sound and ensuring that their fan base gets exactly what is expected of them: a carefully polished slab of progressive rock and metal that wears their influences high and proud instead of rejecting them to become something they are not.

06. TOOL – Fear Inoculum

Fear Inoculum proves that Tool are true devotees to their craft, and sounds just as inspired as their classics. Album highlights like “Descending” and “7empest” are so dynamic and full of ideas that the band probably could have expanded on the details and made ten different songs out of them if they wanted to. Their fearless experimentation is in full form, and wisely don’t lean on previous releases to copy what was successful for them in the past. Even though it wouldn’t sound that strange if it were released ten or twenty years ago, Fear Inoculum feels singular and modern. It’s clear that at least a decent amount of the long wait time since the excellent 10,000 Days was spent carefully laying the groundwork for each musical passage, each transition, each epic climax on the record.

05. HER NAME IS CALLA – Animal Choir

Animal Choir ends with the duo of “Bloodline” and “In Thixs Patterned Room.” “Bloodline” is eight-minutes long, but also maybe the most straightforward song on the album. Guitars and drums crash behind an impassioned repeated cry of “I don’t want to be a part of this.” The song builds into waves of riffs before fading out and eventually turning into closing track “In This Patterned Room.” A short and soft acoustic affair, it is also likely the last song to be heard from Her Name is Calla, as the band have announced that this is their last album. After an epic runtime and countless breathtaking moments, they choose to not go out with a bang, but a beautiful whimper.

04. DIAGONAL – Arc

Arc speaks volumes not only about Diagonal’s ability to make a huge impact on the progressive rock/metal scene, but also about their potential. With a lot of bands, it is easy to identify their ceiling. Sometimes it is a lack of top-notch skill, other times it’s an inability to put everything together in a melodic, listenable fashion. For Diagonal’, they can clearly do both of these things while mixing in other styles often exotic to the world of prog. It may sound like an oversimplification, but it is quite possible that Diagonal simply didn’t make the perfect album yet – not by any particular fault of their own, but rather because capturing lightning in a bottle only happens once in an entire career, even if you’re lucky. So does Diagonal have a timeless classic stored up somewhere deep within their minds? There’s no way of being certain, but this is one reviewer who believes the answer is an emphatic, incontrovertible yes.

 

03. OPETH – In Cauda Venenum

In Cauda Venenum is the most focused that Opeth has sounded since 2005’s Ghost Reveries. It’s easy to dismiss the framework as superficial and I do find myself wondering if I’d appreciate this album as much if the English version was all we had to work with, but there is no denying how much these elements strengthen the band’s songwriting. Some listeners will never be convinced by Opeth’s prog rock era but the songs here are engaging enough for me to take notice. At the very least, it’s nice to know that Pale Communion wasn’t a fluke.

02. CULT OF LUNA – A Dawn to Fear

With A Dawn to Fear Cult of Luna prove that they are still leaps and bounds ahead of the competition. Using varied songwriting and enough breathing room to make the big ones pop, it leaves us with one of the best albums of the year. It can stand on its own next to the likes of Mariner and proves that they don’t need the help of outside vocalists to be the best version of themselves.

01. DEVIN TOWNSEND – Empath

Townsend is, at the best of times, a divisive artist and Empath features and amplifies his every unfettered, divisive impulse to a ludicrous degree. It’s not the kind of album you can walk away from and forget having listened to. It’s bound to draw a reaction, be it love, hate, or just bafflement. Perhaps in twenty years Empath will stand out as an artistic landmark of singular importance. Or perhaps it will signify a dead-end in an otherwise glittering career. Or maybe it will continue to be as challenging and opaque as it intends to be.

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