As 2015 wraps up, progheads are certain to be contentedly reflecting upon a bountiful calendar of ripe, riff-tastic releases. Below is an overview of some of the more high-profile and well-received albums released over the last year, complete with convenient links to singles, so newcomers can claim no excuse for not head-bobbing in 6/8 time well into Spring.
Periphery – Juggernaut: Alpha & Omega
Prog metal Juggernauts themselves, Periphery dropped their double album early on in the year to warm reception. The drop-tuned groove and ferocious fretwork which the band is known for is bolstered by a more cohesive, conceptual release and uncompromising quality throughout.
Steven Wilson – Hand. Cannot. Erase.
Steven Wilson, the mastermind behind one of modern prog rock’s most beloved groups, Porcupine Tree, has more recently been releasing music as a solo artist, leaving Porcupine Tree mostly dead and buried. Many will claim that Wilson’s solo work is his strongest yet, however, and with a staggering accompaniment lineup including Guthrie Govan, Marco Minneman, Nick Beggs, and Adam Holzman, Wilson’s fourth solo effort, Hand. Cannot. Erase., is topping “best of” charts left and right.
Native Construct – Quiet World
Though newcomers to the scene as a band, the members of Native Construct are already seasoned musicians, as students hailing from the well-respected Berklee College of Music. With an all-but-quiet explosion onto the scene, the band is already reaching for fellow alumni Dream Theater’s level of success, with Quiet World sporting a neo-prog fusion between said prog gods and other genre staples such as Between the Buried and Me, with a healthy dose of Queen to boot.
TesseracT – Polaris
When a listener delves into British quintet TesseracT’s latest album, he or she can expect to be treated to “alternation between heavenly, tranquil melodic layering and bone-shattering distorted riffing which is usually syncopated, occasionally to the point of bending time itself,” to quote ME’s in-depth review. Indeed, as one of the pioneering outfits of the “djent” sector of progressive metal, Tesseract continues to offer serenity, groove, and lumbering riffage all in equal measure.
Between the Buried and Me – Coma Ecliptic
Long lauded within the progressive metal circle, Between the Buried and Me touched down in 2015 with a conceptual release about an individual’s spiritual experience while in a coma. Despite choosing to eschew some of the -core aspects of their sound, many fans claim that Coma Ecliptic is the outfit’s strongest release since their breakthrough, Colors.
Riverside – Love, Fear, and the Time Machine
Poland’s Riverside, already established as heroic channelers of classic prog, dial it back in almost every way except emotion on their 2015 release. Love, Fear, and the Time Machine sees the quartet following Opeth’s lead in reeling in the extremities of their sound and exploring a more introspective facet of their personality. The album still proves to be an engaging experience throughout and a heartfelt effort from a passionate group of musicians.
The Dear Hunter – Act IV: Rebirth in Reprise
After a two-album respite, Rhode Island prog rockers The Dear Hunter have finally returned to their beloved “Acts” series with Rebirth in Reprise. Brilliantly harmonized vocals, lush orchestration, and a length-to-quality ratio worthy of two whole albums make Act IV a strong contender for many “album of the year” lists, especially for those who prefer their prog to be without too much metal.
Scale the Summit – V
For folks with an inclination toward virtuosic guitar work along with equally impressive bass and drum instrumentation, vocal-less foursome Scale the Summit will wail their way into your eardrums with their succinctly-titled fifth album, V. With a more lyrical touch to their jazz fusion-influenced guitar work, the Houston-based band will urge some to pick up a guitar, and other prospective shredders to drop their instruments out of sheer amazement.
Intronaut – The Direction of Last Things
Blending sludge, post-metal, prog, and a handful of other influences, Los Angeles-based Intronaut return with another dynamic tornado of outstanding musicianship. Marking the return of harsh vocals after the previous effort’s absence, The Direction of Last Things is a definite recommendation for active listeners who prefer their music take them on a wild ride.
Baroness – Purple
Barely edging their way into the end of 2015, Georgia sludge masters Baroness have dropped Purple, their potent recovery album after a devastating bus accident in 2012. Their effort has already been praised by critics, even earning special mention by James Hetfield himself.
For more of 2015’s impressive progressive offerings, be sure to check out artists such as Plini, David Maxim Micic, Intervals, CHON, Caligula’s Horse, Leprous, Agent Fresco, and Pomegranate Tiger. Thanks for reading, and here’s to an even proggier 2016!