I heard that it’s cool to be well rounded. Like how when you ask someone what they listen to they say, “everything.” But what they mean is that they listen to rock, pop, or rap on the radio, or that they aren’t particularly interested in an particular kind of music (that’s  a particular particular). So when you say, “hey, listen to this,” then they reply by saying that they’re not really into it and that’s not what they meant by they listen to “everything.” Then they accuse you of only listening to prog. Obviously it’s because its a pretty narrow genre where all the bands sound exactly the same. Like Rush and Yugen, for example; yeah, pretty much the same band. Ok, time to shut up and be serious. Here’s a batch of albums that are pretty different from each other. Even if you only do listen to prog, you can kinda feel like you listen to “everything” at the same time as you can enjoy what these four albums bring to the table. If you skipped the ‘prog’ label, other people would think these would be courses for totally different meals. For most of us, it’s just another day in prog. And it’s delicious.

Southern Cross – From Tragedy

 Rating: 3.0

 Southern Cross’s third album presents a strong blend of a variety of metal genres, making it a progressive releases that would most likely be appreciated by a variety of metal fans. The things that caught my attention were strong and defined musical themes, solid production, and a mix that I enjoy. In other words, keyboards are mixed loud, right on par with the guitars, enough to keep the guitars heavy but not put the keyboards in the background, which makes a strong ambient/symphonic sound. The drums are punchy, which I love, and even the bass guitar is very audible, which is rare in metal. Don’t be expecting something that sounds like Symphony X or Dream Theater. Southern Cross actually seems to mix a number of modern sounds, including vocals which seem to skirt across several extreme genres, including death metal, black metal, scream, and deathcore. Not my cup of tea as far as the ‘core’ vocals go, but the clean vocals are decent. Very modern, not operatic or pretentious in any way, but they don’t sound like he’s a little weenie ‘scenester’ kid either. Overall, From Tragedy could be described as catchy and melodic with some great riffing. While this album didn’t really catch my attention strongly, I’d imagine that some people would get their socks knocked off.

 Notturno Concertante – Canzoni Allo Specchio

 Rating: 3.0

 While Notturno Concertante doesn’t sound much like them, I got that same great feeling from them as I got when I first heard folk rock bands like Brasil’s Tuatha Da Danaan and Spain’s Mago de Oz. Canzoni allo Specchio offers great folk rock grooves with fun use of traditional instruments, especially loads of violin. Don’t search for anything pretentious here; Canzoni is  very accessible album; however, Notturno Concertante delivers a really great feel and a collection of tunes which are both varied and fulfilling. Oh yeah, they’re Italian also, which makes me happy J

Herd of Instinct – Herd of Instinct

 Rating: 3.0

 I’m not gonna lie, Heard of Instinct instantly caught my attention with it’s opening moments that screamed heavy, dark avant prog. But, the bad side of the coin is that somehow the album didn’t keep me engaged the way the first few minutes did when they swept me off my feet; somehow I felt like Herd of Instinct promised me they would take me somewhere, but then didn’t. Now, am I saying this is a bad album? No, it’s a very good album. I mean, Gavin Harrison and Pat Mastelotto do some appearances. How could that be a bad thing? The song writing is nice, the textures are eerie, and the electronic influences make them stand out a bit from other avant prog bands. I vote for everyone to give this one a try. It might just keep your attention where mine dropped off. I hate to say it, but could I be becoming one of those obnoxious people that wishes all bands in a genre could somehow compare to their favorite (Yugen, in my case)? Let’s hope not.

The Addictiion Dream – Essence

 Rating: 3.0

 Portland’s The Addiction Dream offers a very nice debut, with thought provoking lyrics that make you look inside rather than towards outer space and a mix of styles that unashamedly basks in the present (a la Radiohead and Muse) while nodding at the past (is anyone else hearing some Pink Floyd in there?). Generally speaking I’m not a big fan of the style, but honestly these guys give you a pretty good time when you start spinning this thing. Essence has a particular dreamy and melancholy vibe. There’s an uncanny and ominous bit hanging around, like an old storage room that only gets opened for a peek in because you just feel slightly uncomfortable venturing in. It’s somber, in a good way and it is catchy without being stupid. I think we’ll be seeing good things from these guys in the future. Best of luck to them.