Rob’s Recommendation Roundup: Volume 20


Hail Spirit Noir – “Eden In Reverse”
Agonia Records
19 June 2020

I hadn’t heard of Greece’s Hail Spirit Noir prior to this so I had no expectations coming into this. From what I read about them, they were more rooted in psych rock with a bit of black metal and now they were experimenting with an 80s style. In listening to “Eden In Reverse,” I don’t really hear anything 80s sounding. Hmm ok so I went back and checked out their last album “Mayhem In Blue.” This was completely different.

They basically lost their black metal roots for their new album which were VERY present on “Mayhem In Blue.” “Eden In Reverse” is very 70s prog rock mixed with psych rock and is really amazing too! Honestly the band has made a major change between these albums and yet it doesn’t appear to be noted anywhere. This really is perplexing. I wouldn’t call them a metal band now and that’s fine really. It’s like a butterfly emerging from a cocoon.

The album starts off with the somewhat brief and very strange “Darwinian Beasts.” I love it! It’s all about the various keyboard sounds on this track, very cool and trippy. Things get louder with “Incense Swirls” which HINTS at the band’s metal past but this is more like Goblin with vocals. So it’s edgy but I wouldn’t call it metallic really. Another psychedelic freak out. “Alien Lip Reading” is along the same lines though I bit less relentless. One thing to note is the vocals are very…Nick Cave like. Not a black metal shriek to be found.

The first single from the album “The First Ape on New Earth” has plenty of organ, synths and pounding drums. It’s a great choice since it makes for a solid representation of the album as a whole. And it make sure it’s a prog album, it has the necessary 10+ minute closer in “Automata 1980.” If you love vintage keys mixed with solid melodies and a dark vibe, then you will love this song. Hell, you’ll love the whole album as I do. Hail Spirit Noir have ARRIVED and “Eden In Reverse” needs to he heard by prog fans around the world! So I guess they aren’t black metal anymore.



Shaman Elephant – “Wide Awake but Still Asleep”
Karisma Records
29 May 2020

I could just say, “if you like Motorpsycho, then you’ll like Shaman Elephant.” But that doesn’t help folks who don’t know Motorpsycho. Yes you should know them. Norwegian prog rock seems to share the same overall DNA, which is probably why I love it.

“Wide Awake but Still Asleep” is the band’s second album and starts off with the title track. The song, like the album, builds up and features a classic 70s vibe and I started to think, “wow, a cool instrumental!” And then 5 minutes in, VOCALS! The song gets a little jazzy which is where the Motorpsycho vibe comes it.

To be clear, Shaman Elephant know how to ROCK as well. I am sick of prog rock bands that forget the rock part of the genre. “H.M.S. Death, Rattle and Roll” kicks some major ass and damn they can jam out. You want cool riffs? The oddly titled “Steely Dan” has a cool guitar riff, along with great keys. VERY Motorpsycho sounding vocally. And I love that they remind me of them since I love that band as well.

But Shaman Elephant are not a clone. Tracks like “Magnets” are very much their spin on prog, mixing old and new sounds. Plus, these are great songs! It’s fine that the band can play (and they can!) but you’re nothing without good songs and “Wide Awake but Still Asleep” is full of them! And yes there’s an epic of course. “Traveller” is the big track and it’s a complete showcase for this amazing band!

I have no idea how so many bands are on Karisma Records but it’s a credit to the label but more to the great country of Norway. The country gets overshadowed by Sweden and many other countries but for me, bands like Shaman Elephant make Norwegian prog as good as any prog out there.



Airbag – “A Day at the Beach”
Karisma Records
19 June 2020

Airbag can do no wrong as far as I am concerned. It’s been a while since the last album but the good news is that they still sound like Airbag, a mix of Pink Floyd and Porcupine Tree…but perhaps wearing those influences less prominently. Airbag have honed those influences into their own brand of modern prog. It’s melodic and powerful for sure.

“A Day at the Beach” is the fifth release by Airbag and yes, they have done it once again. The throbbing synths slowly bring the opening song “Machines And Men” to life. Even though it’s definitely Airbag, the band show they can do different things. The song (like the album as a whole) is more electronic than anything they’ve tried in the past but it doesn’t stay that way. Rather, it’s a way to set the mood for the song itself.

Another favorite is “Into The Unknown.” Again, the song builds slowly. Airbag know how to arrange a song and let it breathe. And if you’re wondering, what about the guitar solos? Bjorn Riis has an amazing solo on this track. “Sunsets” has a bit of an 80s vibe to it. The keys are more abrasive here. That tends to be the overall sound of “A Day at the Beach.” The key is that Airbag still balances it with their classic sound. Like on “Sunsets,” it’s the chorus that brings back that old Airbag sound.

Where does “A Day at the Beach” rank with the rest of the band’s catalog? It’s hard to say at the moment. Each time I hear it, I hear more things that I don’t recall from the last time. It’s layered, yet not overly so. Subtle but infectious. Sounds like Airbag! They have indeed done it again! BUY IT!

About Rob

I have been a fan of progressive metal and progressive rock for most of my life. My music collection is insanely large. My passion for life is music!
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