Albums that you should consider checking out. First is the latest from the German collective Panzerballett called Planet Z. The main difference on this album versus past albums is the use of guest drummers. The list of drummers is quite impressive too: Marco Minnemann, Virgil Donati (Planet X), Grammy Award winner Morgan Ågren (Zappa), Gergo Borlai (Tribal Tech) and Hannes Grossmann (Alkaloid, Blotted Science). You might think that shifts like this would cause the album to not flow well. Consider that this is Panzerballett so crazy changes are common.
Leader/guitarist Jan Zehrfeld ensures that the signature jazz prog metal sound is always present. He also chooses great songs for each drummer. And each drummer is able to put his own stamp on the song as well. Personal favorites are the opening track Prime Time with Donati and Open Your Mind with Ågren. But my two top favorites are the ones with Borlai, “No One is Flying the Plane” (incredible track) and the closer “SOS.” Perhaps he just FITS Panzerballett the best? The bottom line is that “Planet Z” is essential if you love instrumental prog with amazing playing. And if you are sick of bedroom guitarists with their computerized drums.
Next up is a one man project by the multi-talented John Bassett (of Kingbathmat fame) called Arcade Messiah. Arcade Messiah started out as an instrumental band but has evolved into something more akin to his main gig by adding vocals to it. “The Host” is the first album not to be named with a number. Musically, it doesn’t differ to much from the previous albums.
Bassett can write a good riff and this album does have quite a few of those. While I did enjoy when Arcade Messiah was all instrumental, Bassett has a great voice so it’s nice to hear it on “The Host.” My only complaint is that the drumming is not as over the top as the guitar work and tends to lag a bit behind. Sorry. But overall, this is a fine addition to the Arcade Messiah catalog.
Finally, while they aren’t “prog” I am LOVING the new album by Doves called “The Universal Want.” The band remind me of a cross between Elbow and Thrice. Since I love both of those bands, Doves are a new love. They mix alt rock with art rock and a bit of post prog as well. The songs on “The Universal Want” are all top notch: great hooks, great melodies and a ton of atmosphere! This album will definitely be one of my favorites of 2020.