GODSPEED YOU! BLACK EMPEROR, G_d’s Pee At State’s End (Constellation). It’s a cliché, but there’s really no other way to put it: this album is positively EPIC. Godspeed You! Black Emperor seems to have a knack for writing the soundtracks for blockbuster movies that don’t yet exist. Their sound is eclectic and all-inclusive, with multiple sources weaving in and out throughout the length of the album. The band says the music is essentially the bi-product of a changing world, having been conceived during their last tour pre-COVID, and recorded during lockdown. Godspeed may be the heaviest post-rock band going, and it has nothing to do with volume or guitar distortion. This is the sound of a band digging into the depths of its musical soul, then channelling what comes out. It is not to be missed.
TRANSATLANTIC, The Absolute Universe (InsideOut Music). Some bands choose to make music that confounds and challenges with each new turn. Others choose to fit as comfortably as a pair of old shoes. The latest effort from Transatlantic feels very much like the latter. The Absolute Universe doesn’t need to break any new ground because the dynamic quartet manages to do that with their collaborative efforts seemingly without much conscious thought. What you see is what you get (in a matter of speaking) where Transatlantic is concerned, and no doubt fans and casual listeners alike will consider this a good thing. The album reveals itself as a duel set of suites guided nicely by the voice and keyboards of Neal Morse (with lovely harmonies by the rest of the band). Drummer Mike Portnoy has no problem making his presence felt, and no one should sell short the efforts of Roine Stolt and Pete Trewavas (guitar and bass, respectively) who are every bit as essential to helping define the band’s sound. This album also has the unique quality of being available in two formats, with Forevermore being the full-length project and The Breath of Life providing abridged versions of the prog-length epics. Regardless of chosen format, Transatlantic continues to prove itself to be a true “supergroup.”
DISTRICT 97, Screenplay (Self Released). Chicago’s District 97 continue to grow and establish their place in modern progressive metal with Screenplay, a live album recorded primarily in the Netherlands at Boerderij Cultuurpodium in October, 2019. Additionally, there are live tracks recorded in the UK and assorted locales in America, primarily at Reggie’s in Chicago. That these recordings go all the way back to 2011 is actually a nice way to measure the band’s growth over the years, which is more than a little substantial. The band’s guitar heaviness, provided by Jim Tashjian, is balanced nicely by the delicate, yet forceful vocals of Leslie Hunt. The grooves are solid, showing no signs of letting up once they have gained your attention. While the mix could use a little more sheen on the high end, the songs make up for it in their own way. District 97 has found the formula to propel them to the next level, and they’re starting to make the most of it.
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