Man of Much Metal – Transcendence EP Review (June 2015)
I know what you’re all thinking: ‘are octopi/octopuses generally prog, or is this just a special octopus that has progressive tendencies?’ I don’t really know the answer to this either, but what I do know is that there’s a band from the West Midlands here in the UK that go by the slightly absurd moniker of Progoctopus and regardless of whether you’re human, a like-minded octopus or any other creature for that matter, they’re most definitely a band that you’ll want to check out if you like progressive rock music.
Progoctopus formed in 2014 and are a four-piece comprised of lead vocalist Jane Gillard, guitarist/vocalist Alistair Bell, bassist Samuel C. Roberts and drummer/vocalist Tim Wilson. According to the press release, the quartet have a couple of reasons for being, namely to have fun, to experiment and to create interesting and engaging progressive rock music. To my mind, all three are laudable ambitions and with this, their debut four-track EP entitled ‘Transcendence’, they have definitely succeeded in producing something that creates a positive and firm platform upon which the band can build on in the future.
From the opening notes of ‘Transcendence Pt 1’, the word ‘fun’ leaps into my mind and, if I’m honest, doesn’t really leave until the EP is at a close. The opener begins in cheeky fashion with Gillard ad-libbing atop an upbeat and amusing descanting melody line. From there, the composition is built upon a raft of really catchy and immediate melodies, so much so that there’s a demonstrable pop feel to the music. That said, there’s just so much going on and so many other genre references at play that you never lose sight of the fact that this is progressive music at its heart. The opening section is brought to an abrupt close by an ear-catching drum fill before descending into a rather frenetic instrumental passage complete with nicely crunchy guitars and more expansive and extravagant drumming. Things then settle down nicely as the song really finds its feet. The dynamics created via the frequently changing tempos, time signatures and moments of quieter reflection are laudable but importantly, the strong central melody returns frequently to glue things together nicely. For all of the instrumental prowess however, the vocals are undeniably pivotal to Progoctopus’ sound and in Jane Gillard, the band are blessed; smooth, powerful and raw when required, the singing is delightful for the vast majority of proceedings.
‘Transcendence Pt 1’ almost imperceptibly segues into ‘Part 2’ but almost immediately you’re aware of a demonstrable ramping up of the heaviness as the guitar riffs and double-pedal drumming dominate the early passages of the track. A foray into jazz-like territory brings with it a nice guitar solo before the drums again take centre stage rather impressively. And the composition benefits greatly from a reintroduction of the chorus melody from ‘Part 1’ to tie things together and offer the listener some kind of anchor within the rather adventurous track. Whereas the focal point of ‘Part 1’ is the vocals, the drums and bass play a hugely important role in ‘Part 2’ and I really like the fact that these prog rock musicians aren’t afraid to connect with their inner metal head.
‘Like Stone’ is a completely different beast altogether, led as it is by acoustic guitars and a gorgeous breezy melody and more great vocals. Again the bass is pivotal and I can’t help but get drawn into the rather funky bass lines that underpin this lovely, laid-back track.
The EP then closes with ‘Carousel’, the longest track that weighs in at around the nine-minute mark. Again, a sense of fun and cheekiness pervades the song and whatever instrumental tangents are explored, of which there are many, the music always returns to a memorable melody that cannot help but make you smile. Particularly noteworthy for me are those moments where melodic hard rock influences subtly enter the fray and join with a bouncy tempo to great effect.
All too quickly, ‘Transcendence’ comes to a close and with it, comes the fervent wish that there was even more music to enjoy. The music is not without the occasional flaw in that it occasionally veers in a cheesy, cliched direction and I’d like the material to be a little more focussed and honed in places – here and there, less really can be more. But these are small quibbles and it is always a sign of good music when you’re left wanting more. But now begins the wait for the band to deliver a full-length album. In the meantime, it is the job of this review and others to extol the virtues of Progoctopus, in order to create enough interest to ensure that a full-length debut becomes a reality. I for one hope that it does.