5 MORE Prog Bands You Need To Know: The Best of Atlanta Prog - Part Two
Following up on my previous article highlighting some of the outstanding progressive/experimental rock and metal acts in the Atlanta scene, here are five more world class prog bands you need to know about. Don't sleep on any of these remarkable groups.
Striking the perfect balance between staggering technicality and disarming accessibility; uncompromising ambition and unabashed fun, Satyr entered the Atlanta music scene in 2016, and has enjoyed a meteoric rise to virtually universal acclaim, both locally and abroad. The progressive post-hardcore quartet – comprising guitarists/vocalists Michael “Soup” Campbell and Janald “JD” Long, bassist Calvin Cox, and drummer Brody Smith – draws on influences ranging from At the Drive In to Rush, and this results in a truly unique blend of sounds that appeals to a wide variety of listeners. The generally dark, yet driving and youthfully energetic nature of the band's music (as well as Long's sincere, impassioned clean vocals, which often convey deeply reflective lyrics) will endear them to fans of punk and emo. Their crushing dual guitar attack, Campbell's unhinged, guttural screams, and the furious drumming of Smith will thrill metal and hardcore punk crowds. Those partial to more traditional strains of prog rock will appreciate the ensemble's virtuoso playing, as well as their knack for flawlessly executing jarring changes of time signature, and the mastery of dynamics and phrasing displayed in their highly polished and refined compositions.
Another top-notch progressive post-hardcore act, Ethos has been a fixture of the Atlanta scene for nearly a decade now. Formed in 2009 and spearheaded by Austen Earp – a classically-trained pianist and composer whose songs often demonstrate a strong penchant for macabre and romantic imagery as well as a fascination with questions of philosophy and religion – the group is regarded equally as highly for their artistic sophistication as for their raw, frenzied rock and roll energy. And one need only listen to the opening track from their 2012 debut album Vessels - “Supernova (Prelude In A-Minor)” - to understand why. Marked by aggressive vocals, angular guitar leads, Chopin-esque piano breaks, tempestuous dynamic shifts, and an overall harmonic structure far richer than that of most rock songs, it remains a fan favorite, and serves as a rather comprehensive introduction to the band's singular sound. In 2017, following a lengthy recording process, Earp, bassist Nick Riggs, drummer Tribb Robison, and guitarist Kuyper Cummings released the highly-anticipated second Ethos album, Shade and Soil. Developing even further the complex melodies, intricate instrumental arrangements, and conceptually rich lyrics which defined its predecessor, and featuring the first three movements of the sprawling “Archetype Suite” (which Earp has stated will continue and eventually conclude with future releases), Shade and Soil represented the start a thrilling new chapter for the four-piece upon its arrival, and has been met with enthusiasm from fans and critics alike.
Not Otherwise Specified
Following a hiatus of nearly fifteen years, undertaken amidst the building of a family as well as a thriving psychology practice, Dr. Craig Kerley knew it was time to return to his first love – writing, recording, and performing music – when his own children began to demonstrate an interest in learning to play. It didn’t take long for Craig to rediscover his passion for crafting sweeping, grandiose progressive rock songs like those of his 70’s and 80’s musical heroes. However, not content merely to indulge in nostalgia, he also found himself drawing on heavier, more modern influences (namely, Pain of Salvation, Dream Theater, and Opeth) as well, little by little homing in on a unique sound all his own. The result was a symphonic prog metal/neo-prog studio project named Not Otherwise Specified (a term derived from Craig’s background as a psychologist), whose first album, Judgment – which features Kerley on almost every instrument – was a success, thanks to widespread support from the online prog community upon its release in 2011. A few short years later, the next NOS album – Projective Instruments – arrived, amassing an even greater fanbase for the project and earning rave reviews. Spurred on by friends, family, and fans, Craig soon assembled a live band, which made its debut at the very first Prognosis Festival in 2014. Over two years’ worth of consistently powerful and captivating shows would follow, including an opening spot for American neo-prog legends Enchant. Eventually, however, due to scheduling conflicts and shifts in musical direction, the first incarnation of the NOS live band dissolved in early 2017. In the interim that’s followed, Craig has steadily been working on the next Not Otherwise Specified LP, currently titled Deadweight.
With decades of collective musical experience under their belts, Zach Kinsaul (guitar, vocals), Dennis Svela (bass, vocals), Gib Heuett (guitar, vocals), Mark Pruitt (keys), and Howard Williams (drums) released their first album together under the name Notice Grace – an independent 8 song LP entitled Movements – in 2014, and they haven’t looked back since. Seasoned veterans of the Atlanta music scene with a tried-and-true DIY work ethic, the five-piece quickly built a cult following on the strength of their thrilling live shows and skillful self-marketing, going on to earn numerous accolades from a wide variety of online music outlets, including 356 Radio Network, who continues to feature their music frequently. The group boasts a timeless classic rock sound with a progressive edge – one marked by anthemic guitar riffs, rich keyboard textures, and expansive, complex song arrangements – and they often draw comparisons to iconic 70’s/80’s acts like Styx, Rush, and Kansas. Following the release of two well-received standalone singles – “Abandonment”, and “City On A String” – in 2015, Notice Grace took a short break from studio work, though they continued to perform live on a somewhat regular basis. In 2017, they resumed writing and recording their second full length album, which is currently (as of the date of this article’s publishing) untitled.
Story Of A Life
There is a thin line that separates progressive rock from jazz fusion, and the Atlanta instrumental quartet known as Story Of A Life seems unafraid of dancing all over it. The band’s music is mellow, groovy, and highly melodic – easily accessible and enjoyable to a vast array of listeners. However, there is a considerable depth and sophistication present in SOAL’s compositions which sets them apart, continuing to amaze listeners in unexpected and exciting ways with each new listen. Scott Ritshie’s expressive synth runs, Sean Tonar’s soulful guitar leads, Stephen Cox’s intricate, but subdued and tasteful basslines, and the world-class drumming of Brian “Thor” Coutts effortlessly melt together into a single entrancing, highly distinct sound that feels like a cross between Weather Report and Relayer-era Yes. In 2015, the band released their eponymous debut EP. Numerous shows followed, often featuring the group’s original songs alongside beloved covers from a wide variety of genres, all given a unique stylistic twist. Early this year, Story Of A Life began work on their second release, a full length studio album which is slated for completion and release in 2019.