This month, I take a look at three progressive rock releases that ultimately feel similar. They all feel like modern melodic rock with progressive tendencies, and so they all inhabit the same space in my brain. Read on to find out more about Moron Police, Rise Twain, and Lord Helmet.
The Moron Police hail from Norway. The band includes Sondre Skollevoll on vocals, guitars, and other things; Thore Pettersen on drums; Lars Bjørknes on keys; and Christian Steen on bass. They seem like happy and fun-loving guys.
This is one of those bands where I can hear the skill and the appeal, but I just don’t find myself liking them all that well. The band plays an upbeat, happy version of melodic rock, and there are some progressive moments. There are also some blues and jazz influences, especially in the scat singing on a couple tracks. It’s almost like some 90s bands, like Fastball, Dave Matthews, or Matchbox Twenty decided to experiment with some more progressive structures. Yes, the music is colorful and has some quirky moments, but it doesn’t really fit my tastes right now.
Most of the songs sound pretty similar, and all of them are bouncy and colorful in tone, much like their amazing album cover art. For my ears, I like “The Invisible King”, which sounds like a 90s pop rock song. I also like the single, “Captain Awkward”, which feels adventurous and has the scat singing, which I do like. Overall, the album is fun and pleasing to hear, but I don’t know how often I will return to it.
There was quite a bit of hype about this debut from Rise Twain. The band consists of Brett Kull of Echolyn on guitar and J.D. Beck on vocals. They were signed to Inside Out Music, I’m assuming, only because of Brett’s other band. This music doesn’t really fit into the progressive community. Now, you know I love all sorts of music and I’m the first to flip a middle finger at prog snobs, but I’m just warning fans who might think this is progressive rock. It isn’t.
The duo plays a very bland melodic rock. The band themselves said they aren’t progressive rock recently in a Facebook post, though they also stated that they “defy classification”. Well, I don’t know about that. This is straightforward soft rock. That’s it, and it’s not even interesting soft rock. Brett is obvious good on guitars, and J.D. has a great voice, but the results don’t really add up to anything.
Most of the songs are quite uneventful and just sort of pass without much of a whimper. There are some good guitar solos and that sort of thing, but not really worth the journey through the album. I’ve seen other reviews talking about strong hooks and tight melodies, but I’m not really hearing any of that. I’m afraid that this might be another case of a band getting signed based on their other musical endeavors rather than the actual music for the band being signed. I really don’t think IO would have signed a brand new band with this music on offer. I understand that Brett’s name will sell some records, and I’m sure some fans will like this, but for me this album is nothing out of the ordinary.
Of the three bands in this Triple Feature, I have to say that I like Lord Helmet the most. I actually almost wrote a full review, but just couldn’t find the words. The band hails from California, and consists of David Tomkins (ex-The Shadow Principle) on bass, guitar, synths, and vocals; and Adam Figura (ex-Sloth) on drums.
The duo plays an energetic, mostly upbeat rock that sounds dreamy and driving. You will definitely hear bands like Dredg and Muse in their sound, and I recognize the thundering drums from Adam’s time with Sloth (I loved “Dead Generation” back in 2003). I think early 2000s alternative radio rock plays a big role here, more than the band might even know. The guitars are distorted and constantly driving forward, and so that is the main gist of their music. You will also hear spacey guitar accents, synth, and some great alternative vocals that have plenty of accent and personality, too. If I’m being honest, they remind me more than a little of an alt rock band in the 2000s from the UK, called Pacifier.
Most of the songs here are energetic and upbeat to some extent. They have edge, though, like “Hidden Things” and “The Judas Tree”, both of which are solid, enjoyable songs. There are some darker moments on the record, too, such as the title track “Forget the End of the World”, where they really channel David Bowie and go full “prog” on us. I also really like “In Blue” for its use of space and the winding guitar licks. Honestly, all of the songs are fun to hear, and have interesting twists and turns.
Overall, I hope that Lord Helmet keeps making music, and I hope they explore even more of their darker side. They have some great ideas and the music is chock full of personality. I’m looking forward to hearing more.
Find Moron Police online:
Find Rise Twain online:
Find Lord Helmet online: