Forgive me for sounding like an old here, but there’s just too much damn music now, especially this fall. As someone who covers music for fun, it’s head-spinning (Hi Regan!) not just in the amount that comes through various writers’ inboxes, but in how many amazing albums I discover either at year-end or one (or more) years after release. There are whole favorite bands I count that started long after I got into this gig, and I didn’t notice them until multiple record cycles have passed. Some of that is only natural—with the chance to release records across the globe thanks to more indie labels and the power of Bandcamp —while some of it is just down to tastes evolving and art needing to hit you at the right moment in time.
Thankfully, I have only slept on Swiss prog death act Kassogtha through one past record, as their sophomore release, rEvolve, is undoubtedly a new favorite from this year. Interestingly, their batch of influences tickle most of my preferences in music that gets proggy and or death-y (deathly?). Given the choice of spelling, I’m immediately reminded of The Haunted’s rEVOLVEr, and thrashy goodness is very clearly a goal for Kassogtha. Their brand of melodic death is certainly haunted (sorry) by the Scandinavian greats, but I’m also reminded of mid-career The Agonist, Jinjer, and Sylosis. Put on top of that a great appreciation of ’70’s prog and AOR, and you’ve got a pretty tasty stew on your hands or in your pot.
There’s another key influence that hammers home the emphasis on groove: Gojira. I love me any band that also employs pick scrapes and heavy-as-whales riffs, but Kassogtha also recognize the raw ingredients of why mid-career Gojira still slaps, utilizing surprising songwriting choices and riffs that are equal parts catchy and technically impressive. I do hope the band aren’t comprised of vegans (not that there’s anything wrong with that), simply because the best way to describe the guitar tone is beefy.
All of these neat ingredients and influences probably make it sound like rEvolve feels like a rehash of past greats, and that couldn’t be further from the truth. What’s most impressive is how the Swiss group employ this fantastic arsenal in the service of engaging songs. Is rEvolve an efficient listen? Not exactly, but you don’t go into prog death expecting brevity. It’s to Kassogtha’s sincere credit that the album does not lose momentum across its nine songs, though if I were a harsher critic, I would say the final two songs are not the album’s brightest moments. That said, “Plume” and “Save Us” are the most progressive song structures and most interesting movements, so they do feel like templates for future success, if nothing else.
I’ve not yet mentioned vocalist Stephany Hugnin, who is both a key centerpiece and the cherry on top. Featuring a wealth of vocal techniques, this concept album tells the story of Hugnin conquering her demons through a seemingly endless self-destructive cycle of fear, anxiety, and jealousy. The striking album art highlights the almost Greek theater aspect of the storytelling, applying a vice mask to shed light on that aspect of the story. I don’t want to spoil anything, but it’s a wonderful journey to take in.
If it sounds like my effusive praise is unending, well, every story has a cut-off point, and before my editor yanks me off the stage, I’ll finish succinctly. For those who like their prog death to emphasize both aspects of the genre fully, Kassogtha are a near-perfect example of the style. rEvolve is a stunning concept record and a shoe-in for many year-end lists. Go in open-minded, and you’ll be handsomely rewarded.
Order the album at this location.