At the beginning of 2020, the outlook was dire. The progosphere started to lack any snazzy voice or a powerful ‘dear leader’ to pull the Progressive Metal genre down the road. Leprous just jumped off a cliff to sugary-sweet Lalaland with some confused wailing all their own. And Steven Wilson – well – after a testy go-between prog rock thing a few years back, he was about to defect to the anodyne world synthpop occupies – and occupied for many years.
It was thus great that by the end of last year and the beginning of this one, we saw the re-emergence of some stellar prog that came back to us. Bands like Scardust, Haken, or Need rushed to the forefront. Those few ones showcased how good, tightly strung prog metal and – yes – rock could still exist. Without drowning everything in a pop ‘n’ cheese universe governed by too much shampoo.
Yet, Wilson here pledges artistic freedom for his new record The Future Bites, a view to which he is certainly entitled. But let’s be blunt. The only thing he really created this time is yet another pop album. One that easily reaches back 30-40 years to Bowie-esque shenanigans, Supertramp, Pink Floyd, and the 80’s craze of disco balls and garish shirts. A piece of fucking rosy EDM and electronica that comes with a wave of stale and dusty nostalgia. And the tasty lyrics about consumerism and abject capitalism won’t change that fact one iota.
Yet, Steven Wilson wouldn’t be himself, if he wouldn’t do things by the book. If he changes styles, the whole Wilson man moves in, not just his shadow or a borrowed voice out of some sort of futuristic test-tube. Full immersion, and then full steam ahead to wherever this perfectionist pipe dream might lead.
And let’s face it. Whilst The Future Bites‘ shiny pop surface gleams crazily at the disco floor, Wilson‘s new alma mater isn’t all that far away from the times when Porcupine Tree was just the thing. So, the pop urge has been preexistent for some time. And – besides – the man always was a free spirit, and rightly so.
At least Wilson knows what he is doing and the pop he spews is of high quality. Well, maybe he should get together with Taylor Swift. She came a long way from an adolescent country offshoot to full-blown bitch pop.1) Together they could achieve great things and I earnestly would give such a creation a shot.
So, where does that leave the Progressive Metal genre?
Steven Wilson recently stated that he wanted to do – and I quote – “…away with those classic rock tropes.”2) And – indeed – this is what he did. Methinks also that this is something he wanted to do for some time, and he ain’t likely to come back to mama for some crunchy rock’n’roll.
In other words, you lose some, you win some. Same as with the aforementioned Leprous, Steven Wilson now firmly belongs to pop and all that stands for. Yet, you metalheads out there need not worry. We got good coverage – for now. A fair number of bands stepped up to the plate and delivered true prog rock and metal.
There truly is no loss of quality nor iconic bands to relate to in this genre. Instead, we got rotation. And that’s a good thing after all.