Archives

All posts for the month December, 2017

This news story was originally published here: http://theprogressiveaspect.net/blog/2017/12/31/a-different-aspect-16-christmas-special-2017-pt-6/


Bigfoot – Bigfoot
Roland Bühlmann – Bailenas
Gaillion – Renewal and Release EP
Colour Haze – In Her Garden
Transport Aerian – Therianthrope
Howlin’ Sun – Howlin’ Sun

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Bigfoot hail from sunny Wigan in Lancashire and are a heavy rock band with dual guitarists and a thunderous rhythm section. Their website shows them to be a hard rocking outfit with influences from The Eagles to Pantera, many of which can be heard on this, their debut album released on the Italian Frontiers label.

They open with a strong statement of intent on Karma which continues through all eleven differing tracks to epic closer Yours where a steady bass line gives way to crashing guitars, in tandem, with a power ballad feel. This could be a killer song live, which is probably where Bigfoot are best seen and heard; guitars and singer wail and the drummer hits lots of drums – hard – making for an impressive debut that surely heralds bigger things for this band. Also of note is the reggae – yes, reggae – influenced I Dare You which is intriguing and entertaining in equal measure.

On the strength of this I declare Bigfoot a band to watch over the next year as big things must surely await them.


Roland Bühlmann – Bailenas
by Tony Colvill

A second album for TPA from Roland Bühlmann’s studio, after 2014’s Aineo, his first release. Still working alone, Roland has produced another album that may peak some interest if the listener is in the mood for ambient chill.

The outstanding tracks are the title, Bailenas, and one other, Zammeru. Whilst there is nothing unpleasant about the remaining tracks, the album lacks the variety of Aineo. I still feel much would be gained by working with other musicians. There is another great image on the cover, by Igor Glushko, but more variation on the content would be a benefit for me. However, this is not a bad album to relax to.


Gaillion – Renewal and Release EP
by John Wenlock-Smith

This is the new five track EP from NY-based band Gaillion (pronounced Guy-Lee-On), comprising new single The Focal Point and four re-recordings from earlier EPs.

With an ’80s Rush sound this is fine stuff that is really crying out for both an epic track and also for a full length album. It is an interesting albeit brief listen as just when things start to get going it finishes and this is certainly a release that I would love to have heard a lot more of. Second track, Letter from the Skipper, continues the Rush-like groove with an Alex Lifeson guitar part which sound terrific. The Unravelling opens with a strong bass flourish and whilst the drummer is no Neal Peart he certainly has a good swing to his playing and that makes this another compelling track with a fine growling bass part. A strong track that bodes well for the band’s future.

Lorelei has a strong rhythmic drive to it, with good lyrics about a sea voyage, while The Focal Point brings this brief EP to a very pleasurable close, from a plucked bass line and more Lifeson-like guitar this is a fine little mid-tempo song that shows great potential for the future.

This is a band that I would like to hear more of, and if you liked 80’s Rush like Power Windows or Grace Under Pressure you will find much to like.


Colour Haze – In Her Garden
by Shawn Dudley

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While Munich, Germany isn’t exactly ground zero for the stoner rock scene, that hasn’t stopped Colour Haze from being one of the finest ambassadors of the genre for over 20 years. While their core sound has morphed away from the overtly Sabbath-influenced strains of their early material to a more laid-back hippy/psych sound, their love of stretched-out jams, improvised solos and fuzz-heavy riffs are still wildly entertaining.

Guitarist Stefan Koglek is the engine that drives In Her Garden and his inspired, earthy playing is consistently on-point throughout, ably assisted by the tight rhythmic unit of Phillip Rastofer (bass) and Manfred Merwald (drums), this lineup remaining firm since 1998 and their many years of playing together is immediately discernable. Self-recorded by the band in their rehearsal space, the album creates an intimate fly-on-the-wall experience for the listener; it truly does sound like you’re in the room with the group.

This style of music is all about the “build”, starting with a groove and then slowly adding layers and upping the intensity as the piece develops. Naturally the most successful tracks are the longer cuts which allow the band more real estate to roam. Highlights include the Hendrix-inspired joy of Islands, the adventurous Lotus which adds strings and choir to the mix, and the album closing barn-burner Skydance.

While not breaking any new stylistic ground, that’s really not the point of groove-based music; it’s all about the authenticity. In Her Garden gets my stoner stamp of approval.


Transport Aerian – Therianthrope
by John Wenlock-Smith

This is a very different and unusual CD from Transport Aerian (Hamlet and his colleagues). Dealing as it does with states of mind and mental illness, this is a particularly difficult listen but one that rewards the effort hamdsomely.

Of interest is the five part Abstract Symphony which sees a group of musicians playing randomly and without any guidance or music to work from, improvised using vocal cues and a series of photographs. The results are both discordant, interesting and bold, yet somehow and surprisingly it sounds very effective and valid.

This is a very brave and imaginative release that certainly draws the listener in with its mix of styles, from folkish to rather metallic, there is much to appreciate here and some great violin work throughout too.

I rather like this and it certainly deserves a wider reach than it will probably receive.


Howlin’ Sun – Howlin’ Sun
by John Wenlock-Smith

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This is the debut album from Bergen, Norway based hard rock band Howlin’ Sun, due for release in February 2018 on Apollon Records.

The ten songs are fine Nordic hard rock with a bluesy tone, a fairly straight ahead blues rock album with lots of loud guitars and a singer with a good range and tone to his voice. They crank up the Marshall’s and let the Gibson’s roar often, and very well too. You can spot all the usual influences from Free to AC/DC, but it’s all delivered with such aplomb that one can forgive the obviousness.

There are some good songs on offer here too, like the sprighty Yellow Lit Road and Strange Night for starters. This is a band to look out for as they have the talent to make it big and this debut is a pretty good way to start.

Very entertaining and enjoyable overall, it’s a good effort, although it could do with an epic long track on it too.


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This news story was originally published here: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/ProgNewsProgarchives/~3/uMLHIDCOwT8/forum_posts.asp

The music has gone quiet temporarily at Melodic Revolution Records as we sadly report the tragic news of the loss of one near and dear to our hearts and a member of our Melodic Revolution Family. Last evening our dear friend and Musician Extraordinaire, Colin Tench left this world, and though the music lives on we will forever feel the loss of his creativity.

According to members of the family we have learned that Colin passed away peacefully due to natural causes. Out of respect to his family we felt it necessary to keep this info out of the public attention until all family members were notified.

On behalf of us all at Melodic Revolution Records we extend our deepest love, eternal respect and condolences to the family, friends and fans of Colin Tench. Colin was 63 years old and had just released his latest album “minor Masterpiece” under the “Colin Tench Project.” Anyone that knew or had worked with him could and most definitely would tell you that he was an under-rated and exceptionally talented musician who was charismatic and witty, well respected and loved. Colin was a rare breed indeed in today’s world, a friend and mentor to so many. Colin will be missed more than words can express. We hope that he has taken his wings to join the great gig in the sky, heaven is blessed with our loss. May you rest in peace.

In a note from Gordo Bennet who just finished working closely with Colin on his new album.
“My heart and time stopped when I heard the news that my dear brother, friend, and musical mentor had left this earth on angels wings. It deeply saddens me, and I am broken right now because of it. Colin has touched so many of us in different ways but it was his music that brought us all together as one. I think that he would want us to “pay attention to the details” as he would say and focus on all the laughter, love, and music he brought to us all. It will be different for all of us but from his Brazillian to his final Masterpiece he will always be a part of me. “We Love and miss you Coilin”
“Sleep well my friend…”

The music has gone quiet temporarily at Melodic Revolution Records as we sadly report the tragic news of the loss of one near and dear to our hearts and a member of our Melodic Revolution Family. Last evening our dear friend and Musician Extraordinaire, Colin Tench left this world, and though the music lives on we will forever feel the loss of his creativity.

According to members of the family we have learned that Colin passed away peacefully due to natural causes. Out of respect to his family we felt it necessary to keep this info out of the public attention until all family members were notified.

On behalf of us all at Melodic Revolution Records we extend our deepest love, eternal respect and condolences to the family, friends and fans of Colin Tench. Colin was 63 years old and had just released his latest album “minor Masterpiece” under the “Colin Tench Project.” Anyone that knew or had worked with him could and most definitely would tell you that he was an under-rated and exceptionally talented musician who was charismatic and witty, well respected and loved. Colin was a rare breed indeed in today’s world, a friend and mentor to so many. Colin will be missed more than words can express. We hope that he has taken his wings to join the great gig in the sky, heaven is blessed with our loss. May you rest in peace.

In a note from Gordo Bennet who just finished working closely with Colin on his new album.

“My heart and time stopped when I heard the news that my dear brother, friend, and musical mentor had left this earth on angels wings. It deeply saddens me, and I am broken right now because of it. Colin has touched so many of us in different ways but it was his music that brought us all together as one. I think that he would want us to “pay attention to the details” as he would say and focus on all the laughter, love, and music he brought to us all. It will be different for all of us but from his Brazillian to his final Masterpiece he will always be a part of me. “We Love and miss you Coilin”
“Sleep well my friend…”


As a mark of respect from the entire Progzilla Radio team, our Focus On show next week will feature Colin’s music, 12:00-13:00, Monday to Friday and our ’12 Days of Progzilla’ show has been moved to the 11:00-12:00 slot.

This news story was originally published here: http://theprogressiveaspect.net/blog/2017/12/30/a-different-aspect-15-christmas-special-2017-pt-5/

The name of this band might lead you to think that they are Crimson clones, but far from it. While fans of the Crim, and Anekdoten, will find much to enjoy here, and one can hear the compositional influence of Dorset’s famous son, the broody, atmospheric and classically inclined offerings from this Cincinatti trio creates its own atramentous cloak of aural submergence.

This is heavy without resort to crushing riffs, as there is no lead guitar in the traditional sense. Instead it relies on intricately and darkly woven piano-led musical textures around the sonorous tones of Karis Tucker, who emotes from the same range as Dagmar, but without the stridency. The other instruments listed are 8-string guitar, bass, synth, and piano. The busy and expressive drummer is uncredited, for some reason, as is the rather fine sax blowing that form the icing on the bitter cake of Gold Spectrum.

This is a 13-minute EP, and I hope it is the precursor for a full album next year (or this year, if you’re reading this in 2018!)

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This one has been hanging around all year. I’ve played it a number of times and each time I do I think “That’s a cracking little album, I’ll have to review it.” But unfortunately I haven’t got around to it. A massive oversight which it’s now time to resolve.

A hard rock quintet from Finland, this is Montage’s second album, released in November 2016. Every track here is worthy of attention, crammed full of melody, energy and enthusiasm it’s a guaranteed toe tapper and a very easy album to like. The songs, all in the 4 to 5 minute bracket, are well written and delivered with passion and I bet that they’re a great live act. There are plenty of bands enjoying successful careers producing albums that don’t compare to this so I hope that Montage get the attention that they deserve.

There’s clearly a love of the ’70s going on but it doesn’t overpower the sound and there’s a modern edge to the riffs that drive it all along. Singer Vesa Paavonen is an excellent focal point and the songs contain enough variety to keep this prog fan happy. Give it a go, highly recommended hard rock.


Taylor’s Universe – Almost Perfected
by Roger Trenwith

This album of re-imaginings and re-recordings of tracks from the vast back pages of this fine Danish prog-jazz-fusion band is as good a place as any for the uninitiated to start. There are a mere four tracks on this 45+ minute long album, the shortest of which clocks in at 9:23, so there is plenty of time for the individual tracks to develop. Led by the rather un-Danish sounding Robin C. Taylor, this band have been around in one form or another for many years, as their huge discography on Bandcamp testifies.

Opener Mean Attack runs the gamut of psychedelic jazz-rock moves with some fine guitar and synth work, aided by some minimal vocalisations from The Taylorettes (I see what you did, there), and is a fulsome and satisfying helping, setting the tone nicely for the rest of the album. If you have never heard of this band, get over to Bandcamp and indulge yourself.


Le Folli Arie – Le Folli Arie
by Jez Rowden

This album came out nearly two years ago so it’s stretching the ADA remit a little, however, it’s a lovely listen so it would be a shame to miss it.

Italian sung pop-prog heavily featuring acoustic guitar and the lovely voice of Simone Corazzari, who wrote most of the music and lyrics and produced it. The band spent a long time developing their sound, striving for something to set them apart, and I think they found it. The album swings through a number of different atmospheres whilst retaining a cohesive feel. There’s heavier bits, a funky On da brifge, choral backing to Non è facile, a latin flavoured Fuori! and the satisfying punch of Quello che ho, for example.

The pop brief is well catered to as none of the 13 songs (including three bonus tracks sung in English) hang around, but they certainly cram a lot in. As the press release says, “it could be prog music dressed as pop or the exact opposite…”, and that’s about right; there’s plenty going on but it is easy to acclimatise and enjoy it.

The quartet from Milan expand their sound with a number of guest performances, covering guitar solos, sax, percussion, cello, didgeridoo, and brought in the mixing and mastering talents of Lorenzo Cazzaniga to pull it all together, and everyone has done a very good job with it. Unusual and accessible with much to enjoy, Le Folli Arie’s debut album is an impressive achievement.


Black Moon Circle – Flowing Into The 3rd Dimension
by Roger Trenwith

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Having used his great pictures in our review of Motorpsycho’s London Gig earlier in the year, Norwegian snapper Esben Kamstrup recommended this band of fellow Vikings to us here at TPA Towers.

Flowing Into The 3rd Dimension contains just two tracks, each well in excess of 20 minutes long, and both take us on a stoner spacerock trip of interstellar cosmic grooving that fans of classic Hawkwind will nod along sagely to, shaking what’s left of their once flowing locks in gay abandon, as the pagan magicians dig down deep in search of the mighty ur-riff.


Emre Kula – Theory of Change
by Jez Rowden

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Turkish guitarist and singer Emre Kula has been involved in a number of projects since 2000 and has now released a solo album that describes his personal journey through his 20s and 30s.

With stated influences from the likes of Jeff Beck, Jeff Healey and Soundgarden, the latter feature heavily on opener My Way. Kula proves himself to have a strong voice and all of the songs are well put together, not proggy in the least but engaging and enjoyable rock, predominantly performed in a guitar/bass/drums format.

There are no identifiable Turkish influences on Theory of Change which is a shame as that might have been the variable that set it apart, but no matter, Emre Kula has achieved just what he set out to do by producing an engaging and personal rock album.


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This news story was originally published here: https://www.prog-sphere.com/interviews/the-blue-prison-interview/
The Blue Prison - Alchemist

Guitarist Keigo Yoshida of instrumental progressive metal project The Blue Prison is set to release his new EP titled ‘Alchemist‘ on January 18, and he leads us through the creative process behind it in a new interview.

Define the mission of The Blue Prison.

The ultimate mission is being able to play music without stopping. Throughout my music carrier, I had to face moments with my bands splitting up, until The Blue Prison.

As of now, The Blue Prison is my solo project beside my other band, and whenever I have time, I’m creating something for this project.

Tell me about the creative process that informed your upcoming EP Alchemist and the themes it captures.

The biggest challenge of creating this EP was definitely having more lead guitar parts than on other records I’ve done in the past. It was not an easy process for me, having many lead parts, but I had a lot of fun creating those as much as I struggled in writing and practicing.

Throughout those processes, I used harmonic minor (and Harmonic minor perfect 5th below) scale way more than I expected, and actually that defined the “color” of this EP.

Is there any message you are trying to give with Alchemist

I wish I have something cool to say here but as The Blue Prison is an instrumental music project (without lyrics), there is no specific message on this record.

How did you document the music while it was being formulated?

I started to write guitar parts first and record them roughly. And then program drums, synths etc along to it. Once I finished programming drums, I re-recorded guitar and also recorded bass guitar in the end. 

Keigo Yoshida

Is the dynamic flow of the pieces carefully architected?

Yes, especially on the title track. I love creating rhythmically complex riffs, but at the same time I really wanted to give the song a groove and smooth changes among those riffs. Other songs are more focused on supporting the lead guitar, but on same purpose as above. I wrote rhythm sections carefully and let the songs flow. I didn’t try to be complicated or technical on purpose.

Describe the approach to recording the EP.

This time I recorded most of the songs at my home and that minimised my budget a lot. Also, it made possible to re-take all sections until I was 100% satisfied.

How long Alchemist was in the making?

I started writing in the summer of 2016, but I’ve been busy with my band so the actual time I spent on this EP was less than a year, I believe.

Which bands or artists influenced your work on the release?

No specific person, but many guitarists have taste of neo-classical sound, and they influenced my lead guitar plays. Guitarists such Yngwie Malmsteen, Marty Friedman, Jeff Loomis, and Jason Richardson.

What is your view on technology in music?

Technology in music is definitely helping me a lot to complete most of the works by myself, from writing to releasing the music, and then promoting it. Since The Blue Prison is a solo project currently, technology definitely works for me to reduce time and costs.

Do you see your music as serving a purpose beyond music?

Yes. Playing/making music is a work of my live, and it gives me a motivation to continuously try to become a better person or achieve better life. But to other people my music could be just music. I’m hoping everyone to enjoy it. And it would be a huge honor to me if my music works as motivation for someone to start something or continue.

What are your plans for the future?

I’m pretty sure creating more records. Also, I’d like to start collaborating with many other musicians.

Links: BandcampFacebook | YouTube

This news story was originally published here: http://www.prog-sphere.com/interviews/the-blue-prison-interview/
The Blue Prison - Alchemist

Guitarist Keigo Yoshida of instrumental progressive metal project The Blue Prison is set to release his new EP titled ‘Alchemist‘ on January 18, and he leads us through the creative process behind it in a new interview.

Define the mission of The Blue Prison.

The ultimate mission is being able to play music without stopping. Throughout my music carrier, I had to face moments with my bands splitting up, until The Blue Prison.

As of now, The Blue Prison is my solo project beside my other band, and whenever I have time, I’m creating something for this project.

Tell me about the creative process that informed your upcoming EP Alchemist and the themes it captures.

The biggest challenge of creating this EP was definitely having more lead guitar parts than on other records I’ve done in the past. It was not an easy process for me, having many lead parts, but I had a lot of fun creating those as much as I struggled in writing and practicing.

Throughout those processes, I used harmonic minor (and Harmonic minor perfect 5th below) scale way more than I expected, and actually that defined the “color” of this EP.

Is there any message you are trying to give with Alchemist

I wish I have something cool to say here but as The Blue Prison is an instrumental music project (without lyrics), there is no specific message on this record.

How did you document the music while it was being formulated?

I started to write guitar parts first and record them roughly. And then program drums, synths etc along to it. Once I finished programming drums, I re-recorded guitar and also recorded bass guitar in the end. 

Keigo Yoshida

Is the dynamic flow of the pieces carefully architected?

Yes, especially on the title track. I love creating rhythmically complex riffs, but at the same time I really wanted to give the song a groove and smooth changes among those riffs. Other songs are more focused on supporting the lead guitar, but on same purpose as above. I wrote rhythm sections carefully and let the songs flow. I didn’t try to be complicated or technical on purpose.

Describe the approach to recording the EP.

This time I recorded most of the songs at my home and that minimised my budget a lot. Also, it made possible to re-take all sections until I was 100% satisfied.

How long Alchemist was in the making?

I started writing in the summer of 2016, but I’ve been busy with my band so the actual time I spent on this EP was less than a year, I believe.

Which bands or artists influenced your work on the release?

No specific person, but many guitarists have taste of neo-classical sound, and they influenced my lead guitar plays. Guitarists such Yngwie Malmsteen, Marty Friedman, Jeff Loomis, and Jason Richardson.

What is your view on technology in music?

Technology in music is definitely helping me a lot to complete most of the works by myself, from writing to releasing the music, and then promoting it. Since The Blue Prison is a solo project currently, technology definitely works for me to reduce time and costs.

Do you see your music as serving a purpose beyond music?

Yes. Playing/making music is a work of my live, and it gives me a motivation to continuously try to become a better person or achieve better life. But to other people my music could be just music. I’m hoping everyone to enjoy it. And it would be a huge honor to me if my music works as motivation for someone to start something or continue.

What are your plans for the future?

I’m pretty sure creating more records. Also, I’d like to start collaborating with many other musicians.

Links: BandcampFacebook | YouTube

This news story was originally published here: https://www.prog-sphere.com/interviews/the-mercy-stone-interview/
The Mercy Stone

The Mercy Stone is a brainchild of guitarist and composer Scott Grady, who gathered a 12-piece ensemble to help him ”put his composition chops to work within a project that would have the substance and sophistication fitting for a contemporary-classical concert stage as well as the accessibility that would be palatable to rock audiences.” The project’s debut album is titled ‘Ghettoblaster‘; it is a neo-classical endeavour down to its core which crosses over many distinctive elements.

In a new interview for Prog Sphere, Grady speaks about his project.

Describe the musical vision propelling your debut album Ghettoblaster.

The Mercy Stone was founded after I had finished my master’s degree in music composition. Studying in an academic setting was invaluable for me to develop as a composer. I had some really fantastic mentors and met many of my bandmates along the way. However, I found many aspects of this environment to be extremely negative. The further along in my education I went, the more I became disillusioned and downright pissed off about the entire academic musical culture. As I began to develop an approach that fused my ‘classical’ composition chops with the diverse rock influences that are embedded in my musical DNA, the world of academic music provided the perfect foil to work against, artistically. Channeling my inner angry 15-year-old, Ghettoblaster became a metaphorical middle finger to all the things I found intolerable about this environment.

What made it the right time to pursue that vision?  

After finishing my graduate studies, I spent some time working in a group that was started by a couple composer friends of mine. After that group disbanded, I was left with a blank canvas to begin a new project. Sometimes we are fortunate to have creative ideas force themselves upon us. This was one of those cases. The Mercy Stone literally began as a vision that occurred in between sleep and wakefulness one night. All the subsequent work has been an effort to make that vision a reality. It felt as if all my recent musical efforts had been leading up to this project. So, I was quite hungry to bring The Mercy Stone into being.

Ghettoblaster

Tell me about what you’re communicating with the album cover.

As with the music itself, I prefer to allow each person to interpret the art as they see fit. Though the artwork has some personal meaning to me in how it relates to the music, I won’t burden anyone with the tyranny of my interpretation.

What was the creative process for Ghettoblaster like?  

In the beginning, there was a lot of trial and error. I wrote several pieces which I abandoned after a while. The title track to the album was probably the first piece where I felt as if I was on the right track, compositionally. However, as much as I love that tune, I wanted to produce an album that also reached outside its metal-meets-classical vibe. There were many different sounds and styles that I wished to explore and it took about a year to write all the pieces that satisfied what I had in mind. From the start, I did not want this group to rely on the novelty of looking like a chamber orchestra and sounding like a rock band. The goal was to create music in which this instrumentation and my compositional approach could achieve an organic synthesis between styles that would be exciting and fresh.

Speaking of the album’s creative process, provide some insight into it. How did you document the music while it was being formulated?

I sketch out ideas by hand at first. Then, I move to notation software once things get going. My composition process is very intensive and it often takes a long time to bring a single piece to completion. I usually begin thinking about the overall form of each piece after I settle on some musical ideas that move me deeply in some way. These often consist of one or two melodic and/or rhythmic ideas. The foundational ideas lead me to set up some formal constructs to work within. This is the point where I start thinking about how long the piece will be, how many sections it will have, and how the sections will function. Next, I compose a ton of variations based on the initial musical material. If I’m dealing with linear, melodic ideas, I write counterpoint around them, experiment with the rhythm, etc. In the final stage, I take a step back and see how my ideas have developed in relation to my original vision and put the whole thing together.

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Is the dynamic flow of the pieces carefully architected? 

This is one of the most important aspects of our music. In much of this album, there is tension between the extremely limited musical material and the very fast rate of change of other musical elements. Essentially, what this means is that, even though the listener is often hearing permutations of the same musical ideas over and over again, these ideas are developed and changed so rapidly and dramatically that the result is pieces that are very minimal and yet very dynamic at the same time. This is all accomplished with traditional compositional methods: orchestration, rhythmic alteration, additive layering, transposition, fragmentation, etc. Since I’m trying to make music that flows and grooves, all these processes ultimately need to pass the listening test. No matter how clever I may think something is from a compositional standpoint, it gets trashed if it doesn’t serve the music.

Which bands or artists influence your work? 

I’m influenced by far too many artists and styles to list.  While this album could be considered primarily the result of synthesizing ‘classical’ and rock elements, I draw on a many diverse influences including jazz, flamenco, electronic music, traditional folk music from around the world, and more.   I’m always on the hunt for great music.  Recently I’ve been checking out the work of Pascal and Remy Le Boeuf.  They’ve made some great music that fuses classical and jazz elements.  I also really dig Sufjan Steven’s newest album, Planetarium, on which he collaborated with Bryce Dessner and Nico Muhly. There’s lots of classic rock that I like to revisit from time to time.  I just spent some time with Led Zeppelin’s Houses of the Holy recently.

Do you see your music as serving a purpose beyond music? 

Music has, historically, served a wide range of purposes across many cultures. The use of music in sacred rituals has always been a point of interest for me.   Though religion plays no direct part in my life or art, I see music as providing an avenue for transcendence which, I believe, is central to our human experience. Music may draw us into quiet, meditative spaces or compel us to freak out and dance ecstatically for hours. My hope is that our music reaches people in some profound way.

What are your future plans? 

This is a very new musical project. I look forward to developing the group from an artistic standpoint and hopefully building an audience along the way that digs what we’re doing. Even though we just released this album in September, we are already at work recording tracks for our second album.

Links: Bandcamp | Facebook

This news story was originally published here: http://www.prog-sphere.com/interviews/the-mercy-stone-interview/
The Mercy Stone

The Mercy Stone is a brainchild of guitarist and composer Scott Grady, who gathered a 12-piece ensemble to help him ”put his composition chops to work within a project that would have the substance and sophistication fitting for a contemporary-classical concert stage as well as the accessibility that would be palatable to rock audiences.” The project’s debut album is titled ‘Ghettoblaster‘; it is a neo-classical endeavour down to its core which crosses over many distinctive elements.

In a new interview for Prog Sphere, Grady speaks about his project.

Describe the musical vision propelling your debut album Ghettoblaster.

The Mercy Stone was founded after I had finished my master’s degree in music composition. Studying in an academic setting was invaluable for me to develop as a composer. I had some really fantastic mentors and met many of my bandmates along the way. However, I found many aspects of this environment to be extremely negative. The further along in my education I went, the more I became disillusioned and downright pissed off about the entire academic musical culture. As I began to develop an approach that fused my ‘classical’ composition chops with the diverse rock influences that are embedded in my musical DNA, the world of academic music provided the perfect foil to work against, artistically. Channeling my inner angry 15-year-old, Ghettoblaster became a metaphorical middle finger to all the things I found intolerable about this environment.

What made it the right time to pursue that vision?  

After finishing my graduate studies, I spent some time working in a group that was started by a couple composer friends of mine. After that group disbanded, I was left with a blank canvas to begin a new project. Sometimes we are fortunate to have creative ideas force themselves upon us. This was one of those cases. The Mercy Stone literally began as a vision that occurred in between sleep and wakefulness one night. All the subsequent work has been an effort to make that vision a reality. It felt as if all my recent musical efforts had been leading up to this project. So, I was quite hungry to bring The Mercy Stone into being.

Ghettoblaster

Tell me about what you’re communicating with the album cover.

As with the music itself, I prefer to allow each person to interpret the art as they see fit. Though the artwork has some personal meaning to me in how it relates to the music, I won’t burden anyone with the tyranny of my interpretation.

What was the creative process for Ghettoblaster like?  

In the beginning, there was a lot of trial and error. I wrote several pieces which I abandoned after a while. The title track to the album was probably the first piece where I felt as if I was on the right track, compositionally. However, as much as I love that tune, I wanted to produce an album that also reached outside its metal-meets-classical vibe. There were many different sounds and styles that I wished to explore and it took about a year to write all the pieces that satisfied what I had in mind. From the start, I did not want this group to rely on the novelty of looking like a chamber orchestra and sounding like a rock band. The goal was to create music in which this instrumentation and my compositional approach could achieve an organic synthesis between styles that would be exciting and fresh.

Speaking of the album’s creative process, provide some insight into it. How did you document the music while it was being formulated?

I sketch out ideas by hand at first. Then, I move to notation software once things get going. My composition process is very intensive and it often takes a long time to bring a single piece to completion. I usually begin thinking about the overall form of each piece after I settle on some musical ideas that move me deeply in some way. These often consist of one or two melodic and/or rhythmic ideas. The foundational ideas lead me to set up some formal constructs to work within. This is the point where I start thinking about how long the piece will be, how many sections it will have, and how the sections will function. Next, I compose a ton of variations based on the initial musical material. If I’m dealing with linear, melodic ideas, I write counterpoint around them, experiment with the rhythm, etc. In the final stage, I take a step back and see how my ideas have developed in relation to my original vision and put the whole thing together.

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Is the dynamic flow of the pieces carefully architected? 

This is one of the most important aspects of our music. In much of this album, there is tension between the extremely limited musical material and the very fast rate of change of other musical elements. Essentially, what this means is that, even though the listener is often hearing permutations of the same musical ideas over and over again, these ideas are developed and changed so rapidly and dramatically that the result is pieces that are very minimal and yet very dynamic at the same time. This is all accomplished with traditional compositional methods: orchestration, rhythmic alteration, additive layering, transposition, fragmentation, etc. Since I’m trying to make music that flows and grooves, all these processes ultimately need to pass the listening test. No matter how clever I may think something is from a compositional standpoint, it gets trashed if it doesn’t serve the music.

Which bands or artists influence your work? 

I’m influenced by far too many artists and styles to list.  While this album could be considered primarily the result of synthesizing ‘classical’ and rock elements, I draw on a many diverse influences including jazz, flamenco, electronic music, traditional folk music from around the world, and more.   I’m always on the hunt for great music.  Recently I’ve been checking out the work of Pascal and Remy Le Boeuf.  They’ve made some great music that fuses classical and jazz elements.  I also really dig Sufjan Steven’s newest album, Planetarium, on which he collaborated with Bryce Dessner and Nico Muhly. There’s lots of classic rock that I like to revisit from time to time.  I just spent some time with Led Zeppelin’s Houses of the Holy recently.

Do you see your music as serving a purpose beyond music? 

Music has, historically, served a wide range of purposes across many cultures. The use of music in sacred rituals has always been a point of interest for me.   Though religion plays no direct part in my life or art, I see music as providing an avenue for transcendence which, I believe, is central to our human experience. Music may draw us into quiet, meditative spaces or compel us to freak out and dance ecstatically for hours. My hope is that our music reaches people in some profound way.

What are your future plans? 

This is a very new musical project. I look forward to developing the group from an artistic standpoint and hopefully building an audience along the way that digs what we’re doing. Even though we just released this album in September, we are already at work recording tracks for our second album.

Links: Bandcamp | Facebook

This news story was originally published here: http://theprogressiveaspect.net/blog/2017/12/29/a-different-aspect-14-christmas-special-2017-pt-4/

In this update we feature:-


Doom Side of the Moon
Alwanzatar – Heliotropiske Reiser
Caligula’s Horse – In Contact
Djabe & Steve Hackett – Life Is A Journey
Terria – Horizons
Glass Hammer – Valkyrie

The hollow middle of the week after Crimbo as New Year’s Eve is hoving into view – some folk are back in work while others aren’t and have far too much time on their hands. So welcome one and all and let’s raise a toast to more releases that might have passed you by, courtesy of TPA’s A Different Aspect. In this fourth festive edition we take on another half dozen releases from 2017 (ish) that between them cover an awful lot of ground. Listen via the links provided, you might not like it all but hopefully something new will grab your attention.

Cheers!


Doom Side of the Moon
by Roger Trenwith

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What? Not yet another cover version of Floyd Mk II’s finest 40 minutes? Yep, ‘fraid so, but actually it’s rather good. You’ve no doubt heard the acid trance version, the dub reggae version, and possibly even the polka version and the balalaika version, well this is the heavy – and I mean heavy – metal version. Led by guitarist Kyle Shutt of Texan metallers The Sword, the album takes a while to get going, and clues as to what is to follow are scattered throughout On The Run; its sundry bangs, crashes and feedback howls over the familiar synth line indicating that maybe you should turn it up to eleven, possibly twelve.

Released to celebrate half a century of the famous not prog band, highlights include a teeth rattling thunderous charge through Time, and a dandruff loosening headbangathon to Money. It’s all good fun, and I reckon you’ll be wielding the air guitar well before it’s over. Don’t let your better half catch you at it like I did, as it will provide them with hours of endless mirth making at your expense. Nah…that was quite fun, too!


Alwanzatar – Heliotropiske Reiser
by Mel Allen

Alwanzatar is the one-man musical project of Krizia (Tusmørke, Spectral Haze) where he seeks to create “extraterrestrial world music”, with flute, incantations, synthesisers and electronics. This is his first release for Apollon records, the album consisting of five tracks ranging from just under four minutes to seventeen.

There is a very noticeable electronic vibe, with synthesisers taking the prominent role in delivering an album of ambient, electronic space rock. What lifts it into something a little different is when the flute is used, creating a more interesting experience as it soars above the main themes. The overall feel of the album is a positive vibe, pleasant and an easy to way to pass forty-three minutes.


Caligula’s Horse – In Contact
by Dave Baird

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Caligula’s Horse were one of my personal finds of the year and I quickly fell in love with their previous two releases – The Tide, The Thief & River’s End and Bloom. As opening act at Midsummer Prog they were tremendous, so I was stoked when I heard they had a new album in the works, and a concept one at that, In Contact.

Unfortunately the album failed to connect with me on the same level as the others, and now, some months later, I’m still trying to break into it. This is odd because when one listens to the individual tracks they’re quite excellent, but the thing doesn’t seem to gel as a whole. Trying to be objective about this, I think perhaps the spoken-word monologue, Inertia and the Weapon of the Wall, throws things a bit and then the closer, Graves, isn’t up to the standard of the rest of the album.

These two aside, there’s some typical CH to be heard in opening tracks Dream the Dead and Will’s Song. Songs for No One, Fill My Heart and The Cannon’s Mouth wouldn’t be out of place on earlier releases either, showcasing, as they do, CH’s modern, restrained metal approach, full of melody. Unfortunately we don’t get the lyrics for many promo releases so I have no idea what the concept is about, which is a shame.

If you’re new to Caligula’s Horse then I’d probably recommend the previous albums over this one, but in either case they’re a band worth checking out, especially if you’re into stuff like Haken, Jolly or Dianoya.


Djabe & Steve Hackett – Life Is A Journey
by Kevan Furbank

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The former Genesis guitarist and the Hungarian jazz/folk fusion band have been playing together on and off for some 10 years now. Usually Steve Hackett turns up on live tours and does his party pieces, but on Life Is A Journey he and Djabe converted a Sardinian priest’s house into a recording studio and basically made it up as they went along.

The result is a warm, mostly gentle and contemplative album during which Hackett plays with generous restraint. In fact, you may be hard-pressed to spot his contributions, so reluctant is he to turn Djabe into his backing group. If you are a Djabe fan then you will appreciate this as it gives Aron Koos-Hutas room to lay tasteful muted trumpet over the proceedings, while Tamas Baracas’s fretless bass bubbles like a Sardinian fruit-based liqueur and drummer Gulli Briem keeps things low-key as well.

But Steve Hackett fans will be wondering where he got to. Although there are a few riffs here and there that sound a bit Hackettish (or is that Hackettonian?), most of the guitar is supplied by Atila Egerhazi, whose work is perfectly acceptable but lacks a bit of attack and character.

What’s The News Antonio?, Buzzy Island and Wake Up rattle along at a fair old pace but this is generally a languid album that evokes sunny Sardinian skies and that feeling you get from having had an entire bottle of Italian wine to yourself.

You get plenty for your money, though. More than 72 minutes of music plus the album in 5.1 surround sound and video of Hackett and Djabe at the Budapest Jazz Club doing things like Fly On A Windshield and Please Don’t Touch, so he makes himself heard eventually.


Terria – Horizons
by Phil Lively

Terria’s instrumental music might be difficult to follow. Heavily structured and played with precision, powerful, rythmic and melodic, and heavy (did I mention it is heavy)? – this an essential Bandcamp visit if you’re thoroughly fed up with whimsy. It seems they are less a band and more a project of bassist and composer Rahsaan Lacey. Guitars are played by three different players and anchored on every track by a single drummer.

Despite being ostendibly heavy (indeed, Heavy), there is more to this than blind riffing. The five tracks of this EP don’t have any Mellotron or eBowed guitar, so they can’t be prog (smiley), but they do have complexity and are meticulously arranged. This is an invigorating listen and it is a great pity that there seems to be no YouTube video to accompany the release. Tagged as “metal, progressive rock, progressive metal”, I don’t have the vocubulary of musical genres to properly describe Terria. This is not a shame in the least because I must, therefore, recommend a visit to their Bandcamp page right now so that you might listen yourselves.

I bet it is largely unlike most of the stuff we review on TPA so trust me: challenge yourselves.


Glass Hammer – Valkyrie
by Jez Rowden

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Glass Hammer have become something of a prog institution and this is their sixteenth album, released in 2016. A good old-fashioned concept album, it follows a soldier struggling to return home from the horrors of war to the girl who loves him but must ultimately find her way back to him.

The first thing that strikes you is Steve Babb’s wonderful bass tone but the whole band put in a fizzing display on a selection of material that evidences all that is good about Glass Hammer. The shared lead vocals, between Steve, Susie Bogdanowicz and keyboardist Fred Schendel, work well and this is an absorbing symphonic listen. There’s dynamic energy, variety and an unusual warmth hung around the thoughtful words, and it all works very well indeed.

A must for Glass Hammer fans but also a good starting point for new listeners.


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