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All posts for the month February, 2018

Edition 124 of Steve Blease’s Heavy Elements is now available as a podcast.

Playlist:

OSI – False Start
Pagan’s Mind – Taken
Shadow Gallery – Strong
Enochian Theory – Movement
Votum – The Hunt Is On

Live at 11: Orphaned Land, live at the Reading 3, Tel Aviv 10th December 2010
The Kiss of Babylon (live)
Ocean Land (live)
Birth of the Three (live)

Dream Theater – Take the Time
John Petrucci – Jaws of Life

Album of the Week: Fates Warning – Theories of Flight
Like Stars Our Eyes Have Seen
White Flag
Seven Stars

Periphery – Lune

This news story was originally published here: http://theprogressiveaspect.net/blog/2018/02/27/laspetto-progressivo-a-different-aspect-17-new-italian-prog/

In this update we feature:

> Universal Totem Orchestra – Mathematical Mother
> The Muffx – L’Ora Di Tutti
> Il Cerchio D’Oro – Il Fuoco Sotto La Cenere
> L’Albero Del Veleno – Tale Of A Dark Fate
> Panther & C. – Il Giusto Equilibrio


CIAO! This is A Different Aspect with, er, a difference. Today we lend an ear to a batch of releases from Italian label Black Widow Records. They all share a particularly Italian way of approaching progressive music – with passion, commitment and a determination to squeeze as much enjoyment out of it as possible.

So open a bottle of chianti and, as Peter Gabriel once said, let’s go down the dolce vita…


Universal Totem Orchestra – Mathematical Mother
by Kevan Furbank

Universal Totem Orchestra - Mathematical MotherThis third release is their best yet, a powerful and beguiling mixture of gothic Zeuhl with jazz fusion, symphonic prog and great Steve Hillage-inspited guitar.

Where many Zeuhl bands go wrong is in creating a grim, joyless barrage of sound. UTO, on the other hand, keep the main Zeuhl element of repetitive hard riffing but lighten it with humour, variety and moments of wistful gentleness. At one moment they are powering through what sounds like a section from Hillage’s Solar Music Suite as it would be played if the world was about to end, the next there’s just a trio of piano, bass and drums leaping salmon-like through a twisting, jazzy melody reminiscent of something one of the Canterbury bands could have come up with.

Over the top of it all are Ana Torres Fraile’s operatic vocals – powerful, distinctive and warm. She can hold her own when everyone’s going full pelt but she also dials it down when it’s just her and a few piano notes, as on the gentle opening to Architettura Dell’Acqua.

The playing here is tight, controlled but passionate, sometimes sounding like Frank Zappa’s best band you never heard in full flight, especially when guest musician Mirko Pedrotti is let loose on the vibes in Citta Infinite.

Add it all up and Mathematical Mother gets a 10 from me.

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The Muffx – L’Ora Di Tutti
by Kevan Furbank

The Muffx – L’Ora Di TuttiThe cover suggests some sort of Death Metal nonsense. There’s a dense line drawing of murder and decapitation with – yes, drops of blood all over it. But never judge a CD by its cover. The music is a different kettle of fish. There’s birds tweeting, then repetitive notes on a muted guitar followed by a funky-ish bass and bell-like notes on a keyboard. It could be the opening to Pink Floyd’s Time – and the Floydian influence is apparent throughout the album.

If I read Italian I would know from the sleeve notes that this is a concept album based on a 1962 book about the 15th Century Battle of Otranto, during which many people died. The Muffx hail from Salento, down in Italy’s boot, and they have fashioned what they describe as a soundtrack for a film that doesn’t exist, using the instruments and the spirit of the 1970s.

Opening track Un’alba come tante is Floyd circa Meddle but heavier and crunchier, with a hint of Led Zep. Vengono del mare has moments of epic Rush before entering Canterbury country with wordless vocals over keyboard improv. The remaining two tracks are pretty much variations on those themes, although frantic closer Bernabei throws in some Eastern-influenced guitar work from Luigi Bruno.

The film, if it is ever made, would probably be, to my ears, a very violent Zabriskie Point. But the concept is not important – this is entertaining 70s-style heavy prog, played with skill and flair with an obvious love for the period.

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Il Cerchio D’Oro – Il Fuoco Sotto La Cenere
by Kevan Furbank

Il Cerchio D’Oro – Il Fuoco Sotto La CenereNow this is what I would call typical Italian prog – keyboard-based symphonic music with plenty of twists and turns, melodramatic vocals occasionally bordering on the hysterical and plenty of nods to the likes of Yes and Van der Graaf Generator.

Il Cerchio D’Oro provide all this in spades. There are moments of sheer brilliance here as songs lurch into driving keyboard solos or Massimo Spica lets rip on guitar. The songs – two of them breaking nine minutes – pack in plenty of light and shade, with occasional acoustic moments. But the vocal melodies can be a bit uninspired and the vocals themselves are about 30% technique and 70% enthusiasm.

It’s difficult to pick standout tracks because, quite honestly, they all sound pretty similar. But the title track has a catchy 3 minute intro (before the singing starts) then enters one of those great instrumental bits a few minutes later. Thomas opens with a keyboard riff reminiscent of Khan, Steve Hillage’s early band. Skip forward a few minutes and there’s another keyboard and guitar workout that’s enormous fun. And that’s really how it goes. When there’s no singing this is really an entertaining little band. So you will want to edit the vocals out and create a great instrumental EP.

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L’Albero Del Veleno – Tale Of A Dark Fate
by Kevan Furbank

L’Albero Del Veleno – Tale Of A Dark FateTheir name means ‘The Poison Tree’ and they started life playing unreleased horror movie scores. Their second album is described as an opera in two acts, even though it’s, um, all instrumental. There’s even an intermission of 15 seconds of silence, which wouldn’t give you much time to get served at the bar if this was a real opera.

Apart from an opening Prelude using keyboard sequencers that wouldn’t be out of place on an Alan Parsons Project album, we are deep in Goblin territory here. Inspired by European horror movies from the 1960s to the 1980s, L’Albero Del Veleno serve up track after track of brooding, gothic, urgent minor key drama. This is music to be chased by zombies to and it’s pretty dark and relentless, driven by Jacopo Ciani’s overdubbed strings, Michele Andreuccetti’s pounding bass and Claudio Miniati’s commanding drums.

They don’t quite have the compositional chops of Goblin, with the result that much of the music here is fairly one-dimensional – like the average zombie, it lurches on in the same direction, refusing to be side-tracked. But on Atropos there’s some Tull-ish flute and some almost jazzy moments, while Postlude – Moros is wistful and reflective.

The strings certainly give the album a real soundtrack feel and you won’t be surprised to learn that, for the right price, they will score your horror flick for you.

Their next album needs to throw in more musical surprises and perhaps a sense of humour wouldn’t go amiss – The Poison Tree come across as very serious dudes indeed.


Panther & C. – Il Giusto Equilibrio
by Kevan Furbank

Panther & C. – Il Giusto EquilibrioSilly name…but great band! Panther & C have been around for 15 years but this is only their second album, a muscular, confident recording played with skill and brio.

There’s three long songs, two short – and like many Italian prog bands they draw heavily on the ’70s classics. Mauro Serpe’s flute says Camel while the quieter classical piano-led moments whisper Genesis. Listeners may also detect influences from Marillion and early solo Hackett.

There’s fast and furious guitar, passionate vocals, powerful drumming from Folco Fedele and some pleasing retro keyboard sounds from Alessandro La Corte.

Standout track is Fuga Dal Lago, a dramatic 11-minute instrumental reminiscent of Big Big Train during their most emotive moments, with the keyboards sounding like a brass ensemble. Magnificent stuff.

By the way, Panther & Co – could be the title of a Disney animation about a crimefighting panther and his friends. Someone pass this on to Bob Iger (current Disney head honcho) and tell him an executive producer credit will be perfectly acceptable.

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This news story was originally published here: https://www.prog-sphere.com/specials/sleep-in-heads-album-premiere/
Exclusive: Ukrainian Atmospheric Prog Act SLEEP IN HEADS Stream Debut Album

Formed in 2015, Kyiv, Ukraine’s atmospheric prog metal rockers Sleep in Heads will be unleashing their debut full-length album On the Air on March 1st via Noizr. Before it’s officially out, we at Prog Sphere have teamed up with these sleepers for the exclusive full stream of their debut album. Hear it below.

If you’re a fan of bands like Opeth, Porcupine Tree, The Gathering, Katatonia, Anekdoten, Anathema, The Pineapple Thief are not going to want to miss this one. The quintet offer fans quality crafted dreamscapes, groovy riffs, charming female vocals and violins, all blended into a dynamic musical journey.

Vocalist and band lyricist Sonya comments:

The album’s title ‘On the Air‘ perfectly reflects its concept – it’s a life here and now, a life filled with all kinds of emotions, events, moods, like a song on the air. Each track encourages you not to become isolated, but to be open and sincere. Live so as not to destroy that important balance between your consciousness and the world.

Check out ”On The Air” streaming below and if you like what you hear, the album pre-order is available on Bandcamp (Digital + CD), iTunesAmazonGoogle Play.

Sleep in Heads - On the Air

Cover photo:  Galyna Dobrydina

This news story was originally published here: http://www.prog-sphere.com/specials/sleep-in-heads-album-premiere/
Exclusive: Ukrainian Atmospheric Prog Act SLEEP IN HEADS Stream Debut Album

Formed in 2015, Kyiv, Ukraine’s atmospheric prog metal rockers Sleep in Heads will be unleashing their debut full-length album On the Air on March 1st via Noizr. Before it’s officially out, we at Prog Sphere have teamed up with these sleepers for the exclusive full stream of their debut album. Hear it below.

If you’re a fan of bands like Opeth, Porcupine Tree, The Gathering, Katatonia, Anekdoten, Anathema, The Pineapple Thief are not going to want to miss this one. The quintet offer fans quality crafted dreamscapes, groovy riffs, charming female vocals and violins, all blended into a dynamic musical journey.

Vocalist and band lyricist Sonya comments:

The album’s title ‘On the Air‘ perfectly reflects its concept – it’s a life here and now, a life filled with all kinds of emotions, events, moods, like a song on the air. Each track encourages you not to become isolated, but to be open and sincere. Live so as not to destroy that important balance between your consciousness and the world.

Check out ”On The Air” streaming below and if you like what you hear, the album pre-order is available on Bandcamp (Digital + CD), iTunesAmazonGoogle Play.

Sleep in Heads - On the Air

Cover photo:  Galyna Dobrydina

This news story was originally published here: https://www.prog-sphere.com/interviews/second-to-sun-interview/
Second To Sun

Russian metal act Second to Sun emerged in Russia in 2012, and was founded by guitarist and composer Vladimir Lehtinen. The band’s full-length debut ‘The First Chapter‘ was released as an instrumental edition in 2015, but it was re-released in August 2017 with new album artwork and track listing, featuring vocalist Gleb Sysoev, who gave new life to the music.

In a new interview for Prog Sphere, Lehtinen talks about this particular record, future plans, and more.

Define the mission of Second to Sun.

We do our best at playing music. I figure that’s enough.

Tell me about the creative process that informed your old-new album The First Chapter and the themes it captures.

The album, as usually, consists of seven different stories rooted in history, mythology, and social injustice. Each song is unique and interesting in its own way. Despite Gleb having recorded fantastic vocals, people still enjoy the instrumental version, which is incredibly awesome.

Second to Sun - The First Chapter

What is the message you are trying to give with The First Chapter

I don’t think we have “a message” as such. Each song tells its own story, but despite that the band can’t be classified as an audiobook or a collection of fairy tales. I’d say we take quite a lot from classical black metal, so our music has some of the same messages – just without the Satanism invented by journalists.

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

I try to always record demos of new ideas and never abandon the search for new unique and interesting stories to base the songs on.

Is the dynamic flow of the pieces carefully architected?

Yes, definitely. Same applies to the new music video and all of the band’s earlier material – there are no unnecessary details and everything has meaning. For example, names of some of the song intros contain the dates when the described events happened. We also use coded messages in our artwork and sound design. It’s easier to convey mystical elements with music in Russia, as people here like dissecting lyrics and searching for the meaning. It’s very different in Europe and USA. Still, I understand that the catchiness of the songs and production quality were received positively over there as well.

Describe the approach to recording the album.

Extremely scrupulous, especially when it came to vocals – Gleb had never done recitative screams before, but he did great. I’ve watched over the recording process myself and there is nothing wasteful in it – everything is right where it should be.

How long The First Chapter was in the making?

A few months. The instrumental version that was released two years ago took a couple of years to make though.

Which bands or artists influenced your work on the release?

I think that it was Pantera, Bathory, Emperor, Immortal. The influence of classic black metal is especially evident. At least that’s what our fans say. I don’t know, they’re probably right.

What is your view on technology in music?

It’s art, it can’t be mechanic. Songs are like paintings – you should see the artist’s brushstrokes.

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

If our music helps someone or touches their heart in a positive way – that is amazing. But my primary goal is making music.

What are your plans for the future?

I think we will re-record and re-release our second instrumental album Blackbound with Gleb’s vocals. The album title will change, the song order will be different and all in all it will be an independent release. But we are working on new material! Everyone who wants to feast their eyes on Gleb’s talent and charisma can do so by checking out the music video for “Me or Him”.

[embedded content]

This news story was originally published here: http://www.prog-sphere.com/interviews/second-to-sun-interview/
Second To Sun

Russian metal act Second to Sun emerged in Russia in 2012, and was founded by guitarist and composer Vladimir Lehtinen. The band’s full-length debut ‘The First Chapter‘ was released as an instrumental edition in 2015, but it was re-released in August 2017 with new album artwork and track listing, featuring vocalist Gleb Sysoev, who gave new life to the music.

In a new interview for Prog Sphere, Lehtinen talks about this particular record, future plans, and more.

Define the mission of Second to Sun.

We do our best at playing music. I figure that’s enough.

Tell me about the creative process that informed your old-new album The First Chapter and the themes it captures.

The album, as usually, consists of seven different stories rooted in history, mythology, and social injustice. Each song is unique and interesting in its own way. Despite Gleb having recorded fantastic vocals, people still enjoy the instrumental version, which is incredibly awesome.

Second to Sun - The First Chapter

What is the message you are trying to give with The First Chapter

I don’t think we have “a message” as such. Each song tells its own story, but despite that the band can’t be classified as an audiobook or a collection of fairy tales. I’d say we take quite a lot from classical black metal, so our music has some of the same messages – just without the Satanism invented by journalists.

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

I try to always record demos of new ideas and never abandon the search for new unique and interesting stories to base the songs on.

Is the dynamic flow of the pieces carefully architected?

Yes, definitely. Same applies to the new music video and all of the band’s earlier material – there are no unnecessary details and everything has meaning. For example, names of some of the song intros contain the dates when the described events happened. We also use coded messages in our artwork and sound design. It’s easier to convey mystical elements with music in Russia, as people here like dissecting lyrics and searching for the meaning. It’s very different in Europe and USA. Still, I understand that the catchiness of the songs and production quality were received positively over there as well.

Describe the approach to recording the album.

Extremely scrupulous, especially when it came to vocals – Gleb had never done recitative screams before, but he did great. I’ve watched over the recording process myself and there is nothing wasteful in it – everything is right where it should be.

How long The First Chapter was in the making?

A few months. The instrumental version that was released two years ago took a couple of years to make though.

Which bands or artists influenced your work on the release?

I think that it was Pantera, Bathory, Emperor, Immortal. The influence of classic black metal is especially evident. At least that’s what our fans say. I don’t know, they’re probably right.

What is your view on technology in music?

It’s art, it can’t be mechanic. Songs are like paintings – you should see the artist’s brushstrokes.

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

If our music helps someone or touches their heart in a positive way – that is amazing. But my primary goal is making music.

What are your plans for the future?

I think we will re-record and re-release our second instrumental album Blackbound with Gleb’s vocals. The album title will change, the song order will be different and all in all it will be an independent release. But we are working on new material! Everyone who wants to feast their eyes on Gleb’s talent and charisma can do so by checking out the music video for “Me or Him”.

[embedded content]

‘La Villa Strangiato’ – Rush
‘The Big Medley’ – Dream Theater
‘Mobile Trees (The Existential Song)’ – Brett William Kull
‘Party’ – Phideaux
‘Farmer Giles Of Ham’ – As Follows
‘The Silent Type’ – Umphrey’s McGee
‘You And I’ – Zriku
‘On The Road’ – Fordham Road
‘Stand Tall’ – Brian!
‘A View’ – Birzer Bandana
‘Bipolar’ – Rausch
‘Voyage To The Other Side’ – Mystery
‘Reveries From The Haunted’ – Realm Of Glass
‘The Slave I Am’ – For My Epitaph
‘INRI’ – Ballesta
‘Extra-Dimensional Pulses’ – Hamerzya
‘Consecuencias’ – Cirse
‘Little Things’ – Life Like Fire