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Ring of Gyges

Iceland has been on a Prog map in the recent years, giving birth to some great bands (check our Scene Report on Iceland here). Ring of Gyges is a newcomer, who back in November 2017 launched their full-length debut album ‘Beyond the Night Sky,’ and according to what they showcase on it, it is certainly a band to look for in the coming years. Singer and guitatrist Helgi Jónsson spoke for Prog Sphere.

Define the mission of Ring of Gyges.

We strive to mix influences and create a unique mix of old prog and new. What motivates us to write music is simply our passion for music in general, and the prospect of one day making it a full-time job for all of us. Great music affects you in ways that nothing else truly can, and if we can affect anyone in the same way that music has affected us, it will all be worth it.

Tell me about the creative process that informed your debut album Beyond the Night Sky and the themes it captures.

The album was a long time in the making and lots of those songs had already existed for years before we ever entered the studio. Most of the songs were created in our own respective homes, where one of us made a demo and we checked them out at home and then met up at rehearsal to work on them together. However, each song is different and requires a different approach to the next one. Sometimes a song is completely written before the rest of the band is introduced to it, sometimes it requires a bit of group effort to decide how to proceed with it. Most of the songs were written by me and Guðjón [Sveinsson, guitars & vocals], but there’s also a song by Gísli [Þór Ingólfsson, keyboards & piano] on there and everyone brought something to the table. The album deals with themes such as escapism, addiction, and death. It was originally intended as a concept album with a storyline but eventually we scrapped that idea and decided to make a more thematic album instead, with various short stories that all relate to an overarching theme.

Beyond the Night Sky

What is the message you are trying to give with Beyond the Night Sky

That’s something we didn’t really discuss between us, but I guess what we’re trying to say is that no matter how bleak a situation is, there’s always someone willing to stand by your side. Escaping your problems is ultimately a temporary solution, and though it may be hard, it’s better to face them instead.

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

Like I mentioned before, every song requires a slightly different process. Most of the time we had demos at home, but I guess we mostly just documented the songs by learning them and rehearsing them collectively, adding onto them as we went along during rehearsals. We’d already played a lot of them live by the point we entered the studio, so obviously we knew them fairly well at that point. Other songs we weren’t so familiar with, so in those cases we usually had demos to work with.

Is the dynamic flow of the pieces carefully architected?

We really tried to make the album flow as well as we could, so it would feel as a whole experience and not merely a collection of songs. Some songs were written to flow well together, like the first two tracks and the last two. In other parts of the album it was a bit more of a puzzle, but I think in the end we settled on a structure that we all liked. If we did our job well, the album is best enjoyed when listened to in its entirety, just like all our favorite albums.

Describe the approach to recording the album.

Our guitarist Guðjón had enrolled in a music production course at Stúdíó Sýrland in Reykjavík where one of the assignments was to record a full album with a band, so of course we jumped on that wagon. We had some restrictions to deal with though, we had to record during hours when the studio was available so we had to record in a series of sessions of varying length. Some bands can just book a studio for a few weeks and dedicate that time to recording, we weren’t so lucky. Like when we recorded the drums we couldn’t leave the drum kit in the same place for more than one evening because a different recording session was scheduled the following day. We knew that if we had to reassemble the drum kit and the microphone setup sometime later, we couldn’t possibly make the drums sound  the same between sessions. So instead we decided to record through the night in a single monster 17-hour session, poor Einar got so tired I think he still might be recovering! We didn’t get around to completely record the album before Guðjón‘s assignment was due, so luckily we had access to a smaller studio in Grindavík where we could put down the final touches. We also booked a session at the legendary Sundlaugin Studios, where we recorded a real Hammond organ and Mellotron.

How long Beyond the Night Sky was in the making?

The recording process was over in a matter of months, maybe two or three total. However, the processes before and after took much longer. Some of the songs were written up to two years before we ever started recording. The post-production was also a bit of a mess, we’re an unsigned independent band so we had to do a lot of the labour ourselves, Guðjón had to mix during his free time when he wasn’t working. We had a crowdfunding campaign to fund the mastering and release of the album and we reached our goal in the end. So I guess, depending on your definition, the total process must’ve been around three years. Releasing the album was a huge relief and the end of an era in our band’s history, while also being the start of another one.

Which bands or artists influenced your work on the release?

It’s hard to see where all of your influences come from, but here are some names: Opeth, Haken, Dream Theater, Porcupine Tree, Steven Wilson, Genesis, Yes, King Crimson, Mastodon, Caligula’s Horse, Leprous, Agent Fresco.

What is your view on technology in music?

We owe a lot of our success to technical advances in music production, and without it this album possibly wouldn’t have ever been made. Nowadays everyone has the capability to make demos in their bedroom, you can move ProTools sessions between studios and so on. However there’s a limit to how much some bands decide to over-produce their music, some even go as far as quantizing the guitars, auto-tuning vocals and using drum samples instead of actually having to learn your parts and play them properly. I believe no technology is inherently bad, what makes the difference is how you use it. Don’t alter the recordings beyond recognition in the studio and get confused when people boo at you onstage because you can’t play it properly. Keep it real.

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

I don’t think so. Maybe it will help people deal with some stuff in their lives, but if it does it’s a fortunate side-effect rather than an inherent purpose. I believe music is the purest art form, it transcends language, culture, nationality and race and can be understood by anyone simply for what it is. Lyrics belong to the realm of poetry, but music itself is a universal language of its own.

What are your plans for the future?

Our plans are to tour, get management and try our very hardest to do music for a living. Right now it’s pretty undetermined what will happen. We’ll have to wait and see.

Follow Ring of Gyges on Facebook.

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The third long-player from this gathering of Polish potheads is a bewitching listen that demands repeated tokes at regular intervals.

A moniker like Weedpecker automatically brings with it certain expectations of sound, style and the accompanying trappings. However, this 4-piece from Warszawa, Poland deftly manages to both thwart those expectations and assuredly deliver on them. By inhaling elements from a wide array of pot-centred music from the early ’70s they feature a more panoramic sound than is the norm for this genre. Their maturation has been swift as each release has dramatically expanded on the musical vocabulary of the one before.

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The glittery guitars, trippy space-rock groove and lilting harmony vocals of guitarists Wyro and Bartek on opening cut Molecule immediately ingratiate. When it eventually gets heavy it manages to do so while maintaining the relaxed vibe, something less skilled bands have difficulty managing.

Embrace is a joy; a mixture of jangly psychedelic folk, Meddle-era Pink Floyd and in the dramatic instrumental mid-section, righteous tube-driven fury. It’s during this segment that some stylistic similarities appear between Weedpecker and Boston’s Elder, their label-mates on Stickman Records. Both groups have the ability to stretch out on long guitar features without ever sacrificing the song in the process.

Musically the album really hits a peak midway through first single Liquid Sky that it rides for the remainder of the album. The bass guitar-driven groove that begins right around the 3-minute mark is blissfully infectious and lays a hypnotic foundation for the guitars to build on. The jangly section in the coda a particular highlight.

From Mars To Mercury starts side two and it’s not only the longest cut on the album, but also its greatest achievement. Again, there’s a passing similarity here with Elder, especially in the heavy beginning and ending segments, but the gorgeous exploration during the mid-section is very distinctive and beautifully played by everyone involved. This is music that needs to be experienced with eyes closed and distractions shut out to really appreciate (herbal medicine optional).

Album-closer Lazy Boy And The Temple Of Wonders is a playful collision of ’60s psychedelia (later Beatles, Syd-era Floyd) and ’70s Zep guitar that ends things on a satisfying note. III is designed for LP, it clocks in at a brisk 42 minutes that splits perfectly onto two sides of vinyl. It’s refreshing to hear concise albums again! I think it’s better to leave the listener hungry for a little more.

I must also mention the production by Haldor Grunberg who recorded, mixed and mastered III. It’s a beautiful, organic sounding record, the mix really letting the layers of these compositions breathe.

01. Molecule (7:05)
02. Embrace (8:59)
03. Liquid Sky (6:33)
04. From Mars To Mercury (10:36)
05. Lazy Boy And The Temple Of Wonders (8:51)

Total Time – 42:03

Wyro – Guitar & Vocals
Bartek – Guitar & Vocals
Mroku – Bass
Falon – Drums

Record Label: Stickman Records
Country of Origin: Poland
Date of Release: 5th January 2018

Weedpecker – Facebook | Bandcamp


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It was my turn on 101 Dimensions once again and I put some great electronic/ambient stuff to warm a cold winter’s night! Here’s what’s in store:

1. Trinity Ward – No Regrets; The New Sound Of London; Vita; Organs; Uplifter; and Curtains Of Clouds (from the album Echoes From Earth, 2011)
2. Jim Griffin – An Ocean Mind (from the album To A Far City, 2017)
3. whatsisname – Relax, Offsets; and Terraform (from the album Indefinite Articles, 2017)
4. Har – 2 am Vision Within The Mirror (from the album Obscura, 2010)
5. Goblin – Roller; Aquaman; Snip Snap; and Il Risveglio Del Serpente (from the album Roller, 1976)
6. Har – Amelia (from the album Obscura, 2010)
7. Andreas Vollenweider – Behind The Gardens, Behind The Wall, Under The Tree; Pyramid, In The Wood, In The Bright Light; Micro, Macro; and Skin And Skin (from the album Behind The Garden, Behind The Wall, Under The Tree, 1981)

I hope you enjoy!

Prog On!


101 Dimensions – February 2018

The Shadows – F.B.I

Marillion – A Few Words For The Dead

Kompendium – Lost

KingBathmat – Lost Forever

Kino – The Dead Club

The Damned – Standing On The Edge Of Tomorrow

Deacon Blue – Real Gone Kid

The Forty Days – Homeless

Django Django – Real Gone

The Pineapple Thief – Someone Here Is Missing

Genesis – Since I Lost You

The Urbane – Missing

Renaissance – Missing Person

Split Enz – Missing Person

Jack Arthurs – Missing

The podcast for this week’s Prog-Watch is now available at

For this week’s program I’ve put together a variety show with a little tribute to the late Colin Tench. We’ll hear a new one from the Colin Tench Project, and two from a couple of his other projects, BunChakeze and Corvus Stone. I’ll also be spinning lots of great stuff from The Fierce & The Dead, Fractal Mirror, Bram Stoker, Jethro Tull, Steven Wilson, Downes-Braide Association, Rush, Spiral Key, and Somnambulist.


507: Variety + A Tribute to Colin Tench

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When I first learned Anette Olzon (former vocalist for Nightwish) and Jani Liimatainen (founding member and guitarist for Sonata Arctica) were collaborating on a project called The Dark Element, I jumped at the chance to review it. Olzon is one of my favorite vocalists and Sonata Arctica is a band I recently discovered and have enjoyed, so I was expecting something wonderfully epic from this release. What I got wasn’t what I expected, but the more I listened, the more my disappointment faded.

Most of the songs follow the same basic pattern. They all start off sounding like they are going to be hard, metal tracks thanks to Liimatainen’s heavy riffs accompanied by synth strings, but the guitars soon recede into the background under Olzon’s vocals, which are supported largely by synth pads. A guitar solo leads into the final push to the end of the song. That isn’t to say the songs all sound alike. Nothing could be further from the truth, as each song has its own character. There are a few songs I want to highlight.

The ballad Someone You Used To Know is one of the highest highlights of the album. Sonically, the song focuses mainly on Olzon’s voice, which expresses the desperation of the lyric perfectly, and acoustic timbres. Heaven Of Your Heart sounds like the main love ballad from a Broadway show. Dead To Me is probably the closest thing to symphonic metal on the album with its use of the synth strings to reinforce the vocal line throughout and a greater interaction between the synth, guitars, and vocals. The Ghost And The Reaper is a close second. I particularly like the cello interlude that interrupts the build up to the final choruses.

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I Cannot Raise the Dead is much more electronica-influenced than the other songs on this album. Aside from the solo, the guitars are largely absent from this track except to provide some power to the chorus. It is otherwise dominated by synth sounds.

The album closer, Only One Who Knows Me was probably the song that took me the longest to get into. At first, it sounded like it is completely out of place, and I’m not a fan of the ’80s-style guitar solo fade-out ending. The more I listened to it, the more it seemed like it really fit as the closer. It is essentially a thank you to the person or people in life whose praise and admiration will still matter when celebrity fades and everything is said and done. I’m still not a big fan of the musical setting of the song, but it feels right on the album.

Living up to expectations is the biggest challenge for this album. Since the band was marketed on the reputation of the members’ former bands, I expected a product that would sound similar to those bands. Also, with a name like The Dark Element (and the accompanying cover art), I expected the music to have a darker, perhaps more Gothic sound with down-tuned guitars and darker lyrics. Instead what we get is bright music with lyrics mainly about love and love lost.

Overall, the album is more modern rock than symphonic metal, more like ABBA-meets-Evanescence or a synth-laden Halestorm than either Nightwish or Sonata Arctica. Once I got past my expectations, however, I really enjoyed this album. The songs are catchy and easy to sing along to. The overall musical textures are pleasing, and Olzon’s voice is as fine as ever. One minor, picky issue is that the Liimatainen gives some of his lyrics a bit of an edge through the occasional use of slangy grammar, like “don’t need no…” that commonly appears in rock lyrics. Olzon’s voice, however, is so clean and her diction so clear that it comes across more like your grandma reading Snoop Dogg lyrics than the gritty feel he was going for. Like I said, a minor, picky thing.

Overall, this is an enjoyable album to just put on in the background or in your car. It is a thoroughly commercial album. There is nothing remotely “progressive” about it, unless you are desperate to make it fit and you want to hang your hat on the occasional hemiola in the vocal line, so if you are looking for something complex that requires intense listening to grasp all the nuances, you will need to look somewhere else.

01. The Dark Element (4:27)
02. My Sweet Mystery (5:00)
03. The Last Good Day (4:14)
04. Here’s To You (4:15)
05. Someone You Used To Know (4:24)
06. Dead To Me (5:29)
07. Halo (4:26)
08. I Cannot Rise The Dead (4:26)
09. The Ghost And The Reaper (5:22)
10. Heaven Of Your Heart (4:47)
11. Only One Who Knows Me (5:12)
12. Dead To Me (Almost Acoustic Version) (5:07)

Total Time – 57:09

Anette Olzon – Vocals
Jani Liimatainen – Guitars, Keyboards & Programming
Jonas Kuhlberg – Bass
Jani Hurula – Drums
~ With:
Jarkko Lahti – Piano (tracks 5 & 10)
Niilo Sevänen – Vocal Growls (track 6)
Anssi Stenberg – Backing Vocals
Petri Aho – Backing Vocals

Record Label: Frontiers Records
Catalogue#: FR CD 822
Date of Release: 8th November 2017

The Dark Element – Facebook | Twitter


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