The Lonely Traveller

Review: Psychic Equalizer – The Lonely Traveller

Psychic Equalizer is a project by Spanish musician, pianist Hugo Selles, crowning a multi-award wining combination that music speaks widely for it’s self. Founded in 2011, PE released three EP’s, amassing a noble reputation holding a high regard of appraisal. The new release is an album entitled “The Lonely Traveller,” which graciously feels like a transport mechanism to the ‘bygone’ smoky-bar-room era of sparkly contemporary brass-string Jazz movements, sporting its style in a crisp, rich manner that effectively classifies itself among the overall album content.

Though the Jazz aspect dominates the scene as its intended expression, it still gets a fine collaboration of etheric and futuristic sounds from guitarist Quico Duret to establish almost a Post-Neo modern take. Duret seems to get the pacified arena worked up with an array of eerie and spacey measure.

Track no. 2 “An Ocean of Change (I-IV)” makes addition of finely sprinkled Post Rock essence in an ‘echoy’ air, allowing the Jazz to hold its form and that crisp clarity. Even Selles’s Prog Jazz signature that comes thru on occasion feels contemporary and intentional. Morten Skott’s take on the Classic Jazz drumming scope is something to behold, with fantastic arrangements to simple mood. This fine instrumental album is by no means a complication of matters generally involved with Prog or a unique collection of sound tools which interprets that unique does not necessarily constitute a complex heavy arrangement that can emerge from inventive or improvisational setups.

Although “The Lonely Traveller” does listen like an arrangement of twelve tales in (large) variation, no track complimenting the previous or the next, the emotions are still warm and committed. Selles’s occasional nuances with the keyboards and synths make the listen personal, like when you have that urge to increase your monitor levels a ‘little’ more to appreciate the fine technicality. All instruments are meticulously (mathematically) played in a variety of styles from classic to contemporary to modern.

Psychic Equalizer makes a bold statement about its intent, but does not attempt to barrage or hammer-home its distinctively classy form. Absorbing the rewarding experience of “The Lonely Traveller” is one different in the way you would expect normally associated with absorbing high value audio, one is left with a quality reminiscing of classic jazz worked with a modernity. I loved this work.

Anakdota

Review: Anakdota – Overloading

British-isms that fuelled the first golden years of progressive rock are here in tandem with the byzantine instrumentation that would give it lasting appeal.

It’s clear that these folks already have a firm grasp of what they wanted to do and how to do it from the very start. Overloading shows that Anakdota is confident and precise from the first song to last, offering well-thought melodies, interesting vocal arrangements, and passages that connect the dots that are quite enjoyable. Erez Aviram, who is the key person for this project, is a pianist who absolutely shines here. The main instrument on this record is the piano, played masterfully by Aviram. The sound is well-rounded, the passages are melodic. The interplay between piano parts and vocals, courtesy of Ray Livnat and Ayala Fossdeld, is another highlight of Overloading.The term “virtuosity” has been a synonym for progressive rock for a while, but this release is focus on melody over the technicality, but still the latter is present a lot.

Overloadning

The craftsmanship and musicianship are top-notch. Starting from the openers “One More Day” and “Different Views,” as Overloading flows by Anakdota are even more prolific; they are like a flower that opens up slowly.

The album’s centrepiece is the title track, which sees Aviram providing an intricate work on his piano, with Livnat providing his most theatrical performance, and a very imaginative rhythm section.

To conclude, with Overloading Anakdota hints that they have the knowledge and potential to make something good. At least, this record is far from being categorized as a “hobby album,” it surely needs to be listened and is not one of those “skip-over” releases. Give this album a chance and let the music speak to your heart, rather than your brain!

Get a copy of Overloading here.

Resurgence

EP Review: Burnt City – Resurgence

One of the first releases of the year, released on January 1st, is a debut EP by Australian progressive power metal project Burnt City, led by guitarist Aydin Zahedi. Titled Resurgence, it could be said that the EP is an all-star (progressive power) metal affair. Put together by Zahedi, the band also includes bassist Mike Lepond (Symphony X), drummer George Kollias (Nile), keyboardist Bob Katsionis (Firewind, Serious Black), and singer Gus Monsanto. Based on this, I can safely say that this release is off to a good start!

The songs tend to go the route of hard hitting progressive metal, as on the riff heavy “Seven”, title track, or the melodic yet highly intricate “Wild Hunter” and “Armageddon.” Monsanto lends his unquestionable talents throughout the album; he is such a pleasant revelation on this record. “Armageddon” closes out the album in quite thunderous fashion, with sledgehammer riffing, orchestral keys, and locked in tight rhythms. Plenty of stellar lead guitar work to be found throughout the album courtesy of Zahedi, so be prepared for a progressive metal feast from start to finish.

Though we get treated to many of these types of collaborations, most of them feel unnatural. The chemistry between the members here flows smoothly. Along with some very special guests, Zahedi has created a very intriguing and enjoyable record. Looking forward to hear more.

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Synaptik band

SYNAPTIK’s New Album “Justify & Reason” Out in March

British heavy metal five-piece Synaptik recently announced the re-release of debut album “The Mechanisms of Consequence,” arriving as a heavier remixed album due out on January 30th.

The Norwich men show no signs of slowing down as they are also set to make a huge impact in 2017 by following that debut with the release of sophomore album “Justify & Reason,” due out March 10th.

For U.S. fans, it’s a double dose of metal as the remixed album and the new record “Justify & Reason” will be released as a double album directly via Divebomb Records.

Synaptik describes “Justify & Reason” as: “A collection exhibiting real finesse, true technicality but not at the expense of neck-snapping riffs and a progressive air that’s both bracing and intimidatingly menacing.”

1. The Incredible Machine
2. Human / Inhuman
3. Conscience
4. White Circles
5. Esc Ctrl
6. A Man Dies
7. As I Am As I Was
8. I Am The Ghost (intro)
9. Your Cold Dead Trace

To the Moon

Review: Cloudspeak – To the Moon

Over the last few years, instrumental releases within the progressive rock/metal genre have been on the rise, and like with everything else, the quality of the releases vary from hit-and-miss to some absolutely amazing gems. Cloudspeak, based in Chicago, is a project of Johnny Wright IV. To the Moon is an EP debut by Cloudspeak released on January 13.

Well composed, arranged and wonderfully performed, To the Moon is an ambitious piece of largely instrumental prog metal, with more than enough epic ideas to keep a listener engaged and attentive. Suffice to say, there is more than enough of a variety to keep the music from sounding stale or rehashed. Although Johnny’s true calling lies in melody-driven progressive metal guitar, the stylistic curveballs here are fully-realized and sound great. The EP opens with a short intro “Set Sail,” which connects with “The Great Sea.” This is an excellent example of Wright’s skill as a multi-faceted composer. And this skill just keeps on improving throughout the six-track release. Song structures seem arranged to cater to a string of individually satisfying moments, as opposed to the ideas all contributing to the overall whole of a composition. Even in the most ambitious progressive rock/metal moments, I tend to look for some of the same qualities found in conventionally good songwriting.

Obviously, much of the spotlight here is placed on Wright’s prodigious grasp of the electric guitar. Although the album’s djenty side doesn’t stand any bit above what we’ve already heard from that corner of prog metal, Wright makes himself out to be an absolutely brilliant fusion guitarist, possibly one of the most talented I’ve heard in recent years. “Storm Clouds” might be my favourite track on the EP for this very reason; Wright’s marriage of keen instrumental wandering and tight melodic passages is gorgeous.

To the Moon is a record packed with instrumental inventiveness and technical proficiency. Cloudspeak excels here both as a composer and musician.

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Second Horizon

Review: Second Horizon – Albdruck

Second Horizon, a four piece from Cologne in Germany, have quite a challenge as with any new band playing this stylistically demanding music. They either need to add something exciting and original to the genre, or be so bloody good at delivering captivating instrumental rock (that visits quite a few genres) in its conventional form that they stand head and shoulders above the oceans of ordinariness that surround them. While they will not win any awards for innovation, the debut release Albdruck does in fact rise most convincingly from the latter category, and has enough variation in its six tracks to keep interest levels high.

Albdruck

Beginning with the short intro “Zucht,” Second Horizon expertly marry the sludgy histrionics of Panopticon era Isis to the noise rock sensibilities of Melvins. The band doesn’t fuck about with long intros, and like to get on with the business at hand, with only two tracks passing the 6-minute mark. This makes for a more urgent and also provides a much more organic feel to the band’s playing.

In addition to Isis and Melvins you can undoubtedly hear the massive influence of Cult of Luna, Mono, Mastodon, all the major names, but Second Horizon somehow manage to put a unique stamp on this rather derivative framework.

Second Horizon have risen far above the sum of their influences, and delivered a very fine instrumental rock album. Check it out!

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Memories Have No Name

Review: Althea – Memories Have No Name

What the second album by Althea presents the listener with is an up-and-coming Italian progressive metal band still discovering and honing their sound; a style that’s adequately complex with dark influences, is melodic, and puts the emotion-packed vocals of Alessio Accardo at the forefront. The album commences with a short instrumental Regression From Regrets, that is followed up with Paralyzed which for 3:20 minutes carries the listener through a barrage of riffs, drum fills, and high soaring vocals all on top of a grandiose atmosphere. Frankly, the song slays, and simultaneously gives the listener a taste of the orchestrated clamor that is to follow. Revenge epitomizes all that is great about metal, and I would go as far as saying the song still may be the band’s crowning achievement.

A key attribute of Althea is their ability to engage the listener with a multitude of topics, and in every sense of the word, diversity. Halfway Through is a slower thematic piece about extra terrestrial life, complete with spoken-like singing throughout the song. An echoing guitar note completes the eerie feeling the song is intended to achieve. Dream Theater fans will dig this one.

Further adding to the depth of the album is Last Overwhelming Velvet Emotion (L.O.V.E.), a well-constructed, well-executed ballad featuring touching guitar solos and grandiose singing. Accardo, now in typical fashion, wears his heart on his sleeve.

In sum, Memories Have No Name is an outstanding release worth your time and hard-earned money whether you’re a fan of melodic progressive metal or not. There are highs; there are lows; there is pain; and most of all there is passion. I’ve listened to this album a solid ten times, and I’ve yet to find anything that qualifies as true filler, although the album is full of short interludes that connect pieces together. If there is one single word to describe Memories Have No Name, it would be “genuine.” Not only are Althea outside of the one-album-wonder galaxy…. they’re in a completely different universe.

Get a copy of the album here.

Konstant Singularity

Interview with KONSTANT SINGULARITY

Konstantin Ilyin aka Konstant Singularity recently put out his sophomore studio album which is called “Randomnicity,” and presents a great collection of instrumental guitar-driven fusion. “Randomnicity” is quite an enjoyable experience, and definitely one of the albums from 2016 that anyone who like this style of music should check out. I talked with Konstantin about this record, inspiration, and some more.  

Alright, first thing is first. Before we dive into all the music stuff, how’s life?

Life is great! I’ve moved to Ireland not so long ago. I’m exploring new territories, meeting new people. It is a beautiful country, everybody is polite and nice. I enjoy it. This sets me in a creative mood. Just forget about all problems and write music – that is what I need to be happy.

Speaking of new music, you have an album. What can people expect from “Randomnicity”?

Honest emotions and intimate feelings. It is an instrumental music. There is no particular message in each song. So everybody can hear whatever is important for them. I hope music will resonate with listener’s feelings and will make a day a bit brighter. It is a very emotional record and I trust it will not leave you indifferent.

Randomnicity

What was it like working on the album?

Easy. I mean, of course, I’ve put a lot of effort in this record, but I enjoy it so much that it feels very easy to do day after day. This time I’ve let my emotions drive the creative process. I didn’t try to force it. Write whenever you want and whatever you want – that was my motto (laughing). I forgot about genres, target audience, radio formats and so on, and just created what I like personally. In order to make it sound more alive, I invited my good friend Alex Vostrikov to record live drums on this album. It was a very important decision, cause he made a huge impact on the sound – brought some bits of jazz with very rich drum parts. It made each track more interesting and added another level of musicality.

Are there any touring plans in support to “Randomnicity”?

I didn’t plan to tour with this record. It is a solo project, which means I’m basically alone. Making a live show would be a complicated thing. But if there are people who would help me to organise the tour, I would definitely do that. At least I have a drummer (smiling). If the opportunity comes up, I will.

While we are on the subject of touring, what countries would you love to tour?

All over the world! But realistically – Europe and United States. Ireland is a very good spot for that. Very easy to get to any European country and also quite easy to get to States.

Who and what inspires you the most?

Usually, people around me and my feelings about these people. Every composition has a special meaning to me. Related to some event and personal experience. Sometimes a good movie can inspire to write a song. Also, I’m very influenced by other musicians. When I listen to my favourite bands I immediately want to grab an instrument and compose.

konstant_singularity_003

What other genres of music do you listen to? Have any of the other genres you listen to had any impact on your playing?

Oh, I listen to different music. I don’t limit myself with genres. If I like the song I don’t really care what style it is. From jazz to death metal – I listen to anything. On this record, you can hear influences of contemporary jazz like Esbjorn Svensson, dark jazz – Bohren & der club of Gore. As well as electronic music like Trifonic and Massive Attack. I could mention Opeth as well. This death metal band is very progressive and I’ve been listening to it for many years.

I really appreciate you giving us your time today. Is there anything else you would like to tell us and the fans before we wrap things up?

I would like to thank everybody who listens to my music. I hope it will support you in happiness and sadness. If I manage to make somebody’s day a bit brighter – then my music serves a good purpose.

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althea

Interview with ALTHEA

Althea is a progressive metal quintet from Milan in Italy. The band defines their mission as “developing a free-of-schemes progressive metal rock,” and fans of the genre will have an opportunity to hear that on their upcoming release titled “Memories Have No Name.” I talked with the band about the album and more, and here is what they had to say.

Alright, first thing is first. Before we dive into all the music stuff, how’s life?

Great… we getting closer to another year end and closer and closer to the release of MHNN. We are really excited about it!

Speaking of new music, you have an album coming out in January. What can people expect from “Memories Have No Name”?

A journey into the inner self, an entertainment experience. MHNN is an album made of 1 song divided in 16 chapters, with a lot of introspective sections and a lot of different sounds.

From the musical perspective, it is of course a progressive rock/metal with dark atmosphere, tons of sonic layers but still with a lot of melody.

What was it like working on the album?

It was awesome! We had amazing times and a lot of fun. It was also a lot stressful. For this album we followed a new approach to our music and we recorded the album by ourselves in our home studio. We then moved to MoonHouse studios in Milan with Danilo Di Lorenzo for mixing and mastering phases. Given this, we had a lot of additional work to be done on our own but the result is very satisfying.

memories-have-no-name_cover

Are there any touring plans in support to “Memories Have No Name”?

We are in the middle of the organization of the promotional activities, including trying to book as many live shows as possible. You know, the album is quite complex from a sonic point of view and it’s not the easiest album to bring live – we are working on it and we would like also to bring some visual accompanying to the music. Let’s see you far we can go!

While we are on the subject of touring, what countries would you love to tour?

We would really like to bring our music as far as possible, without geographical limits. We would probably be very curious to see the reaction of fans in countries like India, China, etc, where it’s not very common to see progressive acts. But we really love playing everywhere!

Who and what inspires you the most?

Our inspiration comes from a huge variety of sources and in the past years we’ve been listening to a lot of different stuff. Currently we are exploring more experimental and industrial sounds. To say a name, we can easily go for Nine Inch Nails now, or some solo work from Richard Barbieri as well.

What other genres of music do you listen to? Have any of the other genres you listen to had any impact on your playing?

Yes, of course. As said before we’ve grown up with different influences and with different favorite artists. Each one of us have different musical taste from avant-garde metal to alternative/indie rock passing through more extreme metal acts and traditional prog rock and all of our musical background in some way influences our songwriting and style. A very big common point in all our listening is for sure melody, and you can easily hear how this is reflected in our work as well.

I really appreciate you giving us your time today. Is there anything else you would like to tell us and the fans before we wrap things up?

Thank you for you time, it’s always a pleasure. We would like to take to opportunity to invite the fans to listen to MHNN as a single song, all in a raw. It’s something we really care of, and we would like the listener to have a journey experience, rather than skipping from one song to the other. Also, please always buy original music and support emerging acts!

We hope to see you soon!

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merkaba_graphic

Interview with MERKABA

Louis Goodwin is a young songwriter behind the instrumental progressive project Merkaba. In November he released an EP titled “Merkaba,” and I talked with him about his work.

What made you go for the name Merkaba?

Back around when I was beginning to develop this project and first putting together the EP, I became very interested in the teachings of this Hindu/Buddhist, L-Ron-Hubbard type spiritualist dude, and whilst not the strongest believer, I found it all rather intriguing. In his teachings, he talked of this magical, ‘love powered’, dimension-jumping, time-travelling, force-field called a “Merkaba”. The idea of a musical project that transcends dimensions sounded pretty Djent, so the name stuck.

How do you usually describe your music?

Depending on who I’m describing it too, usually “Really Angry Music”. Too other metal-enthusiasts, however, I mostly describe Merkaba as a cross between aggressive Progressive Metal (doing my best to avoid that trigger word; Djent), a few elements of Metalcore, a splash of Jazzy Electronic stuff, and as much ambience as possible.

What is your writing process like?

A mess. It usually starts off as a singular riff recorded in Reaper, a long with the simplest of drum tracks. this is quickly followed by about 9 different variations of that riff, 4 different chorus ideas, 6 verses, 3 bridges, a middle 8, and a solo bongo drum section in 33/8 time. Eventually I will boil all the various riffage down into a song, but the journey is long and this usually is happening alongside 3 or 4 other song ideas.

Who or what is your inspiration, if you have any?

Inspiration is quite a broad term, am inspired by a huge number of people. I would mostly accredit my musical interests to people like my Dad and Grandmother, who still haven’t given up on me. Musically, however, bands such as Monuments, Periphery and Tesseract are the greatest inspiration for the music I write, and guitarists such as Tosin Abasi, Misha Mansoor, Plini and John Browne are the biggest inspiration on my guitar playing.

merkaba-ep-cover

What is your favourite piece on the “Merkaba” EP?

Probably Refraction/Reflection, I was rather pleased with how those two songs tied together, rather inspired by Reflections “The Color Clear”. I really enjoy writing songs with recurring themes and a possible concept album is something I envision for the future.

What makes “Merkaba” different?

I’d like to say the use of electronic and Jazz elements, but that’s something that’s been done a thousand times before. I guess it would be the large mix of ideas and influences, there’s no set genre or subgenre for Merkaba, I love the really heavy Meshuggah style stuff, super jazzy Animals as Leaders, really light and proggy Plini and later Intervals stuff and so on. I’ve never thought “I want Merkaba to just be ridiculously heavy” or “This is all just going to be atmospheric prog stuff”, I’m too bad at making decisions.

What should music lovers expect from “Merkaba”?

I suppose creativity, being as little “up-my-own-behind” as possible. I try to use as little generic riffage as I can, except the odd riff or too (looking at you, “Reflection”), so for music lovers this may be a taste of something new or exotic.

What kind of emotions would you like your audience to feel when they listen to your music?

As many as they wish, I feel it’s up to them. As with all music, your perception of what you feel when you listen to music differs from everyone else, including the artists. We all have completely different memories, different ways of expressing emotion and different perspectives on life. My audience are going to feel completely different when they listen to my music than when I do, hopefully they won’t feel too bored though.

Pick your three favourite albums that you would take on a desert island with you.

Probably David Maxim Micic’s “Eco”, because no matter how hard I try, I cannot seem to get sick of that album. Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” is another must have, never have I loved any album more and it evokes some precious memories. Lastly, it’s a toss up between either Monuments’ “The Amanuensis”, or Periphery’s “PII: This Time it’s Personal” because I adore both albums, the complexities of “PII” are amazing, and I don’t think I could live without the “Somewhere in Time” Trilogy (Muramasa, Ragnarok and Masamume), “The Amanuensis” just flows incredibly, and the combination of Chris Barretto’s vocals and John Browne’s amazing riffs are to die for.

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