All posts by Alec Vanthournout

The Shadow Principle - Oblivion

Interview: THE SHADOW PRINCIPLE

LA rock quartet, The Shadow Principle, has been around for a few years now, and they released two albums: “Golden State” (2012) and “Oblivion,” released in July this year.

The band successfully creates music that largely relies on punk, alternative rock and progressive rock. In 2015, The Shadow Principle introduced a new singer, Nohl Takahashi, whose performance on “Oblivion” is absolutely stunning.

Takahashi and bassist Dave Tomkins spoke for Progstravaganza about their new record.

All right, first things first. Before we dive into all the music stuff, how’s life? 

BOTH: Great! Thanks for asking.

You have a new album. What can people expect from “Oblivion”?

DAVE: Good songs, good performances, and lots of energy. Check out our new video for “When the Sun Appears” on YouTube to get a taste of what’s in store.

NOHL: People can expect a pure, heartfelt rock record. I feel they should take time to enjoy the lyrics secondary to the amazing musical performances on this record to receive the messages.

What was it like working on the album?

DAVE: I’m quite happy with the results, but I found the album difficult to make. For me, if a song doesn’t feel fresh, unique, exciting, or if it doesn’t really attract me lyrically, harmonically, and/or melodically, I’m just not satisfied. And I’ll keep working at it and working at it until it finally feels “right.” For some reason, that happened a lot during the two-year period we spent preparing the material on “Oblivion.” We worked so hard to make all these songs the best they could be, and we did so knowing we wanted to this record to be different from our last one, “Golden State.

NOHL: It was a great learning experience, and at the same time it raised everyone’s performance bar to a new level.

The Shadow Principle

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

NOHL: We are currently supporting the record on a local basis only.  Should we hear good news from elsewhere, we definitely will be the first to jump on a plane and entertain the masses.

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

DAVE: Well, the Germans seem to like us: I would love to play there. Honestly, mounting a European tour is a life-long dream of mine. Touring Japan sounds like a blast, too, as does visiting South American countries with loads of rock fans.

Who and what inspire you the most?

DAVE: Musically speaking? Well, I’m a big fan of David Bowie’s songwriting, and Pete Townshend’s—and more recently of Steven Wilson’s. I love Beck’s acoustic-based stuff, too. And the guys in Interpol craft some pretty awesome songs. When it comes to bass, I’m all about the hall-of-famers: Chris Squire, John Entwhistle, Tony Levin, Geddy Lee, Jaco, of course, Alphonso Johnson, and Stanley Clarke. It doesn’t get better than those guys. Other music that has inspired me recently? Certainly Refused’s latest album “Freedom“—especially “Servants of Death” and “Elektra.” And I love Bowie’s “Blackstar,” but I can’t listen to it all the way through without getting incredibly bummed that he’s no longer with us. I also think Beck’s “Morning Phase,” TV on the Radio’s “Seeds,” and Radiohead’s “A Moon Shaped Pool” are all brilliant. All this music inspires me to write better songs, play better bass, and to remain open and curious about what great rock music can accomplish.

NOHL: The sense of self and the constant drive to be present in the world of illusion is truly what inspires me the most as an individual. I don’t believe in heroes nor in wearing their symbols—I’m here to make my own.

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

DAVE: As I mentioned above, I’m all over the map in terms of genre. Electronic music, ambient music, Progressive music, 70s glam rock, punk, post-punk, folk, even contemporary Top 40 has an impact on how I write and play. I try to absorb as much as possible from everything I hear.

NOHL: All genres—period. All genres have unique sonic perceptions, so all must be appreciated in my opinion.

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?

DAVE: Please follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram so that we can keep you updated on our activities. And do check out the new record! You’ll find it on iTunes, Amazon, and Bandcamp. Also, if you dig us, tell your friends. Share a link to our stuff on social media. I can’t overstate the importance of those little gestures in this day and age. We’d love to keep making music for you—help us do so by spreading the word!

NOHL: Please do say “hi” to us on Facebook and feel free to contact us anytime. We would love to hear back from people if they felt inspired, or if a song had joined them in a process in life. We hope to see you at a show someday!

The Shadow Principle’s “Oblivion” is out now. Get it from Bandcamp.

Tilted Axes

Review: Tilted Axes – Music for Mobile Electric Guitars

New York-located experimental rock ensemble Tilted Axes released their full-length studio debut in July this year. On Music for Mobile Electric Guitars, this 15-piece expedition (according to album credits) led by guitarist Patrick Grant crafts energetic and tuneful experimental rock numbers that contain interludes of vast variety of different subgenres.

The dynamic rockers that sometimes shift into more vulnerable musings show off a band, or should we call it an orchestra, that can assuredly play a range of musical styles. The up-tempo rocker “Shapes 1” blends the best of the rock and pop genres. It’s an appealing, anthemic tune from start to finish that rolls along with optimistic determination.

Music for Mobile Electric Guitars

“Circulation in G Maybe” shakes with a calmer vibe, dealing with post and indie sides of rock. The jagged guitar line and pushy bass line and drum beat propel the song forward, while guitarists emote in a deeper, darker tone. In a twist on the traditional structure, a dreamier and slower paced ambience floats in briefly near song’s end.

“Theme Variation” could be described as everything opposed to the previous number; it’s far more fast and edgy, but it also dwells through the dreamy aspect. Heavy rock guitars and slamming drums interrupt the reverie, churning in a tumultuous mix. Just as suddenly, another transient lull appears, fades, and is replaced by a burst of alt-rock sonics.

A menacing groove, prominent bass line, and agitated drum beat run through “Techno Tilt.” There is much more than this on Music for Mobile Electric Guitars, which counts 17 tracks in total, and it waits to be discovered. Grab this album if you are all for a new adventures when it comes to music, and it will surely give you a lot to absorb.

Grab this fine piece of music from Bandcamp. Stay in touch with Tilted Axes via the band’s official website and Facebook.

The Shadow Principle - Oblivion

Review: The Shadow Principle – Oblivion

Post-punk is often regarded as a genre that has a lot of similar sounding bands, especially when it comes to vocals. LA’s The Shadow Principle do play to the post-punk sound pretty tightly but on their new, second album Oblivion, they also take the time to raise their music beyond the confines of that sound. How far they go beyond those confines is subjective but they do find something for everyone.

The album opens on the epic sprawl of “Minutae,” which cuts from a big beginning to fast-paced verse filled with light guitar flourishes that at times sound so flowing. The song’s guitar solo, awesomely performed by Reza Moosavi, takes the song out on a great note. The bass, courtesy of Dave Tomkins, on “When the Sun Appears” gives a nice secondary riff that outdoes the guitar at times. Vocals of Nohl Takahashi are a huge addition to the song’s energy and anthem-feeling vibe.

Byzantium” has a much more mysterious opening than the earlier tracks thanks to a great echoing atmospheric line at the beginning. The riffs that drive “Dead Walking” give it an opening well above many on the record.

Oblivion may not be a game-changer but it gives The Shadow Principle ground to stand on and a great example of their sound and talent. Even if you’re not a fan of post-punk with different influences you can get behind a track like “When the Sun Appears.The Shadow Principle play to their genre well while trying to explore other ideas within that sound.

Buy Oblivion here.

Excellion

Review: Excellion – Unsean

Mexican metallers Excellion return this August 6th with a brand new EP titled “Unsean.” The release brings five songs, what is quite a nice amount of music to dig into.

“Unsean” kicks off with excellent “Unsean pt. I – In Search of Infinity” in which the band showcases all their skills and directions the music tends to go. The sound you hear will undoubtedly remind you of likes such Ihsahn, Tool, Killswitch Engage and Pain of Salvation, with enough of originality what is the reason to give this EP enough time and patience.

Unsean

What plays a significant role in the music of Excellion are massive riffs, twisted harmonic changes and powerful rhythm section which grabs forth continuously. Drums that are often in shift, and especially, vocal that ranges from absolutely everything in rock and metal, parry very well to the rest of the team. Stylistically “Unsean” is very multi-faceted, but in the same time very compact and feels like an entity.

Follows “Unlucky Charms” which brings something more energetic and wilder face of the band. In “The Courier” Excellion demonstrates their arranging skills, while interestingly titled “Diablo Jr.” comes with an interesting arrangement and a lot of complex parts that feel rather simple in the context of the song. This piece features guest appearance from the Arcadia Libre’s guitarist Jose Macario.

The EP closes with a bit nostalgic and ethereal “Unsean pt. II – The Heart of the Sapphire,” which also brings tons of mood and intensity changes, and which leaves an incomplete feeling for wanting to hear more. Is this intentional or not will be answered some other time.

“Unsean” shows that this is not a release that brings hits, it’s not a radio sensation, and it’s not something that is going to have millions of views and become viral. At the end, the music is what matters and Excellion has a lot of unused potential which will, hopefully, result in something greater in the future.

Stay in touch with Excellion on Facebook.

Oak

Review: Oak – Lighthouse

The music of Oak is mainly inspired by the early albums of Porcupine Tree, Pink Floyd, and Sigur Rós. Although I hardly hear other influences or a small change in style on the band’s debut album, the small herd of fans of the band enjoy the sound of Oak over and over again. Maybe I suffer from the same disease because I cherish everything they have done on “Lighthouse.” Sigbjørn Reiakvam, Øystein Sootholtet, Simen Valldal Johannessen and Ole Michael Bjørndal present nothing new that could be considered to be innovative let alone shocking or groundbreaking.

Oak - Lighthouse

However, I guess musicians don’t have to be groundbreaking as long as an album contains beautiful music, even if one already knows what kind of music one can expect. Well, I’m not going to tell you what you can expect on Lighthouse. As I mentioned before there’s nothing new under the sun, so people who are familiar with Oak know what is to be expected; they can buy this album without listening to it first. They know that beautiful guitar passages and mellow keyboard parts are all over the place!

Lighthouse is highly recommended to everyone who looks for a melancholic music that bites and is infectious.

Visit Oak on Facebook for more info.

Vitruvius

Review: Vitruvius – Above The Silvered Sky

There are symphonic metal bands, power metal bands, progressive metal bands, classically influenced and trained metal musicians. Then there are bands that know how to take all those elements and disciplines and perfectly balance them into their own unique sound. This is what Mexico City’s own Vitruvius have done on their second full-length Above The Silvered Sky.  Founded in 2007, Vitruvius have gone through several line-up changes over the course of almost ten years, but the current and the most steady line-up features Dulce Robles on vocals, Oskar Villarreal on guitars and bass, and Ronnie Rodriguez on drums.

Above the Silvered Sky

It was sharing stages and hours of rehearsals that gave the band that unique quality to forge their own sound that would manifest itself into one of the strongest albums I have heard in 2016 so far. It was if they have taken a concerto orchestra and transcribed it on to heavy guitars, bass, drums and vocals. Not like an opera but like a supporting multi piece instrumental orchestra in the supporting act of a musical.

Although the tracks seem short in length at times, the listener still has a epic listening experience through various time signatures and change progressions. There is always a hook or unpredictable harmony or melody around the corner of every track on the album. The harmonies are executed with clarity and the instrumental melodies compliment those harmonies with grace and poise. The rhythm sections are insane and tight in some places. Vitruvius is definitely a band for fans of symphonic, melodic, progressive metal with influences of jazz fusion.

Vitruvius online:

Bandcamp

Facebook

MetaQuorum

Review: MetaQuorum – Migration

Hailing from England, MetaQuorum describe themselves as a progressive band which draws inspiration from many other stylistically different genres such funk, reggae, electronic and jazz. The project made up of Dmitry Ermakov on keyboards and Koos van der Velde on drums put out recently a new single “Migration.”

The track is entered around a spacey keyboard work by Ermakov which is threaded throughout the song. Drums, key bass and (spoken-word) vocals (latter performed by Dmitry and Carol Emrakova) play a supporting role. The band takes the classic song dynamic and flips it on its head, which is nice to hear.

Migration

MetaQuorum manage to show their influences proudly while also bringing something new and fresh to the table. Van der Velde hits the drums behind a simple repetitive vocal melody while the keyboards and effects create some lovely ambient sonic textures — a perfect example of the band’s originality.

MetaQuorum, and the “Migration” single in particular are the result of something that has a very defined and polished sound. This is a band worth keeping an eye on.

Links:

https://metaquorum.bandcamp.com

Tribal

Review: Tribal – Tribal EP

Tribal is a new band on the international metal scene which combines modern metal sound with traditional Brazilian music. Massive riffs accompanied with djent and influences of metalcore add to the variety.

Their debut self-titled EP was released this past February. It includes six songs and it is a little longer than 30 minutes. The EP starts with “The Age of Frustration.” The song has an epic intro, which directly parts the album from a “classic” djent work. Well thought piece that gives variety. What ultimately grabs listener’s attentions in all songs are guitar solos which often change direction towards more traditional heavy metal sound.

Tribal EP

The thirrd song “Unconditional” also has a different atmosphere that makes the band’s sound separated from the other acts. Additionally there are clean vocals in this one; we could describe this piece as ‘slow’ and maybe we could keep with the word epic a little bit more. This song changes your mind completely about where Tribal are headed to. In the end, everybody loves new, different and well made things.

Tribal is a metal release that didn’t forget its heavy metal roots and with tons of different influences it makes for sure that this band has a lot of potential for something greater.

Soulhenge

Interview with SOULHENGE

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

It’s great, thanks! Enjoying it as much as we can.

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

Right. Well you can expect a dense mixture of heavy but also beautiful elements, creating ambiences that we want to hit you right in the feels. The overall sound is heavy low and tight, yet pretty warm. You will hear proper screams and shouts but also clean vocals, our vocalist has a pretty impressive range. We put a lot of effort in those 4 songs, so I think you can look forward to structured and detailed music, which is interesting to analyse but on the other hand easy to listen to.

What was it like working on the EP?

The songs were actually written instrumentally in 2014 and 2015 already. A new vocalist joined about a year ago so we had to integrate him first into our workflow. So the EP did not pop out suddenly, but was formed over several months and took final shape in January this year. We had to deal with members studying in different countries, it may slowed down the process slightly, but it worked anyway and it was a lot of fun!

Anachronism EP

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

Unfortunately not. We will play local shows for now and use the opportunities that the internet provides us to spread our music across the borders.

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

As a first tour, the Benelux area or Germany pops into our heads! Maybe some day, we could tour across countries like Japan or so, that would be mindblowing.

Who and what inspires you the most?

Of course we got our favorite bands that influence us the most, Monuments, Tesseract, Erra, Veil Of Maya… you name them. But what is also very inspiring are concerts. Being backstage, having a great time on stage with a cool crowd and receiving kind feedback is something that keeps us going and inspires us a lot!

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

I am personally diving a lot into stuff like Plini, Snarky Puppy and similar stuff recently, and I think it has a fairly big impact on my writing. The other members also listen to a lot if different genres, be it 80s rock, electro or even classical. This keeps your mind fresh.

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 very much for having us, it was a pleasure! Well, what can I say… enjoy whatever music you like, it should be able to colour your grey days!

ABRAHAM SARACHE Playing Songs from "The Gardener" in Amsterdam's Volta on June 24

ABRAHAM SARACHE Playing Songs from “The Gardener” in Amsterdam’s Volta on June 24

Multi-instrumentalist Abraham Sarache, who recently released a new album titled The Gardener, will play a special release show in support of the album at Volta in Amsterdam on June 24th. The show will be recorded for a future live release.

The Gardener is an alt/progressive rock concept album with the inclusion of folk instruments like ukulele and Venezuelan cuatro. To express the feelings involved, different kinds of voice registers are provided: from a soft, melodious or whispered voice to raspy voice. Various pads and synthesizers are used to give depth and warmth to the songs where an acoustic guitar with a low tuning predominates. A multicultural composition on the instrumental level and a progressive rhythmic base create an exquisite atmosphere of imbalance and peculiarity.

The philosophy behind the album is based on the fact that in any interpersonal relationship, whether it is a friendship or a romantic connection, there is a duality between the one that participates in an active way (The Gardener) and the one that does it in a passive way (The Flower).

All of us at some point of our lives have a role of a gardener and in other moments we are flowers,” Sarache commented.

We can all identify ourselves as the Gardener when we talk about a person we were looking after because we liked him or her, we wanted to know more about this person or we just wanted to spend more time with them, no matter what. We simply did everything possible to make things work.

On the other hand, we have been also in situations when someone was interested in us in a special way, but the feeling was not mutual. We still wanted to maintain a relationship because we liked other aspects of that person’s character. To this behavior I refer to as the Flower,” he continues.

“The Crush: Eyes of Fire” which opens The Gardener was awarded as the Best Alternative Rock Song by The Akademia Music Awards in May 2015. Sarache released a video single for the song, and he commented: “This is a very special video for me. My first video as a solo artist showing parts of my everyday in Madrid and Margarita Island where concept album The Gardener was conceived and recorded.

For the upcoming show at Volta in Amsterdam on June 24th, Abraham Sarache will be joined by Dutch alternative/progressive rockers Amikdla. The Gardener is available now from iTunes and Spotify. Visit Abraham Sarache’s official website here.