Ring of Gyges

Interview with RING OF GYGES

I have already written about the Icelandic proggers Ring of Gyges and their debut album “Beyond the Night Sky” (review here), but singer and guitarist Helgi Jonsson has answered my questions about the record and let us know what it was like working on this material.

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

It’s pretty good, thanks for asking. I’m currently living in Sweden and it’s cold and dark here but I’m from Iceland so I’m used to it. I’m hanging in there. Writing lots of new music these days.

Speaking of new music, you have an album. What can people expect from “Beyond the Night Sky”?

Imagine, if you will, a lasagna where the beef is our foundation of 70′s progressive rock. We also have some weird and exotic meats sneaking in there, like snake and kangaroo meat, symbolizing the stranger and more creative parts of the album. The pasta? That’s the metal influence. And the cheese sprinkled on top symbolizes… well, cheese. I’m pretty bad at analogies and this sounds like a terrible lasagna, but our album is, like a lasagna, layered with a lot of good bits, it’s difficult to make and consuming it is a pleasant experience.

Beyond the Night Sky

What was it like working on the album?

It was amazing to be honest. Sure there were moments where you wanted to claw your eyes out because you just couldn’t get that one part right, but more often than not I felt creative and energetic and excited. We got some great guest players in the studio and working with them was an absolute pleasure, when we got the string players to the studio it really felt like some songs came to life and it was magical. I truly appreciate the effort that everyone voluntarily went through to help us with the album and I feel truly privileged to have such friends.

Are there any touring plans in support to “Beyond the Night Sky”?

Not yet, unfortunately. We want to, oh man we want to, but it’s logistically problematic right now. We still don’t have management and planning a tour on your own is damn difficult. If any manager or agent is reading this, don’t hesitate to send us a message!

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

A European tour would ideal for our budget, and we’d love to play around Europe (for example in Germany, UK and Poland), but we also have some good friends in the US that we’d love to play a show for! Getting a work visa in the US is getting more and more difficult though, we’ve heard of bands getting sent straight back to Europe even though they had all their paperwork completed. But hypothetically, we’d like to play around the world!

Who and what inspires you the most?

I guess I’d have to say Steven Wilson, he’s a musical mastermind and he doesn’t seem to be affected by anything anyone says and he’s always true to making the music that he wants to do. He doesn’t settle for anything less than great and why should I?

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 listen to everything from classical music to death metal. I’m really into jazz fusion as well, but most music I listen to seems to defy classifications. If it sounds interesting to me, I’ll listen to it. I love film music, John Williams is a god to me, and obviously his predecessors (Holst, Stravinsky, Resphigi). I guess most of the time when I play solos I’m hugely inspired by jazz players, whose melodies seem to be carefully walking the line between sounding right on the mark and completely off. Just the right amount of wrong. That’s what I find musically interesting.

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?

No problem, it was fun. I guess I’d encourage them to broaden their musical horizons, but seeing as this is a prog magazine, I guess they already have. 

Links:

Bandcamp

Facebook

Distant Horizon

Interview with DISTANT HORIZON

Distant Horizon from Finland debuted last June with an EP release titled “Laniakea,” and just when you think “here is another progressive metalcore/djent type of band,” these guys drop such a fantastic mixture of jazz fusion and progressive metal, ultimately putting themselves under my (and hopefully everyone else’s) radar.

Check out the interview below with the band.

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

Hi, we’re doing great, thanks for asking. Studies and work keep us busy and we’re also working on some new material for the band.

Distant Horizon - Laniakea

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

We think ”Laniakea” offers new and original sounding music which is close to progressive metal but with more fusion and jazz elements in it. It’s a mix of both old and new styles making it quite diverse. The EP has a nice balance between heavier and jazzier sound.

What was it like working on the EP?

Joona composed all the songs on the EP. Each of us learned the pieces individually after which we rehearsed the songs together. The recording sessions themselves went smoothly. Jesse recorded the drums first followed by Jere’s bass. Then Matias played the keyboard parts and lastly Joona recorded the guitars.

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

We did some touring after the release. We do have plans on doing some more gigs in the summer of 2018.

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

We love touring here in Finland, obviously, but we’re currently trying to get our music to international stages as well. In that regard, we’d love to tour Europe and the United States.

Who and what inspires you the most?

We are inspired by many artists and musicians. The biggest influences have probably been Pekka Pohjola, Dream Theater, Frank Zappa and Nobuo Uematsu. Of course, there are also numerous others. Our music has a lot of themes inspired by nature and space. We also try to inspire each other as musicians.

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

We do listen to many different genres in addition to prog. For example, rap, funk, jazz, pop, and electronic music. We think each genre has something to offer that’ll improve one’s playing.

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 having us. We want to thank everyone who has listened to our music and if you like what we do, we would greatly appreciate any support through social media or by other channels.

Links:

Bandcamp

Facebook

YouTube

Blindboss

Review: Blindboss – Our Tribe

Blindboss is a one-man band by multi-instrumentalist Max Histrionic hailing from California and delivering very dynamic sound, who is about to launch a new album “Our Tribe” on February 23. This is a very vivacious album with many joyful elements in it. It is one of those “morning coffee” albums. It knows the ways of how to discharge you and bring you real joy with its energetic tunes.

Blindboss - Our Tribe

“Our Tribe” includes twelve songs. All the way from the opening “Roman Coke” down to the closing “Shade Struck,” “Our Tribe” never stops being heady. Every song on the album is constructed in the same way. Placing this record under a genre is a double-edged sword, but the music is most of time alternative / punk rock with progressive and classic rock influences. And since we are talking about influences, the music of Blindboss recalls likes such A Perfect Circle, Soundgarden, Tool. But there is more than that. Histrionic transcends into the territory of the ‘70s vintage rock. So it can be said “Our Tribe” is a great harvest of modern and classic.

Overall, Blindboss’ “Our Tribe” is a very effective, powerful and tasty album comprised of great vocals arrangements, intricate guitar work and strong structure. It goes to the category of “must listen to” albums released in 2018.

Links:

Bandcamp

Facebook

Instagram

Blame - Almanac

Review: Blame – Almanac

Although much extreme metal being released nowadays seems to be content with emulating the works of past giants, there will always be those bands out there that try to turn the concept of a given genre on its side and redefine what it can do. Although this can sometimes lead to peril for the band, when done well, it leads to a fair deal of excitement, as is the case with Kiev, Ukraine’s Blame and their latest EP, entitled ‘Almanac’. While it is made clear from the highly distorted riffs, technical drumming courtesy of Nile’s George Kollias and deep growls that this is indeed a death metal record, Blame crosses the boundaries more than once, creating a work that has many of the characteristics of the prescribed genre, but still manages to skim the edge of something different altogether.

When listening to ‘Almanac’, the biggest thing I notice are the guitars. For much death metal, I find that the main purpose of the riffs is to add to heaviness and — in many cases — the technical aspect of the music. Although it would be foolish to say that there aren’t some looming moments to offer here, the guitars instead offer sounds that rely more on dissonant chord structures, complex timbres and eerie use of feedback. From my personal musical background, the closest thing Blame’s guitar work here sounds like is the latter period of Deathspell Omega; experimental, atonal, creepy and sometimes downright disconcerting in nature. All of this works in Blame’s favour. When first going into this record that seemed to have people so excited, I was not expecting something other than a typical (albeit good) death metal record, and the band proved me wrong.

Blame’s ‘Almanac’ is a fairly interesting creature for death metal. With equal parts death metal and something else altogether, the band has crafted twenty minutes worth of dissonant music that certainly grinds against the nerves at times, but for the time being, the EP has given me back some faith into what I perceived was a dying genre.

Links:

Bandcamp

Facebook

YouTube

PuzzleWood

Review: PuzzleWood – Gates of Loki

It seems like Russian trio PuzzleWood embraced the cold climate they have up there, and transcended that coldness through the music on Gates of Loki, their full-length debut record released on November 30th, 2017.

Gates of Loki

The album indeed feels cold, sometimes depressive, yet it’s a release that gives a hope. It is a big and bold step forward for a relatively new and unknown band on the scene. After “Intro (Gates of Loki)”, the album fires on all cylinders with “Remember My Name,” which is an arresting soundscape, creating an overwhelming sense of loss. Nikita Lipatov adds another dimension to the overall sound with his keyboards and synths. It adds volumes to the profoundness, and although the vocals aren’t always discernible (the effects sometimes circumvent clarity), they’re nonetheless gripping. Like with the entire album, “Obsessed” is an exquisite example of how the human condition can be expressed absolutely through layers of luscious timbres.

Gates of Loki becomes a bit more complex and direct with “Tyrant Who Fall in Love” and “To The Void,” which both soar due to piercing guitar work and pained dissonance.

Although the entire album is transcendent, the strongest track is probably “Jerusaelem.” It’s a perfect blend of vocal melodies and complementary arrangements, and the way it evolves from just a simple motif to incorporate several other instruments is exceptionally intense and meaningful.

Gates of Loki is a tour de force of emotion, delicacy, passion, cohesion, and grief-stricken beauty, and listeners will undoubtedly get lost in its sentiments and patterns. Each piece takes its time to develop, using both conventional and orchestral textures, as well as a plethora of vulnerable honesty, to make its statements. The record is a life-affirming experience. Few other albums have ever matched its magnificent combinations.

Links:

Bandcamp

Facebook

Meliorist

Review: Meliorist – ii.

On “ii.” Brisbane’s Meliorist unleashes a flurry of genre-blending forms and influences to craft an enjoyable, entertaining listen. I found “ii.” much more accessible than its self-titled predecessor, even as it retains the progressive and experimental nature.

Reviewing an EP can be a little tough, what with fewer songs to talk about. In this case however, I don’t really think of this release as a series of five songs. It’s much more like five tracks that encompass several moods and styles. You could say that each track has multiple songs, but to me they sound as if the band said: “Ok, let’s lay down five tracks. We’ll throw a lot of different elements in, and just play however we feel“. For a lot of bands, this free-form approach can become a complete disaster. Luckily enough, it turned out pretty good for Meliorist.

Meliorist - ii

The EP begins with “New Chapter,” a wacky sequence before it cuts into a very aggressive section, and fluctuates between this and moments of soaring vocal melodies. Heavy riffs, crazy drum arrangements, and guttural vocals are elements that make up Meliorist’s sound. ii. is best taken in as a whole, so choosing a favorite track or moment is kind of difficult. However, if pressed I would have to say “My Reflection” is my favorite track. Beginning with a plethora of brilliant guitar work, the song catapults into a furious volcano of palm-muted crunch and relentless drumming. Awesome.

Meliorist is not for everyone. If you are not willing to take the time to sort it all out, it can be disorienting, and you will completely miss the point. For the rest of us who are wiling to take that time, this new band solidifies the fact that we are experiencing one of the most talented metal bands of our generation unfold before our eyes. This is metal at its finest, completely unapologetic, and all the while blazing a path into uncharted territory.

Links:

Bandcamp

Facebook

YouTube

Beyond the Night Sky

Review: Ring of Gyges – Beyond the Night Sky

Ah, Iceland. I have fond memories of my time in Iceland. It is a wonderful place, to be sure, but there are many facets of it that are not well-known. The wondrous beauty of music of Iceland is what I will focus on in this review – but specifically the recent album of a band called Ring of Gyges called “Beyond the Night Sky.” But I guess you could figure that out from the title.

Ring of Gyges

I’m not going to profess to be an authority on music coming from this Nordic country, and I am only aware of a few bands, but these certainly are wonderful. The bands have their differences, but the human in me has the tendency to see connections where none may exist, so I feel like these bands are tied together by some sort of Icelandic musical tradition.

Ring of Gyges has been around since 2013, released their debut EP “Ramblings of Madmen” in 2015, a ten-minute single “Witchcraft” in 2016, and their full-length debut “Beyond the Night Sky” in November 2017. They are a wonderful band and my favorite new find. They seem to have five permanent members, sharing duties on keyboards, bass, guitars, vocals, along with a few guests on different instruments — flutes, clarinet, saxophone, violin, viola, and cello. The lineup for the album clearly shows the importance of the horn and string sections, and it is used to great effect, but the keyboards and guitars dominate. This, for me, is a huge bonus.

The music of “Beyond the Night Sky” is generally smooth and subtle (don’t think Kenny G, I’m not finished) like Hatfield and the North in their more pensive moments, and less like the funkiness of Billy Cobham or the energy of Mahavishnu Orchestra. It’s more on the fluid, astral spectrum of jazz fusion, like Return to Forever. That said, they don’t sound anything like RtF – the horn section and lack of guitars make a pretty clear distinction. And then there is a metal segment, where influences from Dream Theater, Opeth, Leprous and Haken are on the display.

I guess that’s pretty great though, right? I hear aspects of Prog, old and new, but they don’t overpower or turn it derivative. I hear aspects of other Icelandic bands — Agent Fresco, most prominently — but they don’t turn the band toward regressive introspection.

Links: Facebook | Bandcamp

PuzzleWood

Interview with PUZZLEWOOD

PuzzleWood from Moscow are a three-piece who back in November released their full-length debut “Gates of Loki.” The band classifies their work as “post-prog,” and I believe that it really is a fitting genre tag for what you can find on the album.

Guitarist and singer Anton Legatov spoke for Progstravaganza about the album.

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

Could be better, could be worse, much worse actually. So I’m fine.

What can people expect from “Gates of Loki”?

They can expect something unusual. Something they are unaccostomed to. I perfectly understand, that every musician says things like that about his project, but in this case it is the objective truth…At least I think so. Gates of Loki is not the album, that is easy to understand. It is necessary to dive into it, spend your time and pay some attention. But I’m sure, that the result will be satisfying for an attentive listener.

Gates of Loki
What was it like working on the album?

As usual – local branch of Hell of Earth. Writing an album is hard, recording it — much harder. Especially considering the conditions we had during our work. Though, it is pleasant, that from such a disorganised and greviously senseless chaos, something interesting was born.

Are there any touring plans in support to “Gates of Loki”?

Presently there are no such plans, because we don’t have people ready to organise such tour. If someone appears, we’ll gladly go on tour even to the Antarctic. We like giving live shows very much.

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

All of them. I sincerely believe, that the musician’s core is to be a traveller, a bard. To wander around the world and play his music and sing his songs. This is what I consider the destiny of those, who chooses the Music to be his craft. Whether we are invited to Europe, USA, Canada or Japan – it doesn’t really matter. We’ll gladly perform anywhere and it’ll be a great honor for us.

Who and what inspires you the most?

Everything. I always say, that we don’t write the music. The Music writes itself and we are doing our best to deliver it the way we percieve its desire to exist. That is why it’s not for us to decide when it comes to us willing to be written.

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

It may seem surprising, but I almost don’t listen Prog or Post-Prog. And in general I don’t listen to Rock music much. Often people compare us with Purcupine Tree or TOOL, but I must confess, I haven’t listened to any track of those two bands. Even now. I was on the concert of Steven Wilson once, but he was playing the material from his new album at that time, not the Purcupine’s. I have a lot of different music in my playlist, but mostly I’m old-fashioned. Very rarely I listen to music, written after the 1995. I listen to a lot of ethnic music, lots of jazz, blues of late 70s and middle of 80s. And, of course, the academic music. It is a must.

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?

Thanks for your interest and attention to what we do. It is very good to know that politics and international issues don’t create prejudice and barriers for the art and love to music.

“Gates of Loki” is out now; order it from Bandcamp. Follow PuzzleWood on Facebook.

The Seathmaw Project

Interview with THE SEATHMAW PROJECT

The Seathmaw Project is Geovanni Munoz, an one-man melodic death metal band from Dallas. In December, he released his third studio album “Inexistence,” and he spoke for Progstravaganza about it, his influences, and other genres.

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

Life is good, it can always be better but it’s good.

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

For the longtime listeners it’s more of the same just more refined, balanced, and sharp.  For the new listeners they can expect a bit of an unorthodox approach to metal.  Typically you get a band that gives you one genre or sub-genre and that’s it, there’s a handful of bands that blend a couple of styles every now and then. Then there’s The Seathmaw Project,  you get a lot of different sub-genres thrown at you and there’s no telling what’s coming next.  The song can start like a thrash metal song and you think it’s going to remain that way but it can merge into a break-beat style, then slap you in the face with some black metal and before you know it you’re leaving the song with a stoner rock style.  It’s bananas!

The Seathmaw Project - Inexistence

What was it like working on the album?

It’s pretty chill, this album kinda just wrote itself.  Since I have full control of everything the only person I have to argue with is myself,  and that leads nowhere so its a simple process.

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

That’s the dream, unfortunately not the reality at the moment, the drawback to being the sole creator of the music is there’s no one around to take the music from the studio to the stage.  The live band would ideally be a five piece, maybe one day.

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

With my previous band Inbryo we toured across the US, and that was fun but that was our backyard. I would love to tour Norway just cause of the amazing metal that has come from there.  Italy would be cool too, and a lot of the sales from my albums seem to come from France, so I’m thinking that be a cool experience to play to my fans in France.

Who and what inspires you the most?

James Hetfield inspires me and lets me know that metal never dies, dude is still cranking out the riffs like a mofo, that’s the coolest most inspiring person in metal today in my opinion.  What keeps me going is the future, what songs I will create, will I learn to sing? the unknown is a great inspiration.

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 man, great question.  I listen to a wide range of music: Indie Rock, Pop, Pop Rock, Speed Metal, Thrash Metal, Death metal, Black Metal, Symphonic Metal, Goth Metal, Industrial, NuMetal, Melodic Death Metal, Hardcore, Hip-Hop, Traditional Mexican… I could go on for days, I think it’s important to listen to as many genres as you can handle, I’m a music head, I love music.  I think I draw from all of them for sure, a little bit of everything in the stew. My starting band was Metallica so Thrash Metal runs through my veins, I love speed more than anything in all of music, a good fast song regardless of style of music just gets me going.

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 guys for giving me a platform to speak on. To all new and old school fans that have been there from the beginning, thank you, good things are coming, these 3 albums are just the beginning.

“Inexistence” is available from Bandcamp.

News, Interviews & Reviews from the Metal World and Beyond