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Synaptik

Review: SynaptiK – Justify & Reason

Get ready for a gigantic portion of thick, stinking, faux-prog metal cheese of epic stature with this outstandingly campy, exciting, and wholly enjoyable album by SynaptiK!

I have a soft-spot for iconic Heavy Metal, and “Justify & Reason” does everything it needs to to tug on my heartstrings. First, it’s energetic, with genuinelly entertaining songwriting. The opening “The Incredible Machine” sets the majestic tone beautifully, giving way to the big, busy guitar work of Ian Knight and Jack Murton and an ever surging momentum which carries through the entire album. As a whole, the band is very tight, and never burdened by the excessiveness of say… any of Dream Theatre’s recent albums. Songs feature glimmers of symphonic nuance here and there, but largely feel stripped down, simplified, rocking, and very effective.

Justify & Reason cover art

Guitars step in and out of the spotlight tastefully, and solo breaks are fantastic, with lightning dexterity and creative playing. They sometimes come with cool time signature changes as well, making them a real highlight of the album.

Of course, John Knight’s vocals are a big part of this album’s success. He is every metal singer from the 1980s condensed into a perfectly honed, screaming machine — which makes “Justify & Reason” feel very much like a relic of its days…

Prog-metal snobs will probably not be impressed by the occasional concessions the band makes for accessibility and sing-along-ability… but the enthusiasm and talent demonstrated here more than makes up for its sometimes FM-oriented melodies. “Justify & Reason” gets high marks from me because its simply so much fun to listen to! The awesome cover artwork is the icing on the cake.

Pre-order “Justify & Reason” here.

Pregnant Whale Pain

Review: Pregnant Whale Pain – Blank

And so we come to “Blank,” an EP by Pregnant Whale Pain, a Hungarian band that’s been active for a few years now. This release, which was released in January, is definitely one of the best mathcore releases I’ve experienced in a long time. What we’ve got here is sort of a progressive metalcore that dabbles in jazz and schizophrenia. This record should not be overlooked by anyone. Any fan of metal, prog, hardcore or good music in general needs to listen to “Blank.” The technicality and songwriting are both through the roof and there is no shortage of creativity.

Pregnant Whale Pain - Blank

Guitarists Daniek Garamvolgyi and Balasz Lederer play some of the most challenging and jaw dropping guitar parts to be heard here while remaining super creative and not falling into the trap of classic shredding. Krisz Horvath’s vocals are excellent, though would probably be what turns off the most people. These vocals are extremely chaotic, and whenever they stop being as heavy as possible, it is only to build back up again. The fact that the music could be appreciated without the vocals is a testament to the originality. So long as you don’t mind the vocals or can see past them, you will enjoy this.

It is also important to mention that the feeling of this record is never calm. Even when the distortion is gone and it all slows down, there is still a very ominous feeling that the music will jump out from behind a rock and smash you in the head. A prime example of this would be the song “Blank Long Nights Kill Romance Vengefully” which falls back form the intensity but never even approaches soothing. That isn’t to say there is no dynamic because the level of intensity shifts.

When someone tells you that there is no good metal left, point them here. When they say all core stuff sucks, point them here. When they say metal and core are all just shrieking and screaming, point them here. This release is the killer of cliches.

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Zafakon band

ZAFAKON Speaks for Progstravaganza

This may be a weird way to start a post, but I would love to thank to a PR wire for hooking me with this great band. Puerto Ricans, Zafakon are relatively a new name on the scene. They released two great studio albums since 2013, toured a lot, opened for Metallica. Life seems to be good.

I spoke with bassist Weslie Negron, and singer/guitarist Marcus Veit.

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

Weslie Negrón: Hello! All good on our end, thank you for having us!

What can people expect from your last year’s album “Release”?

Marcus Veit: It’s an album that has a lot of different styles in it. I like to believe there’s something for people of all musical tastes. We are mostly a Metal band. But in this album you can see there’s influences from a lot of musical genres.

What was it like working on the album?

MV: Exhausting! *laughs* There was a lot of hard work and long hours put into this one. All of our hearts and souls went into it. The writing process for it was long, but it’s because we wanted everything to come out just right. Also we were in no rush. We took our time. The recording process was a different story. We had quite a few inconveniences throughout. And we had a tour coming up for which we wanted to have the album ready. It was pretty stressful but we got it done.

Release

Where does “Release” stand comparing to “War as a Drug” (2013)?

WN: “Release” is a more of a complete and evolved album than “War as a Drug”. WAD is more straightforward, Death/Thrash Metal, and more raw than the new material. It has to do a lot with our mindset by that time compared to now. In “Release” and with Yhann’s (Ortiz, Lead Guitar) addition to the band, our musical approached changed into a more melodic and diverse sound and that it where “Release” stands.

You opened for Metallica in San Juan. Tell me how did the whole thing happen?

WN: Metallica made the contest “Hit the Stage” for their 2016 “Worldwired” Latin America Tour. The contest consisted on choosing every country’s top 5 bands (in Puerto Rico Puya, Fullminator, Machete, A Million Souls, and us where chosen). After the bands were picked, people from around the globe had the chance to vote for their favorite bands and get them to play the day of the concert. Thanks to the amazing response of our followers, friends, and family, we had the chance to open the show and I would dare to say that has been the most important day of our lives.

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

WN: We did an 18 dates tour at the end of 2015 and beginning of 2016 in support of “Release” around the United States. We are planning to return to the Mainland in the Summer time this year.

Zafakon

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

WN: We would love to visit as many countries as we can, but I would say the top would be places in Europe, South America, and Asia for sure.

Who and what inspires you the most?

WN: In my case, personally, I cannot deny that I’m a huge Opeth fan, so Mikael Akerfeldt is definitely one of the people I really look up to. When you hear his story, coming up with as many difficulties he did during the early stages of the band and, still, he wouldn’t quit, makes him someone to look up to, in my case. As far as circumstances that inspire me, I would say that seeing the happy faces of everyone that goes to our shows during our set it is something that keeps me motivated to keep doing this. There is no way to describe how amazing it is to get positive feedback from the crowd while you are playing.

MV: I take a lot of inspiration from Nergal from Behemoth. I just think that he is an incredibly strong person. He has been through a lot and never lost his focus nor did he lose his convictions. I also admire how his mind works, creatively. I think he is also someone not who is not afraid to break any barriers and is definitely not concerned about what the world wants to impose on him. So I really like to think that I can be that kind of person.

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

WN: I mainly listen to Rock/Metal, recently I’m getting into 70’s Prog Rock and a lot of modern Doom and Stoner Metal. But, coming from Puerto Rico, there is a lot of Latin music that you listen to practically every day, it’s in our blood. So, stuff like Salsa and Latin Jazz are there as well. I try to incorporate different approaches from the music I listen to. Usually, if I find interesting a specific section of a song, I’ll just study the approach and try to apply it into my playing.

MV: Well I honestly mostly listen to Metal and Rock. It’s what I love. Other genres I dabble in are Blues (old Mississippi Delta stuff), some orchestral pieces (like videogame soundtracks ‘cause I’m a dork), some proggy stuff too: Rush, Dream Theater, Porcupine Tree, and also the best thing that ever happened to music: Pink Floyd.

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?

WN: Thank you for this opportunity! We would like to thank everyone that read this interview and I would like to invite everyone to check our music out. You can stream “Release” on Spotify and our Bandcamp page. And you can follow us on: Facebook, Youtube and Instagram for the latest news on the band.

MV: What he said.

Serpentyne

Interview with SERPENTYNE

Female-fronted Symphonic Rock/Metal band from London, Serpentyne have been around since 2010, and for the period of seven years they put out three studio full-length albums. Their most recent release, 2016′s “The Serpent Kiss” offers a very pleasant listening experience.

Singer Maggie-Beth Sand and Mark Powell, who plays hurdy gurdy, spoke for Progstravaganza.

Hey folks. How are you doing?

MAGGIE-BETH and MARK: Great, thanks!

You released “The Serpent’s Kiss” in 2016. How do you feel about the release?

MARK: We’re very pleased with it ourselves, and it’s good that we’ve had some very positive reviews and a lot of media interest.

How much of a challenge was to work on the album?

MAGGIE-BETH: It was challenging- but in a good way! The first two albums, “Stella Splendens,” and “Myths and Muses,” followed the mediaeval-world music themes, though we also used modern instruments, dance and dubstep loops, etc. For “The Serpent’s Kiss,” we moved into the heavier rock area, with the addition of Matthew Damian’s guitar. We still kept the mediaeval-world sound though, as Mark’s hurdy-gurdy is a prominent part of many of the songs, and we also stuck to the mythical-historic theme, with songs like Jeanne d’ Arc (Joan of Arc) and the title track, “The Serpent’s Kiss” which is based on the story of Anthony and Cleopatra.

MARK: The recording experience was good- it was quite a revelation at times to hear the songs coming together with the new sound.

CDDF-4P2V-001

What other artists similar to your genre that are coming from UK are you friends with?

MAGGIE-BETH: We have many good friends on the UK music scene, from the rock, prog, folk and mediaeval sides of it, but there is no-one who combines all these elements apart from us!

What is your opinion about the current rock/metal scene?

MARK: In the UK, it is very conservative; there are a lot of talented, original musicians and bands who are not getting the exposure and recognition that they deserve, and a lot of venues are closing down. I always feel that the scene throughout the rest of Europe is healthier, and more open to new talent.

Can you tell me something about your influences?

MAGGIE-BETH: Opera, rock, classical, mediaeval, Gothic, symphonic metal, cinematic music with epic themes and big choirs, and anything that uses vocal arrangements, ranging from mediaeval and ethnic songs to big chorales.

MARK: Much the same as Maggie.

Serpentyne

What are you listening to these days?

MAGGIE-BETH: A very wide selection covering, Led Zeppelin, Within Temptation, Nightwish, Delain, Eluveitie, Pink Floyd, film music, opera…

MARK: I discovered “Two Steps From Hell” a while ago, and love their music.

Your 5 favourite records of all the time?

MAGGIE-BETH: Led Zeppelin – Physical Graffiti. Within Temptation – The Silent Force. Pink Floyd – The Division Bell and The Dark Side of the Moon, Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana; the version recorded by the Choir and Orchestra of the Deutschen Oper Berlin, with Eugen Jochum.

Can you tell me a little bit more about the gear you use to record “The Serpent’s Kiss”?

MARK: Maggie and I have compatible home recording studios, where we record quite a lot using Apple Mac/Logic setups. For the drums and guitar recording, we used a Presonus system in a local studio. We then transferred the Presonus recordings to Logic for mixing. For mastering, we always use Air Studio in Hampstead, London, as their mastering room has everything!

Besides the release of the album, are there any other plans for the future?

MAGGIE-BETH: We are now writing songs for the next one, which should be released towards the end of 2017 or early 2018. We have several festival and other show dates lined up this year, with more coming in.

Any words for the potential new fans?

MARK: If you haven’t heard us before, please check us out at www.serpentyne.com, and we hope you enjoy it!

MAGGIE-BETH: Thanks to Progstravaganza for talking to us, and greetings to your readers!

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

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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