Tag Archives: Featured

CAST

Review: Cast – Power and Outcome

Mexican symphonic prog rockers Cast are back with another symphonic adventure of epic songs. A modern symphonic prog-rock album with heavier moments, the music has a lot of quiet and beautiful atmosphere where the melody is carried slowly. The opening “Rules of the Desert” is 11+ epic that is absolutely mind blowing. “Power and Outcome” is an album where the emotions flow perfectly accompanied by the musical lines. Make sure you hunt it down and enjoy it!

Power And Outcome - cover

“Power and Outcome” showcases an impressive combination of creative instrumentation and heartfelt vocal delivery; the band has created a suite of music that coheres in a deeply compassionate and emphatic way. This is a rich and eclectic record with echoes of classical music, the Canterbury progressive rock, jazz and a bit of metal.

“Power and Outcome” is a masterclass example of current progressive music that perfectly fuses vintage and modern sounds with an equally on-point balance of subtlety.

To conclude, this is an incredible album. It’s a lengthy, complex, emotional, and pretty much perfect example of modern progressive rock.

Links:

castofficial.com

Facebook

Hyaena

Interview with HYAENA

Hyaena from Orleans in France is set to release their debut album entitled Existence on April 5th.  The 12-track record offers quite a lot for fans of progressive death metal; it was produced by renown producer Jamie King who is best known for his work with Between The Buried And Me and Scale The Summit.

Hyaena was very kind to answer my questions about their new release, but also gear, scene, and more.

Hey folks. How are you doing?

Bam: Great! Thanks of asking.

Alex: Fine too!

Chris: Pretty good!

Virgile: Cool cool!

You are about to release a full-length debut album entitled “Existence.” How do you feel about the release?

Bam: It’s a great feeling! We have worked so much on this, we hope you guys will dig it!

Alex: It’s a real achievement for all of us, a true satisfaction!

Chris: I’m so proud of it, and quite excited to see what people think.

Virgile: Excited, we’ve been working on this for a long time.

existence

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

Bam: It was a very long process due to a change of our lineup. At the start, I was the only guitarist so most of the album was written with one guitar part. Then Alex join us in the process, so we started to add new riffs, that was lots of work!

Chris: I came from a grindcore/death metal band (Necrofist) wich worked in a very different way, we used to compose together during rehearsals. Bam and Nathan used computers and softwares but I didn’t. That was the biggest challenge for me! It was worth it though.

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

Bam: We are not friends but I think Hypno5e is the band that sounds the most similar to us. I’d love to tour with them one day!

Alex: The Dali Thundering Concept is a great French band I like. These guys are nice!

Virgile: I have so much respect for Klone and Psykup!

What is your opinion about the current progressive metal scene?

Bam: This scene is very special, because there is so many genres in it. I personally think that it’s the best period for the progressive metal scene. Some of the best albums I’ve listened where released couples of years ago.

Virgile: I think it’s a scene that crosses the ages, it’s not the easiest music in the world, but the most colorful one!

Can you tell me something about your influences?

Bam: I grow up listening to bands like Dir En Grey (and lots of visual kei), so the Japanese sounds are really a part of my influences.

Chris: I have to say that, like most drummers, Thomas Haake influences a lot my drumming.

Virgile: The voice of Maynard James Keenan stuck in me. It’s like he can sing in every band in the world and do something different, but you’ll always know that it was him. I love the personality of his voice.

What are you listening to these days?

Bam: It depends of my mood [haha]. But these days I listen to Within The Ruins.

Alex: These days I listen to Polaris, Architects, Northlane!

Chris: Vidhjarta and AAL.

Virgile: Statea by Vanessa Wagner & Murcof, and The Night God Slept by Silent Planet.

Your 5 favourite records of all the time?

Bam: Dir En GreyUroboros & Dum Spiro Spero / Tool10,000 Days / The ContortionistLanguage.

Alex: ArchitectsLost Forever / Lost Together, Periphery II, The ContortionistExoplanet, DayseekerOrigin.

Chris: MeshuggahNothing / The dillinger escape planMiss Machine / Origin – Antithesis / Les musclésMerguez party / BotchWe are the romans.

Virgile: Tool10,000 Days / The ContortionistLanguage / NINYear Zero / DeftonesAdrenaline / Coal ChamberCoal Chamber.

Can you tell me a little bit more about the gear you use to record “Existence”?

Bam: Guitars and bass were recorded with an AxeFx II – not sure about the patch but I think it was the Das Metall amp with a TS808mod drive for the tone!

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

Bam: We plan to make as much as possible shows and maybe a tour for the end of the year!

Chris: And save the world. But we want to tour first.

Virgile: Haha.

Any words for the potential new fans?

Bam: Thank you! Spread the word and we hope to play close to you and share a beer!

Alex: Thank you for your support, I can’t wait to play this album live for you guys!

Chris: Sounds good.

Virgile: Music is life!

Links:

Bandcamp

Facebook

Twitter

hyaena-music.com

Hugo Selles

Interview with PSYCHIC EQUALIZER

Hugo Selles is a composer, pianist and a man behind the project Psychic Equalizer. He released a full-length album “The Lonely Traveller” in January, and I got a chance to ask him few questions about the album, his favorite records, and more.

Hey Hugo. How are you doing?

Hi! Pretty busy, but good!

You have just released “The Lonely Traveller” with your project Psychic Equalizer. How do you feel about the release?

Exactly, it was released on the 20th of January. I have been working on it for almost two years, so I feel very excited about it being out there for everyone to listen.

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

It’s been the most difficult recording I’ve done to date. Apart from the normal process of composing, arranging, recording demos, contacting musicians, etc; the whole album was rehearsed in the studio for a couple of days and due to the lack of time, 75% of the music was recorded live (some of the final versions that you can hear in the album are the only take ever made). Just the strings, voices, some percussion and keyboards were added afterwards. We also had to deal with many other unexpected things. For instance, on the fifth or sixth day of the recording, there was a flood in the studio caused by some burst pipe in the heating system. I mean, you can expect that a guitar gets damaged on a flight – even when you take all the precautions – but water falling from the roof…?

The Lonely Traveller

What is your opinion about the current experimental scene?

To be honest, even though I love lots of music and try to listen to new things regularly, I’m a bit outdated in this field. I do know some bands or artists that are active nowadays, but unfortunately, I don’t have a whole picture of how the scene is. I have heard from others that last year has gone through a magnificent revival of progressive music. So I should definitely check it out!

Can you tell me something about your influences?

The music by Rachmaninov, Pat Metheny, Radiohead and Pink Floyd. Those four are remarkable. Others depend on which stage I’m at in my career or life. Some years ago I was obsessed with Brad Mehldau, Anna Maria Jopek and pianist Krystian Zimerman. Now I’m truly re-discovering Dream Theater, Paco de Lucía and Dvorak. I guess they have all marked me in some way. I do also find nature and painting to be great influences in my music.

What are you listening to these days?

At this very moment, while writing these lines, Fragile by Yes. I’ve also been listening to Anoushka Shankar and Stephan Micus quite a lot for the last month. There’s also space for Anathema’s Falling Deeper in my playlist and for this other album that never saw the light as The Alan Parsons Project but as an Eric Woolfson’s project called Freudiana. It’s simply magnificent.

Your 5 favourite records of all the time?

I’ve always been worried about someone asking this question to me, so difficult to choose! Although it’s true that there are two which I’m completely sure about: the recording of Bartók’s Piano Concertos by Géza Anda and Ferenc Fricsay, and The Way Up by the Pat Metheny Group. Those two are outstanding. And knowing that I’d possibly change my mind tomorrow, the other three: the recording of Beethoven’s last Piano Sonatas by Maurizio Pollini, Mychael Danna’s original score for the film Life Of Pi and In Praise of Dreams by Jan Garbarek.

HS

Can you tell me a little bit more about the gear you use to record “The Lonely Traveller”?

In general, I think we used high profile gear. I recorded with a grand piano Fazioli, which has a very powerful bass sound that India Hooi, the sound engineer, managed to capture perfectly. I’m a great fan of Kurzweil and brought my SP3X to the studio. Every single synth, hammond or rhodes is played on it. I use some of my own setups as well as the default ones. I know that Quico Duret, the main guitarist, is obsessed with the best sound quality too. He plays a Fender Telecaster and have tons of different pedals: Memory Boy Deluxe, Fulltone OCD, Verbzilla, etc. I specially like that reverb one and always encouraged him to use it. We used the “classic” amplifier VOX AC30 for the guitar, and apart from all the different precious instruments, we also used DPA, Sennheiser, AKG, Royer and Shure microphones. The console was a Lawo, of which we combined the use of its preamps with some Neve and LA.

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

We are planning a summer tour presenting the project and I personally would love to record the already-composed next album towards the end of the year.

Any words for the potential new fans?

I believe Psychic Equalizer is a very eclectic project and I’m sure that jazz fusion or progressive rock fans will find it very interesting.

Visit Hugo Selles’ website for more news and info.

Randomnicity

Review: Konstant Singularity – Randomnicity

Konstant Singularity is a project of Russian multi-instrumentalist, but mainly guitarist, and composer Konstantin Ilin who lives in Dublin, Ireland for a few years. In May 2014, Ilin released his debut album with KS entitled “Music Diversity Party” (available here), and back in December 2016 he returned with its followup — “Randomnicity.” A quick comparison between the two releases reveals that the new record feels far more free-form than its predecessor.

“Randomnicity” is at times a brutally minimalist avant-rock exploration of loathing and at others a nostalgic trip through a bad 1960’s acid trip, 1970’s progressive rock, 1980’s art pop, and 1990’s jazz fusion. “Randomnicity” is driven in equal parts by noise rock’s harsh guitar, and a sense of sonic adventure and true experimentation. Album highlight “Hyacinth Sky” is a stunning masterpiece; Ilin and drummer Alex Vostrikov abandon all pretence of accessibility, and that it is the very core of the album. This doesn’t seem like a record that is easy to digest, what is in the core of the experimental music, but there is definitely a lot of balance and determination in the band’s improvisational approach. This only adds to album’s intrigue though, as it makes us question the ideas of nostalgia and longing so built into the record’s sounds.

Konstant Singularity have released a powerful statement here; this is an album that should definitely be on radar of many prog fans. Get it from Bandcamp.

You can read the interview with Konstantin Ilin here.

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.

Links:

Bandcamp

Facebook

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.

Links:

Facebook

Website