Tag Archives: Iceland

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. 

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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.

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