Tag Archives: instrumental

Keigo Yoshida - The Blue Prison

Interview with THE BLUE PRISON

Keigo Yoshida, guitarist and composer, is a man behind the instrumental prog metal project The Blue Prison, who has his new EP “Alchemist” coming out on January 18th. In an interview for Progstravaganza, Yoshida tells us about his work.

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

Thank you for asking. Life is okay, working busy but still playing music. And all my family is good so I can’t complain.

Speaking of new music, you have an EP coming on January 18. What can people expect from “Alchemist”?

It is very aggressive EP but also melodious at same time. At least you won’t get bored for sure.

The Blue Prison - Alchemist

What was it like working on the album?

Not only this time but everytime I work on The Blue Prison’s records, it’s very challenging for me to searching for the sounds new and cool. It was very hectic this time as well but also it’s fun to create my own music always.

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

Unfortunately no, I need to have a band first. Hopefully I’ll find some people in the near future.

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

If I could go on the tour, I’d love to visit Russia and Ukraine. And of course US. Those are the three counties actually many people supporting me since the begging. And I do really appreciate it.

Who and what inspires you the most?

That could be video games. Especially “Final Fantasy” and “Resident Evil” series.

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 Jazz, Fusion, and Blues often. Especially Fusion is affecting to my play a lot I think. And I’m hoping to have more Blues taste mix to it in the future. Also I like EDM as well. It has so many things I can learn for my electronica side approach.

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?

This EP is might not be typical instrumental metal music for many people and has a lot of interesting approach I believe. I really hope everyone would enjoy listening “Alchemist”. And thank you for reading my interview.

For more about The Blue Prison follow the project on Facebook.

The Mercy Stone

Interview with THE MERCY STONE

The Mercy Stone is a 12-piece ensemble that is breaking the boundaries between the worlds of rock, jazz, and classical music. Performing all original instrumental compositions, The Mercy Stone’s music possesses all the intricacies of a finely tuned contemporary-classical chamber ensemble and the energy of a high-octane rock band.

Back in September, the ensemble released their debut album titled “Ghettoblaster,” and we talked with guitarist, composer and the man behind The Mercy Stone, Scott Grady.

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

Thanks for asking. Things are great – feeling happy to talk about our music today!

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

This album fuses aspects of “classical” music composition with a rock-based aesthetic. I imagine that most of the people engaging with this album would be coming from a listening background that was largely rock/pop oriented with most of their “classical” music experience coming from background music in movies or television. On many tracks, I think that the surface elements of the music would quickly convey a good idea of where we are coming from artistically. My hope is that, without any sort of pretense, the raw elements of the music are compelling enough to draw listeners in for a deeper listen. There are elements in “classical” composition that most popular music doesn’t really deal with, generally. While it is not necessarily important to me that anyone hear the music and correctly identify the octave cannon with augmented rhythmic values (sorry to geek out there for moment), it’s fun to think that they might hear it and just feel the tremendous groove it creates.


What was it like working on the album?

We started recording the album with only a few pieces composed from beginning to end. But once the recording process began, the rest of the material really started to flow. Each individual track and the album as a whole came together very organically in what I could jokingly call a very long drawn out stream of consciousness process. Even though the album was written and recorded over many months, there was still definitely an aspect of just excitedly and blindly seeing where the music would lead without an extremely specific plan.

We were fortunate to work with some very patient engineers/producers who helped immensely in getting the sound of the record into its final form. I think mixing was a big headache for all of us. The instrumentation of the group along with the subtleties of the arrangements presented some pretty daunting challenges in this regard. There were moments along the way where I would feel like the entire project was a failure because we just couldn’t get the mixes right. It’s hard to put into words how great it feels to be on the other side of that process with a finished record that you love.

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

Absolutely. At the moment we are polishing the material from the album, along with some new music, for live performance and will start gigging regionally in southern California in the near future.

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

I’m looking forward to taking The Mercy Stone to every corner of the globe where we can reach people with our music. The dream of being able to see the world as a touring musician versus simply a tourist is quite intoxicating.

Who and what inspires you the most?

Authenticity in any form is inspiring to me. Lloyd Rodgers was a composer and a composition professor of mine. He once took a written copy of a piece I was working on and threw it on the ground in disgust because he felt that I wasn’t writing music that was true to what he knew of my musical/artistic inclinations. He was enraged at this thought. Any student of Dr. Rodgers would not be the least surprised by this story. I’m still not sure that I agree with him completely in that instance. But, god, I loved that guy. He recently passed and I’m quite sad that I never got to share the music from this album with him. The piece, Conception, was directly inspired by my time studying counterpoint with him.

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

Being a lifelong musical omnivore, there is music from almost every genre I have encountered that has been influential and inspiring. Though this album primarily deals with the synthesis of rock and classical elements in an instrumental setting, I’m still a sucker for a great song. I’m way late in discovering the music of Elliot Smith. His music is just brilliant. There’s a lot of classic rock that has a special place in my heart. I just re-listened to Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon for the first time in about 5 years and it filled me as completely as the first time I heard it.

I’m also fortunate enough to have creative people in my life that are of great inspiration to me, musically. My bandmate, Emmanuel Ventura-Cruess, has a band called Emael. He is a cellist, singer, and songwriter who is making some of the coolest rock/pop music that I’ve heard in a while. His first album will be out soon and his music is just fantastic. While I was working on my master’s degree in composition, I met another student named Craig Michael Davis. When we met, he was just beginning to compose. He went on to study with the composer, Michael Gordon, in New York and is making some really beautiful post-minimal music. I think we have both taken great pleasure in being friends and watching each other develop as composers.

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?

It’s been a blast connecting with people who dig our music since we released the album a few months ago. I hope we can continue to excite and surprise our audience with each new musical endeavor.




Fabrizio La Piana

Review: Fabrizio La Piana – Almond and Coffee

In an era where shredding and playing-as-fast-as-you-possibly-can for no apparent reason have become a norm, it was a pleasure to listen to a guitar being nurtured as the beautiful classic musical instrument that it is.

Almond and Coffee is the first solo effort from guitarist Fabrizio La Piana. It features seven original songs, all of them composed by Piana, with bassist Bernhard Hollinger and drummer Niels Voskuil forming the core of this trio providing more than just a solid foundation.

The hauntingly clever and melodic piece entitled “Funky Song” kicks off La Piana’s stylish offering. Soft and intelligent guitar progressions lead in to the scintillating chops, courtesy of Voskuil. As is the case through the majority of Almond and Coffee, La Piana’s compositions and arrangements are precise and well designed.

From the delicate and sultry “Almond and Coffee” to the subdued yet jazzy “Pulice,” La Piana displays a fine and nuanced touch that I alluded to at the outset.

“50-50” rivals “Rokin” for being my favorite song in this set. Hollinger and Voskuil shine along with La Piana on this latter slow burn. This tune is a great example of staying nifty all up and down the line without rushing.

La Piana’s approach is cemented in patience and thoughtfulness. The pacing and tempo comfortably allows time to breathe and absorb the subtleties and distinctions that are well crafted in this stellar debut.



CD Baby


To the Moon

Review: Cloudspeak – To the Moon

Over the last few years, instrumental releases within the progressive rock/metal genre have been on the rise, and like with everything else, the quality of the releases vary from hit-and-miss to some absolutely amazing gems. Cloudspeak, based in Chicago, is a project of Johnny Wright IV. To the Moon is an EP debut by Cloudspeak released on January 13.

Well composed, arranged and wonderfully performed, To the Moon is an ambitious piece of largely instrumental prog metal, with more than enough epic ideas to keep a listener engaged and attentive. Suffice to say, there is more than enough of a variety to keep the music from sounding stale or rehashed. Although Johnny’s true calling lies in melody-driven progressive metal guitar, the stylistic curveballs here are fully-realized and sound great. The EP opens with a short intro “Set Sail,” which connects with “The Great Sea.” This is an excellent example of Wright’s skill as a multi-faceted composer. And this skill just keeps on improving throughout the six-track release. Song structures seem arranged to cater to a string of individually satisfying moments, as opposed to the ideas all contributing to the overall whole of a composition. Even in the most ambitious progressive rock/metal moments, I tend to look for some of the same qualities found in conventionally good songwriting.

Obviously, much of the spotlight here is placed on Wright’s prodigious grasp of the electric guitar. Although the album’s djenty side doesn’t stand any bit above what we’ve already heard from that corner of prog metal, Wright makes himself out to be an absolutely brilliant fusion guitarist, possibly one of the most talented I’ve heard in recent years. “Storm Clouds” might be my favourite track on the EP for this very reason; Wright’s marriage of keen instrumental wandering and tight melodic passages is gorgeous.

To the Moon is a record packed with instrumental inventiveness and technical proficiency. Cloudspeak excels here both as a composer and musician.




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.


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.


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.





Interview with MERKABA

Louis Goodwin is a young songwriter behind the instrumental progressive project Merkaba. In November he released an EP titled “Merkaba,” and I talked with him about his work.

What made you go for the name Merkaba?

Back around when I was beginning to develop this project and first putting together the EP, I became very interested in the teachings of this Hindu/Buddhist, L-Ron-Hubbard type spiritualist dude, and whilst not the strongest believer, I found it all rather intriguing. In his teachings, he talked of this magical, ‘love powered’, dimension-jumping, time-travelling, force-field called a “Merkaba”. The idea of a musical project that transcends dimensions sounded pretty Djent, so the name stuck.

How do you usually describe your music?

Depending on who I’m describing it too, usually “Really Angry Music”. Too other metal-enthusiasts, however, I mostly describe Merkaba as a cross between aggressive Progressive Metal (doing my best to avoid that trigger word; Djent), a few elements of Metalcore, a splash of Jazzy Electronic stuff, and as much ambience as possible.

What is your writing process like?

A mess. It usually starts off as a singular riff recorded in Reaper, a long with the simplest of drum tracks. this is quickly followed by about 9 different variations of that riff, 4 different chorus ideas, 6 verses, 3 bridges, a middle 8, and a solo bongo drum section in 33/8 time. Eventually I will boil all the various riffage down into a song, but the journey is long and this usually is happening alongside 3 or 4 other song ideas.

Who or what is your inspiration, if you have any?

Inspiration is quite a broad term, am inspired by a huge number of people. I would mostly accredit my musical interests to people like my Dad and Grandmother, who still haven’t given up on me. Musically, however, bands such as Monuments, Periphery and Tesseract are the greatest inspiration for the music I write, and guitarists such as Tosin Abasi, Misha Mansoor, Plini and John Browne are the biggest inspiration on my guitar playing.


What is your favourite piece on the “Merkaba” EP?

Probably Refraction/Reflection, I was rather pleased with how those two songs tied together, rather inspired by Reflections “The Color Clear”. I really enjoy writing songs with recurring themes and a possible concept album is something I envision for the future.

What makes “Merkaba” different?

I’d like to say the use of electronic and Jazz elements, but that’s something that’s been done a thousand times before. I guess it would be the large mix of ideas and influences, there’s no set genre or subgenre for Merkaba, I love the really heavy Meshuggah style stuff, super jazzy Animals as Leaders, really light and proggy Plini and later Intervals stuff and so on. I’ve never thought “I want Merkaba to just be ridiculously heavy” or “This is all just going to be atmospheric prog stuff”, I’m too bad at making decisions.

What should music lovers expect from “Merkaba”?

I suppose creativity, being as little “up-my-own-behind” as possible. I try to use as little generic riffage as I can, except the odd riff or too (looking at you, “Reflection”), so for music lovers this may be a taste of something new or exotic.

What kind of emotions would you like your audience to feel when they listen to your music?

As many as they wish, I feel it’s up to them. As with all music, your perception of what you feel when you listen to music differs from everyone else, including the artists. We all have completely different memories, different ways of expressing emotion and different perspectives on life. My audience are going to feel completely different when they listen to my music than when I do, hopefully they won’t feel too bored though.

Pick your three favourite albums that you would take on a desert island with you.

Probably David Maxim Micic’s “Eco”, because no matter how hard I try, I cannot seem to get sick of that album. Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” is another must have, never have I loved any album more and it evokes some precious memories. Lastly, it’s a toss up between either Monuments’ “The Amanuensis”, or Periphery’s “PII: This Time it’s Personal” because I adore both albums, the complexities of “PII” are amazing, and I don’t think I could live without the “Somewhere in Time” Trilogy (Muramasa, Ragnarok and Masamume), “The Amanuensis” just flows incredibly, and the combination of Chris Barretto’s vocals and John Browne’s amazing riffs are to die for.





Review: Guamskyy – Seven Parallels

Guamskyy are a solo instrumental project with a truly unique approach, started by artist Christian San Agustin.

guamskyy-seven-parallelsThe Texas-based song-writer, performer and composer set out to explore a wide variety of genres and unleash his full creativity with this particular project, clearly stating that he is not into music to make it big, but more importantly, for his passion for creating music. One of the most striking features of their music is definitely Christian’s ability to cross different genres and platforms, incorporating elements of music from different styles: from metal to alternative and even some subtle hints of hard rock, doom and Djent in the form of really memorable arrangements.

Guamskyy will unleash “Seven Parallels” on December 20th, 2016. On this material, Christian is showing an incredible amount of versatility, as a composer, performer and musician, casting a beautifully diverse collection of songs.






The Surrealist

Interview with THE SURREALIST

The Surrealist is a project founded by guitarist, composer and Berklee student Roopam Garg. Working in a trio setting, the band is about to launch their debut EP “Naked Awareness” on September 17th. Garg spoke for Progstravaganza.

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

Life’s going great man. I’m about to start another semester at Berklee. The band is going really really well. We publicly announced the band a few weeks ago, and the reception has already been so positive. I also just received a new guitar from Kiesel Carvin Guitars, and it’s literally my dream guitar. It just looks so beautiful, like a work of art that came from the ocean, and I can’t stop staring at it. I couldn’t be happier right now.

Speaking of new music, you have an EP coming out on September 17. What can people expect from “Naked Awareness”?

Naked Awareness is a pretty experimental release. There’s a lot of exploration of texture and rhythm that I wanted to do on the guitar, as it isn’t just a melodic or chordal instrument. The guitar has a lot of rich timbral possibilities that I wanted to exploit. Listeners can expect some pretty interesting idea that they may not have heard before.


What was it like working on the EP?

It was really inspiring and a lot of fun but at the same time also really stressful. The entire EP took two to complete in terms of the songwriting and recording process, which is not sustainable in the long term. This is primarily from becoming really judgmental during the end of the entire process, which really kills the creativity and flow. But it turned out really well and we’re proud of the release.

Are there any touring plans in support to “Naked Awareness”?

Oh yeah. We plan on touring early next year and it would be our first tour, so we’re really excited and looking forward to it.

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

I’d love to tour Europe and Asia. Just the idea of traveling to different countries where there are a plethora of different cultures and audiences is really cool. I feel like being exposed to many cultures would impact my creativity somehow, which is something I’m looking forward to. India is also a country I’d love to tour in, as I rarely travel there but love it every time I do.

Who and what inspires you the most?

A lot of things inspire me in some way. In addition to musicians, I love reading about Elon Musk, Gary Vaynerchuk and other successful entrepreneurs and follow what they do. Business and entrepreneurship have greatly impacted the way I write music, as I’m constantly thinking about innovating and looking for things that other people may not have explored yet. Questions such as,“how does one differentiate the customer experience?” can really force you to find ways of becoming more creative.

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

Definitely. I’ve made a conscious effort to not listen to much guitar-driven music, just to experiment and see if it spruces up my guitar playing. So I’m currently dwelling in a lot of film soundtracks, such as Angelo Milli’s Seven Pounds soundtrack, Hans Zimmer’s The Dark Knight soundtrack, and David Julyan’s The Prestige soundtrack. I’ve also experimented with taking a break from listening to music, and not hearing anything at all for a couple of months, just to see if it would impact my creativity. And interestingly enough, I find that there’s a certain creative headspace that’s achieved by doing so. I’ve been able to come up with certain ideas on the guitar are unconventional and that I become surprised by, like “where did this come from?”. It’s always nice when you surprise yourself.

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?

May you always do what you’re afraid to do! Thanks for having me.






Orion Tango - Orion Tango - Orion Tango

Review: Orion Tango – Orion Tango

Five tracks and almost fifty minutes of music is what you get with the debut album from Philadelphia bass experimental outfit Orion Tango. The band members, Tim Motzer (guitars), Barry Meehan (bass) and Jeremy Carlsted (drums), have played together in various projects already, but this is their first time together in a power trio format.

Orion Tango - Orion Tango - cover

The band members are skilled musicians who understand being in a band that largely relies on improvisation. The guitar and electronic textures are astonishing; the drums are usually heavy and grasped with the prowess of a master craftsman, great tone and very vibrant, sometimes leading the songs through complex instrumental workouts. The same can be said of the bass. Barry Meehan often delivers a fuzzy tone, giving the tunes a heavy bottom end when there is a need for that. Usually the main issue with this kind of albums is with melody, because it often gets lost in the predominant experimentation, but Orion Tango answers that challenge flawlessly. These three gentlemen are to be commended for making challenging music completely outside the box.

Find Your Happy Place” opens the album under a nodding groove; the trio gives the soundscape an almost unsettling atmospheric feel. The song comes along with energetic motives and gentler, almost ambient atmospheres. “SuperGun” is when all hell breaks loose as heavy drum beats and greasy bass take the piece in completely free form regions. The band often takes different directions with psychedelic guitar and space rock atmospherics. Orion Tango take the extraordinary to another level. On the seventeen minute epic “Gravity Knife,” Orion Tango engages into another improvisational affair with equal amounts of heavy eccentrics and space rock multi-coulourness.

If you are a fan of experimental music, Orion Tango’s self-titled debut release is definitely an album that you’ll find enjoyable.

Buy it here.