Tag Archives: prog rock

Welcome Inside the Brain

Review: Welcome Inside the Brain – Celebrate the Depression

The way Welcome Inside The Brain play their music is simply unparalleled in today’s prog. Imagine the twiddly instrumental bits of Haken‘s music, crank up the daftness by a factor of ten and forget about conventional things like verses or choruses. Welcome Inside The Brain live to make intricate, dense and thoroughly complex progressive rock. Pigeonholing this band into a genre proves difficult as words like jazz fusion, zeuhl, Canterbury and certainly eclectic could all describe this band. This is prog with everything including the kitchen sink thrown in. Utterly unpredictable yet thoroughly compelling stuff.

Celebrate the Depression

And Celebrate the Depression is the band’s debut album. It presents the listener with a full spectrum of sound, with styles from jazz to psychedelia being tapped into, all darkly twisted into a tasty progressive feast.

When played from start to finish, the first set of tracks seem to flash by, but they certainly make their mark. The lengthy self-titled piece seems to inform the listener with all of its intricacies. And this seems just to multiply in the coming songs.

The medium length tracks all take rather different routes: “Snails on Speed / Buddha in a Bottle” resembling something close to a song; “Welcome Inside the Brain” demonstrating the more typical instrumental pyrotechnics; the slightly longer “Ugly Beauty” and “Revolution” balancing the band’s technical side with their ability to create melody. Oddly, the first two sets don’t even take up half of the album. By the time we reach the scarily technical and experimental closing piece “Tears of the Past,” Celebrate the Depression finally feels like a fully-fledged prog rock album. Nine minutes in length, this is a tour de force of progressive excellence, featuring the whole band on top form in an intense extended instrumental with a fantastic climax.

Welcome Inside The Brain are leagues ahead of their contemporaries, both in technical ability and style. The level of effort that is required to write and perform such music is simply astronomical and for that they must be applauded. More importantly though, this is a band that fully realises what true prog fans want to hear and never skimp on the delivery. Their only weakness is that they can sometimes be too complex for their own good, although this is one of the most forgivable errors a progressive rock band can make. Let’s just hope we will not wait for too long for the next one.

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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.

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Barry Weinberg

Interview with BARRY WEINBERG

South Florida’s Barry Weinberg is set to release his debut album “Samsarana” in January 2018, a “cinematic rock experience” that is also a semi-autobiographical release that’s been in making for many years.

In a new interview, Barry tells us about what it took to write this album, and more.

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

Thanx for asking… I’m doing incredible! A lot is happening in my life right now. This album is a life-long dream and it’s finally coming to fruition. Last week, on the same day, I received the final physical CD’s and that evening I took my 12 hour overnight Black Belt test which I had been working towards for 5 years. It was an amazing day of fruition of 2 things I had been working on for a long time. Nothing beats achieving long-term goals!

Speaking of new music, you have an album coming in January. What can people expect from “Samsarana”?

Like it says on the cover, A Cinematic Rock Experience. I arranged the album “Samsarana” as a Musical Novel, with each song a chapter in a story that extends from the Big Bang to the Enlightenment of Man. It’s the kind of album you want to put the headphones on and lose yourself on a musical journey.

I explored many genres of music on this album. The main theme of the album is the polarity/duality of life’s experiences, so in many of the songs I combined contrasting sounds and feels to express that duality. In some songs I combined classical acoustic guitar with heavy distorted heavy metal sounds and in one song I transition from a folky, Bob Dylan-esque sound into a 90’s grunge groove. It was a lot of fun finding ways to combine different, almost antagonistic musical styles in a way that worked.

“Samsarana” is a Sanskrit word that literally means, “the wandering,” and refers to the Hindu concept of the endless cycle of Birth, Life, Death, Rebirth, Life, Death…. ad infinitum. I refer to this in the album as “This Vicious Circle” and the last two songs on the album are a story “twist” that turns the end of the album into the beginning of the next replay!

What was it like working on the album?

The album is semi-autobiographical in nature having written the songs at different times in my life. Putting all the songs together into a cohesive story was a profound reflection on my life. It took me some time (almost 5 years!) to get the recordings just right as it was my first album and I recorded it in a home studio I put together. Having never recorded and mixed on my own, it was definitely a learning experience with lots of up and downs. Many times I’d be intensely frustrated and ready to give up, only to have something “click” and come together almost magically.  

My turning point was when I met Jorge Guzman. Jorge is a classically trained flutist and pianist and an amazing jazz musician. He’s been a music production engineer for over 20 years withhis production company, World Beat Group, LLC. He had an ad online that he was a producer who was looking for a mentor to teach what he knew about mixing and mastering. I gave him a call and we got together. The next 6 months was a rare experience… for what started off as “mixing lessons” turned into a collaborative effort that resulted in the finished album. Jorge taught me so much about the “science” and production of music and I will always be grateful to him for all he gave me.

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

Not at the moment, but we’ll see what the future holds!

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

I’d love to tour Europe. My wife is from Germany and we’ve spent a lot of time over there. It would be amazing to perform this album in its entirety in one of the giant Medieval castles they have over there!

Who and what inspires you the most?

What inspires me most are stories of individuals who are small and become Great. Stories like the film, “Rudy” about Rudy Ruetigger who played for Notre Dame… or Frodo in “Lord of the Rings.”   Also, People who start from nothing and accomplish great things in the world. You read stories of how Metallica or Pink Floyd started with nothing except a vision and passion and they became the biggest stars in the world. There’s a quote that always inspired me from motivational speaker, Les Brown, “You don’t have to be Great to get started, but you got to get started to be Great!”

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

The two genres I love to listen to and have influenced me the most are ’70s hard and progressive rock bands like Pink Floyd, Boston, Kansas, Rush, Van Halen… and most of all ’80s thrash: Metallica, Exodus, Testament, Megadeth, Slayer. I also enjoy a lot of Classical music: Mozart, Berlioz, Vivaldi. I love music with passion.

Two other bands that have been a big influence on me are Dream Theater (of course!) and Arjen Lucassen’s Ayreon. I love how they take you on a musical journey with their songs and albums.

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 thank you for giving me the opportunity to share my music with you. This has been a life-long dream of mine. I’ve been playing guitar since 14 and now I’m almost 50 and putting my first album out. I put a lot of myself into this album and it is my hope that my fans get as much meaning and inspiration out of the album as I put into it.

“Samsarana” is released in January 2018. For more information visit Weinberg’s website, and follow him on FacebookYouTube and Soundcloud.

Barry Weinberg

Hear Barry Weinberg’s Single “Beyond the Astral Sky”; “Samsarana” Album out in January

South Florida based musician and songwriter Barry Weinberg is set to launch his Prog Rock influenced album Samsarana in January 2018, but the musician is today announcing the imminent release of the first single.

The single, “Beyond the Astral Sky,” is an anthem, gorgeous track with soaring vocals. The song is the first in the series of singles taken from Samsarana, a release that sees the musician exploring through a number of styles evolving around Prog Rock.

About “Beyond the Astral Sky” Weinberg says: “This song is very personal to me and actually one of the first songs I had ever written for the album.  For years, this was purely a classical guitar piece with lyrics that I would play on my acoustic, but as I started to record it, I started experimenting with electric leads over the acoustic phrases and vocals and it evolved into what it is today.

Lyrically “Beyond the Astral Sky” is about hope in the face of despair. As Weinberg explains:

It’s about that experience when you look around yourself, your life and the world you’re in, and get overwhelmed by the chaos, destruction, darkness, confusion, stress, hardship… and yet, in that moment of utter despair, you can look up at a star or into a child’s eyes, and although surrounded by darkness, you can begin envisioning a different world, a different life, a different future that’s inspiring, joyful, empowering. This is how we make change in our lives. This is how we make change in the world. Acknowledging and owning the darkest parts of ourselves and our lives that we hate and shifting our attention to a new intention, our ideal, our vision. It’s the light dot in the center of the dark part of the Taoist yin/yang symbol. This is where I was at when I wrote this song and this where the main ‘character’ is at in the story of ‘Samsarana.’

Stream “Beyond the Astral Sky” below. More information about the upcoming album Samsarana will be revealed in the coming weeks.

For more info visit Barry Weinberg’s official website.

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Fabrizio La Piana

Interview with FABRIZIO LA PIANA

Fabrizio La Piana is a guitarist and composer based out of Amsterdan, the Netherlands, and “Almond and Coffee” is his recently released album, where he, bassist Bernhard Hollinger and drummer Niels Voskuil deliver an extraordinary performances, creating a release that is both melodic and wild. There is certainly so much for everyone, as this album successfully combines Jazz with Prog Rock, making for a ride that’s exciting all the time.

Fabrizion talks for Progstravaganza about “Almond and Coffee.”

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

At the moment life is great, I am busy with promoting my album, composing music for a new project, and I am looking forward to have enough material for the new album!

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

“Almond and Coffee” is an instrumental trio album with Bernhard Hollinger on bass, Niels Voskuil on drums and me on guitar. The songs are originals with improvised jazz solos and some rock riffs. The style of this album is a mixture of jazz, rock, and prog, I would say.

Almond and Coffee

What was it like working on the album?

I wrote these songs with Bernhard and Niels together; we shaped and refined them. It has been a really nice thing to do. I’ve enjoyed a lot to arrange my songs with them, perform them live, and then finally record them in the studio.

Are there any touring plans in support to “Almond and Coffee”?

I really hope so! For now I am working on a couple of promotional gigs here in Amsterdam and then will see.

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

I would like to tour the Netherlands and Italy first, as I think it would be the easiest to organise some shows in these countries.

Who and what inspires you the most?

I would say a beautiful tone and any musician with a beautiful tone inspires me.

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 started studying classical guitar, then I got into rock/prog/metal, and then into jazz and blues. I am pretty open to any style of music. I just have to like the songs; it could be blues, jazz or metal… They all had an impact on my playing/musical taste.

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?

Just wanted to thank you for asking these questions and many thanks to anyone checking out my music!

Visit Frabrizio La Piana’s website here.

Perihelion Ship

Review: Perihelion Ship – To Paint a Bird of Fire

A work of breathtaking creative breadth, “To Paint a Bird of Fire” keeps with Perihelion Ship’s tradition by transcending the limits of death/black metal and repeatedly shattering the foundations of conventional songwriting, to boot. Rarely does a band manage to break new ground without losing touch with its roots, but these Finns do exactly that with their sophomore release.

But the biggest difference between “To Paint a Bird of Fire” and the group’s debut “A Rare Thunderstorm in Spring” (2016) lies in the remarkably high songwriting standards achieved by main man Andreas Hammer.

To Paint a Bird of Fire

“To Paint a Bird of Fire” is divided not so much into songs as “movements.” Tracks start and finish in seemingly arbitrary fashion, usually traversing ample musical terrain, including acoustic guitar and solo piano passages, ambient soundscapes, stoner rock grooves, and Hammond-filled melodies — any of which are subject to savage punctuations of death metal fury at any given moment. Likewise, Hammer’s vocals run the gamut from bowel-churning grunts to melodies of chilling beauty — depending on each movement section’s mood. With all this in mind, singling out specific highlights is pretty much a futile exercise; but for the benefit of first-time listeners, why not start out with the colossal opener “New Sun,” the Mellotron-driven “The Sad Mountain,” the surprisingly gentle acoustic instrumental of “River’s Three,” and, finally, the all-encompassing closing “New Sun?”

Then, with patience (Perihelion Ship’s music is everything but immediate), the rest of the album’s grand scheme will be revealed. “To Paint a Bird of Fire” is surely the band’s coming-of-age album, and therefore, an ideal introduction to their work. This is a band to keep under your radar.

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Soul Enema

Review: Soul Enema – Of Clans and Clones and Clowns

I’ve been struggling to find an album from this year’s crop of new releases that’s been able to hold my interest through repeated listens, but with “Of Clans and Clones and Clowns,” the latest after a very long wait from Israel’s Soul Enema, I think I’ve finally hit on something. The band’s first official release back in 2010, “Thin Ice Crawling,” was introduced as an album which takes risks, but with the new record which has been in the making for quite a long time, Soul Enema continued to work on diversifying and honing their sound.

Opener “Omon Ra” pretty much sets the tone for everything that’s to follow. “Of Clans and Clones and Clowns” walks a line between progressive and power, with plenty of ‘70s style synths and a very strong Eastern influence. The band members work brilliantly together. The harsh vocals add a nice sense of gravitas to the album’s heavier sections, while cliché clean/harsh pitfalls are deftly avoided.

Of Clans and Clones and Clowns

“Cannibalissimo Ltd.” shifts gears a bit and has more of a prog rock feel, with a main riff that will definitely work its way into your head and some killer lead work.

“Breaking the Waves” is a largely subdued progressive affair with a driving chorus that’s addictive as hell. “Eternal Child” is a successful ballad with a symphonic line serving as a backbone and wonderful vocal performance by lead singer Noa Gruman. This tune also features Ayreon’s mastermind Arjen Lucassen.

When an album is mixed and mastered by Jens Bogren we expect good things, and “ does not disappoint. The various instruments, vocals, and percussion are all distinct and well defined in the mix, with nothing overpowered or underserved.

In the end, everyone else who’s a fan of more lighthearted progressive fare should also give this album a spin, there’s a lot to like.

Listen to the album here.

Monolithic Elephant

Review: Monolithic Elephant – Monolithic Elephant

Mothership is a ‘70s hard rock-influenced, blues-based, heavy rock band. The band’s self-titled debut release is a 66-minute journey back in time with a focus on the bass, drums and guitar, along with the vocals. Monolithic Elephant is a three-piece outfit, hailing from Milan in Italy. The band is comprised of singer/guitarist Andrea Ravasi, singer/bassist Alessandro Riva, and singer/drummer Santo Carone.

Monolithic Elephant album art

Monolithic Elephant harkens back to when music was pure and heavy, not watered down. The band opens the album with “Moloch,” which intro is over a minute of ambient/atmospheric sounds, followed by a very Sabbath-inspired, heavy and plodding tones. With the following 2-song suite “The Unbaptized and the Virtuous Pagans,” the album inevitably falls under the heading “mostly instrumental” for its extended jam sections, but it’s worth noting that when there are vocals they come on with structure behind. The song continues the heaviness, but the tempo kicks it into another gear, energizing the song. The band often flirts with heavy psychedelic rock, as well as prog, but tunes remain to be rooted within the heavy genre. Monolithic Elephant don’t feel by any means tied to a formula, and drummer Santo Carone has his work cut out for him keeping the jams tied to the ground throughout the album. To his credit, he does, and even at these songs’ farthest out, there’s something for listeners to hold onto. It’s part of the overall balance that Monolithic Elephant seem to have a natural hold of, between stoner rock, jam and psych.

“Drawing Minds” opens with a classically inspired guitar intro that is very surreal and tranquil, showing off some dynamics in the confines of the music. That doesn’t last long before the heavy riffs kick in and hammer you. While the riffs are dark, heavy and ‘70s-inspired sludge, the solos are anything but sludge. Rooted in pentatonic, Ravasş showcases fiery chops that slide into more traditional rock soloing. Being a three-piece, the bass is present in the mix. Alessandro Riva has moments in the spotlight in which his chops are the focal point.

Monolithic Elephant unloads with a debut album that captures the energy of rock in a stripped-down sonic landscape. The riffs are heavy and crushing. As a three piece, Monolithic Elephant fills the room with sound. While the band could be considered a “jam” band, there is a method to the madness, and the trio showcases raw skill and ever-expounding energy.

Andreas Sala

ANDREAS SALA Launches Guitar Playthrough for New Song “Hue”

From PR wire:

Andreas Šala, guitarist and composer who plays with bands SubscaleThe Ralphand If And When We Die, released a play-through video for the song “Hue” taken from his upcoming solo album Pleasure Dome. Watch the video on below.

Asked about the inspiration for the new song and the album overall, Šala who plays Wreck Guitars’ BlueMorpho 6 in the video, said: “Well I wanted to make a solo record for quite some time now but I just couldn’t decide in which direction I want to take it. But when I got my hands on the BlueMorpho melodies just started to pour out of me and I knew what I had to do. I felt like a kid again.

Pleasure Dome differs from the albums he releases with Subscale and The Ralph in that is more ambient and minimalistic. “I wanted to do something a bit different. For the past 5 years I was composing mostly metal for The Ralph so I wanted to take a step back. I’m a huge Joe Satriani fan (and 80′s/90′s instrumental music fan in general) and I always liked “bigger than life” melodies so it seemed  like a logical step to make a guitar driven instrumental album,” Andreas continues.

As mentioned, Andreas uses Wreck Guitars’ 6-string model BlueMorpho. “I was going for a blend of a old-school ’80s lead sound and modern rock/metal sound. I record everything digitally so I have more room to manipulate the sound later on in the mixing process. The guitar goes straight into my audio interface (an old-school E-MU 0404USB) with nothing in between. I use mostly Ignite Amps products — Emissary for the amp simulation and NadIR for loading the cab impulses. For the cab impulses I use mostly Catharsis‘ IRs. BlueMorpho is loaded with Dolezal pickups which are pretty hot and punchy which was great for tracking rhythm guitars.

Watch a playthrough video for the new song “Hue” below, and follow Andreas on YouTube. Make sure to check Andreas’ other band The Ralph on Bandcamp and Facebook.

Visit Wreck Guitars official website and Facebook page.

The Fierce and the Dead

The Fierce and the Dead

The Fierce And The Dead was originally born out of sonic experimentation when making Matt’s second solo album, Ghost, and they’ve developed into one of the most original bands in the UK rock scene. Their unique brand of instrumental rock music, fusing rock, post-rock, punk and progressive elements, has made a huge impression through one full-length album and two Eps, as have their incendiary live performances, most recently as part of the Stabbing A Dead Horse tour of the UK with Knifeworld and Trojan Horse. Continue reading