Tag Archives: Prog Sphere

Ornithos – La Trasfigurazione

Ornithos-La-Trasfigurazione

Hailing from the beautiful central Italian region of Umbria, Ornithos (Greek for “bird”) features three members of Il Bacio della Medusa, one of the most interesting Italian progressive rock bands of  the past few years. However, Ornithos predates Il Bacio della Medusa by a few years, and was originally created by multi-instrumentalist Diego Petrini and bassist Federico Caprai in 1999. The two musicians were joined by Eva Morelli in 2007, and subsequently by the three remaining members, vocalist Maria Giulia Carnevalini and guitarists Antonello De Cesare and Simone Morelli La Trasfigurazione, their debut album, was completed in 2011 but released in the early months of 2012. The cover artwork by Federico Caprai features the band’s symbol, the ibis, which is a reference not only to their name, but also to Thoth, the Egyptian god of knowledge, music and time.

For a debut album, La Trasfigurazione is a very ambitious endeavour, bearing witness to the many years of work and dedication behind it. With 13 relatively short tracks arranged in three chapters, it is a concept that hinges on a man’s spiritual journey through the past, the present and the future. True to the Italian progressive tradition, it is also boasts dramatic flair, gorgeous yet occasionally intense melodies, and plenty of variety to keep the listener on their toes. However, unlike many albums that share similar features, the concept is mainly conveyed through music rather than singing. Indeed, the majority of the tracks are instrumental, showcasing the amazing technical skill of the individual members, as well as very tight band dynamics and a remarkable ability in developing a narration without the use of too many words.

Eclecticism is the name of the game on La Trasfigurazione, an album that honours the golden age of Italian prog while at the same time searching for new avenues of expression. The lush  symphonic apparatus of mellotron and other keyboards is beefed up by a twin-guitar approach more typical of classic rock than prog, and the prominent role of Eva Morelli’s saxes lends a sleek, jazzy allure to the sound. While the synergy between flute and guitar, hovering between gentleness and aggression, inevitably evokes Jethro Tull (a big influence on many RPI bands, both old and new), Ornithos’ sound rests on a tightly woven web that relies on the contribution of each instrument, finely detailed yet part of a whole. The vocals, on the other hand, almost take a back seat, although the contrast between Diego Petrini’s low-pitched, almost gloomy delivery (sharply different from the quasi-operatic style favoured by many Italian prog singers) and Maria Giulia Carnevalini’s soaring, blues-tinged tones deserves to be further exploited in the band’s future outings.

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The sounds of tolling bells and a ticking clock lead into “L’Orologio”, whose brisk, dance-like pace introduces the album, illustrating the band’s modus operandi. The strong hard rock component of Ornithos’ sound emerges at the end, with a driving guitar solo propelled by high-energy drumming and supported by sax and organ. Petrini’s distinctive vocals make their entrance in the low-key “La Persistenza della Memoria”, and lend a somewhat ominous flavour to the first half of “Somatizzando l’Altare di Fuoco”, a cinematic number that blends echoes of Morricone’s iconic spaghetti-western soundtracks with a vintage hard-rock vibe and an unexpected, laid-back jazzy ending. The nostalgic tango of “L’Ipostasi” wraps up the first chapter.

Introduced by the upbeat “Al Torneo”, the second chapter develops in eclectic fashion with the blaring sax – almost in free-jazz mode – of “L’Arrivo dell’Orco – Fuga”; then it takes a more mellow turn in the Canterbury-tinged “Nuvole e Luce”, which introduces Maria Giulia Carnevalini’s soulful voice paralleled by melodic flute – before plunging deep into hard rock territory with the raging Hammond organ of “Ritorno al… (Reprise)”. “Salamandra: Regina di Psiche e di Saggezza”, probably the album’s climactic point, begins in subdued, almost mournful fashion, then soon unfolds into a dramatic, riff-laden jazz-meets-hard-rock workout that brings to mind the likes of Colosseum, Banco and even The Doors. The third chapter opens with the blues-rock suggestions of “Nel Crepuscolo”, while “La Notte” ’s slow-paced, riff-laden heaviness conjures echoes of Black Sabbath, compounded by a wild, distorted guitar solo and aggressive, almost harsh flute. Then the serene textures of “L’Alba del Nuovo Giorno”, with a lovely sax solo that made me think of the airy, jazz-tinged elegance of Delirium’s magnificent comeback album Il Nome del Vento, bring the main body of the album to a close. In fact, while the jazzy “This Is What We Got: The Flute Song” is undoubtedly a beautiful piece of music – showcasing Antonello De Cesare’s guitar skills in a great solo backed by organ and sax – it feels like an afterthought of sorts, especially on account of the English-language lyrics, which detract from the uniquely Italian character of the rest of the album.

As is the case with most Italian progressive rock, La Trasfigurazione can be somewhat of an acquired taste, and definitely not for those who favour a minimalistic approach. Musically speaking, even if the album might command the controversial “retro” tag, there is also a sense of modernity in the band’s omnivorous approach which pushes Ornithos’sound into the 21st century. True, the album occasionally comes across as a tad overambitious when it wants to cram too many ideas into a limited running time of 56 minutes. However, this is a band that possesses talent in spades, and La Trasfigurazione will make a strong impression on lovers of everything RPI – as well as providing a fine complement to Il Bacio della Medusa’s newly released third album, Deus Lo Vult.

Tracklist:

Il Trittico del Tempo Che Fu:
1. L’Orologio (5:43)
2. La Persistenza della Memoria (3:11)
3. Somatizzando l’Altare Di Fuoco (7:46)
4. L’Ipostasi (3:19)
Presa di Coscienza del Presente:
5. Al Torneo (3:32)
6. L’Arrivo dell’Orco – Fuga (4:34)
7. Nuvole e Luce (2:23)
8. Ritorno al… (Reprise) (1:47)
9. Salamandra: Regina di Psiche e di Saggezza (7:40)
Quiete e Redenzione del Domani:
10. Nel Crepuscolo (3:49)
11. La Notte (4:05)
12. L’Alba del Nuovo Giorno (6:01)
13. This Is What We Got: The Flute Song (7:31)

Line-up:

* Diego Petrini – drums, organ, piano, mellotron, percussion, vocals
* Eva Morelli – flute, alto, soprano and tenor sax
* Federico Caprai – bass guitar, vocals
* Antonello De Cesare – lead guitar, backing vocals
* Simone Morelli – rhythm guitar
* Maria Giulia Carnevalini – lead and backing vocals

Links:

http://www.ornithos.it/

http://www.myspace.com/ornithos

https://www.facebook.com/ornithosfreeformusic

Dialeto – The Last Tribe

Dialeto - The Last Tribe

In the past few years, Leonardo Pavkovic’s Moonjune Records has become a go-to resource for fans of guitarists that eschew the tired antics of traditional “guitar heroes” to focus on creative, envelope-pushing playing put at the service of the  music. In the past few years, outstanding players from far-flung locales such as Indonesia have become part of  the Moonjune roster – with noteworthy releases such as Tohpati Bertiga’s Riot, Ligro’s Dictionary 2 andDewa Budjana’s Dawai in Paradise. Brazilian power trio Dialeto  are the latest addition to the New York label, getting their first international release with their third album, The Last Tribe.

In the two years following the release of Chromatic Freedom, the São Paulo outfit, founded in the late Eighties and led by guitarist and composer Nelson Coelho, have replaced original bassist Andrei Ivanovic with touch guitarist Jorge Pescara – a change that has influenced their sound in a rather interesting way. While Chromatic Freedom featured a few songs with vocals, on The Last TribeDialeto have taken a completely instrumental direction, concentrating on compositions that blend King Crimson-style angular, asymmetrical patterns with heady Latin suggestions and fiery blues licks, occasionally with a keen metal-like edge. Though some reviewers have labeled them as jazz-fusion, the latter genre is only one of the ingredients of Dialeto’s heady brew. While technical virtuosity is definitely emphasized,  Dialeto’s musical offer exudes a surprising warmth and a pronounced sense of melody – which is not always the case with all-instrumental albums.

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The introduction of touch guitars is the key to the subtle yet noticeable change in Dialeto’s sound on The Last Tribe, adding a sense of fullness and softening the rougher edges displayed on Chromatic Freedom. The versatility of the instrument – capable of producing dry, low-down bass lines as well as reverberating, keyboard-like sound waves – complements Coelho’s scintillating guitar exertions and Miguel Angel’s all-over-the-place drumming. Though not as heavy on the ambient component as Herd of Instinct (a band with a similar configuration and approach), Dialeto’s 2013 incarnation benefits from the synergy of touch and traditional guitar, which lends an intriguingly mysterious quality to its sound.

As already noticed on Chromatic Freedom, Coelho’s compositional style hinges on subtle yet recognizable variations on a theme, repeated with an almost hypnotic effect, creating a strong cohesion between The Last Tribe’s 10 tracks.  Running times are kept relatively short, packing a lot of content in those few minutes without putting too much strain on the listener’s attention span. The album as a whole runs at a very restrained 47 minutes, proving once again that, in the progressive rock realm, quality does not depend on quantity.

Opener “The Windmaster”sets the tone, with its clear-voiced guitar touched with a hint of Brazilian saudade; melody remains at the forefront even when the guitar turns a bit harsher and the  intensity increases. Similar in conception, “Dorian Grey” also introduces a haunting atmospheric note. The album hovers between low-key, mid-paced pieces such as the ballad-like “Lydia in the Playground” and the laid-back, Spanish-tinged “Tarde Demais”, spiced up by sudden flares of electricity in the shape of dense riffing and assertive drumming, and spiky, energy-laden ones )mostly concentrated in the album’s second half), descending directly from King Crimson circa Thrak and The Power to Believe.

The almost 8-minute, Brazilian-flavoured “Unimpossible”, which best illustrates the band’s modus operandi of building variations on a theme, and the exhilarating “Vintitreis” blend the soft and the hard side of Dialeto’s sound, Coelho’s guitar tone shifting from bright and sunny to razor-sharp, supported by Miguel Angel’s drum acrobatics; while “Whereisit”, “Sand Horses” and especially closing track “Chromaterius” kick the mood into high gear, with plenty of riffs and forceful drumming, the three main instruments interacting seamlessly in angular patterns only occasionally relieved by quieter moments. Finally, the steady drumbeat and brisk, dance-like pace of the short title-track convey the “tribal” element in the title.

Accompanied by amusingly weird cover artwork, The Last Tribe (mixed and mastered by fellow paulista Fabio Golfetti of Violeta de Outono, who has recently joined Gong) will not fail to appeal to lovers of instrumental progressive rock, especially those who set a great store by technically proficient yet soulful guitar playing rather than lightning-fast shredding. The album, which finally sees Nelson Coelho take his rightful place among other distinguished six-stringers on the Moonjune roster, such as Barry Cleveland, Dennis Rea and Michel Delville, is also warmly recommended to fans of King Crimson and its “trio” offshoots.

Tracklist:

1. Windmaster (6:26)
2. Dorian Grey (4:27)
3. The Last Tribe (1:56)
4. Lydia in the Playground (5:20)
5. Unimpossible (7:47)
6. Tarde Demais (3:40)
7. Vintitreis (4:19)
8. Whereisit (5:11)
9. Sand Horses (4:07)
10. Chromaterius (3:42)

Line-up:

* Nelson Coelho – guitar
* Jorge Pescara – touch guitars
* Miguel Angel – drums

Links:

http://www.dialeto.org

http://www.moonjune.com/mjr_web_2013/catalog_mjr/054_DIALETO_The-Last-Tribe_MJR054/

ARABS IN ASPIC And On Progstravaganza

With a naughty band title, and an even naughtier album covers, Norwegian group Arabs In Aspic deliver a deliciously indulgent yet light-hearted music which is sure to win over the hearts of prog fans everywhere. The band has been active over 15 years, changing its name from Arabs to Aspic to Arabs to Aspic II and again to Arabs in Aspic. These Arabs from Norway open our newest Progstravaganza compilation and it was a right moment to talk with the Northerners about their music.

 arabs_group_2013_photo_by_J.E.Bjoroy

How did the story with forming Arabs in Aspic go?

ARABS IN ASPIC II emerged in 1997 from Norway led by guitarist and vocalist Jostein Smeby and rythm guitarist & Theremin player, Tommy Ingebrigtsen. Since they met through their common love for 1970s heavy rock music, especially Black Sabbath, they’ve been playing together with different personnel, each playing different kinds of heavy music until ARABS IN ASPIC surged.

They said goodbye to playing covers and the band was ready with Hammond organ player Magnar Krutvik, drummer Eskil Nyhus and his brother, bass player Terje Nyhus. The quartet was later joined by Stig Arve Jorgenson on backing vocals and Hammond organ, as Magnar changed to playing acoustic guitar and synth. After a few years and two releases (Progeria, EP and Far Out in Aradabia, CD) the band was put on hold due to various reasons.

In 2006 Jostein, Eskil and Stig hooked up with bass player Erik Paulsen and formed what was briefly known as Arabs in Aspic II. The new spirit and musicianship led to some serious song writing, and numerous demos were recorded during the following years.

I have to say that the whole thing about the name of the band is a bit confusing for me. You have your latest album on iTunes listed under the name Arabs in Aspic.  So, what’s the deal with the name?

When Arabs in Aspic resurrected after a few years on ice, the lineup changed and we called ourselves Arabs in Aspic 2, since this was the second lineup. However, when we decided to change it back to just Arabs in Aspic, our facebook page had too many likes and we weren’t allowed to change the name of our page. It’s as simple as that :D

One of the first impressions I got when I listened 2010’s „Strange Frame of Mind“ was if Black Sabbath would go prog, they would sound like you do. Could you tell us something more about your influences?

Strange+Frame+Of+Mind+coverFor Jostein, Sabbath has been the main inspiration to study music. His vinyl collection contains mostly music made between 1969-1973, that probably colors our music. He’s listened to a lot of classic heavy as you might hear, but also a lot of Krautrock. Jostein’s living room is filled with strange music… However, we all get inspiration from all kinds of music, artwork, facts or even news. Stig and Erik have a more “technical” prog backround with Genesis, King Crimson, Zappa, Yes, PFM, Weather Report, DT and more, which blends very well with the more heavy style of Jostein and Eskil.

You have three full-length albums released so far and one EP released in 2003. When you look now on your opus would you dare to say you made a drastic change in your sound (in terms of music, not production) since your first offering „Far Out in Aradabia“ (2004)?

Without a doubt. We sound different, cause we are a different band. Our current lineup has only two original members left, me and the drummer Eskil. We also have 3 singers instead of one, and much more keys by Stig of course.

Your latest release is this year’s „Pictures in a Dream“ and though you maintained to keep the heaviness in your music, the album sounds a lot proggier than previous albums. Do you agree? Is that a natural progress or you decided to force that prog side during the recording process?

That depends on your definition of prog. In some reviews of “Pictures in a Dream”, we don’t play prog at all. Some call it classic heavy or classic hard rock. I agree with you and with the opposite opinion actually. I think the album has a lot of classic heavy, but it also contains all sorts of music and temper-/tempo changes. I call that prog. We don’t care to much what we put together as long as we like it. For the reviewers who only listen to Neo Prog, Arabs in Aspic isn’t progressive rock. People can call it what they want. Our opinion is that there are only two kinds of music, good and bad music :) We like to define ourselves as Heavy prog. It’s a natural process that we get proggier, since our newer members Erik and Stig are prognerds, but we actually tried to prog this album down a bit, and focus more on classic elements and vocal harmonies. On our next album you will need a calculator to get it :)

Pictures in a Dream

„Pictures in a Dream“ is personally one of my favorite albums released in 2013 and I am interested to hear what albums did you guys listen to during the recording process of the album? How much what you listen while writing music influences the final product, in your opinion?

 Jostein: Oh, thanx! That’s nice to hear:) When I get in the process of recording an album, I don’t listen to similar music at all. I feel sorry for my friends who come and visit in this process. I play only raw tapes of Arabs in Aspic:) The writing process is something that happens all the time. We have enough music almost ready for two or three  more albums, but when it comes to recording, we have to puzzle our pieces right to get an album, not just a bunch of music or a bunch of songs. Our coverart designer is also important in this process. I often re-write all the lyrics after the recordings are done, to make it fit the temper of the music, and the artwork. My vinyl collection is in my backbone, so I guess that colours our music. But as I said earlier, I can get inspiration to write music about anything. A punchline in a movie, a picture or a painting can give me enough to come up with a riff or a melody line. I record every idea at once. If I don’t have a guitar I sing it.

How much were you active in playing live in the past? What’s the response of audience on your music?

Then years ago we played a lot, but only in Norway. We did about 30 gigs a year. We had a faithful audience, who appreciated a wall of sound. People buy improbable amounts of beer when we play:) I don’t know if that is cause they are happy or if it’s to kill the pain :)

We haven’t been too active with the new line up yet, but we will. Last summer we had a gig in Quebec and a couple in Norway, and we have been asked to play some places in Europe. Our adience seems to get in a good mood and like our energy. We have gotten great feedback from all kinds of people from 12-70 years, male and female. Jostein’s wife, Helena, will participate in the Winter Olympics this winter, so that is our main priority now. But after that, there will be lots of live music… :)

Arabs in Aspic, Live in Quebec 2012 (Photo: Rejean Lafortune)

Arabs in Aspic, Live in Quebec 2012 (Photo: Rejean Lafortune)

Your song „You Are Blind“ opens our latest Progstravaganza compilation. What can you say about the song in particular?

This is the heaviest part of our new album. It’s made to hear in context with the previous and the next song. The previous song is a real heavy piece of music, but this one starts even heavier, on the last beat of the previous song. The next one is a instrumental floater, to tighten up our sholders :) “You are blind” is a tribute to Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin and Beatles if you listen close. And that is not a secret. It’s composed this way to make you smile if you hear the codes. The lyrics are a settlement with system vs individuals. The strange mid part is a funny story. Only Jostein knew what it would contain when we recorded it. He asked Eskil to keep the beat on his signal. Afterwards, Erik got one attempt to do a far out bass solo. The space echo guitar is also done in only one take, but reversed and fucked up with fx. This part is most likely inspired by the time Jostein studied modern classic music, with composers like Edgar Varese, Arne Nordheim and Igor Stravinskij. Most likely, many of his compositions are inspired by this era.

What would be your choice to share a stage with, if you had that chance to pick a band?

That would be bands that are in some way related to our music. This would give the audience a good evening. And if the audience have a great time, I’m sure we will enjoy it also. It’s no primary goal for us to support a famous band, playing on a large stadium. When we do gigs we hope that the audience is there to check out our music. None of us like the thought of an audience just waiting for us to be finished. But we must admit, that if Tony Iommi had asked us to do a support job, we would have said yes:)

What comes next for Arabs in Aspic?

Holy Moses, we have plans! This August we will do 3 gigs in France. Later this year we will do at least 2 gigs in Norway and maybe 2 gigs in Stockholm. But priority number one is more recordings. We have started a pre production of what is ment to be a triple vinyl, with the working title; Heavy Progressive Rock. This is planned to be a heavy record, a very progressive record, and a record in between, the way we do things now. Most of the music is written already, so stay tuned for more madness from Norway!

And don’t forget to find us on http://www.facebook.com/arabsinaspic, Spotify, iTunes and your random record store.

Arabs in Aspic is:

Jostein Smeby – guitars + vocals
Stig Jørgensen – organs + vocals
Erik Paulsen – bass + vocals
Eskil Nyhus – drums + cymbals

Progstravaganza 13

PROGSTRAVAGANZA 13 Artwork Revealed

Progstravaganza 13

Prog Sphere have revealed the cover art for Progstravaganza 13 compilation, to be released in the coming week. 

The artwork was designed by Chris van der Linden of Linden Artwork (also mastermind of Fourteen Twentysix and Bow), who will be designing full PDF booklet of the sampler, as well. Asked about artwork itself, Chris comments:

I talked with Nick about his ideas for the new release. After fiddling with the idea of “13″ and all related horror stuff we decided to not go down that route, and I then pitched some ideas that I think would be awesome for “prog” fans. One of them was a robot like creature on long Dali-inspired legs walking through a landscape. I started the artwork on paper, with a pencil sketch to quickly block the anatomy and shape of the creature and painted it with some acrylic paint, then in Photoshop I started adding the photographic material like engine parts, tubes, wires. I chose a sort of sc-fi steampunk font and colors to finish everything off.

Progstravaganza 13 includes 76 tracks in total from artists coming all around the world and will be available as free download from Prog Sphere’s Bandcamp page. 

Methexis - The Fall of Bliss

Methexis – The Fall of Bliss

Methexis - The Fall of Bliss

I am always tremendously impressed by albums which are by and large the work of a single person. It is often unfathomable to me that one person can be talented enough to not only write a complete progressive rock album but also perform the entire thing.

Well, add Nikitas Kissonas the list of those who have pulled it off, and maybe make a new list for those who have pulled it off with such flying colors. The Fall of Bliss is an absolute stunner of an album, finding common ground with many other progressive rock bands while simultaneously finding its own niche and excelling there.

I think that, in an alternate universe, Storm Corrosion could have come out sounding a lot like this album, and I absolutely mean that as a compliment. From the very first twanging notes of “Eradicated Will,” I can hear a lot of both Steven Wilson and Mikael Akerfeldt’s softer moments in this music, and, quite frankly, you can’t do much better than to be compared to those two.

I certainly don’t mean to suggest that this is anything other than extremely fresh, original music, though. The Fall of Bliss is one of those albums that seems at the same time familiar and completely unique, and it’s never content to sit for too long in the same place. Even within the first track the music goes from lilting, off-kilter vocal harmonies to epic guitar solos to climactically heavy motifs and back again, and never once does it feel forced or disjointed.

With such a satisfying opener there might be some worry that the album is bound to go downhill, but fortunately it doesn’t. “Poetic Mirrors Wound Heroes” makes perfect use of gorgeous vocal harmonies to create music that is simultaneously epic and extremely relaxing. “Those Howling Wolves” drops into a darker, more sinister vein, and yet, like magic, it still manages to keep the album’s chilled-out, atmospheric, almost breezy feel going. It’s simply stunning.

“Lines on a Bust” comes next, and I think it would have fit very well on Pain of Salvation’s Be. Gorgeous piano and high vocals create an incredibly emotional atmosphere that bring the listener into a very relaxed place before metaphorically smacking them over the head with the relative heaviness of “Track the Saviours.” “The Aftermath” reminds me very strongly of Opeth’s quieter moments circa Watershed, with beautifully, slightly atonal guitars and a very effective symphonic interlude, complete with simulated vinyl cracks and pops.

And then, of course, we have the wonderful four-part title track to close out the album. From the delicately beautiful intro, replete with sampled birdsong to the noisy, crashing conclusion, the track(s) is (are?) a trip for the duration of their combined run time of more than 20 minutes. A multitude of atmospheric sonic textures and wonderful instrumental interplay take the track from the relaxing motifs that have dominated the album to more intense and climactic themes, the latter figuring especially prominently in Part 2. The Interlude, too, I feel deserves special praise, featuring some of the most beautiful music on the album and of course transitioning very well between the more relaxed Part 1 and the more intense Part 2.

Overall, The Fall of Bliss is one of the most impressive albums I’ve heard this year, especially considering that it essentially a solo project. Fans of Storm Corrosion should find a whole lot to like hear, as will anyone who’s ever listened to a progressive metal album and thought that the softer, more atmospheric bits were the best parts. A killer album overall and one that has one of the most impressive ambiences I’ve heard in a long while.

Tracklist:

1. Eradicated Will (8:57)
2. Poetic Mirrors Wound Heroes (4:52)
3. Those Howling Wolves (8:07)
4. Lines on a Bust (3:42)
5. Track the Saviours (4:14)
6. The Aftermath (4:13)
7. The Fall Of Bliss (Intro) (1:41)
8. The Fall Of Bliss (Part I) (8:20)
9. The Fall Of Bliss (Interlude) (4:22)
10. The Fall Of Bliss (Part II) (6:38)

Line-up:

* Nikitas Kissonas – vocals, guitars, bass, mandolin, keys, programming
* Nikos Miras – drums
* Jargon – piano (4)

Links:

http://methexis.bandcamp.com/