Tag Archives: progressive rock

DID

Review: DID – Dissociative Identity Disorder

Here is an excellent album from the debutants on the progressive rock scene: a French group DID put out their debut full-length release entitled “Dissociative Identity Disorder” in November last year, a concept record which in the band’s own words tells “the story of a man.” DID, in its core, operates as a quartet featuring Regis Bravi on drums, Didier Thery on bass, Patric Jobard on acoustic and electric guitars, and Christophe Houssin on keyboards. They are joined by a number of guest vocalists who helped them to tell the story. These include Michael Sadler of Saga, Marco Glühmann of Sylvan, Oliver Philipps of Everon, Alan Szukics of Opium Baby, and Maggy Luyten (Ayreon, Nightmare).

Dissociative Identity Disorder

Allow me to truly begin by stating that many instrumental sections on “Dissociative Identity Disorder” are dazzling and intriguing and that the instrumental portion of the album is incredibly well-arranged. Talented solos and arrangements from the band members are easily the album’s highlights with tracks like “The Sun” and “Lock Up” presenting themselves as easy standouts.

The performances here are exceptional, both instrumentally and vocally, and sound natural despite the host of guests at band’s disposal. Diehard prog fans will relish the back-to-back synth solos.

With “Dissociative Identity Disorder,” DID has put attention on themselves as a group to look forward to within the progressive rock scene. While not necessarily groundbreaking, it’s exceptionally refined given how big its ambitions are, and it boasts some impressive production values. If nothing else, DID offer a work that balances instrumental and vocal performances more equally than on some of the releases of the similar orientation. It also manages to have just the right amount of camp and compelling drama, making it perhaps the most intriguing prog releases of 2018.

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FG

Review: Forest God – Back to the Forest

Forest God is a relatively new project coming from Aalborg in Denmark who recently release a new EP entitled Back to the Forest. The project is led by composer Peter Kiel Jørgensen, who is joined by a number of guest musicians throughout the record.

Back to the Forest requires careful listening in order to be fully appreciated. It is definitely not the kind of stuff you can put on as a soundtrack for other activities – complex music, full of twists and turns, yet not unnecessarily complicated, or weird for weirdness’ sake. In fact, the music has a beautiful, natural flow, a clarity and melodic quality. Even though guitars make up a prominent part of the sound, they never get to the point of overwhelming the other instruments. As in most experimental music, however, the foundation of  the EP’s sound lies in the rhythm section, especially in the jaw-dropping drumming patterns provided by Martin Haumann (Myrkur).

Head-spinningly complex without being cold and sterile as other efforts in a similar vein, Back to the Forest can easily be listed as one of the top releases of 2018. In fact, the sterling musicianship, coupled with an admirable sense of restraint, focuses on creating cohesive, highly listenable tracks rather than pointless displays of technical skill.

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Welcome Inside the Brain

Interview: WELCOME INSIDE THE BRAIN

I have to admit it: I have a thing for vintage psychedelic / progressive type of rock, and that’s why I found a debut album from German rockers Welcome Inside the Brain quite an enjoyable experience (read my review here).

Singer Frank Mühlenberg was very kind to answer questions about his musical upbringing, forming the band, influences, the album, and more.

Let’s start from your early music beginnings. How did your musical career begin? When did you start playing? Which groups have been your favorites as a young man? Please tell us something more about your early life.

I started my first band in the age of 16. I listened to really noisy kind of music in this time and so I started with an extreme sound: not as a singer, but as a shouter. With 18 I became open minded for new music and started a cool Polka-Ska-Punk project called „Gegen Windmühlen kämpfen“ („Fighting against windmills“) with some friends. At this time I discovered older bands like The Doors, King Crimson and so on and felt in love with the sound of hammond organs.

How did you go about forming Welcome Inside the Brain? Who was the most influential when the band started its musical journey?

Our Ska-Punk band split up after some cool years, because we lived in different towns after finishing school. But our guitar player Georg, who was also a member of this older band, and me founded a group to celebrate the sound of J. Hendrix, J. Cocker and other hippy stuff. Here you can find the roots of our current band.

The members changed over the years and we started to create our own sound with own songs and three years ago we changed the name of the band to „Welcome Inside The Brain.“ I think the most important thing in this band is the very diffrent background of the members. Everybody listens to a very wide range of different music. We don’t think in genres. Sun Ra, John Coltrane, 70s African music, Led Zepplin, Zappa, Anna von Hausswolff… There is an endless list of stuff we listen to…

In the beginning, did you have some “fixed” tempo in composing songs or everything was a product of jamming, improvising?

We work a lot with improvisations, but this can just be a springboard for a song. When we got an idea, we fix it and work it out in detail. But there are also songs with open parts, nobody knows what will happen.

How would you describe Welcome Inside the Brain’s music on your own?

I think it’s really important for us that no song sounds like an other. Every song can be seen as a journey to discover new possibilities. But you can say that this band works a lot with dynamics to create an exploding point.  Structures become more and more intensive
and you’ll find suprisingly twists and turns. The band is looking for a maximum of energy, but I think you need an interesting way to reach the climax.

Celebrate the Depression

Your debut album, Celebrate the Depression, is a follow-up to the 2015 self-titled EP release. Have you felt any pressure while working on Celebrate the Depression because of that?

The EP was like a demo to find a label. We felt never pressure in any way. We always take the time we need to create something. The EP was an important step to the album and two of the three songs of the EP are also a part of the record.

How important the “progressive rock” tag is for the structure of your songs?

We don’t think in stereotypes like progressive or jazz or pop. The energy of a song is important for us. In retrospective you can say, „Celebrate The Depression“ is a Psychedelic-Prog album, but there is no category working as a stencil. To make music means to leave all boundaries behind you…

How do you see the German progressive rock scene today?

Mhm, I have to say, I don’t really know. I know a small scene of real fanatics. Cool guys, organizing really strange concerts, but mostly with French bands. I know a lot of bands, that work with elements you can find in classical progressive rock, but I think Germany is a
rough place for doing this kind of music.

Do you guys consider yourselves a part of any specific cultural movement, however peripheral?

I would say no. We are not part of scene like Gothics, Rockabillies or Metal guys. But I think we see a big worldwide clash of two different cultural movements. Everybody sees all the endless global problems we have. And I think there is a specific movement that locates the reason of this problems in people and tries to segregate them. They got a lot of power they use against other people or groups. On the other hand there’s a movement that locats problems in specific structures of organizing society. Of course we are a part of the second movement and the album „Celebrate The Depression“ refers to contradictions in human being permanently.

Are you also involved in any other projects or bands beside Welcome Inside the Brain?

I’m the only one of the band, who has no other band projects. But I organize a lot of concerts in the town I live. Here it’s also a wide range of concerts. Bands of Jazz, Soul, Afrobeat or Psychedelic music play at my events.

The other guys of Welcome Inside The Brain also have Jazz-, Reggae-, Soul- and Fusion- projects. So there’s a lot of different input…

So, what comes next for Welcome Inside the Brain?

We spend the last week in a lonely cabin full of equipment and wrote songs for the next album. It will sound very different from the first one. And we will play as much concerts as possible in the next months…

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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PuzzleWood

Review: PuzzleWood – Gates of Loki

It seems like Russian trio PuzzleWood embraced the cold climate they have up there, and transcended that coldness through the music on Gates of Loki, their full-length debut record released on November 30th, 2017.

Gates of Loki

The album indeed feels cold, sometimes depressive, yet it’s a release that gives a hope. It is a big and bold step forward for a relatively new and unknown band on the scene. After “Intro (Gates of Loki)”, the album fires on all cylinders with “Remember My Name,” which is an arresting soundscape, creating an overwhelming sense of loss. Nikita Lipatov adds another dimension to the overall sound with his keyboards and synths. It adds volumes to the profoundness, and although the vocals aren’t always discernible (the effects sometimes circumvent clarity), they’re nonetheless gripping. Like with the entire album, “Obsessed” is an exquisite example of how the human condition can be expressed absolutely through layers of luscious timbres.

Gates of Loki becomes a bit more complex and direct with “Tyrant Who Fall in Love” and “To The Void,” which both soar due to piercing guitar work and pained dissonance.

Although the entire album is transcendent, the strongest track is probably “Jerusaelem.” It’s a perfect blend of vocal melodies and complementary arrangements, and the way it evolves from just a simple motif to incorporate several other instruments is exceptionally intense and meaningful.

Gates of Loki is a tour de force of emotion, delicacy, passion, cohesion, and grief-stricken beauty, and listeners will undoubtedly get lost in its sentiments and patterns. Each piece takes its time to develop, using both conventional and orchestral textures, as well as a plethora of vulnerable honesty, to make its statements. The record is a life-affirming experience. Few other albums have ever matched its magnificent combinations.

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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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PuzzleWood

Interview with PUZZLEWOOD

PuzzleWood from Moscow are a three-piece who back in November released their full-length debut “Gates of Loki.” The band classifies their work as “post-prog,” and I believe that it really is a fitting genre tag for what you can find on the album.

Guitarist and singer Anton Legatov spoke for Progstravaganza about the album.

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

Could be better, could be worse, much worse actually. So I’m fine.

What can people expect from “Gates of Loki”?

They can expect something unusual. Something they are unaccostomed to. I perfectly understand, that every musician says things like that about his project, but in this case it is the objective truth…At least I think so. Gates of Loki is not the album, that is easy to understand. It is necessary to dive into it, spend your time and pay some attention. But I’m sure, that the result will be satisfying for an attentive listener.

Gates of Loki
What was it like working on the album?

As usual – local branch of Hell of Earth. Writing an album is hard, recording it — much harder. Especially considering the conditions we had during our work. Though, it is pleasant, that from such a disorganised and greviously senseless chaos, something interesting was born.

Are there any touring plans in support to “Gates of Loki”?

Presently there are no such plans, because we don’t have people ready to organise such tour. If someone appears, we’ll gladly go on tour even to the Antarctic. We like giving live shows very much.

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

All of them. I sincerely believe, that the musician’s core is to be a traveller, a bard. To wander around the world and play his music and sing his songs. This is what I consider the destiny of those, who chooses the Music to be his craft. Whether we are invited to Europe, USA, Canada or Japan – it doesn’t really matter. We’ll gladly perform anywhere and it’ll be a great honor for us.

Who and what inspires you the most?

Everything. I always say, that we don’t write the music. The Music writes itself and we are doing our best to deliver it the way we percieve its desire to exist. That is why it’s not for us to decide when it comes to us willing to be written.

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

It may seem surprising, but I almost don’t listen Prog or Post-Prog. And in general I don’t listen to Rock music much. Often people compare us with Purcupine Tree or TOOL, but I must confess, I haven’t listened to any track of those two bands. Even now. I was on the concert of Steven Wilson once, but he was playing the material from his new album at that time, not the Purcupine’s. I have a lot of different music in my playlist, but mostly I’m old-fashioned. Very rarely I listen to music, written after the 1995. I listen to a lot of ethnic music, lots of jazz, blues of late 70s and middle of 80s. And, of course, the academic music. It is a must.

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?

Thanks for your interest and attention to what we do. It is very good to know that politics and international issues don’t create prejudice and barriers for the art and love to music.

“Gates of Loki” is out now; order it from Bandcamp. Follow PuzzleWood on Facebook.

Anubis

Interview with Robert James Moulding of ANUBIS

Sydney’s Anubis released their fourth studio album The Second Hand earlier this year. Lead vocalist Robert James Moulding speaks for Progstravaganza about his musical beginnings, working on the new album, Prog in Australia, and more.

Let’s start from your early music beginnings. How did your musical career begin? When did you start playing? Which groups have been your favorites as a young man? Please tell us something more about your early life.

I started playing music during the early years of high school – in friend’s garages! It was one of the only things that kept me interested during that period. My friends and I would skip the last class of the day so we could get in an extra hour of playing together. It was during that time I only ever listened to Punk music. NOFX, Bad Religion, Pennywise anything from the States I’d just eat up. I never really fitted in, I’d emigrated from the UK to Australia at a young age and whilst culturally it’s similar there was still a slight disconnect I felt, socially.

How did you go about forming Anubis? Who was the most influential when the band started its musical journey?

Dave who plays keys and I started the band whilst we worked at a pizza place together. A mutual friend of ours had passed away whilst holidaying in Canada and as a way of dealing with the grieving process we decided to write some songs and create a concept record. Dave was schooled in music all the way to a university level, I simply had my garage background but we managed to find a middle ground. By this time I had switch to the dark side and was heavily into prog but we had different approaches to creating music. I’d say Dave was the main driving musical force on the first record, he had far superior writing skills and theory knowledge.

Robert James Moulding

Robert James Moulding

In the beginning, did you have some “fixed” tempo in composing songs or everything was a product of jamming, improvising?

Dave, his brother Steve and I were the initial three members of the band. We decided to bring all of what we had written separately together in the room and play out what we had. During that time we would jam and improvise new bits and pieces. We were writing to a strict story and concept so it was like putting the right songs together with the right chapter of the story. It sounds harder then it is, in fact it can make it far easier.

How would you describe Anubis’ music on your own?

I would say it’s a conscious effort to create ‘progressive rock’ but with a slightly modern edge. We all love a lot of modern artists as well as the classics from the 70s and 80s. It makes it more interesting that way. There are a few acts today that attempt to write exclusively in the style of the classic prog bands, and emulate the whole sound, visuals, face makeup, but that’s not our thing at all.

Anubis - The Second Hand

Your new album, The Second Hand, is a follow-up to the critically acclaimed 2014 release Hitchhiking to Byzantium. Have you felt any pressure while working on The Second Hand because of that?

No, not at all. If there is pressure we like to use it in a positive manner. It can create a lot of fuel for your fire if you feel that your back is against the wall. If HTB was acclaimed by the critics it only encouraged to try harder.

What has changed for Anubis when it comes to writing new music — The Second Hand in particular?

The major difference with this record compared to the last is when we got back together to start none of us brought anything to the table. All we had was our instruments in front of us and a large blank canvas. The concept and story had come before the songs. did, it seems to be the way we write concept albums. Maybe one day we will reverse the process, who knows?

You label your music as cinematic progressive rock. What makes it “cinematic”? You pay attention to atmospheric and ambient elements. How important it is for the structure of your songs?

The ‘cinematic’ description came from the early days when we were showing people the material. It was the main thing that kept coming back to us. A lot of what we do benefits from a story and structure and we like to add cinematic-sounding elements – sound effects, atmospheres. It helps push the narrative along and create an atmosphere connected to the story. People have been doing it for years, it’s nothing that new.

How do you see the Australian progressive rock scene. There has been many, many great bands coming from Australia in the recent years. It seems that you guys love prog over there.

Well actually, it’s kind of the opposite. Prog is very much niche and underground over here in Australia. There isn’t a large audience for it and doesn’t get played by large radio stations. Even the indie stations find it a little embarrassing. The reason there maybe be an influx of artists coming over to Europe and America is that’s where most of our audiences live. It’s quite rich in talent and is growing but we find ourselves trying to find ways to grab the attention of people on the other side of the globe.

Do you guys consider yourselves a part of any specific cultural movement, however peripheral?

I don’t see the culture of music in Australia changing anytime soon. So probably not. I do feel the music industry does a lot to get involved in social and political matters. These are certainly things we feel quite strongly about and have no issue using our music to promote something positive socially or culturally. Like we did on The Second Hand.

Anubis

Are you also involved in any other projects or bands beside Anubis? I know that Douglas Skene is also in Hemina, another cool prog band.

Not at the moment. All my energy finds its way into Anubis in one way or another. It’s were I find I’m most driven towards artistically. I know for Doug Hemina was something different he felt he needed to express, it has the added advantage of including his wife Jess on bass too.

So, what comes next for Anubis?

2018 will see us return to Europe playing Night of the Prog festival in Loreley. We will be playing other shows dotted around the continent once it’s all finalised. Hopefully we have a surprise up our sleeve for our fans as well.

Order The Second Hand from Bandcamp. Keep in touch with Anubis via Facebook or Twitter.

Mosh Werner

Interview with MOSH

Israeli singer-songwriter Moshe Werner aka Mosh speaks for Progstravaganza about his recently released debut album “Unbreakable Wall.”

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

Life is good, working hard, happily married, not much to complain.

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

“Unbreakable Wall” is a part of my identity, a way for me to communicate with others.

It’s a brief glance into my life’s journey, filled with a range of emotions.

What was it like working on the album?

It was an incredible experience that taught me a lot about myself, I learned to accept my own faults and be happy with what I present.
It was a long process that had many layers and often was irritating, but that what makes it so beautiful.

I cherish the moments I spent in the studio with Guy Levy, my producer.

Are there any touring plans in support to “Unbreakable Wall”?

That is the ultimate goal, it is my dream to tour all over the world, I’m definitely ready for touring.

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

My biggest dream is to tour the United States. I’ve always dreamed about doing a coast to coast trip, and there’s no better way to do so!

With that being said, I’d love to tour whenever I can.

Who and what inspires you the most?

I’m mostly inspired by singers who compose or a part of a band. I search to connect through the lyrics and singer’s presentation.

There are some singers who influenced the way I write and make music, Shannon Hoon is a great example, as I feel his pain when he sings from his heart. I try to do the same.

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 used to be a DJ when I was in high school, I still enjoy that from time to time. I like a lot of genres, it’s not about the genre, it’s about if the song is good or bad to my ears. I can enjoy hip hop and jazz and many other genres, but I mostly prefer rock.

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 everyone who has listened to the album, I wish that Unbreakable Wall can inspire people to express their emotions and create.

Life is all about creation.

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.