Tag Archives: progressive rock

Whiteside's Daughter

Album Review: Whiteside’s Daughter – The Life You Save

Whiteside’s Daughter is a new name on the worldwide progressive rock scene. The trio based in Jackson, Mississippi have just released their debut, concept album The Life You Save about “James, the gay son of an Alabama Pentecostal preacher, who in high school rebels and falls in with John, his ex-Baptist atheist classmate and guitarist for a high school death metal band called Village Witch.”

The core trio featuring Stephen Poff on vocals, Brian Hughley on drums, and Steve Deaton on guitars, bass, keyboards and vocals, collaborated with a number of guest musicians to create blends elements of melancholy, the spirit of Scandinavian metal, Southern Rock and British progressive rock. All of this is true; throughout this record there is surely an omnipresent feeling of melancholy, which is mostly carried by the vocal harmonies and a variety of keyboards-related stuff.

The Life You Save is divided into two long suites (or Acts as the band refers to them). Each of these two acts includes interludes and full-fledged pieces of music that tell the story.

The main instrument on this record is the guitar, played masterfully by Deaton. The sound of guitar is well-rounded, the riffs are melodic and heavy, guitar solos are executed flawlessly. The interplay between guitars and vocals is another highlight. The term “virtuosity” has been a synonym for progressive rock for a while, but this release is focused on melody over the technicality.

With The Life You Save Whiteside’s Daughter hint that they have the knowledge and potential to make something good. At least, this record is far from being categorized as a “hobby album,” it surely needs to be listened and is not one of those “skip-over” releases. Give this album a chance and let the music speak to your heart, rather than your brain!

Endworld Halos album art

Review: Endworld Halos – S/T

One of the most gratifying aspects of exploring music is to be able to see how different bands, styles, and scenes interact with each other. Like a massive, breathing network, no band is an island, and every city is its own musical melting pot. Today, my gaze shifts to the city of Kuopio in Finland, home of a progressive rock trio Endworld Halos who have recently released their self-titled debut album.

It feels that Endworld Halos took time to produce an album that is well planned, well thought and well executed. “Endworld Halos” is an epic journey that is comprised of ten songs. Hearing the band place an emphasis on this kind of tried-and-tested longform composition is impressive. The band’s natural talents with writing, matched with the encyclopaedic interest in the genre make the least involving moments on the album a joy to behold.

While they never fully swing into prog territory, keeping their sights mixed on relatively conventional songwriting, the music is significantly flashier than the sort you’d usually expect in a purely melodic act. Endworld Halos boost their hooks with exotic instrumentation and plenty of dynamic changes. Even if the album aims to hit a lot of the same marks as conventional melodic rock, I seldom feel like I have their approach “figured out.” They take a conventional palette and harness it in a way that sounds unpredictable.

Endworld Halos offer some great songwriting—by the end of the first listen, I was impressed to realize several of the tracks already stood out in my memory. The opening, “Adjusting to Life” features great riffs. “Desperado Sundown,” one of the most crucial numbers on the album features such an amazing instrumentation that will definitely have the old school proggers give the band thumbs up; the band’s performance is impressive across the board. The music is intelligently arranged, giving some extra meat to the bones of the already-good songwriting.

“Endworld Halos” is a record that challenges and provokes. If anything, it’s that quality that makes the album among the best this band has ever done, and definitely one of the best efforts to be released in 2018.

Links:

Bandcamp

Endworld Halos

Interview: Endworld Halos

Endworld Halos is a Finnish progressive rock trio who launched their self-titled album in October last year. Kimmo Utriainen answered our questions.

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

Life is great in the cold Finnish periphery, although slightly on the busy side as we speak. I’m active with around 5 bands or projects, recording music with three of them currently, so time is a bit scarce. Other than that, waiting for spring and the annual semi-hibernation to end. Finnish problems.

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

People can expect a highly versatile album that can be easiest described as dark prog. However, the music holds many kinds of tones from dark to luminous, natural / organic to metropolitan / futuristic, all the way to (post-)apocalyptic aural landscapes. A multi-faced creature struggling between optimism and pessimism, our music comes with beauty, roughness and surprise, taking the listener through a vast spectrum of emotions. Thematically speaking, the album can be thought of as a rather bleak one, but then again, I’d let the listener to find out if that really is the case. Although its backbone is in overdriven rock, our music has got its soft spots and certain sensitivity. So there’s a lot of elements hidden in our material for the listener to discover.

Endworld Halos album art

What was it like working on the album?

Personally, this album was really the first I have co-written with someone else (the musical dictator I’ve grown been). Hence, I could say this album was much about personal growth and learning how to merge my musicality with someone else’s. We didn’t set many limitations to what this band would end up being about, so the childlike feeling of everything being possible was the topmost sensation. It’s hard to describe, but that feeling can be very inspiring and liberating. With this mindset as the basis, me and Toni kept bouncing our ideas to each other during those, what, three or four years of writing, until we had an array of songs we were satisfied with. There was a surprisingly little amount of compromise we had to make between the two of us, the final arrangement part being a different case, heh.

Are there any touring plans in support to “Endworld Halos”?

Unfortunately no, as we have decided to focus on being a studio band. We haven’t played one single show, which of course sets its difficulties to making our name heard, but that’s something we have to live with.

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

If we toured, I guess there aren’t too many places I wouldn’t play, except maybe some specific backwater locations in our home country, heh. Just to avoid getting stabbed.

Who and what inspires you the most?

The inmost crevasses of my mind, soul and ego that I can access with music only form my primary inspiration. When I grab an instrument and start unfolding a song, it’s not usually a particular emotion or thought I wish to channel, but most often an abstract entity of its own that comes from these inner regions. Musically speaking, I’m fond of older proggy / less generic music and the fact that some people can or have been able to make music like this full time. I just find that thought very inspiring, and it has carried me through projects like “Endworld Halos”, even though I’m not dependent on reaching that status myself. It would be very enjoyable of course. Also, people who do what they please musically and artistically are an inspiration. People like that have always got it right, regardless of the genre.

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

Metal has been my comfort zone, so influences are bound to come from that direction. On the other hand, I originally learnt to play guitar to the music of the Beatles, the Shadows, the Animals, David Bowie and so forth, so my background is not in metal in the first place. The playing of Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page, Tony Iommi, Ritchie Blackmore, Steve Howe, Ed Wynne, Petri Walli and Denner / Shermann have definitely opened up most new aspects for me. Right now I’m shuffling weekly recommendations, Neil Young to be more particular. So almost everything goes, except for generic mainstream music. Of late, my ears have gotten a bit tired of noisy music, so I’ve been enjoying more subtle sounding stuff, although I have not turned my back to high gain music either.

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?

Thank you for the interview! Our self-titled album is available on Spotify, Bandcamp etc. as well as on CD that comes with a beautiful 12-page booklet with colorful photography and lyrics. You can get it from Record Shop X / Levykauppa Äx, so support DIY music and indulge yourself with some quality handcrafted Finnish prog while doing so!

“Endworld Halos” by Endworld Halos is available to order from Bandcamp.

Rainburn

In Focus: Rainburn – Insignify

Indian prog rockers, Rainburn, have taken on an ambitious project for their second ever release “Insignify,” tackling a concept that deals with “issues of existentialism, the significance of human life, narcissism, craving importance, insecurity, and the search for reason.

Rainburn - Insignify

Musically, while “classic prog” certainly fits, the album draws in elements from across the contemporary prog scene. Mainman Vats Iyengar’s versatile and engaging voice is ideal for this type of storytelling and there are catchy hooks galore across the album, from the refrain of “Merchant of Dreams” through the gentle harmonies of semi-ballad “Mirrors” to the riff-laden “Suicide Note.” The band can wig-out a bit too, as they prove towards the end of “Someone New” and “Elusive Light,” in the explosive choruses of the otherwise jazzy album closer “School of Atlantis.”

Links:

Facebook

Instagram

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.

Links:

Bandcamp

Facebook

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.

Links:

Facebook

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. 

Links:

Bandcamp

Facebook

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.

Links:

Bandcamp

Facebook

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.

Links: Facebook | Bandcamp