Tag Archives: ProgSphere

HellHaven

HELLHAVEN: In the Volcano of Great Prog Rock

What is art metal? Maybe the best answer on this question is checking the Polish band HellHaven, who are the part of our latest Progstravaganza sampler. We talked with the band’s guitarists and keyboard player Jakub Węgrzyn. Check the interview below.

HellHaven

How did the HellHaven story begin?

HellHaven came into existence in Myślenice in order to bring to life original and unorthodox music.

At the beginning HellHaven was inspired by bands in heavy metal or hard rock genres. This period, for us, was a quest to find our own sound, an idea for future music and creation of a strong and solid group backbone. After 12 months of writing our own original material in 2010, using our own financial expenses, we’ve created mini-album “Art for Art’s Sake”. The record was a concept album which music could be described as a combination of progressive metal and heavy metal music styles. The debut record was positively received both by critics and by fans. Thanks to the members’ commitment in the band’s activity, HellHaven music was often presented on polish radio stations.

The new sound, presented on our debut record, lead to the band’s many successes. With the start of 2011 we’ve decided to start to work on a more complex music material for the second long play record. During that time we’ve signed a contract with German record label “Legacy-Records” which allowed us more creative and technical possibilities. In 2012, after 12 months of creating new material, HellHaven registered more than 50 minutes of music dubbed progressive rock/art rock, and we’ve named it “Beyond The Frontier”. From this point we are trying to show HellHaven’s music to the whole world. As much as possible.

You describe your music as art metal. What do you mean by that? Is it art rock with metal edge or totally something new that’s known only in your terminology?

Our starting point was to put ourselves into waves of unpredictable, creative, crazy and remarkable music with no borders. We knew that this would be very hard task for us. After making new material, we’ve realized that we’ve created some kind of mixture of prog, art rock with a touch of prog metal, but not as “vintage” as people were used to known. When we were playing our first shows, some people from music magazines and radio stations couldn’t find the proper name for our music style. In fact, they describe our music as “art metal with heavy art rock influences, with a touch of post rock and native music”.  The truth is, that in our style people can find influences of heavy metal, art rock, post rock, prog rock, even polish national music and so on. Crazy mixture, that makes us quite original in this hard days (when thousands of bands plays exactly the same music). What we are proud of, is “art” in our music style. It means, that music is not just a few notes, which go through your brain, but it is also some kind of a theatrical performance that touches deeply your sensitivity.

Beyond-The-Frontier-cover

When I heard the „Beyond the Frontier“ album for the first time, the song Beyond the Frontier (Part 2) made a biggest impression on me. What is your favourite song off the album?

Hard to say – every song has it’s own beauty. But from my personal point of view I will choose “About Reading and Writing”. This song is quite romantic, very diverse, with beauty guitar solo, and soft, fragile vocal parts. Also it has great spatial synths. This song says “they can make something that floats above ground, flies thorough clouds” I think.

„About Reading and Writing“ off the album is also on our latest Progstravaganza compilation. Why did you pick this song for the sampler? Tell us something more about its structure and your view on it.

 Well, I think that I’ve already answered it in last question, but let me try to say something more about the purpose of choosing this song to be a sampler. This song gives you HellHaven in a nutshell. It has everything, that we’re proud of – art, prog rock elements, heavy riff, nice final solo, great vocal parts, a lot of synths… If you would like to show HellHaven in one song, I think “About Reading and Writing” would be the best choice. Of course, that is just my opinion. I know, that many people say, that Perikarion is the best mixture of what we are able to create. Also Paper Swan shows our respect to what we’ve learned after many years in the band.

On a studio report video taken from the album session, there is a moment when Marcin (bass player) „uses his head to play“. So, is it always that funny for you guys during the recording process? Anything interesting to share from the recording sessions?

Oh, a lot of funny things happened. That’s why we are still making music ! Music has to give you a lot of joy, fun and should makes your dreams come truth. During recording sessions a lot of little problems appeared. Like when we had problems with electrical current on Marcin’s bass guitar. We had to connect his head and toe by the wire to the strings, to make it ground. Funny story, but saved our… day J What is more interesting, Perikarion was played during recording session for the first time ever ! We’ve never practiced it before. But we are very proud of what we’ve done that day (well, with the support of many beers).

In the same studio report, Marcin uses to compare the song “Hesitation” with “Spanish inquisition”. Would you elaborate on that more?

I had to call Marcin directly, to make this answer as closes to the truth as can be. Marcin says, that in Hesitation, riffs are unpredictable. We could say about them, that “nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition” like nobody expects which riff suddenly appears in this song. I have to say, that sometimes we are crazy like Monty Python.

Your songs exude energy. How much of your daily life influence the music? Is the music the way of manifesting the energy you carry in yourselves?

The biggest influences were from our childhood, and what we were listening to at those times. We were growing up in hard times, just after Poland regained its independence from the rule of communist Russia. Life has taught us that in order to achieve something, you have to work very hard for it. I think that this gray reality of post-communist Poland made in us a urge to creating something, that will manifest our fresh, shiny energy, in-mind power, our new way of living, of understanding. We wanted to make something that will show to whole world that guys from Poland can do something valuable, and we are not worse than rest of the world. Nowadays we are proud to say, that Poland has one of the brightest prog and art rock bands in the world.

HellHaven

How would you describe your music in one word?

Peculiar.

Have you thought about employing any traditional instruments in your songs? I am asking this because „Beyond the Frontier“ is quite eclectic release? Any space for some classical elements in your music? Maybe soprano singing?

We wanted to do it, but our friend, Ryszard Kramarski (leader of polish art rock band Millenium), who watched over technical aspect of our recording session, said very wise words, that this album will be the better, the less people not from the band will be involved. In another words, we’ve decided to make it almost with just our own, HellHaven’s knowledge of making music. Just us, and two violinists to show people what THE BAND can really do. But in the future… yes, we will definitely ask more friends to join us with this great musical adventure.

Are you working on any new songs?

Yes, yes, yes… it is unstoppable process, that makes our life very pleasant. For now, we have two new songs that we are working on. They expand what we’ve done on “Beyond The Frontier” for sure. Those, who are familiar with our unpredictable style, will be glad. People, who like simple, short tracks, will be disappointed. New album will be another “impassable frontier” that we will cross through with a great success, I hope!

How do you see the progressive rock scene in post-2000’s?

Because I live in Poland, I will say something about our scene – from year to year polish prog rock scene is growing massively up. Month after month appears new great bands that really can create beauty music. More and more music editors from all around the world say that Poland is a volcano of great prog rock. We are so proud of that, and proud, that our music is a part of it.

At the end I would like to thank you, that you gave us possibility to present our music, to say a little bit about us, and polish rock. I hope, you will enjoy our newest album. For us the greatest reward is the listener’s smile and shivers on his/her back.

Thank you, stay prog !

Follow us on FB and say hello : https://www.facebook.com/hellhavenband

Ysma

YSMA: Forward-Going Tone Of Progressive Rock

Since I introduced myself to the Munster, Germany based instrumental progressive act Ysma 2 months ago, my enthusiasm for this band kept advancing precipitously. Their debut „Vagrant“ has been on my playlist for quite a while now and having them on Progstravaganza 13 initiated this interview with the band’s guitarist Daniel Kluger.

promo_1_landscape

Introduce yourselves!

Of course! We are four guys between 24 and 34 from Münster and Götingen (Germany) forming Ysma, an instrumental prog band: Fabian and Daniel are playing electric and acoustic guitars, there is Torge on bass and Jens on drums. We have been playing together for four years now and just released our debut record called “Vagrant“ in April.

Outside of the band, we are finishing our psychology studies (Torge, Daniel) or working as a healthcare support worker (Jens) and addiction counselor (Fabian), respectively.

And how would you describe your sound?

The sound on “Vagrant“ is a blend of different styles and genres. We equally like the aggressive, forward-going tone of progressive rock and -metal as well as the more quiet, ambience-focussed moments with a lot of room for each note. Listening to the record, you will find purely acoustic pieces next to loud, dynamic prog songs or the occasional jazz reference. Overall it is not necessarily a modern sound, as our drummer has a jazz background, for example. We also did the whole process of recording, mixing and mastering on our own. Taken together, we combine our ideas of instrumental songwriting with frequently changing dynamics throughout the songs, making sure that progressive elements will not be forced into the tracks at the expense of the atmosphere or the vibe we try to transport.

Where did your name come from? I tried googling it, but all I found was this band from Munster in Germany.

I’ll take that as a good sign ;) The name in fact has no meaning – in accordance with our instrumental approach, we wanted our band name to be a blank projection screen which would not nail us down on a certain theme. Thus, quite pragmatically, we were looking for something distinctive and decided to make up a word whose sound we liked, keeping in mind that it should be fitting to make a nice-looking logo out of it. That is how we came up with the name “Ysma“. However, there seems to be a cartoon character with a slightly different spelling that has no connection to the band at all.

You employ many different genres in your sound, how do you usually label what you do?

We usually go by “(instrumental) progressive rock“. Outside the prog community, even this label is hard to explain to someone listening to our music for the first time, so any further distinction would just make it more difficult.
The different genres that you mention show the various facets of prog or prog-related music that continue to inspire us and that we like a lot, so we kind of instinctively integrate these influences into our own music, as well. That is how there might be jazz-ish elements side by side with hints of progressive metal or fuzzy rock parts. Labelling all of this “progressive rock“ is a good way of being able to do whatever we have in mind without stepping on the toes of people who care about labels a lot more than we do ourselves.

Any bands that influenced you in particular? Is King Crimson one of them?

As in any other band, I guess, there certainly are artists or bands whose styles we particularly like. We have different musical backgrounds, but we all share our admiration for Opeth’s songwriting, for example. Tool, Porcupine Tree, Riverside and Pain of Salvation are other bands that have influenced us in our musical approach, just to name a few. When it comes to the early, classic prog bands, King Crimson would indeed be one the most influential ones to name. I’m pretty sure that if you go back one step and see who has been an example or an influence on the bands that you look up to nowadays, you might come across King Crimson on a regular basis. The fact that their music is still up to date shows you how much there is to extract from the ideas that the early prog bands brought up thirty, forty years ago.

Vagrant

„Vagrant“ is in an instrumental album and I am afraid to ask you what is its story, because the stories are usually told. But anyway, due to many dynamic changes and experimentation, it’s clearly that you want and do say a lot. So, what is that? What are you trying to show with the album?

It is true that stories are usually transported and expressed through the lyrics. In our music, the titles of the songs themselves are thought to suggest a direction of associations or imagery that we think fits in with the atmospheric nature of the respective song. The album does not have one specific concept or theme that is followed throughout, you would much rather find several different ideas expressed from song to song.

For example, the thought behind “Primetime Dreaming“, the shortest track on the record, is the futuristic idea of certain images being implemented in your dreams, so that dreaming becomes tailor-made to the extent that it is fully controllable, hereby losing its very fascination (to us, at least). Accordingly, the atmosphere of the song is dreamful and open in a way, but with a cold undertone. So the titles are not meant to explain everything, but to give you a basic idea of what was behind the music for us. What happens in your imagination while listening to the music is up to you and should not be predetermined by anyone, that’s the beauty of it.

One other thing we especially care about is to leave space within the music. Of course, there are faster and more densely packed tracks, but the dynamic changes – both within and between songs – are an important means of coming to rest, of “breathing“ in some musical manner.

Do you agree that being an instrumental band leaves a more freedom for you to explore, create your own ideas and feelings to the music?

Undoubtedly so. Not only does it free things up for the musicians, but for the listeners, as well. That is exactly what I meant moments ago: without the lyrics, the only thing you have is the music and the title of the track. This leaves a lot of room for interpretation and association, which is great! It enables you (as the listener) to make up your mind about what you personally take from the music.

Another aspect is that instrumental music is such a niche that the people who decide to listen to it usually have a mindset that supports this kind of listening, being susceptible to mental images and connotations. We do like to explore our musical horizons and the feelings that go along with that, which is why it is great to talk to somebody who then tells you that he has been interpreting the theme of a song totally different from your own way of thinking. There is no right or wrong, and this freedom comes from letting the music speak for itself.

Are you working on the Vagrant’s follow-up already? Do you have a clear vision on the next album’s direction or your joker is improvisation?

Yes, we are working on the second record right now, even though it is still in its early stages. There were songs that originally belonged on the first album, but just did not fit due to the length of the record. Additionally, there is a lot of new, unheard material we finished and we are excited to start recording and arranging again.

I would not say we have a clear vision for the sophomore record other than further exploring our style of playing and coming up with new ideas, some of which we have been planning on realising for quite a while now. What has changed in my opinion is that while in the past we used to write separate songs for, say, a heavy and an acoustic or purely melodic idea, we now challenge ourselves to integrate these pieces into a more coherent piece of music that – as a result – is an interplay of different atmospheric ideas. We started this approach a while back, ending up with longer songs that in the end left us much more content from the songwriting perspective. A good example might be “Alan Smithee’s Suicide Note“ featuring a diverse atmospheric spectrum from very laid-back to metal-edged breakouts to melodic soloing.

Ysma

On Progstravaganza 13 you are with the song „The Wanderer“. It’s fuzzy, heavy and melodic in the same time. What can you say about the song?

“The Wanderer“ is the opener and somewhat the title track of our debut record. The artwork shows a man wandering around (“vagrant“) having all kinds of bizarre encounters, e.g. with giant flying jellyfish. “The Wanderer“ can be seen as depicting episodes of his journey, which is why the song lacks a leitmotif (to use a German word): at times this journey may be weird or troubling, another time it may as well be calm, opening up many possible ways to go for us musically. In a sense, this song gives you an idea of what is following up on the album as “The Wanderer“ contains many of the elements that constitute our music: as you say, it is heavy, it is jazzy, it is melodic and somehow comes to an odd conclusion that hopefully makes the listener curious as to what else there is to be heard afterwards.

What’s next for Ysma?

We are currently preparing for our first ever unplugged concert, which is going to take place in an Irani greengrocery’s shop in our home town. Arranging the songs for this occasion gives us the chance to look at the music from a completely different angle, trying new things and just having fun with some of the tunes. Those who already know the songs hopefully will enjoy some of the newer versions we would like to try for the acoustic gig. Changing the instrumentation and bringing in guest musicians is going to highlight new aspects of the material we are very much looking forward to discovering.

The acoustic gig will be in late October. Around the end of the year, we are going to play some concerts promoting “Vagrant“ a little farther from home in front of an audience listening to the music live for the very first time, which will be exciting. Other than that, our focus lies on finishing the songwriting process for album #2 as well as rehearsing, recording and mixing the new pieces – we cannot wait to play the new material on stage for the first time.

Thank you so much for having us on Progstravaganza 13!

Ysma on the web:

http://ysma.bandcamp.com/

https://www.facebook.com/YsmaBand

Aaron Clift And His Experiment

Drawing their influences from the classic of progressive rock and putting them in a blender together with their classical music influences, The Aaron Clift Experiment is exploring the vast and unknown. We got in touch with the band behind this band, Aaron Clift himself, and discussed about the band’s vision, influences and their appearance on our new Progstravaganza sampler.

_516

Progstravaganza: What can you tell us about your beginnings in music?

Aaron Clift: I come from a very musical family – my dad, aunt, and uncle all played piano, and my dad also played French Horn, sang in choirs, and performed in musical theater.  My mom used to play a lot of records for me when I was a baby, so I was exposed to lots of music when I was young.  At age 12, I took up the viola in my school orchestra, and I later learned how to play piano and guitar and sing.

It was also around this time that I first started listening to rock music.  Initially, I was just listening to bands that were popular in the early 90’s, such as Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, and Nirvana, but I soon started listening to a lot of the bands my parents grew up with such as Black Sabbath, Queen, and Led Zeppelin.  In my freshman year of high school, one of my friends introduced me to Pink Floyd’s album, “Dark Side of the Moon.”  For me, it was my first exposure to progressive rock.  Up until that time, the only way I had heard classical music and popular music combined was in songs like “Night on Disco Mountain” and “A Fifth of Beethoven” (my parents had the “Saturday Night Fever” soundtrack and used to play it for me sometimes).  What amazed me about DSOTM was how the songs seamlessly combined the sound of rock music with the formal structure and thematic organization of classical music.  I was hungry for more of this style of music, so I did some research online (quite an ambitious thing to do in 1995!) and got some recommendations on Dream Theater and Genesis.  I ended up buying “Images and Words” and “Selling England by the Pound” all in one day, and that began my still-going love affair with progressive rock!

Progstravaganza: How did The Aaron Clift Experiment originate?

Aaron Clift: I studied music formally at Tufts University.  It was during my college years that I wrote my first rock songs with my band, Attack Plan R.  I also go heavily into classical composing and performance.  Ever since my college experience, I had always dreamed of a way to combine my love of both classical and rock music.

In late 2007, I finally decided to make the dream a reality and started writing some of the songs that appeared on The Aaron Clift Experiment’s debut album, “Lonely Hills.”  Back then, I didn’t even have a band.  All I knew is that I wanted to write classical songs in a rock style.  From 2008 – 2009, my classical pianist friend, Julianne, was helping me out on keyboards, and in 2009, I met future The Aaron Clift Experiment drummer, Joe Resnick, through a producer we both knew.  That fall, the three of us recorded demo versions of “Seven,” “Lonely Hills,” and “My Andalusian Love.”  After listening back to the demos, I realized that there was a hole in the sound that needed to be filled by guitar and bass and that I wanted to record a full album of songs with a real band (rather than continue as a solo artist).  From 2010 – 2011, I wrote the remaining songs that wound up on “Lonely Hills.”  I also bought my Open Labs Neko LX5 keyboard in early 2010 and decided to take over the keyboard duties for the nascent band.  In late 2011, Joe Green joined on bass and Jim Ragland joined on guitar.  With me on keys and vocals and Joe Resnick rejoining on drums, The Aaron Clift Experiment was born.  In early 2012, we rehearsed for about a month, and in February 2012, we went to the studio and recorded “Lonely Hills.”

Progstravaganza: Your music is influenced at large by the leaders of progressive rock genre such Genesis, Pink Floyd, Rush, but there are traces of classical composing of Schubert and Beethoven. Do you think that these two musical directions are in harmony with each other or totally diverse? How does that harmony work in your case?

Aaron Clift: All the members of The Aaron Clift Experiment have extensive training in popular and classical music, so it’s hard for me to imagine us not combining the two genres in our music.  Because I studied classical composition for so many years, I tend to approach songwriting in much the same way an orchestral composer might write a classical work.  I don’t know if this approach is necessarily innovative, but I’d like to think that approaching popular songwriting from a classical angle gives The Aaron Clift Experiment’s music a unique edge that you don’t hear in a lot of rock music.

Lonely Hills

Progstravaganza: Your only album to date is 2012’s, “Lonely Hills,” an exploration within the already mentioned classical and progressive rock genres based around the topics of love and loss. What can you tell us about the creating process of the record?

Aaron Clift: A lot of bands have been playing together for many years before they go and record their debut album.  “Lonely Hills” was kind of the reverse of the typical rock and roll story in that the songs on the album predated the existence of the band that played them.  Our story is more like The Foo Fighters’ – where it started as a solo project that later turned into an actual band.

Because I had already written the guitar, keyboard and vocal parts on the album before the band was formed, putting together the music as a group was mostly a matter of learning the songs from sheet music (if you watch our documentary, “The Making of Lonely Hills,” you’ll see everyone reading from sheet music when we were recording in the studio).  Our producer, Matt Noveskey, was instrumental in helping shape the sound of the album.  We couldn’t have done it without him!

Progstravaganza: “Lonely Hills” features five songs in total, from which the closing, “The Castaway Saga,” is an epic divided in four parts. I am interested to hear the story behind this piece.

Aaron Clift: In early 2010, I re-watched the Tom Hanks movie, “Castaway.”  I hadn’t seen the film since it was in theaters and was still just as impressed with the movie’s storm scene as I was when I saw it for the first time.  I thought it would be interesting to write a song that was inspired by that scene and put a twist on the story by setting the action in the protagonist’s mind and using the storm as a metaphor for the protagonist’s existentialist crisis (kind of also borrowing some influence from Pink Floyd’s, “The Wall”).  When I finished writing “Shipwrecked,” I realized that I wanted to know more about what happens to the song’s protagonist after the storm, so I wrote several other songs that continued the story, and before long, “The Castaway Saga” was born.  Kate Bush’s song suite, “The Ninth Wave,” off of “Hounds of Love” (one of my favorite albums of all time) was also a big inspiration for the story and feel of “The Castaway Saga.”

Progstravaganza: “Arsonist Games” is on our latest Progstravaganza sampler. Besides being included on it, the song is also being featured in a soon-to-be-released horror movie called “Squatch! Curse of the Tree Guardian.” Let us know something more about this. To put it simply, what is the deal with the song?

Aaron Clift: “Arsonist Games” is the only full-band song on “Lonely Hills” that I wrote on guitar first before later adding keys, resulting in a much heavier song than I usually wrote up to that point in time.  The main guitar riffs for the song were influenced a lot by Black Sabbath (you can hear traces of “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath” in the song), which is probably fitting for a song that deals with themes of manipulation and betrayal.

I met Carlos Samudio, director of “Squatch! Curse of the Tree Guardian,” at a networking event in early 2012.  He told me he was looking for a hard rock song for a horror movie about the legend of Bigfoot that he would be directing.  So, I sent him a copy of “Arsonist Games,” and he liked it so much that he decided to include it in the film.  You can check out snippets of the song in the movie trailer, and I’m being told that the song will appear in a climactic part of the film.

Progstravaganza: Besides holding the vocal duties in the band, you also play keyboards. Who is your favorite keyboard player? I am asking you this because you did pretty decent job covering Led Zeppelin’s “No Quarter.” This song is one of my favorites – a piece showing that John Paul Jones is out of this planet.

Aaron Clift: Thanks.  “No Quarter” is one of my favorite Led Zeppelin songs as well.  Playing the song live is a blast and often becomes a centerpiece of ACE’s live show.

My favorite keyboard players is Tony Banks (Genesis).  His solo on “The Cinema Show” was what encouraged me to pick up a keyboard in a rock band.  I also love  Jon Lord (Deep Purple), Ray Manzarek (The Doors), McCoy Tyner, Bill Evans, and Thelonius Monk.

Aaron Clift

Progstravaganza: Name a few albums you keep in a constant loop these days?

Aaron Clift: Lately, I’ve been listening a lot to “Meridian I” and “Meridian II” by Los Angeles-based progressive metal band, Phavian.  ACE did a show with them in July, and I was very impressed by their virtuosic musicianship and detailed compositions.  I’ve also been enjoying some albums by some excellent Austin bands, including “Are You Getting On?” by Blue Cartoon, “Post Future” by Paraguay, and “Super Metal: Edition Z” by Immortal Guardian.  On Pandora Radio, I’ve got James Brown and Isley Brothers  stations for some classic soul music and a Tech N9ne station for some underground hip hop (Tech N9ne’s “All 6’s and 7’s” album always inspires me when I’m feeling like I’m in a lyrical rut).

Progstravaganza: What is the reaction of audience on your music? How much have you been active playing live since the band’s inception?

Aaron Clift: I’m very appreciative of the overwhelmingly positive feedback that The Aaron Clift Experiment has gotten from fans and the media alike.  It’s very exciting to be getting recognition from so many progressive rock fans.  I’ve read Prog Magazine for many years, so being featured in the March 2013 issue of the magazine was a dream come true.

We’re a relatively new band, so up until now, we’ve only played local shows.  However, next year we plan to play our first shows out of Austin, and then hopefully do some touring in support of our second album when that comes out.

Progstravaganza: What the future holds for The Aaron Clift Experiment? Are you already working on new songs?

Aaron Clift: We are indeed working on new songs.  Now that we’ve been together as a band for some time, the new songs are rocking much harder than our older material and are a much more full-fledged band effort.  We expect to premier some of the new songs this fall and hopefully record a second album next year for release in early 2015.  The future is looking very good for the band!

The Aaron Clift Experiment on the web:

http://aaronclift.com/

https://www.facebook.com/AaronCliftMusic

https://twitter.com/aaroncliftmusic

http://www.youtube.com/aaroncliftmusic

https://soundcloud.com/aaroncliftmusic

DIALETO: Based On Improvisation

The fact this Brazilian instrumental power trio, led by guitarist Nelson Coelho, signed for NYC label MoonJune Records to release this year’s “The Last Tribe” speaks enough. Being in a superleague with other great players such Allan Holdsworth, Chad Wackerman, The Wrong Object and other MoonJune artists, Dialeto had a tough task to accomplish and they did it in a heartbeat with “The Last Tribe”.

Dialeto_progtrio

Your new, third album „The Last Tribe“ is also your first on MoonJune Records. How are you satisfied with the release?

Very satisfied, if it wasn’t for Leonardo Pavkovic there will be no album at all, because there is very little interest in this kind of music here in Brazil and Moonjune is making a terrific work promoting us worldwide, we’re getting great reviews in the Prog niche in places we couldn’t imagine otherwise, like Poland, Greece, Croatia, Holland, Korea…

You play instrumental progressive rock with guitar leading the way. How much of your work is based on improvisation, and how much space you set aside for planning the song structures?

Everything is created from some sort of improvisation even the Themes and the Riffs. I start playing and when I find something that I like I separate it and become to elaborate more and more. In terms of song structure I like the simple Jazz approach of “Theme-Improvisation-Theme” and I use it a lot, but there are some songs that asks for something else , Chromaterius and Vintitreis , for instance, then some other parts emerge naturally .

With „The Last Tribe“ you go completely instrumental comparing with your previous work „Chromatic Freedom“. Did you come into a stage where you think that your instruments can tell the story rather than singing about something?

Well, to be honest, I’m much more attracted to the guitar playing than to singing and I think that this is clear in our previous works, the voice plays a small role in the compositions. It just happens that in this new album I didn’t feel the need of this 4th instrument even because I’m using a loop pedal or because Pescara’s touchguitar is filling the space pretty nicely.

Nelson CoelhoWhat can you tell about your guitar technique? It’s obvious that you pay more attention to melody through your soulful solos rather than shredding.

That’s right. I’m not a very technical guitarist, I do have some skills but just enough to express myself and sometimes I may do some very dirty licks that I think it’s much more expressive than if it was perfect and clear. And yes, my main focus when improvising is to create a nice melody with strong emotion attached, so I pay a lot of attention in the articulation of the notes, bends up and down, vibratos, pickings, legatos, slide and pick, pick and slide, whamy bar, all mixed up to work as if the guitar was a character speaking in a language that you may not understand but you can feel the intention and the emotion very well.

There is King Crimson in traces in the sound of „The Last Tribe“, referencing „The Power to Believe“ album. Which artists influenced your work on this album? What are some of your all-time favorite albums?

King Crimson was always a great influence for us, but there are lots of other influences as well and I couldn’t tell if there are some specific influences on this album. The influences are always unconscious and mixed up in these so many years of music listening. As my personal influences I’ll say: Jimi Hendrix, Frank Zappa, KC, Robert Fripp, Brian Eno, Mahavishnu, Santana, Jeff Beck, Allan Holdsworth, UK, Pink Floyd, Yes, Genesis, Mike Oldfield, Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Bela Bártok, Stravinsky, Bach, Ligetti and many others.

Some of my all-time favorite albums would be: King Crimson – Red, Larks Tongues in Aspic and Starless and Bible Black; Frank Zappa – Shut up and Play Your Guitar, Zoot Allures, Grand Wazoo, Joe’s Garage; Jimi Hendrix – Are you Experienced, Band of Gypsys, Electric Ladyland; Fripp & Eno – No Pussyfooting (this is a masterpiece); Brian Eno – Another Green World, Before and After Science, Music for Films; Pink Floyd – Ummagumma, Wish You Were Here; Mahavishnu – Birds of Fire; Santana and John Mclaughlin – Love Devotion and Surrender; Mike Oldfield – Tubular Bells, Ommadawn, Hergest Ridge; Jeff Beck & Jan Hammer Group Live; Led Zeppelin – everything except “In Through the Out Door”; Deep Purple – Machine Head, Deep Purple in Rock, and this is really important, Captain Beyond’s 1st album.

Well… There is a lot of albums, hehehe, sorry.

tlt

Prog rock and progressive music in general are the subject of many debates. How do you see the evolution of the genre? Does it need to change? Do you think that a lot of today’s progressive music is about musical virtousity and not about actual bringing something new?

Well, frankly, I don’t care that much about the genre discussion, it’s not that I wanted to do. Prog music or fusion or whatever, it just happens that the music that I like to play is usually catalogued under this genre and sometimes, in Dialeto’s case is Heavy Prog or Fusion or Art-rock or Hard Prog. But, thinking about the original meaning of progressive music I think it should really bring something new, something that you have never listened before, something that you probably will not understand at first listening and will be very curious about what’s happening. That’s what I felt when I first listened to Larks Tongues in Aspic back in the 70’s and more intensively with Fripp & Eno’s “No Pussyfooting”, this one took me many listening to fully understand and appreciate but then it really opened a new door of perception for me. In that vision it’ll be very hard to find some real progressive music these days. There are bands that try to emulate Yes, Genesis, Floyd, ELP, KC , which I think is a really bad idea, there are bands that focus on virtuosity as you said, which is legitimate and sometimes cool but often boring and soulless as well, and there are bands like Dialeto that just deal with musical concepts traditionally associated with Prog, such as odd time signature, dissonances, exotic scales, moods and textures, which is not usual in the mainstream but not necessarily innovative by itself. In “The Last Tribe” the only song that I think may be considered progressive in these terms is “Chromaterius” , you’ll need to listen to it many times to fix the chromatic melodies in your memory. Another Dialeto’s song in that same page would be “Divided by Zero” from “ Chromatic Freedom” it takes some time to understand the main riff and its form. I love that feeling of strangeness.

„Windmaster“ opens your new album and also this is a song you chose for the Progstravaganza sampler. It kicks off with a very nice melody and keeps the pace steady all the time during its almost six and half minutes. What does this song mean to you as a composer/performer? Does it give you any special feeling when you are playing/listening to it?

As a composer I’m very happy with the main theme which constitutes a long melody that has many well articulated parts that brings a nice sense of movement and seems to tell a little story. Then, as a performer, there is the improvised solo that evolves in different parts and then grows and grows..and then grows a little more. I like that adventurous intensity very much.

What does the art cover for „The Last Tribe“ mean?

I’m also a 3D artist so, this image (which some critics hated so much) was created as part of an animated short movie for the song “The Last Tribe”. The characters are members of a hypothetical tribe that are facing its own extinction. In this very dark ambient that they are living they find this very curious and luminous bird that came from the moon. The bird will lead them to a place where they will see their future. The movie is in production but…well…it will take some time to finish.

Last five albums you listened to:

Espectro – Violeta de Outono
Copo D’Água – Rainer Tankred Pappon
Conjure – Herd of Instinct
Burden of Proof – Soft Machine Legacy
Heritage – Opeth

and, of course, all Moonjune Sampler and Moonjune Recommends digital albuns.

What the future holds for Dialeto?

Maybe we should also follow the luminous bird to see our future. But the plan for now is to play live everywhere, some Prog Festivals would be really nice.

Thank you very much Nick and Prog Sphere team for the questions.

Cheers,
Nelson

Dialeto online:

http://www.dialeto.org/

http://dialeto.bandcamp.com/

Eva Morelli

Interview With Eva Morelli Of Ornithos

Italian heavy prog band Ornithos was formed in 1999, but due to the employment with other projects and bands they released their first album in 2012. Unlike many other bands cominng from Italy, with „La Trasfigurazione“ Ornithos brough different approach to a genre emerged in their home country during 70’s, employing heavy factor in their music. This year brings another release, single called „Invettiva al Potere“, from which we featured a song on our new Progstravaganza sampler. That was a reason to talk with the band’s flutist/saxophonist Eva Morelli.

prova-definitivo4

Your music is largely based on heavy groove with tons of other elements coming from different genres. Heavy (even thrash) metal crossed with progressive rock, I would say it’s pretty inventive. How do you maintain cohesion on these diverse music styles?

We have a very eclectic musical character, and in the compositions we tried to merge the different kinds of music mainly based on the content and what we wanted to tell.

The cohesion comes from the mixture of the sounds of each of us that engage in the compositions of Diego Petrini, the union between the seventies prog, soul and jazz, metal and funk and the new sound of modern rock is our main goal!

It’s interesting that Ornithos predates Il Bacio Della Medusa, but your first album „La Trasfigurazione“ appeared in 2012. Why did you wait that long with the release of your debut, knowing that the band was formed in 1999?

The band is the brainchild of Ornithos Diego Petrini and Federico Caprai, with the desire to create music based on improvisation and experimental sound.

After several collaborations from 1999 to 2002, the project was temporarily shelved for the birth of the band Il Bacio della Medusa, which unlike Ornithos did not have an improvisational character, but united rock, prog songwriting and compositions typically Italian.

In 2007, the project was finally taken Ornithos with the entrance on the staff of me on flute and sax. Following a number of auditions come to work in the project Simone Morelli (guitar), Maria Giulia Carnevalini (vocals) and A. De Caesar (lead guitar on La Trasfigurazione).

The band brings us to the recording of the album La Trasfigurazione (2012) and the single CD Invettiva al Potere (2013).

Ornithos-La-Trasfigurazione

How much of RPI heritage you implement in your music? It seems unavoidable for a band coming from Italy not to include elements of this genre that emerged back in 70’s. What is your take on it?

The musical legacy of the great experimenters of Italian progressive rock was accepted and absorbed into our musical DNA.

Area, as well as Arti&Mestieri, Dedalus, Allusa Fallax, Goblin and Pholas Dactylus have contaminated our musical taste; however, a large swath of influences comes from listening to the great American music (from the blues and jazz roots up to the big Zappa) and of course the English Prog of Camel, Affinity, Colosseum, King Crimson… and the whole school of Canterbury!

The Ornithos logo includes the ibis, which symbolizes Thoth, the Egyptian god of knowledge, music and time. How does this reference to your music?

Knowledge, Music and Time are the pillars that support our music will inspire and most of our lyrics and compositions.

In particular, the search for inner awareness was the first theme of La Trasfigurazione, and continues to be of great importance for us. Music and Time then are our lifeblood!

Would you introduce us to the concept story of La Trasfigurazione“? The interesting fact about this concept story is, to paraphrase my colleague Raffaella Berry,unlike many albums that share similar features, the concept is mainly conveyed through music rather than singing. Why did you decide to abandon this conventional way of telling the story and change it for a soundscape attitude?

Since our main interest of musicians has always been to tell images in music we preferred to create a musical texture that accompany the listener, guiding on our journey through the development of of instrumental compositions.

In it you embed the gems of lyrics that enhance all of the musical path, without removing the possibility of imagining to the listener…

More and more bands are searching for the ways to consolidate traditional music styles with modern, but there are not many of them that actually succeed in it. However, Ornithos proves opposite. What is your secret?

Secret? We have no secret! We only want to play our music with energy and above all expressing our style!

It’s very difficult today to think about creating something totally new, so the only way forward is to create its own sound and a personal… And we believe we have succeeded!

2013 brings a new music in the shape of “Invettiva al Potere“, single comprised of three songs in total, with title track in two versions (short and long) and acoustic version of “This is What We’ve Got – The Flute Song“ extracted from “La Trasfigurazione“. Where do you think this new music is taking you, in terms of the band’s evolution?

The sound of „Invettiva al Potere“ was, in our opinion, the perfect way to express our outrage at the degeneration of Institutions and Society.

In the first part, “La Caduta dei Giganti” the music is bloody and tight, while in the second part of “Meritocrazia” the sound changes dramatically, becomes more progressive and experimental with quick changes of time until you get to the climax, where flute and guitar cry a willingness to change!

copertina invettiva

Anything you could tell us about “Invettiva al Potere“ song which is the part of our new Progstravaganza sampler? What are you talking about in its lyrics?

The lyric of “Invettiva al Potere” says primarily the desire to destroy the current system headed by the “Giants” (symbol of the established power and untouchability of those who continue to move the Economy and Wars for centuries).

Emerge from the mud the Death squads
The death of the masterminds behind the Wise revealed
It ergon masters and false political…”

The second part of the text is a message of hope: remove the old political order with a new global reality, incorruptible, meritocratic, that encourages artistic expression and that does not stifle the individual taking it or to isolate themselves or to comply with the mass …

Giants fall from their residences
It restores the artist and with him his dignity …”

I can’t not mention Il Bacio Della Medusa, with whom you released “Deus Lo Vult“ last year after 7 year break. How are you satisfied with the album’s reception?

In our opinion Deus Lo Vult is, without detracting from the previous ones, the best record of the BDM, as it captures the spirit of the rock band.

Lyrics and music are perfectly balanced and there is no voltage drop across the concept! In response to some criticism made ​​to us on the duration of the album that we believe are often used in the field of musical wanderings prog unnecessary, often harmful to the ultimate success of the work, which aim only to increase the playing time but not the content. Quality, not quantity!

Eva Morelli

Recommend us some new progressive rock artists from Italy that we should check out.

Well, I don’t know, really… The problem is that many groups emulate those who have preceded us in the Golden Age of Music. Most often stifle the personal character of the bands of today.

What are your future plans with Ornithos?

We are laying new compositions for the next album, but the main goal is to present our songs around the various festivals and live music club! Even in the context of progressive rock has exploded the phenomenon of tribute bands that clog the market live and do not contribute to creating musical innovation and new perspectives of cultural growth. The ones who manage the live music events should think a lot about all this.

Is there anything you would love to add that I didn’t cover in my questions?

I just want to underline the great value that we have always given to the artwork of our album: Federico Caprai care pictorially the execution of each cover, as I have always worked on the graphics, both in Ornithos that in BDM.

For printing of the CD Invettiva al Potere my brother and guitarist Simone Morelli and I have collaborated on the layout, while the artwork (fusion between painting and photography) is the work of Federico!

Thank you very much for taking the part on our compilation. Keep up the great work!

Thanks to you all and enjoy our music!

Ornithos online:

http://www.ornithos.it/

https://www.facebook.com/ornithosfreeformusic

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.

prova-definitivo4

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.

SONY DSC

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/