Tuesday, December 16, 2014


Welcome to my final post of 2014 fellow progheads!  Genuine heartfelt thanks to you and your families as preparations for Christmas and the ringing in of 2015 kick into "serious" mode.  My original plan was to make the final stop of the 2014 leg of my journey a domestic one, but I have a terrible track record for sticking to plans.  With that said, I have taken the Concert Closet for her last ride of the year, landing in the now familiar and comfortable confines of the United Kingdom...lots of prog happening here as I touch down in Sheffield for a visit with and a listen to Haze.

I recall stating in a previous post I was searching for all things "off the beaten path prog."  Haze fits that bill perfectly--they have been around almost 40 years and have remained an underground favorite of the prog world.  Haze calls themselves "...classic, folk, and prog rock..."  An interesting combination of flavors; a buffet too enticing to pass up.  I thought it might be more appealing to focus on their latest release, an album called "The Last Battle."  So let the prog feast begin!

In a skewed attempt at keeping with the spirit of the season, my first takeaway from the buffet this week is a song called "Balder and the Mistletoe."  The music comes at you right away from all directions, hitting you with Celtic sounds, stinging keyboards, and understated drum work.  The flute is a brilliant top note that carries you delicately across the prog soundscape.  Strong influences of Jethro Tull and early Genesis bolt right through the heart of this piece.

Serving number two is a mood setter called "The Barrister and the Bargast."  Haze does a tremendous job of painting a medieval scene with music...guitars, flutes, and drums all flailing about in a mad joust, each prodding the other like siblings when Mom is out of the room.  The music has a majestic feel; the vocals cut through the sound like a cleaver through a goose's neck--hard, fast, and definite. This is prog at its hearty best, throwing seeds throughout the prog garden so as to establish roots all across the genre.

Liner Notes... As I stated earlier, Haze calls Sheffield, UK home.  Thirty-plus years in the prog garden has allowed Haze to gather a loyal underground following as the band meandered down several tangents.  The current line up for this release consists of Paul McMahon on guitar, bass, and vocals, brother Chris McMahon on guitar, bass, keyboards, and vocals, Paul Chisnell on percussion and vocals, Ceri Ashton on whistle, flute, cello, viola, and clarinet, and sister Catrin Ashton playing fiddle and flute.  A double family affair that makes for a captivating listen and continues to expand as Paul McMahon's son Danny occupies the drum stool for live performances.

Haze may zig-zag across the prog garden and back again, but their main acreage is tilled in the classic section populated by Led Zeppelin, Jethro Tull, and Uriah Heep among others.  I pick up top notes of Atomic Rooster and perhaps a hint of Yes--Haze tends to grip the iron hammer with a velvet glove.

My third and final platter from the buffet this week is a beautiful tune called "Grey to Blue." Remaining loyal to the early sound that wraps this album like a silk robe, there is an upbeat tempo wafting from the earphones as guitar and drum sit just below smooth vocals held up by the right amount of flute and fiddle to keep the entire piece buoyant.  Haze pounds the medieval anvil with a blacksmith's genius, making for a modern-day metal sound capable of ebbing and flowing with the mood of the artists.

The clip posted below is called "Classic Rock Bar."  The opening is almost cathedral-like; more strong hints of Jethro Tull and a slight top note of The Band oddly enough.  Haze uses every bit of imagination they can muster when writing and performing, something I wish more bands had the ability to pull off this well.  An upbeat tempo and strong harmonizing make this piece a celebratory inspiration.  Haze has traipsed across the prog garden and back, gathering inspiration from many different areas.  The wisdom that comes with age shines through as Haze is able to take all that learning, knowledge, and talent and press it into one impressive disc.  Learn more about Haze at
http://www.reverbnation.com/HazeUK and follow them on Twitter @ChrisTreebeard .

Well my fellow progheads, the calendar has wound down...the alarm has rung for the final time...fifty-two weeks are in the rear-view mirror.  Haze was a fantastic ending to a splendid year--a sign that we have only scratched the prog surface.  While I am stunned at how fast 2014 flew by, I am twice as energized about what is in store for 2015.  The Concert Closet logged many a mile traveling the world in search of all things prog, and there were some great experiences on every continent.

With the holidays upon us I am grounding the Concert Closet to spend time with family and friends--and dig up some new ideas for the coming year.  Expect new prog discoveries, more interviews, and a Concert Closet full of excitement as we charge 2015 head-on!  I will be back posting on Tuesday January 13th.  Thanks for making 2014 a great year...see you around the bend and remember to Prog On!

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