Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Luz Negra

Welcome back fellow progheads!  The Memorial Day weekend officially marks the beginning of "Summer 2015" and I have been trying to find a creative way to embrace the sun and fun.  Breaking out the sunscreen, I decided to take the Concert Closet to new territory in my search for all things prog.  This week I get to place a new marker on my "world prog map" and explore another side of progressive rock.  What better time than now to travel south of the border to Mexico City and get in a prog groove with the dynamic sounds of Luz Negra.

Luz Negra has been making progressive music for twenty years and in their own words are "...a progressive jazz-rock band dedicated to making music at the highest level in the country..."  I respect a band setting the bar that high; now let us determine if Luz Negra meets their own standard...

I open the buffet with a silky aperitif called "Danza de Kukulkan." The song opens as if I stumbled across an impromptu jam session; each player feeling the other out and raising the stakes just a bit. Then  the mood changes as the guitar begins to drip like honey; melting across your mind like falling into hot tea...all the while drums are keeping a beat with an understated bass line holding everybody in check.  Luz Negra feels like your favorite sweater on a cool October Saturday--comfortable and always ready to warm you through.  I pick up top notes of Phil Manzanera and Al DiMeola in the guitar playing, with aromatics of early Thin Lizzy wafting through as well.  Luz Negra is almost chameleon-like in the way they change tempo, time, and mood...

Serving number two for the prog-hungry is called "Balada de los 9 Senores del Tiempo."  Almost immediately I pick up a retro groove, as if this song were a '50s cover.  The guitar is as smooth and slick as stainless steel while the drums lead a torrid pace throughout.  Bass keeps up fine, thank-you very much.  Luz Negra channels Carlos Santana on this piece as they sway back-and-forth riding an emotional swing...inspiring and uplifting all at once.

Liner Notes...residing in Mexico City, Luz Negra is the creation of founding member/guitarist Fausto Abaroa Mac Donough.  Fausto is joined by Andres Rodriguez Razo on bass, Carlos De Santos Arellano on second guitar, and Contreras Jose Enrique Villasenor on drums.  Luz Negra came to be in 1996 as a workshop for composition and improvisation--two mainstays of progressive music--and in 1998 released their first album.  In the seventeen years since Luz Negra has released three more albums and is currently working on their fifth production.

Looking the buffet over for my final morsel, I discover a little gem called "El Espiritu del Agua."  A very soothing piece of music; you can feel the guitars creep into your mind while the methodical drums push past your conscious thought and soak into the soft tissues of your inner being.  Luz Negra has cultivated acreage in the prog garden where the soil is extremely rich, fertile, and deep.  You will want to take off your shoes and walk barefoot through the growth, exploring all the sights and sounds Luz Negra has to offer.

I chose the clip below, "Adagio," to post for your listening pleasure because it offers so much in a mere 5:27.  The soothing guitar, soft as down drumming, and therapeutic overtones carry you to your happy place and wash away all the anxiety and stress the day manages to throw at you.  Learn more about Luz Negra at http://grupoluznegra.wix.com/prog.  You will also find their music on Spotify, YouTube, and iTunes.  Luz Negra is on Twitter, @grupoluznegra and Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Luz-Negra/903674499648085.  Feel free to listen, relax, repeat...

I hope this little excursion brought a touch of tranquility your way as reality seeps into this holiday-shortened work week fellow progheads.  Luz Negra paints with a subtle yet definite stroke; nothing left to chance, yet everything seems so spontaneous and relaxed.  The prog garden has many a plot that does best when not over-tilled, and Luz Negra shines brightly in that shade.  With Mexico now entrenched on my GPS in the search for all things prog, I feel the urge to continue looking for new discoveries.  As the summer heats up, so too does the search...until next week...

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Flies Are Spies From Hell

Greetings from the Concert Closet fellow progheads!  Having taken off from Verona, Italy after an incredible week with LogoS, I felt the need to go cerebral once again...this time with a dark ambient/metal twist.  Of course, most mood swings tend to lock my GPS on a course for the UK...so no big surprise that the Concert Closet is heading back to the land of castles and royalty as the search for all things prog moves head-long toward a seven day session with Flies Are Spies From Hell.

Flies Are Spies From Hell views the world from a distinct and unique...let's say atypical perspective; they refer to their sound as "...brooding and uplifting piano-led instrumental post-rock..."  A very different bio from what comes off as a very different band.  Being the inquisitive sort that I am, a glimpse behind this curtain is a must.  Taking  a few cautionary steps at first, I venture to the buffet for a first course of "Underdog Underfoot."  The initial keyboard hit lands like that first scotch on a cold Saturday night--burning a hole right through your innards.  Flies Are Spies brews a concoction with strong aromas of Opeth and Fire Garden blended with top notes of Atomic Rooster, Uriah Heep, and early Jethro Tull.  The mood is extremely somber and brooding; you can feel the emotion like hot embers melting through the backside of your ears--the parts not usually exposed to the sun.

Going back for more, I find an interesting morsel being served called "Glass Light Shatters."  Once again the brooding/uplifting piano sweeps across the landscape, filling your mind with terrestrial images...think Pegasus galloping majestically through the stars.  Flies Are Spies has a way of captivating the listener with the ivories--but listen closely as drums and guitars fill out a sound that envelopes you in a web spun from dark silk.

Liner Notes...Flies Are Spies From Hell believe in keeping things simple and vague...the band consists of Chris and Will on guitar, George on bass, Fred on keyboards, and Watty on drums.   Flies Are Spies originally formed in 2004 and at one time had  a vocalist--those recordings would be fascinating to listen to.  Flies Are Spies hail from London/Southeast England and seem to prefer keeping  a low profile--letting the music speak not only for itself, but also for the band.  It is not often I stumble across a band whose first impression is that of aloofness and a light-hearted approach to the universe, yet are serious and just so damn good when performing.

Tasty tidbit number three from the buffet is a song called "Nerves Still Beating."  The music creeps into your head slowly and unassuming, much like a stranger happening upon a body outside a bar at 3am.  But then everything changes--the mood, the tempo, the colors on the palette--everything.  A sudden burst of energy punches its way through, intermittently forced to pause while a nervous tranquility invades the inner space of normalcy.  Flies Are Spies are masters at multi-tasking; they walk/run/scream/whisper all the while knowing they are simply toying with your emotions.  I detect an ever-so-slight flavor of Flim and the BB's if they were dark and brooding as well as mysterious. Learn more about Flies Are Spies From Hell at http://www.fliesarespiesfromhell.co.uk/.  You can download and purchase their music at http://fliesarespiesfromhell.bandcamp.com/music.  Don't forget to follow them on Twitter, @Fliesarespies and of course the ever popular Facebook https://www.facebook.com/FliesAreSpies?fref=ts.  Me?  I plan on listening to Flies Are Spies From Hell long past this seven day sojourn...

The clip posted below is called "Hammer Without Hand."  I chose this piece because in the realm Flies Are Spies travels, this is a toe-tapper.  They come at you with everything they have deliberately and methodically...almost as if daring you to guess their next move.  Flies Are Spies occupy acreage in a section of the prog garden reserved for the intentional thinker...and it sits right next to a deep reflecting pool...

That wraps up another entry in my search for all things prog--and what a week it was!  Flies Are Spies From Hell reminded me (once again) to never assume I have heard all that prog has to offer. The lens through which Flies Are Spies views the prog garden may be tinted a dark hue--but it is far from gray and foreboding.  The most opportune time to expand your prog horizons is the exact moment you start believing the glass not half full--it's spilling over.  There is always room for another perspective, and I hope I never lose the yearn to discover it.

And just to make sure I keep that zest alive, it is time to pack up the plantation and take the Concert Closet on another deep search for all things prog...until next week...


Tuesday, May 12, 2015


Warm mid-May, post-Mother's Day greetings fellow progheads!  Enjoyed our time in Latvia; Theatrum pushed the needle closer to red than it had been for a while.  Keeping the heart rate up and the tempo on high, let us venture down another tangent path in the search for all things prog. Looking for a sound that is robust and energetic, I put the Concert Closet on course for a rendezvous in Italy, a place I have not visited for a while.  With calendar, head, and auditory canals cleared, I am eager to spend the proceeding seven days wrapped in the ornate sounds of LogoS.

Originally formed in 1996, LogoS refers to themselves as "...an Italian progressive rock band." Always one to appreciate the simplicity of straightforwardness, I relish the opportunity to once again spend quality time in "The Boot" savoring robust Italian Prog cuisine--so let's not waste time.  My first portion from the prog feast is a captivating piece called, "L'enigma Della Vita."  The song opens as if being tuned in from the past...the radio static leading the listener through time capsules bursting with snippets of guitars, drums, and keyboards.  Each blast has its own mood and emotion, washing over your ears like waves on a rocky shore.  Seems like my trip to Italy is turning into "un favoloso sette giorni."

That was a full plate--but there is always room for more when it's this good...serving number two is an elaborate tune called "In Fuga."  Coming out of a somber, mellow opening, strong keyboards bully their way through some fine guitar work.  The song is high energy and runs laps around the inside of your mind as if searching for a safe haven.  The high intensity is akin to a street chase where you aren't sure who the good guys are--you just know you gotta run.  The mood swells as you feel yourself being drawn deeper into the maelstrom.  Brimming with top notes of Transatlantic, The Alan Parsons Project, and a splash of Rick Wakeman's extravagant keyboards, LogoS is a superb blend of new and classic prog.

Liner Notes...LogoS hails from Verona, Italy and is currently comprised of Fabio Gaspari on bass and vocals, Luca Zerman on keyboards, organ, and vocals, Claudio Antolini on piano, keyboards, and synthesizers,  and Alessandro Perbellini on drums.  As stated previously, LogoS came together in 1996, starting their quest as a progressive rock cover band.  Styling themselves after some of the leaders of the genre--namely King Crimson, Genesis, and Jethro Tull, LogoS began to realize the strength of their own music...and thus began an almost twenty year journey of discovery.  Critical praise, a growing fan base, and sheer determination led LogoS down a path in the prog garden that proved quite fruitful. Planting seed in the operatic,  metal, dark, and cerebral sections of the garden, LogoS have proven themselves to be quite adept at change and adaptation.

My final take-away from the prog buffet this week is an understated song called "In Principio."  LogoS has an uncanny ability to perform a flamboyant piece without too much fanfare and bling while giving the listener a full-blown majestic serving of absolute beauty.  The soft guitars and velvet-like keyboards are brightened with drumming that sits just below the surface so as not to step on vocals that walk across your head in satin slippers...this song is as soft as down and silky-smooth as the caramel center of your favorite chocolate...wrap yourself in it and melt away...

The clip below is a majestic piece called "Pioggia in Campagna."  Listen as the keyboards take you on a trek through darkness into light.  LogoS lives in the Rod Serling section of the prog garden; maximizing sight, sound, and mind.  The performance is seamless as everything blends together, resulting in a piece of music that pierces the prog veil without so much as a whisper...it just continues on toward a finish designed to make you wonder where the previous ten-plus minutes went.
Learn more about LogoS at http://www.logosprog.it/index.html.  You can also follow them on Twitter, @logosprogband and of course Facebook https://www.facebook.com/logosprog

One more week, one more prog stone overturned...and one more prog band exposed to the light. Spending the week in Verona with LogoS has broadened my appreciation for the theatrical side of progressive rock.  Listening to LogoS, I cannot help but wonder with youthful innocence what fun it would be to hear Brian Eno play just one set with these guys...No Pussyfooting indeed.  LogoS can be over-the-top, blindingly bright, sullenly dark, and splendidly complex...isn't that the beauty of prog?  The ability to think outside the box, play outside the norm, and push the boundaries outside the possible.

As the days begin to grow noticeably longer, I continue my search for all things prog, looking to find yet another unrealized gem in the rich soil of the prog garden...until next week...


Tuesday, May 5, 2015


Long distance greetings and heartfelt thanks for coming back one more time fellow progheads!  Last week was a thrill and got my prog juices flowing...but now my mood is shifting and I have a hankering for something hard-fitting, fast, and distinct.  Although I've taken the Concert Closet across most of the dry land incorporating this planet, this week I get to stick a new location pin into the proverbial prog-tracking map.  Welcome to Latvia and the hard-hitting sounds of Theatrum.

Theatrum is direct and straight to the point...their bio describes them as a "...Latvian progressive metal band."  Time to find out if their music is as "cut-to-the-chase" and succinct as their Twitter page.  Stepping immediately to the prog buffet for a little "Latvian cuisine," I am hit head-on with a song called "Contemptible."  The music opens in a hard-driving mood; strong horns, drums that hammer the inside of your ear canals, and guitars that wrap themselves around the entire piece create a ramrod designed to penetrate deep.  When the vocals materialize you feel ready for battle. Theatrum takes you through so many time changes, mood swings, dark alleys, and brightly lit auditoriums with this piece you are dizzy, wired, and pumped for more all at once...make no mistake fellow progheads; this will be a fierce week...

Moving with a more cautious yet excited gait, I step up for serving number two--a huge hit of "In Pursuit of Time."  Just as I suspected--an immediate drop kick to the chest.  Theatrum hits hard and fast, and seem to prefer coming at you from the shadows.  A quick jab here, an uppercut there, and before you realize it the blows are coming from all directions.  The strong female voice is both startling and refreshing; one thing prog does not have an abundance of is female vocalists.  The vocals intertwine themselves with  strong guitar and thumping drums nicely.  The mood suddenly changes about four minutes in but don't worry--your blood pressure will soon rise again as a blistering cacophony sweeps you out to sea...

Liner Notes...Theatrum hails from Riga, Latvia..one of the three Baltic States.  Yes, the prog garden has deep roots, with tentacles that penetrate the entire planet and sprout strong growth throughout the world.  Comprised of Inessa Verebe on vocals, Vitaly Ganya on bass and keyboards, Ugis Kampars and Arturs Liede on guitars, and Alberts Mednis on drums, Theatrum began making their mark on the prog world in 2011. The growing pains and maturation of the band led to some personnel changes, climaxing with the line-up listed here.  Theatrum continues to flex their prog muscle; one EP currently out and a full-length album in the works.  I sense strong growth in the metal acreage of the prog garden as Theatrum gains momentum and bursts through with a stalwart career.

My final serving this week is another heavy hitter, "Severe Fall."  The distant hammer behind the searing guitar opening is but a precursor to the strength of Inessa's vocal chords.  This song creeps into your head and slings fists in every direction.  Listen to the sense of urgency as the drums take you down a rabbit hole of dark desperation...but listen deep and you feel reason and wisdom rise above the chaos and mayhem.  A slight fooling of your senses as Theatrum leads you to the precipice of despair, only to pull you back--just in time.

My clip of choice to introduce you to Theatrum's "dark/thought provoking" side is a song called "Theater of Lies."  The strong opening guitar riff takes off in all directions while the drum is strong enough to keep you on the path.  Theatrum is the kid in the school yard who likes to thump his chest and act tough, but look past the bravado and there is character and an intelligence level worth investigating.  Learn more about Theatrum at https://www.draugiem.lv/theatrum.  You can hear and purchase their music at http://theatrum.bandcamp.com/ and of course follow the band on Twitter @TheatrumBand and Facebook https://www.facebook.com/TheatrumBand

What started as an idea to to write a prog metal opera culminated in a band with strong top notes of Dream Theater, Opeth, and Radiohead.  Add a dash of Beardfish and aromatics of KTU, and you have yourself one helluva prog metal stew!  Theatrum is not for the faint of heart--but they are for the strong-willed.  With a determination that metal does not have to hit hard simply for the sake of hitting hard, Theatrum swings a hammer designed to arouse rather than disturb.  Shades of darkness seem to cover the canvas, but look closely at the shading...lots of grays, reds, and blues bleeding together, creating an intensity of light.  Inessa has a voice that cuts through the bone of the drums and cartilage of the guitars...penetrating deep into your auditory senses.

The search for all things prog has broken new ground this week; I need to get a bigger map so as to track all the miles logged, countries visited, and locations where progressive music holds its own. You've heard it before so what the heck, I'll say it again...prog is alive and well and the garden is filled with new and exciting varietals.  Of course my search for all things prog prevents me from staying put too long and rather encourages travel, so...until next week...