Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Bent Knee "Land Animal"

Welcome back once again fellow progheads!  And for those of you entering the Closet Concert Arena for the first time, thanks for stopping in!  The "2017 Album Review Tour" continues on as the search for all things prog checks in with a band  occupying acreage in the prog garden few artists have entered.  Bent Knee has recently released their new album "Land Animal" and I have had the pleasure of listening to it these past 168 hours.
Bent Knee has graced the Closet Concert Arena more than once; since unearthing this band I have been listening intently and falling deeper into their sound.  Much the way King Crimson blazed a trail with their debut release--and remain peerless to this day--so too Bent Knee has been forging their own way.  Moving in and out of sub-genres of the prog garden, this is a band you really need to digest fully...each song is an adult dose.  Open that inner door and let a new experience burst through like waves crashing over a catamaran on the open sea...

The albums begins "innocently" enough with a tune called "Terror Bird."  Opening with an almost tribal-like drum beat, Courtney Swain's delicate yet intense vocals float over the top, creating a mood that feels much like Shakespeare's Tempest...and when it hits you--squarely in the forehead--you saw it coming and gladly took the blows.  Bent Knee picked up where they left off; already I feel as though this may be the freshest new sound of 2017.



Next serving from this exotic feast has a jazzy, almost retro feel to it, "Belly Side Up."  This is the type of song that sounds like an oldie the first time you hear it; you get a sense of nostalgia but at the same time you feel as though you have passed through a time warp into some kind of futuristic sound enclave...nothing is recognizable yet everything is familiar.  Bent Knee took a page from Warren Zevon; the music is rampant with dazzling colors and fills the canvas with broad strokes of brightness, while the lyrics, a la "Excitable Boy," are ominous and run skew to the tempo and mood.

Bent Knee wanders the prog garden like Kaa roamed Kipling's jungle...with stealth-like agility always ready to pounce on the unsuspecting.  This album comes at you from so many different angles offering so many different views of the prog garden...and every time you come back for a fresh listen something marvelous and energetic graces your auditory canals.

Liner Notes...Bent Knee is Courtney Swain, Ben Levin, Chris Baum, Jessica Kion, Gavin
Wallace-Ailsworth, and Vince Welch.  The hats they wear are listed in my previous reviews of the band; tonight the focus is simply the music.  Bent Knee originated in Boston, MA when Ben and Vince met in 2005 before attending Berklee.  The rest, as the saying goes, is prog magic.

The band has been busy of late; touring in support of and and celebrating the release of "Land Animal" while keeping everyone updated via Instagram and Twitter.  Bent Knee is rising in the prog world, yet remain well-grounded in the prog garden.  Staying connected with their fans and playing venues that allow them to be as immersed in the crowd as the crowd is in their performance.  Bent Knee isn't a throwback--but they do recall for me a time when prog music was raw, energetic, tangible, and thought-provoking.  This is the music you always knew was buried among the racks in your favorite music store.

One more song to cue up for review; "Insides In."  The cut opens like a dark fairy tale...you sense something hidden from view and are determined to find it.  The subtle drumming and delicate guitar work belie deep lyrics that slice through your thought process like a scythe clearing a wheat field.  Did I mention the storm clouds?  Leading the listener on a dark cavernous journey you never saw coming, intense piano accompanies ominous violin and a resounding drum echoing like painted memories that fade but never fall away...



Purchase "Land Animal" and the rest of the Bent Knee catalog at Bent Knee Music; tour dates and other information can be found there as well.  You will even find their music and merchandise at
Bent Knee BandcampBent Knee iTunes and Bent Knee Googleplay.  You can follow the band on Facebook at Bent Knee FB, Instagram Bent Knee Instagram, and Twitter @bentkneemusic.  Build your collection and make that purchase!  This is music to be savored and appreciated...

This week I go against my own preaching and offer a clip from the new album below.  This piece is called "Holy Ghost" and gives a bit of a glimpse behind the veil that envelopes a band dripping with creativity, vision, and daring...step through and hold on...



That was a bold adventure and I hope you enjoyed it fellow progheads.  Bent Knee is steadily gaining attention and notoriety in the prog garden and everywhere they perform.  Finally a band that accepts the challenge and walks the walk; making every album a new adventure and every song etched into the vinyl an entity unto itself.  Bent Knee is prog music listened to and viewed through an entirely different prism...you need to catch a glimpse for yourself and relish the moment...

...and once again the search for all things prog moves forward.  Meandering through the garden has led to some amazing discoveries, and Bent Knee has been a favorite since I first discovered them last spring.  Allow yourself to be swallowed up by the music, swept away by the sound, and engulfed in endless possibilities...until next time...

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

"Hard Chargin'" with Dreadnaught

Enjoying the heat fellow progheads?  It only gets hotter this week as the search for all things prog takes a bootlegger's turn and makes a fast and furious run through the raucous, disheveled, loud thumpin' section of the prog garden!  Seeing as how summer makes her official entry into 2017 less than 24 hours from now, I thought it only fitting to cruise back to Portsmouth, NH and spend some time proggin' with Dreadnaught...who coincidentally just released their latest album, "Hard Chargin'" last week.



Dreadnaught is the type of prog band that forces you to think long and hard about why you like prog in the first place; they refuse to follow any rules--written or unwritten--that attempt to define the genre.  This is a band that has a simple mission statement: "Listen and Enjoy."  Being self described as "Zappa meets Yes at Willie Nelson's BBQ" should give you a general idea of where the stress level is within the band.  Time to plunge headlong into the music and marinate  a bit...

The first cut on the album is aptly titled "Have A Drink With Dreadnaught" and it leaps through the headphones like a corvette maneuvering a double "S" curve on Mount Everest.  The mood is fast and loose as the band primes your ears and mind for a wild romp through many sections of the prog garden.  Dreadnaught are masters of their craft without all the stuffy hobnobbery...you remember the kid in physics class with the faded Yes T-shirt that always aced the exam?  Well, he started a prog band...

Moving the stylus deeper across the vinyl, I find another interesting nugget; "Gets The Grease."  I am immediately taken to a smoke filled jazz lounge as a piano/sax duet open the piece.  I search the room for the Wurlitzer from which the music is emitting...but alas all I see is the old Victrola...Dreadnaught has an uncanny ability to leap across the prog garden with giant steps yet they are as fleet afoot as a butterfly in a meadow, flitting from song to song as they lead you on a prog journey exploding with sounds, emotions, and exhilaration.

Liner Notes...Dreadnaught is Bob Lord on bass, Justin Walton on guitar,  and Rick Habib sitting behind the drum kit.  A musical trio as diverse and unafraid as a Vietnamese restaurant in Macon GA, Dreadnaught changes tempo, mood, and time signatures much the way Imelda Marcos used to change shoes.  Hailing originally from Portsmouth NH, they have traveled the planet for over twenty years, putting on exhibitions as opposed to mere concerts or shows.  Nothing is simplistic yet everything is fun. Additional musicians on this album include Chris Dow on flute, Andy Happel on violin, and Jonathan Wyman ripping a solo on "That's The Way That You Do It (Your Way)."

Don't be fooled or lulled into a false sense of incoherence; Dreadnaught is comprised of serious musicians who are merely unable and unwilling to take themselves too seriously.  You may not catch yourself singing along, but you will notice an inability to avoid tapping on the dashboard, playing air guitar, or just moving with the beat.  If only Dreadnaught would tour with Adrian Belew; now that would light up the prog garden...



You can purchase "Hard Chargin'" at the band's website Dreadnaught, their record label Red Fez Records' website Red Fez Records, and Dreadnaught's Bandcamp website Dreadnaught BC.  Most of the Dreadnaught library is available on all sites and I implore you to check it out.  You will also find Dreadnaught on iTunes and Amazon. Find out more about Dreadnaught on Facebook at Dreadnaught FB  and try keeping up with them on Twitter @dnaughtmusic .  This is the music your parents warned you about, only to discover that they themselves enjoy the stripped down straightforwardness Dreadnaught invokes with every tune.

One last song for review and it is another dandy; "Express Delight."  This piece sets up camp in the metal section of the prog garden and refuses to play nice.  I pick up strong aromatics of The Sex Pistols and The Clash having a reverb contest as the song opens...and then top notes of Traffic begin to float across the top as mayhem takes a backseat to fine tuning.  Dreadnaught seems to enjoy playing with your senses; all that is missing is the carnival ride through a haunted house with strobe lights wailing to bring this to a rolling boil, and that is the point.  Dreadnaught doesn't want to explode all over the room--the full simmer that keeps your attention is the real fun.



Another review for the prog faithful reaches the end of the disc.  As has become my custom with album reviews, no clip to seduce your listening sensors; 'tis better to purchase the entire album and enjoy within the confines of your home, office, car, boat, backyard, or anywhere you feel the urge to let loose the prog garden magic.

And once again we reach the end of the post...for now.  Dreadnaught was the frozen margarita required to kick the summer prog season into overdrive.  There is so much more new music, great bands, and as yet undiscovered artists lurking throughout the prog garden just waiting for discovery.  Of course I am only too happy to oblige and keep the search for all things prog going full throttle.  In the meantime please enjoy Dreadnaught and all the artists you have discovered here in The Closet Concert Arena.  Until next time...

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Malcolm Galloway "Social Astronomy"

Good morning/afternoon/evening fellow progheads!  These past two weeks with Inside Out Music was nothing short of stellar as the search for all things prog brought you two fantastic new releases from the prog garden.  This week The Concert Closet hosts something a bit different--as is my modus operandi for those new to the Closet Concert Arena.

Malcolm Galloway has graced the the Concert Closet previously...February 2016 to refresh your memory.  Malcolm is the founding force behind Hat's Off Gentlemen It's Adequate; more than just a thinking person's prog band, they have the distinction of possessing the longest band name in the prog garden.  Malcolm is constantly evolving the band and taking bold steps with his music which is but one reason I find myself being drawn to this flame.  Malcolm's latest solo release is called "Social Astronomy" and resides in the minimalist section of the prog garden.  Minimalist interpretation of music and sound has always been intriguing to me; a section of the prog garden where I can find solace and relief from all the skulduggery of the working world...



"Social Astronomy" is a 76 minute piece of music that develops as it plays, musical patterns building on themselves and painting a picture that is as delicate as it is intricate.  Much like Philip Glass, Steven Reich, and Brian Eno, Malcolm takes the listener on a journey that looks at music and its creation through an entirely different lens.  There is even a sense of Abstract Aprils and Bang On A Can filtering through the headphones...

The album is but a 76 minute plus track moving through sound and building a mood much the way Robert Fripp took the listener on bold adventures during his Frippertronics days.  At the time there was nothing in the prog garden to hold up as a comparison or starting point to relate to; Fripp was venturing into new and uncharted territory.  So too, Malcolm is carving his own trail through the prog garden and "Social Astronomy" is merely a continuation of that trajectory.  While comparing Malcolm's solo work to his musical output with Hat's Off Gentlemen It's Adequate may not be exactly an apples-to-apples comparison, there are striking similarities. Malcolm seems to enjoy tinkering on the logical side of the garden...deconstructing sound as it were and following a different set of instructions to rebuild it in such a way as to lead you on a journey through a crystalline kaleidoscope..mysterious at first but quite remarkable in its simplicity.


This is music for those who want more from their music; nothing here is ever going to make airplay on mainstream radio.  Of course if we are honest and radio sounds are what we chase all the time there would be  no point in traipsing through the prog garden in the first place.  If you are a fan of soundscapes and enjoy music that does not force you to sort through lyrics, wait for the bridge to come around, or keep a steady 4/4 beat, Malcolm Galloway may be a soothing balm for your ears.

Malcolm's music can be found at Malcolm Galloway CD Baby and Hats Off Gentlemen.  He as well as his band also have Facebook pages at Malcolm FB and Hats Off Gentlemen FB, and the proverbial Twitter @itsadequate.  You know how I feel about supporting the artists here in the prog garden, so I will refrain from ranting--if you promise to make a purchase.

The search for all things prog continues to go off on different tangents each week, exposing more music to the loyal prog faithful.  I believe it is important to shine a light on artists, bands, and music that might otherwise be overlooked for no other reason than the arena is crowded.  Both Malcolm's solo work and his music with Hats Off Gentlemen It's Adequate are excellent additions to the prog garden and, while similar, occupy their own acreage. Flying solo Malcolm tends to be more"cranial" while within the confines of a band he flexes and pushes the prog paradigm.  

To say "Social Astronomy" is the thinking man's prog is to sell both the artist and the listener short.  Yes the music tends to bore deeper into the mind, but it does so in a genteel, refined way.  Malcolm challenges the listener to expect more from the music he/she chooses and offers an alternative that drops the gauntlet with a friendly grin.  To accept the dare is to step out of one's routine and into a dimension that is both provocative and encompassing--without being the condescending prude.

The search for all things prog continues to peel away layers of the genre, exposing a multitude of moods, experiences, and styles.  I hope you enjoy...until next week...

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Will Geraldo "Even A Blind Fool Can See"

Warm weather greetings fellow progheads!  My sweaty fingers are sticking to the laptop keys; summer's just about here!  The heat brings out some interesting growth in the prog garden and thus far the blooms are many and varied.  This week the Closet Concert pays a visit to my friend Will Geraldo.  Those of you with a good memory may remember Will was featured in an interview last July discussing his many styles, bands, and influences in the prog garden.  Will has recently released a new EP, "Even A Blind Fool Can See" on the Progressive Gears label.

I have not taken the search for all things prog to Brazil in a while...and the time seems right to make that journey now.  Will wears many hats and has his hands in multiple prog bands; Violent Attitude If Noticed, The Opposite Of Hate, and Death By Visitation of God.  He also has other solo work, but for the next fortnight I am focusing my listening skills on Will's newest release.  "Even A Blind Fool Can See" is a two-song EP so me thinks I will be hitting replay quite a bit...


The title track is the lead-in and a dark, somewhat sultry mood begins to seep through the headphones.  I have been listening to the many sides of Will Geraldo for some time, and I can feel the emotions dripping like honey on a hot biscuit...rolling down the sides and pooling, allowing you to savor the moment a bit longer.    The opening piano, while menacing, seems to be a warning to us all about the danger of turning a blind eye.  The pulsing bass that hits like a determined heartbeat echoes through your head like a deafening silence.  The guitar hits you so delicately you almost miss it...like the warm breeze and bright sunshine that follow a summer tornado...your focus is elsewhere, but you can't help but notice the surroundings.

If there is a message flowing through this song--and I believe there is--it is one of determined triumph rather than aimless hope.  People can no longer sit back and wish for things to turn out right; there is too much at stake.  Will seems to be hitting us over the head with the obvious; step into the arena and be an active part of the solution.  

Following this piece with a cover of Peter Gabriel's "Red Rain" is about as subtle as a twelve car pile-up on the interstate.  Cover songs have long been a conundrum to me; is the artist paying homage to the original, a la Deep Purple with "Kentucky Woman," or is he/she re-inventing the song and thereby owning it as the Talking Heads did with "Take Me To The River."?  With this production Will walks that fine line as he seems to pay homage to Peter's forceful call to action while at the same time bringing a re-invigorated sense of urgency with his cutting vocals and not-so-subtle percussion work.


Liner Notes...Will Geraldo hails from Brazil and is the arranger, composer, producer, and performer on this EP.  Will told me music is his lifeline and he stays constantly involved, trying  in some way to bring his passion to the listener.  That being the case, "Even A Blind Fool Can See" is Will's current soapbox and he has placed it in the middle of the road and refuses to move aside.

There is so much energy leaping from this EP...so many raw nerves Will has exposed with the intention of forcing you to look and react.  This release is a reflection of the world today; vitriol, anger, fear, and frustration on both sides of what has become an almost unbearable argument--and the time is now to bring it to an end.  No matter your feelings one way or the other, basic human decency has been ripped from the norms of society and replaced with threats and violence.  Will has drawn a line in the sand and said enough!  Talk and compassion must replace intolerance and fisticuffs.

With this release Will Geraldo brings a relevance and accountability to the prog garden the way U2 did with their music in the 80's and 90's.  We can--no; we must choose a side and take a stand. Music has been a catalyst for change since I can remember, and the torch is being handed to the next generation. Much the way Buffalo Springfield took it to the streets in 1966 with "For What It's Worth," so too has Will Geraldo called upon the people to put aside the rhetoric and be the change this world needs.

Alas fellow progheads, no clip this week...a two-song EP with this much fervor needs to be purchased!  You can do exactly that and learn more about Will and all the artists on the Progressive Gears label at Progressive Gears Records and the Bandcamp website Will Geraldo BC.  Will can also be found on Facebook Will Geraldo FB and Twitter @Willgeraldo.

Another fortnight come and gone and the prog garden continues to flourish.  The search for all things prog has taken me many places, introduced me to many bands and artists, and has been an absolute thrill these past few years.  To hear the message Will Geraldo is sending through his music is just one more reason to sit back and soak in all the prog garden has to offer.  As I take the Closet Concert Arena on a new journey in the search for all things prog I ask you to listen to the message, purchase the EP, and get involved...until next time...

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Nad Sylvan "The Bride Said No"

Greetings once again fellow progheads!  I trust your experience last week with Rikard Sjoblom and Gungfly was a pleasant one; at the very least you were pushed to the superb side of the pleasure meter, no?  This week I anticipate another triumph of exuberance as Inside Out Records has again asked me to review a new release from their stable of prog masters.  "The Bride Said No"  is the latest from Nad Sylvan and will be available for your purchase May 26th.



Although Nad has had quite a storied career, he is probably best known as the lead singer for Steve Hackett on his Genesis Revisited II album and subsequent tour.  Nad has a remarkable resume that includes time with Agents of Mercy, Unifaun, and some impressive solo work.  However; being asked by Steve Hackett to perform with Genesis Revisited brought Nad and his talents to the forefront, bringing much deserved credit and attention.  "The Bride Said No" is a concept album that picks up where 2015's "Courting the Widow" left off.  So off to the business of reviewing we go...

The album is very ornate and gothic; the heavy keyboards and penetrating guitar work are reminiscent of (ironically) early Genesis.  Nad painted a rather dark piece in 2015 with "Courting the Widow"...a tale that delves into the ominous world of the vampiric and otherworldly.  With "The Bride Said No" Nad takes the story further, goes deeper, and gets more extravagant.

My first cut for review, "The White Crown," leaps immediately into a more medieval time; almost as if a music box is opened and a sinister ballerina dressed in black pirouettes her way through your head.  The keyboards are entwined with guitars throughout as they flow eerily through your auditory canals, ultimately rolling down your spine.  You can smell the burning wax from the candelabra and sense an aura of uncertainty as the vocals echo on...a very graphic piece indeed...



Next up on this gaudy buffet is "A French Kiss in an Italian Cafe."  The darkness here is rather mysterious...nothing to worry about but the intrigue is palpable.  Nad's vocals are haunting as the canvas is filled slowly and deliberately with a dark portrait of emotions that erupt as quickly as they flame out.  The saxophone cuts right through your senses as the song winds down...you are standing in a jazz filled nightclub wondering what just happened--and how long before it rolls back around...

Liner Notes...Nad has built a storied career and continues to stretch his abilities and grow.  While spending much of his time in the classic, standard-bearing section of the prog garden, Nad has reached across many sections, touching down and laying roots in the eclectic, ornate, classic, and jazz-fused acreage as well.

This new album has quite an ensemble; in addition to Nad on lead vocals, guitars, piano, keyboards, and acoustic guitar, the star-studded line-up includes Steve Hackett, Roine Stolt, and Guthrie Govan on guitar, Tony Levin on Chapman stick, electric and upright bass, Jonas Reingold on bass, Doane Perry on drums, and Nick D'Virgilio on drums and percussion.  The studio gets more crowded with Jade Ell, Tania Doko, and Sheona Urquhart on vocals.  Sheona lays down that incredible sax solo on "French Kiss" for those keeping score.  Alfons Karabuda is on water phone,  Anders Wollbeck plays additional keys and with Nad is credited for programming, orchestration sound design.

Suffice to say a lot of planning, producing, and orchestrating went into this album , and a lot of
A-Listers in the prog world left their mark on it.  This is an album you will want to have in your prog collection...just be careful with that candelabra...

The album is scheduled for release May 26th at the Inside Out Music website Insideout Music.
Pre-orders are also available now at iTunes and Amazon.  Nad can be found on Facebook at
Nad Sylvan FB and you can keep up with him on tour and in the studio on Twitter @SylvanOfficial.

The final course for this extravaganza is the title cut; quite a standout in its own right.  More sanguine than the previous cuts, "The Bride Said No" smacks you like a jilted lover.  Nad's vocal duet with Tania is absolutely perfect; the emotions rise up like an over zealous souffle.  Guitars and keyboards once again keep the tempo leaping across the mood meter like a house cat toying with a cornered mouse...calculating, stalking, and finally leaping through the headphones victorious and satisfied.  As the song reaches its climax, you sense that perhaps the bride has too...

Posted below is an early release of the first single from the album, "The Quartermaster."  Almost a dreamscape as the music draws back the curtain...and the madness begins.  Nad isn't a breath of fresh air--he is a gust of wind.  His approach is counter to most; what would come off as trite or "plastic" by some leaps from the canvas as bold and refreshing as a frozen margarita in July in Nad's world. The prog garden bursts with energy as piano and drums walk in lock step across the inner lining of your skull, goaded on by guitars that penetrate deep...of course the song ends as abruptly as a dirty joke in Sunday School, but that's part of the wizardry as the master spins his web of illusion...



So fellow progheads, I urge you to purchase this latest release from Inside Out Music.  Nad Sylvan has leapt forth from the dark shadows of the prog garden with an ominous concept album that simmers with a deliberate tension just below the surface...and bursts through the headphones like a levee letting loose the flood.

Nad Sylvan bring a force to the prog garden with a voice that rises to the challenge presented by a strong supporting cast of guitars, keyboards, and drums.  The ensemble behind the curtain is impressive in and of itself; the raw energy everyone brought to the studio when laying these tracks down is evident throughout.  This is an album you won't play just once; it will stay in the CD carousel as you assemble other discs worthy to accompany it and set the tone for your listening pleasure--and your imagination.

Of course, now is the time the search for all things prog pulls up stakes and continues on.  Inside Out Music has an impressive line-up of artists and bands and the prog garden is the perfect place for them to mature.  The Concert Closet continues the journey so you can sit back and enjoy...until next time...

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Rikard Sjoblom's Gungfly "On Her Journey To The Sun"

Fellow progheads, thank you for continuing to come back to the Closet Concert Arena!  This week yet another gem is preparing to emerge from the prog garden; I am privileged to have been asked by Inside Out Records to review the latest release from Rikard Sjoblom's Gungfly.  The band's latest release, "On Her Journey To The Sun" is a limited edition double CD and scheduled for release May 19th.



Learning of the demise of Beardfish was a bitter pill, but from those ashes Rikard has brought forth another stellar prog band taking up residence in the eclectic, free-spirited section of the prog garden. Let us then take the search for all things prog to Sweden and immerse ourselves in the diverse sounds of Rikard Sjoblom's Gungfly.      

My first selection walks a tightrope as it balances a jazzy nightclub sound with earthy overtones, "Old Demons Die Hard."  There are creamy smooth top notes of The Style Council blending with the avant-garde mindset of Frank Zappa on this cut.  Rikard walks you down what is at first perceived as a familiar path only to swerve left, veering into a section of the garden where the temperament tends to fluctuate from upbeat to offbeat.  Gungfly paints using a varied pallet and soft brushes, floating across the canvas like pulled sugar strung in a candy shop.

Digging into a second helping, I am taken by the depth of "The River of Sadness."  The music flows from a calliope-like giddiness to the throes of a melancholy journey across a life beset with unanticipated strife...but all the while there is an air of ease and confidence that belies the title.  An upbeat mood weaves its way through the entire piece, creating a protective aura much like a mother lion guarding her cubs.  Rikard  toys with your emotions as he sails deeper down the river...

Liner Notes...Rikard is originally from Gavle, Sweden and started on his musical journey at the age of five. Fast forward--if that's possible--through a career that spans several bands, band mates, line-up changes past and present, and thus we reach the culmination that is  Gungfly.  In addition to Rikard Sjoblom playing guitars, keyboards, and singing lead vocals,  Gungfly consists of David Zackrisson on guitar, Rasmus Diamant on bass, Sverker Magnusson and Martin Borgh on keyboards, and Petter Diamant on drums.



Rikard performed and wrote with Beardfish and Gungfly simultaneously, at first using Gungfly as an outlet for music which didn't quite within the vast parameters of the Beardfish section of the prog garden...although Beardfish tilled acreage across such a vast expanse of the garden it is difficult to imagine much they would not dabble in...

My third serving from what truly is a remarkable spread this week is "Polymixia," an eleven-minute escape from all that is wrong with the world.  The song opens as if I have stumbled into a third dimension jam session; Rikard makes use of the keyboards and then some on this piece as he waltzes through your mind pinball-like...lights flashing, score climbing, and your mind just this side of "tilt." The other side of my eyelids are exploding with an array of color Crayola was not able to fit into their box of 64...you are left not so much breathless as awed.

The album is scheduled for release on Inside Out Music May 19th and pre-orders are available at
Rikard Sjoblom Gungfly and InsideOut Music.  You can follow Rikard on Facebook as well at
Rikard Sjoblom FB.  For serious fans you can keep up with Rikard, Gungfly, and all the bands and their newest/latest releases on the  Inside Out Music label on Twitter @InsideOutUSA.

To motivate you just a bit and get you in that "gotta buy the music" mood, I offer you the title cut below.  This is Rikard being Rikard; relaxed and pouring out his personal and emotional best while you get to sit back, relax, and enjoy.  When the last of the 2017 sand falls through the hourglass and the inevitable "best of" lists are written, compiled, argued over, and dissected, this is one album that should make most lists and cause the least fights...


One more week spent in the prog garden is one more week of pure bliss, and spending it listening to Gungfly made it all the better.  Rikard Sjoblom does not miss a step; his mental agility and acute insight into the inner workings of the mind make "On Her Journey To The Sun" all the more hypnotic.  This is an album that needs to breathe...and once unleashed will fill your headphones--and the room--with a plethora of sights and sounds.

Inside Out Music has more new prog releases on the horizon, so the journey continues...the  search for all things prog just got more adventurous...until next time...

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Aisles

Thank you my loyal followers for coming back this week, and to those joining me here in the Closet Concert Arena for the first time; welcome!  Those extra seven days enabled me to take the search for all things prog to the outer limits of the prog garden and (perhaps) move the ground spikes a bit farther in all directions. Despite having found much new growth, revisited old friends, met some standard bearers, and moved out of my comfort zone, I find there is still much exploring to do.

So this week the Concert Closet ventured into the fusion/eclectic section of the garden and unearthed a band whose sound, while originating in Chile, has been making waves all across the globe. Seeming at first to be a big fish in a small pond--and knowing I can never simply stroll past that which has peaked my curiosity--I stop for a serious listen-in with Aisles.



Aisles is a band that lists among its goals to be a "...constantly evolving vehicle of expression..." That statement alone was enough to lure me in, but they continue; "Allowing creativity to prevail above all else fuels the band's desire to create."  So Aisles creates in order to be creative, and creating is what pushes them to be creative...hmmm...time to sit under the headphones awhile and ponder that...

Looking for something from the band's earlier days, I start the buffet at the beginning; "The Wharf That Holds His Vessel" from Aisles' 2005 debut "The Yearning."  A very strong instrumental lead-in to a tune with top notes of Weather Report and aromatics of  Mahavishnu Orchestra.  Aisles fills the canvas with bright colors while allowing gray hues to give a striking contrast.  This piece bursts open methodically and deliberately as each musician places his mark on what is an expression of emotion. The vocals lead you into a labyrinth of sound that goes deeper into itself...keyboards winding down a spiral to crash subtly into percussion that envelopes the guitars. Just let it overtake your auditory senses for awhile...relax...

Moving farther along the timeline and searching for more of that depth, I discover "Revolution of Light" from their 2009 release, "In Sudden Walks."  The guitar work is extremely crisp; there are aromatics of Steely Dan and Marillion wafting through the air.  Strong vocals walk across the drums, which are just enough to keep everyone in line.  This song flows through the headphones like siphoned crude...moving fast and going everywhere.  The sounds are dazzling as the canvas is hit with bright colors and sweeping hues, all intended to empty the mind of peripheral junk that alters thought patterns...focus on the light...

Liner Notes...although Aisles claims the world as their home, Santiago, Chile is their point of origin. The members of the band are brothers Sebastian Vergara on lead vocals and German Vergara on vocals, guitars, and keyboards.  They are joined by Rodrigo Sepulveda on guitar and vocals, Daniel Baird-Kerr on bass, Juan Pablo Gaete on keyboards, and Felipe Candia on drums and percussion.

Aisles has released four albums over a twelve year span, their most recent endeavor being the double album concept project called "Hawaii."  The band wanders through many sections of the prog garden but has strong roots in the neo-prog section and draws on the ornate, orchestral sounds deep within the classic acreage.  Aisles has developed a unique melange of jazz fusion, prog, a touch of metal, and some orchestral overtones; this "prog brew" has allowed them to pour forth a sound that is as distinctive as it is fresh and powerful.  Aisles brings an energy to the prog garden that is stimulating in its own right.

 
                                      

Serving number three to satisfy the prog appetite is "Hero," taken from their 2013 release "4:45 AM."  A different  mood on this cut; a dark and somber intro leads you through a turnstile as you board a train travelling the cosmos...sound pierces you with a gentle bluntness as it continues to spiral downward.  You aren't sure where this piece bottoms out, but curiosity and a sense of intrigue outweigh any trepidation you might feel.  Aisles burrows deep into your epidermis, hitting nerve and bone.  The sting you feel is short-lived as a soothing balm flows through your veins and you are drawn moth-like toward a dark light...

Learn more abut Aisles at their website Aisles Project.  Their music can be purchased here, on Amazon, and on iTunes; there is a link on the homepage to direct you to your preferred option. Aisles also has a Facebook page Aisles FB, Bandcamp site Aisles BC, and a Twitter @Aislesproject. Indulge your desire for something fresh and new and allow the music to wrap itself around you...

The cut below is taken from the earlier mentioned "Hawaii."  The double album was released in 2016; a concept album dealing with the colonization of a post-apocalyptic earth.  The drum work is entwined so seamlessly with the guitar you almost visualize Felipe and Rodrigo sharing one mind and heart as they build a foundation from which vocals leap and you are taken on an ominous drone ride, viewing mankind's destruction and its aftermath...

                                         

Once again fellow progheads, The Closet Concert Arena has brought forth a gem from the prog garden that expands what you perceive the garden to be about.  Aisles has made great strides across the width and breadth of all the acreage here within and even taken a few steps over the garden boundary markers.  With all that has happened in the prog garden recently, it is uplifting to know that the "circle of prog life" continues to develop.  The search for all things prog will continue on as long as there is new music to be discovered, more bands producing great sounds, and an evolving image of what prog is.  On we go...until next week...

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Dante

Hello and welcome fellow progheads!  The return trip from Oslo was quite an excursion, allowing for a surplus of listening time and the opportunity to fine tune the GPS...which means this week's search for all things prog finds me in yet another time zone I have not frequented nearly enough; Germany. The prog garden is scattered with some outstanding bands hailing from Deutschland; I need to check the latitude and longitude and make this journey a more regular occurrence.  In the meantime let's simply enjoy the prog sounds of Dante...

 


Dante profess to be a progressive metal band in the style of Dream Theater and Porcupine Tree...company that is worthy of note and particularly impressive if not somewhat juxtaposed...
So to satisfy my curiosity and quench a thirst for something atypical, I amble to the prog buffet to search out something to make this trip worthwhile...

First sound to fill the headphones is a tune called "The Taking" from their 2008 debut "The Inner Circle."  They say you never forget your first, and understandably so.  Dante lays down a tune here that rubs smooth across the ears, flowing with soft piano and violin...but under the surface you feel the sting of a wool sweater in June.  Once the melodic vocals start, you just know the headphones are about to detonate...wait for it...ahhh yes.  There is a majestic ornateness to the song, as though the grandest estate in the Hamptons suddenly burst into flames and everyone gathered to make s'mores. For first growth in the prog garden, this piece is well produced and reflects a bit of Pendragon perhaps...

Continuing to peruse the Dante section of the prog garden, I found a dark crystal among the underbrush, "All My Life."  This song is from their 2010 release "Saturnine."  The atmosphere is dark; the tension mounts as soon as laser touches disc.  You feel an energy that will either strangle you or guide you through the hazards, so best to not let your guard down.  This piece evokes an essence of Seconds Before Landing  and top notes of the many moods of Peter Hamer.  Dante crashes all around as if lifted from a Quentin Tarantino film and catapulted into traffic...

Liner Notes...Dante hails from Augsburg/Munchen Germany and is comprised presently of Alexander Gohs on vocals, Julian Kellner on guitars, Markus Maichel on piano and keyboards, and Christian Eichlinger on vocals and drums.

While Dante is firmly planted in the metal section of the prog garden, they bring a full basket to harvest.  Markus' piano can envelope you like a warm blanket fresh from the dryer while Julian rides up and down the mood elevator with his guitar work, hammering you from the inside out on one track and gently caressing you on the next.  Alexander's vocals can be cheerful or haunting, dancing across the top of the song or breaking through the window to bounce around your skull a bit...


Dante has been active and busy, coming into being in 2006 and releasing the first of their four albums in 2008.  In addition to those I mentioned previously, Dante's resume also includes "November Red" released in 2013 and "When We Were Beautiful" from 2016.  The band is also releasing a live DVD/double CD "Where Life Was Beautiful/Live in Katowice" later this month.  Dante recorded this during a May 2016 show in Katowice, Poland.  You can follow the band on their website http://www.danteband.de/, Facebook page Dante FB, and Twitter @danteprog.  You can purchase any or all of their albums and pre-order the DVD/double CD at the website and Facebook page...and without going into my usual rant I simply ask that you please do.

My final selection for review this week is a cut from the WWWB album, "Beautiful Again." Christian grabs your attention immediately with a strong drum intro and is quickly joined by the rest of the band as this song pours forth like hot lava burning through a forest.  Dante brings the prog metal front and center on this cut with the drums sitting like a rock solid foundation holding the guitars and keyboards afloat as they pound their way down your auditory canals, grab your spine, and flow through your entire body.  The maturity of the band is evident as the sound is much crisper; the guitars sting a bit more and the keyboards poke you right in the ribs.  Dante paints dark, strikes fast, and hits hard...but they are willing to offer you a hand back up once they've bowled you over...

The cut posted below is the title cut from "November Red."  The opening bass line is almost reminiscent of Roxy Music but quickly makes an about face and runs headlong into Dream Theater territory.  Dante is incredibly adept at walking a fine line between the prog "ballad" and a full on metal diatribe.  Vocals bring you back up for air after you've been water boarded by enormous hits of alternating guitar and drum...the canvas isn't black so much as bruised, and over time the purple breaks up into bizarre shades of green and yellow...never offering the same look twice...  

                        

And once again fellow progheads, seven days worth of sand has trickled through the hourglass as we bring another week to a close.  Dante has a sound that unifies the heavier metal section of the garden with the smoother, toned down sections that are home to Psicolorama and Atlas Volt.  One more piece of evidence that highlights the beauty and diversity of all that encompasses the prog garden...guitars and drums can reign down like mortar fire until a gentle piano interlude breaks the surface and settles in like rose petals floating on a pond.  The canvas is filled with as many hues as you can imagine, one bleeding into the next while a plethora of sound as grandiose as Keith Emerson's stage set up and intricate as a Phil Manzanera guitar riff waft over you.

So too, the search for all things prog goes off on many a tangent.  Following a path whose only boundaries are the outer limits of the prog garden, the journey continues...until next week...

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Fatal Fusion

Welcome once again to the confines of the Closet Concert Arena fellow progheads!  Last week's sojourn to the UK was a great intro to spring; as we move deeper into the equinox, I believe it is time for a road trip...a long road trip.  So let's load up the Concert Closet, set the GPS, and settle in as the search for all things prog heads to Norway and some quality time with Fatal Fusion...



The name seems quite apropos; Fatal Fusion is an amalgamation of sorts...musicians from short-lived bands coming together and redefining themselves with each new step through the prog garden. Crediting influences that range from King Crimson to Deep Purple and Marillion to Camel, Fatal Fusion has spent time wandering many a section of the prog garden, gathering the makings of what should be quite the mulligan stew...

Fatal Fusion has three albums on their resume and to get the buffet started, I dig right into a healthy serving of "The Ancient Tale," the title cut from their 2013 release.  The song opens gently; there are aromatics of The Strawbs emitting from the headphones.  An elaborate semi-symphonic interlude breaks out as the tempo picks up, but this is an emotion filled roller coaster ride.  Fatal Fusion pours sound over you like Hollandaise ladled over a perfectly poached egg...you taste it with all your senses and you want more.  The keyboards lead the narration as the music ebbs and flows through the telling of a Norse myth; you feel yourself being swept away by the surprising pull of the tide...

Wandering across the buffet to Fatal Fusion's debut album, I dig right into another title cut. ; "Land of the Sun."  This song has more of a jazz fusion feel...a bit "Weather Report meets Spyro Gyra" as the tempo climbs the ladder.  The guitars hit like a series of velvet hammers...reverberations echoing inside your cranium...the gentleness giving way to percussion that starts to elevate, then almost as suddenly relaxes into a nightclub smooth sound that coats rather than whacks...



                                             
                                                                                           
Liner Notes...Hailing from Oslo, Norway, Fatal Fusion is Knut Erik Grontvedt on vocals, Erlend Engebretsen on keyboards, Stig Selnes on guitars, Lasse Lie on bass, and Audun Engebretsen on drums.  Fatal Fusion has walked much acreage in the prog garden, laying roots in scattered sections as they trod.  The players crossed paths playing in several bands along the journey starting in 1986. Fast forward to 2008 and from the ashes of persistence has risen Fatal Fusion.  The band released its debut "Land of the Sun" in 2010, following up with their sophomore release "The Ancient Tale" in 2013.  "Total Absence," the third charm on Fatal Fusion's album bracelet, made its debut in 2016.

Fatal Fusion paints with dark colors--but they seem to enjoy folding in red, yellow, and green highlights to brighten the scenery.  The music almost comes alive as you lie still under headphones waiting for the fateful crash and/or animated explosion...it really doesn't matter which; you are emotionally packed for the journey whichever road it takes...

Being logical-minded and a fan of consistency, my final serving from this smorgasbord is Fatal Fusion's latest title cut, "Total Absence."  If albums number one and two were but the labor and effort expelled to stake claim to membership in the prog garden; the blood, sweat, and tears were not in vain. There is a "Camel/Radiohead" melange to the aromatics wafting through the air. Fatal Fusion washes over like foamy waves after an ocean storm...the beach is littered with driftwood and shells as you step gingerly...

Learn more about Fatal Fusion and buy the music at Fatal Fusion.  Of course there is a Facebook page Fatal Fusion FB and even a MySpace page Fatal Fusion MS.  The band can also be found on Twitter @FFprog.  Fatal Fusion may be a latter day addition to the prog garden but their DNA runs rich with the classic sounds of the standard bearers.

The clip below is another from "Total Absence" called "The Emperor's Letter."  An ornate, intricate opening leads the listener through a whirlwind ride fueled by high octane keyboards.  Fatal Fusion has painted a piece rich with elegance and proudly hung it on the wall for all to see and interpret.  Let your imagination walk the trail alone, gathering thoughts and ideas as your mind is filled with wonder...


So fellow progheads, we come to the end of another week.  One more collection of seven days compartmentalized and taken from the calendar.  As spring continues her attempt at rising from a long slumber, the Closet Concert Arena continues sprucing up the prog garden.  New growth and additions to existing acreage are but some of what to expect.  Fatal Fusion has a strong sound that continues to progress and mature across their body of growing work; artists who are strong students of the genre.  When album number four makes it debut, The Concert Closet will be there.  In the mean time, the search for all things prog continues...until next time...

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

The Inner Road "Sanctuary"

Welcome back as always fellow progheads!  Last week was a great start to spring and the mood here in the Concert Closet continues to escalate along with the mercury.  This week the search for all things prog goes back across the pond--I remember when this was a regular rite of passage--for a visit with an old friend and to become deeply immersed in the sounds of The Inner Road and their latest release, "Sanctuary."



The Inner Road is but one of the many projects Steve Gresswell is involved with.  I know many of you will recall Steve from the prog band Coalition; apparently Mr. Gresswell needs to wear multiple hats and constantly multi-task to keep the creative prog juices flowing...

This week however, the spotlight is on The Inner Road and "Sanctuary" because this latest release is filled with some absolutely beautiful work.  Spending the last 168 hours--that's seven days to most normal people--listening to this album has been nothing short of a prog joyride...so let's head to the buffet and get this feast started...

The album opens with the title cut...church bells are but a quick lead to a strong orchestral cornucopia that spills over with extraordinary sounds that fill every nook and crevice in your cranium.  The tempo builds to what seems an inevitable crescendo--but instead of the explosive crash it simply continues to build.  The musicians seem to stand up and thump their collective chests as colors run down a canvas already be-speckled with slashes of neon light.  This is an opening as daring as taking driving lessons at the Indianapolis 500...be ready, alert, and prepared...because there's hardly time to take a breath...

Taking a stroll farther down the track list, I am once again battered about the auditory canals by a tune called "Temple of Forgiveness."  Inner Road has staked out a plot in the prog garden that needs full sun while radiating a heat that doesn't scorch so much as it melts away the periphery and burns right through to your soul.  The guitar on this piece is the salve that brings it all together while keyboards are the yeast that make this dough rise...

Liner Notes...The Inner Road is the brainchild of the aforementioned Steve Gresswell, who keeps residence in the UK.  The Inner Road is Steve's outlet for his instrumental prog musings, and Sanctuary is the third album released by this side of his alter-ego.  Despite playing keyboards, drums, bass guitar, orchestration, choir, and laying down some vocal tracks, Steve was not alone in putting this gem together.  Additional musicians are Ben Cameron on guitars and Bruno Pitch on chapman stick.

The Inner Road is ornate and boisterous--but in a good way.  The music is as full bodied as a bordeaux wine and satisfying as aloe after a day at the beach.  It ain't bragging if you back it
up; Steve does that and more.  The Inner Road pays homage to keyboards without doubt...think Jordan Rudess and Geoff Downes having an impromptu jam session while Rick Wakeman scores each round...

Yet The Inner Road spreads the exhilaration all around and fires on all cylinders.  Guitar work is strong, the orchestration is tight as Kardashian spandex, and the drums are a rock solid foundation to support the entire package. "Sanctuary" comes at you full force as soon as laser hits disc but does not leave you dazed. There are moments of introspection, pause, and even some emotional cleansing. The Inner Road goes deep and shines a light all the way down.  Learn more about The Inner Road and purchase the music at The Inner Road Bandcamp.  The band also has a Facebook page
The Inner Road FB and of course you can follow them on Twitter @innerroad.

The final serving from what is truly a bountiful harvest is a cut called "The Redeemer."  Another heavy-hitting piece that bursts with positive energy while crawling inside your thought process.  I don't think Steve is capable of drowning the listener in sorrow, but he also steers clear of sugar-coated gooeyness.  The up-and-down tempo pushes all the buttons on your mood elevator and as the car comes to an abrupt halt, you almost feel out of breath.

Alas; no sounds to lure you with this week...but if you make the purchase you can hear the entire album at your leisure.  Perhaps a photo of Steve laying down the magic will help entice you...



Well fellow progheads, another seven days in the prog garden has wound down, and the fruit of our labor was well worth the effort.  The Inner Road uses wide brush strokes to fill the canvas with elaborate, thought-provoking images using every color in the paint box...blending the brightest hues with darker, more subdued shades to create a piece stunning both from a visual and an auditory perspective.  "Sanctuary" brought forth a sense of being in a cathedral for a celebratory gathering;
grandiose in stature and splendid for its abundance.  The Inner Road leads the listener on a grand tour of the prog garden...

One more dance across the calendar and the search for all things prog continues on.  The journey thus far has been fun and exciting--and also quite the eye (and ear)-opener.  I hoped when I began the journey I would discover a few bands that were "flying low under the radar" or perhaps just cutting their prog teeth so to speak.  I had no idea the search for all things prog would be this enjoyable or that so many bands would be putting out so much fantastic music!  Please support the artists; there is no better way to keep the prog garden flourishing...until next time...

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Huis

As always, welcome back to the Closet Concert Arena fellow progheads!  As Spring makes her 2017 debut, I thought it might be different--and perhaps a bit left of logical--to follow the "N" on my compass and visit with some Canadian folks who have put together a sound that wanders some distinct acreage in the prog garden.  The search for all things prog has discovered some rather captivating bands and artists way up north, and this week the journey expands on that theme with a stopover in Chateauguay QC, swathed in the sounds of Huis...



Huis is a musical project that began in 2009.  Eight years and two albums later, the band has captured my attention with a multi-layered sound this is more deep than ornate and manages to seize your attention without feeling it necessary to drop-kick you to the ground.  Huis prefers to grab your senses rather than your collar...so let us step to the prog buffet with eager anticipation and feed our prog addiction...

First serving this week is a delicate piece called "The Red Gypsy."  The acoustic opening oozes a bit of Al Dimeola; corduroy-smooth vocals seep in and get wrapped in some very delicate guitar and percussion work.  Huis flows through the headphones like maple syrup running down the side of a stack of buttermilk pancakes; you want more just because.  The tempo picks up as primary colors blend with pastels on the canvas...top notes of Camel and Marillion stream through your head and flow down your spine...

Going back to the buffet for more, I discover a tune covered in darker hues, "If by Morning."  Huis likes to hang a silk scarf over the lamp to cut the glare--but it doesn't keep the light from shining through.  The feel here is "Dire Straits meets the Krimson ProjeCKt" with a dash of early Genesis folded into the mix.  Huis is the guy in the dark suit walking down the boulevard in the pouring rain, only to arrive at the leggy model's apartment totally dry, looking dapper, and carrying roses...

Liner Notes...Huis hails from Montreal Canada, in the aforementioned Chateauguay region of Quebec.  What was a project in 2009 became a full-fledged band led by keyboardist Pascal Lapierre and bass man Michel Joncas.  Along the way Pascal and Michel were joined by guitarist Michel
St-Pere, vocalist Sylvain Descoteaux, and drummer William Regnier.  In one of their "remodeling phases" Pascal left the band and was ultimately replaced by Johnny Maz on keys.

While the road traveled was definitely a twisting, turning one, Huis settled into the ornate, multi-layered section of the prog garden and has two albums on their (hopefully) growing resume.  "Despite Guardian Angels" was their 2014 debut, followed by the 2016 release of "Neither in Heaven."  There is talk of a third album soon, so perhaps the Concert Closet will be traveling back to the tundra before the next snowfall...

 
                                                                         
My final offering from the feast this week is a cut lifted off their first album called, "Garden of Dust." The terrestrial-like opening that flows through the headphones dims the lights and gently paints the canvas with dark yet subtle hues.  Vocals melt the clouds swiftly and with moderate force, much like  marshmallow running down the side of your s'mores as you sit by the fire...you absolutely notice and are completely fine.

Huis has staked out acreage in the shadowy section of the prog garden, although there is a glow radiating from the embers.  This is a band that fills the canvas with detail and layers without crowding anything--or anyone--out of the picture.  The flow is almost mesmerizing as guitars melt seamlessly into the keyboards, which ride right across the percussion.  The occasional organ and bells are the amuse-bouche to what is already a decadent offering.

Learn more about Huis at their website Huis Band where you can (of course) purchase their music. You can also follow Huis on Twitter @huisbandprog and connect with the band on Facebook
Huis FB.  Huis has even made their music available on Soundcloud Huis SC so the options are plenty.  I recommend a dry red wine or a good single malt; just sit back and let the sound run its course whilst you sip...

The clip posted below is called "Memories."  Let the piano opening cleanse your mind of the debris of the day and float downstream as the song begins to fill your cranium with music crisp like Italian wine grapes...distinct and full bodied.  Huis has a feel on this tune like Gentle Giant meets The Strawbs...extravagant without being obnoxious; heavy without being a burden.  Go ahead; turn the volume up...

                       

And seemingly as quick as it started, another week has found its way into the history books.  Huis was an adventure much like walking through a maze and not being concerned about the time...the longer this escapade takes the better.  

The search for all things prog has introduced me to many bands, artists, and musicians that seem to have one thing in common--a desire to burrow deeper within to find the soul of the music.  That is the feeling I get listening to Huis; they dive right into the deep end of the pool and stay submerged.  Try Huis because you're curious...stay because you can...

As always fellow progheads, time for the Concert Closet to forge on and continue the search for all things prog...until next time...

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Gregorian Rock "Fire"

Another seven days around the sun....thanks for finding your way back fellow progheads!  2017 has proven thus far to be a year of doing things differently, and the Closet Concert Arena continues to travel the uncrowded path, this week catching up with a band I have been following since their inception, although "band" might be a stretch...

Gregorian Rock, for those blessed with quick mind and good memory, has two albums on a growing resume.  Dale Benedict--the driving force and brains behind the curtain and under the robe--has found a unique way to release album number three--one song at a time...



Gregorian Rock is nothing if not distinctive, combining "...ancient with modern to create a serene yet pummeling sound."  This is a band that has few peers in the prog garden; perhaps not a "one-of-a-kind," but absolutely not a follower in a long line of carbon copy, stamped-out, melodious, predictable bands.  Gregorian Rock looks at prog rock--and music in general--through an entirely different lens...listening through an alternate set of headphones...

Let us stroll together the labyrinth of sound that is Gregorian Rock as Dale nurtures, grows, and offers up his latest release "Fire" one song per month to the faithful (and patient) in the prog garden. Opening  with "Consuming Fire," the album broadens the landscape that Gregorian Rock occupies...the keyboards and guitars are extremely tight, lying under a vocal chant that comes through the headphones with subdued force. The drums lift the entire ensemble higher, held in place on solid footing while allowing everything to cascade down like a soothing waterfall.  Yes, Gregorian Rock has indeed taken it to another level...

The second song released has a church revival vibe, "Reap What You Sow."  Once again the vocals come at you like surround sound theater, and that upbeat tempo--highlighted by a thunderous horn section--throws brighter colors at the canvas. The keyboards draw more attention on this cut as well as they meld with the percussion beautifully.  There are top notes of Beardfish and Transatlantic filling the air as you feel a crescendo building that is delivered with tempered exuberance.

Liner Notes...Gregorian Rock has pretty much been a one-man show, with Dale Benedict responsible for the grooves carved into vinyl and lasered into disc.  However; the third time around the turntable has enabled Dale to assemble an impressive line-up.  In addition to Mr. Benedict playing chapman stick, keyboards, and laying down the vocals, the ensemble includes Phil Keaggy on guitars, Scott McCullor on vocals, John Adams on bass, and Sean McCurley on drums.

Gregorian Rock originated in San Antonio, Texas and has been building quiet momentum since its inception.  Dale has managed to bring a sound to the prog garden that unifies several sections while at the same time standing alone.  With an energy level equivalent to that of a teenager on Red Bull, Dale has relentlessly pushed Gregorian Rock to new heights and wider realms, stretching the boundaries of the prog garden.  His efforts have brought forth a bountiful harvest from the garden; introspective, soul searching, cerebral, and tremendously gratifying progressive rock.  Gregorian Rock is like a loofah for the mind...soothing your soul as it clears your head of so much peripheral debris.

My final installment this week is the third single from the new album called "Skies Proclaim."  The bassline draws you in right away...you can feel the tug on your collar as your head is lifted and tilts right.  The canvas explodes with color and enthusiasm as guitars and keyboards reign down, washing over you like ocean waves with a pent up fury...Vinnie Moreno's guitar solo finale pulls you under, and the exhilaration does not end when the stylus hits the blank space...

Learn more about Gregorian Rock on the band's Facebook page Gregorian Rock FB and Twitter @cantusnovus .  You can also check in with the band and purchase music on their website Gregorian Rock.  For those so inclined, the music can also be found at Amazon, iTunes, and CD Baby.  Links are available on the main website.


This is where I normally post a cut for your listening pleasure...a song to entice, whet the music appetite, and hopefully convince you to expand your prog music collection.  However; this week I take a different tack...no video, just a request to support Gregorian Rock and all the musicians and bands that call the prog garden home.  With Dale releasing the "Fire" album one  song at a time, I felt it would be best for you to listen and purchase via the links listed above.  I personally thank all my loyal followers for supporting all the prog artists reviewed here.  It is your loyalty and appreciation for the genre that allows these artists to do what they do.

OK...off the soapbox and back to the Concert Closet.  The search for all things prog took the proverbial fork in the road this week...Gregorian Rock was an oasis of sorts, just off the beaten path in the prog garden.  Dale has truly tapped into something as stimulating as it is appealing...intelligent without being arrogant.  For me, Gregorian Rock followed the path on which I discovered Brian Eno...an entirely different view of the genre via a spectrum that was there just waiting for the right eye to peer into the kaleidoscope...

And once again the clock has wound down on another week in the search for all things prog.  One of the (many) enjoyable aspects of writing this blog is watching bands grow and attract a wider audience. With the release of "Fire," Gregorian Rock has reached for the next rung on the ladder, and recruiting Phil Keaggy to play guitar certainly shows a bit of brass.

So the search for all things prog continues on...the Concert Closet continuing a journey that is much more fun than I deserve...until next time...

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

IT "We're All In This Together"

Welcome back to the Closet Concert Arena fellow progheads!  This week we're venturing into the "far back" corners of the Concert Closet as the search for all things prog burrows into the rich soil that is the prog garden.  With all the crazy stuff happening on this rock we call home, the music coming from the prog garden has begun to take on an ominous tone.  The Mute Gods recent release is but one example of progressive rock hitting you over the head in an effort to pull you from your slumber.

Now another prog band steps up to the podium with a sound that is all at once foreboding, foretelling, relevant, and urgent.  Like Nikita Khrushchev banging a shoe on his desk at the UN, so does IT bang the ground in the prog garden with their latest release, "We're All In This Together."



IT has been tilling acreage in the prog garden for quite some time now; long enough to have laid down strong roots and delivered a healthy harvest.  Indeed; "We're All In This Together" is the fifth album IT has offered to the masses in twenty plus years...but for the immediate let us envelope ourselves in the this new release and discover the wonder that is IT...

The first cut released as a single is "Revolution" and it comes at you right away--straight between the eyes.  The percussion tells you this song has no intention of backing down; the tension mounts as short direct vocal snippets pierce the skin...and then chaos reigns down.  The song erupts like a levee unable to hold back the flood, and just as suddenly it rescinds.  You begin to assess the damage but your auditory canals are flooded once again...the tempo continues to run the gambit from complete bedlam to controlled restraint.  However; the message is bold and clear--you cannot and will not hold IT back.  The prog garden may just be ground zero for the new uprising...

The next track to catch my attention is called "The Path of Least Resistance."  An opening reminiscent of a police state clampdown, this piece enters through the headphones and traces a path directly to the heart.  IT continues to fill the canvas with dark colors, but more out of necessity than desire.  IT has the urgency of The Mute Gods, the angst of Seconds Before Landing, and the relevance of The Clash at their counterculture  best.  IT ties it all together in burlap with a bow made from old navy yard rope...

Liner Notes...IT calls London home, the place where many a great prog band got its start.  The band originally came together in 1994 using multimedia outlets to get their message out.  Almost a throwback to the 60's but with up-to-date technology, IT used videos playing behind the band to coincide with deep lyrics, a dark portentous sound, and a thought provoking intensity to grab the listener by the ears and dare you not to get involved.  By 2009 IT had four albums to their credit and continued to dig deeper, bringing profundity to the prog garden in songs dealing with all the madness and mayhem the world had to offer.

Going through the inevitable growing pains, maturing, growth, and just plain soul searching, IT was on hiatus after album #4...using that time to solidify the band and put together what would become "We're All In This Together."  The current line-up is Nick Jackson on guitar and vocals, Andy Rowberry on lead guitar, James Hawkins on bass, Ryan McCaffrey on keyboards, and Will Chism on drums.  IT is part of the Progressive Gears Records stable of prog bands and well worth immersing yourself in...

The last slice to fill out this week's prog buffet is titled, "The Working Man."  The song opens on the dark side as you would expect--but this is more rye toast dark than charred pumpernickel coal. There are slices of light cutting through the doom and gloom, much like rays of sunshine piercing the rain clouds after a thunderstorm rages across an open field...which makes the brightness that much more glaring.  Don't misinterpret; this is not a "clap your hands and hug your neighbor" happy upbeat tune. Rather it is a song that declares the defiance, pride, and determination of those that carry the weight every day without fanfare.  Top notes of Fire Garden permeate the air, as do hints of Lost In Kiev and Scarlet INside.  The Dropkick Murphys without the throat punch...prog for the introspective...

Learn more about IT at their website IT Band.  The new album as well as the band's previous releases can be found here...and of course this is my plea for you to support IT and all the bands that make the prog garden their home.  You can get more info on IT and other bands on the Progressive Gears label on Twitter @ProgGears, Facebook Progressive Gears FB, and on the Progressive Gears Bandcamp site Progressive Gears BC.  Don't think of it as tasking a risk--think of it as taking charge.

The clip posted below is a smorgasbord of tastes from the new album...designed to draw you in and capture your emotions like a siren call to the prog faithful.  If The Mute Gods put the world on notice, IT is telling you there is still time...but you have to stand up and act now.  Passion and grit drip from this album like sweat from the brow of a third shift factory worker...and the aroma is what satisfaction smells like...

                

So my fellow progheads, another week comes to a tumultuous crescendo...and the prog garden lets out a collective "hell yeah!"  These past few weeks have seen the Concert Closet venture into new territory in the prog garden.  2017 has indeed witnessed the search for all things prog trod several previously unwalked paths.

Progressive music has stretched its boundaries over the years...broadened its scope and reached for a bigger umbrella...but the mainstay has always been purpose.  It may not be political, ripped from the headlines, or the latest trend, but prog rock is at its best when it delivers a message. Sometimes you have to listen hard and shut out the peripheral noise to hear it, but the message is there...and so too, is The Closet Concert Arena, ever eager to bring you the best and brightest the prog garden has to offer. The search for all things prog continues...until next time...

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Abstract Aprils...Everything

Faithful followers and fellow progheads; welcome back to the Closet Concert Arena!  As February draws to a close, my thoughts have begun to wander a more ambient path...so naturally I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to mosey on back to Missoulsa, Montana and see what Collin Welner has been up to.  For those of you with a bent for ambient music and a good memory, you may recall the Concert Closet made this journey in the search for all things prog in April 2015.  Taking a mental break from the metal and more boisterous sections of the prog garden, I traveled a tranquil road this week to check out the new sounds from Abstract Aprils...



Collin describes Abstract Aprils as "...music for daydreaming..." Although Brian Eno may wear the moniker of ambient music master, Collin is quite the apt pupil.  I already feel the hot stones being placed on my spine as stress and tension are released.  The opening cut is appropriately titled "Peace" and as my mind melts into the music, I feel as if I am submerged in a jacuzzi.  There is a calming undertone passing through the headphones; much like lying on a beach while high tide starts to slowly wash over your feet and you feel yourself sinking into the sand...

Shuffling further down the buffet line with a bit of a relaxed gait, I come across a morsel that seems rather soothing in its own right, "Belief In Angels."  The opening sounds are almost transcendent as they carry you ever so delicately...like a leaf floating downstream.  The cascading water droplets that appear in the background can be both mollifying and unnerving at the same time...ahhh, the wonder that is ambient music!  Abstract Aprils crawls inside your head and just drifts around...allowing you to wander through dreamscapes, thoughts, images, and emotions while nestled comfortably under your headphones.

Liner Notes...as mentioned previously, Abstract Aprils is the creation of Montana native Collin Welner.  Collin released his debut "blossom ends" in  2014 and I am tremendously pleased to see his sophomore release "Everything" come to fruition.  Ambient music was taken to a new level and given major attention when Brian Eno began painting the landscape so eloquently and Robert Fripp exposed Soundscapes.  Flim & The BB's dabbled in the ambient world too, as does the Bang on a Can All Stars.  Abstract Aprils carries the torch high, blazing a soothing trail across a calming meadow.  Ambient is to music what dessert is to a meal...a pleasant respite.  Abstract Aprils takes the listener on a voyage inside the cerebral matter; a journey that meanders across the intellectual hill and dale.  Abstract Aprils does wonders for the weary after spending time on the treadmill known as the daily grind...relaxation for the soul you might say...

My final serving for review this week is a blistery piece of sorts called "Quiet Temper."  Abstract Aprils is almost Orwellian here; the sounds careen in and out like a cotton lined echo chamber...you can sense the emotional pendulum swinging...swinging...not with force; more of a subtle determination to carry you across that threshold where conscious thought meets subliminal action. Your senses are fooled momentarily as you become woven into the fabric that is the music...

Learn more about Collin Welner and Abstract Aprils on the Facebook page Abstract Aprils FB and on Soundcloud at AA Soundcloud.  Of course I implore you to support Abstract Aprils and all the bands on these pages by making  a purchase.  You can scratch the itch and loosen the purse strings at the Abstract Aprils' Bandcamp AA Bandcamp and iTunes  AA iTunes pages.  For more up-to-the-minute information you can follow Abstract Aprils on Twitter @AbstractAprils.

The post below is a siren call to lure you in for more "sounds for daydreaming;" a snippet from the "Everything" album.  Merely an appetizer to tease your senses and draw you in.  Let the breeze ruffle your hair, the waves roll gently over your feet, and the carpet carry you away... bon appetit...


So my fellow progheads, the search for all things prog this week took an alternate trajectory across the prog garden--with a focus on cleansing the mind and soul.  The Concert Closet has been traveling the globe for almost three years now, and every lap around the sun leaves me sated and satisfied.
Abstract Aprils occupies acreage in the ambient section of the prog garden, a place not exactly crowded with occupants. However; the genre is fuller and richer because Abstract Aprils and others are able to tap that mood...permeating deeper below the surface...bringing forth a sound that is both soothing and intriguing.

From here, as the saying goes, the search for all things prog continues on, and no section of the garden is off limits...until next time...