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...

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

The Mute Gods "tardigrades will inherit the earth"

Welcome back as always fellow progheads to the Closet Concert Arena!  The search for all things prog takes a tangent trajectory as we delve deeper into 2017.  This week the Concert Closet uncovers a band made of superior parts that has made quite a mark in the prog garden already, yet may be lesser known to those new to the garden or simply looking for something off the beaten path.  Not being a fan of the mainstream, I continually search for the next new thing; that "I just want to sit under the headphones awhile" sound...and with that I welcome you to the latest release from The Mute Gods, "tardigrades will inherit the earth."



The Mute Gods, while originating as an outlet for Nick Beggs, is a band with not only a great sound and strong voice--they also have  a powerful message.  This is a timely album to say the least; "tardigrades will inherit the earth" hits you right in the listeners with statements, warnings, pleas, and shouts about the world and what we are doing to it.  If only my parents understood the importance of prog rock, my teen years would have contained so much less angst...

The album will be available February 24th, but the Closet Concert Arena has been given the privilege of an early listen so as to review this gem prior to release...so let us dive headlong with ears and mind wide open into what is sure to be a sumptuous prog buffet...

The album opens with a rather dark, ominous waltz; "Saltatio Mortis."  Translated from the Latin; the "Dance of Death."  Closing my eyes, I feel as though I am watching a funeral procession--perhaps for humanity?  Veiled in gloomy shadows, the music marches forth like a lion stalking its prey...guitars flow masterfully through the keyboards much like high tide creeping up the sands...and then a fade to black.  This will be an adult dose...

Moving down the buffet line I stop for a large slice of the title cut.  The song opens extremely upbeat while waxing prophetic about the inability of mankind to figure out just what the hell we're doing to this planet we call home...the juxtaposition of complete opposites seems to be the hallmark of this album.  It is brilliant in that it mirrors reality; how happy we seem to be while walking headlong into our own destruction. The drums lift the keyboards and guitars masterfully, sending them cascading into your cranium like autos bouncing off guardrails on the interstate after hitting black ice.

Liner Notes...The Mute Gods, albeit conceived in the mind of Nick Beggs, is quite the power trio. Consisting not only of the aforementioned Mr. Beggs on bass, stick, guitars, keyboards, vocals, and programming; the Mute Gods has Roger King on guitars, keyboards, backing vocals, programming and production, and Marco Minneman on drums, percussion, guitars, and sound design. Three musicians, many hats, and a tremendously unique sound.  The prog garden just expanded its boundaries...



The Mute Gods released their debut, "do nothing till you hear from me" in January 2016, and this second release will makes it mark on the prog music world this week.  An exceptionally strong follow up, "tardigrades" delivers all you would expect from a prog band with such a range of talent. Exceptional song writing that fills the cranium with thought provoking and powerful imagery...of course the guitar, percussion, and keyboard work that expand the outer boundaries of the prog garden are no surprise and actually a satisfying carpet ride in the search for all things prog.

My final selection from this high protein/high calorie prog feast is a fast hitting poke-in-the-eye called "The Dumbing of the Stupid."  A sobering message wrapped in a Marco Minneman hard shell of percussion and drums that pours forth a foundation allowing for guitar work that will unhinge your ears from the inside...a penetrating piece that screams "WAKE UP!" while not-so-gently smacking you in the face.  Nick drives home a point while trying to convince you he is on your side in this insanity.

The Mute Gods are an exciting addition to the prog garden, bringing  an explosive urgency much like being handed a gift wrapped in pastel paper that is ticking.  There is a Porcupine Tree meets Liquid Tension Experiment feel throughout...the tempo and mood consistently red line while at the same time urging you to pause and think.  Find out more about The Mute Gods and purchase their music at TheMuteGods. You can follow the band on Facebook at MuteGods FB and of course
Twitter @themutegods.  For those so inclined, check out The Mute Gods' record label, Inside Out Music, at InsideOutMusic.  You can purchase The Mute Gods and other prog music there.

To whet your appetite and  encourage foot traffic in the prog garden, I offer the video clip below called "We Can't Carry On."  Once again The Mute Gods pour thought and insight into your cerebellum via the auditory canals in an effort to do more than simply entertain...they educate through music...prog music...

                     

Another evening well spent in the prog garden fellow progheads; I hope you enjoyed the review and the music.  Yet another sign that the prog garden offers more than just great music to the masses; The Mute Gods force you to think while they infiltrate your mind via the headphones.  The search for all things prog digs deeper through every section of the prog garden, looking to unearth nuggets previously unknown or overlooked.  The Mute Gods may use a sledgehammer to hang a Picasso, but they also force you to turn your head and listen--and that is the point after all...until next week...

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Cure For Gravity

Welcome once again to the Closet Concert Arena fellow progheads!  The search for all things prog continues its westward shuffle as we go all the way to the left coast; more precisely the greater San Francisco Bay area.  This week the Concert Closet checks out the sounds of Cure For Gravity, a relative new comer to the prog garden.  Cure For Gravity recently released their full length debut album while having an earlier EP already on their resume.  Always interesting and enjoyable to check out fresh growth, so let the headphone festivities begin...



Cure For Gravity bill themselves as "...atmospheric Cine-Rock..." so I am expecting a multi-layered, ornate, mind altering  trek of sorts through the prog garden this week.  The band just dropped their eponymous debut in October, so let us step eagerly to the buffet and get this journey started...

The first portion carved from the unveiling is called "Tonight" and there is a bit of a celestial feel to the sound...top notes of Fairport Convention entwined with aromatics of The Strawbs...and all of it encapsulated in a Spock's Beard shell...tasty.  The song isn't dark so much as it is "industrial."  There is a feel to the music as though it is trying to swallow you whole without causing any harm, much like a python soothing you to sleep as it embraces you. The vocals come to the forefront as guitar and keyboards take a step back.  That is not to say they fade--they simply fill the perimeter of your cranium as you take flight...

Moving along the buffet line, I stumble across a healthy slice of "Black Metal."  Closing my eyes as the song opens, I am taken through the eye of the storm ever so quickly as chaos gives way to calm. The guitar work lives up to the description; there is something "otherworldly" about the mood here...
There are aromatics of Radiohead wafting through the air, and perhaps a top note of Psicolorama floating in the headphones as well.  Cure For Gravity can be ornate without weighing so heavily you can't breathe; like the feeling you get from finishing that second burrito--and then catching a glimpse of a banana split in your peripheral vision...you got this!

 Liner Notes...hailing from the Oakland CA area, Cure For Gravity spends time in Berkeley and is comprised of Joe Markert on vocals, keyboards, and guitars, Dave Walcott on guitars and vocals, and Chris Gamper on drums.  There are additional musicians contributing to this album, but Cure For Gravity is ultimately a three-headed beast;  a trio that manages to fill the headphones, and consequently your auditory canals, with sights and sounds that light up the inner lining of your cranium like a pinball machine on tilt.

Cure For Gravity has been a band since 2010 and originally released the EP, "Fallen Stars" in 2012. The next four years saw the band going through line-up changes and defining/fine tuning their sound. Cure For Gravity released their debut full length album this past October--but there is no rest for the weary...Joe, Dave, and Chris are working on album #2 with an anticipated release date sometime in 2018.

Cure For Gravity saunters through the prog garden like a kid walking the aisles at Toys R Us; looking for clues, ideas, and inspiration. Taking all their bushel basket can hold, CFG proceeds to interpret and channel a unique sound that blends top notes ranging from Radiohead to The Clash with a zinger of Atlas Volt blended in just for the intrigue...

My final selection for review has a bit more hitch to the giddyup; "Just Like Candy."  The guitars seem to tease the drums as they dance across the top of the song like Mitch Miller's bouncing ball. Brighter colors spill down the canvas as the mood elevator starts its climb...I get an Ebn Ozn vibe from this tune. Cure For Gravity pulls the curtain back just a bit here, exposing the smooth under belly of simplicity that lies beneath the elaborate trappings of an atmospheric cine-rock exterior...a bit of fun in the science lab...

You can find out more about Cure For Gravity on their website Cure For Gravity and their Facebook page Cure For Gravity FB.  If the sounds you hear meet your approval, please support this--and all the bands I review by purchasing their music.  You can order the album on their Bandcamp site
Cure For Gravity Bandcamp and iTunes at Cure For Gravity iTunes.  You can also follow the band on Twitter, @cfgmusic.

The clip posted below is called "Push."  Perhaps a bit on the melancholy side, this song fills the canvas with soft pastels overcoming clouds of grey...you can feel the emotion rolling off the disc like water droplets falling off rose petals.  There is a touch of Jesse Colin Young floating across the lyrics; the vocals are a bit heavier yet that soft touch while bringing across something deep and thought provoking is almost transcendent...


                     


And once again fellow progheads, a fortnight has come and gone and once again another band has been exposed to the light.  Cure For Gravity may walk the eclectic, atmospheric section of the prog garden, but along the way they discovered the concept of bringing sounds from different sections together and making them sui generis.

Cure For Gravity has started blazing their own path, and the future looks to be bright.  And so too The Concert Closet continues to blaze a trail through the prog garden in search of all things prog...until next time...

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Fire Garden Far and Near

Welcome back to the Closet Concert Arena fellow progheads!  Still making my way down from the high that was our last summit with Jordan Rudess.  More than just a keyboard maestro; he is a true class act.  Of course, that is pretty much the expectation with artists here in the prog garden; something in the water I reckon...

The search for all things prog continues to set the bar high and this week is no exception.  During our interview, you may remember Jordan mentioning Fire Garden; more specifically, he revealed his playing on Fire Garden's newest release, "Far and Near."  Well it just so happens that the Concert Closet has been Chicago way before...Fire Garden has one EP and a full album to their credit prior to this newest release and the Concert Closet has reviewed them both.   Time to catch up with the latest from Zee Baig and Fire Garden, so let us work our way through this prog feast together...


Fire Garden is a music project--I like the images that paints on the underside of my eyelids.  Starting with a spinal cord of progressive rock, Fire Garden brings their sound to life by adding the heart and soul of metal, jazz, rock, and industrial music, creating a beast that may be difficult to label, but oh so easy to listen to...

Being somewhat a "creature of habit," I dig right in with track one; the title cut.  The opening piano with haunting vocals seem foreboding...but this is a staple of the Fire Garden sound; darkness that regulates light, allowing the listener a glimpse here, a jolt there, all the while taking you deeper inside the cavern...

Moving down the prog buffet line, I find an interesting morsel called "White Light."  A soft acoustic mood draws the curtain back as the listener is slowly--almost delicately--doused in tranquility fused with caution...much like a savoy truffle encased in spun sugar...there has to be  away in, but will I want a way out?  The drumming catches you off guard much like the jarring zap of an electric shock...meanwhile the piano continues its tranquil approach to soothing the mind.  An absolutely mesmerizing experience.

This piece moves Fire Garden to an entirely new section of the prog garden, acreage Zee cleared almost single handedly.  Make no mistake; Fire Garden is a prog metal band, an experiment, a group effort--a chameleon of sorts--but at its core, Fire Garden is the brain child of Zee Baig and every new release is a re-birth...making "Far and Near" Fire Garden 3.0 you might say...



Liner Notes...Fire Garden calls Chicago home; a prog metal band with a bent on melding other
sub-genres into a prog melting pot, smack dab in the land of the blues.  I don't believe it to be coincidence or chance; Fire Garden has managed to stand out against the back drop of  the popular Chicago music scene while creating a sound that floats like a drone above the din...much like an eagle scouring the coast for a perch from which to oversee the landscape.

The Far and Near album line-up consists of Zee Baig on vocals, guitars, mellotron, and synthesizers, Frank Lucas on keyboards and piano, Marc Malitz and Barry Kleiber on bass, and Jimmy Keegan, formerly of Spock's Beard, on drums.  Jordan Rudess makes his appearance via the keyboards on the cut "Life of a Drifter."  Having listened to this latest release, I can say Fire Garden is more than just an experiment.  This is a band on the cusp of greatness.  The Fire Garden sound has been echoing through the Concert Closet since "The Prelude" EP first left its mark in 2012.

Following the success of "Sound of Majestic Colors," Fire Garden refused to rest on their laurels. This band prefers--or more accurately burns with the desire--to re-invent themselves with every release. "Far and Near" is but the continued growth of a band that feeds on its own success in a quest to bring to the prog garden a sound that rejects labels and expands the boundaries of the genre itself.

The main course this week is the aforementioned "Life of a Drifter." The song hearkens back to Fire Garden's past while blazing headlong into the future.  The canvas starts out virgin white as Fire Garden proceeds to thrust paint balloon after paint balloon, revealing a striking image that leaps forth and wraps itself around your senses like caramel adhering to a granny smith apple...the union is so much stronger than the individual components.  Jordan's keyboards electrify the mood like an aerial view of Coney Island at night, and Jimmy's drums underscore the entire piece as guitars capture the perimeter and drive the whole song straight through your sense of reality.

Learn more about Fire Garden at the band's website Fire Garden.  Purchase--please!--purchase the music there or at Fire Garden iTunes.  You can follow the band on Facebook at Fire Garden FB and of course on that wonderful cloud known as Twitter @firegardenmusic.

The cut posted below is called "There's Something."  The drums build a solid foundation for the guitar to burst forth from, and Zee's vocals reverberate in your cranium like a subconscious whisper.
Far and Near is an album that should adorn every proghead's collection, nestled comfortably with Gaillion, Seconds Before Landing, Spock's Beard, Marillion...


                       

And so my fellow progheads, 2017 continues to be a year filled with promise, excitement, and a continual cascade of new sounds and emotions.  Fire Garden brings a dimension to the prog garden that exemplifies the beauty of the genre; not only does this band stretch the boundaries of all things prog, they draw from all generations to create a a sound and vision that challenge your imagination.

It has been a pleasure for me to witness first-hand the beginning and growth of Fire Garden.  This is a band that exemplifies what the prog garden is all about; a complete renewal and rejuvenation with each new release.  Progressive rock continues to lead the way for those inclined to rise above.

Of course, the search for all things prog continues onward, and the bar continues to rise.  2017 has set a new standard for the up and coming, lesser-known, and those determined to break through.  Let us continue this journey together and discover the wonders the prog garden has to offer...until next time...

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Jordan Rudess visits The Closet Concert Arena

Welcome to 2017 fellow progheads!  The gifts have been opened, food consumed, and decorations packed away.  The tree has been recycled and some of my resolutions have yet to be broken; so far 2017 is shaping up quite nicely.

In my last post for 2016 I promised you, my faithful followers, big surprises, exciting changes, and a new approach for The Concert Closet in 2017...hopefully this first post lives up to the hype.  The Concert Closet reached out to pianist extraordinaire Jordan Rudess for an interview, and Jordan was gracious enough to accommodate!  Besides being the keyboard master for Dream Theater, Jordan has his hands immersed (no pun intended) in many other projects.  Solo work, guest appearances, a music app, and Facebook Live are but a tip of the proverbial iceberg the Mr. Rudess is involved with currently.  So as the search for all things prog enters 2017, let us set the bar high...

               


Closet Concert Arena: First I want to thank you for taking time out of  your day for this.  Been a fan for a long time and I very much appreciate the opportunity to find out about your world first hand.

Jordan Rudess: Thank you for your time as well.

CCA: Is there a favorite band or artist you enjoyed playing with or being part of?  You really have been involved with so much great music.  I was actually surprised to learn that your journey includes a stint with the Paul Winter Consort.

JR:  You're familiar with Paul Winter?  A lot of people don't know that, but a lot of people do know my background is classical piano; I was going to be a classical pianist.  I spent so many years being so serious in the classical music world, so focused.  At the age of nine I went off to Julliard, and later I began to want to learn other types of sounds, other kinds of music.  Then people turned me on to Genesis, Gentle Giant, Yes, and I loved that stuff!  I felt I needed to focus on that for a while, and as things came around and I became more comfortable with who I was, I realized I enjoyed doing a lot of different things.  Later I was introduced to Eugene Friesen, the cellist for the Paul Winter Consort. He brought me in and at first I was playing piano.  I really enjoyed that gig because it wasn't just one thing; it was more of its own blend of jazz, world music...it had a rock energy at times, and of course a classical side; very sensitive music.  I met the man I would take over for, Paul Halley.  He wrote a lot of the music and I was really inspired by his music and his "musicality."  I learned a lot from him and I think about him often when I'm writing.  There is a piece on Dream Theater's "The Astonishing" album that has that Paul Halley feel; choiry, open, slightly classical.  That was a fun experience and I really enjoyed being part of it.  

But to name a favorite would be difficult to impossible; I've played with so many and they've all been so different.  Of course playing with Dream Theater--which is my "day job"--is terrific and I love it, but I also worked with Marco Minnemann and Tony Levin on "The law Offices" album which was a great experience as well.    

CCA: With your classical training, what led you to the rock 'n' roll arena and progressive rock specifically?

JR: I was always a "closet improviser" when I was a kid, even when studying the serious stuff at Julliard.  I would bring some of the other kids into the practice room and play some blues or rock; something that wasn't Chopin or Bach and we would have fun--but we had to be sneaky about it! (laughs).  My mom  would bring music from show tunes, songs from movies...just the sheet music.  I would play parties and it was fun.  When I hit seventeen or eighteen years old I finally had my "teenage rebellion" and decided it was time to go off track and check out what else was out there.

Not sure about you, but right about now I could use a shot of Jordan doing what Jordan does best; playing the piano. Here is a sampling of the "Closet Improviser" off on a tangent from the prog metal world.  There really are no words, just allow the sound to permeate your soul and embrace it...

                                       

CCA: You've been the keyboardist for Dream Theater for 17 years, yet "The Astonishing" is the first album to highlight your influence over the music.  The album is also a big step off on a tangent for the band.  Was this a planned directional shift for the band to push the music in a different direction, or does the music follow its own lead?

JR: This is the first album to be credited as written by Petrucci and Rudess; I have been a composer since being in the group.  John and I basically write the music, but the main difference on this album vs. all the others I was involved in is John and I were in a room together; there was nobody else there and we worked very carefully on structuring and composing this piece.  As the producer, John felt that what we wanted to do with "The Astonishing" could be better accomplished if it was just the two of us in the room doing just this, rather than everyone being there.  That was the main difference, the biggest change.  

Now that we have done "The Astonishing" I believe we will go back to doing things with everyone together in the studio.  It's usually very open and the other guys bring their energy, and everything is really good.  One of the things about Dream Theater--even in the Mike Portnoy days--is John and I were the composers of the music on the instruments.  Mike was certainly influential in the music, he had a big voice in the music, and he produced, but as far as composing, that came down to John and I.  
Seems like the perfect place to insert a Dream Theater fix.  This cut is one of my favorites from "The Astonishing," a piece called "Ravenskill."  Let Jordan's delicate keyboards wash over you like waves lapping the shore as the song opens and James LaBrie's vocals rain down like a summer shower...of course the the sky opens and Mike Mangini's drum work rolls out a burlap carpet for John Petrucci's guitar to pour down like thunder from Mount Olympus, kept true by John Myung's bass work.  Yes, the magic continues and it is so real...  


                        


CCA: Dream Theater is about to head off on a European tour; will there be a leg through the United States once you return stateside? 

JR: We are heading to Europe very soon yes, and while  we haven't finalized any dates as of yet, I think we probably will plan some shows in the US.  Nothing is finalized or scheduled, but I think the idea to do that is there.

CCA: How does a tour with Dream Theater affect other opportunities to perform/tour with other artists?  You mentioned the album with Levin and Minnemann among others; do you try to schedule other tours; exactly how much time do you want to spend on the road?

JR: Yeah, I love performing but it is a lot of road time.  I've actually put out some energy to do more piano things.  I love when I work with orchestras; I was in Poland not that long ago doing my explorations piece with one of the city orchestras there.  That kind of thing is something I would like to develop more of.

CCA: You were voted "Best New Talent" in 1994; what affect did that have on your career path?

JR: That was Keyboard Magazine, and it was very helpful.  They used to follow me; all the writers and editors.  Before I had my career, I used to play all the big music conventions and I would write something kind of progressive and cool, and they would say, "Hey, this guy's cool!" (laughs).  But it was helpful because it got my name to other musicians who were already in "the door" of the music business, which I wasn't yet.  The guys from Dream Theater noticed, and it's one of the reasons they called me.  

CCA: Do the demands of the different bands you play in affect your style or how you approach your music? 

JR: It all does, I mean music is my life, my hobby, it's what I do.  I kind of "morph" through different stylistic things for every situation I'm in and whatever musician I'm in it with.  I will call on different techniques and flavors that I can offer, so yeah it is different each time.  

CCA: You have a software company called Wizdom Music, which is very innovative in the electronic music app industry.  You actually "create" different instruments and sounds for musicians of all ability levels; can you elaborate on this?

JR: I started Wizdom Music some years ago because when I discovered the multi-touch surface 
thing, mostly through my experience with the iPhone and even before that, with a product called the Lemur,  the items were very expensive.  Today things have shifted to where we are all walking around with multi-touch devices.  There is a fairly well known story where I got my first iPhone and it had  a very preliminary kind of sound "thing" where you could make silly little wave form sounds. I was sitting around with it and became  inspired because I thought, "What could I do with my fingers to express sound?"  This was around my 50th birthday and my wife and I had just purchased a beautiful Steinway grand piano, and she sees me playing with this ridiculous sound and she has no idea what I'm doing and she says, "Why are you playing with that horrible noise when you have this beautiful piano in the other room?"  I'm telling her I have something in my mind, and she thinks I am absolutely crazy!  Of course it was the one time I could say, "I was right!" (laughs).  

A year or so later I partnered with a guy named Kevin Chartier, a brilliant programmer, and we created an app called MorphWiz.  MorphWiz was my first app and it won the Billboard Best Music App Award when it came out [October 2010].  That helped get the company on the map, and the idea was to be able to express notes on the touch surface of an iPhone, and much like a violin your finger would remain in contact with the sound, and you could affect the tambour of the sound, create different pitches; it helped showcase my vision of what the future of musical instruments would be. That was the beginning of a whole adventure for me which still goes on to this day. 

My latest app, called the GeoShred, is a big focus for me because I partnered with some people I met at the CCRMA (pronounced karma) Institute at Stanford University.  I was able to work with some very interesting people by going to Stanford and showing whatever new musical instruments I was involved in.  GeoShred is really cool and winning a lot of awards; it just won the Electronic Magazine Editor's Choice Award.  It is the one instrument you can really shred on that is a serious musical instrument for the iPad, and soon to be available for the iPhone as well.  I use it a lot; I used it on the Levin Minnemann Rudess and the Dream Theater  albums, I play it live, so it has been a big focus.  The latest feature is an update which includes Midi, which for musicians is important, both the standard and the MPE.  The MPE allows for a lot of flexibility in the way it controls and receives sound.  

Wizdom Music is important to me and I also do consulting with other companies.  I endorse Korg instruments as well as consult with Roli,  a company which makes an instrument called the Seaboard. And I work with CME, which makes an incredible mobile keyboard called the Xkey.  I stay busy keeping my hands in that arena, working with and developing instruments that interest me. 

CCA: You have been a guest musician on several albums and had many guest musicians on yours; is this something that helps expand you as an artist or is it just a fun way to release energy?

JR: There are lots of reasons to do it.  There are a lot of young artists that are extremely talented; Zach Kamins with An Endless Sporadic is one.  If I find a gifted artist that I think stands out and I can help them get noticed or support them, I'm happy to do it.  I also played on Fire Garden's latest release and Zee Baig is another guy that is very talented.  I have played with Billy Sherwood on several projects, so there is always something out there to be involved in.  Even Steven Wilson, I am happy to work on his records, and if the opportunity presents itself he would play on mine. 

OK; one more clip for those so inclined.  I hearkened back to "An Evening with John Petrucci and Jordan Rudess" for the song "State of Grace."  The guitar and keyboard flow so beautifully together on this piece...every time I hear it I just close my eyes, sit back, and become one with the stereo as my headphones melt into my auditory canals...Jordan and John feed off each other's energy in a way that is almost cosmic; you feel as though you are party to something not just special, but poignant.  In Dream Theater world, these guys tear it up like no other.  Yet here, they display a magnificent "alter ego" if you will, a duet that encourages one to lift the other, making both larger than life.  An absolutely sublime piece.

                                        

CCA: Any musician dead or alive you would like to play a gig with?

JR: It would have been fun to be alive in the Jimi Hendrix era and trade solos with him; that would have been amazing.  I thought it would have been fun to play with Steve Vai.  We never really had a chance to make that happen; maybe one day we will.    

CCA: Any words of wisdom or encouragement for those starting out and seeking to make it in the prog rock world?  As you may know, my blog is aimed primarily at the up and coming prog artists who are trying to get their foot in the door; anything you can offer them?

JR: This is a very interesting time in the music world as I am sure you know.  I have so many friends that have really good bands yet they are having so much trouble trying to find their way...it's like  "Where are you going with this?  How do you survive, get gigs?"  It is difficult and I don't have a magical solution but I do have, even in my own musical life, challenges and difficulties because we do live in an age where people expect music for free.  Everybody is grabbing as much as they can without paying for it, and that makes for a very difficult situation.  I may be guilty of that myself; I give away music because everybody loves music and I love to share music.  Just last night I turned on the camera and started playing the piano for about 25 minutes.

As far as tips for young people; I don't want to discourage anyone because I have seen and heard so many good bands that just couldn't do it.  What I do think is that it's really important to understand what is going on; there are different ways, different avenues to get into music.  It helps to get some education; you may want to go to school and learn about how the music business works and the many ways you can survive in it.  You can work for a house that does music for licensing, get involved in something related to music, and discover all the possibilities out there waiting for you.  But if you just focus like an arrow on one thing it is a little tricky in today's world.  

You also need to understand the Internet and the different ways to get your stuff out there, realizing people expect more than just the "sound;" they want to see you and have something visual.  There a lot of good cameras that have good audio now and you can record your band so it will sound good and look good as well.  Put some imagination into it, make sure people know what you're doing.  You don't want to waste your shot so be certain there is enough information and it's well produced enough to showcase who you are and what you do.  One of the mistakes I made starting out was making a demo tape that had about eight different styles on it and I sent it out to people.  The response I got was they didn't know what I did, what direction I was going; it was too confusing.  

CCA: You mentioned Facebook Live; I wanted to talk about that with you also.  This is a great outlet; you play beautiful piano and it really is a pleasure to listen to.

JR: Facebook Live is really a great thing, whether you are a musician or anyone really.  You just turn on the camera and broadcast to your followers. For me, I appreciate this fan base I've been lucky enough to have built over the years, and because I love to make music...it is a way to heal myself and become in tune with what's around me.  

Part of the beauty of making music is sharing it; I really do love to do that.  If I can play something and people connect with it that's great.  The problem is this is how I make my living.  I know a lot of people think, "You guys in Dream Theater have it made, you're rich."  But things have changed; it's not like that anymore.  The internet and things like Spotify make it more challenging.  I'm not starving--don't get me wrong; that is not what I'm saying.  What I mean is there needs to be a way to bring it all together.  Perhaps I will continue to stream live, but after a minute or two a pop-up will ask for payment, a dollar or two, to continue listening....maybe a subscription type thing if people want to continue watching.  Of course I will continue to post things on Facebook Live for the fans, but the whole idea of music for free has got to change.  Otherwise it will get harder and harder, even impossible, for people to make a living making music.  

CCA: I believe the smart fans know and understand that.  One of the things about Spotify is the fact that an artist needs so many hits to get any kind of compensation from it, and it becomes a moral dilemma for people like me; do I listen for free--or at a low monthly rate--or do I buy the music and support the artist directly?

JR: But at least people are paying a monthly subscription rate for Spotify, it's better than expecting music for free.  Because really it goes deeper than that; managers, lawyers, producers, and all the people taking their cut off the top while the musicians are the ones out there touring and performing. Musicians need managers, and we are fortunate in that we have great ones, but the system has to change.  

CCA: Well, I believe I have taken about 45 minutes of your life and I appreciate you giving me your time.  I think it is great that someone of your stature is willing to give your time so freely.  

JR: As I said, thanks for the interview, I appreciate the opportunity. 

And that my fellow progheads, wraps up one of my bucket list items.  Jordan Rudess is arguably one of the most respected keyboard players in the progressive rock world, and he graciously took time out of his schedule, right before starting a major European tour, to spend time in the Concert Closet.  I hope this was as much fun for you my faithful followers as it was for me.  

Jordan's music and talents speak for themselves; I was just grateful he was willing to share his thoughts, insights, and feelings in a such a humble setting.  I know I've said it many times and I probably sound like a mundane tape loop, but one of the things that separates the prog garden from other sections of the music world is the connection the artists make with the fans.  That Jordan Rudess would make time and be so readily available to talk with me (after one simple Tweet) speaks volumes of his character.  To rise to his level in the prog world and not forget those who helped him get there, makes me realize the prog garden is truly in good hands.   

There are multiple options for connecting with Jordan Rudess;  his website Jordan Rudess, the Dream Theater website Dream Theater, and his Wizdom Music website Wizdom Music.  Jordan also has a Facebook page FB Jordan Official and Twitter @Jcrudess.   

To sum up my conversation with Jordan Rudess I would say it was refreshing to talk with someone who has achieved so much success in the prog garden that is so unassuming and at such a grass roots level with his fans.  My mother-in-law is now one of his newest followers thanks to Facebook Live! So a sincere and  heartfelt thanks to Jordan for granting me this interview.  

Now as the Concert Closet moves deeper into the unknown realm of 2017 in search of all things prog, there has been a  few other changes. First, the search for all things prog is now a Facebook page where I hope to build a following of bands and artists looking for another outlet to get their sound out to the masses...of course it will help to follow the advice Jordan offered earlier...and a Closet Concert Arena Instagram account to follow and help promote as much as I can the bands I review here in the Closet Concert Arena.  Of course none of this means anything without you my faithful followers, so thank you for staying the course and helping me live this dream...and as always, until next time...