Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Gregorian Rock...Making "Fire" the Old-Fashion Way

Greetings once again fellow progheads!  Summer 2017 is preparing for her swan song; nights are getting a bit cooler as Mother Nature starts to hunker down in anticipation of autumn.  The leaves are starting to turn, there is a crisp bite in the evening air, and a brisk stroll through the prog garden has me looking for hearty fall bounty.  In an effort to cling to summer as long as possible, I circle back to San Antonio, Texas for a follow-up to a blog post started several months ago...


Dale Benedict, perhaps better known as the master mind behind Gregorian Rock, has been putting together album #3, "Fire" one single release at-a-time.  I wrote about this album and the concept behind it back in March; the early cuts were original, exciting, and very well put together. Gregorian Rock is truly a distinctive prog force to be reckoned with.  Recently Dale forwarded me a copy of song #11 called "Wisdom"; a piece he described as "pummeling."  The song opens hard and stays there throughout; drums crack the protective coating that is the vocals, which are but the lone word sapientia (Latin for wisdom), and guitar work spills out just enough to tangle itself around that vocal line and hang on.  I pick up a few top notes of Spock's Beard and Porcupine Tree lingering around the periphery...

Playing back some of the other tracks Dale has laid down leads to some attention-grabbing music; the cut titled "Blood & Fire" jumps right at you.  There is "jazz cafe" feel much like Steve Scales improvising with Herbie Hancock if you can paint that picture in your mind.  Once again the drum work is exceptional as it carries the rest of the music comfortably through the headphones, filtering through your cerebrum as it both soothes and ignites the senses.

Gregorian Rock is the stained glass window in that vintage village gift shop...until you cross the threshold and nothing is as it seems.  While the vocals are a chant, they are well accompanied by incredible guitar and keyboard work.  Dale does Tony Levin proud with the Chapman stick as well...


A song that changes things up a bit is this next cut, "Talon."  Gregorian Rock digs deeper into the rock section of the prog garden with this tune; I detect top notes of latter era Yes blending with aromatics of Be Bop Deluxe.  Dale has done his home work for this album; there are footprints up and down the prog garden.  "Fire" is a culmination of Gregorian Rock's first two albums stretched to a new limit...Dale didn't just push the envelope to stroke his ego, he moved the bar and raised the expectation level for what Gregorian Rock can do.

"Ashes" is up next and once again Gregorian Rock comes at you from a different angle.  The vibe is almost surreal; you feel as though you are floating downstream on a current as gentle as flowing honey, each twist of the water soothing and tender.  The pallet goes from dreary gray to color strewn as Gregorian Rock manages to awaken you without shock waves...letting the sound flow over you like a soothing balm...

Liner Notes...As should be blatantly obvious by now--and explained to the prog faithful in previous posts--Gregorian Rock is Dale Benedict and vice-versa.  However; for the making of "Fire" Dale had some help in the form of a pretty impressive line-up.  With Dale on vocals, keyboards, EWI, and Chapman stick, the line-up rounds out with Phil Keaggy, Vinnie Moreno, Pat Neil, and Jay Pilkington on guitars, John Adams on bass, Scott McCullor on vocals, and Sean McCurley and Paul Garretson on drums.  As big as Texas is, that is one crowded recording studio...

Gregorian Rock legitimizes itself as a band with this album.  Assembling that level of talent--the fact that Phil Keaggy not only played guitar but had nothing but positive things to say about the project--is a bold statement all by itself.  Gregorian Rock has grown and matured from their first release in 2013 right through the first eleven tracks of "Fire."  The sound is tighter, the mixing improved, the songs stronger, and the emotions bursting through the headphones are real.

Take the leap and learn more about Gregorian Rock at Gregorian Rock.  You can purchase any or all of the first eleven tracks of "Fire" (there will be twelve upon completion) at Amazon
GR Fire Amazon, iTunes GR Fire iTunes, and cdbaby GR Fire cdbaby.  You will also find links to purchase the first two albums while you are there.  For those looking to expand their own personal prog boundaries, this is must-have stuff.  There is also Facebook if you are interested in keeping up with the latest, including the release of song #12 (when that occurs) at Gregorian Rock FB.  Of course, Gregorian Rock can also be found on the ever popular Twitter @cantusnovus.

I debated posting a clip this week as I prefer you to listen and make a purchase...need to support the artists after all.  However I thought the clip below, "Remember the Name" would help introduce those who are still unfamiliar with Gregorian Rock to this section of the prog garden.  This song should help erase the misconception that Gregorian chant is simply dark voices echoing from a hollow void.
Although the song opens with a melancholy, perhaps stereotypical "churchy" feel, the mood quickly swings right as the tempo gains steam and even the vocals have an upbeat, toe-tapping edge.  The drums and percussion lay a foundation for the vocal work that is tight as a wrestling mat; you feel the music bounce up and come right back at you.

                   

OK fellow progheads...two weeks in Texas and two bands expanding the prog garden.  Gregorian Rock has taken a unique approach as Dale Benedict blends the ancient art of Gregorian chant with modern music to establish a different section of the prog garden.  The sounds are soothing, menacing, deep, and relaxing...all while seeping into your subconscious to alter your thoughts on the genre.  One thing is certain--prog rock has many tangent roads down which it is unafraid to roam...

So please give Gregorian Rock a listen and make a purchase.  The search for all things prog continues to find new and expanding avenues and ever changing acreage in the prog garden...which is after all the best part of the journey.  Until next time...

Friday, September 15, 2017

Aaron Clift Experiment "If All Goes Wrong" Indiegogo Campaign

Hello fellow progheads and welcome back to The Closet Concert Arena!  In case you are scratching your head with a confused look in your eye...no--today is not Tuesday and yes--this is a new post coming from the Concert Closet.

The Aaron Clift Experiment is set to go into the studio to work on their third album "If All Goes Wrong."  The album promises to be as diverse as the prog garden; tracks ranging from intricate prog epics to crushing hard rock and delicate ballads...



If I may be so bold as to offer some first-hand personal experience with The Aaron Clift Experiment, let me simply say that this is a band that walks the width and breadth of the prog garden.  Their first two albums were extremely well done and offered the listener quite a prog experience.  I first discovered The Aaron Clift Experiment back in 2014, and was fortunate to interview Aaron in 2015 following the release of the band's second album, "Outer Light Inner Darkness."  Aaron is dedicated to his craft and his band is both a credit and testament to that end.

The Aaron Clift Experiment released their debut "Lonely Hills" in 2012, and followed up in 2015 with their second album.  Both were well received in the prog world, with rave reviews here in the Closet Concert Arena as well Progression Magazine and  Progradar.  Prog Magazine nominated the band for a a prog award in the Limelight category in 2016 and  for the Indie Prog Award by Friday Night Progressive.

The Aaron Clift Experiment hails from Austin, Texas and is deeply entrenched in the local prog music scene.  They are running an Indiegogo campaign from today September 15th through October 27th, 2017.  You can contribute to the campaign at www.aaronclift.com/indiegogo.  There are some fantastic rewards being offered by the band for contributing and helping make "If All Goes Wrong" a reality.

You can also connect with the Aaron Clift Experiment on their website http://aaronclift.com/,  Facebook ACE Facebook, Twitter @AaronCliftMusic and Instagram aaroncliftmusic.  The band also has a YouTube Channel ACE Youtube.  Lots of options, lots of great prog.  I simply ask you to check the band out for yourself and if you believe great prog needs to be kept alive, and the next generation is honoring the standard bearers that forged this genre, then please make a contribution.

I post the clip below to allow Aaron Clift Experiment to explain personally about their campaign to make "If All Goes Wrong."


So fellow progheads, the gauntlet is dropped, the challenge made, the request genuine...please help keep the prog garden flourishing.  The Aaron Clift Experiment is offering great rewards for your contributions, including album download, signed CD's, a signed bass, music lessons, and more.

In keeping with tradition, the search for all things prog continues on...and The Aaron Clift Experiment Indiegogo campaign is but one example of the plethora of talent coming from the prog garden today.  I know the prog faithful will step up, and the search for all things prog will continue the journey...until next time...

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Barock Project "Detachment"

As always welcome back fellow progheads!  Mother Nature has been wreaking havoc across the US; hurricanes, wildfires, floods...seems like Armageddon at times.  So to avoid being swept up in
out-of-control weather, the search for all things prog travels beyond domestic borders this week as the journey continues to find prog music the world over.

Hopefully many of you will remember the Barock Project, a symphonic prog band from Italy I discovered two years ago.  Time to set the GPS for the Modena region and check back in with this remarkable band.  Barock Project recently released their fifth album "Detachment" and this seems the perfect time to put the headphones on and check it out...


The album opens to what sounds like a dreary day; you can almost feel the rain as the piano sets a sobering mood.  The canvas is streaked with gray to dark hues as you are swept through a barrage of emotions culminating in the second track on the album, "Promises."  This piece echoes through your head gently as the songs comes to full bloom; top notes of Spock's Beard permeate the mind. Barock Project come at you in a subtle way; tiptoeing through the prog garden as they set up a burst of sound that suddenly strikes from all sides.  Filling the headphones with an energy level that seemingly came from nowhere, Barock Project abruptly hammers the lining of your skull a la Dream Theater.

Moving through the album, I come across what starts out as a gentle albeit somber piece called "Broken."  Continuing to paint with primarily darker shades, Barock Project hits the canvas with splashes of color--just enough to pique your interest and draw you in deeper.  There is a stillness to the music that belies an ornate, calliope-like energy level sulking under the surface...just waiting to ooze through your pores.



Liner Notes...on this album Barock Project is founding member Lucca Zabbini on piano, keyboards, acoustic guitar and lead vocals, Marco Mazzuoccolo on electric guitars, Francesco Caliendo on bass, and Eric Ombelli on drums.  Guest and additional musicians include Peter Jones performing lead vocals on "Broken" and "Alone," and Alex Mari and Ludovica Zanasi adding additional vocals.

Barock Project has five albums in their repertoire including this release.  You can find out more about all of them, listen, and make a purchase at one of these sites;  BarockProjectBP BandCamp, and
BP Stars of Italy. The band also has a Facebook page where you can keep current with all things Barock Project Barock Project FB, as well as Twitter @BAROCKPROJECT

The final serving for review this week is called "Twenty Years."  A soft acoustic opening melts away the darkness for a moment; there are top notes of early Kansas and perhaps a hint of Gentle Giant flowing through the headphones.  Lucca's voice is gentle as the canvas begins to fill with Monet-like pastels...and then the tempo picks up--hard--and the hues get brighter, the images louder, and the aura starts to swing the pendulum back toward the ornate.  Barock Project stay true to their inner being as guitars tilt the mood meters hard right and drums echo across the room.



The clip below is the earlier reviewed "Broken."  I chose this cut because it gives a glimpse of all Barock Project is...opening with that trademark soft piano, it slowly raises the temperature without going ballistic. There is an atmosphere of a "Victorianesque" attitude among the commoners, much like serving white truffles with fried chicken.  However; the crashing of these two opposing classes results in a piece of music that pours out a soul that you would otherwise miss...much like a subtle taste of tupelo honey lost among the jalapenos...



And so my fellow progheads, the curtain has drawn to a close on another masterful work of art. Barock Project has traipsed through the prog garden in grand style once again, expanding the boundaries, expectations, and abilities of their symphonic capabilities.  The album blazes through  an ornate set and leaves the listener wanting more.  Listening to the Barock Project grow and mature from one album to the next gives me reason to expect even more from album #6...but let's savor "Detachment" for now...

Of course this can only mean one thing; the search for all things prog continues the journey.  More new music awaits the anxious ears of the prog faithful...until next time...

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Violent Attitude If Noticed, "Ourselves and Otherwise"

Once again hello and a heartfelt thanks for returning to The Closet Concert Arena fellow progheads! The dog days are here and the prog garden is definitely heating up.  This week the search for all things prog takes a look at the newest release from Violent Attitude If Noticed, one of several prog projects led Will Geraldo and Progressive Gears.  You may remember our visit with Will last summer as he discussed his many ventures, bands, and music projects.

Setting the GPS for Brazil and this week's journey is underway.  Violent Attitude If Noticed, or V.A.I.N. for the acronym-friendly crowd, cuts a fairly wide swath as they roam the prog garden;
post prog/art/post punk according to Will...time to put on the headphones...



The new album, recently released on the Progressive Gears label, is called "Ourselves and Otherwise."  If the intention was to stir the proverbial pot; mission accomplished.  The first cut teed up is "Time Waster."  The opening bass line hits like a soft hammer as it walks you into a percussion outburst; top notes of Joy Division and a hint of Style Council make this an interesting spin around the turntable.  The tempo picks up as vocals move in riding on some smooth guitar work and an undercurrent of drum work that is strong enough to carry the music along. V.A.I.N. stalks the prog garden in search of ideas, thoughts, and impulses that can be taken individually and melded into a melange unique unto itself.  Will and his bandmates tap on the inside of your skull in an attempt to wake you from your doldrums, not wanting the world to pass you by.


The second song pulsing through the headphones is "The Tower."  A more acoustic feel moves in as the the song wraps itself around you...slowly getting your attention as it holds on tighter and tighter.  V.A.I.N. continue their trek through your mind, trying to hit the nerve that will jolt you upright, no longer able to remain a mere spectator.  There are hints of Camel and slight aromatics of Marillion seeping into your consciousness...

Liner Notes...Violent Attitude If Noticed is Will Geraldo, Guilherme Saba, and Alessandro Queler.
Three musicians who collectively produce some of the more extremely ornate, multi-layered, conceptually thought provoking stuff to emerge from the prog garden.  They fill the canvas with more than just blasts of color; the images that emerge sting you like a low tide jellyfish.  Looking back at my interview with Will, V.A.I.N. likes to "get their hands dirty" as they dig deep into the rich prog garden soil, unearthing--and talking about--all the things that hide in plain sight.  Violent Attitude If Noticed started on a journey in 2008 and their mission is not yet complete...of course that means great prog will continue to flow from Brazil so it ain't such a bad thing...

Get involved in the movement and unearth more V.A.I.N gems at V.A.I.N. and V.A.I.N. BandCamp.
You will find Violent Attitude If Noticed along with other prog artists under the Progressive Gears umbrella at Progressive Gears.  V.A.I.N. also has a Facebook page at V.A.I.N. Facebook.



Violent Attitude If Noticed claws into your conscious thought in an attempt to push you into
action--something the world could use more of in case you have been asleep at the switch these past several months...the planet is like a snake shedding its skin and people are either watching in awe and bewilderment or gearing up for the next phase.  Will, Guilherme, and Alessandro chose the latter and believe the best way to build a revolution is to start one...and this is their benchmark.

One more slice of the vinyl for review; "Ever-Ticking Clock."  Top notes of Dream Theater from "Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence" lash out immediately; tension builds from the first note.  The guitars work with the drums to create an atmosphere of pressure and anxiety...you're waiting for the unseen blow from the blind side as vocals rain down like a siren song of impending tragedy.  V.A.I.N. slices deep--not only this song, but the entire album.  It is one thing to paint with dark colors, but to use those sinister hues as a backdrop to a more elaborate story is as refreshing as it is explosive.

Take a moment to explore Violent Attitude If Noticed (if you haven't already) and I feel confident you will come away with a new appreciation for this prog trio.  You can start with the post below; "Useless."  Don't take the light drum opening lightly; it leads down a path littered with misconceptions and misplaced intentions...what is it they say about the road to perdition?  V.A.I.N. continues to poke insincerity and hollow concern in the eye...if you aren't part of the solution then you ARE the problem.

                           

Start the music machine, sit back, and feel your pulse begin to race.  Violent Attitude If Noticed is prog  making a statement; stand up and be accountable...get involved...if you ain't pissed you ain't awake...there really is a mood for everyone.  Hopefully I have not led you to feel V.A.I.N. is just a rant against humanity and all that is sensible--because they are so much more than that.  The beauty of this section of the prog garden is the emotions that bore deep and the sense of outrage in regard to everything that runs counter to decency and the good side of mankind...Violent Attitude If Noticed really does care.

And once again fellow progheads The Closet Concert Arena cues up traveling music as the search for all things prog forges ahead.  V.A.I.N. is just the top layer to some very rich, fertile soil...the prog garden is filled with bands and artists just bursting with energy and desire, I simply try to give them a soap box to preach from...until next time...

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

The Many New Releases of Psicolorama

Hello again fellow progheads and welcome once again to the Closet Concert Arena!  The summer of 2017 has proven to be a banner season for the prog garden; so many new bands releasing great material combined with up and coming artists proving their worth with follow up albums that expand both their catalog and boundaries.  This week The Concert Closet takes the search for all things prog back to Spain and a whirlwind fortnight with Psicolorama as together we review several new releases that have recently been thrust upon the ears and minds of the masses.



Psicolorama has been filling the prog garden with new sights and sounds--almost non-stop--since the band came into existence.  My last review was almost two years ago and since that time their album catalog has grown 4-fold...apparently the studio is one comfy "home" for Manuel Casado and company...

I open the review this week with a cut from the album "Nomadas" released in May; "Some Expectations."  A soft acoustic guitar opening bleeds gently into beautiful piano accompanied by a steady bass beat that keeps you on point.  The guitar and piano continue to trade velvety smooth jabs throughout.  Although on a different plane, I am reminded of Robert Fripp and Soundscapes; perhaps even a gentler version of Brian Eno during his ambient days.  Psicolorama leads the mind and soul on a journey filled with soft colors and the occasional horn blast of primary red to hold your gaze...


Next up for review is a cut from "The White Sun" released in January called "Cerulean Skies." Another fine edged gem, this piece has an old school jazz feel as the muted horns start to penetrate your inner ear and vocals pierce the veil and enter your cerebrum; the sing/speak draws you closer to a flame that is felt but as yet unseen.  Manuel does so much with so little...the sound is as full as an ELP interlude but the ornate, over-the-top, bomblast is nowhere to be heard.  Much like Pink Floyd in their early days, Psicolorama hits the canvas with an array of images and colors outside the standard spectrum...leaving the listener awash in a calming pool of sound...


Another 2017 release, "My Name is Guggenheim vol. 2: Red Cosmic Eye Watching You" contains the terrestrial sounding song "Watching You (Parts One & Two)."  In a fashion similar to Seconds Before Landing, Psicolorama has cosmic overtones on this cut as the listener is led down a winding corridor, through an exit door, across a field, and out into the great wide open.  This is music that expands the soul.  I pick up top notes of The Strawbs in the air and perhaps a touch of Flim & The BB's.  Psicolorama uses the minimum to produce the maximum once again.  Horns shoot across the top like ocean spray hitting the rocks at high tide.  The feeling of being watched is real and almost unnerving; the tension brought on by the vocals as they pierce the veil of drums and keyboards would be frightening if it weren't so fascinating...think back to a horror movie that scared you as a kid; a woman's frightened voice echoing away as the peril moved closer...



Moving to Psicolorama's latest release "No Words," I dig into a serving called "Globetrotter."  A retro jazz cafe feel oozes through my headphones--in a Doc Severinsen/Herbie Hancock sort of way.  The piano strikes first and you feel an almost instant nostalgia for the carousel at a summer carnival. Psicolorama bounces all over the prog garden with this cut, making the title very apropos.  The music seems to strut across your cranium as it enters your auditory canals, leaving an image like an homage to autumn.  The album title gives it away--this one is sans vocals--but they really aren't necessary. Manuel & Company fill the canvas with bright colors without using all the sticky gooeyness...just a cacophony of sound.  Psicolorama continues to defy the senses as so much clamor and imagery seem to emit from so little a starting point.


Check out the entire Psicolorama catalog at Psicolorama BandCamp and Psicolorama Blogspot. The music is also available at iTunes and Amazon, and of course you can follow on Facebook at
Psicolorama FB  and Twitter @psicolorama. There are other new releases listed on these websites as well; do yourself the favor of checking them out and making a purchase or two...or four...or more...

I have been a fan of Psicolorama since first hearing "Psico-ReImpression" back in 2014.  Psicolorama is prog from yet another viewpoint...I hear the grumblings among some that the prog umbrella is getting too wide but I must respectfully disagree; the prog umbrella needs to continue expanding if prog is to survive, thrive, and grow.

To me the beauty of prog is the wide range of artists and the varied sections of the prog garden that produce such a vast musical landscape.  Growth and change are the foundation on which the prog garden flourishes, and Psicolorama is but a microcosm of what that means.  New releases that run the gambit of (almost) the entire garden, a different approach on each album release, and with the possible exception of metal, the band has walked almost the entire breadth and width of the genre.

The clip I chose to post this week is from another new Psicolorama release, "My Name is Guggenheim."  The song is called "The Naked Room" and as you first enter the orbit this piece resides in, you become instantly transported to a different dimension.  The music seems to echo through your mind, bouncing off the sides of your inner skull as a picture of tranquility and unknowing is painted around the perimeter...a mysterious juxtaposition that is calming and unsettling all at once.  Psicolorama prefers life beyond the borders of normal and humdrum, straying constantly into the gravitational pull of a galaxy deep in another stratosphere.  Stay awhile and enjoy the music--and the view....

 
                    

Well fellow progheads, we have reached the end of another review. Hard to believe the summer portion of the sand in the 2017 hourglass is flowing so quickly--yet here we are entering August. As I wind up my time in Spain, I am reminded that the search for all things prog has brought me to many remarkable and out-of-the-ordinary destinations; I trust next week will be no exception as the Closet Concert Arena continues on its never ending, always amazing journey...until next time...

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Seconds Before Landing, "Now That I Have Your Attention"

Welcome to the dog days of summer fellow progheads!  The mercury has been climbing high in the thermometer and the sounds wafting from the prog garden have been just as hot...this week we venture back to America and visit with a band that has been steadily growing their prog music catalog.

Seconds Before Landing just released their latest album "Now That I Have Your Attention;" album number three for those keeping score at home.  John Crispino is the creative mastermind hard at work behind (and in front of) the curtain and I have enjoyed the sounds emanating from Pittsburgh PA ever since I discovered this band in the prog garden a few years back.  Now time to dig in and find out if the music is as striking as the album art...



The album opens in usual SBL fashion; that is to say you feel as though you are being escorted through a a crack in the time/space continuum...nothing seems to make sense and there is an apprehensive, almost nonsensical unease in the air.  The voice over and audio clips are tied together perfectly with a eerie "Twilight Zone-ish" musical interlude that sucks you in like a riptide.

It may take three or four play-throughs before you realize the intro has bled into the first cut;
"4 A.M." The tension continues as though a serial killer is toying with your emotions...playing with you like a cat swatting a cornered mouse for what seems like an eternity (to the mouse) before finally dining on his prey.  Seconds Before Landing is to the concept album what Penn & Teller are to magic; an alternate view through a different colored lens.

As I travel along the buffet line, the mood swings to and fro yet tends to stay on the darker side of the garden; nothing evil or portentous--but the sun never seems to burn through the haze.  However; "Come Back to Me" is a cut that brings a jazz cafe feel to the music with top notes of Steely Dan wrapping themselves around a smooth scotch, going down nice and easy.  A sax solo that conjures up David Sanborn images on the underside of my eyelids takes this piece home, melding beautifully with keyboards and bass.

Liner Notes...Seconds Before Landing is the creation of the aforementioned John Crispino out of Pittsburgh.  Seconds Before Landing began in 2010 and "Now That I Have Your Attention" is the band's third album.  Joining John in SBL is Eric Maldonado and Steve Schuffert on lead guitars, J.D. Garrison on bass, Rick Witkowski on rhythm guitar, acoustic guitar and mandolin, Jamie Peck on sax, flute, and piano, and Vanessa Campagna and Carrie Jackson performing the female vocals.  Mr. Crispino is known for having an A-List of guest musicians on his albums and this one is no exception...John Palumbo plays ebow guitar on the cut "Moment In Time."

Seconds Before Landing is that band everyone talks about yet no one seems to know the players by name...much like Pink Floyd or Steely Dan  in their heyday.  Because SBL tends to paint with dark colors and bore deep into the crevices of your cranium, it is easy to think of the band as a living entity rather than being comprised of talented humans.  The album is deceivingly smooth; you almost feel as though you are part of the story being told...the imagery is as vivid and striking as a Salvador Dahli painting...



To purchase "Now That I Have Your Attention" as well as the other albums in the Seconds Before Landing catalog, go to their website Seconds Before Landing , the band's Facebook page
Seconds Before Landing FB  and their Bandcamp site  Seconds Before Landing BC.  You will also find Seconds Before Landing music on Amazon and cdbaby and you can follow the band on Twitter @SBLOfficial 

For a new twist and something I find quite intriguing, Seconds Before Landing has started a podcast called  Fly On The Wall Radio, a weekly (or so) production that will showcase all the music from Seconds Before Landing along with other bands and listener requested stuff...don't just sit there, join the party!



One more slice from the album that wanders a meandering path is called "In The Name Of."  Here John chose to open with an (almost) upbeat intro...the sea lapping at the shore as birds sing to the beauty that is a new day.  Of course in true SBL fashion the song wastes no time pulling the proverbial bootlegger's turn and heading into the thick undergrowth that borders the darker section of the prog garden.  Seconds Before Landing uses a lot of colors to cover the canvas, but there is a drop of black added to each pastel first.  A cloud of "silent" tension runs the length of this piece; you feel it in the spoken word vocals that leap towards you as well as the guitar that just hangs like the Sword of Damocles over the entire album.  Top notes of early Pink Floyd and Genesis mingle with latter day Marillion and Scarlet INside to create a mood that, while hard to define, is most assuredly deep and brooding.

The clip below, "You're Giving Me A Headache," should give you a better dose of what to expect from SBL.  An homage of sorts to the nonsensical, cynical, over-the-top vitriol and head-pounding insanity that has wrapped itself around the planet like a baked on truck bed liner...no one seems to know where it came from or why it's here, yet there seems to be no cure.  The guitar punches you right behind the eye as the drums come up from below, carrying the piano across the top like a warning flare.  Seconds Before Landing took all the craziness that is the new normal, stuffed it into a musical molotov cocktail, and hurled into the middle of the street.  The ensuing chaos makes you step back and realize we are the cause of our own demise...very insightful.  Listen a few times; dissect the entire piece...



Well fellow progheads, that brings another fortnight to a close.  Seconds Before Landing found a section of the prog garden that needs little light or water and was able to bring forth a bountiful--albeit dark and foreboding--harvest.  This is a band that, like a good single malt, is an acquired taste...and once acquired you are loathe to relinquish it.

John Crispino has created a band that takes prog to a different level. By incorporating the state of the world around him into his music he has made himself--and his band--an eyewitness to the carnage. Refreshing for me is the objective viewpoint he seems to take...the "I didn't light this dumpster fire but since you asked" approach is difficult to pull off.  People tend to want a narrative and to be told how to think; Seconds Before Landing puts the onus on you the listener...

So the Closet Concert Arena leaves you in deep thought as the search for all things prog continues...until next week...

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Machines Dream "Black Science"

As always thanks for coming back to the Closet Concert Arena fellow progheads!  So much music to review and seemingly so little time...Bent Knee was quite the prog experience, and as the search for all things prog continues to prove, the prog garden is comprised of extremely vast and varied talent and this week is no different...

Traveling north to Canada, I am checking in with a band that is a member of the Progressive Gears family of prog artists; Machines Dream.  Having been previously been reviewed here in the Concert Closet, Machines Dream has recently released a new album entitled "Black Science." Exciting and a bit rewarding to see them continuing their journey through the prog garden.


The album is a concept of sorts, dealing with war through history and the mark it left on those who served their countries and railed against the death and destruction...and of course the sad truth that man seems unwilling and/or unable to learn from his past mistakes.  Strong statements and powerful imagery are sure to abound, so let the review begin...

The album opens with a Big Brother-esque intro called "Armistice Day."  The voice-over in conjunction with the control room sounds in the background lead one to believe the forthcoming experience will be a foreboding journey down into the darker regions of man's soul.  As this song bleeds into the next cut, "Weimar," I pick up a tension that is both musically fascinating and emotionally draining...Machines Dream is cutting deep through many levels with this album.  This song has top notes of Pink Floyd wafting like plumes of smoke with perhaps a hint of Genesis caught up in the aromatics.  Machines Dream changes tempo and mood several times throughout, much like Dream Theater freewheelin' the mood elevator on "Scenes From A Memory."

Moving a bit farther down the buffet line, I discover the title cut.  I always enjoy playing title cuts over and over as they tend to give more insight into what the artist/band is trying to convey with the entire album...or perhaps I just overthink things.  Either way, this particular one digs its talons in deep and forces you to focus and listen.  Opening with gentle keyboards, the song quickly bores through to the marrow and enters your bloodstream, moving through your entire being like blood pumping through stretched arteries.  There is a tension riding across the top of the entire piece like a razor held close to the jugular by a desperate kidnapper...just stay calm...

Machines Dream seem to prefer surveying the thicker, denser section of the prog garden and this next serving is another example; "Heavy Water."  There is a narrative running through this album which taps you on the prefontal cortex...almost subconsciously getting you to pay closer attention to what is being said/sung as much as the music it is wrapped in.  The piano here isn't portentous or menacing, but rather a warning sign of the serious subject matter you are being immersed in.  The drums hold everything together as the mood continues down a dark tunnel...

Liner Notes...Machines Dream is Craig West on lead vocals and bass, Rob Coleman on lead guitar, Brian Holmes on keyboards, Jake Rendell on all things acoustic and backing vocals, and Ken Coulter on drums.   Hailing originally from Ontario Canada, the band is on Progressive Gears Records, which has quite a stable of young progressive talent.  Machines Dream refer to themselves as atmospheric, cinematic prog, and while this album continues that theme--they are more than that.  "Black Science" delivers on the prog front with an ornate sound you would expect from a band that moves through the artistic section of the prog garden. But they also deliver meaningful, hard-hitting lyrics that make you stop for a second.

Check out Machines Dream on their Facebook page Machines Dream FB and Twitter @MachinesDream.  You can purchase this album and the rest of th Machines Dream catalog at their Bandcamp site Machines Dream BC as well as the Progressive Gears website Machines Dream PGR.  By now you know my feelings in regard to buying the music and supporting the bands and artists here in the prog garden, so I will refrain from my usual rant...just please buy this music...




To that end I am not posting a video clip this week, but suffice to say "Black Science"--and all Machines Dream has pressed into vinyl and disc--is a sound you need to hear top appreciate.  One last song for review...to get your prog appetite whet as it were..."Noise to Signal."  Once again the opening draws from history to give you a glimpse of the future as drums and guitar suddenly wash over your ears like lava erupting from what was thought to be an idle volcano...no reason to panic, just pay close attention...

And with that we are ever closer to the pulse of prog.  Machines Dream mixes a classic sound; parts Pink Floyd, Genesis, Marillion, and a touch of Gentle Giant carrying the portent of the world around us today.  The beauty of the prog garden is the relevance of the music to its surroundings...Machines Dream captures that essence and drives the point home like an archer's arrow through the bulls-eye. Grab it and take all it has to offer...

Now, as the sand drops from the hourglass for the week, the Concert Closet continues the search for all things prog as the garden continues to offer a rich summer harvest...until next time...

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...