Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Seconds Before Landing "Trio Volume 1"

The door to The Closet Concert Arena is always open to the prog faithful, so come on in fellow progheads!  While the summer heat continues its stranglehold on the thermometer, the search for all things prog continues its quest to bring you the best new, lesser known, and flying low under the radar bands the prog garden has to offer.  An absolute pleasure to visit with old friends--especially when they bring new music to the Concert Closet. This week the search for all things prog stays stateside for a visit with Seconds Before Landing, a band that is as intense as it is creative.  SBL released their fourth album/first EP "Trio Volume 1" July 27th and I am more than happy to review.

I have been a fan of Seconds Before Landing since my first encounter with their music back in 2016.  In an era when many bands and artists tend to follow a safe path, SBL founder John Crispino consistently blazes his own trail, pushing the envelope to create music that can be dark, haunting, and thought provoking.  John claims to be a pretty upbeat guy, just a witness to the world around him.  To the headphones we go...


The opening tune is called "192" and to call it powerful is an understatement.  Janusz Korczak ran an orphanage in Poland when the Holocaust happened; this song honors one man's bravery in the face of evil.  The entire piece is shrouded in a darkness that is almost tangible--you can feel it permeate the headphones as it wraps around your mind, penetrating your auditory sensors and grabbing your conscience. The aromatics remind me of Pink Floyd in their "Atom Heart Mother" or "Ummagumma" period; occupying a not very crowded section of the prog garden.  Seconds Before Landing strikes a nerve with wrenching lyrics:

"It wasn't that long ago
Back in '42
Just me and the children
We numbered 192"

 "...one day, they came to take them                 
 They gave permission that I could stay
 I didn't want to see them go alone                   
 So we all just marched away..."
                 
 "...They'll be coming soon so we must prepare
 Get on the train and take this ride                 
 Remember what I told you show your pride   
 Once inside let's sing this song
 I promise children it won't take long"

The brush strokes on canvas these words evoke are dripping with emotion you won't find spinning the radio dial...the dark background has  splatters of bright red and subtle streaks of blue...because hope always accompanies strength...

Next up is "Maybe I'm a Weirdo."  In typical SBL style, the opening is a gateway down an  absolutely unknown rabbit hole that I can't wait to fall into.  The darkness almost illuminates; there is a madman in the room but you can't tell which facade he hides behind.  John is extremely adept at identifying with that which makes us uncomfortable...are these the ramblings of a depressed every man or are we peering through the cracks of a psychotic mind?  The vocals have a Frank Zappa feel as you sit through an autobiographical run down of why this person takes up occupancy in all of us.

Liner Notes...started in Pittsburgh PA back in 2010, Seconds Before Landing is the creation of John Crispino.  John has had several prog and rock  giants on his albums, including Trey Gunn, John Palumbo, and Tim Bogert.  The core of SBL includes John on drums, percussion, keyboards, synthesizers, vocals, and special effects.  Joining John is Steve Schuffert, Eric Maldonado, and Rick Witkowski on guitars, J.D. Garrison and Guy Bar Tor on bass, Jamie Peck on piano, and Vanessa Campagna on backing vocals.

Seconds Before Landing may produce their final product along the dark outer edges of the prog garden, but they travel every square inch of earth within its confines putting ideas and thoughts together to do so.  John views the absurdity, cruelty, and irony of life through a different lens and uses those awakened  emotions to breathe life into his work...

Learn more about Seconds Before Landing at SBL and SBL Bandcamp.  Here you will find the entire catalog along with links to the band's Facebook and Twitter as well as SBL Radio, an outlet John uses to share his world with you.

The final cut is called "You Won't Deny Me" and this one drips with foreboding and anger reminiscent of "I Don't Like Mondays" by the Boomtown Rats.  The song grabs your attention immediately; tension so thick nerve endings are exposed.  Seconds Before Landing crawls inside the macabre mind of a school shooter as he walks you through his day right up to that final, fatal moment.  Guitars scream with anguish while a haunting vocal similar to Gregorian Rock pierces the veil around your soul.



I chose "192" for your peek behind the curtain.  This is as much to honor Janusz Korczak as it is to paint a vivid picture of the inner workings of Seconds Before Landing.  John found a crack in the time/space continuum, crawled inside, and watched the projection machine rattle off so many of mankind's shortcomings.  His ability to channel that, using darkness to awaken an inner morality inside the listener, is stunning.  Dim the lights and hold on...

                       

So fellow progheads I hope you enjoyed your time this week.  Seconds Before Landing lives everywhere in the prog garden, shining a light into the abyss we humans prefer to avoid.  It is rare to find someone who can take tragedy, sadness and evil and turn it inside out the way John Crispino does--and he does it quite elegantly.  Progressive rock can be the beautification of a world drenched in flaws and shortcomings, and that makes the journey all the more relevant and worthwhile.

Now as I am so fond of saying, the search for all things prog continues...until next time...

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Majestic

As always, it is a pleasure to have you back fellow progheads!  If this is your first foray into The Closet Concert Arena I hope you enjoy the view, the sound, and keep coming back for more!  This week the search for all things prog continues the mission of bringing the lesser known, toiling away, extremely talented yet for the most part unknown prog bands to the forefront.  To scratch that itch, I took the Concert Closet to Minnesota for some deep listening with Majestic.




Referring to themselves as a progressive rock recording project, Majestic tills acreage in the symphonic section of the prog garden.  Falling into the "been around awhile and still flying low under the radar" category, Majestic released their first album "Arrival" in 2009 and followed that up with seven more releases through 2015 (eight if you count "Epsilon" I and II separately).  A respectable resume, so let us find out  what lurks beneath the surface waiting to burst through the rich prog soil...

In keeping with tradition I will start the buffet with "Arrival;"  gotta stick to the timeline!  A truly beautiful piece...the opening takes me immediately to the dawning of a new day--and few things match the splendor of the sun rising on a new beginning; a fresh opportunity.  The guitars are soft as melting chocolate as the entire production is swallowed up in a 1960's dreamscape.  Vocals pierce the shell that encompasses the music; Majestic has just crossed into the terrestrial symphonic section of the prog garden.  Top notes of early Pink Floyd echo through the headphones and aromatics of Genesis in their "Foxtrot" days carry through the air.  Majestic fills the room with a physical presence as the canvas is exploding with color...yes, we have arrived...

Moving down the buffet line, I stop at what appears to be a healthy portion of "Clover Suite."  More vintage 2009, more prog that wraps around you like your favorite blanket on the beach while enjoying a bonfire at night.  The vocals leap through the headphones, bellow down your auditory canals, and pump their way through your entire being.  A splendid slice of symphonic majesty...there is an ornateness reminiscent of Trans Siberian Orchestra careening around in my head, but make no mistake--Majestic is a band true to themselves.

Liner Notes...Majestic was born in the winter wonderland known as Minneapolis, MN.  The band is  Jeff Hamel on keyboards, guitar, and vocals.  Jeff is joined in a regular, member-of-the-band kinda way (for the most part) by Jessica Rasche on vocals.  But don't let that lull you into a false sense of inaccuracy...Jeff is also joined by several talent-laden musicians on each of his album releases.  A "family reunion" of all the musicians Jeff has recorded Majestic albums with would run this blog too long at around eighteen.  I don't want to disrespect anyone by listing some and omitting others...so suffice to say it is an impressive list...

Going back to the buffet I laser up "Star Bound" from the 2010 release "Ataraxia."  This album was dipped in cool jazz fusion and encased in an atmospheric prog outer shell.  Top notes of Steely Dan and Camel fill your auditory sensors immediately.  Jessica's vocals are smooth like a water slide, taking you right into the middle of the pool.  There is a blues vibe coursing through the tune giving it an alter ego of sorts...the clean crisp lines of a Maserati with scratches in the paint...


There is much to learn, listen to, and appreciate about Majestic and you can do that at the website Majesticsongs...you can even check the impressive alumni Jeff calls guest musicians in the gallery...
The entire Majestic catalog is available at Majesticsong Bandcamp and
Majesticsongs cdbaby.  Of course there is also Facebook and Twitter,
Majesticsongs FB and @majesticsongs, for those so inclined to follow along and dig a bit deeper.

For your listening pleasure I chose a song from the 2012 album "V.O.Z." called "Crossing Meridian."  This album takes yet another tangent road--Majestic has mastered the art of starting from scratch with each album.  Not necessarily a dark colored canvas, but there is a metal-tinged hardness that builds as the song progresses.  Jeff uses every acre the prog garden has to offer in creating a sound as distinct as it is remarkable.  Let the drums carry you while the guitars and vocals lead you through a labyrinth of sights and sounds...

                    

Majestic is another in a long line of prog bands that have been working the garden for a long time and managed to stay out of the limelight.  Jeff Hamel's ability to find the right artists for each collaboration--a la Steely Dan--has created a collection of music that spans the prog garden.  Prog artists tend to wear multiple hats; musician, producer, sound engineer, promoter...you get my point.  Jeff has toiled behind and in front of the curtain putting together a sound that really needs to be heard to be appreciated.   Majestic has a flavor for every craving...

So now the search for all things prog trudges on--in a most excited and eager way.  A journey that for me has been  nothing short of extraordinary.  The prog garden is a fertile hot bed of  vast and varied sights and sounds and The Closet Concert Arena is only too happy to offer you my loyal followers a front row seat.  The journey continues...until next time...