Tuesday, December 16, 2014


Welcome to my final post of 2014 fellow progheads!  Genuine heartfelt thanks to you and your families as preparations for Christmas and the ringing in of 2015 kick into "serious" mode.  My original plan was to make the final stop of the 2014 leg of my journey a domestic one, but I have a terrible track record for sticking to plans.  With that said, I have taken the Concert Closet for her last ride of the year, landing in the now familiar and comfortable confines of the United Kingdom...lots of prog happening here as I touch down in Sheffield for a visit with and a listen to Haze.

I recall stating in a previous post I was searching for all things "off the beaten path prog."  Haze fits that bill perfectly--they have been around almost 40 years and have remained an underground favorite of the prog world.  Haze calls themselves "...classic, folk, and prog rock..."  An interesting combination of flavors; a buffet too enticing to pass up.  I thought it might be more appealing to focus on their latest release, an album called "The Last Battle."  So let the prog feast begin!

In a skewed attempt at keeping with the spirit of the season, my first takeaway from the buffet this week is a song called "Balder and the Mistletoe."  The music comes at you right away from all directions, hitting you with Celtic sounds, stinging keyboards, and understated drum work.  The flute is a brilliant top note that carries you delicately across the prog soundscape.  Strong influences of Jethro Tull and early Genesis bolt right through the heart of this piece.

Serving number two is a mood setter called "The Barrister and the Bargast."  Haze does a tremendous job of painting a medieval scene with music...guitars, flutes, and drums all flailing about in a mad joust, each prodding the other like siblings when Mom is out of the room.  The music has a majestic feel; the vocals cut through the sound like a cleaver through a goose's neck--hard, fast, and definite. This is prog at its hearty best, throwing seeds throughout the prog garden so as to establish roots all across the genre.

Liner Notes... As I stated earlier, Haze calls Sheffield, UK home.  Thirty-plus years in the prog garden has allowed Haze to gather a loyal underground following as the band meandered down several tangents.  The current line up for this release consists of Paul McMahon on guitar, bass, and vocals, brother Chris McMahon on guitar, bass, keyboards, and vocals, Paul Chisnell on percussion and vocals, Ceri Ashton on whistle, flute, cello, viola, and clarinet, and sister Catrin Ashton playing fiddle and flute.  A double family affair that makes for a captivating listen and continues to expand as Paul McMahon's son Danny occupies the drum stool for live performances.

Haze may zig-zag across the prog garden and back again, but their main acreage is tilled in the classic section populated by Led Zeppelin, Jethro Tull, and Uriah Heep among others.  I pick up top notes of Atomic Rooster and perhaps a hint of Yes--Haze tends to grip the iron hammer with a velvet glove.

My third and final platter from the buffet this week is a beautiful tune called "Grey to Blue." Remaining loyal to the early sound that wraps this album like a silk robe, there is an upbeat tempo wafting from the earphones as guitar and drum sit just below smooth vocals held up by the right amount of flute and fiddle to keep the entire piece buoyant.  Haze pounds the medieval anvil with a blacksmith's genius, making for a modern-day metal sound capable of ebbing and flowing with the mood of the artists.

The clip posted below is called "Classic Rock Bar."  The opening is almost cathedral-like; more strong hints of Jethro Tull and a slight top note of The Band oddly enough.  Haze uses every bit of imagination they can muster when writing and performing, something I wish more bands had the ability to pull off this well.  An upbeat tempo and strong harmonizing make this piece a celebratory inspiration.  Haze has traipsed across the prog garden and back, gathering inspiration from many different areas.  The wisdom that comes with age shines through as Haze is able to take all that learning, knowledge, and talent and press it into one impressive disc.  Learn more about Haze at
http://www.reverbnation.com/HazeUK and follow them on Twitter @ChrisTreebeard .

Well my fellow progheads, the calendar has wound down...the alarm has rung for the final time...fifty-two weeks are in the rear-view mirror.  Haze was a fantastic ending to a splendid year--a sign that we have only scratched the prog surface.  While I am stunned at how fast 2014 flew by, I am twice as energized about what is in store for 2015.  The Concert Closet logged many a mile traveling the world in search of all things prog, and there were some great experiences on every continent.

With the holidays upon us I am grounding the Concert Closet to spend time with family and friends--and dig up some new ideas for the coming year.  Expect new prog discoveries, more interviews, and a Concert Closet full of excitement as we charge 2015 head-on!  I will be back posting on Tuesday January 13th.  Thanks for making 2014 a great year...see you around the bend and remember to Prog On!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014


Happy "Almost-End-Of-The-Year" fellow progheads!  Time is moving quickly...2014 is dropping her final curtain soon and the Concert Closet is traveling at warp speed searching for bands, artists, and music stretching the boundaries of the prog garden.  Spain was a captivating stop last week on the search for all things prog, and additional frequent flyer miles are being logged "in real time" as the journey now takes a 4500 mile dogleg northeast to Canada and the stirring sounds of Mystery.

Mystery refers to themselves as a "...cutting edge progressive rock band."  With just five words they managed to poke the curious side of my cerebral cortex, so best to jump right in with both ears. Moving with single-minded determination to the prog buffet, the first serving is a full course unto itself; a beautiful piece called "Another Day."  Settle in with your favorite sippin' whiskey before dropping the laser on this disc--you are about to take a nineteen minute ride through some dense growth.  Mystery starts out with strong vocals surrounded by stirring guitar and drum work...only to keep jerking you left and right as time changes, mood swings, and a tempo roller coaster have you checking your pulse one minute and dimming the lights the next.  Looks like we're in for a crazy seven day ride so hold on...

Serving number two, once my stomach settles back in place, is a tune called "The Sailor and the Mermaid."  An acoustic guitar opens and is immediately engulfed with smooth vocals.  The drums enter the song with creative subtleness while more guitars continue to dance along the edges.  I sense strong top notes of Marillion and Spiral Key with an aromatic whiff of Pandora...Mystery has come down several notches from my previous listen and still manage to deliver a strong piece of music.  It can be a pleasant surprise when someone remembers progressive rock does not always have to rattle your spine...

Liner Notes...Taking its first breath in 1986, Mystery was founded in Montreal, Quebec by Michel St.-Pere.  As is the "norm" for some unknown reason--perhaps the same logic that can explain why dryers eat only one sock of a perfectly good pair--Mystery's line-up evolved as did the the band's identity and style.  Mystery is currently comprised of founding member  Michel St.-Pere joined by Antoine Michaud on guitars, Francois Fournier on bass, Jean Pageau on vocals, Benoit Dupuis on keyboards, and Jean Sebastien-Goyette on drums.  Mystery has also seen its share of prog "A-Listers" waltz across their stage, including Oliver Wakeman, John Jowitt, and Benoit David.

Mystery has managed to stay relevant for so long because they have been able to evolve. The band has remained true to its prog roots in the symphonic art section of the prog garden--but one does not survive the winds of prog change without using said gusts to sail headlong out of the harbor into uncharted waters.  Mystery emits aromas of Yes, Alan Parsons Project, and understated hints of Marillion and Transatlantic...very good story telling encased in deep structures of sound.

For my final serving this week I chose a tune called "One Among the Living."  Mystery seems to enjoy leading the listener slowly, almost luring you into a feeling of tranquility...ultimately confounding the senses with a myriad of guitars, drums, and keyboards that alternately rattle and sooth.  Jean's rapid fire drumming lights up the inner lining of your cranium like a pinball machine, while Michel and Antoine level out the tilt with balanced guitar work.  Mystery seems to live by the credo "Go big or go home."

The cut I posted below is called "Beneath the Veil of Winter's Face."  A mild Gregorian Rock opening almost...I pick up a Glass hammer vibe as well.  Mystery lays this piece out methodically; each layer building on the previous until the final creation comes at you hard and fast.  The vocals are striking in both their caramel smoothness and between the eyes delivery.  learn more about Mystery at http://www.unicorndigital.com/mystery/ and follow them on Twitter at @Mysterygroup.

One more leap through the calendar, several laps around the globe, and a box of pushpins leaving a breadcrumb-like trail across a map are signs that 2014 has indeed been a busy 365 days. The Concert Closet has traveled across almost every time zone in search of all things prog.  Mystery was an interesting stop on this journey...a band with deep roots and a solid lineage.  The prog garden continues to nurture itself and expand in many directions.  One key element to the success of progressive music--and its allure to the listener--is the uniqueness every artist delivers.  The individual offerings served up by each band help shape the next piece of the prog puzzle.  My search continues, and I hope it's a while before I find a corner piece...until next week...


Tuesday, December 2, 2014


Welcome once again to the Concert Closet, fellow progheads.  I am absolutely floored by the fact that another year is closing its curtain...so I have decided to make the final month of 2014 a search for all things "off the beaten path" prog.  The prog garden is filled with so many bands and artists making so many tangents into different realms of the genre, it could take a lifetime to discover them all.  When I started this blog my intention was to do just that--try and discover them all.  So back to my humble beginnings I go, taking the Concert Closet to destinations even I don't know yet...except maybe this week.  Join me as my search for all things prog leads to Seville, Spain and the unconventional sounds of Psicolorama.

Psicolorama is decribed as "... a new concept of prog rock."  This is precisely what I am searching for!  In keeping with the "unconventional" theme, information specific to the band is a bit difficult to ascertain, but suffice to say Psicolorama is unquestionably tending an area of the prog garden that is not overcrowded.  Brian Eno and David Byrne did a collaboration called "My Life in the Bush of Ghosts" back in 1981 and Psicolorama has gently laid a finger on its pulse...

Moving surreptitiously to the buffet, I fill my plate with a serving of "Psico-ReImpression."  This truly is prog in a new light...the piece opens in a dark and eerie place, yet somehow you sense safety is not an issue--this twelve minute ride will change your perspective--but you will survive.  And what a ride it is; you become mesmerized by the initial keyboards and pulsating guitar work, leading to a slide down the rabbit hole into prog bliss.  Think back to the breakthrough "Days of Future Passed" was and you are only scratching the surface--Psicolorama is just getting warmed up.

Serving number two is another unique tune called "Crime."  The piano opening leads some extremely penetrating vocals.  There is a bleak, somber, almost fatalistic overtone to the narrative that peels back the veil...and all of a sudden a horn section erupts, tearing through your head like so much shrapnel on the battlefield.  The drums fill the bottom, making the horns reach higher as if wanting to pierce the sky.  I feel as though I should be sitting in The Cotton Club wearing a black pin-striped suit...Psicolorama has an incredible grip on both the artistry and the music that is prog.

Liner Notes...Psicolorama is indeed deep, dark, and mysterious.  Choosing to remain  (for the most part) behind the curtain,  the haunting vocals belong to Carlos Herrera Carmona...and it appears Carlos is the genius behind the piano and mellotron as well.  Psico-ReImpression was a collaboration with Nicolas Leterrier, a member of the French prog band In Limbo...and thus the seeds of a future prog blog have been planted...

The third course from this impressive buffet is "Reflections."  Upbeat in an off-center way, the song is just what it claims to be; a reflection.  Sounding like an antique music box, the vocals are once again delivered as a narrative.  Carlos is a master at cutting through tissue and bone, reaching through your skull as he penetrates your mind.  The candles blowing in the slightly disturbed air aren't really there, are they?

The post chosen for your listening pleasure is called "After the Crime (The Man on the Beach)."  I chose this because it is an incredible follow up to "Crime."  Anticipating closure, I am not at all disappointed.  Haunting and dark, the song falls in step perfectly, bringing the listener back to the scene as it were.  Psicolorama paints with dark colors, but there are so many different hues in the paint box.  Horns and drums continue to fill the auditory canal...you can almost sense Carlos orchestrating the entire piece, demanding perfection from all areas of the soul.  Learn more about Psicolorama at http://psicolorama.bandcamp.com/ and follow on Twitter at @psicolorama.

Well fellow progheads, this week was quite the adventure.  Peter Gabriel led Genesis early on with cutting edge music and theatrics, and Psicolorama takes the baton and continues the artistry, making the music a channel for moods previously unknown.  My search for all things prog has unearthed some marvelous bands and music--and Psicolorama continues that trend.  It sounds like December is going to be anything but ordinary...until next week...



Tuesday, November 25, 2014


Good evening fellow progheads!  November is making her swan dive into Thanksgiving here in the USA, which means the madness that is the Christmas season is just about upon us.  With that in mind, and harboring no desire to ruin any potential festive mood with a "Black Friday" shopping spree, I thought this might be a good week to simply take my search for all things prog out of town. Setting the Concert Closet compass on "far away," we are off to Germany for something a little different; the sounds of RPWL.

Following the formula for simple and easy, RPWL calls themselves a "...German progressive, rock, art-rock band."  Fair enough; I respect those who cut directly to the chase with no need of flowery descriptors and excess adjectives.  Reciprocating the simplicity I move straight to the music buffet for the first course, a song called "Crazy Lane."  The song opens like a beautiful morning rose; soft, subtle, and bursting with unexpected energy...you can almost see the dew dripping off the petals.  The vocals are soft as honey on a warm biscuit.  An emotional song that moves right through you...everything is understated so as to allow you to take it all in slowly and deliberately.  RPWL seems to channel Wishbone Ash with a touch of Be Bop Deluxe on acoustic night.

Selection number two is a tune called "Hole In The Sky."  The guitar work that opens the song is strong and well crafted.  The pieces start to fall in place as drums, bass, and vocals come together to put the finishing touch on what truly is a piece of prog beauty.  Notice the aromas of Beardfish and the delicate top note of Under The Psycamore...RPWL may spend the balance of their time in the ambient section of the prog garden--but they are not afraid to leap across every fertile acre of the landscape.

Liner Notes...RPWL formed in 1997, reside in Munich, Germany, and have twelve albums on their resume.  The name of the band is actually an acronym for the surnames of the four original members; Risettio, Postl, Wallner, Lang.  The line-up has changed some since those early days; founding members Yogi Lang on vocals and keyboards and Kalle Wallner on guitar, have joined forces with Markus Jehle on keyboards, Werner Taus on bass, and Marc Turiaux on drums.  Originally formed as a Pink Floyd cover band, RPWL soon realized a strong passion for progressive writing and performing.  Their debut album hit the streets in 2000 and RPWL has been tending a far out corner of the prog garden ever since.

Not withstanding the obvious overtones of Pink Floyd, I also detect strong top notes of Spock's Beard, early Genesis, and aromas of Transatlantic wafting through the headphones.  RPWL has a sound reminiscent of classic prog while at the same time being unique unto itself--precisely what makes prog confounding to the untrained ear and fascinating to the skilled listener.

Making my way back to the buffet for my final serving, I find a hidden gem called "New Stars are Born."  The opening vocals pierce the ear ever so delicately, like a knife through Jell-O.  The guitar and keyboards wrap themselves around the midsection of the song and never let go, while the drums lead you down a psychedelic path right through the center of Syd Barrett's imagination...twelve-plus minutes of prog utopia.

The piece posted below is a wonderful introduction to progressive rock in general and RPWL specifically.  Imagine Yes and Pink Floyd performing on one stage; the guitars wrap  around your brain as the drums systematically split your head in two.  The keyboards simply tie the pieces together and help you keep your balance.  Listen, enjoy, and learn more about RPWL at
http://www.rpwl-wanted.de/cm/index.php.  You can also find and follow them on Twitter at @RPWL_official.

Moving closer to the end of 2014, I am humbled by the incredible prog music I have uncovered via the Concert Closet.  Traveling the world has been an amazing experience--and the journey has just begun.  RPWL is but one example of the prog bands out there with the creative genius to offer astonishing music album after album.  My search for all things prog has led me to places I could not have imagined--and the journey is still in its infancy.  So let us take December head-on...until next week...


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Mood Manual

Many thanks for returning one more time fellow progheads!  Leaving Italy was bittersweet after spending seven days embedded in the ambient section of the prog garden; I was reluctant to pull up stakes and move on...but my search for all things prog faithfully continues.  This week I find myself back in the Motherland (for me); the good ol' USA, pushing the envelope while scouting for a new,
"not-quite-hit-the-big-time" prog band..and my GPS has led me to Madison WI to enjoy the captivating sounds of The Mood Manual.

The Mood Manual defines themselves simply as a progressive rock band that "...autonomously create authentic and unique art...with the elegance to amplify awareness..."  So apparently Wisconsin is famous for something much bigger than cheddar cheese and beer affordable by college students--and that is my cue to traipse up to the prog buffet and get this party started.  Selection number one is a tune called "Feeling Symbol."  It opens as if the stylus randomly dropped on the middle of the album; you know that feeling you tuned in thirty seconds too late and can't help but wonder what you missed. The vocals smack you on the cheeks while the drums hit you like rabbit punches on the back of your head...I feel the prog love and am drawn in for more...

Serving number two is a moodier piece called "Black Massasauga."  An uptempo opening that seems a bit contradictory to the lyrics; suddenly I can relate to the name of the band.  The Mood Manual strikes and then takes a step back as if to examine their handiwork, asking, "Do you realize what you just felt/heard/saw?"  The drums never leave the back of the song...filling in spaces that would otherwise sit empty while guitars rhythmically strut up front.  Top notes of  The Strawbs and a slight touch of Gentle Giant meets Architecture of the Absurd crawls through the inner being of the band...The Mood Manual  pitched their tent where metal meets neo in the prog garden; an interesting combination.

Liner Notes...The Mood Manual calls Madison WI home and is comprised of Tyler Kundinger on vocals, guitar, and violin, James Keith Fabry on bass and vocals, Andrew (Gio) Giordano on drums and percussion, and Matthew William McHugh on guitar and vocals. James, Gio, and Matthew grew up together and played with several local bands, finally assembling The Mood Manual and releasing their debut album in 2011.  Challenging the five senses--especially sound--is evidently something The Mood Manual does for kicks, as their eclectic and emotion filled style exemplifies their many moods for the prog listener.

My third selection this week is a song called "Ballad of Somebody."  Taking the tempo down a notch, I close my eyes and am taken to a nightclub lounge with thick cigar smoke hanging in the air while subtle guitar work starts to slowly gain momentum.  With the snap of a guitar string the lounge melts away, the mood darkens just enough to furl my brow, and The Mood Manual is coming at you full-on.  But almost as suddenly the tempo flits back and you become caught in a swirl of time and energy. The Mood Manual  paints using an emotional brush with no fear of bright or dark colors.
Just when you think you've cracked the code they go off on a tangent, pulling you in deeper.

My selection for your viewing/listening pleasure this week is a bit different; more of an informal introduction to The Mood Manual if you allow me some liberty here.  Wade past the first four minutes to get to the music; from the vantage point of a live performance by an up-and-coming band recorded in a small venue, not bad.  They do manage to pack a lot into this clip--but do yourself, me, and The Mood Manual a favor by digging a bit deeper at http://themoodmanual.bandcamp.com/. You can also follow them on Twitter at @TheMoodManual.

Now that November has opened the door for the dreaded "Polar Vortex" to sweep across parts of the country, I am grateful for the warmth of the Concert Closet as I continue this journey.  The Mood Manual offered a glimpse into a different section of the prog garden...a section where the growth is deep, thick, and can bloom in all sorts of weather.  Progressive music is unique because of its chameleon-like ability to adapt to its surroundings.  The mood, tempo, attitude, and everything associated with prog make it something to behold.  Now that I have broken fertile ground in Wisconsin, it is time to move my search for all things prog forward...until next week...

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Phoenix Again

Greetings from the Concert Closet fellow progheads!  Continuing my search for all things prog, my objective this week was something with a throwback vibe that hits a nerve...a "new" sound that pays homage to the progressive masters of yesterday.  I wanted to find a band that knows how to slap you on the back of the head one minute and rub your shoulders the next.  To find this multi-faceted collection of musicians in one group I traveled all the way to Italy...welcome to the diverse prog atmosphere of Phoenix Again.

Phoenix Again has an interesting history (I will discuss later in liner notes), and describe themselves simply as a progressive rock band from Brescia, Italy.  My initial reaction is just a slight interest--until I read further and discover Phoenix Again originally formed in 1981.  That peaked my interest a bit more, so naturally I had to give them a respectable listen--three decades together has to count for something.

My first taste from the prog buffet is a song called "Dance of Three Clowns."  Instantly I am swept away by the beautiful serenity of the music.  This is not your every day progressive music...more like Robert Fripp if he had been light-hearted in the hey-day of Frippertronics.  Think Yes with Uriah Heep playing classical music together and you are starting to catch a glimpse of what is happening here.  Everything flows calmly, even as the tempo starts to pick up.  This is progressive music for a more refined pallet...and so far I like.

The buffet should be accented with foie gras and caviar this week, but I am plenty sated with my second helping, a song called "Oigres."  This is a very smooth instrumental piece; the keyboards sit on top a bit while the guitars swirl around the drums, enveloping the entire piece.  The mood swings upbeat to mellow.  Phoenix Again has set up in the ambient section of the prog garden not too far from Brian Eno.  The music flows right through your ear canals and cascades down into your soul--you feel enraptured.

Liner Notes...Hailing from Brescia, Italy, the band started out in 1981 as Phoenix, founded by Claudio Lorandi on lead guitar and vocals, Antonio Lorandi on bass, Sergio Lorandi on acoustic and electric guitar, and Silvano Silva on drums.  Emilio Rossi joined the band in 1986 on keyboards and mixers.  Phoenix built their unique sound following the trail blazed by King Crimson and Genesis among others in the ambient/jazz fusion corner of the prog garden.  Unfortunately the untimely passing of Claudio in 2007 left Phoenix without its founder.

Determined to honor their fallen leader, the remaining brothers Lorandi lifted Phoenix Again from the ashes in 2008--the name symbolic of a re-birth.  Phoenix Again continues to soar with the next generation Lorandi; Antonio's sons Marco on guitar, Giorgio on percussion, and Sergio's daughter Alessandra on flute.  Keyboardist Andrea Piccinelli rounds out the current line-up.

My third and final selection for the week is a song called "Lookout."  This piece starts out faster than previous, yet stills follows the trail Phoenix carved out and Phoenix Again continues to trample.  The tempo picks up and settles down rhythmically, taking you on a emotional ride not quite roller coaster-esque, yet enough to make you feel the blood pumping through your veins.  The hard driving drums keep it all together, and the guitars and keyboards are doing just fine dancing on the edge of the stage. Phoenix Again can channel Dream Theater and Adrian Belew era King Crimson--but their sound is more a creative interpretation rather than a reflection.

The piece I posted below for your listening pleasure is called "Adso da Melk."  Forgive my inability to translate the written word--but for musical translation there is no need.  Imagine Gregorian Rock taking an acoustic break and blend it with some Transatlantic...you're getting close.  Phoenix Again has been through some difficult times, proudly channeling that energy and introspection into some powerful music.  This song proves you don't have to be loud to be good; everyone needs a good shoulder rub now and then.  Learn more about Phoenix Again at http://www.phoenixagain.it/ and follow them on Twitter at @ThePhoenixAgain  

Once again fellow progheads, seven days have fallen off the calendar faster than Wiley Coyote falls off a cliff.  The prog garden has brought a bumper crop into the barn this season, and the harvest comes from all over the world.  Phoenix Again has given new meaning to the term "Never give up."
I am sure Claudio is smiling and enjoying the great progressive sounds his family has put together. They say the band in heaven performs on a crowded stage; no doubt Claudio is there both as a member and a fan.  My search for all things prog continues...until next week...



Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Not Otherwise Specified

Good evening and welcome to November fellow progheads!  By now you have set the clocks back and are either lamenting the cloak of darkness that now wraps itself around the day an hour earlier, or are excited for the promise of a "wicked" winter season.  Me...I am just happy to continue my search for all things prog.  With the sun getting farther from the equator every day, I set the GPS in the Concert Closet on "south" and headed to one of my old stomping grounds--and a hot bed for latter day neo-prog--Georgia, USA.  This week I invite you, my fellow progheads, to enjoy the sounds of Not Otherwise Specified.

Not Otherwise Specified is self-described as delivering "their own style of progressive rock with a modern aggressive punch."  Ouch!  The band also claims musical inspiration from Dream Theater, Genesis, Pink Floyd, and Spock's Beard...so let's step into the ring and find out if Not Otherwise Specified walks the talk...

The first serving from the prog buffet this week is a song called "Judgment" from the album of the same name.  In typical latter day prog style, the song opens rather ominously and quickly sets a dark tone.  The vocals are razor sharp, cutting through the layers of guitars and drums like a knife through hot butter.  I pick up some top notes of Atomic Rooster and Opeth in this cut; Not Otherwise Specified has no doubt spent some time in the prog garden cultivating the soil and tending the roots. "Judgment" comes right at the listener, splitting the ear channels and daring you to pull the song apart.  A true melange of prog sound--something for everyone.

A return trip to the buffet yields a second helping called "Another Way."  The opening riff lends itself to a macabre Hammond B3 Organ--and then the drums and guitar roll in on a thunderclap to fill in the gaps.  Not Otherwise Specified has a sound that is thought-provoking, deep, loud, and hard-hitting.  The mood may swing toward the dark side, but Not Otherwise Specified has built its stage right in the middle of the prog garden, performing for all to hear.

Liner Notes...Not Otherwise Specified is Craig Kerley--period.  Craig created the "Judgment" album from start to finish...composing each song; writing the lyrics, playing the instruments, doing the arranging, producing, mixing, and making the determination as to when each song is what he envisioned from the outset.  I admit when I first gave Not Otherwise Specified a listen I never suspected a one-man operation...but as with Pekka Karjalainen with Stone Umbrella, there is only one evil genius behind the curtain.  Craig has also done some work with Rodrigo San Martin and if you look at the Not Otherwise Specified Twitter page you will see six musicians...but all signs point to this work being done sans band members.  Personally I am concerned less with who provided the input than I am with the resulting output--and Not Otherwise Specified nails it on the important stuff.

My final plateful from the buffet this week is a tune called "Dance on a Volcano."  As implied by the title, this is a high energy piece.  You feel the guitar and drums building to a climax right from the onset, while the keyboards keep a steady pulse in the background...as if to remind you of the fragility of life.  More of the Opeth-like feel with the vocals, although the strength of the song leans toward Liquid Tension Experiment.  Not Otherwise Specified has walked the width and breadth of the prog garden and it appears Craig is more comfortable in the neo/metal section.  His writing is quite accomplished and the vocals hit a nerve when you focus and listen.  The real strength of Not Otherwise Specified, though, is the way the music surrounds you from the outside and penetrates within.

My choice for your listening pleasure this week was a lot easier than my previous selections, a song called "Falling," from the band's second release.  Staying true to form, this song leaps at you immediately, grabs you by the temples, and never lets you go.  I sense a Dream Theater/Transatlantic vibe here; Not Otherwise Specified once again dabbles with throwing superior sounds into a Hamilton Beach blender and hitting the puree button...the result is a delicious blend of so many mouth-watering parts, that--while great in their own right--are taken to a level extraordinaire in the final concoction. Learn more about Not Otherwise Specified at http://nosband.com/ and try to pick Craig out of the line up on their Twitter page, which you can follow at @NOSpecified

OK fellow progheads, another week of living the dream is in the books.  Not Otherwise Specified is a perfect addition to the prog garden simply because he/they do indeed walk the talk.  The sound is inventive, crisp, and smacks you right between the eyes.  One of the (many) remarkable things about progressive music is its ability to take on an existence of its own and grow.  Not Otherwise Specified has breathed life into a sound that has its own pulse and continues to increase in strength.  Each listen brings something new to light as the music gains momentum.  So with another section of the prog garden in full bloom, I need to find more new growth...until next week...


Tuesday, October 28, 2014


Hello once again fellow progheads!  It never gets old thanking you my loyal followers for faithfully checking in.  This week in my search for all things prog, I decided to change it up a bit...trying to avoid staleness and predictability.  As October 2014 draws to a close I have grounded the Concert Closet for a much needed "Febrezing" and a little rejuvenation while I take a long listen to some remarkable prog.  Under the stack of empty Ramen Noodle containers, I found a prog album loaded with tremendous talent and brilliant music.  Please to enjoy a review of sorts as we listen together to the marvelous sounds of Kompendium.

Kompendium was the prog brainchild of Rob Reed, founding member of Magenta.  In 2012 Kompendium released their only album, "Beneath The Waves."  It was three years in the making and I am honored and pleased to review it here.  The talent assembled to pull this off is is something to behold...but I will pull back the curtain later.  Right now I want to indulge my unending appetite for all things prog...

The buffet this week is loaded with choice morsels, so let us step with a graceful gait to the first course, a song called "Mercy Of The Sea."  As the piece unfolds you immediately get the sense this is not your average band--prog or otherwise.  The Celtic mood embraces while the ocean waves slowly wash over you, causing auditory hallucinations.  Vocals that are as crisp as a sea breeze meld beautifully with the guitar work, backed beautifully by orchestral sounds reminiscent of The Moody Blues, a la "Days of Future Passed."  This band is packed with talent and spilling over with creativity. Hang on tight; I have a feeling this is just the start of a seven day journey across the entire prog garden and back.

The second serving delicately served up is a piece called "Lilly."  The acoustic guitar and cello blend together so well you are hard pressed to separate one from the other.  As previous, the Irish folk overcoat envelopes the song while simultaneously crawling through your ear canal and melting into the tissue lining of your brain.  Steve Hackett plays guitar on this song, but I am getting ahead of myself...the talent pool for this album is extremely deep.  Rob Reed either had a lot of favors he was able to call in or is tremendously good at arm twisting, because he was able to place the perfect musician in just the right place for each song--even the vocalists.

Liner Notes...Kompendium is an amalgam of some of the best progressive rock has to offer.  Leading off with the previously mentioned Rob Reed and Steve Hackett, the band also includes guitarists Jakko Jakszyk, Neil Taylor, Nick Barrett, Angharad Brinn, John Mitchell, and Francis Dunnery, B.J. Cole on pedal steel guitar, Nick Beggs on bass and chapman stick, Gavin Harrison on drums, Mel Collins and Troy Donockley on horns,  and vocalist Steve Balsamo.  Rob didn't stop there though; Synergy Vocals include Shan Cothi, Rhys Meirion, Barry Kerr, Chris Fry, Hywel Maggs, and Christina Booth...and that's not all!  The stage gets even more crowded with The London Session Orchestra and The English Chamber Choir.  Kompendium certainly lives up to its name...

For the final serving from this prog feast, I actually struggled.  Trying to find the perfect finish was no easy fete--this entire album is a true masterpiece.  I do not take lightly the task Rob shouldered in bringing this many musicians and artists together--the scheduling challenges alone would be enough to send even the most ardent task master into mental overload--never mind the egos.  So to close out with a major head slap I chose "The Storm."  The opening thunderclap is but a prelude to the rough seas that lie ahead. A guitar riff tears open the clouds and Gavin's drums, backed by that marvelous horn section, rain down like parachutes over Normandy.  The tempo is much livelier than previous tracks, but the song remains true to the Celtic underpinnings that seem to be the foundation for the entire album. The vocals hit hard and strike fast, and the choir supports the entire piece.  The song comes alive as though you are in an Imax theater; the hits come from all sides . Kompendium works because every musician knows what to do and does it to perfection--there is no second best here. Learn  more about Kompendium at http://www.kompendium-web.com/.  You can also follow on Twitter, @Kompendium1.

An even tougher call this week was the selection to post for your listening pleasure.  After much deliberation (and perhaps a snort of Scotch) I chose "Exordium."  The ominous opening paints a vivid picture of the heart and soul poured into this album.  You can almost see the ship breaking over the waves if you close your eyes...the giant clipper sailing majestically across the ocean as the music compels the vessel onward.  One can only hope that Rob Reed et al will reconvene soon and pick up where "Beneath The Waves" left off.


OK fellow progheads, I hope you enjoyed this brief respite from the weekly norm.  "Beneath The Waves" is a concept album that not only sets the standard--it is the standard.  I recommend you make the purchase and take a weekend to listen thoroughly...very thoroughly...you will not regret it.

Well, now that I have the Concert Closet all "Febrezed" up, it is time to pack some clean clothes, fresh snacks, and new headphones as I continue my search for all things prog...until next week...

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Stone Umbrella

Good evening and welcome back fellow progheads!  Moving deeper into October, I realize the morning air is crisper, the evening sky is darker, and the leaves that have not fallen are screaming with color.  Focused on that thought and its repercussions, I turned up the heat in The Concert Closet, pulled on a long sleeve fleece, set the auto-pilot for all things prog...and found myself sailing toward Sweden, taken by the sounds of Stone Umbrella.

Stone Umbrella is to prog today what Klaatu was to rock 'n' roll in the 70's; extreme talent, distinctive sound, not caught up the hype...and bursting with energy.  Stone Umbrella is self-described as "...sometimes weird, sometimes calm, sometimes heavy, and progressive..."  This has all the makings of bizarre, high-energy serenity filling the Concert Closet, so let us start with dessert for a change and open the prog buffet with some "Candy From a Clown." As the title suggests, I am immediately taken to an eerie carnival, where the calliope sounds like an ominous church choir.  This is my kind of circus.  The keyboards blend with the guitar work to paint a scene reminiscent of a Stephen King novella...even the vocals stir up images of a circus barker leading kids into a big top filled with unsuspecting mayhem...this must be what high-energy serenity is...

For serving number two I switch gears, moods, and time changes for a more refined piece called "The Visitor."  This is broken into three parts and truly is a world away from the circus.  Stone Umbrella tends more than one section of the prog garden; the macabre, the intense, and the cerebral.  This piece hits you like a velvet hammer; it may not leave a physical mark, but you are never quite the same afterward.

Liner Notes...Hailing from Sweden, Stone Umbrella is a one-man gig--the "evil genius" behind the curtain is Pekka Karjalainen.  Having been involved in music since the age of fourteen, Pekka took up residence in the prog world circa 2005.  Stone Umbrella has strong hints of Dream Theater, Porcupine Tree, and  Pink Floyd blended with top notes of Beardfish, Alan Parson's Project, and Spock's Beard...which is to say Stone Umbrella has roots all over the prog garden.  Stone Umbrella was born from Pekka's science fiction writing in 2009.  As a fan of concept albums with a strong like for instrumentals, Pekka felt led to put together what he calls "movie soundtracks without the movies."  If there were to be a prog documentary film of sorts, perhaps Stone Umbrella could provide the soundtrack...

My final selection this week is a song called "Escape."  You can feel the tension as the song opens; a desire to break out and run, free and fast.  The keyboards build on emotion and the guitar creeps in adding fuel to a slowly burning fire...but the raw explosion you expected emerges almost innocently, like a smoldering brush fire.  Bursts of raw energy suddenly seep through the headphones--a battle of sorts. The naive laughter dares the anger in you to settle down and relax as the fracas for control continues.  Yes, Stone Umbrella can command your emotions to jump through hoops with every time change...and somehow you feel better for it.

The clip below is a little different for the Concert Closet...not so much a single cut as a preview of the earlier mentioned concept EP "The Visitor."  Stone Umbrella plays with a serious intensity while at the same time reminding the listener (and himself) not to get too caught up in our own little worlds.  Learn more about Stone Umbrella at http://stone-umbrella.com/ and follow Pekka on Twitter at @StoneUmbrellaSE

One more week, one more stop on the Concert Closet "Prog World Tour."  Sweden seems to be fertile ground for progressive bands that seep through your pores and pump through your veins. Stone Umbrella doesn't grab you so much as embrace you, and before you realize it you just absorbed a whole new experience.  Time to carbo-load and move this search for all things prog onward...until next week...

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Machines Dream

Yes, it's that time once again fellow progheads...and thanks for coming back!  The fall season is just getting revved up; Mother Nature is showing off the splendor of her colors, sleeping with the windows open is a hit-or-miss proposition, and the Concert Closet is testing the HVAC system with a trip to Canada this week...Ontario to be a bit more specific, as we take a listen to Machines Dream.

Machines Dream describes themselves as "...a band that wasn't supposed to be a band...progressive, atmospheric rock..."  While I admit it doesn't take much of a hook to lure me in, this does make for a curious prog blogger; a band that wasn't supposed to be a band...hmmm...time to break out the headphones and saunter up to the prog buffet once more...

My first course this week consists of a strong tune called "Toronto Skyline."  Immediately I get the sense this song is deep...the acoustic guitar almost stings as the mood starts to swell.  The drums and keyboards soon fill in the gaps and an accompanying electric guitar actually seems to drag the song down deeper--but don't mistake that for something dreadful--this song thrives on the weight.  When you hear aching vocals about feeling "...alone and...old again against the...cold Toronto Skyline" you get the sense the voice echoes from a wounded heart.

Serving number two is another emotional head slap called "Locusts."  Machines Dream seems to enjoy using dark colors to paint a bright picture.  This song slowly creeps along the inner lining of your skull, clinging like ivy on the outfield wall at Wrigley Field...and as the song fades out there is a strong sagacity of acute mental meltdown.  Machines Dream has dark, rich, poignant soil in their section of the prog garden.

Liner Notes...Machines Dream is Brian Holmes on keyboards and bass, Craig West on guitar, lead vocals, and bass, Jake Rendell on bass, backing vocals,and mandolin, Ken Coulter on drums, and Rob Coleman on guitar.  A five-man operation that meshes extremely well...Machines Dream has an aura of Pink Floyd and early Genesis, and there are hints of Marillion and Radiohead in their style as well. This is a band that swims in the deep end of the pool.  Think progressive rock with a shot of
bourbon--it might sting going down, but the satisfaction lingers a good long while...

My third choice from the menu is called "Unarmed At Sea."  A calmer, almost soothing lead in with more of that signature acoustic guitar work.  Machines Dream filled their prog acreage with strong imagery, heavy sounds, and a nod to the early visionaries and latter day ground breakers of the genre; notably King Crimson, Yes, and Tool.  This song reaches inside you slowly while nonchalantly grasping your insides and slowly pulling you down.  The darkness once again moves in like nothing more than a routine storm cloud--but the mood is almost desolate as the guitars and drums swallow you whole.  Machines Dream is a band that forces you to find your own outer edge and then dance on it.

The clip below is called "Mad For All Seasons."  Ironically,  this tune is a bit more upbeat than most I have listened to this week--but it ain't even close to clowns and cotton candy.  Machines Dream plays with emotion and feeling and that comes through immediately when the laser hits the disc.  But before you push the  start arrow, clear your head and dim the lights...this is a band that understands the importance of pulling you in so as push you out.  Learn more about Machines Dream at http://machinesdream.com/     
Canada has proven to be fertile ground for the prog garden...one need listen no further than Rush to get an adult dose of Canadian prog rock, and Machines Dream is but one more example of an impressive  export from "The Great White North."  The Concert Closet has traveled this close to the Arctic in the past and after this week I will probably scope the landscape for other prominent up and coming progressive artists.  So off to continue the search...until next week...

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

An Interview with Gregorian Rock

Greetings from the Concert Closet fellow progheads!  As autumn starts to roll in and shake the leaves off the trees, I feel the time is right to venture into into "semi-familiar waters."  So I set the compass in the Concert Closet for home and head back to recognizable tundra.  However; there is no sense rushing back to crisp mornings, a waiting rake, and random lower back pain--time is better spent continuing my search for all things prog...so here I am in Texas one more time for a conversation with Dale Benedict, the founder of Gregorian Rock.

First, a little background...I caught wind of Gregorian Rock back in January of this year and was blown away.  Dale broke new ground in the prog garden blending Gregorian chant with modern music...the resulting sound was a staggering eargasm.  Dale is currently working on Gregorian Rock's second album, due for release in December,  and was kind enough to take some time to talk about that and a few other things...please to enjoy...

Closet Concert Arena: Who and/or what is Gregorian Rock?

Dale Benedict: Gregorian Rock is a musical idea I had a few years ago. I was searching for that elusive thing that would be my own unique sound. With that in mind, I wondered what would happen if I combined Gregorian chant with modern instruments and styles. Previously I had pursued other, more mainstream styles of music, but none of that really went anywhere.  This idea seemed to propel itself along like nothing else had.

CCA: What influenced your decision to combine progressive rock with Gregorian chant?

DB: I didn't set out to work mainly in the prog vein, but it seems to have ended up like that. One of the goals of this musical endeavor was to make music that I want to listen to; music that nobody else was making. I am intentional about keeping the instruments as important as the vocals, and that alone will drive the bus onto the prog highway.

CCA: What bands/musicians do you feel have had the most impact on your music style?

DB: There are many, but the earliest and most profound are ELP, Yes, and the Switched-On Bach records. The more recent influences are Iona, Neal Morse, and Frost.

CCA: Your first album grabbed the listener because it was new, innovative, and exciting.  What can we expect from album #2? 

DB: You can expect the same unusual blending of Gregorian chant and modern instruments, but you can also expect this one to be a step up. I’m taking the lessons learned from the first album and applying them. The writing is more focused and I’ll be more directly involved in some of the final steps. Another difference is instead of all the music being written by me this time, I co-wrote one of the songs with a dear friend, and re-arranged an old hymn to be “Gregorianized”. There are a couple of other twists.

CCA: What musician(s) would you most like to cut an album with?

DB: How about Jeff Beck, Rick Wakeman, Tony Levin, Phil Keaggy, and Mike Portnoy?

CCA: You just added a wish to my bucket list…

CCA: You peel the curtain back a bit and introduce the band on your website.  How did the members of Gregorian Rock come together?

DB: The members of the band are all friends of mine. Some of them were band mates from back in the day, and some are more recently met. When I began this project, I made a list of the musicians I knew, and started contacting them to see who was interested and available. There was the additional requirement that they had to be able to record themselves, or come to my home studio. That last requirement took several out of play. The band is scattered across multiple locations in three different states.

CCA: Any touring on the horizon?

DB: Not at the moment. I am a full time graphic artist, and a part time musician with a family to support. If a tour happens it will mean Gregorian Rock has become the next big thing.

I may not be psychic, but I believe it is safe to say that progheads like me are chomping at the bit for the second release from Gregorian Rock, and that December release date means the hysteria will be here before you know it.  You can learn more about Gregorian Rock at http://gregorianrock.com/ . You can also follow Gregorian Rock on Twitter at @cantusnovus and https://www.facebook.com/gregorian.rock?fref=ts

The clip below is a reprise from my original blog post on Gregorian Rock, a tune called "Sanctus." This is but a small taste of what I anticipate to be a smorgasbord of prog on the second album by Gregorian Rock.  Dale has built a sound so unique, inspiring, and mesmerizing...Gregorian Rock hits your insides full on and reverberates throughout the core of your being.   

As I conclude another post I would like say thanks to everyone who has been following me each week.  This search for all things prog has taken on a life of its own and I am grateful to be a passenger in let alone the captain of the Concert Closet.  Time to once again pull up stakes and continue the search...until next week... 

Tuesday, September 30, 2014


Good evening one more time fellow progheads!  Many thanks for helping me make this blog such a  successful project.  In my continued search for all things prog you have been the catalyst sending me around the globe on a whirlwind tour of countries and venues cranking out the best new and classic progressive music.

Recently I have been alternating trips between the USA and Great Britain...but like I said last week, it is time to break the US/UK cycle.  So tonight the Concert Closet has turned off the GPS and jettisoned off on an alternate route...and I see the sign post up ahead reads, "Welcome to Sweden."   Since we are here, let us enjoy the prog sounds of Pocketful.

Pocketful is self-described as a "...musical landscape full of contrasts...brutality meets beauty."  This can go a lot of ways--I simply must check out this band.  I take my search for all things prog very seriously, and this is research after all...

I find an interesting aperitif to begin the buffet with, "She Won't Steal My Thoughts Tonight."  The song opens interestingly enough; I get a bit of an Alan Parsons Project meets Radiohead vibe with a bit of a Strawbs overtone.  The lyrics are layered over a symphonic-like drum and synthesizer that spills over your inner cranium like maple syrup melting warm ice cream.  The songs is soothing, yet it manages to startle a bit as you realize it is not so much a love song as it is a rebound-love song.  An intriguing start to what sounds like a fun week...

Serving number two is a tune called "Wrong."  That thoughtful, evocative tone resonates once again. Pocketful walked to the far edge of the prog garden, viewed the landscape, and continued on for another 50 yards or so.  Pocketful packs a lot of emotion into this piece; you feel yourself being pulled in so many directions...as if your heart and your head are in a battle for control of your feelings.

Liner Notes...Originating in Gothenberg, Sweden circa 2004, Pocketful is Johan Engstrom on guitars and keyboards, Jerker Rellmark  on vocals, keyboards, and trumpet, and lyricist Joakim Gralen. Pocketful has put together an impressive portfolio in a relatively short time culminating with their latest release, "Late Night Call," in 2010.  Having worked together previously helped Johan and Jerker make Pocketful the compelling band it is...and Joakim's lyric writing skills are a plus as well. Pocketful strikes an emotional chord not only with words--but also the moods brought to the surface with the music.  Pocketful seeps into your bloodstream and flows through your veins as you listen.

My third serving this week is the poignant title cut from the earlier mentioned "Late Night Call." There is a lot going on in this song, and once again Joakim's lyrics are the thread tying Jerker's and Johan's guitar and keyboard work together.  I detect definite top notes of Gentle Giant...and in a "prog coincidence" sort-of-way, I am reminded of Adrian Belew's "Phone Call From the Moon."

The clip I posted below for your listening pleasure is called "Sorry."  The opening keyboards lift you up in a Depeche Mode kinda way, with a hint of Ebn Ozn...so apparently Pocketful can run the gambit of emotions.  Pocketful has been building their professional library for almost a decade...time to check out prog's version of the Dewey Decimal System.  Learn more about Pocketful and what makes them tick at at https://www.facebook.com/pocketful.  You can also check out more of their music at https://myspace.com/pocketful.

OK fellow progheads, it's that time again...when we try to ascertain where the rest of the week went because there is no way seven days flew by that fast.  I have enjoyed this trip to Sweden--not to mention the frequent flyer miles I collected with the Concert Closet.  Pocketful fills their section of the prog garden with ambient textures, a unique groove, and emotional strength.  I do believe the garden is rich with fertile soil...until next week...  

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Ascending Dawn

Once again I feel I must thank you the proghead faithful for coming back to the Concert Closet week after week.  Although without you I would probably still write this blog, it would not be nearly as much fun or meaningful.  And with that hanging in the air, I am off across the pond yet again for a visit to my second favorite "prog country," Great Britain.

Having spent the past few weeks meandering through the cerebral/instrumental/post-rock/ambient sections of the prog garden, I am feeling like I need to break out and blow an amp.  The urge to scratch that itch landed me in the afore mentioned London area where I have been bathing my ears in the prog metal sounds of Ascending Dawn.

Ascending Dawn refers to themselves as "...progressive/melodic/ambient/metal..."  Someone is obviously stalking me and inserting adjectives in conspicuous places, 'cuz I gotta check out just exactly what melodic ambient metal is! So let us make our way to the progressive buffet for serving number one...a song called "All In Now."  A quick adjustment of the headphones as I hit play and suddenly it is "thrusters on."  The guitars leap at you full force and the drums wrap around the entire song like a force field.  The vocals manage to rise above the chaos to complete the ensemble. Ascending Dawn has set the tone for a strong week; let us now keep that momentum going...

Serving number two is a tune called "Cannonball."  The song comes right at you from the start as it grabs hold of your head like a thick sable hat.  The synchronicity is very good; everyone is playing at the top of their game.  Ascending Dawn hits hard but luckily the blows are non-fatal...they simply careen around inside your skull.  The vocals rise from the center of it all...gently at first as a false sense of serenity forms around a base of solid drum work, lifting guitars up and over the top. Another solid melodic/ambient smack down for those of you at home keeping score.

Liner Notes...Ascending Dawn is Marlain Angelides on vocals, Owen Rees on guitar, Constanze Hart on bass, and Mark Weatherley on drums.  Coming together in 2013 with members from three corners of the planet, Ascending Dawn now calls London home.  A pleasant surprise to find a prog band with two female members--Marlain is the one with the heavy hitting vocals while Constanze reminds me of an angst-filled Tina Weymouth on bass.

Serving number three is a song called "Inside The Silence."  As seems to be their trademark, Ascending Dawn smacks you with a hard-hitting drum riff at the drop of the stylus...and the guitars jump right in as Marlain fills the rest of your ear canal with her trademark vocals.  Ascending Dawn knows who they are and what they want to accomplish; more bands should be so confident.

The clip below is the earlier reviewed "Cannonball."  I thought a taste of a relative new comer to the prog scene would whet the appetite just enough...draw the listener in with a firm grip on the listening center of the brain.  Ascending Dawn has broken ground in the metal section of the prog garden and planted some strong seedlings.  Only time will tell if they take root and mature into healthy growth...but so far the signs are good.  Learn more about Ascending Dawn at http://ascendingdawnband.wordpress.com/.  You can also check out their FaceBook  page  at https://www.facebook.com/ascendingdawnband

OK fellow progheads, I think a hit of metal to the upper cranium was just what the doctor ordered this week.  The world of progressive music continues to expand and the garden is producing a healthy crop of new bands, while the standard bearers continue to raise the bar.  The soil is rich and the bounty plentiful; my search for all things prog continues to lead me all over the world--and it is always harvest season somewhere.  Now seems like a good time to change up the US/UK cycle...until next week...

Monday, September 15, 2014

An Interview with Aaron Clift

Welcome back once again fellow progheads!  You are probably checking your calendars, thinking it can't possibly be Tuesday already...and you would be right.  Two firsts tonight in the Concert Closet; a blog post on a Monday and  an interview with Aaron Clift.  Aaron is the founding member, lead song writer, vocalist, as well as the keyboard player for The Aaron Clift Experiment.

Tonight the Concert Closet makes a return trip to Austin TX to dig a little deeper into the mind of Aaron Clift and learn about the making of the band's second album due for release in 2015.  It is comforting to know that progressive music continues to attract new innovative musicians and song writers.  The Aaron Clift Experiment's debut release, "Lonely Hills"  is an excellent work and well worth the price of a download.  I am extremely energized to get my ears on their second album due next year...please to enjoy...

Closet Concert Arena: What influenced your decision to become a musician, and why did you choose symphonic progressive rock as the musical style for your band?

Aaron Clift: I was exposed heavily to music at an early age; my dad’s side of the family is full of classical musicians, and both my parents used to play lots of records for me when I was very little.  My mom says that I tried to sing along to music she was playing in the car even before I was old enough to speak!  During my younger years, I was heavily involved in classical music.  Viola was my first instrument; I sang for years in different choirs, and I studied performance and composition at Tufts University.  Rock music was also a big part of my life growing up.  I used to listen a lot to my parents’ record collection (my first recollections of The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, and Jethro Tull), and I used to hang out with my friends at summer camps and have music listening parties.

When I was a teenager and first starting listening heavily to rock, I always wondered if there were any bands that mixed rock and classical music because I loved both forms of music equally.  Around that time, one of my friends gave me a copy of “Dark Side of the Moon” by Pink Floyd and I was immediately captivated by the album’s sound and structure.  After listening to DSOTM, I went online to All Music Guide (in those days a relatively new web site) and did some research on Pink Floyd to find out if there were other bands that played this style of music.  That was when I learned about progressive rock.  At last I had found a style of music that mixed up classical and rock!  Pretty soon, I was making my first purchases of bands like Genesis, Dream Theater, and The Moody Blues.  After hearing “Selling England by the Pound” for the first time, I knew immediately that I wanted to be in a rock band someday that would play this kind of music.  As fate would have it, all of us in The Aaron Clift Experiment come from classical music backgrounds, and we each like to bring that style into our songs.

CCA: Who are the bands/artists that have had a hand in steering your writing ways?

AC: I have so many musical influences that it’s hard to narrow them down, but I’d say my favorite artists are those who have had a combination of outstanding songwriting, musicianship, lyrics, and emotional impact on me.  Those artists include: Genesis, Rush, Kate Bush, Marillion, Porcupine Tree, Pink Floyd, Frank Zappa, Soundgarden, and Alice in Chains.  In classical and jazz music, I’m influenced a lot by John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Bach, Beethoven, Ravel, Debussy, Bartok, Shostakovich, and Reich.

CCA: Which musician(s) would you most like to cut an album with?

AC: I would love to work with Steve Wilson or Devin Townsend.  To me, they are the pinnacle of well-rounded musicians; both are excellent guitarists, vocalists, songwriters, arrangers, and producers.  They are not only extremely knowledgeable about music but also just seem like really cool people who would be fun to hang out with.  I know I would learn so much from working with them.

CCA: Your first album “Lonely Hills” has a somber, dark feel.  Where did you go emotionally when writing the songs on that album?

AC: When I wrote the music for “Lonely Hills,” in 2009 – 2011, I had just emerged from a very difficult period of my life in which I felt very uncertain about my direction in my life and about who I wanted to be.  I had dealt with depression and anxiety and wanted to find a way to document my experiences.  So, the songs on “Lonely Hills” all in some way describe the struggle I went through.

CCA: I understand that you’re currently working on a second album.  What can listeners expect on the new album?

AC: When forming The Aaron Clift Experiment in early 2012, I conceived of the outfit as more of a solo project than a band, and I think the solo artist approach comes through to a certain extent on “Lonely Hills.”  But after The Aaron Clift Experiment started playing lots of live shows, more of a band dynamic emerged, and I felt that this should be our future.  When Eric Gutierrez joined us on guitar in 2013 (replacing our original guitarist), he brought a heavier sound and virtuosity to the band that’s spilled over into our songwriting.

The songs for our second album are going to be livelier and more energetic than anything we've done to this point.  We definitely sound like a real band now!  If “Lonely Hills” was our “Foo Fighters,” then our second album will be our “The Colour and the Shape.”

Eric has also partnered with me on a lot of the songwriting for the second album, so there’s more diversity to our sound than ever before.  On the lyrics side, I've branched out into a lot of different topics, but one of the central themes running through this album is power dynamics and conflict between the individual and the group.  I've been keeping a blog on our web site that has more information about the writing process for the individual songs on the album.

CCA: I know you are currently using the fan funding site Kickstarter to help fund the recording of your second album. Can you tell me about it and why people should help support your project?

AC: All of us in the The Aaron Clift Experiment are very excited about the new music we’re creating.  We’re enlisting Matt Noveskey (bassist for Blue October) to produce and record the album at his amazing new recording facility, Orb Recording Studios.  We’re also increasing the recording budget and time for this album – all with the goal of creating a really solid classic progressive rock album.  We think that the progressive rock community is going to be blown away with our second album, but without the funds to cover our recording costs, we won’t be able to bring our vision to life.

 We know that the progressive rock community is full of great people who are true music fans, and that’s why we want to involve the community in helping us reach our goal.  Our Kickstarter campaign runs from September 15 – October 14 and is live at
www.aaronclift.com/kickstarter.  The campaign has some really awesome rewards for those who contribute, and any contribution helps.

So c'mon fellow progheads, take advantage of this opportunity to be  part of the prog process and what is sure to be a remarkable prog album!  You can find out more about The Aaron Clift Experiment at http://aaronclift.com/ and follow them on Twitter at @AaronCliftMusic.  Most importantly, click on that link to the Kickstarter Campaign and help make this album a reality! You can always tell your friends you helped produced a progressive rock album--how cool is that?!

The Aaron Clift Experiment...tell your friends you knew 'em when and helped produce their second album!  Progressive music and her fans...there is nothing better...until next week...

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The Clouds Will Clear

Good evening fellow progheads and thanks for taking another trip with me in the Concert Closet!  Recently I have been hopscotching "across the pond;" alternating jaunts between the USA and UK with a few side trips to Russia, Finland, and other prog hotspots just to keep fossil fuel consumption high. This week we make another tangent--to Germany--for a week of crazy weather as we check out The Clouds Will Clear.

The Clouds Will Clear hail from Frankfurt and classify themselves as an "...instrumental postrock/ambient band."  Being a Brian Eno fan from way back, I am quite intrigued to hear musicians refer to their music as having an ambient sound.  This was the hook that caught my attention and suddenly the calendar was filled for the next seven days...

Being relatively new to the prog garden, The Clouds Will Clear offer up but a few delicacies for the buffet this week...but quality will always trump quantity.  Let's begin this feeding frenzy with a song called "It Makes Tomorrow Alright."  Imagine a door in your mind opening slowly as you cross the threshold into a dimension not quite psychedelic and not exactly psychotic...just on a plane skew to everything you knew up to this point. Think Under the Psycamore meets Be Bop Deluxe and you are traveling in the correct stratosphere.  The music is soothing and alarming all at once.

Serving number two is a tune called "Nobody Nowhere."  Another opening like a walk into a third dimension...The Clouds Will Clear views prog through an entirely different lens than most I suspect. The guitars and drums come together as if pureed in a blender; they bleed through each other almost seamlessly.  The background vocals seem to be coming from a source outside the realm of the music...this is a section of the prog garden I have not spent much time in--until now.  I can say with utmost certainty that I will be pitching a tent and camping in the "avant-garde/space prog" section of the garden for a little while.  If Klaatu took a more somber approach to their music and were able to join forces with Syd Barrett, The Clouds Will Clear could easily be their backing band.

Liner Notes...The Clouds Will Clear is amazingly a two-man group...Angelo plays guitar, synthesizer, and samples while Tobi plays drums and bass.  As mentioned earlier, The Clouds Will Clear got together in Frankfurt, Germany in 2013.  Angelo held open auditions and Tobi fit right in behind the drum kit.  The Clouds Will Clear is still looking for a third member to round out the band...any bass players out there reading this?  Might be worth giving Angelo and Tobi a call--if Germany is on your commuting schedule.  If it ain't, perhaps you want to roll that map out one more fold...

The sound Angelo and Tobi created flows with an ethereal resonance hard to pin down.  The guitars are light as they float over the top of the sound, giving the drums and synthesizers balance.  A light, airy feel is countered with the heavy, authoritative/mechanical vocals that pepper the songs.  The Clouds Will Clear has extended the boundaries of the prog garden--which should intrigue even the most traditional proghead...

My final selection from the buffet this week is called "Amygdalae."  As expected by now, The Clouds Will Clear open the song in surreal fashion, soothing the listener into a sense of inner peace. While the calm never gives way to anarchy or chaos, the smooth exterior is almost eerie as it slowly coats the inner lining of your ears.

The clip posted below is called "Solar Eclipse."  The opening may make you question the intention of the band, but fear not--it moves slowly and purposefully to a smooth union of guitars, drums, and synthesizers.  Learn more about The Clouds Will Clear at  https://www.facebook.com/thecloudswillclearmusic/info?ref=page_internal and hear more of their music at http://thecloudswillclear.bandcamp.com

Well fellow progheads, I hope you enjoyed this week's review.  The Clouds Will Clear are unique in their own right and tilling some stimulating acreage in the prog garden.  Few bands may tread the ground they walk, but someone has to sit in the front of the bus.  The Clouds Will Clear are welcome members to the prog family as there is always room for innovation and a new interpretation of what prog is.  This is but more proof positive that progressive music is not only alive and well, it is thriving.  The pulse may vary, but the heartbeat is strong...and the search for all things prog continues.  Until next week...

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Ephemeral Sun

A humble and heartfelt thank you for coming back once again fellow progheads!  Last week's visit to Russia was quite enjoyable and extremely special.  For me there is great pleasure in discovering prog bands that bring so much to the genre.  In my quest for all things prog I have taken the Concert Closet to numerous places near and far, exotic and lackluster--but most importantly filled with great prog.  This week proves to be yet another long distance voyage as I head back to recognizable food, street signs I can read, and the familiar sounds of domestic chaos...welcome to Virginia USA and the sounds of Ephemeral Sun.

Ephemeral Sun calls themselves an "...exercise in contrasts...music that balances elements both cerebral and visceral in nature."  Fellow progheads know I could never drive by that lead-in without at least a taste of what was behind the curtain, so let us now hit the headphones for what I anticipate to be an excellent week of ear feasting...

We start the prog buffet this week with a song called "Memoirs."  A very nice piano opening; mood is set with dark tones yet the ambiance is rather peaceful...however; I smell storm clouds.  The air is filled with aromas of Marillion and just a touch of "Funeral for a Friend."  The guitar picks up the tempo a bit and sways the mood away from the precipice while drums enter the cerebellum just enough to carry the weight. While the storm never quite pounds the shore that is the inner lining of my skull, I sense Ephemeral Sun has many a mood swing in its playlist...

Serving number two is a piece called "Prism."  The song starts out strong as the drums lay a foundation on which the guitars start to build.  I pick up very strong scents of Dream Theater and Liquid Tension Experiment.  Keyboards are added and the song begins to intensify...but not in a menacing way. I get more of a victorious vibe...a sort of "Good vs. Evil" mood with Good winning out in the end.

Liner Notes...Ephemeral Sun is John Battema on keyboards, Charles Gore on bass, Brian O'Neill on guitars, and Allen Lind currently on drums.  Laurie Ann Haus peppered the band's debut album with great vocals. Originally formed in 2002, Ephemeral Sun is the offspring of doom metal band Rain Fell Within. Releasing their first album in 2004, Ephemeral Sun began to explore other areas of music, melding bits and pieces of jazz, prog, avante garde, symphonic, and even some experimental sounds into their own style. While spreading roots mainly in the symphonic section of the prog garden, Ephemeral Sun has sown seeds throughout the entire acreage.

My final selection from the buffet this week is a tune called "Discovery."  A much darker piece, this is from Ephemeral Sun's first album.  I sense walking through a tunnel and rapidly descending into an earlier time. Laurie Ann's vocals haunt throughout the song, helping create an atmosphere that wants to draw you into the past while feeding off that same energy to strive forward.  Some top notes of Tool and Beardfish run through this song; Ephemeral Sun has unquestionably grown up prog.  Learn more about Ephemeral Sun at

The clip below is called "Winter Has No Mercy."  Another selection from the dark metal side of prog...but Ephemeral Sun does a lot with it.  The almost military-like rhythmic drum in the beginning sets a mood that takes one deep into the inner sanctum of an otherwise casual mind.  The tempo swings back-and-forth and there are moments of sheer gloom and upbeat hope strung together like so many pearls on a sparkling gold chain. Ephemeral Sun is able to run the gambit of emotions while performing, whether it be in a studio or on stage live.  

One more week and one more prog band uncovered for your listening pleasure.  The Concert Closet has logged many summer miles; now that the sun is beginning to set around dinner time, the morning air has a bit of a nip in it, and the "dog days" are behind us, I am excited to discover what autumn has in store as I continue my search for all things prog.  Time to get some laundry done, load up on canned goods, and clean out the Concert Closet...until next week...