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...