Tuesday, June 19, 2018

ALIGHT - "Spiral of Silence"

Good evening fellow progheads and welcome to the Closet Concert Arena!  This week's installment finds the search for all things prog in one of my favorite prog places doing one of my favorite prog
things--listening to great prog music!  Italy is the setting on the GPS; Bolzano to be more precise as the Closet Concert Arena settles in for something a bit on the darker side...welcome to the gothic metal sounds of Alight and their new album, "Spiral of Silence," released April 27th on El Puerto Records.


Alight is described by drummer/founding member Mirko Montresor as "...melodic, gothic/black metal...electro and industrial prog metal...without stylistic boundaries..."  Gothic metal is pretty much new prog garden acreage for me; a female fronted prog band with lavish Italian heritage was the siren that lured me in.  The prog garden needs a larger female presence and this seemed like the opportune time to travel to Italy, so to the gothic metal section we go...

Serving up a large portion of "Absence of Essence" gets the party into full swing immediately. You  feel the guitars waiting to break out as keyboards hold the lid closed a bit--just a bit--and when the floodgates open the guitars pour forth across a layer of drums, pulling up just enough for vocals that have the stamina of Bent Knee's Courtney Swain.  The elegant, over-the-top trademark of Italian prog drips from this piece like warm chocolate running from a lava cake...so decadent...

With the taste of rich luxuriance that is gothic metal, I turn my attention to another hearty serving, "Walk to the Line."  Again guitars beat at the door as they accompany vocals that roll across the top with a velvet-like richness oddly reminiscent of Sonja Kristina of Curved Air.  With top notes of Delain and a whiff of Epica wafting through the headphones,  Alight delivers a multi-layered performance on this cut.

Catia Borgogno has the ability to simultaneously soothe and lay you to waste with her vocal range; her voice echoes down my auditory canals and reverberates across my spine.  Of course the drums are the foundation to another solid and stellar performance while keyboards dart throughout the entire arrangement.

Liner Notes...The current line-up for Alight is Catia Borgogno on vocals, Roberto Sieff on guitar, Monica Perulli on bass, and the aforementioned Mirko Montresor on drums.  Guest musicians on the album include Andrea Ferro and Giovanni Lanfranchi.  Alight released their debut "Don't Fear the Revenge" in 2009 and went through the obligatory line-up changes, growing pains, and self-discovery.  Refusing to adhere to musical or stylistic limitations, Mirko took Alight on a journey through the prog garden to find their niche...and goth metal seemed to be a perfect fit.

Learn more about Alight at Alight where you can purchase both albums in the band's "small for now" catalog.  You can also follow the band on Facebook Alight FB and Twitter @alightband.

The morsel posted below is the first single released from the new album, "The Portal."  Alight has mastered the fine art of anticipation; just as the song opens you are salivating for the head blows that are sure to come.  But the real thrill is while they do come through, they don't leave you stunned and dizzy.  Catia's vocals rain down like superbowl confetti as the guitars dance the perimeter and drums provide solid footing more than adequate to support the entire display.  Alight may dance macabre, but they still manage to fill the canvas with amazing colorscapes.

                     

Thus another stroll through the prog garden reaches the exit gate.  Alight has proven to be a worthy entry in the dark/goth/metal section...perhaps I will spend more time away from direct sunlight.  Nine years between album releases is a long time perhaps, but Alight used their time wisely, and "Spiral of Silence" is a testament of their dedication to the craft.

Now the Concert Closet will continue its dedication to searching out the best the prog garden has to offer...until next time...

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

BangTower

Once again, many thanks for dropping back into the Closet Concert Arena fellow progheads!  As is sometimes the case, the search for all things prog took a circuitous route through the prog garden over the past week; a bit of a different trajectory you might say.  This latest leg of the journey allowed me to cross paths with a band that is comprised of musicians extremely talented and well known in their own right.
Referring to themselves as both a "...progressive musical alliance"  and "...rock/jazz fusion," BangTower is the type of band I like to think I'd have been involved with (if I had anything close to talent); musicians and artists that made their own mark coming together to create new music, cross boundaries, and produce new stuff, all while having a helluva lot of fun doing it.  With all that typing, what say we venture to the buffet and start sampling the delicacies laid before us?


With just a bit of an eager stride, I saunter to the buffet and start the feast with "This Is My Town," taken from the 2016 release "With N Without."  The song opens with a bit of hard driving guitar and quickly moves toward a funky jazz-like groove akin to Little Feat. Must be the weather; the prog garden seems to be blooming with bands that have a little extra hitch in their giddyup lately...even the drums kick you in the skull just a bit...gonna be a jam packed week...

Next up on the platter is "Frankie's Silver Hammer" from the 2017 album "Hey, Where'd Everybody Go?" BangTower  plays like they're in an eternal jam session; you feel the energy flowing through the headphones with the force of ocean waves crashing on the beach.  The hammer in question here is in reality an axe--guitar to be more specific.  The drums stand sentry but the guitar is in the spotlight front and center.  I sense Be Bop Deluxe top notes as the tempo swings from a smoke filled jazz club to that 70's glam/art rock mood...

Liner Notes...BangTower claims the USA as their hometown.  While that may seem a bit vague, the reason is their line-up--and the need for an extended stage for live performances.  The core of the band is Neil Citron behind the controls and on guitar, Percy Jones on bass, and Walter Garces on drums.  Others involved in this alliance, both in front of and behind the curtain, include Jon Pomplin, Robby Pagliari, Frank Banali, Rodger Carter, Joan Fraley, Chris Colovas, Justin Stone, Josh Greenburg, and Gary Crite.  Hence the "Made in the USA" tag...

BangTower has three albums in their catalog and a fourth due later this year.  With a vibe that runs from Weather Report to Dreadnaught, the band covers a lot of acreage in the prog garden.  One of the things that impresses me about BangTower is the ease with which the music comes together and flows.  There is a "cascade-like" effect as one song rolls into another...like warm maple syrup caressing a stack of flapjacks...

One more track to tickle your listeners..."Groove Snake" from the 2010 release "Casting Shadows."  A bit edgier than what I've played previous--and that's a good thing.  There are top notes of a Spirit/Return to Forever/Wishbone Ash  "family gathering" wafting through the headphones.  BangTower isn't afraid to change the mood or scenery as they move from song to song; each individual album is like a retrospective of where the band came from and where it's headed.

Learn more about BangTower at their website BangTower
 where you will also find links to purchase their entire catalog; the band records on the Declassified Records label.  You can also purchase BangTower music at BangTower bandcamp.  For those so inclined, you can follow them on Facebook  BangTowerFB and Twitter  @BangTower .

For your listening pleasure this week I chose "Hair of the Dog."  This cut brings you right to the heart of what BangTower is all about; serious musicians making serious music and having a good time doing it.  The best job to have is one where work time resembles play time and that is what is happening in this video...no props, no circus environment, no dry ice effects--just artists playing a groove and getting deeper into it as they feed off each other's skills.  I always I knew I had the wardrobe to be in a band--I just lacked those darn musical ability skills...

                       

It seems we've reached the bottom section of another blog post fellow progheads, which usually means we have unearthed another gem in the prog garden and spent the last 168 hours or so listening, savoring, and  appreciating.  BangTower is by definition a band greater than the sum of its parts--and the parts are of the high end quality type.

One of the pleasures of wandering the prog garden is discovering the side projects, alternate bands, solo efforts, and other previously unknown works of many of the artists residing here.  BangTower is so much more than three guys, each with impressive resumes, jamming together...this is an alliance built on respect for each member's talent and what they bring to the recording studio.  I'm sure it happens in other genres as well, but in the prog garden there seems to be a lot of appreciation among the artists for the talents each brings to the table...one reason why the search for all things prog is an endless journey.  Of course the only way to prove that theory is to continue the search...until next time...

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Spock's Beard "Noise Floor"

Thanks for being so loyal fellow progheads!  Always appreciate the weekly check-in; hopefully the prog garden "rumblings" reported by The Closet Concert Arena make it an easy decision.  This time the search for all things prog goes a bit off track, visiting a band I've been a fan of for a very long time.  While my preference in the Concert Closet is to bring to you primarily new bands, every now and then I like to take advantage of opportunities to check in with those who have solidified themselves in the genre and have a solid following, yet manage to stay low under the mainstream radar...not necessarily a bad thing.

And just like that the search for all things prog travels to the left coast of the US for a stop with  Spock's Beard to check out their new release "Noise Floor," which was released May 25th on InsideOut Music.


Studio album #13 for those keeping score at home, "Noise Floor" is a double album/CD release.  The first is eight original songs written by the members of the band; album number two is taken from the same recording sessions and includes outtakes, demos, and things that didn't make it to album number one for various reasons.

Moving straightaway to the music being served up, let us begin with "To Breathe Another Day."  As expected, Spock's Beard's musical jolt is immediate as they grab your auditory sensors and don't let go.  Ryo Okumoto stated that the music on this album has a "more immediate" impact than the band's previous work.  He should know; his keyboards are front and center here as the music washes over you like high tide in a hurricane...

Moving down the buffet line I discover a more subdued song, "So This Is Life."  A bit cerebral  perhaps as Spock's Beard reminds you just how much prog garden acreage they cover.  In an "odd but not bizarre" way, I sense top notes of an orchestral side of 10cc coming through.  The string section works beautifully with the guitars on this piece, and together they carry the vocals across the top, allowing them to sink through your pores much like whipped cream melting into a cup of hot chocolate.

Liner Notes...One of the few bands I've reviewed to (almost) need no introduction, Spock's Beard has a current line-up of Alan Morse on guitars and vocals, Ted Leonard on vocals and guitar, Dave Meros on bass and vocals, and Ryo Okumoto on keyboards.  Drummer Nick Virgilio returns for the first time since 2011, although there is no commitment beyond this latest release.

Spock's Beard has logged a few miles in the prog garden, having formed originally in 1992.  With over two dozen albums on their resume and (despite) several line-up changes over the years, this is a band with amazing staying power.  They  don't reinvent themselves with each release as much as they expand their horizons...you could say Spock's Beard is one reason the prog garden continues to move the boundary markers in every direction...

With so much to choose from, I'm in a music haze...for which the best cure is one more song.  In this case I choose "Box of Spiders."  In a move both typical and utterly amazing, Spock's Beard comes at you from all directions as the song opens, and continues to dart in and out traffic as easily as a hummingbird chasing nectar.  There is a mild Trans Siberian Orchestra vibe making its way through the entire piece, teasing you as they play with the buttons on the mood elevator...

If you are not already versed in the music and mayhem that is Spock's Beard you can gain that knowledge at Spock's Beard where the band's entire album catalog is available for purchase.  You can also find out more information at SB Facebook and @SpocksB.  Spock's Beard has been a regular in the prog garden for quite some time and every harvest seems varied, unique, and worthy of attention.  They don't just get better with age, they defy Father Time himself...


For my last listen I chose a cut from album #2, their collection of outtakes.  "Bulletproof" has a Gaillion meets Spyro Gyra feel to it; the jazzy undertones blending extremely well with the AOR sound that permeates the room.  That this song did not make the final cut tells you the depth of the writing, talent, and just plain prog ability that Spock's Beard possesses...one does not wander the prog garden twenty years aimlessly...

Your ear candy this week is the first official video from the album, the earlier reviewed "To Breathe Another Day."  Catch the keyboard foray into mayhem I told you about...there is a Crack The Sky meets Kansas energy level jolting your auditory sensors.  Three years since their last release and no beats missed...buckle up and enjoy the ride...


                     

There it is fellow progheads, and once again we have lapped the weekly calendar.  Spock's Beard has been around the prog garden a while yet their sound doesn't seem old, stale, or rehashed.  This is an album fresh and satisfying as warm bread from the oven--and you'll savor every slice while the maple butter melts in to every nook and cranny, sending your mind into pleasure overload.  With over two dozen albums in their catalog, Spock's Beard is on a level few bands, prog or otherwise, ever achieve...and their ability to push the boundaries makes them as relevant today as they were back in 1992...

Of course, this is where I remind you the search for all things prog is about to pull up stakes and continue the journey...until next time...

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

The Aaron Clift Experiment "If All Goes Wrong"

Hello and welcome once again to The Closet Concert Arena fellow progheads!  The unofficial summer season has officially started, and like the weather the prog garden continues to heat up.    This week the Concert Closet took the search for all things prog stateside as an alluring  prog siren was drawing me to Texas...

The Aaron Clift Experiment has been dialed into my radar since I first heard them almost four years ago.  Like a true fan I have enjoyed listening to their sound grow and mature.  Loyal readers will remember I reviewed their earlier music and interviewed Aaron; exceptional music and a modest, unpretentious band leader.  The Closet Concert Arena  also appealed to the masses last September regarding an Indiegogo campaign to help fund the band's newest project.  Success was achieved and The Aaron Clift Experiment  released studio album number three May 4th!  Now I have a reason to once again set the GPS for Austin and take the Concert Closet back to the Lone Star State for a  review of "If All Goes Wrong."


The Aaron Clift Experiment humbly offers the understated self description of being "a progressive rock band"...albeit one influenced by some of the standard bearers of the genre.  In previous work, Aaron and company have taken that influence and fused it with a modern twist, bringing to the prog garden a sound and style unique unto itself.  So let us find out what could possibly go wrong...

First up on the platter is a tune called "Faith."  The song opens like an intense flash fire; a quick burst of bright energy that tapers down to a manageable burn.  The drums and guitars are a throwback to the arena-rock sound that permeated the 70's...even when the music seems to settle down you discover it crouched in the corner, waiting to pounce again.  The Aaron Clift Experiment is pushing the boundaries and wandering farther across the prog garden.  This album may prove to be more of a statement than simply a new release...

Next up is "Castle in the Sky" and once again the drum work steals a bit of the limelight.  There is a trace of Transatlantic skirting the perimeter of the song.  The guitars and keyboards work together on this cut much like good gin and extremely dry vermouth...the drums are the dirty olive that brings it all full circle.

Liner Notes...The Aaron Clift Experiment calls Austin, TX home and is comprised of leader Aaron Clift on vocals and keyboards, Devin North on bass, and Tim Smith on drums and percussion.  For this album the band enlisted impressive guitar talent; Van Wilks, Arielle, and Dave North.  The band originally formed in 2012 as Aaron's solo project and quickly morphed into the trio that is the heart and soul of today's successful experiment.  With influences from King Crimson,  Pink Floyd, Gentle Giant, and  Marillion, The Aaron Clift Experiment took the prog garden by storm.  After being nominated for several awards, their journey culminated in a performance at RosFest in 2017.  The new album as well as their previous work can be purchased at the band's website
Aaron Clift Experiment.  You can also follow them on Facebook and Twitter, ACEFacebook and @AaronCliftMusic.  By now everyone knows my feelings about supporting the artists that make the music so please oblige and make the purchase.

The dessert course is the title cut "If All Goes Wrong."  A bit on the ominous side as the name suggests.  The aromatics here reflect The Strawbs right down to Aaron's smooth vocal style.  The pallet is tinged with grey hues that bleed gently as Tim's drums echo a melancholy sadness highlighted with wistful guitar work...just a reminder that beauty doesn't have to wear loud colors.

The lure to open your wallet is called "Wild Hunters."  The flavor here leans more toward the hard edge of the prog garden; think Circu5 jamming with Spock's Beard...washes over you like that jolt from the dentist drill.  The Aaron Clift Experiment hits the pallet with brighter hues this time combined with bullet-quick speed and precision.  The dance across the prog garden is coming full circle...

                    

 Once again the week seems to have raced by in about three days.  The Aaron Clift Experiment not only added to their resume with this album, they also expanded themselves as a group.  As I like to say (sometimes ad nauseum) this is what progressive rock is all about.

"If All Goes Wrong" is a turning point; the songs on this album move in several directions along a different trajectory than the band's previous work.  The music is tighter and crisper as Aaron, Devin, and Tim each come into their own.  The music runs the gambit; the album is as diverse a prog album as I've heard in quite some time.  One of the upsides to the search for all things prog is discovering a band and following their journey to success.

Now the journey continues...until next time...

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Burntfield "Hereafter"

Warm (and wet) weather greetings fellow progheads!  I appreciate you taking the time to come back to The Closet Concert Arena and I hope this week's journey made it worthwhile.  Since frequent flyer miles are not an issue, the search for all things prog traveled all the way to Amsterdam to find out  about Burntfield,  a relative new-comer to the prog garden.  With two EP's and a pair of singles already on their resume,  the May 7th release of "Hereafter" is the band's first full length album, released on the Progressive Gears label.


Excitement level is high in the Concert Closet as discovering new bands is one of the main reasons I volunteered for this gig.  Calling themselves "progressive alternative rock...music is discreetly spiced with AOR and hard rock elements..." Burntfield uses soundscapes, a brooding darkness, and haunting vocals to create some ornate imagery across the prog garden...so let's get started, shall we?

As is my wont, I begin at the beginning with the delicate instrumental "Now" allowing it to wash over me and roll into the next cut, "Sub-zero."  There is a gentle rain tapping at the window as the sky begins to bruise; sunset has arrived...the soft piano and violins simply record the occasion.  While you melt into the emotion of the moment, the clouds peel back on a sky now illuminated with an amazing moonlight.  The jazz fusion top notes are mesmerizing as Burntfield flows through the headphones as effortless as honey melting into hot tea.  Tight drum work sits just below vocals as smooth as suede and you are once again washed out to sea...

Next up for this mind massage is a beautiful yet solemn tune called "In The Air." As the curtain draws back darkness fills the mind--except for that lone sliver of light glinting off the piano and striking your eye.  The solitude of the song coats your mind like molasses rolling slowly off grandma's measuring spoon...the richness outdone only by the song's elegance.  There is a Wishbone Ash vibe here; Burntfield manages to penetrate deep and flow through you.  The canvas streaked with pastel hues running through soft grays as the boat rocks gently against its mooring...

Liner Notes...Recording on the Progressive Gears label, Burntfield resides in Amsterdam.  Band members are Juho Myllyla and Valtteri Seppanen on guitars and vocals, Maarten Vos on bass, and Steven Favier on drums.  The band started in 2012 in Helsinki and went through the obligatory 
line-up changes and  growing pains, releasing an EP in 2013.   Recording and touring filled Burntfield's agenda for much of the next three years as they put out two singles on either side of a second EP.  


Making Amsterdam their new home,    Burntfield spent 2017 in the studio.  Their efforts came to fruition earlier this month with the release of "Hereafter," the band's first full-length album. If my auditory canals are correct, it was time well spent.  Burntfield navigates the gentler side of the prog garden with relative ease.  There is a slight tinge of It's A Beautiful Day wafting through the music much the way lavender is folded into pastry; you aren't looking for it per se--but its presence is undeniable.  

Finally, I allow "Q&A" to spin in the carousel and stream through my headphones...another slow melt into bliss.  The acoustic guitar flows like spun sugar as it accompanies a vocal with just a touch of gruff; the tempo picks up a bit but the pallet remains splattered with softer hues as sunlight dances around the perimeter.  Burntfield gently ties a velvet bow around lines of poetry, offering you the opportunity to unwrap another prog garden gem.


Learn more about Burntfield at Burntfield and Progressive Gears/Burntfield.  Of course you will have the opportunity to purchase "Hereafter" and I would ask that you indulge that urge--we all need to support the artists.  You can also follow the band on Facebook Facebook/Burntfield and check them out on Twitter @BurntfieldBand.

The bait I chose to lure you in this week is "The Failure."  This cut opens a bit faster and uptempo; the acoustic guitar dances across your inner ear effortlessly.  You sense the headphones just waiting to burst and rain fireworks all over your mind.  Strong drums begin to work their way in as the explosion hits while managing to not destroy the beauty this album created.  Burntfield prefers the lighter side of the prog garden...enjoy the sights, sounds, and artistry...


                  

And thus my fellow progheads, another seven days winds down.  While this may be the first  Burntfield entry to The Closet Concert Arena, for sure it won't be the last.  Despite only having one full-length album in their catalog, the earlier EP's and singles allowed Burntfield to hone their craft and smooth out the rough edges "on the job" if you will.  So while the search for all things prog continues, I expect to find myself in Amsterdam again...until next time...

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Plini "Handmade Cities"

Greetings from The Concert Closet fellow progheads!  Now that warmth has moved from memory to  reality, I thought it a perfect opportunity to see how the other hemisphere lives.  So taking the search for all things prog to Australia, let's immerse ourselves in the guitar sounds of Plini, a 25
year-old who likes to play prog guitar, travel, and eat...what else is there, right?

Plini plays guitar the way I play the stereo; very well.  His style has been referred to as new prog, modern prog, even classic-retro prog; whatever the hell that is...Plini himself describes his sound thusly;  "music for world peace."  Perhaps on a subconscious level I have always thought of progressive music that way--for the most part at least.  Regardless; let us venture into the prog garden and get comfortable with Plini's latest release and first full length LP, "Handmade Cities..."

Moving to the head of the line, I start with "Electric Sunrise."  The acoustic opening is a pleasant, albeit short-lived entrance into an atmosphere that is explosive and chaotic.  There is a Flim & The BB's vibe as the song begins to unfold and Plini starts to hurl his all at your auditory sensors with a deliberateness reminiscent of Jaco Pastorius.  As the drums pick up the pace, Plini's guitar continues morphing...setting a frenetic pace.  Solitude encased in a camouflage of mayhem...I can see Steve Vai in a back corner of the studio, torch in hand...

Second serving from this carb heavy buffet is the title cut, "Handmade Cities."  Plini wastes no time peeling back the top layer of your skull as he swings that guitar like Paul Bunyan wielded his axe...time and tempo changes are dizzying, much like a dessert buffet where you can't decide between Baked Alaska and Flaming Cherries Jubilee--so you just mash 'em both together.  Plini manages to channel Joe Bonamassa and Al DiMeola one minute, only to hurl a John Petrucci grenade the next.  His ability to flow from one mood to the next so fluidly is marvelous; that he does it so often is mind-numbing...and he's only 25!  Ahhh, the young...

Liner Notes...Plini hails from Sydney, Australia and is basically a one-man guitar show, although on the album he is accompanied by Simon Grove on bass and Troy Wright on drums.  His touring entourage is larger still, and he has played with Marco Minnemann, Jakub Zytecki, Stephen Taranto, and Chris Letchford among others...impressive resume for an up-and-comer...

Final selection to wrap my ears around this week is "Pastures." Once again Plini chooses to crawl inside your skull and hammer the lining around your cranium.  He wastes no time clearing any cobwebs that may have survived to this point; now Troy joins the fracas with crazy good drumming skills.  Working together they simply lift you up and carry you across the prog garden.

Learn more about Plini and make a purchase at Plini.  Check for tour dates and other information at Plini/Facebook.  Of course there is always Twitter @plinirh for all things Plini too.

Your ear candy for the week is a heavy dose of "Cascade."  Fall into chaotic serenity as Plini squeezes every luscious drop from his guitar; Simon and Troy complete the ensemble and beauty flows from the headphones.  The aromatics I pick up have a Transatlantic scent and perhaps a hint of Joe Satriani moving over the top.  Plini hits the canvas with bright hues and does so at a record pace, the colors raining down in a vivid expression of absolute bliss.

                      

And another week falls off the calendar fellow progheads.  Despite the crazy weather--or perhaps because of it--the search for all things prog has served up a crop that is crazy in its own right.  A vast and varied collection from all corners of the garden fills out the 2018 playlist thus far.  And the journey continues...until next time...

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Glaston "Inhale/Exhale"

Hello fellow progheads and welcome once again to The Closet Concert Arena!  Spring has apparently fallen off the calendar--giving way to instant summer.  No worries here; the search for all things prog has a road trip planned anyway!  This week the Concert Closet set the GPS for Switzerland so as to check in with Glaston and their latest release, "Inhale/Exhale."

Calling themselves "...experimental/post rock..." starts to paint a picture, but I need deeper colors, more expression, and some emotion to fill the pallet and the headphones so let's get right to it.  The buffet opens with "Game of Tones" and the piano is absolutely splendid here as the music creates an image that burns brightly on the underside of my eyelids.  The guitars bleed into a somber expression of sadness as they work with the drums to fill the canvas with ominous dark clouds attempting--albeit unsuccessfully--to blot out the light the piano shines on the entire piece.  So much emotion, yet not a word was spoken.

I pick up top notes of Far Behind The Sun and perhaps a touch of Byrne and Eno  from their "My Life in the Bush of Ghosts" days.  Glaston made it rain on this first cut; you can smell it in the air...

Moving on to another slice of the album; "Mariana Trench Skyscrapers."  Reminiscent once again of of Eno--but this time from his Moebius days with the mind massage you get from A Perfect Circle and Bent Knee.  This is the type of music you want to wrap yourself in like a favorite blanket and let the world cruise on through.  Once again the piano takes the lead while drums keep you focused on the subject matter.  As the sky takes on the burnt orange of sunset the mood starts to intensify; just a friendly reminder the guitars are present and accounted for...

Liner Notes...Glaston is a four piece ensemble from Zurich, Switzerland.  Formed in 2014 the band consists of Selina Maisch on piano, Jake Gutzwiller on guitar, Timo Beeler on bass, and David Preissel on drums.  The band uses no vocals which in and of itself is no big deal; many an experimental rock band lets the music paint the picture.  But Glaston takes the challenge of defying your senses a step further; Selina makes that piano sing, and every instrument joining in forms a beautiful choir.

"Inhale/Exhale is Glaston's first full length album, released October 2017.  The band had released a few singles prior, two of which are on the album.  You can purchase "Inhale/Exhale" and learn more about Glaston and all their music at
Glaston Bandcamp.  Check out their website Glaston and their Facebook page Glaston Facebook to go even deeper; discovering everything Glaston.

The final cut for review this week is "Ritou."  I am immediately taken to a smoke filled lounge on a rainy night in Chicago, the only light a blue spot on Selina's piano.  The guitar and drums fold in gently at first as the band explores the inner workings of the mind, body, and soul.  There are top notes of Jordan Rudess in a classical/jazz mood wafting through the headphones; I'm simply striving to not miss a note...

Have a listen to "Noir," the cut posted below.  Once again Selina and her piano lead the rest of the band on a soothing stroll across the prog garden.  The dark clouds hovering overhead start to rain down ever so gently as the canvas is filled with grey to black hues...then the drums add a bit of zeal to the journey.  Glaston toys with you like the cute girl in math class who knows you like her...so go ahead and carry her books already...
   
                     

And once again we are one week deeper into 2018 fellow progheads!  Glaston was quite a heartfelt journey across the section of the prog garden where ambient meets jazz meets experimental; so much to decipher while relaxing and letting it wash over us.  The sheer expanse of the prog garden is part of the lure and this section has its own siren song.  Lyrics are not always necessary when expressing thought and emotion; bands like Glaston explain why in musical detail sans words...

Now of course the search for all things prog continues as the Concert Closet maps out the next leg of the journey...until next time...

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Bomber Goggles "Gyreland"

I know you know, but I always appreciate you coming back fellow progheads!  This has been a marvelous journey and 2018 is proving to be the most amazing leg thus far.  So many new bands, new artists, familiar artists starting more new bands, familiar bands releasing more new albums...phew!  The search for all things prog has kept The Closet Concert Arena logging many a frequent flyer mile and there seems to be no rest for the weary...

This week was particularly special for me as I had the pleasure of listening to one of those new bands I just mentioned started by a musician I have become familiar with here in the prog garden.  Peter Matuchniak had his hands in several projects prior to forming Bomber Goggles with some friends (more about them later).  He was kind enough to send me a copy of "Gyreland," the band's debut concept album.  I've had it on repeat for a while now so I feel it is only fitting to share my experience with you my loyal followers...


Sticking with my OCD ways, I start the buffet at the beginning of the table and a serving of "Land of Plastic."  The immediate face slap is a bit tempered; not meant to hurt, just jolt you from your slumbers.  The guitars dart around inside your head like Alfred Hitchcock  leading you through a county fair funhouse only to settle down for a gentler ride back to reality.  The top notes are reminiscent of  Spirit with slight aromatics of Crack the Sky.  I like an album that gets your feet tapping and your mind pondering...gonna be an intriguing 168 hours...

The next sound pumping through the headphones, "Oh Gyreland," is as much a mantra as a title cut.  The piano that draws the curtain back reveals a band that takes the music as serious as the lyrics.  With aromatics of 10cc wafting in the air, Bomber Goggles cuts to the heart of the concept behind the album; a new continent constructed of plastic debris floating in the ocean...unfortunately a concept not quite as bizarre or born of fantasy as it may seem at first.  However; the pallet is splashed with hues that reflect just a glint of light; rays of sunlight perhaps?  This song is understated just enough to draw you in, the proverbial flame that lures the moth...but hope burns brightly in the center of that torch.  Bomber Goggles preaches without coming off as hokey or pretentious...a blazing beacon in a sea of plastic sludge...

Liner Notes...forming in early 2017, Bomber Goggles features the aforementioned  Peter Matuchniak on guitars and vocals.  Remember the friends I mentioned earlier?  Just a duo of Steve Bonino on bass and vocals and Vance Gloster on keyboards and vocals.  Jimmy Keegan makes an appearance as a guest musician sitting behind the drum kit.  In other words, a collection of veteran, time-tested, multi-talented, and professional prog musicians collectively involved in at least a half dozen other bands, several solo projects, a few tribute bands, and probably a cure for aging...and to think I felt accomplished learning to play the stereo...

"Gyreland" the concept was born in the mind of Vance Gloster; "Gyreland" the concept album was brought to life by everyone involved with Bomber Goggles.  Working together the band wrote and arranged thirteen songs, recorded, mixed and mastered the album with Barry Wood, asked Martin Kornick to design the sleeve art, and released the entire project in a year.  Quick work for such a hard driving, thought provoking, "deep end of the pool" album.  The journey from inception to reality makes "Gyreland" all the more remarkable as it washes over you like fresh clean ocean spray...pun intended...

Last serving on the review platter is "Invasion."  Jimmy's drumming is escorted by Vance's great keyboard work and the entire piece is shrouded in vocals that hearken back to the energy level on the "title cut" from Jesus Christ Superstar.  The story as presented could have easily been drawn from the darker, ominous side of the mind--but that isn't the neighborhood these guys live in.  Instead Bomber Goggles took what is at first glance a story of dread and tragedy, injected it with hope enveloped in an uplifting spirit, then presented you the listener with an album as poignant as it is telling.

Learn more about Bomber Goggles at Bomber Goggles Facebook.  You can purchase the album at MRR Music .  I would encourage you to dig deeper into each musician individually and their other works and projects to get a more in-depth feel for the soul of Bomber Goggles.  You can also follow the band on Twitter @bombergoggles.

The clip posted below, "Triangle of Power," reflects a turning point of sorts as the album moves toward its climax.  A mild frenzy erupts in the spirit of Camel with perhaps a whiff of Steely Dan permeating the room.  Bomber Goggles made the conscious decision to create an album that is as much fun as it is foreboding, with optimism and promise the subliminal message echoing through the headphones.  Go ahead; pour two fingers and relax...

                      

Tradition here in the Concert Closet means that seven more days have drifted through the hourglass, increasing the sand hill growing in the bottom globe.  It was a fun week on this side of the keyboard and I hope you enjoyed your time as well.  Bomber Goggles tills acreage in the brighter section of the prog garden as they deal with serious subject matter.  Once again the labyrinth that is prog rock leads the listener through a maze of equal parts introspection, thought provoking, fantasy, joy, dread, fun, and inspiration.  A band that gets you thinking without hurting your head...I can dig that...

Tradition 2.0 means of course that the search for all things prog continues on...until next time...

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Mile Marker Zero "The Fifth Row"

 As always, a pleasure to welcome you back to the Closet Concert Arena fellow progheads!  Thus far 2018 has been a banner year and the calendar has just recently moved into season two.  Recently I had the good fortune of connecting with a musician on Facebook who is a member of a band I was
up-to-that-moment unfamiliar with.   By now you (hopefully) know me enough to understand I am  incapable of walking past without checking out...so the Concert Closet took the search for all things prog to the Nutmeg State--that's Connecticut for you spice-deprived--and a check-in with Mile Marker Zero to unwrap their latest release, "The Fifth Row."

 Self described as an "Audio explosion...driving, powerfully progressive modern rock..."  How did I miss this gem walking through the prog garden as often as I do?  Not sure, but this is as good a time as any to broaden my listening skills, so to the prog buffet we go...leading off with "Source Code" and allowing it to bleed into "2001."

This is eerily magnificent; the album opens with a Big Brother-like overview of society flashing across your auditory sensors...from an age of innocence to a time of regret...or perhaps simple remorse.  As "2001" begins to erupt through the headphones you start to make the connection; we humans are beginning to outsmart ourselves.  With top notes of Muse wafting throughout, the adrenaline pumping through this song has the guitars pinging off the lining of my skull using the drum kit for bumpers...this is an adult dose...

Moving along, I find "Building a Machine" forcing its way through my headphones.  Mile Marker Zero is nothing if not intense; yet another sound explosion racing through your blood stream with enough force to burst through your chest, but with a calculated rhythm to the mayhem.  The vocals build a ferocity that showers down all around like a July hail storm...complete with accompanying calm. The song moves through a season of emotions as it unfolds; aromatics of Transatlantic and perhaps a scent of Rush stir my senses.

 Liner Notes...coming together in 2005, Mile Marker Zero originated in New Haven, CT and is comprised of Dave Alley on vocals, John Tuohy on guitars, Jaco Lindito on bass, Mark Focarile on keyboards, and Doug Alley on drums.  After meeting at college, the band spent much time honing their craft the old fashion way; practice and performance.  Mile Marker Zero has been on stage with  Porcupine Tree, Underoath, and
Spock's Beard among others.

"The Fifth Row" is MMZ's third full-length LP, released in March (their 2006 debut was an EP) and is a concept album dealing with Artificial Intelligence and its affect on society.  Not the first band to dabble in this subject matter, but quite an alternative view through an entirely different lens. Mile Marker Zero lets you catch your breath just long enough to suck the air out of your lungs...audio explosion indeed.

You can purchase "The Fifth Element" and other entries in the Mile Marker Zero catalog at
MMZ Bandcamp as well as the band's website Mile Marker Zero.  Music can also be found on iTunes.  Fans can follow them and learn about new releases, tour info, and all things MMZ on Facebook at MMZ Facebook and Twitter @mmzofficial.

Another bit of intrigue etched into plastic is this next cut, "Propaganda." Once again Mile Marker Zero crashes through the starting gate leaving a scorched earth and lavender aroma...Johnny and Doug paved a section of the prog garden to ensure no weeds got through; they gave this song a very solid foundation.  Dave's vocals come riding across the top like flames on a grease fire; all you need do is sit back and admire the explosive canvas on display.

The clip below is called "The Architect."  I chose it to for a peek behind the curtain that allows  you to discover for yourself what it's like to have sound travel that fast through a set of headphones.  The needle is pushing toward the red yet all the while the music is tight; this isn't loud for the sake of being loud.  Mile Marker Zero is enlightening (or warning?) us about the dangers of AI taking control of all we think, say, and do...and everything is self-inflicted.  You may sleep with the lights on after this...

                      

Just like that seven days finished a lap around the sun.  Another week gone by and another bumper crop from the prog garden.  Mile Marker Zero is a breath of fresh air--which is apropos considering the time of year.  There has been much debate about what is and isn't prog; many people seem to believe that the entire genre is stuck in a bubble that started somewhere around 1968 and sealed itself off in 1980 or so...and I could not disagree more.

Lest we forget, prog is short for progressive, and bands like Mile Marker Zero help progress the genre along, keeping it fresh and evolving for the next generation.  That can only be a good thing, because stagnation is a painful death.  The search for all things prog has opened my eyes and ears to some incredible music and some fantastic artists, and I hope my sharing with you has broadened your horizons as well.  Now as always, time to pack up the Concert Closet and continue the journey...until next time...

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Karmamoi

Sprinter greetings fellow progheads!  Now that winter and spring have "officially merged" to wreak havoc across the globe, I thought it the perfect time to take The Closet Concert Arena on a trip to one of my favorite prog places; Italy.  Home to many an ornate and elaborate prog rock band, Italy has produced some of the finest innovators, albeit underrated, in the genre.

This week the Concert Closet stops in Rome to check in with Karmamoi, who refer to themselves simply as a progressive rock band.  Not like the Italians to be humble, introverted, or understated, so already my attention has been grabbed...


Karmamoi has three full length albums and an EP in their current catalog and their latest release "The Day Is Done" is due in May.  Like many bands in the "modern era," Karmamoi is taking a less traditional approach to making this album a reality; reaching out directly to you the fans/listeners.  More about that later, time to start in on the prog feast...

Looking over all the offerings Karmamoi has out there now, I start with a slice of "Nashira."  In typical Italian prog style the music saunters across most of the prog garden with a focus on the brighter, more ornate sections.  Mood and tempo changes are as common here as mosquitoes at a summer picnic; so many and from all directions.  A strong foundation built on splendid piano and solid drum work allows for vocals smooth as softened butter to coat your inner ear...the week is shaping up quite nicely...

Moving around the catalog randomly I discover a cut called "Labyrinth."  Once again those siren vocals ooze through the headphones, sticking to the auditory canals as they echo through your head.  There are top notes of Porcupine Tree and a gentler side of Opeth ringing out from the disc.  Karmamoi likes to keep you focused as they come right at you, and like the proverbial train wreck, it is impossible to look away.

Liner Notes...Coming to be in 2008, Karmamoi is officially a two-man operation with Alex Massari on guitar and Daniele Giovannoni sitting behind the drum kit and playing keyboards; the founding duo splits time between London and Rome.   Karmamoi has several alumni that have left for various reasons and they list several guest musicians on their album credits; the woman with the killer pipes on "Nashira" is Sara Rinaldi for the curious among you...

About that reaching out to the fans thing; you can pre-order the new release "The Day Is Done" at
www.pledgemusic.com/projects/karmamoinewalbum. There are different packages you can
pre-order with some cool options.  Or you can simply go to Karmamoi to learn about the band.  You can purchase albums currently in their catalog at Karmamoi bandcamp.  Check out all their music and all things Karmamoi at Karmamoi Soundcloud  and Karmamoi FB.  If that doesn't slate your thirst there is also Twitter @karmamoirock .


 One more serving from the Karmamoi buffet; "If I Think Of The Sea."   The song is very ethereal as it opens with another incredible vocal performance...this time Serena Ciacci is the captivating siren.  Aromatics of Bent Knee waft through the room--which is crazy since Karmamoi recorded this gem first.  The song soothes your nerves as it arouses your senses...even the drums crash around you gently...
                             
This week a bit of a twist; yes I have a clip to whet your appetite...but...it's just a teaser from the new album.  Get an idea of what Daniele and Alex are up to as you listen to a waltz across the prog garden on electrified feet...walk tall, hold on, and wait for the drums to release the pressure...

                   

One more week comes to a crashing halt fellow progheads.  Karmamoi is that sparkling gem laid bare as the sun shines brightly on the prog garden, glinting off the soft stones in the soil.  Bask in the glow that burns through the dark clouds raining down a color storm on a streaked prog canvas.

  Progressive music casts a wider net these days it seems; some say too wide.  I, on the other hand, say that perhaps it isn't wide enough--there is always someone out there looking to push the envelope, skirt the edge, and look through a different lens.  It is for them the search for all things prog continues...until next time...

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Autumn Moonlight "Passengers"

Good evening and thanks for the return visit fellow progheads!  My calendar broke this week; never a pleasant thing...so time for a road trip!  Spring travel is always fun so I decided to take the Concert Closet to a place I have not been in  awhile...Buenos Ares, Argentina.  Autumn Moonlight, two talented musicians who have been putting out some incredible prog, recently released their latest album, "Passengers."

Calling themselves a progressive post rock band, Autumn Moonlight challenges boundaries as they blend a post-modern jazz feel with progressive overtones.  You may remember Autumn Moonlight being in the spotlight of  The Closet Concert Arena just about two years ago; they return now for us to witness first-hand how the band has grown and flourished while cultivating their unique sound in the prog garden...

Image result for autumn moonlight  band

 For no particular reason, we'll start the prog buffet with some lighter fare; "Transcend."  The song peels the curtain back gently with an acoustic opening that builds momentum on drums that explode in your head like roman candles...semi-bright colors everywhere against the backdrop of a dark, moonlit sky...and the festivities have begun...

Moving along the buffet line I find a cut that strikes a bit harder right up front; "Last Stand."  The drums and guitars try to one up each other as the tension begins to build.  The crescendo of sorts strikes as guitars "win" the battle and the dust settles a new calm over everything.  There is a jazz fusion meets prog metal thing going on; think Jaco Pastorius and George Benson meet Dream Theater.  Autumn Moonlight throw mostly dark colors at the canvas--but they do include a few bright hues to expound on the imagery.  This piece winds down delicately yet there is a tension in the air...not quite the Robert Fripp guitar solo in "Red" but enough to keep you looking over your shoulder...

Liner Notes..."Passengers" is the third album in the quiver of Autumn Moonlight, released November 2017.  Founding members of the band Tomas Barrionuevo and Mario Spadafora have developed a sound that cascades over you with an unsuspecting force; you don't feel overwhelmed or shocked, although you never did see it coming.  Listening to their earlier music I have an appreciation for how they have developed.  Not that the early works were less deserving, but like a great single malt, one of the key ingredients is time.

Learn more about Autumn Moonlight at their website Autumn Moonlight.  You will find "Passengers" as well as the rest of their catalog available for purchase at Autumn Moonlight bandcamp and Autumn Moonlight iTunes.  You can follow the band on Twitter
@AuMoonlight  and Facebook Autumn Moonlight FB.

My final selection to savor from this album is "Breathe."  The opening throws you at first; is this a dark mellow cut or a storm about to wreak havoc?  Perhaps a bit of both so you may be better off doing as suggested and inhale...then release.  The guitar works beautifully with the drums as they both alternate between a gentle touch and penetrating blows.  The canvas is flush with dark hues trimmed with striking primary colors, a contrast that belies an inner turmoil...and all this in sixty seconds.  Autumn Moonlight waltzes down the center aisle of the prog garden dabbling in the control section of all your senses.

Your aperitif this week is the title cut, "Passengers."  Once again Autumn Moonlight opens the door with trepidation only to leap out and hit you straight on.  Top notes of God Is An Astronaut are filling the room, interwoven with a touch of the introspective/instrumental side of The Alan Parsons Project.  Ironically,  there is a sense of motion as you close your eyes and just melt into the music...perhaps we are all passengers riding through the prog garden, searching for inner peace...

                       

All of a sudden the week is in the rear view mirror and while we are seven days closer to the end, we are also seven days richer thanks to another splendid find on the search for all things prog.  Autumn Moonlight plays with a passion that seeps through the headphones and massages your temples while  working its way down your spine; the jolts are there to keep you focused.

Now it's time to prepare for the next leg of the journey as the search for all things prog seeks out more music worthy of your listening and attention...until next time...

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Bob Katsionis "Prognosis and Synopsis"

As always, a pleasure to welcome you back to The Closet Concert Arena fellow progheads!  The search for all things prog pulls a bootlegger's turn of sorts this week, traveling a trajectory I have not been on for a while.  Now that winter seems to finally be in the rear-view mirror, the time seems right to open the windows and crank the volume, allowing the wind to blow all that pent up dust out of the Concert Closet.

Stepping into some acreage in the prog garden with a bit more adrenaline running through the soil, this week the search for all things prog heads to Greece and a visit with Bob Katsionis to check out his latest release, "Prognosis & Synopsis."  Bob resides in acreage rich with new age sounds; Vangelis, Jean Michel Jarre, Jordan Rudess,  and Keith Emerson have roots in this section as do many others.  A different travel log for the Concert Closet so hold tight and get ready for an
ear-opening week...


Starting with Prognosis, I am immediately struck by lightning as the needle shoots dead right toward the red; not so much as to break glass, but you won't be nodding off anytime soon either.  As the curtain is drawn back you can almost feel yourself needing to grab hold of terra firma; the headphones are filling your auditory canals with a cacophony of sound your mind needs a minute to digest.  There is so much here; top notes of Liquid Tension Experiment and Yngwie Malmsteen are whizzing past my olfactory sensors at a record pace. Bob Katsionis  certainly knows how to make a grand entrance...

Next up is Asymmetric Parallels.  If, for some unexplained reason, you need a shot of Red Bull after that first cut--here you go.  I sense a Trans Siberian Orchestra vibe wafting through this cut.  The guitar work would make John Petrucci drop a gauntlet, and the drum work sets a healthy foundation on which the entire production sits.  Bob Katsionis seems like an adrenaline junkie and the prog garden is where he finds his fix--nothing wrong with that.  Let this one crash over you like a Rocky Mountain avalanche...

Liner Notes...hailing from Neo Irakleio, Athens, Greece, Bob Katsionis keeps a busy schedule.  He plays guitar and keyboards for the bands Firewind, Serious Black, and Outloud.  Did I mention Bob also played all the instruments except the drums on his new album?  The sticks were handled deftly by one Vangelis Moraitis...many hats indeed.

Bob has had a full ledger since 1993 when he began playing at this frenetic pace.  He also runs a video making company and tutors the next generation of guitarists and keyboard players.  Somehow (between students I assume),  he also found time to put together some pretty impressive solo work.  Five albums by my count...oh yeah; that's why we're in the prog garden this week in the first place...

Bob started with keyboards at the age of ten and then dabbled with the guitar as a teenager.  In addition to being a member of the bands listed previously, Bob Katsionis was involved with no less than sixteen previous bands and/or projects...prodigy comes to mind...maybe over achiever...

The final serving this week is the last cut on the album, Synopsis.  Here Mr. Katsionis pulls out all the stops, exploring the prog garden from an entirely different vantage point.  If this piece truly is a synopsis of Bob's career thus far, he has had one helluva joyride across the prog garden.  Close your eyes and you can feel the wind on your face as the dry ice clouds waft in the air, the intensity level hitting its stride and cruising along that delicate edge where tranquility meets insanity.  Top notes are reflective of a Jordan Rudess/John Petrucci duel, with Keith Emerson throwing lighter fluid on the entire thing; the flame is controlled and burning ever so brightly...

You can find out more about Bob Katsionis and purchase the CD at Bob Katsionis bandcamp.  I would encourage you to purchase this disc and everything else in Bob's catalog.  Just a heads-up; the disc/download will not be available at iTunes, Spotify, or other streaming services.  I respect an artist who protects his work...

The clip posted below is only here to educate you to the uncanny ability and serious talent Bob Katsionis delivers.  The keyboards are almost hypnotic as they float through the background of the entire cut.  There is a haunting voice that starts to follow you down the path, like an extra terrestrial that isn't there when you turn your head suddenly...the fervor picks up once again and then the song fades to black...and you're out of breath...

                     

Thus concludes another week in the Closet Concert Arena fellow progheads.  It has been a while since the heat reached these levels; Bob Katsionis can definitely work up a lather.  This is a section of the prog garden I have always enjoyed but never seem to write enough about...perhaps it is time to broaden the scope and vision.  This section of the prog garden is always in full bloom and filled with vibrant color, the canvas exploding with vivid emotions that rain down like a summer hail storm.  So while I fumble through the prog garden exploring the next destination in the search for all things prog, you can just sit here and melt into the cacophony...until next time...

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Straight Light "Love Over Power"

Thanks for making the return trip to The Closet Concert Arena fellow progheads!  Sometimes the search for all things prog turns up a band that has been in the prog garden quite a while yet for me is a new discovery; this week finds us at that juncture.  Staying close to home this week as we venture to Michigan and spend several days (and nights) learning about and catching up with Straight Light.

With just a bit of swagger, Straight Light considers themselves "prog rock for all." They advertise "Crafty songwriting. Excellent playing.  Deep, yet accessible."  I like confidence--especially when it is backed up with talent.  So the only option at this point is to step into a pair of headphones and see if Straight Light is LED or incandescent...

Straight Light
Applying laser to disc, I start the musical foray with the album's title cut, "Love Over Power."  There are top notes of Big Big Train coming through the headphones, blurring with a 10cc meets Todd Rundgren vibe.  Straight Light hits the canvas with colors that light up the room without emitting a day-glow brightness...more of a thinking proghead's color spectrum...

The vocals ride the edge of a strong guitar/drum foundation as the calliope picks up a bit of momentum, cruising along the perimeter of your cranium. A song that makes you think about what powers your moral compass...what's in your character wallet?

Moving a bit farther toward the center of the disc, I discovered this gem, "Bread And Circus."  This song comes at you a bit more direct both musically and lyrically. Straight Light swims in the deep end of the pool as they blend cutting lyrics with a prog style akin to Kansas and The Alan Parsons Project; more to the mainstream side of the spectrum but with added soul and passion.

Liner Notes...hailing from Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, Michigan, Straight Light is Bart Garratt on vocals, keyboards, and recorder, Brent McDonald on guitars, vocals, bass, and additional keyboards, Gil Bristol on bass, and Bill Roelofs on drums and percussion.  The band's FB page also lists Tere Bertke as a second bass player; however the album shows no such credit.

Originally formed in 1973, Straight Light performed in varying line-ups until 1980 when it became hiatus time...a symptom of many bands in the making.  Fast forward to 2007; Bart and Brent decide to get the band back together and bring it full circle...do now what they tried previously...write and play their music their way without the corporate hand cutting off the blood flow from heart to head.  Bump the needle ahead just a bit more to December 2016 and the result of their efforts is Love Over Power.


When a band has a mission of sorts; unfinished business, a change of season, a life experience...something driving them to create, you can usually expect some emotion to find its way onto the vinyl.  Straight Light absolutely fills the album with an understated intensity; you feel their passion without having to be knocked over with a sledgehammer.  Remember how your dad could get a rise out of you with just a stare and a whisper?

Learn more about Straight Light at their website StraightLight.net.  There you will find links to purchase the CD and downloads.  You can also visit their Facebook page Straight Light FB and the Straight Light Twitter (of course) @Straight_Light.

My final song for review this week is called " A Better Place." The opening rings with an almost contemporary jazz vibe if that makes sense; imagine Pat Metheny jamming with Kansas and you start to get a feel for the mood here.  Once again Straight Light comes right at you with lyrics that tug on your thinking nerves.  The mood is upbeat with a core of restraint running through the center, much like finding out your favorite ice cream is really frozen yogurt--good, and good for you...

For your listening pleasure and my way of luring you to the website to purchase the album, I chose "Cell Phone."  On this tune Straight Light seems a bit sobering, like the winning runner who just set a world record comforting his fellow nemesis who fell three feet from breaking the ribbon first...you appreciate what you have and revel in the world that surrounds you.  The acoustic guitar work flows seamlessly through the headphones as it transforms into a more elaborate canvas, bursting with vibrant hues that don't blind but instead clear your vision.  Play. Listen. Repeat...


Thanks for stopping in and staying for the encore fellow progheads.  Once again a week has fallen through the narrow neck of the hourglass much too quickly.  The journey with Straight Light was as much mind candy as it was auditory pleasure.  It has been said that listening to a song for the lyrics takes away from the music; I don't always agree.  There are times when lyrics are but window dressing--and there are times when lyrics bring the point of the music home.  With "Love Over Power" Straight Light brings out the beauty in using one to lift up the other.

The search for all things prog, as always, continues on...until next time...

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Pinn Dropp

Good evening once again fellow progheads!  The search for all things prog is ready for spring and anxiously awaiting what the "season of new beginnings" will bestow on the prog faithful.  This week The Closet Concert Arena takes the red-eye for a long journey to Eastern Europe to check out another first-timer here in the prog garden.  Pinn Dropp refers to themselves in the simplest of terms; a "progressive rock band from Warsaw, Poland."  OK, the bio isn't exactly earth shattering, but I learned long ago to never judge an album by its jacket cover...


The buffet opens with a serving of Kingdom of Silence. A beautiful piano opening slides fluently through the headphones, almost concealing the depths Pinn Dropp takes you to with this piece.  Vocals smooth like Montrachet chardonnay seep into your frontal lobe as the tempo begins to rise; an energy starts to burst forth that emits top notes of Marillion.  Excitement wrapped in an understated glow...Pinn Dropp is like that carnival ride that speeds up so it can slow down--designed to keep you guessing as to what is up around the bend...

Next up is a song that cuts right through you without leaving a mark, Unresolved.  Opening as if it were a throwback, the song quickly bleeds into today and picks up a little steam.  Pinn Dropp reflects The Tangent somewhat on this cut, and perhaps a touch of the Alan Parsons Project oozes through as well.  This is a band capable of wearing many hats as they stroll across the prog garden, taking from each section just enough to create a sound they can call their own.  Riding this song to its fade-out as the sea rolls across your ears acoustically and your feet figuratively, you see the canvas filled with a brightness that more naturally accompanies the outdoors.  The hues are brighter, the contrasts more subtle, and everything flows smoothly like ganache rolling down the sides a chocolate torte...decadent and rich, yet you don't feel stuffed.

Liner Notes...Pinn Dropp hails from Warsaw, Poland and is a concept originally brought to life by one Piotr Sym, the band's composer and electric/acoustic guitarist.  In 2015 Piotr was joined by Mateusz Jagiello on vocals, bass guitar, and keyboards, and Dariusz Piwowarczyk on drums, samples, and programming.  The trio put together their self-titled debut which was released in December.  Last month bassist Pawel Wolinski joined the band making them a quartet.  The band is currently working on their next project which will hopefully be a full length LP.

To learn more about Pinn Dropp and purchase the eponymous DP/EP, check out the website
Pinn Dropp bandcamp and of course the band's Facebook page Pinn Dropp FB.  You will also find Pinn Dropp on Twitter @PinnDropp.  These guys are new to the prog garden and with just one DP/EP on ol' the resume, could certainly use all the support you can muster...



Rounding out the review this week is the third cut cut from the EP called Cyclothymia.  Once again the music opens in grand style...Pinn Dropp is very good at getting you to notice as they enter the room.  On this cut the vocals have a more prominent role--as do the keyboards.  Although they stay pretty much within the brighter colors of the spectrum, the background has a bit of a sullen gray to contrast the glare.  Piotr cuts through the fog and clouds that blur our vision with his opulent compositions.  This piece rides the mood elevator like a storm chaser on the outskirts of that elusive tornado...

The ability to paint from both sides of the prog artist's brush--elegant visuals paired with brilliant music--is something I don't find in the prog garden every week.  While it isn't a prerequisite, it is a treat I savor once stumbled across.

No automatic alt text available.Pinn Dropp is a band whose next album is something to look forward to, not only because the first is just three songs, but also because they splayed out across the prog garden in such a way as to pique my curiosity...so much for being just a "progressive rock band from Warsaw, Poland."  The prog garden once again proves its robust ability to support many tangents of the genre and continues to encourage new growth.  While some genres of music under the wide umbrella that is rock 'n' roll flounder, sit stagnant, and have even shown signs of withdrawal, prog marches forward like a brave chameleon strutting right past its predator to reproduce another day.


And that, as they say, fellow progheads, is a wrap.  The search for all things prog continues to enlighten and educate (at least me) and uncover some great music in the process.  The adrenaline rush is in the search; the satisfaction is in the quality of the discovery.  This never gets old, so the journey continues...until next time..

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Zombie Picnic "Rise of a New Ideology"

As I love to say upon noticing your return, welcome back fellow progheads!  Always a pleasure to have standing room only in The Closet Concert Arena, and lately it has been shoulder-to-shoulder madness as we continue the search for all things prog.  2018 may be the Year of the Dog in China, but it is the Year of the Prog here in the garden!  Lots of new bands breaking ground, and many more bands and artists coming back to the garden to plant new crops...and The Concert Closet has the best seat in the house to check 'em all out!

This week I honor me Ma (she's a "Sheehan--with two e's" is how she says it), as the search for all things prog heads back to the Emerald Isle to check in with a prog band that just released their second album upon the masses, Rise of a New Ideology.  Let us walk through the garden together expounding on the sounds of Zombie Picnic.  My first thought was death metal when I heard the name, and therein lies the mystery--and the fun--because this band is closer to Picket Fences than Walking Dead...and off to the garden we go...

Zombie Picnic is self described as "...post-rock instrumental..."  So with a focus on their latest release, I plan to indulge on as much of the Picnic as I can.  Two albums laid out in the garden for our listening pleasure means lots of mind exercise just in time for spring.  First up is Democracy Cannot Survive.  The song opens with a short-wave radio like warning complete with static, and bleeds right into a musical overview of a barren landscape still smoldering as the sun rises slowly.  Top notes of Ted Nugent's "Stranglehold" days waft through the mist, giving rise to aromatics of Phil Manzanera's guitar mastery...an ideology I can relate to...


Next serving placed on the platter is Life-Support Systems, which in an ironic way is much more upbeat.  The guitar has a swagger that grabs the drums and struts like the queen of the ball, demanding everyone's attention.  There is a Dreadnaught vibe to this tune, something about the way everything just works together while fun wends its way through the headphones.  Zombie Picnic cleared a wide swath on their journey through the prog garden.  The instrumental approach is stretched just a bit as Zombie Picnic mixes "message clips" and other spoken background pieces into their sound like parmigiana cheese added to piping hot popcorn; they are intertwined and now the magic is complete.

Liner Notes...Originally formed in 2012, Zombie Picnic hails from Limerick, Ireland and is comprised of Jim Griffin and Dave Tobin on guitars, Brian Fitzgerald on bass, and Brendan Miller on drums.  Yes there is no credited vocalist...just four musicians laying deep instrumental roots in the prog garden.  This makes the "vocal snippets" on the new release more beguiling; the hall monitors of the rabbit hole if you will.

Zombie Picnic released their debut Suburb of Earth in 2016.  It too, is an extremely busy canvas, splattered with bright primary colors that are connected with off beat hues.  This is a quartet that seems to enjoy gathering in the studio and just leaving the world behind.  These are two albums you want in your arsenal when breaking in new headphones...

The final selection for review this week is from said debut, "The Rama Committee."  A mellow opening belies the intent as this song delves deep into your subconscious.  There is a calmness along the lines of a Jaco Pastorius/Pat Metheny impromtu jam session throughout the entire piece...smooth as melted chocolate cascading down the sides of a layer cake...

Zombie Picnic staked their claim in a semi-dark corner of the prog garden; no direct light needed but nothing ominous brewing either.  They are more of a lunar band, emitting a silver moonlight glow.  Learn more about Zombie Picnic and purchase either or both of their albums at Zombie Picnic bandcamp.  You will also find them on Facebook at
Zombie Picnic FB and on Twitter @zombiepicnicire.

I was fortunate enough to locate a video clip from the new album to whet your appetite, "Anger in Storage (Denial Will Follow)."  This cut opens like a Liquid Tension Experiment outtake, only to melt right into a slick, stainless steel smooth, Talking Heads-like walk across a marsh...and oh that voice-over!  She leads you right down the garden trail to the briar patch.  My favorite thing about this song is not knowing where it's coming from or where it's going; you just gotta have faith the guys have the journey mapped out.

Zombie Picnic steps out here to paint with primary colors while explaining the whole "new ideology" thing.  This is an album that doesn't ride the mood elevator for kicks; they swing the pendulum across an emotional and psychological landscape.  The canvas is splattered with hues that bleed real passion.  It is rare that an album with little to no vocals says so much about a society and its foibles.  A prog documentary if you will...peel back the curtain and look deeper...listen to what the metal says...


                   

OK progheads, savor this one as it blows the cobwebs and dust bunnies from your mind.  Zombie Picnic walks that fine line between mind-blowing and thought-provoking with the grace of a dancer in the Bolshoi Ballet.  Prog metal is an offshoot of the genre that in my humble opinion is often abused; some bands are loud for the sake of making noise and hide under the prog metal umbrella.  But Zombie Picnic chose a different route much like Will Geraldo when he feels he has something important to say.

Rise of a New Ideology conjures up many things; images of  George Orwell's Big Brother from 1984, the Kent State Protest of 1970, The Chicago Seven in 1968, Martin Luther King's March on Washington 1963...the list goes on.  The mortar between these bricks is ferocity.  Prog music has the ability to be intense even when it whispers through the headphones...all you have to do is listen.  Zombie Picnic harnessed that energy and is able to whisper and scream without scaring you off or losing your interest.

Now of course the search all things prog must continue onward...and with a renewed sense of spirit I take the Closet Concert Arena on another leg of an incredible journey...until next time...