Tuesday, December 4, 2018

The Tangent "Proxy"

A very chilly hello fellow progheads!  We have reached the final few weeks of 2018; the harvest for the 2018 prog garden season is just about in the barn.  Of course that means lots to look forward to in 2019, but let's not get ahead of ourselves.  Rather, let us savor what 2018 still has to offer...

...which can only mean the search for all things prog takes a quick "final for the year" trip to England as we visit with The Tangent.  The band has released studio album number ten recently, called "Proxy."  The Closet Concert Arena has been a faithful fan of The Tangent for quite some time, and while they do have quite a loyal following it is safe to say Andy Tillison and company have flown low under the radar for more than a decade.  Time to shine some bright light on this corner of the prog garden...


Opening with the title cut (of course).  The music is centered around Andy's keyboard playing with a strong jazz/funk rhythm going on throughout--much to the surprise of no one who follows the band.  There are subtle top notes are of Yes in their Fragile days and Weather Report when Jaco Pastorius roamed the stage; the ornate overflow of sound and emotion splatters across the inner lining of your ear walls.  As the song progresses into an anti-war rebellion all the while keeping the listener mesmerized, you realize The Tangent hasn't missed a beat...

Next song to pulsate through the headphones, "Supper's Off."  If I close my eyes I almost sense Rush pouring into my auditory canals; a very high energy uptempo piece.  The narrative lyrics get your adrenaline pumping while guitar and drums lay the foundation for silky keyboards to glide across like Michelle Kwan on ice.  There is an ELO/UK vibe running through this song, as if Eddie Jobson and Jeff Lynne were involved in a musical one upmanship benefiting all with the good fortune to purchase the album...stay for the credits...

Liner Notes...The Tangent hails from Northern England and is led by the epitome of individualism, Andy Tillison.  Andy is the lead vocalist, keyboardist, lyricist, and composer; in short Andy is The Tangent.  Not that the surrounding cast is a random collection of newbies--far from it.  Brilliance surrounds itself with brilliance...Luke Machin on guitar, Jonas Reingold on bass, Theo Travis on sax and flute, and Steve Roberts on drums.  Special guest Goran Edman also lays down some  vocal tracks.

"Proxy" was released November 16th on InsideOut Music, increasing the band's catalog count to ten.  While The Tangent has staked out their place in the prog garden, "Proxy" is about cementing their legacy.  This album wanders in many directions but never gets lost.  Instead it expands boundaries--as if Andy hasn't pushed and pulled in every direction already.

Learn more about The Tangent and purchase "Proxy" as well as the rest of the band's catalog at
The Tangent.  You can also visit Insideout Music for other bands recording on the label.  Follow The Tangent on Twitter @thetangentmusic and Facebook.



My final selection for review is "The Melting Andalusian Skies."  Andy seems to be channeling his inner Chick Corea on this instrumental extravaganza while Luke captures the essence of Al DiMeola...a winding piece that travels so many tributaries it's best to just lie back and let the music wash over your entire being...never has intensity felt so soothing...

Your teaser for the week is "The Adulthood Lie."  One of the traits of The Tangent is the band's ability to redefine themselves from song to song--or perhaps they defy definition.  No matter the method used; the prog garden is tilled, the acreage turned, and the bounty is beyond expectation.  The canvas is not simply splayed with color--it comes alive and leaps right at you.  As I savor this morsel, I am intrigued by what The Tangent could possibly do next... 

                


So as we witness 2018 begin her final descent, I can think of no better band that captures the meaning of prog today than The Tangent.  While they invite comparison, they defy categorization.  Capturing the essence of progressive rock, they steer clear of repetition.  Not exactly the new kids in town and while they fly low under the radar, they have justifiably earned the respect of peers and fans across the planet.  Playing like Weather Report one minute while emitting top notes of ELP and Genesis the next, The Tangent walk a fine line in extremely large shoes.

Of course the journey continues on as the search for all things prog moves closer to folding the calendar shut on what has proved to be a most incredulous year.  The Closet Concert Arena looks forward excitedly and with much anticipation...until next time...  

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Gregorian Rock Christmas "Centuries in the Making"

Hearty and jovial cold weather greetings fellow progheads!  It's crazy to be staring down the barrel of "holiday season 2018" already--there is still Halloween candy hidden in the closet and the bird isn't even stuffed yet.  But the ground has a fresh new white blanket as we round the final turn in what has been an exciting and tumultuous year in the prog garden.

The search for all things prog takes on a festive vibe this week as The Closet Concert Arena reviews a Christmas album that will be released very soon from Gregorian Rock.  This will be album number four from Roland Dale Benedict & Company for those keeping score at home...so let's get right to it...

The album opens with "Coventry Carol."  The mood is set immediately; you are immersed in the chant and chamber music resonance that builds a solid wall of sound...if early Pink Floyd had ventured into the Christmas album arena, I suspect Syd, Roger and the rest of the band would have put together something along these lines.  The stinging guitar that rides a current across the latter part of the song drives a stake right through your auditory sensors.  Starting to feel festive already...

The next song to flow through my headphones is a more traditional piece, "O Come O Come Emmanuel."  With a technological update to back up the vocals, this is an interesting cut.  Dale rides that thin line separating a "reflection" cover and a complete reinterpretation of the song very well...the feeling and mood are ever present, but the drums and keyboards expand the foundation on which the entire piece rests.  The top notes permeating the entire album are a toned down Trans Siberian Orchestra. 

Liner Notes...Dale Benedict is the heart, soul, brains, and life blood behind Gregorian Rock.  Hailing from San Antonio, Texas, Dale has released three albums prior to his venture into the Christmas spirit.  Phil Keaggy, who played guitar on the "Fire" album, also plays on two cuts here.  Classically trained and passionately dedicated to making great prog music, Dale continues to nurture his own unique acreage in the prog garden.  Now back to Christmas and music and celebrating and...

There are classic holiday tunes on the album as well; "The First Noel" and "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear" are two that leaped through the headphones like Rudolph blazing across a moonlit sky.  The chanting vocals allow Dale to take the music down an entirely different road and "reinvent" each piece.  With so many songs--especially Christmas classics--being covered by a plethora of artists, the Gregorian spin changes the mood and the ambiance so you don't feel like you have "just another version" of the same-old same-old.  This album is extremely inspired...

One unusual cut from the album, "Personet Hodie," is a more uptempo holiday song that shines like the bright star that lit up the night sky so long ago.  Gregorian Rock has something on this album for every different taste this time of year; the canvas is filled with the bright colors the joy of Christmas brings as well as the more somber introspective hues that delve into the religious importance of what Christmas represents to so many.  Regardless of your vantage point, there is something here destined to seep into your pores and have you emit that "joyous holiday spirit."

Learn more about Gregorian Rock and get in on the Christmas hoopla at Gregorian Rock and follow up the latest on the band's Facebook and Twitter @cantusnovus.  In addition to "Gregorian Rock Christmas" you will find the entire Gregorian Rock catalog.  There is also an opportunity to get some special gifts and extras when ordering the Christmas album.  So please take the time and support the artist...

Normally this is the time and location for a clip from the latest release...however this week I am asking you to purchase the album for yourself and build your holiday music collection.  Rest assured you will be glad you did...and if you play it correctly, so will your neighbors...😄



As the sand empties into the bottom bulb of the hourglass, another week fades from the rear view mirror.  A reminder that 2018 is starting to wane like the Ghost of Christmas Past...but there is always time in the Concert Closet for one more song...

...so let me serve a last slice, "The Angel Gabriel."  A piercing drum leads the chant on this cut; as minimal as the first night in Bethlehem.  Slowly the music begins to erupt in a reserved celebration...and fade to black.  Gregorian Rock scores with this album because Dale understands the many facets that make up the holiday; celebration certainly, but there is also a feeling of awe and  magnificence wrapped around the importance of the season...Dale's music captures that quite beautifully.


One of the pleasures of blogging about up-and-coming, low under the radar prog bands is seeing first hand the progression and maturity of the entire project; writing, musicianship, mixing, producing...when everything comes together it really can be a work of art.  Listening to Gregorian Rock over these past few years has been an exercise in appreciation for me.  Dale is one of those artists who plays what he feels, and the results show it.  A Christmas album is just one more piece of the puzzle that is Gregorian Rock...

Now as I am so fond of saying, the search for all things prog continues. The journey will soon venture beyond 2018, but for the time being let us savor the harvest still waiting in the prog garden...until next time...

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Hats Off Gentlemen It's Adequate "Out Of Mind"

Welcome once more to the Closet Concert Arena fellow progheads!  As autumn makes her descent into November I am reminded as to why I prefer the land closer to the equator...but no worries; the temperature in the prog garden tends to stay warm and soothing...

...and this week I am happy to revisit an old friend I discovered here in the prog garden almost three years ago.  Hats Off Gentlemen It's Adequate released album number four, "Out Of Mind," in early October.  Since I have enjoyed all the previous musings of HOGIA, there is little risk in extending my UK visit another seven days for some music therapy...




My first foray into the garden this week is listening to "When I Was a Ship," a very insightful piece that rolls off the piano keys as eloquently as silk gloves peeled from elegant hands.  The song crawls inside the "mind" of a warship as it details all the memories--good and bad--held within.  The momentum builds with the aid of some dead-on drum work that rings of a military theme, but that piano never walks far from center stage.  Hats Off Gentlemen It's Adequate lives in a realm of the prog garden few enter; Malcolm is truly an independent writer and thinker.  I do, however, pick up aromatics of early Pink Floyd as the song floats through time and mood changes.  With HOGIA there tends to be consistent clouds, but the silver lining is always nestled safely inside...

Next serving to flow through the headphones is  "Stand Up."  Quirky by HOGIA standards, this song comes at you from around that blind corner--and the flute is an absolutely perfect fit!  A tune that gets in your face about the dark closet that is history, complete with all her skeletons.  One of the things I really enjoy about HOGIA's music is the life lesson tucked into each composition, just like the fortune cookie you order Chinese food to get.  To that end I am reminded of Seconds Before Landing, another band that crawls inside your mind and opens doors that encourage real thought process...
Liner Notes...Hats Off Gentlemen It's Adequate originates in London, Great Britain.  The line-up is founder Malcolm Galloway who also produces, and Mark Gatland.  This duo is often joined live by Kathryn Thomas (she of the amazing flute) and other guest musicians.

There is a lot behind the scenes with HOGIA; I have written previously of the charity work and fund raising Malcolm does and his relentless touring schedule.  With endorsements from many in the prog garden, including Steve Hackett, I am quite certain HOGIA's catalog will grow beyond four albums and theirs will be a more well known name--despite it length...

Last song on the buffet this week is "If You Think This World Is Bad..." an instrumental piece that has a jazzy groove emitting aromatics of The Alan Parsons Project.  In a "not quite tension filled but suspenseful nonetheless" way you get the feeling there is something or someone following you down an endless corridor as you find every door of escape locked.  There is a brilliance to this piece you need to hear to fully comprehend; once again Malcolm strays into territory that comes off skew to HOGIA's repertoire, but after letting it pour over your mind like an artisan beer sampling, you realize it's just the prog garden being stretched an acre or two...


Learn more about Hats Off Gentlemen It's Adequate and purchase "Out Of Mind" at their website Hats Off Gentlemen.  Purchase this and  their other music  as well at HOGIA bandcamp.  The band also has a Facebook  page and Twitter  @itsadequate  so you can keep up with the band and all things HOGIA.
To get you in the buying mood I went with the teaser this week.  It really is the best way to get a true taste of what Hats Off Gentlemen It's Adequate is...and once the sounds flows freely through your auditory canals you will need to quench that thirst.  The many moods of HOGIA are served up on individual canvas works, each with its own vibrant energy.  The pendulum swings to extremes as the music waltzes through your inner cranium...just let it take you where you know you want to go...

                      

Another week has indeed fallen off the calendar, sinking into the abyss off the final turn on the track
that is 2018.  Hats Off Gentlemen It's Adequate is for me an elixir that quenches a complex thirst. The canvas is hit with many a splash of vibrant color one minute and several hues of blue to grey to black the next...and each rides an emotional wave that carries across the prog garden like a newly discovered patch of crop circles; the wonder and awe is matched only by the calming beauty you have just discovered.  "Out Of Mind" has brought the music of HOGIA to a new level as Malcolm, Mark, and Kathryn each strut their progressive stuff...and the prog garden flourishes in the glow.

Of course, no time to rest on our laurels...so much harvesting left in the prog garden as the 2018 season races to its inevitable climax.  So the search for all things prog continues...until next time...

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Big Big Train

Another week means only one thing; back to the search for all things prog!  Welcome once again fellow progheads as this time the journey finds The Closet Concert Arena stretching the parameters a bit.  While I have been reviewing specific albums for quite a while, something I truly enjoy, this week I chose to spend time with a band that has been around a while boasting members with impressive resumes of their own.

The Concert Closet has been graced in the past--just recently as a matter of fact--with bands that fall into this same category...but this week it just feels different.  With the music catalog Big Big Train has, I felt it would be unfair to limit my review to a single album...thus I am reviewing a bit of a cross-section of their career over time.  So while I stay on the other side of the pond one more week, I am hopeful you will come away feeling so much better for the experience...and enough talk...

 

Forgive a fan's indulgence as I begin near the starting line with a tune from 1994's "Goodbye to the Age of Steam" called "Blue Silver Red."  As a matter of full disclosure my headphones are streaming the 2011 re-release, but no matter...the song opens clean and crisp, the curtain pulls back, and Big Big Train washes over your auditory sensors like sea foam as the tide ebbs.Top notes of early Yes fold seamlessly into aromatics of Van der Graaf Generator for a sound that is uniquely theirs.      
  
                                                                                                                                                       

Crossing the prog garden at several junctures only adds to the allure this band has.  The music is a soothing balm at the end of a chaotic day, the emotional and mental cleansing your mind needs to prepare for round two...which happens to be "Powder Monkey" from the 2004 release "Gathering Speed."  Big Big Train paints a myriad of emotions over the canvas; the gentle hues of a summer evening rain shower sweeping across the plains, yielding to the brisk bite of an autumn breeze as the sun sets earlier and the leaves do their  chameleon impression while slowly falling to earth.  All at once you feel at ease and excited as piano and guitar work together, weaving a musical tapestry to wrap around your mind and imagination...see the raindrops pelt the windows as the train rushes gently through the prog garden...

Liner Notes...Big Big Train has a big big history which began in the 1980's when Greg Spawton and Andy Poole met, discovering a mutual admiration for prog music.  From this "bonding  moment" the seed was planted and Big Big Train started its long illustrious journey...

Greg and Andy put a band together and Big Big Train toured and recorded; their first release being the aforementioned "Goodbye to the Age of Steam."  An adventurous pilgrimage through the prog garden enabled them to build quite an impressive catalog; eleven studio albums, several EP's, and two live albums...with a new release scheduled for early 2019.  

In addition to founding members Greg Spawton writing the songs and playing bass and Andy Poole  the uber-talented multi-instrumentalist, the current line-up of Big Big Train includes Danny Manners on keyboards, David Longdon on vocals, Rikard Sjoblom on guitar and keyboards, Dave Gregory on guitars, Rachel Hall on violin, and Nick D'Virgilio on drums.  Robin Armstrong also joined the band for their 2018 live tour and looks to become a more permanent passenger.  Despite leaving the band earlier this year, Andy is still listed as a member, because once you're in the family...
Big Big Train is a band greater than the sum of its parts--and the parts have individual resumes to impress even the casual prog fan.  The prog garden flourishes in part because artists of this caliber are able to come together and produce music that is, in a word, magnificent.  The emotional outpouring from each song is as real and tangible as the scent of an oncoming summer thunderstorm or the aromas that pour forth from a French patisserie...all you want is more...

One more cut, this one taken from their 2018 live album "Merchants of Light" called "A Mead Hall in Winter."  Once again Big Big Train spills a beautiful sound all over the stage.  With top notes of The Style Council and perhaps a hint of The Strawbs channeling through the headphones, the resulting sound is ornate without being overbearing.  Keyboards lay under just low enough to allow Rachel's violin to caress your senses.  Guitars weave effortlessly throughout, wrapping around the silky smooth horns that burst delicately, allowing you to become fully immersed and get absolutely lost...

Learn more about Big Big Train at their website Big Big Train.  You will have access to the band's music catalog--do yourself a favor and make a purchase! You will also find their music at iTunes and 
Google play  Big Big Train has a YouTube channel and  Facebook.  If these options still leave you wanting, try the links on their website for Spotify and LastFM--but be sure and make a purchase...  
                                                                                                                                                          

I decided to offer you "Swan Hunter" as your ear candy for the week.  This was a tough decision--mainly because the options were so abundant.  However, this cut is a glimpse behind the present day curtain with vocals that are meringue smooth and a band working in the background that works so well together they must be conjoined at the soul.  Delicate horns that lay a carpet for guitar and keyboard work that simply transcends...watching candles burn down as the curtain closes, you need to remind yourself this is a live recording; no studio dubbing, mixing, or other alterations.  Big Big Train takes you back to that time when you listened to music simply because you liked the way it made you feel...    

                      


Yet another week winds down and the taste in the air is bittersweet...Big Big Train has had a huge impact on the prog garden, which is all the more stunning when you realize they are not a "mainstream" band garnering big time radio airplay.  Fortunately for those of us who focus on quality and substance more than swag and bravado, Big Big Train delivers on so many levels.

The prog garden has provided so much pleasure to the fans of the genre and bands like Big Big Train allow loyal listeners to relish each note, knowing the soil is still extremely fertile.  The search for all things prog has taken me to many places exotic, tranquil, scenic, wild, and modest.  Big Big Train stops at so many stations offering the listener a prog garden experience that is, above everything else, immensely satisfying.  And isn't that what we wandered into the prog garden looking for in the first place?  As always, the search continues--because there is so much more to discover...until next time...

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Lifesigns "Cardington"

 The Closet Concert Arena welcomes you once again fellow progheads!  As the fall foliage begins its rapid descent into the prog garden, I am reminded of how colorful is the music of the prog garden.  To highlight the natural beauty this time of year brings out, the search for all things prog takes an unexpected trajectory this week.  The mission was simple; seek out a band that captures the essence of the season.  Despite New England's reputation as "the place where foliage was invented," I took The Closet Concert Arena to a different backyard; the United Kingdom and some splendid listening with Lifesigns and their latest release, "Cardington.".



Lifesigns captures the spirit of the Concert Closet's mission; seek out new, lesser-known, and/or under the radar prog bands that push the boundaries of the genre.  Lifesigns is a band with a stellar pedigree...current and former members along with guests and friends who are headliners and A-listers in their own right coming together to create one more prog garden beauty.  Immersing myself now...

...and starting out with "N."  The song opens as if you are taking a joy ride on horseback across a wide open meadow and your stallion is gaining steam...the energy level pushes the needle to the red--without splitting your ear drums.  As the tempo settles into its own, you can still feel the energy flowing through your veins.  Top notes of The Strawbs and perhaps a shot of Camel explain the majestic keyboards layered throughout this piece.  Soothing and exhilarating all at once; this is turning out to be an "E" ticket ride...

Next up on the carousel is "Touch."  Another upbeat cut that dances a high-step across the prog garden.  Lifesigns moves into a different realm here; I detect top notes of an early Yes incarnation blended with the skillful playing of Marillion.  The canvas is filled with bursts of color in rapid-fire  succession as the sounds enter your auditory sensors and flow through your entire being...music that caresses the soul...

Liner Notes...started originally circa 2008, Lifesigns was the light bulb in the minds of  John YoungFrosty BeedleSteve Rispin, and Nick Beggs.  Despite hands and heads in many other projects, they were able to complete the first album for a February 2013 release.  As if the original four weren't genius enough, they enlisted the talents of friends Steve HackettRobin BoultJakko Jakszyk, and Thijs van Leer.  Niko Tsonev signed on for the ensuing tour, and Nick Beggs--the man of 1000 bands--was ultimately replaced by Jon Poole.  Add to an already crowded stage Dave Bainbridge and Menno Gootjes and my earlier reference to a stellar pedigree and all that nonsense about headliners and A-listers is starting to seem blatantly obvious I bet...

Lifesigns released a live DVD and double audio CD during the hoopla and touring, and also managed to release their second studio album "Cardington," in 2017.  With performances at Cruise to the Edge and a UK tour, Lifesigns has been busy indeed with no plans to slow down...a new CD and extended tour are in the works now... 


The final serving on this prog feast is the title cut, "Cardington."  These guys are as comfortable as your favorite sweater; they feed off each other so effortlessly.  A jazz cafe sound as smooth as a silkworm's finest effort...I detect top notes of Transatlantic and Asia with perhaps a touch of District 97.

However; there is enough of a prog and rock pedigree running through this band  that comparing them to another is almost unfair.  Suffice to say Lifesigns brings more to the prog garden than it takes, leaving cuttings in several sections to nurture those coming after.  Learn more about Lifesigns and purchase their music at their website Lifesigns and bandcamp.  Peel back the curtain at Facebook and follow the band on Twitter @Lifesigns_uk.

Your earworm for the week is a bit of a teaser; a taste of each cut to lure you in...rest assured you will not be disappointed.  Lifesigns hits the canvas with an array of colors that blend splendidly together...much like folding caramel and black cherries into dark chocolate; there is never too much and you're always in the mood.  Once your ears are wet, buy the entire catalog...         

                

Once again the clock on the wall says time is up for this week fellow progheads.  Minutes seems to be in warp speed as we trudge through the final quarter of 2018, fixated on the ribbon stretched across the finish line.  But there is still plenty of harvest left in the prog garden and there is no need to rush through it hastily.



Lifesigns steers your mind back to the beauty that is the prog garden; serenity wrapped in excited joy.  This is a band quite comfortable in its own skin, playing not for something to prove but rather something to enjoy.  The search for all things prog has brought us a treasure that is best shared.  Of course the journey must continue...until next time... 

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Ancient Veil "Rings of earthly...Live"

A brisk autumn hello and welcome to The Closet Concert Arena fellow progheads!  Traveling back from Athens and the metal sounds of OH. got me thinking...since I'm in already in the Mediterranean, why not maximize the travel miles?  So this week the Concert Closet is taking the search for all things prog over to Italy to visit with Ancient Veil and check out their latest release, "Rings of earthly...Live."


As much a prog band as a fusion group bringing modern and ancient sounds together, Ancient Veil brings a unique resonance to the prog garden that bleeds with emotion and tranquility.  So with a nod to composed excitement, let the journey begin...

I chose to open with "Rings of Earthly Light."  An opening as soft as a rain forest greets you; feel the moisture wash over your entire being like a light summer drizzle drenched in sunshine...nice.  As your stress melts away, your appreciation for woodwinds and piano increases tenfold.  Ancient Veil caresses your mind with this piece.  Top notes of Big Big Train and early Genesis manage to seep through with each note.  The guitar/flute duel is soothing in its own right, and carries the song along beautifully.


Moving farther along the disc, I become enveloped in "Creature of the Lake."  Once again Ancient Veil flows through the headphones as calming as a shallow waterfall.  Flute takes center stage for a while as it carries you like Aladdin's magic carpet across the prog garden like autumn leaves floating to their final resting place...even the vocals are soothing.  Ancient Veil waltzes gently through the prog garden; think Atlas Volt with a Victorian slant.

Liner Notes...hailing from Genoa, Italy, Ancient Veil is Alessandro Serri on vocals and guitars; Edmondo Romano the woodwind master on sax, clarinet, and flute; and Fabio Serri on keyboards and piano.  The band is essentially a trio although credits also include bass player Massimo Palermo and Marco Fuliano behind the drum kit.

Ancient Veil spent many years in the minds and hearts of its creators before coming to life.  Circa 1992 Alessandro and Edmondo left their original band to create Ancient Veil, releasing their first album in 1995.  The catalog looks to have eight releases credited to the band and several solo works along with music from their previous groups.

You can find out more about Ancient Veil at their website Ancient Veil.  From there you are able to connect with the band on Facebook and Twitter @ancient_veil Ancient Veil records on the Lizard Records label and you will find their catalog, not surprisingly, at Lizard Records as well as iTunesAmazon, and Google play.  Lots of options, so please support this wonderful band...


My final spin in the CD carousel pushes "Night Thoughts" through my headphones.  This song bring the ancient into the mix with an opening reminiscent of the Paul Winter Consort...very moving...
Ancient Veil paints with subdued colors on a large canvas, filling the room with a sound that is refreshing without being overpowering.

Italian prog is often ornate and "over-the-top;" music that fills the room and leaves very little space for anything else.  However, Ancient Veil manages to come across as minimal while still giving you that "full-to-overflowing" feel.  Here is a band that swims against the tide, giving you not only room to breathe, but also space to move around and savor the sound.

My ear candy for you this week is a delightful piece called "Dance Around My Slow Time."  Gentle vocals riding an acoustic guitar roll back the curtain on a song that embraces you like an innocent child hugging their favorite teddy bear.  Ancient Veil is the friend you rely on without realizing it; always there with a firm yet familial hug...you know you're among friends as you fall gently into the prog garden's embrace...

                        

So fellow progheads, our time this week winds down as smooth and serene as a still lake reflecting  moonlight.  Ancient Veil unites the sections of the prog garden nurtured by the standard bearers with those of the modern day.  While walking to the precipice of ambient sound, Ancient Veil is careful to stay on this side of the ground stake, allowing you to walk freely among the different sights and sounds.

The prog garden has an abundance of artists that blur the lines of the genre, but not many that unite them.  Take the time to savor all there is to appreciate here.  Meanwhile the search for all things prog continues its perpetual journey.  More pleasantries on the horizon...until next time...

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

OH. "Metallia"

October is here fellow progheads, so pile into The Closet Concert Arena as we take the search for all things prog up a notch (or two) and head into the home stretch of 2018!  This week the journey circles back around to Greece to check in with a prog metal artist that has been attracting serious attention in the prog garden.  Said garden is under-represented by women so when I hear of one tilling acreage in the metal section...well, that is a siren I cannot ignore...and welcome to the world of OH.



Finding it easier to simply use her initials, OH. is in actuality Olivia Hadjiioannou, a one-woman prog metal force.  Her latest album, "Metallia," was released in July so I guess it's been marinating long enough; let's have a listen...

The opener to this metal feast is a powerful piece called "Red Lion."  The song opens with a quick acoustic burst that leads the listener into a fierce encounter with Olivia and her shredding abilities...I do believe John Petrucci would admire her stylings.  With top notes of Dream Theater and the intensity of Liquid Tension Experiment, Olivia takes the listener on a dark yet vivid journey that intersects the mind of Edgar Allen Poe and the imagination of Stephen Gammell.  This is going to be a wild, blustery week indeed...

Moving across the disc I find another fiery blast, "Androgyny."  An angelic, church choir-like opening belies a metal storm waiting behind the curtain.  OH comes at you full force, filling your head with guitar riffs that tie themselves around a searing vocal, penetrating deep into your cranium.  The solid drum work solidifies what is already a cement foundation, allowing the guitar to echo back and run circles in your mind...until she cuts out.  The song ends abruptly and you get a minute to catch your breath...

Liner Notes...calling Athens, Greece home, "Metallia" is the seventh release by Olivia Hadjiioannou.  Her debut EP "Sleeping World" hit the streets in 2013 and a full-length LP "Synemotion" came out in 2015.  Add four ballad singles and she has put together an impressive resume thus far.  OH. stays busy in the recording studio playing guitar, violin, bass, and drums...and she lays down the vocal tracks.

OH is a hybrid of sorts; I detect aromatics of Steve Vai, John Petrucci, and Joe Satriani in her guitar playing, blended with Kate Bush and Anneke Van Giesbergen in style and range.  OH. doesn't just dabble in the metal section of the prog garden--she takes up full residence.

Learn more about OH. and purchase her music by visiting  her website  Olitunes and also at  olitunes.bandcamp.  Of course she has Facebook and Twitter @olitunes  for you to keep up with all things OH, and a YouTube channel  olitunes YouTube  allows an aural glimpse behind the curtain.

Last song to tear through my headphones this week is "Resurrection."  This cut opens with strong drum work that is quickly overrun with Olivia's explosive guitar.  She may wear many hats as an artist, but guitar seems to be her first love--and she remains loyal to her first love.  OH. is a refreshing kick in the cerebellum, her thumping guitar taking aim via your auditory sensors.  The music unfolds as a cacophony of searing sound, finally coming to rest with the drums and guitar battling for supremacy and crashing to a halt.

The sound explosion I chose to placate your metal fix this week is "Triumph." OH. runs right at you here, wielding her guitar like Thor's hammer.  The vocals hearken to being caught in a sound warp where everything comes at you in short fiery bursts.  Olivia hits the canvas with some of the brightest dark color scapes the metal section of the prog garden has to offer; think Peter Marx with a gothic bent...play it loud, but keep away from open flames...


                     

Another week winds down to a screeching implosion fellow progheads.  The prog garden has been set ablaze these past seven days by OH.  We stand in a vast musical playground with enough acreage to satisfy  the many different tastes of the prog genre.  I admit to not spending much time hunkered down in the "barbed wire" area of the garden, but when I do I am reminded as to why prog music is so all encompassing.

As is the norm, the journey continues on as the search for all things prog makes its way through the final turn toward the horizon in the road race that is 2018...until next time...

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Electric Mud "The Deconstruction of Light"

Welcome to The Closet Concert Arena fellow progheads!  As always it is a pleasure and honor I don't take for granted to be able to bring you the best in new and lesser-known prog music.  After a raucous week in LA, the mood settles just a bit as the search for all things prog makes a return trip to Germany and a follow-up visit with Electric Mud and their latest release, "The Deconstruction of Light."

It was but three years ago The Closet Concert Arena first discovered Electric Mud, and summing up their sound as "post-progressive rock" doesn't quite touch all the bases.  While the sky overhead may be filled with dark ominous clouds and the atmosphere hangs heavy, Electric Mud walks many a mile through the prog garden, delving into sections labeled ambient, metal, and avant-garde just to name a few.  This is a band that crawls inside your head just to see if they fit, so perhaps we best get to it...

The opener this week is a bit dark and dreary; "Suburban Wasteland Blues."  The opening guitars are tangibly heavy--and that is a good thing.  Electric Mud does a bit of a bait-and-switch here as this song just bleeds the blues...but prog elements leap off the disc at the same time.  Think Adrian Belew jamming with John Lee Hooker and you're close.  If your feet ain't tapping as this song climbs over, through, and around time and tempo changes, check your shoes to see if they're empty...

Next up on this calorie laden buffet is "Heads in Beds."  A sultry guitar leads you down a dimly lit corridor as the song opens.  Waltzing through domes of light cast by overhead streetlamps you alternately  disappear in darkness and reappear as if walking a lone desolate avenue on a rainy night.  The top notes are reminiscent of The Strawbs and  Tangerine Dream while the guitar work has just a hint of a Mark Knopfler influence; elegant and brooding while at the same time extremely minimal...in a word, fantastic.  The music continues to walk the prog garden in search of fellow nyctophiles; Electric Mud is haunting in this piece without crossing into the macabre or evil--just floating on this side of the darkness...


Liner Notes...hailing from Springe in the district of Hannover, Germany, Electric Mud was founded by bass player and sound conceptualist Hagen Bretschneider.  The band, now an official trio,  also includes Lennart Huper on rhythm guitar and Nico Walser on guitars, keyboards, percussion, noises...and sound alchemy.  Manfred Lohse is credited for video production...these credits alone should be a sliver of light shining on the depths to which Electric Mud will dig to capture the essence of their sound.

"The Deconstruction of Light" was released in April, the band's third full length album.  Paying homage to the prog standard bearers that tilled the garden early on, Electric Mud doesn't just echo the sounds of the past, rather they sift the many layers and add a touch of their own DNA, creating a unique sound amongst the familiar.

To learn more about Electric Mud and make a purchase check their website Electric Mud.  Links there will take you to bandcamp, soundcloud, Amazon, and other music sites for listening and buying--with an emphasis on the latter.  There is also Facebook and Twitter @Electricmudd  to keep up with all the latest band information.

Final selection for review this week is "Through the Gates."  Electric Mud is extremely good at giving the listener a macro view of the inner workings of a determined mind, allowing you to glimpse a private world not usually on display.  The percussion in this piece is deafeningly restrained; you feel the blows in your conscious but no physical harm is done.  Music to contemplate by...


I chose a reprise of sorts for your listening pleasure this week; "Black Dog." The opening riff lifts the top of your skull and rains down all over your mind...aromatics of Deep Purple burst through the thick outer shell encasing the song as the tempo and mood swing back away from the sun.  Electric Mud manage to say quite a bit without once uttering a lyric, filling the canvas to overload.  As you sit back and allow the music to swallow you whole, you realize the ride down is as fulfilling as it is mesmerizing...dim the lights...

                   

Yet one more trek through the prog garden has yielded a hearty bounty for the week.  Electric Mud takes you on a joy ride through a cavernous section of the prog garden; dark and eery at times but never letting go of your hand.  The post-progressive section of the prog garden has a reputation for being ominous and gloomy, but don't be fooled; Electric Mud has the power to light up a seemingly impenetrable darkness--and you'll want to be there when the beacon burns through the haze...

So the search for all things prog moves forcibly ahead as the Closet Concert Arena moves on.  Electric Mud has shown another side of the prog garden, allowing a dark hue to wash over the sun soaked dunes...and the result is magic.  The journey continues...until next time...   

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Lobate Scarp "Time and Space"

Hello fellow progheads and welcome to another week here at the The Closet Concert Arena!  The summer flew by much too quickly, so in an effort to slow the gravitational pull of Mother Earth (or at least make it feel that way), the search for all things prog stayed on one continent this week, hunkering down in California to check out a relative new comer to the prog garden, Lobate Scarp.


Referring to their sound as "Progressive Space-Opera Rock," Lobate Scarp put themselves on my radar; always looking for bands that view the prog garden through a different lens.  So diving right in, I drop the laser on the title cut and let the headphones fill my cranium...and the sounds they emit are quite the mind show.  As the song opens you feel as if you're listening to the background music while credits roll on a classic 40's film noir marathon.  Then just as sudden and unexpected as snow in July, color splashes across the canvas and Lobate Scarp comes at you full force.  This terrestrial aura comes through on some fine guitar work and percussion.  The mood swing is a bit jazz fusion at one point as I find myself waiting for David Sanborn to break out one of his trademark sax solos.  The week starts strong as I am sated for fifteen minutes plus...

Moving across the disc I discover a piece that opens in a nostalgic frame of mind then quickly punches up the drums, "The Contradiction."  Once again an ominous cello forces itself onto your auditory sensors like a prelude to darkness.  However, Lobate Scarp is simply doing what they do best--toying with your emotions the way most operas do...even the progressive space-rock kind.  There is a taste of ELO and The Flaming Lips in the music here as the tempo floats like a swinging pendulum.  Lobate Scarp seems to enjoy a "quick intro" as the song starts to emerge from the headphones, only to inundate you with a roller coaster ride of emotion and style...

Liner Notes...in addition to being from Los Angeles CA and into quantum physics, Lobate Scarp sports a left-handed guitarist/vocalist in Nate Olmos and bass player/cellist/vocalist Andy Catt (unless the photos are backwards).  The other current members of the band are Adam Sears lead vocals and keyboards, Andrea Whitt on electric viola, and Dustin Prince on drums.  The band originated in 2007 releasing "Time and Space" in 2012.  They also have a single, "Beautiful Light" that hit the airwaves in 2016.

Lobate Scarp is a melange of sorts; many ideas and influences brought together to create a driving sound that resonates across much of the prog garden.  The ornate boldness of Queen, the "not taking ourselves too seriously" approach of Dreadnaught, and the mellow smooth attitude of Phish make for a canvas splattered with color and character that is a truly unique blend...

Learn more about Lobate Scarp at Lobate Scarp and purchase their music at
Lobate Scarp bandcamp.  You can also connect with the band via Facebook and on Twitter @LobateScarp.  Their catalog is relatively small while still in the "construction phase."

The palate cleanser for this prog gala is "The Mirror."  Channeling David Gilmour as the curtain is peeled back, this song is an extension of what Lobate Scarp is about; emerging slowly as they fill your mind to overflow with sights, sounds, and bursts of energy.  Top notes range from Pink Floyd to Asia and the Red Hot Chili Peppers...yes, Lobate Scarp likes to fill the entire picture frame... 

Your ear candy this week is a tune called "Jacob's Ladder."  This song brings a funky edge to the forefront...think Spock's Beard meets Wishbone Ash meets Cake.  The guitars carve out a groove that gets your foot tapping one minute and your mind swirling the next...of course the drum work thumping the back of your neck helps keep you focused.  Lobate Scarp seems to enjoy making the most of their time in the prog garden and sharing a twisted groove with friends... 

                          

And another week has walked briskly by the picture window.  Lobate Scarp seemed the right elixir as we witness summer's annual fade to gray, her strut across the prog garden deliberately alluring.  However, the prog garden is a landscape for all seasons and bands like Lobate Scarp have nurtured some impressive acreage.  As their resume grows and the catalog fills, I anticipate the envelope being pushed and the prog garden continuing its expansion.

As for The Closet Concert Arena, the search for all things prog continues to stay on course...until next time...   

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

The Hollow Moon

Greetings once again fellow progheads!  As the unofficial final days of summer flash by the rear view mirror, the search for all things prog continues its forward motion.  This week The Concert Closet carries a passport to check in on both sides of the pond investigating a band starting to build its own portfolio...welcome to the sounds of The Hollow Moon.

The Hollow Moon is one more prog band that touches two continents as the members reach across the Atlantic to bring their sound to the prog garden.  Time to peel back the curtain and look inside the workings of The Hollow Moon...

Starting with the song "King of Yesterday" I find myself swept up in a touch of nostalgia.  The mood is quite somber as the yearning for days gone by drips from the lyrics like raspberry vinegar; the desired sweet is soothing, just enough to temper the acidic bite.  There are top notes of Marillion and a hint of Keane wafting through the entire production; the keyboards are soft yet able to penetrate deep into your pores.  Feels like a reflective week coming on...

Moving to the next single, I drop the laser on "Everything in Balance."  A more upbeat tempo greets the auditory sensors as strong keyboards wash over like a cool breeze on a humid afternoon.  The drum work gives a foundation to the guitars riding across the top.  Aromatics of Yes dart in and out of the music, poking your skull.  I sense a Godley and Creme vibe as well; the logic minded depth of the lyrics wrapped in deep thought, begging to be unwrapped.

Liner Notes...The Hollow Moon is the blend of two musicians hailing from two continents.  Jon Farley lives in Moray, Scotland and along with composing for the band plays piano, keyboards, drums, guitar, and provides vocals.  Darren Selesnow calls Los Angeles, CA home and he also composes while  providing bass, electric and acoustic guitars, as well as keyboards.

Darren and Jon bring well over a half century's experience to The Hollow Moon from their respective musical upbringing.  Each has been playing, writing, and recording music on their own as well as with with other bands.  Darren's alter-ego has been part of The Edwardian Look for the past ten years while Jon is the lone member of Checking for Echo.  The Hollow Moon currently has five singles out with their first full length album due soon.  The LP will consist of the existing singles along with new music presently being mixed, arranged, and going through all the necessary machinations required to bring it to fruition.  So the prog garden expands its boundaries...

My last song for review here is "Don't Forget Me."  The Hollow Moon is a very introspective band; these are songs that penetrate deep into your conscious, lifting the lid on your cranium and stoking the thought process.  I sense aromatics of Porcupine Tree in this cut; the percussion brings out the strength of the vocals and guitars gain momentum toward the end of the song.  The haunting voice-over carries you across the threshold from present to a perpetual, fading eternity.




Learn more about The Hollow Moon  at The Hollow Moon Band.  They also have a Facebook page Hollow Moon FB and Twitter @TheHollowMoon .  Both will keep you informed as to the release of their debut album and other information about the band.  You can purchase all the singles now at iTunes and Amazon; links on the website.  Get in on the ground floor so you can say you knew them when...

I chose the clip below, "Falling Away," as your ear candy this week.  The signature melancholy piano lead-in pulls the curtain back slowly on a coming-of-age realization about what really is important and how fast time slips through your fingers--no matter how tight your grasp.  The Hollow Moon fills the pallet with subtle strokes from a somber brush; delicate though it may be, the song pulls on your emotions without drowning you in sorrow.  The tempo gains just enough momentum for the song to float through your mind and carry you to that peaceful place...pour a single malt and dim the lights...

                                    

OK fellow progheads, seven days closer to the end of another busy year in the prog garden.  The Hollow Moon is an apropos way to draw the curtain on summer; watching the sunset while enjoying a fresh crispness in the air.  The prog garden brought forth a lot of exciting new bands and artists this year as well as witnessing some old favorites continue their upward trajectory.

With a debut album coming soon and side projects to use up any possible free time, Darren and Jon appear  to be riding The Hollow Moon to new acreage here in the prog garden.  And of course  the search for all things prog continues the hunt for even more new and exciting entries...until next time...

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

I Am The Morning "Lighthouse"

Another seven days have passed and  I welcome you back fellow progheads!  The search for all things prog has brought me to some fascinating places and unearthed many wonderful discoveries; the band I am reviewing this week scores high on that list.  My journey has not taken me to Russia very often--I believe my passport is stamped but twice for stops in Alaska's  neighbor.  However; I Am the Morning has convinced me to bring The Closet Concert Arena this way more often.

Calling themselves a "Chamber progressive rock duo...mixing prog with classical music and writing songs about death" is a calling card I cannot ignore.  "Lighthouse" is the fifth album from I Am The Morning, released on KScope records. With album number six due in the fall, I thought this a good time to stop by for a listen.  To paraphrase John Soule, let us "go west" across the Bering Strait...



The album opens softly with "I Came Before the Water Pt I."  Gentle waves lapping at the shore greet your auditory sensors while vocals as delicate as a linen shawl float over the top...and the song seamlessly bleeds into "Too Many Years."  An intense piano introduces vocals elegant as  lilacs...gentle to the touch yet the scent completely fills the room.  The piano continues to waltz through the entire piece as strings come around the perimeter and draw everything together.  Top notes of Brian Eno's ambient best folded with the melancholy of Keane, aromatics of Doville Lee, and a hint of the darkness that envelopes Tuesday The Sky.  Yes, there is quite a bit happening in the prog garden at the moment...

My next selection from this "classic" buffet is the title cut "Lighthouse."  As tender as a mother's touch, the piano flows through the headphones guiding lyrics soft as a down filled pillow through your head.  I Am The Morning is a walk through the first snowfall on a hidden meadow; tranquility holding your hand and guiding your steps.  The images are Victorian and ornate while the music is simple and genteel.  This song is as unique as a piece of driftwood washed up on shore...admired for its beauty and appreciated for the treasure it is.

Liner Notes...I Am The Morning hails from St. Petersburgh, Russia and is Gleb Kolyadin on piano and keyboards and Marjana Semkina on vocals and backing vocals.  They do include many guests on the album; Mariusz Duda on vocals, Vlad Avy on guitars, Colin Edwin on bass, Andres Izmailov on harp, and Evan Carson on bodhran and percussion.  Playing drums is one Gavin Harrison...must be that Porcupine Tree and King Crimson aren't enough to keep him occupied.

I Am The Morning have five albums on their resume and number six due in October, complete with
Blu-Ray.  Factor in Gleb Kolyadin's recent solo release and this duo have been caretakers to quite the acreage in the prog garden.  Different musicians appear on each album, which is recorded in a different location based seemingly on its association with the theme or history of the album and its music.  I Am The Morning leaves nothing to chance or circumstance when putting an album together; everything--from cover art to mixing--is as meticulously attended to as anything Steely Dan ever did.             

Selection number three is "Chalk and Coal." This time Marjana's vocals pierce the headphones with some oomph; the darkness implied by the title hits the canvas like an impending storm...all the while building an intensity that breaks through without destroying the landscape.  The top notes are reminiscent of The Strawbs in a more macabre mood.

Learn more about I Am The Morning and purchase their music at IATM bandcamp.  For those so inclined, you will find links to soundcloudiTunes, and KScope where you can also pre-order the new I Am The Morning album "Ocean Sounds."  Follow the band on Facebook IATM Facebook and Twitter @themorningband.

I chose the song "Matches" as your gateway to the beauty that is I Am The Morning.  The piano opening takes you to a quiet nightclub and the vocals float on top like cotton candy strands taking flight from a vendor's machine at the fair.  This piece, however, moves right into that "sweet spot" in your mind, allowing you to drift away like a message in a bottle...washing up on a desolate island and basking in the solitude...

                     

Once again fellow progheads a week has fallen off the calendar as easily as morning dew dripping from a rose petal.  I Am The Morning has broadened the perimeter of the prog garden and added a  stunning view.  The passion expressed in the music makes "Lighthouse" a must-have for those with a fondness for prog beauty.  The band walks the emotion laden section of the prog garden, a la Moody Blues.  Yet it is Marjana's voice that lures you deeper into the abyss...

The search for all things prog continues on, and bands like I Am The Morning make the journey so worthwhile.  With so many sub-genres under the prog umbrella, a find as refreshing and unique as I Am The Morning is always a pleasant discovery, and of course the search continues...until next time...   

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Silas Neptune "The Scales of Tahuti"

Greetings once again fellow progheads and welcome back to The Closet Concert Arena!  So much activity in the prog garden; the heat has certainly inspired some amazing growth and expansion.  As the search for all things prog continues, so too does the flow of fresh new music.  This week the journey took me back and forth across the pond we call the Atlantic so as to enjoy the sounds of Silas Neptune.  In a world of constant noise and simulated chaos, it was quite the invigorating ride...

While Silas is from Somerset in the UK, his debut solo album "The Scales of Tahuti" was recorded in Colorado USA and released December 2017.  Silas has music in his veins; his father, Ed Wynne, is the founding member of Ozric Tentacles.  Let us see how far from the tree this apple fell...


The album opens with a gong, so I am already relaxed...and then carried across the threshold where consciousness meets a dreamlike state.  The song "Feathers of Ma'at" slowly and gently fills the headphones.  Silas Neptune traverses the prog garden in pursuit of Utopia; there are equal parts Ravi Shankar and Pink Floyd painting graffiti on the inner lining of my skull.  As the song progresses I am taken back to Yes and their "Close To The Edge" intro.  This truly is a mesmerizing piece...

The next sounds to fill my mind are "Become Everything."  Silas Neptune picks up the pace a bit here as he works those keyboards into a semi-frenzy.  There is a new age vibe running the entire piece as it somehow soothes while energizing.  For top notes think Robert Fripp doing his soundscapes thing with an electronic push...imagine Adrian Belew and Frank Zappa getting hold of the motherboard and tweaking the master tapes...
Liner Notes...In addition to producing a "solo" album, Silas Neptune plays keyboards in Ozric Tentacles, the band I mentioned earlier that his father started.  I say "solo" because this is almost an extension of Ozric Tentacles.  Performing on this album in addition to Silas are Ed Wynne, Brandi Wynne, Joie Hinton, Natan Mantismash, Roy Brosh, Balazs Szende, Dominic Gibbins, and Paul Hankin.  Natan doubles are art director; the album covert art is his design.  
The album is a concept of sorts as Silas takes the listener deep into the unknown, much like Hal led Dr. Bowman in 2001: A Space Odyssey.  This time, however, man controls machine as Silas and the rest of the band journey across a mental landscape as imaginative as it is stellar and robust.  The canvas comes alive with colors that explode as if Peter Maxx designed an eternally melting kaleidoscope.  Learn more about Silas Neptune and purchase his music at SilasNeptunebandcamp 
and Silas Neptune soundcloud.  You can travel along at Facebook and Twitter @SilasNeptune .  For the proghead that needs to delve deeper there is ozrics where this and other side projects of Ozric Tentacles are highlighted.

For the icing that runs down the sides of this celestial cake I chose "Gateway to Dreamtime."  The percussion on this cut is a bit more pronounced, but once again "mystical" keyboard work headlines the encounter.  Silas Neptune seems focused on bringing an alternate universe to the listener...a previously unknown reality--and it is a wonder to the subconscious.  Life in the star gazing lane never seemed so wondrous...

To illustrate the beauty that is "The Scales of Tahuti" I chose "Aqualight."  This piece moves through the headphones like summer melt-off flowing down a cliff...the warm inner peace is all you notice.  Once again keyboards--the lifeblood of the entire album-- are showcased like a musical delicatessen; so may variations on a theme.  Just remember why you came and let the soundscapes carry you away...

                      

Well fellow progheads, another week is in the rear view mirror.  This week was a stroll down a different path in the prog garden.  Silas Neptune commands acreage that I have explored from the periphery and indulged in with various artists whilst viewing through a different lens.  Silas pushes the boundaries of the prog garden as he expands on ideas and concepts brought forth by others...I sense aromatics of Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, and Zawinul with and without Weather Report.  But there is so much more here as well; the influences run the width and breadth of the entire prog garden.

I hope you enjoyed this leg of the journey.  The search for all things prog takes many twists, turns, and seldom-traveled roads, all for the sake of finding that next shining star.  So of course The Closet Concert Arena will travel on...until next time...

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Seconds Before Landing "Trio Volume 1"

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

                       

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

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