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...