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...