Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Gregorian Rock...Making "Fire" the Old-Fashion Way

Greetings once again fellow progheads!  Summer 2017 is preparing for her swan song; nights are getting a bit cooler as Mother Nature starts to hunker down in anticipation of autumn.  The leaves are starting to turn, there is a crisp bite in the evening air, and a brisk stroll through the prog garden has me looking for hearty fall bounty.  In an effort to cling to summer as long as possible, I circle back to San Antonio, Texas for a follow-up to a blog post started several months ago...


Dale Benedict, perhaps better known as the master mind behind Gregorian Rock, has been putting together album #3, "Fire" one single release at-a-time.  I wrote about this album and the concept behind it back in March; the early cuts were original, exciting, and very well put together. Gregorian Rock is truly a distinctive prog force to be reckoned with.  Recently Dale forwarded me a copy of song #11 called "Wisdom"; a piece he described as "pummeling."  The song opens hard and stays there throughout; drums crack the protective coating that is the vocals, which are but the lone word sapientia (Latin for wisdom), and guitar work spills out just enough to tangle itself around that vocal line and hang on.  I pick up a few top notes of Spock's Beard and Porcupine Tree lingering around the periphery...

Playing back some of the other tracks Dale has laid down leads to some attention-grabbing music; the cut titled "Blood & Fire" jumps right at you.  There is "jazz cafe" feel much like Steve Scales improvising with Herbie Hancock if you can paint that picture in your mind.  Once again the drum work is exceptional as it carries the rest of the music comfortably through the headphones, filtering through your cerebrum as it both soothes and ignites the senses.

Gregorian Rock is the stained glass window in that vintage village gift shop...until you cross the threshold and nothing is as it seems.  While the vocals are a chant, they are well accompanied by incredible guitar and keyboard work.  Dale does Tony Levin proud with the Chapman stick as well...


A song that changes things up a bit is this next cut, "Talon."  Gregorian Rock digs deeper into the rock section of the prog garden with this tune; I detect top notes of latter era Yes blending with aromatics of Be Bop Deluxe.  Dale has done his home work for this album; there are footprints up and down the prog garden.  "Fire" is a culmination of Gregorian Rock's first two albums stretched to a new limit...Dale didn't just push the envelope to stroke his ego, he moved the bar and raised the expectation level for what Gregorian Rock can do.

"Ashes" is up next and once again Gregorian Rock comes at you from a different angle.  The vibe is almost surreal; you feel as though you are floating downstream on a current as gentle as flowing honey, each twist of the water soothing and tender.  The pallet goes from dreary gray to color strewn as Gregorian Rock manages to awaken you without shock waves...letting the sound flow over you like a soothing balm...

Liner Notes...As should be blatantly obvious by now--and explained to the prog faithful in previous posts--Gregorian Rock is Dale Benedict and vice-versa.  However; for the making of "Fire" Dale had some help in the form of a pretty impressive line-up.  With Dale on vocals, keyboards, EWI, and Chapman stick, the line-up rounds out with Phil Keaggy, Vinnie Moreno, Pat Neil, and Jay Pilkington on guitars, John Adams on bass, Scott McCullor on vocals, and Sean McCurley and Paul Garretson on drums.  As big as Texas is, that is one crowded recording studio...

Gregorian Rock legitimizes itself as a band with this album.  Assembling that level of talent--the fact that Phil Keaggy not only played guitar but had nothing but positive things to say about the project--is a bold statement all by itself.  Gregorian Rock has grown and matured from their first release in 2013 right through the first eleven tracks of "Fire."  The sound is tighter, the mixing improved, the songs stronger, and the emotions bursting through the headphones are real.

Take the leap and learn more about Gregorian Rock at Gregorian Rock.  You can purchase any or all of the first eleven tracks of "Fire" (there will be twelve upon completion) at Amazon
GR Fire Amazon, iTunes GR Fire iTunes, and cdbaby GR Fire cdbaby.  You will also find links to purchase the first two albums while you are there.  For those looking to expand their own personal prog boundaries, this is must-have stuff.  There is also Facebook if you are interested in keeping up with the latest, including the release of song #12 (when that occurs) at Gregorian Rock FB.  Of course, Gregorian Rock can also be found on the ever popular Twitter @cantusnovus.

I debated posting a clip this week as I prefer you to listen and make a purchase...need to support the artists after all.  However I thought the clip below, "Remember the Name" would help introduce those who are still unfamiliar with Gregorian Rock to this section of the prog garden.  This song should help erase the misconception that Gregorian chant is simply dark voices echoing from a hollow void.
Although the song opens with a melancholy, perhaps stereotypical "churchy" feel, the mood quickly swings right as the tempo gains steam and even the vocals have an upbeat, toe-tapping edge.  The drums and percussion lay a foundation for the vocal work that is tight as a wrestling mat; you feel the music bounce up and come right back at you.

                   

OK fellow progheads...two weeks in Texas and two bands expanding the prog garden.  Gregorian Rock has taken a unique approach as Dale Benedict blends the ancient art of Gregorian chant with modern music to establish a different section of the prog garden.  The sounds are soothing, menacing, deep, and relaxing...all while seeping into your subconscious to alter your thoughts on the genre.  One thing is certain--prog rock has many tangent roads down which it is unafraid to roam...

So please give Gregorian Rock a listen and make a purchase.  The search for all things prog continues to find new and expanding avenues and ever changing acreage in the prog garden...which is after all the best part of the journey.  Until next time...

Friday, September 15, 2017

Aaron Clift Experiment "If All Goes Wrong" Indiegogo Campaign

Hello fellow progheads and welcome back to The Closet Concert Arena!  In case you are scratching your head with a confused look in your eye...no--today is not Tuesday and yes--this is a new post coming from the Concert Closet.

The Aaron Clift Experiment is set to go into the studio to work on their third album "If All Goes Wrong."  The album promises to be as diverse as the prog garden; tracks ranging from intricate prog epics to crushing hard rock and delicate ballads...



If I may be so bold as to offer some first-hand personal experience with The Aaron Clift Experiment, let me simply say that this is a band that walks the width and breadth of the prog garden.  Their first two albums were extremely well done and offered the listener quite a prog experience.  I first discovered The Aaron Clift Experiment back in 2014, and was fortunate to interview Aaron in 2015 following the release of the band's second album, "Outer Light Inner Darkness."  Aaron is dedicated to his craft and his band is both a credit and testament to that end.

The Aaron Clift Experiment released their debut "Lonely Hills" in 2012, and followed up in 2015 with their second album.  Both were well received in the prog world, with rave reviews here in the Closet Concert Arena as well Progression Magazine and  Progradar.  Prog Magazine nominated the band for a a prog award in the Limelight category in 2016 and  for the Indie Prog Award by Friday Night Progressive.

The Aaron Clift Experiment hails from Austin, Texas and is deeply entrenched in the local prog music scene.  They are running an Indiegogo campaign from today September 15th through October 27th, 2017.  You can contribute to the campaign at www.aaronclift.com/indiegogo.  There are some fantastic rewards being offered by the band for contributing and helping make "If All Goes Wrong" a reality.

You can also connect with the Aaron Clift Experiment on their website http://aaronclift.com/,  Facebook ACE Facebook, Twitter @AaronCliftMusic and Instagram aaroncliftmusic.  The band also has a YouTube Channel ACE Youtube.  Lots of options, lots of great prog.  I simply ask you to check the band out for yourself and if you believe great prog needs to be kept alive, and the next generation is honoring the standard bearers that forged this genre, then please make a contribution.

I post the clip below to allow Aaron Clift Experiment to explain personally about their campaign to make "If All Goes Wrong."


So fellow progheads, the gauntlet is dropped, the challenge made, the request genuine...please help keep the prog garden flourishing.  The Aaron Clift Experiment is offering great rewards for your contributions, including album download, signed CD's, a signed bass, music lessons, and more.

In keeping with tradition, the search for all things prog continues on...and The Aaron Clift Experiment Indiegogo campaign is but one example of the plethora of talent coming from the prog garden today.  I know the prog faithful will step up, and the search for all things prog will continue the journey...until next time...

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Barock Project "Detachment"

As always welcome back fellow progheads!  Mother Nature has been wreaking havoc across the US; hurricanes, wildfires, floods...seems like Armageddon at times.  So to avoid being swept up in
out-of-control weather, the search for all things prog travels beyond domestic borders this week as the journey continues to find prog music the world over.

Hopefully many of you will remember the Barock Project, a symphonic prog band from Italy I discovered two years ago.  Time to set the GPS for the Modena region and check back in with this remarkable band.  Barock Project recently released their fifth album "Detachment" and this seems the perfect time to put the headphones on and check it out...


The album opens to what sounds like a dreary day; you can almost feel the rain as the piano sets a sobering mood.  The canvas is streaked with gray to dark hues as you are swept through a barrage of emotions culminating in the second track on the album, "Promises."  This piece echoes through your head gently as the songs comes to full bloom; top notes of Spock's Beard permeate the mind. Barock Project come at you in a subtle way; tiptoeing through the prog garden as they set up a burst of sound that suddenly strikes from all sides.  Filling the headphones with an energy level that seemingly came from nowhere, Barock Project abruptly hammers the lining of your skull a la Dream Theater.

Moving through the album, I come across what starts out as a gentle albeit somber piece called "Broken."  Continuing to paint with primarily darker shades, Barock Project hits the canvas with splashes of color--just enough to pique your interest and draw you in deeper.  There is a stillness to the music that belies an ornate, calliope-like energy level sulking under the surface...just waiting to ooze through your pores.



Liner Notes...on this album Barock Project is founding member Lucca Zabbini on piano, keyboards, acoustic guitar and lead vocals, Marco Mazzuoccolo on electric guitars, Francesco Caliendo on bass, and Eric Ombelli on drums.  Guest and additional musicians include Peter Jones performing lead vocals on "Broken" and "Alone," and Alex Mari and Ludovica Zanasi adding additional vocals.

Barock Project has five albums in their repertoire including this release.  You can find out more about all of them, listen, and make a purchase at one of these sites;  BarockProjectBP BandCamp, and
BP Stars of Italy. The band also has a Facebook page where you can keep current with all things Barock Project Barock Project FB, as well as Twitter @BAROCKPROJECT

The final serving for review this week is called "Twenty Years."  A soft acoustic opening melts away the darkness for a moment; there are top notes of early Kansas and perhaps a hint of Gentle Giant flowing through the headphones.  Lucca's voice is gentle as the canvas begins to fill with Monet-like pastels...and then the tempo picks up--hard--and the hues get brighter, the images louder, and the aura starts to swing the pendulum back toward the ornate.  Barock Project stay true to their inner being as guitars tilt the mood meters hard right and drums echo across the room.



The clip below is the earlier reviewed "Broken."  I chose this cut because it gives a glimpse of all Barock Project is...opening with that trademark soft piano, it slowly raises the temperature without going ballistic. There is an atmosphere of a "Victorianesque" attitude among the commoners, much like serving white truffles with fried chicken.  However; the crashing of these two opposing classes results in a piece of music that pours out a soul that you would otherwise miss...much like a subtle taste of tupelo honey lost among the jalapenos...



And so my fellow progheads, the curtain has drawn to a close on another masterful work of art. Barock Project has traipsed through the prog garden in grand style once again, expanding the boundaries, expectations, and abilities of their symphonic capabilities.  The album blazes through  an ornate set and leaves the listener wanting more.  Listening to the Barock Project grow and mature from one album to the next gives me reason to expect even more from album #6...but let's savor "Detachment" for now...

Of course this can only mean one thing; the search for all things prog continues the journey.  More new music awaits the anxious ears of the prog faithful...until next time...

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Violent Attitude If Noticed, "Ourselves and Otherwise"

Once again hello and a heartfelt thanks for returning to The Closet Concert Arena fellow progheads! The dog days are here and the prog garden is definitely heating up.  This week the search for all things prog takes a look at the newest release from Violent Attitude If Noticed, one of several prog projects led Will Geraldo and Progressive Gears.  You may remember our visit with Will last summer as he discussed his many ventures, bands, and music projects.

Setting the GPS for Brazil and this week's journey is underway.  Violent Attitude If Noticed, or V.A.I.N. for the acronym-friendly crowd, cuts a fairly wide swath as they roam the prog garden;
post prog/art/post punk according to Will...time to put on the headphones...



The new album, recently released on the Progressive Gears label, is called "Ourselves and Otherwise."  If the intention was to stir the proverbial pot; mission accomplished.  The first cut teed up is "Time Waster."  The opening bass line hits like a soft hammer as it walks you into a percussion outburst; top notes of Joy Division and a hint of Style Council make this an interesting spin around the turntable.  The tempo picks up as vocals move in riding on some smooth guitar work and an undercurrent of drum work that is strong enough to carry the music along. V.A.I.N. stalks the prog garden in search of ideas, thoughts, and impulses that can be taken individually and melded into a melange unique unto itself.  Will and his bandmates tap on the inside of your skull in an attempt to wake you from your doldrums, not wanting the world to pass you by.


The second song pulsing through the headphones is "The Tower."  A more acoustic feel moves in as the the song wraps itself around you...slowly getting your attention as it holds on tighter and tighter.  V.A.I.N. continue their trek through your mind, trying to hit the nerve that will jolt you upright, no longer able to remain a mere spectator.  There are hints of Camel and slight aromatics of Marillion seeping into your consciousness...

Liner Notes...Violent Attitude If Noticed is Will Geraldo, Guilherme Saba, and Alessandro Queler.
Three musicians who collectively produce some of the more extremely ornate, multi-layered, conceptually thought provoking stuff to emerge from the prog garden.  They fill the canvas with more than just blasts of color; the images that emerge sting you like a low tide jellyfish.  Looking back at my interview with Will, V.A.I.N. likes to "get their hands dirty" as they dig deep into the rich prog garden soil, unearthing--and talking about--all the things that hide in plain sight.  Violent Attitude If Noticed started on a journey in 2008 and their mission is not yet complete...of course that means great prog will continue to flow from Brazil so it ain't such a bad thing...

Get involved in the movement and unearth more V.A.I.N gems at V.A.I.N. and V.A.I.N. BandCamp.
You will find Violent Attitude If Noticed along with other prog artists under the Progressive Gears umbrella at Progressive Gears.  V.A.I.N. also has a Facebook page at V.A.I.N. Facebook.



Violent Attitude If Noticed claws into your conscious thought in an attempt to push you into
action--something the world could use more of in case you have been asleep at the switch these past several months...the planet is like a snake shedding its skin and people are either watching in awe and bewilderment or gearing up for the next phase.  Will, Guilherme, and Alessandro chose the latter and believe the best way to build a revolution is to start one...and this is their benchmark.

One more slice of the vinyl for review; "Ever-Ticking Clock."  Top notes of Dream Theater from "Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence" lash out immediately; tension builds from the first note.  The guitars work with the drums to create an atmosphere of pressure and anxiety...you're waiting for the unseen blow from the blind side as vocals rain down like a siren song of impending tragedy.  V.A.I.N. slices deep--not only this song, but the entire album.  It is one thing to paint with dark colors, but to use those sinister hues as a backdrop to a more elaborate story is as refreshing as it is explosive.

Take a moment to explore Violent Attitude If Noticed (if you haven't already) and I feel confident you will come away with a new appreciation for this prog trio.  You can start with the post below; "Useless."  Don't take the light drum opening lightly; it leads down a path littered with misconceptions and misplaced intentions...what is it they say about the road to perdition?  V.A.I.N. continues to poke insincerity and hollow concern in the eye...if you aren't part of the solution then you ARE the problem.

                           

Start the music machine, sit back, and feel your pulse begin to race.  Violent Attitude If Noticed is prog  making a statement; stand up and be accountable...get involved...if you ain't pissed you ain't awake...there really is a mood for everyone.  Hopefully I have not led you to feel V.A.I.N. is just a rant against humanity and all that is sensible--because they are so much more than that.  The beauty of this section of the prog garden is the emotions that bore deep and the sense of outrage in regard to everything that runs counter to decency and the good side of mankind...Violent Attitude If Noticed really does care.

And once again fellow progheads The Closet Concert Arena cues up traveling music as the search for all things prog forges ahead.  V.A.I.N. is just the top layer to some very rich, fertile soil...the prog garden is filled with bands and artists just bursting with energy and desire, I simply try to give them a soap box to preach from...until next time...

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

The Many New Releases of Psicolorama

Hello again fellow progheads and welcome once again to the Closet Concert Arena!  The summer of 2017 has proven to be a banner season for the prog garden; so many new bands releasing great material combined with up and coming artists proving their worth with follow up albums that expand both their catalog and boundaries.  This week The Concert Closet takes the search for all things prog back to Spain and a whirlwind fortnight with Psicolorama as together we review several new releases that have recently been thrust upon the ears and minds of the masses.



Psicolorama has been filling the prog garden with new sights and sounds--almost non-stop--since the band came into existence.  My last review was almost two years ago and since that time their album catalog has grown 4-fold...apparently the studio is one comfy "home" for Manuel Casado and company...

I open the review this week with a cut from the album "Nomadas" released in May; "Some Expectations."  A soft acoustic guitar opening bleeds gently into beautiful piano accompanied by a steady bass beat that keeps you on point.  The guitar and piano continue to trade velvety smooth jabs throughout.  Although on a different plane, I am reminded of Robert Fripp and Soundscapes; perhaps even a gentler version of Brian Eno during his ambient days.  Psicolorama leads the mind and soul on a journey filled with soft colors and the occasional horn blast of primary red to hold your gaze...


Next up for review is a cut from "The White Sun" released in January called "Cerulean Skies." Another fine edged gem, this piece has an old school jazz feel as the muted horns start to penetrate your inner ear and vocals pierce the veil and enter your cerebrum; the sing/speak draws you closer to a flame that is felt but as yet unseen.  Manuel does so much with so little...the sound is as full as an ELP interlude but the ornate, over-the-top, bomblast is nowhere to be heard.  Much like Pink Floyd in their early days, Psicolorama hits the canvas with an array of images and colors outside the standard spectrum...leaving the listener awash in a calming pool of sound...


Another 2017 release, "My Name is Guggenheim vol. 2: Red Cosmic Eye Watching You" contains the terrestrial sounding song "Watching You (Parts One & Two)."  In a fashion similar to Seconds Before Landing, Psicolorama has cosmic overtones on this cut as the listener is led down a winding corridor, through an exit door, across a field, and out into the great wide open.  This is music that expands the soul.  I pick up top notes of The Strawbs in the air and perhaps a touch of Flim & The BB's.  Psicolorama uses the minimum to produce the maximum once again.  Horns shoot across the top like ocean spray hitting the rocks at high tide.  The feeling of being watched is real and almost unnerving; the tension brought on by the vocals as they pierce the veil of drums and keyboards would be frightening if it weren't so fascinating...think back to a horror movie that scared you as a kid; a woman's frightened voice echoing away as the peril moved closer...



Moving to Psicolorama's latest release "No Words," I dig into a serving called "Globetrotter."  A retro jazz cafe feel oozes through my headphones--in a Doc Severinsen/Herbie Hancock sort of way.  The piano strikes first and you feel an almost instant nostalgia for the carousel at a summer carnival. Psicolorama bounces all over the prog garden with this cut, making the title very apropos.  The music seems to strut across your cranium as it enters your auditory canals, leaving an image like an homage to autumn.  The album title gives it away--this one is sans vocals--but they really aren't necessary. Manuel & Company fill the canvas with bright colors without using all the sticky gooeyness...just a cacophony of sound.  Psicolorama continues to defy the senses as so much clamor and imagery seem to emit from so little a starting point.


Check out the entire Psicolorama catalog at Psicolorama BandCamp and Psicolorama Blogspot. The music is also available at iTunes and Amazon, and of course you can follow on Facebook at
Psicolorama FB  and Twitter @psicolorama. There are other new releases listed on these websites as well; do yourself the favor of checking them out and making a purchase or two...or four...or more...

I have been a fan of Psicolorama since first hearing "Psico-ReImpression" back in 2014.  Psicolorama is prog from yet another viewpoint...I hear the grumblings among some that the prog umbrella is getting too wide but I must respectfully disagree; the prog umbrella needs to continue expanding if prog is to survive, thrive, and grow.

To me the beauty of prog is the wide range of artists and the varied sections of the prog garden that produce such a vast musical landscape.  Growth and change are the foundation on which the prog garden flourishes, and Psicolorama is but a microcosm of what that means.  New releases that run the gambit of (almost) the entire garden, a different approach on each album release, and with the possible exception of metal, the band has walked almost the entire breadth and width of the genre.

The clip I chose to post this week is from another new Psicolorama release, "My Name is Guggenheim."  The song is called "The Naked Room" and as you first enter the orbit this piece resides in, you become instantly transported to a different dimension.  The music seems to echo through your mind, bouncing off the sides of your inner skull as a picture of tranquility and unknowing is painted around the perimeter...a mysterious juxtaposition that is calming and unsettling all at once.  Psicolorama prefers life beyond the borders of normal and humdrum, straying constantly into the gravitational pull of a galaxy deep in another stratosphere.  Stay awhile and enjoy the music--and the view....

 
                    

Well fellow progheads, we have reached the end of another review. Hard to believe the summer portion of the sand in the 2017 hourglass is flowing so quickly--yet here we are entering August. As I wind up my time in Spain, I am reminded that the search for all things prog has brought me to many remarkable and out-of-the-ordinary destinations; I trust next week will be no exception as the Closet Concert Arena continues on its never ending, always amazing journey...until next time...

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Seconds Before Landing, "Now That I Have Your Attention"

Welcome to the dog days of summer fellow progheads!  The mercury has been climbing high in the thermometer and the sounds wafting from the prog garden have been just as hot...this week we venture back to America and visit with a band that has been steadily growing their prog music catalog.

Seconds Before Landing just released their latest album "Now That I Have Your Attention;" album number three for those keeping score at home.  John Crispino is the creative mastermind hard at work behind (and in front of) the curtain and I have enjoyed the sounds emanating from Pittsburgh PA ever since I discovered this band in the prog garden a few years back.  Now time to dig in and find out if the music is as striking as the album art...



The album opens in usual SBL fashion; that is to say you feel as though you are being escorted through a a crack in the time/space continuum...nothing seems to make sense and there is an apprehensive, almost nonsensical unease in the air.  The voice over and audio clips are tied together perfectly with a eerie "Twilight Zone-ish" musical interlude that sucks you in like a riptide.

It may take three or four play-throughs before you realize the intro has bled into the first cut;
"4 A.M." The tension continues as though a serial killer is toying with your emotions...playing with you like a cat swatting a cornered mouse for what seems like an eternity (to the mouse) before finally dining on his prey.  Seconds Before Landing is to the concept album what Penn & Teller are to magic; an alternate view through a different colored lens.

As I travel along the buffet line, the mood swings to and fro yet tends to stay on the darker side of the garden; nothing evil or portentous--but the sun never seems to burn through the haze.  However; "Come Back to Me" is a cut that brings a jazz cafe feel to the music with top notes of Steely Dan wrapping themselves around a smooth scotch, going down nice and easy.  A sax solo that conjures up David Sanborn images on the underside of my eyelids takes this piece home, melding beautifully with keyboards and bass.

Liner Notes...Seconds Before Landing is the creation of the aforementioned John Crispino out of Pittsburgh.  Seconds Before Landing began in 2010 and "Now That I Have Your Attention" is the band's third album.  Joining John in SBL is Eric Maldonado and Steve Schuffert on lead guitars, J.D. Garrison on bass, Rick Witkowski on rhythm guitar, acoustic guitar and mandolin, Jamie Peck on sax, flute, and piano, and Vanessa Campagna and Carrie Jackson performing the female vocals.  Mr. Crispino is known for having an A-List of guest musicians on his albums and this one is no exception...John Palumbo plays ebow guitar on the cut "Moment In Time."

Seconds Before Landing is that band everyone talks about yet no one seems to know the players by name...much like Pink Floyd or Steely Dan  in their heyday.  Because SBL tends to paint with dark colors and bore deep into the crevices of your cranium, it is easy to think of the band as a living entity rather than being comprised of talented humans.  The album is deceivingly smooth; you almost feel as though you are part of the story being told...the imagery is as vivid and striking as a Salvador Dahli painting...



To purchase "Now That I Have Your Attention" as well as the other albums in the Seconds Before Landing catalog, go to their website Seconds Before Landing , the band's Facebook page
Seconds Before Landing FB  and their Bandcamp site  Seconds Before Landing BC.  You will also find Seconds Before Landing music on Amazon and cdbaby and you can follow the band on Twitter @SBLOfficial 

For a new twist and something I find quite intriguing, Seconds Before Landing has started a podcast called  Fly On The Wall Radio, a weekly (or so) production that will showcase all the music from Seconds Before Landing along with other bands and listener requested stuff...don't just sit there, join the party!



One more slice from the album that wanders a meandering path is called "In The Name Of."  Here John chose to open with an (almost) upbeat intro...the sea lapping at the shore as birds sing to the beauty that is a new day.  Of course in true SBL fashion the song wastes no time pulling the proverbial bootlegger's turn and heading into the thick undergrowth that borders the darker section of the prog garden.  Seconds Before Landing uses a lot of colors to cover the canvas, but there is a drop of black added to each pastel first.  A cloud of "silent" tension runs the length of this piece; you feel it in the spoken word vocals that leap towards you as well as the guitar that just hangs like the Sword of Damocles over the entire album.  Top notes of early Pink Floyd and Genesis mingle with latter day Marillion and Scarlet INside to create a mood that, while hard to define, is most assuredly deep and brooding.

The clip below, "You're Giving Me A Headache," should give you a better dose of what to expect from SBL.  An homage of sorts to the nonsensical, cynical, over-the-top vitriol and head-pounding insanity that has wrapped itself around the planet like a baked on truck bed liner...no one seems to know where it came from or why it's here, yet there seems to be no cure.  The guitar punches you right behind the eye as the drums come up from below, carrying the piano across the top like a warning flare.  Seconds Before Landing took all the craziness that is the new normal, stuffed it into a musical molotov cocktail, and hurled into the middle of the street.  The ensuing chaos makes you step back and realize we are the cause of our own demise...very insightful.  Listen a few times; dissect the entire piece...



Well fellow progheads, that brings another fortnight to a close.  Seconds Before Landing found a section of the prog garden that needs little light or water and was able to bring forth a bountiful--albeit dark and foreboding--harvest.  This is a band that, like a good single malt, is an acquired taste...and once acquired you are loathe to relinquish it.

John Crispino has created a band that takes prog to a different level. By incorporating the state of the world around him into his music he has made himself--and his band--an eyewitness to the carnage. Refreshing for me is the objective viewpoint he seems to take...the "I didn't light this dumpster fire but since you asked" approach is difficult to pull off.  People tend to want a narrative and to be told how to think; Seconds Before Landing puts the onus on you the listener...

So the Closet Concert Arena leaves you in deep thought as the search for all things prog continues...until next week...

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Machines Dream "Black Science"

As always thanks for coming back to the Closet Concert Arena fellow progheads!  So much music to review and seemingly so little time...Bent Knee was quite the prog experience, and as the search for all things prog continues to prove, the prog garden is comprised of extremely vast and varied talent and this week is no different...

Traveling north to Canada, I am checking in with a band that is a member of the Progressive Gears family of prog artists; Machines Dream.  Having been previously been reviewed here in the Concert Closet, Machines Dream has recently released a new album entitled "Black Science." Exciting and a bit rewarding to see them continuing their journey through the prog garden.


The album is a concept of sorts, dealing with war through history and the mark it left on those who served their countries and railed against the death and destruction...and of course the sad truth that man seems unwilling and/or unable to learn from his past mistakes.  Strong statements and powerful imagery are sure to abound, so let the review begin...

The album opens with a Big Brother-esque intro called "Armistice Day."  The voice-over in conjunction with the control room sounds in the background lead one to believe the forthcoming experience will be a foreboding journey down into the darker regions of man's soul.  As this song bleeds into the next cut, "Weimar," I pick up a tension that is both musically fascinating and emotionally draining...Machines Dream is cutting deep through many levels with this album.  This song has top notes of Pink Floyd wafting like plumes of smoke with perhaps a hint of Genesis caught up in the aromatics.  Machines Dream changes tempo and mood several times throughout, much like Dream Theater freewheelin' the mood elevator on "Scenes From A Memory."

Moving a bit farther down the buffet line, I discover the title cut.  I always enjoy playing title cuts over and over as they tend to give more insight into what the artist/band is trying to convey with the entire album...or perhaps I just overthink things.  Either way, this particular one digs its talons in deep and forces you to focus and listen.  Opening with gentle keyboards, the song quickly bores through to the marrow and enters your bloodstream, moving through your entire being like blood pumping through stretched arteries.  There is a tension riding across the top of the entire piece like a razor held close to the jugular by a desperate kidnapper...just stay calm...

Machines Dream seem to prefer surveying the thicker, denser section of the prog garden and this next serving is another example; "Heavy Water."  There is a narrative running through this album which taps you on the prefontal cortex...almost subconsciously getting you to pay closer attention to what is being said/sung as much as the music it is wrapped in.  The piano here isn't portentous or menacing, but rather a warning sign of the serious subject matter you are being immersed in.  The drums hold everything together as the mood continues down a dark tunnel...

Liner Notes...Machines Dream is Craig West on lead vocals and bass, Rob Coleman on lead guitar, Brian Holmes on keyboards, Jake Rendell on all things acoustic and backing vocals, and Ken Coulter on drums.   Hailing originally from Ontario Canada, the band is on Progressive Gears Records, which has quite a stable of young progressive talent.  Machines Dream refer to themselves as atmospheric, cinematic prog, and while this album continues that theme--they are more than that.  "Black Science" delivers on the prog front with an ornate sound you would expect from a band that moves through the artistic section of the prog garden. But they also deliver meaningful, hard-hitting lyrics that make you stop for a second.

Check out Machines Dream on their Facebook page Machines Dream FB and Twitter @MachinesDream.  You can purchase this album and the rest of th Machines Dream catalog at their Bandcamp site Machines Dream BC as well as the Progressive Gears website Machines Dream PGR.  By now you know my feelings in regard to buying the music and supporting the bands and artists here in the prog garden, so I will refrain from my usual rant...just please buy this music...




To that end I am not posting a video clip this week, but suffice to say "Black Science"--and all Machines Dream has pressed into vinyl and disc--is a sound you need to hear top appreciate.  One last song for review...to get your prog appetite whet as it were..."Noise to Signal."  Once again the opening draws from history to give you a glimpse of the future as drums and guitar suddenly wash over your ears like lava erupting from what was thought to be an idle volcano...no reason to panic, just pay close attention...

And with that we are ever closer to the pulse of prog.  Machines Dream mixes a classic sound; parts Pink Floyd, Genesis, Marillion, and a touch of Gentle Giant carrying the portent of the world around us today.  The beauty of the prog garden is the relevance of the music to its surroundings...Machines Dream captures that essence and drives the point home like an archer's arrow through the bulls-eye. Grab it and take all it has to offer...

Now, as the sand drops from the hourglass for the week, the Concert Closet continues the search for all things prog as the garden continues to offer a rich summer harvest...until next time...