This week we’re showing our rebellious side and not having a featured album. Instead we’re having a featured festival! Between this broadcast and next I’ll be heading to beautiful Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, and heading to the wonderful Majestic Theater to take in the amazing times that is RoSfest. This is the 12th year of the Rites of Spring festival, and this year it includes impressive headliners Spock’s Beard, Haken, and Enchant.
Speaking of Spock’s Beard, they have a new album on the way called The Oblivion Particle, and some European tour dates to support it. You can check those out here.
Not enough goodies for ya? How about the news about these two forthcoming albums?
And hey, let’s not forget that fancy new Muse video I talked about!
Frost* – No Me No You
Heliopolis – Elegy
Strattman – Detonation
Glass Hammer – Haunted
Forgotten Suns – Somewhere in the Darkness
Iris Divine – A Suicide Aware
Arena – Traveller Beware
Lo-Fi Resistance – The Age of Entitlement
Haken – Pareidolia
Ghost Ship Octavius – Silence
Soul Secret – Traces on the Seaside
IZZ – Like a Straight Line
Enchant – Prognosticator
Odin’s Court – Insomnia
Spock’s Beard – I Know Your Secret
Muse – Dead Inside
Stratovarius – Eternity
Exovox – Daylight (Silent Key)
MindMaze – Dreamwalker
Subsignal – Echoes in Eternity
Marillion – White Russian
Rush – The Anarchist
Roswell Six – The Sinking of the Luminara
Dream the Electric Sleep – Roots and Fear
Kansas – Song For America
Perhaps there is no better follow up to our retrospective interview with Neal Morse a few weeks back than with Jon Anderson today. Although very active through most of his career, aside from a few live shows he was been mostly dormant since we spoke with him in June of 2011. At that time he was promoting his new solo CD, Survival and Other Stories.
He did however participate in what could be viewed as a highlight in prog for several years to come. On the Progressive Nation 2014 cruise he performed an hours worth of brilliantly delivered Yes music with Transatlantic and a few other guests. On a cruise already beaming with amazing moments, it’s something I still see many of the sea goers talking about today.
It’s not every week that a Swedish prog outfit puts out a new album, it can just seem that way sometimes! This time around the prolific band in question is The Tangent, and our featured album this week is their brand new offering, A Spark in the Aether. You can learn more about the band at their website here, and buy the album from Amazon.
There were also a lot of debuts on the show this week. New albums have been released by Gavin Harrison, Soul Secret, Parzival’s Eye. Although there is no new album to report, Lo-Fi Resistance also had their debut on the show.
I also learned this past week that Riverside will be performing shows outside of ProgPower USA. One of these shows will be at the Crossroads Theater in New Brunswick, NJ, and will be hosted by the NJ Proghouse. That same outfit and theater hosted Riverside during their first ever North American headlining appearance in 2008.
Firewind – Mercenary Man
IZZ – Sincerest Life
Lo-Fi Resistance – Chalk Lines
The Tangent – A Spark in the Aether
Exovex – Dead Reckoning
Kansas – Miracles Out of Nowhere
Steven Wilson – 3 Years Older (Demo)
Gavin Harrison – Sound of Muzak/So Called Friend^
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra – Thick as a Brick^
The Gentle Storm – Comatose^
The Gentle Storm – Mad World^
The Tangent – Aftereugene
Devin Townsend – Earth Day
Soul Secret – Our Horizon*
Parzival’s Eye – Liar*
Karnataka – Fairytale Lies
Riverside – Feel Like Falling
Glass Hammer – Sand
Enchant – Within an Inch
Shadow Gallery – Room V
Steve Hackett – The Wheel’s Turning
The Tangent – A spark in the Aether, Part 2
Album: Everlasting Instant
Let me start with a confession. Two IZZ releases have come and gone with people suggesting I check them out, and both times I let their albums slip through the cracks. This changed with their newest release, Everlasting Instant. From the very start of the album I enjoyed the lack of denseness in the music. Too often bands seemingly play all their instruments, all the time, creating walls of sound that get packed into the music. Clear keyboard or guitar melodies often lead the way, without a plethora of other instrumental gymnastics fighting for ear space in the background. Where you will probably notice more immediately is that IZZ features four vocalists, two women and two men, who split the lead vocals and complement each other very well.
It took me a few listens to truly notice, but the bass parts on the album truly shine through when the tempo and groove pick up. The bass work throughout the album is top notch, but when it takes lead, such as the instrumental section on the song “Keep Away”, it certainly stands out. Intentional or not, that track also happens to have the only bit of musical déjà vu on the album, with a guitar part in the middle being strikingly similar to a part of Queensrÿche’s Operation: Mindcrime. Now get that album out of your mind, as overall they are absolutely nothing alike! A much fairer comparison of overall sound, at times, might be ELO.
To me, the biggest knock against the album is its slow start. I know that others may certainly disagree, but I find it isn’t till halfway through the album, at the title track, that songs really start to grab my attention. Don’t misunderstand, I find everything up to that point enjoyable, but I tend to recall the closing tracks when I think about the album, and not the opening tracks. In a rarity for a release of any genre, particularly an album that isn’t a concept album, I actually find the final three tracks, “Illuminata”, “Sincerest Life”, and “Like a Straight Line” to be the albums strongest. One reason for this is that in the latter half of the album I find a greater abundance of quality keyboard parts in more prominent roles.
As I mentioned earlier, the album features four vocalists, and as a general rule I’d say if you have people who can sing well, use them, and IZZ certainly does. While neither keyboardist/vocalist Tom Galgano, nor bassist/vocalist John Galgano has a strong enough voice to be winning American Idol anytime soon, they are very good at using their talent and weaving it into the musical tapestry, which helps IZZ carve their own musical niche. Having two male and two female singers gives the band greater flexibility in writing the vocals and not relying on guest musicians, and having that many capable voices allows them to create nice vocal harmonies, as well as giving different songs or passages different tones simply by changing the vocalist. I would argue that Anmarie Byrnes and Laura Meade might be classified as the stronger vocalists on the album, but I certainly wouldn’t have them replace any of the parts sung by the Galgano brothers. As I said, everyone has a nice comfortable spot on the album.
I am certainly impressed with the band’s ability to restrain themselves and keep their focus on the song, and not exploring musical tangents unnecessarily. There are prog bands with three of four members who would jam three times the notes into the same amount of time this seven piece outfit did on Everlasting Instant. The foundation on the album is strong, and had some of the early tracks had better staying power this would definitely be a letter grade higher. I am certainly intrigued, and will soon be rectifying my mistake of not checking out their earlier work.
Nick’s Grade: B
Our featured album this comes from American composer Dale Simmons, whose band Exovex is releasing the album Radio Silence. The album features several notable names, including Richard Barbieri and Gavin Harrison of Porcupine Tree. You can get information on the album and order it directly from the artist here.
Making their debut on the show this week was Virginia based prog-metallers Iris Divine. Earlier this year they released their second album, Karma Sown, and later this year they will be doing a small tour with former When Prog and Power Unite co-host Jeff Teets and the rest of MindMaze. You can check Iris Divine out on Facebook here, and the tour dates below.
Next up some news. I mentioned during the program that Arena has a new album coming out, The Unquiet Sky, and you can buy that directly from Arena here.
IZZ will be having a CD release party for Everlasting Instant in New Jersey on Sunday, April 19th, and you can get some info on that here. The show is hosted by the NJ ProgHouse, and they are a fantastic outfit. If you live in the Northeast US, you should check them out in the future, even if you can’t make this particular show.
Evergrey will be touring America again! You can get info on those shows, along with their dates worldwide here.
Coheed and Cambria are also touring! Live somewhere that no one ever comes to? Well, they are specifically hitting some of those places, so Dewey Beach, Delaware, be ready! Check out the full dates here.
Next up, a band I’ve long been a fan of, Secret Sphere, has re-recorded and is re-releasing their early album, A Time Never Come. You can get it through Amazon here.
That’s all for now, but keep your eyes and ears tuned, as I hope to have my review of the aforementioned IZZ album online this Friday.
Threshold – Fragmentation
Exovex – Metamorph
Arena – The Unquiet Sky
Karnataka – Forbidden Dreams
Iris Divine – Fire of the Unknown
MindMaze – Fading Skies
Exovex – Seeker’s Prayer
IZZ – Illuminata
Evergrey – Barricades
Coheed and Cambria – The Crowing
Secret Sphere – Under the Flag of Mary Read
Exovex – The Last Orbit
Hasse Froberg & Musical Companions – The Warmth of the Evening
Glass Hammer – Bandwagon
The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra – Roundabout^
Fish – Openwater
Arcane – Hunter, Heart & Home
Art of Illusion – For Her
Gungfly – White Light
Subsignal – Echoes in Eternity
Steve Hackett – Love Song to a Vampire
Not a Good Sign – Pleasure of Drowning
Rush – Spindrift
Kansas – Lightning’s Hand
Pink Floyd – Wearing the Inside Out
Rush – Natural Science
Ian Jones of Karnataka
Interview conducted: 2015-04-08
Interview posted: 2015-04-11
Ian Jones is the driving force behind British proggers Karnataka. Earlier this year Karnataka released their 5th studio album, Secrets of Angels. If you want to test out the album, there is no better place than our last podcast here that features 3 songs from the disc, including the 20 minute epic title track. Fans in Britain still have 3 opportunities to see the band live this tour; April 12th in Swansea, April 17th in Leicester, and May 9th in London.
As noted at the start of the interview, I apologize for a technical glitch that caused the first two minutes or so of the interview to be corrupted and lost. That said, there was a lot of great topics discussed that didn’t get eaten by technology, and the interview actually “starts” with Ian answering a question about new members to the band and any potential pressures of molding them to the people and sounds that came before them. Make up for my bumble by going out and buying the album!
Last week saw the premier of a new track from English band Karnataka, and this week we’ve made Secrets of Angels our featured album, playing two shorter tracks, as well as the epic title track. This precedes an interview that will be posted later this week with bassist and songwriter Ian Jones. If you enjoy sharp pop-edged prog you should definitely be checking this out.
In addition, new band Exovex made their debut on the show, and got a fantastic reception from those chatting live. Steve Hackett’s new album Wolflight also got its first play. All this great stuff is already released and waiting for you. Notice anything we’ve missed during the year so far? Let us know in the comments so we can get it for the upcoming weeks.
Dream Theater – Raise the Knife~
Karnataka – Because of You
Not a Good Sign – Flying Over Cities
IZZ – The Everlasting Instant
Exovex – Stolen Wings
Steve Hackett – Wolflight
The Gentle Storm – New Horizons (Storm)
Hasse Froberg & Musical Companions – Genius
Karnataka – Poison Ivy
Not a Good Sign – Not Now
Steven Wilson – Happy Returns/Ascendant Here On
The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra – Comfortably Numb^
Phideaux – Thank You For the Evil
Queensryche – Neue Regel
Arcane – Selfsame
Agent Fresco – Eyes of a Cloud Chaser*
Lonely Robot – A Godless Sea
Glass Hammer – Babylon
The Dear Hunter: Act I-III
-The Pimp and the Priest
-Dear Ms. Leading
Pyramaze – The Birth
Universe Effects – Tormented
Karnataka – Secrets of Angels
Band: Not a Good Sign
Album: From a Distance
From a Distance is the latest record from Italian retroprog group Not a Good Sign. Fans may remember Not a Good Sign from their well-received debut record in 2013, but this time around the guys have changed their approach. While the hallmark 70’s rock organs and guitar tones heard on the debut are still present, From a Distance features shorter songs and melodies that are deliberately more contemporary than that of the previous album.
The album kicks off with “Wait for Me”, a five minute song that features an introductory display of blistering chops from the instrumentalists. After only a minute though, the instrumental gives way to a slower, more melancholic space where emotive vocals are left to carry the song. Eventually, the volume of the band begins to swell and coalesces in another powerful instrumental section, but the players never outstay their welcome. The song wraps up quickly and concisely, coming to a close before you could ever accuse of the band of trying to be showy.
The album is incredibly well sequenced, and features a variety of songs ranging from slower ballads to all-out rockers where virtuosity is on full display. In general, the mood of the album can be dark and haunting one moment, sentimental the next, and perhaps aggressive after that. Not once during my first couple spins of the 60 minute record did I ever feel bored, or like I knew what was in store next.
Also worth noting here are the guest instrumentalists, who provide a number of live instruments including a glockenspiel, vibraphone, and English horn. Whereas many other (and frankly more successful) progressive rock groups would be happy to substitute these instruments with synthesizer patches, Not a Good Sign seem to put a premium on authenticity, and it truly does breathe life into the album.
Sometimes the album feels lost in translation, and I encountered a few strange lyrics and not-so-conscientiously titled tracks along the way. But, in a genre that is often accused of gratuitousness and naval gazing, Not a Good Sign have managed to borrow the aesthetics of the 70s while still offering something that appeals to the low attention spans of the modern age. Their English might not be perfect, but it’s obvious that Not a Good Sign have put a lot of thought into their new record. The album may lack any tracks that truly stand out as exceptional, but the band have picked a direction and executed it very well. From that perspective, it’s hard to consider From a Distance anything but a glowing success.
Joe’s Grade: B+
This week’s retrospective interview deals with the man who is arguably America’s most prolific prog songwriter. In previous weeks I’ve mentioned what the artist has been up to since we last spoke, and for Neal Morse there is a lot to talk about. Testimony 2, the album we spoke about back in 2011, was released and had a supporting tour. Since then there was another solo album and tour, an album and tour with Transatlantic, two Flying Colors albums and tours, some live reunions with Spock’s Beard, some non-prog solo albums, and of course a constant stream of “Inner Circle” releases to his biggest fans. And he even had an assist with Spock’s Beard, helping them in the songwriting department.
And I haven’t even mentioned live albums, of which there have been about a half-dozen with various projects since 2011. Looking forward, the project he is currently supporting is also his newest, The Neal Morse Band. Featuring many of the same people who have toured with him over the years, this album differs in that the other musicians also helped to write the album, titled The Grand Experiment. So it’s safe to say Neal Morse has been a busy man, and I’d like to say that in this interview we are looking back at less hectic times, but this kind of non-stop tour and release schedule has been a trademark of Neal Morse for well over two decades now.
This week we take a look at a bunch of new releases in the prog world. First up is the new album from Glass Hammer, The Breaking of the World. This is the Tennessee act’s 15th studio album in just over 20 years. Also making their debut on the program, as well of having new albums are IZZ, Not a Good Sign, and Karnataka.
Please excuse the technical difficulties during the audio, as I wasn’t able to record voice live during the broadcast, and often the spoken parts got cut off or strangely edited by my broadcaster. The issue has since been fixed and so all should be back to normal next week.
Glass Hammer – Mythopoeia
The Gentle Storm – Brightest Light (Storm)
Hasse Froberg & Musical Companions – Pages
Ayreon – Out of the White Hole
Squonk Opera – Head of Steam
Leap Day – Chasing Directions
Lonely Robot – Lonely Robot
Universe Effects – Equilibrium
Steven Wilson – Transience
Steven Wilson – Ancestral
Not a Good Sign – Wait For Me
Secret Sphere – Legend
Odin’s Court – Life’s Glory
Dave Kerzner – The Lie
Strattman – The Scene of the Crime
Mob Rules – All Above the Atmosphere
The Contortionist – Thrive