When I spoke with Peter in 2011 he was in the midst of a rather large bump in his worldwide exposure. Working with James LaBrie on his 2010 solo album had certainly helped introduce him to a new audience, but it was auditioning for Dream Theater and the accompanying documentary about the process that immediately gave him a high standing amongst a new group of fans. Since we spoke to him Peter has kept busy with his main band Darkane, and has been touring with them as well as releasing a new album in 2013 called The Sinister Supremacy. He also worked with James LaBrie again in 2013 on Impermanent Resonance, and in 2014 on the digital only EP I Will Not Break. So, in our next installment of retrospective interviews, let’s look back on the man who only narrowly missed being in Dream Theater today.
This week we take a look at the latest offering from John Mitchell (It Bites, Frost*). The band is Lonely Robot, and their debut album Please Come Home was released earlier in March. Those familiar with his work likely won’t be shocked by anything they hear in with Lonely Robot. Other bands making their When Prog and Power Unite debut include Art of Illusion, Leap Day, Squonk Opera, Dave Kerzner, Universe Effects, and the Contortionist.
Rush – Distant Early Warning
Arcane – Unturning
Art of Illusion – Distance
Lonely Robot – Airlock
Lonely Robot – God vs. Man
Leap Day – Signs on the 13th
Hasse Froberg & Musical Companions – Everything Can Change
Steven Wilson – Home Invasion/Regret #9
Strattman – A Candle in the Sun
Squonk Opera – Inhale
The Gentle Storm – Eyes of Michiel (Gentle)
Dave Kerzner – Into the Sun
Flicker – Everywhere Face
UFO – Sugar Cane
Muse – Liquid State
Universe Effects – Against the Influent
The Contortionist – Langauge, Pt. 1: Intuition
Star One – Human See, Human Do
Fates Warning – And Yet it Moves
I wish I could say I planned it this way, but that’s not the case. Here we are in the fourth week of looking back at past interviews, and up next is Arjen Lucassen, who has a release coming around the corner on March 23rd (Europe) and 24th (US). The new album is a collaboration with fellow Dutch musician Anneke van Giersbergen under the moniker The Gentle Storm, and a review of that album can be found right here!
That isn’t the only news for Arjen since we spoke to him in October of 2010. The album he was promoting at the time, Star One’s Victims of the Modern Age went on to win my album of the year nod, as well as Arjen himself as songwriter of the year, and it featured my vocalist of the year, Russell Allen. He then went on to two other big projects. First, he released his first true solo album in 2012, Lost in the New Real. Then in 2013 he returned to his mainstay, and Ayreon released The Theory of Everything in 2013. It’s worth mentioning that those albums landed at #4 and #3 on their years respectively. And yes, I’m aware I may have an affinity for tall Dutch progressive composers. I’ve made peace with that!
Official Arjen Anthony Lucassen Page
With this week’s feature album we play a little bit of catch up. Back in January an Australian band released their debut album, and it managed to dodge the dingoes and make it all the way to America for my purchase. The band is Arcane, and their first album is an ambitious 2 CD undertaking. The first disc is “Known”, and the second is “Learned”. You can visit the band on facebook below.
Three – All That Remains
Arcane – Promise (Part 2)
Heliopolis – Take a Moment
Flaming Row – Review
UFO – Devils in the Detail
The Gentle Storm – The Moment (Storm)
Porcupine Tree – Even Less~
Steven Wilson – Routine
Flicker – Counting Time
Queensryche – Prophecy~
Thank You Scientist – In the Company of Worms
Odin’s Court – Death of a Sun
Days Between Stations – Requiem For the Living
Riverside – In Two Minds
Strattman – Caught Inside the Rain
Symphony X – Accolade
Thought Chamber – Psykerion
Shadow Gallery – Pain
Roine Stolt – Dirt
Kansas – Distant Vision*
Dream the Electric Sleep – Elizabeth
Native Window – Blood in the Water
Muse – Psycho
Erik Norlander – Andromeda
Dream Theater – In the Name of God~
Album: A Conspiracy of Stars
It’s hard to find a band that have rocked for as long as UFO. While most listeners are familiar with the band’s early work, which was instrumental in helping transition hard rock to the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, UFO have released multiple albums in each decade since their 1970 self-titled debut. Their newest album, A Conspiracy of Stars, is the first in three years, as well as the first to feature longtime touring bassist Rob De Luca. Full disclosure: Until this newest album I hadn’t listened to anything since the dawn of UFO’s Vinnie Moore era. A lot has changed.
My first impression was: “Man, this is a lot of treble”, but my second and third impressions were “these guys can still rock” and “Phil Mogg’s voice sounds awesomely like rusted steel and worn leather”. The fact is that this album treads on heavy like a slow moving steamroller. It’s a solid hard rocker from front to end; predictable, but with attitude. There’s a nice balance between catchiness and grit, which is something UFO have always been known for, and something they still excel at today.
Lyrically, A Conspiracy of Stars is what you would expect. Mogg and UFO are best when they balance road wisdom with heavy metal cynicism and heartache. Songs like “Ballad of the Left Hand Gun” and “Devil’s in the Details” are all the more memorable for it. Others, like “Messiah of Love”, feel far less authentic.
My other only other complaint about the album is that I did find things lacking in the production department. For one, Rob De Luca’s bass work is not very audible. I found myself having to toy around with my EQ settings before I could really make A Conspiracy of Stars sound complete.
There’s little to be said, other than that A Conspiracy of Stars is a good album for anyone that likes straightforward hard rock and classic metal. Just as UFO’s pre-metal output has a timeless metal sound, so does their music even after NWOBHM is over. A Conspiracy of Stars may not rival the band’s best work, it can’t possibly be disappointing to fans of the genre. No special effects or surprise here; just good solid rock.
Joe’s grade: B
Shadow Gallery are a band that have been near and dear to my heart for many years for a variety of reasons. I became a fan shortly after the release of Room V, and very quickly became a very big fan from there. It wasn’t till after I became a big fan I realized how much of a “local” band they were, recording most of their albums to that point within a mile or two of my home. What really hit home, in the most somber way possible, is when I saw the obituary for original vocalist Mike Baker in my local paper.
After some time the band decided to carry on, and I had the absolute privileged of going to the release party for Digital Ghosts, becoming friends with the band along the way. When I talked to the band for this interview they were getting ready for an important milestone, their first live show. The band debuted their self titled album in 1992, and the interview occurred in August of 2010. The band went on to play their first show in their home state of Pennsylvania, and would then hop the pond to headline ProgPower Europe, as well as the rest of a full European tour. Since then the band has gone out one more time, headlining RoSfest and again playing through Europe, both in celebration of the album Tyranny.
I hope you enjoy this look back at a band of veterans opening a new chapter in their career, an admittedly awestruck and long winded interviewer. Gary has said that it’s the longest interview he’s ever done, and I’ve learned to keep it a bit more compact since!
This week saw us play the lead track from the new Hasse Froberg & Musical Companions album, HFMC. Now typically one track, four minutes and change wouldn’t make a feature, but here’s the scoop. Hasse is an incredible friendly and approachable musician, and so here I am paying it forward!
This week’s topic of discussion was an easy one. What’s your favorite sub-genre or era of prog? Let us know in the comments!
Spock’s Beard – Surfing Down the Avalanche
Steven Wilson – Hand Cannot Erase
Odin’s Court – The Depths of Reason
The Gentle Storm – Cape of Storms (Storm)
The Gentle Storm – The Storm (Gentle)*
Hasse Froberg & Musical Companions – Can’t Stop the Clock
Vision Divine – The Secret of Life
Secret Sphere – Wish and Steadiness
UFO – The Ballad of the Left Hand Gun
Royal Hunt – Autograph
Styx – Queen of Spades
Beardfish – Into the Night
Nightwish – 7 Days to the Wolves
Vanden Plas – Cold Wind
Chain – Before There Was
Evergrey – Misled
Pink Floyd – Learning to Fly~
It Bites – Playground
Tiles – Sacred & Mundane
Asia – Only Time Will Tell
The Flower Kings – For the Love of Gold
Strattman – A Better World
Flicker – My Empty Head
Heliopolis – New Frontier
41Point9 – The Bullet’s in the Barrel
Sylvan – Shine
Marillion – Grendel
In our second installment of our interview retrospective series we take a look at Richard Henshall, the lead songwriter, guitarist, and sometimes keyboardist for the British outfit Haken. In the summer of 2010 Haken were still high on the success of their debut album, Aquarius. This particular host had named Aquarius the “Newcomer of the Year”, and I’m happy to report the band has certainly shown since that they deserved the title.
Since I spoke with Hen, Haken have released two more full length albums, and most recently an EP of tracks that are re-writes of early years material. Seeing and talking to the band on Progressive Nation at Sea was one of the highlights of that trip, and watching their rise through the prog ranks has been an absolute pleasure. So, let us go back to a time when they were simply impressive upstarts out of Britain!
Since the new website launched a week ago, it has felt like things have gone a million miles per hour, so let me try to get everyone up to speed with some of the updates and changes.
First off, not only has the podcast subscription feed gone off without any reported problems, but far earlier than expected the kinks with iTunes have been ironed out and we are now available via that marketplace. The direct link for that can be found here.
Next, you may have noticed a review made its way out as a podcast yesterday. Going forward we will be trying to do a quick audio summary of our written reviews for those who don’t like to read the longer versions. Details will be omitted, so checking out the full review is still highly recommended!
Finally, we’re adding a new feature to the weekly broadcast especially made for those listening via podcast. Every week I’ll set a topic during the show and ask for your input. So whether you listen on Thursday, Sunday, or Tuesday, if you have a few extra minutes drop by and leave a comment with your thoughts on the topic.
Thanks for your support during these transitions and hope to hear from you soon!
Band: The Gentle Storm
Album: The Diary
The Gentle Storm is the newest in a growing list of projects from Dutch maestro Arjen Anthony Lucassen, and features lyricist and vocalist Anneke van Giersbergen. While that pairing alone should have any prog fan turning their head, the pairings’ debut work, The Diary, is more than simply great composer meets great vocalist. The album comes in two discs, one “gentle” and one “storm”, featuring softer and heavier versions of the same songs. But don’t be fooled into thinking the softer album is simply your typical stripped down acoustic album. Instead the songs, while seemingly built from the same cores, are constructed quite differently on each disc.
The glue between the two discs is most certainly Anneke, who’s beautiful and melodic vocals shine through on both versions of each song. For those unfamiliar with her previous work, most famously on Devin Townsend Project albums, you are in for a treat. She manages to have a hauntingly beautiful timbre to her voice, but she has the ability to present it with significant power. Not to be confused at all with more “ballsy” female vocalists, she simply manages to hang on high notes without appearing thin.
Instrumentally I would say the “gentle” disc is certainly the more interesting of the two versions. There is an amazing diversity of instruments that put unique stamps all over the tracks. The “storm” album isn’t particularly heavy or metal by many standards, but has a traditional drum setup and is generally more guitar driven than its counterpart and is probably closer to Ayreon than Star One. The “gentle” tracks however bring full on folk and eclectic sounds that have not been seen since Ayreon debuted with The Final Experiment. The “gentle” album is also where you will likely notice what a fantastic job Arjen has done with the piano on this album, as it is featured prominently on several tracks.
One of the aspects I enjoyed about the “storm” album, is that the only keys are the piano; no minimoog, or synthesizers; truly a first for Arjen. With that in mind, if you take a moment to notice the sounds you’d so often associate with a keyboard patch on the albums and listen closely, you can fully appreciate how nice the plethora of instruments sound in their place. Even on the heavier “storm” album the violins, double bass, and other strings really stand out. The analog synths that Arjen has often employed has always been one of my favorite parts of his sound, and so for an album without them to be so good is a big credit to him.
Arjen’s songwriting and use of the many instrumentalists is stunning throughout both discs. Arjen clearly did not set out to make the “gentle” album more than an album featuring cheap acoustic versions usually used as b-sides and fillers by other artists. The thought and arrangement of the music clearly shines through, and the albums don’t feel identical songs with instruments swapped out. Anneke’s lyrics and vocals are captivating and powerful, as to be expected based on her recent collaborations. With every listen new songs and new parts always seem to stand out, and in the end this looks like another home run from Holland’s leading progressive mastermind.
Nick’s Grade: A