Fans from all over the world (54 countries!) came to see Arjen Lucassen bring Ayreon to the stage for the first time in 22 years, and I was lucky enough to see some of the shows. They took place in the Netherlands over September 15, 16, and 17 at the 013 in Tilburg. You can learn more about the shows here.
In this new format that straddles the line between our typical musical based show and a strict review I talk about my experience at the shows with songs thrown in here and there for good measure. Let me know what you like or don’t about this!
Tracks used in the podcast are as follows:
Ayreon – Prologue > Dreamtime
Ayreon – Blackboard > The Theory of Everything, Part 1 > The Theory of Everything, Part 2
Damian Wilson – Thrill Me
Toehider – This Conversation is Over
Nightmare – Ikarus
Star One – Intergalactic Space Crusaders
Ayreon – Everybody Dies!
And of course, some videos of some of this material for you to enjoy:
Band: Iris Divine
Album: The Static and the Noise
Available: October 6, 2017
Two years ago Iris Divine made a huge splash on my radar with their debut album Karma Sown. I named them my newcomer of the year, guitarist Navid Rashid my guitarist of the year, and my third overall album of the year, a sentiment I still agree with two years later. Following up Karma Sown was going to be a tall task, and I believe that The Static and The Noise accomplishes this without sounding like Karma Sown part two.
If you are not familiar with the band, Iris Divine is a three piece outfit consisting of guitarist/vocalist Navid Rashid, Kris Combs on drums, keys, and programming, and Brian Dobbs on bass. As with many three piece bands, their sound is very well constructed and cohesive, which I attribute to avoiding the “too many cooks in the kitchen” metaphor. I would classify the band as a heavier progressive metal band, and their metal backgrounds really shine through.
Their debut album had a bright sound and generally left me in a good mood, which I feel like it fits the album title and artwork. The Static and The Noise title and artwork also forebodes the feel of the album, and takes on a darker and angrier tone, while addressing those topics that we sometimes want to shy from in casual conversation. I was taken off guard on my first listen because even though I was prepared for this tone based on Kickstarter updates, there was no hiding from it in parts. But that’s what great art and literature do sometimes – throw issues in your face that aren’t the most pleasant to address. The aggressive tone starts from the first note and doesn’t let up anywhere through its 46 minute run time. However I don’t leave the album in an angry mood, but a contemplative one. After the initial shock, The Static and The Noise took over my listening time. I received the promo the same day three other albums arrived at my door, and two weeks later I still haven’t gotten around to listening to two of those albums from established artists I like because I keep coming back to this one. Every few listens, my favorite track seems to change. I had high praise for Navid’s guitar work on the first album, and those talents certainly returned on this album. In addition I think his singing and song writing talents are very much on display on this album. Kris’s contributions in drumming and rounding out the sound with keys are even more impressive when taken into consideration he lives practically on the other side of the country. The darker feel of the album would be hard to achieve without the tone and driving bass lines that Brian achieved. Nothing on the album feels forced, and it sounds like this is the album the band really wanted to make, everything on the album just seems to exude feeling; the bass is heavy, the screams are angsty, the vocals are emotive, and the lyrics don’t require liner notes to get the message. Perhaps most importantly the music perfectly compliments the theme of every song.
The lyrics of “Like Glass” ask you to “Swallow the bitter medicine, open your eyes”. That might be the best advice for approaching this album, your first listen might catch you off guard, but this album will, given enough time heal what ails you, and it will reward you immensely when you open your eyes. There is still time to get in on near the ground floor for this band that really deserves to break through the underground scene. I can’t see this not being an album raking in some end of year awards from myself and others.
Mason’s grade: A
Hello there, it’s been quite a while! As I’ve eluded to during previous shows life has changed a lot for me over the past year or so. I took a new job with a much longer commute and a heavier workload. My girlfriend and I purchased our first house and have since stocked it with two more cats bringing our total up to four. And, I’ll admit, I’ve been feeding my gaming urge substantially more as well. All this has not only taken up a significant amount of time, but has made it increasingly difficult to do a scheduled broadcast every week.
Let me just say I’ve always prided myself in the prep for my shows and the three hour window of broadcast is only part of the time dedicated to each episode. There is preparing the set, preparing detailed notes and links to go with the set, promoting the show, then doing the show, then preparing the post and podcast, and finally promoting after that is released. With work, travel, and new home issues to attend to being able to broadcast at the end of the day just didn’t happen with enough frequency.
Initially I was going to put the show on an indefinite hiatus, and I suppose we unofficially had that as our last podcast was from May, however I feel like we have a possible avenue to move forward with this show that I’ve been doing nearly 10 years at this point.
Into the foreseeable future we’re going to be focussing on podcasts and new formats for the show, to be recorded and released as time permits. We will continue to do reviews and interviews. We will continue to do music mixer discussions about current and general topics. We will continue to bring new and exciting music to your ears. The difference is now it won’t happen every Wednesday. It’ll happen when we are sparked and want to bring you something. I foresee some shorter more focussed musical podcasts hopefully getting into more depth on artists. I’m also open to new ideas and formats as we push ahead.
As for the very immediate future here is what’s on the docket. Mason has a review in the works for the upcoming Iris Divine album The Static and the Noise. I’m going to be doing a show to recap my recent trip to the Netherlands to see the historical Ayreon performances. I’ll be doing a similar show as well focused on my experiences during Haken‘s recently concluded 10th Anniversary Tour here in North America, hitting on their involvement in The Shattered Fortress as well.
Thank you as always to those that have always listened live, downloaded podcasts, and given your feedback and support to the show. I hope we can continue to connect into the future and help one another to enjoy all the beautiful music out there for us.
In an alternate universe where great music gets priority to work we would have featured Resolve, the third album from Pennsylvania based band MindMaze three weeks ago when it was timely. But we’re rolling with the punches and finally giving the album its time to shine now. Mason and I did a split review of the album which you can read or listen to here, so I won’t go into much further details about our thoughts on the album in this post. What I will tell you is that the band is currently on tour, so if you find a city near you on the list here I’d definitely go out and see them. As an added bonus you will witness something that I have not, despite being local to the band and seeing them many times. For this tour they’re joined by Jonah from Pyramaze to add some keyboards to their live show. I am truly jealous to all the people who are getting to witness it, and hope those that do put on the proper pressure to make live keyboards a future necessity! You can buy the new album here and check out the latest video below.
We also took a lot of time this show to talk about my recent trip to RoSfest, which is always an excellent experience in beautiful Gettysburg, PA. This year the festival featured Kyros, Moon Safari, The Aaron Clift Experiment, Unified Past, Unit-DB, The Neal Morse Band, The Fierce & the Dead, Evership, Edensong, and Anglagard. As always the theater staff was friendly, the sound was great, everything ran on time, and the after parties were killer! You really can’t ask for more from a land-based festival these days. You can check out the festival and keep up to date on next years announced bands here.
We also played some new artists on the program tonight, some of which have their albums up in full on bandcamp. Those would be Cobalt Blue (here) and The Black Light (here). You can also grab the newest album from Elysium Theory from CDBaby here.
And of course, as always, there is plenty of new music to get to. Big Big Train have just released Grimspound (here), and Ayreon has released The Source (here). Voyager has Ghost Mile (here) coming out in a few days, as does Rikard Sjoblom’s Gungfly with On Her Journey to the Sun (here). And of course there are videos from each below.
MindMaze – Drown Me
L’Anima – My Dying Cell
Cobalt Blue – Bereaved
Rikard Sjolbom’s Gungfly – On Her Journey to the Sun
Edge of Reality – Moldy Banana Bread
Kyros – Persistence of Vision
Moon Safari – The World’s Best Dreamers
Elysium Theory – Long Count
Ayreon – The Source Will Flow
MindMaze – Abandon
The Aaron Clift Experiment – Fragments of Sleep
Unified Past – Erasure Principle
Unitopia – Artificial World
The Neal Morse Band – The Man in the Iron Cage
Nova Collective – State of Flux
The Black Light – Lost to Another
The Black Light – Hurricane/All That Remains
MindMaze – One More Moment
The Dear Hunter – Gloria
Coheed & Cambria – The Writing Writer
The Fierce & the Dead – Part 2
Evership – Evermore
Edensong – In the Longest of Days
Voyager – Ghost Mile
In the Presence of Wolves – Storm in a Red Dress
Big Big Train – As the Crow Flies
MindMaze – The Path to Perseverance
Arjen Lucassen has been the genesis of many projects: The Gentle Storm, Star One, Stream of Passion, and Guilt Machine all started with Arjen, but no project comes with quite the fanfare of Ayreon. It was the project that made Arjen a household name in the progressive music community, and the one that continues to deliver all-star casts on every album. This of course holds true for The Source, due out April 28th on Mascot Label Group. James LaBrie (Dream Theater), Russell Allen (Symphony X), Hansi Kursch (Blind Guardian), and Tobias Sammet (Avantasia) account for only a third of the vocal talent on the album. It’s nearly unfair to other bands that can struggle to have one vocalist of that calibre, while The Source manages to have twelve amazing singers, as well as instrumentalists like Guthrie Govan (Steven Wilson) and Paul Gilbert (Mr. Big). This album has all the elements fans have come to expect, and the array of different musical styles and voices will make it easy to draw in new fans.
In our twenty minute interview Arjen discusses getting a new album out to people, the interaction he has with his fans, the way technology has allowed fans to better experience his music, and of course the upcoming Ayreon Universe live shows happening in the Netherlands this September. Arjen revealed that this effort to properly bring much of the Ayreon catalog to the stage for the first time will be the culmination of two years of preparation. And while the shows have already sold out, a live release has been promised to document the experience. So listen in and take a glimpse into the world of the rock-opera master!
Fates Warning are a band that certainly evolved since their early days, and saw success past their initial mark as well. That said, many fans, especially the more metal oriented, have a special place in their hearts for the first three albums featuring the vocals of John Arch. Perhaps it’s the substantial difference in style between Arch and current vocalist Ray Alder, or simply the time that has passed since Awaken the Guardian was released in 1986, but the band hasn’t been keen on playing the earliest material in the past decade or two. With that in mind it’s no surprise the buzz that was caused when the band announced they’d be playing two very special festival shows playing Awaken in its entirety with the lineup from that album. ProgPower USA and Keep it True in Germany were the lucky spots for these historic performances, both of which have been captured for the upcoming release Awaken the Guardian Live.
In this 20 minute interview John and I discussed what it was like returning to the stage for these incredibly special shows, his working relationship with Jim Matheos, and the possibility of a new Arch/Matheos disc at some point in the future.
Let’s make no mistake about it, I’ve been pretty busy and as a result a little lax with the show as of late. That’s all going to hopefully turn around in April a little bit. As mentioned and teased in the show I recently conducted an interview with John Arch, original vocalist of Fates Warning, and that will be available to everyone later in the week. In addition we have an interview scheduled with the incredible Arjen Lucassen of Ayreon fame and that should be available next weekend.
Circling back to right now I’m happy to be featuring the fourth album from American progressive metal band Vangough, Warpaint. I still remember how I discovered the band with their debut album, Manikin Parade nearly a decade ago: I was engaging in a January tradition, looking at ProgArchives top 100 list from the previous year and trying to see what albums I may have missed that would warrant my attention. Everyone’s reviews on the album pointed to something I would enjoy, and I certainly was not disappointed that I decided to give them a shot. All these years later I think they have consistently improved and I think Warpaint is their best yet. You can check out a good chunk of the album in this podcast, buy the album here, and watch the video below.
As mentioned many times during the show Fates Warning has a live set coming out on April 28th called Awaken the Guardian Live, and you can grab that here and watch a performance from the release below.
Okay, now there is so much stuff covered in this show we’re going to go into the speed round…
Out April 10:
L’Anima – Departures (Buy)
Out April 21:
Labyrinth – The Architecture of a God (Buy)
Out June 9:
Anathema – The Optimist (Buy)
Kyros – Monster (Edit)
Vangough – Morphine
L’Anima – Path to Sirius
Fates Warning – Fata Morgana~
Labyrinth – A New Dream
Ayreon – Everybody Dies
MindMaze – Sign of Life
Vangough – The Suffering
Blackfield – Family Man
Nova Collective – Cascades
Lonely Robot – Everglow
Arch/Matheos – Neurotically Wired
Pyramaze – 20 Second Century
Big Big Train – Judas Unrepentant~
Pandora – Second Home by the Sea
The Pineapple Thief – No Man’s Land
Vangough – Till Nothing’s Left
Anathema – Springfield
The Neal Morse Band – So Far Gone
Tiles – Crossing Swords
Tiles – Facing Failure
Edensong – Chronos
Trusties – Outside of Place and Time
Vangough – Black Rabbit
Fates Warning – Apparition
Rush – Cygnus X-1
Available: April 28, 2017 via Inner Wound Recordings
Reviewer (Text): Mason
Reviewer (Audio): Nick
Five and a half years and a name change ago I pledged money on Kickstarter for the first MindMaze album, Mask of Lies, and honestly had no idea what to expect from an unsigned band that had what I thought was a modest funding goal. At worst I figured I would have a unique reminder of obscure metal history as this was my first ever backing on Kickstarter (feel free to follow me there, but be warned most of the projects I back are not music related). However, myself and the other backers were treated to an album that far exceeded expectations, and helped MindMaze attract enough attention from Inner Wound Recordings to sign them before the release of their second album Back From the Edge, which demonstrated growth as musicians, songwriters, and on the production front, as well as increasing the notoriety of the band as they were able to secure the guest services of Symphony X’s Mike LePond on bass. Heading into their third album, my expectations were high. Let’s see how it fares…
Resolve is the third album from Allentown based band, MindMaze. Unlike its predecessors, Resolve is a concept album and it is clear that the band’s message in this album comes from within and is more personal than their previous work.
The cornerstone of the band continues to be guitarist Jeff Teets and his sister, vocalist Sarah Teets. Jeff continues to showcase impressive solos and catchy riffs, and demonstrates a commitment to his craft, as this album is the most diverse musically for the band up to this point, exploring more subdued and softer tones as the story of the album requires. Sarah provides her talents again, and like Jeff continues to find new ground to explore, while sounding as powerful as ever and maintaining her unique qualities among female metal vocalists by rarely going to the soprano range where many of her female colleagues tend to reside. Rich Pasqualone returns as the bass player, resuming his duties from the first album. His talents are more evident this time around as the bass sound is more pronounced on this album than the debut album. The drumming is ably performed by a combination of new member Mark Bennett, as well as Jeff, and their work on the skins is a big reason the album comes together nicely.
While everyone individually performs well, this album is best described as gestalt, and is much greater than the sum of its parts. Where Resolve really separates itself from its predecessors is from the quality and sophistication of the production. Resolve is the richest, most polished sound the band has put out to this point. This album makes the most of layering tracks and creates the richest sound up to this point. The album sees have added notes of spice using production effects sparingly, but at appropriate times on Sarah’s vocals. Gang vocals are also used well for emphasis at times. Another strength of the album is that it is hard to pick standout tracks because the difference between my favorite track and least favorite track is quite small. The album engages the listener from start to finish, with no low point in to speak of in terms of overall enjoyment. As stated earlier, Resolve is also the most musically diverse and exploratory album; it features the band’s most notable ballad, the widest range of musical styles, and the most emotive lyrics the band has put forth to date.
The easy short review of this album is that is their best yet, and that’s not a small feat in of itself. If this album were released in any previous year, it would be a top five album for certain, and if it doesn’t end up in my top five this year then we will have experienced the greatest year of releases in recent memory. If you would have told me in 2011 that an unsigned band trying to release its first album would six years later be releasing an album on the same day as Ayreon, and legitimately be its equal, I would have been skeptical. After playing Resolve over 20 times, I would say Ayreon, along with several other bands, will be gunning to release an album this good on April 28th.
Mason’s grade: A
Disclaimer: Guitarist Jeff Teets of MindMaze is the former co-host of When Prog and Power Unite, however this review has not been influenced or altered due to this fact.
01. Reverie (Instrumental)
02. Fight the Future
03. In This Void (Instrumental)
04. Drown Me
05. Sign of Life
07. Sanity’s Collapse (Instrumental)
08. One More Moment
09. Twisted Dream
10. True Reflection
11. Shattered Self
13. The Path to Perseverance
It was November 2015 onboard the Norwegian Pearl that I first learned about the project that would become Nova Collective. Richard Henshall, guitarist and songwriter of progressive metal shooting stars Haken was telling me about an upcoming trip to America with ex-Haken keyboardist Pete Jones in order to work with Between the Buried and Me bassist Dan Briggs on an instrumental outing. Matt Lynch from Cynic would round out the quartet, and now more than a year after they got together The Further Side is finally available to fans.
Over fourteen minutes we discussed this exciting new project, as well as Richard‘s involvement in Mike Portnoy’s Shattered Fortress, as well as a brief look back and forward from the Haken camp. For those interesting in hearing more from Nova Collective you are free to peruse two tracks from the album below.
For those who may not know, Cruise to the Edge is one of several music festivals that has taken to the seas in recent years. Having now been on two of these Yes branded cruises, as well as Progressive Nation at Sea, I will continue to say that these water based festivals are the single best festival experiences you can have, along with also most likely being the most expensive. Through this episode we have music from many of the bands that performed, as well as commentary on the cruise and the individual shows. Information on the next Cruise to the Edge has already come out on Facebook, and it will expand to 5 days at sea through early February 2018. Keep an eye on their site here for more information in the future.
Finally, while I usually use album art or promotional photos with the episode, tonight I’m taking one from the cruise experience. Even though it’s not credited on the photo, I happen to know this one was taken by the awesome Joel Barrios of Norrsken photography. Chances are you’ve seen some of Joel‘s music related work at some point, and he did a fantastic job shooting on the cruise, so if you fancy please give his Facebook page a like here.
Dream Theater – The Glass Prison
John Wesley – Once a Warrior
John Lodge – 10,000 Light Years Ago
Flying Colors – Kayla
Transatlantic – We All Need Some Light
Haken – Celestial Elixir
Pain of Salvation – In the Passing Light of Day
District 97 – Death By a Thousand Cuts
The Neal Morse Band – Sloth
Bad Dreams – Closer
Spock’s Beard – On a Perfect Day
Yes – Into the Lens
Frost* – Numbers
Stick Men – Plutonium
Genesis – Firth of Fifth
Liquid Tension Experiment – Acid Rain
Dream Theater – The Shattered Fortress