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
Another year, another retrospective. When it comes to music this year it’s easy to stew over what we lost. Iconic names like Prince, Lemmy, and David Bowie all left us over the course of the last twelve months. But, as with pretty much any year, there is much to look back fondly on, and so we reflect back on our favorites of 2016. Of all the albums heard this year only two of them made the top 10 lists of all three contributors to the program. The consensus runner up this year is Haken‘s fourth full length album, Affinity, which also spawned a wide range of individual awards. But, there can be only one album of the year, and so…
This year’s consensus choice as When Prog and Power Unite‘s album of the year is Theories of Flight from Fates Warning! This modern progressive metal masterpiece from one of the genre’s earliest applicants completely floored us, coming in at #1, #2, and #7 on our three lists. In addition the album spawned one nod to Jim Matheos for composer of the year, two nods to Ray Alder as vocalist of the year, and a nod to “The Light and Shade of Things” as epic of the year.
During the course of our the podcast you can listen as Nick explains all his picks in detail, and follow-up with an ill and congested Joe running through his top ten of the year. Additionally, if you wish to hear Mason‘s picks explained you can do so here. Be forewarned, due to some current technical limitations on his end the audio is somewhat muddy and choppy, but it’s still always good to hear his take!
A big thanks as always to everyone who tuned in during this past year, and we look forward to the new year in a big way as, on the first Wednesday of the year, January 4th, we kick off 2017 with our year-end wrap up spectacular. This show will be extended, as always, and will run from 4pm-10pm EST. That’s 9pm-3am UTC. As always we will be playing a lot of the music discussed here, as well as so much more. If you only tune in for one show next year, that’s the one you want!
Top 10 Albums of 2016
10. Avantasia – Ghostlights
9. Rikard Sjoblum – The Unbendable Sleep
8. Edge of Reality – Vicious Circle
7. The Neal Morse Band – The Similitude of a Dream
6. Thank You Scientist – Stranger Heads Prevail
5. Headspace – All That You Fear is Gone
4. Dream the Electric Sleep – Beneath the Dark Wide Sky
3. Big Big Train – Folklore
2. Haken – Affinity
1. Fates Warning – Theories of Flight
10. Hammers of Misfortune – Dead Revolution
9. Karmakanic – Dot
8. Anciients – Voice In The Void
7. Evergrey – The Storm Within
6. Haken – Affinity
5. Redemption – The Art of Loss
4. Devin Townsend Project – Transcendence
3. Dream the Electric Sleep – Beneath the Dark Wide Sky
2. Fates Warning – Theories of Flight
1. Avantasia – Ghostlights
10. Headspace – All That You Fear is Gone
9. Circus Maximus – Havoc
8. Iamthemorning – Lighthouse
7. Fates Warning – Theories of Flight
6. Anderson/Stolt – Invention of Knowledge
5. Haken – Affinity
4. Alcest – Kodama
3. Explosions in the Sky – The Wilderness
2. Devin Townsend Project – Transcendence
1. Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool
Songwriter/Composer of the Year
Nick: Jim Matheos (Fates Warning)
Mason: Matt Page (Dream The Electric Sleep)
Joe: Neige (Alcest)
Vocalist of the Year
Nick: Ray Alder (Fates Warning, Redemption)
Mason: Ray Alder (Fates Warning, Redemption)
Joe: Ross Jennings (Haken)
Guitarist of the Year
Nick: Eric Gillette (Neal Morse Band, Eric Gillette)
Mason: Nick Van Dyk (Redemption)
Joe: Devin Townsend (Devin Townsend Project)
Bassist of the Year
Nick: Connor Green (Haken, Eric Gillette)
Mason: Jonas Reingold (Karmakanic, The Fringe)
Joe: Anton Dang (O’Brother)
Keyboardist of the Year
Nick: Adam Wakeman (Headspace)
Mason: Sigurd Sheie (Hammers of Misfortune)
Joe: Jordan Rudess (Dream Theater)
Drummer of the Year
Nick: Ray Hearne (Haken)
Mason: Josh Mathis (Cyborg Octopus)
Joe: Ray Hearne (Haken)
Song of the Year (Song Under 10 Minutes)
Nick: The Lamb, The Badger & the Bee (Kyros)
Mason: Let The Light Flood In (Dream The Electric Sleep)
Joe: Stormbending (Devin Townsend Project)
Epic of the Year (Song Over 10 Minutes)
Nick: The Light and Shade of Things (Fates Warning)
Mason: Let The Storm Descend Upon You (Avantasia)
Joe: Knowing (Anderson/Stolt)
Disappointment of the Year
Nick: The Astonishing (Dream Theater)
Mason: The Astonishing (Dream Theater)
Joe: Act V: Hymns With the Devil in Confessional (The Dear Hunter)
Comeback Album of the Year
Nick: The Prelude Implicit (Kansas)
Mason: Creatures Watching Over The Dead (Charred Walls of the Damned)
Joe: Kodama (Alcest)
Newcomer of the Year
Nick: Vicious Circle (Edge of Reality)
Mason: Learning To Breathe (Cyborg Octopus)
Joe: Stranger Heads Prevail (Thank You Scientist)
Album Cover/Artwork of the Year
Nick: The Seasons Turn (Lee Abraham)
Mason: Codex Atlanticus (Serenity)
Joe: Kodama (Alcest)
Top 3 Shows/Tours of the Year
3. Avantasia (New York City, NY)
2. ProgPowerUSA (Atlanta, GA)
1. Haken & Thank You Scientist (Various)
3. Epica (House of Blues Orlando, February show)
2. Weird Al Yankovic (Lakeland Center, Lakeland, FL)
1. Avantasia (PlayStation Theater, NYC)
3. Jesu & Sun Kil Moon (Theatre of Living Arts, Philadelphia, PA)
2. Explosions in the Sky (The Fillmore, Philadelphia, PA)
1. Sigur Ros (Academy of Music, Philadelphia, PA)
Top Concert Video of the Year
Nick: The Theater Equation (Ayreon)
Mason: Welcome to Atlanta Live (Seventh Wonder)
Most Anticipated Releases in 2017
Nick: Ayreon, Flying Colors, MindMaze
Mason: Ayreon, Byzantine, Enchant, Iris Divine, Jolly, MindMaze, Odin’s Court, Once Human, Pain of Salvation, Seventh Wonder
Joe: Sigur Ros, Pain of Salvation, Flying Colors, Anathema
As I had suspected shows have been few and far between, but that comes with a hidden benefit of lots of exciting goodness being packed into each episode. For one, tonight’s show featured the fantastic second album from Edge of Reality, Vicious Circle. This is a release for everyone who wants all the normal guitar driven prog goodness they can handle with the extra flavors of humor and eccentricity for good measure. You can check out more of the album and buy it from bandcamp here.
Then of course there is one of the reasons there have been so few shows recently. I spent the better part of one week following Haken and Thank You Scientist through Canada and the United States, and then the better part of another week experiencing my first ProgPower USA. I talk about my trip and the festival in brief during the podcast while playing music from many of the associated bands. Check out news on next year’s festival here or simply watch the roster video for days 3 and 4 below.
And no show would be complete without lots of new music. Let’s start with a pair of more recent releases, The Storm Within from Evergrey and The Dear Hunter‘s new album Act V: Hymns With the Devil in Confessional. Scratching itches in two separate areas of the music community both albums have been very well received thus far. You can buy the Evergrey here and The Dear Hunter here.
Now we’ll move onto a pair of upcoming releases. First up is The Prelude Implicit, a new album from Kansas following the departure of Steve Walsh. You can check out the new video below and preorder the album here.
Next is a double album from The Neal Morse Band due out November 11th called The Similitude of a Dream. Mike Portnoy has gone all-in declaring this one of the absolute greatest albums in his career, and we can only hope it lives up to the hype. You can watch the first single below and preorder here.
Swinging now to the dark side of things Ghost have released a new album called Popestar, and the lead single can be seen below. You can order the full album here.
Finally, Dream Theater have released a new version of their track “Our New World” featuring vocalist Lzzy Hale. Check it out!
Dream Theater – The Glass Prison
Edge of Reality – Cupcake
Evergrey – Someday
Ghost – Square Hammer
Lord – Redemption
Stream of Passion – Haunted
Spock’s Beard – Tides of Time
Thank You Scientist – The Amateur Arsonist’s Handbook
Haken – The Endless Knot
Dream Theater – Our New World feat. Lzzy Hale
Pyramaze – Disciples of the Sun
Circus Maximus – Abyss
Blind Guardian – And the Story Ends
The Neal Morse Band – Long Day/Overture
Kansas – Visability Zero
Edge of Reality – Moldy Banana Bread
Vanishing Point – Tyranny of Distance
The Gentle Storm – Shores of India (Storm)
Fates Warning – Valley of the Dolls
Serious Black – Mirror World
Green Carnation – Light of Day, Day of Darkness (Edit)
Devin Townsend – By Your Command
Edge of Reality – Into the Shadows
The Dear Hunter – Cascade
When I first saw Eric Gillette perform live, it should have come as no surprise, given the other members of the Neal Morse Band, that he wasn’t a one trick pony. That show saw him perform flawlessly on several instruments, as well as deliver backing vocals, showcasing I think a very under-recognized voice in prog. I was so impressed with his performance I named him my guitarist for the year in 2015, and of course quickly picked up his first solo CD, Afterthought. Now he’s brought in some guests and is showing off his songwriting chops on his sophomore release, The Great Unknown. He brought everything one might expect, and more, namely Conner Green, Diego Tejeda, and Thomas Lang. You can check him out and purchase his music here.
Next on the agenda is a tour for the ages. Especially if that age is younger prog fans. A bill that showcases a transatlantic pairing of the best of the UK and America is hitting the United States in August and September. Haken and Thank You Scientist together! A full list of dates can be seen below!
Next up on the docket are some items we’ve talked about a good bit. Ayreon‘s The Theater Equation is out in some areas, and you can grab that here, while Anderson/Stolt‘s Invention of Knowledge can be grabbed here.
Now let’s move onto some important kickstarters and pre-orders, starting with the bands and people who are more likely to be eating ramen without your help. First up is Iris Divine, who are funding their second album The Static and the Noise. This is a follow up to one of the great metal debut’s the US has seen recently, and has very little chance to disappoint. You can help them here.
Finally, we have Levin Minnemann Rudess, and their sophomore release, From the Law Office of Levin Minnemann Rudess. You can pledge towards that here.
Finally, in general news, we have a pair of big names making waves. First up, Steven Wilson returns to America to continue touring. You can check out his updated dates here.
And then there is the end of a 16 year studio hiatus for Kansas, as they’ve announced they will be releasing The Prelude Implicit on September 23rd. You can read the full release on that here.
Peter Gabriel – Red Rain
Eric Gillette – The Aftermath
Thank You Scientist – Absentee
Haken – Portals
Anderson/Stolt – Invention
Ayreon – Pain~
Ayreon – Mystery~
Iris Divine – Fire of the Unknown
Levin Minnemann Rudess – Marcopolis
The Dear Hunter – Gloria
Eric Gillette – Escape
Anderson/Stolt – We Are Truth
Big Big Train – Telling the Bees
Kansas – Lightning’s Hand
Steven Wilson – My Book of Regrets
Eric Gillette – Damage is Done
Transatlantic – Duel With the Devil
Rush – A Farewell to Kings
Sylvan – Strange Emotion
Dredg – Sanzen
Eric Gillette – All I Am
There are some albums I discover because I do this show, and others that I’m glad I have this show for. Being able to continue to support Haken in their endeavors is a huge pleasure many years later, and having an album as good as Affinity makes it easy. If you missed it, you can check out my review of the album here, and listen to my discussion with Diego here. With those items aside, there isn’t much more I can say about the album than please buy it! You can grab yourself a copy here.
I mentioned during the show that Pain of Salvation are working hard on releasing a new version of Remedy Lane, paired with the full performance of the album last year. You can get more info straight from the band here, as well as some info on their next studio album.
Long Distance Calling have released their new album Trips, and you can grab yourself a copy of that here.
Finally, the first song from the new Frost* album, Falling Satellites, is finally here! Check out the video below and pre-order the album here.
Thank You Scientist – Feed the Horses
Haken – 1985
Frost* – Heartstrings
Lee Abraham – The Unknown
Messenger – Nocturne
Long Distance Calling – Rewind
Haken – Red Giant
Pyramaze – Forsaken Kingdom
Iron Maiden – The Clairvoyant
Black Sabbath – Fairies Wear Boots
Pain of Salvation – Rope Ends
Morglbl – Brutal Romance
Leprous – Restless
Haken – The Architect
Borealis – Black Rose
Persephone’s Dream – Android Dreams
Pendragon – Guardian of My Soul
Haken – Earthrise
Diego Tejeida has been working the ivory for Haken from nearly the beginning, and has seen his sound evolve with the band. As we discussed in this 25-minute interview, that’s no easy task. We talked about his process for developing the tones you hear on each record, which goes well beyond picking from the usual pre-packaged sounds. We of course talked a lot about Haken‘s forthcoming album, Affinity, which is due out on April 29th. I mentioned in my review of the album all the new styles and sounds seen on this record, and now have a much deeper appreciation for them than I already did.
We also spoke about the evolution of the songwriting in the band, the addition of Conner Green on bass, and playing live, including some discussion of Haken‘s upcoming European and North American dates. Not one to be accused of using clickbait, let me say, no, there are no set American dates, yet, but they will come! And, as we discussed in the interview, you can watch the first track, “Initiate”, below!
Available: April 29th via InsideOut Music
It doesn’t seem that long ago that a close friend from across the pond sent me the demo of his brother’s band, Haken. Pete Jones would leave the band before they released their debut album, but it was due to his brother that I became aware of an amazing young band. I continued to promote Haken through the release of Aquarius in 2010, and was thrilled when they won the album of the year poll amongst our listeners. In the six years since, the band has seen a meteoric rise in popularity amongst progressive metal listeners, going from obscurity to festival headliners in only a few albums.
The band’s greatest success came with the release of The Mountain in 2013, and given what it did for the band I would have found it difficult to blame them for sticking close to that style when working on their newest album, Affinity. It took only one listen to discover that the band had no interest in playing things safe. Although you might not find any songs as eccentric as “Cockroach King” on this album, as a whole it is brighter and more upbeat than its predecessor. Once the appropriately titled intro track, “Affinity.exe” wraps up, “Initiate” kicks into gear and immediately sets the tone for the album. It’s heavy, but also atmospheric, and serves as a statement that Haken won’t be repeating themselves, no matter the intensity level of the music. The current tone of the band is strongly set by the first song.
“1985” is, understandably, the biggest nod to the 80’s music that inspired parts of this record. Although Diego Tejeida’s keyboards certainly play close to that era throughout the record, it is definitely most notable during this track. In nine minutes you meander through a Yes opening, some rockier verses, some instrumental parts, and finally a more typical anthemic Haken chorus. And then there is what can only be called… that part. That glorious moment in the song that sounds like the mix of music from a 1980’s montage scene sprinkled with sounds from the 1990’s video game adaptation of that same movie. Make no mistake, you’ll know when you get to it. The next track, “Lapse” offers a strong vocal performance and guitar solo, but doesn’t rise to quite the same heights as the rest of the album.
On my first listen to Affinity, I had turned my attention away from my computer screens for a while, and heard an ominous intro, and thought, “this has to be the big one”. Sure enough, a quick check told me I had moved onto the 15+ minutes of “The Architect”. Haken have thrown a longer song onto every studio album, including the Restoration EP, and so this song will naturally draw comparisons to its contemporaries. It is probably both more reserved and yet more experimental than the other epics. Chorus aside, it does lack the bigger hooks of some of the other long songs, but it hits on genres and styles outside of what we’ve seen with Haken to date. This genre push, though usually minor in its use, includes post-rock, dubstep, electronica, and some corners of metal the band has never before explored. Einar Solberg from Leprous has a short guest appearance in the song, providing expertly performed harsh vocals, but much like the rougher vocals on Aquarius, I found them to be an unnecessary addition. The band’s full time vocalist, Ross Jennings gives one of his best performances on this track. Through this song, and on the album as a whole he sounds fantastic, but on some tracks he’s pushed to a style with such a high tone that enunciation can become an issue. When it’s all said and done “The Architect” promises to be just as rewarding as its peers, even if I think it’ll take people a few extra listens to come to that conclusion.
After the length and density of “The Architect” it seems we are treated to an intentionally placed, and short poppy track in “Earthrise”. Given its ease of listen, and the fact it’s one of the shorter tracks, I’d be shocked if it isn’t used to help promote the album. But do not fret when I use the words short and poppy, as this is a great track, showcasing a lot of what this latest offering is all about in a compact wrapper. The opening verse features guitar parts from Richard Henshall and Charlie Griffiths have a clean and joyful electric tone to them that were a treat to hear added to the Haken sound. Speaking of the axe wielding duo, their contributions to the album can best be described as well blended. The incredible leads are there, but often lowered in the mix by Jens Bogren, given the compositions a beautiful wholeness. While there are not too many solos or 6-to-7 string acrobatics screaming for attention, but thoughtfully crafted songs certainly do not fail to draw your attention.
“Red Giant” takes a break from the bulk of the albums 80’s look-back approach and infuses many of the genre-expanding influences I mentioned earlier. While it is six minutes of the most experimental music on the album, it can get lost amongst the catchiness of the previous track, and the stellar next track, “The Endless Knot”, which is one of the best songs on the album. ”The Endless Knot” begins with a guitar and keyboard led intro, and then drummer Ray Hearne takes things over, offering a tom and bass driven bounce that sets the tone for the rest of the track. About midway through the song we are treated to a dubstep-adjacent section that manages to keep the groove wonderfully, and then exits into a fantastic bit of guitar work. “The Endless Knot” clocks in at 6 minutes, and is one favorite Haken songs to date.
The final track, “Bound By Gravity”, is a touching outro to the album, and perhaps the track that most closely resembles the softer sections of Affinity’s full-length predecessor. The vocals are soft and soothing throughout, as is the music for the most part. Light chimes (or at least their keyboard counterpart) aid the calm early on, and when the music picks up in the latter portion of the track, they change to tubular bells, making an epic ending to the song and the album.
This album has songs that stand apart from one another, and from their past works, propelling the band into the next chapter of their career. While Affinity may have very slight lulls in “Lapse” and “Red Giant”, every other song is memorable and top of the line, forming a great album. The stylistic changes are refreshing and brilliantly executed.
Through all of this I’ve failed to mention the newcomer and sole American in the band, bassist Conner Green. Affinity was his first chance to appear on brand new Haken material, and the results were similar to the Restoration EP. A tone that is warm, clear, and mixed incredibly well, while his playing glues the songs together. While it may not pop out at you at instantly, anyone who pays attention to his playing will have plenty to be excited about for Haken’s low-end future. As good as he was, however, the standout star on this album is clearly Diego Tejeida, who took the demands of the 80’s style, as well as the more experimental new styles and brought amazing tones and play to each challenge. Whether the keyboards are aggressive or atmospheric, they are always impressive throughout this album, and help make it a fantastic part of Haken’s discography. I don’t know if it quite climbs to The Mountain top as my favorite album, but Affinity comes very close.
Nick’s Grade: A