Author Archives: bradbirzer
Originally posted on The Blog of Much Metal:
The Electronic Press Kit for ‘Hymns For The Broken':
It is not often that I get personally invited by an artist to interview them for this little blog of mine. However, that was exactly the reality with which I was faced recently when I was contacted directly by none other than Mr Tom S Englund of Evergrey. Or, in my world, where Evergrey are the pinnacle of my musical enjoyment, a person I consider something of a hero but also a friend.
“Matt.. I’ll be in London for press next month.. so we should do an interview – right?”
Outwardly, my reply was “I think it would be rude not to wouldn’t it?”. Inwardly, I was jumping around like a mad thing.
Having organised the requisite day off work, I headed to central London from my back-end-of-nowhere home. Informed that I was first up on the day, I made…
View original 3,315 more words
Dear Citizens of the anarcho-Republic of Progarchy,
As some of you might know, in addition to editing this site, I also pretend to be a professor and author during the day. I’m currently working on a book on the history of dystopias (and dystopic ideas) in fiction, film, and music. I’m trying to compile a list of dystopian rock albums. Here’s what I’ve come up with. If, in the comments section, you’d like to make suggestions of things I’ve missed–PLEASE do so! I would be exceedingly grateful!
Rush, Clockwork Angels
The entire Ayreon series
Arjen Lucassen, Life in the New Real
The Tangent, Not as Good as the Book
Pink Floyd, Animals
Pink Floyd, The Wall
Gary Numan, “Down in the Park”
Radiohead, Kid A
A few songs by Muse, Oingo Boingo, Coheed and Cambria
Flower Kings, Desolation Rose
Porcupine Tree, Fear of a Blank Planet
Yes, “Machine Messiah”
A review of Scorch by the Tin Spirits (Esoteric Records, 2014; officially released on September 15).
8 Tracks: Carnivore; Summer Now; Old Hands; Binary Man; Little Eyes; Wrapped and Tied; She Moves Among Us; and Garden State.
The Tin Spirits are: Dave Gregory (guitar); Mark Kilminster (bass and lead vocals); Daniel Steinhardt (guitar, vocals); and Doug Mussard (drums and vocals). You can visit the band at: http://tinspirits.co.uk
Highest recommendation. A must own for any lover of music.
A match explodes into flame, and so it begins.
The opening song, an instrumental, possesses the infectious personality of the best of post-Hackett Genesis, especially with “Turn It On Again” and “Abacab.”
Armed with driving bass, soulful guitar, and persistent drums, “Carnivore” moves the listener rapidly into an unknown future, and it does so without a trace of trepidation. And, yet, it contains a voluptuous kind of beauty.
This description applies specifically to the first of the eight tracks, but it could just as easily apply to much of the album. However one describes Scorch, the Tin Spirits are back, and I, for one, thank the good Lord. These guys are absolutely brilliant, and they seem to be even more so than they were with their first album, Wired to Earth.
This is no feint praise.
That album, Wired to Earth, hit me rather hard when it first came out. As far as I know, I was the first American to own and review a copy. I’m rather proud of this. Greg Spawton, maestro of Big Big Train, had recommended it on his own blog, noting it was a guitar kind of prog.
And, so it was.
Beginning with a somewhat airy instrumental and having a total of only five tracks, Wired to Earth called for full immersion. From airy, it moved quickly to hyper and heavy, then to 1974 Genesis, then to a gut-wrenchingly beautiful Allman Brothers style epic, concluding with a great guitar-pop rocker in the style of Nebraskan Matthew Sweet.
Even after three years of listening to the album, I’ve never tired of it. I play it at least weekly, and, in fact, the entire Birzer family loves it.
Following the intensity of “Carnivore” on Scorch, the second track, “Summer Now” gently guides the listener into a hypnotic state. Most likely, every reader of progarchy has already watched the first video from the album, and you’ve heard and seen what Tin Spirits is capable of. The video, of course, is gorgeous and psychedelic in a late 1980’s Tears for Fears kind of way. All four members look as though they’re having a blast, and Mark (vocalist and bassist) looks surprisingly GQ and non-prog! Guitar god Dave Gregory, who never seems to age, offers what is arguably the most tasteful guitar solo of the last decade. In every way, the Tin Spirits have captured the essence of summer with this song.
I’m not exactly sure about what’s going on with the cover (see above). It looks as though two bolts of lightning have fried some poor guy. It’s also possible the guy is shooting bolts of lightning from his body in an explosion of energy. Maybe this is a kind of a “glass half empty” or “glass half full” thing.
With the title, Scorch, though, I suspect that Icarus flew too close to the sun. Gods will be gods, and they generally don’t like man to upstage them. As Worf once explained, the Klingons found their gods more trouble than they were worth, and so they killed them. I must admit, as I look at the cover of Scorch, I’m hopeful for Icarus, siding more than a bit with the Klingons on this issue.
The interior artwork of the CD booklet flows easily from psychedelic to pyrodelic, the flowers of the first pages having become nothing more than swirled outlines of flame by the end.
I choose to believe that through the Tin Spirits, Icarus has finally prevailed against the gods.
Ok, back to the review. After all, shouldn’t a review of a prog album have an interlude?
The third track, “Old Hands,” begins deceptively. Starting as a somewhat simple World Party-like pop song, it suddenly morphs into a rather fulsome puzzle about deceptions and realities. The interplay of drums and bass especially stand out on the track.
Returning to the early 1980’s Genesis-like thrumming of “Carnivore,” “Binary Man” simply rocks. Perfectly placed on the album, “Binary Man” reveals not only the excellence of each member of the band as an individual performer, but it also highlights the power of Kilminster’s voice. “Your hypocrisy is deafening,” Kilminster laments.
“Little Eyes” is another beautiful song in the vein of “Summer Now.” Thematically, it deals with fortitude, and the guitar work on it fits wonderfully.
Grungy, angsty guitars explode at the beginning of the sixth track, “Wrapped and Tied.” The entire song has the feel of being caught in a tornado in the intial stages of its formation.
Track seven, “She Moves Among Us,” brings the listener back to the indescribable beauty of a flowering meadow. Imagine a Steve Howe solo without the overbearing flashiness, and you have “She Moves Among Us.” The whole piece whispers “taste.” As the song is an instrumental, we’ll probably never know who “she” is. But, if the guitar matches her elegance, I’m in love.
At a little over fifteen minutes in length, the eighth and final song, “Garden State,” is epic. But, it’s certainly not the length that makes this so utterly brilliant. Every aspect of the Tin Spirits comes to the fore in this finale. The song effortlessly flows from moment to moment, all parts of a coherent and cohesive whole, held together by four instruments and a voice.
Indeed, from confidence to concern to anxiety to a dreamlike state to determination and, finally, back to confidence, Kilminster again proves his sheer skill as a vocalist. There’s not a single thing about this album I could criticize, as it’s, frankly, a perfect piece of music. Still, if some one forced me, I could state with only minor reluctance that “Garden State” alone makes this album worthwhile. It is a song that good and that powerful. This epic even ends with an homage to Elton John and Bernie Talpin and a “Funeral for a Friend.”
A perfect end to a perfect album. Were I grading it, I’d give in an A+.
A few years ago, I proudly proclaimed Dave Gregory one of the three greatest living guitarists. This album only affirms my rather bold statement. Holy Moses. What an absolute delight. I also proclaimed the lyricists of Tin Spirits to be in the line of Keats, Wilde, and Yeats. And, again, my declaration has proven true. Again, an absolute delight.
Fly, Icarus. Fly.
Our friend, Greg Spawton, posted this two hours ago on the Big Big Train Facebook page:
We’ve been reading the comments about the shows. One of the things we like about this forum is that people feel free to say what they think, whether it be positive or negative about BBT, without fear of us getting offended. We know some of the decisions we take won’t suit everybody, but we do read and take things onboard. The first thing to say is that BBT is a band and also a small business enterprise. Like it or not, we can’t make music without taking care of the business side of things, making sure we pay our taxes, pay money to these we employ and try not fall into debt. Over the last few years, our album sales have reached a level where the turnover allows us to make more ambitious music and to do some of the things we would like to do. One of these things is to spend more time together as a band and to play some shows. Now the problem is, we have a complicated live line-up. There are 13 musicians. There will be a crew of about 7 people. We need to rehearse together in a suitable place, feed people, pay transport costs, hotels, venue hire etc. It is a very expensive proposition. We’ve thought very carefully about where to play and the size of venues. To keep costs down, we do not have management or tour promoters. Therefore, we need to keep things simple for us by playing in one place. We can’t book places that are very big as they become too expensive to hire, exposing us to financial risk if we don’t sell enough tickets, so we’ve settled on two nights at a 400 seat venue. The venue is the right sort of place for BBT music and has excellent transport links. We know playing only in London isn’t ideal, but the band is based in the south of England and London has the best transport links for people who may be coming a very long way. If the gigs go well, then in future years we may play elsewhere. I am from Birmingham and David is from Nottingham, so somewhere in the Midlands would suit us just fine. Some have commented that there won’t be enough tickets to meet demand. However, I think we will do very well to sell both nights out. The ticket price is an issue. We want it to be affordable, but we think we have to charge about £35 to make this financially viable. That is more than we want to charge but we cannot ignore financial realities. At this price, the shows will run at an acceptable loss which we hope to recover through the additional publicity, perhaps live recordings etc. We are going to do all we can to give people on this forum a headstart. We will be talking to the ticket office to ask for a pre-sale which we will mention on here and only on here. This will give forum members a 24 hour start. We suggest that people try to buy tickets for one night only on that pre-sale. However, we cannot police that and just have to trust people to use their judgement. Once the pre-sale is done and tickets go on general sale, then if anybody wants to buy tickets for both nights that will be up to them. We will probably make a formal announcement of the dates tomorrow and will keep the forum updated on the ticket situation. There may be comments, questions, grumbles and I will pin this post for a few days so they can be aired.–Greg Spawton
Nearly unstoppable in his Chestertonian genius, Andy Tillison is once again on the move.
Evolving in what can only be considered punctuated equilibrium, our favorite redheaded English master of mischiveousness had not only just introduced the world to his new blog, http://www.thetangent.org/, he has also—as of yesterday—introduced the world to his new music, all of it in progress.
If you go to the official website, http://www.thetangent.org/, click on “shop,” and purchase the megafan pre-pre-release, you will immediately gain access to six new songs from Andy.
The three The Tangent songs are: A Spark in the Aether, Part 1; Codpieces and Capes; and A Spark in the Aether, Part 2.
The three pieces from the forthcoming solo album, “Multiplex,” are: Allegro; Andante; and Prosciutto.
I’ve only owned each of these six songs for less than 24 hours, but I’m already hooked. If you properly assumed the genius of Tillison before today, be prepared to be even MORE impressed.
Our great and brilliant friend, Andy Tillison, is blogging like the English madman he is! Join us in celebrating the mighty pen (and keyboard) of Mr. Diskdrive!
Originally posted on TheTangent.org:
Welcome to the Tangent Blog. It’s been a long time coming. Here I’m going to TRY to be good and continue the work that the band does on paper. or not on paper actually, but you know what I mean. This can be translated as “I’m going to nag on and on about stuff that no-one is really bothered about” but it seems that that activity is quite the thing these days, so why shouldn’t I try?
The Author with the only person he could get to listen that day.
The Tangent is a Progressive Rock Band. It tries to be be more than just that – which typifies the band as pretentious, full of its own self importance and – well…
View original 213 more words
A review of Salander, “STENDEC” (2014, independent release). Tracks: Pearls Upon a Crown; Book of Lies; Ever After; Hypothesis 11/8; Situation Disorientation; Controlled Flight Into Terrain; and Zeitgeist. Total time: 65 minutes. Recommendation: HIGHEST; MUST OWN
From the moment I first heard “CRASH COURSE FOR DESSERT” by Salander, I knew I not only loved the music, but I also knew I would love the musicians as well.
And, so it came to pass.
A rather significant part of my 2014 has been the sheer joy of getting to know Dave Smith, one of the two Daves who make up Salander. Sadly, I’ve not had the chance to get to know Dave Curnow, the other Dave, but I trust the judgment of the first Dave. So, per my respect of Dave, Dave must also be great.
Ok, now I’m getting confused.
There are a thousand things to appreciate about Salander. First, the level of professional artistry is as good as it gets. The two Daves not only play each of the instruments on the album, they do so with elegance and perfectionism.
Second, the lyrics move and flow powerfully as an integral part of the entire art. These are not add ons, nor are they the rock equivalent of an “um” or an “err”: “baby, baby.” No, these are fine, deep, thoughtful words integrated with the notes and the lines.
Salander and the two Daves: Words, notes, lines.
Third, Salander are willing to linger. That is, they take their time to build their art, to build anticipation, and to explore an idea. Rushed, hurried, and superficial are not descriptions applicable to anything this extraordinary band does.
Beginning with Spirit of Eden-esque sounds of nature, cries, pings, wind, and waves, the opening track, “Pearls Upon a Crown,” lingers and hovers for almost six full minutes. Very Talk Talkish, it also reminds me of the best of Pure Reason Revolution and Spiritualized. Space rock atmospherics at its best. A gorgeous Gilmour-like guitar comes at 2.59 into the music, but no vocals emerge until 5.57.
The words open with a Socratic moment: “Can you feel the power.” Essentially, the Daves ask, how far can you allow your imagination to soar? And, will you trust your deepest and best part to another?
Regardless of style, Salander has invited you into their art. The choice to enter is yours. But, once you’ve accepted, there’s no turning back. Indeed, no mere sprinkling or christening here. They demand full immersion.
The second track, a bitter folkish wall of sound tale of deception, is as epic as the first track. At 11 minutes, “The Book of Lies” again shows Salander at its most diverse and epic.
The third track, a much sweeter (or so it seems, musically) take on life and music, “Ever After,” takes us back to the end of “Pearls.” Who do you trust, and how far are you willing to trust that person with what matters most to you?
Not surprisingly given its title, “Hypothesis 11/8,” the fourth track is instrumental and serves as the perfect interlude for this rather heavy album. The first minute has a Vangelis feel to it, and it could certainly serve as the cinematic soundscape to much of Blade Runner. The final three minutes of the four-minute track allow the two Daves to demonstrate their excellence at drums, bass, and guitar. This is really prog at its finest. Listening to this track for the twentieth time or so, I’m still reminded of Cosmograf in terms of expertise and craft.
“Situation disorientation,” the fifth track, follows the interlude with more atmospherics slowly resolving into an angsty and contemplative space rock song, pulsating and pounding by its end. The lyrics swirl around a love affair gone terribly wrong, with the protagonist plagued with guilt, pride, and doubt.
The longest song of the album, “Controlled Flight Into Terrain,” comes in at just under fourteen minutes. The Daves have broken it into four sections, the name of the album coming from section three, STENDEC. Interestingly enough, STENDEC was the last word coming from a Chilean plane that mysteriously disappeared in 1947. Over the last seventy years, STENDEC has become synonymous with UFO abduction. The story and riddle of the word fits perfectly with the themes of the album: confusion, gravitas, and loss. Section III, STENDEC, is perfectly creepy, spooky, and claustrophobic. It gives me chills with every listen.
The album concludes with “Zeitgeist,” a tune that could have come out of the best of rock’s moment of New Wave in the early 1980s and the walls of sound of the end of that decade. As with Salander songs, the vocals are captivating, demanding the full attention of the listener. The song’s lyrics deal with the mystery of time and the loss of the past without surety of the future. Rather brilliantly, Salander presents a wall of sound, full of anxiety, with heavy but tasteful guitar and a lush angelic background soundscape. Of all the songs here, this is the most reminiscent of the best of their first album.
I’ve had a copy of STENDEC for almost two months, and I’m sorry I’ve not had the chance to review it before now. But, it’s an incredibly important album, and it deserves as much attention as possible, inside and outside of the prog community. Without question, this is one of the best albums of the year. No person who loves prog or music should not include this in her or his collection. Certainly, a must own.
STENDEC also caught me by surprise, coming out so closely following the release of CRASH COURSE. I gave CRASH COURSE my highest recommendation. Amazingly enough, STENDEC is even better, as it’s even deeper and more coherent as an album. Even after 20 or so listens, I’m still stunned by its excellence and the ability to draw me into and immerse myself in the album. While I don’t want to seem greedy, it would be an understatement to state: I can’t wait to see what album three will bring.
Originally posted on rush vault:
Neil has updated his blog with a post about two adventures he took earlier this summer to the Channel Islands, which are about a dozen miles off the Southern California coast. The post, called “Magnetic Mirages,” caught my attention because I had been to the Channel Islands myself at around the same time, and although our paths didn’t cross, I was interested to compare his notes with my own.
His adventures were a little more . . . adventurous, to say the least, since he got there by hitching a ride on the boat of his motorcycle buddy and security chief, Michael, while I just hopped on a tour boat. And he went to four of the eight islands, and I only went to one, Anacapa. (See “Inspiration Point” pictures.)
Comparing notes was interesting but what caught…
View original 673 more words
Definitely a must own.
Originally posted on rush vault:
Thanks for the big show of support for my book, Rush: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Excellence. The book has been listed as sold out on Amazon, but as of today the site says it’s in stock. The book was released on Monday, and it’s gratifying to see interest in it among fans of the band.
The book is my effort to show that Rush’s music is unique in just how consistent it holds to a few philosophical moral principles. Starting with the band’s bold statements in “Anthem” and “Something for Nothing” and ending with the 12 chapters of Clockwork Angels, the band over its 40 years has built virtually every piece it’s written on a bedrock of Aristotelian virtue ethics. This idea isn’t unique to me. Several of the contributors to Rush and Philosophy, which came out in 2011, talk about the Aristotelian connection in the…
View original 395 more words