Big Big Train, Common Ground

Well, this is a pleasant surprise:

30th July 2021 sees the release of Common Ground, the self-produced new album from Big Big Train released on CD via their own label, English Electric Recordings, and on double LP in a gatefold sleeve via Plane Groovy. The album will also be available as a Bandcamp download and on all major streaming platforms.

Recorded during the worldwide pandemic in 2020, Common Ground sees the band continue their tradition of dramatic narratives but also tackles issues much closer to home, such as the Covid lockdowns, the separation of loved ones, the passage of time, deaths of people close to the band and the hope that springs from a new love.

Common Ground finds the band taking in wider musical and lyrical inspiration from artists such as Elbow, Pete Townshend, Tears For Fears, Elton John and XTC, as well as acknowledging their more progressive roots. As ever, Big Big Train will take listeners on a journey, be it waiting for the 5pm pandemic UK press conferences (The Strangest Times) to the library of Alexandria (Black With Ink) to the bottom of the ocean (Atlantic Cable).

Big Big Train has taken lyrical and musical inspiration from periods of history that are recognised as great leaps forward. Now with Common Ground, they are making such a surge themselves.

The title track is now available to stream at Spotify, Apple Music and YouTube:

Preorders for the Common Ground album and related swag are now available at:

And still there’ll be more in 2022:

The Common Ground tour will be Big Big Train’s most comprehensive set of shows to date and will conclude in the UK at the prestigious London Palladium.

For the UK tour Greg Spawton (bass, bass pedals), David Longdon (lead vocals, flute), Nick D’Virgilio (drums, vocals) and Rikard Sjöblom (guitars, keyboards, vocals) will be joined by Carly Bryant (keyboards, guitars, vocals), who contributes vocals to Common Ground, Dave Foster (guitars), who plays on two tracks on the new album, Clare Lindley (violin, vocals) and by a five piece brass ensemble led by Dave Desmond (trombone).

The band expects to announce North American tour dates shortly.

With all this in store after BBT was forced to cancel their 2020-21 touring, I could only think of the words of noted music critic, theologian and hobbit Sam Gamgee:

“Is everything sad going to come untrue? What’s happened to the world?”. . . “O great glory and splendor! And all my wishes have come true!”

J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King

— Rick Krueger

Reflecting Tull: Reflection Club’s “Still Thick As A Brick”

Reflection Club - Still Thick As A BrickReflection Club, Still Thick As A Brick, March 3, 2021
Tracks: Prelude (2:00), Time Out (4:03), Years on the Fast Track (3:31), Rellington Town (6:17), The Club of Hopeful Pinions (3:47), The Foray of the Sharks (5:45), Sentimental Depreciation (5:19), Nervesoothers (3:09), The Great Dance around the Golden Calf (3:36), Bedlam (5:48), Look Across the Sea (4:24)

Berlin-based progressive rock project Reflection Club have mastered the spirit and sound of the classic era of Jethro Tull. A frequent critique from some people regarding the current wave of progressive rock is that it often sounds like it’s copying the sounds of the 70s – particularly Genesis and Yes. Reflection Club avoid that critique by making it abundantly clear where they get their influence. They aren’t pretending to make their own unique sounds, but they place themselves out on a ledge by blatantly “reflecting” Jethro Tull, because in doing so they have to live up to the hype they’re creating. Thankfully, they do. 

Reflection Club is primarily the creation of German multi-instrumentalist Lutz Meinert together with German guitarist Nils Conrad, American flautist Ulla Harmuth, and English vocalist Paul Forrest. Not surprisingly, Forrest sings in a tribute band called Jethro Tull Experience. He expertly matches the tone and style of Ian Anderson’s voice circa 1972. Lyrics are written by one George Boston… Ok they’re really written by Meinert.

In the style of the original Thick As A Brick, the group created a beautiful hardcover booklet in a magazine style satirizing music magazines, album and concert reviews, and interviews. It’s really quite hilarious if you take the time to read it. The booklet comes with a CD and a DVD, which has the album on a 5.1 mix or a high quality stereo uncompressed stereo mix. The DVD has a slideshow to go along with the album, helping tell the story. The album is also available on vinyl. 

While this music certainly sounds like Jethro Tull, it in no way sounds like a copy of Thick As A Brick. It is a concept album like the original, and the lyrics are written in Anderson’s style. The album is split into 11 tracks, but it’s really one long song with seamless transitions between tracks. The lyrics deal with many of the issues we deal with in our complex modern world. Thankfully there’s no mention of the pandemic.

Continue reading “Reflecting Tull: Reflection Club’s “Still Thick As A Brick””

Four Months, Four Albums – 2021’s Best Thus Far

There has been a lot of music to wade through thus far in 2021. Most good. Some not so much, depending on who you ask. Despite the title of this post, I don’t think my four favorite albums of the year thus far represent each month, but who cares. Let’s go!

Atravan - The Grey LineAtravan – The Grey Line 

This album was the biggest surprise of the year, so far. Out of the blue back in January, Shayan Dinati of Iranian prog-metal band Atravan contacted us about a review of their album. I gave it a listen and immediately discovered this was worth spending a lot of time with. They dwell in the area of prog metal perfected by Riverside – atmospheric and brooding with thoughtful lyrics. Sure, they’ve got room for improvement to reach the heights of Riverside, but this is a great album in its own right. I was hooked right away, and I highly recommend the album. The Dutch Progressive Rock Page had similar praise for Atravan: https://www.dprp.net/reviews/2021-032 

Steve Hackett Under A Mediterranean SkySteve Hackett – Under A Mediterranean Sky

When I heard last year that Mr. Hackett was working on an acoustic album, I was very excited. I’ve really enjoyed his recent solo output. His last three rock albums are some of the best from his entire solo career. But I also really like his acoustic moments, and he doesn’t disappoint on Under A Mediterranean Sky. He takes us on a grand instrumental tour of the Mediterranean, something sorely needed in an age of travel restrictions. The combination of his stunning guitar work, Roger King’s masterfully arranged symphonic notes, and various world instrumentation make this a beautiful and contemplative album. It isn’t rock, but it’s gorgeous. Check out Rick Krueger’s review: https://progarchy.com/2021/02/02/steve-hackett-under-a-mediterranean-sky/

Nad Sylvan Spiritus Mundi album_coverNad Sylvan – Spiritus Mundi 

Nad Sylvan’s latest solo album is a slight departure from his last three albums, but it’s just as good an album, if not better. Putting the poetry of William Butler Yeats to music may not be a new idea, but Nad has done a wonderful job with it. The album has its rock moments, but it also has pastoral tones that haven’t been as prevalent in his work. His voice is top notch with a versatility that shows he is so much more than a Gabriel or Collins sound-alike. Check out Rick Krueger’s recent interview with Nad, and check out my review.

And now for my favorite album of the first four months of 2021…

Soen - IMPERIALSoen – Imperial

Swedish prog metal supergroup Soen can do no wrong, it seems. I first became cognitively aware of Soen a couple years ago through one of the editors at the Dutch Progressive Rock Page, who frequently sang their praises in reviews and best-of lists. I quickly became a fan of their last couple of albums, and I was pleasantly surprised when I stumbled across their new release back in January. I was listening to their 2019 album, Lotus, one Friday evening when I wondered if they had any new music coming out soon. It just so happened that they released Imperial that very day, so I dowloaded it and have been happily enjoying it ever since. It’s heavy when it needs to be, but it can recede to quieter moments when necessary.

Joel Ekelöf has one of the best voices in metal, and he really sets Soen apart. They have a heavy guitar crunch that’s more typical of mainstream metal and hard rock bands, but the music is distinctly progressive. Their melodies and lyrics are catchy yet intelligent. My only complaint with the album is that it isn’t longer. It’s 43 minutes, but I could easily listen to much more. Great stuff. 

https://soenmusic.com

Hopefully the rest of 2021 will be full of more excellent music! 

 

 

FROST* Release Video for Title Track off Upcoming Album “Day And Age”

From the fine folks at Inside Out:


Frost* are set to release ‘Day And Age’, their first new studio album in 5 years, on May 14th, 2021. The band’s fourth record features Jem Godfrey once again joined by John Mitchell & Nathan King, as well as 3 guest drummers: Kaz Rodriguez (Chaka Khan, Josh Groban), Darby Todd (The Darkness, Martin Barre) & Pat Mastelotto (King Crimson, Mister Mister). The album also features actor Jason Isaacs.

The band are pleased to launch an animated clip for an edit of the album’s title track, ‘Day And Age’. Watch it now here: https://youtu.be/RmiAmW3sgHs

Jem Godfrey comments: “Day And Age is about how we have become a planet full of transmitters. Everyone has the power to convey their thoughts far and wide. However nobody is listening because they’re too busy transmitting.”

Watch the previously released video for the track ‘Terrestrial’ here: https://youtu.be/wda09d-QdUk

‘Day And Age’ was recorded over the course of 2019 and 2020, featuring 8 tracks and striking cover artwork by Carl Glover of Aleph Studios (Steven Wilson, Marillion, Steve Jansen). The album will be released on Limited 2CD (including a bonus disc of instrumentals), Gatefold 180g 2LP + CD (with etching on Side D), and as Digital Album.

Pre-order now here: https://frost-band.lnk.to/DayAndAge

1.  Day And Age 11:49
2.  Terrestrial 5:13
3.  Waiting For The Lie 4:31
4.  The Boy Who Stood Still 7:33
5.  Island Life 4:14
6.  Skywards 4:13
7.  Kill The Orchestra 9:27
8.  Repeat To Fade 6:14

Continue reading “FROST* Release Video for Title Track off Upcoming Album “Day And Age””

Album Review – The Weever Sands’ “Stylobat’s Travels”

Weever Sands Stylobat's Travels album coverThe Weever Sands – Stylobat’s Travels, 2020
Tracks: 1. Intro/The Breakout Session (3:29), 2. And Aphrodite Took The Veil (7:03), 3. Stylobat’s Travels (25:27), 4. Acropolis (The Big Wave) (6:12) 

Cologne, Germany’s The Weever Sands combine the album format and experimental playfulness of the early 1970s with what could be considered post-rock or ambient rock. To be honest, I didn’t quite get it at first, but then the other day I was listening to Gentle Giant and it hit me. The synth and organ sounds that predominate in Gentle Giant’s music are very similar to what I hear on Stylobat’s Travels, The Weever Sands’ sophomore album. Add in some flute and strong bass and you have the makings of a classically inspired progressive album. But this is stripped back. The music isn’t as heavily layered as you might get on a Gentle Giant or Jethro Tull record, and that’s by design. The band are also heavily influenced by Mike Oldfield’s idea of a “powerful miniature,” where the songs aren’t as heavily developed yet still stretch out into varying sounds. 

The album opens with some spoken word that sets the stage for a concept that is told primarily through music, the wonderful cover artwork and other artwork included with the CD, and promo notes telling me what the story is about. The band describe the concept as a story about a bat (Stylobat) in Ancient Greece who goes on a quest to find his sweetheart. Most of the album is instrumental, so you’ll have to use your imagination, with some help from the artwork, to see Stylobat searching for his beloved. 

The first two tracks most closely resemble what we would call progressive rock, but the 25 minute “epic” is most certainly post-rock, with all of the elements that might make up a layered prog song spread out and played individually. A splash on the high hat here, a symphonic tone there, a synthesized beep. Four minutes in and I’m beginning to wonder what’s going on. The first five minutes of that track are subtitled “Flatlined,” so the musical scene is apparently meant to be at a hospital bedside. Things pick up after that with the next section, “Stereobat,” but I would still label it experimental. There’s melody, but the combination of different synth sounds keeps it sounding unique, although it still references the gentlest of giants.

The third section, “Ah! These Ionic Beams!” nicely builds to a combination of keyboard combined with a rock riff that’s a lot more traditional. An electrical guitar finally comes in, elevating the music by leaps and bounds. Not that there was anything wrong with the music before, but the guitar solo is quite nice and certainly welcome. This section of the song is the best music on the album. 

This is the point where I notice that the song has built gradually to this moment. The song began with disparate sounds, but they have gradually been brought together and build upon each other. The fourth section, “Introducing Fire Ghosts,” returns to some of the disparateness of “Flatlined,” but it never becomes that sparse again. It soon returns to the musical complexity of the previous section. The final section, “Underwater,” winds down with a synth sound that fills the musical space, perhaps suggesting being covered by water. The final song, “Acropolis (The Big Wave),” continues that nautical theme, but it builds and morphs into more of a rock song with heavier drums and heavier keyboards with a vintage 70s sound. 

Stylobat’s Travels isn’t your typical instrumental prog album. Usually instrumental albums feature a lot of musical noodling, but this record seems to focus more on telling a story through music. Personally I would’ve preferred a bit more guitar and fewer moments of sparseness in the long track. Some more spoken word sections beyond the opening track would’ve helped move the story along as well. The opening spoken word passage reminded me a bit of a radio drama, and I think a few more instances of that on the record could have helped tell the story more clearly and coherently.

The Weever Sands are quite unlike most of what you’re going to find in progressive rock these days. They don’t seem to be copying any particular sound, even though I made that Gentle Giant connection earlier. Rather they start with a more ambient base and build that up until it’s no longer ambient… if that makes sense at all. It isn’t quite rock, even though it does have rock moments (which I wish were more numerous). It’s a fun little journey that has a few bumps in the road, but it’s worth checking out if you’re looking something inspired by classic progressive rock that isn’t symphonic prog. 

https://www.the-weever-sands.com
Buy the CD from: https://shop.trommelfell-records.de/the-weever-sands/
Full album playlist on YouTube: https://youtube.com/playlist?list=PLRqGY_YLULtQlBHPovPjj8sGvM-4AX0y2

Proggily Down the Stream . . .

A sign of Spring’s awakening? Two rather special sounding streamed concerts are coming our way:

The Pineapple Thief have decamped to a top sound stage studio and recorded, in drummer Gavin Harrison’s words, “the show that we were meant to do in Covid times (but had to cancel).” Nothing But The Truth will be available on demand from 6 pm this Thursday, April 22 to 6 pm on Monday, April 26. Since I was boneheaded enough to miss the Thief’s late 2019 tour of the States, I’m eagerly anticipating this one! Tickets are dirt cheap (under $25 US), with a variety of merch (including crew support t-shirts) also available. Details and ordering at TPT’s website.

Next month, Nick D’Virgilio mounts a livestream performance of his solo album Invisible (one of my faves of 2020) from his homebase of Fort Wayne’s Sweetwater Studios on Friday, May 14 at 4 pm. Virtual packages with prices ranging from $15 to $65 are available at Mandolin.

And looking ahead to the fall, Neal Morse’s annual Morsefest has already sold out its limited live seats — but virtual options for the two night festival on Friday-Saturday, October 8-9 (featuring the upcoming fourth album from the Neal Morse Band) are still available at Radiant Records.

— Rick Krueger

Cruise to The Edge and RoSfest Change Their Dates

The pandemic sure has a way of changing things around and cutting deep into our threshold for patience. Like everything else in 2020, the Rites of Spring Festival and Cruise to the Edge were cancelled. Then RoSfest announced that it was going bye-bye forever. CTTE later announced that the post-pandemic dates for the event would be April 25-30, 2022 aboard the Royal Caribbean Navigator of the Seas. Then early this year RoSfest announced that they were coming back with a new group of organizers and the 17th rendition of the festival would happen May 6-8, 2022.

But wait!!! Early this month, CTTE caused a prog-quake by announcing a move to a different ship, different dates, and different destinations, due to the original ship moving its new home to the Southern California coast. The new locale for the cruise will be Royal Caribbean’s Mariner of the Seas and sail from Port Canaveral (Orlando), making excursions to CocoCay and the private isle of Labadee, all taking place May 2-May 7, 2022

https://cruisetotheedge.com/new-date-new-ship-2022/

Cruise to the Edge’s announcement caused a social media stir with RoSfest fans and organizers, as many prog-fans look forward to both, and of course many didn’t want to chose one over the other. After working things out with the Sarasota Opera House, RoSfest has now announced their new dates- April 15-17, 2022 (Easter Weekend). Check out their new website: http://rosfest.org/

As of today, both events have not announced their entire 2022 line-ups, but we’ll probably see some bands that were scheduled for the cancelled 2020 shows as well as other acts that did not appear in the original line-ups including some amazing headliners!

No matter how you break it down, it looks like 2022 will be the year to prog!

Got Live If you Want It!

As the demigods of the US postal service would have it (and OK, ordering from Amazon, Burning Shed and others had something to do with it), a lot of the CDs that have landed in my mailbox lately are live albums (or have a live element). “So whadid ya get?” Glad you asked . . .

District 97, Screenplay: the first live effort from the grassroots Chicago group intended for mainstream distribution, this double disc set is a comprehensive showcase for their gutsy blend of prog, metal and fusion. Disc 1 is a headlong romp through their fine album Screens, recorded onstage in the Netherlands; along with a new track, disc 2 serves up delectable live takes on their back catalog plus covers ranging from John Lennon (a snippet of “Jealous Guy”) through Bill Bruford (two tracks performed in my vicinity at Progtoberfest 2018) to King Crimson (with the late John Wetton on vocals). A perfect introduction for D97 newcomers, and a delightful celebration for fans already in the know. Available direct from the band.

The Keith Emerson Tribute Concert – Fanfare for the Uncommon Man: Five years in the making, this 2 DVD/2 CD combo pack, recorded at Los Angeles’ El Rey Theater two months after Emerson’s devastating suicide, is the best tribute to him I could imagine. Post-ELP collaborator Marc Bonilla wrangles a impressive rotating cast of star players through a setlist that captures both Emo’s audacious, aggressive swagger and his sophisticated, heart-wrenching lyricism. Toto’s Steve Porcaro (organ on “The Barbarian”), Emerson protege Rachel Flowers (piano on a complete instrumental version of “The Endless Enigma”), CJ Vanston (piano on “Take A Pebble”) and Dream Theater’s Jordan Rudess (multi-keys on a complete “Tarkus”) all shine in the keyboard chair; guitarist Jeff “Skunk” Baxter turns Aaron Copland’s “Hoedown” into a chicken-pickin’ delight. And when Eddie Jobson takes over Emerson’s iconic modular Moog synthesizer to play that solo on “Lucky Man,” the chills down my spine are unstoppable. Available direct from Cherry Red Records.

Peter Gabriel Plays Live: PG’s initial live album, restored to its original length and running order after far too many years in an edited version. Touring colleges and universities in the American Midwest to support the Security album, Gabriel and his backing players wove together high-contrast monochrome textures, brutally stark rhythms and chantlike volleys of vocals to conjure up an intense, ritualistic experience. Having seen this tour in the flesh, I can attest the album does a great job capturing the tour’s immersive, primitivistic grandeur — as well as including jauntier highlights from earlier albums and the goofy, otherwise unreleased “I Go Swimming.” Available direct from the artist or via Burning Shed.

Liquid Tension Experiment 3: Yeah, this one’s a stretch . . . but hey, the bonus disc of improvisations was recorded live in the studio! Initial opinion among fellow fans seems divided on the uncanny ability of John Petrucci, Jordan Rudess, Tony Levin and Mike Portnoy to pick up almost exactly where they left off 22 years ago. Do you prefer your progressive music to explore farther-out frontiers each time, or to dig deeper in a previously fruitful vein? Me, I get into both approaches — and while LTE certainly plows similar instrumental prog-metal furrows as on their first two albums, there’s plenty of jaw-dropping, face-melting, heart-wrenching, smile-inducing gold in them there grooves! Available from Inside Out and Burning Shed. Oh, and I’m confident you’ve never heard a version of “Rhapsody in Blue” quite like this:

— Rick Krueger

EP Review – InHibit’s Debut “Blinded”

Part rock, part funk, part punk, Brussels-based InHibit’s debut is unique and fun. The simple but funky baseline on “Shadows of Fire” reminded me of days gone by in popular music, but it sounds extremely fresh and clear. Uk-based journalist Chloe Mogg has more below:


By Chloe Mogg

InHibit’s latest EP Blinded is an appetising hybrid attempt at an 80s classic rock record, embroiled with metal riffs and drums beats and in-your-face vocals. The artist also rightfully takes influence from some of the greatest rock bands of late, and throws into the mix familiar elements from some of the best to ever do it, ensuring his EP has enough proven musicianship that’s sure to win him some points.

“Shame On Humans” crosses between charismatic, full bodied riffs and a squeaky, whining sound that’s almost like a sinister laugh; a villainous mock giving nod to the poor societal state of humanity that has encompassed most headlines in the turmoil that was 2020. The eponymous chorus is not unlike a Foo Fighters verse at all, while the most noteworthy section of the EP’s opener is its unravelling into a power ballad of a guitar solo that’s met in unison with InHibit’s discordant vocals, which break form from the established singing style and bring an endearing passion. InHibit’s aggressive vocals also seen in ‘Settings’ further help to determine that this is the best style for the artist, who should take pride in singing in a full-hearted, no-holds-barred style, which is definitely his forte in contrast to his softened, more intricate attempts seen in ‘The Quest’.

A jazzy, funk-filled bassline provides a fitting backdrop throughout ‘Shadows of Fire’, and ties the tracks surprising choice of instrumental sound together. The simple snare, hi-hat drum beat in parts, combined with the prevalent bass and the different layers of backing in vocals, does genuinely draw some resemblance to Queen’s infamously distinct style seen on the likes of ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, which is only furthered through the whispered vocals and call and response claps which come toward the end of the track. Though InHibit’s work on this EP is far from the mastery of both Dave Ghrol and Freddie Mercury, the fact that the artist has attempted to replicate their superior musical notoriety and has found a place for it amongst his own style is a massive compliment alone.

https://www.inhibitofficial.com

Interview with INTENTIONAL TRAINWRECK

Baltimore, Maryland-based progressive metal duo Intentional Trainwreck return in May with the release of the sophomore studio album “Smokestack of Souls,” a follow-up to 2014’s “The Accident.” Singer and guitarist Pete Lesko and drummer Patrick Gaffney speak for Progarchy about the new material, challenges, prog scene in 2021, and more.

You are about to launch a new full-length album with Intentional Trainwreck entitled Smokestack of Souls. How do you feel about the release? 

PL: I feel great about the release. The material on it is solid and none of the tracks are filler. Everyone I’ve played it for so far has had good things to say at worst. I write material for this band which, as a fan of music, I would like to hear. And I think that comes through strongly in the compositions, production, and performances.

PG:  We are definitely stoked for the release of Smokestack of Souls. We’ve made massive improvements in our musicianship, songwriting, recording and production. We’re using more online resources as a mechanism to reach a wider, more-specific audience. This is exciting because we know there are a lot of people who enjoy new and interesting music. We believe in the music, stand behind it, and endorse it passionately. 

Where does the new record stand comparing to the debut album—2014’s The Accident?

PG: Frankly, Intentional Trainwreck has left the Accident in a pile of its own rubble and dust. Unfortunately, we still love playing songs such as “Lunchbox” and “Metric” so we can’t be in complete denial of the Accident’s existence.  In comparison, Smokestack of Souls has a production which towers over the Accident and there are obvious improvements in the vocals, musicianship, and technicality of the songwriting. Smokestack of Souls is heavier; it’s more aggressive; the songwriting is more mature and it is a new beginning. This is certainly a professional effort and we made sure it is something that average listeners as well as those with a trained ear will get into. 

PL: I think the new record blows the debut album completely out of the water. The writing and production on this record is more cohesive overall. I stopped smoking just before the Accident was released and began to focus a lot more on getting better vocals down, which it turns out is a lot easier to do when you can breathe! In general, we were able to avoid a lot of the mistakes that we made the first time around.

How much of a challenge was it to work on Smokestack of Souls?

PL: A massive challenge was avoiding the production pitfalls of the Accident while doing most of the recording and all of the mixing and mastering for the new album. There were so many points when I just wanted to throw in the towel. In particular, during the last year as the album was on the precipice of release, I was working in the healthcare industry which was not getting less busy but rather the exact opposite.  My family was mostly stuck at home and, on top of this, I was doing guitar tracks and some vocal recordings for Isenmor’s Shieldbrother. So, things became rather chaotic to manage. This coupled with the challenges of writing guitar parts, lyrics, vocal melodies, and even bass parts! Because Mike was unable to record a number of bass parts, there are a few of tracks on Smokestack of Souls featuring me on every instrument except drums.

PG: Intentional Trainwreck always challenges itself to write better and more interesting music. It’s not a big deal because we are creative and constantly have new ideas to share. But we still needed to make sure that we held ourselves to a high level of songwriting. And, we know our audience likes to have expectations met and surpassed.  

Another challenge was improving listenability. We know the Accident should have sounded better and we owe it to everyone to improve the production and sound quality on Smokestack of Souls. Pete spent a lot of time on his studio techniques for mixing and mastering. He ended up doing a fantastic job. Also, we never stopped rehearsing the parts, so you’ll notice better vocals, drums, and guitars all around. 

And, the global pandemic was a huge challenge which delayed everything from rehearsals to live shows. We are extremely lucky in that we still have our health, but it has made things very difficult for rehearsing and mixing the music. And we’ve missed seeing our friends and fans during live performances more than words can say.

Speaking of challenges, have you set any in the early phase of what has become the final result?

PG: The most noticeable challenge associated with the finished product has got to be the way in which music is distributed, marketed, and obtained by the listener. The traditional process of creating CDs, sending them off for review and making a lot of noise to get people to buy them is no longer the norm. The new model involves digital distribution via online submission of files and artwork which all needs to have codes assigned so that royalties can be tracked across a myriad of social media and distribution platforms. And, marketing through videos and playlists is ever more popular and unavoidable. So, in many ways it seems like we’ve gone from a band creating an album to social media entity associated with music. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it increases the scope of work and schedule of an album release tenfold.  

PL: That’s an interesting question, I don’t know that I had specifically or explicitly talked about it, but I certainly wanted to make sure is that the next album was going to be better than the first one. When I went into writing, I didn’t want to write songs that people say well that kind of neat, I went into the process with the intent of writing songs that hopefully would become some folks’ favorites that they slam on a loop.

Tell me about the topics you explore on these new songs.

PL: We explored a lot of dark places on Smokestack of Souls – the uglier parts of society that can crush a person into a tuna can. Inner-darkness tolls on a person. But we also explore some lighthearted subjects like the philosophical deconstruction of what quality is, and even one about playing dungeons and dragons.

PG: There are several topics presented in Smokestack of Souls, and they all come from places close to the heart. For example, the audience-friendly “Basilisk’s Gaze” is a story derived from one of Pete’s D+D games and takes the listener on an epic journey through a fantasy realm. The video for this song adds a level of surreal exploration. “Family and Friends” comes from real-life emotions and situations; some topics are based on political unrest (“Charismatic Agenda”) and some pertain to individual strife (“Kamikaze Tom”).  “Phaedrus” involves metaphysical communication on the smallest levels. The subject matter of the songs usually comes about after the music has been written but the two become intricately tied together as a composition develops.

What is your opinion about the progressive rock/metal scene in 2021? 

PG: The music scene in general is amazing. We are blessed to live in times when you can search for and find excellent new music in a matter of seconds. Sharing information and music is easier than it has ever been. The progressive rock/metal scene is alive and well albeit a slightly different one when compared to 20 or 30 years ago. There will always be extremely talented and innovative musicians out there; however, today you are more likely to hear music which is heavier and much faster at times than previously. Perhaps you’ll find new bands which are darker and edgier than before. And, the amount of technical shredding today seems to have surpassed that of the past prog-metal scene. But the classics won’t go away either. The founders of progressive rock and metal had something which, to this day, remains quite unique and inspiring.

PL: With the Internet these days, the number of options can be overwhelming! Lots of amazing music is being made right now and I have been trying to make a regular habit of listening to new music as much as I can. It’s a competitive field, but I’m hoping this is one that stands apart.

I’m well aware of Patrick’s involvement with Cerebus Effect, and one of my personal favorite acts in the last two decades—Deluge Grander. As someone who has been involved within the scene for a long time, would you say that the genre has progressed or did it reach its peak long time ago?

PL: Oh, that’s something I just don’t talk about, not since the accident.

PG: “Progress” can embed itself into music in many ways. And, what constitutes progress is subjective. Personally, I feel that progress lies more in whether things like your creativity, conceptual approach and efforts continue to grow and bring forth interesting results and likeable sonic passages. I feel there is an opulence of new music stretching the realms of progressive rock and metal. While certain bands and musicians may have reached their peak, in no way do I feel that progressive rock and metal are even close to stagnant. Sometimes, the distinction between music genres gets a little blurry but, in the end, there is a variety of thriving genres really close to and including prog rock/metal. 

Let me know about your influences—the artists that in a way shaped and continue to shape the music of Intentional Trainwreck.

PG: This is a loaded question because I am continuously inspired. As mentioned, I believe the world of music is constantly presenting amazing works. None the less, when I was 11 or 12 years old, my older brother’s friend played Jeff Beck’s Blow by Blow, Dixie Dregs’ Freefall and Yes’ Fragile albums for me. That was the first time I’d heard anything outside of pop and classical music. I knew right away that my musical direction had changed forever. Since then, I am thankful for and motivated by so many. To name just a few drummers – Carl Palmer, Dave Kerman and Trilok Gurtu each took me to new levels of inspiration. I can’t say that my performances on Smokestack of Souls sound overtly like any other drummer; yet, without my influences I’m sure my drumming would sound less inspired.

PL: I draw in influences from bands like Mastodon, Gojira, and Devon Townsend Project, and the sound I try to go for is a cross between a few different guiding principles. I mean, it must be, if not heavy, something dark or scary or something like that. I want riffs that bring you time signatures, keys, and scales that you wouldn’t expect, but I like to find a solid grounding element in each song, a hook if you will. I like growly vocals sometimes, but only if they are decipherable? That’s important to me; I don’t want to be just another cookie monster sounding band, and most of the vocals on this album are melodic anyway. I like songs with a complex groove that follows something catchy enough that you could sing it around a campfire. That’s not to say that indecipherable vocals don’t have their place in the right context, but I think that’s not us for the most part. I have these bands that I listen to and I’d say that’s the kind of goal I’m going for, but I am all about pretty much every kind of music. My taste is eclectic in that I like pop, classical, metal, jazz, country, electronic, indie, soundtrack stuff, and more obscure outsider music. I try to do my best to pull from those influences and build that into what kind of strange, but digestible, heavy metal kind of music we do, because I want music that is… mmm, without boundaries, but still with boundaries? Quantum metal, if you may.

What are your top 5 records of all time?

PL: 

Megadeth – Rust in Peace

Archspire – Relentless Mutation

Meshuggah – Destroy Erase Improve

System of a Down – Mezmerize

Alice In Chains – Dirt

PG:

Allan Holdsworth – Secrets 

Univers Zero – Uzed

Watchtower – Control and Resistance

Jeff Beck – Blow by Blow

John McLaughlin with Shakti – Natural Elements

Besides the release of the album, are there any other plans for the future?

PG: Playing gigs is a huge future goal. We really have a connection to our audiences and want to get back in front of people. I love to play live because it gives me an opportunity to give back to all the musicians who have inspired me. 

We have a ton of music just waiting to be formed into songs. So, technically, there is already an album in the works. 

And, thanks to the hope of successful COVID-19 vaccinations, we will most likely be rehearsing and writing together…in the same room! There is a true element of brotherhood and comradery when we work together. It is indeed a friendship that also rocks out pretty hard. 

PL: We’re hoping to eventually get back out and start playing some shows. But right this second, I’d like to reach into the riff box and start putting some new material together. The ideas have been sort of piling up. I just they just need some time to arrange them into songs instead of a heap of disorganized noodlings.

Any words for the potential new fans?

PL: Thanks for listening! I know that it’s not easy for everybody to find the time to listen to new things, and I appreciate them spending the time to check us out. We’ll be releasing some music videos, and I’ll be putting together some play through videos for social media once the album is released. Make sure to follow us on Instagram and subscribe to the Youtube channel!

PG: Please don’t judge us on our past so much as the present. We have come a long way and Smokestack of Souls is a perfect place for new listeners of Intentional Trainwreck to start. Write us an email or hit us up on a social media to let us know who and where you are. It’s nice to know your fan base and it gives us a good idea to where we might want to travel and perform. Also, if there are people reading this article who are unfamiliar with our Top 5 albums, listen to that stuff, too. Finally, be safe and take care of yourself. 

“Smokestack of Souls” is out on May 15th. Follow Intentional Trainwreck on Facebook for future updates.