by Rick Krueger
As a Detroit native, it’s a bit embarrassing that most of my Motor City progressive rock knowledge has come from — you guessed it — Prog Magazine. That’s where I first came across Tiles and their fluent, anthemic take on mid-career Rush and 1980s neo-prog. From Tiles, it’s been just a hop, skip and jump to their darker, more Gothic peers, Discipline.
There’s definitely an edge to this band, springing directly from Matthew Parmenter’s lyrical “Magic Acid Mime” vision, honed by music that channels and modernizes the gloomy flair of Peter Hammill & Van Der Graaf Generator, the plummy drama of Gabriel-era Genesis, and the hypnotic counterpoint of 1980s King Crimson. Stirring in just enough alt-rock crunch resulted in two minor classics, 1997’s Unfolded Like Staircase and 2012’s To Shatter All Accord; Parmenter’s fatalistic narrative drive and the band’s inexorable momentum shake you up and sweep you along — usually toward an unavoidable crash landing.
For Captives of the Wine Dark Sea, Tiles’ guitarist Chris Herin joins the veteran roster of Parmenter on vocals and keys, Matthew Kennedy on bass and Paul Drendzel on drums; Terry Brown (yes, he of “Broon’s Bane” fame from Rush’s Exit Stage Left) produces. Clocking in at just over 45 minutes, the new album doesn’t waste time or motion, as Parmenter fires off sardonic verbal volleys at the futilities of aging (“The Body Yearns”), the white collar working world (“Here There Is No Soul”), desire (“Love Songs”) — even creativity itself (“Life Imitates Art”). The music, subtly powerful and accomplished, carries the words with an appropriate gravity. Herin’s licks and tone provide plenty of style and color, Parmenter weaves enticing, compelling keyboard webs, and the rhythm section is rock solid.
Building from lullaby to anthem to fiery guitar/synth playout, the 15-minute finale “Burn the Fire Upon the Rocks” aptly sums up Discipline’s aesthetic: rage against the dying of the light — but keep moving as you do it, and find comfort where you can. Not exactly fun or even contented, but triumphant on its own stubborn terms. On Captives of the Wine Dark Sea, Matthew Parmenter and company stoically look failure and frustration in the face, leaning into the understated strength of their music to make it through.
You can listen to (and buy) Captives of the Wine Dark Sea at Bandcamp: https://lasersedge.bandcamp.com/album/captives-of-the-wine-dark-sea