Interview with SOUL ENEMA’s Constantin Glantz

Soul Enema

It took almost seven years for Israel’s proggers Soul Enema to come up with a follow-up to their 2010’s debut album “Thin Ice Crawling,” but as it turns out, “Of Clans and Clones and Clowns” was worth a wait. On the new album, the quintet has collaborated with a number of musicians, including a guest appearance by Ayreon’s Arjen Lucassen and ex-Orphaned Land’s Yossi Sassi.

Keyboardist and composer Constantin Glantz told us about the creative process behind the new record, and more.

Hey folks. How are you doing?

Thanks, it’s damn hot outside, but everything else is quite well otherwise. The new album came out June 23 and now the video for “Spymania” is out – that one was a hell of a fun to make. Interesting period, definitely!

You are just launched your second album titled “Of Clans and Clones and Clowns.” How do you feel about the release?

I feel that we accomplished what we planned here, and it’s going great so far! Very positive feedbacks, the amount of people that are really moved and touched by it – it’s just really surprising. People typically get to hear our album by chance, and then we receive some comments like – “How come you’re not more famous with this music!?” I don’t know. Seriously, we are top secret, and you are reading strictly classified information here.

How much of a challenge was to work on the album?

I think everything was a challenge, because that was one of our aims. We didn’t really do “the next studio album“, we just tried to make as great and special a record as possible, and then some. I don’t know if we succeeded, but I’m not sorry – I think this stuff deserved such attention and dedication.

Of Clans and Clones and Clowns

What other artists similar to your genre that are coming from Israel are you friends with?

We are friendly with many, and there are some new, that came in touch in the wake of the album release. That makes me think we might have done something right in the end. Maybe vodka really connecting people, but music may do it even better sometimes (laughs). In general, there’s a sort of mini explosion right now – many good Prog-related bands from Israel, some of them have quite a presence internationally, and it’s really a feature for such a small country. So, you’d better keep your eyes on the Israeli Prog scene, it has some goods to deliver, and nowadays it’s becoming more and more obvious. A touch of Middle Eastern specifics is also a distinct factor sometimes, but it’s not always raised on hummus – there’s pretty much everything here.

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

I’m not a big expert, there’s really a huge amount of new coming bands and artists, and it’s hard to stay deeply in touch. In general, it’s nice to hear more originality, more gifted visionaries, and less of the “production line”. So once in a while when I recognize something of a kind, combined with great music writing – that may make me happier as a listener.

Can you tell me something about your influences?

As you can hear on the new record – it’s quite eclectic. As we jokingly put it – “from Abba to Zappa, from King Crimson to King Diamond”. Everything could be a potential influence. When I recorded some animal voices and Guinea pigs and my own kid, all of them were influences as well – they made the right kind of sounds for a particular occasion, so they ended up being on the album. I must admit that Guinea pigs received no credit in the end, so I’m giving them a tiny moment of fame here – cheers, homies! Life is the biggest possible influence; you just have to configure your antennas to catch those signals and translate them into something creative.

What are you listening to these days?

Well, last days it was some ethnic breakbit album, for some reason. Ah, here’s the reason: it was really well-done. The singing, the arrangements – they just made this electronic thing come alive on their own terms. Hardly a surprise, but I listened to some old time favorite along the way as well: “Pawn Hearts” album by VDGG – this one never falls short of brilliance for me. What else here… Split Enz, the early albums – such a unique band.

Your 5 favourite records of all time?

Impossible to limit it to just five. So, i will focus on some of my Prog-related favorites, besides the one already mentioned in the previous answer:

Cardiacs – “A Little Man and a House and the Whole World Window – 1988 (ABC reissue, 1995). Some say that Prog was nearly dead in the 80’es, except a bit of Neo and a bit of RIO. I wouldn’t take it for granted. This one is beyond any clear boundaries and definitions, and Tim is a certified genius. One of my all time favorites.

Voivod – “The Outer Limits – 1993. If I still need one single Prog Metal album to pick – this is it. Always mindblowing. For some reason there’s no 5000 clones of this band and this particular album, and I’m fine with that, actually.

Genesis – “Selling England by the Pound – 1973. No surprises here, contains a few of the greatest tracks ever recorded in history of rock music. No, not “More Fool Me”. Yes, those ones you think of first.

Pink Floyd – “Animals – 1977. There’s an opinion that Prog was finished by ‘77 and replaced by Punk. Haha, not in PF world at least – this is their proggiest record yet, but it has a grain of punkish anger and sarcasm as well. This is their peak for me. No single note or sound is out of place, nothing is non essential. Zero compromise with wider public tastes, despite hitting the real rock stardom level with a large stadium tours and other attributes.

Brian Wilson/The Beach Boys – “Smile/The Smile Sessions – 1967/2004/2011. What can I say here? It should have been the most revolutionary record of the 60’es. It’s unbelievable what Brian was very close to achieve here with those limited studio technologies and his wild fantasy.

I left outside at least a similar amount of albums that deserve top places as much as those.

Can you tell me a little bit more about the gear you used to record “Of Clans and Clones and Clowns”?

I can talk about my side, as far as keyboards go. Since I prefer the period between mid- 60’s and the early 80’s, predominantly some analog types of keyboard gear, I used anything that can convincingly replicate the authentic qualities of those instruments, without sticking too much to the retro approach. It’s mostly different VST software with some appropriate editing. Besides typical rock band instrumentation, we used violin, flutes and more exotic stuff like sitar and samisen. Sometimes not in a very strict way; for example Michael recorded those sitar licks and then I processed them in a few spots, reversing it to make the atmospheric drone that you hear on “The Age of Cosmic Baboon”. Yossi Sassi (ex-Orphaned Land, Yossi Sassi Band) used his signature bouzoukitara – a two headed beast of bouzouki and guitar on the track “Aral Sea II”. Then the mix was done by renowned sound engineer Jens Bogren in Fascination Street Studios. The analog gear that he used was particularly instrumental in keeping our sounds as authentic as possible. I think we managed to retain the general warmness while getting that big sound.

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

We will put the new video soon, and it will be beautiful, I think I can admit to that. That’s all I can tell so far, keep following.

Any words for the potential new fans?

If you are still reading to the very end, you are hopefully ready to let the music do the talking. We have done a very complex and time consuming job here in order to take it to another level, so we hope your journey with this album will be really addictive and long lasting!

Order “Of Clans and Clones and Clowns” from Bandcamp here. Follow Soul Enema on Facebook.

Review: Art Against Agony – Russian Tales

Russian Tales

We’ve been following this Germany-based collective for quite some time now, and their brand new release — an EP titled “Russian Tales” — was conceived during the group’s tour across Russia in Winter 2016. It may be because of it that the five songs here feel a bit cold in its nature, but hey — you spend 12000km experiencing winter in Siberia, and then let’s talk. All digression aside, Art Against Agony have once again produced a mind-twisting release, something they are already known in the experimental, avant-garde and prog metal underground.

The group’s can-do attitude of mixing odd experimentation techniques into a metal state has earned them success since their 2014 debut “Three Short Stories.” The particular experiment AAA undertake is the fusion of contrasting genres, principally the extreme side of metal and fancy jazz.

For “Russian Tales” it could be said that it’s a transitional release, as it was conceived between the release of “The Difference Between a Duck and a Lobster” in February 2016 and “The Forgotten Story” EP from February this year. The production here is perfect. “Nothing to Declare” and “Tea for the Dragon” both have infectious grooves that are more riff focused rather than uncontrollable experimentation. The latter could be considered as a centrepiece of the EP. “Coffee for the Queen,” for which the band recently released a music video is another highlight here; it’s more prog metal oriented than other pieces. Throughout the album the guitars constantly build up, what gives the band, in general, both vintage and modern sound that increases the uniqueness of their soundscapes.

The closing “Saratov Incident” feels personal, and it’s by far the djentiest moment on “Russian Tales.” The band unleashes a cannonade of riffs, accompanied with lush atmospheric motif and pounding drum work.

Although a release that was written while on road and in constant motion, “Russian Tales” is very consistent in terms of its structure and material offered here. You can possibly sense how it took its form out in the wild wilderness, and for this young band it certainly stands as a huge statement. At the time when this review is posted Art Against Agony are on another tour across Russia, so who knows, maybe they will come up with “Russian Tales 2.” Highly recommended!

“Russian Tales” is available from Bandcamp and Bigcartel.

Review: Karakorum – Beteigeuze

Karakorum - Beteigeuze

I’ve been on a German prog rock streak for some time now, and recently I was introduced to a contemporary act called Karakorum, whose sound, actually, is not that contemporary considering that they produce music which is a mixture of vintage prog, psychedelic rock and Krautrock.

“Beteigeuze” is Muhldorf quintet’s debut full length album, although the group released a self-titled demo album which included the three lengthy suites that “Beteigeuze” is made of. For the purpose of this release, which is available as a vinyl from Tonzonen Records, the band has reworked the three “Beteigeuze” tracks and offered a strong effort for everyone who is nostalgic for old-school 1970s inspired progressive rock.

The swirling organ of Axel Hackner and the smooth, melodic tone of guitarists Max Suchorghuber and Bernard Huber dominate the sound. The songs per se feature many fine melodies, and the suites are well constructed, with no unnecessary or redundant parts, and what is probably more important, they all flow and feel as one. The lengthy instrumentals between the sung pieces are pleasant, but complex.

“Beteigeuze” is an intense and impressive jam with lots of good themes and tight solo passages. This may not be an album overflowing with originality, and the band’s overall sound is similar to very many other bands of the mentioned era, but the overall good songwriting makes “Beteigeuze” a worthwhile album of great German progressive rock.

Get the album from Tonzonen Records.

Karakorum are on Facebook and Bandcamp.

Interview with KILLER CORTEZ

Killer Cortez

Back in January, Boston-based prog duo Killer Cortez released their full-length debut “Maquiladora,” a record which is a pleasant surprise. The two-piece plays a show in Cambridge, MA this July 28th; if anyone is nearby on that date I would truly recommend to stop by and visit the Middle East Upstairs.

Composer and multi-instrumentalist Socrates Cruz spoke for Progarchy about the band’s first album, other genres, and more.

Alright, first thing is first. Before we dive into all the music stuff, how’s life?

Life is treating us alright, thanks. There are times when we can get caught up with what’s not going well in our daily lives, but it’s also important to step away and understand that overall we’re pretty privileged to be able to make music surrounded by people that support us. That said, the past few months have been a fascinating mix of joy, regret, uncertainty, and excitement. This does lead to a heightened sense of creativity though!

Speaking of music, you have an album. What can people expect from “Maquiladora”?

It’s dark; but melancholy rather than angry. The album is kind of a collection of mini-documentaries that shed light on stories we thought were worth sharing. You could say the album is a little unnerving in that each of these stories is tragic; no matter how detached we are from the characters the plot is meant to feel familiar. Then, you have all these swirling instruments and textures and sounds that make the whole thing feel sweeping and cinematic. If you are looking for music with meaning then this is for you.

Maquiladora

What was it like working on the album?

SLOW. Also exhilarating. We’re really proud of the outcome.

Are there any bigger touring plans in support to “Maquiladora”?

It’s in our DNA to want to tour endlessly but we’re coming at this cycle through a different angle. We’re about to officially “release” the album at our show at the Middle East in Cambridge, MA on 7/28 and are close to announcing a series of dates for late Fall. Details are forthcoming, but most of the shows centered in New England, with a few scattered through NY, PA, and MD.

While we are on the subject of touring, what countries would you love to tour?

Though not exactly countries, we seem to be getting attention in the UK and Eastern Europe. It would be great to tour there soon and maybe cap it all off playing a massive castle somewhere in the middle of Czechoslovakia. One can dream, right?

Who and what inspires you the most?

Any song, moment, story, or person who causes us to reflect on our human condition. We’re both a little addicted to some kind of never-ending search for meaning, which really can rise up anywhere at any time as long as you’re paying attention.

What other genres of music do you listen to? Have any of the other genres you listen to had any impact on your playing?

We’re both really open minded – in the van we’re blasting anything from electronica and progressive metal to power ballads and orchestral film scores. With Maquiladora, some of this variety is reflected in the digital atmosphere of songs like Bracero or Villa Grimaldi, and also in the odd time signatures of a song like Pine Ridge Peltier.

I really appreciate you giving us your time today. Is there anything else you would like to tell us and the fans before we wrap things up?

We’re excited to share our album with whoever is willing to listen. We tried to create a work that celebrates the struggles of the disenfranchised, the dispossessed, the exploited, and the forgotten. We feel that the shared human experience is one of constant struggle and of overcoming those challenges. Music can help us escape but it can also help us look inward.

“Maquiladora” is out now and is available from BandcampBandcamp. Stay in touch with Killer Cortez via Facebook.

ART AGAINST AGONY’s New EP “Russian Tales” Out on July 22

Art Against Agony

Germany-based collective Art Against Agony announce today their new EP titled Russian Talesscheduled for the release on July 22nd. The ensemble of musicians and artists combine different elements; their instrumental music evolves around progressive metal, experimental rock, jazz fusion and avant-garde.

Speaking about the forthcoming EP, the band commented: “The ‘Russian Tales’ EP gathers all of our experiences from our tour through Russia during the Siberian winter of 2016: Driving 12000km and playing 20 shows in 3 weeks was heaven and hell, with wonderful hospitality & delicious food, marvellous nature & wild animals, but also including insomnia, anxiety & social break ups.

To coincide with the release of the Russian Tales EP, Art Against Agony will embark on a tour across Russia in late July, followed by dates in Brazil in August. For the full list of dates see below.

Russian Tales is available for pre-order from Bandcamp (downloads) and Bigcartel (CDs). A video trailer for the EP can be seen below, and “Coffee for the Queen” single can be heard on Bandcamp here.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Russian Tales EP Track Listing:

1. Königsberg Präludium
2. Nothing to declare?
3. Tea for the Dragon
4. Coffee for the Queen
5. Saratov Incident

Art Against Agony – “Against All Odds Tour 2017” live dates:

29.07. Back Luny Festival, Russia
30.07. Kaluga, Russia
01.08. Yelets, Russia
02.08. Voronezh, Russia
03.08. Tula, Russia
04.08. Zelenograd, Russia
05.08. Saint Petersburg, Russia
08.08. Sao Paulo, Brazil
09.08. Sao Jose dos Campos, Brazil
10.08. Rio de Janeiro – Botafogo, Brazil
11.08. Petropolis, Brazil
12.08. Rio de Janeiro – Barra, Brazil
13.08. Sao Joao de Meriti, Brazil

Art Against Agony line-up:

the_sorcerer (lead_guitar, philosophy)
the_machinist (rhythm_guitar)
the_surgeon (piano)
the_heretic (bass)
the_malkavian (drums)
the_maximalist (mridangam)
the_architect (photography)
the_switch (live_visuals)
the_harlequin (merch)
the_glasses (japan_supervisor)

Art Against Agony online:

Official website

Facebook

Bigcartel

Bandcamp

SOUL ENEMA Releases New Album; Feat. Arjen Lucassen, Yossi Sassi, etc.

Soul Enema

Israel-based Progressive Metal band Soul Enema is announcing a release date of the upcoming album  titled Of Clans and Clones and Clowns. Out on June 23, the album is now available for pre-order from Bandcamp and iTunes.

The promising band’s second album represents an interesting and varied combination of influences, including 14 tracks mixed an mastered by legendary Jens Bogren (Opeth, Devin Townsend, Paradise Lost, Symphony X).

Soul Enema has issued a statement on the forthcoming album saying:

Looking back, it took a lot of time and effort to create ‘Of Clans and Clones and Clowns,’ and the final result brings the feeling of a real accomplishment. It was a long, complicated process, constantly laden with a myriad of good reasons to give up or compromise. It probably couldn’t be any different, as our goal was a mature, well-produced statement, consistent in quality throughout, and at the same time versatile enough in its various moods, styles and approaches.

A creative and diverse Rock/Metal album, exploring vast melodic and rhythmic territories — from ABBA to Zappa, from King Crimson to King Diamond, between East and West and way beyond — in true progressive fashion. Like any reflection of the world we live in, it takes a wild ride over a wide emotional spectrum: sad, funny, perfectly sane, totally insane, very direct, quite obscure, and everything in between.

Of Clans and Clones and Clowns also features guest contributions from Ayreon’s Arjen Lucassen, Yossi Sassi (ex-Orphaned Land, Yossi Sassi Band), Sergey Kalugin and Yuri Ruslanov (from leading Russian proggers Orgia Pravednikov).

The band commented: “We had a great honor of featuring the instrumental talents of these,  as well as other wonderful musicians. Our next aim was to ensure that all of these components  work in the final picture, and that’s the reason why we welcomed one of the best guys on the list to mix and master this work — Jens Bogren. It deserved the best possible treatment, just as you as a listener deserve the best possible quality. The mixing process was far from trivial, and it took some effort to shape everything our way – clear and powerful enough, yet not overproduced. So, if you like what you hear, please order yourself a CD, or the highest quality digital download, to have it the way we really meant it to sound – full-scale and uncompromising. We hope you will have your own exciting experience with the album!

Soul Enema released a few singles from Of Clans and Clones and Clowns, you can check them below.

Of Clans and Clones and Clowns is out on June 23th, and it can be pre-ordered from Bandcamp or iTunes. Visit Soul Enema’s official website for more information, and follow them on Facebook.

Of Clans and Clones and Clowns Track Listing:

1. Omon Ra

2. Cannibalissimo Ltd.

3. Spymania

4. Breaking the Waves

5. The Age of Cosmic Baboon

6. In Bed With an Enemy (ft. Y. Ruslanov, S. Kalugin)

7. Last Days of Rome

8. Dear Bollock (Was a Sensitive Man)

9. Aral Sea I – Feeding Hand

10. Aral Sea II – Dustbin of History (ft. Yossi Sassi)

11. Aral Sea III – Epilogue(ft. Sergey Kalugin)

12. Octopus Song

13. Eternal Child (ft. Arjen Lucassen)

14. Of Clans and Clones and Clowns

Review: Adaen – Welcomer

There are times in every music lover’s life where a record’s concept, ambition, and execution is understood and loved immediately. Not just by the heart and how it makes you feel but on an intellectual level as well. These moments are when one truly appreciates an artist’s creation. Welcomer has all the essential ingredients to conjure up this feeling in anyone who listens to it with no fluff added.

More focused than the meandering nature of Muse and more immediate than the sometimes glacial pace of TesseracT, Adaen is a project, led by composer, singer and guitarist Valentine Berezin who is joined by bassist Alexander Vorontsov and drummer Leonid Nikonov, striking a balance seldom can attain, much less in the realm of progressive rock/post-metal. The sheer number of ideas as to where to go and what to do with the medium has resulted in many albums either going too far with the wall of noise or holding back too much in fear of doing so. Welcomer doesn’t experiment with the plethora of soundscapes and instruments available to those subscribing to the jazz/fusion moniker but instead chooses to hone its more contemporary musicianship to a razor sheen. Every instrument is clearly differentiated and contributes to the different cascades of mood every song portrays. The guitars in particular showcase a perfect mix of distorted riffage and technical fret play which play through and off each other artfully. The noodling has a clear focus in each song, and never seems to just fill space. In fact, the entirety of the record gives a definite sense of progression, carrying the listener from one section to the next seamlessly and gives off a welcome cohesiveness.

Adaen live

At the heart of Welcomer is its concept, which is that of stripping away the superfluous qualities of emotion, situation, and inspiration and leaving behind only its essence. This is the “concept” in terms of following certain vibe and structures, and perfectly describes the band’s direction with the absence of a variety of instruments and the sharp focus of the songs. That is not to say Welcomer drags on at any point, in fact the pacing is beautifully crafted. Musically, the record achieves everything it was made to do.

Adaen bestow upon the masses a genre-defining album, displaying a marvellous blend of experimentation, songwriting expertise (not using that word lightly), and the feeling of plain rocking. The strange juxtaposition of using a concept of stripped-down instrumentation, conveying feeling and moods at their most basic level using a framework as frequently ostentatious and gaudy as progressive rock is not lost on this reviewer and the fact that it’s pulled off so well by three guys only is quite a feat. Those who want thrills without frills in their music cannot go wrong by giving this a listen.

Welcomer is available here.