Interview with UMÆ

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Now here is an interesting and promising new Prog band. UMÆ is an internation trio featuring guitarist Guðjón Sveinsson, singer/guitarist Anthony Cliplef, and drummer Samy George-Salib. The band has recently launched a debut single “Turn Back Time” via Prog Magazine which features guest contributions by John Wesley (Porcuine Tree) and Haken bassist Conner Green. Their debut album “Lost in the View” is out in December, and beside mentioned gentlemen it also features Adam Holzman (Steven Wilson, Miles Davis) and Eric Gillette (Neal Morse Band). 

Read an interview with Anthony and Guðjón below.

Hello! Thanks for responding to this interview. How have you guys been lately?

G: We’ve been great thank you! Excited for the release, and hard at work preparing for it.

How might you introduce yourselves to new potential listeners?

A: UMÆ is an experience; emotional; meaningful; energetic; somber; melancholic. We are all over the board, but I swear it is cohesive. [laughs]

What inspired the name of the band — UMÆ?

A: Guðjón and I were spitballing a lot of ideas during the demoing phase, some more jokingly than others, but we settled on this one, which uses Icelandic characters, but doesn’t mean anything in Icelandic. I like the idea of a word that isn’t already defined. It gives us the opportunity to define it by the music and artwork we create and associate with it.

How did UMÆ initially form as a creative unit?

A: Well, I went on a trip to a prog festival, where I ended up meeting and playing music with Guðjón, Samy, and many other people. We all had similar interests in music, and we all enjoyed sharing the stage together.

After I returned home from the trip, I was inspired by the jamming, so I decided to contact Guðjón about possibly collaborating on some music. I sent some rough demos, he shared some examples of his own, we shared bands with each other. From there, we laid out plans for me to travel across the ocean to Iceland and start writing. Very soon we sent demos over to Samy and convinced him to commit to the project.

Lost in the View album art

You are about to release a debut album titled “Lost in the View.” Where did the inspiration for it come from and how did you go about the whole process of writing and recording it?

G: In essence it just comes down to our love of music, and willingness to create. It’s hard to pinpoint a specific inspiration for the exact music featured on the album. Some of it was written well before we started working on it together, as far back as 10 years, which was the case for the already-released single “Turn Back Time”. The lyrical concept came as a sort of reaction to the music, and we soon found ourselves writing around that concept.

Over the 6 initial weeks that Anth spent in Iceland, we recorded and arranged demos for the whole album. We started in my living room; plugged in a guitar and played whatever was on our minds. In about three weeks we already had the basis to all the songs. The remaining three weeks were spent arranging the song structures, filling in blanks and sculpting the general vision for the sound of the record. Some of these early demo recordings even made it into the final product. We focused on retaining the initial feeling we got from each and every part, and enhancing it further with the arrangements, and later on lyrics.

The recording process took place literally over the world. We recorded drums with Samy in Toronto over an intense 3 day session. Over the course of a year, we’ve built the layers on top of these bed tracks, with recording taking place in 4 locations in Iceland, 5 different home studios in the US, and more recently, in Sweden. We’ve been tweaking and adding stuff along the way down to these very last days.

UMÆ is a trio in its core but the upcoming full-length release features quite a number of guest musicians, including John Wesley (Porcupine Tree), Conner Green (Haken), Adam Holzman (Steven Wilson) and Eric Gillette (Neal Morse Band). How did the collaboration with each of them come about? How much did they actually contribute in the writing phase?

G: Once the music started coming together, we soon started looking at people that we thought would be a good fit for various parts of the album. We had a good feeling about the music, and decided to aim high from the get-go.

Fairly early in the process we reached out to Conner, who was up for the task, and eventually played on most of the album. At that time all the foundations to the songs were already laid out on guitar and drums, along with some of the main melodies. We left it up to him to interpret the bass parts, and were really happy with the end results.

On the keyboard front, most of the album features Magnús Jóhann, a brilliant young player from Iceland who we worked closely with. On two of the heavier songs however, we wanted to try a little different “flavor”, and figured Adam Holzman might be good fit. So we contacted him; thankfully he was up for it and was able to find a time within his touring schedule to record it. Similarly there the songs were already laid out, and we presented our rough idea of the sounds we were going for. His take on it ended up being just right.

We wrote and recorded all the vocals initially, but didn’t feel our voices were the right fit for certain songs. Samy had encountered John Wesley around the time we were exploring options for these songs, and presented the idea of his involvement. He was up for giving it a shot, and when we heard his take on “Turn Back Time” we were immediately sold.

On one of the tracks we entertained the idea of having a guest solo spot. Eric Gillette responded quickly to our inquiry, and before we knew it we had a killer solo in our hands! He’s such an amazing player, and we’re really stoked to have him appear on the track.

What can be expected from the upcoming album? Would you say the released single for “Turn Back Time” is an accurate sample?

G: Yes and no. The track contains some of the main themes from the album, and lyrically is somewhat representative of the concept, but definitely does not cover the wide range of influences we tap into throughout the album. It’s a good start of the journey that gets a nod here and there, but the atmosphere shifts to a bleaker tone as the album progresses.

What’s your songwriting process like?

A: Guðjón kind of touched on that already, but I’ll elaborate a bit. When I compose a piece from beginning to end, like our aforementioned single, I typically work from a melody and or chord idea, and sometimes just a rhythmic idea. I like to use programming software to document the guitar I’ve come up with, then build the other instruments around it. It’s all midi programmed, but it gives me a good sense of what the song could sound like.

When Guðjón and I were co-writing songs, there were many times where he had a riff or two, I had a riff or two, we placed them in order, and basically connected the dots by filling in the middle. Sometimes we had no idea how we were going to make two parts connect, but we managed to pull them together. So that’s a bit of a deeper glimpse into the process.

What are your ultimate hopes for UMÆ as a band?

G: Hopefully we’ll eventually manage to make a living out of making and performing music. Anything beyond that is a bonus really.

I’m kidding, world domination of course.

Do you have any bigger plans for the future?

G: Bigger? For sure, although we can’t really say much at this point, other than that these plans are currently in formation.

The last words are yours.

A: To keep up with UMÆ, our single releases, album release, touring plans, and all other major news, go to https://www.umaeband.com/

Thanks for having us on this interview!

 

Stay in touch with UMÆ by following them on Facebook and Instagram.

RAINBURN’s Vats Iyengar Talks New Album “Insignify”

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Indian prog rockers Rainburn return on November 7th with the release of a new album “Insignify” (read our review here). In an interview for Progarchy, singer and guitarist Vats Iyengar tells us about the meaning behind the band’s name, their working process, new songs, and more.

Hello! Thanks for responding to this interview. How have you guys been lately?

Thank you for hosting us! We’ve been good. Gearing up for the album release, and also starting rehearsals for the tour soon.

How might you introduce yourselves to new potential listeners?

I’d say our music covers a lot of ground and touches upon many different styles without sounding forced or gimmicky. We also have a nice mix of the old and the new, some modern music and some classic influences. If you like emotionally-heavy music that is creative and diverse, you should check us out.

What inspired the name of the band — Rainburn?

We wanted an oxymoron, to suggest that we cover a wide spectrum of music, from soft to heavy, moments of light and darkness – and everything in-between – in our music, so we went with this name. Our drummer, Praveen, came up with the name. It’s a pretty established tradition as far as band names go. Like Black Sabbath, for example.

How did Rainburn initially form as a creative unit?

We had a keyboard player in the beginning and only one guitarist (me). It was actually his idea that we form a band together. We added a bassist and a drummer soon after, played quite a few gigs with that lineup, even recorded a couple of demos. But as we started finding our sound, we decided two guitars worked better.

Insignify

You are about to release a new album titled “Insignify.” Where did the inspiration for it come from and how did you go about the whole process of writing and recording it?

‘Insignify’ has been a two-and-a-half-year labour of love that started as a seed in my head. It took a long time to take shape and form fully but once it did, the music was created very quickly, because the concept was so clear and detailed. I think it’d take a few listens, at least, to fully digest and “get” the album. The record was mixed by Thejus Nair, a brilliant young engineer who operates Eleven Gauge Recordings in Bangalore, our hometown. Mastering was done by Tony Lindgren at Sweden’s Fascination Street Studios, where so much good progressive music comes out of these days.

What can be expected from the upcoming album? Would you say the released singles (“Suicide Note” and “Mirrors”) are accurate samples?

They’re fairly good samplers but as to whether they’re completely representative of the album – not by a long way. Apart from what’s in those songs, we have moments of funk, fusion, a bit of jazz, even a vocal fugue on the record. No two songs really sound alike.

What’s your songwriting process like?

It’s usually me writing and making demos at home that I then present to the band, and they tailor or modify their parts according to their style. But for some stuff, we changed the formula. Like, ‘Someone New’ started with Praveen composing an entire drum track that I then wrote riffs and melodies over. That was a very interesting way to write!

What are your ultimate hopes for Rainburn as a band?

To be an internationally touring band, to make some great records so we can leave a musical legacy behind and – the holy grail – to be able to sustain ourselves, financially, with our music.

Do you have any bigger plans for the future?

Well, we’ll be going on a national tour early next year – our second one. And hope to play some gigs outside India next year as well.

The last words are yours.

To your readers – If you’ve somehow managed to read this far, I hope you’ll check out our album when it’s out (November 7th). Listen to the two singles for a taste, and also to the snippets we’ve been posting on our Facebook page of various songs from the record.

To Progarchy – thank you for supporting our music.

For more info visit Rainburn.com, and follow the band on Facebook and Instagram.

Track Review: Death of an Astronomer – Digital Conversation

Digital Conversation

Sometimes, metal guys want to play jazz fusion, and that is something that Los Angeles based keyboardist, guitarist and composer Jairo Estrada does with his project Death is an Astronomer on the recently released single “Digital Conversation.” 

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Estrada offers up striking, highly progressive metallic fusion music that never bores or ventures too far off into aimless territory. Highly complex yet flowing, “Digital Conversation” sees weaving guitar and bass melodies twisting and turning around each other, the drums, following along every step of the way but keeping it all grounded. Arrangements just grab hold of you and take you on a mind altering journey. Nothing here is overly heavy, but there is just enough crunch in the guitar to keep this in the metal camp, yet when Estrada goes for some soaring, thought provoking chops, it’s classic jazz fusion/prog rock all the way. 

Jairo Estrada (Death of an Astronomer)

If you like adventurous, classy instrumental metal fusion, Death of an Astronomer’s debut single is a something you need to seek out immediately. But to make it easy, here is where you can get it.

Review: Project Sapiens – Here We Are

Project Sapiens - Here We Are album art

“Here We Are” is a debut EP release from a Copenhagen-based alternative/progressive metal act Project Sapiens, comprised of five songs.

Kicking off with the title track, “Here We Are” hints its diversity. Elements ranging from hard rock, heavy metal to Opeth-influenced Prog Metal and alternative motifs are included. 

There is definitely potential here, and “Uprising” and “My Prison Cell” prove that. The transition between different parts is rather smooth. “Anger” starts with a very nice melody provided by a clean guitar of Poul Jakobsen and clean vocals by Mads Rahbaek. The guitar riffs that can be heard on this one, and throughout the record, are another highlight and an element that makes difference. Closing “Keepers of the Realm” starts very atmospherically, but it doesn’t take too long to become a hybrid child of Alice in Chains, Soundgarden and Porcupine Tree.

What is important here is that Project Sapiens made a brave step to produce a release that is stylistically very different, and with the experience called “Here We Are” I’m sure that they will take the best out of it and use that knowledge on their next release.

“Here We Are” is available here.

Review: Rainburn – Insignify

Insignify

Indian progressive rockers Rainburn are a band who sit firmly within that region of emotive music which crosses the line between the plaintive sound of Porcupine Tree and the bluster of cinematic indie. Now on their second release, Insignify out on November 7th, they return to the age old trope of the concept album with a narrative, which feeds into the at times explosive music.

Telling the story that deals with issues of existentialism, the significance of human life, narcissism, craving importance, insecurity and the search for reason, you may consider it all a bit convoluted. At nearly 50 minutes long it does test your patience and you may find yourself drifting away from the main theme. Give it some due listening though, and you’ll find a concept which works to keep your attention.

Although thematically it’s difficult to keep up, within the music you find a way to enjoy this album. Cinematic in not just scope, but in drive, the peaks and troughs of a film are recast within some wonderful playing. Particularly good are the plaintive guitar solos, feeding off a classic sound developed by masters of prog, and given new life here. They are moments which lift the album to another level and become moments of transcendent emotion.

Rainburn can do heavy too and on the tumultuous end of “Suicide Note”, the devastating centrepiece of the album, they bring a new heaviness to prog rock which only the metal maestros dare explore. Unafraid to raise the tempo, it’s fascinating to listen to the way the band use their music as a kind of soundtrack of emotion, rather than a classic style of songwriting. They may veer on the more predictable side of prog, but at least they do it well.

There is plenty on Insignify to excite prog fans. It’s always difficult to deliver emotional music such as this without veering into cloying territory and with a concept verging on the slightly pretentious, you’re edging towards dodgy terrain. All dues to Rainburn for pulling this off in the main though, and if you’re willing to give it the time you’ll find plenty to keep you coming back. Pour yourself a drink, stick your headphones on, and lose yourself in the story for a while. You’ll enjoy it.

 

Like Rainburn on Facebook and stay in the loop for more from this great group.

Album Review: Devcord – Dysthymia

Devcord - Dysthymia

Dysthymia, the debut studio album from Spillern, Austria’s one-man band Devcord, is a roller coaster of aural delight, distress, and progressive imagery that is bound to be a career defining moment.

The nuanced atmospheres and melodic sensibilities that composer Peter Royburger brings to each of the nine songs on Dysthymia are nothing short of brilliant. As the lines blur between romantic-classical period music, progressive metal, and almost ‘70s style prog rock it becomes apparent that Dysthymia is one of the most progressively challenging albums to be released in 2018, so far.

Songs like the opening “The Mortician,” which has a dark, eerie intro and powerful guitar riffs that evolve into orchestral stabs of Royburger’s vocals, demonstrate the ease at which Devcord slips in and out of catchy hooks and technically sound orchestral song writing.

The discourse between the dueling guitars — acoustic and electric — places the listener into perfect attunement with the melodies and growl vocals. Dysthymia sounds like chaos tamed and controlled. This works to the project’s advantage on album highlights — the title track and especially “Reaper’s Helpers,” where Royburger is structurally coherent enough to be catchy yet throw enough curve balls to keep you invested for the full 10+ minutes. “Fade” and “Jerk Pitch Rape” that close the record are impressive on all fronts, but the instrumentation on these two pieces is splendid.

It is not only technically challenging and perfectly executed as a piece of musical literature, but it is also an album that demands the listener’s attention and ability to think on a multitude of spectrums they may not be used to. Overall, Dysthymia is an album that takes the listener on a cerebral journey through many mysterious and technically awe-inspiring landscapes that not so many groups are able to achieve.

Dysthymia is available from Bandcamp here

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Review: Dystopia – Building Bridges

Dystopia

Hungarian quartet Dystopia are here to assault your senses with their unique mixture of heavy, modern and groove metal. With some obvious influences from Pantera, Lamb of God, and Gojira, Dystopia was formed in 2004. With two full-length albums under their belt, Dystopia is back once again and excited to launch their third full-length album, Building Bridges which was released on July 12, 2018.

It’s the snarling groove that first gains the attention on Dystopia’s beast. “Free-Fall” has some meaty riffs and a deceptive level of groove running through it. It’s an opener that makes a hell of a statement.

Dystopia - Building Bridges

Breathing fire and brimstone, Dystopia smash their way through track after track slipping effortlessly through ferocious modern metal, alternative and classic flourishes of traditional heavy metal. An album that surprises as much as it delights. 

For most of the album’s run it does a great job of keeping your attention. Anytime the mind does begin to wander, Dystopa stamp hard on feet to get all attention back on them. Those who are willing to allow their musical perceptions be challenged will be heavily rewarded, and will most certainly regard Building Bridges as a truly special album.

Hear it on Bandcamp. Connect with Dystopia on Facebook.