Metal Mondays: Remembering Where it all Started with Dream Theater

It has been a while since we have done a “Metal Mondays” here at Progarchy, and it has been even longer since I can remember reading anything online about Dream Theater’s first album, “When Dream and Day Unite.” Due to the absence of singer James LaBrie, this album is usually overlooked and forgotten by all but the most diehard fans of the band. Charlie Dominici, the band’s second vocalist (Majesty’s original vocalist was a guy named Chris Collins), was no slouch as a singer. He had the range and power necessary for someone in an 80s metal band, although he was 15 years older than the other members of the group. Dominici had a history singing music akin to pop rather than metal, and it quickly became clear that he wasn’t the best fit for a group intent on making music in the vein of Queensrÿche and Iron Maiden [1].

Despite its flaws, “When Dream and Day Unite” remains a listenable album almost 30 years after its release. The band even occasionally plays a few songs from it at live shows. The musicality is what we would expect from the musicians who would come to be known as some of the best in the world at their respective instruments. Mike Portnoy’s blistering kick drum on “Afterlife” and “Only a Matter of Time” was ahead of its time, yet it clearly bears the influence of Phil Ehart.

The journalistic laziness of the time claimed the band was merely a copy of Kansas and Rush, yet listening to the album now makes those comparisons sound cheap. Obviously Dream Theater has showed influences from both of those bands, going so far as to cover both groups (and many others) in special editions of their albums over the years. To dismiss “When Dream and Day Unite” as mere copying is far from the truth, in my opinion. There is too much originality in the musicianship to call it a copy of those groups. The influences are there, but Kansas and Rush never sounded quite like this.

I find “Ytse Jam” to be the most compelling song here. Perhaps that is because it is instrumental, and it is easiest to make the connection to James LaBrie era Dream Theater. John Myung’s bass is particularly exceptional here, but then again, when is it not exceptional? “Afterlife” is probably the best song with singing on the album. From the lyrics to the guitars, this song delivers on all fronts.

Is “When Dream and Day Unite” Dream Theater’s best album? Of course not. Does it deserve to be forgotten and ignored like it has been? No. It is a solid album given its time, and it serves as an interesting reminder of where the greatest band in progressive metal came from. Every group has their beginnings, and it is great to return to Dream Theater’s roots. This album is particularly hard to get here in America, so if you don’t already have it, you may have trouble finding it. Discogs appears to have plenty of used copies, and you may be able to find a copy via your local library or Inter-Library loan (where I got mine). For those who prefer to stream, it also appears to be available on Spotify, despite it not being for sale on iTunes. It may require a hunt, but sometimes the search is half of the fun.

[1] Rich Wilson, Lifting Shadows The Authorized Biography of Dream Theater (UK: Rocket 88, 2013), 63-64.

True Art Eschews Politics Even in the Wasteland

True art eschews politics, and so will I in this post.

By now, I hope you have all had a chance to listen to Riverside’s brilliant new album, Wasteland. It was magnificently reviewed here at Progarchy by Erik Heter and Brad Birzer. This album is beautiful. It is devastating. It is art at its finest.

Just as T. S. Eliot’s masterpiece “The Wasteland” was written in the depths of pain and despair, Riverside’s new masterpiece was written as the band dealt with pain and loss. The 2016 deaths of guitarist Piotr Grudzinski and Mariusz Duda’s father hang heavy over this album, but they do not weigh it down. Rather, they inform its brilliance. Yes, Riverside’s metal moments are here, and Duda does a great job on guitar when needed. But it is the quiet moments that shine like the star Sam and Frodo saw shining through the gloom and dark of Mordor (an allusion I have shamelessly stolen from Brad… and Tolkien).

Much like the recent Oak album, “False Memory Archive,” “Wasteland” embraces the good, the true, and the beautiful. The lyrics are timeless. They get at the what it means to be human. Our lives are filled with happiness, pain, joy, and immense suffering. Riverside don’t hide this fact. They face it head on, and in doing so, they have created true art. Art should move beyond the mundane and fleeting. In 100 years, no one will be remember or be amused by the political ramblings of Roger Waters, Andy Tillison, or Nick Beggs. They will probably remember “Supper’s Ready” and hopefully they will remember “The Underfall Yard” because that song and album deal with issues of lasting importance. “Wasteland” fits into that category. These concepts transcend time. In 1000 years, the lyrics to “The Night Before” will remain relevant.

Close your eyes
Don’t be afraid
I’m with you
This place is safe
We found a camp
We have supplies
They will let us stay the night

Close your eyes
I’ll tuck you in
Mum will sing to make you sleep
Don’t mind the noise
There’re just the bombs
A part of music for this song

When the night begins to fall
You and I
In a safety zone
The former world shall not return
But we’ll survive intact
Again

Embrace beauty and art in music. Reject the ephemeral in favor of the ethereal.

Immersed in Memory: The Rising Brilliance of Oak

Oak, False Memory Archive, 2018

Tracks: We, The Drowned (5:24), Claire De Lune (7:16), False Memory Archive (4:56), Lost Causes (8:30), Intermezzo (1:42), The Lights (10:34), These Are The Stars We’re Aiming For (4:19), Transparent Eyes (4:59), Psalm 51 (7:26)

[Edit: The original version of this review included a track listing with the wrong track order. I offer my sincerest apologies to the band and to our readers for this mistake.]

Have you ever found yourself so utterly satisfied by something in life that you find yourself feeling guilty for enjoying it? For me, that is Oak’s music. Their two albums are flawless. Every note. Every theme. Every lyric. Every wash of sound. Perfection.

2016’s Lighthouse blew me away. I’m not sure how much attention the band has received in more popular press (i.e., Prog magazine), but beyond Progarchy, the Dutch Progressive Rock Page (where I and Andy Read have promoted the group), Prog Sphere, and the Prog Mind, I haven’t seen the band covered all that much. That is a downright shame because this band has reached into a completely new level of brilliance.

Oak is prog in the vein of Pink Floyd’s, Riverside’s, Porcupine Tree’s, and Steven Wilson’s atmospheric and contemplative moments. Unlike those bands, Oak never abandon that overarching theme. Their new album, False Memory Archive, may start with a pounding drum intro reminiscent of the heavier moments in rock history, but that does not take the band away from their overall sound. Instead, it grounds them in rock, and it allows them to explore broad soundscapes. The band goes from quiet contemplative moments to heavy guitar driven rock in places all over the album. Throughout the first track, the heavy drumming seemingly contradicts the warm vocals and soothing piano and synth sounds, but when taken together it really doesn’t. The end result is a layered effect that allows the music to build gradually.

Continue reading “Immersed in Memory: The Rising Brilliance of Oak”

Yes Featuring Anderson, Rabin, and Wakeman – Live at Ravinia – 9/7/18

Yes Featuring Jon Anderson, Trevor Rabin, and Rick Wakeman (plus Lee Pomeroy and Louis Molino III),  Live at Ravinia, Highland Park, Illinois, September 7, 2018

Setlist:
Cinema
Hold On
I’ve Seen All Good People
Changes
And You and I
Rhythm of Love
Perpetual Change
Lift Me Up
I Am Waiting
Heart of the Sunrise
Awaken
Owner of a Lonely Heart (with a portion of Cream’s “Sunshine of Your Love)

Encore
Roundabout

Summer 2018 has been the summer of Yes. With two versions of the band touring the United States, fans have been treated to a double helping of fantastic music. I saw the official Yes in Grand Rapids a few months ago (see my review here). Seeing Yes featuring Anderson, Rabin, and Wakeman was a great way to compare the two groups while getting to see a few progressive rock legends.

I had never seen Jon Anderson or Rick Wakeman (or Trevor Rabin, for that matter) live before this show. I’ve watched old live footage, but it isn’t the same. Jon Anderson is over 70, yet he sounds absolutely fantastic – maybe better than he did a decade ago. He didn’t miss any notes, and he looked like he was having the time of his life. Rick Wakeman hasn’t slowed down at all, and watching him play his eight or nine keyboards was a blast.

Continue reading “Yes Featuring Anderson, Rabin, and Wakeman – Live at Ravinia – 9/7/18”

Latest in Prog: Haken and Muse Release New Music Videos

Haken just released a music video for new song “The Good Doctor” off upcoming album, Vector. If this song is anything to go by, Vector will be another re-styling of Haken’s unique sound. This particular song sees the band go from Muse-like sounds to Meshuggah-esque blasts, all in about 3 minutes. The result is obviously 100% Haken.

Speaking of Muse… they also have an album coming out later this year: Simulation Theory. They have released several music videos so far, and it seems like the band have moved in a more synth-pop direction, especially compared to the hard-rock bombast of 2015’s Drones. The guitar seems especially lacking in this most recent song:

Yes at 50 – Live at 20 Monroe Live, Grand Rapids, MI – 6/29/18

Yes, Live at 20 Monroe Live, Grand Rapids, Michigan, June 29, 2018

Setlist:
Set 1
Intro: The Firebird Suite
Close To The Edge
Nine Voices (Longwalker)
Parallels
Mood For A Day
Leaves Of Green
Fly From Here, Part 1: We Can Fly
Sweet Dreams
Heart Of The Sunrise

Set 2
Perpetual Change
Does It Really Happen?
Soon
Awaken (featuring Alan White)

Encore (featuring Alan White and Tony Kaye)
Yours Is No Disgrace
Roundabout
Starship Trooper

Players: Steve Howe (guitars), Geoff Downes (keyboards), Jon Davison (vocals, assorted instruments), Billy Sherwood (bass, backing vocals), Alan White (drums), Jay Schellen (drums), and special guest, Tony Kaye (keyboards)

Last night was my first time seeing Yes, and I got to see them with fellow Progarchist Rick Krueger and a couple of his friends. In the grand scheme of things, I’m a newcomer to Yes’ outstanding music, having started listening to them about five or six years ago. Unfortunately, I never had the opportunity to see Chris Squire live. Steve Howe was near the top of my list of people I wanted to see live, and I’m happy I had that opportunity last night. The show was amazing. The band was tight, and it was  difficult to tell the difference between their live performance and the albums. The biggest difference was the bass actually boomed, unlike on the original recordings. Just looking at the setlist, you can tell this was a very long show. It started at 7:30pm and ended a few minutes shy of 10:30pm, with a 20 minute intermission. We got our money’s worth, to say the least.

Continue reading “Yes at 50 – Live at 20 Monroe Live, Grand Rapids, MI – 6/29/18”

Bryan Hears a Who! Roger Daltrey Live at Ravinia – 6/23/18

Roger Daltrey, Live at Ravinia, Highland Park, Illinois, June 23, 2018

Setlist: Tommy (whole album except for instrumental “Underture”)
Who Are You
Baba O’Riley
Always Heading Home (new solo song from Roger Daltrey)

Players: Roger Daltrey (vocals), Simon Townshend (backing vocals, guitars), Frank Simes (guitars, backing vocals), Loren Gold (keyboards), Jon Button (bass, backing vocals), Scott Devour (drums), Chicago Philharmonic Orchestra (conducted by Keith Levenson)

Landscape view of the Ravinia pavilion and stage from the back left of the pavilion.
Pre-show – I’ve just about given up taking photos with my phone during concerts because they always look like garbage, and it distracts both me and other audience members from the music

Roger Daltrey’s performance of Tommy was truly a once-in-a-lifetime event. One of the benefits of being a younger fan of progressive rock is the thrill of seeing many of the classic prog and classic rock bands on their 40th and 50th anniversary tours playing their classic albums. I’ve seen Ian Anderson perform Thick as a Brick, The Moody Blues perform Days of Future Passed, B. B. King doing a greatest hits show, Dennis DeYoung doing greatest hits of Styx, Kansas doing greatest hits… next week I’m seeing Yes for the first time, and I’m seeing the other Yes (Anderson, Wakeman, Rabin) in September. I’m proud to add Roger Daltrey of The Who to that list. And he played the greatest rock opera of all time! It was a fantastic evening, to say the least.

Continue reading “Bryan Hears a Who! Roger Daltrey Live at Ravinia – 6/23/18”