Nick D’Virgilio’s “Invisible” – First Impressions

My copy of Nick D’Virgilio’s new solo album, Invisible, arrived in the mail today, and a few things have struck me upon an initial listen. Please don’t consider this post a full review – just some first thoughts.

First, let me state that I consider Nick D’Virgilio to be the finest drummer in the world. His skill and creativity is blatantly obvious when you listen to a Big Big Train album. His style of playing is simultaneously smooth and complex. It remains intricate without overpowering the listener. He’s also remarkably ubiquitous as a drummer. Just check out the discography page on his website: https://www.nickdvirgilio.com/discography/. There are many albums he has drummed on that I enjoy and I never realized he was playing on them. I think that’s because he’s all about the music rather than it being about him… unlike some other famous prog drummers. On top of all that Nick has a golden voice, as any longtime listener of Spock’s Beard knows.

The concept for this album emerged from Nick’s time working for Cirque du Soleil, the first time in his career where he was “invisible” in the pit rather than center stage behind a kit or singing lead vocals. The main theme can be summarized with the idea that every person was put on this earth for a reason, and each person must figure out what that reason is and fully live it.

Perhaps the most surprising thing about this album is that it isn’t just an album of D’Virgilio showboating on the drums. Rather the drums serve the songs, most of which feature lyrics Nick wrote. I recently reviewed an album for the Dutch Progressive Rock Page that was a solo album from a world-renowned drummer. That album was all about the drumming, and it got a little overpowering at points, even though I thought it was still a good album. On “Invisible” the drums play their role, and I think that’s one of the things that makes Nick so great. He doesn’t overplay, and he doesn’t underplay. He masterfully provides just what a song need.

Another first impression is this isn’t a Big Big Train album. I wasn’t really expecting it to sound too much like Big Big Train, but I thought it might since that’s Nick’s main band now. (His day job is working for Sweetwater music in Fort Wayne, Indiana.) Invisible is fully unique. There are plenty of guests, but a perusal of the album booklet didn’t see any BBT members guesting. Sure there’s the odd passage here and there that could be compared to BBT, but this is a totally different deal.

Abbey road’s orchestra is prominent throughout, which gives it a symphonic rock feeling at points, but the guitars and drums firmly ground Invisible as a progressive rock album. The album doesn’t fall into traditional tropes, however. It tells a story in a subtle way, which I think will keep it sounding fresh on repeated listens. It even manages a touch of musical theater in the track “Wrong Place Wrong Time,” which probably comes from Nick’s time with Cirque du Soleil.

Like I said – these are just some first impressions. If you buy the album from his website, not only will it come signed but also it will include an extra booklet featuring detailed descriptions of the drum setups used on each song. He used various drum kits on this album rather than one single kit. Or you could be like me and accidentally buy two copies – one from Nick’s shop and the other from Burning Shed.

https://www.nickdvirgilio.com/shop

Morse, Portnoy, George launch video for cover of “It Don’t Come Easy”

From Inside Out Music:

Mike Portnoy, Neal Morse, Randy George
Photo Credit: Robert Smith

Neal Morse, Mike Portnoy & Randy George recently announced their return to the Cover To Cover series of albums with ‘Cov3r To Cov3r’, the brand new third installment. Featuring their renditions of classic tracks by the likes of King Crimson, Jethro Tull, Gerry Rafferty, David Bowie & more (including their cover of ‘No Opportunity Necessary, No Experience Needed’ featuring vocals from Yes singer Jon Davison), the album will be released on July 24th as CD, Gatefold 2LP + CD & as Digital Album.

Today they are pleased to reveal a video for their cover of ‘It Don’t Come Easy’, originally by Ringo Starr, and you can watch it now here:

Continue reading “Morse, Portnoy, George launch video for cover of “It Don’t Come Easy””

Memorial Day Weekend Prog and Prog Metal Round-Up

There is a lot of great prog and prog metal currently in the pipeline – either that has already been released or that will be in the coming months. Plenty of new singles and whole albums out.

Caligula’s Horse – Rise Radiant

Australian prog metal band Caligula’s Horse released their brand new record, Rise Radiant, today. For some reason their music never really connected with me before, but this album has. It is insanely good. It has the technicality mixed with the quirkiness that this generation of prog metal has become known for. Outstanding vocals as well. I’ve got some homework to do on their back catalog. If all goes well, they’ll be coming to North America next January-February for the very first time. https://caligulashorse.com

Haken – Virus

I’ve been able to listen to an advance copy of Haken’s new album for a few weeks now, and it is quite good. It has been a slow burn for me, but that could have something to do with absorbing it in the background while I work from home. It has the heaviness and the technicality we are used to, and melodies abound. There’s a gentleness in Ross Jennings’ voice that strikes me as something new, but I could be wrong. There are also musical nods to their last album as well as “The Cockroach King.” The title is bound to upset some people, but it’s not like Haken could have possibly known what was going to befall the world when they wrote and finalized the album. The release date has been pushed back a few weeks to June 19. I expect this is due to production issues with supply chains in the western world having been shut down for over two months. The band released another single today. https://hakenmusic.com

Nick D’Virgilio – Invisible

Big Big Train drummer Nick D’Virgilio has a new solo album coming out. Based on the single, it has a bit of a Big Big Train vibe in the song structure and general progression, but there’s also a Broadway theatricalness to it. The latter, according to D’Virgilio, comes from his time working with Cirque de Soleil. The album title comes from being an invisible member in the orchestra pit. Nick obviously plays the drums on this album, but he also sings. Anyone who knows his work from Spock’s Beard knows what a great voice he has. Jonas Reingold plays bass, Randy McStine plays guitars, and Jordan Rudess plays piano and sythns. Brass and string sections are courtesy of the Abbey Road Studios orchestra. Yeah this is some next level stuff. I’m looking forward to hearing the whole thing. Out June 26. https://www.nickdvirgilio.com

Continue reading “Memorial Day Weekend Prog and Prog Metal Round-Up”

Frost* to Release New EP on June 5, 2020

This just in from the fine folks over at Inside Out Music:

FROST* – announce release of “Others – EP” on June 5, 2020


With FROST*’s latest album, “Falling Satellites”, dating back to 2016, it was about time mastermind Jem Godfrey teamed up with Nathan King and John Mitchell to continue forging daring and dynamic progressive music.

Completed already back in 2019, FROST* now announce the release of the stunning 32 minutes long “Others – EP”. Jem Godfrey states:
“Others” is a 6 track EP containing 6 songs that were written at the time of the “Falling Satellites” album. Initially the idea was that “Falling Satellites” would be a double album, but it felt more focused and concise as a single album by the time we’d finished making it, so these half completed songs were put to one side. Now finished and mixed, they are ready to see the light of day!”

The EP will be released digitally on June 5, 2020 and will be released as part of the limited “13 Winters” anthology-artbook physically later this year.

A first track from the “Others – EP” will be released on May 22!
The track-list is below:
1. Fathers
2. Clouda
3. Exhibit A
4. Fathom
5. Eat
6. Drown

Furthermore, FROST* are putting finishing touches to their highly anticipated new studio album which is tentatively scheduled for a September release through InsideOutMusic.

A New Progarchist Joins the Team

In this Progarchy Public Service Announcement I would like to welcome Peter Dabbene to the team of writers here. Pete is a New Jersey-based writer and poet, and we are very happy and excited to have him join us. He has a couple of articles coming out shortly on Big Big Train and the Cardiacs, so stay tuned for that.

Haken Announce New Album

Haken announce new album ‘Virus’

Launch first single “Prosthetic”

Progressive rockers Haken are excited to reveal their new studio album ‘Virus’, the follow-up to 2018’s acclaimed album ‘Vector’, will be released June 5th, 2020. By way of introduction, the band have recorded a special video message to give some background to the record: https://youtu.be/_XMWVUQ93io

Today also sees the launch of the album’s first single and opening track ‘Prosthetic’, with a video directed by Vicente Cordero. Watch & listen to this punchy opening salvo here: https://youtu.be/4EmbYo65Pbs

The band comments: “Prosthetic was the first song we completed during the ‘Virus’ writing sessions and we always felt it would be the perfect opener for the album. It’s a very guitar heavy track with its roots in 80s thrash riffing, but with the unconventional rhythmic twists and turns we often like to explore in Haken. We sadly never had a Jeff Hanneman and Robert Fripp collaboration, but this song at least draws on inspiration from them both!

Lyrically the song is a bridge between our two albums Vector and Virus. The message was brilliantly brought to life by video director Vicente Cordero, who also beautifully captured the live energy of the band in a way that both enhances the song, and perfectly sets the scene for what’s to come.”

Since releasing ‘Vector’ in October 2018, Haken have completed headline tours the world over, played sold-out shows across Europe and North America as support for Devin Townsend and picked up a Prog award for their efforts too! All the while, they have been quietly, secretly working on the follow-up album, entitled ‘Virus’.

Drummer Ray Hearne reveals, “since releasing ‘The Mountain’ in 2013, one question has been asked of us time and time again, ‘who is the Cockroach King?’. This is something we were interested in exploring more deeply too, so we essentially did that through our music; elaborating and expanding upon the intervallic, harmonic, rhythmic and lyrical themes of that song. The end result is in an arc which spans across two albums: ‘Vector’ and ‘Virus’”.

 Once again, Adam ‘Nolly’ Getgood has mixed what is perhaps the most eclectic Haken album to date, with the 7 tracks revealing hints of influences from multiple genres, all intertwined with Haken’s own recognisable sound. Guitarist Richard Henshall had this to say about the production, “Using Nolly again was a no-brainer, as we wanted the two albums to be sonically connected. But having just spent a day mixing with him in his studio, it’s obvious that this album will be an evolution of the ‘Vector’ sound. These songs seem to allow a lot more freedom of creativity with the production, so we’re excited to see where it leads”.

Longtime Haken collaborators, Blacklake, have designed the visuals and artwork and the album will be available as a Limited 2CD, Standard CD, Gatefold 2LP + CD & as Digital Album. Pre-order now here: https://haken.lnk.to/Virus

The track-listing is as follows:

1.     Prosthetic
2.     Invasion
3.     Carousel
4.     The Strain
5.     Canary Yellow
6.     Messiah Complex i: Ivory Tower
7.     Messiah Complex ii: A Glutton for Punishment
8.     Messiah Complex iii: Marigold
9.     Messiah Complex iv: The Sect
10.  Messiah Complex v: Ectobius Rex
11.  Only Stars

‘Virus’ is the culmination of a musical thought experiment which started with the ‘Vector’ writing sessions in 2017 and holds intriguing potential for the band’s future, as vocalist Ross Jennings explains, “whilst ‘Virus’ can absolutely be enjoyed as a stand-alone work, it is thematically and conceptually linked with ‘Vector’, so our intention is to perform both albums back to back for a special performance someday”.

HAKEN are:

Ross Jenning
Richard Henshall
Charlie Griffiths
Diego Tejeida
Conner Green
Ray Hearne

 

INSIDEOUTMUSIC Spotify Playlists:
Best of Haken – InsideOutEssentials
Prog Rock Essential
Prog Metal Essential

Brad Birzer and Dave Bandana Talk The Bardic Depths… With Each Other

The wonderful Brad Birzer just interviewed his bandmate Dave Bandana to discuss Dave’s background and their new album, The Bardic Depths. The interview doubles as their first time talking to each other “face-to-face” via video chat. This is their third collaboration, and they’ve only interacted by email before this. What an amazing era in which we live… minus the plague of course.

The Bardic Depths is a brilliant album – one you need to listen to. Check out my review and Rick Krueger’s review.

The Bardic Depths – A Prescient Album

The Bardic DepthsThe Bardic Depths, The Bardic Depths, 2020 (Gravity Dream)

Tracks: The Trenches (8:36), Biting Coals (7:50), Depths of Time (12:35), Depths of Imagination (5:01), Depths of Soul (6:40), The End (7:38), Legacies (9:28)

Longtime readers of Progarchy are well aware that just about everything written by Dr. Bradley J. Birzer is brilliant. The previous two album collaborations between Brad and Dave Bandana, 2017’s Becoming One and 2018’s Of Course It Must Be, were both great. I noticed strong strides forward in the second album, and I hear a huge leap forward in this third collaboration in the form of a more formal band called The Bardic Depths.

Birzer still handles the lyrical output and Bandana acts as the musical director, but Dave Bandana and Brad Birzerthe cast of characters has broadened greatly. Cosmograf maestro Robin Armstrong realized the brilliance in the demos and decided to both mix the album and make it the first release on his new record label, Gravity Dream. Along the way Bandana began asking people here and there to contribute to the album, and before he knew it a more refined sound had emerged. The Big Big Train facebook group became a means of connection for Bandana and the extraordinary Peter Jones (Tiger Moth Tales, Red Bazar, Camel). Jones contributed a couple soulful and beautiful saxophone solos. Gareth Cole and Robin Armstrong contribute some blistering guitar solos, and a host of other talented people contribute their musicianship and vocal talents (including spoken word). Sir Brad himself makes multiple appearances with the spoken word. Having had the fortune of taking one of his courses when I was in college, I can tell you he was blessed with a fantastic speaking voice, second to only Dr. Tom Conner in the Hillsdale College History Department.


Continue reading “The Bardic Depths – A Prescient Album”

Big Big Train Release “Passengers Club” and Announce North America Live Dates

Big Big Train have just announced a new members-only club called the Passengers Club. From the band:

Membership of the Passengers Club will give listeners a chance to get behind the scenes in the world of Big Big Train. Club members will be able to hear early demos from the writing and recording stages of our studio releases and demos of songs that got lost along the way, including some tracks from an abandoned concept album that we were working on a few years ago. There will be films of us backstage, recording in the studio, and during rehearsals and soundchecks. There will also be exclusive photo galleries, blog posts, Facebook Q and As, and other good things.

Membership of the Passengers Club costs £30 for one year, or £50 for two years.

Full details of how to sign up, what is on offer, and our reasons for starting the Passengers Club can be found at https://thepassengersclub.com.

They also announced some live dates for the United States and Canada:

• Saturday 9 May – Rosfest, Opera House, Sarasota, Florida, USA (festival headline show)
• Monday 11 May – Opera House, Toronto, Canada *
• Tuesday 12 May – Corona Theatre, Montreal, Canada *
• Wednesday 13 May – Théâtre de la Cité Universitaire, Quebec City, Canada *
• Sunday 17 May – Brook Arts Center, Bound Brook, New Jersey, USA *
• Saturday 23rd May – Sweetwater Performance Pavilion, Fort Wayne, Indiana, USA **
• Thursday 16 July – Friars, Aylesbury, UK ***
• Saturday 18 July – Ramblin’ Man Festival, Kent, UK (festival headline show)
• Monday 20 July – Stadstheater, Zoetermeer, The Netherlands **
• Tuesday 21 July – Lichtburg, Essen, Germany **
• Thursday 23 July – Konzerthaus, Karlsruhe, Germany **
• Friday 24th July – Phenomenon, Fontaneto D’Agogna, Milan, Italy **

* Supported by IZZ
** Supported by Robert Berry’s 3.2
*** Supported by Lazuli

All shows will feature the full 12-piece BBT live band.


Progarchy’s co-founder and former editor, Brad Birzer, and Progarchist Tad Wert have released an ebook about Big Big Train called Big Big Train: A Dream of the West. Yours truly and Progarchist Alison Reijman contributed chapters. Get it at Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Big-Train-Dream-West-ebook/dp/B084QF79GK/ref=zg_bs_156354011_5?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1&refRID=5NSMTTWKFH5CJZT8NDBV.

Fort Wayne, Indiana, Prog Group Thematic to Release New Album

Fort Wayne, Indiana, based prog band Thematic is set to release their new album, Skyrunner, on January 31. I was previously unaware of this group, but I must say the single from the album is quite good. They have a good balance of the classic styling combined with the crunch of a band like Haken. Check out the video below and more info about the band and new album after that.

Continue reading “Fort Wayne, Indiana, Prog Group Thematic to Release New Album”