Here we are again, folks. We find ourselves at the end of another great year for prog. Sadly, we’ve had to say goodbye to some amazing artists this year, including John Wetton, but we at least have their music by which to remember them.
I know I’ve been a bit quiet here at Progarchy lately due to beginning graduate school this fall. Hopefully things settle down going forward, and I’ll be able to contribute more. For now, here are my favorite albums from 2017 in vaguely ascending order.
Sad news today from AC/DC – legendary rhythm guitarist Malcolm Young has died at age 64 after battling dementia over the last several years. A true icon in rock music, Malcolm played some of the meanest riffs you will ever hear. RIP.
This is a pretty remarkable cover of Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here.” I presume Avenged Sevenfold chose to do this as a tribute to their late drummer, Jimmy “The Rev” Sullivan. It seems the band move ever closer to progressive rock – Prog magazine even did a spread on them earlier this year.
Dream Theater, Live at the Chicago Theater, Images, Words, and Beyond tour, November 3, 2017
Act I: The Dark Eternal Night, The Bigger Picture, Hell’s Kitchen, To Live Forever, Don’t Look Past Me, Portrait of Tracy (Jaco Pistorius cover by Myung), As I Am (with excerpt from Metallica’s “Enter Sandman”), Breaking All Illusions
Act II:Images and Words – Pull Me Under, Another Day, Take the Time (with extended guitar solo outro), Surrounded, Metropolis Pt. 1: The Miracle and the Sleeper (Mangini drum solo and extended instrumental jamming), Under a Glass Moon, Wait for Sleep (extended piano intro), Learning to Live
Encore: A Change of Seasons
Last night, I saw Dream Theater live for the very first time, and I was not disappointed. I’ve been wanting to see them for a while, and it turned out that getting to the Chicago Theater from the far north side of the city is quite easy on the sheep herding machine… er public transportation. The Chicago Theater is absolutely gorgeous, and I’m amazed at how big the theater itself is. The theater has around 3,600 seats, and I’d be willing to bet there were over 3,000 people in attendance last night. Even though I was in the second to last row of the balcony, I could see the stage perfectly. The theater is designed in such a way that you can see from anywhere, so there are really no “bad” seats.
The band started off strong with the heavy “The Dark Eternal Night,” which was a perfect way to start the show. Heavy and intense, it pumped the crowd up instantly. When James Labrie came out after the instrumental opening of the song, he connected with the audience right away, including high fiving the people sitting in the pit. Throughout the entire concert, he spoke to the audience and interacted with them. Having only seen official live footage, I always saw Labrie as sort of aloof because there isn’t much interacting in the live footage. However, it is clear that he only acts distant for the filmed shows, because he did a phenomenal job as a frontman. I was thoroughly impressed.
Mike Portnoy’s new supergroup, Sons of Apollo, is the prog metal bombast we have been waiting from the legendary drummer ever since he left Dream Theater. While DT have struggled to define their sound moving forward, Portnoy has dabbled in seemingly disparate genres in an endless number of bands (all of them admittedly amazing). Sons of Apollo finds him coming home to the wonderful world of prog metal with a lineup of extremely talented musicians.
Featuring Portnoy on drums, Bumblefoot (formerly of Guns N’ Roses), on guitar, Derek Sherinian (ex-Dream Theater keyboardist circa “Falling Into Infinity”), Billy Sheehan (Winery Dogs) on bass, and Jeff Scott Soto on vocals. I initially was hesitant when I heard Sheehan would be playing bass, because I’m not the biggest fan of his heavily distorted bass tone, even though I think he is a brilliant player. However, in a heavy metal setting, his tone works quite well. Soto’s vocal range matches the music quite well. He can go from Brian Johnson-esque screams in the beginning of “Coming Home” to Steve Perry highs later in the same song.
In a way, Sons of Apollo reminds me of AC/DC if they were super proggy, super complex, and had a keyboard master. Sherinian really is a brilliant keyboardist, and I like that he uses more traditional organs rather than the nintendo theme-song keyboards that other DT keyboardists have overused. In the music videos, it is clear that Sherinian is thrilled to be working with Portnoy again, and based upon the drummer’s Twitter feed, the feeling is mutual.
I kept my expectations pretty low for Sons of Apollo’s “Psychotic Symphony” because there seemed to be a lot of hype surrounding it. After listening to it several times, the album has grown on me, and I can honestly say the hype is justified. This is a fantastic metal album well worthy of any progger’s collection.
More people need to be listening to Red Bazar. Peter Jones’ outstanding voice and brilliant lyrics have taken the band into the stratosphere artistically. Absolutely astounding. This is what cultural commentary should look like. Some fantastic guitar work here too. Enjoy!
Though the references may be brief, Led Zeppelin never shied away from their Tolkien influences. Enjoy this one during Tolkien Week 2017. While you’re at it, go buy Brad’s awesome book on the Professor. You can also buy his book on the Professor of Prog. The books are so good that I’m not even being paid for this advertising!