Dream Theater Release Another Single Off Upcoming Album

Dream Theater released their latest track, “Fall Into The Light,” off their upcoming album, Distance Over Time. This song might be one of the most well-mixed songs from Dream Theater since the Awake album. The bass is very present in this mix, which is more than can be said of every other DT album. The drums sound good too. The musical crunch in the beginning of the song is reminiscent of Train of Thought, although the vocals don’t have that growl to them. Labrie’s singing here is more like the last few albums. It is a great track. The new album should be a good one.

Do Yourself a Favor and Listen to Southern Empire

Wow. How on God’s beautiful earth did I miss Southern Empire? “Civilisation” and its 2016 predecessor, “Southern Empire,” are absolutely brilliant. Progressive rock/metal at its best. If you’re like me and somehow let this band slip your attention, remedy that now and check them out. You will not regret it.

 

Bryan’s Best of 2018

Earlier this year, I questioned whether or not 2018 was going to be a poor year for prog. It seemed like the the progressive rock community took a few months to stop and take a collective breath… but that was only the breath before the plunge. The second half of the year saw many excellent new releases. The following are some of my favorites from 2018, in no particular order (my top two at the bottom of this list are tied for first place).

Continue reading “Bryan’s Best of 2018”

Is Prog Rock Really Progressive?

[Warning: I ramble a lot in this. My third (out of 4) semester of grad school just ended, and I needed to write something about prog.]

What does it really mean for rock music to be progressive? This question has risen in my mind over the last few days as I have been at my job at my university’s archives working on processing some records from the 1970s related to the university’s radio station. There is a lot of talk in the records about the station and many others in Chicago playing progressive rock. I’ve come across lists of the most popular music to play in radio stations across the country, and I was a little surprised to see names like Yes and Emerson, Lake, and Palmer present.

Other documents from the time loosely defined progressive rock as a genre of music that was forward looking. It also appears that there were whole radio stations in Chicago, on both AM and FM bands, dedicated to playing “progressive” rock. Today there are none. Earlier this year, Chicago lost one of it’s two remaining “classic rock” stations, which were known to occasionally play prog such as Rush, Pink Floyd, and even Yes. The “oldies” station (WLS FM) is playing more music from the 70s these days too.

The fact that there were multiple stations whose explicit purpose was playing “progressive” music suggests that the genre was popular. But just how popular was it? If we go by best-selling albums between the years 1969-1979, then we would have to assume that it wasn’t very popular at all. [This analysis would be a lot more fair if I delved deeper into the charts and looked at top 40 from that time span too, but stick with me anyways.] In that time frame, over 140 different albums topped the charts. Of that number, only 9.5% of them could be called “progressive” rock. That’s only 14 albums, which I shall list in chronological order: Continue reading “Is Prog Rock Really Progressive?”

My Apologies to Nad Sylvan

Dear Mr. Sylvan,

I owe you a huge apology. Last year in my review of your brilliant The Bride Said No, I said: “I feel that Sylvan’s 2015 album, Courting the Widow, played the Genesis card far too safely, making the album sound a bit stale.” Wow, was I wrong. I listened to it again for the first time since 2015, and it’s fantastic! I think The Bride Said No is better, but Courting the Widow is definitely amazing. It is not stale at all, and the Genesis comparison was simply lazy analysis on my part. It doesn’t really sound like Genesis at all. It is all its own. Sorry Nad! I’ll never doubt you again.

Yours,
Bryan Morey

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 shown 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.