Rick’s Quick Takes for April

Short, sharp shocks this month: all albums and EPs reviewed below come in under the old school LP limit of 45 minutes! Purchasing links are embedded in each artist/title listing; album playlists or samples follow each review.

Entransient, Ghosts in the Halls: My hometown’s very own prog-metal band lays out the cards for all to see on their Facebook page: “Melodic neo/post-prog rock from Michigan. Influenced by Anathema, Alcest, and Porcupine Tree.” The good news is that guitarists Matt Schrauben & Doug Murray, bassist Nick Hagen, drummer Jeremy Hyde and vocalist/keyboardist Scott Murray refine those influences into a distinctive blend, marked by rich atmosphere and a towering core sound. The opening epic “Parasite” grabs hold immediately with its games of acoustic/electric musical chairs; “Synergize” and “Last Strawman” drive forward without mercy, as Murray testifies fiercely over bare grooves and fuzzed chords alike. More reflective moments like the title track, “Misplaced” and “Where the Shadows Lie” dial down the tempos and the lyrical angst while keeping the edge intact as the band prowls lush, more aerated soundscapes. (Kudos for Hagen’s mixing and engineering, as well as for the mastering work of The Pineapple Thief’s Steve Kitch; the band’s dynamic and textural range is captured with crystalline clarity throughout.) Entransient has an open, readily appealing touch to their music; as they blaze a fresh trail in a style that easily collapses into cliché, they’re well worth a listen.

Envy of None: No, this sounds nothing like Rush, even with Alex Lifeson’s guitar work in the mix. (If that’s what you want, the new anniversary edition of Moving Pictures is now available — and getting glowing reviews from unlikely sources like Pitchfork, for pete’s sake.) Lifeson does provide satisfying crunch, acoustic contrast, and creative lead work in spades, bedding in seamlessly with fellow core players Andy Curran (bass & guitar) and Alfio Annibalini (guitar and keys). They weave a darkly enticing aural mesh that cradles the understated, seductive singing of Maiah Wynne; her breathily fragile volleys, playing off the sticky minimalist hooks embedded in EoN’s web, are what might really ensnare you. Musically, this is all about basic song forms deployed in ambient/industrial/goth/post-rock styles; the seasoned instrumental interplay and Wynne’s preternaturally mature vocal work are what elevate the album above the obvious genre markers. So it’s old-fashioned chemistry and star quality, from veterans and newcomer alike, that turn out to be key to Envy of None’s appeal. Try it on that basis and see if it grabs you.

Continue reading “Rick’s Quick Takes for April”

Updates to Riverside’s Upcoming Tour

Recently we shared news about Riverside’s upcoming North America tour. Sadly due to various logistical issues, the band have had to cancel the shows from the first half of the tour, but at least they were able to salvage a good portion of it. Here’s the latest from Inside Out:

RIVERSIDE – Announce revised North American tour dates

 Continuing the celebration of their 20th band-anniversary, Polish rock masters RIVERSIDE will soon embark on a comprehensive tour across North America and Latin America.

Unfortunately, the band have been forced to cancel some shows and are now announcing a revised, shorter tour schedule for North America.
The band shared this message:

“Dear Friends,

We have some bad and some good news.

The bad news is, for bureaucratic and logistic reasons beyond our control we cannot go to the USA in the first half of April 😦

Unfortunately, because of that, we have to cancel the shows from the first part of our tour:
Nashville (TN), Dallas (TX), Austin (TX), Phoenix (AZ), Pomona (CA), San Francisco (CA), Portland (OR), Seattle (WA) , Salt Lake City (UT), Boulder (CO) and St. Paul (MN).
Tickets will be refunded where you purchased them.

We want to apologise to everyone who has incurred additional travel expenses in connection with those concerts 😦  We promise to make it up to you with shows in…early 2023!

The good news is that we managed to save all shows from Chicago (IL) onwards. And, we were able to save the Atlanta (GA) date by moving the show to April 16. What’s more, we were able to add a last-minute show on April 18 in Cleveland (OH) at the Beachland Ballroom (on sale in the next few days)!

Please check the amended tour dates on the updated poster.

We are truly sorry about the whole mix-up. We were very close to cancelling the whole tour, but by some miracle, we managed to save at least a part of it, and we are definitely going to be there. We hope to meet as many of you as possible.

/ Riverside”

The complete list of upcoming RIVERSIDE dates announced so far reads as follows:

RIVERSIDE – North American Tour 2022
With special guests Keith Semple of The Cyberiam (for USA dates) & Randy McStine (for Canada dates)

April 16 Atlanta, GA – Hell at the Masquerade
April 18 Cleveland, OH – Beachland Ballroom
April 19 Chicago, IL – Bottom Lounge
April 20 Detroit, MI – Magic Stick
April 22 Toronto, ON – The Opera House
April 23 Montreal, QC – Corona Theatre
April 24 Quebec City, QC – Imperial Bell
April 25 Cambridge, MA – The Sinclair
April 27 New York, NY – Gramercy Theatre
April 28 New Haven, CT – Toad’s Place
April 29 Philadelphia, PA – World Cafe Live
April 30 Baltimore, MD – Baltimore SoundStage

May 2-7 Port Canaveral, FL – Cruise to the Edge
https://cruisetotheedge.com

RIVERSIDE – Latin American Tour 2022
May 8 Mexico City, Mexico – Auditorio Blackberry
May 10 Guadalajara, Mexico – C3
May 13 Santiago, Chile – Teatro Teleton
May 15 São Paulo, Brasil – Carioca Club

Riverside North and South America Tour and Compilation Albums

From the fine folks at Inside Out:

RIVERSIDE – Touring across North and Latin America!

 Continuing the celebration of their 20th band-anniversary, Polish rock masters RIVERSIDE will soon embark on a comprehensive tour across North America and Latin America.

RIVERSIDE’s Mariusz Duda checked in with the following message:
“We’re celebrating the 20th anniversary of RIVERSIDE in very demanding and difficult times. Nevertheless, we keep on fighting and we can’t wait to go on our next tour of the States, Canada, and Latin America. We have prepared for you a very special set featuring music from all of our albums. We hope you’ll like our choices.“

The complete list of upcoming RIVERSIDE dates announced so far reads as follows:

RIVERSIDE – North American Tour 2022
With special guests Keith Semple of The Cyberiam (for USA dates) & Randy McStine (for Canada dates)

April 2 Atlanta, GA – Hell at The Masquerade
April 3 Nashville, TN – Exit / In
April 5 Dallas, TX – Amplified Live
April 6 Austin, TX – Come And Take It Live
April 8 Phoenix, AZ – The Nile Theater
April 9 Pomona, CA – The Glass House
April 10 San Francisco, CA – Great American Music Hall
April 12 Portland, OR – Hawthorne Theatre
April 13 Seattle, WA – Neumos
April 15 Salt Lake City, UT – The State Room
April 16 Boulder, CO – Fox Theatre
April 18 St. Paul, MN – Amsterdam Bar and Hall
April 19 Chicago, IL – Bottom Lounge
April 20 Detroit, MI – Magic Stick
April 22 Toronto, ON – The Opera House
April 23 Montreal, QC – Corona Theatre
April 24 Quebec City, QC – Imperial Bell
April 25 Cambridge, MA – The Sinclair
April 27 New York, NY – Gramercy Theatre
April 28 New Haven, CT – Toad’s Place
April 29 Philadelphia, PA – World Cafe Live
April 30 Baltimore, MD – Baltimore SoundStage

May 2-7 Port Canaveral, FL – Cruise to the Edge
https://cruisetotheedge.com

RIVERSIDE – Latin American Tour 2022
May 8 Mexico City, Mexico – Auditorio Blackberry
May 10 Guadalajara, Mexico – C3
May 13 Santiago, Chile – Teatro Teleton
May 15 São Paulo, Brasil – Carioca Club

Ticket info for all shows can be found here: https://riversideband.pl/en/gigs/riverside-20

Stay tuned for more special, international anniversary shows to be announce soon…

RIVERSIDE have recently released a special Digital Single entitled “Story of My Dream” to enhance the anniversary celebration. This brand-new track was recorded and mixed at The Boogie Town Studio in Otwock, Poland during two days in July and five days in September 2021, engineered and mixed by Paweł Marciniak as well as mastered by Paweł Marciniak at Manximum Records in Łódź, Poland.

The Story of My Dream” single features artwork by Travis Smith (Opeth, Katatonia, etc.) and can also be checked out in a video clip directed by Tomasz Pulsakowski / Sightsphere here:
https://youtu.be/-s7fedFOP88

Additionally, RIVERSIDE also released two digital “best of” compilations via to showcase the comprehensive and rich back-catalogue from across the last two decades of band activity. Featuring material all especially remastered by Magda and Robert Srzedniccy (Serakos Studio) for this occasion, “Riverside 20 – Vol.1, The Shorts” includes 19 tracks and “Riverside 20 – Vol.2, The Longs” includes 14 songs each.

Both individual “Riverside 20” compilations as well as a bundle are available here:
https://riverside.lnk.to/Riverside20

RIVERSIDE previously also re-issued their debut album “Out Of Myself” as well as the “Lost’n’Found – Live in Tilburg” release via InsideOutMusic, following the launch of their acclaimed latest studio album “Wasteland” in 2018. Check out the various available back-catalogue titles by RIVERSIDE from the IOM webshop here: https://www.insideoutshop.de/Search?q=riverside

And stay tuned for more RIVERSIDE new soon…

RIVERSIDE line-up:
Mariusz Duda – bass, vocal
Maciej Meller – guitar
Michał Łapaj – keyboards and hammond organ
Piotr Kozieradzki – drums

RIVERSIDE online:
http://www.riversideband.pl
http://www.facebook.com/Riversidepl
https://www.instagram.com/riversideband.pl

New LEAH Track: Sleeping Giant

Leah McHenry, Progarchy’s favorite maiden of metal, just released an absolutely killer new song from her upcoming album. If the rest of the album is this good, it’ll be absolutely brilliant. It’s super heavy, and the lyrics reflect the troubles of today in a very subtle and fantasy-inspired way. Check it out:

Muse Release New Track: “Won’t Stand Down”

Just when we need them most – when the world is going to absolute hell with totalitarian lockdowns and mandates under the guise of “public health” – when we least expected it, Muse has returned with their uniquely bombastic stick-it-to-the-man hard rock. Sure, Matt Bellamy says “Won’t Stand Down” is about standing up to bullies, but he isn’t talking about a schoolyard buster stealing your lunch money (although it could certainly apply to that). This is the band that wrote “Uprising,” “Knights of Cydonia,” and a host of other anti-government songs. They even wrote a whole dystopian concept album about this same subject. Drones may have been released in 2015, but it’s more relevant than ever.

“Won’t Stand Down” is a welcome return to the hard rock Muse I much prefer. Simulation Theory is too 80s synth pop for my taste. Yes there’s a little of that influence at the beginning of this track, but it’s full blown head banging heavy metal by the end. I hope the rest of the album (assuming they have one in the works) is this good.

Won’t stand down
I’m growing stronger
Won’t stand down
I’m owned no longer
Won’t stand down
You’ve used me for too long, now die alone

Muse – Won’t Stand Down – YouTube

Kruekutt’s 2021 Favorites!

I thought I didn’t have a big list of favorites from this year’s listening — until I revisited my six-month survey from back in June and added in the good stuff I’ve heard since then! The listing below incorporates links to full or capsule reviews, or other relevant pieces on Progarchy and elsewhere; albums I haven’t written about yet get brief comments, along with my Top Favorites of the year. Most of these are available to check out online in some form; if you find yourself especially enjoying something, use that Christmas cash and support your choice with a purchase! And the winners are . . .

Continue reading “Kruekutt’s 2021 Favorites!”

Bryan’s Best of 2021

We’ve come to the end of another year, and what a horrible year it has been. Really the only positive thing I can think of from this year is the music. In addition to all the non-music nonsense that has gone on this year, we lost from legends in the prog world, none hurting more than the tragic and completely unexpected death of David Longdon. That one will hurt for a long time.

I usually write my best of lists in no particular order, with my top pick(s) at the end. So without further ado…

Robby Steinhard Not in Kansas AnymoreRobby Steinhardt – Not In Kansas Anymore

Robby Steinhardt was another prog legend we lost unexpectedly earlier this year. He hadn’t been active in music for quite some time, but that was about to change as he was finishing up his first solo album and had plans for a tour. Sadly the latter was not to be, but we did end up getting his solo album in the fall. It’s a great record, and it shows what a key player he was in Kansas. His vocals are stellar, and his violin playing is second to none. This record has a bit of the magic that I think Kansas lacks without Steinhardt. There are more musical influences at work than just Kansas on this record. It’s not a solid 10/10 throughout, but it is a very good record. Check out my review and my tribute to Robby.

Devin Townsend Galactic QuarantineDevin Townsend – Devolution Series #2 – Galactic Quarantine

Devin Townsend has been a busy bee this year. In addition to working on three new records this year, he released two minor releases of live material. The first is an acoustic album (see my glowing review) from a show he did in Leeds in 2019. It’s a raw and emotional take on his music. The Galactic Quarantine album is one of his live-streamed albums from 2020 with the musicians playing live on green screens across the world. The music is blisteringly great, with a surprising amount of Strapping Young Lad material played. Devin humorously engages with his virtual audience, which makes the music come to life a bit more. This has been one I’ve returned to quite a bit this year. Perhaps an unorthodox release, but it would make a really good entrance point for the uninitiated to the heavier side of Devin’s music. Check out my review.

8250379_e4a1fc34c7Soen – Imperial

It turns out we never reviewed Soen’s latest album, which was released in January. The Swedish prog-metal supergroup can do no wrong. Their songs are catchy, memorable, and thoughtful. They can be both heavy and contemplative, and in my book they rank in the upper echelon of progressive metal. This record has been on repeat all year.

Atravan - The Grey LineAtravan – The Grey Line

Sticking with the progressive metal theme, Atravan was a pleasant surprise at the beginning of the year. This is the first Iranian band we’ve ever reviewed here at Progarchy, and they’re fantastic. I’m so glad the band reached out to us. They make metal in the vein of Riverside – heavy, spacey, wall of sound. Definitely a band that deserves recognition, although I worry what too much recognition could do for them with the repressive Iranian regime. Check out my review.

Continue reading “Bryan’s Best of 2021”

Sleigher – Haken’s Charlie Griffiths Creates Christmas Version of Slayer Classic

Here’s a fun one no one was expecting. Haken guitarist Charlie Griffiths teamed up with members of Dream Theater, Protest the Hero, Cradle of Filth and Inhuman Condition to create a special Christmas version of Slayer’s “Seasons In The Abyss.” And of course they named their “band” Sleigher. Ha.

Charlie Griffiths and Dan Goldsworthy play guitars, with the latter also writing alternate lyrics. Rody Walker of Protest the Hero sings vocals, Daniel Firth (Cradle of Filth) plays bass, Jeramie Kling (Inhuman Condition) plays drums, Haken’s Ray Hearne plays tuba, and the incomparable Jordan Rudess of Dream Theater provides a stellar keyboard solo – that he played on the first take! What a legend. Check it out:

Sleigher – Seasons Greetings In The Abyss – YouTube

A View from the Top of the World

It’s Dream Theater, so by default it has to be rich in melody and progressions. But, A View from the Top of the World is riveting too. Mike Mangini-John Myung duo crafts a razor sharp bass-drum framework – more than adequate to accommodate their typical musical complexity. And often tailored to precisely slice and frame this perpetual train of John Petrucci-Jordan Rudess orchestra. This balance in musicianship is striking — omnipresent melody, James LaBrie’s signature wails, and complementing bass-lines all live in systematic harmony. Resulting compositions are meticulously high grade.

Album revives and reinforces quintessential Dream Theater qualities, sometimes illustrating them in seemingly novel ways. For better or for worse Mike Portnoy was a captive of Neil Peart school of drumming. But Mike Mangini’s style allows them to evolve, beyond those ornate confines of Rush-metal blueprint. Clearly enabling that exhibition of seemingly novel influences from symphonic prog, and atypical passages often seen in their own side projects. Or at least we can now prominently hear those influences, which were merely latent in earlier works.

Image Attribution : Darko Boehringer https://dreamtheater.net/photos/images-words-beyond-tour-2017/

Mastodon, Hushed and Grim

To my astonishment, this appears to be the first Mastodon album reviewed on this website. How can this be? After all, this is a band that not only seasons their exceptionally math-y thrash metal with delectable flavors of sludge, stoner rock, prog and even hints of country. This is a band who came to my attention on David Letterman with the lead track from 2009’s Crack the Skye, an album-long narrative arguing the case for astral projection’s secret influence on the Russian Revolution. (And it wasn’t their first concept album, either — that was 2004’s Leviathan, based on — what else? — Herman Melville’s Moby Dick.)

After this — plus no-holds-barred follow-ups like 2011’s The Hunter and 2014’s Cthulvian Once More Round the Sun — I can’t help but ask again, where’s the love for Mastodon from Progarchy been all this time?

It’s not too late to hop on the bandwagon, though; Mastodon’s smoking new double disc effort, Hushed and Grim, is here to melt our minds and set our heads banging. Every single one of the fifteen tunes offer has at least two (and sometimes three) killer riffs pounded out by Brent Hinds and Bill Kelliher on guitar and Troy Sanders on bass, with Brann Dailor adding multiple layers of mayhem on drums. Sounds like a potentially stagnant formula on the surface, but given that the Atlanta-based quartet can spin on a dime through multiple textures, tempos, and time signatures in the course of a single song, the approach never fails.

And you never know what ear candy may show up in the midst of the prevailing heaviness — there’s the finger-pickin’ Americana intro to “The Beast,” the impeccable synthesizer solo on “Skeletons of Splendor,” the dream pop verses of the otherwise grunged-up “Had It All.” Hinds digs deep for his full-tilt solos, with a Southern-fried touch of Duane Allman peaking through every so often; Dailor’s playing calls to mind an alternate-universe Keith Moon playing with Jimmy Page instead of Pete Townsend. And the combined vocals (Sanders, Hinds and Dallor split the leads, with Kelliher as a harmony voice) provide kaleidoscopic colors to match the range of the music, from heavenly harmonies complementing 12-string textures to raucous, full-throated bellows over odd-time gallops. Producer David Bottrill (whose other credits include King Crimson and Tool) pulls all the elements of this sonic maelstrom together; the end product is marvelously stylish, delightful to listen to even as it knocks you flat.

But the music, as cool as it is, isn’t hanging out there on its own; the lyrics have a pungent bite as well. Mastodon are on a mission here, paying tribute to long time friend and manager Nick John, who died in 2018. Is the narrative here, kicking off with the vicious opener “Pain With An Anchor” and concluding with the epic “Gigantum,” a journey through the stages of grief? A depiction of dying from the inside out? Or yet another meditation on existence and mortality (for which I’ve proved a sucker time and again in the age of COVID-19)? Your mileage may vary with your interpretation — but boy, do Sanders, Hinds, Dallor and Kelliher bring the goods. The rage of “Sickle and Peace,” the devastated sorrow of “Teardrinker,” the desperate struggle of “Pushing the Tides” — all of it hits home. If you’re not cathartically drained after a listen to Hushed and Grim, you haven’t been paying attention.

As I think I’ve mentioned before, I’m not a big prog-metal head — but when it’s prog-metal as good as Mastodon, I surrender willingly. Check out Hushed and Grim for yourself below — and definitely catch them live if they come to your town! (I did back in 2015, and my ears might still be ringing.)

— Rick Krueger