Concert Review: Riverside Rock Chicago – 5/19/2019

Riverside, Live at the Chop Shop, Chicago, IL, May 19, 2019

Setlist: Acid Raid, Vale of Tears, Reality Dream I, Lament, Saturate Me (instrumental intro only), Out of Myself, Second Life Syndrome (first part only), Left Out, Guardian Angel, Lost (Why Should I Be Frightened By a Hat?), The Struggle for Survival, Egoist Hedonist (without third part, extended second part), Wasteland

Encore: O2 Panic Room, River Down Below

Last night I saw Riverside for the first time. If I can help it, it won’t be the last. Wow. You don’t really get an appreciation for how good these guys are until you see them live. For me, there wasn’t a single moment of disappointment during this show. From the setlist to the performance to the crowd, everything was exceptional. They deserve to be playing much larger venues here in the United States.


The show opened with Australian heavy metal band, Contrive. Contrive are a two-man group comprised of identical twin brothers. Both were great, and the drummer was particularly exceptional. The guitarist was quite good too, mixing many different styles throughout their hour-long opening set, including a few seconds of Hackett-esque tones. Opening bands can be hit or miss, but they did a good job of warming up the crowd for Riverside. They even started a few minutes before the stated showtime, which was nice since the 8pm start time on a Sunday evening with work the next day was already a bit much.

I’ve never seen a road crew break down and get ready for the main attraction so quickly. Everything was already set up for Riverside, but they had to take down all the gear from Contrive – and they did that and got everything ready for Riverside in less than 10 minutes. It was entertaining just to watch that.

The Mighty Duda

Riverside didn’t waste any time getting into it, starting out with “Acid Rain” from Wasteland. Within seconds I learned something I had never realized about Riverside – Mariusz Duda’s bass drives the show. I originally thought the driving riff on “Acid Rain” was from a guitar. Nope. All bass. I didn’t realize he was that good. I had a blast watching him play the whole night. I’ve seen John Myung live (probably the most acclaimed bassist I’ve seen live), and I’d say that Duda’s performance matched or surpassed that. At some points during the show, he was strumming one of his three or four bass guitars. Who the heck does that? The mighty Duda, that’s who. Maybe this is old news to most of you who have been listening to them for years, but allow me as a relatively new fan (I didn’t start listening to them until after Piotr Grudziński passed away) to gush over how great Riverside is.

Continue reading “Concert Review: Riverside Rock Chicago – 5/19/2019”

Nothing’s Bad Luck: The Lives of Warren Zevon

It’s essential to read the book review by Joseph Bottum:

Warren Zevon was a minor genius, ridden too hard by his demons to make the move to major genius of the pop-music genres in which he worked. His greatest achievement may be that he was himself and only himself, an artist who had only the smallest of gaps between the on-stage persona he constructed and the off-stage person he lived. In lyric after lyric, he produced songs that could only be by one writer. In performance after performance, he delivered work that could only be by one singer. In episode after episode, he lived a life that could only be by one person—the genius and the disaster that was Warren Zevon.

Royal Albert Hall Finally Fixes Its Sound System

Royal Albert Hall appears to have finally sorted its acoustics and sound system issues. I’ve never seen a show there, but I’ve heard many live albums from progressive rock artists who have played there. Most of those recordings sound like garbage because of the physical environment in which they were recorded. Hopefully this new system they have will remedy the 150 year old problem.

20 Looks at The Lamb, 20: Getting Down to “It”

BugsCoitins2This is the end.  (Doors again?)  The end of “the line.”  The last stop (or will there be an “epilogue”?).  Curtains.  (I think of Bugs Bunny as Gangster Bugs, telling Rocky, “It’s gonna be coitins for you!  COITINS!!” (“Aw, they’re adorable!”)

Remember that the end is arbitrary, given the parameters I laid down (set down?  set down, servant; I can’t set down?).  Arbitrary means a (non-random) decision was made.  It’s the 20th Look at The Lamb.  Last stop.  Everybody out!  Los Endos!  …but that’s a different Genesis, isn’t it?  (There’s an angel standing in the sun….)

An end is a goal as well as a stopping point or cessation.  And today, almost a year after Look 19, the goal is to end.  I want to get this out of my system, but lo! it will take its place IN the system that is “me” (wrapped around my “I” like a package with all the ingredients, nutritional information, warnings, etc.).  It will not be OUT of my system.  You’ve gotta get in to get out.

ItSlideIt would make sense, here at the end (if it is the end) to go back to the last track, “It.”  I’m on record as being less enthused about that track than the rest of The Lamb, but I also admitted that its lack of appeal might be its appeal, if I can put it that way.  And now that I am here, a little more than six years after the beginning (the genesis), when I look again at the lyrics to “It,” I see it with different eyes.  Of course, I should say, with a different regard, a different look.

So what does “It” look like?  How does “It” look?  We are looking into “It”, but to paraphrase an overused Nietzsche sound-bite, if we gaze long into “It”, perhaps “It” will also gaze into us.  So considering both meanings, how does “It” look?

In the LItany (get it? L-It-any) of places where “It” is, one place (locus, lieu, site) in particular strikes me today:  “It” is “in the distance of the face.”  The French philosopher, Emmanuel Levinas, writes of how the other person, the Other (capital ‘O’) is given to me in the face (visage), which (considered as a phenomenon, as experienced by the one to whom the face appears) is not so much a thing that is present, but a medium through which an absence is made manifest (“present”).  facetofaceThe Other appears to me as a trace, which is the term that Levinas and others in his wake use for what is really the absence of something.  But it is not a mere absence.  It is an absence that is pregnant with meaning, an absence that is a positive “datum” (like the absence of fingerprints at a crime scene when they’ve been wiped away).  It’s the absence of something, but it is as if it (It) WAS here, just a moment ago.  Instead of It being in my world as other things are, it is an embodied refusal to be IN my world.  It is another world, so to speak.  The Other, for Levinas, is infinity (in relation to what I would have assumed would be my world, my totality.

I know the Other has been a theme earlier.  All of this has been lurking here, from the beginning (the genesis).  Have I said any of it explicitly before?  I’m not carefully checking; I’ll risk repetition.

So what is the distance of the face?  If we listen to Levinas, perhaps it is that “presence of absence.”  Perhaps it is the infinity there in anOther’s face, which is (among other things) infinitely more than I can think.  It is infinitely more than I can grasp.  The distance in brother John’s face…  is it an icon of the distance in my own face?  My own face is never really given to me — or more strictly speaking, to I.  Rael’s face, John’s face, Rael’s face, John’s face….  Add up the distance between Rael’s face, John’s face, Rael’s “I” (better that ordinary word than the Greco-clinical ‘ego’), my “I”, your “I”.  The answer will always be the same as it was when the adding began:  infinity.  It’s kind of like dividing by zero, except the program, instead of just crashing, goes into an infinite loop.  (Once in, is there an out?)

And adding here is nothing that an abacus could help you with.  Infinity is not a quantity here, but a quality.

It is chicken, it is eggs,
It is in between your legs.
It is walking on the moon,
Leaving your cocoon.

Where are you when you leave your cocoon (if you ever really do)?  If we say “infinity,” we both do and do not give an answer.  If we say “It”, we might be closer in some sense, but we still both do and do not give an answer.

Perhaps the only way to answer the question is to come out of the cocoon.  But the risk is that we come too too soon.  (It is in between your legs.)

Listen again, and do whatever you need to do to leave your cocoon.  Do whatever you need to do to really be open to the Other.  See if you can get in to get out.  See if you can find that gift shop at the end, where you can buy a bumper sticker that says I Found “It”!

This is the End.  But is “It” the End?  Will the light die down?  Or (God, this sounds hoaky, but it’s inescapable) is it another beginning (genesis)?

“Keep your fingers out of my eye.”



<—- Previous Look     Prologue    Next Look —->

Album Review: Amorphis — Queen of Time


I finally made time to explore this acclaimed album from 2018. And it has quickly become one of my very favorite listens over the past few weeks. Yes, indeed, it’s an absolutely superb metal album.

In 2018, it was chosen as Record of the Month for May 2018 by AMG (full review here), and also #5 on the list of Best Albums of 2018 by MoMM (full review here). So, now it’s official over here at Progarchy: I add my voice to the chorus of praise.

My entry point was the amazing song “Amongst Stars,” which features Anneke van Giersbergen joining the vocals. After I had listened to that magical song a half dozen times, I was totally hooked. And I soon downloaded the rest of the album, thus beginning a happy journey of wondrous audio exploration.

If you are skeptical about an album full of death metal vocals and growls integrated into proggy metal that also has stunning clean vocals, this is the album to convert you to the expanded artistic possibilities opened up that sonic palette. For me, it was “Heart of the Giant” that demonstrated what only death metal vocals can effectively accomplish in tandem with epic riffs and big choir arrangements. This is an invigorating song to revel in.

But every song is exciting in its own way. An infusion of world music modalities and folk music influences give a distinctive edge to practically every song on the album. You’ll hear Celtic, Middle Eastern, and much more. But that’s the sharp edge of a very heavy musical broadsword wielded by the band. With finesse, its audio slicing motions frequently deploy virtuoso guitar solos and spacey synth keyboard solos.

Every song is indisputably upper echelon, but we will each have our favorites. In addition to the two I already mentioned above, I would name “Daughter of Hate” (thanks to its unexpectedly effective saxophone solos),  “Wrong Direction,” and then the two bonus tracks, which seem to be most accessible to prog lovers (“As Mountain Crumble” and “Brother and Sister”). But who am I kidding, I also look forward to the powerful one-two punch of the openers “The Bee” and “Message and Amber.” In truth, every track thrills as it comes on over your speakers.

Now that this album has taken pride of place on my daily playlist, I am really looking forward to seeing Amorphis when they visit here on tour with Delain and Anneke later this year.