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 Neo-Prog Gem – Lifesigns’ “Altitude”

Lifesimeta-eyJzcmNCdWNrZXQiOiJiemdsZmlsZXMifQ==Lifesigns, Altitude, 2021
Tracks:
 Altitude (15:17), Gregarious (4:34), Ivory Tower (7:45), Shoreline (7:40), Fortitude (10:08), Arkhangelsk (0:57), Last One Home (6:16), Altitude Reprise (1:43)

As the year quickly comes to a close, it’s about time I start to wrap up with some reviews of some of the many wonderful albums released this year. Longtime readers of Progarchy might remember our past coverage Lifesigns, as we talked about them a fair bit in our early days. I’m happy to say that their latest album Altitude is not to be missed.

There’s a strong Marillion influence on the record, which you won’t hear me complaining about. The bass is loud and distinct, and Dave Bainbridge’s crisp guitar solos grab your attention. The keyboards and organs create a Floydian atmosphere, and the whole package, together with John Young’s vocals, create a neoprog masterpiece. When the violin kicks in on the opening track, you realize this is a special record. 

With the first song clocking in at 15 minutes in length, you know right from the get-go that this is going to be a prog album in every sense of the word. The song goes through varying movements, all of which I enjoy. I hear a strong hint of Steve Hackett peppered in one of the guitar solos, which made me smile. There’s a later part of the song where acoustic guitar – possibly a twelve string – starts playing behind some synths, creating a bit of a Genesis sound. But then it blends in electric violin, a dash of saxophone, more synth sounds, and it really draws many different aspects of prog and neoprog together. 

While the opening track is more contemplative, the second song, “Gregarious,” picks up the pace with a bit of a Supertramp style. There is some good cultural critique in the lyrics:

The TV will tell you who’s the master.
Am I allowed to disagree?

“Ivory Tower,” impresses yet again with a familiar yet fresh sound. It’s strongly Marillionesque in melody and overall sound, but it isn’t a copycat at all. It’s just good music in that vein. There are strong elements of contemporary prog here too, with “Fortitude” reminding me of Steven Wilson’s solo work (his progressive stuff, not the pop albums). 

The band goes full Floyd on “Last One Home.” Bainbridge’s long guitar solo is blisteringly brilliant, and it is backed perfectly with a Hammond organ, drums, and bass. This kind of guitar work should feature on every progressive rock album. The song closes out with some pleasant vocal harmonies that grow in a beautiful crescendo. 

Altitude has impressed me more and more upon repeated listens. There are a lot of little things to pick up on throughout, such as the backing female vocals that pop up periodically. The album contains many nods to prog history, which will be sure to please many prog fans, but there’s so much more here to enjoy. The songs are well-written. The lead and backing vocals create a smooth and pleasant atmosphere, and Bainbridge’s guitar-work is worth the price of admission just by itself. Do yourself a favor and check Altitude out before the year ends. 


https://lifesignsmusic.co.uk/home
List with links to international retailers selling Altitude: https://lifesignsmusic.co.uk/international-retailers

Lifesigns – Altitude Trailer – YouTube

DEVCORD: Special Kind of Music

For Austrian musician and songwriter Peter Royburger writing music for his one-man project Devcord is a fun and enjoyable process. And this can certainly be heard on the project’s sophomore release–this year’s GODISNOWHERE. Coming out some three years after the debut Dysthymia, Royburger gives his creative everything on GODISNOWHERE, delivering a powerful combination of progressive and death metal in the way of Opeth‘s pre-Heritage era.

You have recently launched a new full-length album with Devcord entitled GODISNOWHERE. How do you feel about the release? 

I am satisfied and also relieved to have completed the project. Towards the end of the production, I had time pressure because the birth of my daughter was just around the corner. But everything turned out nicely. The album is out and my daughter Mona, who was born a few weeks after the production ended, is doing great!

Where does the new record stand comparing to the debut album—2018’s Dysthymia?

I would say that compared to my first album the new one includes more different styles and sounds. For me, GODISNOWHERE simply is a musical addition to Dysthymia and in general to my musical repertoire.

I do not only make music because the creation process is fun, I also make music to enjoy listening to it myself. Actually, that was the reason why I started Devcord. I just wanted more of a special kind of music to listen to.

How much of a challenge was it to work on GODISNOWHERE?

I am not a professional sound engineer. Finding a satisfying sound is always a challenge for me. Sometimes you sit for hours just for an optimal snare sound. After all, you want to get the best possible out of the record and, ideally, improve the sound of the first album and that put me a little under pressure. In addition, I didn’t want to waste too much time between the first and the second album. I never had this stress with Dysthymia (the first record). In summary, I can say that the time factor was my greatest challenge on GODISNOWHERE. And as already mentioned, my unborn daughter ultimately set the deadline.

Speaking of challenges, have you set any in the early phase of what has become the final result?

I didn’t really have any expectations or set musical frameworks from the start. Almost each song was created step by step, just by improvising and working on them. I just started playing, recorded what I liked and added it to create my songs. So they literally are pieces of “progressive” work.

Tell me about the topics you explore on these new songs.

I am very interested in human behaviour and the dynamics of society in their most questionable forms. That is why there are topics such as decadence, narcissism, antipathy, cynicism, pedophilia in my music and especially on the new album. Most pop songs are about love, I think it is wiser to use music to point out issues.

What is your opinion about the progressive rock/metal scene in 2021? 

I have to admit that in the last few years I’ve become a little lazy when it comes to exploring new bands, although nowadays it is easier to discover new music with Spotify or genre-specific online magazines. And I also have to admit that I´m more and more into the music of the 70’s and 80’s. Nevertheless, I keep finding new “rough diamonds”. So I think the rock and metal scene is in good health in 2021 still.

Perhaps it is also worth mentioning that the following albums are celebrating their 30th anniversary this year.

Nirvana – Nevermind, Soundgarden – Badmotorfinger, Metallica – The Black Album, Red Hot Chili Peppers – Blood Sugar Sex Magic, Guns n´ Roses – Use Your Illusion I+II, and some more…

Let me know about your influences—the artists that in a way shaped and continue to shape the music of Devcord.

I can’t deny that Opeth’s influence is very strong. But other artists definitely also have an impact on my musical work. I’m thinking of Alice in Chains, Haken, Sepultura, Extol, Wilderun, but also bands like Toto, Led Zeppelin, Steven Wilson and Eagles played a little role for Devcord. Besides, I like to listen to orchestral music, which you can easily hear on GODISNOWHERE in the pieces “Silhouette” and “Entreat The Purge”. I also wanted to include sounds from different decades on the new record. For example, “The Lament” and “Scourge Of The Present” sound more like 70’s progressive rock than modern metal. That was really important to me: creating different sounds.

What are your top 5 records of all time?

Since I’ve released two metal records, my top 5 may come as a surprise as there is only one metal album included. But I have to say that the following (unsorted) list is about those who have touched me the most in my life.

Opeth – Watershed

Nirvana – Nevermind

Foo Fighters – The colour and the shape

Silverchair – Diorama

Muse – Absolution

Besides the release of the album, are there any other plans for the future?

Definitely! The only question is when. I’m currently thinking about doing something like an EP for Devcord in the next few years with quieter and more atmospheric songs. In addition, a few years ago I started an industrial metal project called “Optimum 10” with a friend, which has been pushed into the background due to the work of GODISNOWHERE. Now, I can fully concentrate on Optimum 10. All songs have already been recorded. Unfortunately, almost all of the vocal parts, as well as mixing and mastering, are still missing. But I can’t say at all when it will be published.

Any words for the potential new fans?

Welcome to the world of Devcord and enjoy the melodies!

GODISNOWHERE is out now, check it out on Bandcamp. Devcord is on Facebook.

Jethro Tull Release Song From Upcoming Album

Jethro Tull have released a new song, “Sad City Sisters,” off their upcoming album, The Zealot Gene, which is set to be released on January 28, 2022. Ok, I have a little trouble calling Ian Anderson’s band Jethro Tull without Martin Barre contributing, but that’s what Anderson is going with now. I have nothing against Joe Parrish-James or Florian Opahle, who play guitar on the album. In fact I think Opahle is a fantastic guitarist (I’ve hot heard Parrish-James’ work). I’ve seen Opahle live twice with Ian Anderson’s band on the Thick As A Brick tour in 2012/13, and he was great. But I see this as an Ian Anderson solo album, not Jethro Tull.

With that said, I quite like this little ditty. It has a bit of the folkish aspects of late 70s Tull, and Ian Anderson’s vocals sound way better than I was expecting. Like way way way better. Obviously he’s singing in lower key, but still. The song also prominently features longtime keyboardist John O’Hara’s accordion, which has become a bit of a staple in the live shows and on Anderson’s solo albums. Longtime drummer Scott Hammond and bassist David Goodier join on the album as well. Any way you slice it, this is Jethro Tull’s first official album since 2003’s The Jethro Tull Christmas Album.

More info via Louder (Prog Magazine): https://www.loudersound.com/news/jethro-tull-premiere-brand-new-video-for-sad-city-sisters

Jethro Tull – Sad City Sisters – YouTube

AEROSOL’s JOHN HILER Discusses New Album “Murmurations”

The story of Aerosol, a Los Angeles based progressive rock act, has certainly been filled with ups and downs, as the lead singer, producer and composer John Hiler confirms in a new interview for Progarchy. The band was formed as somewhat a new venture of late Sean Reinert, and just as Aerosol were starting to work on their debut release, the news of Reinert‘s passing hit the music community.

The band decided to go on and finish the work on “Murmurations,” which sees guest appearances by drummers Dirk Verbeuren and Mike Heller.

In the interview below, Hiler talks us through the creative process of “Murmurations,” challenges, and more.

You have an album coming out with Aerosol entitled Murmurations. How do you feel about the release? 

Excited, of course! It’s been a hero’s journey, full of ups and downs, but we’ve ended up with a record that has exceeded all of our expectations. We’re all proud of how it turned out. When Sean was alive, we discussed creating a platform to express ourselves as fully and freely as we desired. After he passed, our goal became to honor him in our work, and finish something he would be proud of, too. He has guided this project from start to finish, in life and afterwards, and it would be nowhere near as good without his constant presence and implicit direction.

What was it like working on the album? How much of a challenge was it to work on it, and actually bring it to completion after Sean passed away?

As you can imagine, working on the album went through many phases. At first, it was the joy of collaboration, with Sean, Matt, and myself jamming and improvising together. There’s a special magic in “harmonizing” with each other’s musical brains without the need for words. After Sean’s passing, we were devastated, of course. We had to reassess the entire project. We knew we wanted to see it through to fruition as a way to honor his memory and his contributions. In fact, it was at his memorial, surrounded by his loved ones, family, friends, and fellow drummers, that the path forward for Aerosol was revealed.

Speaking of challenges, have you set any in the early phase of what has become the final result?

Soon after the memorial, we had to stop everything and go into quarantine. This was another setback, of course, although we had previously collaborated remotely over FaceTime, so it wasn’t completely foreign to us. One upside of lockdown was that these amazing drummer friends of Sean’s, who were all scheduled to hit the road on tour, were suddenly now sequestered at home, with their tours postponed or cancelled. As difficult as that was for them, they were now free to contribute to this album by recording at home. In a way, the pandemic provided the opportunity to have their contributions on these tracks. And for sure we’re all better off for it!

How much creative input did Dirk Verbeuren and Mike Heller have during the creative process of Murmurations?

First of all, please allow me to say how great it has been to work with them. Dirk and Mike are both consummate professionals, and beautiful human beings. No wonder Sean was friends with them. Any friend of Sean’s is a friend of mine. You see, he brought us together at his memorial. If it wasn’t for Sean’s passing, we probably never would have even met. It was there that they offered to contribute to the record as a tribute to Sean.

There were existing demos of the songs, with guide tracks recorded, but that was only the jumping off point. Both Dirk and Mike took those guide tracks and ran with them, developed them, and made them their own. They made these songs better by a couple orders of magnitude. We provided the canvas and they painted their masterpieces upon it. And it was upon these solid foundations that we recorded the rest of the instrumentation, rebuilding each track from the ground up, stronger and more powerful than before. So, you could say that their performances and creative decisions influenced every other recorded part. No small feat. No small feet, indeed.

Tell me about the topics you explore on these seven songs.

While we did have specific themes we were exploring on each of these songs, I would be more interested to hear what you think they are about. Meaning is in the eye of the beholder, regardless of intent. Your interpretation of these songs is more important than any intended meaning. What they mean to you, the listener, is more important than our ideas.

This is one measure of success for any given song, and an example of the beauty of music in general – that the listener derives personal meaning and feeling from the music, giving it more life and depth than it would have had otherwise. You can play one song to a thousand people, but each person will hear a different song.

What is your opinion about the progressive rock/metal scene in 2021?

I’m sure it’s different for everyone. We could find success stories, and we could find stories of failure. My experience in the music business is across many genres, but there are many universal truths about the business in general in 2021 and moving forward that apply to the progressive rock and metal scenes as well.

For starters, I can say that it’s changing. Fast. What worked for the past 50 years doesn’t work anymore. Musicians are smarter and more informed than ever before. Information about how the music business operates is more widely available to everyone. At the same time, there’s more competition than ever before. 64,000 new tracks are uploaded to Spotify every day. This is no longer the wild 70’s of drug use, excessive budgets, and 3 album deals. To operate successfully in 2021 is to be a well-oiled machine – lean, productive, and professional.

Music is no longer the monolithic force it once was, when the major labels were the gatekeepers, and the arbiters of taste and popular opinion. Today’s audience is defibrillated, niche. Everyone listens in their own microcosm, their own bubble. Progressive rock and metal are lucky, in a way, because they have always existed in their own gated communities. They are preconditioned to survive this newer reality. That’s the good news. Also, touring will always be a major component of a successful career as a musical artist, and progressive rock and metal acts have a leg up in this department, as well, since its musicians are on the whole more accomplished and technically capable compared to most modern musical acts.

So, I guess you could say it’s the best of times, worst of times for progressive rock and metal. There are new, greater difficulties of logistics and competition to overcome, it’s harder than ever to break through all the noise, but it is also through these difficult times that newer, greater leaders are born. Iron is strong but brittle, but steel is stronger than iron because it is flexible. How do you turn iron into steel? You light it on fire and beat the shit out of it.

What we hope to do with Aerosol is push the boundaries of what rock, progressive rock, metal, and modern pop mean in 2021 and beyond. Genres merge, bleed into each other, influence each other. There needs to be a new generation, a new variation, a mutation, that rekindles much of what those genres stood for in the past – questioning authority, rethinking what it means to be human, fighting injustice, praising beauty in all forms, and maybe even describing the kind of world we’d like to see someday. Combine that with a love of craft, hard work, and real musicianship, forged into the shapes of pop songs and modern soundscapes, all with the intention of evolving it into the next iteration. It needs to be truthful to these roots, yet also reinvent itself for the next generation. What’s old will be made new again. Reminiscent yet fresh. Familiar yet new and different.

Let me know about your influences—the artists that in a way shaped Murmurations.

How does one summarize a lifetime of influences? Could you do it? Add to that a group of people, each with their own influences, that all contributed necessary parts to the whole, in order to see the whole picture of what shaped Murmurations.

For starters, I was classically trained in composition at conservatory. I am a 4th generation classical pianist. In that world, I have an affinity for late Romanticism, and the French Impressionists like Debussy and Ravel, but also the early purity of Gothic and Renaissance music, and healthy appreciation for 20th century post-modern avant garde composers like Stravinksy, Stockhausen, Cage, and Glass. But by high school I broke out. I discovered jazz fusion and progressive rock artists like Jean-Luc Ponty, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Pat Metheny, Dixie Dregs, Yes, King Crimson, ELP, and Rush, who provided the bridge between the high standards of technique that classical music demands, and the modern instrumentation, song structures, and production values of popular music. Also, my sister was into way cooler music than I was, and it was mostly through her that I learned to appreciate English New Wave bands like The Cure, Depeche Mode, and New Order. The idea that musical emotion could be conveyed successfully without the need of a degree from Juilliard was an epiphany. Back in conservatory, I was also exposed to the life-changing music of Talk Talk, Radiohead, and others who pushed the boundaries of Rock, Pop, Art, and the Avant Garde. After conservatory, my early studio work with Slayer and Danzig introduced me to the world of metal and the power it can wield, and my later work in pop music with Rihanna and Madonna increased my appreciation of the perfectly concocted pop song confection.


What are your top 5 records of all time?

Wow. That’s a great question. Could you answer it? There is so much great music, and every few years my tastes evolve, but if I had to choose, off the top of my head, I’d say Talk Talk’s Spirit of Eden, Beastie Boys’ Ill Communication, Rush’s Permanent Waves, Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue, and Isao Tomita’s recording of Holtz’s The Planets.

Besides the release of the album, are there any other plans for the future?

Yes! We are planning a live show, merchandise, vinyl and deluxe packages with hi-res stems and alternative mixes, plus we are continuously working on new material, with an eye on releasing a follow-up single by end of January. We’re in it for the long haul, and it’s only going to get better.

Any words for the potential new fans?

First of all, I would like to say thank you so much for listening. We know how valuable your time is, and how many excellent options there are for music these days. We are humbly grateful to be included.

Secondly, when we set out to make this record, we knew we had to make a record for ourselves, and nobody else. That is what we talked about with Sean. Our key word for this work is “authenticity”. It has to be authentic or the audience will sniff it out in a second. We set out to be as authentic as possible, given our diverse influences and myriad possible stylistic choices. We made a record that we would be proud of, regardless of any external validation. That is the only path to authenticity, and if that comes across in any way, then we have done our job.

If you like our music, then you probably have a refined, sophisticated ear. This is not music for the masses. We’re speaking to people with greater vocabularies. Aerosol requires a learned palate to recognize all the flavors we cooked into this stew. It is not fast food. And while it might be too difficult for the average punter to digest, for those who can, there is the reward of a complexity and layers of flavor rarely experienced in music nowadays. Hopefully it will satisfy even the most discerning gourmands like yourselves for years to come.

Oh, and I would also like to mention that, in Sean’s memory, we are donating a portion of all profits to The Trevor Project, a 24/7 hotline for at-risk LGBTQ youth. For more information on the excellent but discreet services they provide to troubled teens and young adults, please visit https://www.thetrevorproject.org.

Thank you, again, Progarchy, for having us on, and thank you to any new listeners who made it all the way through the questions! Enough about us. We’d love to hear from you! Reach out to us anytime on the platform of your choice. Links available here: https://linktr.ee/aerosol

Nick D’Virgilio, Neal Morse, and Ross Jennings Release Song From Upcoming Album

D'Virgilio, Morse & JenningsA few days ago Nick D’Virgilio, Neal Morse, and Ross Jennings released a single, “Julia,” off their upcoming record, Troika. Based off this single and the personnel involved, I’m guessing the album is going to focus heavily on the vocals and feature many vocal harmonies.

Ross Jennings comments on the track,

With my original demo clocking in at around the 8-minute mark and possibly leaning too close to ‘prog epic’ than the singer/songwriter vibe we were attempting to present on this record, Neal arranged my lengthy ballad into something more concise, in-keeping with the album’s essence and writing in a powerful new chorus in the process!

“This one was all about the 3-part vocal harmony interplay and ‘pull-at-the-heartstring’ lyrics which deals with themes of regret and forgiveness in the context of a broken father-daughter relationship.

Album available for preorder here: https://dvirgiliomorsejennings.lnk.to/Troika

From the Inside Out press release:

Recorded during lockdown, the process began with Neal Morse writing some acoustic songs that he thought would be enhanced by strong vocal harmonies. He already knew how well his voice blended with former Spock’s Beard band-mate and Big Big Train drummer/ vocalist, Nick D’Virgilio who came on board and, considering a third man, the Americans sought out Haken’s Ross Jennings from the UK to complete the trio. All three found they had songs that would benefit from the three part harmonic blend, and so they pooled their resources, inputting creatively into each others compositions.
 
Neal comments: “What a great pleasure it’s been to work on this album with these amazing artists! It was kind of funny… We had been working on the songs remotely for several months before I finally heard all of us singing together at the same time. The first time I brought the faders up, I knew we had the magic!“
 
Nick adds: “I’ve known and worked with Neal for over 30 years and I’ve been a big fan of Ross and the music he makes for a long time. I felt confident right away that this would be a fun project to be a part of. I was so right.”
 
Ross comments: “Receiving ‘The Call’ from Neal to participate in this project was somewhat of a prayer answered… As a long time fan of their work, I’ve been singing along to Neal’s & Nick’s records for years, so it felt really natural for my voice to slot right in.”
 
The tracks took shape with the musicians recording all of the music and vocals separately, yet the eclectic performances burst with the energy and excitement of the collaboration. Acoustic anthems, charged rockers and sensitive ballads are all part of the mix, and the unique blend of Ross, Neal and Nick’s voices and styles have created an album in which you will encounter these musicians in a way you’ve never heard before.

THE GRANDMA Talk Group’s New Release “Cure for Fear”

Russian rockers The GrandMa are back with a new release–a full-length album “Cure for Fear,” which as the band members agree is “another door to the unknown.” About what it took to bring the release to life and more, the band speaks in the interview below.

You have recently launched an album with The GrandMa entitled “Cure for Fear.” How do you feel about the release?

Alexander: We’re absolutely excited about the release. It took us quite a long time to get there. I mean this is what we do. Music, rock music is our life and our passion, and now we feel like we just opened another door to the unknown. Speaking of music and generally of arts… Russia is still… mmm… let’s say “not open enough” and when your rock band releases an album worldwide it’s like you broke some shell and found out there’s a whole world outside. 

We are so inspired and up to more and more music, hell-bent to rock. So, it feels great. 

Sergey: Yes, and moreover, this is our first album together, and we got a lot of pleasant moments. I hope that it will be positively appreciated. The album was released worldwide through the new music label Djooky records (USA), and we are very excited about this collaboration.

What was it like working on the album? How much of a challenge was it to work on it?

Alexander: It was actually a real challenge. First of all, we kinda chose extremely “not a good” time to do it. I mean, pandemic had a huge impact on musicians’ lives and the money issues were inevitable during the whole album making process. I literally had to sell pretty much all I got to have studio time and so on. Besides, in the place we live, in this country, to be a rock musician is kinda like to be a strange “out of common sense” weirdo. A sort of social outcast. If they ask you : “what do you do?” and you’ll say : ” I am a rock musician. I play rock”, then they’ll ask you with total confusion : “but why? What for?!”…. Yes, it’s still here. Not as much as it was in soviet times, but still here. I mean, there’s a huge and great metalheads/rock fans community in Russia, but the music itself still “has to be” somewhere from far away, from another world. And in this circumstances, sometimes, it is hard to carry your creative mood and inspiration through this. And it’s very important after all. 

Luckily, inside the band, we have common preferences, and common “beliefs” about how to make our music. We all like analog sound, amps, and searching for new guitar sounds and so on… So generally we had an incredibly great time making “Cure for Fear”. It was so fun. 

Kate: Yeah! It was such a beautiful challenge and I enjoyed the process very much, staying up for several nights and thinking about nothing but the lyrics for this project during a very long time. I can also say that guys worked so hard to release this album.

Sergey: While we were recoding the album, we did not think about the album concept itself. We just recorded song after song. And only after some time we saw the outlines of the whole album and its concept.

All that was going on around us had an impact our music. 

Speaking of challenges, have you set any in the early phase of what has become the final result?

Sergey: Probably not. In my opinion, the main goal for the band was to record a high-quality material. I think we made it.

Mikhail: I believe, we just let the music come out from the inside. And the goal was not to interrupt this process!

Alexander: Well, this is our first record together and despite the fact we all are into rock music, we are still very different. Different as musicians, as listeners and so on… So, I guess, maybe the first challenge was like : “What is it gonna be like if we mix it up?” 

Tell me about the topics you explore on these songs.

Alexander: These songs, in general are about freedom, I guess, about the will to be free and happy, challenges and struggles we all have as human beings. The questions that never get old. Luckily we have our indispensable lyricist Kate, maybe she can say more about this. 

Kate: To be honest, you have already told everything that I would say. I can only add that it was a pleasure to speak through these songs and share some observations of mine about life, people and different experiences. Like Sasha said, these songs are about relevant topics that are as old as humanity itself. Sometimes, though, I was really surprised about the final lines that I came up with, because my main inspiration was a wonderful music that guys showed me. All I needed to do is just “to catch” the images that came to my mind and develop the stories while I was listening to the demos.

What is your opinion about the rock/metal scene in 2021?

Alexander : As for me, first what just came to my mind is “Mudvayne” reunion. It’s just… wow! I am super excited. 

Sergey: I am impressed with the latest work of Dead Daisies with Glenn Hughes!!! It’s super cool!!! And they’re already on tour… I’d like to meet them one day. 

Mikhail: I guess, rock music in general became more popular in the last few years. I think it’s the most emotional genre of modern music. After 2020 lockdown, after all those things, 2021 felt so special. Concerts, festivals, new releases, it’s like a silver lining we’ve been waiting for so long.         

Let me know about your influences—the artists that in a way shaped your work.

Alexander : This is definitely gonna be a huge list. I mean if gonna talk about what shaped each one of us as musicians, it would be an endless list. For me it’s a wide range of styles and artists. Like, from Slipknot to Stravinsky and more… But if we are talking about what shaped this work, the album, I think it’s more like: you wandering around, living your life and you hear and see something. Sometimes it’s little things. And it becomes an idea, musical idea, which grows into a song or your Instrumental part. And it can come from anywhere. 

Sergey: I have always been and still am a huge fan of 60-70s rock music. Therefore, in my list Doors, Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, Yes, Pink Floyd and many others from this era.

What are your top 5 records of all time?

Alexander: It’s definitely “Black album” by “Metallica” 

Radzh: Yeah! “Black album” by “Metallica” and also

“Industrial Zen” by John McLaughlin,

“Full Circle” by Ravi Shankar

“Toto IV” by Toto

“10,000 Days” by Tool

Sergey: I would say, Deep Purple «In rock»…  Forever. 

If it is necessary to highlight the top five, then I will add more «L.A. Woman» by Doors, “Wish you were here” by Pink Floyd, “Presence” by Led Zeppelin and “Sabbath bloody Sabbath” by Black Sabbath

Mikhail: “Machine Head” and “Purpendicular” by Deep Purple, “Load” by Metallica, “Revolver” by Beatles, “Physical Graffiti” by Led Zeppelin

Besides the release of the album, are there any other plans for the future?

Alexander: Yeah, of course. Live shows mostly. 

Sergey: Yes, spring – summer of 2022. 

Any words for the potential new fans?

Sergey: Follow the news from The GrandMa. Something very impressive is coming soon

Kate: Let yourself dive into this amazing music flow, share our songs everywhere you can and sing along with the band on their live shows.

Keep your eye on The Grandma.

The Best Prog Bands You’ve Never Heard Of (Part Twenty-Nine): Et Cetera

Do you admire the technical virtuosity of Gentle Giant? (You probably do – you’re a reader of Progarchy, after all.) Do you speak French, or at least consider the language beautiful? (Of course you do.) Then consider listening to this long lost Quebecois gem. Et Cetera, a Canadian quintet (with a female vocalist!), released their sole album in the USA’s bicentennial year, but unfortunately disbanded shortly thereafter. This was certainly a shame considering their level of skill: Marie Bernard Page has the voice of an angel (you’ll appreciate her talent from the get go); Robert Marchand transitions from soft strumming on acoustic guitar to jazzy licks on electric with ease (see “Entre chien et loup” and “Apostrophe” to hear it for yourself); Denis Chartrand plays with the focus of Kerry Minnear and would certainly be his match in a duel of keyboard virtuosos; and Alain Pigeon and Pierre Dragon on bass and drums, respectively, prove that those two winged creatures can get along splendidly when they combine their talents in order to tackle a variety of intricate rhythmic patterns.

Some critics dismissed Et Cetera as a Gentle Giant clone, but they clearly failed to appreciate what each of these musicians brought to the table. The gorgeous, multi-layered vocal harmonies; rock-solid rhythm section; and symphonic synth and keys (among other instruments, including flute, sax, and cello) place this quintet near the top of the list of obscure gems. Fans of Gentle Giant should definitely give this a spin, but any serious prog aficionado will find something to appreciate here.

Big Big Train Releases Short Film Tribute for David Longdon

Big Big Train released a short video tribute to David Longdon today featuring the song “Capitoline Venus” from their upcoming album, Welcome to the Planet. The film was made by Christian Rios. A demo of this song was released on the Passengers Club earlier this year, featuring Greg Spawton on demo vocals. I was hoping we would get a finished version of this song with David on vocals, and he sounds absolutely wonderful. A beautiful song for heart-wrenching times.

https://youtu.be/Jm2xJfXDibc

Rob Koral’s “Wild Hearts” – Jazz Rock At Its Purest

Rob Koral - Wild HeartsRob Koral – Wild Hearts – 2021
Tracks: Show Me The Way (5:46), Funky “D” (7:14), Summer (8:12), Take Me Back (4:40), Saving Grace (7:18), The Showdown (5:17), The Beyond (5:00), Hold Tight (5:37)

Part jazz, part classic rock, part blues, and all with a sprinkling of prog over the top for good measure. That’s probably the best way to describe Rob Koral’s new album, Wild Hearts. Rob has played on over 30 records, and he is most well known for his work with the band Sketch. He is also a founding member of the band Zoe Schwarz Blue Commotion.

The songs on Wild Hearts are very upbeat, reminding me a little of the first Jethro Tull record and of Blodwyn Pig. The music is relatively simple – guitars by Rob Koral, Hammond organ by Pete Whittaker, and drums by Jeremy Stacey. The album sounds extremely fresh, which is likely due to the group recording the songs live in studio on one day in December 2020. I think that approach is best for this kind of jazz-blues instrumental music. It begs for improvisation. Rob wrote all the music, but he says that he didn’t tell Pete and Jeremy what to play. The result is music with form that still breathes. You can even hear the little hand movements on the guitar strings and the little natural noises you would get playing live. There’s even a sense of space from the room the recorded the music in. These elements add warmth to the recording, as well as bring a vintage feel to the music.

The Hammond organ really makes this record stand out for me. It adds such a rich atmosphere to the songs, even when the guitar is taking center stage. The drums have a jazzy improv feel that sets the perfect stage for the guitars and organ. My only really critique is perhaps a little bit of repetition throughout, but that also may be a result of the album being recorded live in a day. As such it’s quite an achievement. In a way it feels like a live jazz show. A song like “The Beyond” especially has that feel of anticipation as the soloing switches back and forth between guitar and organ. The longer guitar solo builds gradually over a very simple but effective drum beat. It’s smooth with a little bit of grit on the lower ends.

Wild Hearts’ strength as an album is it takes jazz and rock and strips them down to the basics. There’s nothing overly complicated here, but the extended jamming gives the songs room to grow and breath. It’s a solid album that has a positive and upbeat tone to it, sure to please on repeated listens.

http://www.robkoral.co.uk
Order the CD here: https://www.zoeschwarzmusic.com/music/wild-hearts-rob-koral.html