Interview with SAFFEK

Israeli alternative progressive rock act SaffeK, led by composer Oren Amitai, has just released an animated music video for the song “Mad,” taken from the group’s recent EP entitled “All Too Human.” In support of that launch, Amitai speaks for Progarchy about his beginnings, starting SaffeK, and more.

Let’s start from your early music beginnings. How did your musical career begin? When did you start playing? Which groups have been your favorites? Please tell us something more about your early life.

I started like many Rock lovers of my age group with the first album of Linkin Park when it was released, I was around 11. I found myself reading Manga with Linkin Park as a soundtrack and just exploding with awe and emotion. Life was felt so strongly and vivid. Quickly after I found out about System of a Down and The Doors, two bands that closed the deal for me – Music is my trigger, I am at another level of existing when the fire of it holds me.  

By the age of 15 I was doing my own adaption of Rock on a broken classic guitar. In those years I also got really deep into classic Prog and quickly after I found myself a part of my dream cast prog group made out of my best friends growing up. We named ourselfs Hanagaria (“The Carpentry”) after Dean’s dad carpentry where we used to sit every night. After Hanagaria released an LP we broke up. Dean went on playing Bass in SaffeK and the talented Ilan Barkani from the group also joined me for a couple of years on the drums. 

How did you go about starting SaffeK? Who was the most influential when the band started its musical journey?

After Hanagaria broke up I decided to dream my own musical voyage, leading my interpretation of Alternative Prog Rock. The project was originally named “Oren Amitai’s Stitches” but then I got around to the understanding that the name was a teeth breaker so I decided to change it to SaffeK, which means “doubt” in Hebrew. My experience of existeen is summed up in this word and it only made sense that my life’s project will be named the same. 

In the beginning, did you have some “fixed” tempo in composing songs or everything was a product of jamming, improvising?

All of SaffeK’s music started out in my bubbling head. I used to work out the main themes and different parts on guitar and vocals and then I went around meeting all of the band members individually, working with them on what I had in mind and using their talent and input in order to mold the best part with them for the song. Then, we went on the extraordinary and exciting sessions of finding out how the imaginary world turns to ecstatic insanity in the rehearsal room.

After the first couple of years I decided to make everything much more down to earth. Today I send out everything ready for everybody without us meeting, including the final draft of the song. Then, when we reach the rehearsal room, those talented basterds bring their amazing approach to the piece and we polish it all and find out what the finished song will be. 

How would you describe SaffeK music on your own?

SaffeK’s music is a mash of the ideas and musical influences that made me who I am with a focus on the rock & guitar elements. It’s music that turns me to an animalistic emotional madman. A music that steps on the core of existing for me, pushes the epicness of life is I feel it through music and comes with a message of acceptance to all the other weird souls who wander this earth with me and are confused but at awe as hell. 

Tell me about the writing and recording sessions for “All Too Human” EP.

Writing down “All Too Human” was a very deep and emotional journey for me. The E.P describes the main 4 elements in my character that make me suffer as a human, the 4 main features that separates me for the most part of what I feel and describe as divine. In order to really flesh them out I had to venture into my destructiveness and fill myself  with the sadness, anger, pressure and alienation. The best part of it, of course, is that I feel that the best way to describe these elements is to burn them out, scream them out, feel them to the maximum effort. And that is what I tried to do with the compositions themselves. The rec sessions were great, great flowing vibe and in awesome happy energetic accomplishment.  

What is the most important thing for the structure of your songs? Is it a riff, a melody line, vocal arrangement?

For me the most important thing is the story itself. I have to ask myself all the time if the story makes sense to me, if it works me out emotionally. If you listen to the song and you swim with the journey, not nodding your head going “…What?”.

Besides that, I find that what I usually work around with at first is the melody/riff to start me off. That’s the first thing that moves me. 

Recommend us some good progressive rock/metal acts coming from your area.

One of the most exciting, well developed and pecked with originality is Subterranean Masquerade. Their concerts are a must see! 

I have to recommend “Bzaat” as well. virtuoso guitar & drums insanity! 

Are you also involved in any other projects or bands beside SaffeK?

I used to float around and work with different projects, today I’m focusing on SaffeK as my passion. Otherwise, I work as a teacher at Just Music Academy in Israel and develop productions and mix & master for beautiful people that come my way. I find the work of teaching intense and inspiring. It’s a true beauty to see people transforming their passion and flare into an authentic creation.  

So, what comes next for SaffeK?

A new video is coming out in the next few weeks, a work of a lot of great minds which I am very proud of. It’s gonna take SaffeK’s visual presentation to a new level. 

Afterwards it’s all about counting down the days till summer when we will release a new album followed by a European tour. Beside that, truly, all we can’t wait for is to see the people, the crowds, what we live for. We can’t wait to break the lonesomeness, the dreadful silence of the music with you.

“All Too Human” is available from Bandcamp here. Follow SaffeK on Facebook and Instagram.

Review: Project Sapiens – Here We Are

Project Sapiens - Here We Are album art

“Here We Are” is a debut EP release from a Copenhagen-based alternative/progressive metal act Project Sapiens, comprised of five songs.

Kicking off with the title track, “Here We Are” hints its diversity. Elements ranging from hard rock, heavy metal to Opeth-influenced Prog Metal and alternative motifs are included. 

There is definitely potential here, and “Uprising” and “My Prison Cell” prove that. The transition between different parts is rather smooth. “Anger” starts with a very nice melody provided by a clean guitar of Poul Jakobsen and clean vocals by Mads Rahbaek. The guitar riffs that can be heard on this one, and throughout the record, are another highlight and an element that makes difference. Closing “Keepers of the Realm” starts very atmospherically, but it doesn’t take too long to become a hybrid child of Alice in Chains, Soundgarden and Porcupine Tree.

What is important here is that Project Sapiens made a brave step to produce a release that is stylistically very different, and with the experience called “Here We Are” I’m sure that they will take the best out of it and use that knowledge on their next release.

“Here We Are” is available here.

Best Compilation Albums of the 1990s

Though I’m a prog man at heart, I like to think of myself as open to all forms of music.  Granted, I have yet to hear a single country or rap song that I like, but I certainly love much of classical and symphonic, jazz, and various forms of rock.  One thing I miss in the rock world are compilation albums.  I definitely don’t mean “greatest hits” packages.  I mean albums that contain songs by various artists coming together for a particular purpose.  Usually, this purpose was for movie soundtracks, but not always.

Looking at my own collection–however limited–it looks to me that the best of these came out in the 1990s.  I will admit, though, that my love of these specific compilation albums might have much to do with some happy nostalgia for a pre-9/11, far more innocent world.

Here are my favorite four from that time period.

until the end of the world
Before it’s too late. . .

4. “Until the End of the World”–a soundtrack for the Wim Wenders film of the same name.  The album features songs–every one of them good–by a number of artists I would never listen to, otherwise, such as Depeche Mode, Lou Reed, and T-Bone Burnett.  Even the major bands that appear–such as Talking Heads, Nick Cave, and U2 give it their best.  My favorite song, by far, is “Calling All Angels,” performed by Jane Siberry and K.D. Lang.

Continue reading “Best Compilation Albums of the 1990s”

Review: Remark – Keep Running

Keep Running

REMARK’s second offering Keep Running is an affirmative new chapter in a book already filled with trials and tribulations. You only need to look at the striking album cover to gain a sense of what you’re in for – grunge that bounces from heavy to soft, to everything in between. You’re in for a ride.

Whilst you may typecast the realm of grunge to bands such as Soundgarden and Alice In Chains, from the outset, REMARK put a modern twist onto an already formidable genre to dip into. ‘Comeback’ opens with your stereotypically sexy distorted guitars, before plunging into elements of alternative rock that bring it bang up to date. The same can be said for its partner ‘Purple Haze’. Its emotionally thirsty in lyrical content, which is backed up by self-assured punk-like guitar tones.

Although the 1990s nostalgia is laid so bare it could slap you in the face, the EP’s lead lines and riffs are contemporary additions that create a positive genre bending journey.

REMARK have truly come up trumps with this record, with two closing songs — both covers by Tears for Fears and Alex Clare — supporting that statement. Keep Running is infinitely catchy and brings back a genre that the original greats still hold the crown to, but rethinking it in a way that makes it accessible to the masses.

Honest, compelling and obsessively alluring, Keep Running is a masterpiece in post-grunge. Head over to Bandcamp to stream / download the EP. REMARK are also on FacebookYouTube, and Instagram.

Two more from the Elephant


Finally I have unpacked the trunk of album reviews that backed up last year, and this reviews catches up on two albums Bad Elephant released back in October last year, and which are worth having a listen to, before they unleash the new Tom Slatter album on the unsuspecting world.

bem035-album-cover

The Far Meadow: Given the Impossible

 

Formed back in 2014 this is the first album on Bad Elephant from London based 5 piece, The Far Meadow and was released back in October last year.

As is common with so many of the wonderful artists signed to Bad Elephant, the band defy categorisation, veering from traditional progressive sounds to folk and back with a dazzling array of performances and sounds that make this an excellent album to listen to.

Continue reading “Two more from the Elephant”

Threeviews

Afternoon Progarchists, as someone who writes for a variety of different sites I find myself getting sent diverse and eclectic albums to listen to, all of which roughly fall into the margins of the progressive genre, and today I have three radically different releases, all of which have been bouncing round my brain as I ride the mean streets of Bristol on the bus to and from work. Two are freshly minted (one so fresh it’s not even officially released yet – but it’s one hell of a pre-order!) and one EP which has been out for a while, so without further ado, lets introduce today’s picks.

verity

Verity Smith – Parenthesis

http://www.veritysmith.net

I first encountered Verity at the Classic Rock Society Awards back in 2014 where she was performing as part of Clive Nolan’s Alchemy musical, where she played the parts of Jane Muncey and Jessamine and was truck by her vocal prowess and stage presence.

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After 15 Years, RADIOHEAD is Back!

moonshapedpool
Radiohead’s best album since 2001.

I remember very well the day I bought Radiohead’s OK COMPUTER.  I was living in Helena, Montana, for the year, and I made a not atypical trip down to my favorite weirdo store, Hastings, to get some comics.  You know, the usual batch of Batman and sci-fi titles.

While there, I spotted a stack of CDs labeled something like “prog for a new era.”  Intrigued, I had to check them out.  They turned out to be the Radiohead cd, OK COMPUTER.  Money was rather tight in those days, so I decided to get the cd rather than the stack of comics (I bought just two comics on that weekly trip—such restraint!).

As with almost every other American my age, I had heard Radiohead all of the time during their “Creep” days.  Not only had American alternative radio played the G-verion of “Creep” nonstop, but then Tears for Fears did a cover of it.  It was everywhere in the early 90s, a defining song for the alternative rock movement.

Continue reading “After 15 Years, RADIOHEAD is Back!”