Interview: RING OF GYGES

Ring of Gyges

Iceland has been very active when it comes to the Progressive Rock genre in the recent years. It could be said that Ring of Gyges is one of the bands that represent this wave of the Icelandic Prog very well. Formed in 2013, the quintet released an EP titled “Ramblings of Madmen” in 2015 and a single “Witchcraft” in 2016, before launching their debut full-length release “Beyond the Night Sky” in November last year.

Vocalist and guitarist Helgi Jónsson told us about the band’s beginnings, new album, the Icelandic Prog scene, 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 as a young man? Please tell us something more about your early life.

I come from a musical family, my dad plays bass and my parents raised me with their old vinyl records; Queen, Pink Floyd, The Beatles, that kind of stuff. I started learning classical guitar when I was a kid, probably around 9 or 10 years old, though I wasn’t really interested in that kind of music. I grew up in the countryside and the music school I went to wasn’t very good so the only proper tutoring I was getting at the time was from my dad, who taught me my first chords on the guitar (the power chords were particularly interesting to me!). When I was 13 I scraped together some money out of birthday cards and bought my very first electric guitar and amplifier, both shitty no-name brands, but I was ecstatic. I quickly formed a band with two of my schoolmates. We were mostly playing covers but I wrote one original song as well. Later on, my parents gave me an American Fender Stratocaster as a confirmation present, which remains to this day my favorite guitar and a good portion of our album was recorded with it. In high school I started to really get into prog, Rush, Dream Theater and Focus were some early favorites, but Blackwater Park by Opeth is probably the album that really sealed the deal for me on this whole prog metal thing.

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Review: Ring of Gyges – Beyond the Night Sky

Ring of Gyges

With the amount of records being released in the present era, ranging from the bedroom to high-class studio productions, it is quite a challenge to satisfy my hunger for music lately. Most of this has to do with the fact that the music being released today lacks sincerity. Maybe I am stuck badly to the old-school understanding of rock music, but even though I try so hard, it happens quite a lot that I cannot understand and enjoy the modern music. The sound of 1970s is my comfort zone.

Ring of Gyges from Reykyavik, Iceland could be described as a true progressive rock/metal band with touches of metal here and there, offering well-thought melodies, interesting vocal arrangements, and passages that connect the dots that are quite enjoyable. Helgi Jónsson and Guðjón Sveinsson, who are the key persons for this band, both handle vocals and guitars on the the band’s debut album, and they absolutely shine here. Although their voices tell the story, both do a great work with their guitars — backing up the vocal melodies most of times.

Beyond the Night Sky

The album opens with a short atmospheric piece “Ascend,” which shows that Beyond the Night Sky has a lot to offer. With often changes, Ring of Gyges distance themselves from delivering just a pure, lifeless showcase of technical proficiency, something that these guys definitely have, but rather present the work that is alive, dynamic and above all, interesting.

References to various stylistically different artists can be heard in Ring of Gyges’ music. Their explorations within Anathema’s or Porcupine Tree’s melancholia speak of that, but the band is not afraid to delve deeper and expand their horizons. As Beyond the Night Sky flows by, a listener is taken to a sound-trip that gets more metal-esque. Each of the songs on the album has its own personality, and labelling this record under a single genre would do this band a lot of injustice.

To summarise, Beyond the Night the Sky is a record largely based on the progressive rock genre channelling many different elements. This is a true epic, both in length and amount of quality material, which requires quite a few listens to get into it. How far Ring of Gyges are ready to go? Time will tell. But for now they are on the right path.

Get a copy of Beyond the Night Sky from this location.