Brad Birzer and Dave Bandana Talk The Bardic Depths… With Each Other

The wonderful Brad Birzer just interviewed his bandmate Dave Bandana to discuss Dave’s background and their new album, The Bardic Depths. The interview doubles as their first time talking to each other “face-to-face” via video chat. This is their third collaboration, and they’ve only interacted by email before this. What an amazing era in which we live… minus the plague of course.

The Bardic Depths is a brilliant album – one you need to listen to. Check out my review and Rick Krueger’s review.

The Bardic Depths – A Prescient Album

The Bardic DepthsThe Bardic Depths, The Bardic Depths, 2020 (Gravity Dream)

Tracks: The Trenches (8:36), Biting Coals (7:50), Depths of Time (12:35), Depths of Imagination (5:01), Depths of Soul (6:40), The End (7:38), Legacies (9:28)

Longtime readers of Progarchy are well aware that just about everything written by Dr. Bradley J. Birzer is brilliant. The previous two album collaborations between Brad and Dave Bandana, 2017’s Becoming One and 2018’s Of Course It Must Be, were both great. I noticed strong strides forward in the second album, and I hear a huge leap forward in this third collaboration in the form of a more formal band called The Bardic Depths.

Birzer still handles the lyrical output and Bandana acts as the musical director, but Dave Bandana and Brad Birzerthe cast of characters has broadened greatly. Cosmograf maestro Robin Armstrong realized the brilliance in the demos and decided to both mix the album and make it the first release on his new record label, Gravity Dream. Along the way Bandana began asking people here and there to contribute to the album, and before he knew it a more refined sound had emerged. The Big Big Train facebook group became a means of connection for Bandana and the extraordinary Peter Jones (Tiger Moth Tales, Red Bazar, Camel). Jones contributed a couple soulful and beautiful saxophone solos. Gareth Cole and Robin Armstrong contribute some blistering guitar solos, and a host of other talented people contribute their musicianship and vocal talents (including spoken word). Sir Brad himself makes multiple appearances with the spoken word. Having had the fortune of taking one of his courses when I was in college, I can tell you he was blessed with a fantastic speaking voice, second to only Dr. Tom Conner in the Hillsdale College History Department.


Continue reading “The Bardic Depths – A Prescient Album”

Robin Armstrong’s New Label Signs New Duo The Bardic Depths – Featuring Some Familiar Names

Progarchy wishes a huge congratulations to its former editor and co-founder Brad Birzer and Progarchist Dave Bandana who have formed a new band, The Bardic Depths, and become the first signing to Robin Armstrong’s (Cosmograf) new label Gravity Dream. Brad and Dave have made two albums under the name Birzer Bandana, with Birzer handling lyrics and Bandana handling most of the instrumentation and vocals. This new album, entitled The Bardic Depths, will feature a similar setup but with additional players and singers. Lyrics will focus on the literary friendship between J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Less (two of my favorite authors!). It promises to be a great album.

The following fine people have contributed to the album:

Brad Birzer – Lyrics and concept, spoken word
Kevin McCormick – Guitars
Paolo Limoli – Keyboards, Piano
Tim Gerht – Drums
Gareth Cole – Guitars
Peter Jones – Saxophone, vocals,spoken word
John William Francis – Marimba, spoken word
Glenn Codere – Backing Vocals
Mike Warren- Cello
Robin Armstrong – Guitars, Bass, Keyboards
Dave Bandana – Vocals, Keyboards, Guitars, Bass, Flute, Harmonica,
With –
Richard Krueger, Henri Strik, Scotty Scott, Andreas Mowinckel, Tony Bridgeman,
Martin Holmes, Phil Ball – Spoken Word

Congratulations again to both Brad and Dave!

 

https://www.loudersound.com/news/cosmograf-mans-new-label-announce-first-signing-the-bardic-depths

A View

There may possibly be some readers who still don’t know that, as well as being editor and chief contributor to Progarchy, Dr. Brad Birzer has also written lyrics and created concepts for two progressive rock albums. This is a track from the latest  album Of Course It Must Be. You can explore more of Brad’s work at http://www.birzerbandana.bandcamp.com

A Must Read – Brad Birzer’s “Neil Peart: Cultural Repercussions”

Cultural RePercussions 2 (1)In an effort to avoid lame homecoming activities and pathetically drunk alumni hitting on poor freshmen ladies, I decided to spend last night curled up on my bed listening to Rush (Caress of Steel through Signals) while reading Brad Birzer’s new book on Neil Peart. I’m not going to offer a full review because I don’t think I could do it justice, but I highly recommend it to all of you. It helped me greatly understand both Neil Peart the man and the musician.

After reading Dr. Brad’s book, it is clear that there is a lot Mr. Peart and I disagree about, particularly when it comes to religion. However, I deeply admire him much in the same way I admire other anti-religious or anti-Christian greats of the western tradition. Despite his aversion to Christianity, Peart doesn’t come out and attack Christians for their beliefs. He is very much live and let live, and I can completely support that.

The structure of the book is chronological, beginning with Peart’s beginnings with the band and ending at the present. Brad includes in depth analysis of Rush’s lyrics, Neil Peart’s written prose, and looks at his personal life in order to understand the band’s music. Brad rounds out his look at the intellectual study of Neil Peart with generous interview references from all three band members, as well as personal interviews with masters of current prog, such as Andy Tillison. While Brad didn’t get the opportunity to conduct any new interviews with Peart himself, he makes up for that loss by looking at essentially every pertinent interview, book, and magazine article available.

In short, Neil Peart: Cultural Repercussions is a must read for fans of Rush, Neil Peart, progressive rock, literature, the western tradition, and cultural criticism. Brad paints Peart as the great western man of our time, continuing the culture of the past, all the while doing it with the enthusiasm that only Dr. Brad Birzer can provide. It really is an outstanding book, well worth your time.

Order Neil Peart: Cultural Repercussions from Amazon, here.

Glass Hammer: Philosopher Kings of Prog

I’m relatively new to Glass Hammer’s music; 2012’s Perilous was the first album I heard. It’s a fine album, but it didn’t knock my socks off. So I wasn’t prepared to give their 2014 release, Ode To Echo, more than a cursory listen. Big mistake!

The release this week of Glass Hammer’s The Breaking Of The World led me to go back and give Ode To Echo another spin. Am I glad I did – in the words of our beloved editor-in-chief, “Holy Schnikees!” Ode is a shining example of how prog can be both sophisticated and fun. Even though Brad Birzer has already published an excellent review of it, I wanted to put my two cents in.

glass hammer ode to echo

Maybe it’s lead vocalist Carl Groves’ presence, but there’s real power in both the lyrics and the playing on this album. For example, take the first song, Garden of Hedon, which begins with a description of what sounds like Eden, but gradually introduces some disquieting details:

Sensory – the flies a constant choir for your ears

(In Hedon even bugs we hold dear!)

Taste, touch, see – the sky a vivid uncensored screen

Showing everyone’s deepest dreams

Sensory – as always there’s the fruit of the tree

No restrictions, everything’s free

Taste, touch, see – the Garden offers you everything

In Hedon you can always be king.

Sure, you could say this song is another warning against the temptations of the hedonistic side of the internet, along the lines of Fear Of A Blank Planet. But where Steven Wilson keeps his concerns on a relatively mundane level (the internet anesthetizes its users), Glass Hammer takes it to a whole new one:

When the end comes will we stand tall

Without any shame when we hear our name?

Misantrog is a wonderful musical offering of Trick of the Tail-era prog which paints a sympathetic portrait of a man in a hell of self-imposed isolation:

Leave me safe to be

In a place where there’s no need to see

Where the shadows are so real

And the coldness that I feel reminds me I’m alive.

Crowbone is an understated masterpiece which uses a few lines by Robert Low to impart the desperate nihilism of Viking raiders on a “black-glass sea”. They are mere “feathers on the breath of gods”, while the music progresses from a gorgeous acoustic backing to roaring, full-throated rock.

The centerpiece of Ode is I Am I , which features a dialogue between Echo and Narcissus. Echo tries to reach Narcissus, but he is too self-absorbed to even be aware of her. Susie Bogdanowicz’s vocals as Echo are flawless.

Lest the listener get a little down in the midst of all this hedonism, loneliness, and narcissism, the band resurrects the classic Monkees hit, Porpoise Song. A delightful slice of ’60s psychedelia, Glass Hammer outdo themselves in recreating that first era of prog. Their version is now the definitive one.

I could on and on; there isn’t a single weak track on Ode. It is an album of remarkable depth, both musically and lyrically. It is also a modern-day Book of Ecclesiastes – life is short, so don’t waste it in vain pursuits. It doesn’t hurt that this sobering theme is delivered with such extraordinarily good melodies.

A review of The Breaking Of The World is forthcoming, but I wanted to give Ode To Echo the praise it is due. 2014 was such a bountiful year for prog, I almost missed this one. Don’t make my mistake!