Dream Theater Announce “Distance Over Time” Album, 2019 North American Tour

dtdot

I’m interrupting a summer (now gone) of digging deep into the recently-released Dave Matthews Band album, the two excellent Southern Empire albums (do pick them up), and my autumnal tradition of listening to all that is Big Big Train to report what’s been making the rounds on this midterm Election Day in America: Prog metal kings Dream Theater have announced a new album, “Distance Over Time,” which will be released 22 February, 2019.

The band will then hit the road for a North American tour starting in March, and while concertgoers will no doubt be treated to newly-released material from “DoT” (or, as a nod to Rush, should it be “d/t?”), the highlight of the tour will no doubt be the news of the band celebrating 20 years of their landmark album, “Metropolis Part 2: Scenes From A Memory.”

A short teaser from the forthcoming album, which was produced by guitarist John Petrucci and with sweet artwork by Hugh Syme, can be heard here:

Here are the “Distance Over Time” tour dates for America and Canada. The band also plans to follow the U.S. dates with a show in Mexico City in early May.

March 2019
20 – San Diego, CA
21 – Los Angeles, CA
22 – Los Angeles, CA
24 – San Francisco, CA
26 – Denver, CO
28 – St. Paul, MN
29 – Chicago, IL
31 – Milwaukee, WI

April 2019
2 – Detroit, MI
4 – Toronto, Ont.
5 – Montreal, Que.
6 – Quebec City, Que.
8 – Boston, MA
9 – Oakdale, CT
10 – Red Bank, NJ
12 – New York, NY
13 – Upper Darby, PA
15 – Washington, D.C.
17 – Nashville, TN
22 – Charlotte, NC
23 – Atlanta, GA
24 – Orlando, FL
26 – St. Petersburg, FL
27 – Jacksonville, FL
29 – Dallas, TX
30 – Houston, TX

May 2019
1 – Austin, TX

While I initially gave a solid review of their previous release, “The Astonishing,” I’ve since given it few listens when compared to the albums that came before it, especially the song-oriented releases (rather than concept albums). I don’t know that any information about the tracks on “Distance Over Time” has been made public, but I’m fairly certain that given the scope of “The Astonishing,” DT would likely return to a song-oriented effort on the next one, so I’m very much looking forward to hearing what’s next from the gang.

Track Review: Death of an Astronomer – Digital Conversation

Digital Conversation

Sometimes, metal guys want to play jazz fusion, and that is something that Los Angeles based keyboardist, guitarist and composer Jairo Estrada does with his project Death is an Astronomer on the recently released single “Digital Conversation.” 

https://bandcamp.com/EmbeddedPlayer/track=198860162/size=small/bgcol=ffffff/linkcol=0687f5/transparent=true/

Estrada offers up striking, highly progressive metallic fusion music that never bores or ventures too far off into aimless territory. Highly complex yet flowing, “Digital Conversation” sees weaving guitar and bass melodies twisting and turning around each other, the drums, following along every step of the way but keeping it all grounded. Arrangements just grab hold of you and take you on a mind altering journey. Nothing here is overly heavy, but there is just enough crunch in the guitar to keep this in the metal camp, yet when Estrada goes for some soaring, thought provoking chops, it’s classic jazz fusion/prog rock all the way. 

Jairo Estrada (Death of an Astronomer)

If you like adventurous, classy instrumental metal fusion, Death of an Astronomer’s debut single is a something you need to seek out immediately. But to make it easy, here is where you can get it.

Review: Rainburn – Insignify

Insignify

Indian progressive rockers Rainburn are a band who sit firmly within that region of emotive music which crosses the line between the plaintive sound of Porcupine Tree and the bluster of cinematic indie. Now on their second release, Insignify out on November 7th, they return to the age old trope of the concept album with a narrative, which feeds into the at times explosive music.

Telling the story that deals with issues of existentialism, the significance of human life, narcissism, craving importance, insecurity and the search for reason, you may consider it all a bit convoluted. At nearly 50 minutes long it does test your patience and you may find yourself drifting away from the main theme. Give it some due listening though, and you’ll find a concept which works to keep your attention.

Although thematically it’s difficult to keep up, within the music you find a way to enjoy this album. Cinematic in not just scope, but in drive, the peaks and troughs of a film are recast within some wonderful playing. Particularly good are the plaintive guitar solos, feeding off a classic sound developed by masters of prog, and given new life here. They are moments which lift the album to another level and become moments of transcendent emotion.

Rainburn can do heavy too and on the tumultuous end of “Suicide Note”, the devastating centrepiece of the album, they bring a new heaviness to prog rock which only the metal maestros dare explore. Unafraid to raise the tempo, it’s fascinating to listen to the way the band use their music as a kind of soundtrack of emotion, rather than a classic style of songwriting. They may veer on the more predictable side of prog, but at least they do it well.

There is plenty on Insignify to excite prog fans. It’s always difficult to deliver emotional music such as this without veering into cloying territory and with a concept verging on the slightly pretentious, you’re edging towards dodgy terrain. All dues to Rainburn for pulling this off in the main though, and if you’re willing to give it the time you’ll find plenty to keep you coming back. Pour yourself a drink, stick your headphones on, and lose yourself in the story for a while. You’ll enjoy it.

 

Like Rainburn on Facebook and stay in the loop for more from this great group.

Interview: SPURGE

Spurge

Drawing parallels to the work of mighty Frank Zappa and David Bowie, as well as Isis, Cult of Luna, the Mars Volta and the Dear Hunter, the Atlanta-based band Spurge seems like a promising act. But delving deeper to their most recent release, an EP simply titled “Four More Songs” reveals plethora of different sounds and vibes.

The creator of the band, bassist Jen Hodges gives us an insight into the world of Spurge, their writing process, and more.

What made you go for the name Spurge?

When I first got players together in Nashville, this was just a solo project and I was releasing material as Jen Hodges.  My musicians were wanting like a “Jen Hodges and something or other” name.  I told them I was down and whatever they picked was good for me.  My drummer at the time had a very endearing lisp and excited called out “Sthpurge!”  We were all kind of unsure what he said at first. He said it again and told us it was a kind of weed.  We all dug the double entendre.  For a while we called ourselves Jen Hodges and Spurge.  We dropped the Jen Hodges this year because the band feels like a total group effort at this point.

How do you usually describe your music?

I like to call it progressive post rock.  Most of the time people have no idea what that means so I end up explaining that we play post rock type textures but add in guitar/bass/drum solos.  I’ve heard people call it neo-classical rock, experimental,  ambient, and fusion before.  I believe someone called us a jam band once as well.

What is your writing process like?

Whenever I’m noodling around on the bass or guitar by myself I’ll come up with a few riffs I dig.  I’ll usually collect 15 or so riffs over the course of six months and start stringing them together using theory to craft transitions.  I record a scratch take with me playing all the instruments and send it out to my band.  My band are all top tier at what they do, so I tell them whatever guitar/drum parts they write is cool with me.  They always come back with some pretty sick stuff.  We rehearse it, record it, then I’ll go back in and record my bass solos as the finishing touch.  It’s an odd approach but I like how loose and open it is.  The creative process is my favorite part of playing.

Who or what is your inspiration, if you have any?

There are a lot of players I admire.  Their music inspires me to contribute to humanity’s little collection of sound.  I’ve never been able to duplicate other people’s styles.  Mostly due to my bass being upside down and backwards.  However, I like being a part of the musician community and hearing other people’s music motivates me to keep writing.  Some of the musicians who influenced me at an early age are Flea, Buckethead, Jimmy Urine, Layne Staley, David Gilmore, John Paul Jones, Victor Wooten, and Thundercat.

Four More Songs

What is your favourite piece on the new EP “Four More Songs” and why?

Oof.  That’s tough.  I like the bass solo best in Amphibian.   I like the verse in Om the best.  I like the piano solo in Rain the best.  I like the guitar riffs in David Bowie the best.  I like Miles’ vocals in Amphibian the best.  I don’t think I can pick an overall piece I like best though.

What makes “Four More Songs” different?

Different than my other albums?  Or different in general?  Different than my other albums because I had an idea about what I wanted before I started writing.  I knew for sure I wanted to write a 7 minute song, a David Bowie tribute, a schizophrenic piece with a metal bridge, and I wanted to finish Rain.  I had been in the process of writing Rain for five years at that point.  It was a reject song from a previous band.   The record is different in general because it’s got my style in it.  All my music is different than most stuff out there.  I am proud about that.  I feel like I finally found my sound.

What should music lovers expect from “Four More Songs”?

Beauty, ugliness, groove.  A lot of texture.  Some experimentation in recording techniques.  We recorded Wayford’s vocals on Om by putting a box fan between him and the mic.  I broke a major rule and stacked 4 bass lines on top of one another in David Bowie.  My poor producer wasn’t too happy about it.  He’s the man though and heard my idea and made it work.   I think this is a record you can listen to all the way through and be sucked in enough not to skip any parts.  There is no filler.  And you never know what’s coming next.

What kind of emotions would you like your audience to feel when they listen to your music?

All of the emotions.  (I just made myself laugh.)  I’d like them to feel content, relaxed even.  I’d like them to forget about their phones and their responsibilities and allow themselves to be taken through the story.  Maybe hype during the more exciting parts.  Entertained.  I’d like them to feel entertained.  Whatever emotion produces that outcome is fine with me.  As long as they are indeed feeling something.  Then I’ve done my job.

Spurge band

Which do you like most, life in the studio or on tour?

I’ve never been on tour where we don’t sleep in the van or on the floor or in someone’s basement so I’d have to say studio life.   I’d love to experience tour where we get a hotel room each night.  That might change my mind a little bit.  Tours have been fun, yet exhausting.  Studios are sacred spaces.  The creative process is my favorite part of playing so the studio is hard to beat.  I know a lot of people can get stressed out in the studio, but I’ve always been comfortable not having control so I just let people be themselves on the tracks.  If I don’t like it, I’ll edit it later.  I think the music reflects the positive vibes in the studio.

Pick your three favourite albums that you would take on a desert island with you.

Wow that’s tough too.  Only 3?  John Prine Live, Dark Side of the Moon, and RHCP Mother’s Milk.  I just looked those choices over for about two minutes and I’m sticking with my answer.

“Four More Songs” is available from Bandcamp. Stay in contact with Spurge via Facebook and Twitter, and visit their website for more information and news.

https://bandcamp.com/EmbeddedPlayer/album=4034617188/size=large/bgcol=ffffff/linkcol=0687f5/tracklist=false/artwork=small/transparent=true/

Gandals Fist – Universal Wanderings revisited

frontcover-wanderer-reissue

Well, not content with upping the ante last year with their triple disc magnum opus The Clockwork Fable (which to be honest is one of the finest albums ever made) and triumphantly headlining their own Fistival, the boys are giving us a bonus remastered Fisting with their remaster and re-tooling of their 2013 album A Day in the Life of a Universal Wanderer.

However, the Fist being the Fist never do things by half, so this see’s the album remastered, parts re-recorded, new linking narratives from Paddington’s Santa, Mark Benton (who also played a memorable part in The Clockwork Fable – oh, and Doctor Who) and the new track The Stowaway and the Fable, which according to the band, brings this release in line with the sonic template of 2014’s A Forest of Fey, and 2016’s a Clockwork Fable.

Now, for some artists chucking out a quick sneaky remaster of an album, scant years after it’s initial release could be seen as lazy, however having seen the care and attention the ‘Fist boys put into their work, this is more a case of taking that classic old car that’s been off the road for a year or two, putting in the hard yards and getting it race ready again.

The main difference between the original release (which I’ve not heard) and this new vision, is that since this was released drummer Stefan Hepe and bassist Chris Ewen were recruited to join the nucleus of the band Dean Marsh (guitars/keys/vocals) and Luke Severn (vocals/keys) and made their recorded debuts on the phenomenal A Forest of Fey (which was my first fisting).

It seems appropriate then to have the drum parts for Universal Wanderer re-recorded, with Stefan adding a his teutonic precision, giving it that mighty full Fist band sound that makes their latest releases so epic.

With Mark Benton providing linking narration, this pulls it right into the Fist family, and the mix of harder edged rock, full on epic space ballads, powerful epics, and tight coherent narrative this has all the hallmarks of a Fist classic.

Listening to the music here, and the plotting and way the songs lead the narrative, this could almost have been a dry run for The Clockwork Fable (and I have no doubt that somewhere in the fertile imagination of those Fist boys, this ties in somewhere with that and Forest of Fey).

They do like their harder edged sounds and epic tracks like the Nine Billion Names of God, and the new epic that has snuck it’s way here, or indeed like a pigeon found it’s way home ‘The Stowaway and the Endless Night, features some of their heavier sounds, impressive guitar riffing and a fab hard edge.

This subtle blend of light and dark works with tracks like Orphans of the Sky, and long term Fist associate Melissa Hollick provides superb vocals on here and forms part of that mighty Fist sound.

The concept here is around The Universal Wanderer a 26th Century mythical figure who has wandered the Universe since the dawn of time, I wonder if he’s ever bumped into someone similar who happens to fly round in a blue Police Box, I bet they have plenty of things to chat about at the Restaurant at the End of the Universe.

And having wandered the Universe the Fist have certainly got plenty of diverse musical sounds that they weave together to create a coherent whole, the wonderful Battle for Tannhauser Gate with William Stewarts violin duelling with the guitars, is a fab slice of folk rock prog, with another superb duet and pulls more strands of the story together.

In fact the album is as much as rich musical tapestry with the diverse genres and sounds, pulled together like a well made jumper, bringing the strands together to create a coherent whole, and one that is worth losing yourself in for an afternoon.

The closing The Wanderer Goes is the stitch that pulls those threads together, reprising the opening Nine Billion names of God, with a fantastically epic closing section, worthy of the name, bringing the album back full circle.

If you’ve never heard of Gandalfs Fist then it’s time you got fisted, and if you are familiar with them, and think you already have this album, according to the guys this is as different from the original as could be, reworked, retooled, remastered and reissued to give it a bigger place in the Universe.

Whatever you think of the bands name (and it has been described in certain quarters as a maarmite name, and  I like it) Gandalfs Fist certainly are some of the most ambitious musicians when it comes for big concept albums and mighty sounds, and what is gratifying is that they have the musical chops and storytelling nous to pull it off with style and aplomb.

I look forward to where their fertile imagination plans on taking us next musically, whilst they ponder that in their secret Fist bunker where plots are plotted and albums are hatched, let us enjoy this story of a Universal wanderer and see where he takes us.

A day in the Life of a Universal Wanderer (Special Edition) is available now from

https://www.gandalfsfist.com/store

BARRY WEINBERG Launches “Beyond the Astral Sky” Single

BW

South Florida based musician and songwriter Barry Weinberg is set to launch his Prog Rock influenced album Samsarana in January 2018, but the musician is today announcing the imminent release of the first single.

The single, “Beyond the Astral Sky,” is an anthem, gorgeous track with soaring vocals. The song is the first in the series of singles taken from Samsarana, a release that sees the musician exploring through a number of styles evolving around Prog Rock.

About “Beyond the Astral Sky” Weinberg says: “This song is very personal to me and actually one of the first songs I had ever written for the album.  For years, this was purely a classical guitar piece with lyrics that I would play on my acoustic, but as I started to record it, I started experimenting with electric leads over the acoustic phrases and vocals and it evolved into what it is today.

Lyrically “Beyond the Astral Sky” is about hope in the face of despair. As Weinberg explains:

It’s about that experience when you look around yourself, your life and the world you’re in, and get overwhelmed by the chaos, destruction, darkness, confusion, stress, hardship… and yet, in that moment of utter despair, you can look up at a star or into a child’s eyes, and although surrounded by darkness, you can begin envisioning a different world, a different life, a different future that’s inspiring, joyful, empowering. This is how we make change in our lives. This is how we make change in the world. Acknowledging and owning the darkest parts of ourselves and our lives that we hate and shifting our attention to a new intention, our ideal, our vision. It’s the light dot in the center of the dark part of the Taoist yin/yang symbol. This is where I was at when I wrote this song and this where the main ‘character’ is at in the story of ‘Samsarana.’

For more info visit Barry Weinberg’s official website.

Other links:

YouTube

Soundcloud

ReverbNation

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Review: Perihelion Ship – To Paint a Bird of Fire

Perihelion Ship

I find “To Paint a Bird of Fire” to be a very special album. There is a sort of checklist you can go down when preparing to listen to this kind of modern extreme progressive metal, and Perihelion Ship basically hit everything on it… But they go a bit further than that.

What are some of the things on that checklist? You’ve got your combination of growled vocals and lighter ones, which we’ve seen the likes of Opeth and many others successfully employ. There are frantic passages driven by thundering double bass and softer, more atmospheric moments. Slick melodies abound in the guitar work, and there are hugely ambitious and lengthy tracks. It’s all there.

To Paint a Bird of Fire

The thing about “To Paint a Bird of Fire” is that it isn’t just all there, it’s all there for a reason. This is songwriting taken to the next level. Every time there needs to be a softer moment it comes, and every time there needs to be a burst of aggression to release a building of tension, it comes too. In addition (and this is important), despite the obvious massive amounts of instrumental talent of the musicians, there is no shying away from using simpler riffs and chord progressions as building blocks to move a song forward.

I try and find some criticism of any album when reviewing. It’s tough for this one. “To Paint a Bird of Fire” is an album I really didn’t find boring at all. Song for song, it’s put together masterfully and is a great example of how it’s often better to create a shorter, focused, and wholly structured album than have 15 songs for the sake of having lots of songs where only 3 or 4 are really good. And importantly, as mentioned above, it’s got all the items on the progressive checklist not just for the sake of being called progressive, but because when you do those things right, you can make some great music.

“To Paint a Bird of Fire” is out now and is available from Bandcamp.