Interview with HEYOKA’s MIRROR

Calgary, Canada-based progressive metal act Heyoka’s Mirror has recently returned with the release of a new, instrumental single “Asylum” which is a grand taster for the group’s upcoming full-length album.

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.

Andrew: Omar and I started playing music around the same age. We were 14 and 16. I discovered Dream Theater when I was 14 years old and that’s when I started taking singing and theory lessons. I spent my teenage years listening to bands like Dream Theater, Symphony X, and Transatlantic. 

Omar: Yup, started playing around 16. As a young kid, I was a huge GNR and Metallica fan and always wanted to play like those guys! Then when I picked up the guitar and started learning, I was introduced to music from guys like Eddie Van Halen, Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, John Petrucci, DREAM THEATER (greatest band!), Paul Gilbert, Yngwie J. Malmsteen and the list goes on and on! 

How did you go about starting Heyoka’s Mirror? Who was the most influential when the project started its musical journey?

Andrew: I met Omar in the spring of 2015. I had just moved into Calgary and I was looking for a guitar player for a solo project I had. We met and decided to have a writing session a week after our meeting. That’s when Heyoka’s Mirror started. 

Omar: Just like Andrew said. I was contacted by him through social media, we met and had a quick discussion about the kind of music we both wanted to do and that was it. I remember we discussed how melody is a very important aspect of the kind of music we want to create. 

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

Andrew: We always write a story first. Once the story is complete, then we start writing the music according to the events in the tale. 

Omar: Story always comes first and then we start creating the music for it. A lot of it just happens bouncing ideas, talking about the story and then trying to communicate those feelings and emotions through our music. 

How would you describe Heyoka’s Mirror music on your own?

Omar: I would say it is a blend of a lot of different styles of music. Our songs and certain parts within them can sound like hard rock, pop, jazz, metal, blues, blues rock. To us, whatever feels right for the story, belongs in the song. Let’s go with Progressive Rock/Metal 🙂

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

Omar: We like to write a story before we write the music. If there is no story, what is the music about? For the album coming up, the whole album is one story (concept album). We go part by part, song by song to create the music for it, while keeping the story in mind and where it is going. For recording, all the drums, vocals and bass are recorded in the studio. Andrew and I record our parts(keys, 8 string guitars, rhythm and lead guitars) at home. 

The most important thing for the structure of the song? I think there are a few things.

Melody is important! Riffs that are heavy and high energy in certain situations. We also like to avoid sounding mechanical. We want the music to be full of life and character! 

Recommend us some good prog metal acts coming from your area.

Andrew: Oh, there are some really good ones! Illuminated Minerva, Metavore, Subsume, and my favorite one… Nok Novum! Those guys are amazing! 

Are you also involved in any other projects or bands beside Heyoka’s Mirror?

Andrew: Not really, I help here and there as a session player, but not really as a full time member.

Omar: No. I play golf in my free time. Golf is the best!

What are your long-term plans for Heyoka’s Mirror?

Andrew: First things first… we need a drummer! Our album was completed with the help of session drummers, but we need someone who would like to join the family. Once we have a drummer, we would like to start going out on little tours. Start expanding. We want Heyoka’s Mirror to eventually get big enough so we can tour around the world (every musician’s dreams pretty much). We would love to play with big bands, play festivals. We just want to get OUT THERE!

“Asylum” is out now; get it from Bandcamp. Follow Heyoka’s Mirror on Facebook.

Album Review: LUNAR – Eidolon

Originality is tough in music, and especially so in progressive metal. So many genres have cross-pollinated over the years that trying to put a unique spin on music usually ends up with going so far off the reservation that coherency can be lost. It’s a shame that “progressive” has become a kind of cliche-ridden sound of its own, hence my temptation is to call Eidolon — the second album by Sacramento’s Lunar — a progressive death metal album. Not in the sense that it uses “prog” tropes, but because it genuinely sounds like a forward step in terms of what can be done with death metal.

I’m not often a fan of likening bands to other bands, because I think unless it’s an intentional throwback or copycat it does a disservice, but the first thing that comes to mind is Opeth by way of Fates Warning and I do not say this lightly. Eidolon has an intensity to it that is organically broken up with occasional clean or melodic sections that never sound out of place; the group — brainchild of drummer and songwriter Alex Bosson — never comes across as hokey or gimmicky.

Alex_Bosson
Alex Bosson, founder of Lunar

All right, let’s dig in a bit. The musicianship is as tight as any metal release you’re likely to hear this year or any other year. Every member is on top of their game.  And speaking of members, the core of the group is comprised of singer Chandler Mogel, bassist Ryan Price, and guitarist Balmore Lemus, along with already mentioned Bosson on drums. Eidolon also features guest contributions from members of Haken, Leprous, Thank You Scientist, Fallujah, and more.

The guitars layer beautifully, with chunky riffs both alternating and occasionally layering beneath more melodic lines. The rhythm section pounds along, with a bass guitar that fleshes out instead of simply sitting at the root notes, even getting plenty of room to shine on its own (which I appreciate) and a drummer that can handle blistering double bass and blast beats right alongside jazzier sections. All the while we have a vocalist who manages to be perfectly understandable when he growls, by death metal standards anyway, without ever losing that sense of intensity and roughness.

One of the best things about (progressive) metal is that feeling of not knowing what to expect next. Sometimes it’s less enjoyable if it feels like the band doesn’t have a grip on what they’re doing and keep taking left turns to the mood, but once again Lunar succeeds by having each song feel like a distinct entity while never losing the tone of the album as a whole. After the two three “proper” songs (after the instrumental intro “Orbit”), the appropriately named “Comfort” comes in with a melodic and prog-rock/jazz inspired beginning, blossoming into a behemoth of a track that puts acoustic guitar and jazz drumming front and center forming a foundation and building to an explosion of a soothing guitar solo courtesy of Haken axeman Richard Henshall.

At this point you might think you’ve heard all of Lunar‘s arsenal, and you would be all wrong and a bag of chips. The very next track, “Potion,” is way more into the prog rock territory, with underlying acoustic guitar melody and jazz bassline carrying it.

The closing 12-minute epic “Your Long Awaited Void” is like a revue of all the best bits of the rest of the album: heavy riffs, clean vocals mixed with growls, acoustic bits, guitar soloing, in addition to cello-laden atmospherics,…

The word “classic” gets tossed around a lot, but I honestly can’t think of a better word for Eidolon. From front to back and top to bottom, this album is both firmly rooted in death metal with a progressive bend while standing alone atop the mountain. It’s equally headbang heavy and enthralling, music to get in the mosh pit and simply sit in awe of. This is required listening, because there’s nothing else quite like it.

Eidolon is out now and is available from Bandcamp. Check Lunar on Facebook and Instagram.

Interview with LOOK TO WINDWARD’s Andrew McCully

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Andrew McCully

Look to Windward is a progressive rock/metal studio project by London-based musician Andrew McCully who has released two studio albums, two EP’s and a single since 2010. The latest release is this year’s full-length album entitled “In Fantasy.”

In an interview for Progarchy, McCully talks about his project, the 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.

My earliest memories of performing music were learning the recorder and clarinet before receiving a birthday present of an electric guitar in my early teens. That started it all really. I was also singing in choirs throughout school. I grew up surrounded by music performance. Then around the age of 11 I connected with a close friend over mutual music tastes and we continued to share and listen to music together leading to writing and performing on our own in high school when we recruited a drummer from my jazz group, Jono Sawyer.

I have rather distinct memories of 4 albums from my youth that really started to define my interests and passion for rock music. The first was Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness by The Smashing Pumpkins (which was the first album I ever bought). I still regularly listen to this masterpiece. Then came Metallica’s Reload (a strange one to start with I know) and Ok Computer by Radiohead (which remains my favourite album). And then I can’t leave out first hearing Dream Theater’s Scenes from a Memory when I was 15. I don’t listen to them anymore really but it opened up an entire world of prog related music to me.

How did you go about starting Look To Windward?

LTW began as some basic riff experiments with my friend and collaborator Ben Morley, and we created our first track out of that (which I believe was Forest Is Moving from the first album Fortunes Haze). We were looking for a way of exploring all the epic prog-metal ideas we were talking about and without the ‘restrictions’ of having a band to play it live we went nuts. The first album grew over 2 years of messing around and I’m proud of what we made. There was a lot of self taught music production done along the way.

LookToWindward_shoot_003_2k

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

A bit of both I think. Sometimes I might tackle a song with a specific feel in mind or I might just be jamming with my guitar and find something I like. Then it’s a case of slowly building up the layers and melodies on top of this.

How would you describe the music from your new album “In Fantasy” on your own?

Progressive Rock with elements of Metal, Alternative Rock and Pop I think. I was trying to focus more of clarity and structure for this album, not to say I don’t value the unrestrained, layered intensity of my first 2 releases.

What was your approach to writing the album like?

Much like it has been in the past. Just lots of exploration. I would say that I threw out more ideas this time around though. Either because it was harder to generate ideas I was happy with or because I was being stricter in regards to my desired sound for the album.

LTW_IF

You pay attention to atmospheric and ambient elements in your music. How important it is for the structure of your songs?

Dynamic contrast is integral to Look To Windward’s sound. I love creating the flow between great intensity and ambient calm. I’d say the structure of the songs in this regard is what I pay attention too the most!

How do you see the prog rock/metal scene today?

I have mixed feelings about it. There are artists doing genuinely interesting things but a lot of what is called progressive is rather stagnant and derivative. Particularly in metal, where copying a certain sound has become quite widespread. I’m guilty of it myself. When the technique of locking your kick drum in with a de-tuned guitar chug works so effectively it’s hard not to dip into that well. When you look back at how far the genre came from the 80’s into the 90’s and early 2000’s you want to see that kind of innovation now. There are small pockets of innovation but it isn’t genre wide yet.

Do you consider yourself a part of any specific cultural movement, however peripheral?

I’m probably part of the movement of DIY musicians creating fully realised music at home. The tech allows 1 person to take on the role of a full band. That’s why it was important for me to get as many guest musicians performing on the album as I could. It elevates the music beyond what I could do myself. Devin Townsend is the model I aspire too here.

In Fantasy by Look To Windward

Are you also involved in any other projects or bands?

At the moment I’m not. Look To Windward fully scratches that itch for me. That being said I’d like to collaborate more on the songwriting for the next album, too add some new flavours to the palette.

So, what comes next for you?

I’m taking a break from writing and recording for a while, but I already have some ideas brewing for the next release.

“In Fatnasy” is out now and is available from Bandcamp. Follow Look to Windward on Facebook.

Review: Emanuele Bodo – Unsafe Places

Emanuele Bodo (band)

Progressive-rock and jazz-rock often share a common bond, yet many artists either tilt the scale towards technical gymnastics or focus on strong song-form and fine-tune the balance of justice with judicious soloing spots. “Unsafe Places” marks the first album by Italian guitarist and songwriter Emanuele Bodo, who gathered a line-up of highly skilled musicians to help him with his musical vision.

Emanuele Bodo - Unsafe Places

The musicians uphold a well-defined, group-centric line of attack, consisting of foot-stomping fuzoid rockers, often tempered by Bodo’s sonorous phrasings. His zinging crunch chords and soaring single note leads are contrasted by keyboardist Davide Cristofoli’s fluidly streaming lines. Moreover, the band integrates catchy themes into these impacting works. Thankfully, the group attains an equilibrium, where dynamics are acutely employed among the swirling interludes and off-kilter time signatures that instill a sense of adventure into the grand mix.

A portion of their sound is designed with brief nods to the days of progressive-rock yore, with a manifesto that transmits a hip group-centric disposition, tinged with modernist tendencies. Overall, the material reigns supreme, and it’s easy to discern that this is not an album that was recklessly slapped together. Emanuele Bodo’s self-titled recording debut is a persuasive one, indeed. Get if from here.

Interview with Adam Green of HUMAN BRAIN

Adam Green

Human Brain is a project by composer and guitarist Adam Green who has been teasing his upcoming debut album with the release of “Spaces” single. In an interview for Progarchy, Adam talks about the project, and he sheds light on the album.

Hey Adam! Thanks for responding to this interview. How have you been lately?

Been great, thanks!

How might you introduce yourselves to new potential listeners?

I like to write for everyone with multiple musical tastes. If you like super hard-hitting, energetic and emotional music, you’ll love Human Brain!

What inspired the name of the project — Human Brain?

Brain dump basically. I have quite a bit of emotion and passion flowing through my brain on a daily basis that I wanted to release into my writing.

HB

How did Human Brain initially form?

Human Brain essentially started about 3 years ago when I began getting more serious about my writing in general. I decided it was time to put an official name to it and yearned for the fulfillment of it being heard by others. I’ve been inspired by many of the great metal artists on YouTube and wanted to get my brand out there in a similar fashion.

You are about to release a debut album. What can you tell me about it? Where did the inspiration for it come from and how did you go about the whole process of writing and recording it?

10 songs spanning multiple genres including everything from alternative rock to metal. Inspiration for the album basically came from the answer above for what inspired the project as a whole.

What can be expected from the upcoming album? Would you say the released single for “Spaces” is an accurate sample?

Yes, Spaces is for sure though I will say every song has it’s own thing going on. Some are more mellow than others and many different guitars were used throughout.

What’s your songwriting process like?

My typical approach is to flesh out a track that incorporates all of the musical styles I love most (metal, rock, progressive) while taking the listener on a roller coaster of a ride with meaningful changes throughout. I wrote all of the parts in my head and laid them down in iPhone voice memos initially. From there, I tracked everything in Logic using my Kemper Profiler Power Rack, Apollo Twin and Toontrack.

What are your ultimate hopes for Human Brain?

For the music to be heard and resonate with people across the world on multiple levels just like it does for me.

Do you have any bigger plans for the future?

TV, Film, Label with some gigging sprinkled in.

The last words are yours.

I’m beyond excited to give everyone a glimpse inside my Human Brain!

 

Follow Human Brain on Facebook.

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

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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.

RAINBURN’s Vats Iyengar Talks New Album “Insignify”

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Indian prog rockers Rainburn return on November 7th with the release of a new album “Insignify” (read our review here). In an interview for Progarchy, singer and guitarist Vats Iyengar tells us about the meaning behind the band’s name, their working process, new songs, and more.

Hello! Thanks for responding to this interview. How have you guys been lately?

Thank you for hosting us! We’ve been good. Gearing up for the album release, and also starting rehearsals for the tour soon.

How might you introduce yourselves to new potential listeners?

I’d say our music covers a lot of ground and touches upon many different styles without sounding forced or gimmicky. We also have a nice mix of the old and the new, some modern music and some classic influences. If you like emotionally-heavy music that is creative and diverse, you should check us out.

What inspired the name of the band — Rainburn?

We wanted an oxymoron, to suggest that we cover a wide spectrum of music, from soft to heavy, moments of light and darkness – and everything in-between – in our music, so we went with this name. Our drummer, Praveen, came up with the name. It’s a pretty established tradition as far as band names go. Like Black Sabbath, for example.

How did Rainburn initially form as a creative unit?

We had a keyboard player in the beginning and only one guitarist (me). It was actually his idea that we form a band together. We added a bassist and a drummer soon after, played quite a few gigs with that lineup, even recorded a couple of demos. But as we started finding our sound, we decided two guitars worked better.

Insignify

You are about to release a new album titled “Insignify.” Where did the inspiration for it come from and how did you go about the whole process of writing and recording it?

‘Insignify’ has been a two-and-a-half-year labour of love that started as a seed in my head. It took a long time to take shape and form fully but once it did, the music was created very quickly, because the concept was so clear and detailed. I think it’d take a few listens, at least, to fully digest and “get” the album. The record was mixed by Thejus Nair, a brilliant young engineer who operates Eleven Gauge Recordings in Bangalore, our hometown. Mastering was done by Tony Lindgren at Sweden’s Fascination Street Studios, where so much good progressive music comes out of these days.

What can be expected from the upcoming album? Would you say the released singles (“Suicide Note” and “Mirrors”) are accurate samples?

They’re fairly good samplers but as to whether they’re completely representative of the album – not by a long way. Apart from what’s in those songs, we have moments of funk, fusion, a bit of jazz, even a vocal fugue on the record. No two songs really sound alike.

What’s your songwriting process like?

It’s usually me writing and making demos at home that I then present to the band, and they tailor or modify their parts according to their style. But for some stuff, we changed the formula. Like, ‘Someone New’ started with Praveen composing an entire drum track that I then wrote riffs and melodies over. That was a very interesting way to write!

What are your ultimate hopes for Rainburn as a band?

To be an internationally touring band, to make some great records so we can leave a musical legacy behind and – the holy grail – to be able to sustain ourselves, financially, with our music.

Do you have any bigger plans for the future?

Well, we’ll be going on a national tour early next year – our second one. And hope to play some gigs outside India next year as well.

The last words are yours.

To your readers – If you’ve somehow managed to read this far, I hope you’ll check out our album when it’s out (November 7th). Listen to the two singles for a taste, and also to the snippets we’ve been posting on our Facebook page of various songs from the record.

To Progarchy – thank you for supporting our music.

For more info visit Rainburn.com, and follow the band on Facebook and Instagram.

Still Life

Another anniversary.

Still Life released on October 18th, 1999.

Below write-up is eleven years old, and slightly edited for my present sensibilities. But the album is still timeless.

Opeth’s ‘Still Life’ – that perfect arrangement of death, progression and blues. Always listen to this record uninterrupted from “The Moor” to “White Cluster”, the band simply extends the boundaries of progressive death. There is always that one album which defines the artist and forms the cornerstone of their whole music. But with “Still Life”, Opeth has pushed their own creativity to insane heights — of near impossible emulation.

Here the band actually transcend the normal decorum of mathematics, high (means progressive) and low (means death metal) mixed together isn’t a big nothing. Akerfeldt must have been simultaneously strung up on Alcohol and grass when he wrote ‘Still Life’. Mind you, the record doesn’t hit you hard, instead it methodically seeps into every iota of musical nerve and gets ingrained there. Been listening to this band for over fifteen years and can convincingly claim this is the pinnacle of their prog death years.

“Still Life” has an ambiance which perfectly blends contrasting elements — those dank deathly growls, progressive riffs, bluesy folk acoustic melody, and clean vocals. It’s a sort of a real life musical analogy to Speedball – in other words, these songs simultaneously stimulates and depresses your brain. The beauty of this torment is simply beyond comprehension.

Lyrics are mostly grim, and when combined with the growls create an ambiance of a cold winter morning – probably spent in retrospection about lost life. It might be illegal to make music this inscrutable; it’s not easy when you are unable to comprehend how melancholy “Benighted” can effortlessly transition into the aggressive “Moonlapse Vertigo”, and end in a mournfully poetic “Face Of Melinda”. When the guitar slowly fades, you wonder if it can get any better.

Traces of early black metal are still felt in the last two tracks; otherwise the record sticks to good progressive death and progressive metal. One of the high points is the sheer quality of riffs that literally form the backbone. Compared to their early works, Still Life has lot more clean vocals and acoustic guitar, and integrates even more of a number of transitions between the textures they usually exhibit. This was also a quantum leap in terms of production quality and can perfectly satiate the musical appetite of any progressive metal fanatic.

Could never confront the idea of reviewing ‘Still Life’; no vocabulary prowess can do justice to such a complex form of musical expression. A rather obvious infatuation with this music might just heave me into a cavalcade of clichés, which I have hopefully refrained from ’til now.

 

By Grywnn [CC BY-SA 4.0 ], from Wikimedia Commons

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.