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: Meliorist – ii.

Meliorist - ii

As if Progressive Metal met Metalcore and Djent for lunch and the three later casually partook in rough coitus, Brisbane-based Meliorist make some heavy, heavy music. Call it progressive metal or even an incredibly atmospheric derivative of death metal, the band’s sophomore EP, ii. is an oppressive sea of fury, and it resonates with me in a way few bands of its style manage to do. The songwriting may be solid and the production some of the best I’ve seen in metal, but it’s the ubiquitous atmosphere that has this album screaming ‘masterpiece’.

Too many bands in metal ultimately sound indistinguishable from one another, and it is a bleak statement. True enough, Meliorist’s resistance from this heavy metal clone complex pays off. Although their dark brand of tech metal can still find itself associated with a number of prescribed genres, ii. feels like a natural collision of influences from across the spectrum, from black and doom metal to modern and extreme variant of prog.

Meliorist

As a whole ii. relies on a sickening atmosphere of rage and fear. Although Meliorist sticks exclusively to their vocals, guitars, drums, and bass, the music sounds vast. “New Chapter” introduces the tech-sinister mood that pervades the majority of the release. By the cornerstone “My Reflection,” Meliorist have developed their riff energy into a dense fury complete with burstfire picking. All the while, Brisbanites layer their music with atonal atmospheric guitars. The band’s style will certainly draw a number of comparisons with other bands (Between the Buried and Me, in particular), but Meliorist combine the elements and make the sound truly their own.

Although it’s not the biggest reason why ii. has stood out to me so much, it’s worth mentioning that Meliorist enjoy some of the richest, most organic production I have heard on a metal record for quite some time. Perhaps it’s the heavy presence of the bass guitar, but Meliorist find an incredible balance between a live ‘raw’ energy, and a clear mix between instruments. It certainly doesn’t hurt that Meliorist channel their atmosphere-laden heaviness through such an organic studio execution. Those willing to set the time aside to fairly digest the atmosphere will find an incredible world to explore with ii., one governed by beauty and chaos. I give my highest recommendation.

Get ii. from Bandcamp here.

Interview: Meliorist

Meliorist is a progressive metal quintet from Brisbane in Australia who recently released their second EP “ii.” Guitarist Andrew Apte did a brief interview for Progarchy, letting us know how the band came up with the name, songwriting, inspiration, and more.

Meliorist

What made you go for the name Meliorist?

Read it as a word for the day, sounded good.

How do you usually describe your music?

I would say modern metal, trying to do new things in every songs. Mixing clean and heavy sections.

What is your writing process like?

Just searching for interesting and cool things on my guitar, then fleshing them out into full songs, trying to listen to everything as a whole as much as possible.

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

All sort of music and artists, lots of Jazz music these days.

What is your favourite piece on the new EP “ii.” and why?

For me I would say My Reflection. I think that it is the best overall song, I think it’s well balanced. For most of the fans though it is What You’ve Lost.

Meliorist - ii

What makes “ii.” different?

Well I have tried very hard to develop and work on a unique style for many years now so I hope that it is not quite like anything else on the market.

What should music lovers expect from “ii.”?

Lots of heavy sections designed for headbanging, mixed with clean sections to even everything out.

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

Inspired and happy 🙂

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

We have not done any touring yet really. I would say it feels great to play a show where everyone is rocking out for sure. But it’s also a great feeling when you just write something you really love, it’s very exciting.

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

Gilad Hekselman – SplitLife
Gregory Porter – Liquid Spirit
Antonio Forcione – Tears of Joy

“ii.” is available from Bandcamp here.

 

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.

Review: Distant Horizon – Laniakea

Distant Horizon - Laniakea

Distant Horizon is a new band coming from Lapua, Finland who released their debut EP “Laniakea” in June 2017. This fully instrumental progressive metal project is led comprised of Joona Lehto on guitar, Jere Lehto on bass, Jesse Lehto on drums, and Matias Kalli on keyboards and guitar.

As is the case with most instrumental albums, “Laniakea” requires careful listening in order to be fully appreciated. It is definitely not the kind of stuff you can put on as a soundtrack for other activities — complex music, full of twists and turns, yet not unnecessarily complicated, or weird for weirdness’ sake. In fact, the music has a beautiful, natural flow, a clarity and melodic quality. Even though guitars make up a prominent part of the sound, they never get to the point of overwhelming the other instruments. As in most experimental music, however, the foundation of Distant Horizon’s sound lies in the rhythm section, especially in the jaw-dropping drumming patterns provided by Jesse Lehto.

Head-spinningly complex without being cold and sterile as other efforts in a similar vein, “Laniakea” can easily be (re)listed as one of the top releases of 2017. In fact, the sterling musicianship, coupled with an admirable sense of restraint, focuses on creating cohesive, highly listenable tracks rather than pointless displays of technical skill. However, it is also a release that will definitely not be everyone’s cup of tea. Strongly recommended to practising musicians and fans of intricate, challenging music, it may come across as daunting to those fans who prefer a higher measure of melody and accessibility, as well as a more conservative approach to progressive rock and jazz fusion.

The album is available from Bandcamp here.

E

‘E’ is among the most brazenly progressive Enslaved records. Experimental keyboard passages, abrupt shifts in tempo and frequent bursts of those aggressive riffs, instantly reminding us of their Viking metal roots. Basically, art rock to symphonic prog to post-metal like atmosphere is effortlessly brewed with some inhuman screams. Not to mention the use of flute, a surprising jazz segment and a Norwegian electronic synth-pop cover.

Without completely abandoning their sonic extremity, Enslaved has carefully adopted some avant-garde progressiveness. Within these uncharted fields, it’s not surprising that they sometimes lurch between sheer greatness to downright peculiar. But for long time listeners there is nothing unexpected here. The band continues to walk their chosen path – constructing a curiously rich, polarizing, and at times uneven mosaic of progressive symphonies.

Dark Apostrophe at English Wikipedia [CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons