Concert Review: Styx in St. Louis, MO 7/2/17

Concert Review: Styx in St. Louis, MO 7/2/17

Show: United We Rock Tour with Styx, REO Speedwagon, Don Felder, July 2nd, 2017
Venue: Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre – St. Louis, MO in Maryland Heights, Missouri
Review and Pics by; Jon Fiala

To help celebrate the country’s oldest classic rock radio station’s 50th birthday, St Louis’ KSHE 95 had the United We Rock tour make a stop at the Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre for their annual Pig Roast. Veteran classic rock groups Styx, REO Speedwagon, and Don Felder were at the top of their game again.

Touring in support of their latest CD, The Mission, Styx worked together as a well oiled machine. As the entry music, “The Overture” from The Mission, played, each member came up one at a time to take their position on stage. Todd Sucherman, drummer since 1995, Ricky Phillips bass since 2003, Lawrence Gowan on keyboards since 1999, and finally the dual guitar mainstays of Tommy Shaw and the Godfather of Styx, James ‘JY’ Young. “The Overture” seemed like it was written specifically for this grand entrance as they hit its final chord together for a dramatic extension until Todd counted in the opening song “Gone, Gone, Gone”, with its Jeff Beck inspired opening lick. Lawrence led it perfectly as he bounced all around the stage and was in command of the crowd of near-capacity of 20,000 in the 90 degree weather. When the perfect harmonious blended chorus hit, one knew that they were at a Styx show.

They then brought the crowd back into their classic catalog, going back to 1978’s “Blue Collar Man” and celebrating the 40th anniversary this Friday of their breakthrough album The Grand Illusion by playing the title track, which included an extended key changed guitar solo. The crowd, whose average age of the crowd was seemingly above age 50, went wild as the boys began the song that jumpstarted their career, going back to 1973’s “Lady.” 1975’s Equinox’s “Light Up”, with its perfect harmonies, sounded just like the album. JY took the lead vocals on it and the current cover holder of Modern Drummer magazine put his own spin on the fills that made it shine. The addition of Todd Sucherman to the band has really brought a new dynamic to the group and his own spin which he puts on the classics is very exciting to hear.

The new CD was visited again with its second release, “Radio Silence,” seeming to channel its inner Man in the Wilderness. JY brought started celebrating our nation’s independence a couple of days early with his classic Miss America, which never sounded better. Founding member and original bassist Chuck Panozzo was brought up for the “Foolin’ Yourself” as he played his Rickenbacker while Ricky switched to a double neck guitar. Next was Tommy’s “Too Much Time on My Hands” has always been a fun song to watch the band play.

Lawrence is a very accomplished keyboardist, and he took a quick solo spot to play a short piano piece, “Khedive,” from the new CD and then getting the enthusiastic crowd involved in the singing as asked them to play off of him for the operatic portion of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody”, and then a short portion of the Beatles’ “Golden Slumbers.” Lawrence then began the classic intro to their most played song in concert, “Come Sail Away” as the rest of the band made their way back to the stage to conclude the show with pure raw energy, as Lawrence spun around like someone in their twenties, not sixty. Chuck rejoined for this conclusion as he and Ricky made it a double bass encounter which is always a treat. It was truly magical.

The encore saw even more energy with 1980’s “Rockin’ the Paradise” and Tommy’s classic “Renegade” as JY threw enough guitar picks into the crowd to probably earn a silver medal behind Cheap Trick’s Rick Nielsen. Todd’s thumping gong drum made the a cappella middle portion sound even more powerful. The crowd was totally theirs for the entire set as they PA played the end of The Mission’s Outpost, which sealed the deal for the crowd.

As someone that grew up in a small, rural town in Nebraska, and whose junior high years were dominated by radio and vinyl, I spent much of my spare time delving into everything that was Styx, definitely annoying all of my classmates and family. My prized possession was the poster of the band that came with the Grand Illusion album which I proudly displayed above my bed. It is incredibly comforting to know that my fondest childhood memories are even more vibrant. Even with some major lineup changes, this band is still at the top of their game and never disappointed in any way.

The evening also included a short set from the Michael Stanley Band whose first album dates back to 1969. The Eagles’ Don Felder was up next. He and his band played what seemed like every non-Desperado Eagles’ song and sounded just like the original. Tommy Shaw joined him on stage for Take It Easy on guitar, and switched to banjo halfway through. REO Speedwagon concluded the long evening by also playing a stellar set loaded with classic rock radio staples.

Concert Review: Mike Portnoy’s Shattered Fortress, London, England 6-28-17

Concert Review: Mike Portnoy’s Shattered Fortress, London, England 6-28-17

Show: Mike Portnoy’s Shattered Fortress w/Next To None
Venue: Koko, Camden UK
Review by: Faye Sanderson
Photos by: Marco Segafreddo

Mike Portnoy, drummer extraordinaire and founder/ex-member of progressive metal heavyweights Dream Theater, is back on tour. Only this time, instead of touring with one of the many bands he’s been part of since he left Dream Theater in 2010, Portnoy is bringing thirsty audiences a full rendition of his ‘Twelve Step Suite’: a suite of five songs spanning five albums over seven years. The twelve-step suite charts his progression through the twelve steps of the Alcoholics Anonymous programme, a group therapy he credits with his ongoing recovery from alcoholism (it’s been seventeen years since his last drink). The suite is ambitious, taking us into the darkest recesses of Portnoy’s struggle with addiction, from admitting his powerlessness over alcohol to reaching a place where he’s now extending the hand of support to fellow recovering alcoholics.

Minus the rest of his old bandmates in Dream Theater, Portnoy has recruited another group of phenomenally talented musicians in the form of five sixths of Haken (minus drummer Ray Hearne) and American guitarist Eric Gillette (Neal Morse Band) to bring this ambitious, once in a lifetime event to fans across the world. On Wednesday night, Portnoy’s Shattered Fortress tour kicked off in London’s Koko. There’s a special kind of delight in being the first audience of a tour and not knowing what to expect, for those of us (especially myself!) who are unable to resist checking setlists before the night. I knew it was going to be an awesome night from the moment we filled into the venue and several rows of fans started up impromptu karaoke to the house music, instrumental versions of well-loved Dream Theater songs. Anyone who’s attended a Dream Theater gig prior to 2010 knows the camaraderie felt at a Dream Theater show is something special, and it was amped up to the max by knowing we were going to see this music performed by Portnoy himself, the heart and soul of Dream Theater that’s been sorely missed since his departure.

Support came in the form of Next to None, with Portnoy’s son Max on drums. For those concerned their place on the tour was purely due to the family connection, fears were laid to rest within the first couple of songs as N2N showed us their infectious enthusiasm and insane chops; guitarist Derrick Schneider is surely one to watch, bringing both excellent playing and soaring, clean vocal harmonies to the mix effortlessly. I saw them support Haken on a recent tour and there’s been a clear improvement in their stage presence in just a few short months: give them a few years to further hone their songwriting skills and continue to mature and they’ll be ones to watch.

The main event arrived, and we were thrust back into Dream Theater’s glory days with the opening from what is arguably their most revered album Metropolis Part II: Scenes From a Memory (1999), the concept album by which all others have been judged in the past thirteen years since I first fell in love with it. To say this was a surprise is an understatement, one which left my friend and I shouting to one another ‘is this actually f*cking happening!?* in disbelief as tears formed in my eyes. The beauty of Overture 1928 and Strange déjà Vu is in the way opening instrumental passage gives every musician chance to take centre stage for solo melodies, a true display of the musicianship ahead of us during the rest of the show. If there was any concern that it would be strange seeing DT music played by Haken this was put to rest within seconds: not only are they more than capable of nailing the complex rhythms and technically demanding lines inherent in Dream Theater, they’ve made it known on social media they’ve long been massive fans of Dream Theater’s music, growing up listening to them and honing their skills to Dream Theater like so many of the rest of us in the audience. There’s always a danger that something is lost in translation when music you love is played by a new group of people, but the love that every single member clearly felt for what they were playing was impossible to miss even for fans who’d never heard of them before. Haken are renowned for bringing a huge party to their shows (having been lucky enough to see them several times before myself), so the mix of them with Portnoy and the astoundingly competent Eric Gillette created a gig with levels of excitement and showmanship often missing in what some see as the navel-gazing, introspective nature of the progressive genre. It was beautiful to see a band of musicians paying tribute to the music of their youth, and the knowledge that they were fans as much as those of us watching leant a strangely intimate atmosphere where it felt like everyone was in it together.

Moving on, 1994’s The Mirror bridged the gap between the optimistic vibe of Scenes and the darker, heavier twelve-step suite ahead. Kicking off with the Glass Prison, crafted to show us exactly how it felt for Portnoy to feel trapped inside his addiction, fan hysteria seemed to hit a record high for the night with every last person I could see around me singing each line word and visibly anticipating and responding to every single lick, sweep, pinch harmonic and drum fill like only die-hard fans of Dream Theater are able to.

Second in the suite is This Dying Soul from 2003’s Train of Thought, Dream Theater’s Metallica-infused, heaviest, darkest record to date, giving everyone plenty of opportunity to develop a sore neck the next day. Third up, The Root of All Evil, we were treated to seeing guitarist Eric Gillette handle all vocal duties, a nice move which switched things up a little and no doubt gave singer Ross Jennings chance to catch his breath from what must surely be one of the most demanding singing gigs of his career. The penultimate track, Repentance, is a brief but much-needed lull which gave both the band and audience chance to sit back for a moment and enjoy the few minutes break in headbanging and jumping around. Repentance deals with the AA steps which involve making amends for your sins and seeking forgiveness for those you have wrong, and features prog legends Steven Wilson and Mikael Akerfeldt apologizing for their mistakes during the middle passage of the track. A particularly delightful moment came when their faces floated across the screen behind the stage, leading to them both getting their own individual and hearty rounds of applause and cheers.

The final song of the suite came in the form of the Shattered Fortress, a song which somehow manages to weave in myriad themes and melodies from the previous four tracks, while adding enough new material that it sounds triumphant and complete rather than derivative. My favorite song of the suite for many reasons, it’s hard to describe the way an already brilliant song became transcendent when performed at the end of the forty-four minutes of music which gave life to it. I can only try and imagine how it must have felt to be Mike Portnoy at that moment, seeing 1400 fans singing back at him his own determination to extend support and guidance to other alcoholics at the beginning of their own journey into recovery.

by Simon Robins

There are no real words that can do justice to how much it meant to finally see one of my favorite pieces of music performed live after giving up all hope of ever being able to do so when Portnoy left the band (though the length of this review kinda counteracts that claim). Though Dream Theater have carried on and have my enduring respect for all that they’ve created, the atmosphere at their shows has been lacking ever since Portnoy soul walked out of the door. Seeing the show tonight made me realize that although I’ll always follow Dream Theater whatever path they take, the magic that made them the greatest band in the world was contained within Mike Portnoy. It says a lot that this was more of a Dream Theater gig like I used to know and love than any of the shows I’ve seen without Portnoy. For one fifth of the band and a bunch of his friends to pull this off truly says it all.

Unsure what to expect from the encore, I waited with bated breath until the band came back on stage and kicked off with one of the highlights from Scenes from a Memory, Home, before playing the revered The Dance of Eternity. Notorious amongst the world of progressive metal for its insistence on changing time signatures every bar or two and requiring some of the most technically complex solo parts heard from Dream Theater (which says a lot), The Dance of Eternity was, I thought, a clear display of prowess which cemented my view that Haken are possibly the most underrated musicians in modern prog music, especially keyboard player Diego Tejeida who was, along with Eric Gillette, undoubtedly the star of the show the whole gig for his note-perfect performance and bombastic, wonderfully over the top keytar solo sections. Having watched a few fan videos back on YouTube while writing this review, I was struck again by how skillfully he was able to interpret and play 2+ hours of some of the most physically and mentally demanding keyboard work in the genre. Though most of the show was spent watching him play, it was one of those rare gigs were there wasn’t a weak link within the band.

The gig ended, fittingly, with Finally Free from the end of Scenes from a Memory, nicely bookending the show. I remembered to look around me before the end of the song, and saw how every single person in the audience was stood, mesmerized, singing along, plenty with tears in their eyes. It felt just like the many times I saw Dream Theater with Portnoy, where the audiences all seemed to feel like they were in something together, finding something within Dream Theater’s music they possibly (like me) had never found elsewhere. Dream Theater fans are nothing if not a community, and it was bittersweet to see that despite all of the water that’s passed under the bridge in the band’s recent history, the love for their music prevails and is utterly timeless.

So there you have it. I went expecting the twelve-step suite, I came away with that plus five songs from Scenes from a Memory, with more atmosphere and energy and meaning than any of the occasions I’ve seen Dream Theater play in recent years. For myself, their seminal concert DVD Live Scenes from New York has always been the ultimate gig DVD and one which expresses and captures perfectly the emotions that first caused me to fall hopelessly for Scenes. I’ve spent years ruing the fact that I wasn’t at that particular gig, but tonight genuinely felt like we got our own version of Live Scenes from New York: a gift I presumed would never come since the parting of Portnoy from the band. I’m unashamed to say that my mascara was running as the band left the stage, and I felt certain that I’d never be fortunate enough to experience a show or experience like it again in my lifetime.

Portnoy has stated that after this tour, he will no longer be playing Dream Theater’s music, citing it as closure for him. If you’re a fan of the band and able to get to any of their dates for the rest of the tour, you won’t be disappointed. As sad as it is to think that this is something I’ll never be able to experience it again, the fact I experienced this gift at all is something I’ll cherish within my heart for the rest of my life as an evening shared with friends old and new watching some of the most emotionally deep, meaningful, personal music I’ve ever been lucky enough to find and fall in love with. Portnoy took a risk putting together this tour and putting himself out there by playing Dream Theater music while the rest of the band are still writing and gigging and attracting their own huge audiences, but it paid off better than I could have possibly imagined. If this is his closure, he now knows that however long he spends away from the band he grew and nurtured and turned into the international success it is today, we fans will always be grateful for everything he gave the world of music and that he has our enduring love and respect. It takes guts to take your own intimate battles and set them out for others to consume and critique, but what Portnoy has achieved with the Shattered Fortress tour is a triumph.”

Review of RoSfest 2017

Review of RoSfest 2017

A sublime progressive feast for your musical senses

Words and Photos by Joel Barrios

As we passed the summer solstice and the year dives headfirst into its warmest season after the longest day of 2017 is gone, I look behind at the musical experiences of these initial 6 months and reflect about some of them. Today, I’d like to write about the second longest running progressive rock festival in the United States, The Rite of Springs Festival, also known by its shortened-name: RoSfest. The brainchild of George Roldan, this event has firmly established itself among the most important worldwide celebrations to acclaim the progressive-rock music as a thriving sub-genre. On its 14th edition, and dubbed as “The US Premier Prog-Rock Celebration of the Year”, RoSfest once again brought together prog-fans from every corner of the globe, who gathered together during three consecutive days under the roof of one of the greatest venues I’ve had the pleasure to visit, the stunning Majestic Theater in the heart of Gettysburg Pennsylvania.

You might wonder why I am writing this article after more than a month, and there are couple of good reasons: firstly, this year I was vested with the honor to be the festival official photographer and I tried to do my very best at capturing what happened during the last three days through my images, hence I kept working on all the pictures galleries for many days after the event was over. Secondly (and frankly, the main reason) is that being able to look back at all the fleeting moments seized by my cameras and reflected in my shots have re-enacted the lingering memories of another memorable weekend filled with great music and even better friends.

Describing in details the performances of each individual band would probably fill out pages, as the common denominator of the event was over-the-top musicianship and professionalism from each one of them, so I’ll do my best to keep the article concise and short. And please, remember that this is just my opinion, music is a subjective listening experience and my thoughts are no more valid than yours if we are on opposite sides of the fence.

FRIDAY:

The event’s festivities were opened by KYROS, the novel five-piece progressive rock band from London (formerly known as SYNAESTHESIA). They had played the festival two years before (that time under their previous moniker), and found themselves amidst a US tour supporting their last album “Vox Humana”, which was being played in its entirety at every show. You can perceive influences in their music from acts such as FROST, PORCUPINE TREE, MUSE and PAIN OF SALVATION; however, nothing farther from reality than categorizing them by the aforementioned bands. KYROS has progressed and evolved at an incredible pace, and led by the impressive stage presence of both, vocalist and main songwriter Adam Warne and bassist Peter Episcopo they served a one hour and 20 minutes kaleidoscope of musical chaos during: straight ahead heavy-prog with beefy twin guitar attack paired with beautiful melodies, carefully harmonized and constantly evolving to keep the creativity flowing throughout the whole set, which pretty much felt like one long beautiful song with all kind of musical variations and a spectacular finale.

Kyros

If KYROS opened with a very high note, MOON SAFARI closed the first night on another. Their golden vocal harmonies (You might be remembered of STYX, MANHATTAN TRANSFER, REO SPEEDWAGON, BILLY JOEL, etc.) deeply rooted in the European harmony vocal tradition with some strong jazzy overtones on some parts, multi-layered instruments, thick vintage Mellotron, and lush arrangements commanded the theater audience and sent beautiful, uplifting, pleasant and positive waves in every direction. If in their albums they continue to meet their own particular and exceptional high standards, their shows are no exception. Someone described their music as QUEEN meets BEACH BOYS meets KANSAS meets ABBA and a bit of GENTLE GIANT on moogy keyboards, and to these ears this is a blissful and winning recipe. During their lengthy set which spanned through their entire discography, the sextet received several standing ovations and watery eyes were seen amongst the audience.

Moon Safari

SATURDAY:

The second day (and first one to feature four bands), started out with THE AARON CLIFT EXPERIMENT. I must confess this band had flown completely under my radar, so I wanted to see why George had picked them up to be part of the festival ranks. Aaron Clift (a crazily tall guy, one of those who would make one feel like a dwarf) is the central figure, being the vocalist, keyboardist and main composer of the band’s music, and he sounds a lot like Echolyn’s Ray Weston (which is obviously a great thing). Their stock in trade is an intricate, subtle, and broad style of melodic compositions with raw passion at its core, songs with a classic rock nucleus embellished and augmented by progressive rock overtones. Drawing musical influences from the Gods of the genre (GENESIS, PINK FLOYD and RUSH came to mind) through inspiration and not pure imitation, these guys offered an exciting and very well executed performance, so it seems we can have Texas-style prog after all! Unquestionably a band worth listening to, I will make sure to pick up their second album “Outer Light, Inner Darkness” which was called “an impressive sophomore outing” by Prog Magazine, and “gorgeously emotive” by Progression Magazine amongst other raving reviews.

Aaron Clift Experiment

UNIFIED PAST took the stage at 2:00 PM fronted by Phil Naro, best known in the music world as the mic-man for Billy Sheehan’s band, “Talas”.  I first knew about him when I bought “Second Sound”, a wonderful album by the Canadian based band DRUCKFARBEN, and once again when discovered “Through The Turbulence”, a 2014 exceptional eclectic prog-rock record by the Venezuelan band BACKHAND (which I wholeheartedly recommended to anyone reading), where Phil was the lead singer. Despite the band’s history being traced back to 1990 and a band then called LABYRINTH, they have revitalized and practically have come across as a new entity, their music now bearing a taste of symphonic heavy metal but with a positive vibe like Yes and Glass Hammer, which can be bombastic and very complex at the same time. Guitarist Stephen Speelman’s bright and dynamic guitar tone excelled throughout their gutsy combination of heavy riffs, symphonic synths and confident rhythm section, at their best on the longest of tracks when the band breaks most strikingly into the arrangements with structural variations and acoustic interludes. They also achieved an extra point for respect in my book since they performed after replacing their keyboardist only a month prior to the event, instead of taking cancellation as the easy way out. Their set included material from their 2015 record “Shifting The Equilibrium” which depicts gorgeous artwork created by international fantasy artist Ed Unitsky, and would be a worthy addition to your ever-growing musical collection.

Unified Past

A surprise VIP performance had been announced in the 5 PM time slot, and materialized in the form of UNIT D.B. a one-off live band made up by the combined forces of Mark Truey Trueack (vocals), Sean Timms (keyboards, vocals) Danny Lopresto (guitars, vocals), Brody Thomas Green (drums, vocals), and Steve Unruh (flute, violin). Basically, an amalgamation of UNITOPIA, SOUTHERN EMPIRE, RESISTOR and SAMURAI OF PROG. UNITOPIA were supposed to play the festival back in 2010, but sadly, they broke up before they could, hence this specific show was a kind of a long overdue apparition by the Aussies. I was impressed and really enjoyed their presentation, despite not being familiar with UNITOPIA’s back catalog or any of the other splinter bands. Gorgeous anthemic melodies which made a great contrast with the metallic edge of the previous show, Mark’s voice was warm and spot-on, and Steve Unruh added a myriad of soundscapes to the songs, playing strings, woodwinds and several other instruments. Provided in the form of flawless musical execution (after apparently only one actual rehearsal, which is additionally remarkable) their music had the ability to take you away somewhere else and at the end of the set soothingly bring you back to your seat. A pending schoolwork is now my necessity to explore further into the former history of these fine musicians while truly hoping they decide to put out a live recording of their set.

Unit DB

To close Saturday night, George had announced THE NEAL MORSE BAND as early as the last night of 2016. Neal and his bandmates released their latest album “The Similitude Of A Dream” this year, the second under the same band moniker and with the same formation of Eric Gillette (guitars) and Bill Hubauer (keyboards, vocals, sax and everything in between) alongside lifelong partners in crime Mike Portnoy (drums) and Randy George (bass), and the album really took the band to a whole new level and topped the progressive rock lists in many magazines worldwide. Being very familiar with Neal and Portnoy musical collaborations (Transatlantic, Flying Colors, etc.) and after beholding the band a couple of times during this very same tour, I knew their set would be a towering experience. I was surprised to note that due to the religious nature of the musical direction Neal has gone after he left Spock’s Beard, some considered him as the elephant in the room. Nonetheless, he had the largest crowd of the weekend by a fair margin, fact I can attest as I moved constantly up and down the stairs and aisles to get the best vantage points for my shots, so it seems the audience was unquestionably not bothered by the Christian message carried out by the music. Neal’s band presented the entire “The Similitude Of A Dream” album from start to finish with all the magnificent theatrics and splendid rear screen projections created by collaborator and visual artist Christian Rios, and once again they proved this band is no longer the sum of its parts opposed to Neal’s earlier solo tours, but a rock solid entity firing on all cylinders. Progressive, heartfelt, powerful, and rocking are some adjectives I could use to describe their show, with Neal showcasing real joy while unleashing his inner Peter Gabriel as he wore a variety of outfits and changed masks throughout the show to correlate with the different characters and events described throughout the album’s story; meanwhile his bandmates presented one of the most scorching and tightest performances of the event.

Neal Morse Band

Their exemplarily pristine and accurate spectacle encountered some hiccups, in the form of gear and practical issues, and by the end of the last song of the initial set, Morse’s computer went blank and died. While the techs were trying to figure out how to get his computer back on, he had to play the very end of the last song on acoustic guitar. Since they could not get off stage for the encores Neal said: “Well, anybody have any requests?” And somebody called out “We All Need Some Light” (A heart-touching ballad off the first Transatlantic album), so he played a little of that until the computer came back online… and then they closed out with “The Call” from their previous album “The Grand Experiment”. An overall fabulous performance (and one of the favorite sets for many I spoke with during the following days), paired with a real display of grace under pressure.

SUNDAY:

The last day was here and many were worn-out after prolonged hangouts at the hotel lobby for two consecutive nights (myself included). THE FIERCE AND THE DEAD were the openers, and boy, did they shake the house down. One of the best part of festivals of all musical styles is finding the band you never heard of and having them lobotomizing your skull. A true “Church of Prog, Wake-up Band”, these Brits combined post-rock picking with some brutally heavy riffing, flirting out with heavy-metal. Firm, vibrant passages alternated with ones with a looser, more open nature, occasional dipping into punk. Their all-instrumental sound could probably loosely be filed under the “Post-Rock/Math-Prog” category, yet it revolves around being non-conformative, sophisticated challenging, and intriguingly primitive sounding at times. I must say they were the perfect band to shake off the accumulated tiredness, establishing a great rapport with the audience. Tight musicians that know each other well, I was gladly impressed by Stuart Marshall’s relentless and at times maniacal way to pound his drumkit. My dear friend Octavia Brown who is behind the organizational team of the 2Days Prog + 1 Festival (a wonderful free-admission progressive rock celebration happening in Veruno, Italy every September) visited the US to enjoy her first dib at RoSfest and fell in love with these guys… even though they are Arsenal’s fans!

The Fierce and the Dead

I was very much looking forward to the EVERSHIP set, as their eponymous album from last year knocked my socks off at the first listen. Sean Atkinson and company had only played live two times prior to RoSfest, and while setting up the extra video cameras to help them record their performance I asked myself how nervous they could be before hitting the stage. They had all sorts of cool toys in their setup: a Theremin, a pink double-neck bass and even a CP-80… Curtains raised and technical difficulties made presence since the very beginning, but that did not prevent them to crank out their lyrically adventurous symphonic prog-rock, layered with acoustic guitar textures and adorned with a precise amount of heavy edge. They have an insanely gifted vocalist in Beau West with loads of prog goodness, and the songwriting, the lyrics, and vocals have a synergy that makes their music to stand out. Bombastic symphonics combining some Queen influences, highlighting rocket-propelled crunchy guitars and over the top lead vocals that tilt closer to opera and heavy metal, all shielded within a tight score with fluctuating arrangements and impossible to predict what is next down the pipes. Have I said I was in heaven? But wait, there was more… Since they have only one album out they needed to fill the gap in their set with a couple of covers… so they threw in two exciting renditions of STYX’s “Suite Madam Blue” and KANSAS’s “Portrait (He Knew)” which made the audience to clamor and applaud at unison. I will not say this is a band that will go places, as I believe they already set sail!

Evership

I had seen EDENSONG last year at Progtoberfest II and I knew what to expect. This band has come a long way in the last 8 years or so and have improved immensely as a live band. The material from “Years In The Garden Of Years” is much darker that “Fruit Fallen” and it comes across exactly that way in their live shows. Their musical palette is very hard to pin down, some passages come across as what could be the unborn child of Jethro Tull and King Crimson, while some others have a more eclectic nature, filled with expressive, memorable and playful variety. Their song structures sometimes reminiscent of the best of Genesis, also find familiarity with the mellotron sound and ofttimes whimsical nature of the transitions. A mixture of old and new, intricacy and aggression, the music features the flute in additional and compelling ways, wrapped with an extraordinary rhythm section full of driving base and Tony Waldman’s exquisite and varied drumming. There is enough complexity in EDENSONG’s music to leave you light-headed, but don’t let that prevent you from revisiting their albums.

Edensong

The final band for the night and the one to close the festival was ÄNGLAGÅRD. Everyone who knows me, knows they are my personal friends and one of my all-time favorite bands, therefore I won’t delve much into describing their performance, as I don’t want to sound excessively biased. Their set was divided in two parts with a short intermission which was actually a misunderstanding, as the initial idea was for them to never leave the stage. The first part consisted of songs spanning their second album “Epilog” and their third “Viljans Öga”, on which they did a magnificent job. Then for their second set they played their legendary first record “Hybris” in its entirety, using the giant video wall in the back to display visuals allegoric to the song thematic, and for whatever inexplicable reason, the band seemed even more cohesive and inspired during those four songs, nailing every note in some sort of uncanny manner. Änglagård’s music is not for everyone; you either love it and enjoy how it fries your brain or simply don’t understand it at all. It goes beyond complexity and challenges; it pushes the boundaries of your pre-defined conceptions of harmony and structural compositions. As I described myself once: “A sonic rollercoaster of aggressive music in odd meter, subtle parts and melancholic beauty, building suspense and abrupt stops, with a wondrous interplay of sounds”. For some it doesn’t click, but I know many were blown away and considered their virtuoso show an exceptional way to end the festival.

Anglagard

FINAL NOTES:

I know, I know, I said I would be brief, but hey, you read all the way to here! Is difficult to put such a large amount of happenings in black and white without writing a bit too much. A curated selection of sound coming from some of the best progressive bands in the planet, and running with Swiss clockwork punctuality, RoSfest continues to set standards in the way an event of such magnitude should materialize. Obviously it is impossible to please everyone, and I’ve heard opinions about the line-up lacking avant, zeuhl, krautrock, space, electronic, and fusion acts. While I respect everyone’s opinion, I can tell you that putting together an event of this significance is far from being your regular 9 to 5 job. There are so many variables and moving pieces, such a huge logistic to handle and so many details to nail like most of us have no idea; it could easily be the subject for your next never-ending nightmare. In my opinion the team led by George and his wonderful wife Beth continue to outdo themselves year after year, and they deserve the highest praise for their dedication and countless efforts to overcome any difficulty and keep offering their loyal attendees such an exciting and fulfilling and mind-blowing musical experience. Next year is their 15th anniversary, and I know George is “cooking” something special, so don’t say I didn’t warn you!

For more photos visit these links:

Leprous release new song “From the Flame” from upcoming album ‘Malina’

Leprous release new song “From the Flame” from upcoming album ‘Malina’

Norway’s LEPROUS are rolling out the campaign for their much-anticipated new fifth studio album “Malina” (Out August 25th, 2017 via InsideOutMusic) by debuting its first single and video “From The Flame” today.

Watch the video for “From The Flame”, which was directed by David Solbjørg of Twitchy Films, here:

The band checked in with the following comment about “From The Flame”:
“From the Flame” is definitely one of our favourite tracks from the album, with a strong hook and memorable melodies. Despite it sounding big and catchy, it also sounds pretty organic and it has a depth to it. We’re super proud of the son and feel it represents LEPROUS 2017 very well!”

And video director David Solbjørg of Twitchy Films added about the clip:
“It’s always fun and challenging to work with Leprous. This time around we chose to shoot with RED 8K cameras and brand new colour science (ipp2) to get as atmospheric shots as possible in a demanding low light environment.”

The track-listing for “Malina” reads as follows:

LEPROUS – “Malina”:
1. Bonneville
2. Stuck
3. From The Flame
4. Captive
5. Illuminate
6. Leashes
7. Mirage
8. Malina
9. Coma
10. The Weight Of Disaster
11. The Last Milestone

“Malina” will be available as Jewelcase CD and Digital Download, but also as limited edition Mediabook CD (with extended booklet and the bonus-track “Root”) and as Gatefold 2LP on 180gr. vinyl (with a poster, the bonus-track “Root” and the entire album on CD).

“Malina” is now available for digital pre-order here:
http://smarturl.it/LeprousMalina

Following a hugely successful European tour as support to label-mates Devin Townsend Project earlier this year, LEPROUS wrapped up the work on “Malina” with producer David Castillo at Ghost Ward Studio in Sweden, while mixing duties were once again taken care of by Jens Bogren at Fascination Street Studios in Sweden. The album’s artwork was designed by Corey Meyers.

In order to support the release of “Malina”, LEPROUS will be heading out on an extensive headlining tour of Europe together with special guests Agent Fresco from Iceland, plus Australia’s AlithiA and fellow Norwegian’s Astrosaur. Here is a list of the dates announced so far:

LEPROUS, Agent Fresco, AlithiA & Astrosaur – European Tour:
Presented in Germany by Eclipsed, Laut.de, Guitar & Metal.de

28.10.17 – Pumpehuset, Copenhagen, Denmark
29.10.17 – Logo, Hamburg, Germany
30.10.17 – Luxor, Cologne, Germany
31.10.17 – Rockhal, Esch, Luxembourg
1.11.17 – Patronaat, Haarlem, Netherlands
2.11.17 – The Dome, London, UK
3.11.17 – Voodoo Lounge, Dublin, Ireland
4.11.17 – Damnation Festival, Leeds, UK
5.11.17 – Biebob, Vosselaar, Belgium
6.11.17 – Trabendo, Paris, France
7.11.17 – Barakason, Nantes, France
8.11.17 – Rocher Palmer, Bordeaux, France
11.11.17 – Le Metronum, Toulouse, France
12.11.17 – Le Moulin, Marseille, France
13.11.17 – Magnolia, Milan, Italy
14.11.17 – CCO Villeurbanne, Lyon, France
15.11.17 – Salzhaus, Winterthur, Switzerland
16.11.17 – Grillen, Colmar, France
17.11.17 – Backstage Halle, Munich, Germany
18.11.17 – Szene, Vienna, Austria
19.11.17 – A38, Budapest, Hungary
20.11.17 – Rock Café, Prague, Czech Republic
21.11.17 – Proxima, Warsaw, Poland
22.11.17 – Musik & Freiden, Berlin, Germany

Cydemind stream their new album ‘Erosion’

Cydemind stream their new album ‘Erosion’

Montreal-based Cydemind will release their first full length album ‘Erosion’ today, May 26th. The album is the follow-up to their 2014 debut EP ‘Through Mist and Ages’. Now you can listen to the album exclusively here.

The band had this to say about the new album, “We’re very excited to finally release Erosion. We’ve been working on it for so long; to finally launch it feels like we’ve reached the summit of a mountain that took 5 years to climb. We hope you’ll appreciate the scenery as much as we do. Thanks for supporting us and here’s to many more albums!”

Influenced by bands such as Symphony X, Dream Theater, Haken, Plini, Rush along with classical, jazz and progressive rock, the album offers a refreshing take on progressive music that is sure to attract interest from a wide audience, especially with classically trained violinist Olivier Allard, who leads the listener throughout the different moods of their compositions.

“Erosion” was recorded in Montreal at The Grid with producer Christian Donaldson (Cryptopsy, The Agonist, Beyond Creation, Neuraxis) along with additional recording of grand piano done at Studio 270.

The album consists of six compositions including a 27 minute masterpiece of the release’s title track, making it CYDEMIND‘s most ambitious project to date. The album artwork was done by drummer and band co-founder Alexandre Dagenais along with lyrical poems included with the release written by pianist Camille Delage. The poems describe each composition as the album gravitates around the theme of nature and its persistence through time.

Pre-order – https://cydemind.bandcamp.com/album/erosion

Cydemind

Marillion replace Kansas for Night of the Prog festival

Marillion replace Kansas for Night of the Prog festival

Night of the Prog, the yearly festival that takes place in Germany and is now in its 12th year had a bit of a last minute shake last week when it was announced that Kansas had to be replaced.  Kansas were set to be the last night headliner. Marillion have been scheduled as the new headliner for the 3rd and final night of the festival which already includes Yes featuring Anderson, Rabin, and Wakeman, and Mike Portnoy’s Shattered Fortress as the other 2 headliners.  The festival takes place July 14-16th.  For more information visit: http://www.nightoftheprogfestival.com/index.eng.html

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