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Sunday, January 22, 2017

Welcome Back My Friends to the Show that Never Ends. Welcome back Prog Magazine!

(Some of my collection of PROG Magazine)

It’s always something good happens for a new year in a new beginning. And believe me it is very good news. Not just the hero saving the day or Superman rescuing Lois Lane from Lex Luthor, but more than just that. When it was announced last year in December before Christmas that TeamRock had went into administration and laid-off some of the workers including who had been home to publications to Classic Rock Magazine, Blues, Metal Hammer, and Prog Magazine, it hit me hard.

Because not only that, but for me, Prog Magazine was sort of like my Bible to read about up-and-coming bands, articles, interviews, the albums that built Prog, labels to discover, and My Record Collection with people such as Zach Galligan (Gremlins, Gremlins 2: The New Batch), Comedian Bill Bailey, Sci-Fi Author Kevin J. Anderson, Photographer Mick Rock, Kavus Torabi, and Comic Book Artist Brian Bolland (The Killing Joke, Judge Dredd) to name a few, showing their love of the music and the inspirationals for them.

I would sometimes go to Barnes and Noble to find new issues or on eBay to find both old and new issues of PROG Magazine and sometimes I would have to pay my Mom back on finding some of the issues that would come in the mail. 

My blogsite, Music from the Other Side of the Room, wouldn’t haven’t gotten started if it wasn’t for both Houston Community College and Prog Magazine when it launched back eight years ago. And I can imagine the people who worked in which I mentioned about my tribute to the magazine last year in December, they worked their butts off to write the articles, interviews, and reviews.

My first reaction to that was “What a horrible way to end the year like that.” Because let’s admit 2016 was a rough year of losing artists including Keith Emerson, Greg Lake, Prince, Glenn Frey, Alan Rickman, and the late great David Bowie. But then, something special happened. Ben Ward of Orange Goblin launched a JustGiving fundraising website to raise money to help the staff who were made redundant just in time before Christmas with no pay. They raised £88,760.00 ($109,853.81) and the band performed at a fundraising gig on January 5th  of this year at the Black Heart in Camden, London. 

Stan “The Man” Lee always said, “With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility.” That’s what they did and the supporters of the magazines did, you give something back. And then just as if it was about to fade into nothingness, I read online that Future Publishing had saved Classic Rock, Metal Hammer, and PROG Magazine from closure.  It’s also the owner of titles including Guitarist, Total Film, and T3, which covers gadgets and technology.

It was like a breath of fresh air when I heard the announcement. Future deserves a big, big, BIG gigantic pat on the back for what they did. I wish Jerry Ewing and the rest of his team nothing but the best. They are for me in my opinion either the Justice League or the Avengers of Prog Magazine. (My geek shirt just popped out!) And hope to get the Prog train steam going up for more chugging like there’s no tomorrow. It’s going to take some baby steps, but as Captain America says, “Avengers Assemble!

Pandora - Ten Years Like In a Magic Dream

It’s been 11 years since the formation of Pandora launched. With three albums in the can, they’ve released their fourth album on AMS records last year. With Pandora’s music combining with themes, plans, memories, and moods, the father-son relationship between Beppe and his son Claudio Colombo followed by keyboardist Corrado Grappeggia, they keep the Pandora train rolling without any stopping. And adding to the line up, Emoni Viruet, makes the band a quartet.

The new album entitled Ten Years Like In a Magic Dream features three sections; Fragments of the Presents, Temporal Transition, and Fragments of the Past. Guests include on here are Dino Fiore and Andrea Bertino from Il Castello Di Atlante, Vittorio Nocenzi of Banco Del Mutuo Soccorso, and David Jackson of Van Der Graaf Generator. The first section is a new performance of Pandora’s compositions sung in English for the first time.

You have Drunken Poet’s Drama which begins with an Allegro string section by Bertino himself, it could be the cross between New Trolls and Deep Purple’s concerto before for a brief second going into the Brazilian vibration. Corrado’s rough voice, takes you into the mind of the poet’s deep, cavernous, darker tales with a symphonic progressive metal dramatic followed by the sections from the strings from the keyboards and from Andrea himself.

I love how in The Way You Are shows both the keyboards and heavy guitar riffs sheer into battering punches and followed by lead sections from Claudio by getting the juice with sparking-electrical results while Passagio di Stagioni is a tribute to the late great Francesco Di Giacomo. It begins for the first four minutes and thirty seconds between a mourning sound between the Moog, Mellotron, and Drums setting in these ominous tones.

And then the Organ and David Jackson blaring the door down for a weird section as the acoustic-folk comes in to calm everything down and the cover of Banco’s Canto Di Primavera shines brightly and honoring the legends thanks to Emoni’s vocals to know that Francesco’s spirit and legacy will keep growing for years and then Vittorio has their back and knowing he is lifting his head and pointing to the sky for Francesco.

Their take of Yes’ Ritual (Nous Sommes du Soleil) which they do an 11-minute version of the complexuality composition from their 1973 magnum opus and dividing line in the sand album, Tales from Topographic Oceans shows Pandora going into a sonic energetic and experimental weird twist to capture the style and journey beyond the stars. With the loss of Greg Lake last year to cancer, they honor him with a cover of Lucky Man.

It starts off with this Floydian-sque guitar lines a-la Dark Side of the Moon-era and then straight into the classic version  For me, this is Pandora showing support and knowing that the music will never die, but will live on for many generations to discover the true beginnings of the progressive genre. Not to mention the insane Moog improvisation to honor Keith Emerson’s finale near the end of the piece.

I really enjoyed listening to Pandora’s new album. It’s been three years since I’ve listened to their music while I was nearing the end of my final semester of Houston Community College. The band can do no wrong for me. And I hope they will continue to surprise me even more in the future to see where they’ll do next. In the words of Babe Ruth “Heroes get remembered, but legends never die.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Robert Jürjendal featuring Andrus Lillepea - Simple Past

I can’t believe that this album passed right through me. For me, when it comes to new artists and bands, I’ve always wanted to discover more of their catalog. One of them is guitarist and composer from Estonia named, Robert Jürjendal.  He has released two solo albums from 2013 to 2015. Robert creates these effects that makes you open the doors of landscapes and ambient vibrations by creating his styles of Frippertronics.

Since I’ve mentioned Fripp, he is also a craftie in which he was a part Robert Fripp’s Guitar Craft from 1992 to 1997 which he would learn to play loop music that included craftie alumni's Trey Gunn, The California Guitar Trio, and Markus Reuter. He also worked with artists such as Toyah Wilcox with This Fragile Moment. Now for me, I'm new to rjendal's music, but the moment I listened to his music, I was blown away by his textures of using the touch guitar, acoustic guitar, keyboards, and percussion. Last year, he released his third solo album entitled Lihtminevik in which translates to Simple Past. It is a concept album that is based on the temporality notion of the human world.

And how we have to realize no matter how much hard work and the job that is at times complicated, our lives will one day sooner or later disappear into the endless world of emptiness. What Richard has done, as he brings Lotte on water drop samples, Six on breathing, and drummer Andrus Lillepea, is bring the concept to cavernous, darker, and landscaping textures that lead into unexpected moments throughout the ten compositions.

There are at times Robert not only channels the styles of Fripp, but Heldon’s Richard Pinhas and at times between Agitation Free, Brian Eno, Tangerine Dream and Vangelis. It’s ambient, classical, and jazz at the same time. Everything on Simple Past, is here. When at times I mention an album, it the movie inside your head, that’s is what the album is closing your eyes and imagining the film in your mind to see where Jurjendal will go to next.

The sounds on here are great. Bob and Andrus on the first 8 tracks are spectacular and work well together between the two of them. I wish I could name some of my favorite compositions on here, but it’s all of the above for what Robert brought into the dining room table to bring the all the music and the story together. And I hope to hear more of Robert’s and Andrus' music in the near future or this year to see what I was missing.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Esquire III - No Spare Planet

Formed in 1982, Esquire have released two studio albums from 1987 to 1997 with the sole self-titled debut and Coming Home. Last year, they have released their third and final album entitled, No Spare Planet. It features nine unreleased material that Nikki Squire (Chris Squire's first wife) and Nigel McLaren’s composition that were completed before Nigel’s passing in 2015 just as they were getting ready to mix and master the album.

This completes the Esquire trilogy and making the duo come in full circle. It’s Nigel’s swansong and saying goodbye as the music is a cross between art, symphonic, new wave, and progressive style of music. Now I’m very new to the band’s music. And listening to their last album, for me, it is an emotional farewell to say goodbye and the legacy of Esquire will live forever.

And five highlights on the album will bring the listener to be prepare to have the Kleenex box in toe. It’s again one of the most emotional and powerful goodbye’s I’ve listened to from beginning to the very end. Ministry of Life kicks things off. The composition is done in three movements as the piece changes through the passages of time.

It is an excellent introduction to start the album as it brings to mind between the harmonizing vocals of the Beatles and Nikki’s voice resembles the style of early Annie Lennox and she can sing amazingly well while the ‘80s New Wave of the Pop scene comes into the foreplay of Human Rhythm followed by a touch of the Momentary Lapse of Reason-era of Pink Floyd and elements of Freddie Mercury’s solo work by dealing with the chance to go back and rewrite history and Stay Low.

Nigel McLaren's vocals, gives a final warmth and knowing that the angels are waiting for him to give his final bow. The two tracks in which he sings on the album; Friends and Enemies and Heaven Blessed, puts the toes into the water of Peter Gabriel’s solo work letting listeners know that it is time to go. The opening of the gates of heaven, is showing the circle now is in full. And No Spare Planet is a remarkable farewell.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Mercy Fire - Undying Fire

It’s been seven years since I’ve done a review on a Female-fronted Symphonic Metal band that would make my ears perk up. Whether it would be early Within Temptation, Amberian Dawn, Stream of Passion, Ancient Bards, Edenbridge, Delain, After Forever, or Tarja’s debut album My Winter Storm. I still haven’t forgotten about these bands and writing a review on some of the albums can be hard or tricky and various listens I would sometimes buy their music on The Laser’s Edge website.

Now for me, I’ve always have a soft spot of the Symphonic Metal movement when it gets a classical and roaring epic taste with an orchestral vibration from the keyboards or a real orchestra and choir in which Within Temptation used on the Black Symphony live album recorded in their home of the Netherlands at the Ahoy Arena in Rotterdam at the time they were promoting their fourth studio album, The Heart of Everything. My brain is still waiting for the right Female Symphonic Metal band…. until now.

A band that is an American-Dutch band that launched back three years ago by vocalist Kassandra Novell after having some successful performances in Belgium at the acclaimed Metal Female Voices Festival. With a few EP’s under their belt, they have released their debut album entitled, Undying Fire which was released last year in late October which coincided their European premiere at Metal Female Voices Fest XIII.

Their debut album is an eruptive volcanic explosion that made my ears ring when I turned the volume as in the words in the back cover of David Bowie’s album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, “To Be Played at Maximum Volume.” And you might want to play it really, really, really loud! Stop, Kiss Me, the intro gives to mind Queen’s Son and Daughter before the guitars going into overdrive on the rhythms and riffs as Kassandra’s vocals and one of the sharing vocals delve deep on reconcile the love they had now in ruins before trying to start again.

The dynamic roaring guitars really sets the tension between the two with double guitars textures as if Arjen Anthony Lucassen was conducting both Metallica during the Kill ‘Em All-era and the British Steel-era of Judas Priest creating an orchestral finale. No One Will Save You is being trapped in your own prison and you’ve finally had knowing you will have to pay the price the vocals and Kassandra’s snarling vocals is crossover of the Beauty and the Beast.

This time, Beauty has transformed into a snarling beast and she’s not letting go. She can snarl perfectly. It’s a haunting and rising composition and the lyrics dealing with knowing that no one can help you, the character has come to a breaking point of being pushed too far. With help from Trillum’s Amanda Sommerville who was not just a producer on the album, but a vocal coach, she helps out by sharing a duet with Mercy Isle.

She and Kassandra work well together as Joop De Rooij sets this mourning piano melody with a Celtic Folk flute sound in the background dealing with how the world is now cruel and knowing that there’s no hope for peace as the song is telling it by Saying Goodbye to hope, love, peace, and joining hands without any chance that is now filled with hatred.

Kassandra brings her inner vision as if she’s Kate Bush on If I Could. It is a gentle piano, bass, and drum section filled with a thundering guitar climbing up that hill. The Celtic sounds on Jeroen Goossens’ flute and Brian May-sque licks, is a crossover as if he had produced Hounds of Love. I can imagine one day this song will be a live fan favorite for audiences to sing along while the opener Wake Up, which starts off with an alarm going off rises up to challenge both Delain’s Charlotte Wessles singing with Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow and After Forever.

I have listened to Mercy Isle’s Undying Fire about three times now. This is a revelation for me. Both going for my afternoon walks on a grey and blistery day and just being completely gobsmacked of how not just Kassandra but how Joop, bassist and vocalist Chad Novell, and drummer Ywe van der Pol and guests guitarist Sebas Honing worked well to give her a helping hand.

It is symphonic metal at it’s best with it’s epic roaring productions. So if you love Within Temptation, Edenbridge, After Forever, and Kate Bush, than I highly recommend you check out Mercy Isle’s Undying Isle. As Marvel’s own The Mighty Thor once said, “Waves are but water. Wind, but air. And though lightning be fire…yet it must answer thunder’s call!

Friday, January 6, 2017

Tohpati Ethnomission - Mata Hati

It’s been six years since we’ve heard some music by Tohpati Ethnomission. The innovator and maestro himself has been very busy with his solo career, SimakDialog, and Bertiga. He knows right away that Ethnomission is always there right inside the back of his head and waiting for the right moment to return. It’s always a great chance to start the New Year with the release Tohpati Ethnomission’s new album entitled, Mata Hati released on the MoonJune label.

I’ve been a supporter of Tohpati’s work since 2013 when I received a few albums from the label to get me started by going on the Train of MoonJune to see what I was missing thanks to my introduction of the label from PROG Magazine to the first of the series of Romantic Warriors. Remember when I said “Whenever something in the mail comes in and it’s from MoonJune Records, I know my ears are ringing.” Well they are ringing more for Tohpati.

Recorded in February last year in Jakarta, Indonesia, it’s almost as if it’s a welcoming return for the band to be back in action. It’s the same line-up as before from their 2010 release, Save the Planet. And this time, featuring the Czech Symphony Orchestra to lend Tohpati a helping hand. With five centerpieces, it shows that he’s back in full force and no one there to stop him.

Reog offers a thumping rocker to styles of Mr. Bungle, Zappa, and Primus with a Funk-Rock connection. The midsection shows Tohpati delving with an experimental effect from the delay/reverb effect he brings both on the riffs and the lead sections. Opener, Janger is a journey back to his home in Indonesia thanks to the Czech Symphony Orchestra as he brings his own version in the styles of Autumn Leaves.

The melodies between his guitar and Suwarjiki’s Flute followed by the drums and percussion from Demas and Ramdan. Both of the rhythm sections give it the full energy and the heart and soul of not both progressive and jazz music, but world music. And they let the sun rise by making you feel the warm breeze and the tempos for a new day with Tanah Emas.

Indro’s bass improvisation shines throughout for a brief bit. I wish he had a little bit more on the track and I always imagine both he and Tohpati dueling for a bit on the arrangement while Rancak is a classical-acoustic world adventure of flamenco genre with a striking beauty that Tohpati makes you feel at home. But it’s not over yet.

Amarah is heading into the waters of Heavy Metal with a Progressive roar between Mastodon and King Crimson. It is an interesting twist, but it works. Tohpati himself grabs between the styles of rhythm and lead improvisations and heavy riffs with a backbone pulse and a sonic crunch. The six-year long gap, while it took long and waiting for Ethnomission’s return, it’s well worth the wait.

This is my fifth time listening to Mata Hati. Everything is on here. Jazz, Fusion, Progressive, Classical, and World Music and Tohpai Ethnomission’s return is a crown jewel that will keep growing and knowing that they are back. 

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Wingfield Reuter Stavi Sirkis - The Stone House

As I’ve always said about MoonJune, “Whenever something shows up in the mail and MoonJune shows up, something magical happens.” Yesterday I received in the mail from MoonJune is perhaps one of the most innovative and challenging releases to start off the New Year with a big bang. It was Wingfield Reuter Stavi Sirkis’ The Stone House. When I went out for my Morning workout at the Gym and listened to the entire album, I was completely taken aback and just in awe of the textures of how compelling these six tracks can take you on a whole new world.

Recorded at La Casa Murada Studio in Banyeres del Pandes, Spain on February 19, 2016, all four of them work together like a team creating these mysterious voyages between Space, Fusion, Trance, and Psychedelic music. And while the album cover has this strange homage between the movie posters of either the hammer horror films or something straight out of Italian Giallo films of the 1970s, the quartet delves into the looking glass.

Mark Wingfield, Markus Reuter, Yaron Stavi, and Asaf Sirkis, work together as a team during those sessions. It felt at times listening to the entire album recalling the essence of the THRAK-era of King Crimson with a Holy Shit momentum. When this was announced last year, my first reaction was “This is a perfect team, perfect match, perfect combination, and perfect quartet.” And I was right on the money with this.

It felt as if they were breaking the doors down of Jazz with a gigantic bulldozer with some experimentation's they were doing in the studio. And the music itself is original, ominous, and eerie at its finest. Not to mention the feedback sounds in one of the tracks that shows them even more accomplished than ever! At times it feels that the quartet were writing a score for a film done by Fantastic Planet’s Rene Laoux and out of stories with designs done by the late great Jean “Moebius” Giraud.

After delving into the six tracks, Wingfield, Reuter, Stavi, and Sirkis keep the fires burning more. This is a spellbinding release that MoonJune Records released. I hope they continue to do more in 2017. And as I’ve mentioned this is a great introduction to start the New Year off with a big or even a bigger bang.