ProgPowerUSA 2018 – Day Four

 

The days were posted in the order that the bands performed. And if you missed Day Three, you can find it here and work your way back through the other days if you like. Or start with the beginning here and work your way forward.   Day 4 is way late and I was afraid this would happen. My memory is faltering. Oh well. Here we go. I’ll try to let the photos I took do most of the talking.  

 

Triosphere

(Power/Prog Metal from Norway)

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Going into this I was familiar with them and really like their music I would repeatedly keep mixing them up with Temperance, another female fronted band whose band name looks a lot like this one. But they are different bands! 🙂 Triosphere, who was here this day, not Temperance, really brought their A game. Turning in a blistering 12 song set. I look forward to seeing them again. There was one interesting thing that happened during this set, though I have heard since that it was possibly faked (not by the band but by the people involved): the band mentioned someone in the audience and there turned out to be a planned proposal during this set. It was nice to see something like that happen and I do hope it was actually real. 

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https://www.setlist.fm/setlist/triosphere/2018/center-stage-atlanta-ga-63e84abf.html

Eclipse

(Hard Rock from Sweden)

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  Talk about a band full of energy. One of the many bands I was looking forward to at this festival and they did NOT disappoint. It was a pretty damn not stop, full on rock/metal set! Packed house too! And everyone ate it up. Sadly they started a little late and had their set cut short.  

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https://www.setlist.fm/setlist/eclipse/2018/center-stage-atlanta-ga-73e84ab9.html

Soen

(Prog Metal from Sweden)

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  Things got a little more laid back for a while when Soen took the stage. Though they cut loose a few times too. Things were a bit dark on stage so getting photos was a bit of a challenge. But I got a few. As with most of the sets, I was able to be right in front of the stage for the first two songs and had to go out into the rest of the crowd after that, which I gladly did as the vocals just couldn’t be heard that close for this set. That was kind of hit or miss from set to set. And looking back at the setlists now, I see they just keep getting shorter this day. But in this case, it is to be expected as the shortest song played is over 5 minutes. But they chose the setlist well. Sampling from previous works with a heavy reliance on the latest.  

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https://www.setlist.fm/setlist/soen/2018/center-stage-atlanta-ga-7be84ac4.html

VUUR

(Prog Metal from the Netherlands)

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  I know a LOT of people that were looking forward to this set and I was too as I just love Anneke’s voice. As I have said before, there are a couple of songs on their debut that just didn’t grab me but was hoping they would translate better live and that they did! But they made up less than half the setlist. You got a few The Gathering songs, an Audioslave cover (Like a Stone), and Ayreon cover (Valley of the Queens), and one from Devin (Fallout). And the Audioslave and Ayreon songs were part of an acoustic portion of the set, which also included Saturnine from The Gathering, that was just fantastic. Absolutely loved this set!  

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https://www.setlist.fm/setlist/vuur/2018/center-stage-atlanta-ga-63e84ac7.html

Alestorm

(Pirate Metal from Scotland)

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  I went into this show with only a cursory knowledge of this band. I knew they were a party band and I listened to part of their last album, and cracked up at the dog version of that album too. But that was about it with my history with them. I listened but also made the rounds of the venue to see who I might be able to meet, band wise. I grabbed a drink and started watching from the side of the stage for a bit and found they are a really fun band live. I made my way to the floor, which was packed, and squeezed in at the back near the soundboard. The crowd was starting to back up onto the stairs too, which security did a good job of keeping clear. Thankfully, I didn’t have to move so I could be present for the duck incident.  

Apparently, they do this duck thing at every show. There is a giant, inflatable duck that just sits on the stage through most of the set. Then toward the end, they toss it out into the audience where it bounces around for the duration of the song “Drink”. And at the end, they get the audience to kill the duck. It was freaking mesmerizing watching the whole thing. Fun show if you ever get the chance to go see it.  

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https://www.setlist.fm/setlist/alestorm/2018/center-stage-atlanta-ga-63e84acf.html

Tarja

(Symphonic/Gothic Metal from Finland)

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  Being a huge Nightwish fan, I was really looking forward to this set and it did not disappoint, for me. I spent most of the set up at the front in the photo pit, since, thankfully, the sound was great for this one. Tarja was fantastic as expected and her band was incredible. Though, I must say, the cellist with his spider moves kind of freaked me out a bit. 😛 Tarja went through a couple of costume changes through the set but never diverged for the rock goddess image which she exudes nearly at all times.  

About 2/3 through the set I went to the back of the floor to get some wider shots and found that half the floor was empty and half the seats too. This was extremely disappointing. I feel that Alestorm was just a bit too much energy for their slot. And I’m sure there was a LOT of drinking during it too. So people just went to party it up at that point. Which is sad, as Tarja and band were just fantastic.  

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https://www.setlist.fm/setlist/tarja/2018/center-stage-atlanta-ga-63e84ad3.html  

 

Well, that’s it for ProgPower 19. It was an incredible 4 days of awesomeness that I wouldn’t trade for anything. Looking forward to next year, where my dream sponsorship is coming true with Threshold! I still don’t feel that is real. Thanks to Glenn, Ralf, and all who work hard to put on this amazing festival. Every year is absolutely incredible.    

 

 

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Rob’s Recommendation Roundup: Volume 6

Roine StoltI cannot understand if “Manifesto of an Alchemist” is a Roine Stolt solo album or just a strange variation of The Flower Kings. It is credited to Roine Stolt’s The Flower King. I know this shouldn’t drive me nuts but it does. Regardless, this sounds like the Flower Kings, which works just fine for me. What makes it different is the use of musicians not from any TFK lineups: Marco Minnemann, Max Lorentz, Zach Kamins, Rob Townsend & Nad Sylvan. But it also includes TFK members (past and present): Jones Reingold, Hans Froberg & Michael Stolt.

Musically it does sound like Stolt but he also incorporates some other styles that maybe TFK wouldn’t explore. The straight up rock riff in the middle of “Lost America” is a good example. Stolt also is the main vocalist on “Manifesto of an Alchemist” which makes it seem more like a solo album.

But for me, it’s the instrumentals that make this album worth buying. He always surrounds himself with great players so it’s nice to hear them having room to stretch out on tracks like “Rio Grande” (my favorite track), “Six Thirty Wake Up” and the mostly instrumental “The Alchemist.” Nothing against the vocals but it’s really awesome to hear all of these musicians weaving their magic together.

Is this vastly different from The Flower Kings, no but it is different enough. It has music that dates back before the first TFK album too! All in all, I found this album on par with The Sea Within (Roine’s side project from earlier in 2018) and honestly better than the last few TFK albums! It’s a top notch effort by a super talented man and his friends.

Label: InsideOut Music
Release Date: 23 November 2018

sydney-rococoThe Church was one of those bands I had meant to check out for a lot of years and didn’t actually do it until their album “Untitled #23.” I liked it and yet forgot to persue them more. Luckily I made time to dive into their vast back catalog and found out that I do really like them. So now it turns out frontman Steve Kilbey has a solo career that I haven’t explored. It starts now with his latest album, “Sydney Rococo.”

So one down and 20 more to go? Well lets look at this album. With a voice as distinct as Kilbey, it’s very hard not to hear this album as one by The Church. The main difference is that it’s less experimental and more about beautifully orchestrated tracks. It start off with the lovely title track which for me wouldn’t sound out of place on a classic Church album. But it has a more timeless sound to it. Acoustic guitars sitting along side powerful strings and Kilbey’s unique voice.

The album is what I call very listenable. Many of the albums that I listen to, I have to be in a specific mood for them. “Sydney Rococo” is one of those “go-to” albums where when you don’t know what to listen to, it’s one you can easily pick and enjoy. Atmospheric tracks like “Distant Voices,” the straight ahead rocker “When I Love Her She Sings,” or the ballad “The Wrong One” give the listener so much variety. That’s what makes an album great and “Sydney Rococo” is indeed a great album by the legendary Steve Kilbey.

Label: Golden Robot Records
Release Date: 23 November 2018

NAOScotland’s North Atlantic Oscillation’s fourth album is called “Grind Show” and while I wouldn’t call it their best album, it is definitely a really good outing. I am partial to “Fog Electric.” I think most of that comes down to that it was the first thing I heard from the band. Style wise I have always compared them to Kevin Moore’s Chroma Key jamming with Brian Wilson and Mogwai.

NAO is now up to their fourth full length album and “Grind Show” has all the hallmarks of past albums. Pulsing synths, Sam Healy’s Moore-like vocals and sweet hook laden choruses. What always makes me love albums by NAO is the atomsphere. There’s a weird dichotomy between claustrophobic verses and frequently vast, open choruses. It’s not just the music. The vocals open up the same way. I love dynamics.

Favorite tracks include the opener “Low Earth Orbit” which really sums up what NAO are all about, while “Fruitful Little Moons” has a very quirky vibe to it that I like eventhough I have no idea why. “Spinning Top” is another one of those typical NAO songs that defies explanation. It goes from a dance funeral dirge to weird ass samples. I love it. Then there’s “Sirens” which is as rocking as NAO gets…assuming you like weird samples in your rock. I like it, but it’s a complete headfuck.

What makes North Atlantic Oscillation a favorite of mine is that are able to take elements of modern prog, post rock and a genre I don’t like in electronica and mash them into this…THING that I love. It’s rare and unique. That’s all I can ask of an album like “Grind Show.” More people need North Atlantic Oscillation in their lives.

Label: Vineland Music
Release Date: 16 November 2018

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Leah – “The Quest”

704981smallIt’s been a while since I have listened to a Leah album. Loved her earlier work and got pretty excited when King’s and Queens came out. Especially after I saw how long it was (I like longer songs). And while there was some great stuff on it, overall it didn’t grab me as much as I expected. It felt overly long and an album should never overstay its welcome. I need to revisit it to see if I still feel the same way.

That said, I wasn’t overly optimistic about this one going into it given how I felt about the last one, but I quickly found my wariness unnecessary. This one is incredible. It’s heavy, symphonic, has those Enya elements at times, with lots of harmony and melody. In short, it kicks ass.

And the album this time around is a bit shorter, closer to 50 minutes than 70. So nothing ever overstays it’s welcome. To seemingly contradict this, the first track, The Quest starts things off with an epicish 10 minute length. There is a bit of repetition here with the chorus over that run time but it is so good, I don’t care.

Every freaking song here is excellent. A big airy, yet weighty, chorus on Edge of Your Sword coupled with an upbeat verse section that is just catchy as hell. We get a bit of a power ballad type track in Lion Arises.  And you get the almost poppy Ghost Upon a Throne. And every song here works. They all work.

The album closes with an Amazing Grace type song, The Water is Wide. Basically Amazing Grace in all aspects but lyrics. It is but it isn’t. Very beautiful and now the only version I can listen to as the other is way overplayed.

The band on this one is made up of: Troy Donockley (Nightwish) on pipes and flutes, Timo Somers (Delain) on guitars, Chen Balbus (Orphaned Land) on Saz and Oud,
Barend Courbois (Blind Guardian) on bass, and Sander Zoer (ex. Delain) on drums and percussion. Pretty stellar line-up if you ask me.

I do want to note we have another loud album here. It isn’t so bad that I have to take a break part way through. But I am noting it and a point or so is being deducted for it. Otherwise, this album is stellar. I highly recommend it if you are a fan of hers (you know you already have it), love Celtic sounding metal, or just love songs with lots of melody and harmonies and gorgeous vocals.

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Rating: 8.5/10737748small

Tracklist:

01. The Quest
02. Edge of Your Sword
03. Lion Arises
04. Heir
05. Ruins of Illusion
06. Labyrinth
07. Abyss
08. Oblivion (Between Two Worlds)
09. Ghost Upon a Throne
10. The Water Is Wide

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Label: Inner Wound Recordings
Release Date: Out now
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LEAHthemusic

Edge of Your Sword

 

Making of The Quest Documentary

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Psycroptic – “As the Kingdom Drowns”

755644Tasmania’s Psycroptic is BACK with “As The Kingdom Drowns” and wow, it’s a killer album. Sure it’s only 35 minutes but it’s a relentless, blistering album nonetheless! I enjoy Psycroptic in doses. Like any tech death metal band, they can be a bit overwhelming at times.

The main difference with “As The Kingdom Drowns” is that the band have more dynamics in their music. And that’s why I think this may very well be their best album to date. To be sure, this does NOT mean they are mellowing out at all. Rather this slightly more prominent dimension makes the heavier parts seem even MORE heavy.

The album kicks off with “We Were the Keepers,” a track that is traditional, in your face Psycroptic. From there the next two tracks weave in some groove metal moments into the over the top insanity. “Frozen Gaze” blends those two elements perfectly while “Directive” has a complex yet slower main riff that is just plain awesome. “Deadlands” veers into speed metal territory while the title track has a super cool slower vibe to it while showcasing how amazing the band can play. Granted they step on the gas pedal when you least expect it too. GREAT track!

“Upon These Stones” is by far my favorite track because it shows off the dynamics that I mentioned. This is the track that could point the band into a new, fresh direction. I’d love it if this track was twice as long too! I think epics are something that could be a game changer for Psycroptic. The album ends with a short blast of energy with “You Belong Here, Below.” And while I like the track, I wish there was a big “statement” track at the end.

There’s a lot to unpack in 35 minutes here. “As the Kingdom Drowns” shows that Psycroptic are still as dangerous as they have ever been and yet still willing to push themselves. There’s no doubt fans of the band will find a lot to love on this album. If you are someone who loves tech death metal, you need Psycroptic in your life!

Rating: 8/10

Tracklist:

1. We Were The Keepers
2. Frozen Gaze
3. Directive
4. Deadlands
5. As The Kingdom Drowns
6. Beyond The Black
7. Upon These Stones
8. Momentum of the Void
9. You Belong Here, Below

Label: Prosthetic Records
Release Date: 9 November 2018
Facebook: facebook.com/psycroptic

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Four Stroke Baron – “Planet Silver Screen”

867948“Planet Silver Screen” is the sophomore release by Nevada trio Four Stroke Baron. It’s an interesting mash up of metal, prog, and new wave, with a healthy sprinkling of 2000s alt-pop. From the opening track “Cut”, it was coming off with a completely different sound than is suddenly thrust upon you with the title track right after.

The album altogether is a bit disjointed sounding. Like a doll stuffed full, but the sewing job isn’t the best and it’s a bit patchwork. While the instruments on the album are quite good, the vocals get lost in the reverb at times. Particularly on the track “Neon Person”, where it’s rather hard to even understand what is being said. The vocals really only work for me on “Duplex”, which is slowed down and more ambient in the instrumentation. It takes on a more ethereal quality then with the amount of reverb. While Jorgen Munkeby from Shining is a nice jazz saxophonist, it doesn’t mesh as nicely as I wished it would have on the last track “Video Maniacs”. One does not simply put a saxophone solo in the middle of a pop metal song. At least the second solo has a chance to shine with no pounding instruments behind it.

It’s a big sound for a second album from Four Stroke Baron. To me, it comes off that they are still trying to find their particular sound. While swinging between prog and metal seems rather easy, adding those elements of new wave and pop makes it a bit harder. The production also comes off as “all in or nothing”. It’s a sound that teenager me in 2005-2006, during that ever-infamous emo phase every millennial went through, would have adored. The sound is something along the lines of if Gojira, Ghost, and Arcade Fire decided to collaborate. Which is either a compliment or an insult, depending on your view on Arcade Fire.

Rating: 6/10

Tracklist:
1. Cut
2. Planet Silver Screen
3. Neon Person
4. Machine and Joy
5. A Matter of Seconds
6. 7th of July
7. Cyborg Pt II The City
8. Duplex
9. Video Maniacs ft Jorgen Munkeby

Label: Prothetic Records
Release Date: November 9, 2018
Website: https://www.fourstrokebaron.bandcamp.com

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HEADPHONE MEDITATIONS: Secret Oyster – “STRAIGHT TO THE KRANKENHAUS”

R-1208943-1200853766.jpegLet me begin by saying that this album, in my opinion, is a lost gem. The fourth and last studio album, originally released by CBS Denmark in 1976, is the result of an already talented band coming to their creative peak. All four original albums have been remastered with added bonus tracks on the label Laser’s Edge.

Opening this album is “Lindance” the intro and the title track “Straight To The Krankenhaus” which brings to mind many different influences ranging from old Wooden Nickel era Styx to a foray into the world of King Crimson’s Mel Collins. Many prog bands can be easily over-technical and lifeless but Secret Oyster, while still retaining a level of virtuosity, leave plenty of room for space and emotion. Many of the songs differ radically from each other so you may hear some funky grooves, some emotive guitar solos and later some smokey jazz. This is prog rock with feeling.

Stand out songs include the title track, My Second Hand Rose, High Luminant Silver Patters and Stalled Angel. Fans of bass guitar will love this album!

Musicians… Claus Bøhling / guitar – Kenneth Knudsen / keyboards – Karsten Vogel / saxophone – Jess Staehr / bass – Ole Streenberg / drums

 

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DREAM THEATER RETURN WITH 14th STUDIO ALBUM DISTANCE OVER TIME SCHEDULED FOR WORLDWIDE RELEASE ON FEBRUARY 22, 2019

I know most people know about this but here’s the official press release regarding the brand new album by Dream Theater!


 

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Band To Embark on The Distance Over Time Tour of North America Beginning March 2019

 

Two-time Grammy-nominated and millions-selling progressive music titans Dream Theater announce the forthcoming worldwide release of their 14th studio album, Distance Over Time on February 22, 2019. Distance Over Time showcases a newfound creativity for Dream Theater while maintaining the elements that have garnered them devoted fans around the globe. The album also marks the first for the band’s new label InsideOutMusic / Sony Music. The artwork was created by long-time cover collaborator Hugh Syme (Rush, Iron Maiden, Stone Sour). Distance Over Time was produced by John Petrucci, mixed by Ben Grosse and mastered by Tom Baker.

 

“When I listen back to the album, I can distinctly recall every moment of the writing process; where I was standing in the room, what inspired us in that instant and the meaning behind each song. As a producer, my goal was to try and create the best-sounding Dream Theater record we’ve ever made so that listeners can just be enveloped in the music. I really wanted this recording to truly reflect the spirit, joy and passion that went into making the album and for people to walk away feeling some of the organic nature, personality and raw energy that the band captured while together in the studio. For me, I think it accomplishes that and I hope that other people will feel the same way,” explains John Petrucci.

 

In June 2018, Dream Theater secluded themselves in a private location in upstate New York to begin writing for the new record. While spending the summer living together in the property’s adjacent residence, the band spent their days and nights crafting the music that would make up the new album in the ‘Yonderbarn’; a beautiful and spacious barn that had been meticulously transformed into a state-of-the art film and recording studio. Following an intense & extremely productive period of group writing sessions and wanting to retain the magic that was captured in this scenic and inspiring location, they decided to record the album in the very room they had all convened to write together in. Living together during the writing and recording for Distance Over Time marked another first for the band’s 33-year career. The result is a heavier collection of songs that showcases the early roots of the band while exploring new territory as musicians and as friends.

 

“It was like going back to summer camp,” adds James LaBrie. “Being around each other the whole time made it that much more of a profound experience. I think the songs reflect the energy. It was a lot of fun to have a situation so powerful at this point in our career.”

 

It has been 3 years since Dream Theater released new music. To announce the details of the brand new album, Dream Theater enlisted the help of one lucky contest winner to break the news of the record to the loyal fans of the band. An Alternate Reality Game was launched that encompassed a “treasure hunt” whereby fans were able to search for clues hidden in various photos, videos, social media posts, and more. Ultimately, one lucky winner was given access to content before everyone else including the release date and cover artwork, and the winner would be the one to share the first taste of never before heard music.

 

Dream Theater is also planning to hit the road in support of the new album. The Distance Over Time Tour of North America was recently announced and kicks off on March 20, 2019 in San Diego, CA. The tour will run for seven weeks before wrapping up in Mexico City on May 4, 2019.

Information on tickets for all upcoming shows as well as VIP packages can be found at www.dreamtheater.net. More tour dates for the worldwide tour will be announced in the near future.

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Progressive metal pioneers Dream Theater— James LaBrie (Vocals), John Petrucci (Guitars), Jordan Rudess (Keyboards), John Myung (Bass), and Mike Mangini (Drums) —share a unique bond with one of the most passionate fan bases around the globe as evidenced by their two GRAMMY® Award nominations and 15 million records sold worldwide. The 1992 opus Images & Words received a gold certification and landed on Rolling Stone’s coveted “100 Greatest Metal Albums of All-Time.Guitar World placed the follow-up Awake at #1 on “Superunknown: 50 Iconic Albums That Defined 1994.1996’s A Change of Seasons notably soundtracked NBC’s coverage of Downhill Skiing at the 2002 Winter Olympics. Fans voted the 1999 Metropolis Pt. 2: Scenes from a Memory the “Number One All-Time Progressive Rock Album” in a 2012 Rolling Stone poll. Not to mention, it ranked as the “15th Greatest Concept Album” by Classic Rock.  2009 saw Black Clouds & Silver Linings crash the Billboard Top 200 at #6 as A Dramatic Turn of Events [2011] and Dream Theater [2013] maintained a three-peat in the chart’s Top 10. Consequence of Sound dubbed 2016’s The Astonishing, “An absolutely unique experience.  Beyond three platinum and two gold videos, the group was inducted into the Long Island Music Hall of Fame in 2010. On its 14th full-length and first release for InsideOutMusic / Sony Music, Distance Over Time, the band recharge the brotherhood that has kept them creating music together for over 30 years. It’s Dream Theater at their most dynamic, direct, and definitive.

 

Find Dream Theater online:

www.dreamtheater.net

https://www.facebook.com/dreamtheater

http://twitter.com/dreamtheaternet

http://instagram.com/dtimages

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