A Look At Civil Defiance

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Los Angeles, 1989… A 19 year old me went out with some friends to see some bands playing on the strip in Hollywood, a somewhat regular occurrence. On this particular night there was a band from the town I was living in (Tujunga) so we made haste to the venue to see what all the fuss was about.

Thrash and speed metal was the topic of the night and the all the bands delivered but one band stood out from the crowd… Civil Defiance. The band started their young career as a thrash/speed metal band but even then had a unique sound and often experimented with their music. I found myself fascinated with this band and attended nearly every show they played. Songs like “Storming Normandy”, “Bondage” and “One, Number One Son” had the crowds circling in a frenzy.

As time passed, the band became more and more experimental, often jumping genres into jazz and utilizing classical instruments. Eventually, in 1996, the band signed to Dream Circle Records to record “The Fishers For Souls” album and later, in 1999, they released “Circus Of Fear” on Grind Syndicate Media. That was the last we heard of them. Later, guitarist and vocalist Gerry Nestler went on to form the more widely known band Philm with then ex-Slayer drummer Dave Lombardo.

Present day… There is a reason why I’m writing this article. Recently there has been talk of Civil Defiance reuniting and rehearsals are under way. For me, as a long time dedicated fan, this is exciting news. However, this band is not as known as it should be so I set out to deliver to you some information about them. If you are into bands like Death and Voivod, you will most likely dig Civil D. But make no mistake, there is really no comparison to the sound of Civil Defiance and I urge you to take a listen for yourself. I for one, have waited a very long time for some new music from these guys.

Line up;

Gerry Nestler – Guitar, Vocals, Piano

Mike Kinney – Guitar

Jenk Kent – Bass

Brad Hornbacher – Lyrics

(drummer to be announced). R.I.P. 2005 Mike Kent – Drums

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Rank ‘Em: Gentle Giant studio albums

It’s been a while since I did a “Rank ‘Em” column, so apologies for that. It was hard to decide who do look at next. Gentle Giant has been a band that taught me a lot as well as just being fun to listen to. It’s not easy (usually) but when you “get” Gentle Giant, it’s quite amazing. So here we go, ranking their 11 studio albums!

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11. Giant For a Day
This is easily my least favorite album by them, no contest here. They were trying to be more mainstream and sadly they couldn’t effectively “dumb down” their sound. I like a couple of the songs on this one though but otherwise, this is forgettable.

 

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10. Interview
Controversy already! I do really like this album but it sounds forced to me. Yes they still sounded like GG but the songs just weren’t up to the standard that the band were known for to this point.

 

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9. Civilian
I actually really like this album. Unfortunately, it’s just not consistent. Yes it’s their second attempt at being commercial and they were much closer to getting it right. “Inside Out” and “I Am a Camera” are two of my favorite GG songs.

 

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8. The Missing Piece
Ironically titled. This album was the transitional album. Some songs dabbled in being more user friendly while others were very much like the Gentle Giant people knew to this point. “I’m Turning Around” is in my top 5 songs by them but songs like “Mountain Time” and “Betcha Thought We Couldn’t Do It” are just plain bad. Had the band steered clear of their new desire to be more famous, this album could have been better.

 

7. Acquiring the Taste
6. Gentle Giant
The first two albums are interchangeable for me. Each have plenty of high moments. The down side is that they still were growing into the band that they would become. “Funny Ways” is another one of those top 5 songs for me.

 

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5. Three Friends
Their third album ranks slightly higher simply because they were finding their footing. Not a weak track on here but it’s just not better than the 4 albums that I rank above it.

 

4. The Power and the Glory
3. Free Hand
Now things get difficult. Gentle Giant had 4 albums in a row that, for me, are perfect albums. But I tend to place these two albums at 3 and 4 but they are definitely interchangeable for me. I rank Free Hand higher because it was my first Gentle Giant album.

 

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2. In a Glass House
The album that was initially not released in North America because it was deemed “uncommercial.” No shit. This album is my #2 album for sure. Perfection. Not a wasted note. Every song is great and were it not for the album before it, it would be my favorite.

 

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1. Octopus
This album is one of the greatest albums in all of music, let alone prog. To me, this is Gentle Giant’s ultimate masterpiece. It sounds like a “best of” album. Each song is so well written and arranged. The album flows perfectly as well. If you are into progressive rock, you have to own this album.

OK, that’s my list. Let me know how wrong I am and tell me how you would rank these albums!

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Nad Sylvan – “The Regal Bastard”

636918769308631653A lot of talk gets bandied about regarding the evolution of prog and its current state. Between die-hard purists bemoaning “it’s not what it used to be”, and an ongoing influx of acts bringing in newer influences, discussions can get dicey fast about whether “progressive” music can actually progress. The finale to Nad Sylvan’s trilogy, “The Regal Bastard”, succeeds in bridging older stylings with a more modern sound.

A regular with Steve Hackett’s band (to which both Hackett and fellow bandmate Jonas Reingold contributed on this album), Sylvan manages to create a new and fresh work that stands up amongst both newer releases while having enough classic flourishes to satisfy the more discerning die-hards of the 70s-era.

“I Am the Sea” is an atmospheric grand opening, washing over with hollow, echoing keyboards and crashing drums, and eventually crescendoing into a stellar guitar solo from Guthrie Govan, From there, this album is set up to take the listener on a journey with Sylvan. While taking tangents like the harpsichord shantylike number of “Oahu”, or the more pop-influenced sensibilities of the uplifting “Whoa (Always Been Without You)” and the ballad “Leave Me on These Waters”, Sylvan’s musical journey is one of searching, discovery, and satisfying resolution. On vocals, keyboards, and guitar for this album, Sylvan displays technical skill, musicality, and a sensitivity for.

Tony Levin features on bass for “Meet Your Maker”, bringing freshness to the satisfying noodling and bouncing, funky sound. Tania Doko’s guest vocas provide a wonderful counterpoint to Nad’s soaring vocals, a lovely interplay in the same vein as Ninet Tayeb on Steven Wilson’s work. (As an aside, the idea of Doko and Tayeb collaborating would be interesting to hear.)

The titular track, The Regal Bastard, is both the longest on the album and the best piece to singularly describe the album itself. Grandiose? Of course. Clear in how it takes others in to feel the emotional and musical highs and lows? It does so wonderfully.

Admittedly, the bonus tracks, while not fitting with the narrative whatsoever, still suit the work well. “Diva Time”, as a driving number, accusatory yet diplomatic in its anger, with a level of Sylvan-appropriate sass to capture that point of being completely done with others’ pettiness.
The Lake Isle of Innisfree is a soft, delicate ballad that calls to mind pre-Raphaelite paintings, mystic mossy groves, and weeping willows. It’s a quieter closer for the deluxe edition as compared to the narrative’s optimistic “Honey I’m Home”, but remains a very suitable and quite pretty way to finish off the musical experience.

For a regal bastard, he comes across as clever, thoughtful, and musically well-tailored. For those who still thrill at jaunty flourishes and grand theatricality, it’s an album to be absolutely Nad about.

Rating: 9/10

Tracklist:
1. I Am The Sea
2. Oahu
3. Whoa (Always Been Without You)
4. Meet Your Maker
5. The Regal Bastard
6. Leave Me On These Waters
7. Honey I’m Home
8. Diva Time (bonus track)
9. The Lake Isle Of Innisfree (bonus track)

Label: InsideOut Music
Release Date: 5 July 2019
Website: www.nadsylvan.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/Nadsylvanartist

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Bryan Beller of the Aristocrats Announces Star Studded Solo Album

As if the new Aristcrats album wasn’t enough (it’s amazing, go buy it now), bassist Bryan Beller has a solo album coming out as well. Here’s the press release for it:


 

As a bassist and composer, Bryan Beller (The Aristocrats, Joe Satriani, Dethklok, Steve Vai) has never been accused of being insufficiently driven. But nothing he’s done before can truly prepare audiences for his newest release, the massively ambitious and unapologetically progressive double concept album Scenes From The Flood, scheduled for worldwide release on September 13, and available for pre-order starting today at bryanbeller.com.

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Photo Credit: Jon Luini

 

A work so sweeping in scale that it took Beller nearly a decade to conceive, compose, and now fully realize, the album grapples with an existential question: When the storm comes for us, the big one after which things will not be the same, who are we and what do we become in those defining moments? What do we keep, and what do we let go? Scenes From The Flood explores themes of ambition and loss, intentionality and reality, hope and disillusionment, and uses every second of its 18-song, 88-minute running order to tell an emotionally consuming and unforgettable musical story.

 

Realizing Beller’s vision meant enlisting 26 musicians spread across four continents to bring Scenes From The Flood to life. Special guests on guitar include legends Joe Satriani (on the optimistic, “road trip” vibed opening track “Volunteer State”), John Petrucci (who lays down  a screaming lead on the 9-minute story-climactic progressive epic “World Class”), Guthrie Govan (taking the lead on the album’s closing ballad “Sweet Water”), and Mike Keneally (going from layered acoustics on one track to furious metal riffing on another), just four of fourteen total guitarists who appear on the album. Drummers include veterans Gene Hoglan (Dethklok, Strapping Young Lad, Death), Joe Travers (Zappa Plays Zappa, Joe Satriani), Ray Hearne (Haken), and Nate Morton (Cher, The Voice)

 

Today marks the debut of the animated video for one of the album’s signature tunes, “The Storm”, a dark and heavy odyssey that serves as one of the signature compositions of Beller’s new opus. The 7-minute piece features the aforementioned metal legend Gene Hoglan on drums and an army of four guitarists to deliver the song’s urgent, powerful message. See it here:

 

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“Not exactly light fare, is it?” chuckles Beller, who just turned 48. “But all of my truly favorite albums take me to deep, sometimes challenging places, even upon repeated listening. Especially the double albums. Somewhere inside me, in the eleven years since my last solo album, I’d absorbed and processed a series of life experiences that, I thought, could possibly inform an extended work like this. I felt like I had something big and complex to say. And then I just dove into it.”

 

Presented in the classic format of four vinyl sides (or four “parts” on two CD’s), Scenes From The Flood was inspired by hallowed progressive double-albums like Pink Floyd’s The Walland Yes’ Tales From Topographic Oceans, as well as more modern expanded works, such as Nine Inch Nails’ The Fragile. The deluxe packaging (2CD 8-panel digipak + two 20-page double-CD booklets; 2LP gatefold + 24-page full-size booklet) reveals not just album artwork, but unique cover-style artwork for each of the eighteen songs, or “scenes”. The resulting sense of story urgency and dramatic narrative presents like a soundtrack to a movie suspense thriller as much as it does a double album. A limited run of 200 colored (purple) vinyl will also be produced.

 

Scenes From The Flood is performed by: Christopher Allis, Bryan Beller, Nili Brosh, Paul Cartwright, Darran Charles, Julian Coryell, Mike Dawes, Janet Feder, Guthrie Govan, Ray Hearne, Gene Hoglan, Mike Keneally, Jamie Kime, Fred Kron, Teddy Kumpel, Jake Howsam Lowe, Evan Mazunik, Nate Morton, Rick Musallam, Mike Olekshy, Griff Peters, John Petrucci, Matt Rohde, Joe Satriani, Rishabh Seen, Joe Travers, Leah Zeger

 

TRACK LISTING

PART ONE

The Scouring Of Three & Seventeen

Volunteer State

Everything And Nothing

A Quickening

Steiner In Ellipses

 

PART TWO

Always Worth it

Lookout Mountain

The Storm

The Flood

PART THREE

Bunkistan

As Advertised

Army Of The Black Rectangles

The Outer Boundary

Angles & Exits

 

PART FOUR

The Inner Boundary

World Class

Sweet Water

Let Go Of Everything

Scenes From The Flood will be released on September 13th2019. Pre-orders will be available from July 1.

 

All studio and live releases from Bryan Beller can be purchased at: http://bryanbeller.com

 

For more information on Bryan Beller and Scenes From The Flood, please visit: 

¨     Website:http://bryanbeller.com

¨     Facebook:https://www.facebook.com/bryanbellerbass/

¨     Twitter:https://twitter.com/bryanbeller

¨     Instagram:https://www.instagram.com/bryanbellerbass

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Rob’s Recommendation Roundup: Volume 13

So maybe 13 is an unlucky number after all. It’s been a while since I did one of these columns. I’ve done a few feature reviews but I haven’t heard enough good albums to cull into one of these columns. All I need are 3 good albums to recommend. OK so I have 3 but it’s not as much of a “slam dunk” as usual, it’s so close. The first album underscores how strange things have been for me lately.

paleTheNightTimeProject is a band that features former members of Katatonia (Fredrik and Mattias Norrman who are now current members of October Tide) and current members of Letters from the Colony. I’ve been looking forward to this one for a while. The band sound along the lines of Katatonia with a bit of that modern prog mixed in – think Anathema and Porcupine Tree.

Their second release “Pale Season” starts out incredible! Song after song just flow and have great melodies with amazing atmosphere. Alexander Backlund is a great vocalist with a range that can go from a strange deeper vocal (“Hound” is an example) to some really powerful belting. By the time I get to the track “Anti Meridian,” I am thinking what a masterpiece!

And that’s when the album runs out of gas. The last two tracks are just baffling. “Signals in the Sky” is slow to the point of boredom and has a guest female vocalist whose voice is paper thin. It sounds like a different band and when you are a new band/project, having a defined identity is crucial. The song rises slightly in the middle before going back to listlessness at the end. The closing instrumental “Meridian” is pure filler with annoying distorted programmed percussion.

This album deserved a killer closing song, like an epic! If you remove the last two songs, it’s a somewhat brief masterpiece. But alas, the last two tracks leave you confused. TheNightTimeProject sound amazing and hopefully keep making great music. “Pale Season” is a promising sophomore effort that comes so close to being one of 2019’s best.

Release Date: 28 June 2019
Label: Debemur Morti Productions

Howling-Sycamore-Seven-Pathways-to-Annihilation-coverAn album that I’ve really been looking forward to is the second Howling Sycamore album, “Seven Pathways To Annihilation.” The self titled debut album was absolutely INSANE. It was easily one of my favorite releases from last year and now they are back already! The band is led by guitarist extraordinaire Davide Tiso and features one of the best drummers on the planet in Hannes Grossmann (Alkaloid, ex-Necrophagist, ex-Obscura) and former Watchtower vocalist Jason McMaster.

The first album just blew me away so expectations were high. While this album is not as “apeshit” as that first album, that does not mean it’s a bad album. It might be as good as the first album but it’s a little bit more…harnessed. McMaster sang like his hair was on fire on that debut album. Here he dials things in and focuses more on melody without having to wail like a banshee.

It would be fair to call “Seven Pathways To Annihilation” a more mature album. But it feels more like the band is finding their musical path. There’s plenty of intensity on tracks like “Mastering Fire” and “Departure.” But songs like “Second Sight” and “Raw Bones” find another method of grabbing the listener, melody and groove. The album has the proper epic closing track that the album above is missing in “Sorcerer.” An epic ending to an an epic album.

Howling Sycamore brings together all of the elements of great prog metal. Killer guitar work, insane drumming and old school vocals. But it’s the songs and their arrangements that will keep you listening. It might be too much to ask for 3 albums in 3 years but I will take two masterpieces in 2 years for sure!

Release Date: 21 June 2019
Label: Prosthetic Records

terraformerHighly anticipated does not even cover it for the new Thank You Scientist album “Terraformer.” It’s been three years and yet it just feels like even longer since “Stranger Heads Prevail.” Since then the band have had to deal with 3 members leaving in 2017. As you know, one of the big things that make TYS so unique is their horn players and they both left along with drummer Odin Alvarez.

But the band took some time and found drummer Joe Fadem along with new horn section Sam Greenfield and Joe Gullace. Of course then you worry about chemistry and new material. They had their work cut out for them: new members and following up a masterpiece. And now we have the double album “Terraformer.”

Holy shit!

How the hell did TYS raise their game? The songs are proggier and have just as much melody and mayhem as before. There is so much music on “Terraformer” that I have no idea where to begin. Honestly, I still haven’t fully processed this album. Ok let me pick a few highlights I guess. This will no doubt change as I listen to “Terraformer” more.

“Everyday Ghosts” feels like the ultimate Thank You Scientist song. Like if I was going to play ONE song to give someone an overview of the band, this is it. “Chromology” is an instrumental. It is also a song that should make every single band out there nervous and reconsider taking the stage with this band. They can and will destroy you. “Anchor” is a great song as well that gives violinist Ben Karas the spotlight he deserves. Plus the song covers a ton of ground too, these songs take you places. I love that.

I really wondered if Thank You Scientist could come close to how great the last album was. “Terraformer” exceeds all the lofty expectations that I had (and you know how picky I can be). “Terraformer” is a game changer that should make bands rethink how they approach their instruments and their vocational choices in general.

Release Date: 14 June 2019
Label: Evil Ink

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Jolly – “Family”

jollyIt’s been 6 years since I last heard anything from (the Incredible?) Jolly. After their promising two part album series “The Audio Guide to Happiness,” the band went the Patreon route (not a route that I am into) to work on their next album. They started releasing a song at a time for what would become “Family.” I did get the first track “Ava” and found it rather dull.

Once I realized more about Patreon, I figured I’d check back when the “Family” album was done. I prefer hearing an album as a whole and not in pieces. I promptly forgot all about Jolly. 6 years passed and was surprised to get this promo in my inbox. Oh, Jolly still exist. Glassville Records? Okay. They had a deal with InsideOut before Patreon and now they are on an unknown indie. Whatever momentum they had with “The Audio Guide to Happiness” has long evaporated.

Jolly still sound the same even after six years. They have a modern prog metal vibe. Take some Tool, mix in Porcupine Tree and Riverside. The music is good but the hooks that were there in the past aren’t quite as strong. “Lie to Me” and “Lazarus” start off the album and are rather unfocused. A big problem I’ve had with Jolly is that singer/guitarist Anadale isn’t a great singer. He is okay and carries a tune but just isn’t the world class vocalist I would expect. 6 years later, he sounds the same.

Then comes the tracks “Rain,” the aforementioned “Ava” and “Who Will Remember.” The first two are indeed a bit dull and boring. “Who Will Remember” is an interlude which on a 9 track album that took 6 years to make, it seems like unnecessary filler. “Let Go” is easily the best track on the album. It’s over 10 minutes and has strong hooks and great music. I wish the rest of the album was this strong.

“Violet” slides back a bit. When it kicks in (a little), it’s a decent song but nothing incredible. Overprocessed vocals over plodding music start the track “Circuit Heaven.” The Stephen Hawking-esque vocal track doesn’t work for me either. But again, the track kicks in and it gets better. It makes me wonder what an outside producer could have done with “Family.” Jolly are talented but it feels like they are too clever for their own good.

The album closes with the ballad “With Me.” Sadly it underscores the need for a stronger vocalist as Anadale just doesn’t cut it. His guitar solo on the track however is an album highlight. But the album is short on highlights. I had forgotten about Jolly and “Family” does a good job of reminding me about what I liked and didn’t about them. They say “Jolly loves you.” I am guessing after this review they won’t love me, neither will their family (their fans for which the title was named). But I was hoping for a surprise and got less than that.

Glad I didn’t hang around on Patreon.

Rating: 4.5/10

Label: Glassville Records
Release Date: 22 June 2019
Website: www.jollyband.com

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Pattern-Seeking Animals – “Pattern-Seeking Animals”

albumIs the self titled debut album by Pattern-Seeking Animals really just a Spock’s Beard album in disguise? You could certainly argue that. The band is composed of two current members of Spock’s Beard, singer Ted Leonard and bassist Dave Meros, along with former drummer Jimmy Keegan and the band’s chief songwriter (since Neal Morse left), John Boegehold on keys. So if nothing else, Pattern-Seeking Animals are a variation of Spock’s Beard…and not all that much different. It works for me though.

The album has a mix of longer epic tracks in the 10 minute range and shorter prog/pop songs. The main difference is that with Leonard on guitar and Boegehold on keys, the sound is not the same as SB. Like I said, it’s close. Boegehold doesn’t rely overplaying but rather he is all about melody and the choice of instruments. For example, the mellotron on “Orphans Of The Universe” makes the song for me. It’s the mood needed for the track.

The shorter songs are all really solid and damn catchy while still being progressive. “The Same Mistakes Again” is a favorite, great chorus. The riff on “No One Ever Died And Made Me King” makes the song which shows Leonard is a better guitarist than I would have expected! The one song which doesn’t quite stack up to the rest is “These Are My Things.” Mainly it’s the lyrics. They just seem odd. But the instrumental break on the track does salvage things.

“Fall Away” is an excellent ballad that (like most of this album) would not sound out of place on a Spock’s Beard album. And that brings us back to the first question. Pattern-Seeking Animals are basically Spock’s Beard. Leonard puts on his usual vocal pyrotechnics. It’s great to hear Keegan destroying the drums again, plus he does some great vocals here and there on the album too. If you are a Spock’s Beard fan, this album is a must have. Those who prefer their prog a touch less overblown (it can happen) will need this album as well. I am already looking forward to the next album!

Rating: 9.5/10

Tracklist:

1. No Burden Left To Carry (09:38)
2. The Same Mistakes Again (05:10)
3. Orphans Of The Universe (10:28)
4. No One Ever Died And Made Me King (03:54)
5. Fall Away (04:47)
6. These Are My Things (04:52)
7. We Write The Ghost Stories (03:22)
8. No Land’s Man (05:35)
9. Stars Along The Way (10:20)

Label: InsideOut Music
Release Date: 5 July 2019
Website: http://PSAnimals1.com

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