Leave Your Preconceived Notions at the Door

It’s probably the hardest thing to do when it comes to any art form. Not having any sort of expectation. The only time that I can actually listen to an album without any sort of preconceived notion is if I have not hard anything by the artist before. It helps if I know very little about them as well. But the days of buying an album based on someone else saying “yeah it’s great, just buy it” are long gone.

I used to buy albums if they had a cool cover. You would only hear top 40 shit on the radio so the cooler music was completely unknown. Now you can check anything out before you buy it. Reviewing music means getting inundated with pressers about the music to convince you to listen to it. So you have a slight bias or expectation before you even hear it. A necessary evil I suppose.

Part of the reason that people love the first album they ever heard by a band is that they had nothing really to compare it to. That’s not to say that something might come along that you like better but it’s hard to do. You are always going to compare a new album to that first one. “They just aren’t as good anymore!” Not true. You just prefer that innocence you can’t have any longer.

Bands change, their sounds change, members change, and yes you change. All of that baggage is with you going into listening to a new album by that band. You have an expectation, a preconceived notion that you are certainly entitled to but many times it puts blinders on you. You might not be comfortable without them, no matter how “progressive” you claim to be. Trust me, I know.

How do you leave those preconceived notions at the door? You have to be in a frame of mind for it. As open as you can be and up for anything. You also need to be willing to listen many times to break through the walls your expectations have built. It can take years. I find many times that albums that didn’t meet what I wanted at the time hit me later, years later, and I wind up loving them for what they ARE and not what I demanded at the time.

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Where did they go?

I was having a conversation in the comments with a friend on here about a one man project that apparently no longer exists on Bandcamp or anywhere else for that matter. I am not surprised. Of course it’s hard as hell for small bands or projects to survive unless they are content with being just for the sake of making music. Unfortunately, many people really want more than that.

The other possibility is that priorities change, life changes or any number of things. I’ve had it happen A LOT with bands that I had tried to support. Or they change so much from what they were, they are no longer my style. Very few bands are “fully formed” when they start out. Even the greats like Rush, Pink Floyd or Genesis changed from their first album or two to what they became.

Patience is not something we as listeners or they as musicians have, for various reasons. So that is actually one reason why I limited all review submissions to not include independents because they were so unstable (and there were way too many of course). I thought that if they were signed or used a PR firm, they were more “committed” and would not just vanish. It’s not perfect or fair but when you get burned enough times, you make adjustments.

Now I barely do music reviews and when I do it’s going to be for something that just DEMANDS I write something. Not an easy plight. But it beats having to try to figure out what happened to a band. Where did they go? Who the fuck knows…

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10 Years of PMP

On March 25th 2012, I decided I would try creating a Facebook page. I had been posted music related stuff on my personal page but no one really cared (other than my amazing wife). So why not throw all of that onto a separate page? That way I am not annoying anyone and I just have a private place.

I called it “Progressive Music Page” because I had no better ideas. I even included a parenthetical of Progressive Rock/Progressive Metal so that it wouldn’t get lost. Then again, I assumed maybe 10 people would like the page. For a while that’s all there was.

The first change was that I did this A-Z exercise where I posted a band a day based on the name. I decided to tag the band, mostly because I had just learned how to do it. And that was when people started liking posts and even liking the page. I recall going over 100 and thinking how crazy that was. Other people liked the same weird ass music. Nice.

I came up with a logo for the page and things were fine. From 2012 to 2015, the growth was steady but certainly nothing to take seriously. But the page changed into a planet. I had been asked by my buddy Jon DuBose to contribute music ideas for his radio show “Headphone Meditations.” It was fun and I always wanted to be a DJ since I was a kid. So this was close. I was asked by Metal World Radio station owner Melissa “DJ Hawk” Montano if I wanted my own radio show. Hell yes! This made me rethink the name since calling a radio “Progressive Music PAGE” made no sense at all! Enter the Warden.

My wife is amazing and she said to me “why not change the last word from ‘page’ to ‘planet’?” She knew I loved astronomy and space and it was the same first letter. PERFECT! And thus the planet was born. That led me to create the logo using a Roger Dean font I found and I felt like a read site versus whatever it was before this. The radio show had many fun moments and is still going strong to this day.

In 2016, things got crazy. To this day I still don’t know how it happened. I have never advertised on Facebook or anywhere. My Instagram page at the time was called “progmanrob” since I adapted that alias for myself (I’ve dumped the Progman part since then). I had to change the Instagram page over to be Progressive Music Planet because my follows were getting crazy and had more to do with music than my cats. So I created a personal one and let PMP have the initial one. On Facebook, the likes went thru the fucking roof. Thousands at a time were coming in. It never slowed down either. Apparently FB was including me more and more with “Pages you might like” for free. How nice. It was truly mindblowing.

Of course since I’ve been a shy, unsocial person all my life, being surrounded by tens of thousands of people caused issues. To this day I still act like a fucking asshole from time to time. I’ve had to apologize many times for saying something stupid or getting into an argument. I still get really pissed off with the “that’s not prog” comments or when people piss all over an album that I love. It’s fine to have an opinion but people get nasty and then I have to ban them. I’ve learned not to argue as much and just ban jerks FIRST. But I’ve never been in a position like this and eventhough it’s been years now. I am learning.

I started this website because I’d been doing music reviews for another website PowerofMetal.dk and had a good following there. Why write for someone else? So…I started this and did reviews. The problem was, I never liked doing them! I was an English major in college so I can write. But how many ways can you say you like an album or don’t like an album?? Eventually it started to ruin my enjoyment of listening to music. I wasn’t listening, I was thinking about what about the song I liked or didn’t. Plus I got SLAMMED with review requests. I had to remove my email from this site. It was nuts. I still get a lot of requests via Facebook and had to create an auto reply for them. I have basically stopped doing reviews and because I stopped, so did the folks who were contributors to this website. I do appreciate their work!

The page has always been a one man show. Along with Instagram and 95% of this site. Why don’t I share? I wanted this to be my vision of music I like and that I think others will like. The mission statement is to share music that maybe people know and like and thus can share with others OR maybe it’s something they haven’t heard before but will like. That’s it. “Check this out.” That’s all it is. I used to frequent a prog record store back in the 90s and that’s what the owner would say to me when I came in. “Hey Rob, check this out!” So that’s all I am saying to all of you. “Hey folks, check this out!”

Thank you for being a part of my life for 10 years or whenever you arrived at the Planet. It doesn’t matter when just as long as you did.

Rob

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RIP Ian McDonald

King Crimson founder Ian McDonald has passed away from cancer at the age of 75. He was a legend who helped create the progressive rock genre as we know it. He went on to found the rock band Foreigner and scaled the charts with them, creating many classic albums and songs. And yet it’s his work on “In the Court of the Crimson King” that many will always cherish. He appears in the documentary of the same name and apologized to Robert Fripp for breaking his heart. He was in tears and now it breaks MY heart to see it. RIP Ian.

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Cynic – “Ascension Codes”

Since the last Cynic album, both Sean Reinhart and Sean Malone passed away suddenly. Reinhart was 48 and Malone was 50. They died 11 months apart. This leaves Paul Masvidal and one could argue that the new album “Ascension Codes” is more of a solo album in that regard. But overall it sounds like Cynic or at least how the band have been sounding over their last few albums.

This is only the band’s 4th full length album and that is amazing since they seem like they should have a lot more. Granted they vanished for 22 years. For me, each of their albums has been good…but there’s always been something missing that would have made them great. That tends to be the mix or production. “Focus” might be a classic but it sounded very dated and the remixes of 4 tracks on the re-issue pointed that out. Then you have the muddy production of their last album “Kindly Bent to Free Us.” The songs were so damn good and the production was hideous.

“Traced in Air” was a solid album but when it was remixed in 2019, it sounded a LOT better in my opinion. The original mix sounded like a band trying to sound like Cynic versus just BEING Cynic.  The EP “Carbon Based Anatomy” was probably my favorite but it’s an EP. After the solid stand alone single “Humanoid” from 2018 (the first release with Matt Lynch on drums instead of Reinhart), I thought the band would finally release a perfect album. They had to get it right!

Then both Seans passed away. Did it even make sense for Cynic to exist? “Ascension Codes” is the answer. But a really confusing answer. There are 18 tracks. 9 of those add up to a total of 5 minutes. That means 30 second new age interludes between just about every real song. FUCK! I hate filler and yes this is the definition of filler. The one spot on the album that there isn’t 30 new age dreck separating the songs, we get a song with 4 minutes of it! WHAT THE FUCK! “DNA Activation Template” is a snoozefest til 4 minutes in and then the song starts. And it’s done at 5:25.

The rest of the songs SOUND good so the mix and production are probably the best that Cynic has ever had. But overall, there’s just nothing too compelling. Masvidal is back leaning on the vocoder for his vocals which is disappointing. There’s a death growl at one point which was odd since it didn’t get followed up on. Weird. My favorite track is the instrumental “The Winged Ones.” The band have a lot of energy which makes for a nice change.

I really hoped “Ascension Codes” would be the definitive Cynic album but it’s a disjointed effort that adds to the strange career of this tremendously talented if not cursed band. That said, I am sure this album will tick enough boxes for most fans. Unfortunately, I am not one of them.

Label: Season of Mist

Release Date: 26 November 2021

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Yes – “The Quest”

I’ve already pondered the “validity” of the current Yes lineup calling themselves “Yes,” but they are the only Yes we have. And just when we thought the mess that was “Heaven & Earth” would be the final Yes album, we have “The Quest.” The good news is that it is better than “Heaven & Earth” but that wouldn’t take much. It is a long way from coming close to any of the classic albums. And certainly it misses the late Chris Squire, as it is the first Yes album (not counting ABWH) that he is not on.

It has some good songs, some okay songs and no real shitty ones. So at least song-wise, it’s good. One problem is still that Alan White just doesn’t have the firepower any more. The drums sound better than the last album but he is the clear weak link performance wise. Jon Davison does a far job walking in Jon Anderson’s shoes but he isn’t Anderson. Billy Sherwood has the Squire bass sound down.  Steve Howe can still play but should not be allowed to do duets any longer. What the fuck, dude? Leave the vocals to Davison and Sherwood. Howe never had a great voice and there’s nothing left of it at this point.

Highlights? Well I liked “The Ice Bridge” the first time I heard it and still do. The Beatles tribute “Mystery Tour” is actually good and clever too. Despite Howe’s vocals, “Leave Well Alone” and “Damaged World” are good songs. If nothing else, this is a fair estimation of a Yes album. It won’t be the 10th favorite…hell I have no idea where it would even rank. BUT it’s a good album that is enjoyable to listen to. If it wasn’t called Yes, no one would be upset. But this is the next entry into the Yes legacy. Not bad.

Label: InsideOut Music
Release Date: 1 October 2021

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What’s in a name?

May 4, 2008 – Concord, California, USA – NEIL PEART of RUSH live at Concord Pavilion. (Credit Image: © Jerome Brunet/ZUMA Press)

The question of when is a band no longer “authentically” that band is one you see constantly raised in music. Rarely do you have a band like Rush that kept the same members for years and then disbanded upon the passing of Neil Peart. On the flip side of that is Yes, who lost the only constant member they had, Chris Squire, who wanted the band to continue after his death.

The current version of Yes

If Geddy and/or Alex chose to continue as Rush, it would certainly have caused an uproar. That’s not to say that, despite the numerous lineup changes, the validity of the current Yes lineup hasn’t come into question. The current lineup is led by guitarist Steve Howe who is not an original member but took part in many of the band’s greatest successes. Drummer Alan White is technically still in the band, though his role is severely limited due to health issues. White has been with the band since 1972, so him maintaining his membership is a huge plus for the Howe led lineup.

Yes featuring ARW

Jon Anderson is an icon and he briefly turned his side project with Yesmen Trevor Rabin and Rick Wakeman into Yes…well Yes featuring ARW. Many fans declared that this band was more “Yes” than the current Yes. So that begs the question as to what gives a band that “authenticity.” Obviously Anderson joining the Howe/White Yes would lay all questions to rest but that seems unlikely. And if White decides to retire, isn’t it more Asia than Yes (Geoff Downes on keys afterall!).

The original King Crimson

Other bands have existed with one defacto leader for years and there’s never been any question. Camel has with Andrew Latimer, Ian Anderson with Jethro Tull, Robert Fripp with King Crimson, Mikael Akerfeldt with Opeth. As long as these guys are present, the band is who they claim to be. But that’s often a product of a dictatorship, right? Problems arise when multiple members are seen as “leaders.” Taking Yes again, Squire and Anderson were the founders and decided who stayed and who got fired in the band. But then Anderson split in 1979 (and again in 1988). That essentially gave the rights to the band name to Chris Squire.

Andrew Latimer of Camel

This isn’t to say that Yes don’t have the legal right to call themselves Yes, nor that they shouldn’t honor Squire’s dying wishes. It’s more about asking just how Yes are Yes? And more importantly, does it matter? At some point, do bands cross a line to no longer be who they claim. Foreigner has been lead by Mick Jones for years with no other original or long time members. Jones then had to miss shows but the band played without him. What difference is there between that and a Foreigner cover band at that point?

Is the name of the band owned by the music versus the people playing it? Or do the fans decide based on their interest in the band calling themselves by said name?

What do you think? What’s in a name?

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Rank ‘Em: Haken studio albums

I haven’t done one of these columns in a long time so why not now? Add in that I post a lot less in general, so I thought why not a newer band. Haken has some amazing albums and all are recommended. Some more than others!

7. Vector (2018): this is easily my least favorite. I was very disappointed when it came out. It sounds forced to me. The good news is that when you couple it with “Virus” (which is it’s second part), this album is better. The thing is “Virus” can stand without “Vector.”

6. Restoration (2014): it might not be fair since this is an EP but all three tracks are great. It’s down here because it’s an EP. Highly recommended though.

5. Aquarius (2010): you don’t get debut albums as good as this one. It’s a little lower only because I like the other albums more. But it proves that Haken was a fully realized band from day one.

4. Virus (2020): an unfortunate title but an amazing album. It more than made up for “Vector” and it could rank as high as 3 for me.

3. The Mountain (2013): this is where the band got everyone’s attention and for good reason. Many people cite this as their favorite album and it could slide up or down a slot for me.

2. Visions (2011): the main reason I love this album is that it was the first album I heard and purchased by them. I’d never heard of them but they were recommended. This album is worth it for the massive title track alone!

1. Affinity (2016): this is far and away my favorite album by Haken. They just nailed it. Each track has its own identity and each one is stellar. “1985” is my favorite song by them. Ah nostalgia! This, for me, is their masterpiece.

So what order would you rank these albums? You can’t go wrong with Haken!

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Neal Morse Band (NMB) – “Innocence & Danger”

NMB – “Innocence & Danger”

NMB is the new abbreviation used by the Neal Morse Band, kinda like ELP or ELO. They are back with another double album, “Innocence & Danger.” Unlike the last two albums, this is not a concept record and to be honest, I was relieved. I like those albums but they never hit me the same way that “The Grand Experiment” has. “Innocence & Danger” is their best since that album but for me, it’s just their best ever. In fact, I think it’s the best that Neal Morse has done solo wise and ranks along side anything he has ever been a part of. Yeah it’s that good!

It’s so good that I am writing this. I stopped doing “reviews” but I had to at least mention how good this album is. 2021 has been a bit underwhelming for me musically. There are a few albums that I would say are incredible but so many more are completely forgettable. I wasn’t expecting “Innocence & Danger” to rock my world and yet I was floored on the first listen! Why? The songs are all just really strong. Of course the playing is stellar but that’s not enough. The melodies are incredibly memorable and the vocals are just phenomenal, especially Eric Gillette.

NMB even manage to do an awesome version of the classic “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” as I am not a Simon and Garfunkel fan, this was a big surprise. It’s akin to what Yes did years ago with “America.” There are epics but they are on disc 2 with the 30 minute closer “Beyond The Years” being the jewel. Songs that long can go one of two ways. Either you are looking at the time wondering when it will end or you listen to it and don’t realize it was actual a half hour song. This one is the latter.

The bottom line is “Innocence & Danger” is one of my favorite albums of 2021 and I find myself wanting to hear it again after finishing it. Considering how jaded I have been with music this year, I thank the Neal Morse Band (NMB) for making such a fantastic album. If you’ve been on the fence at all with Neal’s solo stuff, you need to check out this album. Fans of prog or just good music will need their dose of “Innocence & Danger.”

Label: InsideOut Music
Release Date: August 27, 2021

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Teramaze – Sorella Minore

Well…. I had been working on this review for the past week but the band released a video for the 25 minute epic now. And with two other videos already released, that leaves one 5 minute song. Should I even do this review at this point? Lol. Eh… whatever.

My history with Teramaze goes back a long time. I remember purchasing their Tears to Dust album back in the 90s and being blown away by their progressive metal chops. At the time, I was heavily into Christian metal, and that album hit the right spot in that area too (though these later albums are much less in that arena anymore). Over the years, I would listen to this album from time to time and lament we never got anymore from them. I fell out of tracking music somewhere in the late 90’s to mid 00’s, with the exception of Dream Theater and Spock’s Beard… or pretty much anything on the Magna Carta label. But I digress.

Then one year I discovered they had a new album coming out. I got excited. And then discovered they already HAD TWO new albums out that had totally flew under my radar. I found they were exploring different styles around prog metal, but they seem to be sticking more to their strengths with their last few albums. Focusing on melody and harmony, but still displaying their technical prowess but not at the expense of the song.

The band on this one consists of helmer Dean Wells (vocals, guitar, keyboards), Andrew Cameron (bass), Chris Zoupa (guitars, keys),  and Nick Ross (drums). Guest vocals on the title epic are Nathan Peachy (returning from Her Halo), Silvio Massaro (from Vanishing Point), and Jennifer Borg (from Divine Ascension).

This album is a sequel to Her Halo and as such themes recur as would be expected. But one thing to note is this is the shortest Teramaze album yet. Clocking in at just under 41 minutes. I saw where someone one called this an EP. In today’s prog metal scene, I can see that from one perspective. But make no mistake, this is an album. (Would we call Close to the Edge an EP? No. We would not.) A Change of Seasons not withstanding.

The title track starts us off epically drenched in keys and piano but quickly throws us into the signature heavy power ballad sound with a hint at the progressive chops to come. Clocking in at just shy of 26 minutes, this one covers a lot of ground and styles. The first part is in the aforementioned power ballad territory with great melodies and harmonies, harkening back to the melodies from Her Halo.

As any big epic, we hit the next of many movements in this one, marked here by the piano and spoken word before throwing us into one of the heavier parts of the album. The Guitar riffs here are very satisfying. And then we get the metal onslaught with the growls that work very effectively, if very brief, before returning to the melodic chorus of this movement.

Next we get a nicely progressive and melodic instrumental section, which again doesn’t last long before the fantastic vocals kick in once again.

And we go like that through the epic, hitting heavier and hard parts and lulls of beautiful melodies. But I will say, for an epic of this length, the instrumental sections are kept to a minimum. The vocals definitely play a large part here. But that isn’t a negative since I love the vocals.

I’ve said it before, if I can listen to an epic over and over and not get bored with it, it’s a good one. I’ll await the lyrics to get the full picture on what is occurring.

Stone gives us another power ballad and of course with fantastic harmonies and melodies. These guys couldn’t write a bad chorus if they tried now.

Take Your Shot is the one faster paced song present here from start to finish. And the pace makes sense given that it’s about getting something done when you have no time left. Also the one song that hasn’t been released before the album is out.

Between the Shadows is the most ballady of the power ballads on this album. And as such, it feels a little odd as a closer to me. Especially on one with so few tracks. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great tune. But it just feels like it would be a better fit set between a couple of barn burners.

And there you have it. Feels like it’s over too soon. But that’s good, right? Means I enjoyed it… and you may too. Give it a go! It’s mostly already up on YouTube anyway. Lol!

Tracklisting:

1. Sorella Minore
2. Stone
3. Take Your Shot
4. Between These Shadows

Release Date: May 11, 2021

https://teramaze.bandcamp.com/album/sorella-minore

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