The Pineapple Thief – “Versions of the Truth”

Let’s get this out of the way. Having been a fan of Bruce Soord and the Pineapple Thief since 2002 or prior, I’ve yet to not love every album released. The new album “Versions of the Truth” is no exception. TPT is so reliable as a band that I can pre-order an album such as this one without having heard a note and know I will enjoy it. The question is just how much will I enjoy it.

Where does “Versions of the Truth” stack with the other albums, especially the last 2 that have had Gavin Harrison on them? I really like “Your Wilderness” but I LOVE “Dissolution.” It was a bit more varied and wasn’t afraid to get in your face as needed. “Versions of the Truth” is somewhere between those albums for me. In fact, it feels like a combination of them.

“Your Wilderness” had a mellowness, a subtlety to it…sometimes to a fault. “Versions of the Truth” does bring that back more into the sound. The title track is a prime example. It glides and doesn’t pound. Harrison is able to add more to a highhat than any drummer I know of. Ok there aren’t those massive fills but he finds a way to inject life into a song.

The songs on “Versions of the Truth” remind me a bit of classic TPT as well. Many are more direct and to the point with only “Our Mire” being somewhat “sprawling” at 7 and 1/2 minutes. So this album is definitely about the songs, and the topics of the lyrics. I won’t go into too much detail about the lyrics since I think listeners should have a chance to interpret as they wish. However, the title track addresses when opinions are more important than actual facts. People prefer a point of view they agree with to any sort of facts that don’t support said view. So is there one truth? “It’s not how I remember it.”

On “Break it All,” Soord asks “What version of yourself have you been listening to?” I love the riff on this track, it has some pop to it which underscores the venom in the subject matter. “Demons” was the first of the 4 singles released from the album thus far. Musically, it’s a bit funky and has an awesome groove. It’s songs like this that show the depth that this band (and Bruce Soord) have always possessed. “Driving Like Maniacs” would fit in well on “Your Wilderness.” This is the more mellow side of the band.

“Leave Me Be” is an acoustic based track which, though a mellow, does have some moments of power and the guitar solo is very cool. I mentioned “Our Mire” because it was the longest track and since this is a “prog” site, I figure people are curious about that sort of thing. The song isn’t about noodling since that’s not what TPT does. Rather this song has great playing and awesome dynamics. This is definitely my favorite track on the album and ranks with anything the band has done.

Yes, the album does have more space in it. Meaning, there aren’t too many instruments or layers to clutter things up. Stripped back a bit maybe? “Stop Making Sense” is a good example. You can hear each instrument and how they interact with each other. Plus I love vibes. Who doesn’t? I do wish the band would have cut loose a bit more but again, TPT don’t follow a pattern. This is not the same as their last album yet it “Versions of Truth” has plenty of the band’s DNA all over each track that you know who it is. That’s what I love about bands that I find to be special. YOU KNOW WHO IT IS! This is the Pineapple Thief and “Versions of Truth” is a great album by them.

Rating: 9.5/10
Labe: Kscope
Release Date: 4 September 2020
Buy here: https://burningshed.com/store/thepineapplethief




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Simon Collins – “Becoming Human”

“Becoming Human” is the fourth solo album by Simon Collins, also known as Phil’s son. It comes after the 2013 release of a stellar album by Sound of Contact “Dimensionaut” on which Simon was the lead vocalist and drummer. Former SoC colleague Kelly Avril Nordstrom joins Simon on “Becoming Human.” While there’s a hint of SoC here and there, this album is not a follow up to “Dimensionaut.” Instead, it embraces electronica way way way too much. Robbie Bronnimann is listed as keys, programming, and sound design. Two things that I do not need: a lot of programming and sound that needs to be “designed.”

While Simon sounds great vocally, his drums often don’t sound like he is playing them. Yes in some cases it’s clearly programming but in other spots the drums sound incredibly flat. I don’t expect the gated drum sound of his dad but this is really dull. Songs like “The Universe Inside Of Me” are so over run with technology they are more annoying than listenable. And while “This is the Time” does survive the overuse of programming, it makes me wonder just how great the song would be in Bronnimann had never shown up for the sessions. “I Will Be Waiting” reminds me a bit of “In the Air Tonight” but again, there are so many beeps and blips that the song is really wrecked. The drums sound good at the 4 minute mark at least. Oh well.

The 9 plus minute closer “Dead Ends” start off with excellent use of synths to give atmosphere. The start of the song is great! Well, until the shitty electronica shows up once again to rip the heart out of what could have been an awesome song. “Becoming Human” is a rather ironic title since the album is dominated by computers and tech. Simon Collins – “Becoming Synthetic” would be more appropriate. The songs underneath all of this clutter are pretty good but when you have to deal with headache inducing technology, it prevents any real enjoyment from happening. Again this is NOT Sound of Contact…unfortunately. That ship has sailed whilst this ship sank under it’s own weight.

Rating: 3/10

Label: Frontiers Music s.r.l.
Release Date: 4 September 2020

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Exist – “Egoiista”

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Other than the music itself, I suggest making the purchase this week as the release date was 8/28/2020 and first week sales do make a difference therefore please support the East Coast progressive metal of Exist!

Are you looking for a sign that you should purchase the new Exist recording entitled Egoiista?  This is that sign.  This is progressive metal that reminds me why I tracked down used Cynic, Watchtower and Fates Warning CDs pre-Amazon in the mid-90s.  Wine takes too long to age for this metaphor; I’ve listened to these songs for a month and these songs are finally starting to come into focus.

Guitarist/vocalist Max Phelps, bassist Alex Weber, and new drummer Brody Taylor-Smith will satisfy your need for old-school Cynic as well as present what progressive metal sounds like in 2020.  

(background of Max Phelps and his association with Cynic and Death tribute Death To All omitted because you probably already know that)

I appreciate the multiple vocal deliveries with obvious influences from Cynic & Death.  One aspect I want to hammer on is how the songs have a focus on the slower-side of the tempo range (not necessarily doom or sludge) versus frenetic speeds which some prog-metal veers toward.  Four of nine songs are around 9 minutes or above but that doesn’t mean there are 78 concepts in a 10-minute song.  

It’s hard to put into words… if Exist intended to write long-ish songs that don’t feel long, have strong melodic hooks and rhythmic qualities that grow over time and fall into place like Tetris, mission accomplished.  For me there is something satisfying about listening to a song for the 5th or 6th or 16th time and “understanding” something about it that is new this time around.  How I hear a melody from a vocal line played on guitar in a not-obvious place in the song; Easter eggs the kids today might say.

Hat tip to Anup Sastry (Devin Townsend, ex-Intervals) and Mike Semesky (Ordinance, Raunchy, ex-Intervals/The HAARP Machine) for drum and vocal production respectively and Adam Bently for the excellent mix.

There are chill-quiet-melodic sections, deliberate techy riffs, jazz metal solo breaks, layered vocal harmonies, sporadic (read: tasteful) blast beats, really everything I know you require from your music.  

Rating: 8.75/10

Bandcamp: exist.bandcamp.com/album/egoiista

Label: Prosthetic Records

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Traveling back to 1997!

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Over the course of the last…how many years have I been doing my internet radio show…let’s say 5 years, 6 years, I have done shows that focus on specific years. I’ve done all of the 70s individually. I did a show on the 80s as a whole in an effort to prove that prog survived that decade. I have done various shows from the 90s to present day. One year that I haven’t focused on is 1997.

When I decide to do a year, I immediately think that there won’t be enough music to cover 2 hours. Somehow I always have enough and it turns out that there’s a ton of great music from 1997. No I am not going to tell you what I am playing. You need to tune into www.metalworldradio.com on Sunday August 30th at 10am EDT, 3pm UK for the LIVE show! If you can’t make it, the show gets rebroadcast on www.deliciousagony.com on Tuesday September 1st at 8pm EDT. PLUS, I post all of the shows to mixcloud.com/progressivemusicplanet so there’s no excuse to miss this!

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Fates Warning reveals details for new album, ‘Long Day Good Night’

Very exciting news from Metal Blade Records and Fates Warning! Here is the press release.


fatesFates Warning have been a formidable presence in progressive metal for more than 35 years, helping to shape and drive the genre without ever compromising their integrity or losing relevance. They return in 2020 with Long Day Good Night, the most epic and longest album of their storied career – mixed by Joe Barresi. “The styles of music we’ve written distinguish this record from the rest of our catalogue,” states vocalist Ray Alder. “There are some songs with electronics and some with a nice ethereal feel, as well as some pretty straightforward grooves, at least for us. And there are also some pretty heavy songs. We tried to give the listener a host of different things to listen to, as opposed to an album where every song sounds the same.” As such, the album is something of a rollercoaster ride, moving through various moods and making for perhaps their most vital release to date.

Guitarist Jim Matheos began writing the album in mid-2019, working closely with Alder for about a year, honing the songs, completing 13 for their 13th full-length – which un-coincidentally has a total running time of 72:22. Despite their long history of making records, Alder makes it clear that the songs take a lot of work to realize. “Like all albums, nothing comes easy. It’s quite a process to go from the idea to the actual finished song. Sometimes you think you’re done with it, then you hear something else and you have to try that. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t, but you at least have to try it just so you know that in the end you’ve done everything possible to make it as good as it can be. Jim and I spent practically every day for the last year writing this album. I am very happy with the outcome, and with the blend of styles. I guess I could say that this album represents all of the years that we have been together.”

The record also features guest appearances from touring guitarist Mike Abdow, who contributed some solos, plus Porcupine Tree/The Pineapple Thief drummer Gavin Harrison plays on “When Snow Falls”, and “Under The Sun” sees the band incorporating a full string section for the first time. The result of all the hard work put in by all involved is undeniable, and with Long Day Good Night, Fates Warning once again take a bold step forward into the next phase of their exhilarating career.

Long Day Good Night track-listing
1. The Destination Onward
2. Shuttered World
3. Alone We Walk
4. Now Comes the Rain
5. The Way Home
6. Under the Sun
7. Scars
8. Begin Again
9. When Snow Falls
10. Liar
11. Glass Houses
12. The Longest Shadow of the Day
13. The Last Song

Fates Warning online:
http://www.fateswarning.com
http://www.facebook.com/FatesWarning
https://twitter.com/fateswarning
https://www.youtube.com/user/fateswarningvideos

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The Tangent – “Auto Reconnaissance”

The TangentAuto ReconnaissanceI’ve been into The Tangent right from the release of “The Music That Died Alone.” Since that amazing debut album, the band have been very “up and down” for me. Good album, average album, great album, bad album. So I am always a tad concerned about a new album, especially if I liked the last one. And I did like “Proxy.” One thing that boded well for the new album “Auto Reconnaissance” is that the lineup is the same as the last album and I am not sure that’s ever happened before! Other than bandleader Andy Tillison, the band has had more turnover than King Crimson or Yes or…well you get the idea!

With that stability, The Tangent definitely benefit musically. The songs are strong and the performance is top notch. Bassist Jonas Reinhold (The Flower Kings) shows off his abilities on the opener “Life on Hold.” Great song! The problem with “Jinxed in Jersey” is not the music, which is very jazzy and proggy. The problem is way way too much spoken word. Tillison is telling a story which is humorous to be sure (he’s good at that) but being someone that detests talking over music, it gets old really fast. Now I know Tillison is not the greatest singer in the world but it’s better than listening to a story that I won’t need to hear again. Oh well.

“Under Your Spell” showcases the melodic side of The Tangent, wait…they have one? This is somewhere between Philly soul and prog. I do enjoy it too. I hear a bit of Spandau Ballet too. The guitar solos by Luke Machin are so tasty and serve the song. The Tangent aren’t always concerned about serving the song so it’s nice to hear that they can focus more than usual. Theo Travis adds some sweet sax work to the track as well. Very nice. “The Tower of Babel” reminds me a little bit of Steely Dan musically. The song has that jazz groove that they are/were known for. It does have an odd melody but well that’s just how Andy is. It’s a wise choice for a first single/video.

The Tangent are known for their epics and “Auto Reconnaissance” has some. “Jinxed in Jersey” is 16 minutes but “Lie Back & Think of England” is over 28 minutes. Poignant then jazzy and of course over the top. Tillison reflects on his homeland which is relatable on a global level. The samples really work well on this one. Remember that whole spoken word problem I have? Well an over use of samples can fall into that bucket but fortunately these work well with the mood that’s being set. What seems like the chorus 5 minutes has a solid hook within the myriad of notes that are firing all around. The bottom line is that this epic is very good. It doesn’t rank with some of the early epics that Tillison penned but it is a great centerpiece for the album as a whole.

“The Midas Touch” is more “bit sized” at just under 6 minutes. And it’s actually funky! Reinhold gets a great groove going. I LOVE the synth used on it. Musically, it’s my favorite song…ok it’s my favorite song on the album period. “Proxima” is the 12 and 1/2 minute bonus track. Why anyone would buy an album without the bonus tracks baffles me! Unless the tracks are shitty demos or something. “Proxima” is part ambient, part jazz and all great! This instrumental shows the various sides of the band and is amazing stuff.

It’s great to hear The Tangent on a creative roll. “Auto Reconnaissance” breaks the trend that I have had with them and it’s as good as their last album “Proxy.” It ranks along side other releases like “A Spark in the Aether” and “A Place in the Queue.” If you’ve ever enjoyed Andy and the band, I think you’ll like this one too. The Tangent wear the prog badge proudly and mix the current prog sound with tons of classic musical references.

Rating: 8.5/10
Label: Inside Out Music
Release date: August 21, 2020

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Pain of Salvation – “Panther”

Panther. The new album. Pain of Salvation are known to take chances both with their style and production. I respect that but sadly this one loses a lot due to a poor mix and production. This is their St. Anger.

Production is messy. Just sounds overly distorted and muddy. “Panther” is a heavy album or should be but it’s killed by this terrible mix.

Accelerator sounds cluttered. There’s good melodies. There’s a good song in here somewhere.

Unfuture. Has a snare drum which has no power. It sounds like a box is being hit. The song itself is okay but nothing memorable.

Restless Boy. Just not a good song. Sound is weird and harsh. It’s harsh even when the music is quiet. Very odd. When the drums kick in, it’s really a St. Anger moment.

Wait. Well I have been. Piano is nice. Odd sound effects behind it are annoying. Daniel still has a great voice and I can hear it on this one. The song is very good. The chorus is great. Again, the drums sound terrible. It’s a shame too. The keys that come in around 4:40 are annoying.

Keen to a Fault. Well it’s yet another decent song with a poor arrangement and even worse production. The song has good parts are others which sound aimless.

Fur. Banjo. Because we all need some banjo? It’s a 1:30 instrumental. It’s fine but if it wasn’t on the album I wouldn’t care.

Title track. A hip hop-ish verse. It reminds me a LITTLE of Scarsick. Too much reliance on tech to prop the song up. The song has no oomph. It tries to but the guitars are distorted and buried under the tech shit.

Species. This is one of the better songs on the album. It has more punch than the rest but still sounds bad. Too much fuzz.The song itself is classic PoS. Dramatic, powerful and has a good hook.

Icon. The 13 plus minute epic track. Beautiful introduction. And then something that sounds like a guitar pretending to be a gnat starts in my left ear. The music that starts under that part sounds good though. That annoying gnat sound is so annoying. I actually sigh in relief when it’s not there. Once again, this is a good song that has tremendous beauty…but each amazing moment gets trashed by that motherfucking gnat sound. Dude, what the fuck? The song kicks some ass FINALLY around the 7:30 mark. Where the hell has this been? The guitar solo is really good even if it’s muffled and run thru more shitty treatments. Overall, this is the best song on the album. Well at least most of the song is…

This “Panther” has no claws and no bite. I doubt I will listen to this one very much. It’s not a good listen. Horrible sounding album that needs a massive remix.

Rating: 4/10

Label: InsideOut Music

Release Date: August 28, 2020

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Rank ‘Em: Asia studio albums

I am planning on doing a tribute radio show this Sunday August 16th at 10am EDT, dedicated to Asia and all variations of the band. So that means: Wetton era, Payne era, GPS and also Dukes of the Orient. This had me thinking about how I would rank all of these albums. For this list, I am only including studio albums credited to the band Asia.

So it requires Geoff Downes for it to be included here. I love the GPS album and both Dukes albums but for this, I’m excluding them. I am also excluding “Now and Then” since it’s partially a greatest hits album. So that leaves 12 albums! Here’s my list!

12. Omega
11. Gravitas
10. XXX
These three “final” albums of the second Wetton era just never quite connected with me. There are some good songs on each but each have filler. Honestly the placement of them is really interchangeable. “XXX” probably has a few more stronger songs on it.

 

9. Aria
8. Aqua
The first two albums of the Payne era are both very good overall. I like them about the same and each do have a few throwaway songs. But the lead singles on each album are two of my favorite songs by any era. “Aqua” gets a slight nod for having a bit more connection to the classic Asia sound.

 

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7. Phoenix
The first album of the second Wetton era is easily the best of that bunch. I love quite a few songs on this one: “Never Again, “Sleeping Giant,” “Parallel Worlds,” and “An Extraordinary Life.” The problem for me is that the drums are buried in the mix! There’s no snap at all. This one would land much higher if not for that.

6. Silent Nation
5. Arena
I like these two Payne era albums about the same. I love both! “Silent Nation” has an awesome band lineup with Gutherie Govan and Chris Slade (each were on the “Aura” album too). There are some really good songs on each album. “Arena” has the title track plus “Heaven,” “Falling,” and “Never.” “Silent Nation” has one of my favorite Asia songs “Midnight” plus “Blue Moon Monday,” “Ghost in the Mirror” and “The Prophet.” Each could easily overtake “Alpha.”

 

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4. Alpha
At the time it came out, this album was a bit of a let down. Years later, I have a better appreciation for it. The hits are well known but my favorite songs are “Open Your Eyes,” “The Heat Goes On” and the bonus track “Daylight.” It doesn’t rank higher than 4 because my top 3 are solid.

 

3. Aura
2. Astra
These two albums are essentially equal, although they couldn’t be more different. “Aura” is by far my favorite Payne era album and is highly recommended if you love great songs with amazing hooks. The album is packed with some of my favorite Asia songs like “Awake,” “Ready to Go Home,” “Under the Gun,” “Wherever You Are,” “Hands of Time,” and so many more.

“Astra” is so underrated. The band had so much fire with the addition of Mandy Meyer on guitar. He gives this album serious TEETH! “Go” is my favorite Asia song and then you also have “Rock and Roll Dream,” “Hard on Me,” Voice of America” and the phenomenal “Too Late.” These two albums are essential in my opinion and probably overlooked. Love both!

 

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1. Asia
Well duh. The first album stands out as one of my favorite releases of all time by anyone. This was a game changer for me. Every note on this album is fucking perfect and that includes the b-side “Ride Easy.” This is an album that was impossible to top and I think that is one reason why the band fell apart. It’s an iconic album that merges prog with radio friendly rock. No one did that better.

So there you have it! I should mention that I do love the new songs that were on “Now and Then” but there’s no good way to compare 4-5 songs to full albums. How did I do? Let me know what your Asia list looks like!

And tune into the radio show, Sunday 10am EDT on www.metalworldradio.com!

Asia-Teardrop

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But is it prog?

20799959_1711292952500182_2053678725596451360_nThe worst question that I have to deal with is whether something is “prog” or not. I’ve fallen victim to having to ask that question many times when it comes to reviews or posting content. It drives me crazy. While I have my own idea of what prog is (and most people know I stretch the term quite far), in order to have a site that people can enjoy music that they like…well, I need at least SOME boundaries.

Lately, I find myself not giving a shit what genre something falls into. I’d rather listen to good music whether it’s King Crimson, Miles Davis, Cheap Trick or whatever. But are they prog? Fuck that. Are they GOOD? Yeah! But even so, Miles Davis stretched jazz well into the prog zone and even Cheap Trick recorded very progressive songs like “Stop This Game,” “Need Your Love,” or “Gonna Raise Hell.”

The unique thing about prog is unlike other genres, it can easily meld into another genre and add value. I suppose that is what I love most about it. It demands you stretch your definitions. This is why really don’t understand people that claim only bands like Yes or ELP or early Genesis or Rush (70s only! ugh) or Crimson are prog. Some people actually claim Pink Floyd isn’t prog. Those people are the prog version of “Flat Earthers.”

Prog evolved since all of those bands started it. And even those bands changed through the years and (in my opinion) were still very progressive. But again those narrow minded progsters just won’t have it. Just because YOU didn’t progress doesn’t mean THEY didn’t. I’d rather Genesis try their hand at prog pop than sound stupid with more Supper’s Ready clones. How is doing the same thing for 50 years “progressive”? It really isn’t.

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On the metal side of things, those that deride Maiden being prog or early Priest or yes even Sabbath are insane. I think part of the problem there is the snobbery that goes against metal as a whole. Not all metal is three chord stupidity. Let’s remember that Lemmy was in Hawkwind, so maybe Ace of Spades isn’t overly clever but those early Hawkwind albums are incredible and quite prog. Maiden? I am not even going to justify that. No need. Priest? “Sin After Sin” and “Stained Class.” Sabbath? “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath” and “Sabotage” but there are many tracks on many other albums.

Prog was bound to find its way into metal like it had done with rock. Much of metal is very classical in nature (some like Voivod even have jazz elements) and bands like Yes were practically lifting classical passages. So again, open your mind to other possibilities. I think the question isn’t “but is it prog?” but rather “does it challenge you?” and most importantly “but do you like it?”

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Vulkan – “Technatura”

470201At this point, the only reviews that I am writing are the ones that I am motivated to write. In other words, it has to be an album that I want you to know about. Here we have one: Vulkan – “Technatura.” I have a thing for Swedish bands which was partially why I decided to check out Vulkan. By the mid point of the big opening track “This Visual Hex,” I realized that I was not skipping ahead to check the next song but I wanted to listen to the rest. Ok Vulkan, you have my attention.

Their sound has elements of Katatonia, newer Opeth and even Soen by way of Tool. None of those influences are overt. Part of why I was drawn in was that the overall sound was not completely derivative of anyone else. It’s heavy psych rock with polyrhythms and some excellent grooves. Think The Mars Volta if they ever reigned things in a bit (a lot).

They do some experimenting here and there, the second track “Hunter-Prey” is short and a bit odd but I wouldn’t necessarily call it filler. In some ways, it’s like the shorter tracks that Tool does on their albums. Both “Klagans Snara” and the title track fall into this bucket as well. They aren’t tracks that I would seek out but as part of the whole they are fine.

It’s really a bright sounding album and the songs often take flight. The next tracks “Redemption Simulations” and “Bewildering Conception Of Truth” fit that mold and you find yourself hooked. I love the funky groove on “Rekviem” and the sway of tracks like “Spökskepp.” Like any great album, each song has its own uniqueness. Vocals are important to me and vocalist Jimmy Bob Lindblad has a very strong voice that I feel like reminds me of someone but I can’t place it. That’s a plus as well.

The album has many high points as I’ve mentioned and not the least of which is the 10 minute plus “The Royal Fallacy.” Like any really great longer song, it doesn’t feel as long as it is. The sections flow effortlessly and the song is just another jewel on this album. “Technatura” is a crowing achievement for Vulkan. Get it? Jewel. Crown. Anyway, this is one of those bands that people need to check out because they are not on a big label or a small one for that matter! Highly recommended!

Rating: 9/10

Facebook: www.facebook.com/thebandvulkan
Bandcamp: vulkanband.bandcamp.com/album/technatura

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