MaYaN – “Dhyana”

mayan-dhyanaA while back, MaYaN launched a successful indiegogo campaign to get an orchestra for it this album and this, their third album, is the first to feature one with the City Of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra. And it is glorious. I’m a sucker for this kind of music and when used to great effect, like it is here, I am enthralled.

The number of full time band members has expanded to 10 now with the addition of George Oosthoek(growls) and Roel Käller (bass). And it seems that Marcela is now a full time member too. Great news for us! Love Marcela! We also have Merel Bechtold of Delain providing some of the guitar work, which is a great thing too! Still here are founder Mark Jansen (Epica) bringing some harsh vocals, Jack Driessen (ex-AFTER FOREVER) on harsh vocals and keys, Frank Schiphorst on guitars, on yet more vocals, Laura Macri and Henning Basse, and Ariën van Weesenbeek on drums and even more harsh vocals. We have the vocals covered here. 🙂

Highlights and things to note:

The Rhythm of Freedom (which is the first single from the album and can currently be found on YouTube, link below), starts us off with a big, bombastic orchestra and choir. This track gives us a great doomy feel amid the driving drums and riffs. The growls are present in full force here and throughout the album. And, like in Epica and past MaYaN releases, they are very understandable. Which I love as well.

Dhyana is the second single released (video below) and with it we get a cool acoustic number with Marcela’s freaking beautiful voice along with Laura Macrì, who is new to me, and who has a beautiful, and also operatic, voice as well. Guitar, which I’ve read is provided on this track by Merel, and an orchestra with layered vocals (English, Italian, and Spanish) and a light choir join in too. Great track and a rest from the onslaught.

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With Rebirth From Despair, the growls are back! Another great rocking track and we are treated to some cool sounding bass getting the spotlight. My god, the female vocals on this are amazing.

The Illusory is the epic of the album. Epic in sound and the longest track at a bit over 9 minutes. A whole lot going on here and very bombastic. Love it!

Satori is a perfect orchestral track. Like something out of an epic fantasy movie. I felt it ended too soon. The last track, Set Me Free, has a clean vocal that kind of sounds like Jon Oliva, more so than usual.

So what you have is not much different from previous MaYaN albums, but that isn’t a bad thing. You have the heavy complex tracks, the short orchestral interludes, the growls, the screams, the beautiful operatic vocals… it’s all here. The live orchestra takes it up a notch.

There is a two disc edition available with one being an instrumental version of the album. I shall be ordering that one. Dig in and let us know what you think!

Rating: 9.5/10

Tracklist:

01. The Rhythm Of Freedom
02. Tornado Of Thoughts – I Don’t Think Therefore I Am
03. Saints Don’t Die
04. Dhyana
05. Rebirth From Despair
06. The Power Process
07. The Illusory Self
08. Satori
09. Maya – The Veil Of Delusion
10. The Flaming Rage Of God
11. Set Me Free

Release Date: 09/21/2018

Label: Nuclear Blast

Website: http://mayanofficial.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/mayanband/

First Single:

Second Single:

Behind the Scenes:

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ProgPower USA 2018 Review – Introduction

poster-ppusaxix-4-655x441Warning, this review will contain a fair amount of bands that are not prog and don’t fit that label at all. I’ll include a skip feature if you want to skip the non-prog sections. 😁
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So, here I am coming down off of a high of one hell of a week. This was my fourth year at ProgPower USA, but my first year as a sponsor (for days 3 & 4. I was a regular attendee for days 1 and 2). And holy crap, was it so worth it. More about that later.
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For those not familiar, Progpower USA is a festival that caters to both those who love their power metal and those who love their progressive rock/metal (more toward the metal). The festival is four days long, broken up into two parts: Days 1 and 2, ran by Nathan and Milton, and days 3 and 4, ran by Glenn Harveston. The days 3 and 4 part are what have been running for almost 20 years with next year’s show being the 20th. Days 1 and 2 are a recent, but fantastic, addition. Since they are really two events, you have to get tickets to days 1 and 2 separately from days 3 and 4. And just to confuse you a little more, days 3 and 4 go on sale before days 1 and 2. Ha!
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The beauty of this festival is that there is something for everyone. If there is a band you don’t care to see, then you can step outside and meet and talk with fellow music fiends from all over the world, or take a little time and grab a bite to eat. The venue provides a couple of options but there are great restaurants nearby.
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Nocturnal Rites

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I’m going to be honest, when I first saw the roster video last year, for the lineup that I just finished seeing, I wasn’t too overwhelmed. At the time, I wasn’t familiar with about half the bands and a fair amount of the rest I was into some but not really chomping at the bit to see. But was I planning on going? Absolutely! Gotta have faith. Each year gives me time to listen to and get familiar with the bands playing the next year and when the schedule is announced for band performance times and signing session times, I can plan accordingly.
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Forgot to mention that one of the great things about this festival is the artist/fan interaction. You don’t have to pay for meet and greets. You may have to wait in line to see someone while another band performs, but you don’t have to pay. I will note that not every artist is guaranteed to do a signing session, but most do. Few are strict about the parameters, like one item to sign or no pictures, with most signing multiple items and putting their arm around you for a pic. For an example this past year: band and fan pics on facebook
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The crew that run the festival are top notch. They have a spacing of 30 minutes between sets, and for the most part meet that every time. So there is almost always someone playing. Any issue that arises, they jump on it and take care of it immediately. Seriously, the crew is top notch!
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Voyager

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Now for the kind of sad news… this ProgPower USA that just finished was number 19. Glenn has said he will carry this on to number 25 and then that is it. That is still a ways away with more than a few festivals between now and then. And who knows what could/will happen then. Maybe someone take over? Maybe Days 1 and 2 shift over and be on Friday’s and Saturdays and carry on like the festival USED to be years ago? Too far away to speculate. So for now, we will enjoy the ride!
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ProgPowerUSA 2018 – Day One

Each day will be listed in the order that the bands performed.

 

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Ross the Boss

(Heavy Metal from the US)

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The festival kicked off loud, and I DO mean LOUD (There were a couple of times I checked to make sure I had my earplugs in. Yep!), and rocking with a Manowar set as well as a couple of Ross the Boss tracks too. I’ve never been much of a Manowar fan but this set was full on metal… and the crowd ate it up!
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Ross Friedman brought the guitar licks and accompanying him were Marc Lopes on vocals, his nephew Lance Barnewold on drums, and as an extra bonus here was Mike Lepond of Symphony X bringing the bass. This line up also released an album this year called By Blood Sworn.
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Set list:
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Gloryhammer

(Symphonic Power Metal from the World (multinational))

Here is a band that I’ve tried to get into but I just haven’t been able to, at least on the albums (excepting the 2nd disc of the last album of the all orchestral version). But man, do they put on a great live show. I had originally thought about going to get something to eat during this time but glad I didn’t.
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Their shtick, I think, is that they are Galactic Warriors who fight Chaos Wizards? Not entirely sure… lol! Help me out here guys and gals!
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Apparently the band was started by none other than Christopher Bowes of Alestorm. Not really surprised there as the dude likes to have fun.
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The band was decked out in full costume and played to the cheese with full power. They don’t take themselves seriously and that’s what makes it work. At one point, a goblin comes out on stage and a fight ensues between it and the lead singer with his hammer.
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Guess who wins?
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Also have to note that the guy at the soundboard was also dressed up in full costume with the band. That’s commitment! (Thought I got a pic of this but didn’t)
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Set list:
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Nocturnal Rites

(Power Metal from Sweden)

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When this band hit the stage, my excitement level jumped. Was that Per Nilsson of Scar Symmetry??? Why, yes it was! The band was on fire and Per added that extra something something to the proceedings. I had completely forgotten he joined with them last year. I really dig their last album, which he played on too (I’m an idiot), and they played some choice tracks from it as well as a tracks from the rest of their catalog.  Even throwing in a little super Mario theme for good measure. Great set!
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Set list:
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Voyager

(Progressive Metal Band from Australia)

Where do I begin with Voyager. The main band I was looking forward to this first day. And they absolutely killed it. Flawless.
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They had played my first year attending and had a 60 minute or so set. It was awesome. But being the headliner this day was so much more. Longer set and they were able to play some songs they don’t normally get to as well as debuting, it appears, two songs live from their latest album, Ghost Mile: Lifeline and The Fragile Serene… and of course some classics of theirs.
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When they hit their medley of older cover songs, they burst into Africa by Toto, and everyone cheered even louder. I honestly don’t know when or why this became a thing (all the memes and such) but I’m glad it did. Toto is a great band and Africa is a great song. Which showed up again on day 3 in an epic way. More on that later.
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And we were treated to a great keytar battle between Christopher Bowes of Alestorm and Danny. Hilarious watching them trade licks (keyboard that is).
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Another memorable moment of the set was when the band brought the ProgPower USA crew out on stage with them to rock out for a bit. Everyone had a blast, as you can see below.
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If you don’t know Voyager, you need to at least give them a shot. I personally recommend the album The Meaning of I.
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Set list:
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Day One in the record books.
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Being one of the locals attending the festival, I headed home fairly quickly after the show as I live a bit out of town. This year, driving back and forth each day took a toll on me so I’ll be getting a hotel next year. That will allow me to attend the after parties more than just on Saturday night. Lot’s of missed opportunities this year to connect with the awesome attendees and the bands in a festive setting.
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Coming Soon, Day Two.
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But first, a few extra fun shots from Day One (each image will open in a new window):
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(Clockwise from top left: Ross the Boss with Mike Lepond, Nocturnal Rites with Per Nilsson and Fredrik Mannberg, Daniel Estrin from Voyager, Voyager full, Daniel and Simone from Voyager, Thomas Winkler from Gloryhammer)
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Rob’s Recommendation Roundup: Volume 1

I’ve decided to try a different approach with some releases. It’s gotten hard for me to write reviews. I am not a fan of writing and on top of that, reviews are so subjective. But I still want to pass along info on albums that I am really enjoying that have just been released. So perhaps this format will work. Please let me know what you think!

PrintUriah Heep has been around a very long time. They have had many different lineups through the years with guitarist Mick Box being the only constant. “Living the Dream” is their 25th studio album and not only is it one of the best modern Heep albums, it is one of the best ever Heep albums! All killer, no filler.

The band sound amazing through out the album and this batch of songs are varying degrees of great. I love Bernie Shaw’s voice and he sounds amazing still. The key for me has been drummer Russell Gilbrook. On “Living the Dream,” he drives every song. And for those who say Heep aren’t prog, check the end of “Take Away My Soul” and the last 2/3 of “Rocks in the Road.” HOLY SHIT! Phenomenal album.

Label: Frontiers Music srl
Release Date: 15 September 2018

CBPCrippled Black Phoenix have been a favorite of mine for quite a few years now. But their covers album from earlier this year,”Horrific Honorifics,” was aptly titled. CBP are normally GREAT on covers yet this album came out dreary and disjointed. The previous album “Bronze” had many more weak moments than I am used to from the band. So with “Great Escape,” I was actually concerned for the first time. Would this continue the path down dark and dreary and dull or would they revert back to their epic Floydian style.

Luckily it is more of the latter. I do think the music is better than the vocals, mostly because Belinda Kordic is still a poor fit. But Daniel Änghede does have some good vocals on “Great Escape.” The two part title track alone makes this a worthwhile purchase. A solid comeback! Get the deluxe edition because the extended version of “Uncivil War” is gloriously weird.

Label: Season of Mist
Release Date: 15 September 2018

The_Pineapple_Thief_Dissolution_Album_CoverThe Pineapple Thief return with their second album with Gavin Harrison called “Dissolution.” While I had high hopes for “Your Wilderness,” it seemed like Harrison was vastly underutilized. That is rectified on the new album which finds Harrison as a full time member of TPT and co-writer (with leader Bruce Soord) on all but two tracks.

THIS is the album that I was expecting the last one to be. Harrison just kicks these songs in the ass and gives TPT an energy they have never had. I have loved them for a long time but this is easily one of their best albums!  Check out tracks like “White Mist” and “Try as I Might.” Highest possible recommendation for sure!

Label: Kscope
Release Date: 31 August 2018

So their you have it. Three great albums that you should all check out if you haven’t already. I will do some “normal” reviews as well in the future but if this format works out I think it helps “fill in the gaps” on albums that I want you folks to know about.

Posted in art rock, atmospheric metal, hard rock, modern prog, progressive metal, progressive rock | Tagged | 2 Comments

VOIVOD – “Always Moving” 7” EP released and video launched; European tour starts tomorrow!

I love Voivod. So here’s the latest on their new single:

 

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Canadian progressive sci-fi metal innovators VOIVOD are soon to release their new studio album “The Wake” on September 21st, 2018 via Century Media Records worldwide.

Today VOIVOD are releasing the album’s third single “Iconspiracy” in a fantastic video clip created by Costin Chioreanu / Twilight 13 Media, to be seen here:

VOIVOD’s Denis “Snake” Bélanger checked in with the following comment about the clip: “What I really like about VOIVOD fans is that they are all able to make their own interpretation of the lyrics or the story of our songs. This video is such a good portrait of “Iconspiracy” and the artist pinpoints awesome visuals in regards to the meaning and representation of the story itself. Thanks to Costin, an amazing artist who did really great work for us in the past and still blows my mind every time again. Question everything! Iconspiracy!!!”

And video director Costin Chioreanu added: The most difficult task of an illustrator is to work for his all-time favourite bands. Then he becomes extremely exigent with what he creates and wants to get beyond any known limit. Obviously, this type of experiences are priceless by all means at the same time, because everything goes utterly intense and he feels like a starship exploring the Universe at full warp speed and experiencing several amazing unseen worlds per second. “The Wake” is the album of the year 2018 for me and the video I literally built from scratch for “Iconspiracy” follows the song lyrics and the spaces between them. At the same time, both the story and video fight to remain alive while trying to keep up with the infernal dynamics of the song, which represent another musical proof of the VOIVOD’s genius. Other than that, this video speaks by itself, just like the music, therefore who is prepared to be awaken, will be!”

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Shineback – “Dial”

dialShineback is the solo project by the multi-talented Simon Godfrey. The first album by Shineback “Rise Up Forgotten, Return Destroyed” was the very first album released by Bad Elephant Music. Yes I bought it after only hearing one track. While I am not one for programmed drums and other beeps and clangs, the songs on the album made all of that quite tolerable. Yes really.

Since then BEM has grown into a formidable prog rock label and Godfrey has formed the band Valdez (I reviewed that) and he released a charity EP by Shineback as well. The EP was perhaps a bit too electronic for me, though once again Godfrey can write a strong melody. So now comes the proper second full length Shineback album, “Dial.” All the guests from the first album are back once again in addition to lyricist Robert Ramsay.

I have to say that “Dial” is even better than the first album! For one, I find the overall sound of “Dial” to be more organic which tends to work for me. This is not to say that there’s no electronics because there are but I find them to be more muted. Regardless, the key to this album (as with anything Godfrey does) is the songwriting. He is a great writer. I suppose it just runs in the family! Yes he and Jem Godfrey are brothers.

“Dial” is a full album with extended pieces like the title track (a favorite of mine) and the 13 plus minute “Kill Devil Hills” that close out the album. The true test of any song or album that push those length is does it FEEL that long. There’s a joke in there. But the answer is I never find myself thinking that it’s any longer than the average album. That’s a testament to how good the music is. Also the album has a great one-two punch opening it with the brilliant “Lies and Consequences” and the touching “I Love You From Memory.”

“Dial” is an album that should appeal to those who love well written modern prog. Yes if you like Frost*, you should give Shineback a chance. After all, they  share the same DNA. And once you’ve embraced Shineback, go and check out Valdez as well (also on Bad Elephant Music). This is how the poppier side of prog SHOULD sound.

Rating: 9/10

Tracklist:

  1. Lies And Consequences
  2. I Love You From Memory
  3. Consider Her Ways
  4. Dial
  5. Here I Am
  6. The Gentleman
  7. Me vs. Me
  8. Without Words
  9. Let Her Sleep
  10. My New Reward
  11. Kill Devil Hills

Label: Bad Elephant Music
Bandcamp: shineback.badelephant.co.uk/album/dial

Shineback is Simon Godfrey
with Robert Ramsay – words, spoken word (5)

with
Ray Weston – vocals (9)
Henry Rogers – drums (1)
Dec Burke – guitars (3)
Matt Stevens – guitar (11)
Hywel Bennett – guitar (4)
Tom Slatter – guitar (5)
Karl Eisenhart – guitar (11)
Tom Hyatt – bass (2)
Joe Cardillo – keyboards (2)
Daniel Zambas – keyboards (11)

Producer/engineer – Simon Godfrey
Co-producer – Daniel Zambas
Executive producer – David Elliott
Audio mastering – Daniel Bowles
Artwork – Brian Mitchell
Recorded at Duckland Sound, Philadelphia, USA.

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Roine Stolt’s The Flower King announces ‘Manifesto Of An Alchemist’

While this seems to essentially be The Flower Kings, the addition of other “guest” musicians does make this more of a solo project I guess. Either way, it should be quite good. Here is the press release from Inside Out Music:


 

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Roine Stolt, known as the guitarist, singer, writer and at times band leader of the groups The Flower Kings, Transatlantic, Agents of Mercy, Kaipa DC, as well as from his work with prog icon Jon Anderson and the new super-group The Sea Within, is releasing a new album on November 23rd, 2018. Under the moniker ROINE STOLT’S THE FLOWER KING, ’Manifesto Of An Alchemist’ offers 10 songs and almost 70 minutes of playing time celebrating the style Roine is most revered for: progressive rock, richly orchestrated with all the trademark elements from four decades of the genre.

Roine comments: “Unlike many later albums, where recordings have continued over months, this new album has been a fairly quick and effective affair – we started tracking in Holland at the beginning of July and mix was done by mid-August! The songs are written in a very ‘unorthodox’ way – some melodic content and some riffs are ideas that have been circulating for years – some may even be from before the first TFK album – they just hadn’t found a home in any of the bands/albums I did in the last 15 years yet.”

‘Manifesto Of An Alchemist’ is a celebration of all the styles that have been part of the colourful, daring and dynamic songwriting and arrangements that Roine masters like no other, yet also offers a more immediate, more hands on approach. “Like that first TFK album, I’m the main lead vocalist here again – it works as these lyrics are important to me and resonate with my view of the world. A lot of the guitar work is actually my spontaneous ‘demo’ guitars” and that goes for much of the synth work, too. I didn’t want to ‘process’ ideas too much as there is much power in the initial creation – I wanted to keep it that way.”

The album features a host of other musicians, including long-time collaborators Jones Reingold, Hans Froberg & Michael Stolt, as well as fellow The Sea Within member Marco Minnemann, Max Lorentz, Zach Kamins, Rob Townsend & Nad Sylvan.

‘Manifesto Of An Alchemist’ features stunning artwork from Shaun Beyond (https://www.instagram.com/shaunbeyond/), and will arrive as a limited edition CD digipak, Gatefold 180g 2LP + CD & as digital download.

Tracklist:
1.Rainsong
2.Lost America
3.Ze Pawns
4.High Road
5.Rio Grande
6.Next To A Hurricane
7.The Alchemist
8.Baby Angels
9.Six Thirty Wake-Up
10.The Spell Of Money

As previously announced, Roine will take The Flower Kings catalogue on tour later this year, as well as playing tracks from this new album. He comments: “I am excited that the album will be released in November this year and at the same time will be in South America playing The Flower Kings music with a band that also includes Hasse Froberg & Jonas Reingold and also introduces two younger friends; Zach Kamins on keyboards and Mirko DiMaio on drums – both fabulous musicians. We will also bring this to Europe where we join forces with legends Spock’s Beard.”

South America 2018
16th November – Carioca Club, Sao Paolo, Brazil
18th November – El Teatrito, Buenos Aires, Argentina
19th November – Teatro Nescafe, Santiago, Chile
21st November – Teatro Del Patronato Peruano Chino, Lima, Peru
23rd November – C3 Stage, Guadalajara, Mexico
24th November – Auditoria Blackberry, Mexico City, Mexico

InsideOutMusic 25th Anniversary European Tour feat. Spock’s Beard & Roine Stolt’s The Flower King
30th November – Cosmopolite, Oslo, Norway
1st December – Kulturhuset Studion, Stockholm, Sweden
2nd December – KB, Malmo, Sweden
4th December – Zeche, Bochum, Germany
5th December – Z7, Pratteln, Switzerland
6th December – La Machine, Paris, France
7th December – De Boerderij, Zoetermeer, Netherlands
8th December – Hedon, Zwolle, Netherlands
9th December – Islington Assembly Hall, London, UK
10th December – Academy Club, Manchester, UK

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