Monday, May 30, 2011

Sorry For The Long Absence!

I haven't written in this blog for a long time, and I feel very bad about it. It has been a crazy month. But, I plan to start back up in writing regularly in this blog. I have many prog albums to review from this year. Soon there should be reviews of Beardfish's Mammoth, Pendragon's Passion, Wobbler's Rites At Dawn, and Neal Morse's Testimony 2 among many others. I also plan to give a detailed review of the Neal Morse concert I attended this past weekend, which ended up being one of the musical highlights in my life this far. I can't wait to share all of this with all of you. I hope you haven't given up on checking out this blog. I promise to have many things in the upcoming weeks for all you prog fans to enjoy. Thanks for reading, and I'll be back soon with a new entry!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

First Quarter Report

So, the first quarter of 2011 is over, and I thought I would give my general impressions about new music I discovered over the course of the last three months. The best album by far of the first quarter for me is "Snowtorch" by Phideaux. Fresh off the heals of two incredible albums ("Doomsday Afternoon" and "Number Seven"), Phideaux has managed to release his third masterpiece in a row. I love everything about "Snowtorch" and am forever grateful to Phideaux for allowing me to hear it early. It hearkens back to the classic prog days with some vintage sounds, influences and even the album length. But, Phideaux put their unique stamp on it and create a piece of music that is both fun and heartfelt.

Another big album to be released this quarter is "Mammoth" by Beardfish. I feel that "Mammoth" is a return to form from one of my favorite bands. "Destined Solitaire" definitely has its moments, but as an album, I felt it was a little disjointed. Some moments just didn't work for me. "Mammoth" on the other hand is a complete beast of a record and is full of highlights. The epic "And The Stone Said: If I Could Speak" is worth purchasing the album. The band at times takes a harder edge, but never looses that special eclectic proginess that I love from them. A full review of "Mammoth" should be coming soon (hopefully this weekend).

The biggest surprise of the first quarter is by far "Voice" by Hiromi. I usually stick to prog, but "Voice" is a full on Jazz album and I just love it. It is completely instrumental, sticking to the trio of piano, bass and drums. Hiromi is an incredible jazz pianist who just blows me away whenever I hear her playing. She has to be one of the best piano players in the world. I love all the various moods that can be felt throughout this album. A review should come shortly for this album as well. Another album I thoroughly enjoyed was "The Suffering Joy" by Magic Pie. I will admit that I'm not as excited about it now as when it first came out, but it is still a satisfying slice of symphonic prog and definitely the best album the band has released this far in their career.

Beyond those albums, I've fallen for the beautiful simplicity of "The King Is Dead" by The Decemberists. By no means a prog album, I would actually place it somewhere between country and folk. I haven't listened to it much, but I've really been digging "The Perils of Time Travel" by Thank You Scientist. It is only a 30 minute EP, but it showcases a very modern sounding band with some unique flavors. I especially love the saxophone they use in their music. They sound like some crazy mix between the band 3 and Dave Matthews Band.

Other albums that are good, but haven't really grabbed me the same way as the others are "XXV" by Pallas. It has moments of greatness, but there are moments where the music drags, making it a little difficult to get through. "Welcome To My DNA" by Blackfield is pleasant enough, but lacks the specialness of the first two albums. Maybe I'll find more to love as I listen more.

So, to summarize, here is my top ten releases of the first quarter of 2011:
10. The Collective- Scale The Summit
9. Invisible Places- Presto Ballet
8. Welcome To My DNA- Blackfield
7. XXV- Pallas
6. The Perils of Time Travel- Thank You Scientist
5. The Suffering Joy- Magic Pie
4. The King Is Dead- The Decemberists
3. Voice- Hiromi
2. Mammoth- Beardfish
1. Snowtorch- Phideaux

There is a lot to look forward to in the second quarter. There should be releases from Pendragon, Mars Hollow, Neal Morse, The Dear Hunter, Symphony X and Karmakanic, among others. It should be good!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Hall Of Fame: The Tall Ships by It Bites


It Bites is what could be called a progressive pop band, and boy are they good at what they do. This is my first and only It Bites record, and I think it is brilliant from beginning to finish. I love this record from the opening harmonies of "Oh My God" to the big grandiose finale of "This is England". I purchased this album after hearing many good things about it from sources that I consider reputable and heard a sample of "Oh My God" that made me smile in delight as I listened. When the CD arrived, I immediately put it in my car, and it stayed in my car CD player for at least a month solid. At first I was only sold on a few songs and considered certain songs to be mediocre, but after repeated listenings, I found those songs to be highly enjoyable and to have great catchy hooks. Very impressive work!

The star of this album for me is John Mitchell who seems to be in every new prog rock project these days. He lends his voice and guitar skills to this, his first It Bites album. His voice fits the music perfectly and the guitar is tasteful and downright brilliant in spots. The truly progressive rock moments are fairly sparse throughout the album, but when they appear, they are refreshing and not overblown. The main progressive tracks are the opener, "Oh My God" which has beautiful vocal harmonies, "The Wind That Shakes the Barley" which goes into a very impressive progressive instrumental section, and the 13 minute epic, "This is England" which moves through several different movements before landing on its bombastic finale. The songs in between are all catchy and fun and are a pleasure to listen to over and over again.

"The Tall Ships" is very consistent and I love the sound that the band creates. I highly recommend this album to any music fan, especially one who enjoys a good amount of pop hooks as well as some progressive elements thrown in. All in all a very enjoyable listen and an album I keep coming back to.

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Tangent- Going Off On Two (CD/DVD)

One of my favorite bands, The Tangent, is releasing a live DVD/CD called "Going Off On Two." It should be released in mid April, but it can be pre-ordered now at www.thetangent.org.

I have included the trailer to this DVD below. It looks and sounds fantastic. It is very interesting to release a live performance of the band in the studio with no audience. Also included on the live set is a performance of "The Mind's Eye" from their upcoming album "COMM" which will hopefully be out in September of this year. Based on this short clip, it very well may be a contender for album of the year (although it is going to have some stiff competition).

So, for your enjoyment, here is the video:

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Hall Of Fame: The Whirlwind by Transatlantic


Some excerpts from a review I wrote on this album:

“The Whirlwind” is a masterful concept album from the minds of Neal Morse, Roine Stolt, Pete Trewavas and Mike Portnoy. When I first heard that Transatlantic was reuniting for another album, I was ecstatic. “Bridge Across Forever” is my favorite album of all time, and when I discovered that Transatlantic essentially broke up after this masterpiece, I was crushed. I figured that I would never hear new Transatlantic material. Thankfully, I was wrong, and not only did Transatlantic meet my high expectations, they exceeded them. “The Whirlwind” is a beautiful album that captures for me four talented artists at the peak of their creativity and ability.

Pete Trewavas really impresses me with his bass work on this album, it is consistently amazing throughout the album. Roine Stolt has some amazing guitar solos peppered throughout the album (some of the best in my opinion come in the middle of “The Wind Blew Them All Away” and “Out of the Night”). Mike Portnoy is amazing on drums as usual and I always love Neal and he continues to shine on this album by bringing a high level of emotion and passion to everything he does. I absolutely love the Overture that starts the album. It is a masterful way to include all the main themes that will be explored throughout the album in such a way to build excitement in the listener. Other favorite moments include the heartfelt "Rose Colored Glasses" and the last half of “Is It Really Happening?” where the music gets faster and faster and all members of the band play at breakneck speed.

I love the creativity that abounds when these four individuals get together to create music and I hope to hear a lot more from them in the future. There is a sense of fun in this record that is infectious and that is part of what I love about what Transatlantic brings to the table. They can be goofy and fun in one moment and heartfelt and passionate the next. They truly have a love of the progressive rock of the seventies and that shines throughout the album as well. This album is most definitely a masterpiece and I expected nothing less from the creative forces at work behind it.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Hall Of Fame: Close To The Edge by Yes


I have decided, after much thought, that I am going to create a Hall of Fame on this blog. The tab for said Hall of Fame is located at the top of this blog and is called "The Leviathan Hall Of Fame." The Hall Of Fame will contain songs or albums that I consider to be classic. You can call them strong recommendations or just a list of my favorites, but I thought it would be fun to put them in a hall of fame to honor the music that has touched me so deeply throughout my life. The hope is that The Hall of Fame will become a huge list of what I consider the best in music. Then, the viewers of this blog can conveniently go there in order to find some very strong recommendations about which music to pursue. Of course, in the beginning, the list might seem sparse, but I'm hoping over time it will grow and become quite substantial. Also, there is not really any limitations to what I can include there. I will try to stick to music that I consider progressive, though, so as to keep some consistency.

So, for my first entry into the Hall of Fame, I figure that a good choice would be the prog classic, "Close To The Edge" by Yes. For the purposes of this entry, I am referring only to the song, not the entire album (although later I may decide to induct the entire album). "Close To The Edge" was one of the first progressive rock epics I was introduced to when I was first getting into prog music. I was pretty much blown away by it on first listen. My dad was the one to share it with me, and he warned me that it was really weird, especially the beginning. But, I really connected with it right away, and I feel that "Close To The Edge" is one of the biggest reasons why I am a huge prog fan today.

The epic is introduced by sounds of nature, taking you into an alternate world. I feel the best music is able to transport you to another world, and Yes has a unique talent to do just that. The music is then quite chaotic with mainly a crazy drumbeat, noodling guitar, tinkling keyboards and thumping bass, interrupted occasionally by Jon Anderson's spacey vocals. Then, the chaos subsides, the guitar plays the main melody of the song and things get underway. What really sticks out to me here is Chris Squire's bass playing. Before listening to progressive music, I often was unable to recognize the bass in rock music. But, here, it is unmistakable due to Chris Squire's distinct tone and groove. Now, the bass is one of my favorite instruments to listen for.

About eight and a half minutes in, the upbeat music stops, and what is left behind is a dreamy atmospheric section that is truly heavenly. Jon Anderson, Chris Squire and Steve Howe sing some wonderful harmonies that truly bring tears to my eyes. Then, Rick Wakeman comes in with a powerful organ solo that is mind-blowing. It is truly one of the highlights in progressive rock for me. Then, the band kicks back in with the killer main melody of the beginning before it fades out with the same sounds of nature that began the epic, bringing everything full circle. It is truly musical perfection. I wish I had the ability to describe the true euphoria that I feel when listening to this epic. It transports me to another world, and makes me feel true happiness.

Here is the epic split up into two youtube videos. Please have a listen and hopefully you'll be transported to another world like I am.

Part 1


Part 2

Monday, March 21, 2011

A Prog Band On Late Night TV?

I was pleasantly surprised to find out that a prog band was featured on a late night talk show in the US. The talk show is The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, which is one of my favorite talk shows on TV right now. On Monday, March 14th, they had '70s English Prog band, Stackridge, perform on the show. Craig introduced them as a band that his brother called "The New Genesis." This is a band that I'm not too familiar with, but apparently they reformed in 1999. The song they performed on the show was "The Last Plimsoll" from their 1974 album, "The Man In The Bowler Hat (AKA Pinafore Days)." To my ears, this track sounds very inspired by Sgt. Peppers era Beatles, which is a good thing in my book. It is really cool to hear a proggy band on a talk show, so I thought I had to share. Here is the video:



I hope you enjoyed that! I might pick up some Stackridge based on that, they sound really good. Hopefully this will lead to more progressive music on TV!